Anne Bradstreet Biography

Anne Dudley Bradstreet was born in Northhampton, England in either 1612 or 1613, to Thomas Dudley and Dorothy Yorke. Thomas Dudley was a steward at the manor house

Of the Earl of Lincoln, and young Anne enjoyed the aristocratic mansion nestled in the English countryside. Her early years were spent benefiting from a superior education, which was provided at home by her father. Anne’s childhood reading list included the classical literature of Virgil, Homer, and Thucydides, and the works of Milton and Spenser, among others (12: 29). The privileges experienced by Anne as a young girl would contrast sharply with the harsh realities of married life. She suffered from smallpox at sixteen, and her marriage to Simon Bradstreet followed soon after her recovery (Hensley 22). Two years after their marriage, the newlyweds, along with Anne’s parents, immigrated to America. The colonists set sail on the Arbella, which of the four departing ships held the more prominent members of English society (Ellis 27).anne_bradstreet

The colonists arrived at Salem, Massachusetts on the 22 of July 1630. The journey itself was an act of faith for the group of Puritans, who sought a new life in the American wilderness. Anne herself wrote concerning this expedition that “she submitted to it and joined the church at Boston”, a statement which exemplifies her stalwart dedication to the Puritanism (12:29). After their arrival in the Massachusetts Bay colony, both the Bradstreets and Dudleys would relocate frequently, mainly in an attempt to achieve political status for the male members of the family (Martin 16). Both Anne’s father and husband would serve as colonial governors, and the former succeeded John Winthrop as governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.

After residing in Salem, the family moved to Charlestown, then Cambridge, followed by Ipswich, and eventually settled in Andover. Between the years of 1633 and 1652, Anne gave birth to eight children. Her commitment to her family was unwavering, as was her sense of responsibility towards God and society.

Puritanism was an overwhelming component of Anne’s life, and this emphasis on religion was extended to her writing. Anne’s first known poem entitled “Upon a Fit of Sickness, Anno. 1632” reflects her Puritan values, as they existed at the young age of 19.

The patriarchal society to which she belonged, as well as her personal relationships with Father and husband affected Anne’s perception of God. According to literary critic Jeannine Hensley, Anne’s “rejection of vanity appeared partly as she set forth the truth and the glory of God while she maintained her own humility through simplicity of poetic style” (Hensley 24). The first edition of her poetry was published in London in 1650, and was entitled The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America….

The primary theme of this collection of poems relates to the issue of power, which may be a reflection of Anne’s existence as a female in a male dominated society.

The poems are extensive in length, and the first section contains “The Four Elements”, “The Four Humors of Man,” “The Four Ages of Man,” and “The Four Seasons.”

The quaternion format is duplicated in the second section, which is termed “The Four Monarchies”. The poems in this particular section possess historical content, and are situated among classical civilizations.

The poems included in this first edition were written while the Bradstreets were residing in Ipswich. Anne sought to express her appreciation for her father’s dedication to her early education, by dedicating the second edition to Governor Thomas Dudley.

It was her father who encouraged her avid reading, and exposed Anne to a wide selection of literary masterpieces. The publication of Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning, Full of Delight indicated Anne’s lack of satisfaction with the initial edition, although the revised book was not actually published until six years after her death (Hensley 26). The Tenth Muse in its posthumous form offers poems which indicate both Anne’s familial loyalties and love of nature, as well as her difficulty resolving the grace of God with the reward of eternal life (Martin 17). This willingness to share her own religious insecurity, coupled with an evolved mastery of poetic style, serves to insure Anne’s position as a highly competent writer. The publication in 1867 of The Works of Anne Bradstreet in Prose and Verse offers an extensive compilation of Anne’s works. The publication of From the Manuscripts, Meditations Divine and Morall Together with Letters and Occasional Pieces by Anne Bradstreet presents a Puritanical perspective of salvation, and relates a subjective interpretation of suffering as a means of sharing God’s grace (12:33). It is known that Anne was particularly admiring of writers Sir Phillip Sidney and Guillaume Du Bartas, and she pays tribute to the latter in The

Tenth Muse. Her inability to adopt a female muse was dependent on its existence as a male literary tool, thus Anne was forced to pay homage to the male figure. Critic Wendy Martin addresses Anne’s utilization of the male in her poetry, “In order not to appear presumptuous or competitive, Bradstreet had to solicit their protection, defer to their superior abilities, and assume a deferential pose” (39). This willingness to defer to the Patriarchy typifies female subservience during the colonial period, and demonstrates the impact of religious ideology on literature.

Anne Bradstreet died September 16, 1672 in Andover, Massachusetts. Her contribution to literature is only paralleled by her devotion to her faith and family. The willingness to journey to a strange land was mirrored by a desire to explore the soul, and readers are privileged to read the details of Anne Bradstreet’s expedition.

Primary Works

The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America…, as “a Gentlewoman in those parts” (London: Printed for Stephen Botwell, 1650): revised and enlarged as Several Poems Compiled With Great Variety of Wit and Learning, Full of Delight, as a “Gentlewoman in New England: (Boston: Printed by John Foster, 1678):

The Works of Anne Bradstreet in Prose and Verse, edited by John Harvard Ellis (Charlestown, Mass.: Abram E. Cutter, 1867);

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, Fla,: Scholars’ Facsimiles and Reprints, 1965);

The Complete Works of Anne Bradstreet, edited by Joseph R. McElrath, Jr., and Allan P. Robb (Boston: Twayne, 1981).

Works Cited

Ellis, John Harvard. The Works of Anne Bradstreet in Prose and Verse. Gloucester: Peter Smith, 1962.

Hensley, Jeannine, ed., The Works of Anne Bradstreet. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1967.

