« PreviousContinue »
doing an immensity of good to their college and university, and growing ripe in years and labours till higher preferment calls them away. It is to this celibate body of fellows that Oxford and Cambridge owe their immense success, their influence which century by century has grown yet wider and wider, till now there is not an educated class in the whole of England which does not feel their effect; but unless succeeding generations produce at least the present supply of men who have courage and self-denial to maintain the celibate rule, Oxford and Cambridge will cease to be what they are.
“Assuming, then, as a matter of fact, the advantages of collegiate celibacy, we have to consider its obvious drawbacks—the supposed temptations of single life-the supposed deterioration of character in any man who remains for long unmarried. If these objections are founded on truth, we may, of course, expect to find a fruit corresponding to the seed, i. e., a low moral standard produced by that (so-called) unnatural restriction. Speaking from fifteen years' experience, I must pronounce that the moral standard professed by our resident body is most exceptionally high. Offences which the world considers venial are here regarded as penal; they are punished by removal from office and withdrawal of permission to 'reside.' In my own time two such cases have occurred. Not only was the sentence carried out, but all academic opinion endorsed it; that opinion, though lenient enough to the undergraduate offender, is always inflexible against the delinquent who ranks in the governing body. As another test of university moral feeling, I venture to compare it with what I hear from persons in other places, and members of other communities. I have rarely heard a celibate fellow complain that he suffered in health from celibacy; I have never heard a celibate fellow maintain that it was a physical necessity to gratify sexual desire. I have heard both those statements often made in London and on the Continent-made by men who were no way bound to be celibate, men whom nothing prevented from marriage except the lack of sufficient income. And in every case, as it seemed to me, their statement was a confession not of human nature, but simply of human weakness; not derived from the promptings of instinct and passion within, but from the unworthy tone and example of friends and society without. I have come at length to believe that the drawbacks of collegiate celibacy are very much overstated. Indeed I venture to go further, and to say that at the universities themselves, these drawbacks, if they exist at all, exist in no perceptible degree.
“ This is partly due to the fact that the life of a college fellow is intensely active and laborious. The real work of academic life begins only when the fellowship has been won. It would be difficult to find anywhere a body of men more constantly employed than the academic fellows, more versatile, more inquiring, more practical and energetic. For is there any class in England who receive so insignificant a payment for constant and serious exertion. Their healthful and regular employment, which is scarcely ever sedentary, confers, however, its own reward; they have no time for self-indulgence, except in one good item, the practice of hospitality. It is a positive fact of any fellow at Cambridge that he is generally to be found in one or other of three distinct positions, either working his brain or else working his muscles, or else as a host or guest at table; all his amusements and recreations are of a vigorous "gregarious' kind. Every one knows what a marked effect solitude stamps on any constitution; solitude at Oxford or Cambridge is the rarest of all conditions.
“Another fact which makes it easy to combine morality and celibacy is that, at either university, the men who remain as celibates are men of exceptional power, with nerve enough to be continent, with knowledge enough of life to know the value of such a regimen. Men with stronger animal and weaker moral nature rarely remain in a sphere like this, for which they feel unfitted; they make their way elsewhere, and soon vacate their fellowships; the problem solves itself, and the college gains by the solution. Celibacy serves as a wholesome test; it keeps for college service the best and the strongest mind, excludes from college service the weaker, more sensual creature.
“If this conception of university life should seem to be formed on too exalted a scale, let readers remember that, as I have stated, the conception no longer is carried out to its full original extent. We may
Marriage is now a recognized thing in the system of college fellowships. Men who do not feel themselves equal to giving their college an entire devotion, can now combine its service with the duties and comforts of married life. But the real fellows on whom immediately the college depends for its welfare, are still the celibate fellows residing within the walls. It is still to the self-denying celibate, and not to the man of marriage ties, that the university owes the best and the hardest part of college work.
still affirm, and the facts still bear us out in affirming, that celibacy can be well maintained in a highly educated class, that its maintenance gives immense advantage, and is quite consistent with the highest standard of practical genuine morality.
