Page images


by the momentary feebleness of the economy, or by the action of special medicines, but it never entirely ceases from puberty up to old age.” (p. 240, vol. ii.)

And now begins the trial which every healthy youth must encounter, and from which he may come out victorious, if he is to be all that he can and ought to be. The child should know nothing of this trial, and ought never to be disturbed with one sexual feeling or thought. But with puberty a very different state of things arises. A new power is present to be exercised, a new want to be satisfied. It is, I take it, of vital importance that boys and young men should know, not only the guilt illicit indulgence of their dawning passions, but also the danger of straining an immature power, and the solemn truth that the want will be an irresistible tyrant only to those who have lent it strength by yielding; that the only true safety lies in keeping even the thoughts pure. Nothing, I feel convinced, but a frank statement of the truth will persuade those entering on puberty that these new feelings, power, and delights must not be indulged.

It is very well known to medical men that the healthy secretion of semen has a direct effect upon the whole physical and mental conformation of the man. A series of phenomena attend the natural action of the testicles influencing the whole system ; helping, in fact, in no small degree, to form the character itself. A function so important, which does in truth, to a great extent determine, according as it is dealt with, the happiness or misery of a life, is surely one of the last, if not the very last, that should be abused.

But what, too often, are the facts ? The youth, finding himself in possession of these sexual feelings and powers, utterly ignorant of their importance or even of their nature, except from the ribald conversation of the worst of his companions, and knowing absolutely nothing of the consequences of giving way to them, fancies—as he, with many compunctions, begins a career of depravity—that he is obeying nature's dictates. Every fresh indulgence helps to forge the chains of habit; and it too often happens in consequence of the morbid depression to which these errors have reduced him, that he fancies that he is more or less ruined for this world, that he can never be what he might have been, and that it is only by a struggle as for life or death that he can hope for any recovery. In too many instances there is no strength left for any such struggle, and, hopelessly and helplessly, the victim drifts into irremediable ruin, tied and bound in the chain of a sin with the commencement of which ignorance had as much to do as vice.

Not that this natural instinct is to be regarded with a Manichæan philosophy as in itself bad. Far from it. That it is natural forbids such a theory. It has its own beneficent purpose; but that purpose is not early and sensual indulgence, but mature and lawful love. Let us hear what Carpenter eloquently says on this point:

“ The instinct of reproduction, when once aroused, even though very obscurely felt, acts in man upon his mental faculties and moral feelings, and thus becomes the source, though almost unconsciously so to the individual, of the tendency to form that kind of attachment towards one of the opposite sex which is known as love. This tendency, except in men who have degraded themselves to the levels of brutes, is not merely an appetite or emotion, since it is the result of the combined operations of the reason, the imagination, the moral feelings, and the physical desire. It is just in this connection of the psychical attachment with the more corporeal instinct that the difference between the sexual relations of man and those of the lower animals lies. In proportion as the human being makes the temporary gratification of the mere sexual appetite his chief object, and overlooks the happiness arising from mental and spiritual communion, which is not only purer but more permanent, and of which a renewal may be anticipated in another world, does he degrade himself to a level with the brutes that perish.”—Carpenter, p. 793.

Shakespeare makes even Iago say

“If the balance of our lives had not one scale of reason to poise another of sensuality, the blood and baseness of our natures would conduct us to most preposterous conclusions; but we have reason to cool our raging motions, our carnal stings, our unbitted lusts.”—Othello.

Nuptial love,” says Lord Bacon,“ maketh mankind, friendly love perfecteth it, but wanton love corrupteth and embaseth it.”

Here, then, is our problem. A natural instinct, a great longing, has arisen in a boy's heart, together with the appearance of the powers requisite to gratify it. Everything—the habits of the world, the keen appetite of youth for all that is new-the example of companions—the pride of health and strength opportunity-all combine to urge him to give the rein to what seems a natural propensity. Such indulgence is, indeed, not natural, for man is not a mere animal, and the nobler parts of his nature cry out against the violation of their sanctity. Nay more, such indulgence is fatal. It may be repented of. Some of its consequences may be, more or less, recovered from. But, from Solomon's time to ours, it is true that it leads to a of death.”

