Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Less Agreeable Man Blog Tour! ~ Guest Post & Excerpt!

Hello, All! I'm very excited to a part of the A Less Agreeable Man Blog Tour! Maria Grace is here today with an interesting post about giving birth in Jane Austen's Day! Followed by an excerpt from her new book, A Less Agreeable Man!

Giving Birth in Jane Austen’s Day: Confinement, Lying-in, and Churching

Unlike women today who often give birth in hospitals or birthing centers, women of Jane Austen’s day almost exclusively gave birth at home. Preparation for confinement fell almost exclusively to the mother. Among the most significant of those preparatory decisions was where she would be confined. (Vickery, 1998)


The decision was a significant one. A woman's confinement, also called her lying-in, lasted a month to six weeks starting when the baby was born, through her subsequent recovery.  In some cases, women imminently due to give birth were also confined to the house and treated as invalids. (But only in cases where there was sufficient assistance available to take over the mother-to-be’s duties, of course.)   During confinement women were expected to stay indoors, preferably in bed. Most felt well enough to emerge from confinement after a month. (Honestly I think they’d have to be really ill not to be utterly stir-crazy by then. But then again, I get stir crazy confined by a day or two of rain.)

The medical community believed that an extended period of strict rest was necessary to help protect against the postnatal dangers threatening the mother and the baby.  Considering the number of women who died in childbirth and those who experienced complications including puerperal fever, hemorrhage, thrombosis and milk fever, the precaution made a great deal of sense.

Some women chose to return to their mother’s home to give birth. Others brought female relatives to their home for the event.  It was not unusual for rooms used for lying-in to be rearranged or redecorated in anticipation of the event. (Martin, 2004) Ideally, the mother would have two interconnected room. The inner, would contain the mother’s lying-in bed, usually kept dark though labor, delivery and at least the first week afterwards. The outer room would serve as a waiting room of sorts, a place for friends and relatives to gather.  (Lewis, 1986)

For those who could afford it, London, because of its reputation for skilled doctors, was regarded as the best place for a confinement, especially for the birth of an anticipated heir.  When a family went to town for a confinement, it could disrupt the household for weeks, even if the family maintained a house in London. And since delivery dates could not be accurately predicted, all this often happened at the very last minute. (I can’t think of anything I would less rather do at the very end of a pregnancy than be confined for hours on end in a bouncy-jolty carriage, moving households to somewhere else.)
During the confinement, especially one with all the pomp and circumstance of a London confinement, the mother often received visits from friends and relatives. Frequently these were women who had “shared in the drinking of caudle, the hot spiced wine mixture she had imbibed to ease her labor pains,” her ‘gossips.’ (Lewis, 1986) Country confinements had the advantage of fewer ‘drop-in’ sort of visitors. The new parents could exercise a little more control in who came to visit.

“The confinement itself was composed of a set of clearly defined stages in the recovery process. While these provided something of a guideline for the recovery of all women, they were flexible enough to allow for individual differences.    Generally, the stages …consisted of increasingly long forays from bed to sofa; thence to the outer or dressing room of the lying-in chambers; downstairs, possibly to dine with the family; and finally to take her first leave of the premises. The entire process lasted from four to six weeks.” (Lewis, 1986)


A woman’s confinement ended when the mother had been "churched" and her child christened. Considering the very real risks to both mother and infant, it is not surprising that the Church had a special service of thanksgiving after (surviving) childbirth. The Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England, called it the Churching of Women. Traditionally, a woman paid her first visit upon leaving home to her church for this service which emphasized a woman's gratitude toward God for her full recovery. (Lewis, 1986)

Although sanctioned by the Old Testament (Leviticus 12), churching was a prickly issue within the Church. Some condemned it as a remnant of the Jewish religion or as a Catholic rite. Still, it continued as a pervasive practice, especially in rural areas. (Collin, 2001) This may have been because of superstitions about women bringing bad luck following childbirth unless ritual cleansing took place.
The ceremony was generally sought after by women, a ceremony that focused on them and acknowledged the perils they had faced. It was also an opportunity to rejoin society after extended isolation and often an opportunity to feast with the friends who had helped her through her labor (her ‘gossips.’)  (Knöde, 1995)

Women who experienced a still birth or whose child died soon after were still churched. But, women who gave birth to illegitimate children were not until they publicly repented before the whole congregation.  “There are also records of a debate whether a woman who had died in giving birth should be buried in the church graveyard if she had died unchurched. Popular custom occasionally had another woman undergoing the ceremony for the woman who had died, but such practice was not favoured by the church. It was eventually decided that an unchurched woman could be buried, but in a number of cases they were buried in a special part of the graveyard and superstitious beliefs had it that women between 15 and 45 were not supposed to be going to that particular part of the graveyard.” (Knöde, 1995)


