|In the midst of all this agitation and confusion Anne Bradstreet
pursued her quiet way, more disposed to comment on the misdoings
of the Persians or Romans than on anything nearer home, though
some lines in her "Dialogue between Old England and New," indicate
that she followed the course of every event with an anxious and
intelligent interest. In 1657, her oldest son had left for
England, where he remained until 1661, and she wrote then some
verses more to be commended for their motherly feeling than for
any charm of expression:
UPON MY SON SAMUEL HIS GOEING FOR ENGLAND,
NOVEM. 6, 1657.
Thou mighty God of Sea and Land,
I here resigne into thy hand
The Son of prayers, of vowes, of teares,
The child I stayed for many yeares.
Thou heard'st me then and gave'st him me;
Hear me again, I give him Thee.
He's mine, but more, O Lord thine own,
For sure thy Grace is on him shown.
No friend I have like Thee to trust,
For mortall helps are brittle Dust.
Preserve O Lord, from stormes and wrack,
Protect him there and bring him back;
And if thou shall spare me a space,
That I again may see his face,
Then shall I celebrate thy Praise,
And Blesse thee for't even all my Dayes.
If otherwise I goe to Rest,
Thy Will bee done, for that is best;
Perswade my heart I shall him see
Forever happefy'd with Thee.
There were others of much the same order on his return, in 1661,
but her feelings centered then on the anxieties and dangers of the
course which had been resolved upon. The enemies of the Colony
were busy in London, and the King was strongly inclined to take
very decisive measures for its humiliation. Explanations must be
made by some one who had had personal experience in every case now
used against them, and after long and troubled consultation the
Colonial Government reluctantly decided to send two Commissioners
to England, selecting John Norton and Simon Bradstreet as best
capable of meeting the emergency.
There was personal peril as well as political anxiety. The King
constitutionally listened to the first comer rather than the
second, and had already sided with the Quakers. To Norton it
seemed a willful putting of his head into the lion's jaws, and he
hesitated, and debated, and at last, from pure nervousness fell
violently ill. The ship which was to carry them waited, and
finally as it seemed impossible for him to rally his forces, began
unlading the provisions sent on board. The disgusted Government
officers prepared explanatory letters, and were on the point of
sending them when Mr. Norton came to his senses, and announced
that the Lord had "encouraged and strengthened his heart," and he
went decorously on board.
The mission, though pronounced by some Quaker historians a
failure, was in reality after many delays and more hard words a
tolerable success. The King was still too uncertain of his own
position to quarrel with as powerful a set of friends as the
Massachusetts Colony were now disposed to prove themselves, and
the Commissioners returned home, bearing a renewal of the charter,
though the letters held other matters less satisfactory to the
Puritan temper. The King required an oath of allegiance from all,
and that "all laws and ordinances ... contrary or derogative to
his authority and government should be annulled and repealed."
Toleration was made obligatory, and one clause outraged every
Puritan susceptibility; that in which it was ordered that, "in the
election of the Governor or Assistants, there should be only
consideration of the wisdom and integrity of the persons to be
chosen, and not of any faction with reference to their opinion or
Governor Dudley's shade must have looked with amazed dismay and
wrath upon this egg, which could hardly fail to "a Toleration
hatch," filled with every evil his verses had prophesied, and
there were many of the same mind. But popular dissatisfaction in
time died away, as no ill results came from the new methods, which
were ignored as often as possible, and the working of which could
not be very effectually watched in England. Simon Bradstreet,
though censured by many, pursued his quiet way, thankful to be
safely at home again with his head in its proper place, and his
wife rejoiced over him in various poems which celebrated the
letters he wrote, and every detail of his coming and going.
