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From: "Jonathan Laidlow" <LAIDLOJM@hhs.bham.ac.uk>
Subject: (urth) Dorcas' death in childbirth
Date: Mon, 4 Oct 1999 11:36:17 GMT

Hello folks,

I'm only barely keeping up with Urth at the moment - welcome to all 
the new posters. I'm very pleased to see that all discussion of Short 
Sun is being kept on the Whorl list - copies have yet to filter into the 
UK as far as I can tell. I'm currently rereading Long Sun in 

On the Dorcas post - what a fascinating essay Roy! It deserves 
more study before I respond in full, but perhaps I could answer the 
point about Dorcas' death in childbirth.

You say that death in childbirth is a fictional device, and may just be 
Caron's way of avoiding the issue. Now as recently as the 
eighteenth century (and the nineteenth) death in childbirth was very 
very common. To give an eighteenth century example which I've 
picked up from my studies of Laurence Sterne, if a cesaerian was 
required then the mother would die. There was no recorded 
example of a mother surviving such an operation.  Many more 
children would die during childhood, hence the need for large 
families to help in the family employment, whatever that might be.

Now Urth does have hi-tech resources, but they are not available to 
everyone, and I doubt very much that they were available to Dorcas 
and Caron. I presume that medical knowledge for the masses was 
at best at a pre-20th century level, and thus if Dorcas did indeed 
have a difficult pregnancy, then she would likely not have survived.

A similar point about her age - before the twentieth century 
daughters would often be married away straight after adolescence. 
This was obviously much more common for poor families than for 
rich. Even in fiction (and I'm thinking of that whole genre of novels 
where a poor girl marries 'upwards' in society - Samuel 
Richardson's 'Pamela' is perhaps the best C18 example) the girls 
are usually very young. They would have been indentured as 
servants as soon as possible, so that their poor family did not have 
to support them any longer.

Visit Ultan's Library - A Gene Wolfe web resource
Jonathan Laidlow
University of Birmingham, UK

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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