Project Canterbury

The Compleat Mother
Or An Earnest Perswasive to all Mothers (especially those of Rank and Quality)
to Nurse their own Children.

By Henry Newcome, A.M.
and Rector of Tatten-hall in the County Palatine of Chester.

London: Printed for J. Wyat at the Rose in St. Paul's Church-yard, 1695.


Custom like an impetuous Torrent makes its way through the firmest Inclosures, and furiously throws down all the Bulworks of Laws, and the most Sacred Obligations that obstruct its passage. Like a mighty Tyrant it usurps upon Truth and Duty, and awes all into a Compliance with its violent Government. Men live (as Seneca observes) not by Reason but by Imitation; whence it comes to pass, that they fall upon one another by heaps, as so many Blind-men into a Ditch. It were easie to instance in many things, strangely unreasonable, which being recommended by Custom, have passed not only without Controle, but with Applause. I wish there were not too many popular Vices in our own Nation, to prevent the labour of such an undertaking; Vices, which though they have nothing to justifie them besides their Commonness, have even by that alone been able hitherto to baffle the most vigorous Attempts against them. To mention no more, how many good Laws have been made, how many rational and elaborate Discourses have been published both from the Pulpit and the Press against Common Swearing, Intemperate Drinking, Black-mouth'd Perjury and Bloody Revenge? And yet with little other effect hitherto, than to give us so many the more Instances of the Triumphs of British Custom over Reason and Religion: And to convince us that all such Attempts are as hopeless, as for one with ten thousand, to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand: Where the Assailant is more likely to be condemned for his Rashness, than applauded for his Courage and Resolution.

§2. It may then be justly wondred at, how I come to be so daring, as to oppose my weak Arms against such a mighty Current, or to undertake the controlling of a Custom, which hitherto hath prevailed against all endeavours of Authority, Reason and Eloquence far greater than I can pretend to: This I mean of Mothers declining to Nurse their own Children, and putting them off to Strangers. Annius Minutius the Roman Censor, is said to have took notice of it as a strange Prodigy in his time, extreamly ominous to Rome, that a Roman lady refusing to Nurse her own Child, gave Suck to a Puppy, that her Breasts might with more safety be dried up by artificial Applications. But it is a thing too common, to pass for a Prodigy among us (though I fear not less fatally ominous) for Persons of the best Quality to run the greatest Hazards, and submit to the most unhandsom Methods for drying up their Suck, rather than to become Nurses to their own Children. And I find a most refined Pen (than whom none in this Age could have been more likely to have succeeded, if either Reason, Eloquence, or a more charming strain of extraordinary Piety be of any force) declining to attack this prevailing Custom, through meer Despair of convincing by any thing that could be said.

§3. But upon mature Consideration, I can find no reason why Impudence and Obstinacy should protect any Sin from a just Reproof: Nor can I think it a justifiable piece of Modesty to decline the defence of a good Cause, merely for the Multitude and Confidence of its Opponents. It was brave in the Stripling David to assault the monstrous Gyant with his Sling and a few Stone; and the Success was answerable to his Courage. And why may not I (relying on the same God) hope for as good Success from these my slender Endeavours, since the Cause I undertake, though it deserve the best, is sufficient to give Victory to the meanest Advocate? Leaving therefore the Event to God's Providence, I am encouraged to assault this stubborn and inveterate Custom,

I. By an hearty Compassion for the Infants which suffer by it.

2. For a necessary Vindication of those few honourable Ladies who have had the Vertue and Courage by the Practise to confront it.

3. And by the Sense of my own Duty, as a Clergy-man, to appear against the Luxury of the Age.

§ 4. For the first: I am not ashamed to own a peculiar Inclination in my self, to love and delight in the Conversation of little Children, among whom I have always found a most agreeable Diversion. Nor need I, since our Blessed Lord himself gave encouragement to bring such little ones to him, was pleased to take them in his Arms, and to propose their Innocence to our Imitation. And as this hath induced me to spend all my vacant Hours among Children for their Improvement, as well as the gratifying of my own Inclinations; so it makes me the more Impatient at all those, who betray any Aversion, or are guilty of any Unkindness toward them. And since the Children of our Nobility and Gentry are justly reputed to be the Hopes of the next Generation, it is reasonable to be most concern'd for them; who in their Infancy generally are more Unhappy than the Sons of Country Peasants. The Poor Tenants Child is for the most part nursed in its own Mothers Bosom, and cherished by her Breasts, whilst the Landord's Heir is turn'd out, exil'd from his Mothers embraces as soon as from her Womb, and assigned to the Care of some Stranger, who hath no other Endearments toward t, than what are owing solely to her Interest. And such as work for Wages, are usually not so careful how they do their Work, as to get their Stipend; nor is a Mercinary Nurse much concerned how the Infant Improves, provided she have a good place of it. Thus the Infants of the best Families are most hardly used, and vast numbers of them undoubtedly destroyed. And sure I need not despair of Pardon even from those Ladies who are most concerned in the ensuing Reproof, since it is the result of my real and hearty Compassion for their dear Children.

