Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Essays in War-Time by Havelock Ellis

Part 2 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.4 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

[7] Even if partially successful, as has lately been pointed out, the
greater the financial depression of Germany the greater would be the
advantage to Russia of doing business with Germany.

[8] It may be proper to point out that I by no means wish to imply
that democracy is necessarily the ultimate and most desirable form of
political society, but merely that it is a necessary stage for those
peoples that have not yet reached it. Even Treitschke in his famous
_History_, while idealising the Prussian State, always assumes that
movement towards democracy is beneficial progress. For the larger
question of the comparative merits of the different forms of political
society, see an admirable little book by C. Delisle Burns, _Political
Ideals_ (1915). And see also the searching study, _Political Parties_
(English translation, 1915), by Robert Michels, who, while accepting
democracy as the highest political form, argues that practically it
always works out as oligarchy.

[9] Professor D.S. Jordan has quoted the letter of a German officer to
a friend in Roumania (published in the Bucharest _Adverul_, 21 Aug.,
1915): "How difficult it was to convince our Emperor that the moment had
arrived for letting loose the war, otherwise Pacifism, Internationalism,
Anti-Militarism, and so many other noxious weeds would have infected our
stupid people. That would have been the end of our dazzling nobility. We
have everything to gain by the war, and all the chimeras and stupidities
of democracy will be chased from the world for an infinite time."

[10] "Let us be patient," a Japanese is reported to have said lately,
"until Europe has completed her _hara-kiri_."



During more than a century we have seen the slow but steady growth of the
great Women's movement, of the movement of Feminism in the wide sense of
that term. The conquests of this movement have sometimes been described
by rhetorical feminists as triumphs over "Man." That is scarcely true.
The champions of Feminism have nearly as often been men as women, and the
forces of Anti-feminism have been the vague massive inert forces of an
order which had indeed made the world in an undue degree "a man's world,"
but unconsciously and involuntarily, and by an instrumentation which was
feminine as well as masculine. The advocates of Woman's Rights have
seldom been met by the charge that they were unjustly encroaching on the
Rights of Man. Feminism has never encountered an aggressive and
self-conscious Masculinism.

Now, however, when the claims of Feminism are becoming practically
recognised in our social life, and some of its largest demands are being
granted, it is interesting to observe the appearance of a new attitude.
We are, for the first time, beginning to hear of "Masculinism." Just as
Feminism represents the affirmation of neglected rights and functions of
Womanhood, so Masculinism represents the assertion of the rights and
functions of Manhood which, it is supposed, the rising tide of Feminism
threatens to submerge.

Those who proclaim the necessity of an assertion of the rights of
Masculinism usually hold up America as an awful example of the triumph of
Feminism. Thus Fritz Voechting in a book published in Germany, "On the
American Cult of Woman," is appalled by what he sees in the United
States. To him it is "the American danger," and he thinks it may be
traced partly to the influence of the matriarchal system of the American
Indians on the early European invaders and partly to the effects of
co-education in undermining the fundamental conceptions of feminine
subordination. This state of things is so terrible to the German mind,
which has a constitutional bias to masculinism, that to Herr Voechting
America seems a land where all the privileges have been captured by Woman
and nothing is left to Man, but, like a good little boy, to be seen and
not heard. That is a slight exaggeration, as other Germans, even since
the War, have pointed out in German periodicals. Even if it were true,
however, as a German Feminist has remarked, it would still be a pleasant
variation from a rule we are so familiar with in the Old World. That it
should be put forward at all indicates the growing perception of a
cleavage between the claims of Masculinism and the claims of Feminism.

It is not altogether easy at present to ascertain whom we are to
recognise as the champions and representatives of Masculinism. Various
notable figures are mentioned, from Nietzsche to Mr. Theodore Dreiser.
Nietzsche, however, can scarcely be regarded as in all respects an
opponent to Feminism, and some prominent feminists even count themselves
his disciples. One may also feel doubtful whether Mr. Dreiser feels
himself called upon to put on the armour of masculinism and play the part
assigned to him. Another distinguished novelist, Mr. Robert Herrick,
whose name has been mentioned in this connection, is probably too
well-balanced, too comprehensive in his outlook, to be fairly claimed as
a banner-bearer of masculinism. The name of Strindberg is most often
mentioned, but surely very unfortunately. However great Strindberg's
genius, and however acute and virulent his analysis of woman, Strindberg
with his pronounced morbidity and sensitive fragility seems a very
unhappy figure to put forward as the ideal representative of the virtues
of masculinity. Much the same may be said of Weininger. The name of Mr.
Belfort Bax, once associated with William Morris in the Socialistic
campaign, may fairly be mentioned as a pioneer in this field. For many
years he has protested vigorously against the encroachment of Feminism,
and pointed out the various privileges, social and legal, which are
possessed by women to the disadvantage of men. But although he is a
distinguished student of philosophy, it can scarcely be said that Mr. Bax
has clearly presented in any wide philosophic manner the demands of the
masculinistic spirit or definitely grasped the contest between Feminism
and Masculinism. The name of William Morris would be an inspiring
battle-cry if it could be fairly raised on the side of Masculinism.
Unfortunately, however, the masculine figures scarcely seem eager to put
on the armour of Masculinism. They are far too sensitive to the charm of
Womanhood ever to rank themselves actively in any anti-feministic party.
At the most they remain neutral.

