1707–1788

De­cem­ber 18, 1707, Ep­worth, Lin­coln­shire, Eng­land.

March 29, 1788, Lon­don, Eng­land.

East Finch­ley Cem­e­tery, Lon­don, Eng­land.

portrait

Charles was the son of Sam­u­el Wes­ley and Su­san­na An­nes­ley, bro­ther of John Wes­ley, and hus­band of Sar­ah Wes­ley.

Charles wrote over 6,000 hymns, and, as with most hym­nists, his works were fre­quent­ly al­tered. In the pre­face to the 1779 Col­lec­tion of Hymns for the Use of the Peo­ple Called Me­tho­dists, his bro­ther John wrote:

I beg leave to men­tion a thought which has been long up­on my mind, and which I should long ago have in­sert­ed in the pub­lic pa­pers, had I not been un­will­ing to stir up a nest of hor­nets. Ma­ny gen­tle­men have done my bro­ther and me (though with­out nam­ing us) the hon­our to re­print ma­ny of our hymns. Now they are per­fect­ly wel­come to do so, pro­vid­ed they print them just as they are. But I de­sire they would not at­tempt to mend them, for they are real­ly not able. None of them is able to mend ei­ther the sense or the verse. Therefore, I must beg of them these two fa­vours: ei­ther to let them stand just as they are, to take things for bet­ter or worse, or to add the true read­ing in the mar­gin, or at the bot­tom of the page, that we may no lon­ger be ac­count­a­ble ei­ther for the non­sense or for the dog­ger­el of other men.

In ad­di­tion to hymn writ­ing, Charles & John found­ed the move­ment which be­came the Me­tho­dist de­nom­in­a­tion.

For some hymns, there is un­cer­tain­ty on whe­ther Charles or John was the auth­or. John Ju­li­an, page 1280, says:

It must be not­ed that the Wes­ley­an au­thor­ities, in the re­vised ed­i­tion of their Coll. of Hys. for the Use of the Peo­ple called Me­tho­dists, 1875, de­cline to dis­ting­uish the hymns which ap­peared in the joint works of the two broth­ers. They say:—

The let­ter W. is af­fixed to those hymns which first ap­peared in pub­li­ca­tions for which the Wes­leys were joint­ly re­spon­si­ble; in this case it can­not be de­ter­mined with cer­tain­ty to which of the two broth­ers a hymns should be as­cribed.

It has been the com­mon prac­tice, how­ev­er, for a hun­dred years or more, to as­cribe all trans­la­tions from the Ger­man to John Wes­ley, as he on­ly of the two broth­ers knew that lang­uage; and to as­sign to Charles Wes­ley all the orig­in­al hymns ex­cept such as are trace­a­ble to John Wes­ley through his Jour­nals and other works. In this Dic­tion­ary this course has been adopt­ed through­out.