§ 5. Besides Secondly, I have observed, that those Ladies, who contrary to this prevailing Custom, have undertaken the Nursery of their own Babes, have oft met with unhandsome Reflections and bitter Taunts from others of the contrary Practise, which makes the Vindication of them a necessary piece both of Justice and Charity. A Lady that will condescend to be a Nurse, though to her own Child, is become as Unfashionable and Ungenteel, as a Gentleman that will not Drink, Swear and be Profane; but dares be out of Fashion in leading an exactly virtuous and sober Life. And if ever you saw the Modesty of such an one assaulted by the Railery and Scorn of a Company of Debauchees, when he happens to fall among them: You may imagine the need those few Ladies have of Courage and Resolution, who by Nursing their own Children, expose themselves to the Taunts and Derisiion of the many, who decline that Office, and look upon themselves to be upbraided by their Examples.

§ 6. And when I observe those few Ladies, who best discharge their Duties, exposed to the Scoffs of such as neglect theirs; and on the other hand, reflect on the Unhappiness of those poor Infants, whose Mothers make it a Punctilio of State to cast them off to the Care of Strangers, I cannot but believe it a good Office, and a few hours well bestowed, to attempt the Vindication of the best Mothers, and to plead (with those that are otherwise) the cause of those helpless Innocents, who are not able, unless in their inarticulate cries, to speak for themselves. Especially

§ 7. Since thirdly, the consideration of my own Obligations, as a Clergyman, encourage me in this undertaking. For in the Book entitled, Reformatio Legum Ecclesiasticarum, which was composed by eight Bishops (whereof Archbishop Cranmer and Bishop Ridley were two) eight Divines, and as many Civil and Common Lawyers, in pursuance of an Act of Parliament, and intended for the Government of the Reformed Church of England, and the Rules of Ecclesiastical Courts, I find this passage. "A Custom too soft and delicate hath prevailed among Wives, to discard their Offspring from their own Breasts, and hire them out to be nursed by Strangers; which thing for the most part being without any probable Causes, but only from an over-indulgent Fondness of their own Bodies, it comes to pass, that to ease themselves, they shuffle off the Honourable and Natural Pains of educating their own Children; and since this inhumane and degenerate Sloathfulness of Mothers is the cause of many Evils, we think it the Duty of Preachers to exhort Mothers not to desert their Off-spring which they have borne, nor to deny those the benefit of their Breasts, whom they lately nourished in their Womb, and sustained with their own Bowels." Now since our Reformation after it was brought to good Perfection in respect of Worship and Doctrine, was hindred by the Death of King Edward from receiving the Consummation which was intended in respect of Church-Government and Ecclesiastical Laws; this Book, which gives us the most authentick account what was intended, cannot but be of great Authority with all that value the Judgment of our first Reformers. So that I may from this conclude, not only that it is ever Preachers Duty to exhort Mothers to Nurse their own, but also that it is the Duty of Mothers to comply with their Exhortations and that if they do otherwise, they betray and unjustifiable Contempt of these learned and pious Reformers of and Martyrs for our Holy Religion.

§ 8. To these Motives of my present undertaking I will add one more, viz. The hopes of routing this unnatural Custom, and doing a deal of good thereby. I am sure I have a very good Cause, and all the strength of Reason and Religion on my side, and the Impulses of Nature to boot. I have also the more courteous and tractable Sex to deal with, who I may promise my self, cannot all be obstinate against the Evidences of their Duty, and the Inclinations of Natural Affection. And why should I despair of rescuing so great a part of Mankind from the Tyranny of an impudent Custom, who seem ready to accept of Liberty, and to wait for some kind Deliverer to unloose their Fetters? Shall I doubt of a Candid Reception from that Sex, whom Nature hath molded for Courtesie, and the Impressions of Religion and Compassion? Especially since, as Themistocles is said to have prevailed in his Addresses to Admelus King of the Molossi, by bringing the King's Son in his Arms, I bring their own Children with me to second my Persuasions by their prevailing Intercessions, or indeed not so much to intercede for me, as to Petition for themselves.

§ 9. But if any rebellious Lust, if Luxury, Pride or Avarice dare to appear against me, I have the Ensigns of Divine Authority to awe them, Evidences I mean from the Holy Scriptures and the Law of Nature to command their Submission. And though those Books are said to be most fatally Destructive, which convince of Duty and yet fail of persuading to it; yet what I have to propose, seems to me so likely, not only to convince, but also to persuade, that I hope it will do not harm but Service to the World. To conclude this Introduction, though these Reasons prevailed to engage me to compose the ensuing Discourse, yet for some Months I kept it by me, and could not persuade my self to publish it, till I met with his Grace the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury's Sermons about the Education of Children lately pulish'd; wherein he recommends this as the first and most natural Duty incumbent on Parents toward their Children; and argues against the general neglect of it, as one of the great and crying Sins of this Age and Nation. And when I found my self backed by such Authority, I become uncapable of fearing any Sensures, or despairing of good Success.

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