Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672)
America's First Published Poet
Anne Bradstreet, born Anne Dudley in 1612 at Northampton, England, was the daughter of Governor Thomas Dudley, leader of volunteer soldiers in the English Reformation and Elizabethan Settlement and steward to the Earl of Lincoln, and Dorothy Yorke Dudley, a gentlewoman of noble heritage and well educated.
Due to her family's position, Anne grew up in cultured circumstances and was a well-educated woman for her time, being tutored in history, several languages and literature.
At the age of 16, Anne married Simon Bradstreet, a 25-year-old assistant and future governor of the Massachusetts Bay Company and the son of a Puritan minister, who had been in the care of the Dudleys since his father's death.
Anne and Simon emigrated to America along with Anne's parents in 1630 aboard The Arabella. The journey was tough. Many died while others became sick with scurvy brought on by malnutrition. After arriving in the colonies, many soon perished or elected to head back to England, claiming they had already been through enough.
Thomas Dudley, along with his friend, John Winthrop, set up the Boston settlement's government with Winthrop as Governor and Dudley as Deputy-Governor with Anne's father as Chief-Administrator.
Many colonists fought for survival through the harsh climate, lack of food and primitive living arrangement. Anne was one of them. Having previously been afflicted with smallpox, Anne would once again fall prey to illness as paralysis overtook her joints. However, Anne did not lose her will to live. She and her husband had eight children, the first in 1632, all of whom she loved dearly. As Simon prospered in their new home, life looked to only get better.
Sadly, the family's home was destroyed by fire, leaving them homeless with hardly any personal property. Fortunately, the family soon got back on their feet due to Simon's hard work and social standing in the community.
As with all political officials, Simon spent many days traveling to various colonies on diplomatic missions. This left Anne much time with her father's vast collection of books and time to educate her children. The reading allowed Anne to learn much about religion, science, history, arts, and medicine, while dealing with the colony's way of life.
|Early Edition of Anne Bradstreet's Book|
Anne's favorite reading material was poetry, which she began writing herself. Her poems and views were kept private among her close friends and family as women seeking intellectual enlightenment were looked down upon. A friend, Anne Hutchinson, was banished by the community because of airing her views publicly. Anne did not want to make the same mistake.
Anne's brother-in-law, John Woodbridge, secretly copied much of her work and brought it to England to have it published without her permission. Woodbridge admitted to this deed in the preface of Anne's first collection of poems, The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, By a Gentlewoman in New England, which was published in 1650. This was the last publication of her works until after her death. Anne was the first female poet to be published from either Puritan America or England. Her work met with a positive reception in both the Old World and the New World.
Anne's health was slowly deteriorating as she became afflicted with tuberculosis. Soon after contracting the disease, her daughter Dorothy also became ill and died shortly after. A number of her relatives had already died. Anne's faith remained strong and she found solace and acceptance of her own death by believing her daughter, Dorothy, and her daughter-in-law, Mercy, and her grandchildren were in heaven.
At the age of 60, Anne passed away on September 16, 1672 in Andover, Massachusetts after a long battle with illness and was buried in the Old Burying Point in Salem, Massachusetts.
In 1678, her self-revised "Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning" was posthumously published in America, and included one of her most famous poems, "To My Dear and Loving Husband."
If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were lov'd 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 recompence.
Thy love is such I can no way repay,
The heavens reward thee manifold I pray.
Then while we live, in love lets so persevere,
That when we live no more, we may live ever.
Compiled from various sources.