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The Author to Her Book Book Summary

A Critical Edition

by Anne Bradstreet, edited by Adrienne Rich

The Author to Her Book

A Critical Edition

Anne Bradstreet, edited by Adrienne Rich


This critical edition of Anne Bradstreet’s poem “The Author to Her Book” delves into the complex relationship between a writer and her creation. Bradstreet uses the extended metaphor of a mother and child to explore themes of artistic imperfection, societal expectations of female authors, and the enduring love for one’s work despite its flaws.

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Author & Writing Background

Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672) was the first published poet in the British North American colonies. Her works often reflected her Puritan beliefs and explored themes of family, faith, and the role of women. Adrienne Rich, the editor of this critical edition, was a renowned poet and essayist known for her feminist and political activism. Rich’s perspective provides valuable insights into Bradstreet’s poem and its historical context.

Key Takeaways

Metaphor of Mother and Child

Bradstreet compares her book to a child, highlighting the intimate connection between an author and her work. This metaphor emphasizes the creative process as one of birth and nurturing, while also acknowledging the challenges and imperfections inherent in artistic expression.

Self-Criticism and Doubt

The poem reflects Bradstreet’s self-deprecating attitude towards her writing. She criticizes her book’s flaws and lack of refinement, suggesting a struggle with feelings of inadequacy and the pressure to conform to literary standards.

Societal Constraints on Women Writers

Bradstreet’s poem alludes to the limited opportunities and societal expectations placed upon women writers in her time. Her self-doubt and apology for her work can be interpreted as a response to the prevailing patriarchal norms that discouraged female intellectual expression.

Unconditional Love for One’s Creation

Despite the book’s imperfections, Bradstreet expresses a deep and unwavering love for her creation. This suggests that the act of creation itself, regardless of external judgment or societal constraints, holds intrinsic value for the author.

Puritan Influences

Bradstreet’s Puritan beliefs are evident in the poem’s emphasis on humility and self-examination. The act of presenting her work to the world is accompanied by a sense of introspection and a desire to align her writing with her religious values.

Historical Context

The poem offers valuable insights into the literary landscape of colonial America and the challenges faced by early women writers. Bradstreet’s work paved the way for future generations of female authors and contributed to the development of American literature.

Themes of Legacy and Immortality

By sending her book out into the world, Bradstreet contemplates the idea of leaving a lasting legacy through her writing. Despite her doubts, she hopes that her work will endure and connect with readers across time.

Critical Analysis by Adrienne Rich

Rich’s commentary provides a feminist lens through which to interpret Bradstreet’s poem. She explores the ways in which societal expectations and gender roles influenced Bradstreet’s writing and self-perception.

FAQ about The Author to Her Book

The Author to Her Book Quotes

  • ”Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain, Who after birth didst by my side remain, Till snatched from thence by friends, less wise than true, Who thee abroad, exposed to public view."
  • "In better dress to trim thee was my mind, But naught save homespun cloth, i’ th’ house I find."
  • "If for thy father asked, say, thou hadst none; And for thy mother, she alas is poor, Which caused her thus to send thee out of door.”