English Literature

Anne Bradstreet and Her Time by Helen Campbell

Anne Bradstreet and Her Time by Helen Campbell.jpg



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 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 learned, that is, of the few, and among these, with the exception of Colet and More, or of the pedants who revived a Pagan worship in the gardens of the Florentine Academy, their direct influence was purely intellectual. But the language of the Hebrew, the idiom of the Hellenistic Greek, lent themselves with a curious felicity to the purposes of translation. As a mere literary monument the English version of the Bible remains the noblest example of the English tongue, while its perpetual use made it from the instant of its appearance, the standard of our language.

“One must dwell upon this fact persistently, before it will become possible to understand aright either the people or the literature of the time. With generations the influence has weakened, though the best in English speech has its source in one fountain. But the Englishman of that day wove his Bible into daily speech, as we weave Shakespeare or Milton or our favorite author of a later day. It was neither affectation nor hypocrisy but an instinctive use that made the curious mosaic of Biblical words and phrases which colored English talk two hundred years ago. The mass of picturesque allusion and illustration which we borrow from a thousand books, our fathers were forced to borrow from one; and the borrowing was the easier and the more natural, that the range of the Hebrew literature fitted it for the expression of every phase of feeling. When Spencer poured forth his warmest love-notes in the ‘Epithalamion,’ he adopted the very words of the Psalmist, as he bade the gates open for the entrance of his bride. When Cromwell saw the mists break over the hills of Dunbar, he hailed the sun-burst with the cry of David: ‘Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered. Like as the smoke vanisheth so shalt thou drive them away!’ Even to common minds this familiarity with grand poetic imagery in prophet and apocalypse, gave a loftiness and ardor of expression that with all its tendency to exaggeration and bombast we may prefer to the slip-shod vulgarisms of today.”

Children caught the influence, and even baby talk was half scriptural, so that there need be no surprise in finding Anne Bradstreet’s earliest recollections couched in the phrases of psalms learned by heart as soon as she could speak, and used, no doubt, half unconsciously. Translate her sentences into the thought of to-day, and it is evident, that aside from the morbid conscientiousness produced by her training, that she was the victim of moods arising from constant ill-health. Her constitution seems to have been fragile in the extreme, and there is no question but that in her case as in that of many another child born into the perplexed and troubled time, the constant anxiety of both parents, uncertain what a day might bring forth, impressed itself on the baby soul. There was English fortitude and courage, the endurance born of faith, and the higher evolution from English obstinacy, but there was for all of them, deep self-distrust and abasement; a sense of worthlessness that intensified with each generation; and a perpetual, unhealthy questioning of every thought and motive. The progress was slow but certain, rising first among the more sensitive natures of women, whose lives held too little action to drive away the mists, and whose motto was always, “look in and not out”—an utter reversal of the teaching of to-day. The children of that generation lost something that had been the portion of their fathers. The Elizabethan age had been one of immense animal life and vigor, and of intense capacity for enjoyment, and, deny it as one might, the effect lingered and had gone far toward forming character. The early Nonconformist still shared in many worldly pleasures, and had found no occasion to condense thought upon points in Calvinism, or to think of himself as a refugee from home and country.

The cloud at first no bigger than a man’s hand, was not dreaded, and life in Nonconformist homes went on with as much real enjoyment as if their ownership were never to be questioned. Serious and sad, as certain phases come to be, it is certain that home life developed as suddenly as general intelligence. The changes in belief in turn affected character. “There was a sudden loss of the passion, the caprice, the subtle and tender play of feeling, the breath of sympathy, the quick pulse of delight, which had marked the age of Elizabeth; but on the other hand life gained in moral grandeur, in a sense of the dignity of manhood, in orderliness and equable force. The larger geniality of the age that had passed away was replaced by an intense tenderness within the narrower circle of the home. Home, as we now conceive it, was the creation of the Puritan. Wife and child rose from mere dependants on the will of husband or father, as husband or father saw in them saints like himself, souls hallowed by the touch of a divine spirit and called with a divine calling like his own. The sense of spiritual fellowship gave a new tenderness and refinement to the common family affections.”

The same influence had touched Thomas Dudley, and Dorothy Dudley could have written of him as Lucy Hutchinson did of her husband: “He was as kind a father, as dear a brother, as good a master, as faithful a friend as the world had.” In a time when, for the Cavalier element, license still ruled and lawless passion was glorified by every play writer, the Puritan demanded a different standard, and lived a life of manly purity in strange contrast to the grossness of the time. Of Hutchinson and Dudley and thousands of their contemporaries the same record held good: “Neither in youth nor riper years could the most fair or enticing woman draw him into unnecessary familiarity or dalliance. Wise and virtuous women he loved, and delighted in all pure and holy and unblameable conversation with them, but so as never to excite scandal or temptation. Scurrilous discourse even among men he abhorred; and though he sometimes took pleasure in wit and mirth, yet that which was mixed with impurity he never could endure.”

