Biography (Dictionary of World Biography: The 17th and 18th Centuries)
Article abstract: Not only the first American woman poet, Anne Bradstreet ranks as the first true American poet of either sex.
Although no record of Anne Bradstreet’s birth survives, she was the daughter of Thomas and Dorothy Dudley of Northampton, England, and according to a reference in one of her poems she must have been born in 1612. Her father, though not highly educated, was a substantial man who valued books and learning. Dorothy, apparently also literate, probably taught her daughter religion, and the Dudley children grew up with books. The Dudleys claimed kinship to a much more prominent branch of the family: Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, was a favorite of Queen Elizabeth I, while John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, was the grandfather of Sir Philip Sidney, famed courtier and important English poet. Several other members of the Sidney family had literary talent, including Philip’s sister Mary, later Countess of Pembroke, and his niece Mary, later Lady Mary Wroth. It is clear that early in life Anne Dudley became acquainted with the poetry of Sidney. Another favorite was the Protestant French poet Guillaume Du Bartas.
In a letter to her own children years later, Bradstreet explained that she was an obedient child who took comfort in...
(The entire section is 2044 words.)
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Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Despite the prominence of both her father and her husband in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, facts about Anne Bradstreet are scarce, and her poems are the major source of biographical information. She was born Anne Dudley in Northampton, England, probably in 1612. From the age of seven, she lived in the household of the earl of Lincoln, whom her father served as a steward for more than a decade. As the child of a Puritan family, she became conscious of sinfulness early in life. Her physical health suffered. She regarded smallpox, which afflicted her at age sixteen, as a punishment for her “carnal” desires. In 1628, she was married to Simon Bradstreet. Two years later, the Bradstreet and Dudley families sailed to the New World on the Arbella along with John Winthrop and the original Massachusetts Bay colonists.
In the New World, the Bradstreets lived in several places before settling permanently in Merrimac (now Andover). Both her father and husband assumed leadership roles in the colony from the start. The former remained politically active into his seventies, serving four one-year terms as governor between 1634 and 1650 as well as thirteen terms as deputy governor. Her even more durable husband began as secretary of the colony, served thirty-three years as a commissioner of the New England Confederation, and in his seventies and eighties...
(The entire section is 717 words.)
Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
Beginning with ambitious but uninspired poems on remote subjects, Bradstreet proceeded to discover her vocation as a poet of more personal matters. Of the poems in the first edition of her book, only “The Prologue” anticipates the more intimate kind of poem for which she is now best known. Her typical subjects became birth, illness, recovery, death, leave-takings, and her love for her husband, her children, and God. Her witty elaborations of basic metaphors—her book as her child, her children as birds, her husband as the sun—show Bradstreet’s poetic imagination at its best.
(The entire section is 96 words.)
In 1630, Anne Bradstreet, about eighteen years old, sailed to America aboard the Arbella, the flagship of the great Puritan migration to the New World. Bradstreet’s father, Thomas Dudley, and her husband, Simon Bradstreet, had decided to trade a comfortable life in England for a difficult one in the New England colonies—and religious freedom. As a dutiful Puritan daughter and wife, Bradstreet submitted to their wishes, although she later confessed that her “heart rose” in despair after seeing the desolate Salem settlement in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The tension generated by her conflicting identities as a Puritan, as a loving wife, mother, and grandmother, and as a woman poet in a decidedly patriarchal culture informs much of Bradstreet’s poetry.
Bradstreet’s life in New England, as expected, was difficult. The family moved several times as her husband and her father sought land and political power (both would serve as governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony) before settling in Andover. Puritan women were responsible for domestic affairs, and Bradstreet presumably dismantled and reassembled the household for each move, in addition to caring for the eight children she bore between 1634 and 1652. It is amazing that Bradstreet found time to write at all, but in 1650 The...
(The entire section is 606 words.)
Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: American Poets)
Through her poetic voices, Anne Bradstreet assumes a clear (but complex) presence, yet factual data about her are surprisingly scant. Joseph McElrath, editor of The Complete Works of Anne Bradstreet (1981), shows that even her birth date is uncertain. She was born Anne Dudley, one of Thomas Dudley and Dorothy Yorke’s six children, probably in 1612 in Northampton, England, but she may have been born as late as 1613.
In 1619, the family moved to Sempringham, where Thomas Dudley became steward to the earl of Lincoln. Both he and his employer allowed the prospective poet an unusually good education for a woman. Scholars even speculate that she had access to the earl’s library. There she may have read staples of humanism: William Shakespeare, Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Walter Raleigh, Du Bartas, and Miguel de Cervantes. In 1621, Simon Bradstreet joined the earl’s household to assist Dudley; but in 1624, the Dudleys moved to Boston, England, and Simon Bradstreet left to work for the countess of Warwick.
When the poet was about sixteen, as she records in her autobiographical prose, “the Lord layd his hand sore upon me & smott mee with the small pox.” After her recovery in 1628, she and Simon Bradstreet married, and two years later, the Dudley and Bradstreet families left for America aboard the Arbella.
For Anne Bradstreet, the transition was not entirely smooth, and her prose autobiography speaks of “a new...
(The entire section is 519 words.)
Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Anne Bradstreet began life as the privileged daughter of a cultured and wealthy father, Thomas Dudley, a “judicious dissenter” who had married into the British aristocracy. Between the ages of seven and eighteen she lived in the household of Thomas Clinton, the third earl of Lincoln, whose estate her father managed. In this environment she met her future husband, Simon Bradstreet, who was her father’s assistant and eleven years her senior. Both left the estate for separate destinations in 1624, but they were united in marriage four years later. In 1630 Anne and Simon Bradstreet, together with her parents and other Puritans, sailed for Massachusetts Bay Colony, where she lived for brief periods in Salem, Charlestown, and Cambridge. After a somewhat longer sojourn in Ipswich, she and her husband settled permanently in Andover. There she composed her verse, which combines literary dexterity, religious contemplation, and personal feeling.
In 1647 her brother-in-law, the Reverend John Woodbridge, sailed for England, taking with him copies of her poems, which he published under the flamboyant title of his own devising, in which he ranked Bradstreet as the equal of the nine allegorical muses in Greek mythology. The work consists mainly of four long poems, portraying the physical and psychological...
(The entire section is 850 words.)