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Anne Bradstreet

Anne Bradstreet


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Anne Bradstreet is one of the most important figures in the history of American Literature. She is considered by many to be the first American poet, and although her first collection of poems, "The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, By a Gentlewoman of Those Parts", doesn`t contain any of her best known poems, it was the first book written by a woman to be published in the United States.

She was born in Northampton, England, in 1612, daughter of Thomas Dudley and Dorothy Yorke. At the age of 16, Anne married Simon Bradstreet, a 25-year-old assistant in the Massachusetts Bay Company and the son of a Puritan minister, who had been in the care of the Dudleys since the death of his father.

Anne and her family emigrated to America in 1630 aboard the Arabella, one of the first ships to bring Puritans to New England in hopes of setting up plantation colonies. Anne was ill prepared for such rigorous travel, and would find the journey very difficult.

After landing, Anne and her family moved more than once, eventually arriving in Cambridge. Both her husband and her father were involved in the establishment of Harvard College, and two of her sons graduated from the college.

The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up In America was published in London as well as New England and was well received in each. Her home burned in 1666, leaving her with few possessions. She died in 1672.


Anne Bradstreet & the Puritan Influence on America

In her roles as mother, teacher, and poet, Anne Bradstreet emerged as a chief voice of a remarkable generation that exercised lasting influence over the American colonies and later over the American Republic.

In June 1630, an eighteen-year-old woman aboard a ship called the Arbella listened with her shipmates to a series of sermons by John Winthrop that would eventually be published under the title, A Model of Christian Charity. Though we might be tempted to think of her almost as a child, Anne Bradstreet had already been married for two years at that point, and her formal schooling exceeded that of all but the most highly educated people today. Her initial reaction to life in the New World was one of skepticism. Like most of her fellow Massachusetts Bay colonists, she left a rather comfortable life in Britain to carve a new community out of a veritable wilderness. With time, however, Bradstreet warmed to her new life in the colony and became a significant voice for the Puritan outlook, both in the colonies and back in Britain.

Anne Bradstreet was the first female poet of note in the New World and the first woman to be published in both the colonies and Britain. Her position as a woman from a significant family back in the motherland but also close to the colonial leadership both by birth and by marriage makes her a unique spokesperson for the colonial Puritan perspective that eventually helped shape the growth of the American Republic. Bradstreet’s work offers a forthright and illuminating entrée into the colonial expression of the Puritan mind, as distinct from its Old World manifestation.

The colonial precursors to the American Founding are numerous of course, but two colonies in particular did much to define the early American experience: Virginia and Massachusetts Bay. The two were initially quite different enterprises. The original Virginia charter refers to the first inhabitants as consisting of “certain Knights, Gentlemen, Merchants, and other Adventurers.” Contrast that with the staid middle-class families, including many wives and children, who made up the first waves of immigrants to Massachusetts Bay. Likewise, the “Adventurers” who founded Virginia did so with the unabashed intention of getting rich. The Virginia Company was most certainly operated for profit. The Puritans of Massachusetts Bay, on the other hand, sought to build a community where they could exercise their religion and worship God in the manner of their choosing without what they perceived to be the corrupting influence of the Old World surrounding them. The two colonial outlooks coexisted for a time, but in the course of American history, the families and communities of New England came to displace the “Adventurers” and stockholders of the Virginia Company.

The Puritan mind was, of course, not without its contradictions. Nor should the Puritans of the American colonies be equated with their Puritan cousins who remained behind in Britain. By definition, both groups wanted to “purify” the Church, but by choosing emigration abroad over political and social reform at home, the colonial Puritans set themselves on a much different path than that of their co-religionists back home. For example, while both groups were strongly anti-Catholic, the American Puritans were generally supportive of Charles I throughout the English Civil War, chiefly because they perceived Charles as having afforded them the latitude they needed to govern their colonies in a righteous manner without undue influence from the Crown or Parliament.

Contradictions aside, Bradstreet helps us identify four distinct principles that were dear to the Puritan colonists and which came to have a significant influence on the development of the American Republic. These are the notion of “covenant,” the balance between individual and community, the identity of a “chosen people,” and an abiding sense of optimism. Each of these, in turn, is worthy of a brief review.

The Covenant

Perhaps the single most important political and social concept in all of Puritan theology is that of the covenant. Modern readers often conflate the notion of covenant with the more widely understood notion of contract. A contract is a legal document between two or more parties that defines a quid-pro-quo exchange between them. For example, Party A might enter into a contract with Party B to mow his grass each week for fifty dollars. The two parties negotiate a price, terms of service, and other details and then bind themselves to the contract. The contract is legally enforceable should one party violate the terms.

A covenant is quite different. The covenant is a biblical concept and many examples can be found on the pages of Scripture. All covenants have certain common characteristics. First, a covenant is always made between God and people, as opposed to a contract which is made simply between people. Next, the terms of a covenant are non-negotiable. Whereas the parties to a contract typically collaborate on mutually acceptable terms, the terms of a covenant are dictated by God Himself and are not subject to amendment. Finally, a covenant is permanent, in many cases extending beyond the lifetimes of the initial generation of subscribers. Whereas a contract ordinarily concludes when the relevant parties have fulfilled their obligations to one another, a covenant has no earthly expiration date.

To further illustrate this principle, consider an example from the Old Testament. God famously enters into a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 17. In declaring this covenant, the Lord issues the terms to Abraham: “I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you… And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojourning.” For their own part, Abraham and his descendants (none of whom were even born yet) are to worship God and circumcise their children as a sign. And of course, several times throughout the chapter, God calls this Abrahamic covenant “an everlasting covenant,” an indication of its permanency.

Even those unfamiliar with the Scriptures, however, may nevertheless recognize another biblically-based covenant that the Puritans observed, the marriage covenant. Contemporary views of marriage have drifted over time toward the contractual, but a more traditional view underscores its covenantal origins. For example, the pledge of marriage is not traditionally understood as an agreement between a man and a woman, but rather a commitment to God that a man and woman undertake together. In other words, the traditional vows are made before and to God Himself. And again, God and not man actually dictates the terms of traditional marriage. The duties of a husband to his wife (and vice versa), as well as the requirement of strict fidelity to one another, are covenantal terms of marriage not open to renegotiation.

Like most other American Puritans, Bradstreet absorbed the principle of the covenant into nearly every aspect of life. “To My Dear and Loving Husband,” Bradstreet’s most well-known poem, practically shouts out a covenantal understanding of marriage. The unity of husband and wife (“If ever two were one, then surely we…”), the requirement of exclusive devotion (“My love is such that rivers cannot quench…”), and the permanence of the marital relationship (“…when we live no more we may live ever”) are all emphasized in this one brief poem.

Individual vs. Community

Bradstreet is best known as a poet, but she also wrote a series of short, aphoristic-style “Meditations” in prose. In one of these “Meditations,” Bradstreet examines the injunction found in Proverbs 22, “Train up a child in the way he should go even when he is old he will not depart from it.” She focuses on the phrase “the way he should go,” that is, it behooves parents to discern the differences among their children and guide them appropriately. “Diverse children have their different natures,” she writes, “some are like flesh which nothing but salt will keep from putrefaction, some again like tender fruits that are best preserved with sugar.” Education and childrearing, thus, are not one-size-fits-all.

Bradstreet here captures something of the balancing act the Puritans performed between the autonomy and affirmation of the individual and the needs of the larger community. Of course, every culture must deal with this same problem, finding an acceptable equilibrium between the parts and the whole. Indulge too much individualism, and a society quickly declines into anarchic uncertainty. Subsume individual interests too much into the whole, and oppressive tyranny is never far behind.

