Sarah (Sally) Wesley (1759-1828) Subseries, 1774-1828, 1852, and undated

5 folders; 42 items, plus poems
Scope and content:

Letters and writings of Sarah (Sally) Wesley, daughter of Charles Wesley (1707-1788) and Sarah Gwynne Wesley. Letters are written by and to her family and friends. Letters from M. Doddridge and John Clowes betray great admiration for Sarah Wesley's intellect and wit. Letters from Clowes frequently refer to her apparent rejection of a marriage proposal, while letters from Wesley to Clowes reiterate her desire for independence; many of these letters contain her thoughts on independence and solitude with regard to religious community and piety.

The letter dated [1784] April 4, previously attributed to her Sarah Gwynne Wesley, discusses the family's estrangement from her brother Samuel after he joined the Roman Catholic Church. Wesley's 1815 Oct. 12 letter to an unidentified recipient indicates her views on virtue, compassion, and the shortcomings of the female sex. An undated letter to an unnamed recipient in Folder 2 offers her thoughts on proper ways to bury and honor the dead, paying attention to the particulars of scripture on the subject; engages disparagingly "the malevolent Rouchefoucault"; and offers her opinions on the relationship between private property and morality.

In several letters Wesley states her opinions about other Christian denominations, including Evangelicals (1819 Aug. 10), as well as Quakers and the Church of England (both in an undated, torn letter in Folder 2); the latter fragment also gives an account of Charles Wesley, Jun.'s meeting with the King and Queen of England. The letter dated [1822] Dec. 29 gives her account of her mother's dying moments. Her undated letter to Mr. Quincy presents her home and family life as unsupportive and unwelcoming, painting the founding family of Methodism as cruel and unsupportive of other religious sects.

Wesley's poems, contained in Folder 4, are mostly loose, with two sets hand-sewn and one long poem continuing over ten loose pages. Many poems employ classical forms and themes; other topics include education, women's rights, religion, slavery, and occasional poems commemorating holidays and private events. Most of the poems are signed but not dated; where given, dates range from 1774 to 1782. The subseries also includes a printed copy of the only poem Wesley published during her lifetime, "Lines to the Memory of the First Methodist Preachers". The text of this pamphlet edition, 1828, differs from the original 1826 publication in the Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine.

Letters and notes are arranged chronologically in three folders: dated letters; undated letters; and undated notes and fragments. Manuscript poems are arranged in four groups in Folder 4: loose manuscripts; Poems, Binder I; Poems, Binder II; and the long poem, "The Elopement," on ten unbound pages. The pamphlet of Wesley's published poem appears in Folder 5. A printed copy of a full title list of the short poems appears in Folder 4.

RELATED MATERIAL: The Rubenstein Library also holds a microfilm of Sarah Wesley's letters and poems (film 301) from the Lamplough Collection, made while the collection was on loan at Duke in 1961. This film contains twenty-nine letters from Sarah Wesley, some one hundred to her, and some of her manuscript poems from 1775-1776, including another version of "The Elopement," a long manuscript in the Baker collection. Most if not all of this collection is now at the John Rylands University Library, Manchester, described more fully here: The Wesley Family Papers, GB 135 DDWF.


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Access note. Collection contains some originals in the collection that are restricted except for use under direct staff supervision. Patrons must use photocopies of originals. Contact Research Services for access.

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