Page images
PDF
EPUB

be made in civilization or in elevation of individual condition and character."-Edin. Med. and Surg. Jour., vol. 1, p. 14.

The most obvious deduction from the foregoing inquiries is that in the human adult the seminal fluid varies much in different subjects, at different times, and at different ages. Thus it may be more or less matured and elaborated, and it may be secreted in larger or smaller quantities. I do not think sufficient attention has been paid to these circumstances. The quality of the semen, and the consequent exhaustion of the system which secretes it, must have a great influence on the progeny. May not the fact observed in all ages, that the children of great men are not usually equal to their sires, depend, among other causes, upon deterioration of the impregnating fluid in the parent from the great mental demand upon him at the time impregnation took place. May not many of the weedy horses met with be the result of an exhausted and overworked sexual system in the travelling stallions, their sires?' We may assume generally that to obtain perfect and fertile semen some rest must follow each sexual effort.

To effect impregnation certainly, and for the semen to be not only fertile but capable of producing, healthy and perfect offspring, it is indispensable that it should remain and be matured in the vesiculæ seminales ; in favor of which use of these organs we may quote the authority of Kölliker, who says—“In common with many other observers, I have so frequently seen spermatic filaments in the vesiculo seminales, that I should describe their occurrence there as normal, and assign a double function to the seminal vesicles ; viz., its principal one, of affording a special secretion, and also that of acting as seminal reservoirs.” (p. 232.)

1 I have attempted to procure evidence on this subject, particularly with regard to the breeding of horses. The difficulties are naturally great. Owners of stallions are loth to believe that weeds can depend upon this cause. When a celebrated horse can fill his list of forty-five mares, at thirty-five guineas a mare, I fear the pecuniary consideration will make the owner blind to the supposition that his horse's powers must be exhausted. If, however, the owners of the stallion cannot see the question in this point of view, it is time for those of the public who own valuable mares to be put in possession of the information that their disappointment probably depends upon the sires they choose being over-taxed. As far as I can learn, it is the object of all owners of race-horses to get their mares served as early in the season as possible, so that the mare drops her foal as soon after January as possible. A two year-old born in January is better able to compete with his compeers than one foaled in March ; at this age, a couple of months tell. As a consequence, the stallion, if a celebrated sire, is called upon to serve in a short time a large number of mares. Now supposing forty-five mares, each to be mounted once, at least, and several every nine days until stinted, it is hardly conceivable but that the quality of semen emitted by the horse should deteriorate after so enormous an expenditure.

Infecundity, however, does not depend wholly on the male. In many

instances no doubt can exist that the fault is with the female. The most common female cause of sterility is, as we might almost have expected, obstruction of some portion of the generative canal, arising from various causes.

Perfect occlusion of the os uteri may occur as a consequence of disease. Again, we meet with it only partially blocked up, from the canal being so devious that, though the menstrual secretion

may be able to pass out, the semen cannot find admittance—at least, in time to impregnate. Or, again, the os may be temporarily closed by a stiff glairy mucus, and until this is removed and prevented from again accumulating, impregnation cannot of course take place.

It is not my intention here to speak of all the causes of sterility in the female. Those desirous of learning more on this subject must consult my larger work on the urinary and generative organs. It must not, however, be supposed that mere mechanical obstruction is the only cause of sterility in the female. Many others, effectual beyond a doubt, but very mysterious in their origin, undoubtedly exist.

In considering the subject of sterility, it should not be forgotten that idiosyncracies exist in all animals. A male and female may be perfectly potent and fertile, and yet be unable to breed together. In fact, the semen of one male, from some hidden cause, will not impregnate a particular female, though it will others. A similar phenomenon occurs also in the vegetable world.

1 Donné has shown, that the mucus coming from the os uteri is alkaline, so alkaline sometimes, that in one of his experiments the contract of apparently healthy uterine secretion, in a few seconds, killed several hundred spermatozoa. Blood, it seems, does not kill the spermatozoa, but urine does, although not very rapidly. (See “Cours de Microscopie par Donné," pp. 295, 298.) Leucorrhæa, or “whites,” will at once destroy the spermatozoa, and as large numbers of women suffer under these disorders, we cannot be surprised at finding such women barren.

