American Literature. Colonial Period William Bradford ( 1590-1657 )

American Literature. Colonial Period

William Bradford ( 1590-1657 )

   William Bradford was elected governor of Plymouth in the Massachusetts Bay Colony shortly after the separatists landed. He was a self-educated person who had learned several languages, including Hebrew, in order to ” see with his own eyes the ancient oracles of God in their native beauty”. His participation in the migration to Holland and the ” Mayflower” voyage to Plymouth, and his duties as governor, made him ideally suited to be the first historian of his colony.  His history ” Of Plymouth Plantation” ( 1651), is a clear description of the colony’s beginning.

   Bradford also recorded the first document of colonial self-governance in the English  New World, the ” Mayflower Compact “, drawn up  while the Pilgrims were still on board ship.

   Puritans disapproved of such amusements as  dancing, card-playing, reading or writing ” light” books. They read  and wrote nonfiction or religious genres.

Anne Bradstreet ( c. 1612-1672)

   The first published book of poems by an American was also the first American book to be published by a woman- Anne Bradstreet. It is not surprising that the book was published in England, given the lack of printing presses in the early years of the first American colonies. Born and educated in England, Anne Bradstreet was the daughter of an earl’s estate manager. She emigrated with her family  when she was 18. Her husband eventually became governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, which later grew into the great city of Boston. She preferred her long , religious poems on conventional subjects such as the seasons, but contemporary readers most enjoy the witty poems on subjects from daily life and her warm and loving poems to her husband and children.

   While puritan writers devoted their works to religious themes, the authors from the southern colonies were more interested in the material world: the land, Indians, plants, animals, and settlers.

William Byrd ( 1674-1744)

   William Byrd was educated at excellent schools in England and Holland. He was friendly with some of the leading English writers of his day. His London diaries are the opposite of those of the New England Puritans, full of fancy dinners and  glittering parties. Byrd is best known today for his lively ” History of the Dividing Line”, a diary of a 1729 trip of some weeks and 960 kilometers into the interior to survey the line dividing the neighbouring colonies of Virginia and North Carolina. In this book he vividly describes the vast wilderness, Indians, half-savage whites, wild beasts and difficulties he faced.A lot of descriptions are full of humour.