The Project Gutenberg eBook of Woman

This ebook is for the use of anyone anywhere in the United States and most other parts of the world at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this ebook or online at If you are not located in the United States, you will have to check the laws of the country where you are located before using this eBook.

Title: Woman

a vindication

Author: Anthony M. Ludovici

Release date: October 4, 2023 [eBook #71805]

Language: English

Original publication: London: Constable, 1923

Credits: Bob Taylor, Tim Lindell and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at


A Vindication


A Vindication


[Pg v]

Printed in Great Britain by Butler & Tanner, Frome and London


Introduction vii

Part I
I Positiveness—The Saying of “Yea” to Life 3
II The Subject Treated Generally 24
III Woman and her Unconscious Impulses 37
IV The Positive Man and the Positive Woman 54
V Virgin Love in the Positive Man and the Positive Girl 80
VI The Positive English Girl 104

Part II
VII The Marriage of the Positive Girl and the Positive Man 125
VIII Breaches of the Marriage Contract and Divorce 178
IX The Old Maid and her Relation to Society 229
X The Virtues and Vices of Women 280
XI Women in Art, Philosophy and Science. The Outlook. Conclusion 346
Index 369

[Pg vii]


“The most disgusting cant permeates everything. Except for the representation of savage and violent sentiments, everything is stifled by it.”—Stendhal, De l’Amour.

The object of this volume is twofold: in the first place to raise certain weighty objections to that industrialization and commercialization of woman, which has stamped the “progress” of Western Europe during the last fifty years; and, secondly, to reveal woman, not only as a creature whose least engaging characteristics are but the outcome of the most vital qualities within her, but also as a social being in whom these least engaging characteristics themselves only become disturbing and undesirable when she is partially or totally out of hand.

While trying to escape the influence of all that “tinsel of false sentiment” which in the atmosphere of Democracy and sentimentality has gathered about the subject of Woman in modern England, it has been my endeavour to defend her against certain traditional and well-founded charges, by showing that the very traits in her character which have given rise to these charges form so essential a part of her vital equipment that it would be dangerous to the race to modify or to alter them. Thus, despite the fact that there is much in this book that may possibly strike the reader as unfriendly, if not actually harsh, I am aware of no other work in which so complete and so elaborate a plea (from the standpoint of Life and Life’s needs) has been made in defence of Woman’s whole character, including all that side of it which the wisest of mankind, and the oldest traditions of mankind, have consistently and unanimously deprecated.

Couched in the briefest possible terms, my thesis is[Pg viii] practically this, that, whether we contemplate Woman in the rôle of the adulteress, of the heartless stepmother, of the harlot, or of the creature whose duplicity has been the riddle of all ages; or whether we contemplate her as the staunchest of lovers, as the most reliable of allies, as the mother whose noble devotion to her offspring will drive her to any extreme of danger in defence of them, and as the representative of that sex which has given us a Joan of Arc, an Emily Brontë, and an Emily Davison of Derby fame; we are always confronted by a creature whose worst can, on final analysis, be shown to be only the outcome of her best and most vital qualities, turned to evil by mal-adaptation; and whose best is but the normal and effortless expression of her natural endowments.

Seeing, however, that among the mal-adaptations which cause Woman’s best to manifest itself as her worst, I include lack of guidance and control from the quarter of her menfolk, I range myself naturally among the Anti-Feminists, though at the same time I most emphatically disclaim all anti-feminine prejudices. Indeed, so far from this being the case, I am a deep and passionate admirer and lover of Woman. In order to love her, however, I do not find it necessary to exalt her to a plane on which all her sturdier, more vital, and more “dangerous” characteristics are whittled down to mere sweetness. Those to whom the love of woman depends upon so gross an idealization of her nature as to cause them to overlook or deny that “wickedness” in her, which is at once her greatest vital strength and her most powerful equipment as the custodian and the promoter of life, will find very little to sustain them in this love throughout the present volume. And, if in this age of “Safety first,” they fancy that it is expedient to rear and to love only those women from whom all “danger” has been removed, they will find that I have endeavoured to demonstrate to them the extreme peril even of this plausible ideal.

[Pg ix]

As far as I know this work represents the first radical attempt that has been made to differentiate two very definite and dissimilar types of women—the positive and the negative—and to account for their respective virtues and vices on the grounds of their peculiarities of health, tonality, vigour, and constitutional bias in favour of life. It is my belief that this is a necessary and useful differentiation, that without it there can be no clarity about Woman, and that the fact that it has not been attempted by previous writers, accounts for much in their work which is both unfair and untrue. It must be quite plain to everyone, that in a world where so-called virtue is all too frequently the outcome of a minus rather than of a plus in vitality, it would be grossly inaccurate to class all women together; for while in the case of one woman chastity may be a great feat of discernment and self-overcoming, in the case of another whose body is less tonic and less vital, it may be the easiest of human accomplishments. All reactions are known to differ according to the vitality of the organism stimulated. To overlook tonality and vitality in any description of human beings would therefore be a most unpardonable omission. Thus, Weininger’s and Schopenhauer’s failure to differentiate between positive and negative women effectually invalidates, in my opinion, most of what they have said about her; while a good deal of the rest of the literature dealing with the subject of sex seems to me to fail owing to the fact that it makes no attempt to describe a standard or a norm before it proceeds to expatiate upon sex characteristics and their consequences.

The fact that a classification on these broad lines does not prevent me from occasionally bringing charges which will seem severe against the very type that I most warmly recommend, is in no way inconsistent with my claim that my work is a vindication; for while I show that all the charges that I myself advance are only an indictment of Woman in so far as she is unguided and uncontrolled,[Pg x] I also defend her against many other harsh judgments which are commonly passed against her, and with which I will have nothing to do.

Thus in the course of this work, the reader will find that I defend even the so-called “male” woman against the gibes which recently it has been the fashion to level against her. And on what grounds do I undertake her vindication?—I point out that, in a nation that can boast, as England undoubtedly can, of great and worldwide masculine achievements in the past, such achievements can only have been possible because the women of the nation did not too seriously dilute the masculine qualities of the race, with the element “effeminine.” But for this to have been the rule, these women must have had a large share of masculine virtues. I show that other nations, such as the Romans and the Red Indians, also reared generations of masculine women, and always to the advantage of the community. These male women, against whom so much has been said, are therefore merely the vestiges of our great masculine past. Now they are ill-adapted, because they can no longer find the men to whose greater masculinity they might adapt themselves. It is the degeneration of man that is the cause of their mal-adaptation. Women, or at least the best women, nowadays, are no longer inspired or uplifted by their association with him.

To reply to this, as most people all too hastily do, that the last War was a proof that Englishmen at least have not degenerated, does not constitute a serious objection to my statement. For, after all, successful fighting is only one—and the most primitive—among the many desirable qualities that the masculine civilized being has cultivated.

Degeneration may be defined as a departure from the high qualities of a race or a kind. But it is possible to depart from a very great number of cultivated qualities, and still to retain the moral and physical equipment of the good fighter. When, therefore, I seek to explain a good deal of Woman’s discontent with Man, and[Pg xi] most of her very justifiable contempt of him, by pointing to his degeneration, I mean that, despite the evidence of the great War, in which the modern European admittedly revealed the primitive fighting qualities in all their pristine strength, the man of to-day in many other respects—in the matter of catholicity of tastes, for instance, versatility of gifts, will-power, vigour, character, and health—shows a marked departure from the higher endowments of his ancestors. The fact that this degeneration is due to the devitalizing, cramping and specialized labours which several generations of Commercialism and Industrialism and excessive “Urbanism” have imposed upon the male sex, can hardly be questioned; and if we are in search of an explanation of Feminism, if we are anxious to discover how and why it is that women are now coming forward in large numbers to measure their strength against men in all those callings and offices which hitherto have been regarded as Man’s special spheres, we may be sure that the true cause of all this does not lie so much in a desirable change in Woman’s nature itself, as it does in an undesirable depreciation in our own general abilities, which women have been only too slow to observe.

To point to the great War in such circumstances, is only cant; but like all cant, it is the outcome of a desire to spare our vanity at a moment when everything points indubitably to our humiliation.

There is, however, no subject in the whole world, or at least in the whole of our English world, around which more cant has collected, than the subject of sex and the relation of the sexes. But perhaps it would be as well to make quite clear what is precisely meant by “cant” in this respect. With Stendhal, I am of the opinion that cant is created more by vanity than by Puritanism, or the sense of propriety. And it is because vanity is involved, that the fight against cant is so stubborn. If Psycho-Analysis had really assailed our vanity, instead of merely offending our sense of propriety,[Pg xii] we should have heard much less about it. Also we have only to think of the huge popular success of writers like Zola in order to assure ourselves that for a man’s work to be hushed up and ignored, he must be guilty of a greater crime than the mere violation of the proprieties or conventions.

As a rule, mankind will listen patiently when it is told of the material and not infrequently sordid animal background to some of its dearest emotions; for, after all, it is only disturbed in its prudery by such revelations. But proceed to tear away the tinsel of cant from those activities, for instance, which are alleged to be humanitarian, “unselfish,” or to belong to the class known as “self-sacrifice,” and point out how all these activities themselves invariably arise from purely egotistical emotions and desires, and mankind will immediately become both incredulous and indignant. Why is this? Obviously because a very large section of the population of the western world find the very basis of their self-esteem in the activities enumerated. To show the egotistical root of these activities, as Hobbes, Helvetius, Stendhal and Nietzsche consistently did, is therefore to wound these people in the very sanctuary of their vanity; and those against whom this kind of violence is attempted nowadays usually retaliate with both rancour and rage. Hence the determination with which writers like Hobbes, Helvetius, Nietzsche and Stendhal are forgotten and ignored.

Over the writings of all these men there hangs a very pronounced and unmistakable fragrance, which may be almost painful at the first inhalation, and a certain atmosphere which has a noticeably low temperature. Frequently this atmosphere is quite glacial, and produces the distinctly unpleasant reaction of goose-skin in the reader’s mind. Both in the ideas they present, and in their manner of presenting them, these authors scorn to please. They all possess the same penetrating insight into the psychology of man; they reveal what the French call “une psychologie fouillée,” and their honesty is hampered by no desire[Pg xiii] to fortify themselves or their fellows in their self-esteem. Unlike Swift, however, it is certain that these men did not write “to vex the world more than to divert it,” but because they realized that certain falsifications of sentiment are dangerous and lead to degeneration.

Now there is an instinctive inclination in every reader to identify himself with the picture of humanity presented to him in the book that he happens to be perusing, whether it be a novel or a scientific treatise. Naturally enough, therefore, he is exposed to the severest shocks if at every turn he is prevented from idealizing his own nature, or from thinking too well of it, owing to the fact that the picture he is contemplating is too humiliating to be pleasant, and yet too convincing to be lightly rejected.

The bulk of modern readers, however, are women. This fact, too well known to editors and publishers, is quite inadequately understood from the standpoint of its influence on taste and quality in literary production. For not only do women reveal the trait common to all readers, which consists in a tendency to identify themselves with one of the characters of a novel, or with the portrait of humanity presented in a scientific treatise, but they are also addicted to the practice of confounding that which is pleasant to themselves with that which is true. Thus in the woman reader there is a twofold tendency to tolerate or to applaud cant; for, on the one hand, she views truth hedonistically, and, on the other, she feels deep discomfiture, either when she finds herself unable, through her false idealization of herself and her motives, to identify herself with the anti-cant portrayal of a certain heroine (Stendhal’s Félicie Féline, for instance), or, when she finds her reading of human nature, which is based upon her idealized reading of herself, affronted by a picture of humanity which shatters her rosy view.

To the influence of women in this connexion, however, ought in all fairness to be added that of a vast number of men, who, in these days, whether from the same hedonistic view of truth, or prompted by a certain[Pg xiv] poltroonery and vanity in the face of reality, tend to shrink ever more and more from any understanding of human relations and the passions that govern them, which would distort their comfortable and comforting assumptions concerning both. If, however, they actually form, together with the women, a force sufficiently powerful to govern the taste of the day, especially in the world of literature and in that department of it which treats of human psychology, we may well feel some anxiety concerning the real worth of that literature. If Byron and Stendhal could honestly complain of cant even in their time, what can be our position to-day?

Frankly acknowledging my indebtedness to the school of writers that can be said to have adopted the rigorous psychological uprightness of our great philosopher Hobbes, I have endeavoured also to strip the “tinsel of sentiment” from one of the most important of human relations, in order, if possible, to build afresh, and to build wholesomely, where too much confusion and too much falsehood have been allowed to flourish in the past. In order, however, to protect myself from a charge to which the asperity and frequent severity of my language is almost sure to expose me, it may be as well for me to state at once that, unlike many that have written on the subject of Woman, I have been animated by no bitterness and by none of those unhappy experiences which often warp judgment and impair the vision. On the contrary, to all my principal relations to women I owe the most pleasant and possibly some of the most valuable experiences of my life.

Unlike Schopenhauer, Byron, or Balzac, my relationship to my mother was an exceptionally devoted and happy one. Both friends and relatives are unanimous here, and have frequently declared that they rarely saw anything to equal it, both on her side and on my own. Up to the time of her death she was my best and dearest friend, and in my passionate love for her, my love for[Pg xv] my subject may well be said to have begun. What has my relation to other women been? In this regard I can only say that, though I have spent an enormous amount of my time with women, I have never suffered the smallest wrong at the hands of any one of them; neither have I had any experience which could possibly give me a distorted view of the sex, or a resentful attitude towards it as a whole. I have learned a tremendous deal from women, and, having not a little of the woman in me besides (and to comprise is to comprehend), I have through the usual channels of introspection been able to supplement my objective studies with a good deal of subjective information. From my earliest youth, too, the subject of sex has interested me deeply. True, it interests every one deeply; but I have fortunately never felt any of the customary shame that so often arrests thought and speculation on the subject. Neither can I say that my environment was ever of a kind to hinder me in my free and careful study of it. Brought up in an atmosphere of art and literature, I never became acquainted with that false modesty and embarrassment that seizes upon most young people when, for the first time, they are confronted with the most mysterious and fascinating subject of existence. I was allowed to dwell on the question, had no reason to suppose it was wrong to do so, and even when, at the age of ten I took my first steps in the science of physiology—a subject I used to beg all my elders to instruct me upon—I and they little knew that I was anticipating, by at least six years, a passionate interest in the principal and most fundamental question of human relations. To this day I remember the little green manual of Physiology, by Professor Huxley, that my governess put into my hands, and I cannot say I remember any book better, save perhaps another little green volume containing Schopenhauer’s essays on Woman and the Metaphysics of Love, which I read when I was eighteen. At the age of nineteen I wrote my first book, which bore the title Girls and Love; but, needless to say,[Pg xvi] it was never published. And ever since the subject of sex has scarcely ever ceased from occupying my mind in various ways. For the rest, I have listened with respectful attention to the voice of the Ancients—of the Orient, of Egypt and of Greece—and, as usual, have listened most intently there where I knew relative permanence to have been achieved and humanity to have flourished best. Such preoccupations in regard to a matter that ought to be so natural, so well ordered, as to be taken for granted, just as breathing is, can denote but one thing, namely: that to the thoughtful, nowadays, sex has undoubtedly become a real and puzzling problem; that is to say, something that is not in order, that is not properly understood, and that every one has, as it were, to face and to overcome for himself afresh, before he can “carry on,” and before he can allow time and age to overtake him.

In the present work I have attempted to be as clear and as straightforward as is compatible with the task of handling a delicate subject delicately. I am convinced that a good deal of the dangerous silence that hangs over the vital and fundamental questions I shall sometimes have to touch upon, owes its existence for the most part to the unfortunate fact that the subject of sex, outside medical circles, has hitherto usually been confronted by only two classes of mind—the puritanically prudish, who have done their best to shelve it, and their opposite extreme, the licentious and libidinous, who have refrained from no excess or extravagance that could possibly offend and startle their opponents in the opposite camp. With neither of these classes have I any connexion. I object to the licentious as wholeheartedly as to the Puritanical. I protest against being suspected unjustly of a licentious turn of mind, because I venture to speak freely concerning a subject that is systematically hushed up to the peril of all; I also protest most emphatically against being suspected of Puritanism because I make no attempt to conceal my loathing of certain modern aspects of the sexual relationship.

[Pg 1]

Part I

[Pg 3]

Positiveness—The Saying of
“Yea” to Life


A scheme of life that includes death as the periodic end of each generation of beings must, if it is to persist, include some form of periodic reproduction of life. Reproduction, or the reproducing of a fresh generation of beings, is thus the necessary balance of death. This sounds the merest platitude. But it is a platitude that cannot be dwelt upon too often or too carefully, if one remembers how constantly and obstinately its consequences are denied or vilified.

To speak of the higher organic life on this globe as sexual, therefore, is merely to state in other words, that all higher organic life is doomed to die, and must be replaced by new life. Abolish death and you abolish the meaning and the need of sex and reproduction. Abolish sex and reproduction, and, if you cannot establish eternal higher organic life, the higher organic life of the globe must for ever perish.

At least for human beings and myriads of animals, Death and Sex are consequently counterparts. Sex with its purpose, reproduction, might be regarded as the contrivance for circumventing Death, for nullifying it, for cheating it of its complete victory over life. And that is why all dreams or concepts of eternal life are, and cannot help being, tainted by a certain hostility to sex: because where eternal life is the scheme, sex drops out. Conversely, all hostility to eternal life is and cannot help[Pg 4] being tainted by a certain positiveness, friendliness and favour towards mortal life and its ally sex: because where eternal life is an impossibility, sex is indispensable.

It is for this reason that, in its depths, Christianity is more logical and more acceptable to a rational man than Mohammedanism. Christianity, accepting the concept Eternal Life, says: “In heaven there will be no marriage or giving in marriage.”[1] It realized that you cannot eat your cake and have it. Mohammedanism, while accepting the concept Eternal Life, imagines an eternity of sex-life into the bargain, which is an absurdity. Mohammed did not realize that you cannot eat your cake and have it. Read the Koran and you will understand how it happened that he could be guilty of this confusion of thought.

Sex, then, while as a scheme it is opposed to eternal life, is nevertheless the enemy of death—the most unconquerable, crafty, resourceful and untiring enemy of death—so much so, indeed, that whereas mortal life is not nearly such a good opposite of death as is eternal life (for the dead mortal is eternally dead to this world), sex might, and in this book will be regarded as the opposite of death, the reverse of death.

This point is important in any case; but it is particularly important to me in this book; because all my conclusions will be based upon it. To repeat, then, the equation reads: Sex = Mortal Life; No-Sex = Eternal Life, or, in the absence of Eternal Life, Death.

From this chapter onwards, however, save in regard to the one particular question of virtue, I shall cease from considering Eternal Life; because, as we see from the equation, Eternal Life and Death come strangely as correlatives together—that is to say, for all ordinary purposes, and as far as this world is concerned, they[Pg 5] mean the same thing—they both oppose mortal life and sex.

A very significant conclusion arises from this: that in this conflict of sex and death, all those who are opposed to sex, or who call it a sin, or who associate it with guilt, or who cast odium upon it, range themselves on the side of death; while all those who stand by sex, favour it, wish to vindicate it, and claim for it a character absolutely free from all sin, guilt or odium, range themselves against death. Here Christianity is quite logical. At its root it is hostile to mortal life, and in favour of Eternal Life. But it never refers to Eternal Life as a possibility on this globe, but always as an existence that is a correlative of death on this globe.

Christianity, therefore, being an advocate of Eternal Life, very logically preaches that sex is to be deplored, to be avoided, and, if possible, negatived. And the Puritan, who may be regarded as the extreme Christian, is notorious for his implacable loathing of sex. Unconsciously he sees quite clearly that any scheme of organic life that involves sex, must be a substitute for eternal organic life[2]—which in an idealized form is the life for which he has been taught to crave. Death to him, therefore, is merely a merciful gateway leading from Sex into Eternal Life. Being the foe of Sex, he knows quite well that Death must be his ally, his accomplice, his ringleader, in his conspiracy to realize Eternal Life.

Is this quite clear? For the present I have wished to say nothing concerning the respective merits either of Sex, Death, Eternal Life, or Mortal Life; I have only wished to point out that, as schemes, as ideas, they are mutually exclusive and irreconcilable, and that you cannot desire the one without thereby coveting the doom of the other.

As far as this world and its problems are concerned, however—and who, if you please, stands outside this world and its problems?—we have to deal with one kind[Pg 6] of life only—Mortal Life. As I have shown, the necessary correlative of Mortal Life, if it is to continue, is Sex. We are concerned, therefore, immediately and directly, with Mortal Life, and its indispensable correlative Sex. We need not accept the scheme as it is thus unceremoniously thrust upon us. We can deny Mortal Life and its concomitant need, Sex, by putting an end to everything at least for ourselves, through straightway committing suicide the very moment we realize that Mortal Life and Sex are undesirable. If, however, we accept the proposition, “Mortal Life is desirable,” we necessarily commit ourselves to the rider, “Sex is desirable.” These features are all we know concerning Life; they constitute the two sides of the only kind of Life of which we are aware, and however real and realistic our visions of an Eternal Life may be, however vivid our mental pictures of a Heaven may seem, such visions and such mental pictures, as we very well know, are of a kind the true existence of which is quite incapable of proof or demonstration; whereas Mortal Life is here before us, with us and in us, and the way to live it is our chief concern; the way to live it well so that it may redound to the benefit and credit of all, is our highest concern.

Throughout this book, I shall argue on the assumption that the reader, like myself, believes that mortal life is desirable. I shall take it for granted that he, like me, is content to allow transcendental questions to weigh with him only in so far as they do not render him hostile to Mortal Life. I shall therefore assume all along that he believes, as I do, that Sex is desirable, however far the consequences of such an admission may lead him.

Be this as it may, let him entertain no qualms as to the direction in which I wish these consequences to lead him. There are more than two alternatives in the choice of one’s attitude to Sex. To most people there appear to be but two opposite extremes: the attitude of the lecherous reprobate who makes decent women ashamed of being women; and the attitude of the Puritan[Pg 7] who, in his heart of hearts, feels that if only he could have been at the Almighty’s elbow at the time of the Creation, he would have respectfully suggested a somewhat more “drawing-room” method of propagating the species.

To neither of these attitudes has this book, or the spirit of it, even the remotest relation. The acknowledgment that Mortal Life is desirable, and that consequently its indispensable correlative Sex is desirable, can be made by a man in full possession of a healthy control over his passions,[3] in a state of complete mastery over his appetites, and endowed with the most fastidious taste as to where normal desire and its gratification end, and where excess begins. Extremes belong only to the uncultured, to the hogs of life. It is they who make everything appear disgusting, simply because they are unable to approach a single aspect of life with that amount of understanding and reverence which is due to all things connected with the sacred task of making mankind and his existence an honour and not a curse to the universe.

To accept the proposition that Mortal Life is desirable and to commit one’s self by so doing to its inevitable rider that Sex is desirable, may lead one very far, as this book will show; but, if it lead one to a tastelessly pornographic or licentious attitude towards the most fundamental instinct of life, then one is of a nature that has no right to Mortal Life, much less, therefore, to its indispensable correlative Sex.

Without wishing to labour this point, but with a keen sense of the host of misunderstandings and prejudices that will cling like barnacles to a book of this kind, unless I make my position unmistakably clear from the start, let me put the case a little differently by the use of another instinct of Mortal Life. Let me say, to accept the proposition, Mortal Life is desirable, is to commit one’s self to its inevitable rider that eating and drinking[Pg 8] are desirable. There is no objection to this statement as it stands. All who endorse Mortal Life also endorse eating and drinking. And those who attack eating and drinking, simultaneously strike at Mortal Life.

This conclusion, however, provides absolutely no sanction for those who are sufficiently material and gross to make food and drink things of shame and of horror. No man, therefore, need fear lest by acknowledging that eating and drinking are desirable he should find himself supporting gluttony, drunkenness and bestiality of all kinds. It is, however, a strange and significant coincidence that, where we find hostility to Sex, we also find a certain suspicion of all things connected with the body. The Puritans did not accept Sex as desirable; at the best they held it to be a necessary evil; but we also find the Puritans hostile to eating and drinking, and not only to excessive eating and drinking. I have already shown with sufficient elaboration elsewhere what regrettable reforms in food and drink they introduced into England in the seventeenth century.[4] This only supports my contention that you cannot be hostile to Sex without being hostile to Mortal Life in general.

If, therefore, you believe that the acceptance of Sex is immoral, as Otto Weininger did;[5] if you believe, as he did, that “woman is the sin of man”;[6] if, moreover, you claim, as he did, that “it is the Jew and the woman who are the apostles of pairing to bring guilt on mankind”;[7] if, again, you assert that “sexual union is immoral”;[8] that “women must really and truly and spontaneously relinquish it”;[9] that “woman will exist as long as man’s guilt is inexpiated, until he has really vanquished his own sexuality”;[10] that “man must free himself of sex, for in that way, and that way alone, can he free woman”;[11] and, finally—this gem of negativeness:[Pg 9] “all sexuality implies degradation”;[12]—if this be your position, I say, then, you must logically be hostile to Mortal Life, and you cannot rationally accept it. Your only course is to commit suicide. This, as we know, Otto Weininger was logical and consistent enough to do. He died by his own hand on October 4, 1903.


As we have seen, it is impossible to have it both ways and to remain consistent. You are at liberty, of course, to take up the Puritan’s, or Otto Weininger’s, or St. Paul’s attitude towards Sex; but, by so doing, you straightway disclaim Mortal Life itself and reject it utterly. Let this be quite clear to you before you go any further, because a good deal depends upon this simple but profoundly significant issue. The fact that St. Paul and the Puritans did not put an end to themselves right away, as Otto Weininger was clear-headed and honest enough to do, need not disturb you. Fanatics are rarely clear-headed, and they are scarcely ever honest. It is sufficient for my purpose to point to St. Paul’s and the Puritan’s hostility to life in general in order to show that, although they did not reach the logical end of their journey, they were certainly well advanced along the road thither. Besides, if you study St. Paul and the Puritans, you will find, as I have done, that there is perhaps another explanation to their apparent inconsistency.

A man may remain longer than he likes in a certain vicinity or apartment, if he feels it his duty, before taking his leave, to get others to accompany him thence, to persuade and exhort others to forsake the place as well. St. Paul certainly felt it his duty to act in this way, and so for that matter did Schopenhauer.

For us who accept Mortal Life and say “Yea” to it[Pg 10] wholeheartedly, there are certain very grave duties too. The thing to which we say “Yea,” we wish to keep both clean, sweet and alluring. This world is our home, and we take a pride in it. We must make it such that we are able to take a pride in it. We recognize that Mortal Life includes pain as a prominent factor; but, provided that pain is practically inseparable from the best purposes of life (as, for instance, the pain of self-discipline, self-mastership, the pain of habituation to new knowledge, new arts, the pain resulting from the natural relationships to our myriads of fellows, and the pains of child-birth), we say “Yea” to it too, and with the same wholeheartedness.

We do not shrink from pain, as Schopenhauer did, we do not magnify it or concentrate upon it, as he did, and condemn the whole of existence because of it. We do not call our glorious history, as the King of the Animals, the Martyrdom of Man, as Winwood Reade did. We call our history the Triumph of Man; and it is because we wish to maintain it as the triumph of man that we face it with spirit and positiveness.

Our duties are grave, I say; they involve everything, in fact, that can be conceived as belonging to the task of keeping that to which we say “Yea” in the highest degree worthy of our “Yea”—worthy, that is to say, of our unreserved acceptance.

The conduct of Mortal Life, therefore, is our principal concern. And for this conduct to be correct and fruitful in good things, we must be quite clear as to the “shall” and the “shall not” of what we should hate and what we should love, of what we should call bad, and what we should call good.

Throughout this book the word “good” will always mean “that which is favourable to the best kind of Mortal Life and its multiplication.” If this book reveals any hate at all, it will be for that which is hostile to the best kind of life, and if it reveals any love at all it will be for everything that is friendly to the best kind of life.

[Pg 11]

This takes us far, no doubt; but not farther, I believe, than anyone should wish to go who has said “Yea” honestly and sanguinely to Mortal Life.

For instance, in opposition to men like St. Paul, Knox, Calvin, Prynne, Schopenhauer, Otto Weininger and their like, we say that Sex is good, Woman is good, the flesh is good. And we heartily dislike men like St. Paul, Knox, Calvin, Prynne, Schopenhauer and Otto Weininger because their attitude shows not only hostility to Woman and to Sex, but also, by implication, to Mortal Life, to which we have said “Yea.”

We call good all that which actuates us and maintains us in a proper exercise of our functions, and makes Mortal Life desirable: appetite, desire, lust, motherhood, fertility, reproductive love, reverence for the body, prepossession in favour of health and prejudice against sickness, respect of love, of beauty and of its multiplication. We also call good the loathing of ugliness and the desire to suppress it; we therefore approve of deep suspicion towards ugliness and illness, and towards everything and everybody that attempts to give ugliness and illness fine-sounding and euphemistic names, and we cultivate a love of moderation and a loathing of excess.

We call bad all that thwarts us in a proper exercise of our functions and all that makes Mortal Life undesirable or seem undesirable: loss of appetite or desire, the abuse of appetite or desire, as of all things; the finding of excuses or extenuating circumstances for ugliness, botchedness and sickness. We also call the following bad: excess, sterility, non-reproductive love, prostitution, homosexuality, irreverence towards the body, the setting of transcendental questions before vital questions.

On our side, in our advocacy of the first-named things, we have our instincts which, if they are sound, confirm us on every point.

It frequently happens, however, that Mortal Life is so difficult, and those who preach against it are so many, so eloquent and so powerful, that we need almost an[Pg 12] intellectual assent over and above our instinctive acceptance of it. For it is precisely in the moments of our greatest weakness, when we feel uncertain, when we have made mistakes and know that we have erred, that the preachers against life and the body, and against the fundamental instincts and desires of Mortal Life, will seem to be right, will seem almost to convince us that they are right. Like vultures they wait afar off till they see the body of our trust and hope in life, the corpse of our clean conscience, prostrate on the ground, and then down they swoop and devour the carrion that is their natural food.

It is before such disasters happen that an intellectual assent to the deepest promptings of our instincts is the greatest need of all. In practical life it may be taken as a general rule that it is more helpful to have an intellectual justification for our mistakes and the instincts that have led to them, than the most convincing theories in favour of our virtues. For it is innocence in the exercise of our natural functions that the preachers against Mortal Life and the body are most anxious to undermine, and most successful in undermining. And how often, particularly when an instinct has, so to speak, “drawn in its horns,” or ceased to assert itself owing to a momentary mistake, check or rebuff, would not an intellectual justification of its vigorous re-assertion help us to tide over the evil hour without our falling a prey to the opposing party—to the enemies of Mortal Life and the body!

If, however, we bear in mind the maxim that everything is “good” that is favourable to the best kind of Mortal Life, and everything is “bad” that is unfavourable to the best kind of life; if, moreover, we stand bravely and firmly by the principle that Mortal Life is acceptable and desirable, and therefore that all it exacts for its continuance must also be acceptable and desirable, and consequently that the things of the body—beauty, charm, ardour—together with the flesh, the world, sex,[Pg 13] woman, procreation, multiplication and good food, are for the glory, joy and exaltation of Mortal Life and man; if, over and above all this, we heroically embrace pain as a necessary incidental factor in the process of living, then, I say, we have an intellectual weapon far more formidable and far more effective for the warding off of those vultures of gloom and doubt—the preachers against life and the body—than any known engine of destruction could possibly be. It is this intellectual attitude to Mortal Life, with all its consequences in our code of morals, our likes and dislikes, that throughout this book I shall call the “positive” or “yea-saying” attitude: while the opposite attitude of mind will be designated by the word “negative.”[13] Nor shall I refer any longer in these pages to “Mortal Life,” but will speak merely of Life itself: for not only is it the only kind of life that will concern me here, but also, as we know nothing about Eternal Life, and our only notions of life are derived entirely from what we know of Mortal Life, Mortal Life and Life are to all intents and purposes one and the same thing for us, and the expression “Mortal Life” can well fall out at this stage of the discussion.


Unless they are very delicate or very sick, all children are positive. They are fresh from the anvil of Life. Life itself speaks through them without reserve, without constraint. They have made no mistakes yet, or are not aware of having made any; they have had none of[Pg 14] those rude shocks that shake our faith in Life and render us an easy prey to those vultures of which I have already spoken, that live on the carrion of shattered hopes and broken consciences. They say “Yea” to Life innocently and unconsciously, like kittens playing with balls of wool. And it is because they say “Yea” to Life innocently and unconsciously that they are so deeply interesting to the positive philosopher. Because in them he sees the attitude which he must maintain and sustain intellectually, despite all the shocks and misfortunes life has brought. But I point out again that I speak of this intellectual positiveness only as a helpful confirmation of sound instincts. If the sound instincts are not there, the positive intellectual attitude is nothing but a pose.

There is something strangely pathetic about this positiveness of the child. The philosopher knows the wilderness it is in. He knows that on the mountain peaks all around, the vultures are waiting hungrily to see it make its first mistake, to see it writhe under its first misfortune—or its first “guilt” as they like to call it. He knows with what extraordinary vigilance they are tracking its footsteps, so that they may be there in time, so that they may be at its side in the first moment of its doubt in Life, to tell it that Life is sinful, that lust is sinful, that sex is sinful, that the World, the Flesh and the Devil are interchangeable terms. And the positive philosopher cannot help wondering with some alarm how the child will survive this first encounter with doubt, with suspicion, and with distrust concerning that to which a moment ago it said “Yea” so wholeheartedly.

The positive philosopher trembles over the outcome of the conflict. With fear and trepidation he forges the weapons of intellectual positiveness and flings them with anxious prodigality before the child, hoping that they will sustain it in the struggle and confirm its best instincts; trusting with all his heart that they will revive its “Yea” to Life before it is completely overcome. And when the positive philosopher succeeds in this and sees the[Pg 15] birds of ill-omen turn disconsolately away, foiled in their endeavour, he celebrates his feast of feasts; because there is more rejoicing in his heart over one child that is saved from negativeness than over thousands that repent!

To the positive philosopher, then, the healthy child is the best pattern for the yea-saying and positive man. The only danger the child is in, as I have shown, consists in the fact that it is intellectually unprepared to justify its “Yea” in the face of the preachers of “Nay.” Apart from this one flaw, however—which in a universally positive world would not be felt as a disadvantage at all (because it is only in negative environments and negative ages that a conscious or intellectual confirmation of one’s soundest instincts is necessary)—the child, or the animal for that matter, presents the perfect example of the positive attitude towards Life. The positive philosopher, therefore, learns from the child, and watches it with interest.

The principal characteristic of the healthy child is, that it does not play with its primary appetites; it does not laugh about them; it cannot abide a joke about them. Watch a healthy child eat! It is absolutely serious, absorbed, concentrated, intent! A very healthy boy will even frown over his meal, just as he will frown when he eats a piece of chocolate. It is obvious from his expression that eating is no joke with him. It is one of the gravest, most pressing, most engrossing interests in life. And the same holds good of all healthy, positive adults. Watch a healthy and positive adult at his meals; he is serious to a fault! It is only when the demands of his body have been satisfied that he begins to indulge in levity. The man who habitually jokes at the beginning of a meal is past salvation. He is negative by nature and cannot be rescued.

Seriousness towards the primary instinct of self-preservation is one of the principal characteristics of the healthy child. But the healthy child is not yet fully, consciously concerned about any other instinct; if it[Pg 16] were—if, for instance, it were fully conscious of the reproductive instinct—we may be quite sure that it would take it quite seriously too; for it is serious—most serious perhaps—even when it is playing.

In spite of all the apparent light-heartedness of the healthy child, which is all that superficial people can see in it; in spite of the ease with which it turns from sleep to wakefulness, from tears to laughter, and vice versâ, there is a profundity, a sobriety, a solidity about its seriousness that nothing can affect. It takes its own body, itself, the world, and life tremendously seriously. It takes its wants and its desires seriously. It takes its loves and its hates seriously. Little children can be homicidal in their loathing of other children; they can be heroic in their devotion. Those who always depict children with a smile on their chubby faces, and hopping about on one leg, know nothing about them. They know nothing of the imperturbable gravity of the child, and of positiveness generally.

To watch the face of an elderly, negative spinster when a really healthy boy loses his temper, is to witness in one human countenance the whole history of the long conflict between those vultures of which I have spoken and the artless yea-sayer to Life.

Later on, if he is carefully handled, this boy will take his love seriously; he will cling to the girl he chooses in a manner that will make that same spinster marvel at his determination, and he will be as fierce and as serious in his desire for the woman of his choice as he once was over his games, over his hates, and over his meals.

Laughter is not nearly such a common characteristic of healthy positive life as the superficial imagine—more particularly noisy laughter. In every mixed party where much loud laughter or shrill laughter is heard, there is sure to be a good deal, not of gaiety, not of wanton spirits, but of nervous irascibility, sexual excitation, and particularly sexual abstinence, exasperation and—negativeness![Pg 17] He who travels the world over ascertains this curious fact: that loud, shrill laughter is essentially the social noise of Puritanical countries.

Positive people take too serious an attitude to life, to themselves, to each other, and particularly to members of the opposite sex, constantly to vent what they feel in an idle cackle or giggle. They laugh, but their hilarity is short, violent, and apparently effective; because it seems to relieve them for longer periods than does the laughter of negative people.

One of the chief characteristics of the positive mind, then, is the gravity, the solemn interest, with which it confronts life itself, the body that holds it, and everything vital, including sex.

Behold the healthy child, and you have an automaton guided absolutely by a positive mind! To retain this positive mind throughout one’s youth and adulthood is the greatest triumph—particularly nowadays—that anyone can achieve. He who achieves it may well laugh; he has a right to laugh; for he has mastered the most redoubtable foe a man can encounter—the powerful false values that are now seeking to prevail everywhere, and over the victims of which the vultures are muttering their thanksgiving.

The only positive form of laughter is the expression of a consciousness of acquired power. This is Hobbes’ view, it was Stendhal’s view; it is the biologist’s view, who says that laughter is the expression of superior adaptation.

Another characteristic of the positive mind is its forgetfulness in regard to the things that incapacitate it for taking a lively interest in life. This quality of the mind is simply a spiritual counterpart of the healthy body’s power of evacuating those portions of the food absorbed which cannot be assimilated without hurt: forgetting and digesting being the same function of evacuation in two different departments. The positive mind, like the healthy body it is in, knows how to get[Pg 18] rid of a useless thing quickly—in fact knows how to forget. Things do not weigh on it, or bear it down, any more than a hearty meal lies heavily on its body’s stomach. Its body digests quickly, and has very soon done with the process. The positive mind digests quickly—particularly its supposed misdeeds. That is why it is so difficult to give a positive person a guilty conscience; because a guilty conscience is simply a costive conscience. The positive mind remembers only so much as interests it keenly, or as much as does not stand in the way of a continued positive attitude to life; just as its body only retains the nourishment out of all it absorbs.

The positive mind has no fear of pain, particularly if this pain is incurred in a vital effort. Little boys will actually enjoy enormous discomfort and pain, provided it is encountered in doing things that reek of active life, that bring their bodies into violent action, and give them the thrill and bracing sensation of overcoming an obstacle, of resisting an attempt at capture, or of effecting a capture. “Yea” is their constant attitude to everything, even to the things which, to the adult, are disagreeable.

I remember on one occasion, when I was walking home from a friend’s house in the pouring rain, I met that same friend’s two little sons returning at a perfectly leisurely pace from school. I had an umbrella, they had not. Naturally I felt it incumbent upon me to see them home, and, gathering them carefully under my silk shelter, I marched them smartly in the direction of their father’s house. I soon found, however, that all my pains were wasted on them, for whenever I was not looking, out one of them would stray into the drenching shower; and when I insisted on their keeping quite close to me, each of them gravely extended his free arm out into the rain to catch as much of it as possible, while every puddle was conscientiously and solemnly explored by their feet.

This may seem a trifling circumstance to dwell upon;[Pg 19] but unimportant as it was, it struck me as being but another example of the indomitable yea-saying of healthy childhood to anything and everything.

The gravity of the little boy when he does these things shows clearly the relation between positiveness and things that matter—things that have weight, solidity, importance, tangibility, definition.

Another incident occurs to me as I write. I remember once feeling a little intrigued by the sight of a knot of little village boys standing like conspirators very seriously together in one of the streets of my favourite Sussex village. Their ages ranged from about eight to eleven years. I knew them all perfectly well, and the fact that I drew close up to them did not disturb them in the least. When I was near enough to discover what they were talking about, this is what I saw and heard:—In the centre of the grave and almost hushed group there stood a lad of about nine years of age. He was exhibiting his dirty hands proudly and almost arrogantly to his friends, and the latter were listening with rapt attention to his harangue. I noticed that they all appeared to be a little crestfallen and dejected, save the boy who was demonstrating with his hands, and one other boy who seemed to be arguing with him. Now the explanation of all this profound interest, rapt attention and conflicting emotions, was as follows:—The central figure, the boy of nine, had hands that were covered thickly with large warts, and he possessed one particularly big and ugly-looking specimen just beneath the knuckle of a finger of his right hand. He was exhibiting these horrible excrescences to his schoolfellows triumphantly and defying them to show anything like them, or even approaching them in size and number; and there was but one of them who had a sufficiently respectable record, where warts were concerned, to be able to answer him and meet him, as it were, on equal ground, and this was the boy who had been contesting his point all the time.

Again, this is a trifling incident, but it is full of significance[Pg 20] for the analyst of the positive mind. This yea-saying to anything and everything, which surges up with the conviction of an explosion at every moment, everywhere, is far more important, far more profound, far more solid, as a characteristic of childhood, than that mythical innocence and sweet merriness which is the only characteristic of healthy childhood that superficial child-lovers will either grant or recognize.


The discipline of healthy children, because of their very positiveness, is one of the most intricate and delicate tasks that devolves upon the adult man or woman. It is the task and problem of practical morality, and to solve it without chilling any of that valuable positiveness of childhood, to impose a limit, in fact, upon juvenile positiveness without destroying or blighting it, is the most difficult achievement in education.

To say “yea” to everything—to mud, to filth, to danger, to illness (for positive children are positive even to their bodily disorders), to the rain, to animals, to vermin, to the knife, to explosives, to ladders, to dangerous altitudes, to the precipice, and so on—is of course, supremely delightful, supremely healthy; but it cannot be allowed in its full catholicity. This I am perfectly ready to knowledge. The luxuriance of the child’s positiveness must be pruned. The human being must be reared for society. He must be taught the limitations of his freedom; above all, he must be taught taste and discrimination: what to select and what to reject. And there is perhaps no more solemn moment in life than when a full-grown man or woman, in perfect possession of all the necessary intellectual equipment for the task, approaches his universally yea-saying junior to discipline it—that is to say, to determine its “yea,” to limit it, and to confine it only to a certain set of things.

[Pg 21]

The problem is obviously, how can the child be kept positive to this world while being rendered negative to the undesirable elements in this life. Or to put it in a sentence: how can I make my little boy say “No” to warts without saying “No” to the world? To all those who approach the child with a negative creed, to all those who are vultures themselves, or who derive from the vulture breed, the order is clearly “Hands off!” Only people who have retained their positive attitude to life should be allowed to interfere where children are concerned; because ordered social life itself is discipline, and but very little careful and discriminating guidance need be added. When Herbert Spencer said that children of large families were always better than those of small families, because in the case of the former the parents have less time to interfere with natural processes, he propounded a very true principle as far as the modern negative world is concerned; because most of the juvenile discipline nowadays is not only imposed by negative people, but the very social environment in which these people move and breathe is also negative and hostile to life.

The object and province of juvenile discipline are simply these: to rear a positive human being for social life; to discipline it to selection and rejection without forcing it to scout or to suspect vital functions or vital virtues. It sounds simple enough when stated in a single line; but how many misunderstandings, how many ruined careers, how many bitter, disappointed and ill-adapted adults are not the result of the opposite principle, the principle which reads that the positive child should above all be taught to distrust its deepest instincts, its body, and to be suspicious of the world, the flesh and the Devil—the latter meaning very often no more than wanton spirits.

Sometimes when one sees the kind of people—men and women—into whose gentle bloodless hands, into whose drab, lifeless but well-meaning existences, healthy[Pg 22] helpless children are made to fall, it is difficult not to shudder. How good they are! How sweet is their ideal of what a child ought to be! How vigilant they are for any signs of “wickedness”! Who can submit to their Procrustean method and survive a whole, positive being? They know! They know what pleases God and the angels! No one is better informed than they on this subject. Honest?—no one could be more so than they. Reliable?—they could be trusted to stamp the exuberance out of a boa-constrictor! Good?—not merely good, but holy! Their mild cerulean eyes gaze beyond the child in their tender care, and towards a wonderful ideal, far away, of perfect childhood—a bright, merry, glowing angel who, preferably, would have wings on his shoulders, à la Joshua Reynolds, and nothing—no nothing at all—beneath the thorax. His body might end there with advantage. That is their belief, their hope, their ambition. All human beings might end there with advantage; but above all the child, because children are so pure, so guileless, so sweet; it is such a pity that——

Luckily, robust positiveness has a tenacity and a vigour that frequently survive even the contagion of these toads with evil consciences. But how few are the survivals compared with the number that go under annually!

That is why little girls survive the process more often than little boys; because, as a rule, unless attacked from the side of the body, a female’s positiveness to life is wholly and utterly unbreakable. But it is deeper, more silent, less conspicuous, less articulate than that of the little boy; therefore it more easily eludes the cerulean but very superficial glance of the negative adult. It is more unconscious and consequently less liable to betray itself in the presence of constraining influences. It manifests itself, too, in a less arresting, less annoying fashion; it appears to be “harmless.” Behold the girls that are turned out annually from convent schools or strictly Puritanical High Schools. If their tremendous positiveness had not been secret, concealed, subcutaneous, unconscious,[Pg 23] how could it possibly have survived? Again and again I have heard the negative adult deny a passionate positive temperament in a little girl, when I saw it clearly. It is this mistake, this inability to detect a trait that is deep enough to be very far below the surface, that is alone responsible for the salvation of thousands of girls to-day.

Modern man is not only less positive generally than woman, but the modicum of positiveness he possesses is also more apparent, less resisting, more self-assertive, more conscious and therefore less secret. It also manifests itself in a more obtrusive and more irritating way.[14]

Boys suffer most from a negative discipline. Men are suffering most physically and mentally from our negative age. Women only suffer from the indirect results of the age—that is to say, from the deterioration it causes in their men.


[1] See St. Matthew, chap. xxii. verse 30: “For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven.”

[2] It should always be remembered that the promise of Christianity is “the resurrection of the body.”

[3] For an explanation of what I mean by this much-abused phrase, see pp. 70, 90-94.

[4] See my Defence of Aristocracy (Constable), chap. V.

[5] See Sex and Character (Heinemann, 1906), p. 299.

[6] Ibid., p. 299.

[7] Ibid., p. 329.

[8] Ibid., p. 336.

[9] Ibid., p. 343.

[10] Ibid., p. 345.

[11] Ibid., p. 345.

[12] Op. cit., p. 346.

[13] Of course, I mean this intellectual positiveness only as a rational confirmation of bodily and constitutional positiveness; for frequently when I shall use the expression “positive” it will also mean the unconscious, spontaneous positiveness of a healthy body. From the context there will be no mistaking which I mean. The same remark applies naturally to the expression intellectual negativeness. For instance, St. Paul and Calvin were both intellectually as well as spontaneously negative. An unhealthy child, or an unhealthy adult, may be only unconsciously or spontaneously so.

[14] In this connexion, see pp. 98-103.

[Pg 24]

The Subject Treated Generally

In my Introduction I have said enough to show that I can be neither a so-called Woman-hater nor a Woman-despiser. And if I have departed somewhat from the common rules laid down by precedent for the writing of a book of this nature, it was because I felt compelled to safeguard some of my hardest and most unacceptable views and conclusions from the withering suspicion of having been dictated by bitterness or resentment.

Other men have written about Woman, and have said hard things about her too: Knox, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Weininger are among them. Neither Knox, Schopenhauer nor Nietzsche, however, started life with such a large fund of prepossession in her favour. Neither Knox, Schopenhauer nor Nietzsche can be said to have been free, as I am, from those bitter experiences and shocks that distort one’s vision and destroy one’s focus.

If I appear to say things that are hard, therefore let it be plainly understood at this stage in my work, that I do so only because I wish to speak frankly and clearly about my subject; and that in view of the muddled and maudlin misunderstandings that now hang like a stifling mist over the female sex, it is impossible to dissipate errors or to take up a clear and definite stand at all, without occasionally seeming hard, unrelenting, metallic. Any flash may be taken for a flash of steel, particularly when one is in a fog.

My intention in writing this book was to save Woman from the cruel misconceptions that are steadily undermining her body and her character, and although there[Pg 25] is much in my work that will try the patience and the endurance of many of my readers—particularly men and unhealthy women—I could not possibly eliminate a single one of the more provocative passages without failing in what I feel to be my duty to my undertaking.

I maintain that Woman is now miserable, wretched, desperate. I am not one of those who are certain that present woman is a product of man’s own fashioning. If she were she would not be miserable, because, step by step, as man has advanced—or declined!—she too would have changed, and thus remained his adapted and contented mate. But there is something essentially idiosyncratic in Woman, something that makes her an individual, unalterable and for ever fixed; something that nothing can fashion. You can make her miserable; you can make her sick; you cannot change her! I would go further and say, that all women from Pekin to London and Lisbon are the same; they are only a little more happy or healthy, or a little more miserable and ill, according as to whether their men do or do not understand how to treat them.

Disbelieving utterly, as I do, in the theory that Modern Woman is as man has made her—I mean apart from her wretchedness or sickness, of course—I cannot uphold the view that Woman has any destiny to work out for herself. She has no “true Womanhood” that has yet to be sought and found while we leave her alone. We cannot leave her alone. The moment we leave her alone she ceases to be true Woman: where, then, could she go alone to seek and find her “true Womanhood”?

All those who speak of a “true Womanhood” to be sought and found away from us and from the children we give her, would do both Woman and the world a kindness, a great and inestimable kindness, in henceforward for ever holding their tongues on the subject of Woman.

We try to soothe our consciences; we try to slur over our social mistakes; we sneakingly pretend to ignore the[Pg 26] fact that our social life is wrong; and we, and even some women themselves, preach the accursed doctrine that there is a true Womanhood to be sought and found in women alone, by women alone, for women alone! We have not, cannot, will not, do our duty by Women, and we assuage their blind and often unconscious misery by this damnable falsehood which thousands of them in their trustfulness believe. We tell them that somewhere in the Far Away, in the Never-Never-Land—not in the Backwoods of Superior Bunkum—there is a True Woman, a hybrid of a misunderstood Joan of Arc and a glacier. She is alone glorying in her True Womanhood. No man has fashioned her. She has no fashioning—or fashion either, for that matter!—and she simply sits and exults in her manless, childless, splendid independence! Towards this ideal we bid our sisters strive—nay, some of our sisters themselves bid their sisters strive; and we have not enough decency left to blush at our perfidy, at our blackguardly deception!

The problem is out of hand; its difficulties have proved too much for us, otherwise we could not have the barefaced duplicity to settle it in this transparently farcical manner.

What should we think of a cattle-farmer, who, on discovering that he had not enough pasture-land for all his sheep, taught the pastureless ones, when they had grown thin and wan for want of their proper food, that there was a True Sheephood somewhere, a lofty ideal—a Sheephood that could go without pasture-land and without grass altogether; a Sheephood that was self-contained and self-reliant, independent and indisputable, and that they were to go in search of that True Sheephood, and if necessary grow thinner and less attractive every day in their search for it? We should feel that they would have to be very inferior sheep to believe this story, or, rather, very real sheep indeed! Everything in their body, from their cud-chewing molars to their long grass-digesting gut, would surely tell them that the Ideal of[Pg 27] True Sheephood was arrant nonsense, and cruel arrant nonsense too.

No, it is impossible to accept the “True Womanhood” ideal of woman gloriously alone, emancipated from man, independent and “discovered.” Inasmuch as we have not fashioned her, and could not do so if we tried, woman is as her rôle in the course of evolution has made her. She is certainly more unhappy, more tormented, more unwell, than she ever need have been; but that is because her principal adaptation—her relation to man—is now so often entirely wrong, or alas! non-existent. I point out again: if, as some presumptuously maintain, we have been fashioning her all through the ages, she would have followed us contentedly to our present stage—a thing she has not done. There is something essentially idiosyncratic in woman then, something that defies our clumsy “fashioning” hands.

This unalterable individuality has not to be found. It is not an ideal after which we might strive. It is present, it is seated in Woman now and for evermore, and one of its principal characteristics is that it cannot brook isolation, solitude, independence, glorious singleness. The “True Womanhood” hoax of Woman refound by herself, for herself, and in herself, as if all this time her association with man and her dependence upon him had been a mistake, an error of judgment, a cramping, limiting and disturbing factor in the evolution of “Pure Woman,” is simply pure falsehood of the worst description; because it overlooks the facts precisely there where they are most glaring, most undeniable, most conspicuous.

Examine the tendrils of the vine and deny that it is a creeping plant destined to cling to a wall or to a tougher plant than itself, and you would declare yourself in so many words an ignoramus or a madman.

Examine Woman and deny that she must have two primary adaptations—that to the man and that to the child—in order simply to fulfil her destiny as it is stamped[Pg 28] indelibly on her body; and you acknowledge yourself straight away not only an ignoramus and a madman, but a dangerous specimen of both.

Immersed as Woman obviously is, up to her shoulders in the business of Life and its multiplication, let it be said plainly and unequivocally: all those who teach her that any other business is her business, all those who, in face of the dilemma of modern problems, confuse her with tales about a true Womanhood away from Life and its multiplication; all those, in short, who beguile her with promises of happiness, contentedness, or even comfort, without her primary adaptations to man and the child, are liars both unscrupulous and criminal.

And here I have touched upon what I claim to be idiosyncratic and perfectly individual in Woman—her deep and almost whole-bodied concern with Life and its multiplication. Above all the other functional differences and similarities between the sexes, this fundamental trait must prevail as a permanent and ineradicable characteristic of Woman, and it is the bedrock on which we must build, and from which we must set out, if we wish to arrive at a clear and untainted image of Woman as distinct from Man.

When, moreover, one remembers that this principal characteristic of hers is the seed and generating force of all her will, her leading instincts and her virtues, it is simply deliberate blindness to deny that she has not a distinctive and powerful individuality that places her far outside the possible influence of those “fashioning” male hands that some have the impudence to maintain have warped or diverted the true course of her evolution.

Leave her alone then; leave her to work out her own salvation, and like Nora in Ibsen’s Doll’s House, to venture single-handed in search of that true Womanhood which according to some theorists has yet to be found, and has never yet been allowed a free development, and what happens?—She ceases from being a true Woman at her very first step into the wilderness of isolation.[Pg 29] She denies her principal characteristic, her distinctive individuality, by the very act of desertion constituted by her flight into so-called freedom and autonomy. For the only power that rules Woman with an iron hand, the only power that moulds her destiny and actuates her behaviour and aspirations, she can never desert; and that is a power far more inexorable and irresistible than the power of man. It is the power of Life itself, with which she is much more deeply, secretly and thoroughly in touch than we are, or could ever hope to be. We are an amputation from Life, to which we return only at odd intervals, as it were to pay tribute: she is Life’s uninterrupted stream that receives this tribute.

I repeat, therefore, that while we have the power to make Woman miserable and ill—a power which for the last 250 years in England we have exercised with ever-increasing folly—we have no more right to boast that we have moulded or directed her evolution than we have a right to boast of having shaped the stars and the moon. And those women who allow us this boast and who accuse us of having arrested their development (whatever that may mean), or of having distorted their true individuality, fall with treacherous perfidy to their sex, into the ranks of Woman’s worst enemies.

How have we made Woman miserable and ill?

Let me explain what misery and illness means:

Put a mole to live upon a concrete floor, lay a frog in a parched sandy plain, and confine the agile cat to a space only just large enough to allow it to lash its tail, and you will have succeeded so thoroughly in thwarting the primary instincts of these three animals—the subterranean life of the mole, for which its large forelegs and its whole body crave; the amphibious life of the frog after which its webbed feet and nimble limbs hanker, and the stalking, hunting and prowling lust of the cat to which all its magnificent body is so superbly adjusted—that you will have made them utterly and desperately miserable and probably ill as well.

[Pg 30]

What have you done? You have deprived them of their primary adaptations. The same holds good of Woman. Millions of women to-day are hopelessly irrevocably deprived of their primary adaptations, and even those who are given their primary adaptations, so frequently receive them in a form that is inadequate and unsatisfying, effete and inferior, that even among the married women of our day there is a depth of disappointment, disillusionment and vague dissatisfaction that makes some of them even more miserable than their single sisters. The latter, at least, are still able to hope against hope (a wonderful power in women); the others can only await the end, knowing the worst and knowing that everything is hopeless.

How do we men absolve ourselves from the blame of this? For it is certainly we who mould society and ourselves, even if we do not mould women. How do we try to evade, escape, circumvent the main issue?—We have the effrontery to teach Woman the doctrine that since we fail them both in quantity and quality, there is a life away from us and the children they could have from us that is worth living. We do not scruple to tell them that they can be happy, content, comfortable, without the surroundings to which they are primarily adapted. We abet and promote a process by which millions of our women deliberately turn their backs upon their primary adaptations, and spring to our side like neuters in the arena of our active life, our besotting duties, our drudgery! But not content with undermining their health and their happiness by denying the just privilege of their primary adaptations, we undermine their spirits by casting them like convicts into the wheels of the very machine that has already reduced us to such pale shadows of our former selves, such faint echoes of manhood, that they were rightly growing dissatisfied with us.

But not only that, we taught them that they could find happiness in this independence, in this single-handed struggle—happiness! Aye, there were even[Pg 31] some women who arose and assured their sisters that we were right and that they could live lives, yes, and enjoy Life, in this independent isolation!

If this were not all visible before us, many would still refuse to believe it. Unfortunately it is all only too true! This incredible farce is our present-day existence—our age!

We have actually not refrained from telling young girls that they can live a life away from their principal adaptations!

Only recently, for instance, when the 1921 census revealed that there were approximately 2,000,000 more women than men in Great Britain—that is to say, 2,000,000 women who on the monogamous principle could not be expected to find mates—several prominent people wrote to the papers protesting indignantly that these women were not superfluous, and arguing that there was “enough work in the world” for all the women. These people wrote as if the whole question were an economic one, and that, provided the two million unmated women could only make themselves self-supporting in their singleness, the difficulties of the case would be entirely overcome.[15] But this attitude towards the question was ridiculously unsympathetic. For, if the only object in life were to become self-supporting by means of work, one would not require to be either a man or a woman; a neuter, after the style of the worker-bee, would be all that one required to resemble. But the attitude of these prominent people was unfortunately worse than unsympathetic; it was insulting and dishonest. For, to tell a body of two million women that[Pg 32] they need not despair, that even if they could find no mates, there would be work enough for them in order to render them self-supporting, was to assume, without enquiry, that they were neuters, or that they were capable of leading satisfactory lives as neuters. It was at least tantamount to assuming that they would be content in leading the lives of neuters—an assumption insulting both to their physical as well as to their mental development, and one which, having not a fact to support it, was entirely dishonest. Apart from all this, however, it amounted to a vulgar narrowing down of all earthly aspirations and desires, to the economic struggle—to success in the task of finding sustenance.

The Holy Catholic Church was more honest in this, and more practical than we are. It told all those women for whom society failed to provide their principal adaptations, that they could find comfort, occupation, and even a high purpose, by entering the Church, but it was frank enough to add: if you do so you must turn your back for ever upon those things for which you were built, those things to which your whole body was ingeniously and artfully adjusted and contrived.

And even when the system broke down, as it frequently did,[16] at least where Life was illicitly found in the convent or the monastery, it was found and enjoyed secretly, under the respectable auspices of a powerful institution, and not on the streets of big cities where the fruits are nothing but distress, disgrace and disease.

But behind all this unwillingness to recognize or admit that Woman cannot really be “adapted” (which is simply a biological way of saying she cannot be really happy or well) without fulfilling the destiny that her rôle in the process of evolution, and not man, stamped indelibly upon her body from the start, is the very same insidious and devastating force that has made her unhappy in[Pg 33] other directions, that has reduced her men, for instance, to nincompoops. I refer to Puritanism.[17]

Puritanism, always so hostile to sex, would fondly like one to believe that sex is no longer one of the first considerations of Life, even for women. It would give a good deal, and has given a good deal, to convince everybody that one can “get on without it”! And, indeed, its values and atmosphere have now reared so many thousands of wretched, lank, bloodless and lifeless men and women who can get on without it, and who do get on without it, that quite a large number of people are beginning to believe that Puritanism is right. In any case, it is to these unconscious victims of its system that it now has the effrontery to point as evidence of its criminal contention when it seeks to persuade the unwary that it is right.

When, therefore, the cruel solution of modern sex problems (problems that only arose through the kind of society Puritanism has created) was supposed to have been found by telling women that “they really did not want men or children, and could easily ‘get on’ without either,” it was the voice of Puritanism that was distinct and persuasive here; Puritanism at last within an ace of complete triumph, and exulting over having achieved what to all intents and purposes must have seemed an impossible undertaking from the start.

When, however, one remembers how carefully and skilfully the ground had been prepared, when one remembers how unscrupulously every possible means had been exploited in order to consummate the end in view, how can one wonder at the unravelment!

After having reduced man to a mere shadow of his former self, after having atrophied, besmirched and slandered the sex instinct until it was literally ashamed to show its face (fancy, the fundamental instinct of life[Pg 34] being ashamed to show its face!)—after having heaped up so much odium on the waning innocence of sexual beauties and the sacred joys of procreation that shame descended upon them like a deadly and withering shroud—no wonder that there were some, nay, thousands, who were ready to acknowledge that there was a life away from the fundamental instinct of life!

For fire alone purifies; fire alone renders some fusions and combinations possible. Damp the ardour of man, therefore, reduce his fire, and the sexual act does indeed become an affair from which many might be justified in shrinking. The procreative love of human beings was obviously designed on the presumption that they would remain warm-blooded animals. Once they grew to be cold-blooded, it of necessity became improper, impious. The procreation of fish is accomplished without any embrace, without any étreinte of male and female: but fish are cold-blooded.

Thus in support of the Puritan’s chilling cry that there was a life away from the fundamental instinct of Life, there arose very soon a chorus of disillusioned and indignant married women’s voices, who knew the anguish and embarrassment of human sexual life with a human fish, and who were not in the least prepared to conceal its horrors.

And how convincing all this seemed! How many sensitive and intelligent girls have not listened to this married woman’s chorus in support of the Puritan’s plea, and felt their hope in life, their trust in life, their love of life, shake in its foundations! So much so, indeed, that it is now possible for them to listen no longer with suspicion but with eager interest to those of their “fortunate” sisters who are too unhealthy, or too deficient in vigour to feel any desire for their principal adaptations; it is possible even for the naturally sterile among women, for the women below par in every respect, and incapable, either through repulsiveness or botchedness, to fulfil their destiny, to pass through the world without being despised,[Pg 35] without being looked down upon. And since the number of women who lack the vigour and the spirit really to crave for their principal adaptations increases every year, an atmosphere of reality and naturalness is imparted to the artificial and destructive claims of Puritanism, which is as deceiving as it is dangerous, and as difficult to dissipate as it was slow and gradual to form.

It is precisely because women are so deeply in touch with Life, so secretly and unconsciously Life’s ally, Life’s ambassador, Life’s custodian, that they cannot help being miserable and in pain nowadays. The voice of Life inside them tells them emphatically that things are wrong, that the muddle man has made of Life is tragic, cruel, insufferable. As Life’s unconscious advocate, Woman is essentially opposed to modernity, however much she may seem in favour of it. When she appears to be most in favour of it, she is only following modern man and his ideals most closely.

Having all the equipment for Life’s most important business, it will not appear hard to believe that Woman is positive. Life through her says “Yea” to itself. In fact when Woman says “Yea” to Life, it is simply Life itself accepting itself as such. All women’s apparent negativism is either only skin deep, or else it is the outcome of bodily sickness or degeneracy. The mere fact that in all periods of decline Woman has always come to the fore, the historical fact that Feminism is undeniably a phenomenon of male degeneration—the swan-song of male-constructed societies—shows how inevitably Life itself comes forward at the last moment in order to try to rescue itself when it feels all else is failing. But it comes forward in a form that cannot lead to salvation. Because, although Woman is equipped for carrying on Life’s business, she is not equipped for ordering it. You cannot be a thing and above it, or out of it, at the same time. The part is not greater than the whole. And, as Woman is immersed in Life, she has not the duality of vision that is necessary for placing and ordering Life.[Pg 36] She knows, because she feels, when Life is going to pieces; she knows when Life has been outraged, when hostility to Life is working havoc with Life’s material; but she can only ascertain the fact, she can only protest against the fact; she cannot remedy it.

To remind me that modern women—or the most far-seeing among them—organized a powerful agitation to obtain the Parliamentary vote, is simply to point to a proof of what I say. The Parliamentary vote is essentially a male invention. It is essentially a male idea. It is not an idea of Life. In fact, three-quarters of the harm that has come to Life might be ascribed to this very Parliamentary vote, and the Democracy it implies; and yet, when Woman in her agony casts about her for a remedy for Life’s sickness, she can do nothing more than lay hold of this futile and dangerous male invention, and seek salvation through it.

It is her cry of protest, however, that is interesting as a symptom, as a warning. And all those who have ears to hear, know it is the cry of Life itself, agitating for reform. But, as the feeling is unconscious with Woman, and as she is not equipped for the task of standing outside Life and ordering it, the remedies she advocates must be suspected and rejected just as earnestly as her cry of warning must be respected and observed.


[15] See Arabella Kenealy in Feminism and Sex-Extinction (pp. 211-12): “That all women do not marry—cannot marry, indeed, because of their preponderance in number over the other sex—is no reason for dissembling the truth that in wifehood and motherhood lie women’s most vital and valuable rôles. Nor is it a warrant for training the whole sex as though none were destined to fulfil this, their natural and noblest, if not always their happiest, vocation.”

[16] The reports made in the reign of Henry VIII by his Commissioners, concerning the state of the convents and monasteries, give proof enough of this, as do also the reports of visiting bishops in the Middle Ages.

[17] For an exhaustive description of the metamorphosis of the Englishman through the influence of Puritanism, see chapter V of my Defence of Aristocracy (Constable & Co., 1915).

[Pg 37]

Woman and her Unconscious Impulses

If a healthy child be told to sit still for a long time at a stretch, the chances are that it will disobey the order at the end of the first two minutes.

Likewise, if a rhinoceros be placed in a soft-floored stable, the chances are that it will very soon plough up the whole of its place of captivity with its nasal horn.

Other examples can be thought of: the wallowing of ducks, unprovided with water, in dirty puddles and ditches; the nail exercise of the cat on the legs of our dining-room tables; and the gnawing away of wood by white mice in a manner that can in no way effect their escape.

Let me explain some of these examples:

A healthy child—a little boy—is told to sit still. What happens? The muscles and tissues of his body are well-nourished. In his constitution there is a reserve of strength which, like the power of a galvanic battery is seeking an outlet, a method of discharging itself. All his muscles tell him most emphatically that they want to be moving, that they want to be actively employed.

Now let us turn to the child’s consciousness and to his brain. Let us look to see what is happening there. These impatient messages that are constantly coming up from every nerve and tissue in his body are registered in the brain, but they do not enter consciousness in their original form. Consciousness receives only an interpretation of them. The child is not really aware of them at all. If you asked him when he first began to move or fidget: “What is the matter with you?” he would[Pg 38] reply either “I don’t like sitting here” or “I want to go and play.” Not only is he unconscious of the fact that while he is sitting there his body is in a state of genuine distress, because of energy seeking to be discharged, but he would be utterly incapable of using the proper phraseology to explain his condition, even if he were aware of it. All he knows, all he is conscious of is this:

(1) Playing is good fun.

He does not know that the reason why his body insists on moving is that all his tissues are alive with energy that wants to be used.

(2) Sitting here is a hopeless bore.

He does not realize that sitting still to a live body in a state of energetic exuberance is actually painful, and even if he cries from sheer pain, on this account alone, his consciousness will still say: “I want to play,” “I don’t want to sit here.” He will never say, “I am in pain,” or “It hurts not to play.”

Let him get down from his chair and go to play, and in less than a minute you will probably find him exerting vain efforts to move a huge stone or a massive log from one place to another. The purpose of the transposition of this solid and inert mass will be clear neither to you nor to him; but that is immaterial. His body wants to spend its energy, and the little boy, therefore, likes moving a large stone or a large log about. And he will cry or protest violently if you tell him he is not to do it. He does not know in the least why he wants to do it; he only knows, for the moment, that moving big stones is good.

From all this it is clear, not only that the brain’s interpretation of a bodily state is unreliable as a sign of what is actually proceeding in that body, but also that it does not always require to be reliable in order to lead its owner to do the right thing, or to adopt the proper course of action.

Now let us suppose the same child peevish and irritable. What actually happens?

[Pg 39]

Let us look inside his body for a moment! The large intestine is congested; his bowels have not been properly opened for thirty-six hours. Last night, owing to this condition, his sleep was restless and feverish. This morning he has eaten a good breakfast, but he is not so lively as he was yesterday. Messages are going up to his brain every second from every tissue in his body. And all these messages say one and the same thing: “We are not happy: we are not in our usual clean, healthy condition.” The brain itself, owing perhaps to disordered circulation, is also a little surcharged with blood; so that, in addition to the messages of distress that incessantly rise from the body, it has its own distress.

Now let us turn to the child’s consciousness! What is happening there? The child is not conscious of all the alarms and signals of distress coming up from his body; he is not conscious of the pressure of blood on his brain. All he knows is that he is feeling thoroughly and utterly discontented. And since his human intelligence tells him that discontent must have a cause, this cause must be found. An incident at breakfast soon provides the whole scheme of a convincing cause for his feeling of distress. His little sister picks up a crumb of his bread and eats it—an innocent action which, if it had happened yesterday, or the day before, would only have provoked laughter.

It is, however, sufficient to provide the badly informed brain with material for a false interpretation. The sister’s action is immediately posited as the cause of his feeling ill at ease, and in a moment all his body’s angry discontent about its bad condition is vented against the unfortunate little sister, who is as staggered as she is hurt by his sudden unaccountable outburst of tears and bitter words.

In the two examples given, what has been the unconscious motive of the little boy’s behaviour? In Example 1 it was a reserve of physical energy that was seeking an outlet—interpreted by the little boy’s consciousness as a desire to roll a stone or a log as an end in itself.

[Pg 40]

In Example 2 it was a state of physical depression which, reaching the lad’s consciousness as a vague discontent, led him to seek its cause. Thanks to a false interpretation, and still acting quite unconsciously of the real cause, he flies into a passion with his little sister, because her taking of his crumb of bread seems to him a sufficient cause for his discontentedness.

