Page:Anne Bradstreet and her time.djvu/32

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16
ANNE BRADSTREET.

ments would be common, and it was not till many years later, that a narrowing faith made Anne write them down as "the follyes of youth." Through that youth, she had part in every opportunity that the increased respect for women afforded.

Many a Puritan matron shared her husband's studies, or followed her boys in their preparation for Oxford or Cambridge, and Anne Bradstreet's poems and the few prose memorials she left, give full evidence of an unusually broad training, her delicacy of health making her more ready for absorption in study. Shakespeare and Cervantes were still alive at her birth, and she was old enough, with the precocious development of the time, to have known the sense of loss and the general mourning at their death in 1616. It is doubtful if the plays of the elder dramatists were allowed her, though there are hints in her poems of some knowledge of Shakespeare, but by the time girlhood was reached, the feeling against them had increased to a degree hardly comprehensible save in the light of contemporaneous history. The worst spirit of the time was incorporated in the later plays, and the Puritans made no discrimination. The players in turn hated them, and Mrs. Hutchinson wrote:

"Every stage and every table, and every puppet-play, belched forth profane scoffs upon them, the drunkards made them their songs, and all fiddlers and mimics learned to abuse them, as finding it the most gameful way of fooling."

If, however, the dramatists were forbidden, there were new and inexhaustible sources of inspiration and enjoyment, in the throng of new books, which the quiet of the reign of James allowed to appear in