In Mr. Darwin's book on the “ Origin of Species,” there are some curious experiments mentioned bearing on this question. “ Thus one tree will not take (be grafted) on another, apparently from differences in their rate of growth, in the hardness of the wood, in the period of the flow, or nature of their sap. On the contrary, great diversity in these very particulars, and even in more important ones, are not infallible tests. One may be woody and the other herbaceous—one evergreen and the other deciduous-one the native of a hot climate, the other of a cold one—and the grafts from one on the other may succeed. The pear can be grafted far more readily on the quince, which is ranked as a distinct genus, than on the apple, which is a member of the same genus. Even different varieties of the

pear

take with different degrees of facility on the quince; so do different varieties of the apricot and peach on certain varieties of the plum.” (p. 261.)

Sterility may be produced by the attempt to cross between very different races. An embryo may be developed to a considerable extent, but the mother's system never recovers the disturbance caused by the attempt to unite two organizations so widely unlike. This often happens, according to Mr. Hewitt, in attempts to cross among gallinaceous birds.” (p. 264.)

That one horse will fail to impregnate a mare, while she will prove in foal by another, is well known to breeders. During the season of 1864, I sent a mare several times to be served by a particular horse, but without success, while, on being put to another, she was immediately impregnated. I observed the same in the case of a very celebrated high-bred short-horned bull, in my own neighborhood, which, although he mounted cows, did not impregnate them. These and other anomalies deserve the consideration and close observation of all breeders of valuable stock.

SECT. II.-UNGRATIFIED SEXUAL EXCITEMENT.

Just in proportion to the degree of uneasiness caused by the presence of an excess of semen in the organs, is the relief experienced after its natural, or, so to speak, legitimate emission. As has been already said (p. 137), regular and moderate sexual intercourse is, at the adult age, undoubtedly, on the whole, of advantage to the system at large. But the mere excitement of the sexual feelings when not followed by the result which it should produce, is, as has also already been stated (p. 59) an unmitigated evil. I am becoming every day more and more convinced that much suffering and many ailments arise in great measure from the repeated and long-continued excitement of the sexual feelings unattended by subsequent sexual relations. I could mention many instances where I have traced serious affections and very great suffering to this cause.

The cases may occur at any period of life. We meet with them frequently among such as are usually called or think themselves continent young men.

There are large classes of persons who seem to consider that they may, without moral guilt, excite their own feelings or those of others by loose or libidinous conversation in society, provided such impure thoughts or acts are not followed by masturbation or fornication. I have almost daily to tell such persons that physically and in a sanitary point of view they are ruining their constitutions. There are young men who almost pass their lives in making casual acquaintances in the street, but just stop short of seducing girls ; there are others who haunt the lower class of places of public amusement for the purpose of sexual excitement and live, in fact, a thoroughly immoral life in all respects except absolutely going home with prostitutes. When these men come to me laboring under the various forms of impotence, they are surprised at my suggesting to them the possibility of the impairment of their powers being dependent upon these previous vicious habits.

Parents and guardians should warn young men against idling away their spare time in such detrimental amusements. There

[ocr errors]

would often be less inducement for them thus to demean themselves were greater pains taken to render their homes agreeable, and especially by providing that they shall learn in the domestic circle to enjoy the society of modest women.

Similar consequences, only in a modified way, follow long engagements, and are witnessed also in the many instances where worthless worldly women trifle with serious men's affections to jilt them in the long run.

These consequences are not confined to single life. I remember one very painful case in which the patient's wife—to whom he was passionately attached—was the real cause of serious illness in her husband, by obdurately refusing to allow marital intercourse, for fear of having any more children (she had several), although she otherwise kept up the semblance of familiarity and affection, and thus added very greatly to his suffering

Few medical men would, however, venture to suggest such a cause for the general ill-health and sexual debility they meet with, but I am sure such cases are not unfrequent; and where the excitement is allowed to continue, all the remedies of the Pharmacopoeia will avail nothing, and in the more severe cases, I fear that even subsequent abstinence from all causes of excitement will not ensure a cure. I have every reason to believe that if the consentaneous performance of what constitutes the sexual act be repeatedly disturbed, the best medical treatment is not always efficacious in restoring sexual power.

These ailments, I repeat, are not confined to the young. There are old men who marry young wives, and who pay the penalty by becoming martyrs to paralysis, softening of the brain, and drivelling idiocy. Such unions as these, whether in the young or old, are certain sooner or later to do mischief. I am daily made cognizant that many cases of the most intractable forms of impotence I have to treat arise from similar causes. In the first place, these indulgences—which are thought so harmless—produce local mischief in the reproductive organs. Among the principal and primary evils they cause, is the weakening of that consentaneous action which should connect the excitement

« PreviousContinue »