This part of my disquisition on the unconscious, together with what follows, will do excellent service, if understood, in helping the reader to see more clearly into the complicated train of consequences which, as I shall point out later on, in Chapter VIII, lead to most conjugal differences, and ultimately to Divorce. Irrelevant as the above examples may seem, therefore, I would ask the reader to endeavour to make quite sure that he understands the principle they involve; because much of the lucidity of Chapter VIII will depend upon a thorough grasp of this principle.

When I speak of people acting in a certain way, or doing otherwise unaccountable and apparently immoral deeds as the result of a bodily impulse that they misinterpret, I shall speak of an unconscious motive on their parts. Only in this sense shall I speak of unconscious motives.

The correlation of bodily equipment and motive or desire, therefore, must always be kept very carefully in mind if we are to comprehend the behaviour of our fellows, and of the lower animals.

An animal that has a horn on its nose, like the rhinoceros, will have a concomitant desire to use it. Its motive for using it may be quite unconscious; but that does not matter. The little kitten does not hate you, or desire to hurt you when it uses its claws on your hands. It has a bodily part, well supplied with intricate mechanism and nerves, and it is more than it can do not to use that part.

The impulse coming from a bodily part that cries to be used is generally misinterpreted. That can be taken[Pg 41] as a more or less universal rule. We have seen how the child, though it acted in the right way in the first example, was utterly unconscious of the true springs of its action. But that almost every positive action we perform in our lives is the outcome of a correlation of our bodily parts sending commands to our brain, is nevertheless an undeniable fact.

Take, for instance, the man who possesses the happy combination of a very good eye and an agile, dexterous hand. According to the sort of environment into which he falls, he may be one of several things—either an excellent shot and warrior, or an excellent draughtsman, sculptor, craftsman or painter. The correlation of his bodily parts determines his desires and consequently his career. His motives throughout may be unconscious—that is to say, he may be unaware until the end, of the nature of the forces that actuated him.

Turning now, with these considerations in our mind, to the contemplation of Woman, what do we find?

We find a creature who stands up to her shoulders in the business of Life and its multiplication. Artfully contrived and richly equipped for this business, and with the whole of her trunk and its nervous system intricately organized for it—so that even in her limbs and the skin upon them, so that even in her face and the hair on her head one can detect reverberations, as it were, of the mighty and momentous forces that irradiate her being—Woman cannot evade the common fate of all creatures, and cannot help being guided in her conduct rigidly by the correlation of her bodily parts, any more than all other creatures can. But her actions and the unconscious motives behind them will be all the more inevitable, for having such an elaborate, such a purposeful, and such a deep-seated mechanism as their generator.

Woman’s positiveness to Life, therefore, only amounts to her saying “Yea” to her bodily impulses, and this she cannot help doing without entertaining thoughts of self-destruction. And her “Yea” to Life is more determined,[Pg 42] more unswerving, more unrelenting than man’s, in proportion as she is more thoroughly organized and equipped than he is for Life’s business. Her “Yea” to Life cannot be changed to “Nay,” because she is utterly unconscious of it, and is therefore powerless to change it. She may in a moment of bottomless despair say “Nay” to herself, when a sufficient number of people, or a sufficiently important one of many people, has said “Nay” to her; but even then, she is not saying “Nay” to Life, but “Nay” to the thought of living an empty life, or no life.[18]

Woman may ultimately marry. But she is already wed when she is born. She is wed to Life. Life is her taskmaster, and Life is her Lord. I shall show very soon how she unconsciously acknowledges this sway, sacrifices herself to it, and immolates herself before it—aye, even commits adultery for it, lies for it, murders and thieves for it, and sometimes kills herself for it.

What is man in the presence of this formidable engine of Life’s purpose? Merely a means that Woman unconsciously exploits while she consciously imagines that she loves him. What are her children? Children are the object of her eternally unconscious gratitude, because they are the product of her healthy functioning, the instruments on which she has played off the whole gamut of her sensibilities and sensations.

The hierarchy then reads: (1) Life, (2) Woman, (3) Man. For the present this will do.

To understand Woman, then, we must first of all think of her as a creature who is constantly being actuated by the readiness and desire her bodily equipment feels, to be used, to be made to function, to exercise its powers. But we must always remember that she is not aware of[Pg 43] the nature of this actuating force, that it is always the unconscious motive of her actions. We know it must be so; we know it is so; but we also know that she does not know it.

All her will, all her conduct, all her crimes or great deeds—if she perpetrate any—must be ascribed to the actuating force of her bodily equipment; but she will always be aware only of other motives for her conduct, and her mind will invariably misinterpret the causes of it.

Let me go over the ground I have just covered, in a slightly different way, in order that I may be quite sure of being understood. All those who have already thoroughly grasped my point can skip this passage.

If we examine the relation of instinct to will, what do we find it to be.[19]

An instinct may be understood as a predisposition implanted in a living creature to act in a certain way prior to experience, or, as a bias in favour of a certain line of conduct before any knowledge of that line of conduct or its consequences has been brought clearly to the conscious mind by individual experiment.

An infant, for instance, has no experience of food and its relation to the body; it has no experience of anything; but it has a predisposition to suck, which is the outcome of its bodily condition and ancestral history at a certain period of its life; and, as far as its early months are concerned, a child may be said to have an indomitable will to be suckled or to suck—it will cry violently if this proclivity be not indulged; its tears and cries will immediately subside if it has its way.

How does instinct become implanted in a living creature? Instinct may have two origins: (1) A racial origin, by which I mean that it is the outcome of an ancestral habit, and constitutes a predisposition to perform certain actions in a certain way, because of the[Pg 44] incalculable number of times that the ancestors in the same line of descent have performed them in that way. As an example of this, take the circling movements of the dog before he lies down. The movements have no purpose now, because the domestic dog no longer lives in tall grass; but it is reminiscent of his ancestors’ behaviour for ages, and in this sense may be called an instinctive action of racial memory. The dog’s will is bent on performing this unnecessary and now perfectly empty formality, simply because his ancestors performed it so often in his line of descent.

(2) A bodily origin, by which I mean that an instinct is the natural outcome of a certain correlation of organs, bodily parts or weapons, and the possession of which in itself is sufficient to suggest and to enforce a certain mode of conduct in their possessor. As an example of this take the butting or tossing proclivities of the goat and bull respectively, the clawing of the cat, the burrowing of the mole, etc. etc. All these activities are the outcome of the possession of certain organs or bodily parts, that insist upon being used, that cause the animal to feel ill-adapted and miserable if they cannot function.

What, then, is will?

All will is obviously the power of the instinct that determines conduct for the moment, for a given period, or, as in some cases, for a lifetime.

The will of an animal, therefore, is inseparable from the instincts to which either his racial memory or his bodily parts give rise. For he will do whatever his most powerful instinct, for the time being, bids him do.

Let us now turn to man. With Reibmayr let me posit the three fundamental instincts of man as (1) the Self-preservative Instinct, (2) the Reproductive Instinct, (3) the Social Instinct.

According to his nature, man has one of these instincts stronger or weaker than the other two, and this strength or weakness determines his character, his choice of paths in life and of conduct in life.

[Pg 45]

Imagine the Self-preservative Instinct superior in power to the other two, and, like all ambitious men bent only on self-aggrandisement, he will scout both woman and society at all points where either of these threatens to make him pay too heavy a toll. Suppose that his Reproductive Instinct is the most powerful—as was the case with Mark Antony—and he will be ready to sacrifice society and himself for the woman he loves. If his Social Instinct leads him—as it lead Napoleon, Disraeli, Charles I, Strafford, Colbert and others, he will make woman and self subordinate to society’s claims upon his energies.

His will—that is to say the guiding power directing his conduct—is thus only the popular term for “leading instinct.”

In men of the Herbert Spencer, Nietzsche, St. Francis of Assisi, John the Baptist type, the social instinct was so strong that it completely mastered and sacrificed the other two instincts. Their reproductive instinct was suppressed and snubbed, and women were scouted by them, while they considered their self-preservative instinct only in so far as it assisted them in continuing and prolonging the exercise of their social instinct. The will in these men resided in their leading social instinct. It was that which determined their conduct.

In the coward, the anarchist, the deserter, the ambitious upstart bent only on self-aggrandisement and security, in the unscrupulous plutocrat, the self-preservative instinct is so strong that woman and society are sacrificed or ignored, whenever any emergency or dilemma occurs in which it becomes necessary to sacrifice them for the sake of self-preservation. Such men’s wills reside entirely in the thought of their own survival and security, and are determined exclusively by the self-preservative instinct.

If, now, we ask what is Woman’s will, by what instinct is it determined?—we are in a position to say at once: Woman’s will, owing to the very correlation of her bodily parts and the important place the organs and business[Pg 46] of Life’s multiplication hold in her constitution, is at least likely to have a strong bias or predisposition in favour of being determined by her reproductive instinct. For the latter is clearly very strongly implanted in her. The two sources from which alone instinct can arise, and from which this particular instinct can draw its strength, are present within her; they are undeniably her idiosyncracy, and they are: (1) Racial memory (her women ancestors for millions of generations, with the same organs as she possesses, having performed all the functions of conception, parturition, and the rearing of children more or less successfully, otherwise she herself would not be there) and (2) the correlation of bodily parts (her body having the full equipment for reproduction, which must crave the exercise of its functions and suggest its use, if that equipment be healthy and well-formed).

You may suggest that the same holds good of man. As a matter of fact, it does not. Because in man there is some doubt, some uncertainty as to the bias, as to the prejudice, suggested by his bodily parts. If in man the organs concerned with Life’s multiplication held the same predominant place as they do in woman, the same would certainly hold good of him. But it is obvious that this is not the case. The case is rather the reverse.

It is because of woman’s elaborate and extensive equipment precisely for the business of Life’s multiplication, that we are justified in suspecting that her will is likely to reside in this equipment, or rather in the instinct that springs and takes its strength from it. We are justified in suspecting this, on the same principle as that which justifies us in suspecting that the will of the mole is determined by its forelegs and general correlation of bodily parts.

Provided she be healthy and well-formed, then Woman’s will cannot help being determined by the paramount equipment of sex in her body, from which arises the reproductive instinct. Her social instinct will be subservient, docile, ready to retreat before its master the[Pg 47] reproductive instinct on all occasions. The self-preservative instinct, too, save when she is with child, will be limited by and associated with the reproductive.

And all this will be so much Woman herself, so much part of her essential being, that she will not be aware of it, and while her reproductive instinct will guide her, she herself will misinterpret its promptings while doing its bidding. So much so, indeed, will she misinterpret its promptings, and her unconsciousness will be so profound, so genuine, so unpretended, and so impenetrable, that it will deceive even the spectator himself, even the contemplator and observer of Woman.

If she has virtues, they will be offshoots from the reproductive instinct; her vices will be the same. Her immorality, if she be capable of it, will be Life’s immorality, vital immorality, positive immorality.

But what is most important in understanding Woman is, I repeat, her inevitable mental misinterpretation of these phenomena. Weininger’s book is wrong, weak, unjust, because he never lays sufficient stress on this question of the unconscious and its bearing upon the nature and conduct of Woman. Later on in this book many apparent problems in the life-conduct of Woman, many of Woman’s apparent crimes, all Woman’s so-called immorality, will be explained precisely on the basis of her unconsciousness of the true forces actuating her. There is no other explanation. There is no other way of understanding these things.

Let me repeat the sort of dialogue I constantly have with the average man who is in the habit of taking things at their face value.

I. How’s Miss A.?

A.M. Oh, flourishing, thank you!

I. What is she doing now? Is she engaged yet?

A.M. No—not yet.

I. Any prospects?

A.M. None that I am aware of.

I. Where is she?

[Pg 48]

A.M. She’s attending lectures on Political Economy.

I. Political Economy!—whatever for?

A.M. Oh, she’s a very clever girl, and she’s interested in these subjects.

I. Let me think!—how old is she?

A.M. Just twenty-three.

I. Well, well! I suppose she will meet plenty of fresh men at the School of Political Economy, and may find what she wants there.

A.M. Oh, but you misunderstand Miss A. She has no such thought. She says herself that she is deeply interested in Political Economy.

I. She does not know why she goes to the School of Political Economy; she imagines it is because she is interested in the subject. But I know why she goes there. Life sends her there. And even if the only thing she could learn there were the turning and painting of skittles, she would be interested in that. Life has found that one environment has failed to give the girl her primary adaptations, so now it bids her seek a new environment.

A.M. Oh nonsense!—you always imagine women think of nothing but men.

I. I didn’t say so!

A.M. But you imply it.

I. I. I don’t even imply it.

A.M. You do!

I. On the contrary, I feel quite certain that Miss A. is quite unconscious of the true nature of the command that sent her to the School of Political Economy.

At this stage in the dialogue the average man usually shrugs his shoulders, because he knows nothing of unconscious motives; he knows nothing of the brain’s misinterpretation of the body’s messages to it, and the consequence is that he believes honestly in the avowed motive in people’s conduct always being the real and true one.

But if this were so, women, with their moral upbringing as it is at present, would be ashamed of doing half[Pg 49] they constantly and habitually do. It is their salvation in the present Puritanical age that their deepest motives for their actions are not apparent to themselves, otherwise the more tasteful, the more sensitive among them, would fly to the nearest cellar for concealment and never show their faces again.

Never accept a Woman’s explanation of the motives actuating her—not because she is deliberately lying, but because she does not know them: The motive to her is always the one that is apparent, the one that is the outcome of her mind’s misinterpretation of the body’s messages to it.

People who say that women deliberately lie in these circumstances simply do not know the subject, and had better start studying it afresh.

Let us analyse Miss A.’s case. I assume that she is a healthy normal girl. Her hips are broad, her chest is full, she has been regular in her periods from her fourteenth year. What is going on inside her? All this equipment, in perfect working order and vigorously constituted, has not ceased from signalling to the brain ever more and more insistently for years: “We are not content; we are idle; we are sitting still; we are not functioning; we are aching from sitting still.” The brain misinterprets all this straight away, and transmits it to consciousness as follows: “What a bore life is! When is anything interesting or exciting going to happen? What are all the men in my circle doing? Why don’t they notice me, or fall in love with me?” The messages continue persistent, and they are the same as in the first case, but more emphatic, more urgent. Again the brain transmits them to consciousness as follows: “What a bore home life is! What a self-complacent, heedless creature mother is! What a tedious round this week at home has been! I must go out; I must get away from it! I must leave home! Couldn’t I study something? Anything that gets me out of this tiresome futility! Isn’t there a course of something at the School of Political Economy?” And so on!

[Pg 50]

In the terms of Life, this means simply: “My present environment is failing to procure my principal adaptations for me. Life bids me seek another environment at once.”

Fidelity to Life in Woman must prevail over every other form of fidelity. In order to be faithful to Life and Life’s purpose, therefore, Miss A. must be unfaithful to her old environment.

But to accuse such a girl of falsehood or dissimulation when she declares that she is interested in Political Economy, and is pursuing the study for its own sake, would be the cruellest injustice. Life is quite unscrupulous in achieving her ends, and if Political Economy can prove a road to them, why not Political Economy? But the woman is no more conscious of the fact that Life is secretly directing her, than the mole is of the reasons why it selects a subterranean life.

Hitherto I have spoken only of the healthy or positive woman. I must, however, refer to the unhealthy woman; because, unless she is rejected immediately, as a standard, we shall be utterly misled in our examination of the true Female attitude.

For the present work, all I shall mean by unhealthy or negative, will be that condition in which the body may be said to be either atonic—that is to say, lacking in tone, in sanguine vigour—or unfit, owing to inadequate, arrested or faulty development, for the performance of its functions.

The fact that Weininger makes no classification of healthy and unhealthy, but confines himself entirely to the two orders of women that are either inclined to be male or inclined to be truly female, vitiates the whole of his argument.

Unless I take into consideration whether a woman is properly equipped not only with the mechanism but also with the tonality of the mechanism for her functions, how can I proceed to postulate that she is either male or female in her physical bias?

[Pg 51]

We know that the impulse to use an organ normally arises in the organ itself in a state of health, and that the instincts of a creature have only the two sources—racial memory and a correlation of organs—from which they can possibly draw their strength. Suppress the more powerful of these two sources, the organic impulse, and you cannot help reducing, depressing, or even totally eliminating the instinct.

An unhealthy woman, in my sense, therefore, will approach maleness in any case, whether she have male elements in her or not (to recall Weininger); because with the decline in vigour of her reproductive instincts consequent upon the atonic condition of her reproductive organs, the voice of other instincts will make themselves heard, and she will be less of a woman the more her other instincts dare to measure themselves against her reproductive instinct.

To me, therefore, Weininger’s classification “Male” and “Female” woman seems superfluous; it serves no useful purpose—because almost all the secondary sexual characteristics of the male are rudimentary in woman and come into prominence when her sex is in abeyance, either through negativeness, immaturity (childhood), or at the climacteric (late middle age); besides, even Weininger himself admits that he has “never yet seen a single woman who was not fundamentally feminine,”[20] and scores of cases could, moreover, be adduced which show that certain races have reared women approaching as closely as possible to the male—the squaw, for instance—without having produced feminine males to couple with them.

How Weininger, by the by, reconciles the opinion just quoted with his other view, it is not incumbent upon me to say. His book is so full of shallow conclusions, contradictions and superficial judgments, that it is difficult to understand how it was ever taken seriously.

The relation of the unhealthy woman to Life, then, is[Pg 52] rather that of the renegade, of the atheist, of the infidel, towards his native religion. She will not hanker after the business of Life and its multiplication. Her Will will not reside in her reproductive instinct. And this is what goes on in her mind:

(We are now inside the unhealthy woman’s brain.) Messages are being received from all corners of her body. Her trunk with all its intricate mechanism for reproduction sends constant signals of no urgency at all—mere small talk! “We are quite content to be left alone; we are quite happy sitting still; we are not anxious to have our lot altered in the least.” The brain misinterprets all this straight away and transmits these signals to consciousness as follows: “Man and my supposed fatal relationship to him do not interest me in the least. I am above sex. I do not even feel a thrill in the presence of the most virile, most positive male. All this talk about my lot on earth being the business of Life and its multiplication, is simply nonsense multiplied ad infinitum! I am born for higher things; I have the instinct of higher things.”

As if there could be anything higher than the purpose of human life!—Unless, of course, one is of the opinion of Schopenhauer, Weininger and the rest of that ilk, and disbelieves in the desirability of prolonging human life on earth.

To us, then, who are positive to Life, and to whom sterility is therefore a thing to be regretted, deplored, and not admired, as Weininger admired it; to us, who loathe the infertility of prostitution and particularly of homosexuality, and who regard such a statement as that of Weininger’s in regard to the last-named vice[21] as[Pg 53] sufficient not only to condemn a whole book, but a whole man as well: the unhealthy or negative woman, despite all her superior and overweening claims, is a subject of repulsion and disgust; and we would give her a place in society where all her misinterpretations of her condition would be rendered non-infectious and innocuous.

Unfortunately, what with the influence of Puritanism and its hostility to sex and to sex-expression, what with the depressing foods and drinks it has introduced,[22] or whose use it has fostered in the nation, vitality even among creatures so positive and so vigorously positive as women, has been greatly reduced and frequently hopelessly impaired; and particularly in England, negative women, asexual women abound.

If, however, we keep strictly to our positive tenet: “that all that is good which is favourable to the best kind of life and its multiplication,” we shall have no difficulty in deciding whether this increase of asexual women is a good or a bad thing; and our judgment may be accordingly both definite and severe.


[18] The statistics showing that more women than men commit suicide and go mad through disappointed love, prove that the importance attached by women to this rebuff is much greater than that attached to it by men. See Lombroso and Ferrero’s La Femme Criminelle et la Prostituée, pp. 515 and 517.

[19] I have already done this in my Defence of Aristocracy; but as the standpoint is comparatively new, it will bear being related here in fresh terms.

[20] Op. cit., p. 188.

[21] Op. cit., p. 66: “In the second part of my book, however, I shall show reasons in favour of the possibility that homosexuality is a higher form than hetero-sexuality.” See also p. 226, where Weininger says: “Her position outside the mere preservation of the race, the fact that she is not merely the channel and the indifferent protector of the chain of beings that pass through her, place the prostitute, in a sense, above the mother.”

[22] See my Defence of Aristocracy, chapter V.

[Pg 54]

The Positive Man and the
Positive Woman

I have spoken about the positive child and its Yea-saying attitude to Life generally. Now I am going to turn to two creatures, a man and a girl, who have been fortunate enough to succeed, despite the negative influence of the age, in growing up to manhood and mature girlhood without having lost the positive attitude to Life.

Let us consider the positive male first. And I refer to him only because no book on Woman is complete without a more than passing reference to her counterpart—Man.

First of all examine his body! It is clear that Life and its business of multiplication have not nearly so strong, so complete, a hold over him as they have over Woman. The sphere the business of reproduction, alone, occupies in his body is limited, comparatively small, and confined. The part he plays in this business is, moreover, incidental, transitory, spasmodic. As I have already said, he is an amputation from Life rather than Life itself; and he returns to Life only at certain intervals in order, as it were, to pay tribute to her, to enable her to carry on her grand scheme. When he has paid this tribute at stated intervals, the fact that he willingly renounces any further concern in the matter, in fact, with some discontent and sense of surfeit, turns away as one who does not want to have anything more to do with it, is proof enough of the relatively small part he plays. For while he turns away and refreshes his resources by indulging for a space his two other instincts only—the self-preservative and the[Pg 55] social—Woman’s reproductive work goes silently on and may be truly said never to cease.

In Man, therefore, we must not confound the attitude of positiveness or yea-saying to Life with positiveness or yea-saying to sex. In Woman they amount practically to the same thing. Her reproductive instinct and her yea to Life are inextricably involved. They merge; they are simply different ways of expressing the same attitude. But in Man there is a positiveness to sex which is smaller, more fitful, more irregular than his positiveness to Life. For the latter may last uninterruptedly throughout his whole existence, whereas the former, as we have seen, unless he be a mere beast, is moody, transient, intermittent.

Looking upon men from the outside, therefore, we should no more expect to find their reproductive instinct universally predominant in them, than the vice of kicking is universally predominant in horses.

We should readily acknowledge that a certain supernormal sexuality might exist in men of the Mark Antony type, in which the reproductive instinct prevailed over all others; but we should be forced to conclude that as a general rule there would be every chance, even in the healthiest and most normal man, either of the self-preservative or of the social instinct obtaining the upper hand.

And this indeed is what we find constantly occurs in real life—at least sufficiently often for us to recognize that the reproductive or sexual obsession in Man is more or less an exception, or an abnormality.

From the correlation of his bodily parts, then, we cannot deduce a predominance of the reproductive instinct in Man.

What do we know of his racial memory? What have his ancestors done and been doing all these years? If we can posit anything absolutely certain about them it is this, that they have been almost incessantly concerned with the mastering of Life, and the organization[Pg 56] of Man’s life as a social being. Nothing is more certain than that. Nothing can be read more clearly in the pages of history. Whereas the reproductive instinct has formed but a recurring leit-motif of man’s life, his social instinct, with all that it entailed in the mastery of Nature and the concomitant organization of man’s life, as a social being, has constituted the unremitting and endless harmony of his existence.

Whereas, therefore, a woman cannot be positive without being paramountly sexual, a man who would be paramountly sexual would be negative to a most important part of his being—his relationship to Nature, to the mastery of Nature, and therefore to the ordering and organization of Life, including himself as a social being.

A paramountly sexual man, therefore, is as hostile to Life as the asexual woman, and just as useless.

When a positive man faces Life with his social instinct keenly sharpened, his ordering mind becomes creative and his creation is society. He feels himself above Nature and bends it to his will which is governed by his social instinct. The stylobate of the ancient Greek temple, the elevation above the ground of the foundation of the Chêteau de Versailles—these things are but instances of the unconscious tokens Man has given all through his career as a rational being, of his feeling of difference, of distance, from rude uncultured Life. When he faces Woman, he also faces Life pure and simple, and in exactly the same spirit. But here his body obtains the mastery, and the creation is the child.

Nature and Woman, being both different forms of Life unordered and unarranged, yield to Man’s ordering mastery. They understand it and follow it, always provided it understands them; for, obviously, the gardener who sought to turn the rose-tree upside down, the cattle farmer who sought to make the sheep carnivorous, or the social gardener who sought to convert woman into a sort of non-productive asexual worker, might certainly come within an ace of success, but would[Pg 57] be equally certain of having consummated the wretchedness if not the death both of the rose-tree, the sheep and woman respectively.

But when nature is understood it yields cheerfully and eagerly to Man’s ordering power, although it does so dumbly and inarticulately. Woman, on the other hand, who is simply nature, Life itself, become articulate, does so admiringly, cheerfully, happily and consciously.

The positive man, therefore, is positive to three things; Society, self-preservation, and Woman. He cannot be wholly positive if he lack any one of these attitudes; and those men who have maintained all these attitudes with dignity and creative success, have been the only truly great men of history. Others are simply specialists, cripples, deformities or nonentities. Of course, for a man to be positive to Woman it is not necessary that he should actually have had a child from her. Circumstances may have been hostile to this consummating proof of his sexuality. This is only documentary proof, so to speak, and its absence does not necessarily argue against his having maintained a strictly positive attitude towards her and sex all his life.

We must always remember, too, that the complicated and wearing responsibility that man has always cheerfully undertaken, of ordering Life and mastering nature, is an arduous and very onerous business, and that those men who have fulfilled their obligations to their social instinct most scrupulously and honestly, have frequently come to their journey’s end without having been able to cast more than a glance of hearty encouragement and tender affection at the women they passed on the road, however positive may have been their feelings towards them.

When we see a whole regiment, or two or three regiments, present arms, or slope arms simultaneously, so that the glint on their rifles seems like one flash that illuminates the whole multitude in the same second of time; when we see one policeman suddenly make a clear[Pg 58] channel through the congested traffic of Cheapside, in order that a fire-engine may dash through to perform its work of rescue; or when we watch the rhythmic and regular movements of a corps de ballet, keeping strict time with a well-conducted orchestra;—a mysterious thrill passes through us, a magic breath of cool air seems to lap the lower regions of our spine, and for some reason which we do not stop to analyse, we feel uplifted, exalted, in mystic and glowing fusion with something deep and distant, buried far away in the history of our race.

What is this mysterious thrill, this cold shiver? It is intensely pleasurable. It is the only purely non-sexual thrill that in any way approaches the sexual thrill. Its importance, therefore, to us and our lives must be enormous. For the fact that it is poles asunder from sexuality, ought to make us see that here we have something, a deep instinct that is not reproductive, which is capable of feeling immense bodily pleasure.

As a matter of fact, this cold shiver is one of the most infallible signs of profound unqualified approval that our body shows. When it is felt deep down in the back, man may conclude with absolute certainty that one of the strongest, most vital and most necessary chords of his nature has been touched and set vibrating. For the fact that it is the body that speaks here, is, I repeat, a proof that we are concerned with an instinct, and not with an act of intellect. It is always possible to make quite sure of this distinction by remembering that the body never participates in an act of intellect. When the intellect apprehends anything, the body, remembering its superior rank, and its superior age, remains coldly distant and unaffected. For the intellect, as Schopenhauer rightly observed, is the servant of the body, and not vice versâ. And the body does not share either its servant’s triumphs or pleasures.

Conversely, when the body apprehends something by means of its instincts, its servant—the intellect—is all agog, intensely interested, watchful and helpful; the[Pg 59] intellect “stands by” and is ready to seek ways and means by which the body may speedily be guided to the object of its longing or to the consummation of its desire—no matter what the instinct be that is providing the momentum.

All bodily thrills, then, are very important; because they signify that the superior part of one, the older, more traditional, more unalterable, and more untractable part of one, is gratified, acquiescent, deeply approving what happens to be taking place.

This fact is most significant, particularly in regard to all that is going to follow in this book.

The thrill of the sexual union is easily explained and disposed of once and for all:—It is the superior, the oldest, most traditional, and most unalterable part of us—our body—approving the act of procreation, which promises a continuation and a multiplication of Life.

Now my claim is that this other thrill, which, in its different way, is just as pleasurable as the thrill of sexual union, is also an act of bodily approval—but of what?

Let us consider in what circumstances this thrill is felt. I have said that it is when we see a large body of troops manœuvring in such a manner that the movements of the whole multitude are as the movements of one man. I have said that it is when we see one single man in blue step into the midst of the torrent of vehicles in Cheapside, put his hand up, and clear, as if by magic, an open thoroughfare for the fire-engine to dash through on its mission of mercy and of rescue. I have said also that it is when we see the rhythmic movements of a corps de ballet adjusted to perfection to the regular beat of a fine orchestra.

Now what is common to all these three instances? It is obvious that the only thing that can be common to them all is the quality of order, the quality which is the result and creation of the ordering power of man. Where this is found in a tangible, forcible, overwhelming form, the body approves, the body is thrilled. And this thrill[Pg 60] is the body’s exultation over witnessing what from time immemorial must have been one of the human being’s strongest cravings and deepest faiths,—the faith in order, in regular arrangement, in the power of ordering confusion; because such order, such regular arrangement, and such power of ordering confusion, have always meant greater mastery over nature, over our foes, over Life in general, and therefore greater security, better fruit, more happiness, more beauty!

The particular manifestation of order that the body may be witnessing is immaterial; for it is not the nature of the manifestation, but its quality of order, that moves and thrills us so deeply, that, perhaps, in no other moment of our lives—save possibly in sexual union—do we feel such an exquisite titillation of our nerves and tissues.

This approval, this never-to-be-forgotten chorus of praise that our old body sings, in spite of ourselves, is the sign that our social instinct[23] feels gratified, feels[Pg 61] secure, and in the environment in which it can thrive; for it is our social instinct that knows how to appreciate the value of order, how important order is, and how great were those who first created order out of chaos.

I do not know whether women get this cold shiver down their backs at the sight of order—I believe they do; in fact I am sure they must: because, to the extent to which they feel positive to Man and to the child they must feel positive to the order that makes men and children possible and safe acquisitions.

Woman’s respect for Man, her whole attitude of awe towards him, must of necessity fall to pieces when the order which it is his duty to Life to establish by means of his social instinct, either collapses, or proves in any way inadequate. Because, although Woman is constantly seeking to lure Man to specialize in his reproductive instinct, she never respects the man whom she thus succeeds in forcing to betray his other trusts; and knows perfectly well, unconsciously, that only that man who remains positive both to his social and his reproductive instinct, is of any use to the world and ultimately to her and her child.

For Man to fail in the exercise of his social instinct brings him into just as bad repute with decent women as when he fails in his reproductive instinct. Women realize that he cannot be wholly positive to Life without the exercise of both, and although they may make a mad and delirious rush into voluptuous pastimes with the man of degenerate social instincts—as they are doing at present, for instance—the more far-seeing among them, the more sensitive and apprehensive of their sex, will have a sense of insecurity and dissatisfaction which will make them look anxiously around and wonder whether all is well with Life and the world.

This is not the place to discuss the Woman’s Suffrage Movement; but the above adumbrates my view of the deepest causes that underlay this most interesting, most significant and most symptomatic agitation of recent[Pg 62] years. It was by no means the most frivolous, the most superficial, and the most pretentious women who were militants in this movement. All frivolous, superficial and pretentious women nowadays are to be found only shoulder to shoulder with degenerate man wherever and whenever he is “enjoying himself,” and whiling away his empty existence in a whirl of still more empty pleasure.

For the present I must proceed with the consideration of Man’s social instinct in its relation to Woman.

In addition to the task of imposing order on chaos and of creating the foundations of civilized society, it is the social instinct of man that has always been responsible for the contriving of all codes of morality, however diverse, however conflicting. It is the social instinct in lesser men that keeps them moral. For immorality is, in the first place, a crime against society.

Social life—and all healthy human life is social life—cannot flourish unless it is well ordered; unless, that is to say, it follows certain well chosen rules of conduct, diet, amusement and the like. Where man’s social instinct begins to decline, therefore, he is not only ceasing from being positive to social life, but he is actually immoral. Of all this the best women, the most sensitive women, are vaguely, unconsciously aware. As the custodians of Life, they cannot respect, or feel confidence in, men whose social instincts are declining.

By immorality I do not mean that limited, foolishly narrow-minded notion of the Puritans, which confines itself to the condemnation of all sexual pleasure. The Puritans themselves were immoral in my sense; because, they were hostile to life. St. Paul himself was immoral, in my sense; because, being a celibate, and as good as a monk himself, he said to the Corinthians: “It is good for a man not to touch a woman,...[24] For I would that all men were even as I myself[25].... I say, therefore, to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I.”[26] St. Paul was indeed[Pg 63] very immoral in my sense; because when he cast about him for a reason to justify the holy and sacred union of matrimony, the only one he could find was that it alleviated a man’s lust.[27] I mean by immorality, as I have already explained, all those crimes of omission and commission that are hostile to the best kind of life. Social life cannot continue unless it is well ordered. Disordered social life is in danger of annihilation: therefore all those crimes that lead to social disorder as the result of man’s declining social instinct are, in my sense, immoral.

In Chapter III I showed how predominant the reproductive instinct must of necessity be in Woman; but I also showed that, owing to her mind’s constant misinterpretation of bodily messages, it does not follow that Woman will always be thinking of sex, man and the child, simply because her body thinks and works round nothing else.

The Positive Woman—the young fully formed girl—is all sex; her body aspires and yearns for nothing more ardently than the fulfilment of her destiny; this cannot help being so, and yet what from all appearances could be more remote, more different from thoughts of sexual relations and reproduction than the mental preoccupations of the healthy decent young girl? She could not tell you why she is fond of men’s society. She knows only that she is fond of it. She could not explain why she hopes to marry ultimately; she knows her father and mother were married and that most adults seem to marry, but she has not the faintest conception of all that this implies. She notices that she has a marked taste in men—that some men are like wooden images to her, and that others thrill her through and through; but she is not aware of the reasons of all this. While, however, the very mystery of these thrills, the very impenetrability of her likes and dislikes in regard to men, make her[Pg 64] abandon any hope of knowing the why and the wherefore of these experiences, she is not unfavourably disposed towards them. On the contrary they interest her and attract her as if magnetically; while men are the object of her most solemn and most undivided attention. Occasionally she has a terrible, unutterable dream, the very recollection of which shocks her for days afterwards; but these adventures she has in slumber throw no fresh light on her problem for her; for has she not had the most impossible dreams all her life? Who is to say that these she is having now are any more reliable than those she had three, four, five or six years ago,—although the subject of them is so entirely different? Still, it is all very strange, very strange; and she regards men with perhaps a trifle more penetration on the morrow, and the day after.

The very positive girl may be timid, in fact is, as a rule, very timid in the presence of men, and very self-conscious too. Her body is aware that in this environment it can find its consummation, it would like to find its consummation, and it is therefore all tense and braced with excitement—an excitement that the girl herself does not quite understand, except that it makes her extremely uncomfortable. And it is the difficulty she feels in overcoming her body’s concern that constitutes the strain. This difficulty may easily be understood, however, if we remember that ever since she first became fully formed, her body has silently, but regularly been preparing for the consummation of its destiny. Unbeknown to the girl’s consciousness, though of course she has been aware of the phenomenon, every month Life has prepared her—her body has dressed itself, so to speak, for the act that will lead to the consummation of her destiny,—no wonder that after all these months and years of silent waiting and waiting, and elaborate and minute preparations for the guest, that there should be some bustle, some joyful apprehension, when a potential guest is at hand, or actually waiting. But the mind knows nothing[Pg 65] of all this. What in fact is going on in the girl’s mind?

All this bodily agitation gets telephoned through correctly enough to the brain; but it is transmitted to consciousness in a form so utterly garbled and inaccurate, that it becomes unintelligible. Consciously, the girl only feels uncomfortable, and sometimes so painfully so that she has to take flight altogether, and retire somewhere alone to recover her self-possession. Charlotte and Emily Brontë had to avert their eyes when they passed an attractive man in the street.

You may be quite certain that when a fully formed and decent girl looks boldly and unmoved (as hundreds do nowadays) into the eyes of men—even of the most attractive men—her degree of positiveness is very low indeed, and her body feels very little at all in the presence of the male sex.

The whole of the above, of course, applies only to the virgin.

There is no true positiveness to the social instinct in the positive girl. The social instinct’s next finest products,[28] which are the fine arts, are to her but means to an end—unconscious means to an end, just as everything else is: the end being the full exercise of her reproductive instinct. If a girl show a strong desire to play the violin, to paint or to write, you may feel quite sure these next finest manifestations of man’s social instinct are attracting her only temporarily, as extra plumage with which to eclipse her sisters and friends. And the really positive girl will throw all these accessories to her bodily charms overboard the moment they have served her purpose. No admirably positive woman would ever continue the pastimes of painting, or music, once they had achieved her object for her.

As I suggested in Chapter III, for the social instinct to speak with even an ever so feeble voice in Woman,[Pg 66] it means that some part of her reproductive instinct has had to stand aside—ergo, that her reproductive instinct is not as strong as it might be, and consequently that some flaw may be suspected either in her ancestry, or in the tone or correlation of her bodily parts. If, then, she applies herself to the fine arts—which are only the next highest bloom of the human social instinct working for order in expression—she can do so only under two conditions—(1) At the bidding of her reproductive instinct which makes her unconsciously adopt one of the arts temporarily as an extra feather with which to make her a more conspicuous female against the background formed by her sisters and friends; or (2) at the bidding of a genuine impulse to art, arising from a real whisper coming direct from her social instinct—in which case her reproductive instinct may be considered as imperfect, suspect, lacking in vigour. All positiveness to the social instinct in Woman, therefore, denotes a decline of Woman as Woman, a depression in the manifold and exalted virtues, the beauty, the charm, and the power of Woman as the breeder, the mother, and the custodian of Life.

Enough has now been said on this subject to leave the reader in no doubt as to how I distinguish between the Positive Man and the Positive Woman.

The first must, in order to be whole, be positive both to sex and to society, through his reproductive and social instincts respectively.

The latter must, in order to be whole, be positive to sex only.

Of course, I need hardly remind the reader that all men, by the exercise of their social instinct cannot be creative in social order, or in the fine arts; but the least of them, if their social instinct is normal, can protect and maintain society by observing its conventions and rules.

Nor do I wish to imply that, because Woman is now anxious about the fate of Life and society, she is therefore[Pg 67] developing or acquiring new powers of which neither her female ancestors nor her body can reveal the generating source. I say only that the most apprehensive and most sensitive of modern women are losing their faith in man because of the undoubted decline in his social instinct, and because of their having become aware of the danger that this entails to Life. I do not even mean to suggest that what they say on this subject is worthy of a moment’s attention. It is the fact that they feel the danger, that is important.

It now remains for me to differentiate between the Positive Man’s and the Positive Woman’s attitude to the sexual act itself. This is necessary, in fact indispensable; because upon a proper grasp of this matter a true and serviceable understanding of Woman largely depends.

I shall deal with Man first.

The Positive Man, who is necessarily the healthy and moral man, is faced by Woman as a temptation from a few years after puberty, practically until the end of his life. He is faced by her as a temptation very much in the same way as the child of my third chapter was faced by the heavy stone as a temptation. One of the first things he observes in regard to this temptation, however, is that it is not continuous, not constant, but intermittent and fitful. It is much more in the nature of an appetite that can be satisfied and momentarily stilled, a desire that can be met and gratified, than a need that never ceases, as for instance the need of air, or of food. What is more, the very satisfaction it is possible to give it, is the principal cause of its intermittent character. I do not, myself, believe in any feeling of disgust or repulsion arising in the male towards the female after a gratification of the male sexual appetite; I am convinced that where this occurs it is only the outcome of bestial excess; but I am certain that the appetite of the male, his desire, undoubtedly can and does remain quiescent for a space after its gratification, that it is possible for him during that quiescent period to act and live in a way which is[Pg 68] absolutely, to all intents and purposes asexual, or indistinguishable from the asexual life.

The fact that the sexual act alone constitutes the whole of man’s share, the whole of his desire, and the whole of his physical concern, in regard to reproduction, and that for a space after its accomplishment he may be regarded as practically asexual, is so important in the understanding of Man’s attitude and his duty both to the world, to Life, and to Woman, that it cannot be too thoroughly understood.

It is the fitful nature of Man’s sexual Life, the crescendo and diminuendo of his desire, that constitutes its principal characteristic. From the moment he rises from the couch—not refreshed, but having rejoined the continuous stream of Life for a moment, only to pay it tribute—he becomes for a while purely social, purely asexual, turning his mind to other matters, pleased to turn his mind to other matters, and retaining the woman who is his mate, no longer from pure desire (let all women thoroughly grasp this), but from pure morality, pure sociability;—aye! and supporting her children too, no longer as a sexual accomplice or confederate, but as a social agent, prompted thereto by his social instinct.

This state of asexuality, or pure sociability, lasts until the next longing for the stream of Life seizes him once more; but even then again, it is his social instinct that guides him in the way in which he should gratify it, and the way he should meet the responsibilities arising from having gratified it.

One can recognize immediately the man with a normally developed social instinct (just as one can recognize immediately a well-developed social community) by the strictness with which his fitfulness in regard to sex is not allowed to work havoc among his female acquaintances generally, or to make him neglectful of the responsibilities it imposes.

For, it should always be remembered that to the positive man, well-built and well-fed, the sexual longing[Pg 69] is sometimes the most intolerable anguish, the most acute and importunate suffering, and its gratification a thing which for the moment appears fraught with such unspeakable, such ecstatic joy and delight, that to think of subsequent responsibilities here, to dwell on subsequent duties here, denotes a degree of social instinct that is far beyond the measure usually supposed to be possessed by even the civilized individual. During the moment of crisis, at its most acute stage, the only object that seems desirable, reasonable, possible, the only prize that seems worth while, is—gratification, satisfaction, in fact the willing Woman; even if damnation loom threateningly behind her, even if death stand waiting at the end!

Who has felt this and not marvelled at the fact that Man was ever able to build up a possible human society! Who has felt this and not learnt thereby to admire and respect Man’s social instinct, which was able, out of this fierce and tremendous passion to construct a scheme whereby he who felt it took upon himself the responsibilities arising from its very gratification![29]

No wonder a cold shiver of exquisite and mysterious pleasure courses down our backs whenever we are in the presence of a masterful example of Man’s order! What triumphs of the past that cold shiver remembers, which we are at a loss to recall, but which we still unconsciously applaud every time the regular movements of a multitude, the measured strains of a rich melody, or the swing and stride of a corps de ballet appear before our eyes! For these are but the outward, visible, tangible and most obvious examples of Man’s social instinct working for order!

[Pg 70]

Powerful as the sexual passion is in Man, small though intense as is his share in the joys of reproduction, only think what a powerful force was required to meet this sexual passion, with any hope of success, in order to discipline and control it! It had to be a force as great if not greater than the reproductive instinct itself. And what force is it in us that gives us a mysterious thrill, so different from, and yet so subtly akin in bodily strength to the sexual thrill? I have spoken of this thrill already; it is the cold shiver mentioned in the preceding paragraph—the cold shiver of the social instinct gratified. This, then, was the only power in man, that he himself could rally against his fierce and ungovernable sexual desire; it was the only power that held anything like a corresponding hold over his body; and he turned it so successfully against his reproductive instinct, that he taught the latter its limits, and forced it to accept the responsibilities its tempestuous ardour involved.[30] This is the only form of “self-control” that arises from the strength and not from the weakness of a man.[31]

To return, however, to the question of his attitude to the sexual act, it is clear that man, once he has risen from the couch, after gratifying one of his fitful longings, has for the time being done with sex. This is most important. After having rejoined the stream of Life to pay it tribute, he becomes once more the amputation from Life, and can turn away from its sexual thraldom until another of his fitful longings overtakes him.[32] As a well-known French painter once said to me at a moment when his house was in a turmoil over his wife’s presenting him with his first child: “J’y suis pour si peu de chose là dedans!

[Pg 71]

It is clear, then, that while the joy of sex for man is intense, immense and indescribably pleasurable—for, in addition to the actual physical gratification it brings, there is the spiritual ecstasy of the exercise of power, and power in its most flattering form, i.e. over another human being—it is all concentrated into a few such brief moments, into a space so short as to seem ridiculous when the efforts made to experience it are taken into account. True, it is zenithal, stupendous, quintessential; but it is perhaps, for that very reason, short and exquisitely so. It is as if all the qualities of pleasure, physical and spiritual, had for man been distilled and re-distilled until they had been reduced to the smallest possible compass, in order that he might be quickly and sufficiently gratified, and yet not detained too long from those other duties to Life to which his other instincts direct him.

And it is precisely this tabloid form of sexual ecstasy that enables man to know exactly the limits and boundaries of his part in sexual life. He knows that there it begins and ends. It is a definite thing that he can seek and find. He can be quite conscious about it and is quite conscious about it from the start. It is small enough, short enough, intense enough, to be grasped and understood by consciousness. The only things connected with sex that last and endure, where man is concerned, are its responsibilities—and these are, of course, the very aspects of it that the man with a declining social instinct wishes to cast off from the problem of sex. That is why the value of a man, as a man, may almost always be determined by his attitude towards Woman. The anarchist, the degenerate, loves the prostitute; the true artist, the sober, healthy citizen loves the mother.[33]

[Pg 72]

To turn now to the attitude of the Positive Woman to the sexual act, how very different is the case with her!

Take the little jewel constituting man’s small instant of sexual ecstasy and beat it out to a length sufficiently great to cover twenty to thirty months, and sometimes more, and you have its extended and attenuated equivalent for the female. Until Woman has gathered up all the experiences that constitute her participation and her share of pleasure in the sexual act, and which are distributed over the period above mentioned, her sexual life and the pleasure it brings to her, cannot be said to be complete. Even the craving for the proper functioning of her organs and the primary instinct that animates and actuates her cannot be gratified unless she picks up every one of the moments strewn over that space of time—unless, that is to say, she passes through the whole cycle of events and sensations that go to make up her complete relationship to man and to the child.

To suppose, by a false analogy with man, that sexual union alone, without its natural results, is going to satisfy Woman’s body, however much she herself may be deluded into believing it will, is nothing more nor less than to condone an act of pure cruelty, of savage violence, against a basic instinct and its elaborate generating mechanism.[34]

As a matter of fact, although Woman means everything to Man’s sexuality, and is the embodiment of all that his reproductive instinct can desire, even when it is at its keenest, Man means very little to Woman. He is, after all, no more than the sparking-plug that sets an elaborate process going, and the brief moment in which his share in her business is accomplished, and the incomplete pleasure it affords her, are ridiculously insignificant when compared with the importance he himself would fain attach[Pg 73] to them. Woman’s supposed devotion to man, and even her love for him, is therefore much more of an illusion than Man’s love for Woman. Regarded dispassionately and coolly, Woman’s love for Man must be more or less of an exaggerated and romantic ideal. He is merely the first station on a long and delightful journey, in which the subsequent destination is the chief concern. Of course he may be desired again as the first station for a second, third, fourth or fifth journey; but it is always self-deception that induces any woman to regard a man as more than that, as more final, more satisfying than that; although utilitarian motives may induce her to exploit and use his social instinct to the utmost while she is serving nature’s and her own ends by having children by him.

The only kind of woman to whom Man is everything, is the prostitute, and I shall show in Chapter IX what a cruel misconception even her position is.

By the time that man has done his share in the sexual act, therefore, and that his social instinct alone has taken command of him, bidding him protect and support his mate, and face the responsibilities that are coming, the Woman may be said to have only just begun, only just started on the road. Silently, secretly, but with vigorous determination, the reproductive instinct still reigns supreme, and has an enormous amount to do—pleasures and pain to bring and to forget, power to confer and to withhold.

This is as important as it seems generally to be misunderstood; and yet its non-acceptance as a principle is the source of more than three-quarters of the crimes that are committed against and by women in the whole of the modern world.

Unfortunately, positive Woman herself does not come forward with any help here. Because positive Woman—sometimes even when she is married—is completely unconscious of what is necessary in order for her to have a complete and full sexual experience. All positive[Pg 74] women are in the first place positive to men, and to men alone. This cannot be helped, as I shall explain later; it is one of the inevitable consequences of Woman’s universal unconsciousness. But how easy is the step from positiveness to men to exclusive positiveness to sexual union alone, only those women who have experienced it can tell! And this fatal step is taken by thousands of women annually—particularly in France, and it is a step taken by all prostitutes.

It is, of course, physical anguish for the woman. Her body suffers; because all the necessary subsequent stages of the sexual cycle are omitted: the period of gestation; parturition; suckling, when the mother’s power reaches its zenith, and when the soft helpless creature in her arms offers exquisite flattery to every fibre, both mental and physical, in her body. All this, until the actual day of weaning, comes strictly within the cycle of Woman’s complete sexual experience. To suppose that the mere act of sexual union, which is the first step in this cycle, is sufficient or adequate in the case of Woman, especially positive Woman, is to court disaster, it is to violate her deepest craving. She does not know this. How many millions of women have lived and died sufferers through not knowing this!

But those who profit from her unconsciousness in this matter, those who trade upon her apparent inability to understand her body’s demands in this matter, those, in short, who while debasing her from her exalted position of the mother of Life to a mere instrument of pleasure, also rob her of her full and complete sexual experience and its quota of pleasure, are in my opinion no better than barbarians, troglodytes, common whoreson knaves! Many thousands of them get punished quite soundly enough, as I shall show in Part II; but how many thousands get off scot free!

The Positive Woman, although she does not know it, must be and is positive to the whole cycle of female sexual experiences. Her body knows nothing else and[Pg 75] craves for nothing else. It is true that her body bids her seek the male alone (consciously), but merely because if it were not for man’s diabolical skill and craft, this attitude would perforce lead to the natural and inevitable results. The body, however, knows nothing of the interception of the male fructifying element; when, therefore, it drives woman to be positive at first to man alone, it does the right thing; it does all it can be expected to do. It forces woman to the first step which, as far as it is aware, will lead to the inevitable cycle. Contraceptives obviously cannot come into its purview.

That is why positive woman is conscious only of desiring the male, while her body insists blindly on obtaining the whole cycle.

No young virgin who craves for children, or for a child of her own, is really sincere. Such a desire never reaches consciousness from the body. In fact the girls that make the best mothers are frequently absurdly impatient with and intolerant of other people’s children. My mother always told me that before she had her first child she took no keen interest in children whatsoever. A positive girl may be fond of children, and kind to children; but she is consciously positive to man only. It is only natural that she should be so. The body knows of no royal road to the love and possession of offspring save through the portals of sexual life. Very often, however, a very positive girl will, from mere bashfulness or decency, express her strong desire for man by what she conceives to be a more polite and more euphemistic way of revealing it, and will tell you that she longs for a child. This should deceive no one. It is either a pose on her part, or a very transparent disguise of her genuine feeling.

Although, therefore, we may again be deceived, and frequently are deceived, by Woman’s double life—the unconscious life her body leads with all its determined aspirations and desires constantly directing her footsteps, and the mental or conscious life she leads, which frequently has not the smallest bearing on the true aims of[Pg 76] the body, and as often misinterprets these aims—we cannot help admitting, notwithstanding, that positive Woman, though she appears to be, and will declare she is, positive to man and the sexual union alone, must unconsciously be positive to the whole cycle constituting the female sexual experience, including particularly those long months spent with the child alone.

The prostitute, therefore, is merely a positive woman whom unfortunate circumstances have conspired to petrify and confirm in her misunderstanding of her true needs and desires.

The important bearing this admission has on the subsequent chapters of this book, emboldens me to urge the reader to bear it well in mind from now onwards; for, simple as it seems in its baldest statement, it clears up so many of the apparent complications of practical sexual life, that unless it be properly grasped and remembered now it may in itself appear complicated before my task is done.

I have but one more remark to make on positive Woman’s attitude to the sexual act, and with it I shall draw this necessary but delicate discussion to a close.

After admitting that she, or rather her body, pronounces it, alone, inadequate, insufficient, why do I assume that though she consciously craves for it alone, she unconsciously craves for the whole cycle?

As I have pointed out, it is possible for man to recognize the limits, the full extent of his momentary participation in the business of procreation. It is short, intense, tangible. But think of the host of accidents, unexpected joys and pains that may attend an experience lasting eighteen to twenty months! How could that possibly be grasped by the body, let alone the mind, as a definite desire! Prophetic power would have to enter into consciousness as well as into the body, in order to distil from this panorama of events anything so delicate and unequivocal as a desire for a pleasurable experience! It is impossible for the young girl consciously to desire all[Pg 77] the events of these fateful eighteen to twenty months, however much her body may insist upon having them, and complain and murmur if it does not get them.

Personally I am convinced, from my knowledge of the healthy well-built and positive mothers I have known, that once the joys of these eighteen to twenty months have been experienced, they are consciously desired again. As, however, such mothers are, as a rule, not very communicative concerning the precise nature and degree of these joys, but secretly hug them all through their lives as something precious and private that elevates them and differentiates them from the rest of mankind, a girl can scarcely be expected to know about them secondhand, nor can she be blamed for not finding out about them.

Have you ever injured or harmed, even by accident, a child that its mother had reared at the breast? Have you ever experienced the fierce love that immediately flashes out of the mother in the form of the heartiest and most unjust indignation at your unintentional trespass? If you know all this, like myself you can entertain no doubts concerning the untold joys that Woman’s life, alone with the child, can and often does bring her. To regard her relationship to man (without its natural consequences) as her sexual consummation, or even as her sexual pleasure, is, therefore, simply the most crass and most hopeless form of primitive barbarism.

It is true that, in order to rule man and to get a hold over him, also with the view of providing herself with an ever-ready means for creating in him a guilty conscience about her, Woman, in Europe at least, has grossly misrepresented her attitude to motherhood, and by concealing its joys and exaggerating its pains as much as possible, has at last succeeded in making maternity appear a sort of voluntary self-martyrdom. It should never be forgotten, however, that with stupid and ill-informed men, woman finds it easy to obtain power and mastery in this manner; for, if her man be foolish enough to believe her, it is the[Pg 78] best means she has for cowing him. In making him believe that he gets all the joy and she all the suffering from the sexual life, she gives him a constant sense of guilt or at least of indebtedness which makes him submissive. But the whole attitude is of course pure misrepresentation and fraud. For the very idea that the performance of a natural function should be so painful as to amount to an act of “self-sacrifice,” is obvious nonsense. Certainly, when disease or malformation is present (as it is now in the majority of cases), maternity is nothing less than a torment; but in such circumstances, disease or malformation should be pleaded, and not maternity or matrimony, as the cause of the trouble. A man coupled to a wife who moans and groans over maternity, should realize that he has been guilty of a fundamental mistake in taste, that he has chosen an inferior woman, and should blame himself, his upbringing, and his general notions about life, for the trouble maternity brings into his household. But he should not let himself be persuaded that because his inferior woman suffers over a perfectly normal function, that therefore all maternity is “self-sacrifice” and “unselfishness.” There could not be a grosser misunderstanding. Only the sick or badly-formed woman has any honest right to complain of motherhood; but she has no right to motherhood at all. Motherhood is only “unselfish,” therefore, when it is unpleasant (i.e. when abnormal conditions prevail); and those English philosophers who derive altruism from the maternal instinct are guilty of taking the abnormal as the norm for the basis of their values.

Healthy, honest women will confess that they thoroughly enjoy every moment of motherhood; but inasmuch as to-day it is the fashion to speak of self-sacrifice in regard to these functions, they will only admit in secret, and with the feeling that they are making a guilty admission, that they have enjoyed them. It has become the custom in modern Europe, and particularly in England, to represent women as performing some mysterious[Pg 79] personal “sacrifice” in marriage. In all modern novels and plays this view of women is taken for granted. But it is only another of the sentimental myths created by modern Western women for their own ends. Where it is true, it ought to be a subject of shame, as showing marked physiological inferiority; and where it is not true, it is never anything more than a hoax for exercising moral power over a foolish husband. For thousands of men nowadays are convinced that whether a woman be healthy or unhealthy, well or badly formed, there is something sweetly and edifyingly “unselfish” about motherhood. Western Civilization has not produced a greater lie, or a more pernicious lie than this; for it makes abnormality a virtue, and physiological inferiority a claim upon our admiration!

Unfortunately the number of women to-day who really do suffer from maternity shows such a large annual increase, and men’s taste in women is so much vitiated by ignorance and false values, that the morbid association of “self-sacrifice” with motherhood is now regarded as almost inevitable, and doctors who thrive on it are the first to proclaim it as a necessary and even natural association.


[23] I feel I must offer some explanation here in regard to the precise relationship of the social instinct to order. Some will object, and quite rightly, that all order is not social order, and that all rhythm is not gregarious rhythm. There is the natural rhythm (and therefore the natural order) of birds’ songs, of insects’ buzzing, of horses’ and most animals’ movements, of fish in water, of corn waving in the wind. Whatever be the strength or weakness of our social tendencies, therefore, we must, as animals, feel instinctively and deeply akin to the phenomenon of rhythm and its charm. This affinity will reside deep down in our natures, and will hark back to an age far more remote than that in which the first human society was formed. All this is perfectly true. But this very phenomenon of natural rhythm, extended into the general notion of order, is the only origin to which we can possibly trace the power of rhythmic or orderly arrangement in the creative human being. Extended into the notion of order and applied creatively by a superior human being to Nature, whereby chaos becomes arrangement, and confusion is unravelled, this rhythm constitutes the birth not only of all human society, but of each separate civilization that has ever existed. In this way I conceive of the social instinct having, as a product of natural rhythm and order, engulfed and absorbed the source of its existence, in the human kind, and established itself in humanity as the developed and highly extended form of that source.

[24] 1 Corinthians vii. 1.

[25] Ibid., vii. 7.

[26] Ibid., vii. 8.

[27] Ibid., vii. 9. “But if they cannot contain, let them marry; for it is better to marry than to burn.”

[28] For the connexion between man’s social instinct and the Arts, see my Introduction to The Letters of a Post-Impressionist (Constable & Co., 1912).

[29] I know of only one woman who has recognized this and given man full credit for his self-mastery in regard to the consequences of his sexual lust. See Arabella Kenealy (Op. cit., pp. 178-9). The passages are too long to be quoted, but they should be read by all those who may be tempted to conclude that my views, as expressed above, have been prompted by masculine bias alone.

[30] See Sir Almroth E. Wright, M.D., F.R.S., The Unexpurgated Case against Woman Suffrage, p. 74, where the author hints at how much under civilization has been done for women by man.

[31] See also pp. 7, 90-94.

[32] The part played by his self-preservative instinct in all this will be disclosed in another chapter. See chapter V, pp. 89-90.

[33] Cf. Weininger, Op. cit., p. 227: Where the author disagreeing with me says: “Great men have always preferred women of the prostitute type.” It is true that eighteen pages farther on he contradicts himself by saying of the prostitute: “She is the mate of the worst sort of men”; but this single example, taken from among the many equally amazing contradictions in this book, only tends to show its extraordinary futility.

[34] And yet most of the modern books on sex questions, particularly those written by women, take this false analogy for granted.

[Pg 80]

Virgin Love in the Positive Man
and the Positive Girl

The moment when a healthy young man stands for the first time before a beautiful positive girl, with a full consciousness of what that girl can and may mean to him, is one of the most trying and most disconcerting in his whole life.

In plain English, he is standing before Life itself. Life itself is taking stock of him. Let us be in no doubt here. His eyes may wander, dazed, over the bewildering spectacle before him; his eyelids may quiver; he may not understand what his feelings are, or why he feels so numb and speechless, and breathes so deeply; but he is well aware that an iron Fate has suddenly seized him like a vice, and is holding him spellbound before an examiner, who is far more relentless than any he has hitherto encountered at school or college.

And now turn your eyes on Life itself! Look at the girl! Provided that he is not watching her too closely, her eyes are scanning every inch of his body, with a penetration, an attention, a fierce criticism, that is allowing no detail to escape, no indication of virile potency to go unnoticed. Her hands may be cold, even moist with emotion; but Life in her is neither cold nor moist: it is at white heat, working its hardest, and deciding for her whether it shall be Aye or Nay!

The very speed with which this decision is often made proves how concentrated, how unrelaxing the scrutiny must be; and however hard the work that has to be[Pg 81] done, it is all over and frequently quite brilliantly dispatched in a few seconds—a minute at the most!

Aye or Nay! No wonder the youth feels embarrassed! Such an examination by Life itself is hard to bear. The verdict, too, if it be favourable, is gratifying. The approval of a positive, healthy, well-built girl is a certificate of potency; because it is not only Life’s approval of one of its own products; it is healthy Life acquiescing in one of its essential means to multiplication. To feel pleased in such circumstances is perfectly justifiable; to feel satisfied here is nothing but becoming.

But there is another side to the picture, and I state it now, while we are discussing this particular situation. There is nothing more harrowing, more pathetic, more heartrending than to witness poor, patient and enduring Life, in the form of a beautiful maiden, being forced by circumstances (by the fact perhaps that this is the girl’s only chance) to choose the next best, the second best, the third best! Oh, how she stifles her highest feelings! How she chafes beneath the yoke! And how ruthlessly Life re-registers upon her eyes all the defects of her future mate, as fast as she in her positiveness wipes them away with the impatient sponge of her desire!

That “Yea,” given reluctantly, shamefully, almost guiltily (because women feel that they are betraying a trust in such circumstances), in the presence of a poor specimen of manhood,[35] simply because it is better to be positive to Life, even on a minor scale, than not to be positive at all!—there is nothing more excruciatingly painful to witness!

How often this tragic farce is enacted in our part of the world, only women know, only brave women know—they who prefer anything rather than not to remain positive to Life.

Unfortunately, it is not unusual nowadays for the positive healthy girl, particularly of the wealthier classes, to be spoilt by foolish modern prejudices that misguide[Pg 82] her in this first important criticism of the men with whom she is confronted. From the very atmosphere she has breathed ever since her infancy, she has imbibed certain wholly fictitious standards regarding so-called “manliness” which, at this vital moment in her life, frequently cause her to make the most grievous mistakes. She has had dinned into her innumerable conventional desiderata relating to manners, sporting capacities, cheerfulness, levity, boyishness and bodily build, which now cause her to select consciously the very kind of man who is least likely to constitute an understanding and adequate mate. He must possess a certain kind of mind—supple, ready for light laughter, humorous, not too broody, not too masterful, not too self-centred, and above all, painstakingly chivalrous. He must have had his spirit, if not broken, at least curbed by the public-school system; his self-esteem severely shaken by excessive contact with mediocrities who have insisted on his being like one of themselves, and he must have the body and face of a young athlete. He must be capable of being trusted alone with her on rambles in the country, at games, on short excursions. He must not take himself or his claims or his thoughts too seriously, and the sine qua non is that he must be capable of idealizing Woman, of “looking up” to her, of feeling a lump in his throat at the thought of her purity, her devotion, her “heroism” as a mother, her condescension as a possible mate to himself, and her ladyhood.

All these attributes the spoilt positive girl of our wealthier classes has been taught to seek and select among the young men that are paraded before her; and in insisting on these attributes, she consistently, almost without exception, succeeds in taking a man who is ideally equipped with every possible characteristic for making her thoroughly and exasperatingly miserable the whole of her life. For very few indeed of these attributes have any connexion whatsoever with true, desirable manliness in a mate, and the young man who[Pg 83] has been tamed into making a trustworthy companion to a single positive girl in her games and her walks, is more often a torture machine than a delight as her husband in later years.

But let us see what unspoilt Life, through the positive unspoilt girl, is actually trying to discover in the positive young man before her. Is she concerned with probing his soul? Does she meditate about his chances of going to Heaven when he dies? Is she wondering whether he has a load of sin that weighs him down?—She is very far from giving a thought to these matters. Her primary consideration is undoubtedly: Is he a fully equipped male? Is he a normally equipped male? Has he, above all, that exuberance which at one and the same time is beauty, sexual potency, and tense passion? Is he savoury?—that is to say, is he devoid of everything capable of ultimately inspiring disgust? Classical features are by no means a vital consideration. Exuberance and savouriness are much more important. Is there fire in his eyes?—voluptuousness and fullness in his mouth? Is there eagerness and enthusiasm in the dilatation of his nostrils? Is there energy lurking in the vibrations of his voice? Is his mouth clean and his breath pure?—Is there all this, and yet a remoteness from the brute, from the mere animal into the bargain?

These facts are ascertained in the first few seconds, and all this time Life alone has been active in criticism. A satisfactory reply to all these questions makes the young man at once an object of the keenest interest to the girl, and her eyes now begin, in a more collected and less rapid manner, to survey the accessory man—his hands, his feet, his taste as revealed by his clothes, his intelligence as revealed by his remarks, his degree of mastery as revealed by his manner of approaching her. All these things are important, because they represent not merely the “quality” but also the “surviving power” of the tree to which the female butterfly is going to entrust her eggs.

[Pg 84]

A sleek, flourishing youth has a tremendous advantage here; because it is not Woman’s self-preservative instinct that demands the evidence of a sound worldly position in a man, but again her reproductive instinct thinking of the security of the coming brood. All this, of course, is more or less unconscious, but it is satisfactorily accomplished by the instinct.

A brilliant exuberant youth, who is shabby and poor, is naturally and very rightly less attractive to the positive girl than the youth who, though less brilliant, but quite as exuberant, flings on an opulent fur coat after a champagne supper, and gracefully hands her and her chaperon into his 40-horse-power Rolls-Royce. This youth is simply irresistible!

This must be so. Because, although the more brilliant youth may be an artist, a fascinating poet, or a gifted musician—all these things belong to the sphere of the social instinct, which Woman can scarcely appreciate critically, while the flourishing circumstances of the fur-coated youth belong to the sphere of the reproductive instinct, since they are one of the necessary conditions of the tree to which the eggs are going to be entrusted.

Great spiritual gifts, per se, never really attract the healthy, positive girl; the only reason why she so frequently falls in love with men of great spiritual gifts is because extraordinarily high sexual exuberance is so often correlated with great spiritual gifts and powerful creative genius in a young man. In later life, of course, the relationship changes; because you cannot burn a candle at both ends, and the man of great spiritual gifts who has cultivated that side of himself alone, generally suffers a proportionate loss of sexual exuberance as he advances in years. But in any case, as far as young men are concerned, the rule holds good that high sexual exuberance is frequently accompanied by very superior spiritual gifts.

Incidentally, this association always constitutes the most dangerous and often most disastrous characteristic[Pg 85] of the artist’s life. It is a choice of roads—and frequently the favour he finds with women leads the young artist inevitably along the road of least resistance and greatest voluptuousness.

Recalling our positive couple, we will suppose that the youth, in addition to responding favourably to all the girl’s searching scrutiny, is also a person of sound material position. Then, when the chorus of bodily messages to the girl’s brain are unanimous in praising him, consciousness comes forward with the conclusion: “That man attracts me or fascinates me!” or “I like that man!” or “That man is a dream!” or “He’s my ideal!” etc. etc. It is from this moment that the relationship of virgin love may be said to begin, and if there is a response from the young man besides—if, that is to say, he also comments favourably on the girl, then the two may be said to be each other’s destiny; and, if they are both very positive, and therefore impatient, the sooner they marry the better.

Many girls are, however, so overwhelmed by spiritual gifts, nowadays, that the position of the man, his material wealth, is often foolishly overlooked. On the whole this is not quite the fault of the modern girl. This Age, for some reason or other, sets enormous store by spiritual gifts. Girls are brought up in an atmosphere steeped in the worship of intellect. “Clever”—this is the most coveted adjective. Is he clever? Is she clever? Very often the most unhappy marriages are consummated precisely owing to the absurdly exaggerated value that is attached to cleverness. I do not lose sight of the fact that great spiritual gifts are frequently accompanied by great sexual exuberance in a man, and I make allowances for that and for the temptation such a man may certainly prove to the positive girl; but his spiritual gifts ought not to be allowed to weigh against his poverty if he be poor, or his inferiority as an animal, if he have bad teeth, an undersized and weak frame, a delicate constitution, or foul breath. Only girls, of course, whose minds have[Pg 86] been perverted in this matter, make the mistake of taking a poor clever man, or an unappetizing clever man, in preference to a duller though wealthier or more appetizing suitor; for the instinct of the female when unperverted is to find not only a secure support for her offspring, but also a mate whom it will at least not disgust her to embrace.

And, after all, what does this spiritual fascination amount to for women, apart from its occasional correlation with high sexual exuberance? If you ask yourself what it is you tire of first in life; if you inquire to which kind of phenomenon you can relevantly apply the expression “hackneyed” when you have seen or heard it once too often—what is your inevitable reply? The word “hackneyed” can be used relevantly only in regard to products of the spirit. A song, however beautiful, repeated too often becomes a bore. A picture seen too often begins to pall. (It is only because we scarcely ever notice with deep attention the pictures on our walls, that we can endure them. In time, they form part of the general scheme of decoration.) The finest poem read too frequently becomes insufferably wearisome; and who can read even the best novel more than three times? I confess I have read Wuthering Heights three times; but I doubt whether I could perform the feat a fourth time. All these things, however, are of the spirit, products of spiritual gifts. It would not sound strange or irrelevant to apply the epithet “hackneyed” to any one of them, provided that their charms had been impressed upon us once too often. This fact alone should make us suspicious of the spirit as a phenomenon possessing lasting powers of attraction.

There are, however, other things to which the expression “hackneyed” could not be relevantly applied. What should we think or say, for instance, of a visitor, who rising suddenly in the middle of one of our tea-parties, exclaimed quite gravely that she refused to take another piece of bread-and-butter for the rest of her life, because[Pg 87] bread-and-butter was “hackneyed.” We should all be astonished, not to say alarmed. We should suspect her of something a little more serious than mere eccentricity. But, as a matter of fact, nobody in his senses, however professedly devoted to the spirit he might be, would ever dream of saying “bread-and-butter is hackneyed.” It is a thing of the body, and provided the body remains healthy and exuberant, the pleasures it provides are never hackneyed. Given a fair appetite and a healthy digestion, and bread-and-butter will remain a joy for ever. Unlike the spirit, therefore, which however exuberant and however healthy, wearies and fatigues if it be called upon to appreciate the same spirit, or the same product of another spirit too often, the body can enjoy “bread-and-butter” for threescore years and ten without ever feeling that it is hackneyed.

This alone ought to make all admirers of “brains” in men pause before they allow themselves to be so completely dazzled by mere spiritual brilliance, as to forget other things.—What other things?—Material position, and that quality which all eminently desirable men have in common with good bread-and-butter—I refer to savouriness.

I know of one very sad case that happened in my own circle. A well-educated but misguided Swedish girl who while being no fool herself had the modern exaggerated love for “brains,” happened to meet a man in Ireland who, though brilliant to the point of genius, was as unappetizing, as unsavoury as the form of man can possibly be. I confess to having sat in that man’s company frequently myself, and having revelled in the easy and fluent flow of his exuberant wit. There was virtuosity not only in his speech but also in the thoughts behind his speech. When he met the girl in question she too came under the spell of his extraordinary intelligence; and, forgetting the rule about the spirit, and forgetting the quality of good bread-and-butter—for he was so unsavoury that one could not approach him without[Pg 88] becoming aware of the fact with one’s nostrils, not to speak of one’s eyes—she worshipped and married him.