The Puritans, not surprisingly, looked to the example of the Bible for guidance in balancing the interests of the one with the interests of the many. The Old and New Testament alike are replete with messages of individual salvation. Each and every one of us, we are told, will be judged by God for our personal sins, and only those meriting forgiveness through Christ the Son of God will be saved. Obviously, the needs, interests, and duties of the individual are critically important in the Christian economy. However, despite the fact that clergy and laymen of many stripes ignore it, the Bible also reveals God’s interest in larger groups, communities, and nations. A careful reading of the Old Testament, the Puritans often pointed out, shows many instances of both judgment and blessings poured out on whole cities and nations. “[T]he day is coming… to cut off from Tyre and Sidon every helper that remains,” Jeremiah warns, for example. Israel itself goes through cycles of collective judgment and redemption. And, of course, the collective destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is still a well-known Old Testament story. But the New Testament also indicates God is attentive to groups as well as individuals. In Revelation 2-3, for example, we see the Holy Spirit pronouncing judgments and blessings on the seven churches of the ancient world, suggesting that God certainly places value on both individuals and communities.

The American Puritans took to heart such passages, placing due emphasis on the individual’s need for salvation and the community’s need to maintain its shared obligations to God. Hence, Puritan colonists enjoyed a great deal of latitude in matters of politics and the disposition of property compared to their brethren in Britain. But Puritan communities also insisted on the necessity of maintaining proper order, especially when it came to worship. Their notion of religious liberty was not hyper-individualistic. The individual had the autonomy to engage in false or heretical acts of worship if he chose to (and to personally suffer God’s wrath for doing so), but the community had no obligation to permit false worship in its midst. In fact, the community could be held accountable for tolerating such behavior. Still, despite popular misconceptions, very few heretics died at the hands of Puritan colonial governments. But a number of offenders were banished from Puritan colonial communities. In essence, the Puritan view was, “You may worship God in whatever manner you please, but if you insist on rejecting our community standards, you must do it somewhere else.” In a place like the New World, where space was readily available, this proved a workable solution to the individual vs. community problem. And the idea of ostensibly offensive individuals establishing new communities remained a part of American life until the eventual closing of the western frontier.

A Chosen People

A critical piece of the Puritan colonists’ self-image was derived from the Old Testament narrative, particularly the story of the Exodus. With remarkable regularly, Puritan leaders from John Winthrop to Cotton Mather invoked biblical language of escape from Egyptian slavery, crossing the Jordan, taming Canaan, and inheriting the Promised Land to describe their own “errand into the wilderness.”

“Metaphor” would not be the correct term to represent how these Puritans understood their Exodus-like endeavor, however. In a very real sense, they thought of themselves as a new Israel, a people chosen by God to achieve His historic ends. Just as the Israelites escaped bondage in Egypt and wandered in the wilderness before entering into the land God had promised, the colonists saw themselves as escaping a kind of cultural bondage in England, fleeing into the wilderness of the New World, and seeking one day a New Testament version of the Promised Land. In this way, they quite literally thought of themselves as a new Chosen People, uniquely tasked by God to be an example to other believers. Winthrop explicitly made just such an assertion in “A Model of Christian Charity”: “We shall find that the God of Israel is among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies, when he shall make us a praise and glory, that men shall say of succeeding plantations: ‘The Lord make it like that of New England.’ For we must consider that we shall be as a city on a hill, the eyes of all people are upon us.” He was hardly the last public man to make the connection, and one can still find evidence of this Puritan self-consciousness manifested to this day in some of the place-names established by New England colonies, such as Providenicetown or New Canaan.

While it does not directly address this notion of a Chosen People, Bradstreet’s lengthy historical poetic quartet, “The Four Monarchies,” nevertheless stands as a reminder of what happened to the Israelites in their own promised land when they failed to maintain God’s law and their devotion to Jehovah. Most of Bradstreet’s corpus consists of poems of personal reflection or pieces memorializing specific people in her life. “The Four Monarchies,” however, takes a much larger social and theological view.

The poem’s first quarto in particular, “The Assyrian Being the First,” highlights the wickedness the crept into the line of the kings of Israel, as the original Chosen People turned away from their God. As God’s new Chosen People, colonial Puritan readers could easily project themselves into the narrative. Bradstreet’s contemporaries, feeling the collective weight of their “chosenness,” no doubt understood her thinly veiled warning.

Perhaps the greatest historian of the American Puritans was the late Perry Miller. Miller wrote and edited several volumes on various aspects of the Puritan experience in the colonies and became intimately, if rather objectively, acquainted with his subject. In so doing, he made the following observation: “The most persistent misunderstanding of the Puritan mind is that which charges it with ‘fatalism.’ Modern sensibility supposes that believers in predestination must necessarily give over exertions.” That is to say, the Puritan theological doctrine of predestination, or what they more often called election, did not cause its adherents to “give up” and passively accept events that unfolded around them. Rather, confident in the truth that God ordains events and outcomes, the Puritans felt liberated to pursue seemingly implausible, even outrageous, courses of action and empowered to endure nearly any setback. If God willed the endeavor, however unlikely it seemed, it could not fail.

The very audaciousness of the Puritans’ colonial enterprise reflects this theologically-inspired optimism. The first (and smaller) wave of Puritan immigrants to the New World, the one’s we call “pilgrims” and celebrate on Thanksgiving, were a small, poorly-funded, and rather desperate band. They had suffered some genuine persecution in both Britain and Holland, and one might say that it was need that drove them to the shores of New England. But the second wave of Puritan immigrants, those who founded the successful Massachusetts Bay colony and of which Bradstreet was a part, found themselves in quite different circumstances. They were a larger and better-financed band of colonists. In fact, most of them came from relatively well-to-do families and enjoyed comfortable lives, as Bradstreet had. They did not leave Britain in desperation they left because they were fed up and believed God had called them to the task of establishing a new society in a New World.

Seen in this light, Miller’s observation becomes clearer. There was nothing fatalistic in the Puritan mind, at least not in these early generations. Instead, they could turn away from comparative wealth and ease and embrace all manner of struggle and challenge for the sake of a cause that they whole-heartedly believed God had ordained. To be sure, the colonists experienced a variety of setbacks, from disease to foul weather to violence, but they generally remained optimistic throughout.

Bradstreet again illustrates the American Puritan outlook in her poetry. At one point she and her family suffered a devastating loss when a fire destroyed their home. The material loss was nearly total. Bradstreet reflected on the episode in another of her most memorable poems, “Upon the Burning of Our House.” After a series of verses recounting all the joyful sounds and activities that would now never happen within the house’s burned-out walls, she castigates herself and refocuses her thoughts on her more Heavenly purpose:

In silence ever shalt thou lye
Adieu, Adieu All’s vanity.
Then streight I gin my heart to chide,
And didst thy wealth on earth abide?
Didst fix thy hope on mouldring dust,
The arm of flesh didst make thy trust?
Raise up thy thoughts above the skye
That dunghill mists away may flie.
Thou hast an house on high erect
Fram’d by that mighty Architect,
With glory richly furnished,
Stands permanent tho’ this bee fled.

As time passed, this same optimism found its way into the broader American mind. The notion that somehow things will work out right in the end has been a consistent cornerstone of American society since the colonial period. A similar optimism has driven pioneers to the frontier, explorers to the Earth’s remotest regions, and even astronauts to the surface of the moon. The intervening years have not rendered the Puritan “errand into the wilderness” any less outrageous, but they have added a great many more items to the collection of “outrageous things Americans have done.”

The eighteen-year-old Anne Bradstreet who disembarked from the Arbella may have had her misgivings, but the mother, teacher, and poet she emerged as a chief voice of a remarkable generation that exercised lasting influence over the American colonies, and later over the American Republic. The Puritans do not enjoy much favor among historians today, deservedly so perhaps, at least in part. But it is also difficult to imagine America without its covenantal political heritage, its careful balance between the individual and the community, its tradition of exceptionalism, and especially its undaunted sense of optimism, each derived to some degree from Bradstreet and her shipmates.

