Gareth Lloyd writes:
The Library has recently purchased from a private owner a significant handwritten letter written by the Methodist leader John Wesley (1703-91). The letter, which is dated 8 August 1788, was written to Walter Churchey, a prominent layman and solicitor of Hay on Wye.
The text of the letter was published in 1842 in an edition of John Wesley’s works by the historian Thomas Jackson and this copy was subsequently republished in the standard edition of Wesley’s correspondence edited by Thomas Telford, published in 1931. However, the autograph letter itself vanished from public view after its publication by Jackson and was unavailable to scholarship until its recent acquisition by the John Rylands Library.
In the letter (ref. English MS 1400/18), Wesley displays the broad range of interests for which he was well-known, critiquing Churchey’s poetic compositions and his ability as a translator. Wesley also reveals an in-depth knowledge of popular literary taste and the book trade, which is hardly surprising when one considers that he was among the most prolific writers, editors and publishers of the 18th century. An inventory of the contents of the Wesleyan Book Room carried out as part of the administration of Wesley’s estate, listed over 250,000 volumes awaiting nationwide distribution.
This letter provides valuable insight into the personality and attributes of a man who was described in the secular Gentleman’s Magazine as one of the “most remarkable men of the age”.