Beck Center English Dept. University Libraries Emory University
Emory Women Writers Resource Project Collections:
Early Modern through the 18th Century

The Countess of Lincolnes Nurserie, an electronic edition. Edited with an introduction by Kate McPherson

by Elizabeth Knevet Clinton [Lincoln, Elizabeth Clinton, Countess of]

source publisher:

Table of Contents

Display page layout

The Countess of Lincolnes Nurserie: A Critical Edition

McPherson, Kate

Contents for The Countess of Lincolnes Nurserie: A Critical Edition


I. "What a racket do Authors make about this": The Debate Over Maternal Breastfeeding in Early Modern England . . . ii

II. "And to be short, the mothers milke is most wholesome for the childe": Medical Texts and Maternal Breastfeeding . . . iii

III. "Sure if their breasts be drie. . . they should fast and pray together": Breastfeeding and Moral Advice Tracts in Early Modern England . . . vii

IV. "We were sensible of the neglect of duty in not having nursed her": Personal Testimony about Breastfeeding . . . xi

V. Joining the Discourse: The Countesse of Lincolnes Nurserie . . . xv

VI. A Note on Editorial Practice . . . xxiii

VII. Biographical Essay: Elizabeth Knevet Clinton . . . xxiv

The Text:

The Countesse of Lincolnes Nurserie . . . 1

| | ii

"What a racket do Authors make about this": The Debate Over Maternal Breastfeeding in Early Modern England

In the seventeenth century, the vast majority of noble- and gentlewomen employed commoners as wet nurses. This practice, in combination with rising religious conservatism, incited a socio-religious controversy about breastfeeding. Doctors, theologians, midwives, and one outspoken noblewomen all joined this often rancorous debate. That noblewoman, Elizabeth Clinton, the Dowager Countess of Lincoln, penned the 1622 pamphlet, The Countesse of Lincolnes Nurserie, which is the only female-authored text devoted entirely to the subject. Problematically, medical texts promoted maternal breastfeeding, yet simultaneously offered readers extensive directions for choosing a wet nurse. Moralistic literature, like The Countesse of Lincolnes Nurserie, countered this tacit endorsement of wet nursing by exhorting readers about the godliness of mothers nursing their own children. Nicholas Culpepper, an herbalist and physician, mocks the controversy:

What a racket do Authors make about this! What thwarting and contradicting, not of others only but of themselves! What reasons do they bring, why a woman must needs nurse her own child? Some extorted from Divinity. . . Some they have haled it head and shoulders from reason. The Mothers milk is most convenient for the child because the child participates of her Nature. . . . Or else because the woman cannot love her child, except she give it suck her own self, which if she doe not more inhumane beast she.1

Culpepper mentions the primary reasons maternal breastfeeding was encouraged-religious duty, natural law, and maternal obligation--but he also perceives the selective use of these justifications. Although Clinton was not the first Puritan to preach about breastfeeding, she was the first woman to publish her views on the topic, providing a rare example of a woman contributing to the predominantly male discourse about proper maternal behavior.

| | iii

"And to be short, the mothers milke is most wholesome for the childe": Medical Texts and Maternal Breastfeeding

Almost without exception, midwifery manuals published and written in the seventeenth century recommend that all mothers breastfeed their own children. The influential French physician Ambrose Paré, his student Jacques Guillemeau, and various English authors including Nicholas Culpepper and Jane Sharp all strongly recommend maternal breastfeeding. A 1540 manual, The Birth of Man-Kinde, which was reprinted numerous times in the seventeenth century, includes the medical reasons why mothers should nurse: "it shall be best that the mother give her childe sucke herselfe for the mothers milke is more convenient and agreeable to the infant then any other womans & more doth nourish it, for because that in the mothers belly it was wont to the same & fed with it." 2 Physicians at this time believed that breast milk was a sort of refined blood, and since the child was used to the mother's blood, it would also thrive more on her milk. 3

Despite theories about the beneficial medical effects of breastfeeding, physicians more often discussed what they believed were the emotional effects of using a wet nurse: problems with the development of the child's character and the consequences of wet nursing on the mother-infant relationship. Consequently, these commentaries frequently stray from the realm of medical advice into moral instruction. Ambrose Paré, for instance, makes the following heated comment:

| | iv

And moreover, mothers ought to nurse their owne children, because of the most part, they are farre more vigilant and carefull in bringing up and attending their children than hired and mercenary nurses, which doe not soe much regard the infant as the gaine they shall have by keeping it. Those that doe not nurse their owne children, cannot rightly be termed mothers: for they doe not absolutely performe the duty of a mother unto the child. . . . For this is a certaine unnatural, imperfect and halfe kinde of a mothers dutie, to beare a childe and presently to abandon or put it away as if it were forsaken.4

Paré's rhetoric, with its emphasis on the unnaturalness of a non-nursing mother, seems designed to shame women into breastfeeding.

Yet despite this strong endorsement of maternal breastfeeding, Paré details the characteristics and behavior of a good wet nurse:

Both in eating, drinking, sleeping, watching, exercising, and resting, the nurses diet must be divers, according to the nature of the child. . . . let her live in pure and cleere air, let her abstain from all spices, and all salted and spiced meates, and all sharpe things, wine, especially that which is not allayed or mixed with water, and carnall copulations; let her avoyd all perturbations of the mind, but anger especially. . . .5

In truth, his text devotes more space to choosing a wet nurse than to encouraging maternal breastfeeding. He moralizes at length about the virtues of nursing mothers but he also (perhaps realistically) acknowledges that religious, economic, and social factors resulted in many women using wet nurses for their children.