It was, of course, a cruel mistake, because marriage from the woman’s standpoint is a tragedy if she has to smother any loathing in the embrace. Still, she admired “brains” and she certainly obtained what she admired. But at what cost! In time, of course, she explored all the territory of his spirit, and tasted all the delights of his skilful conceits; and had, no doubt, by a kindly effort of will, prolonged her enjoyment of these things very far beyond the point at which anyone else would have tired of them; and then—what was left?—Only boredom where spiritual intercourse was concerned, and ever-increasing disgust of all physical intercourse, because of her unfortunate husband’s eminently unsavoury person.

No truly positive woman, however—particularly if she has remained uninfected by modern brain-worship—ever takes any notice of a man’s spiritual gifts, provided that he be savoury, exuberant, and in a sound material position; and the very fact that she does not do so is a sign of the wise and penetrating vision of Life behind her. Men have to take spiritual gifts into consideration in their dealings with one another; it is essential that they should. They may be pardoned, therefore, if they all too frequently extend this habit to their relations with the other sex. But the woman who takes a man for his brains is a ninny, or else a poor deluded victim of the madness of the Age. All she wants, I repeat, is exuberance with savouriness and a sound position; and if brains enter into the bargain as well, they are usually accepted quite unsuspectingly by the really positive and sane woman as one of those incidental details concerning her husband which, like his number in gloves or his taste in ties, she bears in mind simply as part of his general identity. Truth to tell, however, most women are saved from the mistake of marrying brains alone, owing to the readiness which most of them show to impute brains to the dullest male, provided he pleases them.

[Pg 89]

This explains why so many wives of gifted men have loved and eloped with males infinitely inferior to their husbands where brains were concerned; it also explains why so many wives of gifted men, who have been faithful, have been bitterly unhappy in their fidelity.

Where the artist is concerned perhaps we might make an exception, because the artist’s peculiar gifts are so frequently allied with an exceptionally exuberant sexuality. One German writer has suggested that the creative power itself is the outcome of an excess of absorbed semen in the blood. But even the artist’s mental gifts, though correlated with a quality that is frequently irresistible to women, are an unsound reason for a girl’s mating with him. All women should remember that artists cannot marry them without committing adultery. For, if Woman is wed to Life before she marries, the artist is certainly wed to his particular muse.

All this the positive girl knows more or less instinctively, because Life in her knows every word of it. It is only when she has become infected with the stupid modern worship of brains that her conscious bias sometimes overrides her better bodily feelings.

But to return to our positive couple—the condition of mutual attraction in which they now find themselves is one of tremendous fascination, because it constitutes an enhancement of the feeling of power, and a deepening of the feeling of surrender. So intense is this feeling of power and of slavery at the same time, so exquisite is the scale of emotions that run from the bottom note of absolute subjection to a human being to the top note of supreme sovereignty over a human being—so that the girl bids and her bidding is done, and the man bids and his bidding is done—that it is probably the richest experience, as spiritual sensations go, that anyone can have. While it is being undergone the self-preservative instinct of both parties is entirely suspended. The male’s must be in any case, because no male throughout the animal kingdom can approach sex without making a substantial[Pg 90] sacrifice in self-preservation. He cannot join the stream of Life without paying it tribute, and this to begin with is hostile to his self-preservative instinct inasmuch as it reduces his surviving power for the time being. But there is this fact in addition: his social instinct cannot face the responsibilities of a wife and her offspring unless his self-preservative instinct is prepared to make a good many reluctant concessions.

The woman, too, readily sacrifices all her self-preservative instinct to her first-husband Life, and to her second husband, her lover. In fact, to speak with levity, but with some profound truth as well, in every respectable love-marriage, the legal husband is the dupe or breadwinning agent who keeps the girl while she does her first mate—Life’s business.

Child-birth is not always successful even in the most healthy communities, and a woman’s reproductive instinct often has to clap its hand on the mouth of her self-preservative instinct before she can consent to having a second child.

With the self-preservative instincts both of the man and the girl in abeyance, then, we have what is always a dramatic situation. We have a situation in which neither the man nor the girl cares what happens provided that each can get the other. Pain, hardship, parental hostility, parental injustice, privation, dangers of all kinds, fire, water, exile—all these things, even to Death itself, will be faced with determination by the positive couple who are waiting only to be united, if only they help a step forward, or put an end for ever to all doubt and misgivings.

How often in the history of our race have not a chaste and positive couple, kept apart by unfavourable circumstances and in the midst of appalling difficulties, whispered to each other passionately: “One long embrace from you and I should be content to die!” This shows that the self-preservative instinct is as good as dead in such cases. Dead in the woman, because when[Pg 91] her reproductive instinct is “meaning business,” nothing else can live beside it; and dead in the man, because (1) he knows that love and his girl expect him to be determined and unrelenting in his worship and his desire, and (2) because his very positiveness itself makes him set the multiplication of Life higher than his own existence for the time being.

Moreover, when the girl and the man insist upon an attitude of complete and unreserved “unselfishness” in each other, they are simply betraying the fact that they expect the self-preservative instinct in each other to be for the time being in a state of suspended animation. This is a proof of what they understand by love. As a matter of fact, it is a proof only of the circumstance that the reproductive instinct is expected for the moment to become all-powerful or to suppress every other feeling.

When this state is reached, if the girl has no vigilant protector or guardian, and the man is not strongly endowed with social instinct, the result is usually and inevitably seduction, particularly if the man shows some mastery in sex, and some understanding of it too. And, indeed, when one considers the forces that are active here; when, moreover, one considers the temptations that are elevated here to the nth power, the wonder is not that seduction occasionally occurs among positive couples, but that it does not always occur, that it is not the rule. Only man’s social instinct can prevent it. Only man’s social instinct remains, and is strong enough to prevent it. Do not, however, let us confound the social instinct of the positive man, which is strong enough to stand up to his reproductive instinct, to control it, and to make it wait and consider responsibilities, with the so-called “self-control” of the negative young man, who could love his negative girl for half a century without ever desiring more than to squeeze her pale thin hand, while she feels exactly the same about him.[36]

[Pg 92]

Of course, in countries like France, where positiveness on both sides is at such a high pitch of intensity that it actually fills the atmosphere of every room and makes every mixed company electric, and also where the social instinct of men is declining more and more every year, the only possible check on wholesale seductions is a vigilant and inexorable protector or guardian, who watches over the jeune fille de famille, until she is married, and does so with such unabating zeal that it can truly be said that a respectable French girl is always being watched.

As a matter of fact, if the same custom of vigilant supervision of the young girl does not prevail in England, it is a bad rather than a good sign.

It is a bad sign for the following reasons: (1) It is waived either because it is a generally recognized thing that the Englishman’s social instinct is of a higher order than the Frenchman’s (which is not the case); or (2), because it is a generally recognized fact that the Englishman is safer, i.e. less inflammable, i.e. less exuberant sexually, i.e. less positive than the Frenchman (which is the case).

I think it would be hard to prove that the social instinct of the Englishman is of a higher kind than that of the Frenchman. There is nothing to show that there is more order in England than in France, more social harmony, more mastery of social problems. There are absolutely no grounds whatever for assuming that there is less social misery in England than in France, less social muddle, less social strife. Nor if we go to the next highest products of the social instinct, which are represented by the sense of order manifesting itself in artistic productions, can we say that there is more Art, or a higher kind of Art, in England than in France. In fact, if we draw these comparisons at all, we must in fairness conclude that if there is any difference, that difference is undoubtedly to the advantage of the Frenchman. But for the sake of this discussion it is sufficient for me to[Pg 93] assume that the social instincts of the Frenchman and Englishman respectively are about equal.

Well, then, if this is so, it must be some other circumstance that accounts for the enormous freedom allowed in this country to the girl turned sixteen, in her intercourse with men of her own generation and older.

There can be no doubt that, in the first place, the English girl is generally a little less positive to Life and therefore to man than the French girl; this accounts for a good deal. There can be no doubt either that there is a very much larger sprinkling of negative girls in England than in France—girls, that is to say, who are happy and content as spinsters, or whose passions are so tepid as to enable them to endure platonic relations with men, and to resist men quite successfully for interminable periods.

A few facts alone, apart from the evidence that can be gathered first hand by all those who know France and England well, will be sufficient to prove this.

In 1910, although France had for many years admitted women to the hospitals, to the Bar and to the chemist’s dispensary, there were out of a total of 13,000 French doctors only eighty-three women[37]; there were only two women barristers—one in Paris and one at Toulouse, and there were only three women chemists—one in Paris and two at Montpelier.

To take the profession of the Bar alone, think how very many more women-barristers we should have in England in the space of five years if the Bar had been opened to women!

To point to economic pressure here, and to say that the English girl is more hard pressed than the French girl, would be entirely false. It is much more difficult, as a matter of fact, for a French girl than for an English girl to find a husband.

The truth of the matter is that the French girl is very[Pg 94] much more positive to Life and therefore to man, than the English girl. The latter can frequently not only be happy without man; but she will boast of the fact—applaud, that is to say, her negativeness, her nothingness!

I do not say this in any spirit of hostility to the English girl, because I have travelled England and Scotland, and am aware that very large numbers of British girls are positive and extremely positive to Life and to man; it is, however, unfortunately true that negativeness is on the increase—hence the almost amazing liberty that is granted, and every year more readily granted, to the English girl in her intercourse with young men. Were things otherwise, such liberty would only lead to the most disastrous results; because there is absolutely no reason whatever to suppose that the Englishman’s social instinct—which is the only adequate check to an overpowering reproductive instinct—is superior to that of the Frenchman.

There is, however, another side to the question, and a far more serious and alarming side. I refer to the almost universal and increasing negativeness of the English youth and young man. The negativeness among females in England is as nothing compared with the negativeness to be found among males—and it is here really and truly that the safety of the young positive girl lies. Often to her intense annoyance and sorrow she finds she is dealing with wood and not with vital tissue at all. It is simply humbug to speak of self-control in such cases. For the negative young man is nothing more or less than a wet squib—and who believes in the self-control of a wet squib when it refuses to respond to the lighted match.[38]

The ravages that Puritanism perpetrated in the human kind—and I have dwelt sufficiently upon these ravages in another work[39]—affected the men of England far more deeply than the women; and were in a sense bound to[Pg 95] do so. Men are not Life itself, they are an amputation from Life. As I have shown, the reproductive instinct is less powerful, less wilful, more fitful and less persistent in them than in women; how, then, could they fail to be more disastrously affected by the cruel repressing and detoning methods of Puritanism than women are? They had fewer forces to meet and resist the attack; sex held their bodies with too much laxity to make them survive it completely, and the consequence is that in England and all countries like England, sexual exuberance in males—save in the working classes (which are always the last to be affected by anything)—is not only lower than elsewhere, rarer than elsewhere, and more heartily suspected than elsewhere; but it is also decreasing more and more every year. So much so, indeed, that for many generations now, long chaste engagements have not only been possible, but more or less common; so much so that positive girls who marry are able to declare quite honestly that marriage is a disappointment and an empty delusion; so much so, that in nine cases out of ten we could without a qualm and without a scruple allow our unmarried daughter to travel round the world with her so-called lover and feel quite certain that they would both remain perfectly chaste.

This may seem most convenient and even desirable from the standpoint of the squeamish matron; but would it not be ever so much better from the point of view of Life if it were impossible, and if we were forced to exercise a vigilance at least equal if not greater than that of the French chaperon over the young couple?

To mention self-control in connexion with such safety in the association of young people is to use a euphemism for a very much less acceptable word. It would be unfair and wrong to postulate the possession of a higher degree of social instinct by the Englishman than by the Frenchman; therefore it must be some other factor that is active in this unnatural continence where there are no safeguards; and that factor, as every one[Pg 96] must know, as every doctor knows, and as most women know, is a low degree of sexual exuberance, a strong and in many cases a pronounced form of negativism.[40]

Many readers will probably cry out: “But surely this is excellent! What could be better! Our girls are safer; we do not require to be suspicious; we can trust the young men—and everybody is happy!”

But everybody is not happy! The men are not happy; because this negativism in sex, this lack of exuberance in sex, gives them no mastery over it, and leaves them all their lives with a guilty conscience about it. (For, as pointed out earlier in the book, certain fusions are only made possible through fire. Fire purifies all things.) And the women are certainly not happy, particularly if they are positive; because they meet with no response, they meet with no leadership, they yield to no overwhelming impetuosity where sex is concerned—an impetuosity that carries everything before it, and which leaves them with no ungratified desire or longing, with not one of those aching, secret longings that thousands of women are too tasteful and too proud to reveal and often even too modest to entertain.

Of course the negative ideal in sex was excellent from the Puritan point of view; because, as I have shown elsewhere,[41] the Puritans were concerned with rearing a race of office hermits, clerks, commercial and industrial slaves of all kinds; and to these, sexual exuberance would naturally be a most irksome, dangerous and undesirable possession. But Life is not an office or a factory, or, for that matter, a large draper’s store; and what may be eminently desirable for these horrible institutions, is simply ugly, repulsive, and nauseating out in the open,[Pg 97] amid fields, sucking lambs and beneath a shining sun.

There are few things more pathetic, more tragic, than a positive young English girl going to her coming-out dance. What could be more beautiful than to see her, figuratively speaking, extend her eager open hand to Life, with a confidence, a fullness of hope and trust, a profuseness of delicious expectations, and a bravery and singleness of purpose that is never again equalled in her life? And who can help hiding his eyes when he sees the same girl take back her hand again and again, either holding nothing at all, or filled with the merest husks, the merest scrapings of Life? Oh, the youths that go to dances!—these sacred functions where the positive girl takes her first step towards her sacred calling! One can watch with equanimity the negative young Miss of narrow hips, still narrower chest, and even still narrower outlook, succeeding in captivating her negative affinity. Such dramas leave one unmoved. But to witness exuberant Life itself, obliged to be content with creatures who are mere mementoes of Life, mere echoes of Life; to see exuberant Life itself unnoticed, unselected, feared, shunned, and shelved!—to anyone who has any feelings at all, such an experience must be too painful ever to be forgotten.

For in England, not only are there barely sufficient men to go all round; but there are not nearly sufficient positive men for the preponderating number of positive girls. And since innocent girls are absolutely unconscious of the causes of their misery when they meet and marry the negative man, you find in England and all countries like it, hundreds and hundreds of positive women who will affirm—nay, who are ready to prove—that marriage is the most unexciting thing in existence, and that Life itself is the most unexciting phenomenon in the universe! And the tragedy of it all is that, as far as their own unfortunate experiences go, they are right, and they convince because they are not only right but miserable.

[Pg 98]

Thus Life gets suspected, slandered, unjustly weighed and valued, and the legion of negative women about seize hold of these facts with the avidity of famishing jealousy, and prove that Life and its legitimate joys are suspicious, rightly maligned, and valueless!

Although this is a book on Woman, it is necessary to speak about one aspect of the question of virgin love which strictly belongs to this chapter, but which is concerned only with men; I refer to the love felt for a girl by a man, and of the forces that direct him in feeling this love.

When the positive man faces the positive girl, he really has but one inquiry: “Does the girl provoke desire?” Because desire is essential to his share in the sexual act. He does not actually say: “Does she provoke desire?” but he implies as much.

He insists upon her being what he calls “pretty” or “attractive.” But from that point onwards it depends entirely upon his upbringing, the values and current opinions of his Age, the prejudices of his religion, his class, or his own particular taste, whether he makes a wise or a foolish choice from the standpoint of Life.

I have shown that Man is much more conscious of the limitations and the extent of the joys that sexual life is going to bring him than Woman is or can be. He is not only more conscious as regards the sexual life alone, but also as regards its consequences, its responsibilities.

Notwithstanding all this, however, or rather precisely on account of all this, he is much more susceptible to the traditional values, opinions, or prejudices of his time, his country or his class, than Woman is, in the making of his choice. Woman is in the grip of Life. Life constantly speaks through her. Unless she is actually unhealthy or spoilt, Life speaks through her in a way that is profitable to Life. The positive, unspoilt girl, then, although she acts unconsciously, rarely makes a mistake in her choice of a man as a sexual being, provided that she be not reluctantly compelled to do so by social stress, by[Pg 99] the feeling that her choice is a last shift to be positive somehow, or by any other non-vital consideration.

Man, however, is rather differently situated. Being conscious, he is much weaker in the stand he takes. For conscious opinions, conscious views, can be modified by persuasion, by precept, by example, by a consensus of contemporary opinion.

When the man faces the girl, therefore, he is often and almost universally swayed by the prejudices in regard to what constitutes an attractive girl that are current in his Age, country or class. And thus we arrive at this important conclusion: That provided his Age, his country and class entertain positive views and values in regard to Life, his choice will be correct and perfectly desirable as far as the highest purposes of Life are concerned; but that provided his Age, his country and class entertain the wrong or negative views or values in regard to Life, his choice will be incorrect and entirely undesirable as far as the highest purposes of Life are concerned, and this despite the fact that he himself may be a healthy, exuberant and positive specimen of humanity.

If, for instance, the ethereal, languishing, angelic and slightly delicate type of female beauty be the type exalted by the current values of his environment, he runs considerable danger of regarding her as the attractive type; and in selecting her he will deliberately overlook her narrow frame, her lack of fire, her lack of exuberance, her lack of positiveness.[42] Where Puritan values prevail, the[Pg 100] sexually exuberant female with the ardent and fierce brow and eye will be regarded even as distinctly ugly. It will not surprise some people to hear, therefore, that in France the angelic, passive, and meek expression of most Englishmen’s wives is regarded as strangely incompatible with the frequently robust, self-assertive, exuberant appearance of the Englishmen themselves.

Purity is indeed exhaled by such women: but not the purity that all positive people understand as purity. To them the only purity worth having is that which is the outcome of fire. Everything else is impure. A tepid passion, a non-exuberant passion, is impure: it can wait, it can temporize, it can play with Life; it can even thwart the highest purposes of Life: therefore it is impure.

How often in our own small circle have we not seen a youth that we admired—a positive, robust and savoury fellow, full of trust and energy—condescend to take the most fragile, shadowy reminiscence of Life for a mate and the mother of his children! I say “condescend to take”; but I mean in his sense of course, “aspire to taking”; for it was obvious that he regarded her as the highest example of womanhood that could possibly be discovered; to this extent was he prevailed upon by the Puritanical prejudices of his Age! But it is within the experience of most people that the negative values of an environment will drive some men even farther. There are a few who will not even stop at deformities, sickness, disease. I know of two such cases: one man who fell in love with a consumptive girl, knowing her to be consumptive; and another who loved and married a girl with hip disease. Both of these men were acting in a manner utterly hostile to the highest purposes of Life; their love actually denied, baulked and frustrated the highest purposes of Life; they were, in my sense, therefore, utterly impure, immoral, criminal. But from the point of view of their Age, their class, their religion and[Pg 101] their country, what was there, in sooth, to show them that they were wrong?

Had they not heard from their earliest childhood onwards, that the soul was everything and that the body did not matter? Had they not had it dinned into them at every turn along their life’s path, that a pure soul can make up for any physical defect, even foul breath? Had they not learnt to regard brains as better than brawn? And who had ever told them when they were children and when they were quite ready to despise sickness, deformity, or botchedness generally, that their instincts in this respect were quite right and proper? Who had explained to them that things that are unclean (as the good, honest Old Testament has it) should be avoided?[43]

There is no science of physiognomy and of human selection to-day. It will be objected, of course, that no possible elaboration of such a science could ever induce young people to “fall in love” with the proper mates. My reply to that is: Let it be tried. When our young folk tell us that they have fallen in love at first sight, we know that they must have followed some principles of physiognomy and selection. However adventitiously these may have been acquired, they constitute the only guide obtainable. But are these principles any the better for having been acquired by chance, and very often from false and unreliable sources? They must have acquired their principles from some source. Is it better that they should have picked them up, as it were, on life’s way, than that they should have been taught them? It is not a difficult matter to educate the taste of children on certain broad lines. The fact is not that these guiding lines are lacking to-day—on the contrary, they abound—but[Pg 102] that they are based on no understanding of essentials and are as a rule not regulated by a deep concern for health and high vitality. And since you can teach mankind the points of a good horse or a good dog, it is surely a little bold to deny that you can teach it the points of a desirable mate.[44] At least you can lay down certain very distinct principles regarding the mate to be avoided. But not even that is attempted nowadays.[45]

The danger at present is that a young man, despite his proper instincts in this matter, may be wrongly influenced by the values and prejudices of his Age, his country and his class, so that willy-nilly he goes astray, and inclines in a negative direction when all the time his instincts are positive.

In regard to sex and the choice of the positive woman, the Englishman particularly, therefore (more especially[Pg 103] of the wealthier middle classes), wants re-educating, re-instructing in the values of positive Life. And it is to him, more than to Woman (for, after all, he is the chooser), that the chapters of this book are addressed.


[35] Always from the standpoint of sexual potency be it remembered.

[36] See also pp. 7, 70 and 94.

[37] In 1911 there were 477 women doctors in England, 382 of whom were unmarried.

[38] See also pp. 7, 70, and 91.

[39] See A Defence of Aristocracy, chapter V.

[40] It will occur to some that I ought perhaps to have referred to the fact that English Law is more severe against illicit relations than is the Law of France. This is true; but, after all, English Law applies only to girls under a certain age, and is by no means repressive of illicit relations after that age.

[41] A Defence of Aristocracy, chapter V.

[42] Speaking of the prevalence of this type of girl at present, Arabella Kenealy says (op. cit., p. 84): “So devitalized and neurasthenic are many of our pretty young girls that their flowerlike faces, topping over-tall and undeveloped bodies, suggest delicate blossoms crowning long attenuated, sapless stems. Neither faces nor bodies are vitalized and athrill with powers rooted in healthful organs, vivified by healthful functions, and instinct with warm, iron-rich, magnetic blood. They show that making for beauty which is inherent in the Woman-traits, but which, in latter-day girls, owing to defective constitutional vigour or to educational, social or industrial exhaustion, has been able to realize itself only in sickly and weed-like development.”

[43] Even the fiction they read did not help them to the correct attitude in this. Does Lord Lytton ever express any horror at his hero and heroine, who were both consumptive, falling in love with each other in Pilgrims on the Rhine? And how many other cases could be quoted!

[44] The teaching that is most steadily opposed to this view is that of Christianity; for, if once you admit that the physical points of a human being are important, you underrate the supreme importance of the so-called “soul,” which takes precedence of everything. That is why Christianity has always strongly deprecated any doctrine of physiognomy or human selection.

[45] For instance, most of the stigmata of degeneration and disease are well known. Why are they not generally taught to the young? This would constitute at least a start in the right direction. The ancient Hindus were in this respect, as in many others, very much more civilized than ourselves. In the Laws of Manu, Book III, definite hints are given to the young man regarding the kind of girl he should choose. In verse seven we read: “Let him avoid that family (in selecting a wife) which neglects the sacred rites, one in which no male children (are born), one in which the Veda is not studied, one (the members of) which have thick hair on the body, those which are subject to hemorrhoids, phthisis, weakness of digestion, epilepsy, or white or black leprosy.” Verse eight: “Let him not marry a maiden (with) reddish (hair), nor one who has a redundant member, nor one who is sickly, nor one either with no hair (on the body) or too much; nor one who is garrulous or has red (eyes).” Verse ten: “Let him wed a female free from bodily defects who has an agreeable name, the (graceful) gait of a Hamsa or an elephant, a moderate (quantity of) hair on the body and on the head, small teeth, and soft limbs.”

[Pg 104]

The Positive English Girl

Nothing is more instructive than to proceed from a general to a particular case; and nothing, at all events, could possibly be more instructive where women are concerned, than to select the positive English girl as the particular case; because it is in her heart that the conflict between the sound promptings of the body, and the unsound external promptings of the modern world rages most fiercely and most dramatically. It is in her heart that the issue of the conflict has its most momentous and far-reaching consequences.

To a heart overflowing with human sympathy, there is something infinitely wistful and pathetic in the appearance of this apparently careless and blooming maiden. For, has not every circumstance of her education and upbringing conspired to make her believe that all those things which to-morrow will be the meaning and explanation of her existence, are the very things that yesterday were most concealed, most “tabooed,” most anxiously hushed up?

The transition from indifference, here, to keen disconcerting interest, is an effort of the first magnitude—however willing and eager the body may be to assist in the change of standpoint.

Her soul is very self-contemptuous, self-condemnatory, pessimistic. And the more positive she is, the more this will be so; because the greater will be her feeling of conflict with it. She feels she must be wrong, and her soul and the world right. She is on the verge of morbid self-dislike, self-rejection. But how can it be otherwise?[Pg 105] Her body is a scandalous and exuberant old Pagan, and every minute of the day is whispering all kinds of shameless “indecencies” to her modern high-school soul. And she has been taught to value her modern high-school soul more than anything on earth. How can she help despising herself from the standpoint of a first-class high-school upbringing, when the latter constantly snorts prudishly at everything her other self—her body, dares to hint to her reluctantly attentive ear? Who is there to tell her that her high-school soul is entirely wrong in making her despise herself?

But it is her pessimism that is so terrible and so virulent. All ill-adapted creatures are prone to be pessimistic, and she is horribly ill-adapted. Beneath all her tennis-playing, her hockey-playing, her bright and cheerful manner, that always utterly deceives her parents and the superficial adults about her, this pessimism clings to her like a limpet. But how could she help feeling ill-adapted and pessimistic, in the face of the terrible alternative that now confronts her—the alternative consisting of either doing violence to the healthy dictates of her body, or of rejecting all the deepest beliefs of her childhood and adolescence?

And that is why an everlasting curse must surely hang over every creature, woman or man, who can be so unscrupulous as to exploit this temporary pessimism of healthy English female adolescence, and to turn it to negative account. For all those who, in the nefarious traffic of political or religious propaganda, avail themselves of it in order to turn a girl against Life finally and irrevocably, no punishment that can be imagined is sufficiently severe. Let them draw the unhealthy, negative girl over to their side; for it is better for all concerned if she and her like are converted to Life-Heresy; but let them leave the healthy positive girl alone, to fight her own battle with her high-school soul.

But the healthy English “Flapper” is courageous and infinitely enduring. And this is the secret of her constant[Pg 106] success against her high-school soul. For, what is it that really matters in her apparently uneven conflict between soul and body—a conflict, remember, in which all the weight of her environment and education is on the side of the soul? What matters is her body. Now her body knows quite well that everything is all right, and it has its tongue in its cheek the whole time, more particularly when the girl herself dallies with thoughts of the convent or of suicide. Besides, even her high-school soul has elements that can be persuaded and lured over to the other party. She is attractive, and is beginning to receive attention. The vanity in her soul, therefore, soon forms a league with the instincts of her body. Her soul also wants power, and this power her body guarantees to give her, if only she will snub the importunate high-school portions of herself, and neither balk nor overlook its designs. Above all, her soul is aching with curiosity concerning the secret of life, and the happiness of life; and as her body’s irrepressible lust of life is always at hand to lend support to any intellectual inquisitiveness, a combination of forces is effected that is as formidable as it is usually triumphant.

Where is the party on earth that could survive all these defections from its ranks? That is why, if left alone, the negative side of her, her high-school, puritanical soul, is bound to be defeated; that is why she ultimately rises superior to her shame, her apprehension and her pessimism.

But it would be a mistake to underrate her struggle, to minimize her qualms, or to scoff at her cryptic religiosity; her conviction that she is tremendously deep—all people are deep who have a fight raging in them—and that she stands on the brink of an even deeper abyss! Even the haughty manner in which she holds her inexperienced nose high in the air is instructive. She is trying her hardest to appear as if she were already above the struggle that is not yet over. Besides, all people who are in pain, not only feel deep and proud, but are deeper and prouder[Pg 107] than those who do not suffer. Pain not only delves, it also distinguishes.

Her confusion and the conflict raging inside her, are inclined to make her ill at ease with all men except the youth of seventeen; for, since she feels years his senior, he cannot disturb her. She will readily kill time with him, and with his assistance play an empty game while she is waiting for the forces in her body to readjust themselves to the new facts. Then she will not even look at him. Then it is business. Lads of seventeen will strike her as raw, ridiculous! Even full-grown men will interest her only to the extent to which they mean business. They will evoke her blessing only to the extent to which they realize that she too is in earnest about life, and takes it perfectly seriously. Then woe to her if one who attracts her heedlessly passes on! But woe to him, above all, who while promising business, and undertaking it legally and conscientiously with all the sanction of society and the Church, yet undeceives her, and disappoints her when it comes to the point, and drives her back to the pessimism of her youth, and the doubts and shame she had so valiantly overcome. For the duty of the positive man is to give woman a perfectly clean conscience in regard to sex and its pleasures. As the Church of England Prayer Book nobly and rightly puts it: “The husband ... is the Saviour of the body.” He who does not realize the profundity of this passage in the Church of England Prayer Book had better put the present work aside; for he will never be able to sympathize with anything in it. No man who is not the “Saviour of the body” of his wife can help being anything else than a thing of torment and torture to her; while her love and her devotion to him are increased a thousandfold, and her fidelity to him probably secured for life, if only he knows how to confirm and consolidate the triumph her body once achieved, single-handed, over her high-school soul during the trying period of her adolescence.

[Pg 108]

Let no young lady who has read the above passage with indignation suppose that it was an attempt to describe her particular type. The very fact that she has felt indignant about it sufficiently proves that it does not refer to her in the least; so she can set her mind at rest and absolve me of any intention of slighting or offending her.

If, however, she has read the words with a feeling of passionate anger—anger at the thought that all I have said truly applies to her, though no longer now, alas!—no longer at her present stage in life;—if, therefore, her emotion is the righteous anger of one who is filled with regret and sorrow for the things that she now recognizes as having once been hers, though they are hers no longer;—things she is still young enough to possess, though they have been filched from her by her environment and her unsound mode of life—I, as the mere analyst in this affair, applaud her feeling, and am glad that she has not yet reached that stage of listless resignation when youth, positiveness and ardour have ceased from moving her or from exciting her longing. If once she has been the girl I have just described, and she has deteriorated or grown negative, either (1) through a too prolonged and too exhausting wait, and a period too protracted of absolute abstinence; or (2) through unwholesome living, or—which is worst of all—(3) through marrying a man who has not proved the “Saviour of her body”; then I, too, join my anger to hers, and am perhaps even more angry than she; because all those who have a keen appreciation of quality, must loathe to see it squandered, destroyed or so badly mismanaged as to be made a thing of naught.

The three causes of deterioration and deflection to negativeness will now be examined separately, and in the order of the numbers given above.

(1) Maybe that at seventeen, or perhaps eighteen, the positive English girl was fully equipped, and felt herself fully equipped. Maybe Nature itself at that age had[Pg 109] concentrated all its most subtle art on the one task of making her as attractive and as irresistible as possible. Her top wave came with her nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first years—all years of bewilderingly beautiful ripeness, when every fibre in her body was agog, on the qui vive, harking for the approach of the mate that would justify all this sumptuous and generous preparation; harking timidly, though eagerly, for him who would consummate her expectant womanhood, give the only genuine value that they could claim to all her wondrous charms, and reveal herself to herself in all her wealth of ancestral virtues, gifts and skill.

She had received her pearl necklace; she had received her golden bracelets; she wore on her right hand a ring that had belonged to her grandmother; but now she wanted the crowning jewel of all, the hall-mark of her genuine womanhood—the little band of gold that was the emblem of matrimony.

Her twenty-second year went by, and nothing happened. Her twenty-third and twenty-fourth vanished also, and still her insignia were incomplete. But there was time yet, and anxiety, though present, was by no means acute. She was prepared for another year, or two, or even three, of patient waiting.

Since, however, it is impossible even for Nature herself to stand for ever on the tiptoe of anticipation; since it is too much to expect of anything or anybody, that weariness will not ultimately supervene if a wait is prolonged unduly, or if nothing—aye, nothing!—ever comes to repay an all too lavish outlay of beauty and its promise of joys untasted; it is, alas, a not uncommon occurrence—however ready the girl herself may be to continue waiting and watching—for Nature itself to feel so bitterly snubbed that it withdraws, as it were, from its position of proud and unstinting impresario, and wanders off elsewhere to spread its ornaments and charms over another and perhaps more fortunate subject.

This stage in the positive English girl’s career is not[Pg 110] apparent to the outsider, nor is it immediately apparent to the girl herself. All she knows is that she does not feel quite as well as she used to feel. She does not sleep so well, eat so well, or resist fatigue so well. She is not conscious, yet, that her looks are no longer so startlingly attractive as they were three or four years ago; but there is a shade of difference of which even she herself is aware on certain days. Her face is beginning to acquire definition. Her features do not melt into one another with the same indefinite sweep of downy cuticle; while the tone has also begun to decline in her bigger organs, and they are losing the braced, tense, healthy readiness they possessed at the beginning of the wait.

She may have all kinds of disorders now which she did not have at the moment of her top wave, while a concomitant depression of spirit makes her feel less keen about life, less eager about its mysteries. There is even a threat of anæmia—the result of occasional costiveness, its frequent correlative leucorrhœa, and a general lack of tone in her whole system. A neglected organ avenges itself, a neglected body avenges itself; her whole spirit wishes to avenge itself; for, like a flower, she needed the sun—in her case the sun of love—and she is visibly withering without it.[46]

With the third and final stage, all the symptoms[Pg 111] become acute, before dying away completely only to leave the body a mere husk of unrealised and now undesired possibilities. Discontent, unconscious or conscious, together with all kinds of troublesome, though not dangerous, disorders, gradually reduce her body and her spirit, and thus undermine her positiveness. Her temper is irascible; her periods irregular, unreliable and sometimes very painful—the sign that the body is really indignant! Costiveness and leucorrhœa set in chronically. Nobody understands either; nobody cares. The first principles of negativeness begin to creep stealthily into her once positive mind. Her features, hands and arms have lost all their bloom and roundness. With genuine alarm, one day, she suddenly recognizes that she is but a travesty, a caricature, of what she once was; and that Life itself is only a caricature of what it used to be. Now she no longer feels any real physical horror at the thought of spinsterhood, because she is not what she was when spinsterhood would certainly have filled her with horror. If she dislikes the idea of spinsterhood now, it is chiefly owing to her vanity, not to her bodily appetites. She feels that her prestige would be enhanced by the “Mrs.”—that is all! But her body has no share in this vain sentiment.

If she has once been the positive girl I describe, however, she is now filled with an indescribable feeling of burning, aching, consuming detestation of the world she once loved. Hope, trust, yea-saying have all gone. Her thwarted instincts manifest themselves in an obverse character, and she becomes misanthropic, purely negative to Man and to Life, and desiring only to end her existence in an act of revenge on man, society and her more fortunate sisters.

Only the very positive girl makes a hateful spinster, because only she has lost anything precious, only she knows what a cruel snub her sumptuous preparations once received! To have had all these preparations wasted; to have had to look on while, one by one, her[Pg 112] charms grew so faint as no longer even to lure the guest for whom such a rich banquet had once been laid; to have been a magnet and to have watched one’s magnetism gradually vanish without having been effective—these experiences are cruel in any case; but their cruelty increases in proportion to the magnitude, wealth and beauty of the original welcome that Nature had organized.

The negative girl, to whom an atonic state of the body, irregular and painful periods, have been an ever-present and familiar condition since her earliest puberty, or the negative girl who, while suffering from none of these disorders, is yet insufficiently vigorous or sound in organic equipment to render the thwarting of her reproductive instinct a state of suffering and bitter disillusionment, may make a perfectly cheerful, engaging, companionable and even thoroughly good-natured old maid.[47]

It is an interesting fact that in France, where positiveness among girls is ever so much more general than in England, the old maid is universally unbearable, and is proverbially known to be so.

(2) But there are other agencies at work in modern society for reducing the positive English girl to negativeness, besides the unfortunate and often inevitable circumstances of an all-too-long wait. For, in England, there is extraordinarily little care taken of the female body. It should never be forgotten in this regard, that although we, as a nation, are lovers of both sport and open-air exercise, we are culpably neglectful of that[Pg 113] hygiene which is concerned with the fundamentals of life. Genuine and gentle reverence for the body, particularly for the young female body, is startlingly rare in England. Fundamentals are not faced; they are, if possible, avoided; and frequently owing to a deliberate refusal to recognize the needs and fragility of an equipment that is vital, elaborate and easily disordered, girls are as much as possible handled and treated like boys of their own age. Positive girls, particularly, who are well built and vigorous, whose correlation of bodily parts is as near perfect as it is possible for the organs of modern people to be, have very few difficulties in early puberty. They are regular, they feel little or no inconvenience from the attending phenomena of puberty; but owing to this very freedom from morbid symptoms they are often allowed, thanks to the prevailing lack of reverence for the body, to engage in pastimes and sports—even during their moments of indisposition—which must, and undoubtedly do, ultimately induce a morbid condition if the habit is persisted in. Let me explain:—

To begin with, the very fact that anxious and almost fearful silence and secrecy are made to hang over all the manifestations of puberty in girls, is in itself an inducement for the young female to desire to behave during her moments of indisposition as much as possible like her schoolmates who are not indisposed. When, therefore, in addition to this desire, she feels and is known to feel no very marked discomfort at such moments, there is apparently nothing to prevent her from going a long walk or joining in a game of tennis, net-ball or even hockey with the rest of her friends, at a moment when violent exercise of all kinds ought to be most carefully avoided. In girls’ high schools and later on at college, such breaches of reverence towards the body are not only of constant occurrence, they may be said to be the rule where the positive girl is concerned, unless, of course, her parents have been wise enough to insist specially upon the proper precautions being observed. In the end, however, long as[Pg 114] the period of successful resistance may be, the body must suffer from this violence, and the toll paid is then both severe and heavy.

Another very dangerous custom is that of having recreation and games directly after a meal. There is nothing objectionable in sports for girls, provided they are not too violent.[48]—On the contrary, games keep them[Pg 115] out in the open air and exercise their bodies. But it is a risky thing, in view of the subsequent cost to the whole body and spirit, to give the alimentary canal in girls the slightest possible excuse for getting out of order; and exercise after a meal, particularly when such exercise is violent, is a potent factor in bringing about indigestion, costiveness and all their concomitant disorders. This notwithstanding, it is not uncommon, in fact it is an almost regular practice for girls in high schools and at college—often with the consent of their parents if these happen to know—to rush out directly after lunch to a game of hockey or tennis, or what not, and to engage in the most violent exercise and movements in the course of their play. This is the most unscrupulous vandalism; for, even if they are not indisposed at the time, the evil effects of such excessive activity directly after a meal are notorious. In the end costiveness must occur, not as a temporary affection, but alas! as a chronic habit; and the custom of correcting this tendency by means of constant purgation only aggravates the trouble.[49] Now constipation is in itself a bad thing. It lowers spirit, it gives rise to nervous trouble, causes auto-intoxication that saps energy and interferes with sound sleep; it also acts as a poison on the red corpuscles of the blood and reduces their number, and thus fosters the development of anæmia. But this is not all; for with constipation there is always serious infection of the lower colon, and a general loss of tone in that organ. The gravity of this condition in women cannot, however, be overrated, because the surrounding and adjacent parts are so vital and so important, that no risk that can possibly imperil their health and vigour ought ever to be run, much less therefore courted and chosen. How long it takes for an infected and atonic colon to affect the neighbouring organs, it is impossible to say; but that the atonic condition can and does spread from the original seat of the[Pg 116] trouble to other parts is unquestioned, particularly when anæmia has reduced their resisting power; and the results are always of the worst possible nature. Very quickly, if it is not already present, that worst and most insidious of maladies, leucorrhœa, makes its first appearance, and then a vicious circle is formed which it is extremely difficult to break.

This does not pretend to be a medical work; but the consequences and symptoms of this disease, leucorrhœa, are so far reaching and generally so much ignored, that it seems imperative to speak out quite openly on the subject. All through this book, the relations of the spirit to the body is considered as being so close, so intimate, and the relation of the attitudes of the positiveness and negativeness to the state of the body is recognized as so inevitable and deep-seated, that I should be guilty of a flaw in my argument, of a grave omission in the frank array of my facts, if, particularly at this stage, I were to scout a subject which, however disagreeable and delicate, formed a necessary link in the chain of my reasoning.

To begin with, then, let it be said most emphatically, for all those whom it may concern, that leucorrhœa—this most regrettable and most neglected of the hidden scourges that harass the women of England—is a much more serious and much more distressing ailment than the ordinary general practitioner, or even specialist gynæcologist, is ready to admit. The fact that Albutt in his Twentieth Century Practice allots only one paragraph of about fifteen lines to the subject of leucorrhœa in girls, shows at once with what a frivolous shrug of the shoulders the orthodox medical school cavalierly disposes of this all-important question. Leucorrhœa is not only a catarrh in a most vital part, it is also the symptom of a loss of tone in a most vital part—a loss of tone and therefore of vitality. It is important to remember, in regard to this disease, that scarcely a case of the kind has ever been known in which colon bacilli were not present in the mucous[Pg 117] discharge. The intimate connexion between leucorrhœa and the state of the colon is therefore indisputable, and shows with what reverent care the body of the young positive girl should be tended and watched. The body of the negative girl does not matter nearly as much.

When it is remembered that persistent and obstinate leucorrhœa is the cause not only of more than three-quarters of the irregularity and pain of girls’ periodic indispositions, not only of a depression and degeneration of sexual keenness that may make sexual union quite unenjoyable, not to say unpleasant, but also that it is a reducing, an exhausting, and a sterilizing ailment (sterility where it is not the result of actual malformation is almost always the result of leucorrhœa), it cannot be too urgently or too deeply impressed upon the parent and the guardian of the positive English girl, that reverence for her body, and not alone for her pure soul (which, as we have seen, can well be left to look after itself), is their most solemn and most sacred duty.

Unfortunately, and incredible as it may appear, I have, after the most careful inquiry, discovered that even where leucorrhœa has been diagnosed and proved beyond any doubt to be present, it has been impossible to prescribe the only effective remedies and the only salutary hygiene, owing to the fact that they are frequently of such a nature that no English parent would dream of tolerating their application for an instant! The price we pay for our Puritanism is occasionally very heavy indeed.

When in addition to chronic costiveness and leucorrhœa, anæmia ultimately sets in to stamp its powerful blight upon the face and body of our fair and positive English girl, the amount of positiveness that has been left within her, the extent of her original self that still remains, may easily be computed. I need hardly say that this is not much, and yet, though she is spoiled for every other purpose, she probably stands as a tennis, a hockey, and often a classical champion, as the glory of her whole family, class and nation.

[Pg 118]

And, mark you, she has been spoiled for every other purpose, not by necessity, not by fate or accident, but by a manner of life the mistakes of which could have been avoided, eliminated and corrected, if only those to whom she was related had felt that reverence for her body, which all beautiful things deserve and demand, and without which they surely perish.

Where the positive girl of the poorer classes is concerned the evil is just as great and just as widespread; but at least in her case, there is the excuse of necessity, of compulsion, of economic pressure. She does not, it is true, rush out to a game of hockey, tennis or net-ball immediately after her meals, neither, as a rule, does she have to take a long pleasure-walk; but she has certainly to rush off either to the local underground railway or to an omnibus in order to get to her work, or else she has to hurry along a considerable distance on foot to get there. She does not play at hockey or tennis when she is indisposed; but if she works at a factory she has to go there all the same; if she works in a shop she has to stand about there all the same; and if she is a laundress she has to stand at a board or a machine all the same.

In both classes, then, rich and poor, Puritanism in different ways—on the one hand by its doctrine of indifference to the body, and on the other by its creations, modern industry and commerce—has succeeded in suppressing all reverence for the positive girl’s beautiful body, and the spiritual as well as the physical cost to the nation of this stupid and iniquitous attitude is as appalling as it is incalculable.

(3) Even if she marry early—as all positive girls should—she may still be converted to negativeness; and in this last instance, not by discontent, a too long wait, or an unhealthy mode of life during youth, but actually by her young husband himself.

Although, strictly speaking, this question should come[Pg 119] in the chapter on Marriage, its discussion here, in view of what has gone before, seems so opportune and necessary, that I have decided to include it here, and thus leave myself all the more room for other considerations in Chapter VII.

I have mentioned before that the deterioration of men from the standpoint of Life—i.e. their gradual approximation to a purely, or relatively, negative type—has been a process that, in England at least, has been going on for almost 270 years. In this time a good deal can be accomplished in the matter of altering a type, and there can be no doubt that a good deal has indeed been accomplished. Fortunately, however, apart from the actual deterioration through bad food and unhealthy living and work (which, as I have shown elsewhere, are the indirect results of Puritanical values), Puritanism has not done much to affect the positiveness of the poorest classes in England. Where it has proved most formidable is in (1) the plutocracy, (2) the middle classes, and (3) the lower middle classes. In these the ravages of Puritanical tradition on the constitutions and outlook of the men is everywhere noticeable; and that which makes the incidence of this evil all the harder to bear is the fact that the women of all these classes have not suffered nearly to the same extent from this tradition.

Whereas, therefore, it is a more or less common experience to find a positive girl in all these classes, the appearance of a truly positive man is excessively rare. I may have occasion to refer to this state of affairs again in Part II; but, for the present, let us examine its immediate effects on the positive girl who has just married.

The positive girl extends her hand confidently, bravely and hopefully to Life. She does not expect to draw it back empty; she does not desire to draw it back full of bliss. She is brave enough, rational enough, and above all exuberant enough, to expect to draw it back with its full quantum of pleasure and pain. She wants Life, and what though Life means some pain, willy-nilly she will[Pg 120] have it notwithstanding, and her heart whispers “damn the consequences.”

But there is something she does expect, something she has a right to expect; and that is that her husband himself should be her guide, her mentor and initiator. From time immemorial it is his sex that has been prehensile. Throughout the higher animal kingdom, prehension in the sex act is the exclusive attribute of the male. He often has the organs for it, and he almost always has the superior strength for it—even when his strength is not required for other purposes. But just think what prehension means! It involves initiation; it means taking the first steps; it is certainly tantamount to setting the tone, the manner, the order of an encounter. Traditionally, then, for millions of years the male has had his particular rôle, the rôle of prehension, with all its correlative virtues and qualities. Before self-consciousness dawned in the human being, he was prehensile in the sexual act—and his rôle therein involved, as I think it necessary to repeat, powers of initiation, the ability to take the first steps, the necessary mastery over sex, to set the tone, the manner and the order of the sexual encounter. What does all this imply? It is obvious! It implies that for an equal number of millions of years the female of the species has expected this prehension and all its correlative qualities in the male. It means that now, to this very day, her deepest feelings tell her that it is only right, only proper, and only becoming, that he should possess and display a certain mastery, a certain free virtuosity—that virtuosity of a flame in a roaring fire—in the matter of sex, and that his very ardour, his very virtuosity, his very ease in mastery, should finally seal the coffin of all that guilty feeling towards sex which she had almost killed in her youth, and which she now expects to be buried once and for all.

This, positive Woman understands. This is what she has a right to expect; this is what makes her serene, content, free in conscience and in gait, confident that[Pg 121] life is worth living and that her positive impulses have been correct all along.

But what is it that happens so frequently that often a sense of shame regarding sex actually begins in a positive woman on the very day of her marriage—never again to be completely dissipated?

—The unfortunate modern man whom our positive girl marries, is often as remote from any mastery over sex, or from any ease or free virtuosity where it is concerned, as a marble statue. Thanks to the prudish nature of his upbringing, his environment and his outlook, and also to the general lack of sexual exuberance in his constitution, he is frequently as terrified of the subject as is his spinster aunt, and he knows no more about taking the initiative properly, artistically, capably, than a child of three. As for that impetuosity that carries everything before it, even the girl’s natural modesty, and releases the pent-up demons of roguery so long stifled in her breast!—poor man! far from releasing them he would prefer a thousand times to slip another bolt across the door that imprisons them! Hesitation, shame, disgust, a sense of guilt and of discomfort, often followed by incredibly long periods of post-conjugal virginity and chastity, are frequently the result, and with general consequences that are most deeply to be deplored.

Prehension!—He has not even comprehension where sex is concerned! And since in this matter, which is rightly so delicate and therefore so dependent upon consummate art, the Woman is utterly dependent upon him, a miserable, uncomfortable and clammy atmosphere is straightway generated in a new home, in which everything could otherwise be so bright, so clean, so full of mutual confidence and good spirits. And in all this, mark you, no reference is made to the need of child-bearing for the woman, which here is left indefinitely ungratified and unconsidered.

How many women ever survive this first great shock to their positiveness it is impossible to say; but that a[Pg 122] very large number undoubtedly do grow negative from the effects of it, I myself have been able to ascertain and to record, even in my own small but fairly representative circle.


[46] Hundreds of people, doctors included, will declare that this is wrong; that an all-too-long wait does not necessarily impair health or beauty. As if not being used, not being made to function, could possibly be a good thing, or at least a thing that does no harm! Make a child sit still for years, and see how its health will be affected! It is absurd to argue that when an equipment is normal and healthy, it does not do it and the body containing it considerable damage not to use it! But in this matter, I do not ask you to believe me! Ask the positive girls themselves! Ask them (if they remained virgins) whether they felt the same at twenty-five as they did at nineteen! Ask them whether they have not learnt from sad experience that an elaborate mechanism when it is not used gets out of order! Get them into your confidence, and you will hear the truth for once on this matter.

[47] Paradoxical as it may seem at first sight, it is however only too true that the worst kind of spinster is precisely this “perfectly cheerful, engaging, companionable and even thoroughly good-natured old maid,” because, like the cheerful cripple or the happy invalid, she is a living mockery of Life, passion and instinct thwarted. Her very adaptedness to her unnatural lot seems to the unwary an argument in favour of an unnatural lot, or at least not an argument against it. See chapter IX.

[48] By violent sports I mean any form of jumping, hockey, football, lawn tennis, golf and lacrosse. In all these games the movements of the body are too jerky and too jarring, and muscular effort is too long sustained. Even for men football is very bad, for women it is barbarous. In young girls Nature makes an effort to compensate the excessive demands made by violent sports on the muscles and bony structure of the legs and pelvis, by proceeding to a premature stiffening of the fleshy, and a premature ossification of the bony parts—both of which processes not only arrest full subsequent development, but also make for unnecessary rigidity in the pelvic and upper femoral regions—effects which are heavily paid for later on unless the girls remain unmarried. The fact that even among males, sailors show smaller hip measurements than soldiers—the former being habituated from earliest youth to much more violent bodily exertions than soldiers—shows what a difference this natural compensation for early muscular strain makes in a sex in which pelvic development is neither as vital nor as characteristic as it is among girls. Another danger arising from violent sports for young women, which is not mentioned in the text, consists in the jerking and jarring of the spine, small and imperceptible sprains of which, particularly near the ilium, often lead to very obscure but severe nervous disorders in later life. The fact that young girls enjoy violent sports is often adduced as an argument in favour of their adoption at school and elsewhere. But surely young people, as I have shown, are so catholic in their positiveness, that their mere liking for an occupation or amusement should not constitute in itself, and without further inquiry, a sufficient ground for allowing them to pursue it. Neither should parents allow themselves to be influenced by the fact that a conclave of women doctors has recently decided in favour of violent sports for girls. The decisions come to by middle-aged matrons or middle-aged spinsters concerning the care and discipline of young girls, should never be trusted. It is always difficult to be quite certain about the motives, whether conscious or unconscious, that have animated women of this age in their dealings with young girls. On the whole, unless it be her mother, the advice of any middle-aged woman concerning a young girl ought to be treated with suspicion. See p. 246 (footnote).

[49] With regard to the effects of diet on constipation, I give some useful hints in chapter V of A Defence of Aristocracy.

[Pg 123]

Part II

[Pg 125]

The Marriage of the Positive Girl
and the Positive Man

The multiplication of life in human society involves certain burdens and responsibilities. A normal, positive young man could easily fertilize a hundred women a year, without departing even for one instant from his usual habits of industry and useful productivity. Could he, however, undertake to provide for, protect, and rear a hundred children in the ensuing year? He might if he were a millionaire; but all men are not millionaires.

Although, therefore, the mere carnal union of two young positive people is the normal and natural consummation of their desire, it is bound to be interfered with by the State, or by the community, in order that the burdens and responsibilities resulting from Life’s multiplication may be delimited, defined, fairly apportioned and allotted as far as possible to those who ought properly to bear them. And since a man cannot procreate a hundred children a year without in the vast majority of cases imposing grave burdens and responsibilities upon his fellows, the State or the community officially refuses to recognize, or to offer legal status, to any offspring that are the outcome of multiplication that takes place outside the monogamic union. Thus although marriage and its forms and limitations—particularly the monogamic limitation—may frequently have a religious ceremonial, it is society, or the community, that ultimately favours it, because society as a whole cannot undertake to pay for the promiscuous indulgence of every man’s lust.

[Pg 126]

Hence, despite the fact that the carnal union of our positive couple is all that the multiplication of Life requires, and all that the conscious or unconscious desire of the two young people demands, the State interposes its jurisdiction and declares that the multiplication of life that will follow the union, in fact the union itself, will only be legally recognized provided that it take place along certain specified lines.

Thus marriage is not a natural state, nor is it even the logical outcome of the “love” of a positive couple; it is an artificially imposed condition devised for the purpose of safeguarding the community. And, being unnatural and gratuitously imposed upon the simple relationship that Nature requires, it complicates that relationship, and necessarily possesses all the disadvantages that any unnatural[50] solution of a natural problem must involve.

It might be thought that if it is so very unnatural the positive couple would instinctively rebel against it?—Not so! How many of them are aware even that it is not a natural law? Custom deceives the young positive couple in the same way as it deceives us all. We are accustomed to innumerable constraints which to a man unfamiliar with them would be intolerably irksome. When, therefore, the young positive couple stand at the altar and hear the priest say to the man: “Wilt thou love her, comfort her, and keep her in sickness and in health, and forsaking all other, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both shall live?” and the young positive man answers innocently “I will,” neither of them suspects the cloven hoof of social fear or social constraint behind the words. They imagine not only that the question is a perfectly normal one, implying a normal condition, but they also imagine that this implied condition[Pg 127] itself—that of lifelong love—is a possible and generally acceptable proposition. They are not even led to suppose that it is an ideal difficult to realize, otherwise the man would not be invited to take such an enormously difficult vow with so little preparation and warning. To answer the priest’s question honestly—that is to say, with a full knowledge of the terms of the vow and with a perfect conviction that he is ready to fulfil them—a young positive man would require to be in possession of knowledge regarding himself and the future which he can hardly be expected to possess. For a man to say on March 20, 1922, that, if he live so long, he will entertain the same æsthetic or moral or political sentiments on March 20, 1952, as those he holds on the day he makes the vow, would be daring—or to say the least, presumptuous—as implying a claim to a gift of prophecy. But for a man to say of a sentiment in which passion enters as an important factor, that he will hold it thirty years hence, he must either be quite ignorant of what he is being asked to declare, or a prophet capable of accurately reading the future; or else he must be the most unprincipled blackguard that ever lived, and prepared to take any vow in order to obtain his immediate needs. Now, since it would be unfair to assume that the majority of the young men who answer “I will” to that question are blackguards; since, moreover, it would be unscientific to suppose that any of them are gifted with the superhuman power of prophecy, we can only conclude that they are completely ignorant of what it means. They are completely ignorant of the whole significance of the marriage rite, and it is their ignorance, coupled with the fact of the force of custom, that enables them to accept the unnatural imposition of the State-ordered marriage as if it were a natural condition. Besides, the young positive couple are, as a rule, not very analytical. The only thing they insist upon with all the impatience of what is called “love,” is union; and since their elders and society seem to offer them the chance of union without[Pg 128] black looks and moral indignation, only in legalized “marriage,” they seize society’s offer without thinking much about the question of natural or unnatural solutions of natural problems. Thousands, it is true, do not wait for the unnatural solution.[51] They simply unite and consummate their desire without taking any public vow. Then, however, they find the social machinery for discouraging such simple behaviour so formidable and unrelenting that they are frequently unable to face it, and resort to crime in order to attempt to wipe out the consequences of their action. Unmarried motherhood, with all the moral indignation it provokes; prosecutions for affiliation, and the weekly payments in which they result—are some of the unpleasant menaces that face those who refuse to wait for the State’s conditions before consummating their desire; and, in the end, the great majority, preferring the more peaceable and more generally accepted course, resolve on marriage the moment they feel they must consummate their desire.

The desire that makes the two young positive people wish to unite is called “love.” It is mutual attraction culminating in a condition of mutual irresistibility. It is the power which, in the course of evolution, each has acquired to draw the other into that condition which best serves the purpose of Life and its multiplication.

[Pg 129]

Now, as we have already pointed out, this power of attraction serves its purpose—multiplication—whether they unite legitimately or illegitimately. Since, however, the purposes of society are best served by their uniting according to certain rules, and since these rules are chiefly designed to secure each party to the union against the evil consequences (to society) of promiscuous mating, it is expedient that the two should be bound together for life; and the marriage tie is made a permanent tie: “Till death us do part,”—that is the ideal aimed at. But in this way a lie is tacitly smuggled by society into the marriage of two young people. Since society’s purposes are best served by a permanent match between the young positive couple, they are led to believe that the desire which the moment before union has drawn them together, and which is called “love,” is also permanent; in fact that it is really the best reason for making the match permanent!

Having once been perpetrated by the social organism, this lie is repeated in all the moral prejudices and saws, all the fairy-tales, the popular novels, the poetry and the songs, of a whole nation—of a whole continent—and soon acquires the sanctity of truth; and he who dares to nail it to the counter as a piece of counterfeit psychology or physiology, is dubbed a cynic, an anarchist, and a misogynist.

We call the emotion “love” which convinces two young people that they had better, on grounds of expediency, accept the State regulations concerning their prospective union, but we have no business to imply by actual words or by suggestion that the desirable permanence of that union, from society’s point of view, will find one of its principal causes in the persistence of the emotion that led to its being consummated. Unfortunately, the advantage to society and to the family of a permanent legal contract, has led to so complete a distortion of the truth, that the majority of young people are led to believe, quite blindly, that it is the enduring[Pg 130] power of the emotion itself which justifies the nature of the contract. And everything is done to confirm them in this belief. It is only when they are married that they find how utterly untrue it is.

It is readily admitted that in every generation of human beings there is a percentage, an ever-dwindling percentage in degenerate days, of men and women who are capable of deep and lasting emotions. These rare creatures of profound and enduring passion, to whom change of any sort is distasteful, and who cling faithfully and stubbornly to their hobbies, their pursuits, their ancestral faiths, and their particular taste in literature, music, the graphic arts and food, may and do sometimes evince a steadiness and a stability in their love which makes their monogamic unions exceptionally harmonious and affectionate to the last. But for the average modern couple to claim that they belong to this very small percentage of human beings, is the most contemptible impudence. Even positive couples cannot all be said to belong to this class, and as for the negative couples, whose unions are chiefly an idle pursuit of sensation or else a gratification of vanity, they are as different from these slow-moving, deeply passionate people as if they belonged to a race utterly strange to them. It is therefore essential that, for the vast majority of people, a more sensible, less dramatic, and more realistic colour should be lent to their unions, so that they may enter them with a clearer understanding of the enormous difficulties with which permanent marriage is beset, and with other considerations to support and fortify them, than a trust in a possibility so utterly fantastic as the endurance of their emotions.

When once they are married, it is perfectly true that expediency, economic considerations, and the presence of children frequently convince them that it is better that their union should be permanent; but to call by the name of “love” the reasons which cause them to arrive at this conclusion, is a colossal hoax, the prodigiousness[Pg 131] of which would be amusing did it not lead to such untold misery.

But, it may be objected, even if we admit that the legal union, marriage, is as a rule incompatible with lasting “love,” where is the harm, provided that the two objects of the contract, the obtaining of a union between two positive people and the propagation of children on regular and well-ordered lines, be secured? Is it not after all the best solution of the sex problem?

The question whether it is the best solution of the sex problem we must leave undecided for a moment. But to the first part of the question we may now answer definitely that there is harm in any contract based upon a lie, when that lie is one which, connected as it is with the psychological and physiological conditions of a certain common human relationship, is bound to be discovered as a lie by the parties to that relationship.

To allow, however tacitly or implicitly, that society’s unnatural solution of the sex problem is even favourable to the endurance of the emotion which first led the couple to desire union, is harmful in the first place:—

(1) Because it makes the idea and pursuit of marriage too hedonistic. Young people know that the state of mutual desire in which they find themselves before the union, is one of exquisite pleasure. As we have pointed out in Chapter V, it is probably the richest experience, as spirito-physiological sensations go, that anyone can have. They also know that the happy and masterly consummation of this desire is a source of enormous spiritual and physical well-being and delight. The parties to be united, therefore, can easily be persuaded, both immediately before consummation and for a brief period afterwards, that this exquisite pleasure and delight will be secured them permanently by a permanent contract, and marriage is pursued as a source of happiness. People are even in the habit of asking of a married couple, not “Are they successful?” not, “Are they breasting their difficulties satisfactorily?”; but always, “Are they[Pg 132] happy?”—as if for all the world one were necessarily happy in fulfilling a difficult and vastly complicated contract.

It is necessary for the positive young girl to find her physical adaptation. Only the negative girl can be content without it. It is also necessary for the positive young man to find his. But surely it is not necessary to lead either of them to suppose that in doing this by means of legal marriage they will find anything more in the long run than the most moderate well-being, disturbed by the most tremendous responsibilities and difficulties.

The way in which girls and young men are led to look forward to the married state as if it were a kind of fairy transformation, summed up in the formula “and they were happy ever afterwards,” vitiates the whole value of the contract; for while it lays all emphasis on the contentment that naturally comes with proper physical adaptation, it passes over the enormous difficulties which any such permanent contract between sensitive and intelligent beings must entail.

(2) It is harmful, secondly, because by leading both young people to expect too much from marriage, it expedites the period of disillusionment, which is bound ultimately to supervene in the great majority of such unions. If the State solution of the sex problem, known as monogamic marriage, be really a good institution, then surely everything should be done to make it tolerable for as long as possible to those who are parties to it. Since disillusionment must come, it is obviously the duty of teachers and elders to endeavour to postpone it as long as possible. And the way to do this is certainly not by emphasizing the “happiness” of marriage to the exclusion of all thought about its enormous and almost insuperable difficulties. A salutary reform in this respect would consist in leading young people to accept the State’s solution of the sex problem in a more sober mood, with a more grave concern about the future, with a greater insight into the utility of marriage, and with less[Pg 133] precipitancy than is shown at present. They would realize that while union was what they desired, legal marriage was the least unsatisfactory way for all concerned of meeting that desire for union; but that it was only a clumsy way of securing their sexual adaptation, and held no necessary promise of any greater happiness than they could expect from any other system of constraints.

It might be objected that, in this case, young people would not marry. The reply to this objection is that they would if their desire for normal adult adaptation were strong enough, but that they would be likely to fulfil the contract all the more satisfactorily by realizing from the start its utility, its limitations, its very doubtful promise, and its artificial nature.

(3) It is harmful, thirdly, because, by confusing marriage with the pursuit of happiness, grave considerations are likely to be overlooked. Let me give a concrete instance:—

It may be in the best interests of a farmer’s son, who intends to adopt his parent’s calling, to marry a rural maiden, accustomed to the problems of a farm, and familiar with all the valuable traditions of the countryside. In fact, from the standpoint of the State also, it may be best for him to select his bride from among the female population of his village or locality; for by so doing, in addition to acquiring a useful mate, his children will inherit rural virtues from both sides, and are more likely to become good and efficient farmers in their turn. But if, by a false association of happiness with marriage, he fancies that he will have what is known as a “better time” with an urban typist of smart appearance, with small bird’s-claw hands and expensive tastes, he is likely to overlook the gravity of the purpose of marriage in order to gratify his hedonistic lust. This accounts also for the destruction of many of our aristocratic houses by mésalliances with chorus-girls and American and Jewish heiresses. If the utterly hedonistic bias were only removed from marriage, such stupid and wanton outrages[Pg 134] against good blood might be prevented. For since the alleged “happiness” of a permanent association like legal marriage is in nine cases out of ten pure illusion, it should not be allowed to override a man’s duty to himself and to his children. One of the principal rewards of the legal marriage is the means it gives a man of preserving his family virtues and tradition, and since this is best achieved by choosing a girl from his own kind and set, the supposed pursuit of happiness can only act as a disturbing element, which could be condoned only if it were not so entirely illusory.

Of course the mésalliance as a social evil has a Puritanical root as well, which ought perhaps to be mentioned here. The Puritans were not so utterly and incurably stupid as to deny the existence of bodily pleasure. They knew perfectly well that the joys of sex were very real joys. By insisting, however, upon these joys being sought only in fast wedlock, they threw a burden upon marriage which it was hardly designed to bear. They converted it by one stroke into a source of joy—that is to say, into the unique source for a certain kind of joy, into a symbol of pleasure and happiness of a certain kind. By so doing, however, a false association grew up in the minds of men regarding marriage, which has resulted in the scions of some of our best houses seeking happiness and pleasure in matrimony by marrying women whose blood necessarily diluted or destroyed their stock qualities. Had the stupid Puritan prejudice not existed, they might have found pleasure with these inferior females without marrying them, and thereby saved their family line with some one who, though perhaps less garish and less vulgarly amusing, was at least capable of giving them children true to their traditional stock quality.

The advantages of the legal monogamic match are chiefly social. They have very little to do with happiness, and most of them redound to the benefit of law and order. They are:—

(a) The creation of a compact unit known and recognized[Pg 135] as the family, in which responsibility for the fruits of the union fall on the two parents, and in which the financial responsibility in the great majority of families falls upon the more free (physically) of the two parents—the male. The State is by this means secured against the obligation of having to rear the innumerable host of children that would result from promiscuous parenthood where the father could not be traced.

(b) The creation of a unit with which it is easy for the law to deal, because in it human duties are simplified down to the three relations, spouse, parent, child, each of which has its status in the law, all converging towards the head of the unit, who can be made answerable to the law for his unit.

(c) The creation of a definite and stable environment for the early and tenderest years of the nation’s youngest inhabitants, where, in the majority of cases at least, they may be assured the care and the supervision and the schooling of those who are by nature best equipped for discharging the duties of protectors and tutors with love and tenderness, with natural pride in their work, and above all without demanding payment for their services.

(d) The creation of a natural centre of interest for the female and the male, but particularly for the former, after the first bloom of youth and attractiveness has fled, so that each may claim, as by right, a place in a home, in which their presence is earnestly desired, at least by the majority—the children.

(e) The creation of a microcosm—a part and counterpart of the nation as a whole, reduced to its smallest compass, in which the traditional character of a people becomes imparted to its children, in which the virtues and aspirations of a nation are inculcated by precept and example upon its youngest members, and in which these form the first strong attachments which, increasing with age, ultimately identify them, and act as the first moral check upon their conduct.

[Pg 136]

(f) The creation of a centre in which the child has a chance to develop family or stock qualities quietly, slowly, and unhindered; because it is sheltered, or partly so, from the influence of antagonistic or competing mob or universal characteristics.

(g) The creation of relationships—that of spouse to spouse, parent to child, child to child, and child to parent, in which the growth of many virtues useful to society are fostered and cultivated: a sense of responsibility, self-respect, fidelity, early associations of devotion and gratitude, the sense of traditional continuity which gives rise to the feeling of dignity, honour, obligation, and individual rights, claims and duties.

(h) The creation of a community on the smallest scale, in which the children may, by constant association with their parents, acquire their stock of general and specialized knowledge, learn the business by which they may ultimately earn their living, and cultivate efficiency in it quietly and gradually from infancy upwards. (This is an advantage which, except in rare cases, has hardly survived in family life in England.)

Now, attractive as these advantages may appear to the legislator, or legislators of a people, and cogent as they may make the argument for monogamic marriage, it will be seen, that they contain little that will necessarily secure the conjugal “happiness” of the two young people whose actions and movements they are designed to limit and to constrain. They consist chiefly of duties which, while not necessarily unpleasant, give rise to no small amount of anxiety and misgiving, and certainly lend a graver accent to matrimony than is usually imparted to it by that promise of light-hearted enjoyment upon which most stress is laid by the traditional literature, poetry and public sentiment of all Anglo-Saxon people. On the other hand, it would be idle to deny that if the aspects of monogamous marriage that they represent were more frequently emphasized and brought to the attention of both young and old, the number of “happy”[Pg 137] marriages might certainly be very much increased. For as I have shown, it is the hedonistic view of marriage, or that picture of it that dwells immoderately upon its supposed unfailing gift of happiness, that has done most in modern civilised societies to undermine its value as a working and workable institution. Its plain utility is smothered under too much sentiment and false doctrine. This result has been brought about largely by Christianity, which has persistently endeavoured to teach the high-falutin’ nonsense of matrimony as principally “a union of souls”[52]; but added to Christian influence in Anglo-Saxon countries, at least, there has also been the detrimental overlay of romantic obsessions,[53] which has made a realistic view of primitive and natural needs almost impossible.

The general tendency in Puritanical and Anglo-Saxon countries, at least, is to keep as far as possible in the background the subject of offspring and the fruits of marriage when discussing it or arranging for it in the presence of any two young people who have stated their desire to be joined together. It is not considered decent to refer to this, its most important side. As we have seen, the advantages of the legal monogamic marriage chiefly concern the children that may result from the match. Scarcely any other advantage exists. It is folly, therefore,[Pg 138] not to make the subject of offspring one of the most important in all deliberations relating to matrimony. It is true that in the Book of Common Prayer the first reason given for the joining of a man and woman together in holy matrimony, is “for the procreation of children”; but there are many people who dislike this passage in the marriage service, and all those who have attended marriage ceremonies often will be able to testify to the frequency with which it is rapidly slurred over in order to give the least possible offence.

Now this is the most pernicious nonsense that could ever have been devised for destroying the value of the legal monogamic marriage. For if proper stress were laid upon the consequences of the union, the children, it would not only check the hedonistic attitude towards marriage as an institution, but would also make young people more serious in the matter of choosing their mates and more critical of themselves in regard to their readiness for marriage.

“Am I one who can grant myself the privilege of contributing fresh people to the world? Am I sufficiently desirable? Is it at all desirable that I should reproduce myself in a second, third or fourth edition?”

But how can these questions be asked in an atmosphere where the offspring of a marriage is the last consideration to be thought of? How can they be expected to be asked in an atmosphere where “Luvv” is supposed to justify any match, however horrible?

In regard to the mate, too—who nowadays selects her with that serious criticism which gazes through the optics of the next generation and envisages their best interests? How can the average man assume this attitude, when all the stress in matrimony is laid upon the love match, upon the union of two souls? As far as possible, everyone tries to forget the other matter in contemplating a girl and her betrothed. People shrug their shoulders and say, “If children come, they come—and there’s an end of it.” They prefer to regard the couple from that[Pg 139] standpoint. Christianity has so far succeeded in establishing a false atmosphere of a union of souls around this most fundamental of all relationships (that of the betrothed couple) that it is possible now to meet people who entertain the most solemn determination to marry, and yet who have hardly one single feature in their minds or bodies that would render their repetition or recurrence on earth in any way desirable.

The whole attitude of Christianity towards the joining of male and female together, however, is so unrealistic on the one hand, and so base on the other, that it is not astonishing that after 2,000 years of Christian teaching we have wellnigh reached matrimonial chaos in Europe, and all countries like Europe.

Marriage should be regarded as the sacred garden of the next generation. All the exalted emotions that possess an artist at his work, all the solemn misgivings that beset a responsible man when he feels he is determining the future of Man, ought to surge in the breast of him who contemplates matrimony. To feel that emotion which the modern world calls “love” may excuse a man for forming an illicit union, but, alone, it does not justify him in concluding so grave a contract as marriage.