“Let me, in conclusion, briefly state that the continence, which is an essential part of college life in its truest form, requires, no doubt, a peculiar caution in the choice of habits and amusements. Mr. Acton's advice as regards exercise and diet is invaluable, and the greater extreme to which that system can be carried, without injuring the health, so much the better. A man should go into training for a conflict with his appetites just as keenly as he does for the university eight, the only difference being that the training will be more beneficial and more protracted. Besides diet and exercise, let him be constantly employed ; in fact, let him have so many metaphorical “irons in the fire' that he will find it difficult to snatch ten minutes for private meditation; let his sleep be very limited and the temperature he moves in as nearly cold as he can bear; let neither his eye nor his ear be voluntarily open to anything that could possibly excite the passions; if he see or hear accidentally what might have this tendency, let him at once resort to muscular exercise, and keep it up till he is quite fatigued; whenever any sensual image occurs involuntarily to his mind, let him fly to the same resource, or else to the company of friends. Lastly, I would fain add what Mr. Acton, looking expressly at the physical question, has of course passed over: let the sufferer from sexual causes make his affliction the subject of most earnest prayer at any and all times to that Ear where no supplication is made in vain. Thus armed, he will keep his assailant at bay; the conquest is not impossible, although the struggle may sometimes be a severe one."
In former editions of this book I made the assertion that in the adult the intellectual qualities are usually in an inverse ratio to the sexual appetites.
It has been pointed out to me that there are so many exceptions to this rule, that I have thought it necessary to modify the language in which I have expressed my views. I maintain that debauchery weakens the intellect and debases the mental powers, and I reassert my opinions that if a man observe strict continence in thought as well as deed, and is gifted with ordinary intelligence, he is more likely to distinguish himself in liberal pursuits than one who lives incontinently, whether in the way of fornication or by committing marital excesses.
The strictest continence, therefore, in the unmarried and very moderate sexual indulgence in the married state, best befits any one engaged in serious studies. In making this statement, however, I am bound to admit that in practice we meet with a large number of young men of more than average abilities but of a delicate constitution, who cannot remain continent without becoming subject to frequent nocturnal emissions. When this is the case, the sufferer may be intellectually in a worse plight than if he were married and so occasionally indulged in sexual intercourse. In these exceptional instances it is not true that celibacy is the state best adapted to intellectual excellence. Of this I have had satisfactory evidence. Numbers of men studying at the universities come to me complaining that, although living a continent life, they have become so troubled by emissions that they are unable to pursue for any length of time hard or continuous intellectual work: their memories fail them, and their health becomes impaired. Under appropriate treatment the constitution rallies, and the intellectual powers are restored. From these and other cases that come under the care of the medical practitioner, it appears that celibacy in the adult is not unattended with danger to exceptional temperaments. These dangers, however, it should never be forgotten, very seldom attend perfect continence. It will be generally found that they are merely the penalty of past indulgences. Robust, energetic men, are seldom troubled in this way—at least without some fault of their own. In all such cases incontinence is not the remedy that should be recommended, but gymnastic exercise, appropriate diet, and such measures as improve the health. It is as we have seen (p. 72), the almost universal rule that all men, old and young, who have led a continent life, so long as they continue to give themselves up to study, and take proper exercise, will not bé troubled with strong sexual desires. Nevertheless, when any period of temporary idleness suspends the celibate's regular work, the sexual feeling will often reappear with redoubled force, and then real distress, and often illness may ensue.
Self-control is followed by nocturnal emissions, which may so increase in frequency as seriously to impair the health, while the evil results-due as I maintain to the inordinate loss of the vital fluid semen—are attributed to previous hard work. The patient is supposed to labor under indigestion, heart disease, or general debility, and is treated for them instead of the medical men proceeding resolutely to check the emissions, the cause of the ailment.
It has been my duty to investigate the causes of several instances of clerical scandal, and I have reason for believing that the seeds of a vicious life may have been sown in days when a man, prevented from marriage either by lack of means or by holding a celibate fellowship or by any similar cause, and being in a state of idleness with no incentive to exertion, has been led away by his passions to indulge in a course of illicit intercourse, which he might have escaped if, like others, he could have married.
CHAPT. III.-EARLY BETROTHALS.-LONG ENGAGEMENTS.
In a work entitled " A Fraternal Address to Young Men,” issued by the Young Men's Christian Association, early engagement is recommended. The author says, page 52:-“Let the affections be engaged, and the prospect of marriage occupy the mind. If such betrothal be truthful and preserved in fidelity many advantages beyond those already hinted at would be enjoyed.”