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Primary Works

Modern editions of Bradstreet’s works draw from two initial sources: the first edition of her work, submitted by Bradstreet’s brother-in-law Thomas Woodbridge and published in London (The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America Bradstreet 1650), and the Boston edition (Severall Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning, Full of Delight Bradstreet 1678), published six years after Bradstreet’s death. There is evidence that Bradstreet made revisions to The Tenth Muse in preparation for a second edition, but because Severall Poems was published after her death, scholars have differing views on which version more accurately reflects the author’s intent. The 1650 edition of The Tenth Muse is still available as a facsimile in Bradstreet 1965. Most modern collections of Bradstreet’s work, however, draw their material from the 1678 edition of Severall Poems, which includes Bradstreet’s later, more personal poetry. Ellis 1867 and Hensley 2010 also include Bradstreet’s letter to her children and other writings posthumously left to her family, which are now contained in what is called the Andover manuscript. Whereas Ellis preserves original spellings, Hensley is updated for more accessibility for today’s readers and is, therefore, more appropriate for younger students. McElrath and Robb 1981 differs from the other works cited here in its preference for the 1650 edition of The Tenth Muse, although it does also include poems from the 1678 Severall Poems and the Andover manuscript.

Bradstreet, Anne. The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, or Severall Poems, Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning, Full of Delight Wherein Especially Is Contained a Compleat Discourse and Description of the Four Elements, Constitutions, Ages of Man, Seasons of the Year: Together with an Exact Epitomie of the Four Monarchies, viz. the Assyrian, Persian, Grecian, Roman: Also a Dialogue between Old England and New, Concerning the Late Troubles: With Divers Other Pleasant and Serious Poems. London: Printed for Stephen Bowtell at the signe of the Bible in Popes Head-Alley, 1650.

The first edition of Bradstreet’s poems was submitted for publication by Bradstreet’s brother-in-law Thomas Woodbridge (supposedly without her knowledge). It was from a manuscript that Bradstreet created for her father, and it contains her more secular, formal poetry. It is prefaced by commendatory material written by preeminent men who attest to her status as a Puritan woman and to her worthiness as a poet.

Bradstreet, Anne. Severall Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning, Full of Delight: Wherein Especially Is Contained a Compleat Discourse, and Description of the Four Elements, Constitutions, Ages of Man, Seasons of the Year. Boston: Foster, 1678.

This collection was published after Bradstreet’s death. Although there is some evidence that Bradstreet revised her poetry in anticipation of this second edition, an unknown editor selected and made changes for this publication Jeannine Hensley has suggested that the editor was John Rogers. The collection includes revised poems from The Tenth Muse as well as eighteen new poems.

Bradstreet, Anne. The Tenth Muse (1650) and, from the Manuscripts, Meditations Divine and Morall Together with Letters and Occasional Pieces by Anne Bradstreet. Edited by Josephine K. Piercy. Gainesville, FL: Scholars’ Facsimiles and Reprints, 1965.

This edition includes a facsimile of the 1650 edition of The Tenth Muse and of the manuscripts left to her children after her death. The Tenth Muse facsimile shows the original typeset and spellings, and the manuscripts are in the poet’s and her son’s handwriting. There is a brief introduction by Piercy.

Ellis, John Harvard, ed. The Works of Anne Bradstreet, in Prose and Verse. Charlestown, MA: Cutter, 1867.

Ellis works from the second edition of Bradstreet’s poetry (Severall Poems) and maintains the original spelling, punctuation, and typographical errors. The editor uses footnotes to indicate differences between the first and second edition and incorporates material from the Andover Manuscript, including Bradstreet’s letter to her children and “Meditations Divine and Moral.” This edition also includes a lengthy biographical introduction and survey of scholarship.

Hensley, Jeannine, ed. The Works of Anne Bradstreet. Boston: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2010.

Hensley works from the second edition of Bradstreet’s poetry (Severall Poems) but modernizes its spelling and punctuation. She includes all extant works in chronological order (including those from the Andover manuscript), a foreword by Adrienne Rich, and an introduction.

McElrath, Joseph R., and Allan P. Robb, eds. The Complete Works of Anne Bradstreet. Boston: Twayne, 1981.

McElrath provides a general overview of the poet’s life and work and a survey of the scholarship through 1980. Unlike most other modern collections of Bradstreet’s poetry, this edition draws significantly from The Tenth Muse versions of Bradstreet’s poems. It provides documentation of manuscript changes in an extensive section on “Editorial Apparatus.”

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Anne Bradstreet also alludes to the role of women and to women's capabilities in many poems. She seems especially concerned to defend the presence of Reason in women. Among her earlier poems, the one extolling Queen Elizabeth includes these lines, revealing the sly wit that's in many of Anne Bradstreet's poems:

In another, she seems to refer to the opinion of some as to whether she should be spending time writing poetry:

She also refers to the likelihood that poetry by a woman will not be accepted:

Anne Bradstreet largely accepts, however, the Puritan definition of proper roles of men and women, though asking for more acceptance of women's accomplishments. This, from the same poem as the previous quote:


Anne Bradstreet – America’s First Feminist?

In reading Anne Bradstreet’s “The Prologue,” I sense what might be America’s first feminist publication. This poem, printed in 1650, contains overtones of anti-Puritan views specifically, in regard as to how New England Puritans viewed women in their society. The following is my analysis of “The Prologue.”

To sing of Wars, of Captains, and of Kings,
Of Cities founded, Common-wealths begun,
For my mean Pen are too superior things
Or how they all, or each their dates have run,
Let Poets and Historians set these forth.
My obscure lines shall not so dim their worth.

Anne Bradstreet starts the poem by describing several notable events and people that her “mean Pen” (mean in this instance meaning humble) are unworthy of her writing. She further states that she would not do such historic events justice with her writing, that event worth recording should be so by a poet or historian.

But when my wond’ring eyes and envious heart
Great Bartas’ sugar’d lines do but read o’er,
Fool, I do grudge the Muses did not part
‘Twixt him and me that over-fluent store.
A Bartas can do what a Bartas will
But simple I according to my skill.

Furthermore, she is upset that the Greek goddesses of the arts, the Muses, did not give her such talent as that of Guillaume du Bartas. She believes—unlike Bartas—that her capabilities are limited.

From School-boy’s tongue no Rhet’ric we expect,
Nor yet a sweet Consort from broken strings,
Nor perfect beauty where’s a main defect.
My foolish, broken, blemished Muse so sings,
And this to mend, alas, no Art is able,
‘Cause Nature made it so irreparable.

School boys, mere children, are not expected to write noteworthy speeches nor does one expect a broken instrument to play music worthy or recognition. Bradstreet believes that her “Muse”—her writing inspiration is broken, irreparable.

Nor can I, like that fluent sweet-tongued Greek
Who lisp’d at first, in future times speak plain.
By Art he gladly found what he did seek,
A full requital of his striving pain.
Art can do much, but this maxim’s most sure:
A weak or wounded brain admits no cure.

In this stanza, Bradstreet makes reference to Demosthenes, the famous Greek orator who conquered a speech defect by filling his mouth with pebbles. She brings attention to him to say that one can practice and train however, a weak brain cannot be fixed. Anne Bradstreet’s poem, to this point, almost crosses into a depressing poem—one of self-deprecation.

I am obnoxious to each carping tongue
Who says my hand a needle better fits.
A Poet’s Pen all scorn I should thus wrong,
For such despite they cast on female wits.
If what I do prove well, it won’t advance,
They’ll say it’s stol’n, or else it was by chance.

Here is where the poem begins to get very interesting. If you didn’t notice it in third line, of the first stanza, she has a sarcastic tone that she uses as she refers to the lower status of herself, as a woman—“For my mean Pen are too superior things.” It appears again here when she speaks of how the Puritan men talk to her. Bradstreet claims that men find her obnoxious they tell her that “[her] hand a needle better fits.” In fact, by some happenstance that Anne Bradstreet, a mere woman, could produce a work of art worthy of praise, it is sure to be “stol’n” or just dumb luck.

