Chapter 1: Early American Literature to 1700
and Puritanism

Anne Bradstreet

Paul P. Reuben
  October 12, 2016

Page Links: | Primary Works | Selected Bibliograph1980-Present | Study Questions | MLA Style Citation of this Web Page |

| A Brief Biography |

Site Links: | Chap 1 - Index | Alphabetical List | Table Of Contents | Home Page |

Primary Works

The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, 1650; Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning, 1678.

1632 "Upon a Fit of Sickness" published 1678; 1642 "To her most Honoured Father Thomas Dudley" published 1650; "The Foure Elements" 1650; "Of the foure Humours in 1650; "Mans constitution" "The Four Ages of Man" 1650; "The four Seasons of the Yeare" published 1650; 1643 "A Dialogue between Old England and New…" published 1650; 1643 - "The Foure Monarchies…" published 1650; 1641 - "To my Dear and loving Husband" published 1678; 1656 "To my Dear Children (prose) published 1867; "What God is like to him I serve" published 1867; 1661 "My thankfull heart with glorying Tongue" published 1867; 1660 - "The Flesh and the Spirit" published 1867; 1664-5 "Contemplations" published 1678-1669 "As weary pilgrim, now at rest" published 1678. Note: Published also implies a work made public or known by relatives or friends.

The works of Anne Bradstreet, in prose and verse. Ed. John Harvard Ellis. NY: P. Smith, 1962. PS711 .A1

The works of Anne Bradstreet. Ed. Jeannine Hensley. Foreword by Adrienne Rich. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard UP, 1967. PS711 .A1

The complete works of Anne Bradstreet. Eds. McElrath, Jr. and Allan P. Robb. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1981. PS711 .A1

Early New England meditative poetry: Anne Bradstreet and Edward Taylor. Ed. Charles E. Hambrick-Stowe. NY: Paulist Press, 1988. PS595 .C47 B73

Selected Bibliography 1980-Present

Boschman, Robert. In the Way of Nature: Ecology and Westward Expansion in the Poetry of Anne Bradstreet, Elizabeth Bishop and Amy Clampitt. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2009.

Breitwieser, Mitchell. National Melancholy: Mourning and Opportunity in Classic American Literature. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 2007.

Cowell, Pattie and Ann Stanford, eds. Critical Essays on Anne Bradstreet. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1983. PS712 .C7 contains, among others, these essays:

Dolle, Raymond F. Anne Bradstreet: A Reference Guide. G.K. Hall & Co. Boston, Mass. 1990.

Dykeman, Therese B. Contributions by Women to Early American Philosophy: Anne Bradstreet, Mercy Otis Warren, and Judith Sargent Murray. Lewiston, NY: Mellen, 2009.

Egan, Jim. Oriental Shadows: The Presence of the East in Early American Literature. Columbus: Ohio State UP, 2011.

Gordon, Charlotte. Mistress Bradsteet: The Untold Life of America's First Poet. NY: Little, Brown & Company, 2005.

Martin, Wendy. An American Triptych: Anne Bradstreet, Emily Dickinson, Adrienne Rich. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1984. PS310 .F45 M3

Nicolay, Theresa F. Gender Roles, Literary Authority, and Three American Women Writers: Anne Dudley Bradstreet, Mercy Otis Warren, Margaret Fuller Ossoli. NY: Peter Lang, 1995.

Rosenmeier, Rosamond. Anne Bradstreet Revisited. Boston: Twayne, 1991. PS712 .R6 1991

Showalter, Elaine. A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx. NY: Vintage, 2009.

- - -. The Vintage Book of American Women Writers. NY: Vintage, 2011.

| Top |Anne Bradstreet (1612?-1672): A Brief Biography
A Student Project by Courtney Kirchoff   

The New World was not just a safe haven for the practice of religion, it was also fertile ground for the growing of Anne Bradstreet's poems and writing talent. She was more than a wife and mother of eight children. She was the first published American poet who, through her poetry, subtly challenged the Puritan way of life, wrote of the developmental changes from childhood to adulthood, and focused on an individual's journey through life.

Anne Dudley was born to Thomas Dudley and Dorothy Yorke in Northampton, England in 1612 or 1613, the dates are not certain (Martin 29). She was the second child of five in the Dudley family. When Anne was just seven years old Thomas Dudley moved his family from Northampton to Sempringham in Lincolnshire to the household of the Earl of Lincoln, where Dudley would become the Earl's steward. Thomas Dudley's position gave him access to the Earl's library, which included, among others, the writings of Plutarch, Francis Quarles, Edmund Spenser, Guillaume de Salluste du Bartas, and Sir Phillip Sidney, with whom Dudley shared kinship (Person 81).