Thus it is that the new movement cannot yet be regarded as organised.
There is, however, a temptation for those among us who have all their
lives been working in the cause of Feminism to belittle the future
possibilities of Masculinism. There can be no doubt that all civilisation
is now, and always has been to some extent, on the side of Feminism.
Wherever a great development of civilisation has occurred--whether in
ancient Egypt, or in later Rome, or in eighteenth-century France--there
the influence of woman has prevailed, while laws and social institutions
have taken on a character favourable to women. The whole current of
civilisation tends to deprive men of the privileges which belong to brute
force, and to confer on them the qualities which in ruder societies are
especially associated with women. Whenever, as in the present great
European War, brute force becomes temporarily predominant, the causes
associated with Feminism are roughly pushed into the background. It is,
indeed, the War which gives a new actuality to this question. War has
always been regarded as the special and peculiar province of Man, indeed,
the sacred refuge of the masculine spirit and the ultimate appeal in
human affairs. That is not the view of Feminism, nor yet the standpoint
of Eugenics. Yet, to-day, in spite of all our homage to Feminism and
Eugenics, we witness the greatest war of the world. It is an instructive
spectacle from our present point of view. We realise, for one thing, how
futile it is for Feminism to adopt the garb of masculine militancy. The
militancy of the Suffragettes, which looked so brave and imposing in
times of peace, disappeared like child's play at the first touch of real
militancy. That was patriotic of the Suffragettes, no doubt; but it was
also a necessary measure of self-preservation, for non-combatants who
carry bombs about in time of war, when armed sentries are swarming
everywhere, are not likely to have much time for hunger-striking.

We witness another feature of war which has a bearing on Eugenics. It is
sometimes said that war is necessary for the preservation of heroic and
virile qualities which, without war and the cultivation of military
ideals, would be lost to the race, and that so the race would degenerate.
To-day France, which is the chief seat of anti-Militarism, and Belgium, a
land of peaceful industrialism which had no military service until a few
years ago, and England, which has always been content to possess a
contemptible little army, and Russia whose popular ideals are humane and
mystical, have sent to the front swarms of professional men and clerks
and artisans and peasants who had never occupied themselves with war at
all. Yet these men have proved as heroic and even as skilful in the game
of war as the men of Germany, where war is idolised and where the
practice of military virtues and military exercises is regarded as the
highest function alike of the individual and of the State. We see that we
need not any longer worry over the possible extinction of these heroic
qualities. What we may more profitably worry over is the question whether
there is not some higher and nobler way of employing them than in the
destruction of the finest fruits of civilisation and the slaughter of
those very stocks on which Eugenics mainly relies for its materials.

We can also realise to-day that war is not only an opportunity for the
exercise of virtues. It is also an opportunity for the exercise of vices.
"War is Hell" said Sherman, and that is the opinion of most great
reflective soldiers. We see that there is nothing too brutal, too cruel,
too cowardly, too mean, and too filthy for some, at all events, of modern
civilised troops to commit, whether by, or against, the orders of their
officers. In France, a few months before the present War, I found myself
in a railway train at Laon with two or three soldiers; a young woman came
to the carriage door, but, seeing the soldiers, she passed on; they were
decent, well-behaved men, and one of them remarked, with a smile, on the
suspicion which the military costume arouses in women. Perhaps, however,
it is a suspicion that is firmly based on ancient traditions. There is
the fatally seamy side of be-praised Militarism, and there Feminism has a
triumphant argument.