Naturally with such standards life grew orderly and methodical. “Plain living and high thinking,” took the place of high living and next to no thinking. Heavy drinking was renounced. Sobriety and self-restraint ruled here as in every other act of life, and the division between Cavalier and Nonconformist became daily more and more marked. Persecution had not yet made the gloom and hardness which soon came to be inseparable from the word Puritan, and children were still allowed many enjoyments afterward totally renounced. Milton could write, even after his faith had settled and matured:

  “Haste then, nymph, and bring with thee
Jest and youthful jollity,
Quips and Cranks and wanton Wiles,
Nods and becks and wreathed Smiles,
Such as hang on Hebe’s cheek
And love to live in dimple sleek;
Sports that wrinkled care derides
And Laughter holding both his sides.”

Cromwell himself looked on at masques and revels, and Whitelock, a Puritan lawyer and his ambassador to Sweden, left behind him a reputation for stately and magnificent entertaining, which his admirers could never harmonize with his persistent refusal to conform to the custom of drinking healths. In the report of this embassy printed after Whitelock’s return and republished some years ago, occurs one of the best illustrations of Puritan social life at that period. “How could you pass over their very long winter nights?” was one of the questions asked by the Protector at the first audience after his return from The embassy.

“I kept my people together,” was the reply, “and in action and recreation, by having music in my house, and encouraging that and the exercise of dancing, which held them by the eyes and ears, and gave them diversion without any offence. And I caused the gentlemen to have disputations in Latin, and declamations upon words which I gave them.” Cromwell, “Those were very good diversions, and made your house a little academy.”

Whitelock, “I thought these recreations better than gaming for money, or going forth to places of debauchery.”

Cromwell, “It was much better.”

In the Earl of Lincoln’s household such amusements would be common, and it was not till many years later, that a narrowing faith made Anne write them down as “the follyes of youth.” Through that youth, she had part in every opportunity that the increased respect for women afforded.

Many a Puritan matron shared her husband’s studies, or followed her boys in their preparation for Oxford or Cambridge, and Anne Bradstreet’s poems and the few prose memorials she left, give full evidence of an unusually broad training, her delicacy of health making her more ready for absorption in study. Shakespeare and Cervantes were still alive at her birth, and she was old enough, with the precocious development of the time, to have known the sense of loss and the general mourning at their death in 1616. It is doubtful if the plays of the elder dramatists were allowed her, though there are hints in her poems of some knowledge of Shakespeare, but by the time girlhood was reached, the feeling against them had increased to a degree hardly comprehensible save in the light of contemporaneous history. The worst spirit of the time was incorporated in the later plays, and the Puritans made no discrimination. The players in turn hated them, and Mrs. Hutchinson wrote: “Every stage and every table, and every puppet- play, belched forth profane scoffs upon them, the drunkards made them their songs, and all fiddlers and mimics learned to abuse them, as finding it the most gameful way of fooling.”

If, however, the dramatists were forbidden, there were new and inexhaustible sources of inspiration and enjoyment, in the throng of new books, which the quiet of the reign of James allowed to appear in quick succession. Chapman’s magnificent version of Homer was delighting Cavalier and Puritan alike. “Plutarch’s Lives,” were translated by Sir Thomas North and his book was “a household book for the whole of the seventeenth century.” Montaigne’s Essays had been “done into English” by John Florio, and to some of them at least Thomas Dudley was not likely to take exception. Poets and players had, however, come to be classed together and with some reason, both alike antagonizing the Puritan, but the poets of the reign of James were far more simple and natural in style than those of the age of Elizabeth, and thus, more likely to be read in Puritan families. Their numbers may be gauged by their present classification into “pastoral, satirical, theological, metaphysical and humorous,” but only two of them were in entire sympathy with the Puritan spirit, or could be read without serious shock to belief and scruples.

For the sake of her own future work, deeper drinking at these springs was essential, and in rejecting them, Anne Dudley lost the influence that must have moulded her own verse into much more agreeable form for the reader of to-day, though it would probably have weakened her power in her own day. The poets she knew best hindered rather than helped development. Wither and Quarles, both deeply Calvinistic, the former becoming afterward one of Cromwell’s major-generals, were popular not only then but long afterward, and Quarles’ “Emblems”, which appeared in 1635, found their way to New England and helped to make sad thought still more 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 strain as any to be found in the old home across the sea.


Categories: English Literature

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