Synopses & Reviews
For many, Anne Bradstreet's name is familiar from the early pages of anthologies of American poetry or from John Berryman's famous tribute to her. But few know that she was the first published poet male or female to emerge from the wilderness of the New World, or that her slim volume of verse was a runaway bestseller. Now, in this biography, Charlotte Gordon reveals Anne Bradstreet to be an electrifying personality at the center of one of the most fascinating periods in our country's history.
Transplanted from England to the New World in 1630, eighteen-year-old Anne was among the first waves of settlers on the unwelcoming shores of what would one day be Massachusetts. Arriving just a decade after the Pilgrims, Anne quickly had to transform herself from educated gentlewoman to frontier wife and mother. Of course, she was not alone: with her came her new husband, Simon Bradstreet; her imperious father, Thomas Dudley; and a powerful clutch of Protestant dissenters whose descendants would become our founding fathers.
Anne not only recorded her own experience, but also commented on the political and religious upheavals of her day, casting light on the hypocrisy of Old England and the promise of the New. This is the story of a woman and poet of great feeling struggling to find a language to describe the country in which she finds herself. It also offers a complex portrait of early America, the Puritans, and the trials and values whose legacy continues to shape our country to the present day.
"When Anne Bradstreet (1612? 1672) published her first book of poetry, The Tenth Muse, in 1650, she called it the 'ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain.' Yet, as poet Gordon (Two Girls on a Raft) demonstrates in this plodding and unilluminating biography, Bradstreet uttered those words more out of self-defense than regret. From her adolescence to the publication of her book, the Puritan poet viewed her work as a vocation that enabled her to worship God in vivid homespun images and to express sometimes complex theological ideas in plain language. Gordon depicts Bradstreet as a woman of her time, required to submit to her father and husband in religious and social matters. Gordon demonstrates that Bradstreet nevertheless benefited from the privileges of a literary education. Her family's social and religious circle included the most important figures of the early 17th century, from John Winthrop to Roger Williams. While her book was very popular at its publication, Bradstreet's reputation waned after the Civil War, to be recovered in the 20th century by her influence on poets such as Anne Sexton and John Berryman. Regrettably, Gordon's wearisome focus on the well-known facts of Bradstreet's upbringing leaves little room for a significant exploration of her poetic life and works. 8 pages of b&w illus. not seen by PW. Agent, Bettne Bloom." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Poet Gordon offers a thorough, occasionally whimsical, and hearteningly feminist take on the life of early Puritan pioneer and pundit Anne Bradstreet....[H]er own sensitivity as a poet renders rapturous readings of Bradstreet's writing." Kirkus Reviews
"Written with maximal clarity and communicativeness, this is a vibrant, engaging, realistic portrayal of early colonial Massachusetts and of its fascinating biographical subject." Booklist (Starred Review)
Though her work is a staple of anthologies of American poetry, Anne Bradstreet has never before been the subject of an accessible, full-scale biography for a general audience. Anne Bradstreet is known for her poem, "To My Dear and Loving Husband," among others, and through John Berryman's "Homage to Mistress Bradstreet." With her first collection, The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, she became the first published poet, male or female, of the New World. Many New England towns were founded and settled by Anne Bradstreet's family or their close associates--characters who appear in these pages.