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The Author to Her Book

The Author to Her Book

Have you ever felt deeply embarrassed about something you wrote? Maybe a poem you wrote back in the fourth grade or a fan letter to your former celebrity crush? Well, rest assured, you're not alone. Even the renowned first poet of America, Anne Bradstreet (1612‐1672), was embarrassed by her writing! Bradstreet's poetry collection, The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America (1650), was highly popular and well-received in England and early America. Nonetheless, in her lyric poem, 'The Author to Her Book' (1678), Bradstreet expresses her disgust with the poetry book, which she describes as "blemished" 1 and full of errors. The poet presents the dissatisfaction of being an artist through an extended metaphor, comparing her poetry book to an unkempt child.

The Author to Her Book, Woman Reading, StudySmarter

Fig 1: In 'The Author to Her Book,' Anne Bradstreet speaks to her book, The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America, about her feelings of embarrassment and shame as a writer.

'The Author to Her Book'
Poet:Anne Bradstreet (1612‐1672)
Year published:1678
Genre of poem: Lyric poem
Rhyme scheme: AABBCCDDEEFFGGHHIIJJKKLL
Meter:iambic pentameter
Tone: self-deprecating, desperate, concerned
Literary/ poetic devices: extended metaphor, rhyme, personification, apostrophe, hyperbole, syntax, enjambment
Key themes:creation and ownership

The Author to Her Book: Background Information and Genre

'The Author to Her Book' (1678) is a poem by the English‐American Puritan poet, Anne Bradstreet (1612‐1672). Bradstreet is known for her collection of poetry, The Tenth Muse Sprung Up in America (1650), which was one of the earliest books to be published in both England and the early American colonies. It is disputed whether Bradstreet consented to the publishing of her writings. Her brother-in-law had The Tenth Muse Sprung Up in America published in London, though it was deemed inappropriate for women to be intellectuals and writers at the time—especially in Bradstreet's Puritan community. From her posthumously published poem, 'The Author to Her Book,' it is understood that Bradstreet felt her poetry was taken from her in an unsatisfactory state and shared with the world against her wishes.

The poem 'The Author to Her Book' is of the lyric poetry genre. Anne Bradstreet uses the lyric poem form to express fervent emotions from the personal first-person perspective.

Lyric poetry is a genre of poetry in which the speaker expresses strong feelings and emotions in poetry with a songlike quality. Lyric poetry is typically written from the first-person perspective.

The Author to Her Book: Full Poem

Line'The Author to Her Book' by Anne Bradstreet Notes
1.2.3.4.5.6.7.8.9.10.11.12.13.14.15.16.17.18.19.20.21.22.23.24.
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).
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:
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.
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.
feeble: weakthence: from a previously mentioned placeVisage: facial expression/ features irksome: irritatingVulgars: unrefined, tasteless, ordinary people Criticks: critics

The Author to Her Book: Summary

Anne Bradstreet writes about her published book, The Tenth Muse Sprung Up in America, referring to is as the malformed "offspring" 1 of her weak brain (Line 1). She compares the book to a child she birthed. She says that at first the book stayed by her side, but then her friends took it and forced it to be published.

Bradstreet suggests that the book was forced to go to the printing press, full of many errors that caused her embarrassment. She implies that she wishes she could hide the book from sight, as it was not fit to be viewed in public. She feels great unease at the thought of others reading it, as she only sees its errors.

Bradstreet says that she tried to fix the errors in the book, but she did not have the ability. She hopes the book only circulates around common people and is not read by critics. She sees the book as an inferior embarrassment, reflecting her own state and identity.

The Author to Her Book: Analysis of Form and Rhyme Scheme

'The Author to Her Book' is a 24line poem written in a single stanza. The single block of text creates a chunky, visually heavy, and unappealing presence, which reflects Bradstreet's feelings about her poetry book being a disgrace. Having the poem read as a single stanza also emphasizes the speaker's rambling thoughts. However, Bradstreet's numerous thoughts and concerns are cleverly tied together by the extended metaphor of her book being compared to her unkempt child.

The poet uses iambic pentameter and rhyming couplets to help provide rhythm and order to her single stanza poem. The poem is entirely made of rhyming couplets, or pairs of rhyming lines. The rhyme scheme of the poem is AABBCCDD... and so on. Each line of the poem is written in iambic pentameter or ten syllables in a pattern of alternating unstressed and stressed syllables. This meter mimics the trudging that the book is said to embody on its way to the printing press. It also evokes Bradstreet's reluctance and heavy-heartedness related to the unwanted publishing of her book.

