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  • Cited by 5
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    This chapter has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Toulalan, Sarah 2014. ‘To[o] much eating stifles the child’: fat bodies and reproduction in early modern England. Historical Research, Vol. 87, Issue. 235, p. 65.

    Reinke-Williams, Tim 2014. Manhood and Masculinity in Early Modern England. History Compass, Vol. 12, Issue. 9, p. 685.

    Evans, Jennifer 2016. ‘They are called Imperfect men’: Male Infertility and Sexual Health in Early Modern England. Social History of Medicine, Vol. 29, Issue. 2, p. 311.

    Rider, Catherine 2017. The Palgrave Handbook of Infertility in History. p. 273.

    Brittan, Owen 2018. The print depiction of King William III’s masculinity. The Seventeenth Century, Vol. 33, Issue. 2, p. 219.

  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: July 2009

7 - Childless men in early modern England


On the veryfirst page of that most famous of diaries, Samuel Pepys recorded an intimate detail of his married life from the winter of 1659: ‘My wife, after the absence of her terms for seven weeks, gave me hopes of her being with child.’ When he wrote this, he and Elizabeth had already been married for five years, but although they were both young, the hoped-for pregnancy had not materialised and the resumption of her cycle at the end of December that year proved yet another disappointment. One year later, having a child was still on their minds: Pepys recorded in his diary that they were referring to their bedroom as ‘the Nursery’. By 1662, however, he had begun to countenance ‘the possibility there is of my having no child’. Nonetheless, even in the context of his failing marriage, he did not give up his desire to be a father easily. In 1667 he wished a friend's child (‘a very pretty little boy’ whom he liked ‘very well’) was his own. He admitted to himself that he was troubled by the idea that he could be left without a brother or a son to continue his family name, a circumstance that did indeed materialise. As with so many other subjects, Pepys's diary provides a rare and detailed account of one man's hopes and fears, in this instance, his attitudes towards fatherhood and his personal sense of loss that he did not have children of his own.

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The Family in Early Modern England
  • Online ISBN: 9780511495694
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