The Poems of Phillis Wheatley

By Julian D. Mason Jr.; Phillis Wheatley | Go to book overview

A Note on the Text

In preparing this new edition the emphasis has been on being as accurate as possible in all parts and aspects of the book, and especially on textual accuracy for Wheatley's poems and letters (and on proper sequencing for variants). A strong effort has been made to keep the capitalization, punctuation, spelling, italics, and general format as they are in the best available sources. Therefore, a great deal of effort and time was put into working directly from the actual manuscript of an item if it existed or from an actual copy of the particular printed version when the manuscript was not available. Working from reproductions (of any kind) of manuscripts or printed versions of Wheatley's texts was avoided as much as possible--that is, in most instances. This, of course, meant going to the materials as much as possible, and I am indebted to the helpful staffs of many repositories. (Taking this approach also led to new information and items and better understanding of some previously known material.) Information about textual sources is given in the notes to each of the items not in her 1773 book and below for the book itself. (Also see the acknowledgments section.)

The intention has been to include in this edition all poems and letters that are known definitely to be by Phillis Wheatley and any significant variants thereof for which she might well have been responsible. (Not included are the poem on the birthday of Pompey Stockbridge, a prayer said to be by her, and a few other items for which there is not sufficient evidence of her authorship but which some attribute to her.) Included with her letters are the 1772, 1773, and 1779 Proposals because of the valuable information and insights they provide. Who wrote them is not known, but the chances are good that she wrote the 1772 and 1779 ones--certainly she cooperated in their conception and contents. For context reasons, three of her letters and the 1784 Proposal are printed with the poems they are directly associated with, but they are listed chronologically in the Contents with the other letters and Proposals. The contents of her 1773 book, which has its own integrity, has been placed first among her works because of its importance and centrality in her career. Following it are the other of her poems (and their variants)

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The Poems of Phillis Wheatley
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations xi
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • On the Reputation of Phillis Wheatley, Poet 23
  • A Note on the Text 35
  • Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral 41
  • Preface 45
  • Other Poems and Variants of Poems 113
  • Letters and Proposals 181
  • A Selected List of Works for Further Reference (From Works Referred To, and from Other Works) 217
  • Index 223
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