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Bradstreet, Anne

Anne Bradstreet has long been the best-known English-language woman poet of the seventeenth century and one of the most famous early American literary figures. While numerous women writers of her era have, in the past two decades, gained a wider readership than ever before, largely because of the recuperative efforts of feminist literary scholars, Bradstreet has needed no such resurrection. She has been widely admired since her poems were first published in 1650. Her fame is often attributed to her status as one of the first English poets, male or female, writing in the Americas. Indeed, the title of the first published volume, The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, suggests that the novelty of a poet writing in New England was a significant part of her appeal. Yet there can be no doubt that Bradstreet's work stands on its own. Readers appreciate her poetry for its passionate treatment of familial and theological themes and for its simple elegance.

Like Emily Dickinson two centuries later, Bradstreet has become as famous for her remarkable life as for her poetic achievement. Both poets wrote personal, meditative verses; the major theme of both poets was the relationship of the natural world to a distant and domineering creator-god whose ways were ultimately incomprehensible to mortals; and they both created literary microcosms based on local topics when momentous historical events were transpiring around them. Perhaps because both poets were women writing in the adverse circumstances of isolated, provincial, male-dominated surroundings, poets whose works might never have been published or known to readers without the intervention of benevolent admirers, both have become the heroines of romantic cultural narratives. Students are at least as likely to be exposed to the cultural narratives, or myths, as they are to read the poems. In the case of Anne Bradstreet, the poetic achievement has everything to do with the life of the poet.

Life and Education

Anne Bradstreet was born Anne Dudley, the second child of Thomas Dudley and Dorothy Yorke, in Northampton, England, in 1612 or 1613. More is known of her father than of her mother, although the latter was of “gentle” status and was described by Cotton Mather as “a gentlewoman whose extract and estate were considerable.” Thomas Dudley came from a rather illustrious family; in fact, the great sixteenth-century poet Sir Philip Sidney once wrote, “my chiefest honor is to be a Dudley.” While the religious reformers somewhat misleadingly known as Puritans often came from the emergent middle class of cities, the Dudleys were of high social status, a noble family with a heraldic shield and connections to some of the most powerful families in England. Yet notwithstanding their noble lineage, the Dudleys were Puritans through and through. Thomas Dudley was a follower of the Puritan preacher John Dod, and later of the renowned John Cotton.

Dudley was a capable man whose active and successful career followed from his talents as an administrator and his nonconformist religious sympathies. He was orphaned at the age of ten, served as a page in a household of distinction, and was a soldier under Queen Elizabeth. In 1619 he became the steward of the earl of Lincoln, a noted nonconformist, and this position made him a relatively prominent and well-connected figure among Lincolnshire Puritans. A steward's job was to manage the estate of a wealthy lord or lady; to be the steward of an earl entailed a great deal of trust and responsibility. The job meant that the Dudley family lived in close proximity with its wealthy and aristocratic patron, with access to lovely grounds and a well-stocked library. The young Anne Dudley, thus, spent the first part of her life in far different circumstances than the relative wilderness of New England where she would spend the better part of her life.

Being a Puritan did not mean living a monastic life, but it did entail certain forms of discipline that non-Puritans often found amusing or even ridiculous. This discipline had the benefit of instilling literacy, however, for reading Scripture (the Bible) was an important feature of Puritan religious practice. Radical Protestants such as the Dudleys were suspicious of all religious paraphernalia—gaudy clothes, symbols, the church hierarchy—that mediated their relationship to the deity. They believed in immediate access to the word of God, which for them meant the reading and interpretation of the Bible. The Bible was a best-seller in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and numerous editions were available. The English Protestant William Tyndale translated much of the Bible in the 1520s, and in 1535 Miles Coverdale published the first complete English Bible. Other English editions included the Great Bible of 1540, the Geneva Bible of 1560, the Bishops' Bible of 1568, and the official King James Version of 1611. Many of these translations contained significant differences as they were the work of different religious groups. Bradstreet, like many Puritans, read the Geneva Bible.