The disadvantages of the monogamic marriage are chiefly confined to its effects upon the individual, and are of a nature that the State can, as a rule, afford to ignore and to waive. I shall only point to one disadvantage that deeply concerns the State (see objection H), and that is so serious that it should be examined and removed instantly.

The disadvantages are the following:—

(A) Monogamic marriage presupposes a possibility which is the very reverse of natural and human, one in fact which, through the optics of life, does not even amount to a probability—and that is that two people of different sexes can be united for life without needing or craving for that same variety and respite which in all[Pg 140] other departments of their lives they regard as the most essential factor of well-being. This is the great lie underlying the State’s tacit assurance that its solution of the sex problem is for the benefit of the individual.

Every child suspects, every adult knows, how difficult friendship is, how hard it becomes to keep up that enthusiasm and eager interest in the relationship of friends, which alone makes companionship a refreshment and a pleasure. And everyone feels that there is a natural prudence in sound friendship which, founded on good taste, points distinctly to a moderate frequentation of a friend at all times when that enthusiasm and eager interest show signs of declining too seriously. So that it might truthfully be said in a paradox, that friendship can be maintained only by judicious separations, and that the duration of these separations is determined by the barometric level, so to speak, of the friendship felt at certain periods.

No one who has attained to adult years can fail to have realized the value of change to the body. Variations in diet, occupation and environment act as a stimulus not only to the senses but also to the tissues; they brace and invigorate the system. Life, like beauty, has even been defined as “repetition with a certain modicum of variation.”[54]

Moreover, every human being, child, adult, savage or sage knows the fatal consequences of complete and exhaustive exploration: how it cloys, how it surfeits, how it nauseates! The very constitution of man as a sentient being necessitates such consequences. The repetition of a stimulus reduces the force of its appeal owing to the very tendency to habituation to which all of us as adaptable creatures are prone. We react eagerly and quickly at first; the thousandth time we hardly lift an eyelid.

Now, in the face of all these facts of common and[Pg 141] everyday experience, it would seem both absurd and indefensible to claim that any two people, whether of the same or of different sexes, could hope to spend many years together—not to mention a lifetime—without ultimately falling the prey to indifference, if not dislike; and where the circumstances of their first coming together have been attended by any excessive warmth of feeling, the ultimate revulsion of that feeling, by constituting at once a disillusionment and, among unwise people, a surprise, must lead to an indifference proportionately more acute.

Unlike the mere association of friends, in which two people may work together, share the same interests, enjoy the same games, or suffer the same hardships, pleasures and difficulties, the married couple are united chiefly by a physical bond which has its basis in an act of passion, an act of desire, an act of power.

But passion is largely a matter of surplus strength, violent stimulation and the lust of possession, all of which are steadily worn down by (a) a steady drain on surplus strength, (b) the supervention of gradual callousness through the repetition of similar stimuli, and (c) the consciousness of holding definitely, or rather indefinitely, the object originally coveted.

Desire also, by being gratified, is stilled. The best cure, in fact, for desire is precisely gratification. But a cure is hardly what is anticipated by the usual love-match.[55]

With regard to the act of power, which, despite civilization, still accounts for more than half the savour of the sexual relationship, that is surely seriously impaired[Pg 142] by the law itself which enjoins cohabitation as a duty upon the parties to a marriage contract.

Thus the indefinite continuance of the emotion which first led a couple to unite, and the protraction sine die of the delights of the early consummation of their desire, are bound, as it were, with mathematical certainty to become impossible. But this makes the relationship exceedingly difficult, and one which, far from constituting a promise of happiness, is very much more likely to develop into an absolute guarantee of incessant and most tiresome differences.

To reply to these objections that there is a “love” that transcends all these difficulties, may sound pleasant and charming and good-natured, but it is hardly candid. For as I have pointed out above, the possibility of the existence of this rare kind of love does not justify us in making marriage a lie for the bulk of mankind.

(B) Furthermore, monogamic marriage makes no allowance for the fact that human courtship and the subsequent union of the sexes to which it leads, partakes essentially of the nature of an adventure. In fact, to a large number of people in these dull and ordered days it is the only adventure of their lives. In many of its aspects it is reminiscent of the qualities of the chase, and it would be unscientific not to allow for this smack of venery in the preliminaries which precede venery. That mutual attraction which ultimately leads to mutual capitulation is full of the excitement, the doubt, the anxiety and the final triumph of the huntsman. When the quarry is a positive virgin and her pursuer a positive man, even the fascination of fear is added—fear of the intensity of the passion awakened—to complete the similitude of the experience to the circumstances of the chase.

Beside this, however, the steady hum-drum routine of married life can at best only be a flat parody—particularly married life in modern civilization, witnessed, as it is, by innumerable stuffy relatives, marred by imperfect[Pg 143] health, supported by tired and irascible nerves, and depressed by the consciousness that it must last a lifetime.

Nor can it be said that the divine gifts of imagination and artistic creativeness tend to mitigate the solemn boredom and exasperation that overtake the parties to such a legal union; on the contrary, they but enhance its horrors: behold the unhappy married lives of most men of genius, Dickens, Carlyle, Byron, and the philosophic Socrates!

(C) The monogamic marriage based on the modern idea of “love” (which should, by the by, be spelt “Luvv” to differentiate it from the nobler idea called by the same name), in addition to leading to bitter disillusionment, has in its very first condition—this sentiment “Luvv”—the seeds of its most potent corrosive. For it is impossible nowadays to conceive of love without contempt. Indeed, an innuendo of contempt is essential before love can be possible. This is easily seen if we reflect upon what love is. It is, in its present acceptation, a very wild, a very torrential sentiment. From the man who says he loves her, the girl exacts little less than single-minded adoration. She expects him to say she is the best girl in the world for him, and she insists on his believing it. She might, at a pinch, forgive his not regarding her as the best girl in the whole world, in the sense of supreme above all other girls in fact. But to him, relative to his taste alone, she expects to be that. And he expects the same. But what does this mean? What can it not help meaning? Both parties in a courtship are fully aware of what sorry figures they cut before the critical and fully informed eye of their own inner consciousness. Each knows his shortcomings, his pitiful and helpless foibles, his ugly traits, his despicable features, his nauseating, revolting side!

And what? Some one has been found who calls this the best? who raves about it? who is visibly frantic about it?

Deep down in her heart, therefore, where the girl[Pg 144] secretes her contempt for herself, she now begins secreting the first drops of contempt for the one who can appear so wildly enthusiastic over something she knows to be so defective. Her man feels exactly the same, and though he may be exalted, for a while, by the girl’s having mistaken him for a hero, he would not be human if he did not feel a little contempt for one who could appear so enthralled by such humble attainments as he knows his to be.

When once, however, the first blush of passion has died away, this seed of contempt has to be reckoned with, and then, watered by disillusionment and nourished by indifference, it soon germinates and grows into the fungus which helps to blight the last green leaves that may still be left on the spare frail tree of conjugal affection. Because, the moment it shows its true colour and nature, it is recognized by either party in the other, and interpreted as a flat and wilful recantation of their former protestations, and consequently as an insulting and heartless volte-face which cannot be forgiven.

(D) In addition to the element of contempt in all love of the ordinary sort, there is another factor which, when once the moment of disenchantment comes in monogamic marriage, adds seriously to its force and hastens the end; and that is the unpardonable arrogance which is implicit in all these “love” matches.

When a young man A so far misunderstands his condition as to say he loves a young girl B with undying affection, although the psychologist may smile, he does not necessarily expostulate; for, after all, the attitude, though ridiculous, is not necessarily provokingly impudent. It is true that it is assuming that he is capable of an enduring passion, and therefore, that he is arrogating to himself a depth and a permanence which nine hundred and ninety-nine people out of a thousand do not possess; nevertheless, it is allowed to pass, because a certain modicum of exaggeration is allowed to lovers.

When, however, the young girl B believes A’s declaration[Pg 145] of undying love, and accepts it as a fact, the psychologist is naturally annoyed; for here a degree of self-deception comes into play which cannot possibly arise out of anything else than the most stupendous arrogance. In order that B may believe A, she must first have convinced herself of the following:—

(α) That she is capable of inspiring an undying passion.

(β) That she is capable of keeping it alive when once it has been kindled.

(γ) That there is nothing at all unlikely or preposterous in her being the object of such a passion.

But to convince herself of any one of these propositions she must possess the most prodigious conceit, the most unbounded impudence.

And the same applies to A, to whom B has declared her undying love.

In addition to contempt, therefore, there is in every love-match in which the parties propose to adopt a permanent monogamic union as their destiny, a degree of arrogance and self-esteem on either side which is wholly and unspeakably distasteful both to the sane psychologist and to the man of balanced mind.

But let that pass! What does it matter that the psychologist should be offended when he hears that A has declared his undying love to B and that B has believed him?

Yes, but unfortunately the arrogance that B shows in listening with patience and even credulity to such a declaration as A’s, does not end merely in giving offence to the psychologist. It ultimately recoils upon herself in the cruellest possible manner; just as A’s arrogant acceptance of B’s declaration recoils upon him. When the moment of disillusionment and indifference supervenes, as it must in all ordinary “love” matches, A finds it somewhat difficult to forgive B for having ever dreamt, even in her wildest nightmare, that she could keep their love alive all through their married life, and B finds it equally difficult to forgive A for having fancied, even in[Pg 146] the wildest flights of his imagination, that he could ever provoke a life passion. And thus, in addition to the contempt that has already been analysed in the preceding section, there now arises a rankling feeling of indignation of each towards the other for ever having been guilty of such stupendous arrogance.

And we must confess that in the majority of cases this indignation is well deserved.

The only excuse that may be pleaded in mitigation of A’s and B’s lack of modesty is that probably no one had ever told them, nor had they ever read, that to accept a declaration of undying love necessitates a degree of self-esteem that is positively indecent.

(E) There are many modern people who will protest that I have not considered the monogamic marriage on its “higher” or more “spiritual” aspect as companionship, and that unless its possibilities in this respect be viewed fairly and impartially, its general desirability cannot possibly be estimated. But before we assume too hastily that this is one of the brighter aspects of the monogamic marriage, let us make quite certain that we are not confronted by yet another of its grave disadvantages.

Companionship is a matter of the spirit. The pleasure of it might be likened to the refreshment that a parched body obtains from a fresh drink. It is the bliss peculiar to friendship. The friend refreshes one by his companionship. Provided we have not spent too many of our years with him, he opens before us a new aspect of things. Provided that we have not frequented him too much, his mind, however simple it may be, always offers us some sentiment or point of view which we have not yet thoroughly explored. And this communion with the friend is a joy, because it is a recreation. It makes the old world seem new again. Even familiar landscapes, viewed again with a friend whom one has seen at discreet intervals, acquire a freshness they did not possess before. The very essence of companionship, therefore, if it is to be a joy,[Pg 147] consists in the freshness, the novelty, the change that it introduces into our life.

But where is the freshness, where, therefore, the joy of companionship with some one whose mind one has thoroughly explored, whose every word, comment, or exclamation one anticipates five or six seconds ahead? Where is the exquisite quality of the companion in one whom one knows as well as oneself, whom one has had endless days, weeks, months and years to study, to listen to and to understand? The most gifted brain can be circumnavigated if it be lived with daily. The richest storehouse of spirituality can hardly hold out against daily depredation.

Companionship, however, offers something else that is priceless in the mortal monotony of our lives. It draws us away from excessive communion with ourselves, from the surfeit of self. Thus the friend comes as a welcome disturber of the interminable meditation that proceeds at all hours of the day between a man and himself.

But the mate who is always with you is so much a part of yourself, so intimately known to you, that nothing she can say is sufficiently arresting to disturb any meditation; and unless she actually overturns the lamp, or accidentally chops one of her fingers off, or falls downstairs, she is hardly noticed.

And what is true of the husband here is equally true of the wife. She gets to know her husband’s every word, every mood, every gesture by heart. To call his presence companionship, or the boon that comes with friendship, would be to cast a slur on all companionship and friendship for ever.

Companionship between husband and wife is therefore impossible. It is impossible because the very source of the chief quality of companionship—refreshment—is cut off at the root by too much association, too much and too incessant exploration of each other’s minds, by the two spouses.

(F) The monogamic marriage is as a rule more satisfying[Pg 148] to the female than to the male; but only, as we shall see in the chapter on Divorce, if children are born regularly, and the circumstances of their birth and their infancy run a normal course. The reason of this is that since the positive healthy woman finds her complete sexual experience only by means of the coitus, plus the period of gestation, plus parturition, and plus the months of lactation, she finds, as a rule, in the course of a married life in which she brings forth children regularly and in normal circumstances, all that her body can possibly expect from an adapted sexual life.[56] The act of fertilization, which, as we have already seen in a former chapter, is only the sparking-plug that starts the huge cycle that culminates in the weaning, is such a trifling incident in her sexual experience that very soon her husband begins to assume in her eyes the importance which, as a matter of fact, he enjoys relative to the huge cycle itself. And if she happens no longer to feel that enthusiasm for him which she felt as a fiancée, she can endure the disillusionment with equanimity and sweetness because she is now aware that, after all said and done, he does not really matter to her nearly as much as she once rather foolishly imagined. Promoting and expediting the drop in a woman’s affection for her husband must also be reckoned not only the natural surfeit and indifference that comes with excessive familiarity, but also the presence of the children themselves. For while they act as a consolation to the woman for the declining affection of the pair, they also operate as a powerful reducer of that[Pg 149] affection in herself. The unconscious longing for fertilization that has long been drawing her to her husband and forcing her to transfigure his very common and ordinary personality into something exceptional, naturally abates as fast as children are born, because, as an unconscious longing, it gets gratified and therefore stifled. And thus children, far from being the alleged bonds uniting couples, may become the most potent wedges driving them asunder. The extraordinary number of loving childless couples in which the woman’s devotion remains unabated may be accounted for in this way.[57] Policy, as a rule, bids her treat him with consideration and the outward signs of devotion as the breadwinner, as the father of her children, and as a person who, since he is destined to be her constant companion, it is merely ordinary good sense to humour and to please; but provided that she have children from him at regular intervals, she is not much troubled by the pronounced drop in her affection and regard for him.

To the man, on the other hand, to whom, as we have seen, the sparking-plug incident constitutes a complete sexual experience, and whose sexual life therefore begins and ends with this spasmodic desire for woman and the brief relation with her to which it leads, this falling off in affection and desire is a matter of very grave concern, because he has no bodily consolation. He may love his children, he may delight in their company, and he may be wholly interested in his home; but the bearing and nursing of his children constitutes no bodily experience to him; and in life it is the demands of the body that are most important and most importunate when they are not obeyed.

For his body to enjoy its necessary, satisfactory experience, slight and brief as it is, it is essential that some desire, some passion, in fact some of the feeling he felt for[Pg 150] his wife as a fiancée, should remain. It is necessary that he should still look upon the act as one of passion, desire and power. But as we have seen, the act has been deprived of most of its passion, desire and power by the inevitable consequences of the State monogamic marriage. Its beauties have literally been worn away. It has lost its savour and its strength by having been systematized, time-tabled, protected, ordered, and above all, repeated too often, without that “certain modicum of variety” which is the essential element in all life.

Generally speaking, then, it may be argued with justice that, where conditions are normal and children are born regularly, monogamic marriage can be tolerated quite well by women, but not by men. For when once the elements constituting the joy of cohabitation have been robbed from the man’s share—as in nine hundred and ninety-nine marriages out of a thousand they must—the relationship, though still endurable to the positive healthy female, to whom the act of fertilization, and raison de plus her husband, is of such minor importance, becomes intolerable to the healthy positive male; and unless he is prepared to face a life in which every week is a long-drawn-out torture to his body, he cannot remain faithful to his spouse.

In its general attitude towards and understanding of monogamic marriage, therefore, this Age, in addition to smuggling the lie of happiness into the contract, also completely distorts the true relation to the union of the woman on the one hand, and the man on the other. By a false and entirely gratuitous analogy, it supposes that the man’s position can be and is as tolerable as that of the child-bearing female.

It is useless to object that thousands of married men to-day remain faithful to their wives, and yet cannot be said to be among those rare geniuses in love for whom alone the monogamic marriage is suitable. In the first place it may be asked, how many of those thousands are really healthy positive men, sexually exuberant and virile?[Pg 151] It is simple enough to be a Puritan if one is below par. But how many faithful husbands are truly normal, in the sense of their body’s insisting upon leading a satisfactory sexual life?

(G) It would be unfair to omit to mention among these objections to the modern monogamic marriage, those that arise more particularly from the woman’s standpoint in a match with a man who is both positive and healthy.

At the risk of repeating statements already made, the reader must be reminded here that when either party to a matrimonial match is negative or unhealthy, the union ceases from being one to which mere objections can be raised; it then becomes actually impossible. And by positiveness and health in the woman, I mean that condition in which the bearing of children is accompanied throughout by an easy pleasure-giving functioning of the body.

Because I am not attempting to discuss all the sordid complications of the sort of match in which either one or both of the parties are unhealthy or negative, it does not follow that I fail to recognize the enormous percentage of unhappy marriages, to which such unions lead. But this is not a book on the pathological aspects of sex. I take only the best possible conditions—the mating of a healthy and positive woman with a man of the same stamp, and show the objections that may be raised to their monogamic match. Naturally, if the unfavourable circumstances with which the start is made be increased, the objections to the match necessarily increase proportionately.

Now, despite the best initial circumstances, there are objections to monogamy from the woman’s standpoint which will be seen to be both serious and insuperable. But these objections, let it be well understood, only arise in thoroughly modern conditions. I have hinted at one of them in a former chapter (see Chapter VI, section 3).

(G1) A woman may marry a man who is wholly[Pg 152] positive, healthy, and therefore quite savoury (such men get ever more rare, but they are still to be found). Very early in her married life, however, she discovers that, through some cause which she of course cannot fathom, her husband is a person utterly unfit to make her his wife in the only way in which her instincts and senses easily accept the rôle—that is to say, as the yielding partner to an impetuous, masterful, and at the same time skilful initiator. Although he is not negative by nature, he has been brought up negatively. He fears and shuns what he should be most eager to experience. His timidity and awkwardness are infectious. He proves himself not only unmasterly; he convinces her that he is a bungler—often a bungler more terrified than she is herself.

A relationship which should have been but a means of raising their courting happiness to ecstasy becomes instead either frigid and frightened post-marital virginity for weeks after marriage,[58] which proves disastrous to their love and ruinous to their nerves; or else, a consummation which is so hopelessly clumsy, hurried and nervous, and so distasteful to either party, that it is repeated as seldom as possible, and is always followed by the most bewildering disenchantment.

I have previously explained that to the decent girl the act of consummation seems acceptable and right only if purified by fire. She does not need to be in the least influenced by Puritanical prejudices in order to hold this attitude. It is the natural outcome of her instincts,[Pg 153] as they have been formed throughout the ages. The bulk of the ancestors in her line, for millions of years, on the female side, having encountered the proper impetuosity and fire in the male, which carries all before it—that prehensile and initiatory masterfulness that belongs by nature to the male’s share in the act of consummation—this is what her racial memory leads her to expect, this alone is what gives her that clean joy in sex, that light-hearted innocence in sex, without which her married life is but a torment.

Yet now she finds herself with a creature who far from showing any mastery or abandon, actually increases, if you please, her own natural timidity about the whole affair, and even carries it one stage further until it is brought perilously near to disgust and moral indignation.

Beginnings tell most poignantly, particularly when they consist of first experiences in fundamental matters. And this kind of beginning, if it is not quickly corrected, is almost always fatal. It destroys that trust, that confidence, that humble and willing subservience, which are at once a young woman’s instinct and her joy. It poisons the first hours of her maturity, of her self-realization, of her taste of life’s deeper waters; but, above all, it revives in her precisely those emotions and prejudices which ought to have been stifled for ever—her high-school doubts and qualms regarding the general desirability of her Maker’s scheme for mammalian fertilization.

She may forgive this first tragic disenchantment. It is doubtful whether she ever forgets it. And if her husband, as is often the case, continues inept, clumsy and uneasy about the whole relationship, it matters not even if they have children, that disillusionment which, in any case, is bound to come, is unduly expedited, and the union gets prematurely blighted. If there are no children—then there is either open revolt or infidelity, or both.

In this way very many eminently desirable women[Pg 154] suffer untold hardships through monogamy[59]; and though they are frequently too proud and too dignified to reveal to anyone the smallest hint of their suffering, this may be read in a hundred signs about their homes and their persons. The bitter contempt that many women display towards their husbands, their tendency to contradict, offend and insult them before strangers, and their aptitude to appeal to outsiders rather than to their husbands for advice and help, are all probably the outcome of experiences that have occurred quite early in their married life, all of which were disenchanting, unpleasant, and destructive of confidence.

For the healthy, positive young man, in this case, all that can be pleaded is that it is not entirely his fault. In England, as a rule, he is bred in an atmosphere so perfectly sex-tight, that no intelligent or enlightening word ever reaches him on the subject. On the contrary, all is clammy, frightened, guilty silence. On reaching maturity, if he be sensitive, the ordinary means of acquiring practical experience in the matter will probably strike him as too sordid, too commercial, too completely lifted out of the atmosphere of romance and adventure in which his mind has always pictured ideal sexual experiences; and the consequence is that frequently he not only practises abstinence for too long, but also develops inhibitions and fantasies which hardly conduce, when the time comes, to a happy consummation of his first love-match.

And yet the world has grown so stupid in regard to all these matters, and foolish romantic women’s voices have become so clamorous, that there is an ever-increasing[Pg 155] body of idiots who insist on the desirability of men being virgins when they marry!

(G2) Another deep objection, from the standpoint of woman, to the monogamic marriage, arises out of what is known as “maleness” in women. According to Weininger this varies in degree with each individual, and modern authorities on psychology have more or less confirmed Weininger’s view.

For the reader unacquainted with the present knowledge on this point, perhaps it would be as well to state plainly what results have been obtained.

In the first place it has been demonstrated to the satisfaction of most people that no one male or female is wholly masculine or feminine. The stage of hermaphroditism through which all human beings are supposed to pass in their early fœtal development, is never apparently quite overcome, and the fully developed fœtus, as also the perfectly developed child, retains in its constitution vestiges of a sex to which its outward and primary sexual characteristics do not belong. These vestiges of the other sex which survive are both physical and mental, and according to their proportion in the individual body, determine the character of their host. Thus a child who is to all outward appearance a boy may yet possess elements according to which he is actually 25 or 30 or only 10 per cent female. A female child may likewise possess vestiges of the other sex which constitute her 10, 20, 30 or even 40 per cent male.

Although, therefore, all men have a preponderancy of male elements, and all women a preponderancy of female elements, each may possess a more or less heavy percentage of the elements of the other.

In extreme cases these elements of the opposite sex cause trouble by leading those who possess them to form desires and to lead lives so conspicuously out of keeping with their primary sexual characteristics as to make them obnoxious to society; but it should be remembered that this degree of morbidity is rare, and that as a general[Pg 156] rule the modicum of maleness in the female and femaleness in the male has no such disturbing results if the other elements proper to the sex of the primary reproductive organs in each individual find their normal adaptation.

Thus the maleness in the female has a tendency to manifest itself, more especially when her sexuality is not fully developed or not actively engaged. Little girls, for instance, are notoriously sadistic—sadism being a derivative of the male reproductive instinct—as are also many spinsters and some old women.

Femaleness in the male, on the other hand, tends to manifest itself particularly in cases where the male reproductive instinct has been stifled, or unhinged, or when his spirit has been ruthlessly broken.

Now it may be as well for the reader to know that the attitude of the modern world is to fall down in a state of acquiescence before this important fact of sex, without attempting to inquire whether the importance with which it looms on the horizon of our lives is not precisely due to the attitude of prostrate acceptance with which it is met.

Particularly in England is the phenomenon of mixed elements noticeable—so much so that foreigners call attention to it as something exceptional.[60] But it is only noticeable in this marked degree in England because, like all other manifestations of sex in this country, it is ill-adapted. A well-adapted sexual proclivity does not cry aloud and call attention to itself in this way.

Humbly as they may acquiesce in it, however, it is customary for people in this country to speak disparagingly of the “male woman,” of her who flaunts manly attire, affects a walking-stick, hunts like a man, and is always the last to be drawn away from a drain or other refuge in which some unfortunate fox or other hunted animal has run for safety. I know of a case where such[Pg 157] a woman constantly waits until long after dark in order to catch or kill the fox that has thus hoped to save its life. (Unconscious Sadism.)

Now it is all very well to inveigh against the existence of such viragos, and to describe as morbid their manifestation of male sexual characteristics, but, as a matter of fact, there is as a rule nothing really morbid in their constitutions. And in any case, an attitude of humble acquiescence before them, as if they were an imposition from Providence, which must be suffered willy-nilly, is hardly the best way of modifying either the disagreeable character of their proclivities or tastes, or the evil to which these proclivities and tastes undoubtedly lead.

I realize that in making this statement I am at variance with practically every authority on the subject; but it is because in no authority on the subject have I found a suggestion of what I am about to say, that I venture to trust my own judgment, and provisionally to adhere to it until such time as the authority who opposes it makes allowances for all I am going to advance in defence of these so-called “male” women.

In the first place, then, it may be pointed out that it would be absurd to complain that a race is breeding women with manly traits in their character, if the desideratum of that race is avowedly to breed people of highly virile propensities. The mating of highly virile males with women devoid of all trace of virility would surely only lead to a depreciation of the stock. For the males, by having their seed diluted by elements utterly unlike them, could not hope to be the fathers of boys in any way worthy of them.

The rearing of women with strong male characteristics is, in fact, always an advantage to a race that wishes to produce a fine virile manhood;[61] for the dangerous[Pg 158] diluent “effeminine”—to coin a new word for a new notion—is thus reduced to a minimum.

Among the ancients Celts, Teutons and Slavs, than which few races have been more virile, women, when necessary, used to fight side by side with their men. It is said of the virile Similkameen Indians, that “the women were nearly as good hunters as the men.”[62] The whole race survived only by means of hunting. It was therefore an advantage for the females to approximate to the men in their skill. By this means a double strain of hunting virtues descended to the offspring, thus leading to ever greater and greater refinement and specialization of instinct and judgment.

From the reading of the biographies of great men also we are in a position to determine to what extent the quality which to-day is opprobriously referred to as female “masculinity” was present in their mothers. Think of Schopenhauer, Byron, and, above all, of King Alfred the Great, to whose mother history declares the monarch owed everything! She could hardly have reared so manly a king, had she not herself possessed some innate knowledge of manliness and masculine virtue.

This manliness of women, therefore, far from being a disaster, is rather a desirable trait, if a particularly virile race of men is required. And since the existence of women with pronounced male characteristics cannot possibly be a novelty in this world, it is far more likely[Pg 159] that the outcry against them, which is modern, is due to modern conditions, than that they are truly and intrinsically undesirable.

“But,” argue the man and woman of taste, “the masculine woman in our society is surely disagreeable!”

I agree. But while I shall now endeavour to explain why she is, or has become, disagreeable, I should like to repeat that she is by no means the only example of a disagreeable sex-phenomenon in our midst; that there are other phenomena just as obnoxious, and that all take their root not necessarily in abnormality of an incurable kind, but in the condition of ill-adaptation into which sex has fallen in this country—a condition that sex-psychologists do not sufficiently reckon with when they regard as pathological the unfortunate modern female who is either sadistic, hostile to man, unnatural in her love and pursuit of women, or blatantly and ostentatiously masculine in her tastes, her kit and her interests.

The maleness of women, considered from the standpoint of marriage—which is the only standpoint relevant to this chapter[63]—can be deprecated only when it renders impossible, or more than usually difficult, the cohesion of that valuable unit in society known as the family.

As this is not a work on the pathology of sex, I cannot deal with cases of genuine physical and mental aberration in which a woman is so intensely masculine that motherhood is quite out of the question. I can only deal with those cases where male elements are present in sufficient quantities in the female to avert serious dilution of virile qualities in a stock.

Now in such cases marriage is not only possible, but can be quite successful—or at least as successful as any marriage can be from the standpoint of the individual—provided[Pg 160] that the female elements in the woman find complete and happy adaptation, and the male elements in her are prevented from guiding her conduct and her judgment at the cost of the female elements.

If the male elements in her are not prevented from guiding her conduct and her judgment, the evil result will be twofold: (1) she will develop her masculine proclivities at the cost of her female or maternal side; and (2) she will come into early and bitter conflict with her husband. Either one of these evil results is sufficient to upset the balance of the unit known as the family.

What kind of man, then, is likely to be the best mate of the woman with pronounced masculine elements in her constitution?

The problem is to make her masculine elements recessive in favour of her female elements. It amounts to this, then—in what circumstances is a woman likely to abandon her masculine elements as a weapon in the struggle of life? In what circumstances is she likely to realize their uselessness to her?

—Only, it may be said, when she has found them utterly useless; only when she has learned to despise them. But when does this occur?—It always occurs where the masculine elements belonging to the woman have in a sharp conflict, or by gradual experience covering innumerable small incidents, discovered superior, overwhelmingly superior, masculine elements in the mate. It may never come to a conflict. The superiority of the male elements in the husband may become impressed upon her by repeated lessons, by small daily occurrences, that teach her in spite of herself to trust his masculinity more than hers. When this point is achieved, her masculine elements rapidly become recessive, and thenceforward give no further trouble—nay, they may cease to manifest themselves altogether.

For this end to be attained, however, the male—the husband—must be a creature of overwhelming masculinity,[Pg 161] against whom no masculine elements belonging to any female could possibly measure themselves without the certainty of absolute rout.[64]

In the same way it might be pointed out that the womanly man finds his happiest and best adaptation with the female—the wife—of overwhelming femininity; for then his female elements finding it impossible to measure themselves against those of his spouse, quickly become recessive and cease to give any further trouble.

But what actually happens to-day?

Our great past as a virile race has certainly left us an inheritance of thousands of virile women, some of whom excel anything that any other European country can produce; but alas! owing to the degeneracy of man, caused by his bad health, his Puritanism, his bemeaning occupations, and his absurd obsessions about chivalry, there are not the males to hand with whom to mate these women.

When one of these women marries nowadays she must perforce unite with a man who is utterly incapable of making her male elements recessive; who, on the contrary, is himself so exiguously endowed with masculinity that his wife not only has every temptation, but also every opportunity, to express, assert, and impose her masculine elements upon the family and himself.

But the continuous expression and assertion of male elements in a woman, and of female elements in a man, at the cost of those elements proper to their primary[Pg 162] sexual organs, far from leading to happiness, result in nothing but misery both mental and physical, while the ultimate effect on the nerves is always disastrous.

If, however, there is nothing in her immediate environment to make her despise her male elements, or to convince her that they can safely lie quiescent, a woman’s very self-preservative instinct will not allow her to abandon them to the process of recession, and the consequence is that in thousands of marriages at the present day the wives are utterly and deeply miserable on this account alone. Masculine men are lacking. The great past of the race has produced generation after generation of fine, stout-hearted women with a large percentage of virile elements. But the mates for these remaining memorials of our whilom greatness are no more, and thus these unfortunate women either wander the world unmated, or if mated, suffer an ill-adaptation that is sometimes even more cruel than spinsterhood itself.

To point to these wretched, unadapted virile women—whether married or unmarried—as the legitimate butts for our scorn or our contempt, however, is the acme of ignorance and stupidity. It is the degeneration of man, the low ebb of his former greatness, that has left them standing high and dry in conspicuous isolation; and if England’s “trousered women” now strike the foreigner as one of the regrettable features of our civilization, it is regrettable only in the sense that it proves positively that this country once enjoyed a racial greatness of which she can no longer boast, and of which these women are the belated reminder.

(H) But the chief and most serious objection to the monogamic marriage, apart from all the pain that it brings to individuals, male and female, consists in the injury which, particularly at the present day, it does to the offspring of each generation. From the standpoint of posterity, indeed, the gravity of this charge can hardly be exaggerated.

It may seem a far cry to speak of the increase of indigestion[Pg 163] and of bad or defective teeth in connexion with the monogamic marriage, but in practice this connexion is not so remote as it would appear.

The ideal condition for a child that is to be well-constituted and flourishing in body and mind, is, in the first place, that its mother should be left in peace during gestation, and certainly that she should be left scrupulously alone during the period of suckling. From the standpoint of the race it is of such supreme importance that a child should be reared on mother’s milk, that everything should be done, no stone should be left unturned, to secure if possible the certainty of this condition.

With regard to cohabitation during gestation it is only fair to say that opinions are sadly divided, some doctors maintaining one thing, and others the reverse. If we require a standard, however, we have only to study the lower animals, among which the female is not even accessible during pregnancy. Whereas some doctors will declare, however, that any cohabitation whatsoever during gestation is most pernicious, all are unanimous in pronouncing against normal indulgence at such times. But apart from everything that changeable and uncertain science may periodically proclaim regarding this question, it would seem obvious that cohabitation at a time when fertilization is impossible cannot in any case have been Nature’s design; and if, therefore, there remain the smallest doubt about the matter—as the division of opinion among medical men reveals—surely the benefit of the doubt ought, in all humanity, to be given to the expected offspring!

With regard to cohabitation after the confinement and during the seven to nine months of suckling that should follow, there can, however, be no doubt whatsoever. This must be bad; for, seeing that it is of primary importance that the child during these months should be able to obtain mother’s milk, no risks should be run which can in any way jeopardize the happy fulfilment of this condition.

[Pg 164]

At such times the mother should be left severely alone. She is happy, exquisitely happy.[65] Her nervous system is concentrated on the one important and essential object—that of providing for her infant child. Any action or diversion that tends to disturb the attention of the nervous system, or to shake this precious concentration upon the mammæ, cannot therefore be too strongly deprecated.

What is the alternative? The mammæ find the nervous energy of the body divided. The woman’s system is no longer that of a mother alone; it has been recalled to its rôle as a wife. There may be conception or there may not—at any rate, the frequent occurrence of children only a year or thirteen months older than a brother or sister, shows how often conception does take place in such circumstances—and the consequence is that the suckling has to be removed from the breast, in order to become the experimental victim of every kind of abomination in the form of substitutes for mother’s milk.

To the ignorance of the young mother concerning artificial foods are now added the ignorance of neighbours, the audacious and criminal lies of commercial baby-food manufacturers, and frequently the ineptitude of the local doctor. Against such a conspiracy of error—irrespective of the fact that no substitute, however good, can possibly compensate for the loss of mother’s milk—it is not surprising that the infant’s body should rebel; and the result is a child who cannot by any conceivable chance be saved from digestive trouble, whom nothing can cure of digestive trouble, and who, by having alimentary disorders started so early in life, reaches maturity not only with a strong bias in favour of gastric and intestinal vices, but also—if indeed his teeth survive so long—with every imaginable kind of dental disease, from caries to pyorrhœa.

From mothers congenitally and constitutionally unfit[Pg 165] either to have babies or to nurse them, there will surely always come a sufficiently vast contribution of unhealthy and undesirable babies to each generation; but these, at least, no ordinary precaution can save, and if their early upbringing only tends to promote a condition of degeneracy already inherent in them, so that they find it difficult to survive, we can only applaud this confirmation of a thoroughly moribund tendency.

But in the case of healthy, positive women, admirably fitted to fulfil all the functions of motherhood efficiently and pleasurably, anything that interferes with this healthy functioning amounts to a national and racial calamity, and it is to these I refer when I emphasize the immense danger of cohabitation during the nursing period.

Now the monogamic marriage makes this sort of plague almost a natural necessity, a sort of ineluctable scourge. It is impossible to ask a normal, positive, healthy man to exercise sexual abstinence for sixteen or eighteen months—that is to say, the nine months of his wife’s pregnancy and the seven or nine months of lactation. Only Manicheans, Puritans, or people thoroughly below par and quite devoid of virility, could possibly think of recommending such a course. Psycho-analysis has at last shown what all decent and clean-minded people knew about prolonged sexual abstinence—that it is both wrongful and harmful. It can only be thought of and practised by people who have either used religious and alcoholic methods of sublimating their passions, or else by people who are utterly and conspicuously undesirable; but in the case of the latter it should be remembered that it is not abstinence or so-called “self-control,” but semi-impotence. Where it is attempted by exuberant, positive young men, who are neither geniuses in art, philosophy or religion, it can only mean disease—possibly physical, but certainly nervous.

The husband, therefore, in a monogamic marriage consisting of the union of two positive, healthy people,[Pg 166] finds himself on the horns of a dilemma. If he be sound and normal he cannot dream of abstaining for the number of months that would be necessary for his child’s welfare (for even if he indulges in cohabitation during gestation, he still has to face the seven or nine months of suckling, during which he must at all costs leave his wife in peace); and yet society (modern society) and convention generally bid him rather ruin his child than practise even the most innocuous form of virtual polygamy.

Of course the intelligent, thoughtful and good-natured man in such circumstances turns to some sort of modern substitute for polygamy. But the curse of modern civilization, its great blot and disfigurement, lies in the fact that at this stage in his wise resolve, he must perforce resort to secrecy, to deception, to concealment, to a hole-and-corner liaison, which may and frequently does expose him to every conceivable danger and expense—danger from disease if he be a fool and unwary, danger from blackmail if he fall into the hands of knaves, danger from ruin if he happen to have lighted upon unscrupulous associates, and danger from a criminal prosecution into the bargain.

But in any case, however fortunate he may be in forming his liaison, he is certain, if found out, to incur the moral indignation of all the snivelling, worthless, ignorant and “respectable” people of his circle, among whom the loudest in their outcry will be the spinsters and the Puritans, of whom not one—no not one—can have or ever has had the faintest beginnings of an understanding of any aspect of the sex question.

This is how our society is organized. Its whole basis, its whole prepossession, is directed stubbornly towards degeneration. Nothing that points, however meekly, the other way, is any longer listened to, much less observed!

Can it be wondered at, in the circumstances, that the average unresourceful and timid man, prefers to remain strictly faithful to his monogamic vows? Can it be[Pg 167] wondered at that he prefers to ruin his child’s constitution and temper?

This is the gravest charge that can be brought from the standpoint of the race against the monogamic marriage, and it embodies the outline of an explanation of perhaps half the physical and mental degeneracy of modern times.

It seems necessary to remind the reader here, that all these strictures against monogamy only apply to the healthy, normal, positive man and woman. They do not, therefore, apply to half the existing population. For in order that a woman may be thoroughly happy bearing and nursing children, she must be healthy, well-constituted and positive, and in order that a man may find it impossible to practise what the modern Age arrogantly calls “self-control,” he must be positive, healthy and exuberantly virile. To half the modern world this alleged “self-control” is merely a euphemistic cover for the ease with which they can forget the weak, barely audible call of their bodies; and to an ever-increasing number of modern women there is precious little enjoyment associated with any stage in the sexual cycle, whether it be actual fertilization, gestation, parturition or lactation.

In discussing the value of monogamic marriage, therefore, and the possible reforms that might be instituted to render it suitable for the positive man and woman, it is hoped that none of the remarks I shall make will be thought to apply to the vast crowds to-day who are able to find in monogamic marriage a satisfactory, though perhaps tiresome, adaptation.

But, in the first place, it may be objected that, since I find so many serious difficulties in modern monogamic marriage, why do I not straightway recommend its total abolition, and advocate polygamy, or promiscuity, or polyandry, or total sexual anarchy?

I might certainly be tempted to advocate frank and open polygamy were I not too deeply conscious of the very many serious and far-reaching advantages that the[Pg 168] ideal of the family, as at present held in modern Europe, enjoys over every other kind of social unit designed to solve the problem of the sexes.

As I have already stated these advantages, from the standpoint of society, earlier in the chapter, there is no need to repeat them here. Nevertheless, before proceeding, it might be as well for the reader to glance at them again, so that he may the more easily follow the modifications I am about to recommend.

The problem before us, therefore, is how to maintain the monogamic marriage and give it fresh life, while modifying it in such a way as to meet the gravest of the objections that can be advanced against it.

But before I proceed it may be as well to utter some words of warning to those romanticists and sentimentalists who have doubtless been offended by the strictures I have already pronounced against monogamic marriage.

Let me tell them, therefore, that however much they may be persuaded of the contrary, it is not I, with my clear and merciless criticism of modern marriage, who am the bitterest enemy of that institution, but they themselves, with their wilful concealment of all that I have brought to light.

Modern marriage is now on the rocks. If it has drifted into this perilous position it is, however, not because the question of its advantages and disadvantages has been properly ventilated and discussed, and the disadvantages corrected; but because it has been persistently and almost maliciously overlaid with false sentiment and bogus psychology, by these very romanticists and sentimentalists themselves.

If, therefore, it is to be saved, as it should be saved, this end can be achieved only by a blank refusal to shut one’s eyes to its drawbacks, so that the latter may be rectified wherever possible; and by a full and earnest advocacy of its advantages, however unromantic and unsentimental these may appear to feverish modern sensationalists.

Before proceeding to the review of the specific objections[Pg 169] outlined above, the general criticism of modern monogamic marriage with which the chapter opened must first be dealt with.

Method of Meeting General Criticisms.

1. Stress should be removed from the alleged permanence of love and the happiness of the marriage state, as far as possible, and laid on the utilitarian aspect of matrimony.

2. The young people should be taught realistically that since some sort of physical adaptation in sex is indispensable to the healthy adult, monogamic marriage was designed as a means of meeting that need.

3. Its difficulties should be emphasized, and a happy issue shown to be as difficult an accomplishment as the complexities of the contract would lead them to expect. They should be told that in their search for a mate they should show more concern about minimizing these difficulties than about desiring to have “a good time.”

4. The responsibilities of a family should be understood, and the wife regarded in her utilitarian aspect as a keeper of the home, as a mother, and as a guardian of the home comforts; marriage itself, as the sacred garden of the future of mankind, in which each party to the contract has the privilege of contributing to that future.

5. Differences of temperament and tradition between mates should be avoided. Since ill-health forbids our marrying into our own families (the ideal match), the young must not forget that in going beyond their families for a mate in order to contradict certain hereditary taints—such as gout, or consumption, or cancer, or any other constitutional vice—they need not therefore contradict the virtues and abilities that their particular family line has cultivated; for this leads to decline, and to the procreation of children who have no character and no ability. They should seek, as far as possible,[Pg 170] their like in a strange family.[66] The policy of avoiding family taints in too near relations should not be extended into a policy of seeking opposites.

6. If by chance the expected disenchantment does not supervene in a form intolerably acute, when marriage has been taught on these lines, and the two young people discover that they do not necessarily become surfeited of each other with years, then at least the surprise would be pleasant, and not as it always is to-day, the sudden unpleasant realization of complete disillusionment.

Method of Meeting Specific Objections.[67]

(A1) People should be taught quite early how changeable they are. They should be persuaded of the frangibility of their resolutions, vows, and promises, and they should learn how deeply they are wedded to variety before ever they celebrate their final and most fateful wedding.

(2) They should be taught that it is only the exceptions among mankind that have that genius for love which can endure for a lifetime, and they should be shown the hollowness of the popular assumption that every one is capable of une grande passion; therefore, that to arrange their lives as if they were one of these geniuses in love is not only the grossest form of megalomania, but dangerous into the bargain.

(B) The problem here is one belonging to the art of life. Those who can practise this art, and contrive to make themselves always the desired object of the spouse, have overcome one of the principal difficulties of monogamic marriage. The French are perhaps the most successful European people at practising this art—hence the high percentage of happy marriages in France.

[Pg 171]

(C) If the approval of each party to the match is understood merely to mean the recognition by each of the necessity of an adequate physical adaptation, and the unconscious desire for this physical adaptation in each is discounted from the enthusiasm felt for the other as mate, then it will be seen that the residue, which will be a pretty tepid feeling, is by no means the outcome of an overvaluation of the individual, and the contempt need not arise.

In other words, teach the girl to subtract the need and the desire for physical adaptation from her love of the man, and teach the man to do the same in regard to the girl, and what remains will quickly be seen to consist only of a strong personal regard, which can hardly lead to the contempt that would otherwise result if the enthusiasm on both sides were supposed to arise from the unaided charms of either party to the match.

(D) The remedy here is the same as for (C). If a man realizes that when a girl protests her undying love for him the bulk of the ardour she feels is provoked merely by him as her physical adaptation—by him qua male—and that his individual traits play only a minor part, he will be less likely to believe that he is capable of provoking a life-long passion because a girl approved of him as her mate. It is a simple idea to grasp. Both the girl and the man should always reflect how much nature is helping them towards their success. When the declaration of life-long love came, it could then be estimated at its proper worth, without either party fancying that any exceptional fascination in themselves had been the principal power at work.

(E) It should be inculcated upon all, young and old alike, that companionship is not to be sought with people whom, in view of peculiar circumstances, one is bound to see every day and every hour of the day.

The sooner we free our minds from these foolish notions the better. A man and a woman should seek companions of the same sex as themselves, and outside[Pg 172] their families. Then an hour with the mate—with the lawful spouse—may come as a rest, as a respite, as a welcome spell of peace when we need not say or do anything. But this moment of repose, of speechless serenity, with the sound of someone breathing not three feet away, should not be confused with companionship.

(F) As society is organized at present it is difficult to meet this objection. Wherever possible the man should, of course, have a concubine of some sort. Provided that the wife continues child-bearing, at regular intervals, as she should, she cannot weary of the relationship as hopelessly as he will. Women should be taught to realize that the division of labour is so unfair, that they get so much more entertainment out of sex than men do, that some compensating feature ought to be introduced into the lives of the latter. The importance of the act of fertilization alone to the man’s reproductive instinct cannot be exaggerated. To woman, its importance is only equal to the proportion it bears to the rest of the sexual cycle. To preserve his peace of mind and health of body and nerves, therefore, the man must be in a position to perform his one function with healthy desire. The children he had from his concubine, if any there were, would not necessarily rank in law with the children of his first wife.

(G1) In order to meet this objection it is imperative that we should institute some sort of tasteful method of initiation into sex for young men. Let the girls be initiated by their proper and natural initiators—their husbands; anything else is simply modern nonsense; but men should be properly and carefully initiated before marriage, away from the dangers of commercial prostitution. This school of initiation, however formed, would also serve, as it did with the Greeks, as a means of preventing the evils of total sexual abstinence among the young men who have to wait a long time for marriage.

The general ideal in modern England is that the eligible young man should be what is called “clean-minded.”[Pg 173] It cannot be disputed that “clean-mindedness” is a very desirable and very rare quality. But the way to set about securing it is the very reverse of that which the bulk of modern English people would recommend. They would say, let the young man practise rigorous sexual abstinence before marriage, let him go in for sport and exercise “self-control.” Only thus can he remain clean-minded.

But the very last means by which a healthy positive young man may hope to attain to a clean mind is precisely the means advocated under the general head of sexual abstinence. The non-indulgence of the sex-impulses in the vigorous young male is the means par excellence of destroying clean-mindedness.

Sexual abstinence, even when accompanied by energetic exercise and indulgence in sports, by chaining in the desires and wishes arising from the young man’s reproductive instincts, causes them to become ramping demons. It causes the imagination to become filled with wish fantasies, often of a morbid kind. It fills the mind with obsessions, always obscene and frequently revolting, and if not quickly relieved must undermine the whole of a young man’s healthy mental and physical attitude towards a normal sexual life. No mind residing in a healthy young male body, practising sexual abstinence, can remain clean every minute of the day, and even in the night it is disturbed by occasional bodily protests in the form of dreams.

The dangers of not being clean-minded, however, are so great and so far-reaching, and the risks run by the healthy total sexual abstainer are so enormous, that it is high time that the truth about this matter were more widely understood.

To clean the mind, the deep wishes of the body, which refuse to be flouted, must be satisfied. To forget sex, in fact, the sex instinct must be indulged. Freedom here, as in the case of any other appetite, can only be attained by gratification.

[Pg 174]

It is true that permanent sublimation is also a possible alternative. But unless a young man is destined for the Holy Catholic Church, who would wish to sublimate his sex?

It necessarily follows from this, that clean-mindedness in abstinent young men, as it is generally understood, is a pure myth, a complete misunderstanding; and that if it is desirable that eligible young men should be clean-minded (and I am of opinion that it is most desirable), then the road thereto does not lie through the dark spook-haunted swamps of sexual abstinence, but through the open sunny highways of healthy sex gratification, secured from the dangers of commercial prostitution.

(G2) This objection can only be met by the Herculean undertaking of rearing a type of manhood richer in masculine traits of mind and character, and possessed of more exuberant virility—a type, that is to say, by the side of which virile women would immediately feel the inadequacy of their male elements and would not be tempted to use them as weapons. By this means alone can the male elements in the finest women be made recessive.

At present the idea of the “manly” man is foolishly limited to one who loves sports of all kinds, who believes in open-air life, and who, while having a sense of humour, also wears about him an air of breezy modesty. By this modesty is meant a disinclination to make any special claims for himself.

But all women quickly discover the ease with which they become mistress of the fate of such a man, and it is curious that, in spite of the thousands of cases of such subjection on the part of this type of man in English marriages, he still continues to pass as the “manly” man.

The man of will, the man of character, the man who wishes to administer his own life and the lives of those dependent upon him, because he is conscious of[Pg 175] being fit for the responsibility, and repeatedly proves this fitness,[68] is being born in ever smaller numbers every year.

It is the system of education in England that is at fault. It produces a womanly will-less creature, with heavier muscles than the average woman, but with less grit and less bite in him, with less pride and less jealous love of responsible action and mastery than the average girl has who is his partner at golf.

If this seems like calumny or exaggeration, let the reader watch the career of any one of these alleged “manly” men of England, from his school years to his tenth or eleventh year of marriage, and if in every case they do not behold a creature who has long abandoned all self-direction, not to speak of direction of dependents, I invite him to close this book at this point as the most unspeakable nonsense.

With such a man, woman’s male elements cannot possibly be made recessive. But it should not be imagined that she is any happier on that account. On the contrary, both wisdom and compassion would seem to unite in advocating the return in ever larger numbers of exuberantly virile men, if only for the sake of securing happier and fuller lives to the bulk of modern women.

(H) Regarding, as I do, this objection as so serious as to constitute the chief and most fundamental objection to monogamic marriage, I can see no possibility of making the institution sound unless something be done to meet it. We cannot hope that things will right themselves with an evil like this at the root of our national life. Suppressing the sale of commercial products fraudulently declared to be equal to mother’s milk is not enough. Self-control is the counsel for wax-figures. To be offended by a frankly polygamic solution and yet to feel that no stigma attaches to women unable to suckle their[Pg 176] babies,[69] and to be conscious of no indignation at the horrors of the present state of monogamy with prostitution, is wanton and brutal hypocrisy. Those who are guilty of this hypocrisy have wished to run the world too long.

I have now examined the monogamic marriage of the positive man and the positive woman in all its more important aspects. Wisdom would seem, at all costs, to advocate the salvage of monogamic marriage from the wreckage of modern society. But before marriage can be saved and handed on as a valuable institution to the New Age, it must be reformed and established on a sounder basis. To continue along our present lines, without correcting our attitude towards marriage and some of the most rigorous customs that govern it, is simply to steer our course headlong back into sexual promiscuity, anarchy and chaos. No reform of modern marriage, or of the ideas that cluster about it, can possibly achieve any good, however, which does not satisfactorily meet every one of the objections I have advanced against it. To proceed, as we are now proceeding, by making the dissolution of marriage easier, is only one step farther in the direction of barbaric promiscuity. No readjustment can avail that does not go to the root of the problems involved; and although it may certainly be legitimate to inquire whether, at this late hour in our torrential degeneration, it is worth while making any reforms in anything, it does not alter the fact that if marriage is to be saved, all the objections to it that have[Pg 177] been raised in this chapter will require to be fairly and seriously faced.

Since, however, the sex question is so fundamental as to be almost of primary importance; since the building of the social unit, the ideal family, constitutes the first elementary task in all sound social organization, it is not impossible, fantastic though it may seem, that wise and thorough reform in this department of life may alone prove the best means of rescuing Western Civilization itself.


[50] When I use the word “unnatural” here, I should like it to be understood as meaning “unnatural to human beings,” for, as we know, “nearly all rapacious animals, even the stupid vultures, are monogamous,” certain monkeys are so too; but no anthropologist would argue that monogamic marriage was natural to man.

[51] The proportion of those who do not wait, to those who do, may be judged to some extent from the following figures:—

Legitimate and illegitimate births in England and Wales during the nine years 1911-19.

Legitimate. Illegitimate.
1911. 843,505 37,633
1912. 835,209 37,528
1913. 843,981 37,909
1914. 841,767 37,329
1915. 778,369 36,245
1916. 747,381 37,689
1917. 631,189 37,157
1918. 621,209 41,452
1919. 650,562 41,876

[52] See Ch. Letourneau, The Evolution of Marriage (London, 1891): “Christianity, which taught that the earthly country was of no account, and taxed with impurity all that related to sexual union, made marriage a sacrament, and consequently an institution quite apart from humble considerations of social utility.... We shall see how hurtful the influence of Christianity has been on marriage, and we shall come to the conclusion that in order to manage earthly affairs well, it is not good to keep our looks constantly raised to the skies” (pp. 205-6). See also p. 245: “Abandoning the modest reality, it [Christianity] lost anchor from the first and was drowned in a sea of dreams. Marriage, instead of being simply the union of a man and woman in order to produce children, became mystic.”

[53] As we shall point out later, these romantic obsessions in regard to matrimony are chiefly Woman’s work.

[54] See the interesting treatise entitled The Grammar of Life by my friend Dr. G. T. Wrench (Heinemann, 1908), p. 218.

[55] That is why the world’s greatest love stories—those of Dante and Beatrice, Romeo and Juliet, and Heathcliff and the elder Catherine (in Wuthering Heights)—are all stories of a love that was never consummated. In poetry and fiction, as in life, it is felt that for a great love romance to remain at its lofty level of passion and desire, the couple enacting it must never have an opportunity of living together as man and wife.

[56] Naturally these remarks do not apply to the large and ever-increasing number of women nowadays to whom every stage in the process of child-bearing, from the preliminaries to the weaning, is a torment and a source of disgust. But such women are too abnormal, whatsoever their numbers may be, and too sick and below par to be called positive healthy women, or to be reckoned with in any discussion regarding what is characteristic of happy and successful functioning. They are the kind of women who can truly regard matrimony and maternity as states of self-sacrifice.

[57] Of course this can only happen where the woman is inclined to pronounced negativeness, otherwise the longing for children drives her away from a husband who cannot or does not give them to her.

[58] The writer has known one case in which it lasted for years. Sometimes, in extreme cases, where the girl is too decent to be sacrificed for a lifetime, there is a nullity suit, and the man produces doctors who declare that he is perfectly normal. Of course he is perfectly normal! What is wrong about him is the whole of his upbringing and the effects of absurdly Puritanical notions about sex, acting upon a peculiarly sensitive nature. For such men are usually extremely desirable and acutely sensitive. They cannot, however, overcome the ridiculous prejudices that prevailed regarding sex in the atmosphere in which they have been reared.

[59] It should be noted that this does not apply to working-class women. The men of the working classes may be coarser and more brutal than the men of the wealthier classes, but they are also very much more normal, easy, natural, and gifted in the matter of sex, and from this point of view generally make excellent husbands. They may sometimes strike their wives, but they also know how to love them. The nullity suits and the bad lovers are to be found in the so-called “upper” classes.

[60] August Strindberg, in a letter written in the autumn of 1888, refers to England as “a nation of bigots that has delivered itself up into the hands of its women,” and later on speaks of “England’s trousered women.”

[61] I mean here, by “male characteristics,” only such traits as can be safely emulated and acquired by the female without the sacrifice or impairment of her reproductive functions, or of the instincts and virtues that derive from them (see chapter X).

[62] See Journal Anthropological Institute, Feb., 1892, p. 307. See also Bancroft, quoting Heame (Native Races), Vol. I, p. 117, where a North American Indian Chief of some nomadic tribe, speaking of the women said: “There is no such thing as travelling any considerable distance in this country without their assistance.” Evidently here too it was an advantage to the race for the women to be as nearly masculine in their characters as possible. Australian women, like Cuban women, used to fight beside their men and were very formidable. The former, when on the march, are said to have hardly troubled to halt for so slight a performance as child-birth. The newly-born infant was wrapped in skins, and the mother marched on with the rest.

[63] I shall deal with other standpoints in the chapter on the Old Maid.

[64] This solution of the problem of the manly woman, who is not undesirable, will thus be seen to be the very reverse, the flat contradiction, of that advanced by the decadent Weininger. He argues that the male woman does and ought to marry the female man, and the modern, decadent world, more or less agrees with him. But this means an accentuation of her maleness, a triumph of her maleness, at the cost of her femaleness—obviously an undesirable result, both from the standpoint of the race and the family, the only two standpoints from which the monogamic marriage has any meaning or can find any justification.

[65] I remind the reader that I refer here to the healthy, positive woman, all of whose bodily functions are a joy to her.

[66] See my more detailed discussion of this question in chapter VII of my Defence of Aristocracy.

[67] The letters correspond to those heading each objection in the body of the chapter.

[68] Such a man can be, and usually is, just as fond of open-air exercise and sports as the merely “manly” man.

[69] The fact that at present no stigma attaches to loss of function or failure to function in the human body, is one of the most conclusive proofs of the degeneration in taste and instinct that Christianity has brought about. It is interesting, however, to be told by a woman emphatically that “the incapacity of a mother to nourish the babe she has borne should be known for a mark of degeneracy—sign, too, that she was unfitted to have borne a child” (see Arabella Kenealy, Op. cit., p. 214).

[Pg 178]

Breaches of the Marriage Contract
and Divorce


In the chapter on Marriage we saw that the married state is a difficult one for both parties, but that monogamy is more tolerable to the woman than to the man, provided always that children are born regularly. It was there seen that woman must not be falsely likened to man in the claims she makes on monogamy for a perfect sexual life. The coitus is relatively so unimportant to her, that the man himself, her husband, holds only a secondary or tertiary place in her life. That which chiefly matters to the healthy positive woman is that, at stated intervals, her body should be allowed to experience the whole female cycle of sex, from the coitus to the weaning of the child.

Indeed, woman’s unconscious demand for the experience of this whole cycle is so persistent and clamorous that they may be excused who, like Schopenhauer, perceive in it the importunate voice of the Will of the Species (Wille der Gattung) resolutely demanding Life, and ever more and more guarantees of its survival.[70]

[Pg 179]

It is owing to the secondary, tertiary, or, at any rate, minor position of importance that her husband occupies in the life of a woman who is bearing him children at regular intervals, that his individual characteristics do not really require to be very striking in order to prove satisfactory to her. It is for this reason that he must be a brute indeed, or a drunken sot, or a maniac, if he is to provoke her active hatred while child-bearing continues. Finding, as she does, her principal pleasure in the experiences of motherhood—provided that he behaves with average decency and earns a comfortable living—she asks but little more.[71]

Short of impossible conduct on his part, therefore, it may be taken for granted that it never occurs to the positive healthy married woman, who bears children at regular intervals, to make any effort to seek another love affair, and even if the opportunity for such a love affair should come her way, and be set before her with all the persuasiveness that deep desire in the other party can lend it, she will, as a rule, resist it and let it pass by without very much of a struggle. She is finding the consummation of her being in the life she is leading, and let her husband be ever so besotted, ignorant, boring and uncompanionable, it will never occur to her to go in search of another love.

This conclusion is, I think, borne out by the statistics of divorce in England and Wales, where separations between people who do not attempt to limit the family, is extremely rare. It is usually said with reference to such cases that it is the children who “strengthen the union.” This is the popular and even the learned opinion.[72] The prevalence of this opinion, and the high[Pg 180] authority behind it, however, should not lead us to misunderstand the true nature of the actual forces at work. It is to some extent true that the presence of children does induce parents, who might be tempted to separate, to think twice about it. The father pauses before he decides to deprive his offspring of their mother, and vice versâ. But these wholly impersonal considerations binding a couple together are as nothing compared with the vital forces that are actually at work. The impersonal considerations may weigh, but only if supported by the far more potent promptings of healthy and normal conditions. Nor should it be concluded too hastily from the low figures of divorce among people who have large families, that the presence of children operates in causing the parents to feel a deeper “love” for each other. It is possible for a fruitful couple to be almost entirely indifferent to each other, as many thousands are, and yet to remain together, partly because of the impersonal considerations already referred to, partly from pure conservatism, and also from fear of publicity, or scandal, or a feeling of shyness, or a certain cynicism which leads them to prefer the devil they know before the devil they know not.

We must not allow ourselves to be blinded by sentimental tears, therefore, to the extent of supposing that offspring invariably increase conjugal affection. A long observation of our fellow-creatures convinces us, on the contrary, that the presence of children operates in precisely the opposite direction, and that if we are going in search of “romantic” love, lasting long after the[Pg 181] first years of marriage, we are much more likely to find it among infertile than among fertile couples. Children, far from cementing the affection existing between their parents, are rather inclined to supply its most potent and infallible corrosive.

The alacrity with which a young mother becomes absorbed in her young ones, the lightning speed with which all her activities, mental and physical, concentrate upon her brood, their wants and their development, is hardly calculated to effect that “cementing” which is believed to take place in marital relations from the moment children begin to appear.

Very soon after the birth of the first children there occurs in all decent positive women a certain definition of the maternal side of their nature, which tends to convert them ever more and more into the nun, miser, or prophet type—that is to say, self-centred, impatient of distracting forces, and fanatical. They listen to matters foreign to the nursery and their children, as if they had been wakened out of a dream or roused from some thrilling meditation. A certain vagueness comes over them in regard to all matters not strictly domestic, which, while it may please the wise and understanding husband, as furnishing a conclusive proof of their perfect femininity, nevertheless can hardly fail to inform him that his rank in the household has suffered noticeable degradation.[73]

When he speaks concerning topics which interest him, he is no longer listened to with the same attention—not to mention eagerness. Indeed, he soon finds that strangers outside his home are very much more inclined to vouchsafe him an attentive hearing than the spouse[Pg 182] of his heart, and more ready to give serious consideration to his more thoughtful expressions of opinion. Now, it requires all the philosophy and understanding in the world—particularly to the man who may cherish certain ideals about marriage as companionship—to accept this secondary position in the home of his own creating, without a feeling of resentment or mortification. How, then, can the full realization of the position be said to “cement” or “strengthen” the affection between the couple?

It is true that the normal father acquires a deep fondness for his children, and that this attaches him to the home in which he has suffered his degradation of rank.[74] It is also true that, as the children grow older and realize him as their father, he may enjoy a fresh access of the very importance of which their arrival deprived him. But, while all these facts are readily admitted, they can hardly be used to prove that the presence of children “strengthens” the union between the parents as lovers. That has been shaken once and for all beyond any hope of recovery. Economic reasons, the attitude of each parent to the children, reasons of policy, etc., may now attach each parent individually to the home; but that does not mean that the other parent is the lasting attracting force.

Later on, when the children grow old enough to discriminate or to draw comparisons, and the original dependence, which makes filial affection so fanatical, is beginning to wane, certain members of the growing brood may, and frequently do, exhibit preferences for one parent or the other—preferences which nine times out of ten are reciprocated. The more passionate the attachment between the parents and the children has been in infancy and childhood, the more likely is this to occur. But distinctions of this sort drawn by children in favour[Pg 183] of one parent only tend to increase the cleavage already existing; and wherever in such circumstances an occasion for any divergence of opinion happens to arise between the parents and sides are taken, as they must be taken where preferences have already been mutually proclaimed, the declaration of allegiance by becoming overt amounts to little less than a frankly acknowledged feud with the other side.

Quite apart, however, from the possibility of particular children appealing more to one parent than the other, and the cleavage which such factions confirm or start in the home, children and their multifarious wants are, in themselves, an inexhaustible source of contention. Their particular foibles, their wilfulness, their education, are matters which, while they are constantly to the fore among the problems of the home, as constantly give rise to friction, or, to say the least, to differences of opinion between their parents. When once, therefore, one of the parents—the father—has naturally and inevitably suffered so marked a degradation in rank that his word, his opinion, his judgment, is no longer attended to with the respect and eagerness which he encountered in his wife in their early childless days, it is not surprising that discussions or arguments, from being merely amicable exchanges of opinion, should degenerate into acrimonious and heated quarrels—the husband resenting every minute more and more the cavalier manner in which his views are rejected as worthless by the “spouse of his heart,” the wife resenting every moment more and more the presumption with which the mere means to an end, this sparking-plug and breadwinner, is daring to assume supreme authority over her brood, her babes, the fruit of her womb.

Now, in view of all this, can it any longer be maintained that this element in the home—the children—actually contributes to the affection between the parents? In the happiest cases the ardent love of the father for one child, and the ardent love of the mother for another, may[Pg 184] attach each parent individually to the common hearth; but to argue as the two judges, above quoted, argued before the Divorce Commission of 1912,[75] that this proves that children “strengthen the union,” or “keep it together,” without explaining more narrowly how they effect this end, is to deliver the whole question over into the hands of the romanticists and sentimentalists, who will not scruple to arrive at the foolish conclusion that children perforce increase the affection existing between parents.

I have stated the extreme case in order to make the nature of the cleavage, in so far as it arises from the presence of the children, as plain as possible. In all families it does not become acute, because there is too much at stake; and much is therefore suffered in silence, swallowed down or repressed, for the sake of the home. The only point it is necessary to make clear is, that when it is also argued here that the presence of children in the home does contribute to a very great extent to the stability of that home, something very different is meant from what sentimentalists and other muddlers are likely to infer. I most emphatically do not mean that the presence of the children increases the mutual love of the parents—nay, I would go farther and say that it leads to exactly the opposite result.

What, then, is the precise influence of children?

My reply is, that in all homes where the wife is a positive, healthy and desirable woman, the repeated birth of a child at regular intervals thoroughly adapts the woman by giving her a full physiological and spiritual life, and thus reconciles the principal member of the household (as far as stability is concerned) to the monogamic state and to the home.

She can afford to control her temper when she is enjoying the perfect serenity of mind and body that complete adaptation brings. She can afford to pretend devotion, for economic and other reasons, to a creature[Pg 185] who has long ceased from holding even that space in her heart, which is occupied by her first baby’s smallest toe. She can afford to put up with years, not to mention hours, of a boring companion, seeing that he secures her this perfect serenity, and, by his daily labours, guarantees her own and her precious children’s survival. If she is clever, she realizes how much is at stake, and she makes allowances for his peculiarities. If she is shrewd enough to appreciate the true nature of her happiness, she does her utmost, in order that her bliss may be uninterrupted, to delude him into thinking that he is not merely the fifth wheel of the family coach. And while all the world points the moral that it is the children who have “cemented” the affection between herself and her husband, she knows perfectly well that this affection has long ago been transmuted into a curious compound of which the principal ingredients are: a desire to play a safe game, a deep attachment to her children impelling her to secure by fair means or foul someone who will supply them with all they need, and a patient toleration of a creature whom she does her best to regard as something more precious than a necessary evil.

The fact that this curious compound appears to the outside world in the false light of connubial affection does not disturb her, because, as a rule, she is constitutionally and congenitally predisposed herself to a romantic interpretation of phenomena, and eagerly seizes the tinselly cloak the world gives her, in order to conceal the sordid truth.

In such circumstances the union might last for ever. The only event that can bring it to an end is the demise of one of the parties to it.

The husband, actuated by habit, timidity, a sense of duty and propriety, attached to his home by his deep affection for one or more of his many children, and deluded both by the voice of the world and by the repeated asseverations of his wife into believing that there is a deep affection uniting them, endeavours to act up to the[Pg 186] part, and as a rule succeeds extraordinarily well. But is that all? There must, of course, be something else. Just as the woman is induced to accept the situation, because it provides her with the only prize that is really worth securing in life—complete physical adaptation[76]—so the man must also be deriving some deeper satisfaction from the position than the mere pleasure of conforming to a social ideal. It is otherwise inconceivable that he should persist in “playing up” to his spouse with the histrionic zeal of a paid actor.

Truth to tell, the father of a large family is attracted to the position he holds by very deep and very powerful appeals to his most primitive instincts. But again, it requires emphasizing that these deep and powerful appeals are as a rule quite independent of his attitude towards his wife, and provided that she do not actively conspire to displease or to harass him, they will continue to bind him to his home long after all genuine affection for her has entirely subsided.

These appeals are: The sense of power he derives from the visible extension of his own identity in his offspring, and: The silent tribute that the presence of offspring makes daily and hourly to the deepest source of his self-esteem—virile potency.[77]

Both of these appeals act secretly, and chiefly through the least conscious functions of his mind, so that he may never be perfectly aware of them. Nevertheless, they give rise to a constant feeling of self-assurance and self-confidence which is pleasant and fortifying, and which, being interpreted roughly by the conscious mind, appears[Pg 187] to his intelligent perception in the form of a very profound attachment to his home and family. This pleasant feeling, like the complete physical adaptation of his wife, also fills him with a certain calmness and serenity which enable him to suffer kindly any exasperating peculiarity in his spouse, to endure with patience her ill-concealed indifference to him as being little more important than a sparking-plug or breadwinner, and to meet in a conciliating spirit any opposition with which she may encounter his plans for their children, or for any other feature of their joint lives. It should not be forgotten either that this feeling helps him to resign himself also to the conscious depreciation in his own affection towards her.

The world speaks of him as “unselfish,” “devoted,” “self-sacrificing,” “good-natured,” etc., and his children are reared, sometimes by their mother, but always by strangers, in the belief that he is entitled to all these epithets, because there are so many men who have not acted as he has. He himself, however, accepts these epithets with a mild pretence of modest deprecation, for in his heart of hearts he realizes that somehow they ring strangely by the side of his intimate knowledge of the deep satisfaction he has derived from the whole business.

Now statistics and legal authorities tell us that this kind of marriage is the best, the most lasting, and the happiest kind of marriage. The judges say that it is because “children strengthen the union” or “keep the home together.” We have seen in what way a growing family effects this end. We have seen that it has very little to do with the attitude of the parents towards each other. Now we have to discover how it is that, according to statistics, divorces are more frequent where there are only one, two, or three children, and where child-birth may be said to have stopped.

[Pg 188]


In another chapter the positive woman has been called “the custodian of Life”; we have already seen that Schopenhauer has graphically described her unconscious insistence on experiencing the whole physical cycle from the coitus to the weaning of the child as the Will of the Species (Wille der Gattung) demanding more Life and thus achieving human survival. We have also spoken of the voice of nature in her, clamouring not only for Life, but also for Life’s multiplication.

These are only different more or less successful attempts at describing that instinct which in the positive woman is paramount—the instinct to employ her elaborate reproductive equipment effectively. The fact that when this equipment remains idle the existence of the species is imperilled, evidently led Schopenhauer to discern the unconscious will of the species in the positive woman’s restlessness in awaiting fertilization. But we should always be careful in using these descriptions of woman, to remember that in her the end, which is the multiplication of life, is quite unrealized by her conscious mind. She acts in a way that brings about the multiplication of life; her instincts impel her to achieve that end; but she is not intelligently concerned with anything so remote as the will of the species or its preservation.[78] She is much more concerned with her own personal wishes, her own personal notion of pleasure, and her own sensations. When once these are gratified, the fact that the demands of the species are also satisfied is, as far as woman is concerned, merely a happy coincidence, in which she can have but an academic interest.