"Thou ill-form’d offspring of my feeble brain, —A

Who after birth didst by my side remain, —A
Till snatched from thence by friends, less wise than true, —B
Who thee abroad, expos’d to publick view" 1 —B

(Lines 1-4)

Read the first four lines of 'The Author to Her Book' stressing the bolded syllables. Notice how the consistent iambic pentameter and rhyming couplets lend a heavy, trudging feel to the reading of the poem.

The Author to Her Book: Attitude and Tone

'The Author to Her Book' has a highly consistent, self-deprecating, desperate, and concerned tone.

Tone is the writer's attitude towards the subject being written about.

It is clear that Anne Bradstreet feels a sense of dread and embarrassment at the thought of her book being published. Bradstreet sees her writing as an integral part of herself that reflects herself as a child reflects their mother. She is self-deprecating because she only associates herself with the book's errors and her own inabilities. The tone of the poem is desperate and concerned, as Bradstreet exasperatedly expresses her efforts to try to fix the book and help the child, but she ultimately feels helpless and "poor" 1 in recognizing that she cannot (Line 23).

The Author to Her Book: Analysis of Literary Devices

Bradstreet uses literary devices such as extended metaphor, apostrophe, personification, hyperbole, syntax, and enjambment within her poem 'The Author to Her Book.'

Extended Metaphor, Apostrophe, and Personification

The entire poem is based on an extended metaphor in which the author personifies her book by comparing it to a disheveled child. Bradstreet begins the poem by addressing the book as "Thou ill-form’d offspring of my feeble brain" 1 (Line 1). This is an example of apostrophe, as the author is addressing a subject that is not present and is not actually alive. The use of apostrophe emphasizes the absurdity of the author speaking to her book, but also stresses how significant the perception of Bradstreet's writing is to her. Publishing a book is equated to the weight of birthing and raising a child.

The personification created by the portrayal of the book as a person helps present Bradstreet's feelings about the book. She refers to the book as "My rambling brat" 1 whose "Visage was so irksome in my sight" 1 to emphasize her disgust with her writing (Line 8 and 10). Bradstreet uses the metaphor of the book as her child to explain her attempts and failures to fix it. She writes that "I wash’d thy face, but more defects I saw" 1 and "I stretched thy joynts to make thee even feet, / Yet still thou run’st more hobling then is meet" 1 (Lines 13 and 15-16). Here she uses a play on words to compare metrical feet to human feet, suggesting that she is trying to fix and force the poem to take a uniform, but unnatural shape.

A metrical foot is a group of two or three syllables with a particular stress pattern. For example, an iambic foot consists of two syllables, the first unstressed and the second stressed.

The Author to Her Book, Baby Feet, StudySmarter

Fig 2: The poet compares her poetry to hobbling feet, suggesting a struggle with the rhythm of her words.

In the end, Bradstreet compares herself to a poor mother who does not have the means to properly dress or care for her child, suggesting that she does not feel she has the skill or ability to fix her writing. She perceives her book as an utter mess, which is presented through the desperate descriptions of herself and her child.

Hyperbole

Bradstreet uses hyperbole, or over-exaggeration, to present the heightened feelings of dread she experiences at the thought of her book being seen by the public. She describes her book using dramatic language, describing the child not only as an "ill-form’d offspring," but also as "one unfit for light, / Thy Visage was so irksome in my sight" 1 (Lines 9-10). The use of these words being used by a metaphorical mother to her child creates shock and surprise at how a mother could so deeply detest something she should love more than anything.

Bradstreet intentionally suggests that though she should love her writing and be delighted at its publishing, she cannot love it because she only sees it as a disgraceful reflection of herself. This exaggerated depiction of the child's unappealing presence helps us understand Bradstreet's instinctual reactions of disgust towards the thought of her published book in a striking, nearly humorous way.

Notice how the author's descriptions of the book/child are always a reflection of herself. Why do you think Bradstreet does this?

Syntax and Enjambment

The entire 24-line poem is made up of only five sentences. Bradstreet uses run-on sentence syntax to lend an exasperated nature to the speaker's voice. It is as if she is going on a rambling rant against her own book, nagging herself for her inadequacies, which she is reminded of by her writing.