Reading Scripture was, inevitably, a major part of Anne's upbringing, something that, according to her own memoir, she began at a young age. Her knowledge of biblical lore and of the rhythms and vocabulary of its more Protestant translations (the Tyndale and Geneva versions) resonate in her verse. But it was not just the language of the Bible that influenced her writing; it was also the thematic content. The Bible contains passages critical of kings, a fact that religious dissenters tended to emphasize. The eminent historian Christopher Hill has argued that the English Bible was one of the major causes of the seventeenth-century revolution in England. The biblical culture that developed in England in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries promoted literacy as well as widespread criticism of the prelates, the powerful church leaders who opposed religious nonconformists. In the decades before the English Revolution, the tension between the king and his powerful prelates on the one hand, and the various groups of nonconformists on the other, became unbearable for a large number of the latter category. For those Puritans considering whether or not to settle in New England, a new land where they could build the kingdom of God, or at least a society safe for Puritans, the Bible was an agent of motivation.

Committed as they were to a culture of literacy, Puritans did not limit their reading to Scripture. Anne Dudley's reading was thoroughly up-to-date and included the works of Edmund Spenser, Philip Sidney (to whom she wrote an elegy in 1638), Walter Raleigh's History of the World (1614), William Camden's Annals of Queen Elizabeth (1615), and the writings of the French Calvinist Guillaume du Bartas (to whom she wrote a tribute in 1641). The last two of these were no doubt the most influential. La Sepmaine; ou, du Creation du Monde (1578) of Du Bartas had recently been translated into English by Joshua Sylvester as The Divine Weeks and Works (1608), a popular text among English Puritans and others. Bradstreet shared with du Bartas an interest in reading “the book of nature,” or understanding the natural world as a cornucopia of signs attesting to the presence of a divine creator. As Bradstreet herself wrote of du Bartas in the Prologue to The Four Elements,

  • But when my wond'ring eyes and envious heart
  • Great Bartas' sugared lines do but read o'er,
  • Fool I do grudge the Muses did not part
  • 'Twixt him and me that overfluent store;
  • A Bartas can do what a Bartas will,
  • But simple I according to my skill.

While du Bartas undoubtedly influenced Bradstreet's interest in the natural world as a book of divine signs, she did not slavishly imitate his style, and the relationship of the two poets is hardly that of master and apprentice. Nevertheless, du Bartas was a formative influence on the young Anne Bradstreet.

Puritanism was a culture of hard work and self-discipline, and Anne's education was clearly a rigorous one. Her connection with Emmanuel College, Cambridge, which her brother and her father's employer both attended, undoubtedly contributed to her learning. So, too, did the rhetorical performances of the Puritan preachers who played a large part in her family life. The radical Protestantism of the day was, to some extent, a rhetorical culture, defined as much by its habits of expression as by the content of its doctrines. Indeed, the poetic works of devoutly Protestant poets such as Philip Sidney and George Herbert vividly attest to the expressive power of the more extreme forms of Protestantism that flourished in England in the Elizabethan and Jacobean eras. Religious writing and preaching was often stylistically innovative and compelling, and the young poet could not help but be influenced by the fiery and often quite powerful sermons of her family's circle. Her interest in worldly matters—love, devotion, suffering, desire—reflects a religious practice that was hardly ascetic.

In 1622 Simon Bradstreet, a graduate of Emmanuel College and a fellow Puritan, became Thomas Dudley's assistant at the earl of Lincoln's estate at Sempringham. Although a younger man, Bradstreet resembled Dudley in many ways, having been orphaned, espousing the Puritan cause, and developing into a capable administrator after years of service. Both men would later become prominent leaders in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and both would eventually hold the position of governor there. Dudley put great trust in Bradstreet, and when he moved with his family to the nearby town of Boston, also in Lincolnshire, where the Puritan cause was strong, Bradstreet took over his duties as steward at Sempringham. Soon Bradstreet, too, moved away, becoming for a time the steward of the countess of Warwick, a fellow Puritan. But this job was relatively short-lived; soon Bradstreet and the Dudleys would move on to an altogether new situation.

