The Poems of Phillis Wheatley

The Poems of Phillis Wheatley

The Poems of Phillis Wheatley

The Poems of Phillis Wheatley

Synopsis

For nearly thirty-five years Julian Mason's The Poems of Phillis Wheatley (1966) has been the standard edition of the poems and letters of this young black poet of eighteenth-century Boston. This new edition has been extensively revised in light of Wheatley scholarship since its publication. It has been expanded to include all of the fifty-six poems and twenty-two letters now known to be by Wheatley, the significant variants of the poems, and the four Proposals for publication of her works, all of them annotated.

This edition contains the recently discovered poem "Ocean," new information about Wheatley's library (including a southern connection), a more accurate reading of a letter central to understanding the response to her 1772 Proposals, new variants of two poems, and a new reading of her George Washington poem. By going back to the original manuscripts (and to first printings when the manuscripts are not extant), Mason has provided the fullest and most accurate edition of Wheatley's poems and letters yet produced. The new index and bibliography assure the volume's usefulness for the scholar, the student, and the general reader.

Excerpt

When the first edition of this book was published in 1966, it appropriately spoke of the need to make readily available once more Phillis Wheatley's poems, which had become difficult to obtain despite various printings of them over the decades. Since 1966 her poems have become much more widely available through that edition and also through the work of a respectable body of scholars and critics over only a little more than two decades since that first edition was prepared. Various factors have contributed to increased interest in Phillis Wheatley and her poetry during that time, including the country's bicentennial (focusing on the period when she flourished) and a general heightening of awareness of past and continuing contributions by blacks to American culture as a whole. Another of the catalysts and aids in this interest (as had been intended) was the first edition of this book, making most of her work readily available once more and in context in a scholarly edition. Now, thanks mostly to a handful of persistent scholars whose contributions are obvious in the pages of this new edition, we know of more poems, more variants of poems, and more letters by her, and we know a good bit more about her life and its contexts. Also, much more aesthetic, cultural, and intentional critical attention has been paid to her writings.

Therefore, it is time to enlarge and revise the 1966 book accordingly and to make it even better than it was before by including the additional works and an index and by correcting the first edition's errors (and some of those by others) in text and in facts, while cutting away both some contexts and some suppositions that were appropriate for what was known in 1966 but now have been proven wrong or are no longer needed or no longer appropriate, often superseded by clearer or fuller information or interpretation. Also (to be found primarily in the notes) for this new edition I have been able to add some things that have not been published before. For example, see some new information concerning her personal library which adds a southern connection, in this introduction; two more books she owned, in the notes to her poem to Thomas Amory and her letter to David Wooster; a new way to . . .

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