But sure the antique Greeks were far more mild,
Else of our Sex, why feigned they those nine
And poesy made Calliope’s own child?
So ‘mongst the rest they placed the Arts divine,
But this weak knot they will full soon untie.
The Greeks did nought but play the fools and lie.

Unlike the New England Puritans, the Greeks were more open to the fairer sex. Surely, this had to be the case as all nine of the Muses of arts were women.

Let Greeks be Greeks, and Women what they are.
Men have precedency and still excel
It is but vain unjustly to wage war.
Men can do best, and Women know it well.
Preeminence in all and each is yours
Yet grant some small acknowledgement of ours.

In an almost obsequious manner, Bradstreet admits defeat—that men will always excel over women. “Men can do best, and Women know it well.” HOWEVER…she does believe that men should acknowledge women when they do something well.

And oh ye high flown quills that soar the skies,
And ever with your prey still catch your praise,
If e’er you deign these lowly lines your eyes,
Give thyme or Parsley wreath, I ask no Bays.
This mean and unrefined ore of mine
Will make your glist’ring gold but more to shine.

Bradstreet ends the poem asking that if any great writers read her “lowly lines” that they pass on recognition. She doesn’t want the usual laurels used to crown poets, just some acknowledgement. Then she ends it on a rather awkward note, insisting that it will make their works of art shine in comparison.

As mentioned previously, when Bradstreet mentions how Puritan men view women, she writes with sarcasm—it drips off the page. The instance where Anne Bradstreet mostly boldly exclaims her distaste for the Puritan’s philosophy on women is when she wrote “For such despite they cast on female wits.”


An American Family History

from Genealogical and Personal Memoirs, Volume 1 edited by William Richard Cutter

Governor Simon Bradstreet, son of Rev. Simon Bradstreet, was baptized March 18, 1603-4, at Horbling, Lincolnshire. He matriculated at Emmanuel College, and doubtless intended to take holy orders as his father had done. in 1628, he married Anne Dudley, then but sixteen years old, daughter of Thomas Dudley.

. He came with Governor Winthrop to Massachusetts Bay colony in the ship Arabella, in 1630. He had become a Puritan in religion, and joined the movement to found a colony of Puritans in America, one of the youngest of the leaders.

He was elected an assistant when he was twenty-six, before leaving England. With Dudley, his father-in-law, he was one of the founders of Newtown, now Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the spring of 1631, and was a resident of that town several years.

In 1639 the general court granted to him five hundred acres of land in Salem, "in the next convenient place to Governor Endicott&rsquos farm."

For a short time, too, he resided at Ipswich,

removing thence to Andover, of which he was one of the first settlers in 1648 and for many years its first citizen. In addition to his office of assistant he was selectman of the town of Andover from the first meeting until 1672. He was also the first secretary of the colony, and held that office continuously from 1630 to 1644.

In 1643 he was appointed one of the commissioners of the united colonies, and served many years. In 1653 he vigorously opposed making war on the Dutch in New York and on the Indians.

In 1650 he was one of the commissioners to determine the boundary between the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam and the English colony at New Haven.

In June, 1654, Mr. Bradstreet was active in a meeting at Ipswich to take action to refute certain calumnies against the colony, forwarded to Protector Cromwell, and in May, 1661, after the restoration of the Stewarts. he was placed on a committee of the general courts to look after their charter rights.

Bradstreet drew up an address to the king, declaring the rights and liberties of the colony as well as the allegiance, loyalty and duty to the king.

In 1673 he was in the public confidence enough to be elected deputy governor. and he continued. through re-election in that ofiice until 1679 when, at the age of seventy-six, he was first chosen governor.

He was the last governor under the charter which in May, 1686. was dissolved.

During the tyrannical administration of Sir Edmund Andros, who followed Dudley, Governor Bradstreet, though nearly ninety years old. was active in resenting the oppressive measures and when the people of Boston rose to arms, April 18, 1689, Mr. Bradstreet and fourteen of the magistrates signed a demand upon Andros to relinquish his office and surrender the government and fortifications to the people.

The revolution took place, Bradstreet took charge of the government and Andros was thrown in prison. The old charter was restored and the general court again assembled. .

He died March 27, 1697, in the ninety-fifth year of his age, at Salem, and the general court voted "in consideration of the long and extraordinary service of Simon Bradstreet, late governor, one hundred pounds toward defraying the charges of his interment." His tomb is in the old Charter street burying ground, Salem.

His first wife, Anne Dudley, was one of the most intellectual women of the colony. a poet of ability, worthy daughter of a governor. and worthy wife of another governor. . She died September 16, 1672, aged about sixty.

Governor Bradstreet married second, Ann (Downing) Gardner, sister of Sir George Downing, and widow of Captain Joseph Gardner. His will was dated December 23, 1689, proved January 27, 1692-3.

Children, all by first wife:
1. Dr. Samuel, a physician, graduate of Harvard College, 1653 married first, Mercy Tyng second, Martha
2. Sarah, married first, Richard Hubbard second, Major Samuel Ward.
3. Rev. Simon, born 1638 married Lucy Woodbridge, who married second, Daniel Eppes.
4. Colonel Dudley, born 1648 married Ann, widow of Theodore Price.
6. Hannah or Ann, married June 3, 1659, Andrew Wiggin, of Exeter, son of Governor Thomas.
7. Mercy, married October 31, 1672, Major Nathaniel Wade.
8. John,

from Genealogical and Personal Memoirs, Volume 1 edited by William Richard Cutter

John Bradstreet, son of Governor Simon Bradstreet. was born July 22, 1653, at Andover, Massachusetts. He died at Topsfield, in the same colony, January 11, 1718. He was a prominent citizen of Topsfield.

He married, June 11, 1677, Sarah Perkins, daughter of William.

Children, born at Topsfield:
1. Simon, born April 14, 1682
2. John, born January 3, 1693 married Rebecca, daughter of John and Sarah (Dickenson) Andrews.
3. Margaret, born November 27, 1696.
4. Samuel, born August 4, 1699
5. Mercy, married John Hazen, of Boxford.
Three other daughters were living in 1710, but their names are not known.

from Genealogical and Personal Memoirs, Volume 1 edited by William Richard Cutter

Simon Bradstreet, son of John Bradstreet, was born at Topsfield, Massachusetts, April 14, 1682. He lived at Topsfield.

He married, October 12, 1711, Elizabeth, daughter of Rev. Joseph Capen, of Topsfield.

Children, born at Topsfield:
1. Elizabeth, born August 28, 1712 married November 2, 1729, Joseph Peabody died December 31, 1751.
2. Simon, born April 21, 1714: married Anna Flint.
3. Dudley, born May 27, 1716.
4. John, born March 2. 1718
5. Margaret, born April 24, 1720 married Andrews.
6. Priscilla, born September 27, 1722.
7. Lucy, born November 25. 1724 married, 1776, Robert Andrews.
8. Dr. Joseph, born May 18, 1727 married Abby Fuller, of Middleton.
9. Mercy, born November 27, 1728 married Stone.
10. Mary, born May 10, 1731 married Elisha Wildes.

from Genealogical and Personal Memoirs, Volume 1 edited by William Richard Cutter

John Bradstreet, son of Simon Bradstreet, was born at Topsfield, March 2, 1718.

He married, January 13, 1742, Elizabeth Fisk, of Wenham.

Children, born at Topsfield:
1. Priscilla, born January 8, 1745 married June 12, 1764, John Killam, of Boxford.
2. Mary, born December 22, 1748 married John Dodge, of Beverly.
3. Mehitable, born June 2, 1751.
4. Huldah, born April 15, 1754.
5. Lucy, born March 27, 1758.
6. Eunice. born August 16, 1760 married March 25, 1783, Benjamin Emerson.
7. Captain Dudley, born October 8, 1765
8. Elizabeth, married 1769, John Gould.
9. Sarah, born February 1, 1756 married Daniel Gould.


