Page images
PDF
EPUB

undergone. Ultimately, for the most part, common sense triumphs, and they feel intensely grateful for the relief they obtain.

The surgeon must acknowledge, however, that these affections are frequently very rebellious. The duration of disease, prolonged residence in warm or unhealthy climates, or the fact of the sexual passions having been allowed unrestrained liberty, have often brought the constitution of the elderly man into a very irritable state; still, great amelioration may be surely promised. The means of cure cannot here be dwelt upon. They must depend not only on the particular affection present, but the case must be treated on the ordinary principles of surgery.

CHAPTER III.

FUNCTIONAL DISORDERS IN DEBAUCHES WHO, HOPING TO SUPPLY

THE LOSS OF POWER CONSEQUENT ON THEIR PREVIOUS EX-
CESSES PREFER TO STIMULATE THE REPRODUCTIVE ORGANS

FOR THE PURPOSE OF GRATIFYING THEIR ANIMAL PASSIONS.

Again, to quote Parise: “Unfortunately there are those who, either more infatuated, more helplessly drifting on the tide of passion, or more depraved, use all their endeavors to realize desires which it is no longer possible to satisfy, unless by a forced compliance of the organs. Not only has the energy—the superfluous vitality of early days—disappeared, but the organic power of reproduction is nearly obliterated. Is all over then? Credat Judæus, non ego. It is now that Venus Impudica lavishes on her used-up votaries her appetizing stimulants to vice and debauchery. The imagination, polluted with impurities, seeks pleasure which reason and good sense repudiate. There are instances of debauched and shameless old age which, deficient in vital resources, strives to supply their place by fictitious excitement; a kind of brutish lasciviousness, that is ever the more cruelly punished by nature, from the fact that the immediatelyensuing debility is in direct proportion to the forced stimulation which has preceded it.

“Reduced to the pleasures of recollection, at once passionate and impotent, their sensuality may kill, but cannot satiate. There are such old libertines who are constantly seeking after the means of revivifying their withered, used-up organism, as if that were possible without imminent danger. The law of nature is without appeal. To submit to it is the result of great good judgment, and the reward is speedy. But submission is no invariable rule, and persons of prudence and chastity have but faint conception of the devices to evade it, of the folly, caprice, luxury, immodesty, the monstrous lewdness and indiscribable saturnalia of the senses which are the result. The surgeon alone knows from the confession of his patients, or surmises from his experience, to what a depth corruption will descend, and the evils which will follow, particularly in large capitals. One of the most common means of excitement employed by these senile Lovelaces is change—variety in the persons they pursue. What is more fatal to the organism ? Extreme youth is sacrificed to these shameless old men. The full-blown charms of fine women no longer suffice—they address themselves to mere children, to the great scandal of our manners, and of all that these victims of debauchery hold dear and sacred. Nevertheless, let it be remarked, it is seldom—very seldom—that punishment comes pede claudo; old age, which disease changes every day into decrepitude-often sudden death, and death that lasts for years, a consequence of cruel infirmities--prove the justice of Nature." (Parise, p. 423.)

It would be well if the above picture, sketched, of course, from Parisian society by a distinguished French physician, were inconsistent with experiences gathered elsewhere.

Regret it as we may, medical men of large experience must acknowledge that human nature presents much the same features under all climates, and in London as elsewhere. Virtue and sin, refinement and vice, appear to me to herd together and to grow intense, pari passu with civilization.

When a young man, without any redeeming qualities, has run through a career of debauchery, when his adult age is but a new lease of similar associations, the necessity for additional excite

ment appears to goad him on. Fictitious desires increase, until it is impossible to say where shall be his acmé of debauchery, or what devices may be invented by those in his pay “to minister to a mind diseased.” This is particularly the case when such a pampered, ill-directed, unrestrained will is accompanied by unlimited wealth. For such an one, youth, innocence, and beauty soon cease to have attraction. Well has it been said of him, that “the beast has destroyed the man.” Variety may for a time satisfy or stimulate his failing powers, but not for very long. Local stimulants are tried, and, after a short repetition, these also fail. As a last resource, unnatural excitement is brought to bear, and now public decency is forgotten, and we probably find that the first check to the lust of the opulent satyr is his finding himself the hero of some filthy police case—then, maybe, a convict or a voluntary exile.

