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Selected Poetry of Anne Bradstreet (ca. 1612-1672)


from Representative Poetry On-line
Prepared by members of the Department of English at the University of Toronto
from 1912 to the present and published by the University of Toronto Press from 1912 to 1967.
RPO Edited by Ian Lancashire
A UTEL (University of Toronto English Library) Edition
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries
© 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto

Image of Anne Bradstreet

Index to poems

... Living so little while we are alive.
In eating, drinking, sleeping, vain delight
So unawares comes on perpetual night
And puts all pleasures vain unto eternal flight.
        (Contemplations, 116-19)
  1. The Author to her Book
  2. By Night when Others Soundly Slept
  3. Contemplations
  4. A Dialogue between Old England and New
  5. The Flesh and the Spirit
  6. The Four Ages of Man
  7. In Honour of that High and Mighty Princess, Queen ELIZABETH
  8. In Reference to her Children, 23 June 1659
  9. Prologue
  10. To my Dear and Loving Husband
  11. Verses upon the Burning of our House, July 18th, 1666


Notes on Life and Works

One of the greatest poets of the 17th century, Anne Bradstreet was born in Northamptonshire, England, ca. 1612-13, daughter to Thomas Dudley, a clerk, and Dorothy Yorke. By 1619 Dudley became steward to the earl of Lincolnshire at Sempringham, and three years later acquired Anne's future husband, Simon Bradstreet, as an assistant, freshly graduated from Cambridge University. After a short separation when the Dudleys and Bradstreet left the earl's service for different positions, Anne and Simon married in 1628 and lived in the household of the countess of Warwick until they emigrated--with the Dudleys--on a ship named the Arbella to America. Anne was only 18 years old but had benefited from a good education in the noble households in which she had stayed. She was a firm puritan in religion. After short stays in Salem, Charlestown, and Newtown (now Cambridge), they all settled in Ipswich. Here she had eight children in an exceptionally happy marriage and wrote many of the poems that were eventually published in The Tenth Muse (London: Stephen Bowtell, 1650) after her brother-in-law surreptitiously took her manuscript back with him to England and had it printed without her knowledge. The Bradstreets moved in Andover, Mass., in the mid-1640s and Anne lived until her death in 1672. Six years after her death a second edition of her poems appeared, Several Poems (Boston: John Foster, 1678), described as "Corrected by the Author, and enlarged by an Addition of several other Poems found amongst her Papers after her Death."

It is unclear whether the corrections in the 1678 edition truly belong to Anne. For that reason, the texts of all poems in this edition, where possible, come from the first edition. Josephine K. Piercy wrote an introduction to a facsimile reproduction of this book: The Tenth Muse (1650), and, from the Manuscripts, Meditations Divine and Morall Together with Letters and Occasional Pieces (Gainesville, Florida: Scholars' Facsimiles and Reprints, 1965; PS 711 A1 1965 ROBA). Of special interest is the facsimile of the so-called Andover Manuscript Book, now deposited in the Houghton Library, Harvard University. Poems not found in this facsimile edition come from the 1678 edition. All texts are here normalized in spelling and punctuation but retain the capitalization and italicizing of the original. The standard scholarly edition is The Complete Works of Anne Bradstreet, edited by Joseph R. McElrath, Jr., and Allan P. Robb (Boston: Twayne, 1981; PS 711 A1 1981 ROBA). A good biography is Elizabeth Wade White's Anne Bradstreet: "The Tenth Muse" (New York: Oxford University Press, 1971; PS 712 W54 ROBA).

The picture of Anne Bradstreet comes from a painted glass window in St. Botolph's Church in Boston, Lincolnshire.

Biographical information

Given name: Anne
Family name: Bradstreet
Maiden name: Dudley
Birth date: ca. 1612
Death date: 16 September 1672
Cause of death: Consumption