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|Actually, Bridget D, it did happen in Jane Austen's world
Written by Elizabeth K
(10/25/2009 6:35 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, pregnancy, penned by Bridget D
and she would have been acquainted with out-of-wedlock pregnancies and illegitimacy. This argument could go on.....and on....and on, but as I keep getting drawn into it, I will just say this one thing - it is a fact that not all girls who had/have out-of-wedlock pregnancies have faulty morals. I don't agree with the view that out-of-wedlock pregnancies are sinful, although I know that they were thought so in JA's day, apart from amongst the lower classes and also amongst the upper classes - some upper-class titled men, such as the Duke of Devonshire, kept mistresses and had illegitimate children by them. The Duke of Devonshire's natural daughter, Charlotte, was brought up as one of his wife, Georgiana's own children, but it was widely known that the child was the child of his mistress.
In the world JA occupied, she would have been well acquainted with pregnancy outside marriage - "The Austens' bailiff, John Bond, gave his sweetheart a child before they married, and no one seems to have minded" (from Jane Austen: A life by Claire Tomalin, p. 101. Tomalin's reference for this fact is Deirdre Le Faye's 'James Austen's Poetical Biography of John Bond'). Furthermore, there were many illegitimate babies in Steventon, as shown by a section in David Nokes' Jane Austen, p. 59, and the Steventon parish register.
So it did happen, JA knew about it, and JA's family were not unduly concerned by the fact that their bailiff and his sweetheart had had a child outside wedlock. And this really is my final word on the subject. ;-)
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