Adkins, Roy, and Lesley Adkins. Jane Austen's England. Viking, 2013. 
Collins, Irene. Jane Austen and the Clergy. London: Hambledon and London, 2001. 
Collins, Irene. Jane Austen, the Parson's Daughter. London: Hambledon Press, 1998. 
Knödel, Natalie. The Thanksgiving of Women after Childbirth, commonly called The Churching of Women. University of Durham. April 1995   http://users.ox.ac.uk/~mikef/church.html   
Lane, Maggie. Jane Austen's World: The Life and times of England's Most Popular Novelist. 2nd ed. London: Carlton Books, 2005.
Lewis, Judith Schneid. In the Family Way: Childbearing in the British Aristocracy, 1760-1860. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1986. 
Martin, Joanna. Wives and Daughters: Women and Children in the Georgian Country House. London: Hambledon and London, 2004. 
Selwyn, David. Jane Austen and Children. New York City: Continuum Books, 2010.
Vickery, Amanda. The Gentleman's Daughter: Women's Lives in Georgian England. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1998.

Churching Excerpt

     An uneventful fortnight passed in the Lucases’ company. It seemed the whole family was as quiet and retiring as Charlotte. Even Lady Catherine improved in their presence, readily employing herself in the improvement of Miss Claremont, who relished the attention.
     Perhaps it was the Lucases’ propensity to routine. They naturally did everything at the same time every day without looking at a clock. Even the babies fell into a schedule quickly. The house radiated a calm, quietude that might grow dull over the long term, but for now, was a needed relief from the intensity of the prior month.

     At exactly ten o’clock, all the Lucas clan descended the grand stairs in the same order they paraded in every day on their trek to the spacious morning room. They sat in exactly the same order around the round table: Charlotte with the windows on her right where the light was best for sewing, her mother on her left. They skipped a chair—ostensibly for Lady Catherine—then Sir William and Miss Claremont near the inlaid sideboard where breakfast was laid out on silver and china serving dishes, wafting tempting fresh-baked scents through the room. The three ladies requested chocolate while Sir William preferred tea. They all liked toast, very brown, with jam and clotted cream. Though the routine was soothing, it also bordered on the ridiculous.

     Mary sipped her coffee—a bad habit definitely gleaned from Colonel Fitzwilliam—enjoying a friendly sunbeam that insisted on making its way past the curtains. Dust motes played along its length, a romping sort of game, like children in the spring fields, too long cooped up over winter. 

     Much like Charlotte. She had recovered well from her travails and was growing impatient to be out and about once again. It was nearing time for her churching. Perhaps she should call upon Mr. Anderson who had been filling in for Mr. Collins. 

     Or should they wait until Colonel Fitzwilliam returned? 

     She chuckled at herself. Why would he be interested in such a thing? Conceivably, if it were his wife, but for a guest? No, he would just as soon have the matter handled decently and without him.

     “What do you think, Miss Bennet?”

     Mary jumped and blinked. What had Sir William just asked?

     “Woolgathering, Mary?” Charlotte snickered, settling her chocolate cup into its saucer with a soft clink. “But no, I know you better. You were planning something—you always are. Papa wanted to know your thoughts on his ideas.”

     Sir William cleared his throat. “Ah yes, we had been discussing Charlotte’s future, you see. Rosings is quite lovely, and the hospitality has been truly grand, but mayhap, it seems that we are approaching the time, I think, if you agree—”

     Mary bit her lip. Interrupting him would not make him get to the point any faster. She had tried.

     Lady Lucas laid her hand on his wrist. “I believe what my husband is trying to say is that it seems we are near the end of Charlotte’s confinement. We do not wish to trespass upon Rosings’ cordiality. Longbourn is ready to receive its new family.”

     “Are the babies not very young to make such a journey?” Mary refilled her coffee cup.

     “It is only eight hours by carriage.” Charlotte murmured, a little defensively. “With my mother and cousin to help I think it will be quite manageable. Mrs. Grant suggests that the babies should be strong enough for traveling in another fortnight or so.”

     “Shall I speak to the vicar to see you churched before you go?”

     Charlotte laughed. “That is what you were planning, was it not?”

     Sir William chuckled low in his belly. “She is just as you say, Charlotte. What is the saying? Still waters run deep?”

     “You will be greatly missed.” It was entirely true. Charlotte was the last real friend she had at Rosings, other than Fitzwilliam of course.