Jacques Guillemeau likewise discusses physical and social factors that justify employing a wet nurse, although he also asserts that maternal devotion should lead a woman to breastfeed her own child:

Though it were fit that every mother doth nurse her own child: because her Milke, which is nothing but blood whitened (of which he was made. . .) will always be more natural and familiar to him, than that of a stranger: and also by nursing him herself she shall be wholly accounted his mother, yet since they may be hindered by sicknesse, or for that they are too weak and tender, or else because their | | v Husbands will not suffer them, therefore I say, it will very necessary to seek out another Nurse. . . .6

Guillemeau moves skillfully from endorsing maternal breastfeeding to defending wet nursing: the mother may be too weak to nurse, but she may also be prevented by her husband (who will not "suffer" or endure her nursing because of the assumed avoidance of sexual intercourse by nursing women).7 Guillemeau accepts that social pressures sometimes outweigh morality, but his equivocation would have left parents with no authority on which to depend.

This apparent conflict between cultural practices and medical/moral recommendations survived the Restoration, resurfacing in Jane Sharp's Midwives Book, Or the Whole Art of Midwifery Discovered, which was the first female-authored book of midwifery advice and, besides The Countesse of Lincolnes Nurserie, the only other woman's published opinion about breastfeeding in the seventeenth century. 8 Sharp, however, differs distinctly from Clinton and more closely resembles (although she does not mimic) male writers of midwifery texts. Sharp's is a medical, not a moral, treatise and thus she includes only a brief discussion of the necessity of maternal breastfeeding, devoting a greater portion of her chapter, "Directions for Nurses," to choosing a wet nurse and treating diseases of the breast.

However, Sharp also displays her awareness of the controversy over breastfeeding:

The dispute about Nurses, who are fit for it, and who are not, is much handled by Physicians; and there be some that will tye every woman to Nurse her own child because Sarah, the wife of so great a man as Abraham was, nursed Isaac: And indeed if there be no other obstacle the Argument may carry some weight with it; for doubtless the mothers milk is commonly best agreeing with the child; and if the mother do not Nurse her own child, it is a question whether she will ever love | | vi it so well as she that proves the Nurse to it as well as Mother: and without doubt the child will be much alienated in his affections by sucking of strange milk. . . .9

Sharp equivocates about women's moral duty to breastfeed. She carefully hedges the religious argument, for instance, by saying the example of Sarah "may carry some weight," but only "if there be no other obstacle." Although she employs Biblical exempla, Sharp focuses her argument on the social (rather than the religious) ramifications of wet nursing. Sharp equivocation may result from her awareness that most privileged women believed breastfeeding limited mobility, lowered fertility, and raised the objections of their spouses and peers. 10

Yet Sharp complicates her position on maternal breastfeeding by criticizing wealthy women who employ wet nurses unnecessarily. She comments:

The usual way for rich people is to put forth their child to nurse, but that is a remedy that needs a remedy, if it might be had: because it changeth the natural disposition of the child and oftentimes exposes the infant to many hazards, if great care is not taken in the choice of the nurse.

There are not many Women that want milk to suckle their own children. . . but multitudes pretend weakeness when they have not cause for it, because they have not so much love for their own, as Dumb creatures have. . . .11

Clearly, Sharp believes women are morally obligated to breastfeed whenever they are able.

But Sharp tempers her criticism when she notes that the hazards to the wet-nursed child occur only "if great care is not taken in the choice of a nurse." 12 Since she gives extensive directions for choosing a nurse, presumably she believes that locating a qualified wet nurse is indeed possible. Sharp also wavers between using women's fear of losing their child's affections by its "sucking of strange milk" and compassion for the difficulties of childbirth and nursing. | | vii Her views, more flexible than those in many other medical texts from the period, reveal that she acknowledged the conflicted status of maternal breastfeeding, and strove to provide constructive advice to families on both sides of the divide. Not surprisingly, no such flexibility can be found in the numerous religious and moralistic tracts of the period which frequently sought to prescribe maternal behavior.

"Sure if their breasts be drie. . . they should fast and pray together": Breastfeeding and Moral Advice Tracts in Early Modern England

Like Elizabeth Clinton, other seventeenth-century moralists used strong moral arguments against wet nursing to fill the void left by equivocating physicians. Their message was clear: any woman who did not nurse her child defied God's will and endangered her child. This serious moral condemnation of non-nursing mothers obviously clashed with entrenched custom in many high-ranking families, as well as with the recommendations about nurses prevalent in much medical advice. In his only sustained commentary on breastfeeding in The Family, Sex, and Marriage, 1500-1800, Lawrence Stone attributes the rising concern about maternal breastfeeding to these same Puritan authors:

In the early seventeenth century the most popular and influential Puritan writers on household management, Perkins, Gouge, and Dod and Clever, strongly reinforced the traditional advice of the medical profession, and told mothers to feed their own children. They used the functional argument that nature had provided women with breasts to supply milk, not to serve as sexually exciting erogenous zones; they used the medical argument that the mother's milk was best; and they used the ancient superstition that by absorbing wet-nurses' milk, babies would also pick up their lower-class, and probably evil, character traits.13

Although Stone identifies the many social arguments used by these Puritan writers, he neglects any exploration of the religious motivation for their concern. These writers appeal to nature, | | viii love, health, and above all Christian duty, to prove that all mothers who are physically able ought to breastfeed their children. In essence, they use every argument at their disposal to attempt to promote proper maternal conduct in an ideal Christian culture.14

For instance, the 1612 conduct manual John Dod and Roberts Clever's A Godly forme of Household Government includes breastfeeding as part of "What the dutie of a Wife is toward her Husband." In addition to citing Biblical examples of wifely silence and submission, the writers address the wife's duty to breastfeed her children in order to "be a helpmeet unto her husband in suckling the child common to them both."15 They accuse women who employ wet nurses of being "nice and unnaturall mothers. . .[who] make themselves but half-mothers, & so break the holy bond of nature."16 The intensity of their rhetoric peaks when they attack wealthy women who feign a lack of milk:

But whose breasts have this perpetual drought? Forsoothe it is like the goute, no beggars may have it, but citizens or Gentlewomen. In the ninth chapter of Hosea, drie breasts are named for a curse: what lamentable happe have Gentlewomen to light upon this curse more than others? Sure if their breasts be drie, as they say, they should fast and pray together that this curse may be removed from them.17

Clearly, Dod and Clever are extremists who want women to abandon an entrenched childrearing practice in favor of their strict interpretation of the Bible.

