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Of course five-and-twenty of them took it for granted you would pay so much a week and ask no questions. They would just not have starved the baby, — unless you had hinted to them that you were willing to pay a lump sum for a death-certificate, in which case the affair would have been more or less skilfully managed.

George Gissing – In the Year of Jubilee (1894)

George Moore gives an example of how the mother of an inconvenient baby could hire herself out as a wet-nurse and live in relative comfort for a while – if only she could be rid of the baby.

“Now look ‘ere, if you’ll listen to reason I’ll talk to you. Yer mustn’t look upon me as a henemy. I’ve been a good friend to many a poor girl like you afore now, and I’ll be one to you if you’re sensible. I’ll do for you what I’m doing for the other girl. Give me five pounds–“

“Five pounds! I’ve only a few pence.”

“‘Ear me out. Go back to yer situation–she’ll take you back, yer suits the child, that’s all she cares about; ask ‘er for an advance of five pounds; she’ll give it when she ‘ears it is to get rid of yer child–they ‘ates their nurses to be a-‘ankering after their own, they likes them to be forgotten like; they asks if the child is dead very often, and won’t engage them if it isn’t, so believe me she’ll give yer the money when yer tells ‘er that it is to give the child to someone who wants to adopt it. That’s what you ‘as to say.”

“And you’ll take the child off my hands for ever for five pounds?”

“Yes; and if you likes to go out again as wet-nurse, I’ll take the second off yer ‘ands too, and at the same price.”

George Moore – Esther Waters (1899)

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