Phillis Wheatley (17531784). Poems on Various Subjects. 1773.
THE FOLLOWING POEMS were written originally for the Amusement of the Author, as they were the Products of her leisure Moments. She had no Intention ever to have published them; nor would they now have made their Appearance, but at the Importunity of many of her best, and most generous Friends; to whom she considers herself, as under the greatest Obligations.
As her Attempts in Poetry are now sent into the World, it is hoped the Critic will not severely censure their Defects; and we presume they have too much Merit to be cast aside with Contempt, as worthless and trifling Effusions.
As to the Disadvantages she has laboured under, with Regard to Learning, nothing needs to be offered, as her Masters Letter in the following Page will sufficiently show the Difficulties in this Respect she had to encounter.
The following is a Copy of a LETTER sent by the Authors Master to the Publisher.
PHILLIS was brought from Africa to America, in the Year 1761, between Seven and Eight Years of Age. Without any Assistance from School Education, and by only what she was taught in the Family, she, in sixteen Months Time from her Arrival, attained the English Language, to which she was an utter Stranger before, to such a Degree, as to read any, the most difficult Parts of the Sacred Writings, to the great Astonishment of all who heard her.
AS it has been repeatedly suggested to the Publisher, by Persons, who have seen the Manuscript, that Numbers would be ready to suspect they were not really the Writings of PHILLIS, he has procured the following Attestation, from the most respectable Characters in Boston, that none might have the least Ground for disputing their Original.
WE whose Names are under-written, do assure the World, that the POEMS specified in the following Page,1 were (as we verily believe) written by PHILLIS, a young Negro Girl, who was but a few Years since, brought an uncultivated Barbarian from Africa, and has ever since been, and now is, under the Disadvantage of serving as a Slave in a Family in this Town. She has been examined by some of the best Judges, and is thought qualified to write them.
The Hon. Thomas Hubbard, The Hon. John Erving, The Hon. James Pitts, The Hon. Harrison Gray, The Hon. James Bowdoin, John Hancock, Esq; Joseph Green, Esq; Richard Carey, Esq; The Rev. Charles Chauncey, D.D. The Rev. Mather Byles, D.D. The Rev. Ed. Pemberton, D.D. The Rev. Andrew Elliot, D.D. The Rev. Samuel Cooper, D.D. The Rev. Mr. Saumel Mather, The Rev. Mr. John Moorhead, Mr. John Wheatley, her Master.