As schoolboys, we may have been accustomed to laugh at the fables of the grotesque sylvan monsters of antiquity, ignorant of what hideous truths of human nature their half-animal forms were the symbols. Even after sad experience has enlarged our knowledge of the possibilities of vice, few of us happily have any idea of how completely these bestial forms of ancient art represent the condition of the satyrs who so notoriously affect the seclusion and the shade of the parks and gardens in modern cities. I question if a prison is the proper place for such debased individuals. As far as I have noticed their organization, I should say an uncontrolled giving way to the sexual passion has used up a frame never very strong. A constant drain on the nervous power has produced an effect which renders its subject indifferent to consequences, provided his all-absorbing pursuit (namely, ministering to the excitement of his sexual passion) can be indulged in. Doubtless, in many instances, the brain has become affected, particularly when there exists a strong hereditary tendency to disease. This, together with deficiency of occupation, has caused many of these victims to their own feelings to make the pandering to their vile desires, and gratification of every sensuality their imagination can devise, the chief occupation of life. The medical man would hardly feel justified in certifying their fitness

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

for a lunatic asylum, as in all other respects their conduct appears to be sane. Observing, as these persons do, all the other usual convenances of society, there is yet a something about them which marks them as thralls of a debasing pursuit. It is an error, however, to suppose that they often suffer from venereal disease. Your old débauchés know too well the parties they have to deal with, and every precaution is taken to avoid the consequences. They are living and suffering spectres whom, as some clever writer has observed, “Death seems to forget to strike, because he believes them already in the tomb."

I very much question if, with their disordered brains, the fear of punishment will deter such men from crime. These satyrs are reduced to so morbid a condition, that the very chance of exposure seems to add a last stimulus to their debased inclinations. No other reason can, it seems, be given to explain why these rich old débauchés should choose places of public resort for their vile practices, when all that is there performed could, by the aid of money and existing agencies, be done in secret. It would

as though stolen sweets and covert joys had lost their charm; and the chance of evading the law had become the fascinating novelty. Hence the risk, the subsequent detection, and the public discovery of the practices of those whose penchants have long been known to the police. It is a form of aberration of intellect to which libertinage is subject; and seems to show into what a morass of defilement unrestrained sexual excitement may finally lead its victim.

It may, perhaps, be thought singular in my suggesting a moral based upon such vile practices as the above, but allusion to them may not be without benefit to those beginning life; and I would say, let those persons take warning who with an active imagination once enter upon a career of vice, and dream that at a certain spot they can arrest their progress. It is an old .tale, and often told, that, although the slope of criminality be easy and gradual, it is still “le premier pas qui coute;”—and he who launches · himself on such a course, will acquire, as he goes, velocity and force, until at last he cannot be stayed.

seem

The eloquent words of one of the best writers of modern times though used of another vice, are equally applicable to this :

“ Persons not accustomed to examine the motives of their actions, to reckon up the countless nails that rivet the chains of habit, or perhaps being bound by none so obdurate as those I have confessed to, may recoil from this as from an overcharged picture. But what short of such a bondage is it? ....

“I have seen a print after Corregio in which three female figures are ministering to a man who sits fast bound at the root of a tree. Sensuality is soothing him, evil habit is nailing him to a branch, and repugnance at the same instant of time is applying a snake to his side. In his face is feeble delight, the recollection of the past, rather than the perception of present pleasures, languid enjoyment of evil with utter imbecility to good, a Sybaritic effeminacy, a submission to bondage, the springs of the will go down like a broken clock, the sin and the suffering co-instantaneons, or the latter forerunning the former, remorse preceding action-all this represented in one point of time. hen I saw this I admired the wonderful skill of the painter. But when I went away I wept, because I thought of my own condition.

“Of that there is no hope that it should ever change. The waters have gone over me. But out of the black depths, could I be heard, I would cry to all those who have but set a foot in the perilous flood. Could the youth look into my desolation, and be made to understand what a dreary thing it is when a man shall feel himself going down a precipice with open eyes and passive will—to see his destruction and have no power to stop it, and yet to feel it all the way emanating from himself; to perceive all goodness emptied out of him, and yet not be able to forget a time when it was otherwise; to bear about with him the spectacle of his own self-ruin ; could he feel the body of death out of which I cry hourly with feebler and feebler outcry to be delivered. .."

There is a terrible truthfulness in this description of the depths of long indulged evil habit. There is, perhaps, only one lower depth ; that in which no remorse, no longing after past self-restraint or purity is felt any more.

Not the least active among the motives urging me to write these pages describing the consequences of human depravity, is that of offering frank and kindly warning and advice, which may serve to assist some to conquer in a conflict, wherein the consequences of defeat may be so irremediable.

The medical man is, I think, the only person who can foresee, as he probably is the only friend who will dare to point out, the consequences to which a course of vice, such as I have above alluded to, inevitably tends. The companions of the victim are

« PreviousContinue »