The Life and Literary Works of the English Poet, Anne Bradstreet

Imagine a new world, a place where very little is known. Set out on a voyage to this untouched land, see what life has in store. Death and ailments litter the path ahead, but strive for the hope of a new tomorrow. This is exactly what Anne Bradstreet did, in 1630 her husband, mother and father packed their belongings and set out on the adventure of a life time. Through all the love, sickness, loss and grief Anne experienced, she expressed herself through various forms of writing, primarily in the medium of poetry.

Anne was one of the most influential women not only in the literature culture but also amongst her Puritan faith, because she opened the doors for women in the poetry world, loved and cherished God’s plan, and became an icon for puritan women to look up to.

Anne Bradstreet, formerly Dudley, was born in Northampton, England in 1612. Her parents were of high status, so unlike a majority of the youth in England, Anne grew up with extensive education.

She was taught mainly in history, literature and foreign languages. Anne never had much of a childhood, similar to most households, she was married at the ripe age of sixteen, to Simon Bradstreet. Not even two years after their union they headed out to the New World, alongside Anne’s parents. Anne and Simon had eight children in their new home and survived countless ailments amongst the family.

Anne Bradstreet was one of the first New World poets, the fact that she was a woman just elevated her revolutionary status.

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She was very private about her poetry, sharing it with only her close friends and family. Anne was constantly writing, it was-like it is for almost all writers-the only way she could fully express herself. It took seventeen years after moving to the New World for anything of hers to become published though, it was not until 1647 when Anne’s brother-in- law, John Woodbridge went back to London, with her manuscript in hand and published The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, by a Gentlewoman of those Parts.

At first Anne was nervous about the publication due to the view of female authors being unwomanly, but warmed up to the idea after she saw the reactions from the audience overseas. Anne continued to write but it was still very private style, this became a trademark of hers and also allowed readers to connect with her on a deeper level. Since it was written for a small and private audience the writings are authentic and filled with soul and passion. In one of her most famous poems, The Author to Her Book, she speaks about how she was not ready for the exposure of her poems saying:

“Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain, Who after birth did’st by my side remain, Till snatcht from thence by friends, less wise than true, Who thee abroad exposed to public view, Made thee in rags, halting to th’ press to trudge, Where errors were not lessened (all may judge). At thy return my blushing was not small, My rambling brat (in print) should mother call. I cast thee by as one unfit for light, The visage was so irksome in my sight, Yet being mine own, at length affection would, Thy blemishes amend, if so I could.”

In this poem Anne shows a very human side of her, no she does not think many of her poems are perfect, but she attempts to alter them, showing her audience that perseverance is key in being an author or poet. She also focuses on the fact that she is a woman writing this by saying, “…offspring of my feeble brain, Who after birth did’st by my side remain…”, she refers to her poems as children she has birthed. This poem is not only influential to all writers, but specifically to women, telling them find a form of expression and cherish it even if its not perfect because it was something that they had created.

As a Puritan woman in the seventeenth century, the main duties were caring for the kids, a happy husband and a deep connection with God. Anne was not solely the average Puritan woman but she was an intellectual as well. Though some of her contemporary ideas would question those of the Puritan ways, she always reverted back to emphasizing how important God was. She created many thought provoking pieces but her most famous was Contemplations. It was a series of short poems all centered around humanity, nature and God. In the second stanza of Contemplations Anne states,

“I wist not what to wish, yet sure thought I, If so much excellence abide below, How excellent is he that dwells on high? Whose power and beauty by his works we know. Sure he is goodness, wisdom, glory, light, That hath this under world so richly dight. More Heaven than Earth was here, no winter and no night.”,

in this stanza she talks about how she can not imagine how heaven has better things than are on Earth, because the things that are on this planet are already amazing, but reverts back to saying God is light and everything in heaven will always be spring (warmth) and light. This is powerful coming from Anne because she had suffered much up to this point, countless ailments to her and her children, her husband constantly leaving and moving the family around, but Anne chose to see the beauty in the world, and embrace God’s plan for the future. Audiences everywhere could relate to Anne’s words, furthering their relationships with God.

Anne became a perfect role model for Puritan women everywhere. She was a role model even before she knew herself. The main reason John Woodbridge left for London with Anne’s manuscript was because him and his brother, Simon, wanted to show how educating women was a good thing for the Puritan household, and with publishing Anne’s work it helped. Anne was so loving and caring to all of her family. They were her main topic of writing, and some of her most famous poems came from inspiration of her kids and husband. The most famous would be To My Dear and Loving Husband, She wrote this one day while her husband was off on one of his business trips. Anne writes,

“If ever two were one, then surely we. If ever man were loved 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 recompense. Thy love is such I can no way repay; The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray. Then while we live, in love let’s so persever, That when we live no more we may live ever.”,

here Anne is talking about how in love and devoted she is to her husband. Anne became a symbol for women, to show the balance of family, religion and career. Women could now turn to someone who was dealing with the same situations as them and have an outlet. Anne Bradstreet was not your normal Puritan traveler to the new world. She was an intelligent, influential and talented woman. She wrote poems, took care of eight children and worshiped the lord. Anne being the first New World poet broke ground becoming a role model for women everywhere, especially in the Puritan religion. Anne Bradstreet is one of the most influential women in U.S. history.

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The Life and Literary Works of the English Poet, Anne Bradstreet. (2023, Feb 14). Retrieved from

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