Anne Bradstreet Circa (1612-1672)

A Major Poet. Anne Bradstreet ’ s poetry is recognized as one of the greatest literary achievements of seventeenth-century New England and a valuable source of information on the Puritan woman ’ s perspectives on her society. Her work remains a tribute to the power of her intellect, the depth of her passion, and her capacity for self-expression.

Early Life. Anne Dudley Bradstreet, like many early Puritans, sacrificed a comfortable life in England to settle in the wilderness of Massachusetts. She was born in Northampton, England, where her father, Thomas Dudley, was a clerk and a member o í the gentry. When she was seven he became steward to Theophilus Clinton, Earl of Lincoln, and moved his family to the earl ’ s estate at Sempringham. There she, her older brother, and four younger sisters grew up amid the amenities and refined social life of a great country manor. The earl ’ s house was I a center of Puritan learning and activism. Leading ministers of the day often preached and taught in the earl ’ s chapel, and many of the Puritan gentry and nobility met there to discuss issues of the day. Anne heard some of the finest preaching in England read Scripture, theology, philosophy, and literature in the earl ’ s extensive library listened to and participated in discussions on these subjects and learned to appreciate the art and music of the day. When she was nine she met her future husband, Simon Bradstreet, a recent graduate of Cambridge University, who came to Sempringham as Thomas Dudley ’ s assistant. Anne married Bradstreet in about 1628. At fifteen or sixteen she was rather young to be married by the standards of her time. The couple moved to the estate of the dowager countess of Warwick, where Simon had become steward.

Migration to Massachusetts. Anne and Simon Bradstreet did not remain in the countess ’ s household for long. The religious situation had been worsening dramatically for the Puritans since Charles I had inherited the throne from his father, James I, in 1625. Charles favored Bishop William Laud, who used his influence to exclude Puritans from church offices. Charles ’ s efforts to limit the role of Parliament in government, culminating in his suspension of Parliament in 1629, forced the Puritans to recognize that they were losing influence at home. Puritan leaders responded with bold plans to influence England to reform by establishing a “ Godly Commonwealth ” in America. In 1630 the Bradstreets and Dudleys embarked for the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The harsh climate and rustic surroundings Bradstreet encountered when she arrived in America contrasted starkly with the privileged existence she had known in England. Yet “ convinced it was the way of God, ” she “ submitted to it. ”

Poet of New England. Anne Bradstreet and her family moved several times in the next twenty years. Her husband assumed a leading role in early Massachusetts society, holding various official posts including service as governor of the colony after her death. Anne devoted herself to domestic life, giving birth to eight children between 1633 and 1652, but she also found time to write. The earliest of her surviving poems dates from 1632, when she was ill and hovering near death while residing in New Towne (later renamed Cambridge), Massachusetts. Three years later the Bradstreets moved to the frontier town of Ipswich, Massachusetts, where they remained for ten years. Here Bradstreet began to write poetry in earnest. Her whole family took great pride in her work, encouraging her to continue writing. In 1645 the Bradstreets moved again, to the inland town of Andover, where Anne continued to find time to write amid a busy schedule of child rearing, domestic work, and entertaining.

The Tenth Muse. In 1647 her brother-in-law John Woodbridge carried to England a manuscript of her poems and prepared it for publication without her knowledge or consent. It appeared anonymously as The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America (1650), gaining her recognition on both sides of the Atlantic as a learned and expressive poet. The poems in this volume display her knowledge of history, philosophy, and current affairs in England and America and include elegies to Elizabeth I and Sir Philip Sidney.

Later Years. Bradstreet continued writing until her death in 1672. After she died her husband collected her corrected versions of the poems in The Tenth Muse and some of her later poems in Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning, Full of Delight (1678), the first book by a woman to be published in America. The later poems in this volume are far more candid than her earlier verse about Bradstreet ’ s spiritual doubts — and far more personal. Many of these are the poems for which she is most admired by modern readers — including her poems about her love for her husband and family. While the poems in The Tenth Muse have been called brilliant but imitative and strained, the later poems are the work of a talented, original poet shaping the raw material of her life into art.


1. Background

In a portrait painted by her later poems, Bradstreet is described as an educated English woman, a kind, loving wife, devoted mother, Empress Consort of Massachusetts, a questing Puritan and a sensitive poet.

Bradstreets first volume of poetry was The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, published in 1650. It was met with a positive reception in both the Old World and the New World.

1.1. Background Life

Anne was born in Northampton, England, 1612, the daughter of Thomas Dudley, a steward of the Earl of Lincoln, and Dorothy Yorke. Due to her familys position, she grew up in cultured circumstances and was a well-educated woman for her time, being tutored in history, several languages, and literature. At the age of sixteen she married Simon Bradstreet. Both Annes father and husband were later to serve as governors of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Anne and Simon, along with Annes parents, emigrated to America aboard the Arbella as part of the Winthrop Fleet of Puritan emigrants in 1630. She first felt American soil on June 14, 1630 at what is now Pioneer Village Salem, Massachusetts with Simon, her parents, and other voyagers as part of the Puritan migration to New England 1620–1640. Due to the illness and starvation of Gov. John Endecott and other residents of the village, their stay was very brief. Most moved immediately south along the coast to Charlestown, Massachusetts for another short stay before moving south along the Charles River to found "the City on the Hill," Boston, Massachusetts.

The Bradstreet family soon moved again, this time to what is now Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1632, Anne had her first child, Samuel, in Newe Towne, as it was then called. Despite poor health, she had eight children and achieved a comfortable social standing. Having previously been afflicted with smallpox as a teenager in England, Anne would once again fall prey to illness as paralysis overtook her joints in later years. In the early 1640s, Simon once again pressed his wife, pregnant with her sixth child, to move for the sixth time, from Ipswich, Massachusetts to Andover Parish. North Andover is that original town founded in 1646 by the Stevens, Osgood, Johnson, Farnum, Barker, and Bradstreet families among others. Anne and her family resided in the Old Center of North Andover, Massachusetts published in London, making Anne the first female poet ever published in both England and the New World. On July 10, 1666, their North Andover family home burned see "Works" below in a fire that left the Bradstreets homeless and with few personal belongings. By then, Annes health was slowly failing. She suffered from tuberculosis and had to deal with the loss of cherished relatives. But her will remained strong and as a reflection of her religious devotion and knowledge of Biblical scriptures, she found peace in the firm belief that her daughter-in-law Mercy and her grandchildren were in heaven.

Anne Bradstreet died on September 16, 1672 in North Andover, Massachusetts at the age of 60 of tuberculosis. The precise location of her grave is uncertain but many historians believe her body is in the Old Burying Ground at Academy Road and Osgood Street in North Andover. In 1676, four years after the death of Anne, Simon Bradstreet married for a second time to a lady also named Anne Gardiner. In 1697 Simon died and was buried in Salem.

This area of the Merrimack Valley is today described as "The Valley of the Poets."

A marker in the North Andover cemetery commemorates the 350th anniversary 2000 of the publishing of The Tenth Muse in London in 1650. That site and the Bradstreet Gate at Harvard, the memorial and pamphlets inside the Ipswich Public Library in Ipswich, MA, as well as the Bradstreet Kindergarten in North Andover may be the only places in America honoring her memory. As of 2015, the Bradstreet Kindergarten was torn down in North Andover. In the fall of 2018, The Anne Bradstreet Early Childhood Center was opened near Massachusetts Avenue in North Andover. Housing both preschool and kindergarten, the Anne Bradstreet ECC replaced the aged building named for her that had been on Main Street.

