Page images

if proper care be taken to see that boys are well brought up, they will not fall into dirty habits of any kind, much less into so filthy a one as masturbation. And, indeed, it is a good deal to ask of a schoolmaster. He naturally feels that, when he has done all he can in the way of supervision and management to prevent his boys from indulging in evil propensities, the responsibility of warning them against habits which he hopes they have never heard of, and which might be put into their heads if he were to broach the subject at all, is greater than he ought to be called upon to bear. If he were, he says, to discover any boys practising or inciting others to practise the evil habit, they would of course be severely punished or even expelled; but never having discovered such offenders, he does not believe the habit is indulged in at all, and declines to interfere. If recent testimony is to be believed, it is certain that these practices are still (though perhaps less frequently than formerly indulged in). As I have said, it is my deliberate opinion that in many cases it would be true wisdom, and true kindness openly and in plain language to lay before a boy the full extent of his danger, and impress upon him as urgently as possible, the fact that it is a danger, and that the consequences of yielding on his part will be most lamentable. I have myself no hesitation as to the advice I should give to parents in such matters. In all cases, I would tell them, the best preventive step to be taken is to watch their children, if not actually to warn them against what it is to be hoped they are ignorant of, and to develop all their muscular powers by strong gymnastic exercises. We must, however, recollect, that it is not the strong athletic boy, fond of healthy exercise, who thus early shows marks of sexual desires, but your puny exotic, whose intellectual education has been fostered at the expense of his physical development.

Little do parents know or think of what they sacrifice in unnaturally forcing the intellectual at the expense of the muscular development. Unfortunately, many of the attempts of modern education tend only to foster intellectual superiority, and children are confined to the schoolroom for hours that, at an early age, had better be passed in the open air.

If such parents would read the biographies of eminent characters who have succeeded in the highest walks of their various professions, they would find that one of the most necessary means of success in life is a strong constitution. If on this be engrafted superior intellectual endowments, accompanied by that energy of character which usually attends the strong, success in after life may be nearly ensured. Youths thus happily gifted are not those whom we see cut off in the prime of life just as they are giving promise of great distinction, and whose parents look back with regret, and ask themselves, with justice, if they have not been partially instrumental in causing these intellectual suicides.

A vigorous healthy boy is not likely to have any tendency to debase himself, and it is a question with many parents if it is wise (on his going to school) to caution bim against the vile habit of masturbation and its consequences. My own impression formerly was, that it would be a pity to poison the mind of a high-spirited lad with any cautions about such debasing practices; but my opinion has been altered by the confessions of many who, in ignorance of the results, have, by the example of others, been led to practice masturbation. I believe that in many cases a parent should at least hint to his son that he may very possibly have to witness unclean practices, and conjure him at once manfully to resist and oppose them, pointing out at the same time the consequences to which they tend. There may be the risk of tainting an ingenuous mind by broaching such a subject, and unfolding before it the distressing page in the book of knowledge of good and evil; but when it is needful, a father should in my opinion accept the grave responsibilty and ought not to face the greater unknown ill of dismissing his child to the probability of contamination, without an attempt to save him. I esteem it false delicacy and a wrong, that a parent should hesitate to warn his boy, when, at the most, he can only anticipate by a few days or weeks the offices of a youthful schoolmaster in vice, as ignorant of consequences as the pupil, and unable to administer the antidote with the poison.

The warning often would not be so unintelligible to a child as is sometimes supposed. Parents are frequently disinclined to acknowledge that their children can have any information on sexual matters. They should bear in mind that, although the father may have abstained from alluding to sexual subjects, yet a mere child, with its keen curiosity, and eyes always on the alert for anything unusual among domestic animals, may already have acquired an astonishing amount of information even about sexual matters—quite sufficient, at any rate, to be very dangerous to him, if not guided and corrected by the admonitions of his parent.

Whatever may be considered the best course for ordinary children, on one point my mind is fully made up.

is fully made up. If I saw a child, a few years old, paying attention to female children only, and toying with them, I should watch over his future most anxiously. On the occurrence of any symptoms of debility, paleness, or ill-health, my vigilance would be still greater, particularly if I saw any development of the idées génésiques, as Lallemand calls them. In such a case I should have no hesitation in directing the precocious child's attention to the pitfall yawning before him, fully convinced that not only could advice do no harm, but that I should not be teaching such a boy what he ought not to know by calling his attention to sexual subjects. I am of opinion that I should but anticipate the natural curiosity of such peculiarly organized children, who early acquire, from the habit of watching animals, and reading novels left about by their seniors, a smattering of knowledge which excites their feelings, but which teaches them nothing of the ill consequences of the only sexual indulgence they can practice at this early age. To suppose that a parent can keep such a sexually disposed child from a knowledge of much that he had better not be acquainted with, shows a grievous ignorance of the infantile mind. But this mind may be regulated, and the dangerous consequences of the practices may be pointed out."