Martin, Wendy. “Anne Bradstreet.” Dictionary of Literary Biography: American Colonial Writers. 12 vols. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1982.

Martin, Wendy. An American Triptych: Anne Bradstreet, Emily Dickinson, Adrienne Rich. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1984.

Selected Bibliography: Books

Beales, Ross W. Anne Bradstreet and her Children. New York: Psychohistory Press, 1979.

Cowell, Pattie. Critical Essays on Anne Bradstreet. Ed. Pattie Cowell and Ann Stanford. Boston: Hall, 1983.

Eberwein, Jane Donahue. ‘Art, Natures Ape’: The Challenge to the American Poet. Poetics in the Poem: Critical Essays on American Self-Reflexive Poetry. Ed.

Dorothy Z. Baker. New York: Peter Lang, 1987.

Elrod, Eileen Razarri. ‘ Mouth Put in the Dust’: Personal Authority and Biblical Resonance in Anne Bradstreet’s Grief Poems. Early Protestantism and American Culture. Ed. Michael Schuldiner. New York: Mellen, 1985.

Eur, Do seon. Reading Anne Bradstreet’s ‘Contemplations’ in the Light of the Emblematic Structure. Literary Calvinism and Nineteenth Century American Women. Ed. Michael Schuldiner. New York: Mellen, 1987.

Hughes, Walter. ‘Meat Out of the Eater’: Panic and Desire in American Puritan Poetry. Engendering Men: The Question of Male Feminist Criticism. Eds. Joseph A. Boone and Michael Cadden. New York: Routledge, 1980.

Meany, Birgit. The Contemplative Art of Anne Bradstreet’s ‘Contemplations’. Puritanism in America: The Seventeenth through the Nineteenth Centuries. New York: Mellen, 1983.

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

Murphy, Francis. Anne Bradstreet and Edward Taylor. The Columbia History of American Poetry. Jat Parini and Brett Millier, eds. New York: Columbia UP,,1983.

Rosenmaier, Rosamond R. The Wounds upon Bathsheeba: Anne Bradstreet’s Prophetic Art. Puritan Poets and Poetics: Seventeenth-Century American Poetry In Theory and Practice. Peter White and Harrison T. Meserole, eds. University Park: Pennsylvania State Up, 1985.

White, Roberta. John Berryman’s Anne. The Anna Book: Searching for Anna In Literary History. Mickey Pearlman, ed. Westport: Greenwood, 1982.

Selected Bibliography: Articles

Blackstock, Carrie Galloway. ” Anne Bradstreet and Performativity: Self-Cultivation, Self-Deployment.” Early American Literature 32. 3 (1987): 222-48.

Bush, Sargent, Jr. “American Poetry Begins: The Confident Modesty of The Tenth Muse.” Wisconsin Academy Review: A Journal of Wisconsin Culture 38. 1 (Winter 1981-1982): 8-12.

Caldwell, Patricia. “Why Our First Poet Was a Woman: Bradstreet and the Birth Of an American Poetic Voice.” Prospects: An Annual Journal of American Cultural Studies 13 (1978): 1-35.

Craig, Raymond A. “Singing With Grace: Allusive Strategies in Anne Bradstreet’s “New Psalms’.” Studies in Puritan American Spirituality 1(1980): 148-69.

Doriani, Beth M. ” ‘Then have I…Said with David’: Anne Bradstreet’s Andover Manuscript Poems and the Influence of the Psalm Tradition.” Early American Literature 24:1 (1979): 52-69.

Dorsey, Peter. “Women’s Autobiography and the Hermeneutics of Conversion.” A-B: Autobiography Studies 8:1 (spring 1983): 72-90.

Eberwein, “Anne Bradstreet (c.1612-1672).” Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers 11:2 (1984): 161-69.

Hammond, Jeffrey A. “The Puritan Elegaic Ritual: From Sinful Silence to Apostolic Voice.” Studies in Puritan American Spirituality 2 (1981): 77-106.

Hesford, Walter. “The Creative Fall of Bradstreet and Dickinson.” Essays In Literature 14:1 (spring 1987): 81-91.

Kopacz, Paula. ” ‘To Finish what’s Begun’: Anne Bradstreet’s Last Words.” Early American Literature 23:2 (1978): 175-187.

Maragou, Helena. “The Portrait of Alexander the Great in Anne Bradstreet’s ‘The Third Monarchy’.” Early American Literature 23:1 (spring 1978): 70-81.

Margerum, Eileen. “Anne Bradstreet’s Public Poetry and the Tradition of Humility.” Early American Literature 17:2 (fall 1982): 152-60.

Salska, Agnieska. “Puritan Poetry: Its Public and Private Strain.” Early American Literature 19:2 (Fall 1984): 107-121.

Schilling, Carol. “Corresponding Figures: Embodying Sacred and Secular Commonplaces in Anne Bradstreet’s Letters to Simon.” Literature And Belief 15 (1985): 139-59.

Schweitzer, Ivy. “Anne Bradstreet Wrestles with the Renaissance.” Early American Literature 23:2 (1978): 291-312.

Spencer, Luke. “Mistress Bradstreet and Mr. Berryman: The Ultimate Seduction.” American Literature: A Journal of Literary History, Criticism, and Bibliography 66:2 (June 1984): 353-66.

Sweet, Timothy. “Gender, Genre, and Subjectivity in Anne Bradstreet’s Early Elegies.” Early American Literature 23:2 (1978); 152-174.

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2 Responses to Anne Bradstreet Biography

  1. charlotte Gordon says:

    The most recent biography of Anne Bradstreet, Mistress Bradstreet: The Untold Story of America’s First Poet (Little, Brown, 2005) needs to be cited in this article.

  2. Pingback: Anne Bradstreet Quotes

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