William Gouge's 1622 volume, Of Domesticall Duties, is similarly unyielding. Gouge uses many of the same arguments employed by Dod and Clever to encourage godly women to breastfeed their own children. Published in the same year as The Countesse of Lincolnes | | ix Nurserie, Gouge's lengthy treatise is a comprehensive discussion of Puritan household management. 18 When discussing nursing, he uses the examples of Sarah, Hannah, and Mary to prove that good women always nursed their children. Part of his idea of goodness is also tied to maternal self-sacrifice. He carefully stresses that pain and injury do not obviate the woman's duty to her child: "a mother with enduring a little more pain may safely give the child sucke. Many mothers have given their children sucke when bloud hath runne by the mouth of the child by reason of sore nipples, and yet both mother and child have done very well."19 Gouge's graphic depiction of a mother suffering to nurse her child vividly illustrates his rigid standards of maternal behavior.

Gouge also believes, though, that "many husbands will not suffer their wives to nurse their children themselves." 20 Gouge does not, of course, recommend disrupting the patriarchal household order, but he does add that "[t]he dutie on a fathers part in this respect is required that he incourage his wife, and helpe her with all needful things for the performance of this duty." 21 Paternal objections, such as "trouble, disquiet, and expence" carry little weight with Gouge. 22 He strongly censures those husbands who prevent their wives from nursing:

The mothers paine is the greatest: it is in comparison but a small thing that father can endure therein. Their fault therefore must be the greater, if in any way they be an occasion of their childes putting forth to nurse: which I have the rather noted because husbands for the most part are the cause that their wives not nurse their owne children. . . . If husbands were willing that their wives should performe this dutie and would purswade and incourage them thereto, and afford them what helpes they could, where one mother now nurseth her childe, twenty would do it.23

| | x

Though, Gouge pushes women to nurse their children, he also impels men to support the practice so that both mother and father can perform their "bounden duty."

Like the medical controversy over wet nurses, the Puritan effort promote maternal breastfeeding survived the Restoration. Reverend Henry Newcome's 1695 The Compleat Mother, Or an Earnest Perswasive to all Mothers (especially those of Rank and Quality) to Nurse their Own Children makes a sustained appeal to end wet nursing. It is the only seventeenth-century text besides The Countesse of Lincolnes Nurserie devoted exclusively to the duty of mothers to nurse their own children, and it is similarly directed at women of "Rank and Quality." Labeling wealthy women who use wet nurses "impious," Newcome makes exceptions only when nursing would endanger either the mother's or the child's health. 24

Like most of the other moralistic tracts about breastfeeding, The Compleat Mother argues that wealth and position affect a mother's choice to breastfeed. 25 Newcome points out that children of the "Nobility and Gentry" are more likely to be put out to nurse:

The Poor Tenants Child is for the most part nursed in its own Mothers bosom, and cherished by her breasts, whilst the Landlord's heir is turn'd out, exiled from his Mothers embraces as soon as from her Womb, and assigned to the Care of some Stranger. . . .Thus the Infants of the best Families are most hardly used, and vast numbers of them undoubtedly destroyed.26

Newcome appeals to two emotional issues here: the aristocratic concern with a successful lineage and mothers' love and fear for their children. Newcome takes his persuasive task seriously, | | xi moving beyond exhortations of biblical duty and into direct emotional appeals to parents, and to women in particular. Although The Compleat Mother, and other texts like it promoted maternal breastfeeding across class lines, such polemics had little measurable effect. Wet nursing continued to be the norm among the higher ranks, as many diaries and memoirs attest.

"We were sensible of the neglect of duty in not having nursed her": Personal Testimony about Breastfeeding

Against the background of the various medical and moral treatments of nursing discussed above, it is crucial to examine actual representations of breastfeeding experiences in early modern English families of rank. Valerie Wayne comments that "early modern mothers were taught that their own salvation depended on nurturing children. . . ." 27 Precisely how those children were nurtured (or nursed) can reveal to what extent the ambivalence of doctors and the certainty of moralists affected the use of wet nurses. Valerie Fildes notes that wet nursing reached its height during this period in England, when mothers from royalty through the lower merchant classes employed wet nurses. 28 Other historians, including Dorothy McLaren, argue that it was during this time that the breast became eroticized and thus nursing (which emphasizes the functional rather than the sexual aspect of the breast) was almost wholly shunted onto women of the lower ranks, who were necessarily less concerned with vanity. 29 But, as Gail Kern Paster observes, a gentle- or noblewoman's choice was also complicated by issues of conflicting | | xii medical advice, as well as concerns regarding fertility, beauty, and association with a type of economic production. 30

Personal testimony reveals, not surprisingly, that maternal nursing enjoyed only mixed popularity among the upper ranks in the seventeenth century. These families, faced with the barrage of moral advice and its conflict with custom in their peer group, frequently acted according to their religious preference, i.e., with nonconformist or Puritan mothers breastfeeding and Anglican mothers employing wet nurses. 31 Paster notes that "the rhetorical energy aroused by the question of maternal breastfeeding also suggests that in social classes that had a degree of personal choice. . . any infant feeding practice was capable of contestation and challenge on a number of grounds." 32 The frequency of these challenges and their limited success demonstrates the sporadic effectiveness of expert advice about breastfeeding, and further illustrates that religious efforts to regulate maternity never took firm hold.