Nevertheless, in judging of her conduct, and in drawing[Pg 189] moral conclusions from it, we must be careful to allow her the full benefit of the view that, in acting as she does, she is securing the survival of the species in ultimate fact. More than nine-tenths of the abuse to which women have been subjected throughout the ages has been due precisely to man’s omission to allow her the full benefit of this view. The gratification of woman’s passions serves her own end, inasmuch as it affords her pleasure—Yes!—but it also serves the purpose of the race. That is the fundamental fact to remember.

In another chapter I have described how Life itself is woman’s hardest taskmaster, and that her first impulse in all circumstances is to be faithful to this taskmaster, even at the cost of infidelity to human pledges.

(a) Adultery of the positive spouse through absence of the mate.

Long absences of husbands, therefore, during wars, transoceanic voyages, explorations, etc., should always be viewed in the light of a rebuff to woman’s hardest taskmaster. The prolonged absence of the male imposes idleness on the female’s reproductive organs, and, since the best women are primarily faithful to Life itself, and only secondarily so to their mates, it must follow that in all cases in which husbands are absent for long periods, that the call of Life in positive women becomes too imperious to be ignored—hence the thousands of wives who were unfaithful to their husbands during the last war, both in England and on the Continent.[79]

[Pg 190]

Ignorant, pious people, and even experienced Divorce-Court judges expressed their horror at the thought that while their men were nobly risking their lives in defence of “King and Country,” these women in their thousands calmly sought fertilization elsewhere. But a woman’s character as a woman would be almost forfeited if she did not act in this way![80] Where else would you have her transfer her allegiance? Would you invite her to break the whole valuable tradition of her sex which has been consistently devoted to the multiplication of life, in order to show allegiance—say to an oath, or to an ideal, or to a moral precept? But even Schopenhauer himself, with all his detestation of women, would defend them here, and say, “Surely the species is more important than your trumpery moral codes, your ephemeral oaths, and your pretentious ideals!”

The English world is almost comic in the light of its most cherished illusions. It does not base its outlook upon the unalterable laws of life, consequently it is constantly receiving the rudest shocks and the most unpleasant surprises. The fact that so many thousands of women in England and Wales were unfaithful to their husbands during the war came as a shock to the dear Puritanical and ignorant old ladies, chiefly unmarried, that rule public opinion in England.

[Pg 191]

Had they ever dreamt, or had they ever been told, that the best women, the most desirable women, must be unfaithful to their husbands when, through what cause soever, the latter are forcing them to be unfaithful to Life itself, they might have shown less righteous indignation and more understanding when the women of the country in their legions turned adulteresses in war-time.

As it was, the phenomenon was quite unexpected, and proved a most terrible blow to the national conscience. For it was realized only too shrewdly that if thousands of these women were ultimately found out, many more thousands must have escaped the discovery; and thus the character of the nation seemed to have suffered very severe deterioration.

Truth to tell, the parties to blame were not the women at all, but the hopelessly vain men who were the co-respondents in the actions, and who understood so little of female psychology that they interpreted these adulteresses’ fidelity to Life and its multiplication, as a preference, if you please, for themselves before their legal spouses. Not knowing of the positive woman’s inveterate fidelity to Life, they arrogantly imagined that their personal and irresistible attractions were the cause of these adulteresses’ infidelity to their husbands.

They—these men—were the people against whom the world ought to have inveighed; for the man who is capable of so misunderstanding the human female as to flatter himself that it is his personal attractions that are seducing her, when all the time it is the Will of the Species, neglected by her absent husband, that is impelling her to go in search of fertilization elsewhere, is not worth the rope with which he ought to be hanged.

The mistake, as a mistake, is all the more monstrous, seeing that it is the outcome of maniacal vanity. For no man who was not too much elated by a woman’s attention to retain calm reflection, could ever be such a fool as to imagine that his triumph over her husband was due to his own personal charm.

[Pg 192]

There is no need, however, to labour the question any longer, if once the true nature of woman be properly grasped; for then it is seen immediately that, in the best and most vital women, fidelity to Life must take precedence of fidelity to the mate, to a pledge, to an oath, to a vow, to a custom, or to anything else.[81]

Would the reader perhaps have it otherwise? Would he have a race of women reared (we are unfortunately not so very far from the attainment of this ideal to-day) to whom the claims of Life are secondary—women, that is to say, who are so constituted that they could hesitate between Life’s call and some trumpery human convention? Would he have women so constituted that their self-preservative instinct is more powerful than their reproductive? Because that is what it amounts to. A woman who, when confronted by Life’s call, can calmly discriminate between that and her own safety, her own future, her own smug ease, and can proceed to select the latter in preference to the former, is not a desirable woman in the best sense, for she cannot be trusted to do the right thing for the species in all circumstances. The spark of vitality in her does not glow with sufficient ardour to compel her to serve Life’s interests before her own. She is the kind of woman that is rapidly coming into power in all classes above the working class, but hers is a bad character, not a good character, for a woman to possess.

No, we want to keep the best women as they are. We do not want to tame the life out of them. But since we cannot have it both ways, if we insist on women remaining desirable—that is to say, faithful primarily to Life itself, we must breed a race of men who understand them,[Pg 193] and who in the absence of their fellows on wars or expeditions can see what is happening when young wives “make eyes at them.” Any man who in such circumstances imagines he is irresistible and falls in with the woman’s designs through sheer vanity, deserves a punishment very much more severe than being mulcted in damages; he has qualified himself for some disciplinary correction which ought at least to include a term of hard labour. For it is not his understanding of woman alone that is at fault—although this in a full-grown man would be unpardonable enough—but his estimate of himself, which leads him to the gross presumption of imagining himself capable of conquering another man’s wife single-handed without the assistance of Life itself, pushing her violently into his arms the whole time.[82] Why, he might just as well flatter himself that a flea has bitten him, not because it was too hungry to wait, but because there was something exceptionally delicate or precious in the composition of his vile blood!

Thus adultery, when the wife is the defaulter, is always a case of a man betraying another man, and never that of a woman betraying her man. Woman, if she is the right sort, remains throughout faithful to Life. Only if she betrays Life does she cease to be desirable.

Continuing our consideration of the positive couple, we must now examine the forces which operate in causing a woman to be unfaithful to her husband while yet living and cohabiting with him in apparent peace and happiness.

(b) Adultery of the positive spouse through impotence of the male or through childlessness.

If the positive female cannot tolerate long absences[Pg 194] on the part of the male without endeavouring to seek fertilization elsewhere (because her equipment for Life’s multiplication is otherwise reduced to inaction) it is obvious that, since male impotence is tantamount to a complete absence of the male (from the standpoint of reproduction), she can hardly be expected to tolerate it any more gladly.

Truth to tell, I have known cases of male impotence where the natural modesty and fear of publicity in the wife prevented an action for nullity and also all adulterous liaisons; both parties to the match having advanced quite peaceably and resignedly to middle, and ultimately to old age, without anyone, except the couple themselves and their immediate relatives, knowing the truth;[83] and it is probable that in many cases of childless marriages, in modern England, impotence on the part of the male may be suspected as the cause, although the wife may have been too timid or too shamefast to drag the misery of their married life before the courts. But in almost all marriages where this occurs without adultery on the part of the wife, it is safe to infer that the female of the match is herself partly or wholly negative, or that she has become so in process of time, otherwise it is inconceivable that her timidity or shame should thus override the deepest force within her, which, as we have seen, is the Will of the Species for Life and its multiplication.

In the case of most positive and desirable women it is safe to argue that, where the husband is impotent, either adultery or a suit for nullity will be the inevitable result.[84]

Among the positive couples where, although the male may be potent, childlessness is secured by some contraceptive method, for reasons of economy, or because it[Pg 195] is thought that three, four, or even five years of connubial bliss without children will allow both parties to have what is known as a “good time,” it is obvious that the toleration of the positive female may last longer than in cases where the male is impotent; but since the orgasm does not supply the female with her complete sexual experience, it is equally clear that the state of childlessness cannot last an unlimited time without causing trouble. As, however, in these peculiar circumstances, the psychological processes in the female, which lead her to adultery, are more subtle than in the event of male impotence, I shall be obliged to enter into them with more detail.

When the male is impotent the positive woman knows that this is so, and she consciously realizes the need of seeking fertilization elsewhere, lest she remain childless for the rest of her life. This alternative is presented plainly to her consciousness and there is no doubt about it.

In the case of the couple using contraceptives while cohabiting affectionately together, however, the female is not conscious of a desire to seek fertilization elsewhere. Not realizing clearly that, in fact, her life is equivalent (but for the repeated orgasms) to that of the married woman whose male is impotent, she has no conscious motive or warrant for seeking fertilization outside her home. Very few women indeed know that the orgasm forms such an insignificant part of their sexual experience as to leave their bodies completely unsatisfied and disappointed.[85] It follows, therefore, that if her love for her husband be very deep and guileless, she may continue living with him for years without taking any notice of other men. If her positiveness persist, however, despite the deleterious influence of the contraceptive[Pg 196] habit, and she and her husband still continue to pursue their policy of childlessness, she will eventually find that other men do begin to interest her a good deal, although this interest at first will appear to herself as entirely involuntary and innocent. It will begin to show itself by a certain childish eagerness to see her husband’s friends, to meet them at bridge, at golf, or at tennis. She may suggest dancing lessons, or regular attendances at public and private entertainments, where she can meet and talk with other men.[86] All this time her affection for her husband will continue as strong as ever, and she will not be conscious of his having declined in her esteem by one iota. If the men she meets at this period in her married life happen to be men of the world, they will note the eager interest with which she looks at them, laughs at their clumsiest sallies, and applauds their most trifling manifestations of intellect, and they will be on their guard and remain punctiliously formal. If, on the other hand, they belong to the modern herd of arrogant, overdressed townsmen, whose only mainspring is vanity, and who find in the favour of a poor starved female body the highest flattery that their stupid, fatuous lives can offer them, they will fancy that this young wife’s eager attention when they speak, and her delirious laughter when they attempt to be witty, constitute a tribute to their intellect and wit. They will flatter themselves that the little woman has been captivated by them. And from that time onward the little woman in question will be in great danger.

Now let us try to ascertain precisely what has occurred in the body of the young wife in question,[Pg 197] in order that we may follow and understand her conduct.

We will suppose she has been married three or four years, and all this time has been living in perfect concord with her husband. Occasional differences there have been, of course; but they have been unimportant. They have all turned, as is customary in English houses, upon the ridiculous words “selfish” and “unselfish.” When the young wife has wanted her way against her man she has endeavoured to make him yield by giving him a guilty conscience over the matter, and calling his opposition “selfish”; and when at last he has yielded, she has declared both to his face and to the world, that he was the most “unselfish” of husbands.[87] Likewise the man, when he has wanted to exert some leverage upon his wife’s mind, has warned her that resistance on her part would be “selfish,” and upon her yielding has admitted that she was “unselfish.” But apart from these foolish verbal quibbles around the utterly fantastic antithesis “selfish” and “unselfish,” they have had no quarrels.

Meanwhile, however, although the husband’s sexual experience has been complete, his wife’s has been of the most fragmentary order. Her reproductive organs and functions, though repeatedly stimulated as if their important business were about to begin, have been robbed each time of the natural sequel to that stimulation. Despite hundreds of alarms and starts, the complete cycle has never been experienced. As a result, this large reproductive equipment has not only remained idle, but in this very idleness has also been cheated again and again of its legitimate expectations, when those expectations seemed most certain of being fulfilled.[Pg 198] These repeated rebuffs, together with the continued inactivity of this important mechanism, has not been suffered with impunity. Gradually, as the idleness came to be felt more and more acutely, and the sense of physiological disappointment became insistent, vague messages were sent up through the young wife’s subconsciousness to her brain. These messages we can decipher without any serious inaccuracy as follows:—“We are still idle; we are still inactive. When are we going to function? We ache to function.”

It must not be supposed, however, that these messages are deciphered as accurately as this by the woman’s conscious mind. She is vaguely conscious of the importunate calls from her dissatisfied reproductive equipment; but she is aware of them only as dissatisfaction. Whence they hail, what they mean, she has not the slightest idea. If you told her that they amounted to protests from her inactive reproductive equipment, she would probably feel so utterly outraged that she would never speak to you or see you again. She would need to be a psychologist herself to interpret them accurately.

Now it is when this vague feeling of dissatisfaction first becomes insistent in her conscious mind that she proceeds to act upon it in the manner already described (see p. 196).

Quite unsuspecting, her husband falls in eagerly with her plans. Truth to tell, any such marked change in a young married woman is a very serious sign; but the husband knowing nothing of these matters, and concluding after a review of the last three years that he has perhaps invited his wife to lead too dull a life, acquiesces with alacrity in her schemes.

Now if we suppose that the new régime, with its constant round of gaiety and variety, has lasted a further six months or a year, and still nothing has happened—that is to say, the young wife’s reproductive equipment is still inactive—a second and more dangerous phase very rapidly sets in.

[Pg 199]

The young woman suddenly finds one morning or evening that she is unaccountably exasperated by the way her husband fingers his tie while he talks to her or to a friend, or by his habit of knocking his pipe out against the iron of the grate, or by his manner of clearing his throat, or by any other peculiarity which, twenty-four hours previously, she was not even aware of having noticed particularly.

At first she is a little alarmed and suppresses her feeling of irritation. She feels that it is unfriendly, and that he does not deserve a rebuke for something so ridiculously trifling. Very soon, however, after she has continued to note the exasperating peculiarity for four or five days, her irritation begins to choke her, and she feels she must express it. The next time she observes him doing the fatal thing, therefore, she snaps sharply at him with a “Don’t, Harry, you fidget me with that constant noise!” or “Don’t, Harry, you always finger your tie in that ridiculous manner when you are talking—why do you do it?” etc.

She has not the faintest suspicion that this irritation and exasperation over a trifling aspect of her husband’s behaviour is only a surface ripple of a very much deeper and more bitter exasperation, down somewhere in her body; and the young husband, who is even less conscious of the matter than she is, turns to her in a manner utterly dumbfounded, and wonders what on earth can have happened.

He sees that she is serious. He has noted the strain of bitterness in her rebuke and its threatening note of anger, and, if he is a man of spirit, he points out to her that if she is out of sorts she had better go to bed, but that it is absurd for her to start now, after four years of marriage, rebuking him for something he has done regularly every day of their married life.

This discussion may end in a serious quarrel—the first serious quarrel in which words very much more stinging than “selfish” and “unselfish” are used freely for the[Pg 200] first time; and both may retire to bed utterly bewildered by what has happened.

It is about this time that the young wife shows the eagerness described above in her attitude towards other men. These men may be, and usually are, a hundred times plainer, prosier and less potent than her husband; but this does not disturb her. She looks into their faces as if in their countenances alone she expected to find a spark of intelligence or manliness. Her husband’s superior witticisms fall flat, while at the grossest pun from his friends she contorts herself with laughter. She organizes games, picnics, excursions, and even summer holidays, in which some of her husband’s friends always contribute their share to the entertainment. Quiet lanes in Devonshire alone with her husband are no longer her ideal. She wants to organize a “jolly” party for the holidays, and learn to dive and swim with the other girls and young men of the party.

It is usually at this juncture that some prize fool of a man comes forward, who, in his superlative vanity and his crass ignorance of the true state of affairs, sets all the young woman’s restless eagerness, and particularly her attentiveness to himself, down to the credit of his own irresistible charm.

This sums up the psychology of all co-respondents. They are fatuously vain, they are criminally ignorant of female psychology, and they eagerly place to the credit account of their wit, their good looks, their intelligence, and their virility, a so-called conquest in which the part they have played is no more than that of an old horse’s leg that is taken into a stagnant pond to catch hungry leeches with.

At all events, if such a dangerous fool happens to be in the neighbourhood at such a juncture, and the young wife is thrown much into his company, the chances are that, encouraged by his eager acceptation of a situation in which his personal characteristics count for nothing, she is likely to imagine herself both “loved” and “in[Pg 201] love”; and then nothing can save her from matrimonial ruin.

Her blind manœuvres will have achieved what her reproductive equipment most ardently desired; they will have removed her from a male who abused without satisfying this equipment, and will have thrown her into the arms of a man who, though possibly inferior to her husband in every respect (as she herself would have realized had her reproductive organs been content), or at any rate not so very much superior to him to justify all this fuss, was at least holding out to her reproductive equipment a fresh promise of fertilization.[88]

And since fertilization is what the will of the species insists upon, and woman is that will, she must be forgiven if, in the circumstances, she goes over to the vain ass who imagines he has captivated her affections. At any rate, she herself is in no way to blame. She has been true to the power to which she owes all her fidelity. The blame, if any, lies, in the first place, with her husband for having deprived a positive and desirable woman of her full sexual experience for a number of years, and for not having realized that this was her trouble when she first became restless; and secondly, with the co-respondent for having mistaken an exasperated woman’s longing for fertilization—not for “companionship,” for “understanding” or for a “kindred soul” as she has declared—for a triumph attributable to his irresistible attractions. The illicit lover in this case, besides being a vain fool, betrays his own sex in the man whose wife he robs.

In such cases a little knowledge of sex psychology will, as a rule, save the situation. But so long as the world[Pg 202] continues to be thronged with jackasses who are ready to go hot all over with pride at every woman’s smile, the ridiculous spectacle of a co-respondent in every way the inferior, or at least no more than the equal, of the wronged husband, will continue to be common in our midst.

The strange part of the whole affair is that the young wife’s notion of promised bliss with the co-respondent is based entirely upon her unconscious or bodily hope that fertilization is now sure to follow. Unless it do follow, therefore, she finds herself a twofold dupe; for she has exchanged a man to whom she is at least legally attached for a man who in nine cases out of ten is either no more than her husband’s equal, or his inferior; and she is no better off; because, the moment the novelty of the situation will have died down, the same dissatisfaction that takes its root in her rebuffed reproductive organs will make itself felt again.

Now the above analysis of the workings of a positive married woman’s mind in all cases of adultery resulting from physiological disappointment, is typical, and may stand as the unalterable frame or pattern which all similar cases may be made to fit. For it matters not whether the marriage is a childless one, or whether it be one in which, from motives of economy, child-birth has been stopped after the birth of one, two, or three children; the phases which mark the approach to adultery are always the same. And it may be said with perfect accuracy that, where positiveness persists in the woman, and child-birth is stopped while she is still too young for her reproductive equipment to tolerate idleness gladly, some kind of unhappiness is bound to enter the home, and as a rule this unhappiness will lead to adultery.

When we note in the statistics of divorce the comparatively high figures shown for marriages in which there have been one or two children only, therefore, we may take it that unhappiness began to enter the home in the third, fourth, or fifth year after the birth of the[Pg 203] last child—that is to say, at a period when the idleness of her reproductive organs was beginning to prove a source of intolerable exasperation to the young female. And in these cases, as in the classical instance detailed above, the same phases occur. There is the same sudden interest in matters outside the home—either golf, tennis, acting, bridge, dancing, a new religion, a new philosophy, or a Cause. This brings the young wife into touch with a number of strange men, and as her interest in these increases, she begins to be aware of a vague feeling of irritation concerning certain aspects of her husband’s person or behaviour, of which theretofore she had not been conscious. Finally, she becomes infatuated with one of the strange men, and her feelings for her husband suffer a corresponding change for the worse. Then only cowardice, caution, or extreme devotion to her small family, can possibly prevent her from compromising herself.

This is now the time and the place to consider whether there are not perhaps other physiological and psychical conditions resulting from deliberate childlessness, or from the deliberate limitation of the family, besides those discussed above, which hasten the rupture between the positive couple.

There are certainly many such physiological and psychical conditions, and the foremost of these is the deleterious effect which the constant use of contraceptives has upon the happy sexual relations of the young couple. That there should be no known contraceptive which does not in some way mar the complete happiness of marital intercourse, will perhaps be regarded by some as a very wise dispensation of Providence;—for certainly the best brains of all nations for many thousands of years have concerned themselves with the problem, and it seems astonishing that, so far, nothing really perfect should have been discovered;—but at all events this fact goes a considerable way towards making the marriage-bed of people who deliberately limit the family at least a breeding-place of very serious trouble.

[Pg 204]

Secondly, the very fact that childlessness as an end is incessantly present to the minds of the young couple—whether they have had no children at all, or only one, two, or three—during the cohabitation, constitutes in itself an influence which in time is certain to destroy the savour of their relations at a pace commensurate with their positiveness.

The reduction of any human function to the plane of sensationalism alone has this strange result that, in the end, the very sensations it provides tend to decline in intensity. It is as if sensation alone were an insufficient psychical foundation to support the whole arch of any permanent human interest or effort, and that where it is not correlated with the feelings of power or purposefulness, it tends to crumble and to perish.

The woman in such cases suffers even more quickly than the man, because in her the physiological disappointment sings in chorus with the psychical disillusionment. But in the man too ultimate anæsthesia is inevitable; for, sooner or later, the fact that the natural consequences of his act (offspring) are not forthcoming, will begin to tell on his self-esteem and his sense of power, with which elements more than half the savour of sexual relations must certainly have been associated by his ancestors.[89]

A further psychological factor must be reckoned with, which has its share in bringing about matrimonial difficulties in the state of deliberate childlessness, or of the limitation of the family, and that is the feeling of aimlessness that ultimately supervenes, when any two people associate together without any further object in life than that of eating, drinking, or making merry. This is not due to the fact that eating, drinking, and making[Pg 205] merry are in themselves bad, as the Puritans would have us believe; but that they are at least monotonous if unrelieved by any other interests. Life, as we have seen, is repetition with a modicum of variation, and so is happiness. Nothing that can introduce variety into the home of the young couple, therefore, ought to be eschewed, for fear lest that lack of variety should be realized which causes life to lose its interest and its savour. Now children are obviously a constant source of variety in the home. Each child, in its turn, gives the home a different aspect, a different outlook, a different responsibility. Children, moreover, give the family unit a superior aim and purpose, which increases in importance with the number of the offspring. In this sense alone, therefore, a state of childlessness or of family limitation (when the number of children is small), in an ordinary home, where there are no compensating features such as ardent artistic, scientific or religious preoccupations, constitutes a dangerous state from the standpoint of connubial stability.

Before concluding this discussion of the positive couple in relation to divorce, which we propose to do with an examination of the statistics, it will now be necessary to consider the circumstances under which the positive man himself becomes unfaithful.[90]

From the statistics it would appear that more women than men go wrong in a childless marriage. This is only what, from our argument, we should have expected; because since the coitus represents a complete physiological experience to the man, he is less likely to become vaguely dissatisfied with childlessness than the woman. Nevertheless, should the childless state be continued too long—that is to say, for five, six, or more years—there are[Pg 206] sure to arise certain indistinct feelings of dissatisfaction in the man, which will cause him to become restless and interested in other women. These feelings will be the result of the total lack of those “appeals” to his primitive instincts, which the regular procreation of children provides for almost all men without exception. He will miss the sense of power which he would derive from the material and visible extension of his own identity in his offspring, and he will also feel the need of that silent tribute which children would make to the deepest source of his self-esteem—virile potency.

It should also be borne in mind that, where there are no children, the man is more likely, owing to the absence of heavy responsibilities, to indulge that inclination to varied sexual experiences, to which every positive man is subject after some years of marriage. We have seen how entirely man’s sexual experience depends for its savour upon desire—the desire he feels for the object of his sexual passion. When, therefore, through years of regular intimacy with his wife, this desire tends to decline, there naturally follows a corresponding decline in the savour of his sexual experience. To correct this he is tempted to go in search of change, of novelty. Now, when this inclination arises in monogamic marriages, it is frequently checked out of consideration for the children, and more especially by the secret satisfaction derived from their presence. Where there are no children, it is much more likely to be given free rein.

Another factor which ought to be given due weight in the sexual psychology of man, is his love of protecting and patronizing. The wife who gives him a number of children not only makes a strong appeal to this love in her own person but also in the persons of her offspring. He becomes, figuratively, a huge buttress supporting the dependent members of his family, and this gratifies the self-esteem of the average simple-minded man, and in innumerable cases induces him not only to accept the burden, but also to love it deeply and passionately for[Pg 207] giving him such a delightful and constant sense of real importance.

Finally, in the conduct of the man of high ethical development, there will enter the factor of moral ideals. When once he feels his family about him, he will be conscious of certain duties, certain obligations, which will preclude all idea, all velleity, of not abiding by his original pledges. This man will be able to live till the end of his days with a woman, however much his feelings may have changed towards her, and still give the world the impression of being a most dutiful and most devoted husband. Temptation, sexual passion, the desire for variety, will simply not enter within his purview. The moment an irregular thought occurs to his mind, it will be, as it were, “switched off.” It should, however, be remembered that when such men are positive by nature, they will usually be found to practise in their leisure hours some kind of sport (hard walking, cycling, golf, riding) or industry (carpentry—true of thousands of Englishmen to-day; wood-cutting, e.g. Gladstone and the ex-Emperor of Germany; stamp-collecting and numismatics—true of thousands of modern Englishmen) or religious activity (Christian, Spiritualistic or other propaganda) in which much of their sex becomes absorbed.

In Chart I, I have given figures covering a period of twenty-one years—from 1899 to 1919 inclusive, for England and Wales; and the most important conclusions to be drawn from them at a glance are the following:—

(a) The preponderance of divorces which occur as the result of husbands’ petitions over those which occur as the result of wives’ petitions.

Bearing in mind the more insistent impulse to variety in sexual experience which harasses the male throughout life, this preponderance of husbands’ petitions only tends to show the extreme difficulty with which women can tolerate either the premature cessation of child-birth or no child-birth at all. For although it may be argued that in order to obtain a divorce the woman must charge her husband with something more than the mere indulgence of his craving for variety, and therefore that proportions are misleading from this point of view, it should also be remembered that, where there has been a transference of affection with adultery on the male’s part, desertion would necessarily follow, and therefore supply the minimum grounds for the woman’s petition.

[Pg 208]


Number of Children 1899. 1900. 1901. 1902. 1903. 1904. 1905. 1906. 1907. 1908. 1909.
H. W.[91] H. W. H. W. H. W. H. W. H. W. H. W. H. W. H. W. H. W. H. W.
No children 175 147 167 156 188 166 230 185 183 170 178 147 180 167 201 161 169 182 198 235 213 197
1 child 97 83 80 84 129 91 140 115 105 133 110 116 114 137 120 127 91 128 119 136 104 137
2 children 58 57 59 53 93 57 98 62 76 75 78 82 73 86 73 80 84 82 86 67 75 89
3 to 6 children 66 69 68 63 86 67 131 65 128 70 97 66 83 69 62 78 84 70 82 71 80 79
Above 6 children 4 14 6 9 10 11 9 15 11 11 6 7 3 5 9 12 6 7 3 11 3 6
Number unknown 1 1 2 1 2

Number of Children 1910. 1911. 1912. 1913. 1914. 1915. 1916. 1917. 1918. 1919.
H. W. H. W. H. W. H. W. H. W. H. W. H. W. H. W. H. W. H. W.
Total successful petitions 412 343 466 393 506 414 548 450 607 468 682 461 781 382 1,044 379 1,807 516 4,076 1,009
No children 412[92] 408 444 493 496 491 563 660 1,043 2,338
1 child 222 281 347 372 366 379 382 433 707 1,627
2 children 146 201 193 194 241 248 231 307 488 930
3 to 6 children 119 170 160 192 228 231 200 285 423 831
Above 6 children 9 12 10 12 17 17 16 19 27 36


1910. 1911. 1912. 1913. 1914. 1915. 1916. 1917. 1918. 1919.
Less than 1 year 14 17 29 22 18 35 27 36 75
1 and over to 2 29 26 25 44 17 40 58 78 86 156
2 and over to 5 110 143 145 136 150 130 192 274 516 1,171
5 and over to 10 284 353 378 427 394 371 383 482 858 1,947
10 and over to 20 369 418 440 481 583 618 577 667 930 2,008
Above 20 116 119 155 146 182 194 165 177 262 405

[Pg 209]

The high figures for faithless wives revealed in these statistics, therefore, point to the extreme refractoriness of women under the conditions imposed by modern economic pressure, which makes the limitation of families an ineluctable rule in most homes. This is furthermore confirmed by a comparison of the high figures given for childless marriages, or marriages of only one, two, or three children, with those given for marriages which have more than three children.

On the other hand, the proportion of husbands’ petitions to wives’ in those marriages in which there are more than six children, leaves no doubt that in most of these cases not the wife but the husband was at fault, which is exactly what we should expect.

(b) It is interesting to note the steady rise in husbands’ petitions during the years 1915-1919—all years of war: the figure 4,076 as against 1,009 in 1919 constituting the most convincing evidence we have of the difficulty with which women tolerate the lack of children or the cessation of child-birth, even when it is due to the absence of their husbands on what was believed to be a “Crusade.” It seems probable that the bulk of these women must have been young, for the total number of divorces for that year, in cases where there was only one child or none, amounts to 3,965.

Of course, from my point of view, the value of these figures is lessened by the fact that it is impossible to differentiate between marriages of positive and negative couples; but perhaps the steadiness with which certain[Pg 210] characteristic proportions are revealed in them compensates to some extent for this defect.

When we add to this Lord Salvesen’s evidence before the Royal Commission on Divorce (1912), in which he declared that in Scotland the proportion of divorces among childless couples was “immensely larger” than that among fertile couples, it can leave little doubt in our minds that, in order to be so constant and universal, this rule must be based on unalterable laws taking their root in deep physiological and psychological conditions, and that the sentimental and emotional factors can be but surface phenomena accompanying rather than affecting the operation of these laws. For, if we have been right in arguing that the presence of children does not operate as a strengthener of the union by cementing the love of married couples, but by meeting certain instinctive needs in their physical and mental constitution, it is clear that the sentimental elements in the union are the most insignificant—hence their inability to tide large numbers of positive couples over the periods of physiological and psychical stress which childlessness or the limitation of the family imposes.

(c) When we turn to Chart II and examine the figures given for the duration of the marriage up to the time when the petition was filed (for the years 1910-1919), we also note a fact that does not surprise us, and that is the immeasurably higher figures given for the four years lying between the fifth and the tenth years of marriage, than for all other periods.

It is precisely during these four years that those two disturbing forces which do most to mar modern marriages are most likely to begin to operate, viz:—

(a) The irascibility of the wife as the result of the cessation of child-birth; this irascibility showing itself in a decreasing satisfaction with her home and her husband, and an increasing interest in outside amusements and occupations, and in other men.

(b) The loss of desire for his wife, in the husband,[Pg 211] which causes him to seek other sexual experiences.

With regard to (a) it is obvious that during the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth years of marriage, most couples who are attempting to limit their families will have ceased from procreating. They will have had from one to three children, and will have decided to have no more. The wife will therefore tend to become increasingly impatient with her lot, and ultimately make a confidant of some idiot of a man, who will interpret her marked attentions as a proof of his irresistible charm, and the two will end in what the world is pleased to call “falling in love.”

With regard to (b), six, seven, eight or nine years is a long period over which to extend the average man’s desire for fresh sexual experience, and in the event of a cessation of child-birth (which means the use of contraceptives—always unfavourable to happy marital relations) it is during these last years of his first decade of married life that he is most likely to feel the ardent desire for a change.

The two factors (a) and (b) conspiring together soon force the couple asunder, if they are positive, brave, and intolerant of conventions and rules—hence, I believe, the high figures for the period in question.


Agriculture. Mining. Manufactures. Navigation and Fishing. Inland Transport. Trade. Domestic Service. Professionally Employed. Unspecified Occupations.
1908 26 17 168 14 42 345 13 298 87
1909 19 21 172 25 29 253 10 244 110
1910 22 11 118 18 38 344 12 267 78
1911 21 9 194 24 30 366 12 320 97
1912 24 17 211 38 21 347 24 389 87
1915[93] 37 26 362 31 84 381 11 361 79
1916 28 24 310 43 60 397 27 444 1
1917 44 48 419 33 79 446 18 545 73
1918 61 95 744 63 204 591 34 826 79
1919 133 192 1,581 78 468 1,174 64 1,903 169

[Pg 212]

In Chart III we have the statistics for divorce, tabulated according to the occupations of the husbands. Now, according to the 1911 census, the figures given for the total number of males engaged in three out of the nine categories is as follows:—

Professional callings 367,578[94]
Agriculture 1,140,515
Mining 1,039,083

If we compare these total figures[95] with the corresponding figures given for the divorces in each category, we see the enormously high percentage of divorces that occur in the professional classes, as compared with both the mining and agricultural industry, and although in accounting for this conspicuous difference we have to bear in mind the facilities, chiefly financial, for procuring divorce in the professional classes, we are nevertheless confronted by a disparity which requires some explanation.

When, however, we consider the greater prevalence of birth-control among the professionals, with the inevitable unconscious disaffection that it introduces among the wives of that class; when, also, we reflect upon the more artificial circumstances in which this class lives, and the higher and less natural demands that its spouses make upon each other; when, moreover, we remember the greater irascibility and nervousness, together with the usually lower passion, of all people engaged in the more intellectual pursuits of life, which make them more prone to chafe under the many vexations to which married life gives rise, and less likely to attain that physiological serenity which is the pre-requisite of all solid contentment, these statistics seem to confirm the conclusions at which we have arrived, and, on the whole,[Pg 213] to support the analysis we have made both of the marriage tie itself, and of the factors that conspire to loosen it.

Having dealt with divorce in so far as it concerns positive couples, I have now to deal with it in its relation to the negative man and woman. My present task is, therefore, by far the more difficult of the two, seeing that the moment we leave the uniformity of natural law and the regularity of indomitable forces, we find ourselves in a maze of possibilities, which, while they defy enumeration owing to their extreme multiplicity, also elude all effort at classification because of the infinite combinations and permutations that low health and eccentricity are capable of producing.

It must be clear that the moment the driving force of healthy, normal passion ceases to be the motive actuating male and female, the vagaries of human conduct are no longer calculable. One knows what in certain circumstances a healthy passionate animal will do. It is impossible to foretell what an unhealthy or unpassionate one will do.[96]

To describe all the possible complications that will ultimately lead a negative couple into the Divorce Court, or cause them to seek a judicial separation, or induce them to conclude that they would be happier living apart, is therefore beyond the powers of any human being. The negative man and woman, like the invalid or the eccentric, must remain an enigma, because natural laws and forces no longer operate normally or calculably in them.

[Pg 214]

Nevertheless, it is possible, in a rough way, to outline certain features which are more or less common even to sub-normal people, and from which, therefore, certain general rules of conduct may be inferred.

For instance, we may say of negative men and women that:—

(a) The physiological promptings of an instinctive and organic kind are never likely (as with their healthier brethren) to weigh very heavily with them. (The ethereal lovers who believe that marriage is a union of souls.)

(b) The sentimental and intellectual aspects of a sexual situation are more likely to determine their conduct than its vital or reproductive aspects. (The lovers in most modern novels, in which “Luvv” is supposed never to have bodily union as its aim, but only companionship, or sweet words, or pure affection, or a life of “unselfish” mutual service, or some other high-falutin’ nonsense.)

(c) The force of passion being no longer the ruling determinant in them, such factors as vanity, caution, cowardice, and even indolence, may dominate the sex impulses and direct conduct to their own ends. (The bulk of hasty marriages made during the war were of this nature, vanity both in the man and the woman giving rise in each individual to such elated feelings that these were mistaken for depth of passion.)

(d) The intellectual attitude towards love, and the passions which it tends to assume, may cause negative people to imitate without feeling the behaviour of their more passionate fellows and their love affairs, thus producing a false but fairly accurate image of true passion. (The actors in modern society, all of which are by no means professional histrions.)

Dealing with (a) first, it must be fairly obvious that where physiological promptings are feeble, deep bodily disappointments, and particularly rebuffs to the reproductive system of the women, can be tolerated very much[Pg 215] more placidly than where physiological promptings are imperious.

Thus all negative women are likely to endure for a very much longer period a childless marriage, or a marriage in which child-birth has ceased in the first four to six years, than are their positive sisters. In all “happy” marriages of this kind, therefore, which have only terminated with the demise of one of the parties, negativeness may certainly be suspected in the woman, and, since like tends to attract like, also in the man.

When, therefore, unhappiness supervenes in such a home, other causes must be sought than the secret and unconscious revolt of the woman’s reproductive equipment, or the man’s fiery need for sexual variety.

Negativeness being the outcome of an atonic condition of the body, or, at least, of the genital organs, and negative women being less likely to function properly than their more positive sisters, there will naturally arise a tendency, in all such matches (owing to the small amount of pleasure and gratification that is derived from the whole of the physical side of marriage and motherhood), to discount the physiological side, and to exalt only states of the soul and the mind. These people will have the old maids of all Puritanical communities with them when they cast scorn upon the pleasures of the body; and as their number is increasing daily, the chorus of body-despisers grows steadily louder and louder in all the countries enjoying Western Civilization.

The women in these matches are likely to confound motherhood with self-sacrifice and martyrdom, and their husbands to confound the birth of a child with the threat of financial ruin. Science, costly and inefficient science, helps them at every step, and when finally child-birth stops, which is never too soon (for the women in any case), and nurses and perambulators take their leave, science remains to the last to try to repair or neutralize the debility that unwelcome fertility has left behind.

In their most private moments the women of such[Pg 216] matches speak of the “horrible sensuality” of men, and of the havoc this sensuality has made of their lives; and in thought and in action they incline to everything that emphasizes the soulful or spiritual side of life. They cultivate a taste for extremely soulful literature or poetry (Maeterlinck’s Serres Chaudes, for instance) and tend to gravitate towards those forms of Christianity that are most quintessential.

Divorce, if it is ever resorted to by such couples, is usually the fault of the husbands. They may at length manifest a desire to have a breath of air untainted by sickness or debility, and in that case usually become entangled with a woman quite as negative as their wife. The women hardly ever go further than to cultivate an apparently ardent but platonic attachment to some poet, musician, or other artist, to whom they write long soulful letters, full of hints about a non-physical kind of bliss in love, which they have longed all their lives to experience. But in a large majority of cases, negative couples of precisely this kind tend to finish their days more or less tiresomely together, each bewailing the fact that such a white elephant as the body ever became associated with the more “exalted” spiritual side of man.

In regard to (b) it can only be said that the type is so very prevalent that it is becoming almost the norm of modern civilization. Its principal characteristic is that both the male and the female tend to choose each other for reasons which are as remote as possible from the body. The men of this type choose “clever,” “artistic,” sylph-like, narrow-hipped “sweet” women, with thin slender hands, spiritual interests, and probably a history of some intestinal irregularity in their past. The women, while aspiring to a high ideal of health and manliness in their mates, have not the instinct to pick out the passionate man, but usually select one, who though he may be big of body and limb, intellectual and “breezy,” is quite fireless, unpassionate and dull.

[Pg 217]

The couples belonging to this type can also endure childlessness or a cessation of child-birth with almost perfect equanimity; the man being very much more concerned about the figure he is cutting as a chivalrous, sporting mate, who observes the rules of “cricket” with his spouse, than about any other aspect of their married life. He studies with asinine perplexity the so-called inscrutable complexities of his wife’s mind, and is always making “allowances” and preaching the doctrine of give and take. His great charm, according to modern values, is the fact that he regards women as utterly incomprehensible. Women are so powerful nowadays in determining opinion, and have so often and so emphatically called the men who show some insight into women’s nature “prigs,” that at the present day both women and men unanimously call any man who voices penetrating views about woman, an out-and-out prig. In fact, in order to be a prig it is necessary to have shown some ability in analysing the true nature of woman.[97]

The women in such unions very frequently outstrip their male companions in mental nimbleness, and this disturbance of the proper balance frequently leads them, in their vague discontent, to become prominent exponents and defenders of all those claims of sex-equality and sex-levelling, which have agitated the home life of northern European countries (where most negative people are to be found) for the last hundred years. The spectacle of their lady-like and unobtrusive male, there can be no doubt, is usually the first incentive towards these kinds of activities, and, seeing that they have the constant substantiation of their claims in the tame animal with[Pg 218] whom they cohabit, it is not surprising that they frequently enter into “Woman’s Cause” with a conviction and a fervour very much more intense than the more academic enthusiasm of the old maid who is usually their associate in the movement.

Indeed, it not infrequently happens that the “male” of these militant women is himself an active collaborator in his wife’s public work, and so complete is their intellectual and sentimental agreement on the question, that he will echo her words with the docility of a parrot.

The type (c) is also common enough and is growing more plentiful in all classes of society. It is the negative type which approximates most to the passionate, tragic type of real life and fiction; because, while it possesses no deep passions, its extreme vanity makes it capable of the wildest excesses.

In all the possible situations of married life, this type never consults any other arbiter than vanity, and it is only when its caution, cowardice or indolence can overpower its vanity that the latter does not decide the issue.

Having no real deep passion to direct them, the men and women of this type are actually drawn into marriage in the first place solely from motives of vanity, because the state of being betrothed is a state of (1) supreme importance, (2) conspicuousness, (3) intense and unscrupulous mutual worship, and (4) romantic glamour.

Their marriage is likely to be the least stable of all marriages among negative people, however, for the moment their vanity ceases to be fed, or humoured, they are likely to weary of an association that affords them ever less and less of the joys of their engaged days. Lacking the sound physiological promptings which make a fully-adapted life sufficient for their happiness and serenity, they become restless the moment (1) adulation declines from the quarter of the spouse, (2) the attention of their world ceases from being concentrated upon them, and (3) that feeling of exaltation which filled their breast[Pg 219] during courtship—and particularly on their wedding day—shows signs of waning.

The woman in this kind of match finds out soon after marriage that while she has become the mistress of her own home, she is living in an atmosphere which, compared with that she had grown accustomed to in the days when her matchmaking mother directed her life, and during the months or years of her courtship, is depressingly deficient in appeals to her vanity.

Her husband is securely bound to her by law. His first raptures are over, and the two seem to be settling down to a hum-drum existence, in which those deep thrills of yore seem entirely to have gone from her life. But precisely those thrills were the breath of her nostrils. All the joys of marital intimacy with the man she “loves” do not make up for the loss of that. Her body is not tonic or vital enough to provide any comfort for the exaltation her vanity once afforded her.

She therefore contrives so to modify her hum-drum existence as to restore to it some of the atmosphere of her late adolescence and the days of her courtship. She goes in search of company; she insists on men coming to the house. She sings, or acts, or goes in for sports—all with a view to restoring that atmosphere in which she became engaged. In the end, she easily finds some idiot of a man who will be ignorant and vain enough to court her, and when this happens she will at last breathe deeply again.

These courtships which the vain negative woman contrives to bring about, in order to feed her vanity, may or may not lead to adultery. Frequently they do, because, although she is certainly not actuated by passion in contriving them, she may by chance light upon a paramour who is passionate, and then, in order to prolong the farce, she finds she must yield to his importunacies. Indeed, unless she do yield, the whole of the realistic nature of the love affair, which she has done her best to impart to the experience, will be destroyed. Thus, despite her lack of real passion, this kind of vain[Pg 220] adulteress frequently finds herself in the Divorce Court, with the most damning evidence against her, when all the time she has never desired the illicit consummation. What was necessary—nay, essential—to her, was the breath of adulation, not the final embrace of the procreator. She wanted a life that was a long courtship, because courtship is the time when vanity receives its strongest appeals. As, however, she could hardly simulate une grande passion without actually appearing desirous of the consummation, her first marriage is ruined.

Very frequently indeed these women do not allow the consummating step to be taken. Not being at all disposed to it physically, their caution, their cowardice, and their indolence easily get the upper hand, and they ultimately disappoint their expectant lover; but as a rule this happens only when they have squeezed him dry of every possible flattering epithet and attention.

But, the reader will object, as far as behaviour and results are concerned, where is the difference here between the negative woman acting on the impulse of vanity, and the positive woman acting on the impulse of passion?

To judge from the evidence heard in the Divorce Court, the difference is admittedly slight. There is the same dissatisfaction with the home and the mate, leading to the same longing for amusements and activities of all kinds which promise a chance of variety. In actual practice, however, the differences are marked. The positive woman goes about the business with more solemn, even sullen determination. She does not smile, laugh, and frivol about it as the negative woman does. The latter betrays her immediate aim, which is the satisfaction of vanity, by her extreme enjoyment of every step along her irregular path. She enjoys the mere means to an end, which supply the gratification that her vanity needs. The former, having only the end in view, accepts the means as a necessary preliminary, but these means obviously leave her much more unmoved than they do her negative sister.

[Pg 221]

Thus negative women are notoriously what the French call grimacières. They proclaim their true nature by the perpetual grin that distorts their features throughout the whole period in which they receive attentions from their worshipper. Deep passion does not grin in this way. It is either too deeply stirred, or it is too shy, to make an open exhibition of its feelings. Besides, it is greatly agitated and anxious about the issue.

The vain, negative woman, moreover, is always conscious of an observing public when she is in the company of her admirer, and her triumphant glances at onlookers in such circumstances are a sort of challenge to them to contemplate her in the full intensity of her joy. Part of the gratification of her vanity consists in drawing the envious looks of other women upon her. Hence, too, her perpetual grin, a good deal of which is meant for public notice. The positive woman, on the other hand, is too deeply interested, too seriously concerned, to be able to give a thought to the onlookers. She may even shun the crowd. In her, everything is subordinated to the principal end she has in view.

The vain, negative woman, moreover, because she does not really desire the man who happens to be worshipping her, will brook no breach of manners, of chivalry, of steady worship from him. She is constantly on the alert and vigilant. She keeps him up to the mark, and will quickly rap his knuckles if the incense he is burning at the altar of her self-esteem is the least bit stale, or burns with only a moderate fury, or is swung with any sign of diminished zeal. The passionate woman, on the other hand, will bear anything from the man she really desires, except—absence.

The vain woman’s hatred is roused, not by a refusal to cohabit with her, but by a noticeable lameness in her worshipper’s flattering fluency. She hates those who wound her vanity, not those who cheat her will to Life and its multiplication. She will become homicidal only if she is made to look small or ridiculous, not if she is left[Pg 222] sterile. She loathes situations in which she cannot make a display of her bliss.

The positive woman, on the other hand, longs for privacy and secrecy, and forgives nothing less easily than a lack of virile ardour in her male pursuer. He may be silent to the point of dumbness, inarticulate to the point of being unable to apologise when he spills his soup over her dress at table;—all these things she overlooks if he has the first pre-requisite of Life, which is virile ardour rising to impatient and restless importunacy. On the other hand, the worshipper who spills his soup over his negative mistress’s dress in a restaurant or any public assembly, would thenceforward be loathed on that account alone. Because it is mortifying to one’s vanity to be made ridiculous in public.

The negative man of this class is of the cold Don Juan type, who gratifies his vanity more than his sexual appetite by repeated conquests. He too soon tires of his wife and of his home. He does this all the more readily, seeing that his marriage itself has usually been quite an unintended consummation on his part of one of the many flirtations his vanity led him into in early manhood, and that he has been chafing ever since it was finally settled at the thought of the many conquests he might have made before taking the final step.

His nostrils, too, yearn for the hot breath of adulation. He is a tormentor of positive women, because he can so readily hold himself aloof at the last station before the terminus.

If this man becomes unfaithful, it will be because his enormous vanity has overcome his caution. In order to extract the last and most enthralling confession from a young woman’s heart—which will cause him to reach his highest pinnacle of exaltation—one day he will go too far, either in his protestations or in his caresses,[98] and then,[Pg 223] if he is dealing with the kind of girl or woman who knows of no facile retreat from such avowals, and who is really in earnest, he will find himself impelled in a direction and to an end which he can truthfully swear he never had in contemplation at the outset.

The fact that the law of England deals too lightly with this kind of dandified scoundrel (for such men almost always dress well) is due not merely to the fact that, generally speaking, it is grotesquely lenient to correspondents as a class, but also to its inability to distinguish between the adultery of the negative man and woman, whose misdemeanour is the outcome of vanity alone, and whose ruin of another’s home is, therefore, wanton and unnecessary, and the adultery which is the outcome of genuine passion, and which, therefore, partakes far more of that quality of human action which is elemental and inevitable.

This man only becomes tragic under a snub. He finds no infinite resource in a deep knowledge of his own value, and is, therefore, incapable of self-consolation when shown the cold-shoulder. Hence the woman who does not fall in with his scheme of mutual worship, incurs his homicidal loathing. She destroys his joie de vivre, his very primum mobile, the source of his will to live. His career is a series of escapes from female fires he has deliberately kindled; but he is always more ready to forgive a burn than the fuel that refuses to flare up under the power of his bellows.

Before concluding section (c) perhaps it would be advisable and also helpful to give a brief analysis of the psychological forces which impel the negative, vain man and woman along their career of vanity-gratification at all costs. For, while to understand them will be in a measure to exonerate them, it will also serve as a means of recognizing their type when we see it.

Now the fundamental truth to be grasped about vanity is that it is always found in conjunction with modesty.[Pg 224] It is the intense modesty of the vain person that forces him to gratify his vanity at every turn.

What, then, is modesty? In ultimate practice it amounts to an inability to set a value on oneself, an inability to place oneself according to one’s worth in the graduated hierarchy of human beings. The modest man waits to be given his place, to be told where he stands, to be priced and valued by his fellow-men. Compliments mean a good deal to him, because, since he has no settled opinion of himself, they promote his self-esteem. In short, his self-esteem fluctuates according to his receipts in compliments and abuse. And since his good spirits depend largely upon his self-esteem, his spirits may also be said to fluctuate according to these receipts. Unlike his proud brother, he does not hold a good or poor opinion of himself because of an inner conviction of his worth, which is settled; he holds it because he has been modest enough to wait for the world to give it to him.

But this makes him entirely dependent upon his fellow-men for his knowledge of his worth, and consequently for the condition of his spirits. By throwing him always upon the judgment of his fellows for his opinion of himself and his good spirits, his modesty therefore tends to lead the modest man into the constant practice of trying to seduce his fellow-men to such an opinion of himself as will not cause his spirits to suffer. He covets good opinions, because on them alone can his self-esteem, and therefore his good spirits, thrive. In order to enjoy that comfortable feeling of satisfaction which promoted self-esteem affords, he is constantly tempted to persuade his fellow-men into giving it to him. This makes him amenable, and what the modern world calls “lovable,” because he glows under compliments, and becomes pliable and susceptible to influence, and by the side of him his proud inflexible brother appears to the modern world as cold and inaccessible.[99] The vain man asks: “What[Pg 225] did So-and-so say of me?” or “What did So-and-so think of me?” And according to the answer he receives he is either happy or depressed.

The proud man does not care what So-and-so thinks of him. He is not concerned with public opinion. He knows his own good and bad points, and no views about himself, entertained by his fellows, can modify that knowledge one way or the other. Consequently he is not always busy trying to seduce his circle of relatives, friends, and acquaintances into a good opinion of him. This makes him stiff, independent, unamenable, and dignified—in fact, everything that the modern world is least able to tolerate with patience.

The modest man lives in his neighbour’s views of himself. He depends on them for his self-esteem, and therefore for his joie de vivre. On these views he measures his worth. It is only human, therefore, that he should be anxious to make them as favourable as possible.

Now it is this constant effort to make these views as favourable as possible, and the pleasure he feels over the success of his efforts, that constitute the characteristic known as “vanity,” for which the modest man is notorious. It is obvious that when no other deeper motives interfere—as in the case of all those people whom I call negative, and whose physiological or bodily promptings are hardly audible—vanity very soon becomes the only mainspring of action. It constitutes the only tribunal before which life’s alternatives are drawn for examination; and, according to whether vanity promises to be gratified or not by a certain course, that course is adopted or rejected.

When I say, therefore, that these vain, modest and negative people approximate nearest to the passionate, tragic type, it will readily be seen why this must be so.[Pg 226] For to snub or to withhold your good opinion from the vain man or woman, is not only an offence in itself, it also deprives that man or woman of self-esteem for the time being. They depend on your good opinion of them for their good opinion of themselves. Not to give them your good opinion is, therefore, tantamount to destroying their joie de vivre for the time being; it amounts to depriving them of their mainspring, which is gratified vanity. But this is as good as killing them. Until they can find someone, or think of someone, who can cancel out your poor opinion of them, by a more exalted opinion, they are, therefore, desperate. They hate with a homicidal hatred (vain people never forgive anyone who has mortified their vanity), and this makes them tragic. Tragedy among vain negative people is always to be traced to wounded vanity, and never to passion. The constant mistake made by the modern world is to confound the passionate crime with the crime that arises from vanity.[100] But the passionate crime is of a different order of rank altogether. It is always a crime arising out of an affront against Life itself, whereas the crime that springs from vanity is always the result of the much more insignificant fact that somebody’s good opinion of himself has been assailed.[101]

In class (d) we also have a very large and growing section of the population, particularly among the middle classes. It consists of people, not unlike the former, but[Pg 227] who know exactly what real passion does, and how it does it, and who proceed to ape it in every momentous incident of their lives. They are negative and therefore have no genuine promptings from passion; but they read and observe a good deal, and they emulate their passionate fellows with a pertinacity worthy of a better purpose. They will fall in love, marry, commit adultery, divorce, and even commit murder, provided that they can convince themselves that each successive step has been taken in the grand style. And, as they proceed through their various metamorphoses, they watch themselves with the double interest of participators and spectators of a great drama.

Of the whole negative class it may be said that they are radically unstable in marriage, because they are not actuated by any natural passion or impulse, and therefore do not become wedded to any environment where their instincts find perfect adaptation. On the other hand, however, they are frequently able, owing to this very lack of natural passion, to endure for a lifetime matrimonial unions which would be intolerable to the positive type for a month, and this accounts for the fact that, in England particularly, there are so many peaceful lifelong unions of couples who are childless and doomed to childlessness.

The most constant characteristic of all negative people, however, is this, that they are always prepared, and able, to silence the natural passions (because in them these forces are so feeble) and to direct their conduct according to any conceivable rule other than that of these natural passions. Thus opportunism, vanity, an eye to the main chance, love of display, histrionic tastes, indolence, caution, cowardice—each one of these factors may at different moments direct their lives; but true passion certainly never will, and the very fact that it cannot, they will dress in every form of high-falutin’ euphemism. They[Pg 228] will call their lack of passion, self-control, or strength of will; they will describe it as ordinary common decency; they will even have the impudence to call it simply “good breeding,” and sometimes they will have the duplicity and arrogance to call it purity.


[70] See Chapter 44 of the Ergänzung zum vierten Buch of the Welt als Wille und Vorstellung. In La Femme Criminelle et la Prostituée, by C. Lombroso and G. Ferrero (Paris, Felix Alcan, 1896) the authors, wishing to emphasize the same fact, say very plainly: “C’est le besoin de l’espèce, le besoin maternel, qui pousse la femme vers l’homme, l’amour féminin étant une fonction subordonnée à la maternité” (p. 107).

[71] See ante, p. 148. See also Lombroso and Ferrero, Op. cit. (p. 112): “Psychiquement, l’amour de la mère se greffe toujours et l’emporte sur le besoin du sexe.”

[72] See Sir Bargrave Deane’s evidence before the Royal Commission on Divorce and Matrimonial Causes, 1912, para. 1163: “My impression is that it is a very serious question—this absence of children—to the married life, and I believe you will find (I am certain it is so from my experience this term) that if there are children it keeps the home together, and they both work together.” Lord Salvesen (Judge of Court of Sessions, Scotland), speaking before the same Commission, and discussing the statistics as to childless and fruitful marriages, said: “I draw this inference, that I think they show where there are children the union is strengthened, and parties are more unwilling to have it dissolved” (para. 6214 of the Report).

[73] In addition to the engrossing character of the rôle of mother, and the tendency it has to invade every controlling centre in a positive woman’s nature, we should also remember that, inasmuch as man is only important to woman as a means to an end, his importance must diminish pro rata as the end tends to be achieved and visibly materialized in the form of the growing family.

[74] The modern man’s chief safeguard against becoming a complete nonentity in the home is, of course, his hold on the purse-strings. This procures him a sort of perfunctory regard.

[75] See footnote, pp. 179, 180.

[76] Buffon in his Discours sur la nature des Animaux makes the following profound remark which English people as a whole would do well to take to heart: “Amour, pourquoi fais-tu l’état heureux de tous les êtres, et le malheur de l’homme? C’est qu’il n’y a que le physique de cette passion qui soit bon; c’est que, malgré ce que peuvent dire les gens épris, le moral n’en vaut rien” (see Oeuvres Complètes, Tome 3me, Paris, 1837, pp. 21-22).

[77] As a proof of this, behold the aggressive exultation of the ordinary man over every fresh addition to his family.

[78] So far from being conscious of the will to the multiplication of life, it frequently happens that women do all that is required in order to achieve fertilization, and yet protest that they do not wish to have children, or that they do not care for children.

[79] The ancient Hindus, from whose great wisdom nothing was hidden, not only openly recognized this fact, but made special provision for it. In the Book of Manu there were special periods of absence allowed for husbands, beyond which their wives were no longer forbidden from seeking fertilization elsewhere (see Book IX, verse 76). It should be borne in mind, however, that a very large proportion of the women who committed adultery during the war did so out of vanity rather than out of passion. The preponderance of negative women in England makes the passionate crime a much rarer occurrence than is generally supposed. See explanation of the rôle of vanity in adultery in the second half of this chapter.

[80] Even in regard to the legendary Penelope we have to remember that tradition relates certain facts about her that cast some reflection upon her normality. Why, for instance, was she thrown into the sea by her parents? Both of her parents came from Sparta, and the Spartans did not scruple to destroy abnormal children. In fact, they regarded it as a religious duty to do so. At the very beginning of her life, therefore, some suspicion is cast which entitles us to question whether she can have been as desirable as the numbers of her suitors leads us to believe. Further, we may quite pertinently inquire what it was that ever induced Odysseus to spend twenty years of his life away from his wife, unless there were some secret and profound reason. It is true that his adventures are presented to us in the narrative as being forced upon him. But who has ever known an adventurer whose adventures were not inevitable?

[81] The realism and methodical certainty with which adultery was expected in the wife by the absent husband both in antiquity and the Middle Ages is shown (1) by the general attitude of wonder and admiration maintained towards Penelope, and (2) by the famous ceintures de chasteté in which the aid of the locksmith was enlisted in order to safeguard an absent husband’s honour.

[82] The fact that during the war numbers of married women were thus served by men very much older than themselves, only shows how, as his years increase, a foolish man’s vanity sets ever greater store by a female’s favours. It is too easily forgotten that when a man is a born fool, old age does but increase his foolishness; it does not, as most people suppose, turn bad wine into good.

[83] In one case this occurred, despite the fact that all the woman’s relatives and friends constantly urged her to rid herself of her useless mate by fair means or foul.

[84] The Laws of Manu make special provision for a woman who is childless owing to her husband’s fault.

[85] A good deal of the pseudo-scientific literature of their day even tells them that the orgasm is just as important to them as to the male, and lays such stress upon it that they may be forgiven for misunderstanding its real value to their lives.

[86] Women of a slightly more intellectual mould of mind generally become interested in some public movement or Cause, or begin to take up a new religion or philosophy, or express the desire to go in for acting at this stage. But the same forces are at work in them as in the woman described above—that is to say, their old environment having failed to procure them the whole physiological cycle which they need, their instincts urge them blindly to seek a fresh environment.

[87] Women are particularly prone to endeavour to rule in the home by means of this trick of giving their spouse a guilty conscience, and they do not mind much what words they use or abuse to achieve that end. The word “selfish,” however, is a very convenient word for this purpose, particularly if they happen to be dealing with a man who believes, as they do, that it has a meaning and that this meaning is offensive.

[88] All this time she may have been protesting consciously that she does not want children and that she is quite happy without them. It is her blind instinct and the impelling force of her dissatisfied reproductive organs that have been driving her (despite her conscious disinclination or indifference to motherhood) into situations in which she can be fertilized.

[89] To this anthropologists may object: What about the Australian Bushmen who did not associate the coitus with reproduction? True; but they knew that children came with marriage, although they did not know that the coitus had anything to do with their appearance. And the fact of being a married man would thus become inextricably mingled with the condition of paternity.

[90] Among the reasons given for the wife’s unfaithfulness there are of course a few that apply also to the husband. These the reader will readily pick out, and they do not require to be re-stated here. To give one example of these common reasons, however, I would remind the reader of the effect of the continued use of contraceptives on happy sexual relations.

[91] “H” signifies husband’s petition: “W” signifies wife’s.

[92] Unfortunately these figures were unobtainable, as for the previous years, distinct for husband and wife.

[93] Figures for the years 1913 and 1914 unobtainable.

[94] Priests of the Holy Catholic Church not included.

[95] As they include unmarried men, they are somewhat in excess of the correct figures for families, but the proportions between them would not be so very much affected by the omission of the unmarried.

[96] It is this omission to draw a sharp distinction between the proclivities of flourishing health and those of lack of health or of sub-normal health, that vitiates the arguments and conclusions in such books as Otto Weininger’s Sex and Character, and essays like Schopenhauer’s on Woman and The Metaphysics of Love. This omission is more particularly fatal to-day when negative people are becoming very much more numerous than positive people.

[97] The reason why women live in such dread of the man who can see through them, and endeavour to heap every kind of ignominy upon him, is that in their alleged “mystery” lies their power over the average man, and that their sentiments and insistence on a sentimental view of their sex, all help to furnish their arsenal with the weapons they can wield most effectively against man in general. The wonder is that they have been able to impose their view of the penetrating man upon the mass of British mankind.

[98] The same lack of caution probably led to his marriage; for, in view of the negative character of his constitution he is not likely to marry in order to meet the deep bodily need St. Paul speaks of.

[99] Truth to tell, the proud man is disliked nowadays. There is no place for him. The whole of the modern world is run and organized on such lines, that only the vain man and woman are regarded as desirable. The bulk of modern men are of the modest-vain type, who purr contentedly when their fellows smile upon them; hence the enormous increase in futile and meaningless orders and badges of honour in recent years, and the stampede there is to obtain them.

[100] In his House of the Dead, Dostoiewsky lays some stress on the frequent occurrence of vanity in criminals. See particularly Chapter I.

[101] It is this fact that makes the judgments of vain people so unreliable and worthless; because a vain person always judges all people, not according to their true worth, but according to the satisfaction his vanity has derived from them. Thus a genius who mortifies a vain man’s vanity (or a vain woman’s vanity) is called a “fool,” a “detestable fraud,” a “stuck-up, pretentious prig,” etc., etc. On the other hand, the fool who knows how to flatter is regarded as intelligent, understanding, perspicacious, knowledgeable, etc., etc., by the vain person. The whole of modern opinion, based as it largely is upon vain impulses, thus becomes quite worthless.

[Pg 229]

The Old Maid and Her Relation
to Society

One of the first facts to be remembered about the spinster, whether she be a positive or a negative woman, is that she is an abnormal being—just as the celibate priest is abnormal, and just as any non-reproductive adult animal is abnormal—and therefore that her impulses must inevitably find their adaptation in an abnormal manner.

This may be an unpleasant fact, and it may seem a hard thing to say; but we are not concerned here with what is pleasant, kind-hearted, or courteous. Our concern is much more to approach as nearly as we can to the truth on this matter; and since the phenomenon of spinsterhood is well known, to deal with it in a manner that will be useful to all those who wish to arrive at a better understanding of it.

Modern people have grown so emotional and sentimental as to truth in general, that it is becoming more and more difficult to deal in a straightforward way with subjects having unpleasant associations, or likely to lead to unpleasant conclusions, without incurring all kinds of imputations that are utterly irrelevant to an honest spirit of inquiry. The moment they leave the investigation of such obviously harmless subjects as chess or bridge, and turn their attention to human nature, modern people feel that the pursuit of truth must or ought to be directed more by a constant regard for good feeling, politeness and pleasantness, than by any rigorous endeavour to arrive at facts.

[Pg 230]

For instance, when the ordinary middle-class person of the present day hears it said that spinsters are abnormal, cannot help acting abnormally, and must therefore constitute an abnormal influence in society, he finds it difficult to resist the temptation to object indignantly: “Oh, but it isn’t their fault if they are spinsters—why say such hard things about them?”

It never occurs to such a person that the business of discovering the facts about a certain phenomenon is not an undertaking that can be trammelled by considerations either of gallantry or drawing-room etiquette, nor is it embarked upon with the object of apportioning praise or blame. The contention that it is not the spinster’s fault that she is a spinster, therefore, is no more relevant to an inquiry into spinsterhood, and ought no more to influence us in the conclusions at which we arrive concerning spinsterhood, than the fact that the germ of tuberculosis is not responsible for being the germ of tuberculosis ought to influence us in our inquiry into its relation to pulmonary phthisis.

I am quite prepared to admit without further ado that there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of noble and eminently desirable women in England to-day who have remained spinsters from deliberate choice. I have no doubt that if I had been a woman and had entertained anything approximately like my present opinion of modern men, I too would have remained a spinster, maybe from sheer nausea.[102] The majority of modern men are so very much below even a modest idea of what man should be, they have been so much besotted and debilitated through generations of unmanly labours and occupations, that it is not merely conceivable that many women[Pg 231] should prefer not to condescend, it is almost inconceivable that any woman can be found who imagines she has found her match. Let us clearly define, however, what we have set ourselves out to investigate. We have not undertaken in this chapter to show the multifarious reasons why a woman may elect spinsterhood as her rôle in life. We have undertaken the more important task of discovering her relation to society when once the rôle of spinster has been assumed. Whether she has remained a spinster from deliberate choice, therefore, or whether she is a spinster owing to the loss of her fiancé at sea or in a railway accident, matters but little. The fact is that, as the result of circumstances which may or may not have been beyond her control, she has remained unmarried. As a spinster she will inevitably develop characteristics more or less true to type. These characteristics will exercise some influence on her own life and that of others. It is this influence that we propose to consider, irrespective of the causes which brought the spinster herself into being.

From the outset, therefore, it is as well for everybody to bear this in mind in regard to spinsterhood in general, namely, that since the spinsters of any country represent a body of human beings who are not leading natural lives, and whose fundamental instincts are able to find no normal expression or satisfaction, it follows, on a priori grounds alone, apart from any question of evidence, which we may ultimately find for or against, that the influence of this body of spinsters on the life of the nation to which they belong, must be abnormal, and therefore contrary to the normal needs and the natural development of that nation. Moreover, since the abnormal, when it is not supernormal, tends constantly to gravitate into the morbid, it is not inconsistent with this principle, but rather a necessary conclusion from it, to say that the presence of a body of unadapted spinsters in any nation must exercise a morbid influence upon the life of that nation.

[Pg 232]

The attitude of the average thinker to this conclusion is, as a rule, to shrug his shoulders and to exclaim: “What would you do with them, poor things? They must live!” Certainly. And it is precisely because they must live that they cannot help exercising a baneful influence on the life of the community. The fact that modern society can offer no satisfactory solution of the surplus-woman question does not justify us in overlooking the evils which are the outcome of surplus women in our midst. The fact that we can devise no adaptation for them, does not relieve us of the duty of investigating the nature of the evils to which their non-adaptedness gives rise.

To concentrate upon the economic aspect of the question, and to say as many do, that provided these surplus women can support themselves, the problem of their lives, and the difficulty of their evil influence upon their nation, is entirely solved, is simply to draw a red herring across the path of our inquiry. For self-support is not even the consummation of the life of man. How then could it be the consummation of the life of woman, in whom a very much more elaborate equipment than man’s for a definite calling, demands a far more complicated range of bodily activities than any to which an occupation providing merely self-support can possibly lead? Self-support is never more than a means to an end. The needs of a full and complete life, therefore, cannot be met by self-support and the industry by which it is achieved.

Neither is it any satisfactory reply to the question, How can we correct or eliminate the evils of spinsterhood? to point to the number of spinsters who are doing what is called “useful work.” In the first place, it is always wise when such a plea is advanced, to inquire into the “useful” work in question, in order to discover (a) how much of it has been rendered necessary by the very existence of spinsters in large numbers, (b) how much of it is the creation of the spinsters themselves in their resolute insistence on acquiring some importance,[Pg 233] (c) how much of it is actually harmful, (d) how much of it is not essentially woman’s work at all. Finally, when these questions have been gone into with sufficient care, we find ourselves back at the old objection that, however useful the employment may be at which spinsters may be working, since it cannot thoroughly adapt them (except in the event of its conforming to two additional conditions which shall be discussed later),[103] it must leave them still abnormal members of the community, and therefore a morbid influence.

I propose to discuss the whole question of spinsterhood from the age when, in healthy girls, the condition begins to prove noticeably deleterious to health and spirits, to the time when, if marriage has not taken place, no fertilization can occur.

I therefore have for my subject the general question of spinsterhood, from the time when a virgin reaches the age of twenty-five, to the time when she is fifty or more. And very naturally I propose to concern myself not with spinsters in the legal sense, but only with spinsters who are entitled to the epithet intacta.

Proceeding along the accustomed lines, spinsters shall accordingly be classified as follows:—

(1) Positive virgins.

(2) Negative virgins.

—that is to say, (1) those whose bodies and instincts say “Yea” emphatically to life, and who will brook no negative compromise; and (2) those whose bodies and instincts are not sufficiently vital or sanguine insistently to demand the fulfilment of their destiny.

It is necessary to make this sharp distinction again, because it is the only way to be clear regarding the diversity of characteristics which are to be found among spinsters of all nations and climes.

In Chapter III, I dealt with the question of the origin of instinctive desire, or bodily impulse or wish. I showed how it arose from two possible sources:—

[Pg 234]

(a) An ancestral habit, leading to a predisposition to perform certain actions in a certain manner, or to function in a traditional way in complete conformity with the lines laid down by previous generations within a species.

(b) A certain correlation of bodily parts or organs, the possession of which in itself is sufficient to suggest and to enforce a particular course of conduct in its owner.

I showed that the blind will to function in a certain way, and the impulse to seek the means of functioning in a certain way, must arise, provided that these two conditions are present in an individual, and that his body is in a sufficiently tonic state for these conditions to operate normally.

Now in a woman the blind will to function as a mother finds its source in:—

(a) The long line of female ancestors who must have been mothers, and who therefore have established an ancestral maternal habit on the female side, which reaches the individual female with a considerable amount of accumulated momentum through the generations that have preceded her.

(b) A certain correlation of bodily parts—the large amount of space taken up in the female body by the organs connected directly or indirectly with procreation, the importance of these organs, and the elaborate nervous organization contrived to bring these organs into effective and harmonious action when once the proper start has been given.

(1) In the unmarried woman, therefore, whose body is sufficiently healthy and tonic to act normally, there are two forces incessantly impelling her to the employment of her important reproductive organs, of both of which forces she may be and usually is, childishly unconscious: they are (a) her ancestral bias or habit, and (b) the correlation of her bodily parts. The more perfectly formed she is and the more healthy she is, the more importunate will these forces be, and the less inclined will they show themselves to be put off without a struggle.

[Pg 235]

This woman or girl I shall call the positive spinster—that is to say, the type of unmarried female who says “Yea” emphatically to life, and whose tendency will always be to favour those opportunities, circumstances, and directions in her life which promise to lead her to motherhood and the normal functioning of her body.

