By Clare Hanson (auth.)
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Extra info for A Cultural History of Pregnancy: Pregnancy, Medicine and Culture, 1750–2000
It foregrounds, too, the pernicious effects of prejudice: as Adeline herself puts it: 'Because an idle ceremony has not been muttered over me at the altar, I am liable to be thought a woman of vicious inclinations, and to be exposed to the most daring insults' (p. 116). And while the text finally endorses marriage as a 'hallowed institution', it restlessly returns to the question of the disproportion between Adeline's single crime (not marrying Glenmurray) and her multiple punishments (the death of her child, social ostracism, poverty).
A telling case in this respect is that of Joanna Southcott, a self-educated prophet and visionary who achieved a cult following after she joined the Wesleyans in 1791. A year later she issued a series of 'sealed' prophesies and, in 1801, published a collection of writings, The Stra1lge Effects of Faith. She eventually gained about 140,000 followers who formed an influential millenarian movement. In 1802 she predicted she would give birth to Shiloh, the second Christ, and in 1814, when she was 64, a 'miraculous' pregnancy was announced.
However, there is another connection: Sense and Sensibility is the only Austen novel in which pregnancy receives more than a glancing reference. The fact that pregnancy should figure at all is perhaps not surprising in the context of contemporary ideas about the link between pregnancy and sensibility. Sense and Sensibility pairs a number of female characters, one of the most telling juxtapositions being that between Marianne and Mrs Palmer, whose stories run in counterpoint at one point in the novel.
A Cultural History of Pregnancy: Pregnancy, Medicine and Culture, 1750–2000 by Clare Hanson (auth.)