For instance, both Lady Elizabeth Egerton, Countess of Bridgewater, and Lady Elizabeth Carey, Viscountess Mordaunt, record long sections regarding pregnancy and childbirth in their writings. 33 Each left lengthy prayers, several short poems, and numerous meditations on successful childbirth and infant mortality, demonstrating that they reflected on motherhood and its obligations. Additionally, both women were pious adherents of the Church of England, and nothing in their diaries indicates any degree of religious dissent. As energetic as they were about recording other aspects of their maternal experience, neither makes any mention of nursing her | | xiii children, a fact that suggests they, like most gentlewomen, probably hired wet nurses. For them, the practice was so customary that it passed without notice.

Alice Thornton, a gentlewoman from Yorkshire,34 however, quickly abandoned using a wet nurse when she discovers that the nurse's presence in the family home (rather than in the nurse's village) endangers the baby's life. Thornton records that her daughter was,

one night delivered from beeing overlaid by her nurse, who laid in my deare mother's chamber a good while. One night my mother was writing pretty late, and heard my deare childe make a groaninge troublsomly, and steping immediately to the nurse's bed side, she saw the nurse fallen asleepe, with her breast in the child's mouth; at which, she beeing affrighted, pulled the nurse suddainly from her, and soe preserved my deare childe from beeing smothered.35

As Thornton's case demonstrates, dangers to wet-nursed children were not merely emphasized by many conduct books for rhetorical purposes. And, just as moral writers like Gouge or Newcome recommended, Alice Thornton changed her behavior when her next child was born.

The fear inspired by her first child's near fatal overlaying led Thornton to nurse her next child, Betty, although she was very ill after the birth. She notes, "I recovered my milke, and was overjoyed to give my sweet Betty sucke, which I did. . . . 36 Thornton also nurses a later child, Robert, "all along while I was with childe and till about a fortnight before my delivery" of her eighth child, Joyce, in 1665. 37 Custom and medical advice aside, she seems highly motivated to nurse her children.

Thornton comments about nursing her sixth child, William, born in April of 1660, are particularly illustrative:

[M]y pretty babe was in good health, suckeing his poor mother, to whom my good God had given the blessing of the breast as well as the womb, of that childe to | | xiv whom it was no little satisfaction, while I injoyed his life; and the joy of it made me recrute faster, for his sake, that I might do my duty to him as a mother. But it pleased God to shorten this joy, least I be too much transported. . . .38

Thornton again displays her unequivocal commitment to breastfeeding in this passage. She suggests that nursing gave both her and her son great joy, so much that God felt it necessary to curtail that joy by taking the boy's life after only a few days. But nursing is also connected to her sense of maternal obligation--she wants to "do [her] duty to him as a mother," just as the moral advice tracts recommend.

Belying Thornton's rank, her Autobiography records that she also nursed all her subsequent children, one until the age of two. Her entries about childbirth consistently mention nursing, suggesting she felt it noteworthy many years after her children were grown. This focus on nursing also seems to be at odds with Thornton's professed Anglican and Royalist beliefs; although she may have been influenced by the Puritan climate of the 1650s, none of her commentaries about political events demonstrates any sympathy for Parliamentary forces or for nonconformist religious practice. Yet she nursed (and recorded her feelings about nursing) just as Puritan texts recommended. So, despite her social milieu and the pervasive disapproval of women of rank lowering themselves to breastfeeding, Thornton nursed her children whenever she was physically able because it made her feel like a dutiful mother. Although she suffered from a variety of serious illnesses, ranging from gangrene of the breast to jaundice, she never employed a wet nurse for her children unless illness physically prevented her from nursing. This devotion to breastfeeding seems to imply that, as the moralists recommend, Thornton equated breastfeeding with good motherhood.

Few women were as deeply committed to maternal breastfeeding as Alice Thornton. Despite the numerous moralistic tracts of the seventeenth century--of which The Countesse of Lincolnes Nurserie discussed below is a primary example--Thornton's and other women's experiences demonstrate that families responded individually to the discordant messages about | | xv breastfeeding. The ambivalence of medical texts, combined with the intense rhetorical efforts to promote maternal breastfeeding in moral advice tracts, created a battle between custom and conscience. As part of the concerted effort to define and regulate maternal behavior during the seventeenth century, the conflict over breastfeeding is a powerful example of how hard the battle was fought, and how far short of victory the moralists often fell.

Joining in the Discourse:
The Countesse of Lincolnes Nurserie

Like Alice Thornton, who so intimately connects breastfeeding with good motherhood, Elizabeth Clinton's The Countesse of Lincolnes Nurserie directly links maternal nursing with being a good mother. Furthermore, as part of the frequently antagonistic seventeenth-century debate over breastfeeding, Clinton's tract is a more important contribution than has hitherto been acknowledged. Clinton's published views indicate both her Puritan tendencies 39 and her participation in the lively cultural debate carried on throughout the century. The power and variety of her prose reveals not only her belief in the duty, benefit, and joy of maternal nursing, but also the rhetorical skill and energy she devoted to the cause.