The boy, however, does not know all this. He has to learn that to his immature frame every sexual indulgence is unmitigated evil. It does not occur to his inexperienced mind and heart that every illicit pleasure is a degradation, to be bitterly regretted hereafter—a link in a chain that does not need many more to be too strong to break.

“ Amare et sapere vix Deo conceditur,” said the ancients. It is my object, nevertheless, to point out how the two can be combined—how, in spite of all temptations, the boy can be at once loving and wise, and grow into what indeed, I think, is one of the noblest objects in the world in these our days,-a continent




In the following pages the word “continence” will be used in the sense of voluntary and entire forbearance from indulging in sexual excitement or indulgences in any form.

The abstinence must be voluntary, for continence must not be confounded with impotence. An impotent man is continent in a sense, but his continence, not depending on any effort of the will, is not what we are now speaking of.


Nor is the continence which I advise, and would encourage by every means in my power, mere absence of desire arising from ignorance. That, as I have already said, p. 41, I consider a dangerous condition. True continence is complete control over the passions, exercised by one who has felt their power, and who, were it not for his steady will, not only could, but would indulge them.

Again, continence must be entire. The fact of the indulgence being lawful or unlawful does not affect the question of conti

In this respect our definition differs from those in most dictionaries. 1

This definition, of course, excludes the masturbator from the category of continent men, even though he may never have had connection with a female. It can only be in a loose and inaccurate sense that an Onanist can be called continent. He is not really so. Continence consists not only in abstaining from sexual congress, but in controlling all sexual excitement. If a young man indulge in masturbation it is easy enough, as will be presently shown, for him to abstain from fornication. In fact, the one is generally incompatible with the other.

We may confidently assert that no man is entitled to the character of being continent or chaste who by any unnatural means causes expulsion of semen. On the other hand, the occasional occurrence of nocturnal emissions or wet dreams is quite compatible with and, indeed, is to be expected as a consequence of continence, whether temporary or permanent. It is in this way that nature relieves herself. Any voluntary imitation or excitement of this process is, in every sense of the word, incontinence. I would exclude from the category of continent men those (and they are more numerous than may be generally supposed) who actually forbear from sexual intercourse, but put no restraint upon impure thoughts or the indulgence of sexual excitement, provided intercourse does not follow. This is only physical continence: it is incomplete without mental continence also.

1 The following are one or two of the definitions of the word "continence" in standard works :

“ Abstinence from, or moderation in, the pleasures of physical love.”R. Dunglison, M.D.

" The abstaining from unlawful pleasures.”Bailey. • Forbearance of lawful pleasure.”Ash.

Such men as these, supposing the sexual excitement is followed by nocturnal emissions, as it often is, and this with great detriment to the nervous system, must not be ranked with the continents; to all intents and purposes they are ONANISTS. The subject will be further discussed in the chapter on ungratified sexual excitement.

THE ADVANTAGES OF CONTINENCE.—If a healthy, well-disposed boy has been properly educated, by the time he arrives at the age of fourteen or sixteen he possesses a frame approaching its full vigour. His conscience is unburdened, his intellect clear, his address frank and candid, his memory good, his spirits are buoyant, his complexion is bright. Every function of the body is well performed, and no fatigue is felt after moderate exertion. The youth evinces that elasticity of body and that happy control of himself and his feelings which are indicative of the robust health and absence of care which should accompany youth. His whole time is given up to his studies and amusements, and as he feels his stature increase and his intellect enlarge, he gladly prepares for his coming struggle with the world.

The advantages of chastity have been well put by Professor Newman in a pamphlet he has published on the “Relation of Physiology to Sexual Morals.” Although, as I shall have occasion to remark, I entirely disagree with him on many of the principles advanced in other parts of his book, I think he has done good service in making the following observations, which I generally coincide in, and which I prefer to quote rather than attempt to epitomize:

“Moralists have at all times regarded strict temperance in food, and abstinence from strong drinks, to be of cardinal value in the maintenance of young men's purity. But whatever our care to be temperate, whatever our activity of body, it is not possible always to keep the exact balance between supply and bodily need. Every organ is liable occasionally to be overcharged, and, in every youthful or vigorous nature, has power to

« PreviousContinue »