Anne Bradstreet Additional Biography


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

ph_0111201188-Bradstreet.jpg Anne Bradstreet. Published by Salem Press, Inc.

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 served as governor. He was also interested in frontier trading, and his frequent absences from home became the subject of two of his wife’s best poems.

For some years after her marriage, Bradstreet continued to suffer from poor health and the added humiliation of not being able to bear Simon any children. It is not clear when she began writing poetry, but by the late 1640’s...

(The entire section is 715 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

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.


(Society and Self, Critical Representations in Literature)

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...

(The entire section is 594 words.)


(Poets and Poetry in America)

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...

(The entire section is 519 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical 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...

(The entire section is 838 words.)