Last Updated on April 9, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 536
Anne Dudley Bradstreet was a Puritan writer who moved with her husband and family from England to Massachusetts in 1630. Bradstreet became known as one of the first prolific female poets from the American colonies. Her poem “The Author to Her Book,” published in 1650, expresses the disappointment of an author whose book has been published prematurely. Bradstreet composed this poem after her collection The Tenth Muse (1650) was published in the United Kingdom without her consent. Bradstreet’s “The Author to Her Book” not only shows her personal issues over the publishing of The Tenth Muse, but reaches out to writers everywhere who may also have felt their creative works were unready for public scrutiny.
“The Author to Her Book,” consists of twenty-four lines written in iambic pentameter. It is in the heroic couplet form and thus consists of rhymed couplets. The poem relies on a conceit, or an extended metaphor, in which the author’s book is her child. The conceit is supported by several sub-metaphors that elaborate upon the state of the child, or book.
- An example of a sub-metaphor that the speaker employs is “I stretch thy joints to make thee even feet.” This is a metaphor for the metrical “feet” within a poem. It goes on to describe the speaker, or mother, trying to help her child run without “hobbling.” However, she is unable to fix the child’s issue. Similarly, the author is unable to change her poem to have an even meter.
- Another example of a sub-metaphor is the line “In better dress to trim thee was my mind.” This is a metaphor for how the author wishes to embellish her creative piece more, just as a mother wishes she could better dress her child.
The poem reads as a narrative, following the story of the speaker, who feels her offspring is unprepared for the world. It uses the conceit of a mother and her child to represent an author and her book.
It begins as the speaker laments over her offspring’s being taken away from her without her permission: The speaker’s offspring is “snatched” by “friends less wise than true.” The speaker believes that her child, or book, was viewed by the public with derision, as her child was in “rags.” When the speaker’s child returns from the public eye, the speaker dislikes it and finds it hard to look at out of shame and embarrassment. She realizes that perhaps “at length” her love for the child could grow, if only she could fix its inadequacies. However, when the speaker tries to fix her offspring, she only creates more blemishes and can’t find more than “homespun cloth” with which to dress her child.
At the end of the poem, the speaker warns her child to “beware of critics.” She tells the child that it must spend its time in lower society among “vulgars” due to its unfortunate upbringing. Last, the speaker gives a reason for the child’s early release into the world by explaining its bad parentage. She advises her offspring that if anyone asks for its mother, it should claim that its mother “is poor / Which caused her thus to send thee out the door.”
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