     When had she started thinking of him as a friend? He was though. One of a precious few with a glimpse into who she really was.

     “About that…” Charlotte glanced at Lady Lucas who blinked at Sir William.

     “Yes, with regards to that. We were discussing, that is, we talked amongst ourselves. The question came about ...”

     Lady Lucas tapped his hand. “Though Lucas Lodge is not far from Longbourn, Charlotte will be there all alone. We thought that, perhaps, given the circumstances here, you might like to join her.”

     “Live at Longbourn?”

     Charlotte nodded a bit too vigorously. “Yes, exactly. I have come to depend upon your company so much over the last months. I do not know what I shall do without you—”

     “Without Miss Bennet?” Lady Catherine swept into the room, a fury of icy blue taffeta and feathers.

     Dressed for evening first thing in the morning? This could turn bad, very quickly.

     Mary jumped up and took Lady Catherine’s arm. Mrs. Jenkinson cowered behind Lady Catherine, like a dog that had just been kicked.

     “Would you like a cup of tea, Lady Catherine, or coffee? I can get you wine if you prefer.” Mary ushered her toward her favorite chair.

     Lady Catherine yanked her arm out of Mary’s grasp. “Why would I want tea or coffee? This is not the drawing room. Why is dinner being served in the morning room? Where is Parkes? Surely she is going mad.”

     “I shall see you have some wine, then.” Mary waved Mrs. Jenkinson into action. “Pray sit down. The sun … sunset … is most agreeable.” 

     “I do not wish to sit. Why do I care about the sun? What I want to know is what you were talking about? I must have my share of the conversation.”

     Mary sent the Lucases a warning glance. “Churching, Lady Catherine. We were discussing churching.”

     “Whatever for?”

     “Charlotte, your ladyship.” Lady Lucas hovered between sitting and standing.

     “Why? Are you increasing?” Lady Catherine rapped the table hard enough to rattle the china.

     “Ah, your ladyship …” Sir William straightened his labels as he rose.

     Mary gestured for him to sit. “We were simply discussing the practice.”

     “Should not Mr. Collins be a part of the discussion then? Is it not his job? Where is he? He knows better than to be late for dinner. I have told him most strenuously. It is abhorrently rude to be late. I insist on knowing where he is!”

     Charlotte pressed the back of her hand to her mouth.

     “He is away at present.” Mary took her arm again.

     “I did not give him leave to travel. Why is he gone? He should be attending to his duties. I have not given him permission.”

     “This trip … it is in relation with … a service he has done on your behalf.” Mary bit her lip.

     “When? I did not authorize—” Her eyes narrowed. “You are lying to me, Miss Bennet!”


     “Yes, you are. This is about that estate, Longfarm, the one I did not give him permission to inherit!”

     The Lucases gasped and huddled closer together.

     “You see, it is! How dare you conspire to conceal things from me? I always know. I am always right, you know.” She snatched a napkin from the table, sending silverware flying.

     “Here is your wine, your ladyship.” Mrs. Jenkinson offered the glass to Lady Catherine.

     “I do not care for wine!” She flung it at Mrs. Jenkinson who shrieked as it hit her face.

     “Would you care for something to eat instead?” Mary shooed Mrs. Jenkinson out of the room.

     “No food! No wine! I want answers!”

     “Pray ask your questions, Lady Catherine.” Mary stood in front of her. If she could hold Lady Catherine’s focus on herself, there was a chance she might yet regain composure.

     “Has Mr. Collins inherited an estate?”

     “Yes, he has.” Mary dropped her voice to nearly a whisper.

     “I want to talk to him. Where is he?”

     “He is away on a long journey. You may write to him.”

     “I do not wish to write. I would see him immediately. Is he visiting that damned estate?”

     “No, madam, he is not.”

     “Good. Good.” Lady Catherine relaxed a little and allowed Mary to help her sit. “Then you will write to him. Tell him he is not to do so. I will not have him leaving his post here. I appointed him to the Hunsford Parish, and here he shall stay. He has no business going elsewhere.”

     “I will write to him as you ask, your ladyship.”

     “See that it is done today. You are a lazy girl. I do not want you dawdling!”

     “As you say, madam.” Mary exhaled a long, slow breath.

     “And you,” Lady Catherine whirled on Charlotte. “You will satisfy me at once. Are you increasing?”

     “No, your ladyship.” Charlotte shook her head, ghostly pale.

     “Good, good. I did not give you leave to do so. Children are inconvenient, bothersome little creatures. Collins has no need for an heir. What has he to pass on? A vicar has nothing of his own. And his income is small. Best not waste it on the raising of children.”

