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The Works of Anne Bradstreet

The Works of Anne Bradstreet (John Harvard Library) by Anne Bradstreet, Adrienne Rich (Editor), Jeannine Hensley (Foreword)

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Anne Bradstreet, the first true poet in the American colonies, wrote at a time and in a place where any literary creation was rare and difficult and that of a woman more unusual still. Born in England and brought up in the household of the Earl of Lincoln where her father, Thomas Dudley, was steward, Anne Bradstreet sailed to Massachusetts Bay in 1630, shortly after her marriage at sixteen to Simon Bradstreet. For the next forty years she lived in the New England wilderness, raising a family of eight, combating sickness and hardship, and writing the verse that made her, as the poet Adrienne Rich says in her Foreword to this edition, "the first non-didactic American poet, the first to give an embodiment to American nature, the first in whom personal intention appears to precede Puritan dogma as an impulse to verse."

All Anne Bradstreet's extant poetry and prose is published here with modernized spelling and punctuation. This volume reproduces the second edition of Several Poems, brought out in Boston in 1678, as well as the contents of a manuscript first printed in 1857. Adrienne Rich's Foreword offers a sensitive and illuminating critique of Anne Bradstreet both as a person and as a writer, and the Introduction, scholarly notes, and appendices by Jeannine Hensley make this an authoritative edition.

Adrienne Rich observes, "Intellectual intensity among women gave cause for uneasiness" at this period--a fact borne out by the lines in the Prologue to the early poems: "I am obnoxious to each carping tongue/ Who says my hand a needle better fits." The broad scope of Anne Bradstreet's own learning and reading is most evident in the literary and historical allusions of The Tenth Muse, the first edition of her poems, published in London in 1650. Her later verse and her prose meditations strike a more personal note, however, and reveal both a passionate religious sense and a depth of feeling for her husband, her children, the fears and disappointments she constantly faced, and the consoling power of nature. Imbued with a Puritan striving to turn all events to the glory of God, these writings bear the mark of a woman of strong spirit, charm, delicacy, and wit: in their intimate and meditative quality Anne Bradstreet is established as a poet of sensibility and permanent stature.

About the [Editors]
Jannie Hensley is Assistant Professor of English at Wheaton College, Norton, Massachusetts.

Adrienne Rich's poetry has been published in three collections: The Diamond Cutters, Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law, and Necessities of Life. She was the winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award in 1951 and received an award from the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1961.

Reviews

5 out of 5 stars Anne Bradstreet's voice reaches across the centuries., July 2, 1999

By A Customer

Three hundred and fifty years later, Anne Bradstreet still touches the heart and soul of her readers. On the Burning of My House still reminds us of where our priorities need to be, and on the importance of family. As a 10th great granddaughter, I realize that her works were written not only for herself and for her peers, but for the thousands of descendants in the world today. That is what makes truly great literature.

5 out of 5 stars America's first great poet, May 26, 2000

By Stuart Bloom (Earlville, IL USA)

How many people know that America's first great poet was a woman? Reading this collection of her works leaves one in little doubt about her greatness. The consummate artistry with which she expresses her inmost feelings pulls her to us, across the divide of three and a half centuries. Bradstreet's poetry shows that those Puritans, with their funny clothes, intolerant religion, and witch hunts experienced love, longing, and loss with much the same emotions that we do. Very highly recommended.

4 out of 5 stars A fantastic poet, way ahead of her time., December 5, 1998

By  Amy J. Earhart (earhart@empnet.com) (Bend, Oregon, USA)

"If ever two were one, then we. If ever man were loved by wife, then thee." (From "To My Dear and Loving Husband") Anne Bradstreet was the first person in the American colonies of 1650 to have a book of poetry published. Her brother-in-law wrote a "disclaimer" for the opening of the book to assure her readers that she had not neglected either her motherly or wifely duties to write her poetry. While it can be hard reading simply because of colonial vs. modern english, her work is timeless. (The lines I put at the beginning of this review are engraved in my husband's and my wedding bands.) Her poem "Contemplations" is a very spiritual and free piece of work. Her work includes two poems written after the death of two grandchildren that will make you cry. Worth the effort of reading to learn about 17th century women, and the poetry that was enjoyed at the time.


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