Syntax is the arrangement of words and phrases used to create a sentence.

The poet uses enjambment in lines 11 to 12: "Yet being mine own, at length affection would / Thy blemishes amend, if so I could." 1 Line 11 is the only line in the poem not followed by some form of punctuation, and it marks the first note of compassion the author feels towards her writing. While she is incredibly dissatisfied with it, we learn that she desperately tried to edit her poetry and make it satisfactory to her standards, but she did not feel she had the skills to do so. While initially, she blames her friends for stealing her poetry and having it published, Bradstreet ultimately blames herself for not being a good enough poet.

Enjambment is the continuation of one line of poetry into the next without pause or punctuation.

The Author to Her Book: Theme

The poem 'The Author to Her Book' revolves around the themes of creation and ownership. The poet presents the act of creation as an arduous and frustrating task. She writes of how an author feels such great ownership and connection to their writing, that it is basically like a child they must birth and raise with great difficulty. Just as a mother must urgently give birth to her child, Bradstreet feels she must produce and deliver writing.

However, she calls into question the appropriate nature of ownership, as a young child is under the care of its mother, but then grows to go off on its own, and Bradstreet's writing appears to do the same thing. She says that well-intentioned friends, without the awareness of her writing's faults, took her poetry from her and insisted that it be published. They stole what was hers, but it soon took up a life of its own. Bradford presents art as an intimate reflection of its creator—the artist.

The Author to Her Book, crumpled paper and pen, StudySmarter

Fig 3: Anne Bradstreet presents the frustrations of being a writer in her poem, 'The Author to Her Book.'

The Author to Her Book - Key Takeaways

  • 'The Author to Her Book' (1678) is a poem written by the Puritan poet, Anne Bradstreet.
  • 'The Author to Her Book' is a lyric poem.
  • The tone of the poem is self-deprecating, desperate, and concerned.
  • The poem uses literary devices such as extended metaphor, rhyme, personification, apostrophe, hyperbole, syntax, and enjambment.
  • The main themes of the poem are creation and ownership.

1 Anne Bradstreet, 'The Author to Her Book', Several Poems Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning, 1678.

Frequently Asked Questions about The Author to Her Book

The central idea of 'The Author to Her Book' is the attachment and responsibility an author feels for their writing, or an artist for their creation. 

The audience of 'The Author to Her Book' is most likely the poet herself. The poem is written as an explanation and exploration of her frustrations and insecurities regarding the publishing of a collection of poetry she was deeply embarrassed by. 

'The Author to Her Book' relates to Puritanism because its author, Anne Bradstreet, was a Puritan woman from a prominent family. Puritan women were expected to carry out motherly, domestic roles. Intellectual pursuits such as writing and publishing were condemned for women, which likely influenced Bradstreet's feelings of shame.  

Literary elements in 'The Author to Her Book' include metaphor, apostrophe, personification, hyperbole, syntax, and enjambment. 

Anne Bradstreet uses an extended metaphor in her poem 'The Author to Her Book' in order to compare her book to an untidy child. 

Final The Author to Her Book Quiz

Question

Who is the speaker in 'The Author to Her Book'?

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Answer

Anne Bradstreet, the author of the poem.

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Question

What is the title of the book is Bradstreet referring to in the poem?

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Answer

The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America

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Question

In 'The Author to Her Book,' the poet uses an extended metaphor to compare her published book to what?

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Answer

her child

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Question

What meter is the poem written in? 

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Answer

iambic pentameter

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Question

How would you describe the tone of the speaker in 'The Author to her Book'?

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Answer

self-deprecating, desperate, concerned 

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Question

What type of poem is 'The Author to Her Book'?

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Answer

A lyric poem 

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Question

What are the key themes in 'The Author to Her Book'?

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Answer

creation and ownership

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Question

Who does the poet accuse of publishing her novel?

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Answer

friends

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Question

The entire poem is made up of pairs of end rhymes known as what?

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Answer

Rhyming couplets

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Question

"Thou ill-form’d offspring of my feeble brain" 1 (Line 1) is an example of which literary device? 


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Answer

Apostrophe

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Question

What does the word "visage" mean?

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Answer

Facial expression/ features 

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Question

True or False: the entire poem is made up of only five sentences.

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Answer

True

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Question

True or False: Bradstreet is happy that her book was published. 

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Answer

False

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