‘Wrackt Betwixt Hopes and Fears’: Parents’ Emotions

Hannah Newton

in The Sick Child in Early Modern England, 1580-1720

Published in print April 2012 | ISBN: 9780199650491
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741647 | DOI:
‘Wrackt Betwixt Hopes and Fears’: Parents’ Emotions

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This chapter explores parents’ emotional responses to the pains, sufferings, and deaths of their offspring. Whilst many scholars have investigated parents’ reactions to children’s deaths, few have focused explicitly on the experience of illness itself. It is argued that parents endured a mixture of torturous emotions, including fear, guilt, and grief. All these responses testify to the depth of parental love. Historians have implied that mothers’ grief may have been more intense than fathers’, owing to contemporary assumptions about women and emotion. This chapter suggests that these gender differences have been overstated, arguing that paternal grief was equally profound. Another underlying theme in this chapter is the distinctive manner in which emotions were conceptualised in the early modern period. The chapter is divided into three, with each part examining a different aspect of parents’ experiences: children’s pain; the providential origin of sickness; and the anticipation and occurrence of death.

Keywords: child; parent; emotion; gender; death; grief; providence; pain; joy; emotion

Chapter.  19561 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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