"The gifted young black poet Phillis Wheatley (ca. 1753-1784) was celebrated as "the extraordinary poetical genius" of colonial New England even before this compilation of her poems was published in September 1773. Not yet eight years old when she was brought to America from Africa in 1761, Wheatley was educated by her mistress, and her first poem was published in a Rhode Island newspaper when she was only fourteen. Her pious elegies for prominent English and colonial leaders became popular and were often reprinted in colonial newspapers or as broadsides.
Wheatley's 1773 visit to London, ostensibly to improve her frail condition, was cut short by her mistress' failing health. Although she was entertained by William Legge, Earl of Dartmouth, the abolitionist Grenville Sharpe, John Thornton, and Benjamin Franklin, Wheatley did not meet her patron, Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon, to whom she dedicated her Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral."