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Featured Books

Featured Books

The Tenth Muse (1650) and, from the manuscripts, Meditations Divine and Morall together with LettersSummary and Reviews of The Tenth Muse (1650) and, from the manuscripts, Meditations Divine and Morall together with Letters and Occasional Pieces (Hardcover)
To My Husband and Other PoemsSummary and Reviews of To My Husband and Other Poems
The Works of Anne BradstreetSummary and Reviews of The Works of Anne Bradstreet
The Poems Of Mrs. Anne Bradstreet: Together With Her Prose RemainsSummary and Reviews of The Poems Of Mrs. Anne Bradstreet: Together With Her Prose Remains
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Anne Bradstreet

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Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672) certainly did not “fit the mold” of literary authors in her time.  Few women ventured outside their “God-given role” of wife, mother, and housekeeper.  To be sure, many women in the Puritan culture were had unquestioned control of their prescribed sphere, but their culture, specifically their husbands, in many cases, kept them securely in that sphere.  Writing or anything other than the aforementioned duties was strongly discouraged to the extent that it was on the edge of criminal.

Bradstreet, against all this opposition, real or imagined, broke free of what society expected and expressed herself intellectually and artistically.  This did not mean, however, that she rejected Puritan beliefs.  She was a Godly woman, in the way that Puritans understood that to mean.  It also did not mean that she did not love her husband or her children, as some might have thought.  She wrote two moving poems, “To My Dear and Loving Husband” and “In Reference to Her Children, 23 June 1659,” that illustrate that.  These are only the most obvious of her poems that showed the love and care she showed to her family.

Considering all that was unusual about Anne Bradstreet, it is amazing that she was the first poet in the British colonies to publish a collection of poems.  Since most of the writing from America up to her time had been descriptions of the land and natives written by explorers, we might consider Bradstreet the first “author” in what is now the U.S.  Bradstreet educated herself using the library of the Earl of Sempringham, for whom her father was steward.  This opportunity for education was, of course, another thing that was unusual for women of the time.

Bradstreet’s parents were Puritans, and she married a Puritan, Simon Bradstreet in 1628.  They sailed on the Arabella with John Winthrop and his band of colonists to help establish Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630.  First settling in Boston, the couple moved from city to city within Massachusetts until they finally settled in North Andover in 1644, where Bradstreet stayed until 1672 when she died.  Her brother-in-law, John Woodbridge, arranged for the publication of her first book of poetry, The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America in 1650.  It was published in London, and Woodbridge had to write a preface to the work assuring its readers that the poems in it were actually written by a woman and, most revealing of the times, that she had curtailed “her sleep and other refreshments” and not her housework and care for her family in order to write them.  He took great care to point out that Bradstreet was “esteemed where she lives, for…her exact diligence in her place, and discreet managing of her family occasions.”

Another collection was published in Boston in 1678, after her death, and this collection revealed Bradstreet’s development as a poet.  Her early poetry was mostly imitative of her literary influences, conventional in style and content.  In her later poetry, she drew much more from her own experience and her reaction to it.  This later work shows how she struggled with Puritan doctrine and her own desire to escape her “place” in it.  In the end, though, she didn’t reject Puritanism.  In fact, she was much concerned with the afterlife, as Puritans understood it.  In “The Flesh and the Spirit,” for example, she described “royal robes” and “crowns…such as angels’ heads enfold” that God’s elect would one day be able to wear.  The poem revealed that she hoped and believed she would be one those elect. 


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