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- Anne Bradstreet and Her Time - 2/59 -


speech was laid upon him, he ceased to disguise his real feelings and became even too out-spoken, the tendency strengthening year by year, and doing much to diminish his popularity, though his qualities were too sterling to allow any lessening of real honor and respect. But he was still the courtier, and untitled as he was, prestige enough came with him to make his marriage to "a gentlewoman whose Extract and Estate were Considerable," a very easy matter, and though we know her only as Dorothy Dudley, no record of her maiden name having been preserved, the love borne her by both husband and daughter is sufficient evidence of her character and influence.

Puritanism was not yet an established fact, but the seed had been sown which later became a tree so mighty that thousands gathered under its shadow. The reign of Elizabeth had brought not only power but peace to England, and national unity had no further peril of existence to dread. With peace, trade established itself on sure foundations and increased with every year. Wealth flowed into the country and the great merchants of London whose growth amazed and troubled the royal Council, founded hospitals, "brought the New River from its springs at Chadwell and Amwell to supply the city with pure water," and in many ways gave of their increase for the benefit of all who found it less easy to earn. The smaller land-owners came into a social power never owned before, and "boasted as long a rent-roll and wielded as great an influence as many of the older nobles.... In wealth as in political consequence the merchants and country gentlemen who formed the bulk of the House of Commons, stood far above the mass of the peers."

Character had changed no less than outward circumstances. "The nation which gave itself to the rule of the Stewarts was another nation from the panic-struck people that gave itself in the crash of social and religious order to the guidance of the Tudors." English aims had passed beyond the bounds of England, and every English "squire who crossed the Channel to flesh his maiden sword at Ivry or Ostend, brought back to English soil, the daring temper, the sense of inexhaustable resources, which had bourn him on through storm and battle field." Such forces were not likely to settle into a passive existence at home. Action had become a necessity. Thoughts had been stirred and awakened once for all. Consciously for the few, unconsciously for the many, "for a hundred years past, men had been living in the midst of a spiritual revolution. Not only the world about them, but the world within every breast had been utterly transformed. The work of the sixteenth century had wrecked that tradition of religion, of knowledge, of political and social order, which had been accepted without question by the Middle Ages. The sudden freedom of the mind from these older bonds brought a consciousness of power such as had never been felt before; and the restless energy, the universal activity of the Renaissance were but outer expressions of the pride, the joy, the amazing self-confidence, with which man welcomed this revelation of the energies which had lain slumbering within him."

This was the first stage, but another quickly and naturally followed, and dread took the place of confidence. With the deepening sense of human individuality, came a deepening conviction of the boundless capacities of the human soul. Not as a theological dogma, but as a human fact man knew himself to be an all but infinite power, whether for good or for ill. The drama towered into sublimity as it painted the strife of mighty forces within the breasts of Othello or Macbeth. Poets passed into metaphysicians as they strove to unravel the workings of conscience within the soul. From that hour one dominant influence told on human action; and all the various energies that had been called into life by the age that was passing away were seized, concentrated and steadied to a definite aim by the spirit of religion. Among the myriads upon whom this change had come, Thomas Dudley was naturally numbered, and the ardent preaching of the well-known Puritan ministers, Dodd and Hildersham, soon made him a Non-conformist and later an even more vigorous dissenter from ancient and established forms. As thinking England was of much the same mind, his new belief did not for a time interfere with his advancement, for, some years after his marriage he became steward of the estate of the Earl of Lincoln, and continued so for more than ten years. Plunged in debt as the estate had been by the excesses of Thomas, Earl of Lincoln, who left the property to his son Theophilus, so encumbered that it was well nigh worthless, a few years of Dudley's skillful management freed it entirely, and he became the dear and trusted friend of the entire family. His first child had been born in 1610, a son named Samuel, and in 1612 came the daughter whose delicate infancy and childhood gave small hint of the endurance shown in later years. Of much the same station and training as Mrs. Lucy Hutchinson, Anne Dudley could undoubtedly have written in the same words as that most delightful of chroniclers: "By the time I was four years old I read English perfectly, and having a great memory I was carried to sermons.... When I was about seven years of age, I remember I had at one time eight tutors in several qualities, languages, music, dancing, writing and needle work; but my genius was quite averse from all but my book, and that I was so eager of, that my mother thinking it prejudiced my health, would moderate me in it; yet this rather animated me than kept me back, and every moment I could steal from my play I would employ in any book I could find when my own were locked up from me."

