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2.1.1 “Of Plymouth Plantation” by Bradfrod and the History of American Colonization
Of Plymouth Plantation is Bradford’s most famous work. The narrative recounts the rise of the English Separatist Church from the time of mandated Catholicism under James I and proceeds to describe the journeys the Separatists undertook, the establishment of a new colony in Massachusetts, and the difficulties faced by the colonists. He began writing the work in 1630, probably because at this

time he felt confident and assured of the colony’s success in fulfilling its promise. Just two years later, in 1632, his hopes would turn to despair, as he was to see the colonists suffer through a hurricane, the loss of their furs in a sunken ship, their nearstarvation, and the departure of the young members. [22]

Dejected, Bradford quit writing the journal in 1648 and only returned to it in 1650 to write out a list of passengers on the Mayflower. Chapter 1 of the chronicle likens the Separatist struggle against “popery,” “popish trash,” and “relics of that man of sin” to an epic battle against Satan. As he begins the first chapter, Bradford chronicles how “Satan hath raised, maintained, and continued against the Saints, from time to time, in one sort or other” (3). The Saints, or God’s chosen people, as the Puritans preferred, were martyrs and true Christians who resisted conversion to the ceremonies and rituals that were associated with Catholicism. The tale then does not pursue a “broadside at Catholicism” but rather builds a “case for Separatism” (Sargent 398). As they “shook off the yoke of Antichristian bondage,” they joined to form the Separatist Church, which would be called the Congregational Church in later years (9). Bradford briefly mentions a few central leaders in the formative time of the Puritan movement and church: John Smith, John Robinson, and, most famous of the three, William Brewster (9–10). The latter formed the Separatist congregation at Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, which Bradford joined as a young man (xxiii). After meeting together in worship for a year, the group determined to fl ee to Amsterdam, where they might enjoy religious freedom (10). Chapter 2 addresses the trials the Separatists faced, both on land and at sea, once they had resolved to abandon England for Holland. The first company climbed aboard ships supposedly bound for Amsterdam only to discover that they had been betrayed when they were robbed, and their possessions rifled through and ransacked (12). Their second attempt to board ships was hurried by the unexpected appearance of an armed company, which resulted in the separation of men from their wives and children, since the men were the first to board (13). Although the families were reunited eventually, Bradford depicts the ordeals faced by the separated family members with considerable emotional resonance. [22]

While the men faced rough sea conditions and prayed for God’s deliverance, the women and children, without homes to return to, were shuttled between constables, who were uncertain of where to place them. Bradford appears to undermine the wives’ anxieties by writing that the constables were “glad to be rid of them in the end upon any terms for all were wearied and tired with them” (14). The women and children appear to be more a nuisance for the various constables than the loyal and suffering male members of the Puritans who endured hardship as testimony to their faith. Oliver Cromwell’s victory in England, coupled with widespread reform within the Church of England, made it rhetorically impossible for Bradford to characterize the Separatist Church against the image of a popish and religiously intolerant England. In fact, Bradford concedes this point, albeit in 1646 and on the back of one of the pages of the first chapter: “Full little did I think that the downfall of the Bishops . . . had been so near, when I first began these scribbled writings” [22].

Bereft of an image of England against which to rally his Separatists, Bradford turned instead to dissension within the group, forged by the unorthodox teachings of John Smith. The flock loyal to John Smith had “fallen into contention with the church,” so the leaders Robinson and Brewster determined to remove to Leyden “before they were any way engaged with the same” (16). Having remained in Leyden for 12 years, the Separatists decide to leave and embark once again on a journey, this time to the New World. Bradford enumerates the reasons for their departure, stating that he does so to dispel the “slander” that they were importuned to remove to New Netherland, or were infl uenced by “any newfangledness or other such like giddy humor” [22, 23]. Indeed, as historians and critics alike remark, Bradford was especially sensitive to criticism launched against him and the Separatists, and it is from a defensive position that he writes his tale and resumes it after a 10-year silence. [24]