Though Anne Dudley never attended school, as girls in that time period were not permitted to, she nevertheless obtained a superb education from the books she devoured in the Earl's library, and from the instruction of her widely read father (Martin 29). In 1624 the Dudleys moved to Boston, Lincolnshire.

Four years later in Boston, Anne Dudley married Simon Bradstreet, who had previously worked under Thomas Dudley in the Earl of Lincoln's household. While history does not discuss the relationship between the two, Anne's poems reflect a supremely happy marriage (Peircy 18). Two years later, the Bradstreets and the Dudleys embarked on a long and weary journey to America aboard the ship, the Arbella. The families landed in the Massachusetts Bay Colony where Simon Bradstreet and Thomas Dudley served as governors to the settlement (Person 81).

At first the New England life did not suit Anne Bradstreet, who had grown accustomed to the aristocratic lifestyle of England. The passengers of the Arbella were troubled by the suffering and sickness of the current colonists. Bradstreet confessed that the scarcity of food, sickness, and the "primitive living conditions of the New England outpost," caused her heart to rise in protest of the "new world and new manners." (Martin 29) The colonists also had the attacks of Native Americans to deal with on top of the malnutrition and disease (30).

But the Bradstreets and Dudleys did not remain in Salem, Massachusetts long. The two families spent the winter of the same year in Charleston, then moved in 1631 to Newtown, now known as Cambridge. During these adjustments Anne managed to find the time to put her pen to parchment. In 1632 Anne Bradstreet composed her first extant poem titled "Upon a Fit of Sickness, Anno. 1632." (Rosenmeier xv) Wendy Martin writes that "the poem discusses the traditional concerns of the Puritan--the brevity of life, the certainty of death, and the hope for salvation." (30) But while the poem is predominantly pious, it does not refrain from issues of the flesh and spirit - themes that become more intense as Bradstreet ages (30).

In 1633 Anne and Simon Bradstreet have the first of eight children, a boy named Samuel. The Bradstreet's seven other children were born between 1635 and 1652: Dorothy (1635), Sarah (1638), Simon (1640), Hannah (1642), Mercy (1645), Dudley (1648), and John (1652) (Martin 29). Though during this time she was undoubtedly busy with her young children and frequently pregnant with a future child, Anne found the time to compose poetry. Her work primarily reflected the religious and emotional conflicts that she experienced, both as a writer and as a Puritan (30).

Around the year 1635 the Bradstreets and the Dudleys moved to Agawam (Ipswich). It is here that Anne Bradstreet composes most of her poems which will appear in The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung up in America (Martin 30). The volume of poems was dedicated to her father for encouraging her to read, educating her, and feeding Anne's intelligence (30). Several of the poems in this volume show her artistic worth to him, while many of her later poems demonstrate her intelligence and "mastery of poetic form" (30). The poems found in the first section of The Tenth Muse are known as quaternions, or "The Four Elements," "The Four Humors of Man," "The Four Ages of Man," and "The Four Seasons."(30)

Josephine Piercy writes that "the long poems in The Tenth Muse are reflections and imitations of Anne Bradstreet's favorite poets." Anne Bradstreet "echoes" writers she had read in her youth including Sir Walter Raleigh and Sieus Du Bartas. Also illustrated in this volume is the "spirit of a rebellious woman who wrote during the period of her greatest trial." (26) Anne Bradstreet considered her greatest trial to be the upheaval from her comfortable life in England to the rough wilderness of America (27).

Between 1638 and 1644 the Bradstreets and Dudleys moved for the last time to Andover, which became their permanent home (Piercy 13). Despite the increasing number of children under her care and moving from town to town, Anne Bradstreet composed the greater part of her existing poetry by the time she was thirty years of age (Person 81).

| Top | One of Anne's earliest admirers was her brother-in-law, John Woodbridge. Woodbridge traveled back to England in 1647, taking with him, without Anne's knowledge or permission, the manuscript of her poems (Piercy 13). Woodbridge published them in 1650 under the title of The Tenth Muse Lately sprung up in America (Person 81). The volume was greatly successful as one of the "most vendable" books in London (81). Anne was indeed surprised by the reception of her work, but embarrassed because her poems were unpolished (Piercy 17). Woodbridge's judgment was not bad, but Anne saw to it that she make the necessary revisions and additions to the poems, which led to the second (first edition in America) edition published four years after her death in 1678 (17).