In the 1620s the growing religious and political turmoil in England began to put increasing pressure on nonconformist groups. These were hard times for Puritans. Eventually, during the revolution of the 1640s and 1650s, conditions would improve dramatically for Puritans and religious dissenters of many stripes. But in the period of simmering before the religious antagonisms exploded into war, there were many reasons for religious reformers and dissenters to leave England.

The monarch, Charles I (who would later be decapitated during the English Revolution), was never sympathetic to the Puritan cause and became increasingly difficult to bear as he asserted his power against the Puritan-dominated Parliament and attempted to consolidate his own absolutism. The Stuart kings were never particularly fond of hard-line Protestants, but James I, Charles's father, had been reasonably cautious in treading on their toes. Less cautious than his father, however, Charles sympathized with Catholics and stridently insisted on his own absolute authority to rule the nation—and the national church. Supported by his loyal nobles and churchmen, such as the brutal Archbishop William Laud, who saw Puritans as upstart commoners, he came down hard on the Puritan cause and fought continually with those elements of English society with which the Dudleys and Simon Bradstreet were associated.

The early years of Charles's reign were particularly dire for the likes of the Dudleys, and many Puritans actively made plans to leave the country to build God's kingdom in the New World. In 1627 Lord Lincoln was arrested for his opposition to the king's efforts to raise money by forced loan; soon, others of the Sempringham household were jailed, too. Thomas Dudley was in jeopardy. To make matters worse, his daughter, Anne, came down with smallpox and experienced a temporary loss of faith. In 1628, very soon after recovering her health and faith, Anne Dudley married Simon Bradstreet at the age of fifteen or sixteen. He was twenty-five.

The commonplace stereotype of Puritans portrays them as harsh, ascetic people completely opposed to all sensuality. This is an immense misconception. Not only were there many kinds of religious nonconformity in Renaissance England, but varieties of doctrine and attitude concerning earthly matters—desire, sex, gender roles—were many as well. The religious nonconformists of the seventeenth century, including many so-called Puritans, were often quite radical in their sexual mores. Women were particularly prominent in New England, although the Bay Colony elders often did their best to suppress them. One of the refreshing and, perhaps, surprising aspects of Bradstreet's poetry is its unabashed celebration of earthly love between a man and a woman. The following poem, addressed to her husband, does not refer to the pleasures of the flesh, but it bespeaks a pleasure in earthly union that those unfamiliar with the worldliness of the Puritans might find surprising.

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

What is surprising about these lines is that they sound so modern. Bradstreet strikes a theological note in this poem of marital love, but the relationship described seems thoroughly mortal. The fact that she would bear eight children, not all of whom survived, was not unusual. But it was unusual that she would write about her love for her husband in powerful, compelling poetry that puts the two partners on a remarkably equal level.

Anne wrote a number of passionate poems and letters to Simon that express a powerful physical and spiritual sympathy between them. While it is potentially misleading to read such lines as a straightforward description of the poet's relationship with her husband, this and other poems strongly suggest that the relationship was a robust and loving one. Beginning as it did many years before those lines were penned, we can at least be certain that the relationship began at a time when Anne was returning to the fold after a temporary loss of faith, a fact that suggests a spiritual dimension to the marriage from the start. Yet time and again in her poetry, Bradstreet affirms the significance of worldly attachment.

The young Anne Bradstreet and her new husband were not destined to remain in England for long. In 1629 Simon Bradstreet and Thomas Dudley signed for the charter of the Great Seal of the Massachusetts Bay Company. Early in 1630 both the Dudleys and the Bradstreets sailed for America aboard the Arbella, landing at Salem on 12 June of that year after a difficult voyage. Soon after the Bay Colony expanded, as a large number of Puritans settled in and around Salem and Boston. Conditions were harsh, however, and a large number of settlers died in the first winter. Others later returned to England, preferring to brave political and religious persecution over the fierce New England winters and inhospitable landscape. But the Dudleys and Bradstreets remained. Once in Massachusetts they moved around a great deal, living for a time in Salem, Boston, Newtown (later Cambridge), Agawam (later Ipswich), and, finally, in 1644, North Andover, where Anne would spend her last years. She died there on 16 September 1672.