The dangers presented by a harsh environment, the brutality of savages, and that of the Spaniards, who already had colonies in Florida and the Southwest, were listed as central reasons to select Guiana over America, but ultimately, Bradford writes, they decided “to live as a distinct body by themselves under the general government of Virginia . . . and to sue His Majesty that he would be pleased to grant them freedom of religion” (29). When the king refuses to grant their request, they begin consultations with the Virginia Company directly and obtain a patent under the name of John Wincop; despite all of their effort and considerable fi nancial loss, the Separatists did not make use of this patent [32]. Instead, they relied upon Thomas Weston, who procured a patent for them, and, after much debate over the conditions for their colony in America, they embarked. Bradford includes a list of the conditions, commenting on the two amendments from the original, as well as letters from the future governor of the colony, John Carver, and Robert Cushman, who was a chief organizer of the Mayflower expedition but who did not sail on this ship because of his disputes with Weston’s articles (38, 42–46). He justifies including such correspondence and dwelling so minutely on the details leading up to their journey on the Mayflower: “I have been the larger in these things, and so shall crave leave in some like passages following . . . that their children may see with what difficulties their fathers wrestled in going through these things in their first beginnings; and how God brought them along, notwithstanding all their weaknesses and infirmities” [16].

In his description of the initial departure from Leyden to Southampton, aboard the Speedwell, Bradford refers to the colonists as “pilgrims,” and historians credit this first use of the term as influencing future references to the Mayflower company as pilgrim fathers [16]. The voyage was not without incident, as leaks were discovered twice in the lesser of the two boats, causing delays in Dartmouth and in Plymouth. Eventually, the smaller ship was deemed unseaworthy, and its passengers and their luggage were removed to London while the Mayflower set sail alone. Among those who voluntarily quit the voyage were Mr. Cushman and his family, whose absence from the enterprise Bradford seems to deal with in an especially harsh manner, including an admission that those reading the enclosed letter written by Cushman while the ship was being repaired will “discover some infirmities in him (as who under temptation is free)”. In dealing so roughly with Cushman, Bradford reveals a tendency to punish and publicly humiliate those who have disappointed him in one manner or another; this pattern of ridicule will continue throughout the narrative, most especially when the colony finds itself challenged economically, politically, and religiously.

Chapter 9, which details their landing at Cape Cod, contains the most famous passage from Of Plymouth Plantation and provides a singular reading of the American wilderness that the critic David Laurence believes was nearly two centuries before its time. “The depiction of the Pilgrims’ landing at Cape Cod stands out almost freakishly within Bradford’s writing and also from the entire seventeenth-century context. No mere backdrop to the event, the setting functions as the crucial figure that reveals the Pilgrims’ relation to spirit” [16].


2.2 Anne Bradstreet – the First American Women Writer of the Colonial Period
In the same year that the poet Anne Bradstreet (née Anne Dudley) contracted smallpox and nearly died, she also married. She was 16. We know this because years later she wrote about the illness in “To My Dear Children,” a memoir she left her children to aid in their spiritual development after her death: “About sixteen, the Lord laid his hand upon me and smote me with the smallpox. 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.” Had Bradstreet not listed her age, we would have only known that she suffered from the illness sometime around the year she married, or we might not have known at all. [24]

There are no records of her birth. We do know that in 1630, when she was about 18 years old, she left the England she knew to board the ship Arbella with her parents, siblings, and new husband, Simon Bradstreet. Under the reign of Charles I, there was growing threat of excess taxation to pay for the king’s military exploits in Europe. According to Rosamond Rosenmeier, Anne’s father felt the growing tension directly. Founding members of the Massachusetts Bay Company, her father and new husband had worked out a plan to emigrate to New England as part of the new venture, but also in order to escape political and religious persecution [27].

Their sea voyage across the Atlantic was to last six weeks. When they landed in Massachusetts Bay, Anne and her family had their fi rst taste of “the blazing heat of an American June” (Rich ix). They also had their fi rst glimpse of the immensity of the American wilderness, the close quarters of a Salem home, and their first understanding of meager provisions. [24]

In England Anne Bradstreet’s father, Thomas Dudley, had been a steward to the earl of Lincoln. The Dudley family lived at the earl’s manor house in Sempringham, where Anne had access to the earl’s sizable library. She read the great Renaissance poets Sir Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser, and probably John Milton, Ben Jonson, and William Shakespeare (Martin 21). It would be an understatement to say that her life in the New World offered fewer comforts than what the family had left behind. While her family held no tremendous stature, their

needs were met, and they lived on a large estate. As the poet Eavan Boland writes, in England, for a time, the Dudleys “lived in the shadow and peace of greatness” [22]. Contrast this image to the one painted in a letter Thomas Dudley sent from America to the countess of Lincoln in England: There is not a house where is not one dead, and some houses many . . . the natural causes seem to be in the want of warm lodging and good diet, to which Englishmen are habituated at home, and the sudden increase of heat which they endure that are landed here in summer . .for those only these two last years died of fevers who landed in June or July, as those of Plymouth, who landed in winter, died of the scurvy. (Cited in Rich x)

In the same letter Dudley also complains that in their fi rst Salem home, there was no table or desk to compose the letter he was writing, and that the Dudleys and the Bradstreets, all living under one roof, were cramped into one room with a fi replace. Even though her father and husband were founding members of the Massachusetts Bay Company and would each eventually become governor and lead a prosperous life, the initial move to New England took them to an environment that was more confined indoors and vaster than they had ever imagined outside.

