Essay on The Author to Her Book by Anne Bradstreet
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“The Author to Her Book” by Anne Bradstreet
In “The Author to Her Book,” Bradstreet is inundated in indecision and internal struggles over the virtues and shortfalls of her abilities and the book that she produced. As human beings we associate and sympathize with each other through similar experiences. It is difficult to sympathize with someone when you don’t know where they are coming from and don’t know what they are dealing with. Similar experiences and common bonds are what allow us to extend our sincere appreciation and understanding for another human being’s situation. In this poem an elaborate struggle between pride and shame manifests itself through an extended metaphor in which she equates her book to her own child.
"The…show more content…
She says that the "child" had been by her side until "snatched from thence by friends, less wise than true" (line 3). Basically she is saying a trusted person “snatched” her work from her without permission to take them to England to be printed. Had it not been for her brother-in-law taking her work back to England and getting them printed they may have never been known. The intimacy and feeling she shares with her work is like that of a mother and child and that bond was infringed upon when her work was "exposed to public view" (line 4). The intrusion of her brother-in-law getting her work printed is the cause of feeling that follow. Ironically the next thing she talks is the shame she has been thrust upon her by not being able to perfect the work before it was published. This is illustrated in line five where she writes, “Made thee in rags,” as to say her work is like a child dressed in rags.
In lines six through nine Bradstreet associates the embarrassment she feels due to her unperfected work to the embarrassment a parent feels due to an irritable child. She feels ashamed that the "errors were not lessened" (line 6) before the work was printed and refers to it as a "rambling brat" who is "one unfit for light" (line 8-9) because her "child" was taken from her before she had time to prepare it to go out into the world. She is
The poet writes about the experience of looking at her book for the first time, which she describes as the "ill-form'd offspring" of her weak brain. It was always by her side after its birth but then, friends took it abroad and exposed it to public view. It went to the press "in rags," and its errors remained uncorrected.
Now that the book has returned to her, the poet blushes at her "rambling brat." At first, she thinks it is hateful to her sight, and she tries to wipe off its blemishes, but to no avail. The more she washes its face, the more flaws appear. She tries to level its uneven feet, but it still hobbles. She had hoped to dress it better, but it is in "home-spun cloth" that she found in the house.
She hopes that the book does not fall into a critic's hand or go to places where it ought not to go. If anyone asks if the book has a father, the book will tell them no, and if they ask if it has a mother, the book should tell them that her mother is poor and that is why she sent the book away.
“The Author to Her Book” is one of Anne Bradstreet’s most personal and memorable poems. Although she writes the verse in a lucid way, the poem is much more complicated than it initially seems. It offers many interesting insights into the role of the female poet, her psychology, and the historical context of the work. Bradstreet wrote the poem in iambic pentameter. The poem expresses Bradstreet's feelings about her brother-in-law’s publication of some of her poems in 1650, which she was not aware of until the volume was released.
Using the metaphor of motherhood, she describes the book as her child. Like a protective mother, she notes that the volume was “ill-form’d” and snatched away from her before it was ready for independence. The “friends” who took it were “less wise than true,” meaning that while their actions were careless, these people certainly did not have malicious intentions. Now that the work has been published without giving the poet time to correct any errors, it is out in the world at the same time that it is back in her hands.
At first, she describes the newly bound volume as “irksome in my sight,” unable to ignore the flaws she wished she had the opportunity to address. She wishes she could present her work in its best form but that is now impossible - she describes washing its face but still seeing dirt and marks. However, the poet cannot help but feel affection for the book, because it is hers - even though it is incomplete.
Critic Randall Huff points out that in this poem, Bradstreet uses contemporary terms culled from the book-publishing industry. For example, the “rags” in which the child was sent to the press may refer to the “high rag content of most paper at the time; it was the expensive product of a labor-intensive process and usually superior in many ways to most paper being produced today.”
At the end of the poem, Bradstreet accepts that her poetry is now out in the world. She hopes people will understand that she did not mean it to be academic or portentous. She takes responsibility for her work, and, as Huff writes, "in developing such maternal analogies, Bradstreet demonstrates that poetry, and especially its creation, is something that women can do."
Critic Eileen Margerum delves further into the matter of Bradstreet's thoughts on poetry and, specifically, poetry written by women. She writes that Bradstreet was proud to be a poet and did not consider it sinful or unrighteous to undertake such an endeavor. By the time The Tenth Muse was published and Bradstreet penned "The Author to Her Book," she was a mature poet. In this poem, she "deals with correcting the poems, not condemning their creator." She sees herself as more than a DuBartas acolyte or a woman beholden to her influential father (see "The Prologue" for more on this subject).