In This Article Anne Bradstreet

  • Introduction
  • Biographies and General Appraisals
  • Printing History
  • Later Editions
  • Critical Collections and Reference Works
  • Circulation, Publication, and Early Reception
  • Bradstreet and Puritanism Generally
  • Bradstreet and Godly Womanhood
  • Bradstreet and Gender
  • Bradstreet and the Bible
  • Bradstreet, Rhetoric, and Poetic Traditions
  • “Contemplations”
  • Bradstreet and the History of Ideas
  • Bradstreet in the Atlantic World

Renaissance and Reformation Anne Bradstreet
by
Margaret Thickstun
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 October 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0430

Introduction

Anne Dudley Bradstreet (b. c. 1612–d. 1672) emigrated from England to Massachusetts Bay Colony with her extended family in 1630 and remained there until her death. In 1650 a volume of her poems appeared in England under the title The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America and attributed to “a Gentlewoman of those parts.” An expanded edition, Several Poems, was published in Boston, Massachusetts, six years after her death. Because she was the first published “American” poet, Bradstreet’s work has always been in the public eye, although assessments of its quality and ideas about which pieces merit attention have fluctuated over time.

Biographies and General Appraisals

Bradstreet herself left very little information about her life. Poems to her husband survive, as do a handful of elegies on the deaths of relatives, including several infant grandchildren. Although historians had addressed the literary quality of Bradstreet’s work, White 1951 provides the first substantive reappraisal. Elizabeth Wade White’s Anne Bradstreet: The Tenth Muse (White 1971) remains the definitive biography of Bradstreet’s life, combining historical research with details gleaned from the poems and from tributes such as John Woodbridge’s prefatory letter to the printed poems and Cotton Mather’s panegyric in his Magnalia Christi Americana (1702). Piercy 1965, Stanford 1974, and Rosenmeier 1991 address Bradstreet’s life with the goal of illuminating her poetry. These are useful studies, although they do make assumptions about 17th-century attitudes toward women’s writing and toward print authorship generally that have been corrected by recent scholarship in social authorship, manuscript circulation, and the early world of print. Charlotte Gordon’s novelization of Bradstreet’s life appeared in 2005 (Gordon 2005).

  • Gordon, Charlotte. Mistress Anne Bradstreet: The Untold Life of America’s First Poet. Boston: Little, Brown, 2005.

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    This fictional account of Bradstreet’s life presents as scholarly biography. Extensive endnotes point, for the most part, to lines in the poems. It assumes motives and responses for which there is no documentary evidence, positing, for example, an intense romantic attachment between Bradstreet and her brother-in-law John Woodbridge, who shepherded The Tenth Muse into print, on the basis of the line “from too much love” in his dedicatory poem.

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

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    This volume puts Bradstreet’s work in the context of her biography. It inaugurates the conventional assessment of the poems in The Tenth Muse as an apprenticeship, trying to make a case for poetic development from these to the “later” poems. It frames Bradstreet as a woman ahead of and in tension with her times, and perhaps a proto-Romantic.

  • Rosenmeier, Rosamond. Anne Bradstreet Revisited. New York: Twayne, 1991.

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    This book organizes its discussion of Bradstreet’s art and life in the context of social roles: daughter-child, sister-wife, mother-artist. Taking advantage of two decades of research on colonial Massachusetts and Puritanism between itself and the Stanford book, it locates Bradstreet in her historical moment broadly understood. Recognizing Bradstreet’s artistry, it refrains from making direct correspondences between the life and the poems.

  • Stanford, Ann. Anne Bradstreet: Worldly Puritan; An Introduction to Her Poetry. New York: Burt Franklin, 1974.

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    This volume places Bradstreet’s work in the context of her biography. It discusses the poems in relation to political events in England and New England and in relation to Bradstreet’s source texts, her acknowledged influences, and the work of other writers in the Early Modern period. The book contains a useful catalogue of “Books with which Anne Bradstreet was acquainted,” although she mistakenly assumes that Bradstreet used the Geneva Bible.

  • White, Elizabeth Wade. “The Tenth Muse: A Tercentenary Appraisal of Anne Bradstreet.” William and Mary Quarterly 8.3 (1951): 355–377.

    DOI: 10.2307/1917419E-mail Citation »

    This learned and even-handed overview of Bradstreet’s life and work prefers the lyric to the didactic poems and assumes development from the latter to the former. It opens the theme of Bradstreet’s desire to become a “professional” poet and assumes her active participation in preparing a second print edition of her poems. It does place Bradstreet in the context of women writing in English during the Early Modern period. Reprinted in Cowell and Stanford 1983 (cited under Critical Collections and Reference Works).

  • White, Elizabeth Wade. Anne Bradstreet: The Tenth Muse. New York: Oxford University Press, 1971.

    E-mail Citation »

    This thoroughly researched study remains the definitive biography of Bradstreet.

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