Much of The Countesse of Lincolnes Nurserie explicitly concerns the spiritual--not just medical or social--duty of a woman to breastfeed her children. But because she is a mother, she mourns her personal failure to breastfeed. Remorse for employing a wet nurse for all eighteen of her own children, for (as she says later) bidding another woman to "unlove her owne to love [mine]" 40 remains a small but important factor in The Countesse of Lincolnes Nurserie. Part of what drives the tract, along with the author's desire for spiritual reform, is Elizabeth Clinton's | | xvi yearning for expiation of her personal failure to nurse. As a sincere Christian, Clinton wants to exculpate herself, and by doing so, prevent other women from committing the same sin. She admits, "I knowe and acknowledge that I should have done it, and having not done it, it was not for want of will in my self, but partly I was overruled by anothers authority,. . . partly I had not so well considered of my duty in this motherly office, as since I did, when it was too late for me to put it into execution." 41 A victim of custom and youth, Clinton allowed her maternal instincts to be "overruled." She further admits to being "pricked in hart for my undutifulness, this way I study to redeeme my peace."42 Thus, promoting maternal breastfeeding in her old age helps Clinton enact a sort of restitution for sins of her youth.

But her focus on a personal transgression is far from being Clinton's only rhetorical tool. Although she uses her own failure to nurse as a persuasive tactic, Clinton also musters her social status to attack other women who shun breastfeeding for frivolous social reasons. For what she calls the "vain lusts" of convenience, extra sleep, beauty, and prestige, she attacks her peers who abandon their duty to breastfeed. She scornfully addresses the common objections to maternal nursing:

Secondly it is objected, that it is troublesome; that it is noysome to ones clothes; that it makes one looke old, &c. All such reasons are uncomely, and unchristian to be objected: and therefore unworthy to be answered, they argue unmotherly affection, idlenesse, desire to have liberty to gadd from home, pride, foolishnesse, lust, wantonnesse , & the like evills. . . . behold most nursing mothers, and they be as cleane and sweet in their cloathes, and carry their age, and hold their beautie, as well as those that suckle not and most likely are they so to doe, because keeping God's Ordinance, they are sure of Gods Blessing: and it hath beene observed in some women that they grew more beautifull, and better favoured, by very nursing their owne children.43

Although Clinton employ religious arguments here, she focuses on women's vanity; but, she links this same vanity to a series of moral failures, including "pride, lust, and wantonness," | | xvii paralleling failure to nurse with two of the seven deadly sins. Finally, she also asserts that the idleness of these wealthy, vain, non-nursing mothers leads to their greater independence, "a desire to have liberty to gadd from home." Clinton wants to show that hiring a nurse leads down a path that no Christian woman ought to tread.

The Countesse of Lincolnes Nurserie eventually becomes personal in its assault on wealthy women, perhaps because the author was literally speaking to her peers. Clinton proclaims:

And this unthankfullness and unnaturalness is oftner the sinne of the Higher and the richer sort then of the meaner, and poorer, except some nice, and proud idle dames, who will imitate their betters. . . . And this is one hurt which the better ranke doe by their ill example; egge and imbolden the lower ones to follow them to their losse: were it not better for Us greater persons to keepe God's ordinance & to shew the meaner their dutie in our good example? I am sure wee have more helpes to performe it, and have fewer probable reasons to alleage against it then women that live by hard labour and painfull toile.44

Clinton sees the consistent use of wet nurses by the nobility and gentry as a social evil, with the ill-advised customs of the wealthy corrupting the lower ranks. Speaking to her peers, "Us greater persons," she tries to convince these women that maternal nursing is an important demonstration of social, as well as religious, responsibility.

Clinton does, however, seem to show some sympathy to women whose duties include both their daily work in the fields or home and the nursing of children. Her concern with the economic discrepancies involved in breastfeeding becomes evident when she pleads with wealthy women, "Therefore no longer be at the trouble, and at the care to hire others to doe your owne worke .. . . bee not accessary to that disorder of causing a poorer woman to banish her owne infant for the entertaining of a richer womans child, as it were, bidding her unlove her owne to love yours." 45 Clinton's perspective on wet nursing is clearly skewed by her social position, but her status does not prevent her from seeing the problems it creates on all economic levels. | | xviii

Although Clinton employs a variety of social and economic approaches for rhetorical purposes, much of her treatise promotes spiritual reform: she wants to recall mothers to their Christian duty. In the dedicatory letter to her daughter-in-law Briget Clinton, she calls breastfeeding "a duty, which all mothers are bound to performe" in order to be to be answerable to "all holy commands of the Holy God." 46 Clinton also ties maternal breastfeeding to the essence of being a good Christian woman and the performance of the duty as a daily lesson in right living: "Thinke again how your Babe crying at your breast, sucking heartily the milke out of it and growing by it, is the Lords owne instruction, every houre, and every day that you are suckling it, instructing you to shew that you are his new borne Babes, by your earnest desire after his word. . . . 47 The figurative nursing performed by God to all Christians, which is referred to in Peter 2:2, 48 is strengthened by the literal nursing relationship between a mother and child. Clinton wants women to do their duty to God, to their children, and to their own souls by breastfeeding whenever they are able.

Clinton also couches the choice not to breastfeed as willful disobedience to God's words, castigating those women who chose "their own pleasures" above the "expresse ordinance of God that mothers should nurse their owne children." 49 Clinton, however, carefully delineates who is excused from the duty:

O doe knowe that the Lord may deny some women, either to have any milke in their breasts at all, or to have passage for their milke, or to have any health, or to have a right minde: and so they may be letted from this duty, by want, by sicknesse , by lunacy, &c. But I speake not to these: I speake to you whose | | xix consciences witnes against you, that you cannot justly alleage any of those impediments.50

Clinton addresses women directly, clearly indicating her audience and her mission as a preacher. Her direct address to women, "you whose consciences witnes against you," marks her text as a lecture, even a sermon.

