‘The Author to Her Book’ by Anne Bradstreet is a beautiful poem about the conversation between an author and her recently written book. At first hand, the poetic persona talks with the manuscript. Thereafter it goes to be published. In the next section, when the book comes as a published copy, the author, actually the poet talks with it. She comments on its quality and treats it like her baby. The poem presents the relationship between an author and her book. It also touches on the contemporary role of critics and the editors in the publishing house. To sum up, it is no doubt an interesting poem from Anne Bradstreet’s literary world.
Explore The Author to Her Book
The Author to Her Book begins with the speaker describing her finished book as being malformed. It is incorrect, in some fundamental way. She believes this to be of no one’s fault but her own as her brain is “feeble.” This book that she does not wish to share with anyone, was taken from her by friends and published. The result is spread around the world for all to see.
When the author finally gets her own copy of her book she is still unhappy. It is just as bad, if not worse than she remembers. She wants to throw it out of her sight but knows that it belongs to her as if it were her own child, and she is unable to. She decides to take it under her wing and attempt to improve it. All of her efforts are in vain though and she is forced to send her “child” away. She tells it to go somewhere that it is not known and to pretend that its mother was too poor to take care of it.
‘The Author to Her Book’ by Anne Bradstreet does not contain any stanza divisions. It presents a long stanza depicting the conversation between the poet and her recently written book. There are a total of 24 lines in the poem. The poet uses the closed couplet format in this poem. Each couplet rhymes as usual. So, the rhyme scheme of the poem is AA BB CC and it goes on like this. As an example, in the first couplet “brain” rhymes with “remain”, forming a perfect or formal rhyme. The poet uses some phrases in brackets acting like an aside. Such an organization gives it an outlook of a dramatic monologue.
In most of the cases, there are a total of 10 syllables in each line. While reading the poem the stress generally falls on the second syllable of each foot. Dividing a line into five feet, it becomes clear that the whole poem is written in iambic pentameter. The theme of the poem gets reflected by the rising rhythm of the poem. An author always takes pleasure in looking at her complete work like she is looking at a baby. In this way, the metrical composition of the poem is consonant with the tone and mood of the poem.
‘The Author to Her Book’ by Anne Bradstreet encompasses different themes that were popular at that time. The most important theme of the poem is motherhood. It is a different kind of motherhood. Here the poet is the mother and the book in the poem acts as her baby. The poet focuses on the relationship between a mother and her child in an innovative manner. The main theme reflects a mother’s affection for her child. But, the representation is a little bit different.
Another important theme of the poem is the regulation of the press. According to the poet, an editor working at a press generally treats a book based on official regulations. It somehow changes the quality of a literary work. That’s why when the book returns to her after publication, she says, “Thy Visage was so irksome in my sight”.
Another important theme of the poem is criticism. The poet presents the theme of criticism in different ways. First of all, her friends act as the preliminary foes of her early work. Thereafter comes the public to criticize her book and last but not least a well-educated critic waits for his turn. So, in the last section of her poem, she says, “In Criticks hands, beware thou dost not come”. It also reflects the poet’s revulsion with contemporary critics.
‘The Author to Her Book’ by Anne Bradstreet is a poem about the bond between an author and her book. There is a tone of admiration and love in the speeches of the poetic persona. Her tone reflects the caressing quality of a mother’s reliable voice. The poet treats her work as her own baby. Like a mother brings her child up, she has also raised her book like a kid.
When the book has come back after publication, she treats it like a boy, having returned from the school. The tone of the poet changes in this section but the essence of motherly touch remains the same. In this section, her tone has a teasing quality. It also reflects the caring aspect of a mother. However, the poet uses an ironic and humorous tone while talking about the critics and editors of her time.
‘The Author to Her Book’ by Anne Bradstreet presents an array of literary devices that make the poet’s voice appealing to the readers. In the first line of the poem, Bradstreet uses a metaphor in the phrase, “ill-form’d offspring”. Here, the poet refers to her recently written book. It is also a personification. The poet uses irony in the following line, “Till snatched from thence by friends, less wise than true”. There is a metonymy in the use of the word “press”. It refers to the men working in a press. The poet actually refers to the editor-cum-publisher of a press of her time.
