Pocket volume containing hymns written in shorthand by Charles Wesley, one of the founders of Methodism and one of the greatest English hymn writers. The manuscript includes what may be the only surviving autograph draft of one of the ‘Great Four Anglican Hymns’: ‘Lo He Comes with Clouds Descending’.
Wesley’s manuscript begins with a shorthand table of contents (f. 1r), followed by shorthand hymns on ff. 3r-33r, or pages -61 according to Wesley’s original pagination, Wesley’s pagination continuing to page 72 (f. 36v). Wesley’s organisation of his manuscript effectively divides it into 37 sections - around 25 separate hymns. There follow 10 unpaginated pages (ff. 37r-41r) in Roman script which transliterate the first three hymns in the manuscript from shorthand, namely: ‘Come Let Us Join Our Friends Above’ (ff. 37v-38r); ‘For One Grown Slack, the 4th or Last Part’ (ff. 38r-39v); and ‘For Those in the Wilderness’ (ff. 40r-41r). More than half of the manuscript is largely blank (ff. 42-105) and it seems likely that Wesley intended to transliterate the whole of this collection.
Charles Wesley wrote the vast majority of the hymns using John Byrom’s shorthand, adapted to his own usage, each leaf folded vertically along the middle for ease of use. Some of the texts are readily identifiable with known hymns by Wesley, most notably ‘Lo He Comes with Clouds Descending’ (f. 12v) which survives in a draft by John Wesley but is apparently unknown in Wesley’s hand outside this manuscript. At least two of the hymns were published in Wesley’s Intercession Hymns of 1758 and the hymns ‘On the Death of Mrs Ann Wigginton’, 24 April 1757 (f. 21v), and ‘On the Death of Mrs Mary Naylor’, 21 March 1757 (f. 23r), appeared in his collection of Funeral Hymns.
On the endpaper facing the contents list, Charles Wesley has written in shorthand a list of members of a ‘Wednesday evening band’. Later in the manuscript there is a single page in another hand which addresses the theme of Friendship (f. 61v) and a couple of further pages of notes including the title of a separate work, ‘Isaac a Sacred Drama’ (f. 35v), followed by the heading ‘Act 1 Scene 1’ (f. 36r) [presumably a reference to Thomas Noon Talfourd’s precocious poem, ‘The Offering of Isaac, a Sacred Drama’ (1811)]. There are several floral doodles and pen-trials, and at the back of the manuscript a list, once again in Charles Wesley’s hand, of ‘Dr Birom’s Subscribers’ which begins with ‘Mrs CW’, presumably Mrs Charles Wesley. This means the earliest possible date for this entry must be the year of the couple’s marriage in 1749. The two dated ‘death’ poems from 1757 give further help dating the manuscript which seems likely to have been compiled in the late 1750s and 1760s before being given away in 1770 to Wesley’s friend Edward Spencer.
Description courtesy of Christian White, Hayes Williams and Dr Tim Underhill.