Colonial America, 1607-1783
Anne Bradstreet, 1612-1672By Ramon Gonzalez
Student, University of North Carolina at Pembroke
Anne Bradstreet was born Anne Dudley in Northhampton, England, in 1612. She was the daughter of Thomas Dudley and Dorothy Yorke. She lived in a time when the amount of education that a woman received was little to none. Even though she did not attend school, she was privileged enough to receive her education from eight tutors and from her father, Thomas Dudley, who was always more than willing to teach her something new. She was a very inquisitive young person who satisfied her hunger for knowledge through her extensive reading of some of the greatest authors ever known. Thanks to her father's position as the steward of the Earl of Lincoln estate, she had unlimited access to the great library of the manor. This is where she became exposed to the writings of many well known authors. In 1628 she married Simon Bradstreet, her father's assistant.
In 1629, her father and husband had joined a group of very successful men, whose goal was to protect Puritan values from people like the Bishop of Laud and establish their own society in a new land. On March 29, 1630, Bradstreet and her family immigrated to the New World. Bradstreet was not too happy with the idea of giving up all of the benefits of the Earl's manor for what the wilderness of the New World had to offer. Nevertheless, Bradstreet spent three months on her ship, the Arbella, before she reached Salem on June 12, 1630. Ten other ships reached the Salem port soon after hers.
When Bradstreet stepped foot on the soil of the New World, she was overwhelmed by the sickness, lack of food, and primitive living conditions. Regardless of all this hardship, she refused to give in and return to England and instead made the best of her new life. She struggled to raise eight children, take care of her home, and she still found time to write. Bradstreet lived a hard life, but she proved to be a strong women and this internal resolve is reflected in her writings.
Bradstreet was bothered by the cultural bias toward women that was common in her time; the belief was that a woman's place was in the home attending to the family and her husband's needs. Women were often considered intellectual inferiors and because of this, critics believed that Bradstreet stole her ideas for her poems from men. Her writing was severely criticized because it was that of a woman, receiving a different kind of criticism than that of her male counterparts. The public had a similarly harsh reaction to Bradstreet's role as a female writer. When her first publication of The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America was released, the idea that she was a virtuous women had to be stressed. John Woodbridge, her brother-in-law, had to write: "By a Gentle Women in Those Parts" on the title page to assure readers that Bradstreet did not neglect her duties as a Puritan woman in order to write, by making it clear that she found time for her poetry by giving up sleep and using what little leisure time she had. We can see the anger that Bradstreet feels towards this kind of criticism about her writing in the following lines of her work "The Prologue":
I am obnoxious to each carping tongueSimon Bradstreet played a crucial role in many of Bradstreet's works. She wrote love poems about him when he was around as well as when he was away on trips. In Bradstreet's Puritan culture, the love between husband and wife was supposed to be slightly repressed, so as not to distract one from devotion to God. Yet, some of Bradstreet's sonnets work against this idea. A good example of this is the poem, "To My Dear and Loving Husband," which contains the following lines:
If ever two were one, then surely we.Another theme in Bradstreet's works was her religious experiences. In her writing Bradstreet gives an insight of Puritan views of salvation and redemption. She writes about how she feels that God has punished her through her sicknesses and her domestic problems. The Puritans believed that suffering was God's way of preparing the heart for accepting His grace. This idea plagued Bradstreet, and she wrote about how she struggled to do everything that she could to give into His will, in order to save her wondering soul. However, she thought that God was so hard on her because her soul was too in love with the world. She also wrote some poems where she asked God to watch over her children and husband.
Bradstreet was not very successful with her first publications. The first edition of The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America was not very well received by critics. In writing The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, as with some of her later works, she tried to incorporate the style of the male authors that she respected. By doing so she was limiting her abilities and denying her feelings. The publication of her first works gave her the confidence and experience to be more free with her writing. In her later works, she began to write in her own style, where her own emotions were now more clearly expressed in her writings. One of these later works is "In Honor of That High and Mighty Princess Queen Elizabeth of Happy Memory", in which Bradstreet proclaims that women are worth something. The use of her emotions in her writings is a technique that changed Anne Bradstreet from a good writer into a great writer.
BibliographyElliott Emory, ed. Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol 24.: "American Colonial Writers, 1606-1734." Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1984.
The Dictionary of Literary Biographyis a well credited resource. In comparing the information found in this particular volume to that found in other resources, I found it to be rather similar. The most beneficial part about using this resource was that it offered me more in-depth information about this author than the ones I used before it. I can not say it is the best resource, yet I can honestly say that it is one of the better ones.Amore, Adelaide P., ed. A Woman's Inner World. Boston: University Press of America, 1982.
Vinson, James, ed. St. James Reference Guide to American Literature: American Writers to 1900. Chicago: Macmillan Press Ltd, 1980
The St. James Reference Guide to American Literature is not as detailed as the Dictionary of Literary Biography, but it is still a good source of factual information. It is a very good place to find dates and events about your author, but the Dictionary of Literary Biography has more personal information.Reuben, Paul P. "Chapter 1: Early American Literature to 1700 - Anne Bradstreet." PAL:Perspectives in American Literature- A Research and Reference Guide. WWW <http://www.csustan.edu/english/reuben/pal/chap1/bradstreet.html (March 27, 2000)>
This World Wide Web page is devoted entirely to the life of Anne Bradstreet. It is full of information that I have found in numerous book sources. The information found at this site is accurate and very useful. It also offers other potential references that may be useful, as well.
1612: Born in Northhampton, England
1628: Marries Simon Bradstreet
1630: Moves to Salem, Massachusetts
1632: Writes "Upon a Fit Sickness"
1633: Gives birth to a son, Samuel Bradstreet
1635: Gives birth to a daughter, Dorothy
1638: Gives birth to a daughter, Sarah
1640: Gives birth to a son, Simon
1642: Gives birth to a daughter, Hannah
1642: Writes The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America and dedicates it to her Father
1643: Writes "In Honor of that High and Mighty Princess Queen Elizabeth of Happy Memory"
1645: Gives birth to daughter Mercy
1645: Moves to Andover
1648: Gives birth to son Dudley
1650: Publishes first edition of The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America
1652: Gives birth to her eighth child, a son, John
1664: Dedicates "Religious Experiences and Occasional Pieces" and "Meditations Divine and Morall (sic)" to her son Simon
1665: Elizabeth Bradstreet, grand-child, dies
1666: Fire destroys her home
1669: granchild Anne Bradstreet dies
1669: grandchild Simon Bradstreet dies
1669: daughter-in-law Mercy Bradstreet dies
1672: Anne Bradstreet dies
1678: The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America is published posthumously in a second, longer edition