The summer of 1666 brought one of the sharpest trials her life had
ever known, the destruction of her house by fire taking place in
July. Each change of location to one of her tenacious affections
and deep love of home, had been a sharp wrench, and she required
long familiarity to reconcile her to new conditions. Though the
first and greatest change from England to America would seem to
have rendered all others trivial and not to be regarded, she had
shrank from each as it came, submitting by force of will, but
unreconciled till years had past. In Andover she had allowed
herself to take firm root, certain that from this point she would
never be dislodged, and the house had gradually become filled not
only with treasured articles of furniture and adornments, but with
the associations to which she always clung. There were family
portraits and heirlooms brought from the old home in Lincolnshire;
a library of nearly eight hundred volumes, many of them rare
editions difficult to replace, as well as her own special books
For these last there was no hope of renewal. Many of them were the
work of her early womanhood; others held the continuation of her
Roman Monarchy; small loss to the world at large, but the
destruction of a work which had beguiled many hours of the bodily
suffering from which she was seldom free. The second edition of
her poems, published after her death, held an apology found among
her papers, for the uncompleted state of this monarchy, in which
To finish what's begun was my intent,
My thoughts and my endeavors thereto bent;
Essays I many made but still gave out,
The more I mus'd, the more I was in doubt:
The subject large my mind and body weak,
With many more discouragements did speak.
All thoughts of further progress laid aside,
Though oft persuaded, I as oft deny'd,
At length resolv'd when many years had past,
To prosecute my story to the last;
And for the same, I, hours not few did spend,
And weary lines (though lanke) I many pen'd:
But 'fore I could accomplish my desire
My papers fell a prey to th' raging fire.
And thus my pains with better things I lost,
Which none had cause to wail, nor I to boast.
No more I'le do, sith I have suffer'd wrack,
Although my Monarchies their legs do lack:
No matter is't this last, the world now sees
Hath many Ages been upon his knees.
The disaster finds record in the Rev. Simon Bradstreet's diary:
"July 12, 1666. Whilst I was at N. London my father's house at
Andover was burnt, where I lost my Books and many of my clothes,
to the valieu of 50 or 60 pounds at least; The Lord gave, and the
Lord hath taken, blessed bee the name of the Lord. Tho: my own
losse of books (and papers espec.) was great and my fathers far
more being about 800, yet ye Lord was pleased gratiously many
wayes to make up ye same to us. It is therefore good to trust in
The "newe house" built at once and furnished with the utmost
elegance of the time, Simon Bradstreet's prosperity admitting the
free expenditure he always loved, could by no means fill the place
of the old. She looked about each room with a half-expectation
that the familiar articles with which so much of her outward life
had been associated, must be in the old places, and patiently as
she bore the loss, their absence fretted and saddened her. One of
her latest poems holds her sorrow and the resignation she came at
last to feel:
"In silent night when rest I took,
For sorrow neer I did not look,
I waken'd was with thundring nois
And Piteous shreiks of dreadfull voice;
That fearfull sound of fire and fire,
Let no man know is my desire.
I, starting up the light did spye,
And to my God my heart did cry
To strengthen me in my Distress
And not to leave me succourlesse,
When coming out, beheld a space,
The flame consume my dwelling place.
And, when I could no longer look,
I blest his name that gave and took,
That layd my goods now in the dust;
Yea so it was, and so 'twas just.
It was his own; it was not mine
ffar be it that I should repine.
He might of All justly bereft
But yet sufficient for us left.
When by the Ruines oft I past,
My sorrowing eyes aside did cast,
And here and there the places spye
Where oft I sate, and long did lye.
Here stood that Trunk and there that chest;
There lay that store I counted best;
My pleasant things in ashes lye,
And them behold no more shall I.
Vnder thy roof no guest shall sitt,
Nor at thy Table eat a bitt.
No pleasant tale shall 'ere be told,
Nor things recounted done of old.
No Candle 'ere shall shine in Thee,
Nor bridegroom's voice ere heard shall bee.
In silence ever shalt thou lye;
Adieu, Adieu; All's vanity.
Then streight I 'gin my heart to chide,
And did thy wealth on earth abide?
Dids't fix thy hope on mouldering dust,
The arm of flesh dids't make thy trust?
Raise up thy thoughts above the skye
That dunghill mists away may flie.
Thou hast a house on high erect,
Fram'd by that mighty Architect
With glory richly furnished,
Stands permanent tho: this be fled.
'Its purchased and paid for too
By him who hath enough to doe.
A prise so vast as is unknown
Yet by his gift is made thine own.
Ther's wealth enough, I need no more;
Farewell my Pelf, farewell my Store.
The world no longer let me Love,
My hope and Treasure lyes Above."