For the young Anne Bradstreet, this was quite a change, tempered perhaps only by the lengthy sea journey’s poor conditions, which offered a brief period of adjustment. Of her first response to America she would later write, “I found a new world and new manners, at which my heart rose. But after I was convinced it was the way of God, I submitted to it and joined the church at Boston.” Rosenmeier is careful to point out that “new manners” are not necessarily bad manners, but that they represent new habits and ways of living that were foreign to Anne Bradstreet: the ways people kept house, their responses to tight quarters, their basic coping mechanisms in such a wild and unpredictable terrain [13]. Critics agree that Bradstreet’s phrase “at which my heart rose” refers not to any welcoming feeling, but to feelings of rebellion and disgust: Her heart rose against these new manners. After reflection, Bradstreet resigns herself to her situation because “it is the way of God.” Note her use of the word submitted. A theme that arises often in Bradstreet’s poetry is that of resistance followed by resignation—to death, to her husband’s absence, to the patriarchy, and to God. A woman often visited by sickness and lameness (her first poem we know of, written at the age of 19, was entitled “Upon a Fit of Sickness, Anno. 1632”) now living in a land plagued by death and hardship, Anne Bradstreet in some ways needed to give up her own control over her body and life to that higher power, if only to maintain a sense of structure and reason. Adrienne Rich posits that “in a society coarsened by hardship and meager in consolations, any religious doubt must at times have made everything seem dubious” (x). It is indeed arguable that Bradstreet herself would have had to struggle to locate some control over her own life, being passed, as young women were, from father to husband. Even her first book was published without her control or knowledge. Raised a Puritan, Bradstreet practiced a religion that encouraged the belief in which every affliction, every woe, every setback was an opportunity for a lesson and an exercise of God’s will upon his chosen people.

There is a tension, however, always at play in Bradstreet’s life and work, etween what she observes in the world around her and what she is told, and much energy is spent trying to reconcile the two. She acknowledges the times she was “sitting loose from God”: finding joy in the physical world, questioning Puritan doctrine or the existence of God, privately musing that Catholicism might have the same merit as the Puritan order. In her poetry, this too plays a role alongside the twin impulses to resist and to yield. The critic Wendy Martin makes note of these tensions: Although she played the role of a dedicated Puritan and a dutiful daughter and wife, Bradstreet often expressed ambivalence about the male authorities in her life, including God, her father and husband, and the literary critics and authors whose models she initially copied. On one hand, she very much wanted their approval and, on the other, she was angered by their denial of the value of her experience and abilities. [16]

Critics’ responses to Bradstreet’s relationships with men are as varied and complex as her own formulation of resistance and resignation. Even though her husband was 11 years her senior and a man she married when she was, even by the standards of the time, a bit young to marry, she loved him passionately, or grew to. This love is evidenced by her marriage poems. Rosenmeier speculates that the marriage was something planned by her family. Anne’s husband, Simon, was almost like a son to the Dudleys, having been orphaned at 14 and taken to work under Anne’s father for the earl, and the difference in their ages meant that he was equipped to take care of her (Rosenmeier 38). Anne Bradstreet is a complex figure; she took pleasure in her life as a wife and mother of eight, and, unlike many other

Puritan women, she was given the space to read, write, and reflect—and was essentially respected for it by both men and women. Although Anne had no formal education, her father made sure to expose her to language and literature. Lacking a university education himself, Thomas Dudley was tutored in England by an Oxford graduate. According to biographers, he encouraged his daughter to read and probably taught her Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and French. Equipped with these tools, a motivated reader of the era could approach any text and understand it. Her father valued books so much he took his library along with him to the New World. Anne had access to all his books and absorbed their breadth and style in her own early poetry.


