F. W. Macdonald (essay date 1906)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Macdonald, F. W. Introduction to The Journal of John Wesley, Volume I, pp. ix-xiii. London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd., 1906.

[In the following essay, Macdonald suggests that Wesley's moral and religious motivations for writing be taken into account in the critical discourse concerning his works.]

During Wesley's life, and for some years after his death, his countrymen, speaking generally, did not care to claim him as in any sense a national possession. They were quite content to leave him in the private possession of his followers, excellent people, doubtless, but not very interesting or influential. But time is a great readjuster of perspective. The point of...

(The entire section is 1430 words.)

Thomas Walter Herbert (essay date 1940)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Herbert, Thomas Walter. “John Wesley as Poet.” In John Wesley as Editor and Author, pp. 46-60. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1940.

[In the following essay, Herbert examines Wesley's transition from the translation of secular works to his adaptations of George Herbert's verse and translations of German hymns, and then to the composition of original devotional works.]

John Wesley very early gave evidence that he shared the strain of poetry which ran in his family. A capable student in every department of study, he was particularly distinguished at the Charterhouse for his excellent translations from the Latin. The source of pleasure thus...

(The entire section is 6593 words.)

Maldwyn Edwards (essay date 1955)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Edwards, Maldwyn. “The Nature of His Influence.” In John Wesley and the Eighteenth Century: A Study of His Social and Political Influence, pp. 180-91. 1933. Revised. London: Epworth Press, 1955.

[In the following essay, Edwards discusses Wesley's political and economic philosophy in terms of his religious beliefs.]

No century was more contented with its lot than the eighteenth. Critics so widely diverse in position as Blackstone, Paley, Burke, and Goldsmith, united to sound with unqualified praise the glories of the English Constitution. In such a feeling Wesley fully shared. The great note of his political pamphlets was liberty, and this he felt to be...

(The entire section is 2895 words.)

Stuart Andrews (essay date 1970)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Andrews, Stuart. “The Intellectual Climate.” In Methodism and Society, pp. 3-9. London: Longman, 1970.

[In the following essay, Andrews examines Wesley's place as a Methodist religious thinker within the Deist controversy of the Age of Reason.]

The Methodism movement grew up in a climate of irreligion. Montesquieu observed in his Notes sur l'Angleterre that ‘in England there is no religion and the subject, if mentioned in society, excites nothing but laughter’. And it was only two years before John Wesley's Aldersgate Street experience that Joseph Butler, soon to be Bishop of Bristol, penned an even more famous indictment:


(The entire section is 2668 words.)

Richard E. Brantley (essay date 1984)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Brantley, Richard E. “An Orientation.” In Locke, Wesley, and the Method of English Romanticism, pp. 1-26. Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1984.

[In the following essay, Brantley proposes that John Locke's An Essay concerning Human Understanding was central in forming Wesley's methodology and that Wesley's model of experience was vital to and pervasive in British romanticism.]

Probably when our unified field theory of British Romanticism finally arrives, the materials will be somewhat nearer at hand than either the distant past of Milton or the far future of Joyce. … Thinking about British Romanticism primarily in...

(The entire section is 17981 words.)

Warren Thomas Smith (essay date 1986)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Smith, Warren Thomas. “Wesley's Thoughts upon Slavery, 1774.” In John Wesley and Slavery, pp. 90-103. Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 1986.

[In the following essay, Smith studies Thoughts upon Slavery, examining its structure, publication history, and critical reception, and then describes other anti-slavery works by Wesley.]

John Wesley had a social conscience. In his Preface to List of Poetical Works he insisted:

The gospel of Christ knows of no religion, but social; no holiness but social holiness. “Faith working by love” is the length and breadth and depth and height of Christian...

(The entire section is 4410 words.)

Elisabeth Jay (essay date 1987)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Jay, Elisabeth. Introduction to The Journal of John Wesley: A Selection, edited by Elisabeth Jay, pp. xi-xxviii. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987.

[In the following essay, Jay discusses theJournal as a public document, and closely considers the rigorous self-examination evident in the work.]

In my way to Perth, I read over the first volume of Dr. Robertson's ‘History of Charles the Fifth’. I know not when I have been so disappointed. It might as well be called the History of Alexander the Great. Here is a quarto volume of eight or ten shillings' price, containing dry, verbose dissertations on feudal government, the substance...

(The entire section is 6786 words.)