While her father and husband embarked on successful political careers in the Bay Colony, relatively little is known about the specifics of Anne Bradstreet's life in New England, although her life has been the subject of much speculation and myth. It is clear, however, that she spent a great deal of time bearing and raising children, as well as writing and revising her poems—poems that circulated among family members in manuscript form before making their way across the Atlantic and into print.

Poetic Career

Bradstreet's enduring reputation as a poet owes much to the timely publication of her poems in England while she lived three thousand miles and a long sea voyage away in New England. She also had the distinct good fortune to have her works offered to the public by others, admirers who took upon themselves the task of seeing her poems to the press. The introductory letter that accompanied her first book, The Tenth Muse, claims that the author herself would not have approved the publication of her own poems: “I feare the displeasure of no person in the publishing of these Poems but the Authors, without whose knowledge and contrary to her expectation, I have presumed to bring to publick view what she resolved should never in such a manner see the Sun; but I have sent forth broken pieces to the Authors prejudice, which I sought to prevent, as well as to pleasure those that earnestly desired the view of the whole.” The sentiments of the letter writer, I. W., most likely Bradstreet's brother-in-law, John Woodbridge, seem genuine, but such letters as this were quite frequently appended to published literature.

We must understand such expressions of reticence to publish in the context of the early modern “stigma of print.” The publication of poetry, plays, and other sorts of literary fiction in seventeenth-century England was widely viewed as a vulgar form of self-display that, like the profession of acting, could render a person “common.” The safest way to publish was to have someone else do it for you, and then protest against the display of one's private sentiments. These disavowals were generally penned by the author, but oftentimes they were written by someone else who invariably claimed a desire to rescue good poetry from oblivion. Frequent as were such statements of a poet's unwillingness to publish, literate amateurs, then as now, wrote poems for themselves, their friends, and family. It seems quite possible that Bradstreet wrote her poems with a small—even minute—readership in mind.

It is, indeed, possible that Bradstreet never intended to publish. The intimate nature of many of her poems supports this possibility. Bradstreet's lack of involvement in the initial publication of poems collected in The Tenth Muse is further indicated by her subsequent efforts to revise and amend the collection. The Tenth Muse does not represent Bradstreet's best work. With age she continued to grow and improve as a poet. Compared to Several Poems, the 1678 edition of her work, The Tenth Muse appears the work of an immature poet. Whether or not she wanted to publish, the fact remains that Anne Bradstreet took poetry quite seriously and had recourse to it to express powerful sentiments about her life, her novel circumstances, and her spirituality.

We should not think of Bradstreet as an accidental poet. She produced verses over many years, editing, revising, and improving them. If the young Anne Bradstreet was a talented if somewhat unpolished versifier, the mature Anne Bradstreet was a formidably skilled wordsmith. Moreover, publication established her identity as a poet in an era when many women writers struggled, quite often without success, to find their way into print. She not only wrote poems, which other English women did in the seventeenth century; one way or another, she found a wide readership for them, which most women did not. Of primary interest, then, is how a woman who led such an unusual and difficult life should become such an accomplished poet—and be recognized as such.

It should come as no surprise that a child born into an accomplished family, whose early life was spent in very comfortable circumstances in an era of spectacular religious and literary productivity, should write verses of a high quality. What is surprising, however, is that this poet should be female. In seventeenth-century England, not only were girls regularly given less formal education than boys, but the role of poet was only available to men. While women did write verse, it was a pursuit that only a few aristocratic women could safely indulge. It was not a recognized or generally available avocation for women, and numerous obstacles lay in the way of publishing. To be a woman and a published poet could have disastrous social consequences, a fact to which Bradstreet refers in several of her poems.