1 As I was preparing a former edition for the press, a stranger called on me to ask my opinion as to what he should do in the case of a boy of twelve years whom he suspected of evil practices. The boy had fallen away in his studies, had dark patches under his eyes, and was depressed in spirits. In

Although I would not give too much weight to the opinions of sufferers, yet I cannot refrain from introducing the following unsolicited letter from a patient on this duty of parents to their children.

“I fear you may think me somewbat presuming if I say how entirely I agree with you as to the desirableness, not to say absolute duty, of parents and others duly to caution youths as to their conduct in early life relating to sexual matters. Had my father taken such a course with me, I am fully justified in saying I should not have fallen into an error which I now most deeply deplore. This is all that was wanted, for the strictly moral way in which I have been brought up has prevented me running into any of the excesses of the day. But, of course, I went to a large public school, and there, of course, became acquainted with the practice of masturbation, and almost equally as a matter of course, indulged in the habit, and, without a thought of its baneful consequences, have practised it for years. In fact, I fear you must somewhat doubt this statement, but I assure you it is the literal fact, I pursued the practice from an idea of its necessity, and was fortified in my supposition (so ignorant was I) by the idea that, if omitted, nocturnal emissions supplied the omission of the practice. Besides, I considered it a natural means for allaying the sexual desires, the act relieving me from such desire for some time.

“I see now and regret deeply the great folly of which I have been guilty, but am I wrong in feeling some indignation at not having been put better on my guard by those I considered my instructors ? Recently, however (I am now near twenty-two), I happened to discover the disastrous results likely to ensue, and also that nocturnal emissions are symptoms of disease. I, of course, immediately relinquished the habit, never to resume it. I must say, however, that it never had the effect upon me I should have expected from reading your book, inasmuch as I have always appeared and felt strong, healthy, vigorous at school, very fond of play, subsequently well able to perform my daily duties either as regards business or intellectual engagements, and have never been averse to society.”

In nearly all young children the practice has only to be left off, and the system will speedily rally. One great advantage in early warning a boy, therefore, is that, as he probably derives little or no pleasure from the act, if he is once put in possuch a case I told him I should have no hesitation in quietly talking to the boy without taxing him with any evil practices (which the lad would probably deny). I should tell him that it was well recognized that secret vices are sometimes carried on at school. I should tell him that such practices cannot be continued with impunity, and warn him against them. Steps must, of course, be taken at the same time to improve his general health.

session of the probable consequences, he will very likely abandon the practice. His example and advice may, moreover, deter others, who are not so well informed. So strongly do I feel the propriety of such a course of proceeding in the case of sexually disposed children, that I would urge parents, if they feel themselves unequal to the responsibility, to transfer the duty to their medical adviser.

I have been so often urged by parents and schoolmasters to draw up a plan which might be of service in teaching them how properly to address children, as well as boys arriving at the age of puberty, that I had determined, in the present edition, to trace out a few notes which might aid parents desirous of following my advice. . This has, however, become unnecessary since I read the following advice in a pamphlet lately printed by a clergyman :

Advantage could, and ought to be taken of the opportunity when a boy says his catechism to explain to him the meaning of some of the terms therein mentioned. When a child is taught 'to keep his body in temperance, soberness, and chastity,' it would not be difficult to explain to him what chastity is, instead of leaving him to find it out, as best he may. He might be given to understand that it does not merely mean that all indecency and foul language must be shunned. The child might be told that he must keep his hands from meddling with his secret parts, except when the necessities of nature require it; and that any emotions he may experience in those members must not be encouraged, and all thoughts which originate them must be avoided. And when he grows older every boy should be taught that chastity means continence; that if he would be chaste he must not by any act of his own, or by the indulgence of lascivious imaginations, cause the fruit of his body to be expended. He should be taught that all such expenditure is a drain upon his whole system, and weakens the powers which God has given him to be employed only in the married state. He may be sure that “his sin will find him out,' and if he marries with his powers undermined by unlawful gratification, it will be visited upon his children also. “If he is old enough to understand the subject, the youth en

« PreviousContinue »