This essay revisits the history of Phillis Wheatley Peters's “volume of manuscript poems &&.,” a collection of handwritten poems, which her husband, John Peters, advertised for its return in late 1784, just days after her death. Since no second volume of poems was published, and the manuscript has never been recovered, it has been presumed to be and lamented as lost. By taking stock of what is known about PWP's archive at the time of her death and the process of its painstaking recovery, I seek to temper this account of destruction and loss by calling attention to the discoveries of librarians, scholars, and collectors in the nearly two and half centuries since her death. It is in this spirit of continuing and collaborative recovery that this essay contributes new evidence about a final, posthumous proposal for a collection of PWP's poems and letters, printed over a five‐week period, in July and August 1791, in Thomas's Massachusetts Spy; Or, the Worcester Gazette, a proposal that provides a clearer picture of PWP's archive as it existed at her death, and that can guide future recovery work.
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Research Article| January 01 2024
Michelle Levy; “A Volume of Manuscript Poems &c”: Phillis Wheatley Peters's Lost Book and a Found Proposal. Eighteenth-Century Life 1 January 2024; 48 (1): 183–216. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00982601-10951386
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