Anne Bradstreet

Did you know that America's first published poet was a woman? Anne Bradstreet (1612‐1672) was a Puritan poet who brought together the Old World and the New World with her verse. Bradstreet's poetry was about family life, personal struggles, and God and religion, intertwined with a vast knowledge of history, science, and philosophy. The poet, wife, and mother of eight, was one of the early English settlers in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Bradstreet's first collection of poetry, The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America (1650), was arguably the first book to be published and praised in both England and early America.

Anne Bradstreet Anne Bradstreet

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Table of contents

    Anne Bradstreet Introduction Poetry SudySmarterFig. 1 - Anne Bradstreet wrote poetry during a time when it was highly disapproved of for women to be intellectual writers. The proper role of women was thought to be solely in the domestic sphere—especially in the Puritan communities.

    Anne Bradstreet: Biography

    Anne Bradstreet's Biography
    Birth:20th March 1612
    Death:16th September 1672
    Father:Thomas Dudley
    Mother:Dorothy Yorke
    Spouse/Partners:Simon Bradstreet (1628-1672)
    Famous Poems:
    • The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America
    • "The Author to her Book"
    • "A Letter to Her Husband, Absent upon Public Employment"
    • "To My Dear and Loving Husband"
    Literary Period:Colonial Period

    Anne Bradstreet was born as Anne Dudley in Northampton, England, in 1612 (Bradstreet was her married name). Her father, Thomas Dudley, managed an estate for the Earl of Lincoln. Bradstreet grew up in a wealthy Puritan family and was wellcultured and welleducated, especially for a woman of the 17th century. She was tutored in history, literature, and languages, which influenced her subject matter as a poet.

    Bradstreet had access to a vast library at the Earl of Lincoln's estate, and she read widely from an early age. She was educated through reading authors such as Virgil, Plutarch, Homer, Spenser, Milton, and Du Bartas, in addition to studying the Bible. Bradstreet's early poetry was heavily influenced by the writing of the French poet, Guillaume de Salluste Du Bartas.

    At the age of sixteen, Anne Bradstreet married Simon Bradstreet. Shortly after their marriage, the couple moved to America with Anne's parents. They arrived in Salem, Massachusetts in 1630, as part of the Puritan migration to New England. The family sailed upon the Arbella ship, as part of the Winthrop Fleet of 1630.

    Anne and Simon Bradstreet were some of New England's earliest and most prominent settlers. However, Anne Bradstreet often felt a deep longing and nostalgia for her homeland of England, which is reflected in her poetry.

    The Puritan migration to New England, also known as the Great migration, was a time period from 1620 to 1640 when English Puritans left England and moved to Massachusetts in search of religious freedom. Puritan beliefs were opposed to the Church of England, so they faced much discrimination.

    Anne Bradstreet's father and husband became governors of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and were also instrumental in the establishment of Harvard University. The Bradstreet family moved around Massachusetts several times, living in Charlestown, Boston, Cambridge, Ipswich, and North Andover.

    Anne Bradstreet had eight children and there were many demands on her in the domestic sphere as a Puritan woman. She loved her husband and children, writing to them in poems such as 'To My Dear and Loving Husband' (1678), 'Before the Birth of one of her Children' (1678), 'A Letter to her Husband, absent upon Publick employment' (1678). The poet also valued the intellect and power of women as seen in poems such as 'The Prologue' (1650) and 'In Honor of that High and Mighty Princess, Queen Elizabeth' (1650).

    In 1650, Anne Bradstreet's brother-in-law, Rev. John Woodbridge, went to London and published a collection of her poetry entitled, The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America (1650). The poetry book was not signed with Bradford's name, but was attributed to "A Gentlewoman from Those Parts." 1 It was highly controversial for a Puritan woman to have her writings published during this time. Nonetheless, The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America was the first book published in both England and America, and it received high praise from both places. Bradstreet is now known as the first American poet.

    The EnglishAmerican poet struggled with ill health, tuberculosis, the grief of the loss of several of her family members, and the burning down of her house. She wrote about her despair and her faith in God in the poem 'Verses upon the Burning of our House, July 10th, 1666' (1666). Though she often struggled with it, Bradstreet ultimately found solace in her faith and devotion to God, which she presented in her poetry.

    Anne Bradstreet: Death

    Despite struggling with feeble health for a great portion of her life, Anne Bradstreet lived until she was 60 years old. She died of tuberculosis on September 16, 1672, in North Andover, Massachusetts.

    Anne Bradstreet: Writing Style

    Anne Bradstreet had a unique writing style compared to other published writers of her time because she wrote deeply about personal feelings, ideas, and concerns. Her work was not written with the intention of being published; it was often written for her family.

    Though a fervent Puritan and traditional mother and wife, Anne Bradstreet often questioned Puritan societies' restricted expectations of women. She wrote with a uniquely sarcastic tone when addressing society's failure to acknowledge the strength and intellect of women outside the domestic sphere.

    Anne Bradstreet commonly wrote about her personal life, which was characterized by marriage, family, Puritan religion, and raising children in the early American colonies. Bradstreet's writing focused on themes of love, nature, family, personal hardships, loss, and religion—particularly the difficult balance between living life well on Earth while keeping sights set on heaven.

