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relieve itself. Considering that in man the sexual appetite is not, as in wild animals, something which comes for only a short season, and then imperatively demands gratification, but on the contrary, is perennial, constant, and yet is not necessarily to be exercised at all, his nature cannot be harmonious and happy, unless it can right itself under smaller derangements of balance. But this is precisely what it does; and I cannot but think it of extreme importance not to allow a bugbear to be made out of that, which on the face of the matter is God's provision that the unmarried man shall not be harmed by perfect chastity. That it is ever other than natural, normal, and beneficial, I never heard or dreamed, until I was past the age of fifty. The Roman poet Lucretius, in a medico-philosophical discussion, speaks of this matter quite plainly, and treats it as universal to mankind : iv, 1024—1045. He imputes it to strength and youthful maturity, not to weakness; and while his description is tinged with epic extravagance, the thought of its doing any one harm evidently does not cross his mind, much less that it is an evil effect and disgraceful stain from previous vice. Now that I learn so many medical men to be unacquainted with it except as something immoderate, and, thereby, depressing and dangerous,-morbid and alarming; I have thought it a duty to make inquiries, where I could properly do so, from persons of whose true purity from early life I am thoroughly persuaded : and all that I elicit, direct or indirect, confirms me in what I have all my life believed. A clergyman reminds me that the ceremonial regulations in the books of Moses count upon it, and so does Jeremy Taylor;—dates, countries and races (says he) distant enough: he adds his belief that it is perfectly healthful, and tends to be nearly periodical. A traveller to Jerusalem tells me that he found one of the superior monks unclean' for the day on account of it; and an inferior monk alluded to it as an ordinary matter. On gathering up what I know, what I have read, and what I believe on testimony, I distinctly assert first, that this occurrence is strictly spontaneous,'—that it comes upon youths who not only have never practised, but have never heard of such a thing as secret vice: that it comes on, without having been induced by any voluntary act of the person, and without any previous mental inflammation: next, that it occasionally comes upon married men, when circumstances put them for long together in the position of the unmarried; moreover, even when they become elderly, it does not wholly forsake them under such circumstances. My belief is that it is a sign of vigor. At any rate I assert most positively that it is an utter mistake to suppose that it necessarily weakens or depresses, or entails any disagreeable after-results whatever. I have never so much as once in my life had reason to think so.
I have even believed that it adds to the spring of the body, and to the pride of manhood in youths. Of course there is an amount of starvation (at least I assume there is), which would supersede it; but to overdue the starvation even a little, may be an error on the wrong side. And again, there is probably an amount of athletic practice which will take up all the supplies of full nutriment in the itensifying of muscle or of vital force, and leave no sexual superfluity. But labour so severe is stupefying to the brain and very unfavorable to high mental action. Plato is not alone in regarding athletes as unintellectual. Aristotle deprecates their system of 'overfeeding and overworking. And after all, you will not succeed in exactly keeping the balance, whether you try by starvation or by toil; and the over careful effort will but produce either a valetudinarian, or else a religious ascetic, who is in terrible alarm lest Nature inflict upon him a momentary animal pleasure. A state of anxiety and tremor is not mentally whole
We must take things as they come, observing 'broad rules of moderation as wisely as we can, but without nervous alarm about details. The advantages of vegetarian food I have learned only late in life. I now know that I might have been wiser in my diet. With better knowledge I should have done far better as to the quality of food; but I do not easily believe that a more scrupulous dread of satisfying my appetite lest it cause some small sexual superfluity would have conduced either to mental or to bodily health, at any time of my life, unmarried or married.”-Page 26.
If, then, the above are the advantages of continence, let us
now see the reverse of the picture, and notice the symptoms where a boy has been incontinent, especially in that most vicious of all ways, masturbation. In extreme cases the outward signs of debasement are only too obvious. The frame is stunted and weak, the muscles undeveloped, the eye is sunken and heavy, the complexion is sallow, pasty, or covered with spots of acne, the hands are damp and cold, and the skin moist. The boy shuns the society of others, creeps about alone, joins with repugnance in the amusements of his schoolfellows. He cannot look any one in the face, and becomes careless in dress and uncleanly in person. His intellect has become sluggish and enfeebled, and if his evil habits are persisted in, he may end in
drivellino boys are to be seen in all the stages of degeneration, but what we have described is but the result towards which they all are tending
The cause of the difference between these cases is very simple. The continent boy has not expended that vital fluid, semen, or exhausted his nervous energy, and his youthful vigor has been employed for its legitimate purpose, namely, in building up his growing frame. On the other hand, the incessant excitement of sexual thoughts, the constant strain on the nervous system, and the large expenditure of semen, has exhausted the vital force of the incontinent, and has reduced the immature frame to a pitiable wreck.