Clinton's language becomes more intense as her argument about the spiritual necessity of breastfeeding progresses. She actively worries about the state of women's souls, crying out "Oh what peace can there be to these womens consciences, unless through the darknesse of their understanding they judge it no disobedience." 51 At the height of her lecture, Clinton exclaims:

Oh consider, how comes our milke? Is it not by the direct providence of God? Why provides he it, but for the child? The mothers then that refuse to nurse their owne children, doe they not despise Gods providence? Doe they not deny Gods will. . . . Oh impious, and impudent unthankfullness; yea, monstrous unnaturalness, both to their owne natural fruit borne so neare their breasts, and fed in their wombes, and yet may not be suffered to sucke their owne milke.52

Moving away from the sympathy of earlier passages, Clinton's tone becomes noticeably strident. She is, in essence, preaching. Instead of framing her argument in terms of women's modesty and duty, she turns the use of wet nurses into a bona fide sin.

It is clear from even a brief examination of other Puritan texts about breastfeeding that Elizabeth Clinton, by writing and publishing The Countesse of Lincolnes Nurserie, contributes to the lively early modern cultural and religious debates about appropriate maternal behavior. Twentieth-century historians have not been so willing to allow Clinton a role in these discursive efforts to regulate maternity. Antonia Fraser, for instance, believes that Clinton wrote her tract merely because she, like so many other women, had encountered neglectful nurses and wanted to prevent any further loss of life; she elides Clinton's intense religious motivation, and the preaching it inspired. Other feminist studies relegate Clinton's work into the limiting category of | | xx a woman writing to other women "for the benefit of their own sex." 53 However, analysis of how influential Clinton's preaching and this same-gender interaction might have been is lacking in all modern critical works about The Countesse of Lincolnes Nurserie.

Margaret King, for instance, places severe limitations on Clinton's work:

Such works [women authored texts] were private and personal, and did not claim to enter upon the masculine territory of literary production. They drew on personal experience and were addressed to an intimate circle. As the English Countess of Lincoln Elizabeth Knevet Clinton explained, amid pages of exhortation to her daughter in law about the proper care and nurture of her children, "I leave the larger and learneder discourse here-of unto men of art, and learning: only I speak of so much as I reade and know in mine owne experience, which if any of my sexe and condition do receave good by, I am glad."54

By concluding that Clinton herself restricted her work, King neglects an important literary trope. Although Clinton's meek "I leave the larger and learneder discourse here-of unto men of art" seems to efface her authority as a writer, it is, in fact, a standard ploy of the woman writer (and of many male writers, too) in the early modern period. As Margaret Ezell observes, "Read in this company [of amateur male writers], women authors seem no more modest than their male contemporaries; rather than pleading pressing business or spiritual concerns which prevent the author from attempting true scholarship as many male writers do, they simply plead their sex." 55 In this context, Clinton finesses a literary tactic to make her writing more effective. By partially obscuring her own authority, Clinton seems less strident and thus more feminine, which in turn authenticates her voice and her opinions.

| | xxi

By rhetorically manipulating her femininity, Clinton knows she confers authority on her tract:

Because it hath pleased God to blesse me with so many children, and so caused me to observe many things falling out to mothers, and to their children; I thought it good to open my minde concerning a speciall matter belonging to all childe-bearing women, seriously to consider of: and to manifest my minde the better, even to write of this matter, so farre as God shall please to direct me.56

At this point, she specifically situates herself as a mother speaking to other mothers--her maternal experience provides justification for publishing her views, and she does so only "so farre as God shall please to direct" her. By the end of the tract, though, she states that her purpose in writing is "by doing my endeavor to prevent many Christian mothers from sinning in the same kind, against our most loving and gratious God." 57 Her impetus to prevent sin by publicly lecturing women is only marginally tempered by her claim that "I write in modestie." 58 Although she is "direct[ed]" by God, Clinton asserts herself and her moral beliefs to teach her peers.

In this light, then, Elizabeth Clinton, the Countess of Lincoln, is not merely a woman writing to other women, or a concerned mother hoping to save her daughters and grandchildren from sin and danger. In part, she is a Christian voice speaking out to other Christians, exhorting and preaching to them about their duties to God; in part, she is a noblewoman using her place and her authority to appeal to her peers; and in part, she is a writer working to stabilize the vexed position of parents affected by the cultural ambivalence about maternal breastfeeding. The annotated text that follows clearly demonstrates that through effective and varied rhetoric, Clinton inserts herself, her voice and opinions, into a discourse on proper and godly childbearing.

| | xxii

Editorial Practice

I have designed the edition which follows with both the scholar and student of early modern literature in mind. I have left the original punctuation and spelling as they appear in the 1622 first edition. I have, for the sake of clarity, silently emended i/j, f/s, u/v, and vv/w. I have also retained the original orthography and italicization since they covey emphasis unavailable in purely Roman typeface.

When annotating the text, I provided extensive Biblical citation and quotation to allow the reader to more fully grasp the rich tapestry Clinton weaves using Scripture as her guide; from personal experience I also know that a reference to a Bible chapter and verse is not as instructive--due to basic laziness--as the full text of one is. I likewise gloss unusual vocabulary, as well as references to further reading, when I believe it would be helpful.

| | xxiii

Biographical Essay

Elizabeth Knevet, daughter of Sir Henry Knevet and Anne Pickering, was born in Charlton, Wiltshire, in 1574, the year her father was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I. Although her birth is not recorded in the parish register for Charlton, it is recorded in the family Bible. 59 The Knevets were a genteel family of some fortune, although generally unimportant in court; Elizabeth's brother Thomas did rise to power in the reign of King James I, when he became a Gentleman of the Bedchamber to James, as well as receiving a baronetcy on July 4, 1607 for his role as Justice of the Peace for Westminster in helping to unmask the Gunpowder Plot in 1605. 60 Her sister, Susanna, was married to the powerful nobleman, Thomas Howard, earl of Suffolk. Clearly, the Knevets commanded sufficient status and wealth to ensure that their male children obtained rank and privilege through politics, and that marriage did the same for the female offspring.

