Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bradstreet, Anne

BRADSTREET, ANNE (1612–1672), poetess, was born in 1612, probably at Northampton, and was the second of the six children of Thomas Dudley, by Dorothy, his first wife (Works in Prose and Verse, Introd. p. xiv). Her father was once page to Lord Compton, then, steward to the Earl of Lincoln, and finally governor of Massachusetts. In 1628 Anne had the small-pox. Later in the same year she married Simon Bradstreet, son of Simon Bradstreet, a nonconformist minister in Lincolnshire: the younger Simon had been eight years in the Earl of Lincoln's family under Anne's father (Magnolia Christi Americana, bk. ii. p. 19), and in 1628 was steward to the Countess of Warwick (Works, &c., Introd. p. xxii). On 29 March 1630 the Bradstreets, the Dudleys, and Arbella (the Earl of Lincoln's sister, wife of Isaac Johnson), with many others, set sail for New England, and on 12 June landed at Salem, whence they removed at once to Charlestown (ib. p. xxxi). In 1632 Anne had a 'fit of sickness,' and in 1634 the party settled at Ipswich, Massachusetts (Works, Introd. p. xxxv). Simon Bradstreet formed a plantation at Merrimac in 1638, the year in which Anne wrote her 'Elogie on Sir Philip Sidney.' At Ipswich, on Monday, 28 Sept. 1640, she at last became a mother, and she could eventually write, 23 June 1659 (Poems, p. 245):

I had eight birds hatcht in one nest,
Four cocks there were and hens the rest.

In 1641 Anne Bradstreet wrote a poem in honour of Du Bartas, and she shortly made a collection of her poems. The chief of them was entitled 'The Four Elements;' she dedicated the volume in verse to her father, under date 20 March 1642. These poems were distributed in manuscript, and gained her great celebrity. Cotton Mather spoke of her as 'a crown to her father' (Magnalia, bk. ii. p. 17), whilst Griswold calls her 'the most celebrated poet of her time in America' (Poets and Poetry of America, p. 92). The book was at last published, in London, 1650, under the title 'The Tenth Muse,' … 'By a Gentlewoman in Those Parts (i.e. New England).' In 1643, on 27 Dec., Dorothy Dudley, Anne Bradstreet's mother, died (Poems, p. 220); in 1644 her father married again (having three more children by this marriage). In 1653 Anne's father died. In 1661 she had a further long and serious illness, and her husband, then secretary to the colony, had to proceed to England on state business. Anne wrote 'Poetical Epistles' to him. By 3 Sept. 1662 he had returned. Anne Bradstreet wrote poems in 1665 and 1669 commemorating the deaths of three grandchildren; and on 31 Aug. 1669 Anne wrote her last poem, beginning

As weary pilgrim, now at rest.

After this Anne Bradstreet's health failed entirely, and she died of consumption, at Andover, Massachusetts, 16 Sept. 1672, aged 60.

It is not known where Anne Bradstreet was buried. Her poems, says Cotton Mather, are a 'monument for her memory beyond the stateliest marbles;' and these 'Poems' were issued in a second edition, printed by John Foster, at Boston (America), in 1678. Anne Bradstreet also left a small manuscript book of 'Meditations,' designed for the use of her children. Extracts from this book appeared, with the title of 'The Puritan Mother,' in the American 'Congregational Visitor,' 1844; in Dr. Budington's 'History of the First Church in Charlestown,' and in many American newspapers to which they were contributed by Mr. Dean Dudley (Works, Introd. p. x). In 1867 Mr. John Harvard Ellis edited Anne Bradstreet's 'Works,' and there these 'Meditations,' together with all that Anne Bradstreet ever wrote, are given in their entirety.

Simon Bradstreet (a portrait of whom is in the senate chamber of the State House, Massachusetts) married again after Anne's death, and became governor of Massachusetts in 1679, not dying till 1697, aged 94. Amongst Anne's descendants are Oliver Wendell Holmes, Dana, and Dr. Channing, besides many other of the best-known Americans.

[Works of Anne Bradstreet, in Prose and Verse (ed. Ellis), U.S.A. 1867; Anne Bradstreet's Poems, 2nd ed. Boston, 1678; Mather's Magnalia Christi Americana, bk. ii. pp. 17, 19.]

J. H.