2.1. Writing Background

Anne Bradstreets education gave her advantages that allowed her to write with authority about politics, history, medicine, and theology. Her personal library of books was said to have numbered over 9000, although many were destroyed when her home burned down. This event itself inspired a poem titled "Upon the Burning of Our House July 10th, 1666". At first, she rejects the anger and grief that this worldly tragedy has caused hershe looks toward God and the assurance of heaven as consolation, saying:

However, in opposition to her Puritan ways, she also shows her human side, expressing the pain this event had caused her, that is, until the poem comes to its end:

As a younger poet, Bradstreet wrote five quaternions, epic poems of four parts each see works below that explore the diverse yet complementary natures of their subject. Much of Bradstreets poetry is based on observation of the world around her, focusing heavily on domestic and religious themes, and was considered by Cotton Mather a monument to her memory beyond the stateliest marble. Long considered primarily of historical interest, she won critical acceptance in the 20th century as a writer of enduring verse, particularly for her sequence of religious poems "Contemplations", which was written for her family and not published until the mid-19th century. Bradstreets work was deeply influenced by the poet Guillaume de Salluste Du Bartas, who was favored by 17th-century readers.

Nearly a century later, Martha Wadsworth Brewster, a notable 18th-century American poet and writer, in her principal work, Poems on Diverse Subjects, was influenced and pays homage to Bradstreets verse.

Despite the traditional attitude toward women of the time, she clearly valued knowledge and intellect she was a free thinker and some consider her an early feminist unlike the more radical Anne Hutchinson, however, Bradstreets feminism does not reflect heterodox, antinomian views. Based on her poems, Bradstreet could also be considered to be a complementarian. An example of this is in her poem "In Honour of that High and Mighty Princess Queen Elizabeth of Happy Memory", in which she praises Queen Elizabeth as proof that the common perceptions men held about women were wrong. She tends to focus on Elizabeths ability to excel in more masculine areas, such as war, as we see in the lines below.

In 1647 Bradstreets brother-in-law, Rev. John Woodbridge, sailed to England, carrying her manuscript of poetry. Although Anne later said that she did not know Woodbridge was going to publish her manuscript, in her self-deprecatory poem, "The Author to Her Book", she wrote Woodbridge a letter while he was in London, indicating her knowledge of the publication plan. Anne had little choice, however - as a woman poet, it was important for her to downplay her ambitions as an author. Otherwise, she would have faced criticism for being "unwomanly." Annes first work was published in London as The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America "by a Gentlewoman of those Parts".

The purpose of the publication appears to have been an attempt by devout Puritan men to show that a godly and educated woman could elevate her position as a wife and mother, without necessarily placing her in competition with men.

In 1678 her self-revised Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning was posthumously published in America, and included one of her most famous poems, "To My Dear and Loving Husband".

This volume is owned by the Stevens Memorial Library vault at Harvard.

A quotation from Bradstreet can be found on a plaque at the Bradstreet Gate in Harvard Yard: "I came into this Country, where I found a new World and new manners at which my heart rose." Unfortunately the plaque seems to be based on a misinterpretation the following sentence is "But after I was convinced it was the way of God, I submitted to it and joined to the church at Boston." This suggests her heart rose up in protest rather than in joy.

2.2. Writing Role of women

Marriage played a large role in the lives of Puritan women. In Bradstreets poem, "To My Dear And Loving Husband," she reveals that she is one with her husband. "If ever two were one, then surely we." The Puritans believed marriage to be a gift from God. In another of Bradstreets works, "Before the Birth of One of Her Children", Bradstreet acknowledges Gods gift of marriage. In the lines, "And if I see not half my days thats due, what nature would, God grant to yours, and you" Bradstreet is saying that if she was to die soon, what would God give her husband. She could be referring to him possibly remarrying after she dies. Another line shows that she believes that it is possible for her husband to remarry. By using the lines, "These O protect from stepdames injury", Bradstreet is calling for her children to be protected from the abuse of a future step mother. The fact that Bradstreet believes that God will grant her husband a new wife if she dies shows how much Puritan women believed in marriage.

Throughout "Letter to Her Husband, Absent upon Public Employment," Bradstreet states how she feels lost when her husband is not around and that life is always better when he is around. In Bradstreets poems, it can be assumed she truly loved her husband and missed him when he was away from her and the family. Bradstreet does not resent her husband for leaving her with the family and with all of the household needs she just misses him and wants him back with her.

The primary roles of women in a Puritan society were to be wives and mothers, and provide the family with their everyday needs. Women were expected to make the clothing for the family, cook the meals, keep the household clean, and teach the children how to live a Puritan lifestyle. Various works of Bradstreet are dedicated to her children. In works such as "Before the Birth of One of Her Children" and "In Reference to Her Children", Bradstreet shows the love that she has for her children, both unborn and born. In Puritan society, children were also gifts from God, and she loved and cared for all of her children just as she loved and cared for her husband. She always believes they too are bound with her to make "one."

2.3. Writing Reception

Because writing was not considered to be an acceptable role for women at the time, Bradstreet was met with criticism. One of the most prominent figures of her time, John Winthrop, criticized Ann Hopkins, wife of prominent Connecticut colony governor Edward Hopkins. He mentioned in his journal that Hopkins should have kept to being a housewife and left writing and reading for men, "whose minds are stronger." Despite heavy criticism of women during her time, Bradstreet continued to write which led to the belief that she was interested in rebelling against societal norms of the time.

A prominent minister of the time, Thomas Parker, was also against the idea of women writing and sent a letter to his own sister saying that publishing a book was outside of the realm of what women were supposed to do. No doubt he was opposed to the writing of Bradstreet as well. These negative views were likely augmented by the fact that Puritan ideologies stated that women were vastly inferior to men.

3.1. Literary style and themes Background

Bradstreet let her homesick imagination marshall her store of learning, for the glory of God and for the expression of an inquiring mind and sensitive, philosophical spirit.

We see examples of this homesick imagination in her poem "Dialogue Between Old England and New" which emphasizes the relationship between the motherland and the colonies as parental and gives assurance that the bond between the two countries will continue. It also implies that whatever happens to England will also affect America. The poem often refers to England as "mother" and America as "Daughter", which emphasizes the bond Bradstreet feels herself to her home country.

3.2. Literary style and themes Intended audience

Anne Bradstreets works tend to be directed to members of her family and are generally intimate. For instance, in Bradstreets "To My Dear and Loving Husband", the poems intended audience is her husband, Simon Bradstreet. The focal point of this poem is the love that she has for her husband. "I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold". To Bradstreet, her husbands love is worth more than some of the best treasures that this earth has to offer. She also makes it a point to show to her husband that nothing can fill the love that she has for her husband. The lines, "My love is such that rivers cannot quench," the rivers represent death, which she says the fire of her love is invulnerable to. The last line of the poem sums this up with the words, "Then when we live no more, we may live ever."

In "A Letter to Her Husband Absent upon Public Employment" Bradstreet writes a letter to her husband who is away from her working at his job. Bradstreet uses various metaphors to describe her husband. The most visible use of metaphor that Bradstreet uses is comparing her husband to the seasons. When summer is gone, winter soon arrives. Summer can be seen as a time of happiness and warmth. Winter on the other hand can be seen as being gloomy and cold. Bradstreets husband is her Sun and when he is with her it is always summer. She is happy and warm from the love that her husband brings when he is around. When her husband leaves home for work, everything then becomes winter. It is a sad, cold time for Bradstreet and she wishes for her husband to soon return. "Return, return, sweet Sol, from Capricorn." She wants her husband to know that she needs him and without him everything feels gloomy. She is not concerned with what others think. It is not intended for anyone else except her husband. Bradstreet knows that the situation is inevitable, summer cant be around always and soon winter will follow. Her husbands job is important. He cant be there always and he must go away at times. "Till natures sad decree shall call thee hence." One thing that keeps her going is that even though they are far away from each other, they are one with each other.

By reading Bradstreets works and recognizing her intended audience, one can get an idea of how life was for Puritan women. According to U.S. History.org Puritan women were required to attend worship services, yet they could not to speak or offer prayer. Women were also not allowed to attend town meetings or be involved in the decisions that were discussed. If Puritan women were to be seen and not heard in public, then one can say that most of their works are not meant for public consumption.