    Anne Bradstreet: Poems

    The majority of Anne Bradstreet's well-known poetry is published in two books: The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America (1650), and its revised edition, titled Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning (1678).

    The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America by Anne Bradstreet

    Anne Bradstreet's poetry collection, The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America (1650) was the only piece of writing that was published during her lifetime. It was the first book to be published and popularly read in both England and the American colonies, and it made Bradstreet the first American poet.

    The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America opens with long poems called 'The Four Elements,' 'The Four Humors of Man,' 'The Four Ages of Man,' 'The Four Seasons,' and 'The Four Monarchies.' These poems reveal Bradstreet's deep knowledge of history, anatomy, physiology, astronomy, and metaphysics. Anne Bradstreet cleverly weaves these vast academic topics with examples from her own family life, faith, and religion.

    The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America also contains the poems 'Dialogue between Old England and New' and 'In Honor of that High and Mighty Princess Queen Elizabeth.' 'Dialogue between Old England and New' presents Bradstreet's deep attachment to her homeland, England, and her sadness in facing the political issues which forced the Puritans to leave.

    The poem, 'In Honor of that High and Mighty Princess Queen Elizabeth,' reflects Bradstreet's strong belief in the powerful intellect and leadership of women, despite these qualities being deemed improper for women at the time:

    No memories, nor volumes can contain,The nine Olymp’ades of her happy reign,Who was so good, so just, so learn’d, so wise,From all the Kings on earth she won the prize." 1

    Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning by Anne Bradstreet

    In 1678, a second edition of The Tenth Muse called Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning, was published after Bradstreet's death. The collection contained versions of her poetry that she personally revised.

    The revised edition contains some of Anne Bradstreet's most notable poems, including 'Contemplations,' 'To My Dear and Loving Husband,' and 'The Author to Her Book.' 'Contemplations' is often regarded as Bradstreet's best poem. It is a spiritual poem about the interactions between nature, the human race, and God. The poem, 'To My Dear and Loving Husband' reflects the poet's deep connection and appreciation for her husband, and the immense value she places on marriage.

    Anne Bradstreet Poems Book Cover StudySmarterFig. 2 - Anne Bradstreet's poetry book did not feature her name. Rather, the poems were said to be written "By a Gentlewoman in New England."

    'The Author to her Book' is Bradstreet's acute reflection on the publication of her book, The Tenth Muse, and her attachment to her writing. In 'The Author to her Book,' Bradstreet compares her writing to her child:

    Thou ill-form’d 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, expos’d to publick view." 2

    Interesting Facts About Anne Bradstreet

    • Harvard University dedicated a gate, known as The Bradstreet Gate, to Anne Bradstreet to remember her legacy as the first American poet.
    • Anne Bradstreet had a personal library of over 800 books. However, many of her books were destroyed when her house burned down in 1666, which she wrote about in the poem 'Verses upon the Burning of our House, July 10th, 1666.'
    • Anne Bradstreet is considered by some to be an early feminist.
    • Anne Bradstreet had to pretend that she had no knowledge of the publication of her poetry book, The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, because she would have faced harsh criticism from the Puritan community.

    Anne Bradstreet - Key takeaways

    • Anne Bradstreet was the first published American poet who lived from 1612‐1672.
    • Anne Bradstreet was an English Puritan woman who migrated to Massachusetts with her family seeking religious freedom.
    • Anne Bradstreet is famous for her book, The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America (1650). A second edition was posthumously published called Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning (1678).
    • Anne Bradstreet frequently wrote in a personal manner about family life, faith, religion, and hardships.
    • Anne Bradstreet had a wide knowledge of history, science, and politics, which is also reflected in her poetry.

    1 Anne Bradstreet, 'In Honor of that High and Mighty Princess Queen Elizabeth of Happy Memory,' The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, 1650.

    2 Anne Bradstreet, 'The Author to her Book,' The Tenth Muse called Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning, (1678).

    Frequently Asked Questions about Anne Bradstreet

    Who is Anne Bradstreet?

    Anne Bradstreet (1612‐1672) is an English Puritan poet who was one of the earliest English settlers in America.

    What was Anne Bradstreet's purpose for writing?

    Anne Bradstreet wrote for personal reasons. Many of her poems were addressed to family members and were inspired by her daily life. 

    What did Anne Bradstreet write?

    Anne Bradstreet is famous for writing the poetry collection, The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America (1650), which was the first book published both in England and America. 

    How did Anne Bradstreet die?

    Anne Bradstreet died of tuberculosis in 1672.

    What is Anne Bradstreet's most famous poem?

    Anne Bradstreet's most famous poems are 'Contemplations,' 'To My Dear and Loving Husband,' 'The Author to her Book,' and 'Verses Upon the Burning of Our House, July 10th 1666.'

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Which poet heavily influenced Bradstreet's early writings?

    True or False: Anne Bradstreet was married at 16 and had 8 children. 

    Which word would best describe Anne Bradstreet's writing style?

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