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On-line Book Review


Dimension: 24 x 16.5 x 3.5 cm
TITLE The Letters of Samuel Wesley: Professional and Social Correspondence, 1797-1837. Edited by Philip Olleson.
PUBL. DETAILS Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. lxiii+516p. Hard back. Price: £75.
ISBN 0-19-816423-8
TO ORDER Oxford University Press, Great Clarendon Street, Oxford, OX2 6DP, UK.
DESCRIPTION Compilation of letters written by Samuel Wesley from the age of 31 until his death. With critical commentary by the editor
WORKS COVERED 227, 232, 525-530, 538, 552, 633-4, 654, 664, 676, 680, 691, 706, 711, 846-893, 898, 988, 1001-1006, 1014-19, Anh.III 167.
READERSHIP Scholars specialized in the reception history of Bach's works in England in the early 19th century.
RESEARCH CONTRIBUTION Very significant in this field of the English Bach movement in 1806-1837.

he significance of Samuel Wesley’s contribution to the Bach movement in England in the first decade of the 19th century is indisputable, as I outlined in a separate review of Samuel Wesley (1766-1837): A Source Book by Michael Kassler and Philip Olleson (Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing, 2001). 

One can naturally assume that this book by Olleson, one of the authors of the above-mentioned book, is largely based on the same sources; all the historical facts—including those potentially contentious cases—are interpreted in the same way, as far as I can see. It is therefore important to distinguish the differences between them whether or not we should consult either of them or both when examining this area of research.

List of Illustrations
Abbreviations and Cue Titles
Biographical Introduction
Textual Introduction
The Letters, 1797-1837
Appendix: Undatable Letters, c.1806-1837
 reproduces the text of Wesley’s letter in original form
Firstly, the most important difference is the style of presentation: unlike the ‘Source Book’ (which presents each document in the form of a summary), this book reproduces the text of Wesley’s letter in original form, with numerous footnotes explaining the quotations and allusions that may be behind Wesley’s writing as well as the context required to understand Wesley’s message, which is excellent. It thus occupies much more space on paper for each document than the Source Book. 

Secondly, Olleson basically limits to his collection of Wesley letters to those written by Wesley himself for his professional correspondence (while the Source Book aims to describe a more comprehensive collection of letters and documents beyond his professional activities). Footnotes are used extensively to explain the background of the letter, including the letters that are received by Wesley, and in this regard we cannot say that this book is less comprehensive than the ‘Source Book’.

These two books are in fact complementary to each other: while the Source Book is a more useful tool to start looking into historical records of this area, this book will serve our needs better when we examine Wesley’s letters in depth. 

There is also a short biographical sketch of Wesley’s Bach awakening and his various activities promoting Bach’s music (pp. xxxviii-xli). From this one may catch a glimpse of what one can learn from the surviving Wesley letters. In closing, his superb index should be mentioned, too. The Bach entries were found in pp. 484-485, and from just glancing over these two pages one can learn what works of Bach Wesley was interested in and what musical activities were associated with the respective works.
Published online on 24 February 2002

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