Christian Librarian, 51 (3) 2008
During much of their lives the brothers, John and Charles Wesley, were inseparable but today people are apt to recognize the name of John Wesley, but not that of his older brother. It is ironic that today Christians of many denominations sing "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" and "Oh, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing" but would be surprised to learn that those familiar words were composed by the co-founder of Methodism, Charles Wesley.
There is much excitement in Wesleyan studies at the present time with at least one significant contribution to our understanding of the brothers published each year for the last decade. In addition to the title presently being reviewed, two other works about the elder Wesley were published last year: Charles J’Vesley: Life, Literature and Legacy by Kenneth G. C. Newport and Ted A. Campbell and Charles Wesley:A Biography by G.M. Best.
John R. Tyson’s biography will hold its own among these recent studies. Having published Charles Wesley:A Reader (1989) and In the Midst of Early Methodism (2006),Iyson has established his reputation as a reliable interpreter of early Methodism. He tells the story well but like many knowable extemporaneous speakers and writers, Tyson repeats himself occasionally. A glaring example is a famous quote from King Charles that appears on page 298 and again two pages later. Tyson follows a general chronology, but each chapter presents a specific aspect of Wesley’s life, such as his marriage or his treatment of the stillness controversy. This arrangement allows one to understand the issue comprehensively within one period of reading but makes it more difficult to integrate the issue into the whole story. Although the research in the primary documents is evident, there are no footnotes.
Given the current high level of interest in Wesleyan studies, Tyson’s Assist IVIe to Proclaim will not be the definitive biography of the poet, but it is certainly recommended for all academic collections, especially those with an emphasis on Methodism and/or music.
Donald Dean Snieeton
Director of Libraries