The poet uses a litote in this line, “At thy return my blushing was not small”. The poet means the opposite here. Like the literary devices mentioned above, the poet uses those devices again in the following sections to make the spirit of her conversation enjoyable to the readers. At the end of the poem, the poet uses another irony to present her feelings towards her book. It also makes readers aware of the reality an author faces while sending her book to the market.
Analysis of The Author to Her Book
Lines 1- 6
Thou ill-form’d 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, expos’d to publick view,
Made thee in raggs, halting to th’ press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judg).
It is clear from the title of this piece, and it is then reconfirmed in the first line, that the narrator is speaking directly to her own book. The relationship she has with this completed volume is not a positive one. In the first line, she refers to her book as being “ill-form’d,” but it does not seem to be so through any fault of its own. It came from the author’s “feeble brain.”
The speaker is disappointed in this work that she has created and feels that her own failed intellect is the reason that she was unsuccessful. The next lines progress through the life of this volume and how at first it remained by her side. It was close to her, almost a part of her, like a child, until it was snatched away. This metaphor of the book being a child, and being its mother, will continue until the end of the piece.
The book was taken from her by “friends” that were not wise enough to know what they were doing. It is not that they wanted to do her wrong, they just didn’t know enough to see that the book was not ready. These friends published her novel, spread it so that it was “expos’d to publick view.” Now all the world has access to her unfinished, at least in her mind, work. When the book was published, it did not improve. It was just as bad as she thought it was before.
Lines 7- 12
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call,
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
Thy Visage was so irksome in my sight;
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could:
This is made even clearer when she sees the “finished” book for the first time. She blushed greatly upon receiving it and took it as a mother would call in her “rambling brat.” She did not welcome this “child” home but longs cast it to the side. She still sees it as being “unfit for light.” But it is too late now, everyone has seen and read it.
While she might despise, or feel disappointed in, the book she wrote, it is still her own. It still belongs to her as a disobedient child belongs to its mother. It is due to this bond that she is going to try to improve it. She isn’t ready to completely abandon it.
I wash’d thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw.
I stretched thy joynts to make thee even feet,
Yet still thou run’st more hobling then is meet;
In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But nought save home-spun Cloth, i’ th’ house I find.
The next set of lines describes the ways in which the speaker physically tries to improve the book. While it is impossible that she is actually doing these things, they are more likely a metaphor for the ways in which she tries to improve the text.
She tries to “wash [it’s] face,” with no improvement. She only sees the defects more clearly. If she tried to rub a spot off, she made a bigger flaw. When she tries to fix the book’s form and give it “even feet” it still hobbles when it runs.
The speaker is also hoping to re-cover the book in “better dress” but in her house, all she can find is “home-spun Cloth” which is no improvement.
Lines 19- 24
In this array ’mongst Vulgars mayst thou roam.
In Criticks hands, beware thou dost not come;
And take thy way where yet thou art not known,
If for thy Father askt, say, thou hadst none:
And for thy Mother, she alas is poor,
Which caus’d her thus to send thee out of door.
In the final six lines of The Author to Her Book, after attempting to improve the book, she sends it on its way. She knows there is nothing she can do and tells it to leave and live among the “Vulgars” and vagabonds. She warns the book to be careful and avoid falling into the hands of “Criticks” or critics, there it will be torn apart.
The speaker believes the best place for her writing to go is somewhere where no one knows it or knows her. She tells it when asked, to deny having had a father. She also wants it to say that its mother was so poor she was forced to send it “out of door.”
About Anne Bradstreet
Anne Bradstreet was born in Northampton, England in 1612. Bradstreet was married young at the age of only sixteen, and soon after sailed with her parents and husband to settle Massachusetts Bay in what would be the United States.
She balanced her intense home life with her literary pursuits as she was forced to write while taking care of eight children. Her family moved all throughout Massachusetts, complicating her life further. Without her knowledge, Anne’s brother-in-law took her poems with him to England where he had them published as The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, in 1650. This made her one of the first English writers in the New World. This volume would eventually be republished as Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning.
Anne Bradstreet’s first poems were largely unremarkable, but her work matured as she incorporated her spiritual growth and personal thoughts on death and beauty into their texts. Her best-known work, “Contemplations,” which was not published until the 19th century, is celebrated for its treatment of the religious subject matter. Bradstreet died in 1672 in Andover.