(2) In the unmarried woman, however, whose body is not sufficiently healthy or tonic to act normally, there are the same forces present, driving her to employ her reproductive organs; but the insistence of these forces not being very great, the drive is hardly felt, or not felt at all. The ancestral habit, although the same of course, speaks with a fainter voice, and the correlation of organs which are less tonic and less healthy perforce generates a less impetuous impulse.

This woman or girl I shall call the negative spinster—that is to say, she is the type of unmarried female who either says “Nay” emphatically to life, and who will not hasten to seize opportunities that promise to lead to motherhood, or else she will be listless and apathetic about the whole matter, unconsciously so, and therefore consciously uninterested, unmoved by any of its aspects.

These two types of spinsters will now be examined separately.


She is usually a great conscious sufferer, sometimes both mentally and physically; for, while she possesses the physical equipment for marriage in a highly tonic condition, with all the potential virtues of the mother, this equipment and these virtues never have the opportunity of deploying their power.

She may, at the cost of great pains, develop other virtues and other adaptations; but the fact to be remembered about her is, that the functions for which she is best fitted and the virtues which are most essentially hers, cannot be used in her life.

Whatever else she may become—that is always her[Pg 236] second calling. Her true vocation will have been missed. What perfection soever she may attain in her second calling, will always be inferior to that which she would certainly have shown in the calling for which she was primarily and chiefly endowed.

In addition, however, to the extra fatigue, worry, pains and distaste always connected with pursuing a vocation not primarily one’s own, she herself will always feel and reveal the disillusionment and bitter regret of one who is conscious of having been designed for something different. The mood of the artist whom circumstances have compelled to adopt accountancy for a livelihood, will be her constant mood.

In addition to being a person pursuing a wrong vocation, in this sense, however, she will feel something more than the artist who is doomed to accountancy. She will feel “out of it,” as the popular expression has it—outside that which is most thrilling, most enthralling, and most universally interesting, outside the main Stream of Life itself.

All of us, as we look around and behold our big cities, our municipal authorities and their offices, our streets, our traffic on those streets, our railways, our Parliament, our system of Judicature, our industries, our commerce, and finally the land beyond with all its agricultural and mining activities; all of us who can with one sweeping glance comprehend the immensely vast and intricate activities which go to make a modern nation, have sometimes a lucid moment when we can abstract from the wild and confusing tangle of our environment the idea of the purpose for which it is all there, the idea of the force for which it is organized—in short the underlying fact which gives the city, the country beyond, and all the activities we see, a sense, a genuine meaning.

This purpose, this force, this fact, is the Stream of Life that runs through our organized State, and to which all these activities, all these complex conditions, do but minister. The factory is thus beheld, not as an end in[Pg 237] itself, but like art, like railways, like the bus service and the Government, it is only an instrument serving the most important thing of all, the Stream of Life, Human Life.

Now it is precisely from this most important thing of all that the spinster feels herself most radically and hopelessly severed. She may minister to it indirectly, through the factory, the municipal or Government offices, the studio, the nursery or the scientific professions; but her importance will be commensurate with the relation she bears to it. She is one step removed from the main stream, she does not directly flow with it; before the most important thing on earth, the thing that gives everything else its sense, she is and can only be a spectator. This is the additional anguish she must feel as a creature cheated of her proper calling. The artist with whom we have compared her, who suffers the mortifying experience of pursuing a vocation (accountancy) not his own, may after all be flowing with the Stream of Life, and form part of it. The additional anguish of being “out of it,” in this sense, he need not necessarily feel. He experiences only half the spinster’s spiritual distress.

Nor will it necessarily console her, or reconcile her to her relatively unimportant fate as spectator, to point to the pain, the passion, the disappointment, the hardships, the disease and the poverty that lash the main Stream of Life like a flail. If she is honest, she will tell you just what everybody else feels—that she would risk all these things to be in it.

But there is yet something more she endures, which the artist doomed to accountancy is spared. Provided he be wise and observes the essential rules of hygiene and sound diet, there is no reason, despite his abandoned mission, why his body should suffer very severely. While he may deplore his wasted capacity for art, he may nevertheless live a healthy sexual life and become a happy father.

The positive spinster, on the other hand, cannot well escape the physical penalty of her total sexual abstinence.[Pg 238] The rebuff offered to her reproductive system by the long, endless wait is neither passed over by Nature nor forgiven. Such elaborate preparations as have been made in her body for a specific consummation cannot end in nothing, without certain very definite reactions, which it is neither fanciful nor fantastic, but rather helpful, to describe collectively as a profound physiological disappointment. The fact that this physiological disappointment does not enter consciousness as a disappointment has nothing whatever to do with its reality.

The energy that has been waiting and waiting to be used endeavours to discharge itself. Since it cannot find the customary and normal channels of discharge, it disperses itself erratically along any channel that it can find—usually the nerves—and it does this angrily because of the impetus it has acquired through being checked. The thwarted instincts show their revolt in internal conflict with the other instincts of life, and may be so powerful as to convert a girl hitherto consistently yea-saying into a radical nay-sayer, or a suicide.[104] Hence the strong tendency to suicide in very positive girls between the ages of fifteen and twenty, when the passions are most impetuous, and waiting leads to the maximum amount of conflict.[105] The fact that the number of suicides[Pg 239] among women increases where their occupations bring them in contact with men, and that the same association with men also increases their tendency to lunacy and criminality,[106] supports the view that the physiological expectancy, by being increased owing to the presence of a strong sexual stimulus, leads to a greater conflict when it is disappointed.

The discharge of the sexual energy along nervous channels may lead to every variety of neuropathic symptoms. The woman may become the victim of phobias, obsessions, melancholia, morbid self-contempt, or morbid self-esteem (narcissism), facial tics, other spasms, insomnia, vicious secret habits, and hallucinations. Owing to the fact that other parts of her body, away from her sexual organs (the throat, œsophagus, or bowel, etc.), may attempt to find compensation for the inexperienced sexual sensations, she may find a morbid pleasure in consuming highly condimented foods, or foods which she can swallow in a bulky bolus[107]—bananas, new bread, pastry, insufficiently masticated hard foods, such as bread-crusts, apples, and even raw vegetables. This propensity, while quickly inducing indigestion, may, by giving a false appetite, cause her to be taken for a glutton. A case has been known of a girl who, addicted to this method of pseudo-sexual satisfaction, used to employ artificial means of vomiting up her food, like the more dissipated Romans of old, in order to be able to enjoy a[Pg 240] fresh bout of swallowing.[108] The effects of this kind of abuse upon the alimentary canal may well be imagined, and even where it is not carried to extremes, must in the long run lead to all the most distressing forms of chronic dyspepsia.

Furthermore, the instinctive effort which every woman will make, in cases of vague physiological distress, to conceal her bodily misery from her friends and relatives, frequently leads to consistent affectation. It is not necessary that the nature of the bodily misery should have reached consciousness in order that affectation, as a means of concealment, should be indulged in. It is sufficient that the physiological distress should have been communicated vaguely as distress to the brain. From the moment this has occurred there will be a tendency in all brave women, who incline to show a bold and happy face to the world, to practise every kind of affectation. Their speech, their voice and even their laugh will strike their friends as over-strained or peculiar. Some will habitually make strange grimaces, others will smile in a set, exaggerated way, or over-emphasize their horror at objects disliked and their pleasure at objects approved. The affectation may even affect their gait, so that they will walk with a bold manly stride in which an unconscious attempt will be made to demonstrate to the outside world excessive self-assurance and happy adaptation, in order to conceal the reverse of these feelings which are agitating their spirits. As time goes on these affectations will become fixed habits that no training and no changes in environment can remove.

There may be attempts at sterile compensation, taking the form of an excessive fondness for children, or a desire to fondle or to have power over them. This is particularly obnoxious, and entirely justifies psychologists like Dr. E. Jones in strongly deprecating the too exclusive[Pg 241] teaching of children by unmarried teachers.[109] It may look very sweet to behold the spinster of from twenty-five to forty manifesting her affection for a child and kissing, nursing or instructing it. But when it is remembered that the spinster in question is not merely giving herself very well-defined pleasure by the immediate touch of the soft downy skin of the child, or by the sense of power over it, but may also be rousing in the child itself certain pleasurable feelings, or certain notions, that do not fail to become registered on its memory, and may induce either regrettable sexual precocity or a distorted view of life,[110] the behaviour of the spinster appears in a less innocuous light. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that such attempts at sterile compensation by unmarried women are hard to prevent; for the spinster’s action at such times is quite unconscious, and she is usually so far from realizing what she is doing, that if you were to enlighten her upon her conduct she would be both indignant and disgusted. There can be little doubt, however, that the spinster’s strong predilection in favour of the teacher’s calling is largely due to this blind pursuit of some kind of power over the young.

There may also be attempts at compensation with members of the same sex—not necessarily in the form of vicious unnatural relations, but in the nature of patronizing friendship with younger girls. Spinsters in[Pg 242] the wealthy classes who organize and direct girls’ clubs are usually seeking compensation of this kind, and receive a tremendous amount of credit for humanitarian motives, of which they are entirely innocent. Nevertheless, the misinterpretation of the crowd, which takes their action to be humanitarian, is eagerly seized and adopted by them, because it helps them to give a definite description to the merely compensatory character of their interest in the club, which even they themselves do not, of course, understand.

Among the more wealthy spinsters, there may also be attempts at compensation through frankly humanitarian propaganda, through the endowment or enriching of humanitarian institutions, or through humanitarian labours. This is usually expressed by a very deep concern about the welfare of animals, or the poor, or the babes of the poor, or anything over which the assumption of power constitutes an easy and uncompromising matter. We should remember that the relationship of mother to child derives more than half its exquisite pleasure for the female from the fact that it is a relationship of almost absolute power. This instinct to wield power, therefore, which forms an essential factor in female psychology in its relation to the helpless, and which explains the regret most mothers feel when their children are first able to run about and become independent, has to be reckoned with in the psychology of the spinster. If it cannot in her find its normal expression, it will seek compensation in every possible way, and since humanitarian interests offer an uncompromising outlet for its exercise, humanitarian interests are naturally in very great favour among the spinsters of all classes.

Intimately connected with humanitarian pursuits, particularly when they are adopted with frenzied resolution, is however another and less inviting psychological factor. The theory that males and females contain in their constitution certain elements, more or less accentuated, of the other sex, is now so widely accepted that it has become a commonplace in all speculations upon[Pg 243] the sex question. Now among the characteristics which most frequently manifest themselves in women of marked male tendencies is a proneness to sadistic expressions of the sex instinct. The habit of teasing among hysterical girls, and even among female children not yet pubescent, is a sign of this.[111] In the normal life of the married female these sadistic impulses become sublimated either by the action of the stronger male upon her psyche and physique (which draws the masochistic elements in her to the fore) or by the natural expression of her power over her baby or babies. In the unmarried female, or the female without offspring, these sadistic impulses have to be repressed or curbed. The peaceful and orderly expression of them in modern society is hardly possible. But we are told by psychologists that an overpowered instinct asserts itself in an obverse character.[112] In spinsters, therefore, we should expect the sadistic elements in the happiest circumstances to become inverted into intense humanitarianism.[113]

This explains why we so frequently encounter middle-aged spinsters whose hard metallic faces and cruel cold eyes seem so utterly out of keeping with their ardent participation in humanitarian movements of all kinds. I remember one occasion when I happened to call on a lady of this kind. I was appalled by the terrifying hardness of her features, and yet, I must say, I was not in the least surprised when, in the course of the conversation, she asked me (I ought to mention the district where she[Pg 244] lived was a very hilly one) whether I did not suffer at the sight of the poor horses in the neighbourhood. These women, who frequently have hearts of stone, nevertheless find compensation for the repression of their sadistic impulses in the exercise of the most ungovernable and most obsessional humanitarianism and sentimentality, but while their neighbours and the local clergy applaud their lives to the echo, no one has the smallest inkling of the true nature of the phenomenon. A child would tell at a glance that these humanitarian and sentimental ladies were not radically kind by nature, and those who live with them every day would probably confirm the child’s first impression; but such is the distrust in England of what the eye can read, and so great and instantaneous is the respect for humanitarian zeal, particularly when it is backed by a heavy banking account, that these women frequently die leaving a big reputation for warm-heartedness behind them.

The fact that this feverish humanitarianism and sentimentality are frequently most mischievous in their effects and create a number of national abuses, besides involving the expenditure of large sums of money on what are frequently the least desirable and least promising elements in the nation, is concealed beneath the dramatic munificence of the wealthy spinster’s life.[114]

In the wealthy classes, as the result of their superior[Pg 245] cultivation, the compensation frequently takes an active intellectual form, and when, owing to the vague consciousness of enduring a great grievance (common to most positive spinsters who have not successfully sublimated their reproductive instincts), misanthropy supervenes, there may arise a very pronounced sex-antagonism, leading the spinsters who have developed it to engage in pursuits, or in intellectual pastimes, where they feel they can clash with men, or where they know they can resist or impede men in the natural business of their lives. Spinsters seeking this kind of compensation frequently derive great satisfaction from misogamist meditations. They will display a morbid interest in arguments against marriage, in the statistics of insanity or disease among married women, and in the evidence of excessive parturition (leading to debility) among the wives of the poor. They will exercise their influence to convert young girls to misanthropy, to misogamy, or at least to an indifference to men; and if they can achieve this end, under a religious cloak (which is not difficult with passionate young girls of eighteen, whose “vague voluminous and powerful feelings, if afforded means to do so, settle down and concentrate on a single object,”[115]), they justify themselves[Pg 246] on the score that they have led such young girls into paths of purity and devotion.[116]

It would be impracticable here to deal with all the possible manifestations of sex-repression in the female celibate. They have been discussed very fully by other authors, and in detail they would serve no purpose in this book. I have contented myself with hinting broadly at those morbid results of sex-repression in the positive virgin which, while not leading to definite lunacy or insanity, are yet common enough to demand consideration in a discussion upon the spinster’s relation to society; but let not any reader imagine that in the outline given above there has been any desire to dwell upon the black side of a picture which from whatever angle it be viewed cannot at best be a pleasant one. There is a good deal of strong feeling among the majority of people to-day against the belief that sex-repression need necessarily have bad results. These people say that the school of psycho-analysts have grossly exaggerated the facts about the phenomena, and have drawn an unnecessarily lurid description of them. But surely the question is one concerning which it would be suicidal in a scientist to exaggerate or overstate his case. Is it not after all common sense?

Years ago—or to be precise in the year 1840—de Quincey, comparing the mental diseases that arise from excessive expression with those that come from insufficient expression, or the non-expression, of deep sensibilities, wrote as follows concerning this matter:

“Amongst the Quakers (who may be regarded as a monastic people) anomalous forms of nervous derangement are developed, the secret principle of which turns ... upon feelings too much repelled and driven in.[Pg 247] Morbid suppression of deep sensibilities must lead to states of disease equally terrific, and possibly even less tractable; not so sudden and critical it may be, but more settled and gloomy.”[117]

This anticipates most of what modern psychology has discovered about repression, and can be applied just as legitimately to repression in the physical as in the psychical sphere. But a very much earlier record of the same common-sense view about repression, or non-expression of natural appetites and sensibilities, is to be found in Aristotle’s Poetics, where the doctrine of catharsis constitutes the kernel of all that modern psychologists would claim in regard to this particular aspect of civilized humanity.

As the life of the individual female is prolonged, and the tone of her reproductive organs depreciates through the deleterious influence of long idle waiting, there occurs an abatement of the unconscious influences impelling the positive spinster to seek a fuller life. A sort of passive adaptation to abnormality takes place in which a balance is attained, and the restless and more afflicting symptoms become accordingly less acute. But, with the decline in sexual vigour and alertness, there is a corresponding falling off of good spirits, hopefulness, and the love of life, and frequently there supervenes a pronounced distaste for human concerns or a general depression, which makes the spinster the proverbially embittered female of popular tradition. The more positive she was at the outset, the more likely is this revulsion of feeling to appear in an intolerable form—hence the common occurrence of embittered spinsters on the Continent, where women are, as a rule, more positive than in England.

[Pg 248]

Indeed, it can usually be taken for granted that where Nature has been thwarted without any dire results, Nature was not originally very strong, or not assertive enough to offer very severe resistance. The presence of thousands of very cheerful and completely adapted spinsters in England, therefore, far from being a good sign, is in reality a very deplorable one; for it argues that in them Nature was not powerful enough to offer any determined fight before allowing herself to be completely conquered.

There are but two possible exceptions to this rule, and they occur where the reproductive instinct has been subjected to the process known to psychologists as sublimation. This innocuous transmutation of the sex appetite and emotions may be effected either by means of Christianity (religious fervour)[118] or Alcohol (dypsomania). When either of these potent sublimators of the sex impulse has come into operation, it is no longer safe to argue from the spectacle of a cheerful and happy spinster of middle age, that in her Nature was not very strong from the start. But, again, the fact should be emphasized that with the spread of enlightenment on the one hand, and the general decline in vigorous health on the other, these hitherto unfailing means of sex-sublimation are becoming ever less and less accessible to the women of the nation. A generation has arisen on whom the fundamental tenets of the old faith have lost their hold, and in whom, therefore, it is becoming ever more and more difficult for Christianity to become a burning substitutive passion; while this same generation can no longer undertake the alcoholic cure, owing to the fact that human health is no longer what it was.[119]

[Pg 249]

Before proceeding to a discussion of the negative spinster, I now propose to consider one aspect only of the positive unmarried girl of the poorer or working classes.

There can be little doubt that in her case, very much more frequently than in the case of the well-to-do spinster, compensation is sought in some kind of illicit relation to the males either of her own class or of the class above. The statistics of prostitution alone show what an enormous contribution the women of the poorer or working classes make to the ranks of the courtesans in Europe; and seeing what the alternative usually is—that is to say, a life of drudgery unrelieved by any brighter element and aggravated by all the evils of unsuccessful repression—it is not surprising that among the more positive girls of the poorer classes, particularly in towns, there are many who go to swell the army of fast women.

But at this point it will be necessary for me to digress a little in order to make quite clear my own standpoint in regard to this very vexed question of prostitution. For it is only an evil in modern Western Civilization because people insist on making it so.

Our civilization stands or falls as a whole. The intricate adjustments which constitute its fabric, and the minute ramifications that wander in all directions from every centre in its complicated organization to every other centre, and sometimes to every other civilization, lend to its various parts a character so interdependent and mutually subservient, that it is no longer possible to lay hold of any important portion of it, with a view to condemnation, without thereby condemning the whole.

The comfortable and short-sighted people who, from the security of their smug homes, point a finger of censure at prostitution, therefore, have not as a rule the imaginations or the knowledge to realize that in so doing they are bringing an indictment against the whole order of society, including their own pathetic fastnesses of bourgeois luxury and morality.

If prostitution exists on a large scale in modern Europe,[Pg 250] and prostitution is wrong, then the civilizations of modern Europe are wrong, and it is fatuous to point to the most obvious sore, when the whole pig is diseased. Nobody nowadays denies, perhaps, that the whole pig is diseased? Then it is absurd to moan over this one sore.

But why is so much fuss made precisely about prostitution on its sexual side? There is the prostitution of healthy rosy-fingered youth in hundreds of other walks of life, and nobody, or scarcely anybody, stirs to point it out. The young girls who to-day are sent by their parents at the age of sixteen to twenty to bow their heads for forty-three hours a week before a typewriter, or a ledger, or a stamping, cutting or folding machine, get ill just as quickly, lose their beauty just as surely, and grow depressed and spiritless just as rapidly, as the sexual prostitute, and they get only a sixteenth or less of the prostitute’s entertainment out of life into the bargain. Watch the career of the girl who sells herself to the modern taskmaster of commerce or industry! Could anything be more tragic? Could any satyr bring about grosser degradation of health and spirits? What sympathy or horror or righteous indignation can you rouse in the moral toads, who inveigh against prostitution, by pointing to the rounded shoulders, the loveless life, the listless eyes, the bloodless cheeks and hands of the typewriter or other machine drudge? None!

They reply that the typist’s worn-out looks, her lost beauty, her faded youth, her hopeless expression and outlook, are not the result of a life of immorality, therefore she is honourable, therefore she need not be rescued, therefore everything is all right, therefore nothing need be done.

But enough! The wide-awake will see at once that there is cant in the very frown that is vouchsafed to sexual prostitution—cant, the inevitable ingredient of every movement and every counter-movement in these islands.[120]

[Pg 251]

The evils of prostitution are no greater and no more tragic than those of any other form of exploitation of the individual. That which unnecessarily aggravates the horrors of the public courtesan’s life in England is not necessarily the natural consequences of the life itself, but the whole attitude of the community and of the legislature to the question of prostitution in general.[121]

Society in England seems resolutely determined not to face and answer the question: Is prostitution necessary or unnecessary? If it is necessary to the kind of civilization we have evolved, then the only honourable, the only humane, the only magnanimous course to take, is to face it bravely and honestly, and do all we can for those women who are contributing their lives to a public service, just as we do all we can for soldiers and sailors in war-time, and for all public workers who perform useful and dangerous duties for the public weal. If it is unnecessary, then steps should be taken to find out why it continues to exist, what flaw in our social system accounts for its survival, despite the fact that it is superfluous; and how that flaw can be best removed.

The general consensus of opinion among European legislators and the European public must be to the effect that prostitution is necessary. It is inconceivable that it should be allowed to survive as flourishingly as it does in England and on the Continent, if public opinion and the legislators in each country could find no excuse for it. What is still more inconceivable, however, is the diabolical[Pg 252] hypocrisy of a public, which at the same time tacitly assents to it as a social need, and yet covers with shame and contempt those who devote their lives to making it possible.

Truth to tell, there are many grave reasons why prostitution[122] still constitutes a necessary adjunct to our topsy-turvy, hare-brained social system, and as long as it remains as topsy-turvy and hare-brained as it is, the prostitute will continue to be indispensable. In view of this fact, it is but rational, not to mention humane, to regard with more solicitude and charity those who from what motive, or through what circumstances soever, supply the means for its existence.

I will touch but lightly on two aspects of society which seem to contribute chiefly to the causes making prostitution a public necessity. I refer to (a) the virgin ideal in marriage, or parthenogamy, and (b) the economic system which compels thousands among the men of the struggling classes to marry at a date very much later than their physiological development would indicate as reasonable.[123]

(a) In order to preserve the custom of parthenogamy in conjunction with (b) it is obvious that there must be some safety-valve, some outlet for the expression of virile passions, which while being normal is capable of safeguarding a certain large body of virgins annually, and of preserving them from pre-connubial amours. The fact that, at present, this safety-valve or outlet, though countenanced by society, is entirely neglected, despised and concealed by the public, and is thus allowed to breed[Pg 253] many evils which are not necessary to prostitution per se, is not so much a reflection on the prostitute as upon the administration which leaves this department of social life utterly uncared for and unorganized.

(b) Apart altogether from the fact that late marriages resulting from economic pressure necessitate the existence of some relief measure which will preclude the deleterious alternative of repression, or unnatural vice, in young men; for the adolescent, as we have seen in the Chapter on Marriage, it is highly desirable that there should be some school, some opportunity for experience in sexual relations, as there was in ancient Greece, for instance, in which the young male, in addition to finding the means of healthily delaying marriage, may also acquire that mastery in the mysteries of life without which his future marriage may very seriously suffer. It is one of the most scandalous features of modern society that, while this relief measure and this school are allowed to exist, nothing is done to protect either the women who supply its personnel, or the young men who resort to it, from all the worst consequences of promiscuity and vice.

The old moralists or moralizers of the nineteenth century, now thank goodness rapidly becoming extinct, used to justify this scandal by arguing that the dangers attending the recourse to the prostitute served a good purpose in two respects: (1) They offered a strong inducement to sexual abstinence among young men, and (2) they cast the well-merited stigma of shame and disease upon those women who ministered to these young men’s ungovernable passions.

It is now no longer possible either medically or psychologically to support (1), consequently the cold-blooded moral inference in (2) falls to the ground. The evils of abstinence among men are certainly in this country more serious than those of indulgence, while the evils resulting from a total absence of experience in sexual matters among young men are perhaps the worst of all.

The present obvious duty of civilization, therefore,[Pg 254] short of so revolutionizing society as to make parthenogamy a thing of the past, and late marriages unnecessary, is to see that the sexual relief measure and school that the modern world provides for its young men are placed upon a sounder, a purer and a more humane basis, free from the ignorant bias of puritanical busy-bodies, and secured from the dangers that now attend them.

It only remains now to say a word on the position of the prostitute herself. From the psychological and physical point of view the sadness of her plight does not reside, as the Puritans of England suppose, in the moral turpitude of her lot, or in her loathing of it—for that is simply high-falutin’ nonsense.[124] It resides in the fact that her very taste for her calling, or the very desire that drew her into it—that she herself in fact—is a physiological misunderstanding. Her calling, like that of the childless married woman, presupposes that she will have to cry “Halt!” to a physiological process in her being, which only finds its first step in the coitus. By a false analogy with man’s sexual life the orgasm, which to woman is only the beginning of a long cycle of sex-experiences which end with the weaning of the child, is the only part of the female cycle which is vouchsafed her. Like the barren woman, she is denied the whole of the subsequent stages of the cycle, so rich in delightful experiences to her, and continues like a man to confine herself to orgasms—orgasms ad infinitum.[125]

It is this that constitutes the sad side of the prostitute’s life. If she have a tragedy, this is her tragedy. But for fear lest, prompted by vague moral prejudices, we feel tempted to make too much even of this aspect of her life—generally[Pg 255] overlooked, by the by, in all dissertations I have read about her—we should remember that she shares this sad experience not only with thousands of spinsters, but also with thousands of married women who, from some cause or other, frequently economic pressure, are compelled to remain childless.[126]

From the national point of view, the feature about modern prostitution (apart from the evils incidental to it which are preventable) which is most strongly to be deprecated, is the fact that, since it is from working-class girls that its ranks are largely recruited, the danger is that it is upon the most temperamental and most positive of these girls—upon the most desirable of these girls, therefore—that the temptation to illicit relations with men is likely to exercise the most potent influence.


I now come to the consideration of the negative spinster, and when once I shall have dealt with her, a few remarks about the characteristics common both to the positive and negative spinster will conclude the chapter.

The negative spinster, unlike her positive sister, is not a great conscious sufferer from her condition. She may[Pg 256] ail as the result of constitutional debility incidental to the inferior vitality which causes her to be negative; but, from the absence of that element in her life which consummates a woman’s destiny, she will not be conscious of suffering very severely.

The physical equipment for marriage, and the traditional impetus derived from the ancestral habits of her sex, are both present in her, but their urge is faint, the inner voice, far from being loud and insistent, is barely audible, and she is harassed by little of that importunacy on the part of her reproductive organs which compels her sister either to adapt herself normally to life, or else to seek compensations and to develop acute nervous symptoms in so doing.

Her own and her friends’ failure to recognize the true nature of her condition, however, frequently, if not invariably, leads to misinterpretations of her precise value as an individual which are as gross as they are dangerous—gross because they apply moral values to a condition that is primarily physical, dangerous because they lead the rest of the world into a misunderstanding concerning the importance of a normal sexual life to the individual, and the worth of life generally.

These misinterpretations, particularly in England and America, usually take one or all of the following forms:

(1) Miss A, the negative spinster in question, may regard herself, and be regarded by others, as above the ordinary impulses of her positive sister, so that she and others may draw a moral from her condition, and argue that, by means of exercising sufficient self-control, and preoccupying the mind sufficiently with “elevated” thoughts, the sex-impulse is easily overcome without any dire results whatsoever.

(2) Miss A may regard herself, and be regarded by others, as too “pure” for sexual impulses, so that, far from needing to repress or suppress the fleshy “demons” within her, she soars to an altitude too lofty to be reached by them.

[Pg 257]

(3) Miss A may regard herself, and be regarded by others, as indifferent to men, so that she is able to assume an attitude of philosophical detachment towards the main stream of Life, which she contemplates from a distance as a mildly amused and sometimes scoffing spectator.

(4) Miss A may convince herself, and convince others, that sex-impulses, because they do not happen to be noticeable in her, are a pure—or rather, an impure illusion. She may argue, and induce others to argue with her, that the power of these impulses is absurdly exaggerated by modern psychology, and that she herself is the best proof of this absurd exaggeration.

As I have pointed out, these misinterpretations are gross, and they are also dangerous. They are gross, in the first place, because they take no cognizance of the fact that Miss A is a different creature from her positive sister, an inferior and a less tonic creature, and secondly because they give what is really a lamentable condition a falsely enviable character by concealing its true nature beneath a number of high-falutin’ euphemisms.

This procedure is dangerous for the following reasons:

(a) The Miss A’s of this world, particularly of this English world, are increasing at such an alarming rate that very soon Miss A will be the normal woman, and by being held up as the normal woman and the normal ideal, will mislead the ignorant regarding the most valuable type of woman.

(b) To regard a person as above a normal human passion, when she is constitutionally and congenitally beneath it, is to lend a power and an influence to degenerates which must contaminate the national outlook on all that is desirable in life.

(c) To be deceived into imagining that Miss A has achieved by self-control what her inferior physique has made inevitable is again to grant her a quality which, by becoming associated with her type, loses all its instructional worth, besides attributing to her a spurious value.

[Pg 258]

(d) To accept Miss A’s alleged “purity” as a fact is to remove from purity all its positive, potent value. The pure virgin is she whose pride and self-mastery together have protected her from condescending except to the man who has thoroughly captivated her heart, her imagination, her sense of the ideal, and her body. But Miss A is not pure in this sense at all. She is simply virgo intacta because no deep instinct, no deep impulse, no wild desire, has ever driven her forth to seek her normal adaptation.

(e) To accept Miss A’s mild amusement at life as that of a creature who, having tasted and tested all life’s joys, concludes that they are worthless, is to run the danger of scorning life without the advantage of Miss A’s inferior physique to help one—an experiment which, if one is positive, can only lead to disastrous results. The fact that Miss A’s influence on young girls may lead many to try the experiment is one of the most perilous consequences of the negative spinster’s existence in our midst. She, in her own person, constitutes a lure to the negation of life’s joys, to the contempt of the body and its demands, and to the disdain of the other sex, which is next door to sex-antagonism. Her mind is merely an instrument seeking intellectual justifications for her body’s inferiority.

So much for the misunderstandings of the negative spinster’s true nature, and their corresponding dangers. We may now examine her outlook a little more narrowly, in order that we may recognize her when we meet her, and measure her various boasts at their proper worth.

She will usually gravitate almost automatically to the Christian Church, and become an eager exponent of its principles and an ardent supporter of its work. She will do this, not because, like her positive sister, she will require to sublimate impetuous reproductive instincts, that will find expression, but because the negative character of the Church’s teaching will naturally appeal to her, and strike her as offering to people like herself a philosophy which might have been “cut to measure.”

[Pg 259]

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”[127]

“Flesh is death, Spirit is life and peace. The body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If ye live after the flesh, ye shall die, but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.”[128]

“For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God.... So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”[129]—And so on ad infinitum.

These texts will appeal to her. They will help her to a conviction, to which she is already predisposed—that she is more godly than her positive sister, and superior to the rest of the fleshy world. She will notice that “body” in the text from Romans is spelt with a small b, whereas Spirit appears in the pompous parade dress of a capital letter. She will understand this perfectly. She instinctively thinks of her body with a small b, and of her great, lofty spirit with a capital S.

What effort is it for her to mortify the flesh, seeing that her own flesh came to her half mortified by nature? (See Gal. v. 24.)

Like the positive spinster, she is conscious of her own unimportance, of being cut off from the main stream of Life, consequently she exerts every effort—even at the risk of making herself a perfect nuisance—to prove herself most important. She will try to be foremost in the work of the Church, in the work of the parish, or in the work of the Borough Council. If she be wealthy she will endow special missions, and back missionaries with more zeal, but with a far more disastrous result, than that with which most people back horses. What does she know[Pg 260] about the virtues, the good order, the content, the peace of Indian women, Chinese women, or the females of the Mohammedan harem? She lives in a country, England, where there is more misery, more disorder, more sickness and more misunderstanding in connexion with sex than in any country on earth; and yet by means of her wealth she is determined to guarantee that this same misery, chaos, sickness and misunderstanding shall be spread by her minions, the missionaries, to every quarter of the globe.[130]

She will interfere with anything and everything, quite irrespective of her qualifications, provided she can leave no doubt in anybody’s mind as to her extreme importance.

Unlike her positive sister, who is generally too busy mastering or sublimating her sex-impulses to think of much else, she will watch the world of the flesh with perfectly unconscious but bitter envy. She will think, as St. Paul did, that it were good for them if they could “abide even as I,” and all her activities, all her influences, all her money, will be directed towards favouring her type and its multiplication.

She will tend to spend her time with the people over whom it is easiest to exercise power—the sick, the crippled, the blind, the very poor, the inmates of prisons, and the very aged or the very young. She will profess that she loves the poor, never dreaming that it is the power that is so easily exercised over them that is sweet to her. She is of course hopeless at self-analysis, and even when these[Pg 261] facts are pointed out to her, she is intellectually too dishonest to acknowledge their truth.

While professing a love of all humanity, she will secretly cherish a loathing for men, for, where all sex-impulses are absent, the natural and radical hostility of the sexes (as seen in healthy little boys and girls, and in animals) finds its full expression. She will always suspect men of grossness and brutality, and never realize the staggering brutality of her own thoughts about them, and her own secret wishes regarding them. Whatever their politics or patriotism may be, the hearts of all decent positive females are so tortured by war and the death of men that war involves, that during a long tragedy like the last War all warm-hearted women longed only for one thing, and that was the conclusion of hostilities at the earliest possible moment. Not so the negative spinster. She perceived in the war a means of expressing her loathing of men under the noble mantle of patriotism, and she did not scruple to go so far as to agitate for its prolongation as long as possible.[131] These women could be seen during the war eating their breakfasts with gusto, while their newspaper, folded to present the Roll of Honour to their view, was propped up against the milk jug.

But where the negative spinster most thoroughly deceives the world is in her cheerfulness and general absence of any signs of faulty or unhappy adaptation. People behold her and are wont to exclaim, “See, here is a woman who has had none of those experiences which[Pg 262] psychologists assure us are so essential to the happiness of the female, and yet she is the embodiment of good cheer and general contentedness!” True! But such people do not know how to distinguish the negative from the positive spinster, and by confounding the two assume too readily that it is possible, when sex-impulses have been impetuous and insistent, to have ignored and flouted them without any more serious result than a pleasant, contented, and thoroughly peaceful smile.

The distressing fact is that the number of these women who in England cheerfully survive a life in which their most important organs and instincts have been wholly neglected and spurned, is increasing at such a rate that there is hardly a circle in England that cannot boast of one or two of them. And seeing that their existence is only possible where reproductive impulses are low, atonic, and seriously below standard, their increase is one of the surest indications we possess of the declining vitality of our race.[132]

Although, in the negative spinster, the sex-impulses are hardly audible to her consciousness, she reveals in her actions many of the motivations of her positive sister. On a lower key, for instance, she may seek compensations of all kinds for the absence of sex-expression; the only feature that will distinguish her behaviour along this line from that of her positive sister will be the inferior zeal or fanaticism with which she enters into the particular compensatory occupation or activity adopted.

She may show the same fondness for children, but in an attenuated form; she may reveal the same delight in acquiring power over them, both bodily and spiritually; she may manifest the usual sadistic tendencies, with their inverted correlatives, humanitarianism, extreme sentimentality,[Pg 263] and hyper-sensitiveness, and she may show the same general misanthropy, overlapping her sex-antagonism. In the negative spinster, however, all these symptoms are likely to be very much more faint than in her positive sister; nevertheless, she is just as likely as the latter to die honoured and respected by her Church and the community, for the “unselfish” humanitarianism of her life, and the warm-heartedness she showed to everything that was feeble, degenerate, botched, sick, very young, very aged, dumb, blind, poor or utterly helpless.


The thousands of spinsters of all classes who are now achieving “independence,” both in commerce and industry—not to mention the professions[133]—naturally only increase the acuteness of the economic difficulties which make their self-support a necessity; for, by competing with male labour they only aggravate the severity of the struggle, and increase ever further and further the age at which men can safely undertake matrimony. In this sense alone the influence of the spinster on our economic life is a very serious one.

If, in heightening the fury of the economic war, she achieved her own adaptation and contentedness; if in complicating the economic difficulties of large societies, she achieved any specific result, valuable to the community and unobtainable without her, her presence would be as much a boon as is that of the mother, or any other active contributor to the main stream of Life. But,[Pg 264] seeing that she neither succeeds in securing her own happiness, nor in promoting the happiness of the society in which she finds herself—for, apart from nursing, domestic service and certain trades connected with drapery and women’s and children’s apparel, it is difficult to point to any extra-domestic occupation that is typically women’s work—it is doubtful whether she may not be regarded as a burden on the community and an aggravation of its already enormous problems.

It should not be forgotten that industry, commerce, the professions and the Civil Service are but institutions organized for the purposes of Life. The main stream of Life certainly runs through them, and derives its security, its relative permanence and its fluency from their harmonious functions, but they exist for Life, and not Life for them. It is Life that is important, the channels through which it flows are only significant, as auxiliary to the main purpose.

Now the spinster, by being wholly divorced from any direct connexion with the main stream of Life, for which society and the Empire exist, is severed from the most important phenomenon on earth that can justify existence. The next best course is to obtain an indispensable foothold in the machinery that makes the stream of Life, as we have said, more secure, more permanent and more fluent. The moment, therefore, it can be shown that the spinster can lay no valid claim to this one remaining indispensable foothold, but rather that she only clogs, impedes and retards the machinery that assists Life, her last justification for existence vanishes; and whatever the work may be that she is doing, however “useful” it is, we fail to make out her claim to toleration the moment it can be shown (1) that the work would be done as well or better by a man or a married woman, (2) that she is not assisting but only retarding the machinery that makes the main stream of Life possible.

In short, it amounts to this: Society does not exist for the spinster. Life does not flourish when it is cultivated[Pg 265] too luxuriously in its cul-de-sac ramifications. The main stream is too important.

But there is another and even sadder aspect to the entrance of women into the arena of commercial, industrial and financial occupations.

One of the greatest tragedies of life for modern women is precisely the havoc that these occupations have made of modern men. The Alcibiades type of man, the complete man, the man who, while he can wield a sword as well as anyone, can also sob over a sonnet, direct a difficult transaction with shrewdness and sound judgment, be an ardent lover, a dutiful father, and also a being capable of wisely directing and ordering his womenfolk at every juncture of their lives, is now extinct. The versatility of gifts and catholicity of tastes which once characterized the normal man, has been destroyed by two hundred years of occupations that are not only emasculating and besotting, but alas! also specializing. All men nowadays are specialists, and frequently specialists in the most dehumanizing form of labour. The Leviathan of Commerce and Industry, Trade and Finance, by compelling them to eschew other interests and other activities, has reduced the gamut of their capabilities and their tastes to the limits necessary for making them contented workers in one of the many narrow and monotonous ruts of modern life, and pari passu with this metamorphosis there has also occurred a corresponding decline in physical and particularly in sexual vigour.

But until recently women had escaped this influence. The very dullness and specialization of men, which frequently makes women despair of meeting the male of their dreams (who still continues to be the “complete man”), had until quite recently not infected the female.

The reader will object that because the bulk of women in the past were engaged in more domestic duties, it does not follow that these duties were not besotting or dehumanizing.

This is not really true. The women who advance this[Pg 266] view are generally lazy and frivolous, and prefer to pay even the price of their own besotment, in order to get out every day and meet clammy-fingered clerks in stuffy offices.

The work of the home differs in many ways from the work of the factory or the office, and always to the advantage of domestic pursuits.

In the first place it is work done for the personal ends of the worker herself, and not for some one, or some company of people, with whom she has not the smallest personal concern.

Secondly, it is done in her own time and in her own way.

Thirdly, an enormous amount of it is of such a nature that it is both soothing and wholesome, while it also allows of meditation, thought and that most precious of lost pastimes, communion with self.

Fourthly, when done efficiently and with a good heart it is so soon dispatched that it allows of a good deal of leisure, and,

Fifthly, it is never of that nerve-racking nature which, while demanding unremitting attention, also destroys attention owing to its lack of interest and all personal value.[134] Now, however, that women have become active competitors with men in those very occupations to[Pg 267] which modern men owe the principal features of their degeneration, it cannot be expected that the female of the species is going to escape any more happily than her male has done the worst consequences of besotting and specializing labour; and it is therefore inevitable that in a few generations we shall witness the evanescence in woman of that catholicity of tastes and interests and that versatility of gifts which has until lately differentiated her from her male companion.

We shall also witness in her that same bodily degeneration that has come over man, and yet it is difficult to see how or when the movement that now leads women to engage in these pursuits can be arrested. The fact that this movement was largely initiated and supported by that body of unattached females roughly grouped under the heading “Surplus Women,” cannot well be denied; but it does not follow from this that it is a permanent evil in our midst. For, if the problem of the surplus woman, and of those who are misled by her, be attacked along lines which have as their ultimate aim the marriage of all women, it does not seem impossible that something may be done to arrest a tendency which, from the standpoint of woman’s future, must be bad, and which, from the standpoint of the future of the race, is nothing less than alarming.

The surprising feature about this movement which during the last fifty years has led the bulk of girls and young women into the very occupations to which modern man himself owes his besotment and miserable limitations, is that those who become the victims of it—that is to say the vast majority of women workers in Commerce, Industry, the Civil Service and the Professions, enter joyously, and almost with a whoop of triumph into the various callings with which they achieve what they claim to be economic independence. Not only that, but those who contemplate the procession of them marching into these callings, stand and applaud and congratulate each other on the spectacle.

[Pg 268]

It is true that millions of these women in later life have the intelligence to realize the mistake they have made, and to measure with some approach to accuracy the deterioration it has effected both in their minds and in their bodies in one generation. It would be too much, perhaps, to expect young girls to anticipate these results, when they first leave their homes to earn their own livelihood; but what leaves one marvelling is the fact that the older elements in the population do not seem to understand the doom which will inevitably overtake this female army and its descendants, and that far from making any attempt at driving it back, they shout vociferously and applaud it as a desirable and excellent phenomenon of modern life.

The cynic may reply “All the better! You say that 200 years of commercial, industrial and office occupations have deteriorated man, so that modern woman has very naturally learnt to despise him. Very well, then, if women now suffer a similar amount of deterioration, the balance will once more be restored, and all will be well.”

All those who can derive some comfort from this reflection, in the face of modern tendencies, are welcome to it. But to those who, like myself, realize that hitherto the rapidity of our degeneration has been to some extent checked by the comparative aloofness of one sex from the worst influences of modern civilization, and that henceforth, instead of one stream of degeneration we shall have two which will become confluent at marriage, the future does not seem to be a very bright one, nor does it hold out any promise of producing, from the human elements it will contain, the individuals capable of initiating a counter movement sufficiently powerful to arrest the tide of degeneracy that threatens to sweep everything of value away.

With regard to the fund-holding wealthy spinster, it may be taken as a general rule that she cannot fail to be anything else than a burden to the community to which she belongs.

[Pg 269]

She is not only a cul-de-sac, or a blind-alley of the stream of Life, where the forces that have produced her come to a dead stop, but she is also the means of damming up a portion of the community’s wealth in produce and labour in that cul-de-sac. She herself, her household expenditure, her retinue, and her disbursements for humanitarian and religious objects, exact a toll on the community, very little of which is substantially helpful to the fluency or security of the stream of Life.

He who has travelled much over England does not require to be reminded of the countless villages and towns where the most imposing and well-appointed private residence or residences are the homes of precisely this kind of spinster. I could name half a dozen villages myself off-hand where by far the most commodious and luxurious house is the property of one, two, or three spinster ladies. About them in smaller and conspicuously meaner houses are the other inhabitants of the village—small families with parents struggling to make both ends meet, with children frequently underfed and underclothed, but all of them belonging to the main stream of Life, and constituting the only justification there is for the existence of the very town and village itself, the Church, and all the machinery of social life. The spinster ladies from their wealthy fastness, with its carriage drive, its troop of servants, its rich solid furniture, and its overfed animals, look down upon the busy scene about them. They are not part of it, but merely spectators drawing their profit, their life’s blood from it. Their untutored minds, guided by local clerical influence, actively study every means by which they can throw a cloak over the glaring superfluousness and nothingness of their lives. Deeply conscious, as the best of them are, of being cut off from the main stream of Life, and perhaps a trifle piqued by the thought that, besides being severed from it, their presence there, in the best house for miles around, is really only a means of impeding the machinery facilitating the flow of the stream, a means of[Pg 270] causing friction in its movements, they make frantic and resolute efforts to demonstrate their “importance” to those around.

What their self-esteem, their very self-respect imposes as a duty upon them, is to make a dramatic and incessant exhibition of being important, to make a very deceptive pretence of belonging to the main stream of Life itself. Hence the untiring energy with which they enter into all the village or town festivities which have a public charity for their object; hence the zeal which they show at all Church festivals, and the regularity with which they contribute to religious and charitable institutions both local and distant.

For all this they are looked upon, even by the ignorant villagers themselves, as delightful and exceedingly valuable members of the community. Nobody seems to peep beneath the elaborate manœuvres by which they contrive to “cut a prominent figure.” Nobody seems to see in their concern about other people’s business and welfare the conclusive proof that they are straining every nerve to justify an existence which, on final analysis, they know in their heart of hearts to be utterly and criminally unjustifiable.

George Meredith is one of the few thoughtful and non-socialistic writers who have had the courage to say what they felt about this class of parasites on the community. In Chapter XXIII of One of our Conquerors he speaks of these “comfortable annuitants under clerical shepherding, close upon outnumbering the labourers they paralyse at home and stultify abroad.”[135] But since his references to them occur in a work of fiction they are hardly elaborate enough to be telling, or frequent enough to have aroused comment or to have formed the basis of a doctrine.

[Pg 271]

Certainly one does not require to be infected with socialistic or communistic views to feel that the vast number of these spinsters’ mansions all over the country is a bane rather than a boon. From no political point of view, whether monarchic, aristocratic, oligarchic, democratic or socialistic, is it possible to justify them, and since the very energy which they devote to their humanitarian form of sex-compensation is frequently as misguided as it is only a partial remedy for the harm they themselves are doing, they constitute a portion of the community that must be honestly and utterly condemned by every far-seeing thinker on the subject.

To reply to this by a shrug of the shoulders and the question, “What would you do with them?” is simply foolish. The first great reform consists in getting them to be regarded no longer as a harmless or beneficent section of the community, but as a dangerous and intolerable bane. Once this transmutation of public opinion has been achieved, it is not a difficult matter to decide what should be done with them.

I invite any reader to take a walking tour through this country of England, and to count the number of such parasitic females he can find in a month’s tour. I invite him to note the grandeur of their establishments compared with the meanness and poverty of those about them who really belong to Life’s main stream, or are directly assisting it; and if that experience does not convince him of the dangerous futility of the class as a whole, he must be possessed of very singular views concerning the proper organization of social life.

Even on their death-beds these creatures do not cease to scourge the community to which they belong; for in the very agony of death they bequeath their wealth and dispose of their other property in a manner which, while it is usually thoroughly ill-advised, constitutes but one last fierce effort to stamp the belief in their importance for ever on the minds of those who survive them.

You are entitled to pity these women for their virgin[Pg 272] lives, for the serious unadaptedness of their condition, and for their lifelong and secret conviction that they are useless; but to defend their existence as if it were not a burden, as if it were not a dangerous scourge in our midst, would be to refuse to recognize the truth about the matter, and this truth, however unpleasant and disturbing, can be dealt with only if it is honestly recognized and faced.

The less wealthy among them, right down the scale to the level of those who have only £300 a year of their own, are certainly less baneful and onerous, seeing that they dam up less of this world’s goods in their particular cul-de-sac; but the ultimate cumulative effect of their combined existences constitutes an imposition not much more tolerable than that of their wealthier sisters.

Nor should it be forgotten that a not inconsiderable portion of the harm resulting from this peculiarly British scourge consists in the amount of false opinion, perniciously erroneous judgments on all things, and distorted spiritual influences, which annually emanate from these spinsters’ homes, and which, backed as they frequently are by the power of wealth, are spread abroad with all the prestige and pomp that opulence can impart.

The English outlook, and English opinion generally, are to a great extent contaminated by this spinster influence. Our politics are no longer immune from it; our policy both at home and abroad is largely infected by our atmosphere surcharged both with the breath and the ideas of spinsters. Our literature is to no small extent governed by their taste,[136] our newspapers are obviously designed to offer no affront to their morbid sensibilities, and our stage is entirely governed by their criticism.[Pg 273] Feminism, with all its worst consequences, is largely their creation—the child of their idleness and their superfluous wealth; and if Feminism has spread so far, and become a creed so universally and almost unconsciously accepted, it is due largely to this large class of powerful, misguided and idle unattached females.

They constitute a malignant power, because they are a body bound by no responsibilities; they pursue an erratic course directed entirely by their abnormal emotions and crazy outlook on life, because in the first place they are abnormal, secondly because they are unguided except by those whose advantage it is to mislead them, thirdly because they are limited by no close family ties in the expenditure of their wealth during life or in its disposal after death; and finally they are a wasteful and squandering body because in their frantic efforts to coerce their contemporaries into believing they are important, they shrink from no extremes and no excesses in order to take up as conspicuous and prominent a place as possible in their small world.


If we have correctly stated the peculiar mental attitude and physical condition of the unmarried woman in our midst, and from this statement have drawn the correct inferences concerning her influence upon the community, we can hardly avoid the conclusion that permanently unmarried females are on the whole an element in society which cannot be regarded as very desirable.

For it is above all important to remember this—that even if we have been wrong in our enumeration of the occupations that spinsters can properly and usefully fill, and even if the list we have given may be materially increased, the fact that the spinster is usefully occupied does not remove the principal feature of her condition which exerts an abnormal influence on society, that is[Pg 274] to say, her radical and inevitable abnormality both of mind and body.

Even if we have been wrong in our deductions concerning the heightening of the economic struggle through the presence of spinsters in excessive numbers in the professions, commerce, industry and trade, this principal objection still stands, and it leaves us no alternative but to consider means and ways of mitigating it.

The fact that in Great Britain the number of surplus females—that is to say, of women who, all things being equal, cannot possibly marry—amounts to 2,000,000 or about 5 per cent. of the population, makes the problem of the old maid so acute, for this nation at least, that it is impossible not to regard it as perhaps the gravest with which legislators have to deal. For, on this basis alone, that it is the business of every government to secure the maximum amount of successful adaptation to the governed, the question appears to be one which legislators can hardly shelve with impunity.

Of these 2,000,000 surplus women, it may be only just—humiliating as the argument may be to our national pride—to argue that possibly half are negative; that is to say, that 1,000,000 are so constituted as to be undisturbed by their semi-moribund sex-instincts, and that a sexless life is not merely tolerable but actually necessary to them. These may possibly achieve contentedness by means of suitable work combined with strong Christian influence. It is conceivable that they may even succeed in wholly sublimating their reproductive instincts. There still remain, however, the 1,000,000 spinsters, or 2½ per cent. of the population, whose resistance to sublimating influences is likely to be stubborn, and whose misery is likely to be proportionately greater—not to mention the unhappiness they must inevitably bring, directly upon those about them, and indirectly upon the nation at large.

The Holy Catholic Church in the Middle Ages wisely offered asylums to this section of the population, and even[Pg 275] more wisely organized these asylums on lines which enabled the spinsters taking refuge in them to find a natural vent for their surging desire for sex-compensation, in all kinds of sentimental and humanitarian work among the sick, the aged, the poor, etc., in which they were able to exercise power over precisely that kind of person over whom sway is most easily obtained.

But what was peculiarly beneficial in the Catholic system was that by this means it acquired a hold upon these women. It was able to direct both their energies and their opinions, and thus act as a lightning conductor protecting society from the fury of their sex-compensatory efforts, both in their activities and in the expression and imposition of their views. In cases where it took charge of their money, this wealth became an instrument in the hands of a powerful and wise organization, instead of being simply a weapon for a spinster’s whim.

But what has modern society to offer of a similar kind?

The hospitals can absorb only a small fraction of the 2,000,000 surplus women, and domestic service can do little more. For, even if we take these two classes of occupation as accounting for 1,335,368 unmarried women[137] in England and Wales alone, we must remember that a very large proportion of these do not remain in the work permanently, but leave it for marriage at a comparatively early age. In either case we could not affirm that either nursing or domestic service offers any special chances for sex-sublimation. There is certainly a greater chance of sublimation in hospital nursing, but the profession is overcrowded as it is, and no attempt has been made to bring it wholly under the wing of the Church.

The truth is that modern life, while it certainly offers occupations in abundance to women and girls, makes no[Pg 276] provision, or very little, for those women whose work ought at once to keep them busy, and give them a full life—that is, effectually transmute their sex-instincts.

What course should we recommend in order that the nation’s life might absorb greater numbers of these unmarried women with the view of properly adapting them?

In the first place it seems eminently desirable to emphasize more than we have emphasized in the past the ideal of matrimony for every woman up to a certain age, and to bring home to parents that marriage is what they must seek for their daughters and what they must train them for.[138]

This would have the beneficial effect of introducing a more resolute effort towards marriage as an end, both in the activity of parents and their children, which would lead to more restless endeavours being made, than are made at present, to find suitable mates for eligible daughters[139]—endeavours that should be prompted by sufficient energy not to halt even at the shores of the[Pg 277] native land.[140] These endeavours, assisted by a Government service and the consular system, would allow of an incessant flow of girls of fair fame to our colonies and dependencies, and might be coupled with legislative measures for the prevention of too heavy a flow of foreign virgins into this country.

The Government ought to keep as keen an eye on the marriage as upon the labour market, and just as it now protects the native workman from unfair competition resulting from excessive immigration, so it ought to protect the unmarried females. The higher the percentage of females in the country, the more stringent should the regulations become forbidding young female immigrants of what class soever.

Secondly, all work, such as teaching, the practice of medicine and law, etc., in which, according to the most reliable psychologists of the day, the presence of unmarried women, far from being helpful (as offering a new and essential contribution to the knowledge on the question), only complicates the existing difficulties, and, as in the case of teaching, is directly harmful to the children taught, should be exclusively reserved for men, poor married women, or middle-aged widows, as might also with advantage many occupations both in industry, commerce and the Civil Service. This would have the effect of relieving economic pressure, and of facilitating early marriages.

Thirdly, the Government should be carefully advised concerning those callings which are best calculated to offer unmarried women complete adaptation—that is to say, occupation and sublimation of the sex instinct—and the legislature should do all in their power to encourage[Pg 278] women, particularly of a special type, to enter these callings.

Fourthly, when once public opinion had become convinced (which it is very far from being to-day) that the “annuitant” spinster is at all events, and in any circumstances, a bane, legislation might be introduced to limit her powers and discourage her excesses, which would go an appreciable way towards mitigating the harm she does.

Fifthly and finally, everything should be done to revive the mediæval system of respectable and honourable sequestration for old maids, in institutions whose functions would be at once religious and of a kind to provide an outlet for the sex-compensatory impulses of the positive and negative spinster. By this means they might be not only thoroughly adapted, but also in a position to have their activities, their opinions, and (in cases of wealthy people) their wealth, wisely controlled by a broad policy beneficent to the nation as a whole.

It is, however, very doubtful indeed whether anything whatsoever will be done to relieve the nation of what, in the mildest language, can be regarded as little less than a spiritual and material scourge.

Modern society is so thoroughly and deeply saturated with feminist prejudices and ideas, and the sentiments which most promote feminine power and feminine tastes are so universally popular both in the Press and in modern literature generally, that anyone who speaks on the sex question with an honest regard for reality, and with a non-romantic understanding of its fundamental features, is not only foredoomed to a cold and even hostile reception, but every year finds it more and more difficult to obtain a fair and exhaustive hearing. For, as we have already said, the growth of Feminism has been so steady and insidious, that thousands of men and women to-day are Feminists without knowing it, without ever having questioned it.

A cold feverless appreciation of the radical principles[Pg 279] underlying the relations and the nature of the sexes, whether in fiction or in a textbook, is now practically certain to be decried, and to be regarded as a literary faux pas, and while in Byron’s days it brought a man into evil odour, at present, after one hundred years of Progress, it completely discredits him.[141]

It is not probable, therefore, that anything contained in this chapter is likely to be read with sympathy or with comprehension by the modern world; but if it conveys to a few isolated and lonely spirits the message that they have been waiting for, and makes them feel perhaps that, although they may not be on the eve of a deep national antifeminist (not anti-feminine) movement, they are at least not entirely alone, it will have accomplished all that its author can possibly expect.


[102] In the Laws of Manu (Bk. IX, 89) there is a passage which seems to show that spinsterhood of this kind is specially recommended by the religious Founder of Brahmanism. In Bk. IX, verse 89, we read: “But the maiden, though marriageable, should rather stop in her father’s house until death, than that he should ever give her to a man destitute of good qualities.”

[103] See p. 248.

[104] See Arabella Kenealy (Op. cit., p. 105), where, referring to the vital impulses of woman, she says: “When these are not expended, as is normal, in the creation of and ministration to living and beloved things, they generate warped, erratic and chaotic aberrations.”

[105] “With reference to the marked predominance of female suicides [in England] over male suicides in the 15-20 age period, Ogle remarks that this is also ‘the only period in which the general death rates, as shown in the Registrar-General’s returns, is higher in the female sex, and also is marked, as the census returns for 1881 show, by an exceptionally higher rate of lunacy (exclusive of idiocy or imbecility) for females than for males.’... In France, the chief age at which men commit suicide is from 40 to 50, while for women it is between 15 to 20.” (Havelock Ellis, Man and Woman, pp. 382-383.) The census of 1911 also gives higher figures for female than for male lunacy—a difference of 10,000, and these are chiefly unmarried women. The unmarried numbered 54,223, the married 21,299, widowed 9,229.

[106] H. Ellis, Op. cit., p. 388: “There are some who believe (Dr. H. Campbell amongst them) that although the number of women of all ages who commit suicide is less than the number of men, many more women than men contemplate suicide habitually, i.e. many more women than men are suicidal, although they may not always carry it into practice.”

[107] The facts collected by the psycho-analysts, Freud and Dr. E. Jones, on this phenomenon were not new to me. I had already observed them in numerous cases, and my observations on the point were but confirmed by the psycho-analysts’ theory of the transference of orgastic sensations from the genitalia to other parts of the body.

[108] See Martial, III, 82, 9; also Senecae Dialogorum Liber XII, 10, 3. While Hugo Blümner in his Römischen Privataltertümer (1922), p. 399, gives a brief description of this practice.

[109] See Papers on Psycho-Analysis (London, 1918), p. 599. In regard to this question parents are also entitled to ask what influence the spinster’s outlook on life has upon their children, particularly upon their daughters. It is impossible entirely to divorce from one’s moral influence upon children the prejudices and prepossessions of one’s particular position in life, and one’s general attitude towards fundamental problems. Now, since the spinster’s particular position in life is an abnormal one, it is questionable whether she can help her influence from imparting something of her own abnormality. When we bear in mind that, according to the census of 1911 there were 187,283 female teachers in England and Wales, 171,480 of whom were unmarried, the gravity of this aspect alone of spinsterhood cannot be denied.

[110] And neurosis in later life.

[111] “The most serious manifestation of disordered conduct in hysteria is, however, the development of the appetite for teasing—for giving pain and annoyance to others” (see Charles Mercier, M.B., Sanity and Insanity, London, 1890, p. 215). Long after Mercier wrote this his views were confirmed by the school of psycho-analysts. I give the reference to Mercier to show that the fact was observed before the psycho-analysts, so much detested in certain quarters, had come to the fore.

[112] See Dr. Wrench’s Grammar of Life (Heinemann, 1908), p. 76.

[113] Freud deals with this point in many places in his works. See particularly his Sammlung Kleiner Schriften zur Neurosenlehre, Vierte Folge (1918), Chapter III (Die Disposition zur Zwangsneurose), p. 117.

[114] The harm, however, does not cease with the work of the spinsters themselves. Their influence in this direction has become a national evil. Volumes could be filled with examples of this false and short-sighted humanitarianism, but the following case, taken from The News of the World on Jan. 1, 1922, at a time when rates in almost all parishes in and around London were anything between 17s. and 20s. in the £, is typical of thousands of others. “Rochford Board of Guardians, Essex, are confronted with the problem of dealing with a man who is both a leper and insane. The patient is a native of Mauritius. It was stated at a Board meeting that the man lived for some time in a cottage in a rural parish, and his wife looked after him, but she was unable to do so any longer. Formerly the man was in the Leper Colony at Bicknacre, Essex—an institution carried on by the Society of the Divine Compassion, assisted by the Sisterhood of St. Giles—but his mental state was such that he could not remain there. Asylum authorities who were approached refused to accept the case, and the Board of Control supported them in their attitude. It was also stated that the Ministry of Health would not deal with the matter. Consequently the man had to be cared for by the Guardians. A building was prepared for him, and efforts made to secure three male nurses, though only two have been obtained. The cost of three nurses is twelve guineas a week. Eventually the Board decided to send a deputation to the Ministry of Health.” The influence of the spinster’s frantic and unthinking humanitarianism is recognizable here.

[115] See Mercier, Op. cit., p. 220. The author continues: “They [the feelings in question] take the shape of religious emotion, and expression for them is found in observance of ceremonial and in devotion to a ritual.” The fact that the first initiation into religious fervour of this kind frequently starts by the young girl’s wild adoration for an older woman—her school mistress or her Sunday-school teacher—is not mentioned by Mercier, but it is important.

[116] Large numbers of the women in the Suffrage movement were of this type. Nor is it possible to exonerate such women entirely from a charge of jealousy of the young girl, when their efforts are obviously directed towards making her, like themselves, ill-adapted, discontented and physiologically miserable.

[117] See The Collected Works of Thomas de Quincey, Vol. VIII, p. 349. The author proceeds: “Accordingly it is amongst the young men and women of this body that the most afflicting cases under this eccentric type occur. Even for children, however, the systematic repression of all ebullient feeling must be perilous” ... etc.

[118] For an interesting discourse, uninfluenced by the recent psychoanalytical school, on the connexion between sexual and religious emotion, see Mercier, Op. cit., pp. 220-223.

[119] Thus Dr. E. Jones argues (Op. cit., p. 217), “Civilization has reached, or is on the point of reaching, the limit, beyond which unguided sublimation can no longer be successfully maintained.”

[120] See Byron’s letter to John Murray, Feb. 7, 1821: “The truth is that in these days the grand ‘primum mobile’ of England is cant; cant political, cant poetical, cant religious, cant moral; but always cant, multiplied through all the varieties of life. This is the fashion, and while it lasts will be too powerful for those who can only exist by taking the tone of the time. I say cant because it is a thing of words, without the smallest influence upon human actions; the English being no wiser, no better, and much poorer and more divided amongst themselves, as well as far less moral, than they were before the prevalence of this verbal decorum.” This was written a hundred years ago, and is still true to-day.

[121] Dr. Vintras and Parent Duchatelet both concur in representing English prostitution as about the most degraded and at the same time the most irrevocable.

[122] Throughout this discussion I mean by prostitution not any form of illicit hetero-sexual relations but commercial and promiscuous unchastity.

[123] Speaking of the prostitute Lecky says: “But for her, the unchallenged purity of countless happy homes would be polluted, and not a few who, in their pride of untempted chastity, think of her with an indignant shudder, would have known the agony of remorse and despair. On that one degraded and ignoble form are concentrated the passions that might have filled the world with shame” (History of European Morals, London, 1899, Vol. II, p. 283).

[124] Let all who doubt this consult the literature on the subject (even our own Encyclopædia Britannica, 9th and 11th editions), and also consult people who have been engaged in rescue work.

[125] It is for this reason that a man who gives a girl an illegitimate child is really more kind and merciful than the man who seduces her while taking precautions to prevent issue. But it will take some time before the world can possibly be expected to see the matter in this light.

[126] Those who, like Lombroso and Ferrero, argue that prostitutes are born, and that there is a specific class of women, which may be called potentially whorish from birth, will naturally join issue with me, and deny that the childless fate of the prostitute is her severest penalty. I cannot accept the evidence that I have read, however, in La Femme Criminelle et la Prostituée, to show that prostitutes are a class of women apart (as regards primary and secondary characteristics and instincts). I feel very much more inclined to agree with Emile Faguet, who thinks that all prostitutes start their illicit amours with a strong monogamic bias, and that it is only subsequently that circumstances drive them to promiscuity. See Le Feminisme (Paris, 1910), p. 254: “La vérité est que la prostituée née est excessivement rare.... Les autres prostituées sont des femmes qui out commencé par être monogames comme leurs sœurs, et qu’une première déchéance a jetées dans la classe des femmes pour tous.” Thus Faguet concludes (p. 255): “La prostituée, j’ai cru le montrer, est un être dénaturé.” This I believe to be much nearer the point than Lombroso’s elaborate thesis.

[127] John ii. 15, 16.

[128] Rom. viii. 6, 10, 13.

[129] Rom. viii. 6-8.

[130] Her behaviour in this respect will be dictated not only by an instinctive desire to spread a negative doctrine broadcast as an end in itself, but also by a feeling of very real and very stubborn envy towards all those who can enjoy a side of life from which she is completely shut off. This envy may extend even to her attitude towards young women of all classes, so that she will do everything in her power, under the cover of philanthropic motives, to keep them from such pastimes as flirtation, from actually falling in love, or from spending what she believes to be “too much time” in the company of the other sex. See also p. 246 ante.

[131] It is true that the negative spinster was not alone in this support of the war from secret sex motives. The old men of all nations also saw in the war a golden opportunity of expressing their natural secret hatred and jealousy of the young males of their circle, and, whether consciously or unconsciously, seized on the patriotic motive in order to vent these passions. The flood of letters that poured into the Times office from sexagenarians, septuagenarians and octogenarians, imploring the authorities to continue the war at the time when there was some talk of peace, was an expression of this unconscious but radical loathing of young men by the old.

[132] See, however, the exceptions mentioned on p. 248 ante. For a woman’s confirmation of the fact that negative women are increasing in England, see Arabella Kenealy (Op. cit.), pp. 82-85, and many other passages.

[133] The number of women workers (married and unmarried) in 1911 was 4,830,734. Of these about 1,500,000 were employed as domestic servants and hospital nurses. In 1917 the total was 5,889,734. About 173,000 of this increase came from domestic service, so that the total for domestic servants and nurses in 1917 would appear to have been 1,827,000.

[134] It should also be borne in mind that work outside home necessarily throws men and girls constantly into each other’s company. Unless, therefore, a certain degree of subnormality in the sexual and emotional nature of each sex be presupposed, they cannot work side by side without having their attention diverted and their nerves harassed, by the constant provocation of sex stimuli to which they cannot and must not respond. To assume indifference and callousness here, as modern business, commercial and official employers do, is, however, to take for granted that the modern generation of young men and girls are sufficiently below par to be able to resist being thrown together constantly without being distracted by each other’s presence. But this is not only an insult to the best among the young people, but it is also placing a premium on the subnormal; because the latter alone are able to overcome the difficulty with ease; and thus happy survival or success is reserved nowadays to those types which are least desirable from every point of view except that of the Puritan.

[135] Later on in the chapter he even comes very close to my own view of the matter, and of the fatal detachment of these females from the stream of Life when he asks “whether the yearly increasing army of the orderly annuitants and their parasites does not demonstrate the proud old country as a sheath for pith rather than of the vital run of the sap.”

[136] Let anyone attempt to write a novel or any kind of popular work that does not pander to their sentimentality and their distorted views of life, and see how much success he will have. They have established their ascendancy in England by such steady and insidious means, that three-quarters of our population, including our leading critics and publicists, are not even aware that Feminism is their ruling creed. They reveal it, however, in every word they write on the sex question.

[137] According to the last Census there were in 1911 55,286 unmarried women engaged in nursing (including midwives), 57,952 engaged in domestic service in hotels, 1,172,449 engaged in domestic service in private houses, 22,789 engaged as day girls, and 26,900 engaged as charwomen in England and Wales alone.

[138] On this point also the wisdom of the ancient Hindus should be an example to us. In the Laws of Manu (Book IX, verse 4) we read: “Reprehensible is the father who gives not his daughter in marriage at the proper time.”

[139] Now, the dread lest a daughter should not be self-supporting at twenty-one leads parents in all poorer middle-class families to sink all thoughts of marriage and making her fit for marriage beneath the consideration of providing her with a calling. The ideal of independence for women, from being pursued for purely economic reasons, has come to be pursued for its own sake, as if independence were in itself a desirable condition for the female. But even if we concede the point that dependence on certain modern men amounts to ignominy, we should not allow the argument to assume a shape which must identify woman’s chief source of happiness with her relation to the man to whom she becomes related; and we ought always to correct it by considering that, in the long run, man is only a means to an end where woman is concerned, and that independence which is achieved without the experience of motherhood, even if such independence saves the woman from association with a third or fourth-rate man, is only equivalent to clutching at the shadow to let the substance go.

[140] See Arabella Kenealy (Op. cit., p. 126): “Feminist leaders have shown themselves deplorably indifferent alike to biological and to sociological law. Losing sight of the truth that the intrinsic and eternal function of Humanity is Parenthood—and more particularly Motherhood—they have made, all along the line, not for the true emancipation of woman but for her commercialization, merely.”

[141] Speaking of the hostile attitude of most women towards his Don Juan, Byron wrote to Mr. Murray on October 12, 1820, as follows: “The truth is that it is too true, and the women hate everything which strips off the tinsel of sentiment; and they are right, as it would rob them of their weapons.” Again writing of Madame Guiccioli’s dislike of Don Juan, he says (July 6, 1821): “It arises from the wish of all women to exalt the sentiment of the passions, and to keep up the illusion which is their empire. Now Don Juan strips off this illusion.... I never knew a woman who did not protect Rousseau, nor one who did not dislike De Gramont, Gil Blas, and all the comedy of the passions, when brought out naturally.”

[Pg 280]

The Virtues and Vices of Women

Whether we appeal to folklore, to the proverbs of the nations, or to the earliest legends of mankind, we invariably encounter in the traditional wisdom of humanity judgments upon woman which are more or less unanimous in condemning her bad temper, her disloyalty, her dishonesty, her vanity, her malice and her indolence. The very attitude of the common people towards witchcraft, after the Reformation, points to a curious popular readiness to believe in the evil influences of the female; for the fact that aged women and not aged men were the suspected parties in the persecutions against supposed cases of necromancy, is significant, even if we deny the validity of the charges that were brought against these unfortunate wretches. In another work[142] I have dealt with the two principal legends of antiquity—that of Pandora and that of Eve—in which woman is specifically identified with the introduction of evil on earth, and I shall have to return to this subject here; for it cannot be merely a coincidence that in these oldest of human myths there is this connexion between woman and evil. In the Law Book of Manu, which represents ancient Hindu opinion, the character of women meets again with the same charges. We read:

“Through their passion for men, through their mutable temper, through their natural heartlessness, they become disloyal to their husbands, however carefully they may be guarded in this world.

“Knowing their disposition, which the Lord of creatures[Pg 281] laid in them at the creation, to be such, (even) man must strenuously exert himself to guard them.

