By Clare Hanson (auth.)
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Additional resources for A Cultural History of Pregnancy: Pregnancy, Medicine and Culture, 1750–2000
Adeline is constructed as a character who is entirely virtuous and amiable, her only fault being her (principled) refusal to marry Glenmurray. The narrative perspective, foregrounding the other characters' perception of Adeline as virtuous when she is thought to be married and vicious as soon as the truth is discovered, poses the question of the relationship between inherent or natural virtue and religious doctrine. Must Adeline's failure to marry be considered an absolute sin? 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.
84) 42 A Cllltllral HistOl}, of" I'reSIIIlIIC}' Despite or because of her suffering, when she finds a protector, Jemima in turn causes a girl who is pregnant by him to be turned out of his house. The girl subsequently commits suicide. ' (p. 89). By far the most influential discussion of illegitimacy among the poorer classes was William Hunter's essay on infanticide, published four years before Maria in 1794. The essay was written in defence of women who were, in Hunter's view, often falsely accused of infanticide.
Various plot complications ensure that the full truth of the situation is withheld from Sidney: it finally transpires that Faulkland had only one encounter with Miss Burchell and that it was she who seduced him. None the less, even had she known the full facts, Sidney would still have renounced Faulkland and urged him to marry Miss Burchell, for she considers it his duty to take legal responsibility for a woman in a vulnerable position. She persists in this view even after her husband's death leads Faulkland to renew his addresses to her.
A Cultural History of Pregnancy: Pregnancy, Medicine and Culture, 1750–2000 by Clare Hanson (auth.)