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what would have happened if Lydia Bennet got pregnant?

(21 Posts)
namechangedwithintent Sat 01-Jul-17 18:07:20

Dear fellow readers of Pride and Prejudice- what would have been the Regency approach to unmarried mothers from the upper classes? I ask as surely two weeks of alone time with Mr Wickham would have been enough to get Lydia in a sticky wicket.

Maybe they still would have got married? Or would Lydia's family have packed her off to Wales to have the baby and get it adopted?

It would have been much more dramatic if she had been preggers!

OP’s posts: |
InfiniteSheldon Sat 01-Jul-17 18:10:15

She may well have been but no one would have mentioned it grin

ImperialBlether Sat 01-Jul-17 18:12:19

The man would have been forced into marrying her. If he refused, he'd be hounded out of polite society.

If he didn't, she would have given the baby away or someone else (eg Charlotte Lucas) would have passed it off as her own.)

Muskey Sat 01-Jul-17 18:16:05

Just read sense and sensibility Jane Austin tells us exactly what would happen to the woman the man as usual gets away scot free

namechangedwithintent Sat 01-Jul-17 18:18:53

Right enough Sheldon! I feel like looking for clues now...

OP’s posts: |
InfiniteSheldon Sat 01-Jul-17 18:22:32

Mrs Weston's pregnancy in Emma barely gets mentioned and I always wondered where/if anyone went to the toilet on the Box Hill picnic day out. hmm

Lanaorana2 Sat 01-Jul-17 18:23:02

The reason everyone freaked when Lydia and Wickham bolted was precisely because she was going to get pregnant.

Had Wickham not been bribed into marrying her by Darcy.... Lydia would have been sent abroad to 'travel' for a year and get shot of the child.

Despite this, her life would still have been over - she was damaged goods, thanks to the loss of her honour. And the Bennetts probably couldn't afford to send her +1 away for such a long 'holiday', not to mention paying the foster fees for 21 years.

Worst, the reputation of the entire family would have been in shreds thanks to Lydia's behaviour - reputation counted for a lot in those days, no matter what class you were. The other 4DDS would have found it hard to marry.

InfiniteSheldon Sat 01-Jul-17 18:45:33

Maria was sent away to live abroad in Mansfield park with Aunt Norris(?) After disgracing herself as a married woman.
I think possibly Lydia would have had to marry someone else to cover her 'crime'. An unmarried woman just going abroad probably wouldn't cut it. Some poor sap would have to be conned or bribed into marrying her I think.

CosmoClock Sat 01-Jul-17 18:47:43

She would have been ''confined'' and nobody could have come to the house during that time. Did the Bennetts have servants? hmmm. Maybe confined at the house of one distant elderly impecunious but respectable relative who would have been paid a modest amount.

Lanaorana2 Sat 01-Jul-17 18:51:23

<warms to theme> One of Jane Austen's recurrent subjects, which comes up in all the books, is When Silly Gets Serious, where she shows that oh-so adorable impulsiveness, eccentricity or selfishness are not just harmless behavioural trivia but acts that trigger damage to other people's lives.

In P&P, Lydia's fuckwittery is set to damage her sisters' chances as much as hers. Had she resisted the selfish elopment with Wickham on grounds of being decent to her nearest and dearest, she would have ended up much better off herself. Austen's morals are always deeply satisfying <rubs hands evilly>.

CosmoClock Sat 01-Jul-17 18:52:37

how does a married woman disgrace herself? I suppose the baby could be somebody else's but if she's married there's less damage done.
Refresh my memory, what happened to an unmarried character in s&s. Drawing a blank.

JohnnyUtahsWetsuit Sat 01-Jul-17 18:56:57

I think Colonel Brandon's ward gets seduced by Willoughby.