“When creating them, Manu allotted to woman (love of their) bed, (of their) seat and (of) ornament, impure desires, wroth, dishonesty, malice and bad conduct.”[143]

Lombroso and Ferrero actually regard deception as being “physiological” in women. They ascribe it to her weakness (which makes it necessary for her to rely on craft to achieve her ends), to her periodical functional disturbances, to her modesty, to the pretences necessary to acquiring an ascendancy over man, to the duties of maternity, and to one or two other inevitable circumstances in her life.[144] In Chapter VII of their work, they adduce the testimony of such acute psychologists as Flaubert, Balzac, Zola, Schopenhauer, Weininger, Molière, to support their contention that in woman lying is instinctive. We might add Shakespeare, Luther, Byron, Nietzsche, La Bruyère, and many others to the list. No matter where we turn, or to whom we refer, we find, more or less, the same verdict. It lies recorded even in an Arab proverb,[145] just as it lies, though perhaps more obscurely, in most of that “tinsel of sentiment” with which, utterly false as it is, woman insists upon veiling the natural relations of the sexes; while we must not forget that for hundreds of years a great and very profound people—the Mussulmans of Europe and Asia—have denied woman a soul.

The evidence of profound psychologists, the substance of myths, the content of national proverbs, the personal experience, in short, of all those who have learnt to know women generation after generation, all point to this conclusion, that there is a certain duplicity and unscrupulousness[Pg 282] in their nature, against which it is only a matter of ordinary caution for man to be on his guard.

On the other hand, in all countries with a modern, democratic outlook, where woman’s influence is in the ascendant, and where men are inclined to a pronounced romanticism of thought, there is no quality, no jewel of human virtue, too priceless for woman to be thought worthy of it.

Perhaps the most radical attempt to contradict the tradition of ages, concerning woman, and to cast suspicion for ever upon all those who might venture to criticize her adversely, was made by that gallant but, alas! henpecked English “philosopher,” John Stuart Mill, than whom no writer is perhaps more responsible for the sudden access of strength that the Feminist movement acquired in the latter half of the nineteenth century in England. And, before proceeding with our inquiry, it will be necessary to pause in order to deal with his views and to dispose of them; for, since they represent the maximum that can be said on the other side, in accomplishing this, we shall have dealt vicariously with most of what has been advanced as scientific argumentation against the verdict of the rest of mankind.

John Stuart Mill admitted that all his writings, except his Logic, were as much his own work as that of the lady, Mrs. Taylor, who ultimately became his wife. He was not ashamed to acknowledge that Mrs. John Taylor was “in part the author of all that is best” in his writings; and speaking of his treatise on Liberty, Mr. W. L. Courtney says it “was written especially under her authority and encouragement.” The same author referring to the famous work The Subjection of Women, which is going to occupy our attention, writes: “Mill’s share was the result of discussions and conversations with his wife.”[146]

Now, quite early in this book on women, the following important remark occurs: “What is now called the nature of women is an eminently artificial thing—the result of[Pg 283] forced repression in some directions, unnatural stimulation in others.”[147]

The ingenuity of this sentence, its plausibility in the eyes of ignorant and prejudiced people, and its dark innuendo, make it one of the most astonishing utterances that ever issued from the lips of an alleged philosopher. If it be more than an insincere attempt to quash all discussion and inquiry regarding the subject for ever, it can mean only two things.

(1) The word “now” definitely restricts the allegations concerning the nature of women to the present age. “What is now called the nature of women,” therefore is implicitly contrasted with what was once called the nature of women. The first possible meaning of the sentence is therefore as follows: “As compared with what used to be called the nature of women, what is now called the nature of woman is an entirely artificial thing.”

In order to dispose of this first possible meaning, we have only to reply to Mrs. Taylor (for it is obvious that Mill would only have referred us to her if we had addressed ourselves to him), that, as the present view of woman’s nature does not differ entirely from the traditional and ancient view—where there exists no difference between the two, we may presumably postulate eternities, or constant factors. And, so long as we abide by those characteristics, in which the testimony of the present age concurs with tradition and hoary antiquity, we escape, even if we do not respect, her ruling.

(2) The words, “an eminently artificial thing,” are surely a begging of the question. Everybody, even the most be-Taylorized thinker, ought to be able to see this. For, it may be asked, what at present can be called natural and what can be called artificial in civilized man and woman? Is it natural to wear clothes, or is it artificial? Is it natural to use implements instead of our fingers at meals? Is it natural to speak English? Two thousand years ago no one on earth spoke English. In the days of[Pg 284] Caractacus, if anyone had stood up to address a crowd in English, he would have been suspected not only of artificiality, but of dangerous insanity. Is the speaking of English now artificial? This is not quibbling. We are bound to suspect insincerity in anyone who, at this late hour, uses the distinctions “artificial” and “natural” of civilized man or woman—particularly when they do so without giving us exact definitions of these words. Many thousands of years ago in Egypt, a certain woman, the wife of Potiphar, Pharaoh’s captain of the guard, cruelly betrayed a man who flouted her advances. Similar cases have happened since. We are all familiar with the saying: “Hell has no fury like a woman scorned.”[148] Is this tendency in woman to retaliate upon him who scorns her, the mortification she feels at his rebuff, artificial or natural? Popular tradition in many countries tells us that women are habitual liars. Lombroso points out that their weakness, relative to man, has induced them to use craft and deceit to achieve their ends. Is woman’s weakness relative to man natural or artificial? If it is natural, is her tendency to use craft and deceit also natural? If her weakness is artificial, when and how did it become so, and when and how did prevarication come to her support?

Those who are acquainted with The Subjection of Women will probably reply that Mrs. Taylor, or Miss Helen,[149] did feel it incumbent upon them to state a little more precisely what they meant by the use of the word artificial; for Mill proceeds to write as follows: “It may be asserted, without scruple [fine scruples these!!!], that no other class of dependents have had their character[Pg 285] so entirely distorted from its natural proportions by their relations with their masters.”[150] This means that a “true,” a “natural” woman once fell into man’s hands, and that since that time she has been distorted out of all recognition.

But we may very relevantly ask Mesdames Taylor, how, when and where they have had the unique privilege of coming across this wholly “true” and “natural” woman? Presumably, she was not only a “true” woman, but also a “truthful” woman; she was not only a “natural” woman, but a guileless, honest woman, devoid of all malice and vanity—in fact quite unlike the woman Manu knew, or the woman Adam knew. At what period in history did she appear and fall into the distorting hands of man? By what scientific process have Mesdames Taylor acquired any knowledge of her? We only know of woman as she is seen to-day, in history, in the literary remains of antiquity, and in savage tribes. Whence comes this alleged “true” and “natural” woman, beside whom the woman we know is only a distorted caricature? To postulate a norm that is wholly hypothetical, and then to argue that by the side of that gratuitous creation, the woman that we know, and have seen mirrored in history, in the tradition of mankind, and in the work of our acutest psychologists, is a monstrous distortion, may prove a useful means of clouding the issue, but can hardly be allowed to pass as an argument. And the fact that Mill, the logician, the critic of Spencer and Sir William Hamilton, wrote this, and the whole of the remaining paragraph, surely demonstrates how very far he was from being himself when he wrote this particular book.[151]

[Pg 286]

We therefore deny the possibility of any second meaning to Mesdames Taylor’s sentence, except this, that, like “true” women in argument, they are trying to foist a spurious distinction upon their opponents, with their two words “artificial” and “natural,” so that henceforth all those who allege anything but pleasant things about women, may be promptly gagged with the retort “Artificial!”

A little later on in his Subjection of Women we read the following: “For, however great and apparently ineradicable the moral and intellectual differences between men and women might be, the evidence of their being natural differences could only be negative. Those only could be inferred to be natural which could not possibly be artificial—the residuum, after deducting every characteristic of either sex, which can admit of being explained from education or external circumstances.”[152]

In this sentence it is difficult not to discern the voice of the female collaborator in two distinct vibrations: the general sentiment and the irrational argument; for, apart from the fact that it amounts practically to a drastic and final veto against all such discussions as the one I am engaging in at the present moment, it relies upon wholly specious but plausible biological phraseology for its persuasiveness. In it, moreover, we not only find a reiteration of the counterfeit argument, but also an attempt to dress it in a delusively scientific garb.

According to the evolutionary hypothesis, about which Mrs. and Miss Taylor must have known (for they moved in circles where these matters were discussed, and The Subjection of Women appeared eight to ten years after The Origin of Species) it is impossible to say precisely what is and what is not the outcome of external circumstances in women. In fact it is ridiculous to speak of a possible residuum after the influence of external circumstances has been deducted. The evolutionary hypothesis[Pg 287] postulates a method according to which it is conceivable that biological transformations have occurred in the past. This method can be summed up in the following words: The survival of the fittest (the best adapted to life’s circumstances) through the operation of natural selection. But this very law presupposes the action of environment on the organism. It may make every allowance possible for an innate power in the organism to evolve along certain lines (Darwin gave some weight to this factor), but it must reckon with the influence of external circumstances notwithstanding. In fact, “adapted to environment” is exactly what is meant by “fit,” and no more. In the light of this theory—and this is the only accepted theory with which they could have been familiar—what becomes of Mesdames Mill and Taylor’s supposed “residuum,” when once the results of external circumstances have been deducted? It may mean nothing at all. It may mean the original protoplasm from which all life is supposed to have sprung. It may mean a remote member of the anthropoid ape class, or an antediluvian squirrel.

It was, however, never intended that it should undergo so severe an inspection. It is simply one example, flagrant but instructive, of a woman’s “natural” duplicity or dishonesty. If accepted, it makes all inquiry into the nature of man and woman, even on the broadest lines, utterly impossible. If taken seriously, it renders every conclusion you can possibly draw concerning that nature utterly invalid. —And this, indeed, is its precise intention. This is exactly the function it was expected to perform. Mrs. Taylor and her daughter could hope to achieve no more by it.

Advance any opinion on woman’s nature, consonant or not with a sane view of the women of to-day, the women of history, the women of myth, and the women of tradition, and immediately Mrs. Taylor would shoot up from behind her neatly framed and quasi-learned sentence, and declare that your opinion was quite incompatible with[Pg 288] her alleged and hypothetical “residuum.”[153] All argument was thus stifled for ever, all discussion, all inquiry, all belief! But what did Mrs. Taylor care? With all those who were susceptible of being duped by her verbal conjuring, she had achieved this remarkable success, that she had silenced them on the subject of her sex’s vices and virtues.

These sentences, and many more like them, constitute the burden of the argument in The Subjection of Women, and make it not only valueless, but also dangerously misleading. The pamphlet remains the most unhappy record of Mill’s character as a thinker.

It is impossible here to examine this hermaphrodite pamphlet line by line; but the fact which makes the disingenuousness of these early lines so monstrous is that the remainder of the book depends upon them, evolves necessarily from them, and falls entirely to the ground if it be deprived of them. When, therefore, it is remembered that this book has exercised a potent influence over half a century of English life,[154] and that its principles have formed the basis of many hundreds of books of the same kind, and of a movement which ultimately fixed the coping-stone into the arch of stupidity supporting our political life, we cannot too severely condemn, not only the carelessness of a man who could so imperfectly distinguish senile sentimentality from his duty to the public, but also the unscrupulousness of two full-grown females who[Pg 289] could take advantage of an old man’s blind infatuation in order to mar books, written under his own signature, with the dialectical tactics of contentious and indignant housewives.[155]

Even if we examine the historical value of the ostensibly historic basis of Mill’s contention, we find it entirely unsubstantiated by fact. Mill says: “What is now called the nature of women is an entirely artificial thing—the result of forced regression in some directions, unnatural stimulation in others.”

Taken up by a thousand angry female voices, this came to mean at the end of the nineteenth century that, if women were as they were—inferior to man in intellectual power, in honesty, in reliability, in social instincts, in taste, etc.—it was because throughout their history as a sex they had been oppressed and deprived of the opportunities of improvement.

Now, even if the first part of the sentence were true (and we have already shown how false it is), the latter part remains utterly untenable.

The fact that women throughout their history have had to play the part of mothers, and therefore to stay very much at home, cannot be meant as the artificial factor in their evolution. We cannot therefore conceive of Mrs. Taylor’s having been so palpably foolish as to suppose that it was their motherhood that constituted this[Pg 290] “forced repression” and “unnatural stimulation.” Have there been “forced repression” and “unnatural stimulation” in other respects—at least in the history of our race?

Men of the J. S. Mill school say that you can trace women’s bondage throughout the ages, that you can see how they have been withheld both from places of responsibility and from opportunities for intellectual development ever since the dawn of history. But is this a fact? Is the evidence in favour of this view? Personally, I am convinced that the evidence is entirely against it.

Within the limits naturally described by their destiny as mothers, we can, on the contrary, positively assert that, at least in England and France, nothing—no obstacle, no restriction and no harsh measure whatsoever have stood in the way of women’s development.

Throughout the whole of its history, our people have been careful to place no barrier in the path of women’s advancement. It is rather the other way; everything has been done to enhance and to promote their importance.

Speaking of the early Teutonic tribes, from which we partly sprang, Tacitus emphasizes the prominent rôle that was allowed to the women for generations. “They neither scorn to consult them, nor slight their answers,” said Tacitus. “They even believe that a certain sanctity and prescience characterize the female sex. We have seen Veleda ... long revered as a deity by many. Aurima, besides, and many more, were formerly treated with the same veneration, but not with slavish adulation, nor as if they were goddesses.”[156] Speaking of the neighbours of the Suiones, the Sitones, Tacitus says, they “differ in submitting to a female ruler; so far have they degenerated, not only from liberty, but even from slavery.”[157] Gibbon, after referring more particularly to those women in the early Teutonic tribes who were revered as goddesses, goes on to say: “The rest of the[Pg 291] sex, without being adored as goddesses, were respected as the free and equal companions of soldiers; associated even by the marriage ceremony to a life of toil, of danger and of glory.”[158]

“Even more marked than among the Teutonic and Frisian races,” says Dr. Browne, “was the recognition of women in the early Celtic races, whose blood—somewhat diluted—is in our veins.”[159] Two hundred years before the coming of Christ, in the league between Hannibal and the Celts, there was the following clause: “If the Celtae have complaints against the Carthaginians the Carthaginian commander in Spain shall judge it. But if the Carthaginians have anything to lay to the charge of the Celtae, it shall be brought before the Celtic women.”[160]

As regards the women of Anglo-Saxon England, the evidence of their freedom and high cultivation is so voluminous that it would be impossible to quote it in detail. We have only to mention such names as Rowena, Guiniver, Bertha, Ethelburga, Eanfled, Redburga and Osburga[161] the mother of Alfred the Great. Editha, the consort of Edward the Confessor, appears to have been a remarkable woman. The Saxon historian, Ingulphus, speaks highly of her learning and her domestic gifts, while Edith, or Alfgith, Harold’s wife, seems to have been at least a creature of refined sentiments. We also know that all mixed monasteries in Anglo-Saxon times were ruled over[Pg 292] by able women.[162] “In 694 five Kentish abbesses were present at the Council of Beckenham and signed the decrees above all the presbyters,”[163] and Anglo-Saxon women also became the heads of monastic institutions in Thuringia. Dr. Browne tells us, moreover, that 1250 years ago those of our English ancestors who could afford it sent their daughters to Paris to be educated.[164]

With the arrival of the Normans, the already important position of women could but be still further enhanced; for, the Normans having attained to an even higher grade of civilization, brought with them the notion, created and taught by the troubadours and minstrels of France and Italy, that the softer sex was entitled, not only to the protection and tenderness, but also to the homage and service of all true knights.[165] Certainly if Emma, wife of Ethelred, and subsequently of Canute, represented the type of Norman women, they must have been a remarkable breed. I do not attach as much blame to her, as some are inclined to do, for sacrificing the interests of her children by her first husband to those by her second marriage with the Danish conqueror—and this seems the gravamen of the charges brought against her, even by Edward the Confessor; for we have to remember two circumstances in mitigation of this charge: (1) Her possible greater love for her second husband; (2) His ascendancy over her, to which it is a credit to her to have yielded, and consequently the likelihood of his having been himself responsible for her attitude to the children of the first bed. In any case, the fact that Edward the Confessor himself fell at her feet imploring her pardon with tears, after she had successfully passed through the ordeal of walking barefoot unscathed over nine red-hot ploughshares in Winchester cathedral, in order to clear herself of the charges brought against her by her foes; and the fact that he submitted to the[Pg 293] discipline at the high altar, as a penance for having exposed her to such a test of her innocence, are, to my mind, overwhelming evidence in her favour. On this score, alone, I feel safe in concluding that she must have been a remarkable woman not only for her own time, but for all time.[166]

In the Middle Ages, therefore, women may be said to have enjoyed a position, not only of untrammelled freedom, but of exceptional honour. Matilda of Scotland, Adelicia of Louvaine, the third Matilda, Berengaria, Eleanor of Castille, were creatures who could only have deployed the qualities they did deploy, in an age in which every opportunity was afforded for female education and development. And, indeed, Mill himself sees an objection to his argument here;[167] for all historians are unanimous. Women were voting in municipal elections in France as early as 1316 and 1331. Guizot, writing of the women of the Middle Ages, says: “Quand le possesseur de fief d’ailleurs sortait de son château pour aller chercher la guerre et les aventures, sa femme y restait, et dans une situation toute différente de celle que jusque’là les femmes avaient presque toujours eue. Elle y restait maîtresse, châtelaine représentant son mari, chargée en son absence de la défense et de l’honneur du fief. Cette situation élevée et presque souveraine, au sein même de la vie domestique, a souvent donné aux femmes de l’époque féodale une dignité, un courage, des vertus, un éclat qu’elles n’avaient point déployés ailleurs, et elle a, sans nul doute, puissamment contribué à leur développement moral et au progrès général de leur condition.[168]

We know that women surgeons were quite common in[Pg 294] the Middle Ages;[169] Queen Philippa had one, Cecilia of Oxford[170]; the Middle Ages also produced many women writers; while there is even reason to believe that the ordinary duties of motherhood—which presumably Mill and his female authority would have regarded as part of the factors making for women’s subjection—were evaded by certain mediæval mothers.[171]

When we come to more recent times, with the more plentiful material that lies to hand, we are able to demonstrate beyond a doubt that, if ever women had limitations forcibly imposed upon the development of their intellect or character, it was certainly not in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In France in 1576 they were voting for the elections of the States-general, and in the same century they held seats in the States Assembly of Franche-Conté. As regards protection of the female in France in this and the following two centuries, it was rigorous to the point of being inhuman. In 1579 there was a law that made rape a capital offence.[172] In 1709 a certain Sieur La Gravigne was condemned to capital punishment for having seduced a girl with whom he had eloped; in 1712 a member of the Paris Parliament was ordered to pay 60,000 livres damages (or 200,000 francs) for breach of promise, and in 1738 the Parliament at Dijon condemned the Marquis de Tavannes to death for having eloped with a Demoiselle de Bron.[173]

[Pg 295]

Miss Alice Clark has gone to great pains to collect some of the evidence that may be adduced on this subject, in so far as England of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries is concerned, and speaking of the women of the sixteenth century she says: “The ladies of the Elizabethan period possessed courage, initiative, resourcefulness and wit in a high degree. Society expected them to play a great part in the national life and they rose to the occasion; perhaps it was partly the comradeship with their husbands in the struggle for existence which developed in them qualities which had otherwise been atrophied.”[174] Of the women of the seventeenth century, she has shown how many were their opportunities of becoming self-reliant, versatile and resourceful. “At the beginning of the seventeenth century,” she tells us, “it was usual for the women of the aristocracy to be very busy with affairs—affairs which concerned their household, their estates, and even the Government.... Among the nobility the management of the estate was often left for months in the wife’s care.... In addition to the household accounts, those of the whole of Judge Fell’s estate at Swarthmore, Lancashire [circa 1670-1680] were kept by his daughter Sarah.” These accounts “show that the family affairs included a farm, a forge, mines, some interest in shipping and something of the nature of a bank.... A granddaughter of Oliver Cromwell, the wife of Thos. Bendish, was also interested in the salt business, having property in salt works at Yarmouth in the management of which she was actively concerned,”[175] etc., etc.

“A book might be wholly filled with the story of the part taken by women in the political and religious struggles of the period,” says Miss Clark. “They were also active among the crowd who perpetually besieged the Court for grants of wardships and monopolies or patents.”[176]

“From the women who begged for monopolies which if granted must have involved much worry and labour if[Pg 296] they were to be made profitable,” continues Miss Clark, “we pass naturally to women who actually owned and managed businesses requiring a considerable amount of capital. They not infrequently acted as pawn-brokers and money-lenders.... The names of women often occur in connexion with the shipping trade and with contracts.... Women’s names appear in lists of contractors to the Army and Navy,”[177] etc., etc. In short, I cannot do better than refer the reader to Miss Clark’s excellent treatise; and should he leave it still thinking, with Mesdames Taylor, that the Subjection of Women is clearly demonstrated at least by the life of the seventeenth century, he will have formed an opinion strangely at variance with the facts adduced.

Now, in the face of all this evidence—and I do not pretend to know, much less to have adduced, a hundredth part of it—in view, moreover, of the prominent part that women, even of the most obscure origin, played in the literature of the eighteenth century, and the independence with which they moved in society, how can it any longer be maintained, with any semblance of honesty, that there has been, as if from malice aforethought, a male conspiracy to achieve the subjection of women?

In trying to explain away certain female characteristics, which are as unanimously testified to to-day as they have been in all ages of history, by ascribing them to a distortion of “true” or “natural” woman—whoever or wherever she may be—as if woman were only just at this moment coming into her own, as if in fact she were only just emerging from a dark and stifling obscurity that had stunted her, Mill and his followers are guilty of a deliberate lie. They imply that which it is incumbent upon them to prove, and they do so with the full-throated sentimentality of romanticists, who cannot be quite sensible, who must have a tear in their eye, and a lump in their throat, when they pronounce the word “Woman.”

But the falsehood, palpable as it was, succeeded by[Pg 297] means of its flattering innuendo, in convincing every woman in Great Britain, who had reasons for being discontented and disgruntled. Indeed, so flattering was the innuendo, that even if the alleged subjection was not a historical fact, it was felt that at least it ought to have been. And what was this flattering innuendo in Mrs. Taylor’s falsehood?—It was this: That if hitherto women had produced no outstanding work, no epoch-making masterpiece in the arts or in the sciences, if, in fact, European women had not been so very different from the women of tradition and antiquity, it was not because men were specially gifted, or radically different from them, but simply because European women had been stunted by oppression!

This was much too fascinating a lie ever to be suspected or distrusted by the overweening champions of Women’s Rights, either in the late nineteenth or the early twentieth century; hence the eager speed with which it was swallowed down—hence too Mill’s inordinate popularity! A large majority of women, it is true, were a little too thoughtful, or a little too well informed, to be duped by it; but the disgruntled and arrogant minority won the day.[178]

It is perfectly true, of course—indeed nothing could be plainer—that man, throughout the ages, even of European history, has been unable to relieve woman of those duties which, as a mother, and therefore as a homekeeper, have necessarily devolved upon her;[179] but[Pg 298] neither has he been able to relieve himself of the duties of the soldier, the sailor, the hewer of wood, and the drawer of water. Nobody in his senses, however (unless he were infatuated with a second Mrs. Taylor), would argue that because man has been unable to relieve woman of those duties, therefore he has distorted her “true” nature.

For the truth is, the fact remains (securely as Mill was blinded to it) that even in those departments of social life which for centuries, almost from time immemorial, have constituted practically the undisputed domain of woman—woman’s Empire, woman’s peculiar field for enterprise and initiative, where her independence and supremacy have been unchallenged—in cooking, clothing and child-care, such ineptitude, such inability to improve, such gross and stubborn stupidity have been shown, that only when men took over these departments of knowledge, as special branches of study, was there any sign, any hope, any certainty of progress being made.

Even if we were so easily hoodwinked as to be led to admit that woman’s relative intellectual inferiority, her lack of creative and inventive ability in other spheres, did not constitute a natural sexual characteristic, but were the outcome of a deliberate attempt on our part to withhold from her the opportunities of acquiring ability in those spheres, how are we to explain the marked deficiency of intelligence and initiative which she has shown as a sex in the elaboration and perfection of those arts or sciences, such as cooking, clothing, and child-care, which have practically been her exclusive domain for ages? Here she was supreme. Here she was entirely free and untrammelled. By now she could have converted each of these pursuits into an exact science. She has had the time, the hereditary bias, and the accumulated knowledge[Pg 299] of tradition, all on her side. And yet, as we know, it was only when men took these departments in hand, that they began to wear the aspect of properly regulated and scientific occupations.

To-day the high authorities, the only authorities, on cooking are all men. To-day, if a woman for some reason or other is unable to nurse her new-born child, she cannot turn to the traditional wisdom of her sex,[180] she cannot even turn to a classical work on child welfare written by one member of her sex, she must turn to man; for the high authorities on this subject, at the time of writing, are all men like Dr. Eric Pritchard, or else women who have learnt all they know directly from them. To-day, every fashion, whether of men’s or of women’s clothing, is entirely the creation of the male mind. A group of men in England direct the former, and a group of men in France autocratically prescribe the latter.

The only circumstance that could possibly make me regret the death of a woman like Mrs. Taylor, many years before my own birth, is that it has rendered me unable to confront her with these facts, and to ask her how she accounts, or how she would have made poor Mill account, for this colossal, incurable and wellnigh incredible lack of ability in thousands of generations of women, in occupations where they had everything their own way for centuries.

In England, in the Middle Ages, a proverb was current to the effect that “God sent us meat and the devil ordained the cooking of it.”[181] The cooking of food, which has remained in the hands of women for a longer period in England than in France, is, in England, notoriously[Pg 300] atrocious. The clothing of women, which in England is more remote from the male focus of inspiration than in France, is in England proverbially inferior—despite fashion-books and a constant cross-Channel stream of British fashion-spies. While the fact that child-welfare centres are being opened up everywhere (inspired originally by male doctors, and the results of male research), in order to teach women how to take care of their babies, is surely proof enough of the abysmal ignorance into which the traditional mother of history has sunk, regarding a calling which has been her own exclusive field from the beginning of time, and which she ought to have perfected at the very dawn of history.

If Mill had, with one masterly shake of his muddled head, removed those soft pink fingers from his brow, he might possibly have seen all this, and have left his MS. in some conspicuous place where his wise housemaid (who consigned Carlyle’s French Revolution to the flames) might have done the same by his own Subjection of Women. But with characteristic confusion he mistook erotic vividness for mental vision, and thus added one great intellectual blunder to the many which contributed towards forming late nineteenth-century opinion.

Unlike man, whose nature is more variegated and more subject to variation, woman is possessed of a primum mobile that we can recognize—that is to say, she is actuated by a mainspring, a ruling motive, that we can observe in operation. As we have seen, this primum mobile constitutes her the chief custodian and preserver of Life, and the chief promoter of Life’s multiplication. In fact, these two functions constitute her principal importance, and endow her with her great power and her great value. Everything else in woman is of minor significance. If, therefore, we assume at this stage in our treatise—for the point has been demonstrated often enough—that the positive woman’s incessant and unconscious impetus is in the direction of Life and its multiplication,[Pg 301] we may expect to find in woman all the virtues that guarantee the survival of the species, and all the vices which Life itself reveals in the pursuit of this same object.

Seeing that the pursuit of Life and its multiplication is in Nature an activity that is untrammelled by any moral consideration whatsoever, we may ask ourselves, whether in view of the difficulty of improving upon Nature’s methods in this respect, and in view, moreover, of the fact that woman is a child of Nature, we are not justified in recognizing in woman a primum mobile that is also completely a-moral.

If we are so justified, then it follows that all woman’s deeper characteristics, as Nature’s characteristics, are not moral but immoral, not social but unsocial, not lawful but lawless.[182]

Let us proceed to examine this statement more narrowly. A woman’s deepest characteristics are termed by us unmoral. What does that precisely mean? We have admitted that what constitutes woman’s greatest value and her greatest power is that she is the chief supporter of the vital functions—the promotion and preservation of Life. If, therefore, she is also immoral, it must mean that, in the fulfilment of her destiny, she has often to run counter, as Nature does, to our standard of moral integrity. Therefore, that if she were moral, this would be a hindrance and an obstacle in the way of her destiny. But how will she reveal this immorality, or a-morality?—My reply is, in being like Nature utterly unscrupulous in the means she adopts to achieve her vital end—that is to say, more intent on the vital end than on anything else, such as truth, honour, justice, fair-play, etc., etc. For morality means scruples, it involves the necessity of regarding scruples as obstacles in the way of certain actions. If, therefore, we can show that woman, like[Pg 302] Nature, is unscrupulous in her promotion and preservation of Life, we will have gone some way towards establishing the fact of her immorality.

Before, however, we proceed with this inquiry, we should like to remind all readers, who at this point may begin to feel their cheeks mantling with indignation, that, since from the optimist’s point of view it is desirable for the human species to survive, a very high sanction indeed prevails over woman’s vital unscrupulousness, however surprising and unexpected its consequences may prove to be.[183] For instance, if, as we hope we have already abundantly shown, woman’s chief and deepest concern is the multiplication and preservation of life, it is obvious that, when confronted by a situation in which a lie will secure her vital end, and one in which truth will defeat it, she will naturally and instinctively choose to lie—not because she necessarily prefers to lie, but because she is more concerned about the end in view than the means she adopts to achieve it, and every lie to her is a “white” lie that secures her vital end. If then from a vital indifference to truth she ultimately reveals an ordinary indifference to truth in the common and less vital circumstances of everyday life, we must blame, not a fundamental perversity of her nature, which would seem to suggest that moral obliquity is a deep-rooted and ineradicable element of her psyche, but a self-preservative characteristic of the race which, though manifesting itself, as it were, unnecessarily and provokingly in everyday affairs, nevertheless, if absent altogether, would prove the most serious menace to the survival of humanity. In the form of a simile we might say that, just as the good[Pg 303] army marksman annoys us when, in peace-time, he disturbs our quiet moments with his incessant revolver or rifle practice, and his insatiable desire to “pot” anything and everything, yet we applaud and defend his love of his fire-arm and his skill with it, when, in time of war, he and his like defend our homes and ourselves by “accounting” for numbers of the enemy.

Is that clear? In plain English, to take an extreme case, if a girl is to be equipped with that ability for wiles and small deceptions which, despite adverse circumstances, are to enable her to secure a lover and a husband and a large family early in life; if, moreover, she is to be prepared to go to extreme lengths to defend and promote the welfare of her children (as all good mothers are), and also to secure their survival and success over the heads of other and possibly more deserving or better children (as all good mothers are prepared to do[184]); if, moreover, in her relations with her husband and her children, she is to display that tact and diplomacy which always secure her the victory in domestic negotiations; then, it seems to me, we have a creature whose special gifts will extend beyond her family and its vital concerns, and invade all the other circumstances of her life, and who will inevitably practise wiles and small deceptions in those conditions where life, its multiplication and preservation are not necessarily in question.

The fact, however, that such a creature may be detected again and again in some act of unscrupulousness, not necessarily concerned directly with Life, or some vital interest, does not mean that she is perverse or depraved for the sake of perversity and depravity, as ends in themselves,[Pg 304] but simply that her vital unscrupulousness cannot well be confined to the business of Life and its multiplication, and cannot exist as a useful characteristic of her being, without manifesting itself in conditions and circumstances where no vital consideration is at stake. In other words, if you are to have a good house-dog, who will protect you from burglars at night, you must warn your milkman and your dustman, although they have no dishonest intention in entering your garden, not to go too near him, for his useful characteristic is bound to manifest itself in circumstances and conditions where its usefulness is not vital.

When from folklore and myth, from national proverbs and tradition, and from the text-books of the oldest religions, therefore, we learn that woman is two-faced, or false, or treacherous, or disloyal, while we cannot expect these sources of information to give us also their reasons for their verdict, we have at least a hint that something deeper is in question than an obliquity of mind. For one would have thought that centuries of schooling would have eradicated these characteristics from women, and that if they have failed to do so, something more essential to woman’s nature than a mere perversion of mind may be suspected. Neither is it enough to point, as Lombroso does, to woman’s relative weakness, to her periodical functional disturbances, to her modesty, etc., to account for a trait so universally attested.[185]

The positive woman who is disloyal to her absent husband is not disloyal from weakness, she is disloyal[Pg 305] owing to the vital impulse of her large and important reproductive organs, which, after a spell of idleness, clamorously demand employment. The woman who lies about her age, or about her antecedents, or about any other circumstance of her life, in order to secure a husband or a lover, does not do so because she is relatively weaker than the man she wishes to secure, but because, again, her unconscious mind urges her to procure fertilization at all costs.

The unfairness of the attitude of most psychologists and other men to the phenomenon of unreliability and deception in woman, consists in the fact that they condemn it without understanding it; while those who neither condemn it nor understand it stubbornly, stupidly, and sentimentally deny it in the face of all the overwhelming evidence in proof of its existence. But when once you admit that duplicity and disloyalty in women are part of a vital principle making for the multiplication and preservation of life, and serving the best interests of the species, you are no longer even entitled to condemn those same characteristics when they happen to operate in circumstances and conditions inconvenient to yourself. You cannot always expect to have it both ways, and if the species profits by a certain principle in the female, it must expect to pay for that principle somewhere, somewhen.

To attempt to make woman perfectly honest and upright would therefore be to attack the most vital impulse within her[186]—that impulse which causes her to be eager[Pg 306] to the point of unscrupulousness in securing and preserving a multiplication of life. And yet there are many wise fools, both men and women, who have solemnly set themselves that object, and are striving to achieve it by every means in their power.

If we observe Nature herself engaged upon the same task that constitutes woman’s principal concern in life, we observe the same unscrupulousness. Nature stops at nothing to achieve this end. All means are good to her: rapine, deception, falsehood, usurpation of rights, bullying, stealth, robbery, invasion, and complete indifference to quality and desirability.

Life in Nature is a continuous process of inter-racial and intra-racial struggles for power and supremacy, with no principle, except the one of “more life” in each race or species, governing the whole. Every species behaves as if it alone had the right to exist on earth, irrespective of all other claims. The fact that there are more species of parasites than of any other kind of organism shows that this universal process of rapine and deception is pursued without any natural exercise of favour for what, from the human standpoint, can be called desirability. The parasite kills the human genius just as readily as it kills the cow, and the locusts devour the food which is the only sustenance of the ewe and her lamb. Without scruple, and without favour, Nature’s one cry is “Life!” and evermore “Life!” and whether the success of the struggle falls to what we should call the “nobler” species, or to the “inferior,” is a matter of utter indifference to her.

When men like Weininger, Lombroso, Havelock Ellis, and many others, inveigh against Nature turned woman, and see the same unscrupulousness concentrated on one form of survival—human survival—the fact that they[Pg 307] do not trace this characteristic to a positive and vital source makes their moral condemnation of women worthless and unworthy of a scientific thinker.[187]

In woman I recognize some of the principal virtues that make for a continuance of the human species on earth: (1) Unreflecting constancy to the demands of Life;[188] (2) Untiring interest in the processes of Life and its multiplication (which in its minor ramifications lead to that intense concern about all human affairs, which, in opprobrious language, is called “a love of scandal-mongering”); (3) A capacity for desperate bravery in defending or succouring human life; (4) A capacity for single-minded devotion to her own offspring (which in its minor ramifications often manifests itself in the virgin, and in the spinster of all ages, as a single-minded devotion to a purpose, to an idea, or to a cause); (5) A capacity for bodily purity, or chastity, which in the more passionate type of woman is based upon an instinct to withhold herself until her heart and her affections are captured (this in its spiritual ramifications leads to intellectual obstinacy, conservatism, or fanaticism. Thus a woman’s citadel of opinions, like her bodily citadel, is only liable to capitulation when her heart and her affections are engaged).

These five cardinal virtues of woman constitute her eternal claim to glory and to respect; in each of them she is a natural mistress, a gifted virtuosa. They are of so much value, of so much moment, to the human species, that they overshadow every catalogue of foibles and vices[Pg 308] that has ever been drawn up against her by a Weininger or a Schopenhauer, and she who possesses them can afford even to forgive a Weininger or a Schopenhauer. Noble as they are in themselves, they can claim in addition the highest possible sanction and testimonial that it is possible for a human character to receive—the sanction and testimonial of Human Survival itself, without which no virtue on earth can hope to last or to prevail, and by the side of which the mere applause and approval of one or many generations of men is but as a pair of bellows puffing in the wind.

To appreciate these virtues of woman at their proper worth, however, a stronger and more vital generation of people is needed than any that has appeared, in England at least, for the last 250 years. The very fact that, at the present day, the general concensus of opinion among men would accord to women quite a different set of virtues, is a sufficient sign of the degeneracy that has occurred.

To-day, for instance, a Parliament of Englishmen or Anglo-Saxons would, in enumerating woman’s virtues, speak about—(1) Her moralizing influence on Society;[189] (2) Her unselfishness (whatever that may mean!); (3) Her powers of self-sacrifice (this is the result of sick values and a confusion of thought—see pp. 77-79); (4) Her intuition (a great myth, the outcome of woman’s habit of saying the first thing that enters her head, and which, according to the laws of chance, must be right sometimes); (5) Her humanitarianism (a mischievous misunderstanding)—all weak, or at least, fictitious qualities, that no full-blooded woman would ever do anything more than pretend to possess, and which made Huxley say “that woman’s virtue was man’s most poetic fiction!”

[Pg 309]

If, however, we choose to dwell on the five cardinal virtues that derive directly from the great vital impulse within her, and to think of the many useful minor virtues that spring from them, we have a list which, if it is less goody-goody than the above, is both hardier and more compatible with reality.

From (1), which we call the Unreflecting constancy to the demands of Life, we can see the following as derivatives: (a) Woman’s constancy to the circumstances (and therefore to the man) who enables her to meet the demands of Life. (b) Her intensely keen sense of self-preservation, when the danger threatening her is not life-promoting. This accounts for her caution, her sagacity in suspecting the unfamiliar, and her over-anxiousness in public thoroughfares, or on railway platforms, on board ship, and in the neighbourhood of restive horses, etc. (c) Her quick recognition of the fact that a given environment cannot procure the demands of Life—hence her mobility, tractableness, docility, amenability, and readiness to follow at great personal risk, until such time as she has found the environment that can procure her the demands of Life. In all communities where marriage is difficult owing to a superfluity of women, girls thus show a tendency frequently to change their environment, and are quite unconscious that in so doing they are pursuing tactics which are calculated to enable them to meet Life’s demands. Thus, they will leave home to study Political Economy, or Sculpture, and when that fails they will change over to child-welfare, or to nursing, and if that fails they will try secretarial work—giving as their reason at each change, that the previous work “did not satisfy them.” If economic pressure compels, they will of course be forced to remain in one occupation, whether it satisfies the demands of Life or not; but those who can afford it, will, as a rule, be restless until they find an environment which promises them fertilization. (d) Her ability to put up with any number of inconveniences and discomforts, provided that the demands of Life are procured[Pg 310] for her—hence her stoicism in poverty, or any other kind of distress, despite the fact that her children share it; hence her cheerful courage in those vital inconveniences connected with an existence in which the demands of Life are being met—illness, the incessant clatter of many children, the hard work that a number of children imposes upon a poor female parent, etc., etc. (e) Her ability to treat all life emotionally. The very quality of unreasoning or unreflecting constancy to the demands of Life, involves an impulsive attitude towards them. I used the word “unreflecting” purposely. It is because woman does not pause to reflect whether it is proper, or expedient, or right, that she should perform a certain action to meet the demands of Life, that she can be so thoroughly relied upon to perform it punctually. If she reflected, it would presuppose hesitation, therefore delay, therefore possibly inaction. But it should be remembered that this attitude is a purely emotional one, and since the business of Life, with the various relationships the family creates, is largely a matter of the emotions too, and not of the reflective or reasoning faculties, it follows that the tradition or history of woman’s mental life is largely confined to the play and the exercise of the emotions. Life, as far as normal woman is concerned, is a matter of affection, of attachment and devotion, first to the man of her heart, and lastly to the children of her blood. Where she may be expected to be practised, gifted and versatile, therefore, is precisely in this sphere of the emotions; for they alone are capable of directing that unreflecting form of action that the demands of Life impose upon her. A mistress of feeling, therefore, we cannot expect her to be so perfect at reflection.[190]

From (2), which we call the Untiring interest in the processes of Life and its multiplication, we can see the following[Pg 311] derivations: (a) Woman’s helpfulness and readiness to be of use in all those circumstances in a neighbour’s, friend’s, or relative’s home, in which she comes in close contact with Life’s most serious business, at moments of child-birth, serious illness, and death, and particularly at moments of great domestic upheavals, such as times of serious disagreement, and all tragic occurrences, between couples. The fact that these virtues necessarily involve such an all-embracing interest in human affairs, that a love of scandal is an almost inevitable counterpart of them, is not difficult to see. The evils of scandal-mongering, however, are grossly exaggerated. All decent, humane and humanity-loving people revel in scandal, and I have never yet met a woman who was worth knowing who was not an inveterate scandal-monger. “The proper study of mankind is Man,” said Pope, and he was entirely right. But what is scandal-mongering, and the exhaustive discussion of one’s acquaintances, relatives and friends, but an essential description of that “proper study”? Husbands who do not sympathize with their wives’ love of scandal, and who refuse to join with them in expatiating on tittle-tattle, are usually inhuman and narrow men, such men as make good engineers, good mathematicians, good chemists, and good sailors or explorers. These men will expect their wives to listen breathlessly when they discuss sport or some other futile subject as remote as possible from humanity, and yet will show impatience if their wives discuss the marital relations of their next-door neighbour. (b) This virtue makes women very observant of little odd characteristics in their fellow-creatures. And if women are, as a rule, such good mimics and imitators, it is due partly to the earnestness with which they observe other men and women (the other reason for their power of imitation I shall give under (5)). Women will frequently draw wrong conclusions from the traits they have observed—this I do not deny—but the interesting point is that they usually observe the traits.

[Pg 312]

From (3), which we called Desperate bravery in defending and succouring human life, we can see the following derivatives: (a) The readiness to incur mortal risk for a child of their own (quite common); for a husband (very rare, except in early days of marriage when children have not yet arrived); for a loved human creature of any kind. (b) A certain foolhardy and reckless daring in engaging overwhelming odds for the sake of achieving a vital purpose (a woman will assault a man twice her size and three or four times her strength at such moments). (c) A capacity for a fierce unrelenting hatred towards enemies, deceivers, or betrayers of those she loves. (d) In the realm of the spirit, a readiness to perform a mad feat of intrepidity to defend or promote an idea (Miss Emily Davison in that marvellous rush at the King’s horse in the Derby of 1913.[191] We loathed the cause for which she fought, but we honoured and admired the fierce single-mindedness with which she and the other militant suffragettes fought for it).

From (4), which we call A capacity for single-minded devotion to her own offspring, we can see the following derivatives: (a) Woman’s unswerving tenacity of purpose in serving and ministering to those she loves. (b) Her indefatigable industry on behalf of those who depend on her, so that she is able, like a horse, to work herself to death, provided she loves and knows she is loved. (c) In the spiritual realm, her capacity for fanatical adherence to a cause, to a belief, to a faith, and her corresponding fierce antagonism to those who oppose that cause or faith. (d) Her pride in her own offspring and her consequent tendency to undervalue or to dislike the offspring of others. When this sentiment is stimulated to its zenith by the fact that the offspring of others happen to be the offspring of the former possessor of her man’s love, you get the staggering cruelties of the stepmother. Thus in woman’s[Pg 313] nature does good merge into evil, and evil merge into good.[192]

It is certainly in this capacity for single-minded devotion to her own offspring that, generally speaking, the greatest beauty of woman’s character is revealed; and to one who has experienced it in all its perfection and intensity, there is perhaps some pardonable difficulty in speaking about it either with calm or with moderation. The very effort of seeking, in writing, a suitable expression for his feelings in this matter may well seem to a man to subject them to a limitation and temperateness which he can hardly regard as sincere; and, ultimately, in the coldness of the printed page, he can perceive, at best, but a poor travesty of the sentiments he wished to convey.

Everything connected with this virtue is at once so useful to the race, and so unique and unforgettable as an individual experience, that it seems only fitting to pause for a moment here to dwell on one or two of its most stirring features. Passing over the first months and years when the only force between helpless, pitiably dependent life, and death—or at least neglect—is precisely this mother’s instinct, this jealous care, when inarticulate infancy can neither acknowledge, return thanks for, nor, what is perhaps more perplexing, realize all the thousand and one services that are cheerfully performed in order to promote its growth and its comfort; passing over, too, those moments of the silent watcher, of the sleepless sentry, in which, during times of danger, every breath[Pg 314] is a prayer, and every smile a song of thanksgiving; we would like more particularly to concentrate upon that period of early childhood, on that age of babbling tongue and unsteady gait, when most of that which is to be of use in life, and indeed most of that which is never to be forgotten in life, is learnt at the mother’s side. Not that we would wish to reduce by one iota the importance of the former period, the most wonderful aspect of which is, perhaps, the joy that is felt by either side in simply playing its appointed rôle; but rather because in the latter period both parties are conscious of this same joy, and are in a position to prolong it, transmute it and preserve it, until long after that age when the positions become reversed, and dependence has begun on the side of the once protecting mother.

There is in the child of a good mother, a spirit so confiding, so receptive, so perfectly trustful, that possibly at no other age are the pre-requisites for sound education more completely present than in those first years of life at the dawn of which a fold of the mother’s skirt still offers a substantial amount of support to legs that are learning both bearing power and balance. What happens then, and how it happens, will, of course, never be properly recorded; for lessons are given and lessons are learnt without sufficient conscious effort on either side for the method to be made a subject of exact knowledge. But the result is gradually made manifest by the marvellous transformation of an inarticulate little animal, whose whole horizon is bounded by food, sleep and apparently purposeless limb-exercises, into a creature that can express its wishes, demand explanations of the things about it, learn to recognize the first rules of decent behaviour, and, what is more, shed its own fresh light on the problems of existence; and, if what it learns later on may, from the standpoint of material utility, bear a more imposing and less chaotic aspect, certainly nothing it has failed to learn at this period will ever be acquired at any subsequent stage of its existence. It cannot be said that[Pg 315] it has mastered any definite system of thought, or that it has memorized any particularly striking fact; it may not even have learnt the very patience and gentleness which its mother has constantly exhibited in her care of it. Nevertheless, it has learnt things which, in solemn truth, can be said to be little short of priceless.

Let it not be suspected, however, because we can find only vague phraseology for our purpose, that we wish to claim for this early education an indispensable character that it really does not possess. What is it then that makes it almost impossible to give a more narrow description of it without losing all grasp of its magnitude and importance?—It is the fact that, from this education are derived those qualities of heart and mind which, though hardly ever referred to at critical moments in a man’s life, are nevertheless among the most serviceable and powerful of life’s weapons. The man who has had a good mother has learnt to feel a certain confidence in his own unaided efforts, because the best in him has been diligently sought, encouraged, and brought to the fore; he has acquired a certain vigorous sanguineness and courage because, having started life so well, in such a glorious morning of sunshine, he is conscious of stored-up warmth within him, upon which he can fall back in his moments of loneliness, gloom and trouble; but, above all, he has been launched forth into the world with at least one solid experience, one ineffaceable impression of human kindness and human beauty, and this, while it gives him a perpetual criterion of value and criticism, shielding him from the specious and the base, also prevents him from ever feeling that despair and doubt about himself and his fellows which in moments of deep tribulation paralyses effort and precludes the possibility of hope.

This is what the equipment amounts to, with which a loving mother can endow her son. Quite apart from the joys that are derived from deep filial emotions, and from that unique relationship of a mother to her son, these are among the chief benefits that the relationship necessarily[Pg 316] involves. Most of the great men in history owe their greatness partly to this equipment; most of the great men in history—Schopenhauer, Byron, de Quincey—whose relationship to their mothers was not ideal, reveal in their works the effects of this deficiency; and he who ventures to question that here, indeed, I have laid my finger on what is quintessential in the education that a good mother gives to her child, and incapable of satisfactory substitution by any other means in her absence, is one of those unfortunates from whom life has withheld this most precious of all her blessings.

It is here that woman excels; it is here that she can defy all competition, and it is in this rôle that the best in herself, and some of the best in mankind, is developed and sustained. Anything else that she may do must be always second best to this; and those who, by misrepresentation and appeals to vanity, persuade her while she is yet quite young that there are callings better than, or at least as good as, motherhood for her, are enemies not only of woman, but also of the species.

From (5), which we call A capacity for bodily purity or chastity, which is based upon an instinct to resist fertilization until heart and affection are engaged, we can see the following derivatives:[193] (a) Woman’s tendency to a certain rather becoming dignity and pride, which come to their zenith at the moment of the most heated appeal made by the lover who has failed to engage her heart and affection. This on the spiritual side leads to a power of renitency against conviction and persuasion, which frequently makes of woman a most powerful and reliable ally in a secret movement, or in a secret intrigue. (b) Since the demands of Life make it necessary, when once woman has abandoned her attitude of chaste resistance, to yield wholly and unreservedly to the male, there is in all women a certain sequaciousness, a certain docility, a marked predilection in favour of subservience and subordination[Pg 317] to those who have engaged their affections, which makes of woman the most naturally constituted follower, disciple, servant, that it is possible to find. On the spiritual side, it makes her acutely subject to guidance and direction, to receptivity, to suggestion[194] and to imitation. But seeing that sequaciousness, imitation, whether in regard to opinion, mannerism or fashion, is the reverse of original production, and involves an absence or a weakness of the initiating power of personality, we are bound to recognize in woman, as a direct consequence of her necessary physical and psychological surrender, when once the attitude of chastity has been abandoned, a lack of originating power, a lack of that prehensile attitude of mind which seizes and does not wait to be seized, and which is behind all male emancipation, aggression, originality and inventiveness. This, indeed, is the other reason which under (1) we said we had yet to give for woman’s power of imitation.[195] Thus Arabella Kenealy calls the sex-instinct “in the normal girl, responsive rather than initiative.”[196]

From this fifth virtue, which, when the attitude of chastity is abandoned, becomes converted into subjection and submission, are thus derived woman’s suppleness, her plasticity, her promptness to assimilate and to form herself according to another’s pattern, and her ability to adapt herself to circumstances.

In all these derivatives of the five cardinal virtues of[Pg 318] woman we can trace the indirect but certain connexion with the vital primum mobile in her nature, which is her deep concern about Life and its multiplication. On the same principle, therefore, it ought to be possible to enumerate the cardinal vices of woman and their auxiliary manifestations. For if a creature’s virtues are the outcome of its instincts, its bodily formation and the functions it has to perform, its vices must surely have a similar origin.

In the positive woman[197] only those vices may be recognized which are inseparable from her functions as a promoter and preserver of life, for all the other vices she may or may not have in common with man.[198] Those that are constantly characteristic of her are:—

(1) Duplicity and an indifference to truth; (2) Lack of Taste; (3) Vulgarity; (4) Love of petty power; (5) Vanity; and (6) Sensuality.

These six cardinal vices have been recognized in her in all ages; they have been censured and deplored; but no one so far, to the best of my knowledge, has ever traced them to a basic vital principle within her. No one has ever said of them, for instance, what I say of them—that to attempt to eradicate them from her nature would amount to an attack on the most solid guarantee we possess of human survival.

While discussing the derivative and minor vices that descend from these six cardinal vices, I shall, however, also show the connexion of the latter with woman’s innate vital principle, as in some cases this is not obvious at first sight.

No. 1—Duplicity and an indifference to truth—has already been discussed above, and its relation to the will[Pg 319] to Life abundantly demonstrated. Let it suffice, therefore, to point out that an additional proof of its inveteracy in woman is to be found in the tinsel of false sentiment that women particularly have drawn over the natural relations of the sexes—a tinsel which not only promotes marriage and parenthood by concealing their sordid and tiresome side from the young male, but which also prevents both sexes in most nations from detecting this less prepossessing side of matrimony throughout their whole lifetime. If the reader wishes to test which sex really values this tinsel of false sentiment as its own, as its most powerful weapon, let him attempt to tear it away from the relations of the sexes in the presence of both women and men, and then he will see from the unreasoning fury he provokes in the former which sex is most to blame for its existence.[199]

Again, women are notorious for their tact and presence of mind in embarrassing situations;[200] indeed, the tactfulness[Pg 320] or “diplomacy” of women is so well known in France that it has become proverbial. “On arrive par la femme,” say French “climbers,” whose ambitions exceed their gifts and who have to rely on diplomacy to achieve their ends. But the presence of mind which is but the necessary mental condition for saying the right word, for turning away wrath, suspicion, or envy, for assuaging mortified vanity, and for making people forget their shortcomings, is in reality only an essential pre-requisite of successful falsehood. Let the “lying” be as white as you choose in tactfulness and diplomacy, it matters little; what is important is to remember that neither tactfulness nor diplomacy is possible without the essential equipment of the born and resourceful liar—this equipment being an ability to say something, at a moment’s notice, which is not the natural or obvious reaction to a given stimulus or provocation. Little girls show this ability quite early, and easily outclass boys in the celerity with which they discover a plausible and innocent explanation for a reprehensible act in which they have been caught red-handed.[201] The fact that women are difficult to deal with under cross-examination is well known among lawyers, and their skill in drawing red-herrings across the path of any enquiry directed against themselves, makes them stubborn and evasive witnesses at all times when they have anything to conceal.[202]

[Pg 321]

No. 2. Woman’s fundamental lack of taste is the fact to which, in my Man’s Descent from the Gods, I ascribed the two myths of Pandora and Eve, in which woman is depicted as being the cause of the fall of man, and of the introduction of evil on earth.[203] I demonstrated this fundamental bad taste by pointing to women’s inability to select and recognize the best men, and their general preference for inferior men—the reason of this preference being the greater facility with which the latter are ruled and made amenable to women’s love of petty power. I also showed that this bad taste is rooted in the attitude of the mother to her child, which, consisting as it does, chiefly in a delight in the exercise of petty power over a helpless creature, causes women not only to prefer the baby in long clothes before the full-grown child, but also frequently to prefer the crippled or the physiologically-botched child before the hale and hearty one, because of the former’s more permanent helplessness. I showed also how women prefer lap-dogs before large dogs for the same reason, and reminded the reader that the Romans wisely left it to the father to decide which of his children should survive and which should be suppressed, because they knew that women, having no taste, and being guided only by what most gratified their lust of petty power, could not be trusted to make such a decision wisely. I also ascribed to the prevalence and ascendancy of women’s views and sentiments nowadays the fact that the world was growing so ugly and degenerate (physically); for only if we assume the woman’s attitude of irrational tenderness to cripples and the physiologically botched, can we regard them with anything else than loathing and impatience.

What I did not do, however, in Man’s Descent from the[Pg 322] Gods, was to show the connexion between woman’s fundamental bad taste, or lack of taste, with the vital principle within her, and this I shall proceed to do now. This, however, will not prove difficult, for it amounts simply to emphasizing woman’s profound likeness to Nature, in blindly pursuing Life and its multiplication, at all costs.

If we think of the immensely precarious situation of the new-born infant or animal, its lack of all means of protection, of mobility, and of procuring nourishment independently, its lack of warmth, and frequently of the very equipment for preserving warmth (clothing in the human infant, and fur and feathers in the young animal and bird respectively), we realize at once the immense importance to the species of an instinct in the mother which makes the provision of all these deficiencies a joy, a passionate need, in fact a delight worth fighting for. If the new-born creature is to be preserved, and the species is to survive, there must be no possible loophole, no conceivable crevice or chink, in the armour of the natural instinct, through which any doubt, any hesitation whatever, may enter, as to the immediate urgency and desirability of succouring it. The moment in the life of the young creature is too critical, the situation is too precarious. Here you have pitiable helplessness, pathetic dependence, extreme vulnerability. The future of the species depends upon these unreliable qualities being turned into reliable ones by the only creature in the young one’s neighbourhood who, while being necessarily present at its birth, is in a position to offer first aid. If then there were any excuse or pretext for indecision, any humming and ha-ing over the question of desirability, the “best of the brood,” the “most promising of the litter,” etc., life’s very future would be in the balance, the precious instinct which secures the safety and the survival of the young creature would be undermined, or at least no longer impelled unreflectingly to do the right thing in the right way. There must be an uncritical unreasoning impulse to succour, to warm, to protect, and to feed,[Pg 323] otherwise the speed, the precision and the earnestness with which these functions have to be performed would be fatally impaired, disastrously hampered. Let the struggle for existence be ever so severe subsequently, one thing must remain assured and inviolable, and that is that the mother’s instinct must not have any excuse to fail, it must not even be able to pause to question, to pick or to choose. Discernment, at this moment, would make survival doubtful; but there cannot be, there must not be, any doubt.

Besides, if organic evolution be true, it depends upon the operation of three factors: (1) The survival of the fittest through the action of (2) Natural Selection, with (3) occasional appearance of variations from type.

Now, if the female of the species is to exercise discernment before she succours her young, if her action is to be deliberative and not impulsive, what becomes of those variations which, when happy, lead to a new development of the species, or actually to a new variety of species? Happy variations are just as odd—qua type—as unhappy variations. But if the female’s instinct is to preserve life, it will preserve one just as passionately as the other. Discrimination would prove fatal to both. The very process of organic evolution, if it be a fact, therefore depends upon the lack of discrimination in the motherly instinct, and the hypothesis of organic evolution certainly assumes it.

This instinct in the female to succour young life of any kind, therefore, is useful to Nature’s scheme. It is an indispensable factor in Nature’s plan. In the lower animals it is demonstrated by the ease with which a female of one species can be made to act as foster-mother to the young of another. Books on natural history mention many such cases: cats that have reared leverets and young squirrels,[204] hens that rear ducklings, and the classical natural instance of birds like the Pipit, the Water[Pg 324] Wagtail, etc., rearing the young of the cuckoo.[205] The latter, of course, is a parasitic abuse in Nature, of the female’s undiscriminating instinct to succour; but it is nevertheless, an excellent example of the fact I have been trying to establish.

It is true that in the human species this lack of discrimination in the female operates as a preserver both of desirable and undesirable varieties; but, as in all modern civilizations, the father is no longer allowed, as he was by ancient Sparta or Rome, to override the female’s lack of taste in this matter, and unsuccessful variations from type are more common than geniuses, it follows that the female’s point of view, now that it is supported by the State and public opinion, must lead to the survival of a vast number of undesirable human beings in our midst.

Thus, although the human female’s instinct is seen to be a vital one, and though her lack of taste must be regarded as part of the general scheme of life, it must tend nowadays to an enormous amount of degeneration.

This, however, is not precisely our point. The facts we wish to establish are, in the first place, that in woman’s rôle of mother, the blind instinct to succour, to protect, and to preserve the helpless creature that she bears is of vital importance to the race; and, secondly, that this blind instinct necessarily involves a deep-seated and incorrigible lack of taste. The fact that subsequently—that is to say, when the undesirable offspring, be it cripple, cretin or idiot, grows up—it is frequently cherished by the mother more than her whole and hearty children, is but a confirmation of the point I am attempting to make; for it shows that what appeals to the true mother, and what according to our whole argument must and ought to appeal, is not the particular excellence of a given child, not its claim to any particular form of desirability, but simply its helplessness. And, since in[Pg 325] the cripple, the cretin and the idiot helplessness is prolonged to a much later age than in the healthy child, it is the former to which unsophisticated and simple-minded motherhood naturally inclines.

The consequences of this fundamental and vital lack of taste in women are, of course, considerable.

When we read in Manu’s Book of Laws that “women do not care for beauty,”[206] when Lombroso and Ferrero, in discussing woman’s taste state that “en général, la beauté et l’intelligence la laissent indifférente,”[207] and when we find Rousseau saying “les femmes en général n’aiment aucun art, ne se connoissent à aucun,”[208] we feel inclined to object, because we know of individual instances of women who have shown a marked feeling for beauty. Neither Lombroso, Manu nor Rousseau tells us, however, that their respective statements only refer to a specific and superficial manifestation of a deep and unalterable law. When once we realize that law, we see that these men must be right—not, however, because individual women have shown an indifference to beauty, but because the sex as a whole has no taste, and that, wherever discernment for beauty is pronounced in a woman, she either diverges from type or has undergone some special educating influence.

We are better able to understand now why the forms of art have all been man’s invention, although they have sometimes been successfully imitated by women (in the novel),[209] and why clothes, even those that fill the wardrobes of women, are all derived from an original masculine designing centre in London or Paris. We can also see why women are so prone to select and to associate with the worst and most unpromising type of men,[210] why they have no flair (except on the sexual side, and even[Pg 326] that is by no means infallible) where men are concerned, and why even their palates and their stomachs have never assisted them in the development of the culinary art, when they had it entirely in their own hands. But let us remember again that we cannot have it both ways, and that if we educated tastelessness away in women, we should be undermining one of the most valuable and fundamental of female instincts, the consequences of which alone can we safely hope to correct, without attempting to eliminate their cause.

No. 3. Woman’s Vulgarity might be supposed to arise from her natural absence of taste. But, truth to tell, it is the outcome of a different basic principle in her. Many men have been conscious of it, but none, as far as I have been able to discover, has shown how essential it is, and how necessarily it derives from the vital functions of the female nature. Besides, there is a substantial difference between a lack of taste and vulgarity. The former is a defect, a minus. The latter is a definite quality which operates as a determined bias in an unrefined, rude and low direction. A person lacking taste may by a fluke select a tasteful thing. A vulgar person can in no circumstances be refined. It is not necessarily low, or rude, or unrefined in the mother to prefer the crippled or cretin child before the healthy one—that is simply tasteless. We could not call the mother vulgar because she prefers her child in long clothes before her grown-up child in knickerbockers. The grown-up child makes a stronger appeal to taste, owing to the greater harmony of his proportions, his articulateness, his intelligence, and his greater command over his body and its movements; but as the mother is chiefly attracted by helplessness, it is the child in long clothes that she prefers. The appeals to taste do not affect her. It is tastelessness, therefore, and not vulgarity, that elects the child in long clothes. Thus we see there is a distinct difference between the two, and the one cannot derive from the other. It can aggravate the other, add to its seriousness as a social evil,[Pg 327] complicate and multiply its errors, but it cannot spring from it. We call that person vulgar who constantly and consciously avoids those things that bear the hall-mark of cultivation, or refinement, or careful selection, in order deliberately to pursue, select, value, and cherish those that bear the stamp of coarseness, brutality and baseness.

Now woman constantly overlooks and avoids the former and as constantly pursues the latter, and we hope to show that she cannot help acting in this way—in fact, that in so doing she is obeying a vital instinct.

The records of the lives of artists reveal one singular fact most impressively, and that is the frequency with which they have had to associate with immoral women, or women of the working classes: Heine, Gœthe, Rodin, Van Gogh, Wagner, etc.; they are all alike in this; so much so, indeed, that Weininger, with his customary superficiality, thought fit to assert that “great men have always preferred women of the prostitute type.”[211] Weininger is wrong—great men have not always preferred women of this type. The point is, however, that women of the prostitute type, or women of the proletariat, are the only women who will, as a rule, have anything to do with great men when, as in the case of Wagner, Heine, Van Gogh, and Rodin, their beginnings are poor, inconspicuous, and uncertain. These artists at the outset, like many hundreds of other great men, were unsuccessful. That is the important fact as far as the sexual side of their life is concerned. Unsuccessful men find it quite difficult enough to prevail upon women of their own station in life to associate with them, but to get them as wives is out of the question. This accounts for the fact that great men are so frequently thrown upon the company of courtesans and women of lower rank.[212]

[Pg 328]

Woman has no primary interest in a great or artistic man, she does not prefer him to a successful and rich soap-boiler, and what is more, she never knows he is great until the world acknowledges him as such. In fact she is not in the least concerned with refinement of interests or with cultivation of mind in her mate. She is only deeply fascinated by the great man and the artist when he is a material success. Otherwise, not only does his extra refinement and cultivation leave her indifferent, but his very poverty repels her.

Woman, by her very nature, is bound to take this attitude. She is compelled, therefore, to be vulgar. What is the rationale of her conduct?

It is obviously as follows: Woman, like the female butterfly, the female house-fly, or the female horse-fly, has the very vital and useful instinct to deposit her eggs only there where there is a sound promise of food, and ample quantities of it, for the support of the larvæ that are to be reared from them. To consider other matters here would obviously imperil not so much the mother herself as her future offspring. Æsthetic considerations must therefore be barred. It is not the best-looking repository, or the most refined, or the most learned, or the most artistic, that is sought, but that repository which promises the richest food-supply for the coming brood. In the insect it is the leafy tree,[213] the towering dung-heap; in the human female it is the man who shows some substantial promise of being able to support the family that will come, and support it, moreover, in circumstances similar to those in which the wife herself has been reared. Thus the struggling artist, the struggling scientist, and[Pg 329] the ambitious but penniless politician—though each may be a genius in his way—repels the true and normal woman of his own class. Their spiritual gifts count as nothing, and since woman has no flair for greatness, and cannot with certainty pick out the great man before the world has applauded him to the echo, it is only when they have become a material success that the female of their own or a superior station in life will look at them.

Now this is obviously a very useful and a very vital instinct in woman. From the standpoint of the species nothing could be more laudable than this anxious preoccupation with the future of the offspring. But it amounts to this, that by their nature women can have no primary concern about those things that bear the hallmarks of cultivation, of refinement and of greatness, and that, therefore, they are essentially vulgar.[214]

If in the Europe of to-day, and in all countries like Europe, it is material success alone that is regarded as of the highest value, and if money is the principal hall-mark of power and prestige, it is due to the ascendancy of women in our midst. Women cannot take any other[Pg 330] point of view, and where their influence tends to prevail, as it does particularly in England and America, there you will find the worship of cash the principal religion of the community. It is true that women fall at the feet of great men and artists when they become famous. When I was private secretary to Auguste Rodin, the great sculptor, at a time when he was making anything from fifteen to twenty thousand pounds a year, women were his principal visitors. They flocked to his studio and to his private house at Meudon as to an Oxford Street drapery sale. But, as he used to say, they left him in peace in his dirty little studio in La Rue des Fourneaux at the time when he was poor and struggling.

It is indeed one of the most pernicious results of woman’s ascendancy in any society, that this vulgar pursuit of mere material success (because it provides the surest provision for the offspring) tends to become general,[215] and it is a sign of woman’s subordination in the Hindu community, for instance, that there the most respected caste is the poorest caste.

To-day this vulgarity can be detected in every aspect of our lives. Everything, every consideration of refinement, is overlooked, provided that money be present. And the man who kills most female hearts is he who can throw a rich fur round his capture and whirl her off in a sumptuous Rolls-Royce. This to the normal decent woman is simply irresistible. She will abandon any mere artist for this experience. And though in later years, when the latter has become great in a worldly sense, she may deplore her error of judgment, she has no gifts that enable her immediately to gauge his worth, and thus to foretell his ultimate position.

It is interesting to note that neither Heine, Nietzsche nor Van Gogh ever became a material success until long[Pg 331] after his death. But Heine, Nietzsche and Van Gogh were singularly free from the sort of female persecution that harassed Rodin and Wagner in later life, and certainly not one of them ever had a successful association with a woman of his own station or class.

Indeed, so deeply rooted is this love of material success in women that it manifests itself in those who have long ceased to be able to bear children. Thus wives who have passionately loved their husbands will learn to dislike and despise them intensely if owing to some unhappy turn in their fortunes they become material failures. Daughters will also manifest a pronounced dislike towards fathers who, for their station in life, have been inadequate material successes. I once heard a daughter of a peer talk most bitterly about her father, because he was a failure from the financial point of view. A woman will forgive anything in her man—adultery, cruelty, obesity, and stupidity,—but she cannot and will not forgive material failure.

The ramifications of this fundamental and vital vulgarity in woman are, of course, manifold. We have only to think of the ostentation of wealth, of the insistence upon the insignia of wealth and material success by women (diamonds, pearls, furs, fine external domestic appointments, etc.), and of the stampede for wealth and success in modern, women-ridden society. We have only to think of the commercial, industrial and financial immorality of modern societies, all of which are the direct outcome of the maniacal struggle for that hall-mark which alone means power and prestige in an effeminate community. Individually this vulgarity ramifies in woman as an inability to pursue refinement, unassisted or undirected; as a readiness to sacrifice refinement or else the fruits of cultivation, to any other sordid end, and as an inaccessibility to the finer nuances of thought. That is why the notion “Lady” is such absurd nonsense. It is the grossest and most palpable fiction. No “lady” has ever existed or will ever exist. As Napoleon said, “Women[Pg 332] have no rank”;—we have seen why this must be so.[216]

No. 4. Woman’s love of petty power is obvious and hardly requires demonstrating. It arises from the species’ urgent need of some adult animal which, when the offspring is born, will take an instinctive delight in looking after it. Apart from the pleasant sensations that the healthy female—whether animal or human—derives from suckling,[217] there must also be an instinct which makes it a pleasure to nurse, to fondle, and to tend the infant of the species. This instinct can be examined under its two aspects, either as a love of petty power or as a love of dealing with something pathetically helpless. And, indeed, if some of the deepest chords in the female’s being were not moved by helplessness, where on earth should we be? What would become of our babies and our children?

As far as her relation to the child is concerned, therefore, there can be no doubt whatsoever concerning the utility to the species of woman’s love of petty power, and away from the child it is revealed in a hundred different ways: woman’s pronounced preference for lap-dogs, her fondness for teaching (when children play at school it is invariably a little girl of the party who plays the part of teacher),[218] her conscious preference for the grown-up schoolboy as a husband (that is to say, the man who is easily led by the nose), her tendency to desire to give advice to relatives and friends, in everything, so that virtually she directs their lives (this is admirably depicted by George Eliot in her descriptions of Maggie’s aunts in the Mill on the Floss), and finally her tendency to excessive self-assertion and to interference with other people’s concerns.

[Pg 333]

It is only in its ramifications that this vital instinct in woman has a deleterious influence if it is not kept in check; for her desire for petty power is always out of all proportion to her capacity for wielding any power whatsoever. For instance, in its tendency to make her favour the grown-up schoolboy type of man as a husband, it acts as a distinct drawback to the race. Because, although he proves an easy man to rule, he is by no means a desirable type from the standpoint of virile virtue. He is the type called “Promethean” in my Man’s Descent from the Gods—that is to say, a man who has no mastery of life, very little depth or understanding, and who is gifted with the qualities of the lackey rather than of the leader. The prevalence of this type of man to-day, together with the paucity of men of the masculine and leader type, is another sign of the extent to which women are having their own way. He is a man who knows nothing about women, but he is usually athletic, breezy and fond of games—i.e. he is harmless. The fact that he now stands as the pattern of the “manly” man reveals the influence of the female standpoint in our modern communities, as does also the fact that the other type of man (the masculine and manly type who understands woman, and who shows that he does) is now vilified everywhere as the “prig.”

Truth to tell, woman is less happy with the grown-up schoolboy type than with the latter type, but this she only finds out later. Her conscious choice, supported by the values of the age, inclines her to the type over which she can exercise petty power, and this man, who believes in “chivalry,” who believes in playing “cricket” (or “playing the game”) with his womenfolk, and who accepts the whole of the tinsel of false sentiment that women have succeeded in drawing over the natural relations of the sexes, has become the beau ideal of Anglo-Saxon society.

