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When john wesley prepared his Journal for publication he prefaced it with the following account of its origin:
“It was in pursuance of an advice given by Bishop Taylor, in his Rules for Holy Living and Dying, that, about fifteen years ago, I began to take a more exact account than I had done before, of the manner wherein I spent my time, writing down how I had employed every hour.
“This I continued to do, wherever I was, till the time of my leaving England for Georgia. The variety of scenes which I then passed through induced me to transcribe, from time to time, the more material parts of my diary, adding here and there such little reflections as occurred to my mind.
“Of this Journal thus occasionally compiled, the following is a short extract: it not being my design to relate all those particulars which I wrote for my own use only, and which would answer no valuable end to others, however important they were to me.”
Rev. John Telford, one of Wesley’s biographers, says that “the earlier parts of the Journal were published in the interest of Methodism, that the calumny and slander then rife might be silenced by a plain narrative of the facts as to its founding, and its purpose. The complete Journals, still preserved in twenty-six bound volumes, have never been printed. Copious extracts were made by Wesley himself, and issued in twenty-one parts, the successive installments being eagerly expected by a host of readers.”
The published Journal makes four volumes, each about the size of the present book. But though I have had to curtail it by three-quarters I have tried to retain the atmosphere of tremendous activity which is one of its most remarkable features.
Mr. Birrell, in his “appreciation,” has focused in a very striking way the interest, actuality, and charm of Wesley’s Journal, and all I have had to do was to select those portions which best illustrate them.
The wonder is that it has not been done before. Edward FitzGerald once wrote to Professor Norton, “Had I any interest with publishers I would get them to reprint parts of it,” for he was a great lover of the Journal.
Writing to another friend about Wesley’s Journal, FirzGerald said, “If you don’t know it, do know it. It is curious to think of this diary running coevally with Walpole’s letters—diary—the two men born and dying too within a few miles of one another, and with such different lives to record. And it is remarkable to read pure, unaffected, undying English, while Addison and Johnson are tainted with a style which all the world imitated.”
Macaulay’s estimate of Wesley may also be recalled. Wesley, he said, was “a man whose eloquence and logical acuteness might have made him eminent in literature, whose genius for government was not inferior to that of Richelieu, and who, whatever his errors may have been, devoted all his powers in defiance of obloquy and derision, to what he sincerely considered as the highest good of his species.”
Wesley is one of the most strenuous ethical figures in history, and literature has no other such record of personal endeavor as that contained in these pages. To make that record accessible to every one is the object of this edition.
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