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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
8704 On Virtue Comments and analysis of On Virtue by Phillis Wheatley 5 Comments
8020 An Hymn To The Evening Comments and analysis of An Hymn To The Evening by Phillis Wheatley 4 Comments
7800 On Imagination Comments and analysis of On Imagination by Phillis Wheatley 1 Comment
6630 To The University Of Cambridge, In New-England
5575 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 427 Comments
5523 Thoughts On The Works Of Providence
5476 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
5388 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
4972 To The King's Most Excellent Majesty Comments and analysis of To The King's Most Excellent Majesty  by Phillis Wheatley 3 Comments
4888 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 15 Comments
4841 An Hymn To The Evening
4526 Ode To Neptune Comments and analysis of Ode To Neptune by Phillis Wheatley 1 Comment
4331 An Hymn To The Morning Comments and analysis of An Hymn To The Morning by Phillis Wheatley 1 Comment
4064 One Being Brought From Africa To America
3448 To Mæcenas Comments and analysis of To Mæcenas by Phillis Wheatley 1 Comment
3056 To a Lady and Her Children
3011 On The Death Of J. C. An Infant Comments and analysis of On The Death Of J. C. An Infant by Phillis Wheatley 15 Comments
3010 On Recollection
2959 On the Death of a Young Gentleman
2957 Goliath Of Gath
2943 An Answer To The Rebus, By The Author Of These Poems
2877 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
2824 A Rebus, By I. B. Comments and analysis of A Rebus, By I. B. by Phillis Wheatley 1 Comment
2679 Niobe in Distress
2675 To A Clergyman On The Death Of His Lady
2603 On The Death Of Dr. Samuel Marshall Comments and analysis of On The Death Of Dr. Samuel Marshall by Phillis Wheatley 26 Comments
2445 To The Honourable T. H. Esq; On the Death Of His Daughter
2419 A Farewel To America to Mrs. S. W.
2236 To a Lady on Her Coming to North-America
1978 Isaiah LXIII
1896 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
1730 To the Rev. Dr. Thomas Amory
1639 To a Gentleman and Lady on the Death of the Lady's Brother and Sister
1638 To a Lady on Her Remarkable Preservation
1584 To A Lady On The Death Of The Three Relations
1565 On the Death of the Rev. Dr. Sewell
1491 To His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor
1236 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 3 Comments
782 On Being Brought from Africa to America Comments and analysis of On Being Brought from Africa to America by Phillis Wheatley 279 Comments
423 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 6 Comments
270 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


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