Richard P. Heitzenrater (essay date 1988)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Heitzenrater, Richard P. “Wesley and His Diary.” In John Wesley: Contemporary Perspectives, edited by John Stacey, pp. 11-22. London: Epworth Press, 1988.

[In the following essay, Heitzenrater examines Wesley's private notebooks and the ciphers employed therein, maintaining that although the works reveal details of Wesley's private life, they do not significantly alter history's evaluation of him.]

No single name in the history of our tradition is more familiar to Methodists world-wide than John Wesley. Nevertheless, historians and biographers, as well as painters, have had difficulty for over two centuries in capturing a portrait of Wesley that commands a...

(The entire section is 4574 words.)

A. Skevington Wood (essay date 1988)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Wood, A. Skevington. “Wesley as a Writer.” In John Wesley: Contemporary Perspectives, edited by John Stacey, pp. 190-201. London: Epworth Press, 1988.

[In the following essay, Wood extols the literary merit of Wesley's work, arguing that he be seen as not only as a historical figure.]

Although his literary output was considerable, John Wesley did not set out to make his name as a writer. What he published was in the interests of the nationwide mission which engrossed his attention. He was concerned with the communication of the Christian message and regarded his writings as an extension of that ministry. He was no mere dilettante who fancied himself as an...

(The entire section is 5080 words.)

Richard P. Heitzenrater (lecture date 1988)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Heitzenrater, Richard P. “John Wesley and the Historian's Task.” In Mirror and Memory: Reflections on Early Methodism, pp. 205-18. Nashville, Tenn.: Kingswood Books, 1989.

[In the following essay, originally presented as a lecture in 1988, Heitzenrater describes different aspects present within the study of Wesley's work and offers an overview on present-day scholarly thought.]

Many people recognized John Wesley as a significant man in his own day,1 even referring to him as “one of the most extraordinary characters this or any age ever produced.”2 During the following two centuries, this evaluation was reinforced in part by the...

(The entire section is 6300 words.)

Frank Baker (essay date 1989)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Baker, Frank. “John Wesley, Biblical Commentator.” Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester 71, no. 1 (spring 1989): 109-20.

[In the following essay, Baker discusses Wesley's commentaries on the Bible and their textual histories.]

Not until John Wesley was in his fifties did he experience any clear call to serious expository scholarship apart from preparing sermons and conducting extemporaneous Bible study in his societies. He ventured into the world of biblical commentaries very diffidently and reluctantly, partly because of what he felt to be his own inadequacy, partly because of his enormous responsibilities as chief administrator...

(The entire section is 5496 words.)

Henry Abelove (essay date 1996)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Abelove, Henry. “Notes and Documents: John Wesley's Plagiarism of Samuel Johnson and Its Contemporary Reception.” The Huntington Library Quarterly 59, no. 1 (1996): 73-79.

[In the following essay, Abelove discusses the charges of plagiarism and lack of political credibility, brought by the Baptist minister Caleb Evans against Wesley.]

About the last week of September, 1775, John Wesley published A Calm Address to Our American Colonies. In it he argued that “the supreme power in England” had a clear, legal right to tax the colonies and that the Americans who thought otherwise and were “all in an uproar” had been misled by a small cabal of...

(The entire section is 3340 words.)

Graham Maddox (essay date 1998)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Maddox, Graham. “Introduction: Methodism and Politics.” In Political Writings of John Wesley, pp. 9-41. Bristol, England: Thoemmes Press, 1998.

[In the following essay, Maddox discusses Wesley's attitudes toward the plight of the poor, slavery, and the capitalist system.]

If the two-party system is the paradigm case of parliamentary democracy in the modern world, then the influence of the Methodist movement upon emergent modern democracy is almost measureless. Founded in the 1730s by Charles and John Wesley, Methodism set the course not only for the modern Labour Party but also the organizations which nurtured it, namely the Chartist, Adult Education and...

(The entire section is 11428 words.)

Ronald H. Stone (essay date 2001)

(Literary Criticism (1400-1800))

SOURCE: Stone, Ronald H. “Maturation (1760s-1770s),” and “Slavery.” In John Wesley's Life & Ethics, pp. 145-56; 187-97. Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon Press, 2001.

[In the first excerpt below, Stone analyzes the ethical basis of Wesley's views on perfection and predestination. In the second essay, he analyzes Wesley's arguments for the abolition of slavery within the context of the political situation at the time.]

MATURATION (1760S-1770S),


Despite the emergence of Wesley as a social philosopher in this period of political engagement with a king whom he appreciated, his other...

(The entire section is 9239 words.)