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- Anne Bradstreet and Her Time - 4/59 -


dreary. Historians and antiquaries were at work. Sir Walter Raleigh's "History of the World," must have given little Anne her first suggestion of life outside of England, while Buchanan, the tutor of King James, had made himself the historian and poet of Scotland. Bacon had just ended life and labor; Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity was before the world, though not completed until 1632, and the dissensions of the time had given birth to a "mass of sermons, books of devotion, religious tracts and controversial pamphlets." Sermons abounded, those of Archbishop Usher, Andrews and Donne being specially valued, while "The Saint's Cordial," of Dr. Richard Sibbs, and the pious meditations of Bishop Hall were on every Puritan bookshelf. But few strictly sectarian books appeared, "the censorship of the press, the right of licensing books being almost entirely arrogated to himself by the untiring enemy of the Nonconformists, Laud, Bishop of London, whose watchful eye few heretical writings could escape.. . . Many of the most ultra pamphlets and tracts were the prints of foreign presses secretly introduced into the country without the form of a legal entry at Stationers' Hall."

The same activity which filled the religious world, was found also in scientific directions and Dr. Harvey's discovery of the circulation of the blood, and Napier's introduction of logarithms, made a new era for both medicine and mathematics.

That every pulse of this new tide was felt in the castle at Lempingham is very evident, in all Anne Bradstreet's work. The busy steward found time for study and his daughter shared it, and when he revolted against the incessant round of cares and for a time resigned the position, the leisure gained was devoted to the same ends. The family removed to Boston in Lincolnshire, and there an acquaintance was formed which had permanent influence on the minds of all.

Here dwelt the Rev. John Cotton, vicar of the parish and already obnoxious to the Bishops.

No man among the Nonconformists had had more brilliant reputation before the necessity of differing came upon him, and his personal influence was something phenomenal. To the girl whose sensitive, eager mind reached out to every thing high and noble he must have seemed of even rarer stuff than to-day we know him to have been.

At thirteen he had entered Emmanuel College at Cambridge, and adding distinction to distinction had come at last to be dean of the college to which he belonged. His knowledge of Greek was minute and thorough, and he conversed with ease in either Latin or Hebrew. As a pulpit orator he was famous, and crowds thronged the ancient church of St. Mary in Cambridge whenever he preached. Here he gave them "the sort of sermons then in fashion--learned, ornate, pompous, bristling with epigrams, stuffed with conceits, all set off dramatically by posture, gesture and voice."

The year in which Anne Dudley was born, had completed the change which had been slowly working in him and which Tyler describes in his vivid pages on the theological writers of New England:

"His religious character had been deepening into Puritanism. He had come to view his own preaching as frivolous, Sadducean, pagan." He decided to preach one sermon which would show what changes had come, and the announcement of his intention brought together the usual throng of under-graduates, fellows and professors who looked for the usual entertainment. Never was a crowd more deceived. "In preparing once more to preach to this congregation of worldly and witty folk, he had resolved to give them a sermon intended to exhibit Jesus Christ rather than John Cotton. This he did. His hearers were astonished, disgusted. Not a murmur of applause greeted the several stages of his discourse as before. They pulled their shovel caps down over their faces, folded their arms, and sat it out sullenly, amazed that the promising John Cotton had turned lunatic or Puritan."

Nearly twenty years passed before his energies were transferred to New England, but the ending of his university career by no means hampered his work elsewhere. As vicar of St. Botolphs at Boston his influence deepened with every year, and he grew steadily in knowledge about the Bible, and in the science of God and man as seen through the dim goggles of John Calvin.

His power as a preacher was something tremendous, but he remained undisturbed until the reign of James had ended and the "fatal eye of Bishop Laud" fell upon him. "It was in 1633 that Laud became primate of England; which meant, among other things, that nowhere within the rim of that imperial island was there to be peace or safety any longer for John Cotton. Some of his friends in high station tried to use persuasive words with the archbishop on his behalf, but the archbishop brushed aside their words with an insupportable scorn. The Earl of Dorset sent a message to Cotton, that if he had only been guilty of drunkenness or adultery, or any such minor ministerial offence, his pardon could have been had; but since his crime was Puritanism, he must flee for his life. So, for his life he fled, dodging his pursuers; and finally slipping out of England, after innumerable perils, like a hunted felon; landing in Boston in September, 1633."

Long before this crisis had come, Thomas Dudley had been recalled by the Earl of Lincoln, who found it impossible to dispense with his services, and the busy life began again. Whether Anne missed the constant excitement the strenuous spiritual life enforced on all who made part of John Cotton's congregation, there is no record, but one may infer from a passage in her diary that a reaction had set in, and that youth asserted itself.