Ultimately, of course, woman suffers excruciatingly, not only as an individual, but also as a whole sex, when[Pg 334] this type of man becomes supreme; because, since he has no mastery over life, and no understanding of life’s problems (the sex problem is only one of the many he actually creates), the societies in which he prevails gradually get into such an appalling muddle, and reveal in all their aspects such a tragic absence of the master mind, that life in all its departments becomes ever more and more difficult. A century in England of the prevalence of this type of man has brought us to our present hopeless plight, and yet there are very few men, and no women, who seem to be aware of the fact that it is the prevalence of this alleged “manly” man that is to blame.

A moment’s thought, of course, reveals at once how ridiculous even the terminology of this womanly ideal of man really is; for truly “manly” men are not ruled by their women. And yet, in the most successful novels of the day, in the most exalted circles of the land, and in the hearts of all unsuspecting virgins, he continues to be upheld as the paragon for all times and climes.

This is what we have had to pay for woman’s point of view becoming paramount.

Do not let it be thought, however, that the cure would consist in curbing, uprooting or correcting woman’s love of petty power. This should not be attempted for one instant, even if it were possible. Woman’s love of petty power is much too valuable to the species to be tampered with. The only practical cure would be the breeding of a type of masculine men over whom woman’s love of petty power could not avail.

Thus woman’s lack of taste on the one hand, her vulgarity and her love of petty power on the other,[219] are all seen to be exercising a deleterious and dangerous[Pg 335] influence on modern society. They are harmful because they exert a continuous pull downwards against the aspiring efforts of the age; they are dangerous because they may lead to a degree of degeneration from which it may prove impossible ultimately to recover, and they are difficult and delicate to handle because, while they are persistent and incorrigible, they are, as we have seen, too vital to be tampered with without jeopardizing the survival of the species.

What in the circumstances is the solution?

The only advisable solution lies in the direction, not of changing woman—that would be suicidal to the species—but in limiting her power, in controlling her influence. Feminism, therefore, which aims at the opposite ideal, is wrong—wrong to the root. There must be a revulsion of feeling, or we perish. Woman must be re-defined. Her sphere must once again be delimited and circumscribed, if her vital and precious instincts are not, in their effort to extend “out of bounds,” to drag us steadily down into the abyss.

If woman were happier as she is, than with her influence controlled, if Feminism had brought bliss instead of anguish to millions of women, there might be at least one remaining argument—a purely hedonistic one—in favour of this nineteenth-century madness. But seeing that this is not so; in view of what every one now knows and can see and feel with his own unassisted senses, that woman has grown every day more wretched, more neurotic, and more sick, with every advance that Feminism has made, the last and only possible word remaining in its favour, the plea even of hedonism, is shown to be as inadmissible as the rest.

When, therefore, we read in the old canon of the Brahmins, “He who carefully guards his wife, preserves the purity of his offspring, virtuous conduct, his family, himself, and his means of acquiring merit”[220]; when we read “Day and night women must be kept in dependence[Pg 336] by the males of their families ... her father protects her in childhood, her husband protects her in youth, and her sons protect her in old age, a woman is never fit for independence”;[221] we shall surely be taking a very heavy onus of responsibility upon our shoulders if we declare this policy madness and our own wisdom. Is there anything beyond our own prejudice to show that we are more wise than the Brahmins were? Is there anything in the organization of our society to show that it is more successful than that of the Brahmins? If we choose to interpret these texts merely as the unjust doctrines of a race “hostile” to women, it should be incumbent upon us to prove that, in point of fact, our women are happier in their anarchy than those women are or were in their Brahministic order. But, truth to tell, the Brahmins were a very wise race, a race that meant to last longer than we mean to last, and which, in fact, has achieved a degree of permanence far exceeding that which any European race has achieved, or can hope to achieve, unless it make a rapid volte-face in almost all its most cherished beliefs.

No. 5. Woman’s Vanity, I take it, is not open to question. If no other proof of its pre-eminence in her were available, we should find one in her universally reported modesty; for, who says modest, says also vain.[222] Since, therefore, no one has yet contested the modesty of women, I may take it that her vanity is by implication generally accepted too.

The ramifications of this vice in her are to be found in her tendency to inordinate jealousy (which arises from her incessant desire to be the centre of attraction and her intolerance of rivals in this desire); in her love of honours, titles, badges, etc. (hence her incessant spurring on of her mate to obtain them, and her impatience with him if he fails); in her tendency to adopt only showy or[Pg 337] conspicuous callings in which tangible and visible results, and speedy applause, are sure to be obtained. (Thus Havelock Ellis says: “It is difficult to recall examples of women who have patiently and slowly fought their way at once to perfection and to fame in the face of complete indifference, like, for instance, Balzac.... It is still more difficult to recall a woman who for any abstract and intellectual end has fought her way to success through obloquy and contempt, or without reaching success, like a Roger Bacon, or a Galileo, a Wagner or an Ibsen”);[223] finally, in her constant and deep concern about her appearance, her clothes, her hair, and her neighbour’s clothes and hair, and her love of flattery. This latter derivative of her basic vanity is perhaps the worst of all, because it means that women, as a rule, are always governed in their likes and dislikes, and in their appreciation of their fellow-creatures, not by a recognition of the latter’s intrinsic worth, which they sum up once and for all, but by the manner in which their fellow-creatures treat them. A woman does not ask herself, what is the precise character of So-and-so, and value him accordingly. Her instinctive question is, how did So-and-so treat me? He may be an inferior man who dances attendance upon her and treats her well, he may be a knave; she will always prefer him before the worthy man who treats her with indifference. Madame de Staël’s adverse opinion of Napoleon was not formed until Napoleon had systematically and thoroughly snubbed her. But Madame de Staël’s adverse opinion of Napoleon is not valuable as an index to Napoleon’s true character; it is only valuable as an index to the way Napoleon treated her. Likewise with our “good Queen Bess,” it was not Leicester’s desirable qualities that so much endeared him to her; for he was a bigamist, a murderer, an incompetent and cowardly general, and a bad governor of men, as his experiences in the Netherlands proved; but the fact that he was an arch-flatterer. Even the ingenuity he displayed[Pg 338] in designing his presents to his sovereign and lady love, reveal an unusual knowledge of woman’s weaknesses. Elizabeth’s treatment of Admiral Lord Seymour, whom she made a Privy Councillor, was also not based upon an estimate of his true worth, but upon the way in which he treated her; for the man was a convicted defaulter. See also her ridiculous behaviour with Sir James Melville in 1564 (recorded by himself) and her humiliating victimization by Dr. Dee, the alchemist.

The most cursory study of any woman’s opinion about her fellow-creatures will always reveal the same fact, that they are not based at all upon the intrinsic value of people, but on the way people treat her. This is a comparatively harmless trait so long as woman has no power; the moment, however, that she is placed in a position of wielding power, her errors of judgment affect public life, and she only accepts those men as her ministers, advisers or directors who can prostrate themselves with the best grace at her feet, and appeal most irresistibly to her vanity. Her choice of a fellow-creature may of course be right by a fluke, as for instance when he combines with general ability the power for fulsome flattery (Benjamin Disraeli); but otherwise it is almost sure to be wrong.[224]

These ramifications of the fundamental vice of vanity in woman are, I presume, disputed by no one. It only remains, therefore, to show that here again we are concerned with a vital instinct which, while it may require curbing by man, is too precious to be uprooted or suppressed. For what, after all, is this vanity in woman but the outcome of her natural impulse to attract the notice of the male—to speed up, that is to say, or to make certain of, the act of fertilization, which can only be consummated when a male has been captivated? If the female played the aggressive and prehensile rôle in the sexual act, she would only need to pursue and to overpower[Pg 339] as the male does. Since, however, she plays the passive, receptive and submissive rôle, her only means of securing and expediting fertilization is to draw the male to her; and this instinct in the human female naturally manifests itself as a deep concern about her own personal appearance and its powers of provoking flattering attention. If intellectual brightness can add to the power she is thus able to exercise, and she has the gift for developing intellectual power, she will do so in order to add to the glamour of her person. That is why it is never safe to argue from a woman’s intellectual pursuits that she is truly interested in the subjects she is studying. It is far wiser to wait until she has given some unmistakable proof of the purity of her motives. This, however, rarely, if ever, happens.[225]

Since, however, in a contest between attractions, native beauty and native endowments generally play a greater part than dress or acquired intellectual smartness, it will generally be found that women are more bitterly jealous of each other’s bodily gifts than of each other’s wardrobes, wealth or wisdom. But woman does not consciously consider the benefit of the species, although she is constantly working for it. Thus when she is vying with other women in the business of attraction, she realizes the enormous advantage enjoyed by the rival who has the best physical endowments, and since it is her own fertilization that is alone important to her, her jealousy of the other woman or women may quite easily drive her to homicide, if she can hope to achieve a speedier triumph by this means.

Apart from sexual matters, this characteristic in the female manifests itself generally as a desire to shine, or to outshine, and to be the centre of an admiring or, at least,[Pg 340] attentive group. Tiresome as this propensity is, particularly when a wife shows it to a marked degree, it should never be forgotten that it has a vital origin, and therefore that it should be treated with patience and toleration. A little kindly and timely explanation to a woman of one’s own circle will generally enable her to realize how foolish she has been making herself appear; and the moment she realizes this, and begins, with the aid of your explanation, to notice the self-assertiveness of other women, and its reasons, she will be on the high road to understanding the wisdom of your rebuke.

As a general rule it is best to teach women through the example of other women; because their natural loathing and contempt of other women is such, that if you can once convince your wife, or your daughter, that she is behaving, or has behaved, like a certain other woman, whom she has had opportunities of observing with disapproval, the chances are that you will have cured her spontaneously of the objectionable trait which it was your desire to suppress.

This fact, however, should be carefully noted in regard to female vanity, and that is that normally it is only a means of luring the male. When once the male has been lured, and the woman is passionate and positive, vanity is flung to the four winds, and passion will induce the woman to accept even insults from the man she loves without ceasing from loving him. The negative woman, on the other hand, whose vanity is never smothered by passion, cannot accept an insult from anyone. She hates the lover who does not keep up to the mark in worshipping her. Since she is never carried away by passion, she never forgets to ask herself the constant question—what sort of figure she is cutting in the affair; and this makes her very sensitive to adulation, neglect and insults.

No. 6. Woman’s Sensuality will be stoutly denied, not only by women themselves, but by all sentimental and women-ridden men. Owing to the lies told by the writers of the J. S. Mill type, most modern Anglo-Saxons[Pg 341] have got it into their heads that woman has acted as a moralizing influence on man, and has thus led to a curbing and taming of the sensual impulses of humanity; in fact that civilization is largely her work.[226] With such false doctrines in their minds, it is naturally difficult to convince such people that woman is sensual; for, with cerulean-eyed innocence they exclaim: “How can sensuality moralize mankind?” True enough, it cannot; but the mistake is to suppose anything so fatuous and absurd as that women ever advanced morality by a hair’s breadth. I think I have shown sufficiently cogently that when they do exercise any influence “out of their proper bounds” it is only in order to spread their bad taste and their vulgarity. How then could their effect on humanity’s civilization and cultivation have been anything but a retarding one? The truth is that woman’s direct influence in most civilizations has been but small, and where this direct influence has been felt, whether acutely or insignificantly, it is always unfavourable.

But let us not suppose that on that account sensuality is an evil.—On the contrary, it is one of the greatest mainstays of life. Without sensuality we could not advance from one generation to another; without a love of the flesh and its joys human nature and the animal creation would come to an end in half a century. In this sense, seeing that to-day we are all Puritans—if not in deed, at least in thought—I have the best possible proof of how little woman has influenced civilization for the good. For woman is chiefly sensual. If then she had influenced civilization for the good, she must have checked Puritanism. Because even if we admit, as we must, that her sensuality must be kept within proper bounds by man,[Pg 342] we are forced to inquire how it is that the whole of Western Europe, and all countries like it, are Puritan to-day, if woman has exercised any influence on the evolution of society, and that influence has been a good influence.

The reader may reply that this proves that woman is not sensual. But I invite him to consider the process of bearing and rearing children. Surely it is from start to finish—from the coitus to the weaning—a sensuous process; and in that sense woman’s sensuality is entirely laudable. When once this sensuous process ceases from being pleasant in all its stages, disease is present, and the species is in danger of extermination.[227] This danger may be remote, but it must be recognized. Now, how can we expect a creature to find pleasure in a sensuous process lasting over such a long period of time unless sensuality plays a great part in her constitution?

The only point we have to settle here (since we have placed sensuality among woman’s vices) is at what point does her sensuality become vicious. Now let it be thoroughly understood that two-thirds of our middle-class and certainly three-quarters of our wealthiest classes can hardly produce a positive woman among them, and, therefore, that there can be no question of sensuality in the women of these sections of the community. To be sensual a woman must at least be positive; she must at least have healthy and tonic organs, both of alimentation, etc., and of sex; hence, we shall not be thinking of the bulk of British women when we proceed to show how the natural and laudable sensuality of the positive woman becomes a vice.

[Pg 343]

Like all the other vital qualities of woman—her tastelessness, her vulgarity, her love of petty power, and her vanity—sensuality only becomes a vice when it is out of hand. It is, therefore, in greatest danger of becoming a vice when men have conceded overmuch liberty to their womenfolk, and where woman, by having her own way, can indulge her proclivities without limitation. But this is the state in which we find ourselves in England to-day, and if it were not for the fact that three-quarters of our women are negative (that is to say, too unhealthy and too atonic in their alimentary, sexual and other organs to derive any pleasure from their functions), sensuality would be one of the worst vices of the times.

How does it operate harmfully when once it has become a vice through positive women having their own way? It operates as a vice by breaking up the family unit, by unduly exhausting the menfolk of the nation, by leading to promiscuity and thence to disease, by making woman the only subject whether of agreement or disagreement among men, and by elevating to the first place among the virtues a caprine degree of masculine potency.

The way of arresting this vice, however, is not, as our ancestors of the seventeenth century thought (and did), to eradicate woman’s sensuality and to make her negative; for that is tantamount to destroying a portion of her vitality, and of her valuable vital impulses. The only remedy, here again, is to circumscribe woman’s powers, and to place each woman under the tutelage of some responsible man. But in order to do this successfully you must have the men who can undertake the charge. Besides, is it not too late to speak of this now? Has not the wrong remedy, the rearing of negative and non-sexual women, gone too far? I doubt whether, in view of humanity’s infinite possibilities, anything could have gone too far. But the revulsion of feeling that would be required to alter our present condition in suchwise as (1) to rear a majority of positive women once more, and[Pg 344] (2) to rear the men who could take charge of them and account for their actions appears, as things are, to be so remote that, although everything is possible, it is doubtful whether precisely this thing is probable.

Certainly the choice taken by our ancestors cannot have been the right one.[228] It cannot be right to suppress a vice by eradicating or detoning the vital principle that causes it[229]; and now that we have the fruits of this method about us, in our millions of negative women, it may reasonably be asked whether we do not see the necessity of starting a counter movement which, while it will increase the proportion of positive women in our midst, will also and concurrently rear the men who can take charge of them.

“Day and night woman must be kept in dependence by the males of their families,” says Manu, “and if they attach themselves to sensual enjoyments, they must be kept under one’s control.”[230]

Thus we have seen that both in her virtues and her vices woman is entirely the creature of vital impulses. Her virtues, like her vices, arise from principles within her that are valuable—nay indispensable, to the species. Furthermore, we have seen that her vices are not vices in their origin, but only become so when certain vital principles within her get out of hand, or find expression in a way they were not intended to adopt. To attempt to correct these vices by extirpation is dangerous, seeing that to do so is to ruin instincts upon which the race[Pg 345] depends for its survival.[231] If therefore society is to be protected from women’s vices, and the future of mankind guaranteed against the deteriorating effect of woman’s spiritual influence, the only practical remedy that does not menace the species is to emulate the great wisdom of the Orient, and to place woman once more under man’s charge. To attempt any other method, such as the one advocated by the Feminists for instance, is, as we have seen, to involve one of two difficulties: either the need of eradicating some of woman’s most vital principles in order to make her liberty innocuous to society (this we have already partially done with regard to her sensuality), or else the necessity of suffering the gradual deterioration of life through her influence, if she remain uncontrolled. Either alternative is bad; because in either event the ruin of civilization is a mathematical certainty. You cannot eradicate woman’s most vital principles without destroying her usefulness, and yet you cannot tolerate her deteriorating influence if her vital principles are allowed to get out of hand. There remains, therefore, but the alternative of restoring women to the charge of men—an alternative which involves the denial, the overthrow, and the rout of Feminism.

The only difficulty we can see in the way of this desirable reform, is the absence of the men who would be capable of carrying it out. For women themselves are already half-convinced that Feminism is wrong, and that J. S. Mill is actually the pernicious liar I have shown him to be.


[142] See Man’s Descent from the Gods, chapter VIII.

[143] Book IX, verses 15, 16, 17.

[144] Op. cit. p. 135. “Mais si le mensonge est un vice très répandu dans toute l’humanité, c’est surtout chez les femmes qu’il atteint son maximum d’intensité. Demontrer que le mensonge est habituel, physiologique chez la femme, serait inutile: cela est consacré par la croyance populaire.

[145] “There are three things that cannot be trusted: a king, a horse, and a woman; the king tyrannizes, a horse escapes, a woman is perfidious.”

[146] See Life of John Stuart Mill, p. 162.

[147] See The Subjection of Women, chap. I, section 7.

[148] The observation occurs in Congreve’s Mourning Bride, at the end of the 3rd Act, and is put in the mouth of Queen Zara. The precise words are:—

“Heaven has no rage, like love to hatred turn’d,
Nor Hell a fury, like a woman scorn’d.”

[149] W. L. Courtney (Op. cit.) tells us that portions of the Subjection of Women were written by Miss Helen Taylor (Mill’s step-daughter).

[150] Op. cit., section 18.

[151] See Sir Almroth E. Wright (Op. cit., p. 32), footnote: “This is a question on which Mill has endeavoured to confuse the issue for his reader, first, by representing that by no possibility can man know anything of the ‘nature,’ i.e. of the ‘secondary sexual characters’ of woman; and secondly, by distracting attention from the fact that ‘acquired characteristics’ may produce unfitness for the suffrage.”

[152] J. S. Mill, section 20.

[153] Cp. Sir Almroth E. Wright, who, in speaking of Mill’s hypothetical natural woman, says (Op. cit., p. 5): “Instead of dealing with woman as she is, and with woman placed in a setting of actually subsisting conditions, Mill takes as his theme a woman who is a creature of his imagination. This woman is, by assumption, in mental endowment a replica of man. She lives in a world which is, by tacit assumption, free from the complications of sex.... It is in connexion with this fictitious woman that Mill sets himself to work out the benefit which women would derive from co-partnership with men in the government of the State, and those which such co-partnership would confer on the community.”

[154] The Rev. E. Cobham Brewer, LL.D., calls Mill’s Subjection of Women “admirable.”

[155] A certain French writer, despite a wholly mistaken admiration for J. S. Mill, is nevertheless bound to admit, in reference to Mill’s Subjection of Women and his strangely wild and unreasoning infatuation for Mrs. Taylor, that: “Il n’en est pas moins curieux et remarquable que, sous l’aiguillon de ce sentiment, cet esprit froid, si fort, si durement logique, ait pris sans hésiter cette attitude.” See Psychologie de la Femme, by Henri Marion, (Paris, 1903, p. 257). In his Criticisms on Contemporary Thought and Thinkers the Rev. R. H. Hutton, M.A., writes as follows on Mill’s relation to Mrs. Taylor; “His passionate reverence for his wife’s memory and genius—in his own words ‘a religion’—was one which, as he must have been perfectly sensible, he could not possibly make to appear otherwise than extravagant, not to say an hallucination, in the eyes of the rest of mankind.” (See Vol. I, p. 173.) See the same work for some sharp and well-deserved criticism of Mill’s Utilitarianism.

[156] Germania, chap. IX.

[157] Ibid., chap. XLV.

[158] See Decline and Fall, chap. IX.

[159] The Importance of Women in Anglo-Saxon Times, by the Rt. Rev. G. F. Browne, D.D., p. 12.

[160] Browne (Op. cit.), p. 12. The women of the ruling class in Britain at the time of the Roman subjugation of the island, were also distinguished for their cultivation; such women, I mean, as Cartismandua, the earliest British queen to be mentioned in history, Boadicea, and Martia, surnamed Proba, whose laws were ultimately confirmed, and partly adopted, by King Alfred and Edward the Confessor.

[161] The only reason why these last two did not share the honours of royalty with their husbands was because of the crimes of the Queen Edburga who had poisoned her husband.

[162] Browne (Op. cit.), p. 23.

[163] Ibid., p. 23.

[164] Ibid., p. 23.

[165] See Lives of the Queens of England, by Agnes Strickland. Vol. I. Introduction.

[166] We have only to think of the enormous amount of faith and intense inward conviction that the successful survival of such an ordeal must mean, in order to realize that Emma of Normandy must have possessed qualities that are extremely rare even among the women of to-day.

[167] Subjection of Women, chap. I, section 9. Henry III’s wife and mother of Edward I, although perhaps extravagant and reckless, enjoyed an excellent education.

[168] Histoire de la Civilisation en France (Paris 1846), Vol. III, pp. 332-333.

[169] See Lacroix, Science et Lettres au Moyen Age et à l’époque de la Renaissance (2nd Ed.), p. 169, where the author, speaking of the beginning of the fourteenth century, says: “Bien des femmes ne donnaient confiance qu’à des personnes de leur sexe pour des opérations d’une nature délicate.

[170] See Mary Bateson, Mediæval England, p. 286.

[171] See G. S. Coulson, M.A., A Mediæval Garner, p. 58.

[172] See Emile Faguet, Le Féminisme, p. 173: “Quand on songe que la coûtume de Bretagne et que l’Ordonnance de Blois de 1579 (executive dans tout le Royaume) condamnaient à la peine de mort, les hommes coupables de rapt!” As to the spiritual side of the seventeenth century, on the other hand, we have only to think of Molière’s Précieuses Ridicules and Les Femmes Savantes, each of which plays caricatures the then existing phenomenon of the learned woman.

[173] Faguet, Op. cit.

[174] See Working Life of Women in the Seventeenth Century, p. 41.

[175] Alice Clark, Op. cit., pp. 14-18.

[176] Ibid., Op. cit., p. 25.

[177] Alice Clark, pp. 28-31.

[178] Weininger agrees that it is wholly erroneous to suggest that hitherto women have had no opportunity for the undisturbed development of their mental powers (see Op. cit., p. 72), but, as usual, the support of his contention is feeble and unconvincing.

[179] Miss Clark is of the opinion that even in these domestic duties she was not altogether unassisted by men in former times, as the following passage shows: “On the other hand it may be urged that, if women were on the whole more actively engaged in industrial work during the seventeenth century than they were in the first decade of the twentieth century, men were much more occupied with domestic affairs than they are now. Men in all classes gave time and care to the education of their children, and the young unmarried men, who generally occupied positions as apprentices and servants, were partly employed over domestic work. Therefore, though it is now taken for granted that domestic work will be done by women, a considerable proportion of it in former days fell to the share of the men.” (Op. cit., p. 5.)

[180] If she does so, it only means disaster. As late as a generation ago, if she happened to be in India, she was put to no trouble whatsoever; for the custom there, in such circumstances, was for the European mother to seek out a native mother who could act as wet-nurse. The fact that this almost invariably meant—as every Anglo-Indian will tell you—the death of the native woman’s own child, was cynically overlooked by the British occupiers of India.

[181] Paul Lecroix, Op. cit., pp. 370-371.

[182] Weininger comes to the same conclusion. See Op. cit., pp. 150-151 and 196. But he does not give the same reasons as I do. His conclusion is much more of a guess than mine is, and therefore makes one suspect that he was actuated by strong prejudice.

[183] Weininger (Op. cit., p. 346), who maintained that “it cannot be a moral duty to provide for the continuance of the race,” was an avowed pessimist, and, being unable therefore to find a higher sanction for woman’s immorality, perforce condemned it. We who believe that there is no duty more sacred than to provide for the continuance of the race, naturally take the other view, and though recognizing woman’s unscrupulousness in furthering the survival of the race, recognize the high sanction which her immorality thus acquires.

[184] Cp. Sir Almroth E. Wright (Op. cit., p. 46): “It would be difficult to find anyone who would trust a woman to be just to the rights of others in the case where the material interests of her children, or of a devoted husband, were involved. And even to consider the question of being in such a case intellectually just to anyone who came into competition with personal belongings like husband and child would, of course, lie quite beyond the moral horizon of ordinary woman.”

[185] Schopenhauer in one of his Essays (see the Parerga und Paralipomena, Vol. II, Chap. XXVII) also speaks of women’s “instinctive cunning” and “her ineradicable tendency to falsehood,” as the outcome of her weakness, but never hints at any deeper, or more positive cause. Speaking of woman’s character as being given to injustice, he says: “Er entsteht zunächst aus dem dargelegten Mangel an Vernünftigkeit und Ueberlegung, wird zudem aber noch dardurch unterstützt, dass sie, als die schwächeren, von der Natur nicht auf die Kraft, sondern auf die List angewiesen sind: daher ihre instinktartige Verschlagenheit und ihr unvertilgbarer Hang zum Lügen.

[186] Not a little even of our “Good” Queen Bess’s success as a ruler was due to her unlimited capacity for lies. Speaking of Queen Elizabeth, J. R. Green in his Short History of the English People, says: “Ignoble, inexpressibly wearisome as the Queen’s diplomacy seems to us now, tracing it as we do through a thousand despatches, it succeeded in its main end. It gained time, and every year that was gained doubled Elizabeth’s strength. Nothing is more revolting in the Queen, but nothing is more characteristic, than her shameless mendacity. It was an age of political lying, but in the profusion and recklessness of her lies Elizabeth stood without a peer in Christendom.” (Chap. VII. Section III.) And later on in the same chapter he says: “As we track Elizabeth through her tortuous mazes of lying and intrigue, the sense of her greatness is almost lost in a sense of contempt.” Even her most distinguished minister, William Cecil, Lord Burleigh, was a most incorrigible liar and rascal.

[187] It is true that Havelock Ellis, when discussing woman’s tendency to ruse and deception, is careful to say that “to regard the caution and indirectness of women as due to innate wickedness, it need hardly be said, would be utterly irrational. It is inevitable, and results from the constitution of women, acting in conditions under which they are generally placed.” (Op. cit., p. 196.) But this is a very long way from my position, according to which woman’s tendency to ruse and deception is a constant, positive and life-promoting instinct.

[188] As I have shown in Chap. VIII, this constancy supersedes, and frequently defeats, her constancy to man.

[189] See Lecky, The History of European Morals; Buckle, The Influence of Women on the Progress of Knowledge; Herbert Spencer, Sociology; etc. Emerson asks, “What is civilization?” and replies, “It is the influence of good women.”

[190] See Arabella Kenealy (Op. cit., p. 105): “No matter to what degree she may acquire masculine characteristics and aptitudes, she remains, at core, a creature of instinct; not of reason. As a creature of instinct she is invaluable to life—because Life is moulded upon instinct.”

[191] This occurred on the 4th of June, and Miss Davison died, as the result of her action, on the 8th of June at 4.50 p.m. at Epsom.

[192] This is not generally understood. The cruel stepmother is universally reviled in fable, in fiction, and in real life; but truth to tell, the very fact that she is a bad stepmother shows how deep her mother’s instincts must be. I have known one or two such stepmothers, and have always found them the most excellent mothers. In fact a good stepmother may always be taken to mean a bad or indifferent mother. This is so little realized by most people, that I believe I am the first person in history who has ventured to defend the bad stepmother on these lines. On the contrary, the whole tendency of the modern world is to deprecate the bad stepmother and to honour the good stepmother. In this way are woman’s best virtues being undermined.

[193] This is in addition to the derivatives already given in the first mention of this virtue.

[194] See Baudouin’s confirmation of this in his interesting work Suggestion and Auto-Suggestion. (George Allen & Unwin, Ltd.)

[195] See Henri Marion (Op cit., p. 79). “Les filles sont aussi plus imitatrices que les garçons, quoique l’instinct d’imitation soit remarquable chez tous également. Selon Mlle Lauriol ‘les filles imitent et singent mieux que les garçons.’ Il semble qu’elles remarquent mieux ce qu’on dit et fait devant elles et qu’elles y prennent plus d’intérêt; le répéter et l’imiter est un de leurs plaisirs les plus vifs. Elles y excellent d’autant plus qu’elles créent, inventent et innovent moins.

[196] Op. cit., p. 234. See also p. 177: “The sex-instinct in woman having had its origin in surrender, retains much still of this primal element.”

[197] It is naturally impossible to discuss or enumerate the many vices that may or may not fall to the share of the negative woman; for they would consist of all the positive woman’s vices, plus those vices that come with subnormal health, and minus, of course, sensuality. Negative women can at least pride themselves on this minus.

[198] No reference will be made to those vices that result from a thwarting of her natural instincts—such vices as cruelty, gluttony, and drunkenness; for most of these were discussed in the Chapter on the Old Maid.

[199] Byron has already been mentioned in this volume as one who also detected women as the creators of this tinsel of false sentiment. Michelet and Alphonse Daudet were among the Frenchmen who saw eye to eye with Byron on this point. Daudet said: “La femme deteste l’ironie qui la déconcerte et qu’elle sent être l’antagoniste des enthusiasmes et des rêveries de l’amour.

[200] See Havelock Ellis, Op. cit., p. 196: “Whenever a man or a woman are found under compromising circumstances, it is nearly always the woman who with ready wit audaciously retrieves the situation. Every one is acquainted with instances from life or from history of women whose quick and cunning ruses have saved lover or husband or child. It is unnecessary to insist on this quality, which in its finest forms is called tactfulness.” See also Lecky, History of European Morals, Vol. II., p. 358. See as a magnificent poetic representation of this power in women Byron’s Don Juan, Canto I, stanzas CXLII to CLXXVIII. The latter stanza is worth quoting in full. It is as follows:—

“A hint, in tender cases is enough;
Silence is best; besides, there is a tact
(That modern phrase appears to me sad stuff,
But it will serve to keep my verse compact)—
Which keeps, when push’d by questions rather rough,
A lady always distant from the fact:
The charming creatures lie with such a grace,
There’s nothing so becoming to the face.”

[201] Speaking of little girls Henri Marion says: “De même les observateurs n’hésitent pas à déclarer les petites filles moins parfaitement droites que les garçons, en général, plus compliquées, plus diplomates, plus fertiles en petites roueries, plus inclinées à biaiser, à broder, à inventer, tout au moins à aranger et amplifier.... Surtout quand elles veulent mentir, elles sont plus habiles que les petits garçons, se troublent moins, ont plus de présence d’esprit pour soutenir un premier mensonge.” Op. cit., p. 86. Monsieur Marion adduces Mgr Dupanloup and Mlle Lauriol as his authorities for this view.

[202] Finally among the great thinkers of Europe who have held the view that women are indifferent to truth, and incapable of rectitude, I would further mention Rousseau, Diderot, La Bruyère, and that great genius Kant, who, in his Ueber Pädagogik coldly conjures fathers to enforce truthfulness in their children because “mothers have a tendency to attach but little importance to it.” His exact words are (p. 108 of the Königsberg 1813 Edition), speaking of children’s habit of lying, “Des Vaters Sache ist es, darauf zu sehen, dass sich die Kinder dessen entwöhnen; denn die Mütter achten es gemeiniglich für eine Sache von keiner, oder doch nur geringer Bedeutung.

[203] See Chapter VIII of that work.

[204] See White’s Natural History of Selborne. Letters LXXVI and “Observations on Quadrupeds.”

[205] The researches of ornithologists during recent years sufficiently prove that the female cuckoo lays her egg upon the ground, and then deposits it in the nest of a bird whose egg resembles the one she has just laid.

[206] See chap. IX, verse 14.

[207] Op. cit., p. 121. See also Weininger, Op. cit., p. 250.

[208] Letter to d’Alembert.

[209] Among other reasons accounting for woman’s dependence on man for art-forms is her lack of originality.

[210] See my Man’s Descent from the Gods, chap. VIII.

[211] Op. cit., p. 226.

[212] One or two exceptions will occur to the reader’s mind, such as Mahommed and Benjamin Disraeli; but these are not really exceptions, because in each case the woman was rich enough to compensate for her husband’s impecunious and unsuccessful condition.

[213] See W. S. Coleman, M.E.S., British Butterflies, p. 4: “Prompted by a most remarkable instinct, and one that could not have originated in any experience of personal advantage, the female butterfly, when seeking a depository for her eggs, selects with unerring certainty the very plant which, of all others, is best fitted for the support of her offspring, who, when hatched, find themselves surrounded by an abundant store of their proper food.”

[214] The reader is probably aware that celibacy was not always the rule among the clergy of the Holy Catholic Church. It was only enforced by law during the fourth century A.D. Now, it is my theory that it was this instinctive vulgar predilection of the female in favour of material success that was partly responsible for compelling the authorities of the Church ultimately to make celibacy a duty among the clergy. Because as the bulk of them were, by virtue of their profession, poor, it was impossible for them to find women of their own station to marry them, and in consequence they were thrown on the lowest women, or the prostitutes, of the time. To avoid the abasement of the ecclesiastical body by this inevitable law, the authorities therefore prescribed celibacy. H. H. Milman, D.D., in his History of Latin Christianity, admits that celibacy was enforced among the clergy to save the Church from degeneration, but he gives as a reason that ecclesiastical matrimony would have led to the holy office passing from father to son, and thus to grandson and great-grandson. Why this should necessarily have led to degeneration is not clear, unless he assumes, as I do, that the clergy would have had to marry beneath them. See Vol. IV (Ed. London, 1864), pp. 17-18.

[215] That acute thinker, Schopenhauer, realized this, and spoke of the harm that women do to modern society by stimulating the most sordid and ignoble ambitions of men. See Essay, Ueber die Weiber, in the 2nd Vol. of the Parerga und Paralipomena, chap. XXVII, para. 369.

[216] An intelligent working man once said in my presence, “Almighty God made woman, and money made ladies.” I have wondered ever since whether the deep wisdom in this remark was original, or whether there is any national saw embodying this sentiment.

[217] In White’s Natural History of Selborne there are some interesting and illuminating remarks on this point. See Edward Jesse’s edition (London, 1898), pp. 223 (Footnote) and 333.

[218] See the Chapter on the Old Maid.

[219] This, by the by, was recognized by Pope. See his Moral Essays (Epistle II, To a Lady):—

“In men, we various passions find;
In women, two almost divide the kind;
Those, only fixed, they first and last obey,
The love of pleasure, and the love of sway.”

[220] The Book of Manu, chap. IX, verse 7.

[221] The Book of Manu, verses 2 and 3.

[222] For the necessary relationship of vanity and modesty, see Chapter on Divorce, pp. 223-225 ante.

[223] Op. cit., p. 211.

[224] A vain man is just as dangerous when he has power; because he too judges his fellows only according to how they treat him.

[225] This tendency to add to personal attractions by cultivating intellectual interests is more particularly suspicious in the mature virgin, and in the young married woman who is either childless or has ceased to bear children. In both the waxing unconscious desire for fertilization calls forth the instinct to use every possible weapon to draw attention.

[226] See, for instance, Lecky, History of European Morals, Vol. II, p. 379: “Morally the general superiority of women over men is, I think, unquestionable ... they are more chaste both in thought and act” [!!!]. See also Vol. I, p. 145: “Sensuality is the vice of young men.” There is scarcely an English book on this subject that does not reiterate this insane legend. See also footnote on p. 308 ante.

[227] Nature evidently intended it to be pleasant in all its stages: for all bodily functions, when healthy, are pleasant; their very pleasantness seems to be part of the design of preserving life on earth. He who has watched a female cat, as I have often done, from the moment of fertilization to the day when the kittens are weaned, can no longer entertain any doubt that the enormous amount of unpleasantness that civilized women have to undergo, in the process of child-bearing, is all the result of degeneration and disease. A female cat purrs even while the kittens are being born.

[228] For a description of how our ancestors deliberately created a majority of negative women, see Chapter V of my Defence of Aristocracy.

[229] This method of going to work, which is the method of amputation, is always the first adopted by weak and stupid people. It is easier to amputate and suppress than it is to master and to organize. Hence there is an element of impotence and dull-wittedness in the counsel, “And if thy right eye offend thee pluck it out and cast it from thee” (Matthew v. 29, 30); “And if thy right hand offend thee” do ditto.

[230] Book of Laws, IX, 2.

[231] Rousseau was groping towards this truth when in Emile, Book V, he said: “Vous dites sans cesse, les femmes out un tel et tel défaut que nous n’avons pas. Votre orgueil vous trompe; ce seroint des défauts pour vous, ce sont des qualités pour elles; tout iroit moins bien si elles ne les avoient pas. Empêchez ces prétendus défauts de dégénerer, mais gardez-vous de les détruire.

[Pg 346]

Women in Art, Philosophy and Science.
The Outlook. Conclusion

From what has been laid down in the previous chapter, it will have been seen that, in the economy of Nature, the female of the species has been endowed with very special qualities which, while they are indispensable to the survival of life, also give her a very definite character, different from that of the male and susceptible of alteration only at the peril of the species.

Woman, at her best, has been revealed as a creature, who, without exaggeration or fulsomeness, may be called the Custodian and Promoter of Life. If this is the rôle in which she is at her best, it therefore follows that, in any other rôle she undertakes, she will display her second best, or her subordinate, side. A creature cannot wantonly do violence to her nature and proceed along lines foreign to the strongest forces that have been evolved in her, and yet hope to achieve the same virtuosity as when she had nature and the tradition of her line both on her side. To repeat the simile already used in this work, as well might you expect a fly to walk with the same facility on its antennæ as on its legs.

A priori, without examining the evidence for or against our contention, we should expect to find that in Art, Philosophy and Science, which are pursuits exacting qualities frequently antagonistic to the natural pre-requisites of woman’s rôle as a Custodian and Promoter of Life, woman can at best only make an inferior display, even if she make any display at all.

This, as the reader will agree, is surely not a matter of[Pg 347] opinion, it is one of facts, and the facts can be verified. What would the logic of the most carefully argued thesis signify, if all about us we possessed the evidences of women’s unquestioned mastery in Arts, in Philosophy, and in Science?

This is true enough, and in this respect, the verdict of facts is final. In science and philosophy, says Havelock Ellis, “it is not simply that women are more ready than men to accept what is already accepted and what is most in accordance with appearance—and that it is inconceivable, for instance, that a woman should have devised the Copernican system—but they are less able than men to stand alone.”[232] Whether we turn to metaphysics, epistemology, and the other departments of abstract thought, astronomy, physics, or mechanics; whether we turn to medicine, chemistry, philology, geology, physiology or any other of the more modern sciences, or whether we turn to architecture, sculpture, poetry, or painting, the names that really count, the figures that are milestones in the history of these human pursuits—and this is the ultimate criterion—are all names of male performers. There should be no need to elaborate this point. Anyone acquainted even slightly with the history of any art or science, is in a position to accept it without demur. Think what we embrace in the subjects mentioned, when we pronounce the names of Aristotle, Bacon, Hobbes, Kant, Nietzsche, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Harvey, Pasteur, Lyell, Grimm, Pheidias, Michelangelo, Titian!

It is not legitimate, as we have seen, to argue that men have distinguished themselves more than women in all these fields because women have been suppressed and wilfully stunted. In this respect the Feminists have wished to prove too much, and in doing so have overreached the truth. Specialization of function must be accompanied by specialization of instinct, impulse, and outlook. The highly specialized functions of woman[Pg 348] in the long line of evolution, therefore, must be taken into account, in any inquiry into the striking disparity existing between her performances and man’s, in such important departments of life as Art, Philosophy and Science. And if, by taking the said specialization into account, we are able to explain this disparity, what need is there of a hypothesis so very much at variance with historical fact, according to which it is claimed that the difference between the intellectual capacities of man and woman are the outcome of a warping or of a stultification of the female mind, somewhere and somewhen, in the development of the race?

In connexion with this differentiation of the sexes from the standpoint of their respective capacity in matters of artistic production, it should, however, always be borne in mind that the positive man is distinguished from the positive woman (vide Chapter IV) by the possession of a developed social instinct which, in itself, is a sufficient basis for all his powers of order and arrangement. The relative importance of the social instinct in man—that instinct to which everything in the nature of civilization and ordered human society is to be traced—its power in him to act freely and independently of the reproductive and self-preservative instincts, and sometimes even to act against them (as in its control of male lust and its recognition of the responsibilities of that lust) is certainly an important factor in man’s superiority over woman in the matter of art production. For Art is not only a social function in the sense that it is an expression of one man’s feelings to another, it also partakes, in the forms it adopts, of those elements of order and arrangement which reach their highest manifestation in the ordering and arranging of society.[233] Men, as social animals, are therefore possessed of the necessary sex tradition to produce great artists; whereas women, as pointed out[Pg 349] in Chapter IV, not only have no sex tradition in the forming of society, i.e. in the creative aspect of the social instinct, to which order, form and arrangement belong, but they are also too much overpowered by one instinct (the reproductive) to allow their rudimentary social instinct free play. As I have already shown, woman only inclines to art, therefore, when (a) her reproductive instinct is prepared to stand aside, because it is not as strong as it might be, owing to some flaw in her ancestry or in the tone or correlation of her bodily parts; or (b) she wishes to wield an extra weapon in attracting the other sex.

In the first case, she turns to art at the bidding of a genuine impulse to it, arising from a real whisper coming direct from her rudimentary social instinct, in which case her reproductive instinct may be considered as imperfect, suspect, lacking in vigour. In the second case, she turns to art at the bidding of her reproductive instinct, which urges her unconsciously to adopt one of the arts temporarily as an extra feather with which to distinguish her from the ordinary crowd of females about her.

It is, however, probable that to woman’s lack of a strong sex tradition in the free exercise of a social instinct, the unimportance of her performances in the arts is largely due; and seeing that a more perfect equipment in this direction must mean the disturbance of her instincts’ balance, and the suppression of her reproductive in favour of her social impulses, it is not likely that, if the human species is to survive, we shall ever witness such a readjustment of woman’s instincts as to render great female artists a possibility.

The reader may wish to point out that the acceptance of the theory of organic evolution hardly allows us to deny that some transformation of woman along lines that would make her able to become a great artist, philosopher or scientist is surely possible. According to this theory there can be no limit to the possible metamorphoses[Pg 350] which a deliberate and consistent change in environment and in habit might produce in a number of generations; and, given the will thereto, the end is probably not beyond human achievement. There is some plausibility in this objection; but, as in the matter of the virtues and vices of women, it may well be asked: (1) Whether it is a desirable end, (2) whether the price paid for its achievement—the volatilizing of women’s subservience to a concern about the concrete demands of life—can be afforded by a race already somewhat exhausted from the standpoint of vital instincts, and (3) whether the experiment could possibly be made on a sufficiently large scale, for a sufficient number of generations, to bring about a modification of the sex as a whole.

To transform the whole of the female sex in civilized countries in the hope of bringing forth a female Michelangelo or a female Kant, would seem a hazardous and very laborious experiment, with but a doubtful reward as its object; and seeing that the experiment might and very probably would involve a dangerous depreciation of woman’s vital instincts, the endeavour to philosophize with women might quite conceivably end in racial and social suicide.

There is, however, a grave difficulty in the way of any such experiment, a difficulty that would probably foredoom it to failure from the start; and that is the probability that the appearance of such minds as Michelangelo’s or Kant’s in the male sex is due to a male characteristic which can by no human means, selectional, educational or otherwise, be transferred to woman. I refer to masculine variability. It is probable that the appearance of all great men is to be ascribed to the law of the greater variability of males than females, and that it never will be possible to achieve in woman that large gamut of endowments which separate, say, a Newton from an average suburban-dwelling newspaper-and-cabbage-fed clerk. The fact that while this greater male variability produces geniuses superior in[Pg 351] every way to the highest woman, it also produces male fools whose standard of stupidity is far and away higher than any that woman has ever reached, is not denied; but we are bound to reckon with it notwithstanding. And if, as biologists assure us, the extreme variability of man is the ultimate cause of the genius, then it seems unlikely that in the experiment above outlined, anything more could be achieved than the deterioration of woman as woman.

Apart from woman’s natural lack of originality, and her absence of initiative, or of that spirit of bold and confident conviction—all of which derive from her necessary rôle in the relation of the sexes—her indifference to truth is what chiefly incapacitates her for scientific pursuits, as it does for all undertakings where truthfulness is of pre-eminent importance; while her constant subjection to her emotions makes her an untrustworthy judge of all those facts or questions, to which she may be inclined to bear an emotional relation.

Anyone who has an extensive knowledge of women—even of the most cultivated among them—is aware of how constantly they are guided in their conclusions concerning what is true by hedonistic considerations. Indeed, it is the most difficult thing to persuade a woman, even of the most obvious truth, if that truth strikes her as being too unpleasant to be comfortably assimilated to her previous stock of knowledge. In addition to her vital indifference to truth, therefore, woman’s emotions add a further disability to her nature in this department. Her convictions are so intimately and unconsciously interwoven with her deepest interests and long-cherished beliefs, that if, to accept a certain truth, these convictions have to be outraged, she prefers to reject that truth as unacceptable. In this sense, woman’s thinking is largely feeling, and her thoughts are largely sensations.[234] The[Pg 352] more emphatic and stubborn a woman is in any belief, the more strongly you may suspect that she has not facts, but emotional reasons for holding it.[235] That is why women are so notoriously bad at giving reasons for their opinions, and why they are so untrustworthy as judges of matters of fact, where impartiality is a pre-requisite. A woman Feminist, for instance, will emphatically claim (I have actually heard a body of them claim this) that the music of Dame Ethel Smyth is equal to any that has been composed by the best male musicians, and she will reiterate this claim and press it the more aggressively and stubbornly the more you try to appeal to her reason with the view of showing her the absurdity of her position. Now the cause of this is not the female Feminist’s intellectual conviction that Dame Ethel Smyth’s music is actually equal to the best male music, but her strong emotional desire that it should be so; and this strong emotional desire makes her utterly unfit to express an impartial opinion upon it. The truth, which is that Dame Ethel Smyth’s music is by no means equal to the most superior male music, is too unpleasant to be accepted: therefore, without any further ado, it is rejected as untrue.

It is enormously difficult for a woman to divorce her wishes, her likes and dislikes, from her beliefs and from her conclusions; and this, in addition to her natural indifference to the truth, and her lack of originality, is[Pg 353] enough to explain the fundamental unsuitability of her sex for any scientific pursuit.[236]

These characteristics of woman’s mind ought, of course, to exclude her from any function in which impartiality and unemotional judgments are pre-requisite. We ought not to dream, therefore, of placing women on juries, or of making them judges of anything except the most trivial and impersonal questions; and consequently it is perhaps the best proof of our stupidity, or rather of our subjection to female influence, as a nation, that women are not only allowed to sit in our principal governing bodies, but also on our juries. That gross miscarriages of justice are bound to follow, is a prophecy that anyone can make now, and with absolute confidence that he will prove right. In fact, although at the time of writing, it is hardly more than a twelvemonth since women have been sitting on juries, a gross miscarriage of justice has already occurred.[237]

When, therefore, we hear that on February 24, 1922, Mr. Justice Coleridge, in welcoming four women on the Grand Jury at the Surrey Assizes, said he was satisfied that the administration of justice would be strengthened by women on Grand Juries, we can only shrug our shoulders at the vagaries of the senile—or anile?—judicial mind. (He was apparently seventy-one when he expressed this view.) We should have liked to ask him, on what evidence he, as a judge, based this utterly unwarrantable opinion.[Pg 354] Had he any evidence? If he had none, why did he, as an expert trained in the sifting of half-truths and untruths from Truth, ever allow himself to make such a wild statement? If he had evidence, where did he get it from? We can condone his senile slobbering over four strange ladies in his court and under his immediate patronage, but he might at least have confined the expression of his sentiments to less harmful amenities than the remark he actually made.

Verily the emotionalism of our bench of High Court judges is one of the many dangers menacing our civilization; for it furnishes a proof that Feminism and effeminacy are invading the very quarters where they do most harm—that is to say, those quarters on which the nation depends for impartiality and coolness of judgment.

It is perfectly possible so to change a woman as to convert her into a creature who might be as impartial as a slot machine or a ready-reckoner; but, before this could be achieved, so many of her vital characteristics would have to be destroyed, that the process of education would amount to a training in degeneration, dangerous both to the species and to human life in general.[238]

To employ her, however, in functions demanding characteristics the very opposite of those which are the most vital in her; to place her in a position in which she has to display a love of truth, a lack of emotion, and a capacity for thinking as apart from feelings of desire, like or dislike, is to anticipate this training in degeneration before it has effected its results, and thus to make justice, and every other public function in which she takes part, a pure and unadulterated farce.

In opposition to the sentimental septuagenarian of the Surrey Assizes, therefore, we prophesy with even more[Pg 355] conviction than he could possibly feel, that the administration of justice will only be weakened by women on Grand and all other juries.

In reply to those Feminists who are inclined angrily to dismiss all the above as the outcome of prejudice, or whatever else they may imagine has animated me in writing it, it would be interesting to ask them how they propose to account for woman’s inconspicuous part in Art, Philosophy and Science, unless they are prepared to accept as real some of the disabilities which I have shown to be derived from the most vital elements in female nature.

They cannot now argue that it is due to the systematic repression of women’s capacities by men, because this canard is no longer believed by anybody. They can hardly argue that it is due to the frequently adverse conditions of women’s life; because we know that some of the greatest geniuses of history were not only born in conditions unfavourable to high achievements, but also produced some of their finest work while still struggling with adversity. If they are not prepared to ascribe the fact to a natural difference between the sexes, which, in view of its being part of the economy of life, it would be dangerous to disturb, what is their position?

The fact that women possess certain powers of mind peculiar to themselves alone, which enable them frequently to hit at a truth beneath its many disguises, and to appear to guess when they really only see or feel the correct answer to the question, has been asserted and claimed too often to be passed over here without some comment. And we are the less inclined to leave it unnoticed, seeing that both tradition and the wisdom of antiquity take it for granted.

This power is usually called intuition. It is an immediate road to knowledge, instead of a mediate one. Without reasoning or analysis, the intuitive person perceives the truth.

In the sense of its being an immediate road to knowledge,[Pg 356] however, I should doubt very much whether it could be proved that woman possesses intuition. The number of her guesses being infinite, it is only natural that occasionally they should be right.[239] But, in any case, even if we did grant that woman possessed intuition in this sense, we could not claim that she is alone in this possession. All great male poets have possessed it: Heraclitus, Theognis, Shakespeare, Gœthe! When Gœthe perceived the true morphology of the human cranium, after looking at a skull, he saw intuitively a fact which the science of a subsequent Age was only able to prove at the cost of much labour and research. Likewise, when the poet responsible for the opening chapter of Genesis wrote down the order in which the organic world appeared on earth, he perceived intuitively a fact which thousands of years afterwards the analysis and reasoning of science confirmed. We have not on record any such profound scientific fact that was originally discovered intuitively by woman. If, however, women really possessed intuition, in the sense of a power that enabled them immediately to perceive a hidden or hitherto undiscovered truth, the records of the sciences would surely be full of such cases; and we should expect to find the history of every science to consist of an early intuitional period in which all the fundamental great truths were discovered by women, and a later substantiating period, in which these female discoveries were proved and confirmed by the analytical and rational faculties of the male.

This, however, is not what the history of any science reveals. It frequently records cases of correct guesses on the part of male poets and thinkers, which subsequent generations of male scientists have confirmed; but, to my knowledge, not one such case of a woman.

Nevertheless, we are bound to treat with some respect a tradition of such hoary antiquity as is this one concerning[Pg 357] woman’s peculiar mental powers, and although we may doubt whether they may be truly characterized by the one word intuition, it is at least incumbent upon us to find a better word, or to explain how the tradition arose, and on what feature of the female psyche it is based.

The most striking instance of the recognition by the ancients of special spiritual powers in woman, is the employment of virgins as the voices of oracles. The Oracle of Delphi, for example, which was the most celebrated of all the oracles of Apollo, employed a virgin in this way, and she was known as the Pythia of the Temple. Whenever the oracle was consulted she was led by the prophetes to her seat on the tripod, and then, under the influence of the vapour arising from the chasm under her feet, she would fall into a state of delirious intoxication, and utter the sounds which contained the revelations of Apollo. Until about the end of the third century B.C. this virgin was usually a young girl taken from some family of poor country people. About this time, however, a certain Thessalonian named Echecrates is supposed to have seduced her, and thereafter she was replaced by a woman of fifty or over. Three such virgins were constantly employed at Delphi in the heyday of Hellenic civilization, and the pronouncements of the oracle, although they frequently contained prophecies of a very definite kind, were so consistently wise and true, that it is impossible to deny at least some mysterious power behind their inspiration.

Modern rationalists, like the Greek rationalists of old, have scoffed at the supposed mysterious power that resided in these virgin mediums, but it is easier to scoff than to explain, and the task of dismissing them as a fraud is simpler than that of explaining how a wise people like the ancient Greeks could have maintained their faith in them for generations, if there had not been a genuine element of divination in their many pronouncements.

Other oracles were served by women, in addition to that at Delphi, and among these we may mention the Oracle[Pg 358] of Apollo at Tegyra, the Oracle of Apollo at Argos, the Oracle at Deiradiotes, and the Oracle at Patara in Lycia.

Whatever the powers were that the mediums used, I, at all events, feel disinclined to doubt their truly mysterious quality, nor do I believe that this mysterious quality was in the nature of a fraud engineered and practised by the priesthood. If the mediums and their peculiar functions were the only instance we had of occult powers being used for prophecy and divination, through the instrumentality of virgins, I should feel more inclined to side with the sceptics. But, seeing that we have in the mediæval belief in the magic of witchcraft further evidence of a popular traditional notion that occult powers of a sort can reside in woman; seeing, moreover, that we have such staggering cases of mysterious virginal inspiration and second sight as that which is typified in the history of Joan of Arc, we can but maintain a humble attitude of mind, and until such time as greater knowledge is given us, readily admit that here there is something outside our philosophy which, while it cannot be denied, is yet akin to what, for lack of a better term, we may call the Unknown.

When we are told by psychologists, therefore, that in the matter of psycho-therapeutics women reveal greater suggestibility than men; when Baudouin tells us[240] that in applying his system of cure by auto-suggestion, Coué has met with speedier results among women than men, the most we can do, at the present state of our knowledge, is perhaps to suppose that there exists in woman an easier and readier contact with the unconscious mind, that women are therefore able to communicate with greater success than men with that mysterious reservoir of strength and life, now designated vaguely as the Unconscious, and it is in this power that we must seek an explanation of the miraculous phenomena with which, for millenniums, women have been traditionally associated.

In any case, it must now be obvious that it would be a[Pg 359] mistake to call this power intuition, i.e. an immediate perception of objective scientific truth; because tradition and history alike give us no record of objective scientific facts that have been discovered by women in this way. It would be more accurate, for the present, to regard it as a sort of clairvoyance, a power of presaging an event, by feeling correctly the significance of antecedent circumstances or perturbations preceding the event. Presumably every event in history is but the inevitable bursting of a mine, the various trains of gunpowder to which may be accurately located and recognized some time before the explosion takes place. Given a degree of sensitiveness that feels one or more of the existing trains, before their presence is even suspected by the remainder of mankind, and correctly traces their course to an ultimate goal, and the presentiment that a perturbation will sooner or later occur at that goal, must follow with more or less intensity.

How this presentiment or feeling becomes conscious, how the virgin Pythia of Delphi felt, for instance, that the Persians would one day plunder and burn the Temple of Didyma, and accurately prophesied the event some time before it happened, it is impossible to say; as well might we try to explain the accurate weather prognostications of snails, of swallows, or of the monkeys on the rocks of Gibraltar. This, however, is certain, that a kind of second sight is frequently given to women, particularly to young virgins (probably owing to their condition of acute apprehensive-and sensitive-ness); but whether it will ever be explained as a sort of feeling intelligence of the periphery of their bodies, or of their sight, or of their ears, or definitely located in a peculiar function of their psyche, it is at present impossible to say.[241]

[Pg 360]

In conclusion, however, I must, for the sake of the reader unacquainted with the history of this aspect of the human mind, call attention to the fact that men, too, have been known to possess these very powers. It is in no spirit of hostility to women that I here add this reminder of a well-known fact, but simply with a view to saving myself from misinterpretation.

The feminist reader, who will imagine that the bulk of this book, instead of having been dictated by a feeling of deep friendliness to women, is really the work of prejudice, will halt here, and feel perhaps a certain disappointment. Here was I, at last, generously according a unique psychical power to woman, and lo! I now proceed to add that even this peculiar gift is not peculiar, and that she shares it with man.

Alas, yes! The truth must be admitted. The most we can say is, that women perhaps possess it more frequently, more normally than men; but that men have possessed it, and will continue to possess it, cannot, I fear, be denied.

The ancients, whose wisdom in these matters is our first hint of the existence of such occult powers in humanity, were perfectly well aware of this fact. The oracles at the Hill of Ptoon, at Claros, at Olympia, and in the Oasis of Lybia (Zeus Ammon), and many others, were all conducted by men, while that of Zeus at Dodona, was conducted by men at first, and only in later times by women.

The records of the Jewish race and of the Middle Ages are full of instances of men whose “clairvoyance” was well known, while in the East, the employment of men in functions where powers of divination and clairvoyance are essential, is almost universal.

Whether these facts justify the ultimate conclusion that, while man includes woman, woman does not include man—that while all that is woman is man, all that is man is not woman, it is perhaps a little difficult to say. At all events, it is my belief that the truth resides very[Pg 361] near, if not actually in, this statement of the relation of the sexes; and although I claim no originality for it as it stands, I think it helpful in explaining briefly much that will probably be eternally true about this relation.

The Teutonic and Anglo-Saxon races have little of the seer in their constitution. They are better at meeting and enduring disaster than at foreseeing and forestalling it. They are suspicious of prophets and prophecy, because they have none of the gifts that would enable them to indulge in vaticinations themselves. Not being possessed of any capacity for divining the ultimate bourne of current tendencies, they doubt very much whether it is possible for any man to foretell that bourne, or to describe it in anticipation. They are completely wedded to the doctrine of experience. “What you have not experienced you cannot possibly know,”—this is the ultimate epistemological doctrine of these two races. The consequence of this is that they are constantly in the precarious position of him who, knowing nothing of poisons, and being quite unable to predict their possible effect, has to wait for the consequence of having partaken of strange drugs before he can know whether they are good for him or not.

Such an attitude would be excusable at the dawn of history, at the beginning of human life, or in the Garden of Eden. It seems quite inexcusable in the present Age. And yet, although the Anglo-Saxon and Teutonic races have the whole of the accumulated history of civilized mankind, and the whole of the tradition of humanity, at their command, they still persist in demanding individual experience of everything, before they will pronounce upon it.

The fact that in such circumstances one may quite easily die of experience, or at least fall into a hopeless decline as the result of it, never seems to occur to them. They go blundering on, refusing to learn from the lessons[Pg 362] of previous civilizations, and determined to allow every possible experience of mankind to work its worst consequences upon them, as if these consequences had never been heard of in the world before.

It is so with Democracy, and it will be so with Ochlocracy. These things have been tried before. They are known, and have proved fatal to the civilization that tried them. But what is that to the Teuton and Anglo-Saxon? He has no personal experience of their evils, and is therefore determined to stake the fate of his civilization on trying them.

Even without actual experience of their evils, either in the present or the past, it would be simple for anyone, equipped with only a little insight and wisdom, to foresee exactly whither democracy will lead, whither it must lead, whither it cannot help leading; for you cannot conduct any institution with a committee consisting of everybody, without condemning that institution to immediate or ultimate disaster. Democracy has only to be thought about for a few hours, in order to be dismissed as the most stupid of all forms of government. Even if other civilizations had failed to try it, even if democracy were a hitherto unexplored field, a moment’s reflection would be sufficient to enable one to condemn it as utterly hopeless.

Such, however, is the constitution of the Teutonic and Anglo-Saxon mind, that the people of these races will require to see their civilization in ruins about them, as the result of their experiment with democracy, before they will be prepared to alter their opinion on the subject of democratic institutions, and agree to label them “Poison” for all time.

What is true of democracy in Teutonic and Anglo-Saxon countries, is also true of Feminism. It is possible to say now quite positively that Feminism is stupid and wrong. It is possible to prophesy with complete certainty that Feminism will only aggravate the disasters already overtaking civilization. To anyone who feels[Pg 363] that the arguments advanced in this book cannot be cavalierly dismissed as negligible, it must be plain that modern humanity’s experiment with Feminism, by striking nearer to the roots of Life, is perhaps even more dangerous to civilization and to the race, than Democracy itself. But let no one who feels disposed to take this view imagine for one moment that the Anglo-Saxon or Teuton will therefore stop the experiment of Feminism here and now. To the Anglo-Saxon and the Teuton, Feminism is an unexplored experience. However mad, however dangerous, and however mortal it may be, it will therefore be allowed to proceed until its danger and its deadliness are apparent to all. The fact that, by that time, it may be too late to reverse the engine, too late to repair the havoc wrought, does not disturb the Teuton or Anglo-Saxon mind for one minute. To lock the stable door after the horse has gone, to label “Poison” an emptied phial, are practices so common, so habitual in England, and in all countries like England, that it would be romantic to hope that any halt will be called in the modern stampede in favour of Democracy and Feminism until long after their worst consequences have become plain to the meanest intelligence. This fact, however, would not be sufficient to exonerate anyone like myself from all blame, if he omitted to raise his voice above the roar of the stampede, to try at last to call attention to its dangers. For, even if I may fail to gain the ear of my own countrymen and all those who resemble them, I may at least have the satisfaction of warning off those who have not yet become involved in the colossal errors of Western and particularly Anglo-Saxon civilization.

The outlook, then, is decidedly depressing. It seems almost certain that the experiment of Feminism, far from being arrested, will be pursued further and further. Not until its worst consequences begin to be understood by the dullest inhabitants in Great Britain, is it in the least likely to be regarded as a possible mistake; and,[Pg 364] seeing that England and America—not to speak of France and the northern countries of Europe—have it in their power to set an example to the rest of the world, it is probable that the harm it will do will be world wide and deep seated before anything in the nature of a revulsion of feeling begins to make itself felt.

The prospects of an immediate revulsion of feeling in this country are not very hopeful. There are indeed signs of such a movement; but, in my opinion, it is too feeble, too sporadic, and too unreasoning to be effective.[242] It is very much more likely that Feminism will enjoy a fresh access of power and popularity in the near future, than that it will meet with any serious reverse; for almost everybody to-day is an unconscious feminist. Every journalist, novelist, poet and public man, with but few exceptions, takes the first principles of Feminism for granted. No one seriously doubts, for instance, that woman has exercised a beneficent influence over civilization; the absurd idealism which represents woman as the unselfish, self-sacrificing, partner in human life, is almost universally accepted. Everybody is inclined to regard man as the unmoral (non-social or anti-social) and woman as the moral (social) sex, and to hold the sexes as otherwise perfectly equal. And as long as these false ideas prevail, it cannot be a matter of surprise that modern man should have come to the conclusion that the more women’s influence is made to prevail, the better the world will be. It is true that there are still a number of intelligent and healthy people who are prepared to enlighten the world on the danger of this tendency; but their voice can hardly be heard above the clamour of the other side. In fact, the victory of the Feminist standpoint is so complete, that success in any field to-day presupposes a certain deep and sometimes quite unconscious sympathy with Feminist ideals. All those who fail to confirm this[Pg 365] tendency, all those who attempt to tear away the tinsel of dangerous sentiment and sentimentality that now adorns the female of the species, and to raise a masculine voice of protest against the absurd idealization that disfigures and distorts and will ultimately ruin her, finds the whole front of modern criticism, modern prejudice, and even modern philosophy against him.

The chances are, then, that before another century dawns, we shall see women as judges, women in holy orders, and even women as Cabinet Ministers. But by the time this comes about, if it should come about, it is to be hoped that the influence of Anglo-Saxon and Teutonic countries will have sufficiently declined in the world, for their example to be no more than a sign-board, a warning and a danger-signal, to inform other nations of the fatal peril of following in their wake.

The reforms suggested in this work, for the purpose of curtailing the power of women and of instituting saner and healthier views of marriage, are hardly likely to be adopted while the influence of Feminists remains in the ascendant; for the possibility of greater happiness and greater health resulting from such reforms could hardly be admitted by a public which, through being largely under the direction of Feminist sentiments on the subject, must take a romantic rather than a realistic view of the relation of the sexes. Indeed, the probability is that the views regarding marriage, and the laws regulating it, will grow steadily more and more insane as the century advances and the more deeply we sink into Feminism; for the increasing influence of women in every sphere, including particularly politics, can only tend to falsify and destroy every natural relation and every sound institution of social life. With perfect confidence, therefore, we can prophesy an increasing degeneracy of life in England, that will reach its lowest point with the zenith of feminine influence; but whether at the end of this tragic cycle there will remain sufficient health and sanity in the population to help towards a recovery of its former[Pg 366] greatness, and towards a reaction that will prove salutary, is a question that we should require a Pythia of Delphi to answer for us.

The same remarks apply to the reforms suggested in the chapter on the Old Maid. Not until England has suffered very much more cruelly than she has suffered hitherto, can we hope to see reforms introduced which, for their initiation, would require not only the defeat of Feminism, but also a state of mind entirely purged of feminine, romantic, and anti-male influences. But this moment is still a very long way off. The fibre of the nation will require to be very substantially stiffened before these happenings will be descried even on the most distant horizon, and it is feared that this stiffening process will be achieved only by the fierce lesson of a cruel disaster. Nothing else will convince people that the road has been a wrong one.

I have now come to the end of my undertaking. I have called my work A Vindication, because I sincerely meant it as a book friendly in spirit to the female sex, and one in which the worst that can be said about them is shown to be but the outcome of their best, or at least but the result of a misuse or abuse of their best. I have attempted to show that their virtues, like their vices, are all derived from the unalterable vital instincts which their evolutionary rôle, as the mothers of the race, have gradually implanted in them and fixed in them for ever. Not the smallest suspicion of hostility or bitterness towards women has animated me in writing one line of the preceding pages. It is my conviction that those who misunderstand women, who wish to make them more negative, and who flatter them into the belief that their present and traditional inferiority to man is not natural but “artificial,” are the true enemies of womankind. It is they who are now contriving woman’s unhappiness, and who, in conspiring to rob her of the greatest joys of[Pg 367] which her body and spirit are heirs, distract her attention from their nefarious scheme by holding before her prizes which, in the ripeness of time, she herself recognizes as mere baubles.

The possibilities of human nature are so incalculable, and the freaks of adaptation so manifold, that it is by no means impossible to destroy the woman in woman and to convert her into a creature in which masculine instincts and aspirations come into constant conflict with a non-masculine physique and a non-masculine racial history. As an ideal achievement this is not impossible. The only question humanity has to decide is whether such a metamorphosis is desirable; whether in the interests both of woman herself and the species in general, such a transformation will be for the good. It is true, as we have seen, that it will never be possible to rear female geniuses equal to male geniuses, because these extremes in men seem to be due to a purely masculine tendency to greater variability; but a more modest programme of masculinization is certainly not impossible. Make woman honest, upright, straightforward, however; make her impartial; make her scrupulous; make her the reverse of vulgar; destroy her love of petty power, her vanity and her sensuality; and what, in sooth, will you have achieved? You will have undermined the very instincts that Nature has implanted in her to secure the survival of the species at all costs, and in the face of everything. If that is desirable, if that is an ideal worthy of our aspirations, then certainly let us do all in our power to realize it. If, however, it is possible to entertain the smallest shadow of doubt concerning the wisdom of this course; if by the exercise of a little humility we can question whether our nineteenth-century or our twentieth-century ideals can possibly be more profound and more far-sighted than the eternal sagacity of Nature; if there are still reasons for feeling that it is not woman as I have described her in these pages, but man himself—man as we know him in this post-war Europe of 1922—who is really in direst[Pg 368] need of transformation; then, it seems to me, that it is above all important to pause and carefully to take our bearings before we make this daring plunge; for we cannot now with any pretence of honesty or good faith claim that it is a plunge into the unknown.



[232] Op. cit., pp. 210, 211.

[233] For a detailed discussion of the relationship of the painter, sculptor, poet, architect and musician to the great social builder and artist, see my Introduction to Van Gogh’s Letters (Constable & Co., London).

[234] See Lecky (Op. cit., vol. II, p. 360). Speaking of women he says: “They are little capable of impartiality or of doubt; their thinking is chiefly a mode of feeling.” See also Buckle (The Influence of Women on the Progress of Knowledge), the whole argument of which is to the effect that woman’s thinking is emotional. Weininger also says (Op. cit., p. 100): “With the woman, thinking and feeling are identical,” but this testimony is not nearly as valuable as that of the two former writers, who can in no way be suspected of misogyny.

[235] On this whole question cp. Sir Almroth E. Wright (Op. cit., p. 35): “Woman’s mind attends in appraising a statement primarily to the mental images which it evokes, and only secondarily—and sometimes not at all—to what is predicated in the statement ... accepts the congenial as true, and rejects the uncongenial as false; takes the imaginary which is desired for reality, and treats the undesired reality which is out of sight as non-existent.”

[236] With the softening of men in an effeminate civilization, women are, of course, not alone in holding this attitude to truth. Many men, even among the most cultivated, are unable to-day to separate pleasantness from truth; for to do so implies a control of emotion by reason which is not the forte of modern mankind. Not only men writers during the war, but also politicians, proved beyond doubt their own and their male audiences’ inability to regard truth rationally; and at the present time you are quite as likely to be flatly contradicted by a man as by a woman, if you enunciate an unpleasant truth before an ordinary crowd.

[237] Vide Press reports of the William Harkness case, particularly the comments published, after Harkness’s execution, in The News of the World for February 26, 1922.

[238] Arabella Kenealy was tending towards this conclusion when she wrote (Op. cit., p. 155): “The woman of average brain, however, attains the intellectual standards of the man of average brain at cost of her health, of her emotions, or of her morale.” I would suggest “and” instead of “or” in the latter part of the sentence.

[239] Anyone who attempts to keep a record of his wife’s, mother’s or sister’s so-called “intuitive” statements, will soon realize how few of them reveal an accurate power of immediately perceiving truth.

[240] See several passages in his Suggestion and Auto-Suggestion.

[241] The fact that certain organisms in the animal kingdom use senses which, as far as we can tell, have neither sight, taste, smell, hearing, nor touch, for their basis, is shown by W. S. Coleman in his British Butterflies. The manner in which the males of the Kentish Glory Moth, for instance, are attracted to the female, when she is sometimes more than a mile away from them, is utterly unknown, and Coleman is compelled to refer it to a sort of clairvoyance. (See pp. 28-29.)

[242] It is largely animated by commercial and industrial rivalry, and this sort of opposition to Feminism is too contemptible to inspire much enthusiasm.

[Pg 369]


Printed in Great Britain by Butler & Tanner, Frome and London.

Transcriber’s Notes