DIFFICULTY OF MAINTAINING.-An almost infinite variety of opinion exists on this subject, between the extreme proposition on the one hand, that a young man has, or need have no sexual desire, at least to any troublesome degree, and consequently need neither take precautions, nor be warned against the danger of exciting his sexual feelings, and the equally extreme doctrine on the other hand, that the sufferings of chastity are such as to justify, or at least excuse, incontinence. My own opinion is, that where, as is the case with a very large number, a young man's education has been properly watched, and his mind has not been debased by vile practices, it is very often a comparatively easy task to be continent, and requires no great or extraordinary effort; and every year of voluntary chastity renders the task easier by the mere force of habit.
Yet it can hardly be denied that a very considerable number, even of the more or less pure, do suffer, at least temporarily, no little distress.
Lallemand has given a vivid sketch of this sexual uneasiness, which the early recollections of many of my readers may verify. “There is a constant state of orgasm and erotic preoccupation, accompanied with agitation, disquiet, and malaise, an indefinable derangement of all the functions. This state of distress is seen particularly in young men who have arrived at puberty, and whose innocence has been preserved from any unfortunate initiation. Their disposition becomes soured, impatient, and sad. They fall into a state of melancholy or misanthropy, sometimes become disgusted with life, and are disposed to shed tears without any cause. They seek solitude in order to dream about the great mystery which absorbs them; about those great unknown passions which cause their blood to boil. They are at the same time restless and apathetic, agitated and drowsy. Their head is in a state of fermentation, and nevertheless weighed down by a sort of habitual headache. A spontaneous emission or escape, which causes this state of plethora to cease, is a true and salutary crisis which for the moment re-establishes the equilibrium of the economy.” (Vol. II, p. 324.)
I have quoted this passage, as containing a brilliant, though, perhaps, rather exaggerated sketch of a state of mind and body that is very common, and is the chief difficulty in the way of a youth's remaining chaste. I am, however, far from endorsing the author's remark, that this distress affects those particularly “whose innocence has been preserved from any unfortunate initiations.” On the contrary, it is my experience that these are just the persons who are, generally speaking, too happy and healthy to be troubled with these importunate weaknesses. The semi-continent, the men who indeed see the better course, and approve of it, but follow the worse—the men who, without any of the recklessness of the hardened sensualist, or any of the strength of the conscientiously pure man, endure at once the
sufferings of self-denial and the remorse of self-indulgencethese are the men of whom Lallemand's words are a living description.
The facts which show the truth of this are innumerable, and apply to the youth, of whom I am now more particularly speaking, as much as to the adult. It is a matter of everyday experience to hear patients complain that a state of continence after a certain time produces a most irritable condition of the nervous system, so that the individual is unable to settle his mind to anything :-study becomes impossible; the student cannot sit still ; sedentary occupations are unbearable, and sexual ideas intrude perpetually on the patient's thoughts. When this complaint is made, there is little doubt what confession is coming next-a confession that at once explains the symptoms. Of course in such cases the self-prescribed remedy has been most effective, and sexual intercourse has enabled the student at once to recommence his labours, the poet his verses, and the faded imagination of the painter to resume its fervour and its brilliancy; while the writer who for days has not been able to construct two phrases that he considered readable, has found himself, after relief of the seminal vessels, in a condition to dictate his best performances. Of course with such persons continence is sure to induce this state of irritability. Still, no such symptoms, however feelingly described, should ever induce a medical man even to seem to sanction his patient's continuing the fatal remedy, which is only perpetuating the disease.
In all solemn earnestness I protest against such false treatment. It is better for a youth to live a continent life. The strictly continent suffer little or none of this irritability; but the incontinent, as soon as seminal plethora occurs, are sure to be troubled in one or other of the ways above spoken of: while the remedy of indulgence, if effective, requires repetition as often as the inconvenience returns. If instead of gratifying his inclinations the young patient consults a medical man, he should be told, and the result would soon prove the correctness of the advice given, that attention to diet, aperient medicine (if necessary), gymnastic exercise, and self-control, will most effectually relieve