2.2.1 Bradstreet’s “Prologue” and “To the Memory of My Dear and Ever Honored Father”
“The Prologue” (1650)

“The Prologue” introduces readers to Bradstreet’s feminism and her subtle deployment of humility. This poem is a prime example of her ability to criticize the patriarchy while appealing to it through consistent claims of inferiority as a female poet. The first four stanzas lure the reader through repeated claims of imperfection in the face of the great poets she admires. Bradstreet assures the reader that her “obscure lines,” her lack of skill, and her “foolish, broken, blemished Muse” make her inferior simply because nature made her a woman. Unlike Demosthenes, who overcame a speech impediment through his art, she suggests her “weak or wounded brain” cannot be cured and is unable to compete with the poetry of men. Then the tone shifts dramatically:

“I am obnoxious to each carping tongue

Who says my hand a needle better fits.” [21]

Comparing the needle associated with domesticity to the typically masculine pen, she reveals the attitudes she anticipates from male readers. They will think either that she is lucky or that she stole the ideas. In a way, that is how Nathaniel Ward portrays her in his verse introduction to her own book. Following the vein of her feminist argument, Bradstreet is still able to maintain the charming modesty of the early stanzas, but she also suggests that her poetry is more earthy and real than the overpolished work of men. Refusing the traditional laurel wreath (“I ask no bays”), she prefers the domestic herbs of here and now: “thyme or parsley,” wholesome, humble. By maintaining her humility throughout the poem, she highlights the “pomposity and cruelty of those male writers and critics who disdain women” (Martin 32).

“To the Memory of My Dear and Ever Honored Father” (1653) [21]

As Bradstreet notes in the full title of the poem, her father, Thomas Dudley, passed away on July 31, 1653, at the age of 77. He had been the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony for four separate terms and had served as deputy governor under JOHN WINTHROP, with whom he had several conflicts. In her elegy, Bradstreet acknowledges both aspects of her father’s identity. She refers to his key role in the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the following lines: “One of thy Founders, him New England know” and “True Patriot of this little Commonweal” (23, 27). Because of her father’s notoriety, Bradstreet writes in the poem:

“Nor was his name, or life lead so obscure

That pitty might some Trumpeters procure.

Who after death might make him falsly seen

Such as in life, no man could justly deem” (13–16). [22]

The lines work in two ways: They assure the reader that Dudley’s fame and reputation will shield him from any other characterization, either by a devoted daughter or by those filled with “malice” and “envy” (11). In other words, Dudley’s prominence, which makes him the target of those animated by “malice” and “envy,” also protects him from them because he is too well known for false tales about him to be believed. That said, Bradstreet, too, is hampered in her elegy for her father; she cannot praise him too much for the same reason that others cannot chastise him or cast dispersions on his character. Bradstreet eschews the traditional aspect of an elegy, which is to offer praise in remembrance and honor of the person who died. She does so not only because such a turn is in keeping with Puritan tradition, but also because it helps to temper the feelings held by those who believed Dudley to be too desirous of the power that John Winthrop wielded over the Massachusetts Bay Colony. She writes:

“Nor honour pufft him up, when he had part;

Those titles loathed, which some do too much love

For truly his ambition lay above” (36–38). [22]

Bradstreet’s father, a good Puritan, sets his sights above worldly accomplishments and rewards, for “he a Mansion had, prepar’d above” [22].


2.3 Charles Brockden Brown as a Representative of Purely Colonial Literature
Born on January 17, 1771, to Quaker parents in Philadelphia, Charles Brockden Brown grew up in a liberal household filled with books. Because of his poor health, he was oftentimes indoors during his childhood and expressed an early penchant for writing essays and poetry. Writing would be the dominant force in Brown’s life, which he referred to as a means of expressing a “soaring passion and intellectual energy” (Watts 2). His father, Elijah, and mother, Mary Armitt Brown, enrolled him in the Friends Latin School at the age of 11, and he studied with Robert Proud. Six years later, at the age of 17, he graduated. [22]

Because Quakers were opposed to college education, Brown honored his parents’ request and worked for six years in the law offices of Alexander Wilcocks. Brown vented his frustration over his obligation to study a career that he deemed to narrow his intellect: “I should rather think that he can only derive pleasure, and consequently improvement, from the study of laws, who knows and wishes to know nothing else” (Watts 32). However, he ultimately disappointed them when he decided not to pursue a legal career (Korobkin 723). He explained to his family about his moral objections to working in a profession that would have him defending guilty parties or furthering unjust causes.

