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ANNE BRADSTREET AND HER TIME
AUTHOR OF "PRISONERS OF POVERTY," "MRS. HERNDON'S INCOME," "MISS MELINDA'S OPPORTUNITY," ETC.
A BOOK FOR "MISS ICY."
Grave doubts at times arise in the critical mind as to whether America has had any famous women. We are reproached with the fact, that in spite of some two hundred years of existence, we have, as yet, developed no genius in any degree comparable to that of George Eliot and George Sand in the present, or a dozen other as familiar names of the past. One at least of our prominent literary journals has formulated this reproach, and is even sceptical as to the probability of any future of this nature for American women.
What the conditions have been which hindered and hampered such development, will find full place in the story of the one woman who, in the midst of obstacles that might easily have daunted a far stouter soul, spoke such words as her limitations allowed. Anne Bradstreet, as a name standing alone, and represented only by a volume of moral reflections and the often stilted and unnatural verse of the period, would perhaps, hardly claim a place in formal biography. But Anne Bradstreet, the first woman whose work has come down to us from that troublous Colonial time, and who, if not the mother, is at least the grandmother of American literature, in that her direct descendants number some of our most distinguished men of letters calls for some memorial more honorable than a page in an Encyclopedia, or even an octavo edition of her works for the benefit of stray antiquaries here and there. The direct ancestress of the Danas, of Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Wendell Phillips, the Channings, the Buckminsters and other lesser names, would naturally inspire some interest if only in an inquiry as to just what inheritance she handed down, and the story of what she failed to do because of the time into which she was born, holds equal meaning with that of what she did do.
I am indebted to Mr. John Harvard Ellis's sumptuous edition of Anne Bradstreet's works, published in 1867, and containing all her extant works, for all extracts of either prose or verse, as well as for many of the facts incorporated in Mr. Ellis's careful introduction. Miss Bailey's "History of Andover," has proved a valuable aid, but not more so than "The History of New England," by Dr. John Gorham Palfrey, which affords in many points, the most careful and faithful picture on record of the time, personal facts, unfortunately, being of the most meager nature. They have been sought for chiefly, however, in the old records themselves; musty with age and appallingly diffuse as well as numerous, but the only source from which the true flavor of a forgotten time can be extracted. Barren of personal detail as they too often are, the writer of the present imperfect sketch has found Anne Bradstreet, in spite of all such deficiencies, a very real and vital person, and ends her task with the belief which it is hoped that the reader may share, that among the honorable women not a few whose lives are to-day our dearest possession, not one claims tenderer memory than she who died in New England two hundred years ago.
NEW YORK, 1890.
CHAPTER I. THE OLD HOME
CHAPTER II. UPHEAVALS
CHAPTER III. THE VOYAGE
CHAPTER IV. BEGINNINGS
CHAPTER V. OLD FRIENDS AND NEW
CHAPTER VI. A THEOLOGICAL TRAGEDY
CHAPTER VII. COLONIAL LITERARY DEVELOPMENT IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY
CHAPTER VIII. SOME PHASES OF EARLY COLONIAL LIFE
CHAPTER IX. ANDOVER
CHAPTER X. VILLAGE LIFE IN 1650
CHAPTER XI A FIRST EDITION
CHAPTER XII. MISCELLANEOUS POEMS
CHAPTER XIII. CHANCES AND CHANGES
CHAPTER XIV. A LEGACY
CHAPTER XV. THE PURITAN REIGN OF TERROR
CHAPTER XVI. HOME AND ABROAD
CHAPTER XVII. THE END
ANNE BRADSTREET AND HER TIME.
THE OLD HOME.
The birthday of the baby, Anne Dudley, has no record; her birthplace even is not absolutely certain, although there is little doubt that it was at Northhampton in England, the home of her father's family. She opened her eyes upon a time so filled with crowding and conflicting interests that there need be no wonder that the individual was more or less ignored, and personal history lost in the general. To what branch of the Dudley family she belonged is also uncertain. Moore, in his "Lives of the Governors of New Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay," writes: "There is a tradition among the descendants of Governor Dudley in the eldest branch of the family, that he was descended from John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, who was beheaded 22 February, 1553." Such belief was held for a time, but was afterward disallowed by Anne Bradstreet. In her "Elegy upon Sir Philip Sidney," whose mother, the Lady Mary, was the eldest daughter of that Duke of Northumberland, she wrote:
"Let, then, none disallow of these my straines, Which have the self-same blood yet in my veines."
With the second edition of her poems, however, her faith had changed. This may have been due to a growing indifference to worldly distinctions, or, perhaps, to some knowledge of the dispute as to the ancestry of Robert Dudley, son of the Duke, who was described by one side as a nobleman, by another as a carpenter, and by a third as "a noble timber merchant"; while a wicked wit wrote that "he was the son of a duke, the brother of a king, the grandson of an esquire, and the great-grandson of a carpenter; that the carpenter was the only honest man in the family and the only one who died in his bed." Whatever the cause may have been she renounced all claim to relationship, and the lines were made to read as they at present stand:
"Then let none disallow of these my straines Whilst English blood yet runs within my veines."
In any case, her father, Thomas Dudley, was of gentle blood and training, being the only son of Captain Roger Dudley, who was killed in battle about the year 1577, when the child was hardly nine years old. Of his mother there is little record, as also of the sister from whom he was soon separated, though we know that Mrs. Dudley died shortly after her husband. Her maiden name is unknown; she was a relative of Sir Augustine Nicolls, of Paxton, Kent, one of His Majesty's Justices of his Court of Common Pleas, and keeper of the Great Seal to Prince Charles.
The special friend who took charge of Thomas Dudley through childhood is said to have been "a Miss Purefoy," and if so, she was the sister of Judge Nicolls, who married a Leicestershire squire, named William Purefoy. Five hundred pounds was left in trust for him, and delivered to him when he came of age; a sum equivalent to almost as many thousand to-day. At the school to which he was sent he gained a fair knowledge of Latin, but he was soon taken from it to become a page in the family of William Lord Compton, afterward the Earl of Northumberland.
His studies were continued, and in time he became a clerk of his kinsman, "Judge Nicholls," whose name appears in letters, and who was a sergeant-at-law. Such legal knowledge as came to him here was of service through all his later life, but law gave place to arms, the natural bias of most Englishmen at that date, and he became captain of eighty volunteers "raised in and about Northhampton, and forming part of the force collected by order of Queen Elizabeth to assist Henry IV. of France, in the war against Philip II. of Spain," He was at the siege of Amiens in 1597, and returned home when it ended, having, though barely of age, already gained distinction as a soldier, and acquired the courtesy of manner which distinguished him till later life, and the blandness of which often blinded unfamiliar acquaintances to the penetration and acumen, the honesty and courage that were the foundations of his character. As his belief changed, and the necessity for free
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