The fortunes of the new house were hardly happy ones. With the
death of his wife Governor Bradstreet left it in possession of a
younger son, Captain Dudley Bradstreet, who was one of the most
important citizens of Andover, having been "selectman, colonel of
militia, and magistrate," while still a young man. His father's
broad yet moderate views and his mother's gentle and devoted
spirit seem to have united in him, for when the witchcraft
delusion was at its height, and even the most honored men and
women in the little community were in danger of their lives, he
suddenly resolved to grant no more warrants for either apprehension
or imprisonment. This was shocking enough to the excited
popular mind, but when he added to such offence a plea, which
he himself drew up for some of the victims, who, as they admitted,
had made confession of witchcraft "by reason of sudden surprisal,
when exceedingly astonished and amazed and consternated and
affrighted even out of reason," there was no room left for any
conviction save that he was under the same spell. Loved as he had
been by all the people whom he had served unselfishly for twenty
years, the craze which possessed them all, wiped out any memory of
the past or any power of common sense in the present, and he fled
in the night and for a long time remained in hiding. The delusion
ended as suddenly as it had begun, a reaction setting in, and the
people doing all in their power to atone for the suspicion and
outrage that had caused his flight. Placable and friendly, the old
relations were resumed as far as possible, though the shadow had
been too heavy an one ever to pass entirely.
Another terror even greater had come before the century ended: An
act of treachery had been commited by a citizen of Andover, a
Captain Chubb, who had in 1693 been in command of Fort Pemaquid,
and having first plied a delegation of Penobscot Indians with
liquor, gave orders for their massacre while still in their
drunken sleep. In an after attack by French and Indians upon the
fort, he surrendered on promise of personal safety, and in time,
returned to Andover, disgraced, but abundantly satisfied to have
saved his scalp.
The rest of the story is given by Cotton Mather in the Magnalia:
"The winter, (1693) was the severest that ever was in the memory
of Man. And yet February must not pass without a stroke upon
Pemquid Chub, whom the Government had mercifully permitted after
his examination to retire unto his habitation in Andover. As much
out of the way as to Andover there came above thirty Indians about
the middle of February as if their errand had been for vengeance
upon Chub, whom, with his wife they now massacred there."
Hutchinson comments gravely: "It is not probable they had any
knowledge of the place of his abode, but it caused them greater
joy than the taking of many towns. Rapin would have pronounced
such an event the immediate judgement of Heaven. Voltaire, that in
the place of supposed safety, the man could not avoid his
The towns mustered hastily, but not before the flames of the
burning buildings had arisen at many points, and terrified women
and children had been dragged from their beds and in one or two
cases murdered at once, though most were reserved as captives.
Dudley Bradstreet and his family were of this latter number. The
house was broken into and plundered; his kinsman who attempted
defence, cut down on the spot, and the same fate might have
overtaken all, had not an Indian who had received some special
kindness from the colonel, interfered and prevented the butchery.
The family were carried some fifty rods from the house and then
released and allowed to return, and by this time the soldiers were
armed and the party routed. No sense of safety could be felt then,
or for many years thereafter, and from terror and other causes,
the house was in time forsaken by its natural owners and passed
into other hands, though no tenant, even of sixty years standing
has had power to secure to it any other title than that which it
still holds--"the Bradstreet house."
* * * * *
For its first occupants possession was nearly over. The vitality
which had carried Anne Bradstreet through longer life than could
have been imagined possible, was nearly exhausted.
Constant weakness and pain and occasional attacks of severe
illness marked all the later years of her life, which for the last
three, was a weariness to herself, and a source of suffering to
all who saw her suffer. Certain that it could not last long, she
began at one time the little autobiographical diary, found among
her papers after death, and containing the only personal details
that remained, even these being mere suggestions. All her life she
had been subject to sudden attacks of faintness, and even as early
as 1656, lay for hours unconscious, remaining in a state of
pitiful weakness many days thereafter. One of these attacks found
record on a loose paper, added by one of her sons to the
manuscript book of "Religious Reflections," and showing with what
patience she met the ills for the overcoming of which any
physician of the time was powerless, and against which she made a
life-long resistance. It was the beginning of a battle which has
ever since held its ground in New England, to "enjoy poor health,"
yet be ready for every emergency, being a state of things on which
the average woman rather prides herself, medicine, quack or home-
brewed, ranking in importance with the "means of grace."
SUBMISSION AND RELIANCE.