Bradstreet was not responsible for her writing becoming public. Bradstreets brother-in-law, John Woodbridge, sent her work off to be published. Bradstreet was a righteous woman and her poetry was not meant to bring attention to herself. Though Bradstreets works are renowned in todays world, it still was a great risk to have had her work published during the time in which she lived. Her being a published author would have not been considered as a typical role of the Puritan woman.

3.3. Literary style and themes Themes

The role of women is a common subject found in Bradstreets poems. Living in a Puritan society, Bradstreet did not approve of the stereotypical idea that women were inferior to men during the 1600s. Women were expected to spend all their time cooking, cleaning, taking care of their children, and attending to their husbands every need. In her poem "In Honour of that High and Mighty Princess Queen Elizabeth of Happy Memory," Bradstreet questions this belief.

"Now say, have women worth? or have they none? Or had they some, but with our queen ist gone? Nay Masculines, you have thus taxt us long, But she, though dead, will vindicate our wrong, Let such as say our Sex is void of Reason, Know tis a Slander now, but once was Treason."

Another recurring subject in Bradstreets work is mortality. In many of her works, she writes about her death and how it will affect her children and others in her life. The recurrence of this mortality theme can be viewed as autobiographical. Because her work was not intended for the public, she was referring to her own medical problems and her belief that she would die. In addition to her medical history smallpox and partial paralysis, Bradstreet and her family dealt with a major house fire that left them homeless and devoid of all personal belongings. She hoped her children would think of her fondly and honor her memory in her poem, "Before the Birth of One of Her Children." "If any worth or virtue were in me, Let that live freshly in thy memory."

Bradstreet is also known for using her poetry as a means to question her own Puritan beliefs her doubt concerning Gods mercy and her struggles to continue to place her faith in him are exemplified in such poems as "Verses upon the Burning of our House" and "In Memory of My Dear Grandchild". Her works demonstrate a conflict that many Puritans would not have felt comfortable discussing, let alone writing.

In "The Prologue," Bradstreet demonstrates how society trivialized the accomplishments of women. The popular belief that women should be doing other things like sewing, rather than writing poetry.

"I am obnoxious to each carping tongue Who says my hand a needle better fits, A poets pen all scorn I should thus wrong. For such despite they cast on female wits: If what I do prove well, it wont advance, Theyll say its stoln, or else it was by chance."

In "To My Dear and Loving Husband," Bradstreet confesses her undying love for Simon saying "Thy love is such I can no way repay, The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray." Her deep passions can be found again in "A Letter to Her Husband, Absent upon Public Employment." Her overt affections for her husband help readers to understand Bradstreets temerity.

Anne Bradstreet wrote in a different format than other writers of her time. This mainly is due to the fact that she wrote her feelings in a book not knowing someone would read them. In her poem "A letter to my Husband" she speaks about the loss of her husband when he is gone.

"I like the earth this season morn in black, my sun is gone." Here Anne is expressing her feelings of missing her husband when he is away.

"To my faults that well you know I have let be interred in my oblivious grave if any worth of virtue were in me, let that live freshly in they memory". Anne expresses the feeling she has of wanting her children to remember her in a good light not in a bad light.

3.4. Literary style and themes Tone

Bradstreet often used a sarcastic tone in her poetry. In the first stanza of "The Prologue" she claims "for my mean pen are too superior things" referring to societys belief that she is unfit to write about wars and the founding of cities because she is a woman. In stanza five Bradstreet continues to display irony by stating "who says my hand a needle better fits". This is another example of her sarcastic voice because society during this time expected women to perform household chores rather than write poetry.

Although Anne Bradstreet endured many hardships in her life, her poems are usually written in a hopeful and positive tone. Throughout her poem In "Memory of My Dear Grandchild Simon Bradstreet," she mentions that even though she has lost her grandson in this world, she will one day be reunited with him in Heaven. In "Upon the Burning of Our House," Bradstreet describes her house in flames but selflessly declares "theres wealth enough, I need no more." Although Bradstreet lost many of her material items she kept a positive attitude and remained strong through God.

3.5. Literary style and themes Quaternions

Bradstreet wrote four quaternions, "Seasons," "Elements," "Humours," and "Ages," which made possible her "development as a poet in terms of technical craftsmanship as she learned to fashion the form artistically."

Bradstreets first two quaternions were her most successful. The central tension in her work is that between delight in the world and belief of its vanity.


Anne Bradstreet: &ldquoTo My Dear and Loving Husband&rdquo

On an icy November afternoon in 1637, in the thatch-roofed Cambridge meetinghouse of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, 40 magistrates sat ready to pass judgment on a woman whom they believed posed the gravest threat yet to the fragile social and political order of the seven-year-old colony: Anne Hutchinson, a 46-year-old mother of 12 living children and the foremost female Puritan intellectual and spiritual leader. Her ostensible crime? Holding weekly meetings with other women to discuss Scripture. Hutchinson’s biblical exegesis and spiritual advice had grown so popular that the crowds had swelled to include one-fifth of Boston’s population. Counted among them were many men who were political opponents of the current governor, John Winthrop, the lead prosecutor.

For the two days preceding the judgment Anne Hutchinson had outwitted the magistrates, successfully questioning their logic and command of Scripture, as well as the legal basis for the charges against her. Her testimonial tour de force is, despite her years of teaching and advising women, now the only written record we have of her teaching. This testimony was taken by Simon Bradstreet, the “dear and loving husband” of the poet Anne, an ironic connection between two women who have come to represent two distinct, often competing ways of challenging the prevailing views of women.

Hutchinson’s verbal performance proved that she was the magistrates’ intellectual equal—if not their superior—but it had hurt her case. Prevailing attitudes toward women at the time held that female minds were too weak to tackle complex thought: Governor John Winthrop once publicly claimed that a woman had committed suicide because she read and thought too much.

The model Puritan woman, according to Hutchinson’s biographer Eve LaPlante, was “modest, meek, submissive, virtuous, obedient, and kind” and “solely occupied with supervising and maintaining the home, cooking sometimes brewing and dairying, and bearing and rearing children. She was expected to suffer all these in silence. . . .”

Nonetheless, after two days of Hutchinson’s parrying, no charge would stick. Since women had no public role and could not vote, the magistrates could not disenfranchise her. During this standoff, and with victory within her reach, Hutchinson behaved in a then-unthinkable way: she began to publicly teach her interpretation of Puritan doctrine to the magistrates. Preaching that salvation depended on grace, not works or obedience to religious laws, she voiced beliefs that Governor Winthrop’s supporters thought heretical, though they were nearly identical to the reasons the Puritans had fled England. She was subsequently banished from the colony.

Many historians think Hutchinson’s real crime was to expound publicly on sacred texts, breaking limits that bounded female speech and threatened male authority. The magistrates’ decision to banish her from the colony made those limitations explicit for other Puritan women. Prefiguring the Salem witch trials, the magistrates based their decision on the view that such bold talk must be the work of the Devil.

In 1650, fewer than 15 years later, Anne Bradstreet became the first colonial settler and first woman to ever publish a book of poetry in England. In The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, she displays an intellect on par with Hutchinson’s, easily covering subjects thought too difficult for a woman’s frail mind. Though she wrote long, often didactic, clunky poems about history and science, she also versified about anatomy, physiology, Greek metaphysics, theology, and family life. Unlike Hutchinson’s speeches, Bradstreet’s poetry shattered 17th-century attitudes toward women, and both she and The Tenth Muse became enormously popular on both sides of the Atlantic. According to one of her biographers, Charlotte Gordon, “her words would catch fire and she would become the voice of an era and of a new century.”

