Lois A. Chaber


Samuel Richardson's extraordinary preoccupation with the female experience of birth has been demonstrated by Robert A. Erickson in his study of the 'Mother Midnight' figure. Whereas Erickson has examined the symbolic deployment of birth in Clarissa and Pamela, I will explore the ambivalent depiction of literal childbearing in Pamela 2 (1741) and Sir Charles Grandison (1753-54). These two novels, in their mutual focus on "unconventional post-nuptial narrative space," include multiple instances of pregnancy, parturition, and lactation. Pamela's matronly adventures consist largely of breeding seven children; in Grandison, the marriages, pregnancies, and "crying[s]-out" of Sir Charles's two sisters, Lady L. and Charlotte, constitute important subplots, and the novel ends with the troubled pregnancy of Harriet, the woman who has resolved Sir Charles's long crisis of "divided or double Love" (3:76). These gynaecological events are seen from medical, social, psychological and theological perspectives, but ultimately resolve into the political--expressing "relations of power and authority." It is my hope that this focus on childbearing will further illuminate Richardson's beliefs about "women, men, bodies and babies" that have been the subject of ongoing feminist debate.