What Did They Know About Babies?

In the 15th installment of Mr. B Speaks! Mr. B reluctantly admits that Pamela gets married without having the night-before-the-wedding "talk" with her mother. Instead this talk is provided by the loud, crass, somewhat obnoxious Mrs. Jewkes.

A wonderful Victorian postcard from Wikipedia,
depicting an aggressive form of birth control.
Since Pamela is a country-bred girl, she wouldn't be completely unprepared for the concept of sexual congress. She did spend her teen years in a more sheltered environment than that experienced by lower-class women of the time. However, this was not yet the age of Victoria; in even upper-class houses, close living would make ignorance of bodily functions a complete impossibility.

As I mention in a far earlier post, even for Jane Austen (who was perceived as a embarrassingly earthly by her refined nieces and nephews), the acts of the flesh would have been commonalities of life. In comparison, our modern era often delivers a bizarre combination of prudish prurient permissiveness whereby a partially clad body is instantly sexualized by those who take offense and by those who take an interest while both the offended and the interested are scandalized at the idea of having to share a bedroom or bathroom.

But what would Pamela know about how babies are made?

The equating of sex with conception happened as early as the Bible: just think of all those "begats." What exactly happened at the point of conception was not understand fully until the 19th century. One idea put forward by scientists in the 1700s was that the male or female carried the preformed baby (homunculus) within either the sperm or the egg; the sexual act triggered the baby's growth. The idea of shared traits/genetic material is a relatively recent development. (Mendel's pea experiments took place in the mid-1800s.)

Whatever the prevailing theories, Pamela would have been as prepared and unprepared as new, blushing, virginal brides have ever been with the caveat (considering her time period and personality) that she would have been somewhat less coy than her blushing creator, Samuel Richardson.

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