Muskey Sat 01-Jul-17 19:20:52

The sense and sensibility thing is colonel Brandon was in love with a ward of his family. He wasn't allowed to marry her. She ran off with somebody and "fell out of all good society" according to colonel fosters mother in law (can't remember her name). Colonel Brandon went after his love only to find her pregnant in a poor house. She dies in childbirth and he adopts Eliza's daughter and names her Beth. Beth is sent away only when she grows up she runs away and ends up with Willoughby.who seduces her. She gets pregnant colonel Brandon finds her and packs her off to God knows where. The morning that willougby was going to propose to marianne his wealthy aunty finds out about his behaviour and disinherits him. This is why willoughby ignores marianne as he has going to marry Miss Grey who has a fortune of £10000 per year.

InfiniteSheldon Sat 01-Jul-17 19:23:30

Nothing to add except I live this thread thank you OP flowers

PlayingSardines Sat 01-Jul-17 19:50:03

Pretty much what Lana said, though not sure she'd have been sent abroad -- too far out of the Bennets' economic and social world, I suspect, plus no one would have believed for a second that wild, bosomy, 'always likely to end up in trouble' Lydia was travelling 'for her health' or education.

I'd have thought being sent to a part of the country where she wasn't known with a cover story and respectable female relative, like Maria Bertram (after she leaves her husband for Henry Crawford, only to be spurned) might be more likely. Only there's no one obvious to go with her. Her mother and sisters can't, Mrs Gardner has small children, Aunt Phillips wouldn't.

But the outlook for the rest of the Bennets would then be very, very bleak. The other four girls wouldn't have been able to marry, and once their father dies, the Collinses inherit Longbourn, so they're homeless and have only the income from their mother's small capital. Plus they've not been bred or educated to earn a living, so even governessing, Jane Fairfax-style, seems unlikely.

My students sometimes think Lizzy is mostly just mortified that Lydia has disgraced her in front of Darcy, but in fact, as at least a couple of the girls have to marry well in order to support the others after their father dies, in fact Lydia has doomed the whole family to poverty.

If the letter about L eloping hadn't happened to arrive at the one moment when Lizzy was too shocked to hide the truth from Darcy, no happy ending would have been possible. All the romance is Austen is so underpinned with economics.

CosmoClock Sat 01-Jul-17 20:00:32

Thank you Muksey brew
You've a great memory! I've read them all, twice, but I still can't remember the details so clearly! I need to read them again!

UndersecretaryofWhimsy Sat 01-Jul-17 20:06:24

I've always presumed Lydia WAS pregnant when she returned from her little sojourn in London, but by that time she was also married so the heat was off. It's long before scans or blood testing, remember, so there would be no outward sign or proof of pregnancy for several months.

Maria Rushworth (nee Bertram)'s problem was that it got out that she had 'left her husband's protection and was travelling with a notorious flirt, not to mention she'd been indiscreet enough both to piss off her MIL's maid and give her proof of the affair.

namechangedwithintent Sat 01-Jul-17 21:06:19

Ooh, I love "When Silly Gets Serious", Lana - like that bit in Persuasion when Louisa (I think) jumps off the steps and gets a concussion.

JA novels are always so neatly tied up at the ends. It's part of the appeal, I reckon.

OP’s posts: |
gabsdot Wed 05-Jul-17 21:19:52

I always feel a bit sorry for Maria Bertram. Sentenced to a life abroad with aunt Norris. The boredom. Actually she was lucky she didn't get knocked up by whathisname.

MaybeDoctor Sat 08-Jul-17 21:44:12

There is a possibility that she may be pregnant - the high bodice and loose dress of the time would have disguised early pregnancy quite well and certainly the only possible outcome of her 'adventure' was that she would marry Wickham. Although he was still ready enough to leave the country and abandon her...

If she had been abandoned by Wickham I suppose she could have set up as a 'widow' somewhere like Bath and therefore had a chance at marriage to someone else, but it is hard to see how the family would have been able to maintain her - perhaps Mr Gardiner would have helped. But even if she had been established in that situation I suspect that she would have eventually ended up as a prostitute. sad

NomNomNominativeDeterminism Mon 10-Jul-17 23:05:04

Nudged by this to re-read Mansfield Park only to find it's gone walking ... but there is a copy of Duologues and Scenes from the Novels of Jane Austen Arranged and Adapted for Drawing-Room Performance that I didn't know we had. So that's the kids' summer holiday entertainment sorted.

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