     Sir William and Lady Lucas turned to one another with wide eyes.

     “You look tired, your ladyship. Do you wish to rest before dinner?”

     Lady Catherine planted her elbow on the table, hard. “I do not wish to rest, I demand satisfaction! I heard something said about you going somewhere, Miss Bennet? I will not have it, not at all. I have not authorized that, and it will not be. Nor you, Mrs. Collins. Your place is in the parsonage. A house is never well-maintained without a woman present.”

     “Of course, your ladyship,” Charlotte stammered.

     “Good … good.” Lady Catherine leaned back in her seat, breathing heavily. 

     “Perhaps you should rest, madam. You wish to be at your best for your guests, do you not?” Mary reached for her. 

     “I am very weary.”

     “Let me help you to your room.” Mary tucked her hand under Lady Catherine’s arm and helped her up. 

     Lady Catherine insisted on a tour of the gardens and the stillroom before they finally made it to her chambers. Mary barely got Lady Catherine into her bed before she fell asleep.

     Thank heavens for small mercies.

Book Blurb: 

Dull, plain and practical, Mary Bennet was the girl men always overlooked. Nobody thought she’d garner a second glance, much less a husband. But she did, and now she’s grateful to be engaged to Mr. Michaels, the steady, even tempered steward of Rosings Park. By all appearances, they are made for each other, serious, hard-working, and boring. 

 Michaels finds managing Rosings Park relatively straight forward, but he desperately needs a helpmeet like Mary, able to manage his employers: the once proud Lady Catherine de Bourgh who is descending into madness and her currently proud nephew and heir, Colonel Fitzwilliam, whose extravagant lifestyle has left him ill-equipped for economy and privation. 

Colonel Fitzwilliam had faced cannon fire and sabers, taken a musket ball to the shoulder and another to the thigh, stood against Napoleon and lived to tell of it, but barking out orders and the point of his sword aren’t helping him save Rosings Park from financial ruin. Something must change quickly if he wants to salvage any of his inheritance. He needs help, but Michaels is tedious and Michaels’ fiancée, the opinionated Mary Bennet, is stubborn and not to be borne. 

 Apparently, quiet was not the same thing as meek, and reserved did not mean mild. The audacity of the woman, lecturing him on how he should manage his barmy aunt. The fact that she is usually right doesn’t help. Miss Bennet gets under his skin, growing worse by the day until he finds it very difficult to remember that she's engaged to another man. Can order be restored to Rosings Park or will Lady Catherine’s madness ruin them all?

Buy: AmazonKoboB&N
Add to Goodreads.

FTC Disclaimer: Link to Amazon. I am an Amazon Associate. Should you purchase a copy of the book through the link provided, I will receive a small commission. Thanks! 

About the Author

Though Maria Grace has been writing fiction since she was ten years old, those early efforts happily reside in a file drawer and are unlikely to see the light of day again, for which many are grateful. After penning five file-drawer novels in high school, she took a break from writing to pursue college and earn her doctorate in Educational Psychology. After 16 years of university teaching, she returned to her first love, fiction writing. 

She has one husband and one grandson, two graduate degrees and two black belts, three sons, four undergraduate majors, five nieces, is starting her sixth year blogging on Random Bits of Fascination, has built seven websites, attended eight English country dance balls, sewn nine Regency era costumes, and shared her life with ten cats.

Connect with Maria Grace

Many thanks to Maria Grace for visiting with us today, and congratulations on the publication of A Less Agreeable Man

What a fascinating post! Thank you for enlightening us in the confinement process and churching. I knew a little about confinement, but had no idea about churching!

I'd love to hear your thoughts! Did you know about churching? And, oh my, Lady Catherine has definitely lost her mind!


  1. Lady C has definitely lost her mind. Love the excerpt.

    1. Hi, Becky! Yes, I think Lady C has lost her mind also! Lol! Mary is certainly handling her well. Love that!

      Sorry for my late response. I was sick this week and neglected my blog. :(

  2. I agree, fascinating post. I had no idea about churching, thanks for sharing. And Lady Catherine lost her mind all right.
    Congratulations on the release of this book, Maria. :)

    1. Hello, Kate! I had no idea about churching either! Fascinating! Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I have never heard about churching but then I tend to ignore anything about babies. Poor Lady Catherine is obviously suffering from dementia

    1. Lol, Vesper! "..ignore anything about babies." :) And, yes, poor Lady Catherine. It would seem so. Thanks for stopping by!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...