Friday, May 1, 2009

"The murderous midwife..."

This is a completely unbelievable story of infanticide that occurred in Paris, but was written about in London in 1673. This midwife's house was searched after rumors circulated about her, and during the search the bodies of 62 infants were found amongst the contents of her privy. The author of this pamphlet was obviously as shocked as I was at this news and he states: "What wickedness and villainous imaginations hath this Age more universally afforded in Mortals than any other!" Apparently this horrific discovery caused him to believe, like many people today do, that the world must be near its end if things like this are happening. Unfortunately my research on infanticide did not uncover the truth about how stillborn babies were discarded or where they might have been placed by midwives, though mothers in most cases would bury their stillborn children. The text discusses the fact that this was a widely discussed story, so the text might be based on hearsay. The text also states that the bodies of the infants were in various states of decomposition, so they might have been collected over a long period of time, during which many women might have given birth to stillborn children. This midwife might have also been a helper for those unfortunate unwed women who had nowhere to turn. There is really no way to tell for sure because facts are few within these pamphlets, but this pamphlet does share many similarities with the other pamphlets that I've read. The events begin with gossip, the woman's house is searched by nosy neighbors, they search her privy (what a delightful job that would be), and then they execute her because they seem to have enough evidence to convict (though it didn't take much evidence in most cases). The reason that I chose to take a closer look at this pamphlet is because of the rather extreme manner of execution. This lady was placed in a cage with 16 wildcats and they were all roasted to death over an open flame! Can anyone say overkill?! My god, wouldn't one wildcat have done the job sufficiently, especially if it were being roasted? The only thing that I really can conclude after reading this pamphlet is that this is clearly exaggerated. I just can't believe that this could have happened, ever. In any case, it is obvious that the "wickedness and villainous imaginations" do not simply belong to the midwife. 16 wildcats! Roasted! My God!


"The Murderous Midwife, with her Roasted Punishment"


London: 1673

EEBO (Early English Books Online)

No comments:

Post a Comment