Title: Anne Bradstreet
Author: D. B. Kellogg
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (2010)
The colonization of America in the 17th century was a fascinating time period. The circumstances that drove men and women to travel for weeks to forge a new life for themselves in what would become the United States are beyond what most of us can fathom. And the story is often told as acts of relentless heroism and bravery in the face of uncertainty.
Except when it comes to the Puritans. The Salem witch trials and an inflexible attitude & work ethic are, sadly, what the bulk of us think of when we consider the Puritans who founded much of New England.
And because of this, it’s easy to overlook figures like Anne Bradstreet, a devoted Puritan, wife, mother and… poet. Published as part of Thomas Nelson’s Christian Encounters series, Anne Bradstreet by D. B. Kellogg offers readers a taste of the life of this extremely unusual figure.
And unusual she was.
Kellogg notes that Bradstreet’s father invested heavily in her education, encouraging her to learn to read (as was common among the Puritans) and also to write (which was far less common). She inherited her father’s love of books, spending much time in his vast library. Although she was exceptionally well educated, it was considered most proper that she serve solely as a homemaker and mother.
And these Anne did with excellence, even through periods of serious illness. She was never the picture of health, but she persevered, trusting in God’s grace to see her and the colonists through every trial, be it sickness, a lack of housing, famine or the harsh weather conditions. Reading of the circumstances surrounding Anne and the Puritans’ lives gave me a greater appreciation for their efforts in founding the colonies. Honestly, I don’t know if many of us today would have the fortitude to persevere under the conditions they faced. It’s simply astonishing.
While Anne was a devoted wife and mother, she was also an artist who expressed her devotion to Christ through amazing works of poetry that, by God’s grace, have been preserved for us today. And this is perhaps the most unusual thing of all. Kellogg notes that, really, Bradstreet’s work should not have been published at all. As a Puritan woman, this was nearly unthinkable. Yet, it was (thanks to her brother-in-law). And her work was extremely well-received both in the Old World and the New. Today, she holds the distinction of being the first American poet.
Reading the selections of her poems contained in Anne Bradstreet, the richness of her language is stunning (I say this as one who isn’t much for poetry). Particularly moving is this tribute to her father written upon his death (at the age of 73):
My Father’s God, be God of me and mine.
Upon the earth he did not build his nest,
But as a Pilgrim, what he had, possessed. . . .
Those titles loathed, which some too much do love
For truly his ambition lay above. . . .
His thoughts were more sublime, his actions wise.
His pious Footsteps followed by his race,
At last will bring us to that happy place
Where we with joy each other’s face shall see,
And parted more by death shall never be. (p. 130)
Reading this book, I alternated between being fascinated and frustrated. Kellogg went to great effort to show readers what the living conditions were like for the colonists and portray a more balanced view of the Puritans than some may be accustomed to; however, when it came to the details of Bradstreet’s life, there was much speculation. “Mays” and “mights” are aplenty. While I understand that this is just the case given the amount of information available about Bradstreet, it’s frustrating for a reader who prefers a little more certainty than a biography of this nature can afford.
Anne Bradstreet by D. B. Kellogg is an enjoyable read and, overall, a worthy addition to the collection of biographies about this important figure. While it doesn’t contain as much depth as some might prefer it will be appreciated especially by those seeking to know more about early American history.
A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review through Thomas Nelson’s Booksneeze program.