It is certain that the little Anne studied the Scriptures at six or seven, with as painful solicitude as her elders, for she writes in the fragmentary diary which gives almost the only clue to her real life:

"In my young years, about 6 or 7, as I take it, I began to make conscience of my wayes, and what I knew was sinful, as lying, disobedience to Parents, etc., I avoided it. If at any time I was overtaken with the like evills, it was a great Trouble. I could not be at rest 'till by prayer I had confest it unto God. I was also troubled at the neglect of Private Duteys, tho' too often tardy that way. I also found much comfort in reading the Scriptures, especially those places I thought most concerned my Condition, and as I grew to have more understanding, so the more solace I took in them.

"In a long fitt of sickness which I had on my bed, I often communed with my heart and made my supplication to the most High, who sett me free from that affliction."

For a childhood which at six searches the Scriptures to find verses applicable to its condition, there cannot have been much if any natural child life, and Mrs. Hutchinson's experience again was probably duplicated for the delicate and serious little Anne. "Play among other children I despised, and when I was forced to entertain such as came to visit me, I tried them with more grave instruction than their mothers, and plucked all their babies to pieces, and kept the children in such awe, that they were glad when I entertained myself with elder company, to whom I was very acceptable, and living in the house with many persons that had a great deal of wit, and very profitable serious discourses being frequent at my father's table and in my mother's drawing room, I was very attentive to all, and gathered up things that I would utter again, to great admiration of many that took my memory and imitation for wit.... I used to exhort my mother's words much, and to turn their idle discourses to good subjects."

Given to exhortation as some of the time may have been, and drab- colored as most of the days certainly were, there were, bright passages here and there, and one reminiscence was related in later years, in her poem "In Honour of Du Bartas," the delight of Puritan maids and mothers;

"My muse unto a Child I may compare, Who sees the riches of some famous Fair, He feeds his eyes but understanding lacks, To comprehend the worth of all those knacks; The glittering plate and Jewels he admires, The Hats and Fans, the Plumes and Ladies' tires, And thousand times his mazed mind doth wish Some part, at least, of that brave wealth was his; But seeing empty wishes nought obtain, At night turns to his Mother's cot again, And tells her tales (his full heart over glad), Of all the glorious sights his eyes have had; But finds too soon his want of Eloquence, The silly prattler speaks no word of sense; But seeing utterance fail his great desires, Sits down in silence, deeply he admires."

It is probably to one of the much exhorted maids that she owed this glimpse of what was then a rallying ground for the jesters and merry Andrews, and possibly even a troop of strolling players, frowned upon by the Puritan as children of Satan, but still secretly enjoyed by the lighter minded among them. But the burden of the time pressed more and more heavily. Freedom which had seemed for a time to have taken firm root, and to promise a better future for English thought and life, lessened day by day under the pressure of the Stuart dynasty, and every Nonconformist home was the center of anxieties that influenced every member of it from the baby to the grandsire, whose memory covered more astonishing changes than any later day has known.

The year preceding Anne Dudley's birth, had seen the beginning of the most powerful influence ever produced upon a people, made ready for it, by long distrust of such teaching as had been allowed. With the translation of the Bible into common speech, and the setting up of the first six copies in St. Pauls, its popularity had grown from day to day. The small Geneva Bibles soon appeared and their substance had become part of the life of every English family within an incredibly short space of time. Not only thought and action but speech itself were colored and shaped by the new influence. We who hold to it as a well of English undefiled, and resent even the improvements of the new Version as an infringement on a precious possession, have small conception of what it meant to a century which had had no prose literature and no poetry save the almost unknown verse of Chaucer.

"Sunday after Sunday, day after day, the crowds that gathered round the Bible in the nave of St. Pauls, or the family group that hung on its words in the devotional exercises at home, were leavened with a new literature. Legend and annal, war song and psalm, State-roll and biography, the mighty voices of prophets, the parables of Evangelists, stories of mission-journeys, of perils by the sea and among the heathens, philosophic arguments, apocalyptic visions, all were flung broadcast over minds unoccupied for the most part by any rival learning. The disclosure of the stores of Greek literature had wrought the revolution of Renaissance. The disclosure of the older mass of Hebrew literature, wrought the revolution of the Reformation. But the one revolution was far deeper and wider in its effects than the other. No version could transfer to another tongue the peculiar charm of language which gave their value to the authors of Greece and Rome. Classical letters, therefore, remained in the possession of the


Anne Bradstreet and Her Time - 2/59

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