Monday, June 19, 2006

Disillusionment

"During this first winter [1630-31], even Dudley [Anne Bradstreet’s father and deputy governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony] began to lose some of his optimism. He was ready to leave Charlestown and find a new place to live. Not that he ever would have considered giving up or returning to England, but life in Massachusetts was proving to be far more arduous than he had anticipated. Later he would complain that he had chosen to expose his family to the dangers of America because the advance party had sent 'too large commendations of the country and the commodities thereof.'

"For Anne it was something of a mixed blessing to witness her father’s discouragement. On the one hand it might at last be possible for him to empathize with her unhappiness. On the other hand, without his sense of certainty, life in America must have felt even more desperate. Despite her summertime vow, she may have secretly desired to follow the coward’s path back to England, since much of her early writing is saturated with her nostalgia for the Old World.

"Anne was not alone in longing for England. More than two hundred members of their original group fled home that winter. Although they faced financial ruin upon return, and, for some, religious persecution, anything must have appeared better than staying on in America, which seemed like a death warrant. As one desperate son wrote his father, 'I think that in the end if I live it must be by my leaving, for we do not know how long this plantation will stand.'"

~ from "New World, New Manners," chapter 9 of Mistress Bradstreet: The Untold Life of America's First Poet, Charlotte Gordon

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