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and exaggerations, until amidst the mass of error it is difficult for novices to detect the grain of truth which always lurks in popular belief.
When a youth has arrived at adolescence, I think he may, even by his parents or tutor, be fairly put into further possession of the information of what the sex-passion is—what the evils of its unchecked indulgence are—and what are the proper means to keep it within bounds.
CHAPT. II.-MASTURBATION IN THE YOUTH AND ADULT.
It will be convenient to discuss in this place the whole subject of masturbation in the youth and the adult, although it may be objected that it is not, strictly speaking, a disorder of the reproductive functions. It must be admitted that it is not a disease, although its effects are worse than those of most diseases. It is rather an habitual incontinence eminently productive of disease. However as the period of puberty is the time above all others when this scourge seizes its victims, it is as well to take this opportunity of considering it.
I purpose, also, as far as possible, to exhaust the subject here, so as to avoid any repetition of it under the head of “ Disorders in Adults."
I have already, at page 24, in treating of the habit, as it is likely to affect children before the age of puberty, defined what it is; and have included it in the definition of incontinence (page 52). I now proceed to point out what the results of masturbation are, when the vicious habit is practised after the age at which semen begins to be secreted.
It is often difficult to obtain much certain information on the subject during the early practice of the vice. Its unfortunate victims, so long as they can practise it with impunity, or are ignorant of its consequences, can hardly be induced to make the confession. A few authors who could avoid the task, have ventured even to speculate on the frequency of a vice at once so wide-spread and so deplorable.
One author indeed, there is, whose extraordinary confessions, displaying as they do at once the terrible ease with which the vile habit can make a human being its slave, and the kind of judicial blindness which comes over its besotted victim are of no small value.
In the confessions of Jean Jacques Rousseau, we find a philosopher not only acknowledging the habitual practice of masturbation, but describing in the most forcible language the causes which tended, in his own case, to excite his sexual feelings, and calmly painting in words the way in which his excited youthful imagination exaggerated the pleasures the vice gave. He seems, however, utterly unaware that the miserable mental and bodily condition, which he goes on to describe and to deplore, was in any way the natural consequence of the habit. This, perhaps, is not to be wondered at, since the very medical men he consulted did not attribute his maladies to the real cause.
Modern experience, however, and the confessions of recent patients who have sinned and suffered—as Rousseau did-give only too clear an explanation of his ailments.
The book itself is not one that I could recommend any young man to read; it contains much that is most objectionable and painful, and depicts a phase of society that can no longer exist. But as it gives the description, by a sufferer, of that peculiar condition to which masturbation reduces a man, a few extracts may not be out of place here.
The cause to which he himself attributes the commencement of the habit has been already mentioned at p. 23.
With a strange self-complacency, he claims for himself purity and chastity in the same breath in which he confesses the practice of the odious vice.
Though my blood boiled with sensuality almost from my birth, I kept myself free from every stain up to the age when the coldest and most backward temperaments begin to develop.”
What strikes us now as equally as remarkable is, that while confessing the habit as a vice, he seems still to hanker after the old excitement, and to be labouring under a moral obliquity that prevents him from seeing either its wickedness or its danger.
“Soon taking courage, I learned that dangerous substitute which deceives nature, and saves young people of such a disposition as mine from many disorders, at the expense of their health, of their strength, and sometimes of their life. This vice, which shame and timidity find so convenient, has, in addition, a strong attraction for lively imaginations. They have at their disposal so to speak, the whole female sex, and employ for their pleasure the beauty which tempts them, without the necessity of any avowal."-Edition Charpentier, p. 146.
If, to any reader, this description should seem too attractive to have been fitly inserted here, the next extract contains the antidote. None, I think, are likely to be fascinated by the Frenchman's vivid description of the pleasures, when he reads the equally vivid description of the immediate penalty of the abominable practice. No English youth with his eyes open would, I hope, willingly for any temporary gratification reduce himself to such a state of ill health as the French philosopher acknowledges he was suffering from.