Elizabeth Knevet's date of birth is corroborated by a statement in the Knyvett Letters that at the age of ten, Elizabeth Knevet was married to Thomas Clinton in 1584. 61 Her husband, Thomas Clinton, was born in 1571, and was the Eleventh Baron Clinton and Third Earl of Lincoln; he inherited these titles at the death of his father in 1610, before which he and his wife were simply Lord and Lady Clinton. The Clintons are, according to Burke's Dormant and | | xxiv Extinct Peerages, the ancestors of the extant Dukes of Newcastle. 62 As Lady Clinton and Countess of Lincoln, Elizabeth Clinton bore her husband, according to her own account, eighteen children. She states near the end of her essay that "of all those [nurses] which I had for my eighteene children, I had but two which were throughly willing and carefull." The Female Spectator notes that the children were seven sons and nine daughters, "few of whom survived childhood." 63 Thomas Clinton died in 1618, and at the probating of his will in 1620, the couple had seven surviving children: one son, Theophilus, who inherited his father's title and lands, and six daughters, Fraunces, Arabella, Susan, Dorcas, Sara, and Elizabeth. One of them, Arabella, emigrated to New England with the John Winthrop party in 1629, but died shortly after arriving at the Massachusetts Bay Colony. 64

Elizabeth Clinton was thus Dowager Countess of Lincoln when she composed and published The Countesse of Lincolnes Nurserie, which she dedicated to her daughter-in-law, Briget Clinton. Through Briget, Clinton had nine grandchildren, and it is their mother's virtuous behavior that inspires the treatise. Although Clinton styles the tract "the first worke of mine that ever came in Print," none else survive. Clinton herself died in 1630, eight years after the publication of The Countesse of Lincolnes Nurserie, and is buried in the parish church in Great Grimsby, Lincolnshire. 65

| | xxv


1. Nicholas Culpepper, Culpepper's Midwife Enlarged (London, 1684), L4v.

2. Eucharius Rosselin, The Birth of Man-Kinde: otherwise named the Womans Booke. Trans. Thomas Raynald (London: 1616), L6v-L7r. Rosselin's text, originally published in Latin in 1540, was one of the early modern period's most popular obstetrical texts, going through numerous editions between 1540 and 1700.

3. See Valerie Fildes, Breasts, Bottles, and Babies: A History of Infant Feeding (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1986), 99-116. Gail Kern Paster also discusses the importance of this theory in The Body Embarrassed: Drama and the Disciplines of Shame in Early Modern England (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1993), 198-208.

4. Ambrose Paré, The Workes of that famous Chirurgeon Ambrose Pare, translated out of Latine and compared with the French. Trans. Thomas Gornson (London, 1634), Gggg4r-Gggg4v.

5. Ibid., Gggg5v.

6. Jacques Guillemeau, Childbirth, or the Happie Delivery of Women (London, 1635), Kk4r.

7. Valerie Fildes notes that ancient beliefs derived from Galenic medicine, which strongly recommended that all nursing women avoid sexual relations. By the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, "this injunction appears to have been applied only to wet nurses employed in the child's home." She believes that the taboo was rarely acknowledged by "British parents, or by medical and theological authors writing in English." See Breasts, Bottles, and Babies, 104. Elizabeth Clinton also glances at this taboo when she observes that her desire to nurse was "overruled by anothers authority". See The Countess of Lincolnes Nurserie D1v.

8. Jane Sharp, The Midwives Book (London, 1671). I quote from the Brown University Women Writer's Project Draft in Process. Elaine Hobby has recently prepared a modern edition of The Midwives Book (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999).

9. Ibid., 145.

10. For instance, Lady Anne Newdigate incurred the ire of both her father and the godfather to her child when she chose to nurse her baby in 1598; the godfather, Sir William Knollys, admitted that "play[ing] the nurse. . .argueth great love, but it breedeth much trouble to yourself and it would more grieve you if sucking your own milk it should miscarry, children being subject to many casualties." Knollys nods toward Newdigate's devotion to maternal duty, but intimates that she risks too much emotionally (and perhaps socially) by performing her "great love." This incident is reported in David Cressy's Birth, Marriage, and Death: Ritual, Religion and the Life-Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 90-91.

11. Sharp, The Midwives Book, 145 and 148.

12. Ibid., 145.

13. Lawrence Stone, The Family, Sex, and Marriage in England, 1500-1800, Abridged Edition. (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1979), 270.

14. Such didactic texts did not, admittedly, originate in the seventeenth century. Erasmus' Colloquies or Familiar Discourses, which was initially published in 1522 in a Latin edition, features a fictional dialogue to discourage wet nursing. See Colloquies. . .Rendered into English by H.M. (London, 1671). Erasmus employs both moral and emotional arguments to dissuade women from using wet nurses. His commitment to maternal breast feeding, and the language he uses to express it, are only a shadow of the extreme rhetoric about breast feeding that permeated moral tracts in the seventeenth century.

15. John Dod and Robert Cleaver, A Godly forme of Household Government for the Ordering of Private Families (London, 1612), Q2v.

16. Ibid., P5r.

17. Ibid., Q2v. It should be noted that this passage is taken verbatim from Henrie Smith's sermon, A Preparative to Marriage (London, 1591), G8v-H1r.

18. William Gouge, Of Domesticall Duties: Eight Treatises (London, 1622), K3v.

19. Ibid., L3r.

20. Ibid., K4v.

21. Ibid., L1r.

22. Ibid.

23. Ibid., L1v.

24. The Compleat Mother, Or an Earnest Perswasive to all Mothers (especially those of Rank and Quality) to Nurse their Own Children (London, 1695), G2r-G5v.

