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The poetical publications of John and Charles Wesley originally appeared at various intervals during a space of fifty-two or -three years. The total number of them, as far as at present ascertained, is fifty-seven; of which, seven bore the names of the two brothers, seven of John Wesley only, eight of Charles Wesley only; while the remaining thirty-five were anonymous, though some were afterwards owned, and all are capable of being certainly identified. They admit of a further classification in regard to their respective contents. (1.) Four are entirely extracted from other authors. (2.) Six are partly original and partly selected. (3.) Nine are mostly selected from previous publications of their own, with a few from other authors intermixed. While(4.) Thirty- eight are strictly and exclusively original. This fourth and largest class constitutes the basis of the present edition, along with three volumes of the second class which it has been deemed advisable to reprint entire, because in the majority of instances the selected poems have been altered and adapted by the Editors for a purpose of their own, and according to their own taste. The third class, like the first, it is obviously unnecessary to include. With these reprints, there will be published in successive volumes a large number of poems left by Mr. Charles Wesley in MSS., and carefully revised for publication, but which, for some reason or reasons unknown, were not published by him; together with such single poems, whether in print already or in manuscript, as may not have been before collected the whole forming as complete a collection as circumstances will permit of the poetry of these wonderful and blessed men. Such a collection has been long desired by the lovers of sacred song in various parts of the world, as well as by “the people called Methodists,” whose obligations to these two poets it is hard, if not impossible, adequately to express in words. Why the accomplishment of this wide-spread and earnest desire has been so long postponed, need not now be particularly considered, even were it practicable to state the various causes of the delay. Rather let the reader be invited to join the Editor in the earnest hope and prayer that the purpose so long cherished, and now at length in course of accomplishment, may be sanctioned by the Divine blessing, and that these “winged words” may carry with them everywhere those hallowing influences which it was the highest ambition of the writers to multiply and diffuse. It is only needful at present to add, that the volume now in the reader's hands contains a complete reprint of the two first of the poetical publications which bear the names of John and Charles Wesley. They were issued in rapid succession, doubtless to meet the wants of the infant Societies; and contain a larger number of selected and adapted poems than any of the subsequent volumes, except those entitled “A Collection of Psalms and Hymns,” and “A Collection of Moral and Sacred Poems,” neither of which will be reprinted entire. From those “Collections” the originals, as far as they can be ascertained, will be extracted for this edition; but to have pursued that course with the volumes of 1739 and 1740 would have been to destroy their identity, and to deprive the reader of many valuable and edifying pieces not easily accessible otherwise. Those “altered from Herbert,” for instance, are only to be found in full in the volume of 1739; and, apart from their devotional character, supply interesting instances of the literary skill and judgment of the Wesleys. Even the fondest admirers of that holy ecclesiastic can scarcely be displeased at his appearance in a somewhat modernized attire, especially when they remember how much the Wesleys contributed to keep up his name and fame in an age when he was by no means so popular as now. The fine poems of Gambold were preserved and kept in circulation by the Wesleys; if, indeed, they do not entirely owe their publicity to the care and taste of the two brothers; not having been published by himself at all, nor by his friends until half a century after this volume appeared. The hymns of the venerable father of the Wesleys were likewise first collected by his sons in their first joint publication, and are thus made generally known.The two volumes now reprinted were each originally divided into two parts; and the division has been preserved here, though the reason of it cannot be ascertained. The volume of 1739 reached a third edition before that year expired; a fourth was published in 1743, and a fifth in 1756. To the fourth and fifth editions the volume of 1740 was added, its two parts being then numbered the third and fourth respectively, and the preface appearing in the third part. This composite volume was subsequently known and catalogued as Vol. 1 of “Hymns and Sacred Poems by John and Charles Wesley.” A copy of it corrected for a new edition is in the possession of the Editor, and such corrections as have not been followed in the text of this volume are preserved in the notes. The only other alterations to be mentioned are, that the Index and Table of Contents are here adapted to the continuous paging; and that certain poems, afterwards published by their authors in other volumes, are transferred to the places to which they more properly belong; the transfer being mentioned as on pp. 269 and 289. To have omitted them from those later publications would have been unjust to the authors, and to have inserted them twice for the sake of an exact and literal reprint would have been unjust to the purchaser.
London, October 13, 1868.
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