Wendy Martin writes that Bradstreet was concerned, throughout her life, with religious issues such as sin, redemption, physical and emotional frailty, and death and immortality (30). Bradstreet's work demonstrates that she had difficulty "resolving the conflict she experienced between the pleasures of sensory and familial experience and the promise of heaven." (30) Anne Bradstreet struggled with the Puritan way of life because she sometimes felt more strongly connected to her husband, children, and community than to God (30).

Several Poems is a collection of 18 previously unpublished poems written by Bradstreet. The volume was published after her death, making The Tenth Muse the only volume published in her lifetime (Rosenmeier xv). She called her The Tenth Muse "a rambling brat in print," because she "echoed" other writers instead of writing from her own experiences (Piercy 34). So after the publication of Tenth Muse, Bradstreet began to write about her illnesses, the death of loved ones, the anxiety of her husband away on business, and the raising of her children (Person 82). Her later poems were so personal that Anne saved them for her children to read when she had died (Piercy 35).

Bradstreet's love of nature, written in one of her later poems titled "Contemplations" is reminiscent of the Romantics attitude toward nature and man. Josephine Piercy wonders if the Romantics were influenced by Bradstreet, as her poems were widely read (101). While there is no concrete evidence to prove this theory, Piercy points out that Bradstreet "anticipated not only the Romanticists but the Transcendentalists and their feeling of God in nature." (101)

Cotton Mather praised Bradstreet's work and made a point to say that her work "has been celebrated in both Englands" and continued with "America justly admires the learned Women of the other Hemisphere." (Rosenmeier 10) Bathsua Makin, who wrote a treatise published in 1673 "An Essay to Revive the Antient Education of Gentlewomen," included Anne Bradstreet as an "excellent poet." (10) Some, like Makin, categorize Bradstreet as a feminist poet because her wisdom promoted the education of women (11). She can be considered a seventeenth-century feminist because she was a woman writing about experiences in her life, which defied the current tradition (Rosenmeier xi). She could also be classified as a religious writer because she "turned to the Bible for help with answering her own questions about life's journey and for a literary paradigm for that journey's expression." (xii)

Bradstreet, though the first published American poet, was somewhat overshadowed by other American writers such as Thomas Jefferson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Edgar Allan Poe. Anne Bradstreet's legacy seemed to disappear. But she experienced a revival which began in the nineteen-sixties due to the growing feminist movement which began in the middle of the twentieth-century (Person 82). Several critics saw Bradstreet's poems as evidence for her rebellion against God, male dominated society, or against Puritan social structures (82). Others, such as Robert Daly, have noted that modern readers "still labor under the nineteenth-century prejudice against Puritanism" and believes that Bradstreet's poetry is "a humble avowal of Puritan belief, rather than rebellion." (82)

Now it seems as if Anne Bradstreet is here to stay. A Google search finds that "Anne Bradstreet" is mentioned and found in 31,800 websites, many of them dedicated to her. As long as readers find joy and meaning in Bradstreet's poems, she will remain immortal.

Works Cited

Martin, Wendy. "Anne Bradstreet." Dictionary of Literary Biography. V.24. 1984.

Person, James E, ed. Literary Criticism from 1400-1800. Vl 4. Detroit: Gale Research, 1986.

Piercy, Josephine K. Anne Bradstreet. New York: Twayne, 1965.

Rosenmeier, Rosamond. Anne Bradstreet Revisited. Boston: Twayne, 1991.

Study Questions

1. Discuss the extent to which Bradstreet's poetry reflects Puritan thinking. Analyze in particular the way Bradstreet reflects her own spiritual and metaphysical fears in the process of describing an actual event in Here Follows Some Verses upon the Burning of Our House.

2. Analyze the contrast between form and feeling in Bradstreet's work. In what ways does she use self-disclosure as a challenge to Puritan theology?

3. What does Anne Bradstreet's poetry reveal about Puritan ideas of the proper role of women? What is her defense of her poetry? Is her assertion that she had a secondary and defective talent genuine, or was it a calculated, rhetorical pose designed to offset criticism? 

MLA Style Citation of this Web Page

Reuben, Paul P. "Chapter 1: Anne Bradstreet." PAL: Perspectives in American Literature- A Research and Reference Guide. WWW URL: (provide page date or your date of logon).

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