Difficult though conditions were for doing so, women did write poetry in the seventeenth century, and occasionally they took up arms against the prevalent sexism of the times that labeled them lesser poets than men. So, too, with Bradstreet. In a stanza of the Prologue she writes,

  • I am obnoxious to each carping tongue
  • Who says my hand a needle better fit,
  • 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 she undermines the potential tactics of sexist detractors, of whom there were many in the mid-seventeenth century, by disallowing the claim of theft or accident when a woman wrote good verses.

These lines rather forcefully assert the status of their author as a poet, a fact that not only speaks to Bradstreet's intellectual independence but also to the relative—and only relative—independence of nonconformist women in the seventeenth century. Nonconformist religious practice frequently gave women the opportunity to have a voice in spiritual matters. Prophetic writers such as Anna Trapnell, thus, claimed special access to spiritual truth. Others, such as the other famous Anne of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Anne Hutchinson, became actively involved in matters of spiritual doctrine and worldly governance. Bradstreet's boldness in proclaiming her sex and her authorship, thus, was in part made possible by the unusual power of women in the particular spiritual subculture to which she belonged.

Part of the reason for the unusual prominence of women's voices in charismatic religion was the fact that, in Renaissance England, the forms of literary expression available to women—when they were available at all—were few. One of them was “child-loss” poetry, in which the poetic speaker is invariably a mother or grandmother lamenting the death of a child. It flourished in Elizabethan and Jacobean times. One of the strengths of Bradstreet's poetry is the presence of a powerful speaking voice with which to express sentiments generally associated with conventional female verse forms. The combination of this direct voice and the forceful sentiments it expresses gives her poems a freshness that conventional women's verse forms often lacked. When Bradstreet writes about the death of a child, the conventional nature of verses written in epitaph shows through, but the emotions can also seem raw and immediate, in part due to the simplicity of the verse.

Such simplicity often hides a carefully chosen and tightly woven metaphoric structure. A case in point is her poem In Memory of My Dear Grandchild Anne Bradstreet Who Deceased June 20, 1669, Being Three Years and Seven Months Old.

  • With troubled heart and trembling hand I write,
  • The heavens have changed to sorrow my delight.
  • How oft with disappointment have I met,
  • When I on fading things my hopes have set.
  • Experience might ‘fore this have made me wise,
  • To value things according to their price.
  • Was ever stable joy yet found below?
  • Or perfect bliss without mixture of woe?
  • I knew she was but as a withering flower,
  • That's here today, perhaps gone in an hour;
  • Like as a bubble, or the brittle glass,
  • Or like a shadow turning as it was.
  • More fool than I to look on that was lent
  • As if mine own, when thus impermanent.
  • Farewell dear child, thou ne'er shall come to me,
  • But yet a while, and I shall go to thee;
  • Mean time my throbbing heart's cheered up with this:
  • Thou with thy Saviour art in endless bliss.

As she does elsewhere, Bradstreet here meditates on the passing of love, happiness, and life itself, embodied in the deceased child. The child's death forces a meditative introspection that leads to a statement of faith. Typical of Bradstreet is the religious statement of faith—all will be well in the afterlife—as a means of tempering the sorrow of the preceding lines. The deity, here and elsewhere in her poems, is both the owner of all beings and the great account keeper who only lends mortal beings any joy they have “found below.”

Women in the seventeenth century generally led difficult lives; the constraints of marriage, childbirth, and patriarchal subordination determined much of what they could and could not do. Like many other women of her time, Bradstreet bore numerous children; unlike many, she wrote about it, and she did so with an emotional directness that continues to captivate readers. The following, very famous poem, Before the Birth of One of Her Children, exemplifies her characteristic focus on familial themes and the uncertainty of a world haunted by death and instability. Addressed to her husband, the poem gives voice to the fears of a woman for her children if she should die.