"But as I grew up to bee about fourteen or fifteen I found my heart more carnall and sitting loose from God, vanity and the follys of youth take hold of me.

"About sixteen, the Lord layd his hand sore upon me and smott mee with the small-pox. When I was in my affliction, I besought the Lord, and confessed my Pride and Vanity and he was entreated of me, and again restored me. But I rendered not to him according to ye benefit received."

Here is the only hint as to personal appearance. "Pride and Vanity," are more or less associated with a fair countenance, and though no record gives slightest detail as to form or feature, there is every reason to suppose that the event, very near at hand, which altered every prospect in life, was influenced in degree, at least, by considerations slighted in later years, but having full weight with both. That Thomas Dudley was a "very personable man," we know, and there are hints that his daughter resembled him, though it was against the spirit of the time to record mere accidents of coloring or shape. But Anne's future husband was a strikingly handsome man, not likely to ignore such advantages in the wife he chose, and we may think of her as slender and dark, with heavy hair and the clear, thoughtful eyes, which may be seen in the potrait of Paul Dudley to-day. There were few of what we consider the typical Englishmen among these Puritan soldiers and gentry. Then, as now, the reformer and liberal was not likely to be of the warm, headlong Saxon type, fair-haired, blue-eyed, and open to every suggestion of pleasure loving temperament. It was the dark-haired men of the few districts who made up Cromwell's regiment of Ironsides, and who from what Galton calls, "their atrabilious and sour temperament," were likely to become extremists, and such Puritan portraits as remain to us, have most of them these characteristics. The English type of face altered steadily for many generations, and the Englishmen of the eighteenth century had little kinship with the race reproduced in Holbein's portraits, which show usually, "high cheek-bones, long upper lips, thin eyebrows, and lank, dark hair. It would be impossible ... for the majority of modern Englishmen so to dress themselves and clip and arrange their hair, as to look like the majority of these portraits."

The type was perpetuated in New England, where for a hundred years, there was not the slightest admixture of foreign blood, increased delicacy with each generation setting it farther and farther apart from the always grosser and coarser type in Old England. Puritan abstinence had much to do with this, though even for them, heavy feeding, as compared with any modern standard was the rule, its results being found in the diaries of what they recorded and believed to be spiritual conflicts. Then, as now, dyspepsia often posed as a delicately susceptible temperament, and the "pasty" of venison or game, fulfilled the same office as the pie into which it degenerated, and which is one of the most firmly established of American institutions. Then, as occasionally even to day, indigestion counted as "a hiding of the Lord's face," and a bilious attack as "the hand of the Lord laid heavily on one for reproof and correction." Such "reproof and correction" would often follow if the breakfasts of the Earl of Lincoln and his household were of the same order as those of the Earl of Northumberland, in whose house "the family rose at six and took breakfast at seven. My Lord and Lady sat down to a repast of two pieces of salted fish, and half a dozen of red herrings, with four fresh ones, or a dish of sprats and a quart of beer and the same measure of wine ... At other seasons, half a chine of mutton or of boiled beef, graced the board. Capons at two-pence apiece and plovers (at Christmas), were deemed too good for any digestion that was not carried on in a noble stomach."

With the dropping of fasts and meager days, fish was seldom used, and the Sunday morning breakfast of Queen Elizabeth and her retinue in one of her "progresses" through the country, for which three oxen and one hundred and forty geese were furnished, became the standard, which did not alter for many generations. A diet more utterly unsuited to the child who passed from one fit of illness to another, could hardly be imagined, and the gloom discoverable in portions of her work was as certainly dyspepsia as she imagined it to be "the motion and power of ye Adversary." Winthrop had encountered the same difficulty and with his usual insight and common sense, wrote in his private dairy fifteen years before he left England, "Sep: 8, 1612. ffinding that the variety of meates drawes me on to eate more than standeth with my healthe I have resolved not to eat of more than two dishes at any one meale, whither fish, fleshe, fowle or fruite or whitt-meats, etc; whither at home or abroade; the lord give me care and abilitie to perform it." Evidently the flesh rebelled, for later he writes: "Idlenesse and gluttonie are the two maine pillars of the flesh his kingdome," but he conquered finally, both he and Simon Bradstreet being singularly abstinent.

Her first sixteen years of life were, for Anne Dudley, filled with the intensest mental and spiritual activity--hampered and always in leading strings, but even so, an incredible advance on anything that had been the portion of women for generations. Then came, for the young girl, a change not wholly unexpected, yet destined to alter every plan, and uproot every early association. But to the memories of that loved early life she held with an English tenacity, not altered by transplanting, that is seen to-day in countless New Englanders, whose English blood is of as pure a


Anne Bradstreet and Her Time - 4/59

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