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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


Page ViewsPoemComments
9471 On Virtue Comments and analysis of On Virtue by Phillis Wheatley 16 Comments
9294 An Hymn To The Evening Comments and analysis of An Hymn To The Evening by Phillis Wheatley 4 Comments
8382 On Imagination Comments and analysis of On Imagination by Phillis Wheatley 3 Comments
7275 An Hymn To Humanity (To S.P.G. Esp) Comments and analysis of An Hymn To Humanity (To S.P.G. Esp) by Phillis Wheatley 448 Comments
6957 To The University Of Cambridge, In New-England
6187 On The Death Of Rev. Mr. George Whitefield Comments and analysis of On The Death Of Rev. Mr. George Whitefield by Phillis Wheatley 1 Comment
5962 A Funeral Poem on the Death of C.E. Comments and analysis of A Funeral Poem on the Death of C.E. by Phillis Wheatley 1 Comment
5907 To The King's Most Excellent Majesty Comments and analysis of To The King's Most Excellent Majesty  by Phillis Wheatley 3 Comments
5536 To A Lady On The Death Of Her Husband Comments and analysis of To A Lady On The Death Of Her Husband by Phillis Wheatley 21 Comments
5461 Ode To Neptune Comments and analysis of Ode To Neptune by Phillis Wheatley 1 Comment
5406 An Hymn To The Evening
4779 An Hymn To The Morning Comments and analysis of An Hymn To The Morning by Phillis Wheatley 1 Comment
4762 One Being Brought From Africa To America
4006 To Mæcenas Comments and analysis of To Mæcenas by Phillis Wheatley 2 Comments
3759 On the Death of a Young Gentleman
3685 On The Death Of J. C. An Infant Comments and analysis of On The Death Of J. C. An Infant by Phillis Wheatley 19 Comments
3565 On Recollection
3511 An Answer To The Rebus, By The Author Of These Poems
3473 To a Lady and Her Children
3470 To a Lady on Her Coming to North-America
3456 On The Death Of A Young Lady Of Five Years Of Age Comments and analysis of On The Death Of A Young Lady Of Five Years Of Age by Phillis Wheatley 1 Comment
3331 Goliath Of Gath
3284 On The Death Of Dr. Samuel Marshall Comments and analysis of On The Death Of Dr. Samuel Marshall by Phillis Wheatley 33 Comments
3216 A Rebus, By I. B. Comments and analysis of A Rebus, By I. B. by Phillis Wheatley 1 Comment
3147 A Farewel To America to Mrs. S. W.
3080 Niobe in Distress
2521 To The Right Honourable William, Earl Of Dartmouth, His Majesty's Principal Secretary Of The State For North-America, 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 18 Comments
2467 To Captain H-----d, of the 65th Regiment Comments and analysis of To Captain H-----d, of the 65th Regiment by Phillis Wheatley 1 Comment
2349 Isaiah LXIII
2106 To a Gentleman and Lady on the Death of the Lady's Brother and Sister
2056 To a Lady on Her Remarkable Preservation
2029 On the Death of the Rev. Dr. Sewell
1933 To A Lady On The Death Of The Three Relations
1924 To His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor
1847 On Being Brought from Africa to America Comments and analysis of On Being Brought from Africa to America by Phillis Wheatley 308 Comments
1247 To S.M., A Young African Painter, On Seeing His Works Comments and analysis of To S.M., A Young African Painter, On Seeing His Works by Phillis Wheatley 8 Comments
716 To a Gentleman on His Voyage to Great-Britain Comments and analysis of To a Gentleman on His Voyage to Great-Britain by Phillis Wheatley 1 Comment
489 Thoughts On The Works Of Providence
344 To the Rev. Dr. Thomas Amory
3 To The Honourable T. H. Esq; On the Death Of His Daughter
2 To A Clergyman On The Death Of His Lady


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