Most of the Phillis’s human cargo was sold in the Caribbean. Opponents of this view put forth both religious and scientific arguments to counter it. George Whitefield was widely printed as a broadside. Phillis seems to have remained with John Wheatley and later with Mary and her husband during first years of the Revolution. Debate about the moral and intellectual capacities of people of African descent was raging in the 18th century public sphere, and the abolitionist movement was beginning to organize itself in England. Colonial printing in general was a very small enterprise compared to the large and established publishing industry in London. Another way to prevent getting this page in the future is to use Privacy Pass. Phillis herself wrote after Susanna’s death that “I was treated by her more like her child than her Servant; no opportunity was left unimprov’d, of giving me the best of advice…”. Despite these endorsements, Wheatley was still forced to look beyond America's borders for a publisher. The marketing of the London volume focused almost entirely on this seeming incongruity. 18, No. Phillis’s religious sensibility is also an important aspect of the Poems. The manuscript of her second volume of poetry has never been found. Readers of the 1773 first edition would have been familiar with biographical details of Wheatley's [...] 71, No. Show full item record. Full catalogue details This fact in itself would make the book significant, but Phillis Wheatley's Poems has a complicated and fascinating history of its own. I’m going to have to come to see the book. The publication of Poems on Various Subjects may have been politically motivated, but the voice of the young poet also comes through strongly, despite what may seem to us an antiquated style and theology. Her visit was cut short, however, by news of Susanna Wheatley’s rapidly failing health. Only those unfit for work on the plantations—women, children, the elderly, sick, or disabled—continued on to Boston to be sold as domestic servants. If you are at an office or shared network, you can ask the network administrator to run a scan across the network looking for misconfigured or infected devices. But both John and Mary died in 1778, and Nathaniel had married and remained in England. In the poem Phillis expresses regret at parting with Susanna (who was quite ill), but also eagerly anticipates her visit to the intellectual and cultural center of British society. A frail child of not more than seven, she miraculously survived a transatlantic journey that killed nearly a quarter of her fellow-passengers (a figure slightly higher than average for slave ships of that time). Thanks for investigating and sharing it. Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral includes, besides the letter from John Wheatley, an attestation from eighteen prominent Boston citizens, including Governor Thomas Hutchinson and John Hancock, asserting their belief in Wheatley's true authorship of the poems. “The British Reception of Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects” The Journal of Negro History , Vol. Completing the CAPTCHA proves you are a human and gives you temporary access to the web property. A prefatory note to the Poems describes Phillis’s early life and education: Phillis Wheatley’s experience as a slave in 18th century Boston was highly unusual, in that she does appear to have been treated by Susanna Wheatley as a member of the family, or something close to it. Phillis herself was well aware that her published volume of poetry was not just a reflection of her personal abilities. Particularly important is the Calvinist idea of Providence, and especially God’s ability to use even sinful acts of humans to achieve his purposes. And no one who has read Phillis Wheatley’s poetry and letters would believe that this is her intent, in this poem or in others on the subject. Once in the Wheatley home, Phillis quickly displayed an aptitude for learning. But the horrors of the slave trade and the appalling conditions on Caribbean plantations in particular had begun to turn English public opinion against the institution of slavery. To Maecenas. The portrait was a somewhat surprising addition to the volume, such frontispieces being common only in substantial tomes by famous (and often long-dead) authors. This fact in itself would make the book significant, but Phillis Wheatley’s Poems has a complicated and fascinating history of its own. John Peters advertised a planned second volume of Phillis’s poems in 1779, but it was never published. Phillis included a poem to him in the published collection. Readers of the 1773 first edition would have been familiar with biographical details of Wheatley’s life. In truth, Peters seems to have been  intelligent, handsome, and ambitious. This too gave the lie to assertions that Africans lacked moral sensibility, and it lent support to evangelicals’ arguments that slaves should be taught to read the Bible and participate fully in religious life. No one could argue that an author who could approximate the poetry of Homer and Ovid (or at least Milton and Pope) was possessed of a subhuman intellect. Slavery was legal in all of the British colonies in the mid-18th century, but African slaves were fairly uncommon in New England. Later biographers depicted Peters as a lazy con man, unworthy of the refined Phillis’s attentions. The Peterses may have had as many as three children, but all apparently died in infancy. When Poems on Various Subjects appeared in September 1773, it was reviewed in at least eight London magazines. Show full item record. The Critical Review (September 1773) remarked that. However, the book was … Peters, like many others, found himself in dire financial straits during the disastrous economic depression that followed the Revolution. Wonderful RBOTM! Reviewers invariably remarked on the unusual circumstance of an African slave writing serious literature, and several specifically pointed out the implications for the slavery debate. Excellent. For Phillis, the rest of the Wheatleys, and their like-minded supporters, Poems on Various Subjects was a political and moral statement intended to incite controversy. She was by all appearances genuinely devout in the Calvinist, evangelical Christianity of her Boston community. John Wheatley granted her freedom (perhaps under some pressure from her English supporters), and Susanna Wheatley died shortly after Phillis’s return from England in 1773. We are all fortunate she was not as much of a snob!Perhaps her manuscript for the second volume will be found one day…, Selina Hastings, the Countess of Huntingdon, Featured Collections: Dean of Women and Women’s Government Association. I remember Sharon was very proud of the acquisition. This is fascinating history, Megan. Publicity for the book was meticulously planned by Susanna, Phillis, and their friends. “The Body into Print: Marketing Phillis Wheatley.” American Literature , Vol. Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral is the first published volume of poetry by an African-American author. 1-29. How exciting! In 1770 her elegy for the charismatic Rev. She advertised the Boston Censor magazine for subscribers for “A Collection of Poems, wrote at several times, and upon various occasions, by PHILLIS, a Negro Girl, from the strength of her own Genius.” The volume was to be an octavo of approximately 200 pages “handsomely bound and lettered.” The publisher, Ezekiel Russell, would begin printing copies as soon as 300 subscribers were committed to purchasing the book. 2 (Summer, 1981), pp. Vincent Carretta. The nation had invented, and was still the major participant in, the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Although she did not meet her patron the Countess of Huntingdon (who was in Wales at the time), she visited many well-known figures and was toured around the cultural high points of London. It is amazing how telling the history of a book and its author and reveal so much. And some, like John and Susanna Wheatley, who argued for the inherent equality of the races, nonetheless owned slaves themselves. • Phillis Wheatley’s poems contain many conventional self-deprecating references to her lowly status, but in fact she had little hesitation in addressing the grandest personages, from King George to General Washington. • Copies were sold in Boston too, and the book garnered as much attention and fueled as much debate in America as in England. The brief verse that Henry Louis Gates called “the most reviled poem in African-American literature” depends entirely on this idea.