"July 8th, 1656. I had a sore fitt of fainting, which lasted 2 or
3 days, but not in that extremity which at first it took me, and
so moch the sorer it was to me, because my dear husband was from
home (who is my chiefest comforter on Earth); but my God, who
never failed me, was not absent, but helped me, and gratiously
manifested his Love to me, which I dare not passe by without
Remembrance, that it may bee a support to me when I shall have
occasion to read this hereafter, and to others that shall read it
when I shall possesse that I now hope for, that so they may bee
encourage'd to trust in him who is the only Portion of his
Servants. O Lord, let me never forgett thy Goodness, nor question
thy faithfullness to me, for thou art my God: Thou hast said, and
shall not I believe it? Thou hast given me a pledge of that
Inheritance thou hast promised to bestow upon me. O, never let
Satan prevail against me, but strengthen my faith in Thee, 'till I
shall attain the end of my hopes, even the Salvation of my Soul.
Come, Lord Jesus; come quickly."
DELIVERANCE FROM A FITT OF FAINTING.
Worthy art Thou O Lord of praise!
But ah! it's not in me;
My sinking heart I pray thee raise,
So shall I give it Thee.
My life as Spider's webb's cut off,
Thos fainting have I said,
And liveing man no more shall see,
But bee in Silence layd.
My feblee Spirit Thou didst revive,
My Doubting Thou didst chide,
And tho: as dead mad'st me alive,
I here a while might 'bide.
Why should I live but to thy Praise?
My life is hid with Thee;
O Lord no longer bee my Dayes,
Then I may froitfull bee.
"August 28, 1656. After much weaknes and sicknes when my spirits
were worn out, and many times my faith weak likewise, the Lord was
pleased to uphold my drooping heart, and to manifest his Love to
me; and this is that which stayes my Soul that this condition that
I am in is the best for me, for God doth not afflict willingly,
nor take delight in grieving the children of men: he hath no
benefitt by my adversity, nor is he the better for my prosperity;
but he doth it for my Advantage, and that I may be a Gainer by it.
And if he knowes that weaknes and a frail body is the best to make
mee a vessell fitt for his use, why should I not bare it, not only
willingly but joyfully? The Lord knowes I dare not desire that
health that sometimes I have had, least my heart should bee drawn
from him, and sett upon the world.
Through all the long sickness the family life went on unchanged,
save in the contracting circle, from which one child and another
passed. There was still strength to direct the daily round of
household duties, and to listen with quick sympathy to the many
who came to her trouble. There was not only the village life with
its petty interests, but the larger official one of her husband,
in which she shared so far as full knowledge of its details
allowed, Simon Bradstreet, like Governor Winthrop, believing
strongly in that "inward sight" which made women often clearer
judges than men of perplexed and knotty points. Two bits of family
life are given in a document still in existence and copied by the
New England Historical and Genalogical Register for 1859. To it is
appended the full signature of Anne Bradstreet, in a clear,
upright hand, of singular distinctness and beauty when compared
with much of the penmanship of that period. But one other
autograph is in existence. It is evident from the nature of the
document, that village life had its infelicities in 1670, quite as
fully as to-day, and that a poem might have grown out of it, had
daily life been thought worthy of a poem.
"Now I can wait, looking every day when my Saviour shall call for
me. Lord, grant that while I live I may doe that service I am able
in this frail Body, and bee in continual expectation of my change,
and let me never forget thy great Love to my soul so lately
expressed, when I could lye down and bequeath my Soul to thee, and
Death seem'd no terrible Thing. O, let mee ever see thee, that Art
invisible, and I shall not bee unwilling to come, tho: by so rough
"This witnesseth, that wee heard good(tm) Sutton say, there was
noe horses in his yard that night in wch Mr Bradstreetes mare was
killed, & afterwards that there was none that he knew of; but
being told by Mr Bradstreete that hee thought hee could p've hee
drave out some, then hee sd, yes, now I remembr there was 3 or 4.
