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Historical Context in The Author to Her Book

Historical Context Examples in The Author to Her Book :

The Author to Her Book

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"homespun cloth..."   (The Author to Her Book)

This line extends the clothing metaphor. The speaker now views her book-child as plain and lacking, dressed only in “homespun cloth.” This line connects to the previous reference “rags,” because books in the 1600s were made with varying ratios of cotton and pulp. The speaker’s comparison of homespun cloth may suggest either that her book has been printed on cheap, low-quality paper, or, conversely, that the language used is plain or barren, much to her dissatisfaction. Since Puritan ideology states that luxury or sensual pleasures are sinful temptations that harm the path to God, this line appears strangely at odds with Bradstreet’s Puritan beliefs: she despairs the lack of adornment or decoration present in the work of her published volume.

"rags..."   (The Author to Her Book)

The word “rags” here has a deliberate double meaning. First, it literally describes clothes, illustrating the book (“child”) as poorly dressed and ill kept. In addition, rags also serves as a wordplay on the book-publishing industry—more specifically, on the quality of printing paper, which was referred to as “rag content.”’ In Elizabethan times, cotton rags were the principal material used in the book-making process. Paper with a high-rag content had a higher ratio of cotton fiber to pulp, and therefore the clothing was of better quality.

"snatched from thence..."   (The Author to Her Book)

Bradstreet moved from England to Massachusetts in 1630. In 1647, Bradstreet’s brother-in-law Rev. John Woodbridge took her first volume of poems, entitled The Tenth Muse, back to England for publication. This was done without the knowledge and permission of Bradstreet, who regarded the volume unfinished and unready for publication. Bradstreet’s Puritan faith would have been at odds with her role as a writer, due to the Puritanical belief that the female role was solely in the domestic household as a wife and a mother. It is unclear if Bradstreet ever truly intended to have the poems published at all or if she wished to downplay her ambitions as an author due to these Puritanical beliefs. Nevertheless, The Tenth Muse brought Bradstreet major acclaim and made her the first poet of English verse to be published in the British colonies.

"cast thee by..."   (The Author to Her Book)

The phrase “cast thee by” means that the speaker would throw away or reject her child. This action might be seen as subversive in a puritanical society, where the woman’s duty was to raise children and keep the household in order. In rejecting this child, the speaker both defies her social position and takes responsibility for its existence; it is just as much her fault for casting the child away as it is for her misguided friends to steal it from her. This type of thinking reflects Puritan ideology, which held that humans are innately sinful in all actions because of Adam and Eve’s original sin.

"rags..."   (The Author to Her Book)

In the era in which Bradstreet wrote, every-day clothing was generally made in the home instead of bought at a store. It was a mother’s job to dress her family and keep them warm. Here, the speaker dresses her metaphorical child in “rags,” or threadbare clothing that has been tattered by overuse and time. The disheveled appearance of this child would reflect badly on the mother tasked with clothing it; in other words, the rags are a sign of the speaker’s failures as a mother.

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