Researching and writing about puritan poet Anne Bradstreet

Monday, September 19, 2011

5 Groats a Day

I was planning to use this space to announce, triumphantly, that I was almost done with the England side of my research on my Anne Bradstreet project. Then I counted pages and rethought that.

My plan has been to research Anne's life on the other side of the Pond, sinking myself pretty thoroughly in the times and trials of Stuart England, and writing that story (at least in draft) before researching the New England side of things. In that way my process of writing will have some reflection of Anne's actual experience. She was an upper-class Englishwoman before she was ever a frontier housewife, and even though I know how her American story goes, I want to write as much as possible (and maybe it's not so possible) as if I don't.

I think I'm coming to an end of the scholarly books that I've decided to look into. I have four or five more on tap; some go very fast because they turn out to be too abstract for my purposes. Then there's a slew of magazine articles that I need to check out -- that will be a few afternoons at Northwestern University library. I also found a couple of books on everyday life in early modern England that are aimed at writers, including one entertainingly called, Shakespeare's London on 5 Groats a Day. And then there's the primary sources, such as Gouge's Domesticall Duties, all about the proper roles of household members. I also thought it would be good to read some Puritan sermons. So that turns out to be a lot.

I'm plowing through Gouge right now (he's on my iPod; thank you Kindle). The everyday-life books might be the most important at the moment; I think it might be best to stop and write about what I learn as I go along, to cement those details into my brain. Am I drowning myself in my own research? Am I falling into the Historians' Curse of over-researching everything and losing track of the story? Of course I don't think so, but what else whould I think?


  1. More research should hopefully translate into a better writing experience, right? You won't have to stop all the time and find out just how they used to [fill in the blank]. Or you probably will, but hopefully a lot less often once you've done your background work.
    the theory seems sound to me.

  2. Thanks for the vote of confidence. I can just see myself doing research forever and never getting around to the actual writing . . . but I do think that my research plan is fairly logical. There's a lot to know, though, when writing a historical novel. Like what a "groat" is.