Law was resorted to in even small disagreements with a haste and
frequency excellent for the profession employed, but going far to
intensify the litigious spirit of the day, and tolerant as Simon
Bradstreet was in all large matters, his name occurs with
unpleasant frequency in these petty village suits. This suit with
goodman Sutton was but one of many, almost all of which arose from
the trespasses of animals. Fences were few, and though they were
viewed at intervals by the "perambulators," and decided to be
"very sufficient against all orderly cattle," the swine declined
to come under this head, and rooted their way into desirable
garden patches to the wrath and confusion of their owners, all
persons at last, save innholders, being forbidden to keep more
than ten of the obnoxious animals. Horses, also, broke loose at
times, and Mr. Bradstreet was not the only one who suffered loss,
one of the first tragedies in the little town, being a hand to
hand fight, ending in a stabbing of one of the parties, both of
whom belonged to good families and were but lightly judged in the
trial which followed. They were by no means a peaceful community,
and if the full truth be told, a week of colonial life would prove
to hold almost as large a proportion of squabbles as any town
record of to-day.
"Further, wee testifie the sd. Sutton sd. att yt tyme there was
noe dogg there, but his wch was a puppy, & Mr Danes that would not
ROBTE. RB BUSELY."
The second one gives some difficulties connected with the marriage
of Governor Bradstreet's daughter Mercy, which took place Oct. 31,
1672, but not till various high words had passed, and sufficient
hard feeling been engendered to compel the preparing of the
affidavit, which probably, whatever its effect may have been on
the parents, did not touch the happiness of the young pair for
whose respective rights they had debated.
"When Mr. Johnathan Wade of Ipswich came first to my house att
Andover in the yeare 72, to make a motion of marriage betwixt his
son Nathaniel and my daughter Mercy hee freely of himself told mee
what he would give to his son vz. one halfe of his Farme att
Mistick and one third p't of his land in England when hee dyed,
and that hee should have liberty to make use of p't of the imp'ved
and broken upp ground upon the sd Farme, till hee could gett some
broken upp for himselfe upon his owne p't and likewis | that hee
should live in and have the use of halfe the house, and untill he
had one | of his owne built upon his p't of the farme. I was
willing to accept of his | offer, or at least sd. nothing against
it; but p'p'ounded that hee would make | his sd soil a deede of
guift of that third p't of his land in England to enjoy to | him
and his heires after his death. This hee was not free to doe, but
sd. it was | as sure, for he had soe putt it into his will, that
his 3 sons should have | that in England equally devyded betwixt
them, vz. each a 3 p't. I objected | he marry | againe and have
other children, wich hee thought a vaine obieccon. Much | othr
discourse there was about the stocke on the Farme, &c., but
remayneing unwilling | to give a deede for that in England, saying
he might live to spend it, and often | repeating hee had soe
ordered it in his will, as aforesd., wch hee should never altr
without | great necessity, or words to that purpose. Soe wee p'ted
for that tyme leaveing | that mattr to further consideracon. After
hee came home hee told sev'all of my | Friends and others as they
informed me, that hee had p'ffered to give his son Nathaniel bettr
then 1000 lb | and I would not accept of it. The next tyme hee
came to my house, after some | discourse about the premises and
p'esining his resolucon as form'ly ingaged, and left it to him to
add wt he pleased | towards the building of him a house &c., and
soe agreed that the young p'sons might | p'ceede in marriage with
both or Consents, wch accordingly they did. S. BRADSTREET."
The brackets are in the original and were used as quotations
marks. Governor Bradstreet's name and all above it are in his
handwriting; all below it is in Mr. Nowell's.
"The Honble Simon Bradstreet Esqr | made Oath to the truth of the
above written Sept. 21th, 1683, before Samuell Nowell, Assistant.
"The interlines [as aforesaid], line 19th, and [as they informed
me] line 22th, were before the Oath was made."
Another Mercy Bradstreet, niece of the Mercy whose name figures in
the foregoing statement, and the daughter of the oldest son,
married Dr. James Oliver, from whom are descended Dr. Oliver
Wendell Holmes and Wendell Phillips, while Lucy, the daughter of
Simon, the second son, became the ancestress of Dr. Channing and
of Richard N. Dana, the poet and his distinguished son. Many of
the grandchildren died in infancy, and the pages of the second
edition of their grandmother's poems are sprinkled with elegies
long and short, upon the babies almost as well loved as her own,
though none of them have any poetical merit. But her thoughts
dwelt chiefly in the world for which she longed, and there are
constant reminders of what careless hold she kept upon the life
which had come to be simply a burden to be borne with such
patience as might be given her.