  • All things within this fading world hath end,
  • Adversity doth still our joyes attend
  • No tyes so strong no friends so clear and sweet,
  • But with deaths parting blow is sure to meet.
  • A common thing, yet oh inevitable;
  • How soon, my Dear death may my steps attend,
  • How soon't may be thy Lot to lose thy friend,
  • We both are ignorant, yet love bids me
  • These farewell lines to recommend to thee,
  • That when that knots untyd that made us one,
  • I may seem thine, who in effect am none.
  • And if I see not half my dayes that's due,
  • What nature would, God grant to yours and you;
  • The many faults that well you know I have,
  • Let be interr'd in my oblivious grave;
  • If any worth or virtue were in me,
  • Let that live freshly in thy memory
  • And when thou feel'st no grief, as I no harms,
  • Yet love thy dead, who long lay in thine arms:
  • And when thy loss shall be repaid with gains
  • Look to my little babes my dear remains.
  • And if thou love thyself, or loved'st me
  • These I protect from step Dames injury.
  • And if chance to thine eyes shall bring this verse,
  • With some sad sighs honour my absent Herse;
  • And kiss this paper for thy loves dear sake,
  • Who with salt tears this last Farewell did take.

These lines attest to Bradstreet's directness and vigor as a poet; they also tell a poignant story that appeals to the reader's desire for a stable narrative within which to cast the future.

In her striking development of the metaphoric connection between the writing of poetry and motherhood, Bradstreet consistently and quite self-consciously combats the notion of poetry as an exclusively masculine vocation. In The Author to Her Book, which accompanied the 1678 edition of her works, published six years after her death, Bradstreet develops the metaphor of her verse as a child to excellent effect.

  • Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain,
  • Who after birth didst by my side remain,
  • Till snatched from thence by friends, less wise than true,
  • Who thee abroad, exposed to public view,
  • Made thee in rags, halting to th' press to trudge,
  • Where errors were not lessened (all may judge).
  • At thy return my blushing was not small,
  • My rambling brat (in print) should mother call
  • I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
  • Thy visage was so irksome in my sight;
  • Yet being mine own, at length affection would
  • Thy blemishes amend, if so I could:
  • I washed thy face, but more defects I saw,
  • And rubbing off a spot still made a flaw.
  • I stretched thy joints to make thee even feet,
  • Yet still thou run'st more hobbling than is meet;
  • In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
  • But nought save homespun cloth i' th' house I find.
  • In this array ‘mongst vulgars may'st thou roam.
  • In critics hands beware thou dost not come,
  • And take thy way where yet thou art not known;
  • If for thy father asked, say thou hadst none;
  • And for thy mother, she alas is poor,
  • Which caused her thus to send thee out of door.

These lines typify Bradstreet's strengths and appeal as a poet. They connect the act of writing with child rearing, and the metaphor works beautifully.

The conceit here relies upon the double meaning of “feet” as those of a child and the meter of poetry. By figuring her poetry as a kidnapped child (“snatched…by friends”) whose handicaps are partially the fault of its mother, Bradstreet both claims a certain amount of responsibility for the publication history of her works and insists on the right to edit and revise work that she never properly finished. She also excludes the possibility of a male hand having intruded in the writing of her verses by insisting that her “child” had no “father.” This gendering of the act of writing, and of publication, was nothing new in her lifetime, but Bradstreet was particularly effective at insisting on her own double status as a woman and a poet. That she succeeded in this balancing act is attested by the introduction to The Tenth Muse, in which I. W. calls Bradstreet's writings “the work of a woman, honored, and esteemed where she lives, for her gracious demeanor, her eminent parts, her pious conversation, her courteous dispositions, her exact diligence in her place, and discreet managing of her family occasions.”

The Critical Afterlife

Readers have admired Bradstreet's poetry since her own lifetime, but the critical consensus about the quality of her poetry and the importance of her work has waxed and waned a good deal. She received rapturous reviews from some of her contemporaries, including one N. H., who compared the brightness of her work to that of celestial bodies. In the nineteenth century, by contrast, a series of literary figures gave her far more tepid reviews. One noted editor, Charles Eliot Norton, claimed that the poetry “hardly stands the test of time,” and another, John Harvard Ellis, agreed. In the middle of the twentieth century, the American historian Samuel Eliot Morison damned her with faint praise. Primarily biographical, not critical, John Berryman's lengthy poem of 1953, Homage to Mistress Bradstreet, contributes to the cultural mythology of Bradstreet's early New England life.