The ultimate results, however, are the most terrible warning. With an astonishing mixture of blindness and sharp-sightedness, the misanthropic philosophe pries into his mental and moral character with a despicably morbid minuteness, apparently utterly unconscious that he has furnished a sufficient cause for the very tendency he thereby displays, as well as for the weaknesses and follies he laments over, and for the unmanliness, the pettish feminine temper and conceit, which would make a hearty English lad shudder with disgust, and which are only indications, after all, of lower and lower depths of mental and moral debasement.
He proceeds thus to describe himself, and presents us with what may be taken, after due allowance for self-deception and falsehood, for a tolerably accurate portrait of a masturbator half-way on the road to his ruin. The description is one of the most valuable and accurate I have ever read.
“One might say that my heart and my mind do not belong to the same person. My feelings, quicker than lightning, fill my soul; but instead of illuminating, they burn and dazzle me. I feel everything. I see nothing. I am excited, but stupid; I can
not think except in cool blood. The wonderful thing is that I have sound enough tact, penetration, even finesse, if people will wait for me. I make excellent impromptus at leisure; but at the moment I have nothing ready to say or do. I should converse brilliantly by post, as they say the Spaniards play at chess. When I read of a Duke of Savoy who turned back after starting on his journey to say, 'In your teeth! you Paris shopkeeper!' I said, That is like me!'
“I find the same sluggishness of thinking, joined with the same vividness of feeling, not only in conversation, but even while I work. My ideas arrange themselves in my brain with incredible difficulty; they circulate their dully, fermenting so as to excite me, heat me, give me palpitations; while in the midst of all this emotion I see nothing clearly, I could not write a single word—I must wait. Insensibly this great tormoil calms down—the chaos disentangles itself—each idea puts itself in its own place, but slowly and after long confused agitation. Have you ever seen the opera in Italy? while the scenes are being changed, there is a disagreeble and prolonged disorder in these great theatres; all the decorations are mixed up; you see pulling and hauling everywhere, which is positively annoying ; everything seems on the point of tumbling down; however, little by little, all gets arranged; nothing is wanting, and the spectator is astonished at seeing an exquisite scene succeed the long tumult. Almost the same kind of proceeding goes on in my brain when I want to write. Could I have waited, and rendered in all their beauty the images thus painted there, few authors would bave surpassed me.
“ Hence arises the extreme difficulty I find in writing. My MSS., scratched, blotted, mixed up, undecipherable, attest the labor they have cost me. There is not one of them I have not had to transcribe four or five times before sending it to press. I have never been able to do anything pen in hand, with a table and my paper before me. It is out walking among the rocks and woods; at night in bed, while lying awake, that I write in my brain ; it may be imagined with what slowness, especially for a man absolutely without verbal memory, and who has never in
all his life been able to learn six lines by heart. There are some of my sentences that I have turned and re-turned during five or six nights in my bed before they were in a state to be put on paper. Hence I succeed better in works that require labor, than in those which must be written with a certain degree of readiness, like letters—a kind of composition of which I have never been able to catch the proper tone, and the effort at which is misery to me. I never write a letter on the smallest subject which does not cost me hours of fatigue, or if I want to write at once what occurs to me, I can neither begin nor end; my letter is a long and confused veribage, hardly to be understood when read.
“But not only is it a labor to me to express, but also to receive ideas. I have studied men, and I think I am a tolerably good observer; yet I can see nothing of what I do see. hardly say that I see anything except what I recall; I have no power of mind but in my recollection. Of all that is said, of all that is done, of all that passes in my presence, I feel nothing, I appreciate nothing. The external sign is all that strikes me. But after awhile it all comes back to me. I remember the place, the time, the tone, the look, the gesture, the circumstance-nothing escapes me. Then, from what has been done or said, I discover what was thought, and I am rarely deceived. “If I am so little master of my mind while alone, it may
be conceived what I must be in conversation, where to speak à propos, one must think at the same time and at a moment's notice of a thousand things. The mere idea of so many proprieties, of which I am sure to forget at least one, is enough to intimidate me. I do not even understand how a person can dare to speak in company-for at each word one ought to pass in review every one that is present; to be acquainted with all their characters and know their histories, in order to be sure to say nothing that may offend any. Certainly those who live in the world have a great advantage here; knowing better what not to say, they are surer of what they do say; yet even from them slips many an unfortunate speech. Imagine the condition of a man who falls into it all from the clouds; he can hardly talk