25. Wealthy women were often singled out as violating codes of proper maternal behavior. One 1671 midwifery manual includes the following diatribe: Their own mothers surely (if they are able) both by duty and nature, being the most fit to nurse their own children, which the greatest Ladies may do, with the greatest conveniences, by reason of their plenty of all things; besides, their attendance of servants, who can bring their nurseries to them at all hours, be it day or night, and take them againe, not to disturb their rest: which also they may intend at their own pleasure. The author, James Wolveridge, like most other writers with Puritan leanings--including the Countess of Lincoln--blames the prevalence of wet nursing on the laziness and selfishness of women of quality. Newcome follows their lead in his attack. See Wolveridge, Speculum Matricis Or The Expert Midwives Handmaid Catechistically Composed (London, 1671), L5r.

26. Newcome, The Compleat Mother, B4r.

27. Valerie Wayne, "Advice for women from mothers and patriarchs" in Women and Literature in Britain, 1500-1700, ed. Helen Wilcox (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. 56-79), 62.

28. Valerie Fildes, Wet Nursing: A History from Antiquity to the Present (London: Basil Blackwell, 1988), 79.

29. See Dorothy McLaren, "Marital Fertility and Lactation, 1570-1720" in Women in English Society, 1500-1800, ed. Mary Prior (London: Methuen, 1985. 22-53), 27-28. See also Marilyn Yalom, A History of the Breast (New York: Knopf, 1997).

30. See Paster, The Body Embarrassed, 208 for a lucid discussion of these complications.

31. For instance, the nonconformist minister's wife, Jane Josselin, nursed her children unless she was too ill postpartum to do so. (See The Diary of Ralph Josselin, ed. Alan Macfarlane. London: The British Academy for Oxford University Press, 1976. 50, 112-116). On the other hand, Lady Mary Verney sends her newborn son to stay with a nurse who "looks like a slattern" and says "if shee takes the child shee will have a mighty care of it." (The Memoirs of the Verney Family during the Seventeenth Century, ed. F.P. and M.M. Verney. London, 1907), 361.)

32. Ibid., 198.

33. See True Coppies of certaine Loose Papers left by ye Right Honorable Elizabeth, Countess of Bridgewater. Collected and Transcribed together here since Her Death, Anno Domini 1663 (BL Egerton MS 607) for Egerton's meditations on childbearing, and The private diary of Elizabeth, Viscountess Mordaunt (Duncairn, 1856) for Mordaunt's prayers and poems on childbirth.

34. Thornton, who lived from 1626-1710, was the daughter of Sir Christopher Wandesford, a secretary to the Governor of Ireland. See The Feminist Companion to Literature in English (ed. Virginia Blain et al., New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990).

35. The Autobiography of Mrs. Alice Thornton of East Newton, Co, York, ed. Charles Jackson (London: Surtees Society, 1875), 91.

36. Ibid., 91-92.

37. Ibid., 144-145.

38. Ibid., 124.

39. See the Biographical Essay, xxiii.

40. Elizabeth Clinton, The Countess of Lincolnes Nurserie (London, 1622), D2r.

41. Ibid., C4r-D1v.

42. Ibid., D1v.

43. Ibid., C2v.

44. Ibid., C2r.

45. Ibid., D2v-D2r.

46. Ibid., A3r.

47. Ibid., D3v.

48. 1 Peter 2:2-3 states "As newborne babes desire the syncere milk of the word, that ye may growe thereby. It so be that ye have tasted how bountifull is the Lord." See The Geneva Bible: A Facsimile of the 1560 Edition, Introduction by Lloyd Berry (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969). It seems likely from an examination of other Biblical allusions in Clinton's work that she used the Geneva Bible so popular among nonconformists, rather than the Authorized Version.

49. The Countess of Lincolnes Nurserie, B2v.

50. Ibid., D1r.

50. Ibid., B2v.

52. Ibid., C2v-C2r.

53. Patricia Crawford, "The Construction and Experience of Maternity in Seventeenth Century England," in Women as Mothers in Pre-Industrial England, ed. Valerie Fildes (London: Routledge: 1990), 3-38. See also Suzanne Hull, Chaste, Silent, and Obedient: English Books for Women, 1475-1640 (San Marino: Huntington Library, 1982). Large portions of Clinton's tract have been recently reproduced and lightly edited in two volumes of primary documents about early modern women. See Kate Aughterson's Renaissance Woman: A Sourcebook, Constructions of Femininity in England (London: Routledge, 1995. 116-120); and Lay By Your Needles Ladies, Take the Pen: Writing Women n England, 1500-1700, ed. Suzanne Trill, Kate Chedgzoy, and Melanie Osborne (London: Arnold Press, 1997. 119-124).

54. Margaret L. King, Women of the Renaissance (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), 214.

55. Margaret J.M. Ezell, The Patriarch's Wife: Literary Evidence and the History of the Family (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987), 88.

56. Clinton, The Countess of Lincolnes Nurserie, B1r.

57. Ibid., D1v.

58. Ibid., C3v.

59. The Feminist Companion to Literature in English (eds. Virginia Blain, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991) lists her mother as Elizabeth Stumpe. The Encyclopedia of British Women Writers (eds. Pal Schulter and Jane Schulter. New York: Garland, 1988) gives the name Anne Pickering, as well as including the information about dating Clinton's birth.

60. Sir Bernard Burke, Burke's Dormant and Extinct Peerages (London: Harrison Booksellers, 1883), 472.

61. The Biographical Dictionary of British Women Writers, 1580-1720 (ed. Maureen Bell. Boston: G.K. Hall, 1990) lists the Knyvett Letters (Norfolk Records Society, 1949) as the source of information about Clinton's marriage.

62. Burke's Dormant and Extinct Peerages, 472.

63. Mary R. Mahl and Helene Koon, The Female Spectator: Women Writers Before 1800 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1977) 88.

64. Ibid., 89.

65. Encyclopedia of British Women Writers, 109.

Popups by overLIB