Since World War II, scholars have engaged in various debates about Bradstreet, but the general trend seems to be toward taking her seriously as a poet. In recent decades the poet's gender and her Puritanism are the two topics that have exercised scholars the most. While there is no space to summarize the scholarly discussion here, it is worth noting that her palpable comfort with the body and with love and desire, as well as her success in a professional arena where so many seventeenth-century women failed, make her a peculiar figure in the otherwise rather grim history of English literature by women during that century. There can be little doubt that the fact of her being a settler in New England at a time when the Massachusetts Bay Colony was scarcely well established and incredibly difficult to inhabit contributed to her fame, both in her own lifetime and afterwards. The general interest in Bradstreet's life has turned toward a more sophisticated critical assessment of her work. The recent increase in historicist literary scholarship will no doubt aid our understanding of Anne Bradstreet as a poet and as the heroine of an American cultural narrative of early New England.

Selected Works

The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America (1650)Find this resource:

    Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning, Full of Delight. 2d ed. (1678)Find this resource:

      Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning, Full of Delight (Reprint, 1758)Find this resource:

        The Works of Anne Bradstreet, in Prose and Verse (1867)Find this resource:

          The Poems of Mrs. Anne Bradstreet (1612–1672). Together with Her Prose Remains with An Introduction by Charles Eliot Norton. Edited by F. E. Hopkins. 1897.Find this resource:

            The Works of Anne Bradstreet (1967)Find this resource:

              Further Reading

              Cowell, Pattie, and Ann Stanford. Critical Essays on Anne Bradstreet. Boston, 1983.Find this resource:

                Daly, Robert. God's Altar: The World and the Flesh in Puritan Poetry. Berkeley, Calif., 1978. An excellent study of Puritan poetics that is particularly useful on the theological context, this book contains chapters on a variety of early American writers.Find this resource:

                  Greer, Germaine, et al, eds. Kissing the Rod: An Anthology of Seventeenth-Century Women's Verse. New York, 1988. A collection of primarily recuperative scholarship that contains annotated poems and biographies of a large number of women poets of the seventeenth century.Find this resource:

                    Hill, Christopher. The English Bible and the Seventeenth-Century Revolution. London, 1993. A brilliant account, by an eminent historian, of English biblical culture in the seventeenth century and its role in causing and sustaining the English Revolution.Find this resource:

                      Lauter, Paul et al, eds. The Heath Anthology of American Literature Vol. 1. Lexington, Mass., and Toronto, 1990. An excellent anthology of American literature, with “American” taken in the broadest sense.Find this resource:

                        Marotti, Arthur. Manuscript, Print, and the English Renaissance Lyric. Ithaca, N.Y., and London, 1995. A thorough study of the social, economic, and technological conditions within which English poets of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries produced and circulated their work.Find this resource:

                          Morison, Samuel Eliot. Mistress Anne Bradstreet. In his Builders of the Bay Colony. 2d ed. Boston, 1958. An example of the tendency to focus on the sensational aspects of the poet's life at the expense of a fully engaged treatment of her works.Find this resource:

                            Piercy, Josephine K. Anne Bradstreet. New York, 1965.Find this resource:

                              Rosenmaier, Rosamond. Anne Bradstreet Revisited. Boston, 1991.Find this resource:

                                Wall, Wendy. The Imprint of Gender: Authorship and Publication in the English Renaissance. Ithaca, N.Y., and London, 1993. An intelligent and thorough study of the role of gender in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English print culture.Find this resource:

                                  While, Elizabeth Wade. Anne Bradstreet: “The Tenth Muse.” New York, 1971.Find this resource: