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Biography of Phillis Wheatley

Phillis Wheatley

Phillis Wheatley (1753 - 1784)

Phillis Wheatley (1753 - December 5, 1784), also spelled Phylis Wheatley, was born in Senegal in Africa, but was captured and sold into slavery at the age of 7. Around 1760 she was purchased by the Wheatley family of Boston, and was in fact practically adopted by the family which owned her. She was given a fairly extensive home education, including Latin, Greek, and Biblical studies. She became a very accomplished poet, with her first poem published when she was only 13.

In 1770 she wrote a poetic tribute on the death of the Calvinist George Whitefield that received widespread acclaim in Boston. In 1772 she was examined by a group of Boston luminaries including John Erving, Rev. Charles Chauncey, John Hancock, Thomas Hutchinson, the governor of Massachusetts, and his Lieutenant Governor Andrew Oliver. They concluded that she had in fact written the poems ascribed to her and signed an attestation which was published in the preface to her book Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral published in Aldgate, London in 1773. It was published in London because publishers in Boston had refused to publish the text. Phillis with her master's son, Nathanial Wheatley went to London, where Selina, Countess of Huntingdon and the Earl of Dartmouth helped with the publication.

Her work was lauded by some of the leading figures of the American Revolution, including George Washington, who met with her to thank her for a poem she had written in his honor. Wheatley's acclaim was not, however, universal. Thomas Jefferson was among the harshest critics of her poetry, writing "The heroes of the Dunciad are to her, as Hercules to the author of that poem."

After the death of John and Susannah Wheatley, Phillis married a free black grocer named John Peters. She herself did domestic work as a servant. Neither hard work nor artistic ability were to bring her prosperity, and she died in poverty in 1784.


Biography by: This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License and uses material adapted in whole or in part from the Wikipedia article on Phillis Wheatley.


41 Poems written by Phillis Wheatley

The poems are by default sorted according to volume, but you can also choose to sort them alphabetically or by page views.

Volume | Alphabetically | Page Views | Comments | [First Lines]


First LineComments
A R I S E, my soul, on wings enraptur'd, rise
All-Conquering Death! by thy resistless pow'r,
Apollo's wrath to man the dreadful spring
ATTEND my lays, ye ever honour'd nine, Comments and analysis of An Hymn To The Morning by Phillis Wheatley 1 Comment
Ere yet the morn its lovely blushes spread,
FROM dark abodes to fair etherial light Comments and analysis of On The Death Of A Young Lady Of Five Years Of Age by Phillis Wheatley 1 Comment
GRIM monarch! see, depriv'd of vital breath, Comments and analysis of To A Lady On The Death Of Her Husband by Phillis Wheatley 15 Comments
HAIL, happy day, when, smiling like the morn, Comments and analysis of To The Right Honourable William, Earl Of Dartmouth, His Majesty's Principal Secretary Of The State For North-America, by Phillis Wheatley 3 Comments
HAIL, happy saint, on thine immortal throne, Comments and analysis of On The Death Of Rev. Mr. George Whitefield by Phillis Wheatley 1 Comment
I. Comments and analysis of A Rebus, By I. B. by Phillis Wheatley 1 Comment
I.
Indulgent muse! my grov'ling mind inspire,
Mæcenas, you, beneath the myrtle shade, Comments and analysis of To Mæcenas by Phillis Wheatley 1 Comment
MNEME begin. Inspire, ye sacred nine,
NO more the flow'ry scenes of pleasure rife, Comments and analysis of On The Death Of J. C. An Infant by Phillis Wheatley 15 Comments
O show the lab'ring bosom's deep intent, Comments and analysis of To S.M., A Young African Painter, On Seeing His Works by Phillis Wheatley 6 Comments
O Thou bright jewel in my aim I strive Comments and analysis of On Virtue by Phillis Wheatley 5 Comments
O! for this dark terrestrial ball Comments and analysis of An Hymn To Humanity (To S.P.G. Esp) by Phillis Wheatley 426 Comments
On Death's domain intent I fix my eyes,
On Mrs. W-----'s Voyage to England. Comments and analysis of Ode To Neptune by Phillis Wheatley 1 Comment
O'erwhelming sorrow now demands my song:
SAMUEL, Chap. xvii.
Say, heav'nly muse, what king or mighty God,
Say, muse divine, can hostile scenes delight Comments and analysis of To Captain H-----d, of the 65th Regiment by Phillis Wheatley 1 Comment
Soon as the sun forsook the eastern main
SOON as the sun forsook the eastern main Comments and analysis of An Hymn To The Evening by Phillis Wheatley 4 Comments
The poet asks, and Phillis can't refuse
Though thou did'st hear the tempest from afar,
Through airy roads he wings his instant flight Comments and analysis of A Funeral Poem on the Death of C.E. by Phillis Wheatley 1 Comment
THROUGH thickest glooms look back, immortal Comments and analysis of On The Death Of Dr. Samuel Marshall by Phillis Wheatley 26 Comments
Thy various works, imperial queen, we see, Comments and analysis of On Imagination by Phillis Wheatley 1 Comment
To cultivate in ev'ry noble mind
WE trace the pow'r of Death from tomb to tomb,
WHERE contemplation finds her sacred spring,
WHILE an intrinsic ardor prompts to write,
WHILE deep you mourn beneath the cypress-shade
While others chant of gay Elysian scenes, Comments and analysis of To a Gentleman on His Voyage to Great-Britain by Phillis Wheatley 1 Comment
Who taught thee conflict with the pow'rs of night,
YOUR subjects hope, dread Sire-- Comments and analysis of To The King's Most Excellent Majesty  by Phillis Wheatley 3 Comments
'Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land, Comments and analysis of On Being Brought from Africa to America by Phillis Wheatley 279 Comments
'TWAS mercy brought me from my Pagan land,


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