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Anne Bradstreet: A Guided Tour of the Life and Thought of a Puritan Poet    by Heidi L. Nichols order for
Anne Bradstreet
by Heidi L. Nichols
Order:  USA  Can
P & R Publishing, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Anne Bradstreet, a name very well known to readers of colonial American literature but perhaps not familiar to the general reader, is the subject of Heidi L. Nichols' superb new study which includes 50 pages of essential biographical, cultural, and historical background as well as another 130 pages of selections from Bradstreet's poetry, prose, and correspondence (nicely supplemented by Professor Nichols' notes and commentary).

Born in England in 1612, Anne Dudley Bradstreet grew up to become a multifaceted woman—Puritan, wife, mother of eight, and poet - a 'daughter of the English Renaissance' who traveled with her husband to America's Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630. What she encountered upon her arrival was not, however, a quaint and idyllic New England; instead she was confronted by and endured what was initially a howling wilderness full of hardships and challenges. As she and her family adapted to the trials of the brave new world which would be further complicated by political, religious, and social tensions, Bradstreet proved herself to be resourceful, resilient, and - most significantly for the purposes of Professor Nichols' study - confident in her religious faith, steadfast in her familial love, and modestly but powerfully creative.

As Nichols makes clear, Bradstreet's poetry and prose - because of Bradstreet's masterful combination of aesthetics, faith in God, and personal reflections - provide singular insight into Bradstreet's spiritual, emotional, and intellectual mettle; and, in fact, Bradstreet's works are dominated by specific thematic concerns: spiritual meditations in which Bradstreet reconciles herself to God; lyrical testimonials to her family (and friends) about God's work in her life; and passionate glorifications of God, the solid rock upon which Bradstreet built her life in the harrowing world of 17th century New England.

Living up to the promise contained in the book's subtitle, Nichols' compact volume serves a carefully guided introduction to America's first published poet. Of course, the author's principle focus upon the religious dimensions of Bradstreet's works may be resisted by secular humanists uncomfortable with any overt celebration of Bradstreet's religious principles. However, notwithstanding any such resistance and reactions, this slender but impressive book is an important and highly recommended addition to the constantly growing number of Bradstreet studies already available in libraries.

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