J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Phillis Wheatley Day at Old South, 18 Aug.

I’m momentarily stepping away from the 1765 Stamp Act ruckus to note that on Tuesday, 18 August, the Old South Meeting-House celebrates its Phillis Wheatley Day.

That’s the date on which Phillis Wheatley officially joined the Old South congregation in 1771. At the time she was still enslaved in the Wheatley family though she was already becoming known locally for her memorial verse.

The historic site will offer hands-on activities related to Wheatley’s work with museum admission. Meanwhile, her writing desk can be seen at the Massachusetts Historical Society, and a signed copy of her 1773 collection of poems is on display at the Boston Public Library. [ADDENDUM: The library exhibit is closed from 3:30 P.M. on 18 August through 20 August.]

Wheatley usually wrote in rhymed pentameter couplets, but here’s a Horatian ode from that collection:
On Mrs. W——’s Voyage to England.

WHILE raging tempests shake the shore,
While Æolus’ thunders round us roar,
And sweep impetuous o’er the plain,
Be still, O tyrant of the main;
Nor let thy brow contracted frowns betray,
While my Susannah skims the watery way.

The Power propitious hears the lay,
The blue-eyed daughters of the sea
With sweeter cadence glide along,
And Thames responsive joins the song.
Pleased with their note, Sol sheds benign his ray,
And double radiance decks the face of day.

To court thee to Britannia’s arms,
Serene the clime and mild the sky,
Her region boasts unnumbered charms;
Thy welcome smiles in ev’ry eye.
Thy promise, Neptune, keep; record my prayer,
Nor give my wishes to the empty air.

Boston, October 10, 1772.
That poem raises an obvious question: Who was “Mrs. W——”?

TOMORROW: The usual answers.


Anonymous said...

Phillis Wheatley's 1773 volume of poems is also on exhibit at Old South Meeting House, along with a life sized statue.

J. L. Bell said...

I figure those items will be a focus of the Old South’s presentation.

mampg01776 said...

Hi there would you have any information regarding the HMS Hussar 1763-1780?

J. L. Bell said...

I wrote a couple of postings about the Hussar back in 2013, starting here.