Why was Anne Hutchinson punished for being outspoken about religion and politics, while Bradstreet became a cultural icon? One answer can be found in Bradstreet’s “To My Dear and Loving Husband.” From our contemporary perspective, it reads like a traditional Elizabethan love sonnet (though it’s composed of 12 lines instead of 14). Compared to Bradstreet’s earlier discourses on science, religion, and politics, it is written in a relatively plain style and unabashedly declares her abiding love for her husband. Formally and thematically, it echoes Shakespeare’s sonnet “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?,” in which the poet promises immortality to his young lover, and also Sir Philip Sidney’s sonnet “My True Love Hath My Heart,” which celebrates a perfectly balanced marital union from the woman’s perspective.

Seventeenth-century readers, however, familiar with Puritan theology and the tricks, tropes, and conceits of metaphysical poetry could read her poem as a rhetorical argument intended to persuade them of her position on the schism that had threatened to tear apart the colony at Hutchinson’s trial. Bradstreet’s poem speaks obliquely to the competing beliefs on how to conduct one’s life on earth given the contradictory nature of Puritanism: even though God had predetermined, or elected, those who would attain salvation, one still had to conduct one’s life on earth so as to prepare to receive grace, or salvation, in the hereafter. The early American historian Edmund Morgan coined the term “the Puritan dilemma” to describe this conundrum:

Puritanism required that a man devote his life to seeking salvation but told him he was helpless to do anything but evil. Puritanism required that he rest his whole hope in Christ but taught him that Christ would utterly reject him unless before he was born God had foreordained his salvation. Puritanism required that man refrain from sin but told him he would sin anyhow.

The extent to which individual Puritans pinned their hopes on being counted among the elect is impossible to underestimate. Puritans engaged in a continual and exacting introspection in which all personal and national events were interpreted as signs of their readiness to receive grace. For example, when she was 14 years old, Anne fell in love with her father’s assistant, Simon Bradstreet, whom she married two years later. Believing such feelings were sinful outside of marriage, she prayed unremittingly to be rid of her carnal lust. When she fell ill that same year with smallpox, she viewed it as God’s punishment for her sinful ways.

In “To My Dear and Loving Husband,” written many years later, God doesn’t make an explicit appearance. Instead of painstakingly estimating whether she is worthy to receive grace, Bradstreet estimates her power to reciprocate love. What’s changed in the intervening two decades? Since her arrival in America at age 18, she had given birth to all but one of her eight children, buried numerous relatives and friends, and singly managed a pioneer homestead while her husband traveled on colonial business throughout New England and across the Atlantic.

During this period, she found time to write poems and letters, and to keep a diary. Instead of the religious conversion narratives many Puritan women wrote, her work as a whole tells of her conversion to the joys and suffering of ordinary life. After The Tenth Muse was published, Bradstreet turned to poetic subjects that seemingly show her fulfilling a Puritan woman’s duty—raising (and burying) children, contemplating God, and loving her parents and husband. Yet within the context of being dutiful and celebrating ordinary joys, these more domestic poems display her capacity to argue theology and invent lasting art.

In “To My Dear and Loving Husband,” Bradstreet persuasively presents her views on how to resolve the basic contradictions of Puritan faith—in other words, how to live in this world while keeping an eye on heaven.

In the opening quatrain, her ability to reason, to construct an argument, commands center stage. Turning to anaphora, a rhetorical device that consists of repeating a sequence of words at the beginnings of neighboring clauses, thereby lending them emphasis (and perhaps in a nod to future computer programmers), she opens with a series of logical “If then” statements:

If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee.
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women if you can.

She boasts that if a core human paradox is true (“If ever two were one,”)—if it is possible that love can wholly join two singular individuals—then she and her husband have achieved a perfectly balanced union. Her husband is as loved by her as she is by him. Bradstreet breaks the symmetry of her syntax and argument in the second couplet, in which, instead of addressing her husband, she directly addresses “women,” the same audience to whom Anne Hutchinson was punished for dispensing spiritual advice: “If ever wife was happy in a man, / Compare with me, ye women, if you can.” Unlike Hutchinson, she can address other women publicly because she does so within the context of being a loving Puritan wife.

Having established the value of her love through the power to reason in the first quatrain, she offers proof that its value is beyond compare in the second quatrain through the use of monetary metaphors and scriptural imagery:

I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold,
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee give recompense.

In claiming to value her husband’s love more than “whole mines of gold,” Bradstreet echoes Psalm 19 (“The judgments of the Lord are truth / they are righteous altogether, / And more to be desired than gold,”), a reference that would have resonated with Scripture-steeped 17th-century audiences, yet she subverts the imagery’s traditional Puritan religious use. Instead of instructing readers to prize their love for God more than material riches, she instructs them to prize earthly love more than earthly riches. Because her emphasis might have seemed blasphemous, or at least risqué, to fellow Puritans, it would have definitely snagged their attention. With that in hand, she begins to shape her monetary metaphor into a metaphysical conceit, which she uses to resolve the duality, or value, of earthly and heavenly love, husband and wife, and God and man.

Thus, in the second quatrain, the monetary imagery with which she extends the metaphor (“the riches that the East doth hold” and “the mines of gold”), coupled with the scriptural imagery, inflate the value of her human love by giving it religious significance. The riches from the mythic East most likely refer to the equally mythic, godly society on earth that she is devoted to building. And water (that “rivers that cannot quench”) was a common figure of speech for salvation, or union with Christ. Loving her husband, then, is a spiritual as well as an earthly reward. Her nimble weaving of religious and monetary language implies that just as there is no greater reward for humanity than receiving Christ’s love, there is no greater reward for her (“Nor ought but love from thee give recompense”) than receiving her husband’s love.

Interestingly, ending the eighth couplet on an unstressed rhyme (“recompense”) creates a hesitancy that musically emphasizes the inadequacy she feels in finding a way to compensate, or “repay,” her husband’s love. She turns to heaven, something greater than herself, for his reward:

Thy love is such I can no way repay
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let’s so persever,
That when we live no more, we may live ever.

The final couplet completes the poem’s theological argument by claiming that it is possible to realize, rather than transcend, duality through achieving a balance between earthly and heavenly love. Deeply felt human love, she seems to be saying, is a kind of salvation, one so fulfilling here on earth that she hopes it is a glimpse of the hereafter where it will live forever (“That when we live no more, we may live ever.”). As Bradstreet scholar Robert D. Richardson Jr. writes: “The union of the lovers in eternity is the outcome of their earthly love. . . . As the poem expresses it, the transition from this world to the next involves not renunciation, not a change even, but an expansion.”

This is tricky religious ground that mirrors Hutchinson’s faith in a living spirit that works within and outside of the religious traditions—in daily family life—a spirit that is inseparable from Christ’s spirit. At the same time, Bradstreet’s hope that marital love is a foretaste of heaven’s love argues against one of the primary beliefs for which Hutchinson was excommunicated—that on dying, the body is not resurrected with the soul.

In either case, Bradstreet succeeds in resisting the constraints of female speech, made explicit by Hutchinson’s banishment, by arguing her views on Puritan theology in the guise of a poetic love letter to her husband.

Emily Warn was born in San Francisco and grew up in California and Detroit. She earned degrees from Kalamazoo College and the University of Washington. Her full-length collections of poetry include The Leaf Path (1982), The Novice Insomniac (1996), and Shadow Architect (2008). She has published two chapbooks: The Book.


For further research

"Anne Bradstreet" in The Puritans: American Literature Colonial Period (1608-1700).http://falcon.jmu.edu/-ramseyil/amicol.htm Available July 13, 1999.

Dunham, Montrew. Anne Bradstreet Young Puritan Poet. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill, 1969.

James, Edward T., and others, eds. Notable American Women, 1607–1950, Volume I. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1971, pp. 222–23.

White, Elizabeth Wade. Anne Bradstreet, "The Tenth Muse." New York: Oxford University Press, 1971.


Watch the video: Anne Bradstreet (May 2022).


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