Although Brown did not pursue a career as a lawyer, the critic Laura Korobkin believes that Brown’s legal work signifi cantly informed his fiction writing. More specifi cally, Korobkin argues that Brown’s familiarity with the law shaped Wieland, not only in its meditations on questions of judgment, but also in its very structure of Clara’s functioning as both a lawyer and a witness. The legal cases presented in Sir William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England and Sir Geoffrey Gilbert’s The Law of Evidence create the foundation for Brown’s fictional treatment of the laws of evidence and the fallibility of eyewitnesses and their testimony (Korobkin 724–725). Many critics believe Brown drew on the gruesome tale of James Yates, a religious fanatic who under God’s guidance killed his wife and four children in 1781, as the basis for Wieland. The law and its processes of determining truth and guilt would be the topic for other novels that attempted to plumb the psychological depths of its characters such as Arthur Meryn and the deceitful Welbeck. [21]

In 1787, at the age of 16, Brown began the first of what would become a series of efforts undertaken throughout his short life to cultivate and support the talents of budding writers. This first endeavor, called the Belles Letters Club, sought to foster and support the literary talents of its members. When he delivered the keynote address for the club, Brown spoke of reason as “the authority which exerts over obedience” but insisted that it needed to be tempered by “the invigorating influence of the fancy” (Watts 29). His biographer Steven Watts believes that Brown’s advice regarding the balance between reason and fancy was quite personal. According to Watts, Brown was prone to “attention-seeking, despairing outbursts [that] seem to have become an emotional habit by his early twenties” [24]. These feelings of despair affected his writing, as he repeatedly boasted to friends about various literary projects that he would begin and then promptly abandon [20]. In his correspondence, Brown first addresses the concept of a divided self, a private versus a public, that would manifest itself in his first novel, Skywalker [20]. Brown’s letters also reveal the deep anxiety he suffered around writing. Of the young writer’s emotional vacillations, Watts writes that “Brown’s frustrated psychological energy, literary commitments, and desire for social success comprised a coiled motivational spring. Its release powered a tremendous outpouring of fiction during the last two years of the century” (80).

When Brown left Philadelphia and moved to New York in 1796, he relied upon the introductions made by his dear friend Dr. Elihu Hubbard Smith. Smith had met Brown in his hometown of Philadelphia and suggested that when Brown moved to New York, he consider joining a group of liberal minded individuals called the Friendly Club. The chief pastime of the Friendly Club was to discuss the works of many of the radical authors of his time, such as Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin’s Political Justice and Caleb Williams (Ringe 19).

Aside from the friendships Brown made through this club, he could rely upon the playwright William Dunlap, who would later write the first biography of Brown, to offer him support in launching his literary career. Indeed, the combined support of these two close friends, Dr. Smith and Mr. Dunlap, encouraged Brown to write his first book, Alcuin: A Dialogue, which advocated women’s rights [19].

Smith was Brown’s publisher for this two-part text that appeared in April 1798. Both Brown and Smith fell ill with yellow fever, contracted from an Italian physician who lived briefly in Smith’s home. Dr. Smith’s exposure proved fatal. Brown’s good friend Dunlap provided him with a place to mourn their mutual friend’s death, as well as recover from the fever. Remarkably, in that same year (1798), Brown published Wieland and seems to have written most, if not all, of Arthur Mervyn. The following year he began publishing and editing the Monthly Magazine and American Review. In the same year, Brown renamed the magazine The American Review and Literary Journal, and it remained in print under this new title until 1802. In the following year, he published two political pamphlets opposing the Louisiana Purchase. These notable pamphlets gave him the kind of public attention that he had previously failed to garner for his literary works. In this pamphlet, Brown assumes the persona of a French counselor of state who writes to Napoléon about the strategic and economic advantages of the Louisiana territory [21].

In that same year (1803), Brown launched a new periodical, the Literary Magazine and American Register. In his “Editor’s Address to the Public,” he proclaimed the goals of his work: “In ages like this, when the foundations of religion and morality have been so boldly attacked, it seems necessary . . . to be particularly explicit as to the path which the editor means to pursue. He therefore avows himself to be, without equivocation or reserve, the ardent friend and willing champion of the Christian religion . . . [and] shall scrupulously aim at the promotion of public and private virtue”. The morally ambiguous eponymous character, Arthur Mervyn, seemed a figure of the past in Brown’s dedication to promoting and publishing works that contained moral virtues. His often anthologized short story “Somnambulism, a Fragment,” fi rst appeared in this new magazine in 1805. In that tale, the narrator finds himself lacking the kind of self-control that Brown earnestly pursued in his own life and in his courtship of his future wife, Elizabeth. Watts traces the arc in Brown’s politics from “youthful utopian radical to stodgy middle-age conservative” [25]. These political positions, Watts believes, follow the national trends as America transitioned from its days as an early republic into a nation shaped by a rising bourgeois and the emergence of liberal capitalism [25].

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