The Thinking 

Bach, the Rabbit

January 21, 2015




JOHANN SEBASTIEN BACH bred like a rabbit. He may have been a musical genius, but when it came to procreation, he was on the level of a four-footed lagomorph. Bach fathered a total of 20 children, with the first born when he was 23 and the last by his second wife when he was 57.

I expect someone is now going to write to me and say that contraceptive methods were not available in the 18th century, which is not true, or that people had many more children back then because infant mortality was high, suggesting that Bach and his two wives did not really want that many children, they were just hedging their bets. If that’s the case, they really went too far. Ten of Bach’s 20 children survived into full-grown rabbit hood. While that’s quite a high mortality rate by today’s standards, that’s still a heck of a lot of rabbits by today’s standards. By the way, whether the Bachs wanted their children or not is irrelevant. They had them. They gave them life. It possibly never occurred to them to wonder how many they wanted.

It is often said of parents of former times that they only had large families because they were seeking help to till the fields or because infant mortality was high and contraception unavailable. Supposedly they were selfish and only had children for utilitarian reasons or were uncontrollable rabbits. While today’s enlightened parents have fewer children but want them for the right reasons.

These are easy accusations. Those maligned and misrepresented parents cannot speak up for themselves. Nevertheless, whatever they wanted or didn’t want, they did a much better job of affirming life and providing for future generations, who were the beneficiaries of their fertility.

— Comments —

Mrs. H. writes:

Thanks for the Bach post. Our sixth child, if he is a son, will be named John Sebastian.

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