BACKGROUND OF LETTER
Phillis Wheatley was born in Africa and brought
to Boston on a slave ship in 1761. She was only 7 or 8 years old at the
time and was purchased by John Wheatley. Phillis was quick to learn the
English language and, without attending school, she learned how to read
and write. She became interested in poetry and began to compose her own
verses. In 1773, at age 19, a volume of her poems was published in London.
The Wheatley family treated her more like a family member than a slave,
and in this 1774 letter she describes her feelings at the death of her mistress,
March 21, 1774
I recd. your obliging Letter, enclosed in your... Pastor's & handed
me by his Son. I have lately met with a great trial in the death of my
mistress, let us imagine the loss of a Parent, Sister or Brother the tenderness
of all these were united in her.--I was a poor little outcast a stranger
when she took me in, not only into her house but I presently became, and
honor in her most tender affections, I was treated by her more like her
child than her servant, no opportunity was left union proud, of giving
me the best of advice, but in terms how tender? how engaging! this I hope
ever to keep in remembrance. Her example by life was a greater monitor
than all her precepts and Instruction thus we may observe of how much
greater force example is than Instruction.....
I am very affectionately your Friend.
actual handwrtten letter and read the
rest of the text.