In this connection I may allude in passing to a little conflict between
Masculinism and Feminism which has lately taken place in Germany.
Germany, as we know, is the country where the claims of Masculinism are
most loudly asserted, and those of Feminism treated with most contempt.
It is the country where the ideals of men and of women are in sharpest
conflict. There has been a great outcry among men in Germany against the
"treachery" and "unworthiness" of German women in bestowing chocolates
and flowers on the prisoners, as well as doing other little services for
them. The attitude towards prisoners approved by the men--one trusts it
is not to be regarded as a characteristic outcome of Masculinism--is that
of petty insults, of spiteful cruelty, and mean deprivations. Dr. Helene
Stöcker, a prominent leader of the more advanced band of German
Feminists, has lately published a protest against this treatment of
enemies who are helpless, unarmed, and often wounded--based, not on
sentiment, but on the highest and most rational grounds--which is an
honour to German women and to their Feminist leaders.[1]

Taken altogether, it seems probable that when this most stupendous of
wars is ended, it will be felt--not only from the side of Feminism, but
even of Masculinism,--that War is merely an eruption of ancient barbarism
which in its present virulent forms would not have been tolerated even by
savages. Such methods are hopelessly out of date in days when wars may be
engineered by a small clique of ambitious politicians and self-interested
capitalists, while whole nations fight, with or without enthusiasm,
merely because they have no choice in the matter. All the powers of
civilisation are working towards the elimination of wars. In the future,
it seems evident, militarism will not furnish the basis for the
masculinistic spirit. It must seek other supports.

That is what will probably happen. We must expect that the increasing
power of women and of the feminine influence will be met by a more
emphatic and a more rational assertion of the qualities of men and the
masculine spirit in life. It was unjust and unreasonable to subject women
to conditions that were primarily made by men and for men. It would be
equally unjust and unreasonable to expect men to confine their activities
within limits which are more and more becoming adjusted to feminine
preferences and feminine capacities. We are now learning to realise that
the _tertiary_ physical, and psychic sexual differences--those
distinctions which are only found on the average, but on the average are
constant[2]--are very profound and very subtle. A man is a man
throughout, a woman is a woman throughout, and that difference is
manifest in all the energies of body and soul. The modern doctrine of the
internal secretions--the hormones which are the intimate stimulants to
physical and psychic activity in the organism--makes clear to us one of
the deepest and most all-pervading sources of this difference between men
and women. The hormonic balance in men and women is unlike; the
generative ferments of the ductless glands work to different ends.[3]
Masculine qualities and feminine qualities are fundamentally and
eternally distinct and incommensurate. Energy, struggle, daring,
initiative, originality, and independence, even though sometimes combined
with rashness, extravagance, and defect, seem likely to remain qualities
in which men--_on the average_, it must be remembered--will be more
conspicuous than women. Their manifestation will resist the efforts put
forth to constrain them by the feminising influences of life.

Such considerations have a real bearing on the problem of Eugenics. As
I view that problem, it is first of all concerned, in part with the
acquisition of scientific knowledge concerning heredity and the
influences which affect heredity; in part with the establishment of sound
ideals of the types which the society of the future demands for its great
tasks; and in part--perhaps even in chief part--with the acquisition of a
sense of personal responsibility. Eugenic legislation is a secondary
matter which cannot come at the beginning. It cannot come before our
knowledge is firmly based and widely diffused; it cannot come until we
are clear as to the ideals which we wish to see embodied in human
character and human action; it cannot come until the sense of personal
responsibility towards the race is so widely spread throughout the
community that its absence is universally felt to be either a crime or a

I fear that point of view is not always accepted in England and still
less in America. It is widely held throughout the world that America is
not only the land of Feminism, but the land in which laws are passed on
every possible subject, and with considerable indifference as to whether
they are carried out, or even whether they could be carried out. This
tendency is certainly well illustrated by eugenic legislation in the
United States. In the single point of sterilisation for eugenic ends--and
I select a point which is admirable in itself and for which legislation
is perhaps desirable--at least twelve States have passed laws. Yet most
of these laws are a dead letter; every one of them is by the best experts
considered at some point unwise; and the remarkable fact remains that the
total number of eugenical sterilising operations performed in the States
_without any law at all_ is greater than the total of those performed
under the laws. So that the laws really seem to have themselves a
sterilising effect on a most useful eugenic operation.[4]

I refrain from mentioning the muddles and undesigned evils produced by
other legislation of a much less admirable nature.[5] But I may perhaps
be allowed to mention that it has seemed to some observers that there is
a connection between the Feminism of America and the American mania for
hasty laws which will not, and often cannot, be carried out in practice.
Certainly there is no reason to suppose that women are firmly
antagonistic to such legislation. Nice, pretty, virtuous little laws,
complete in every detail, seem to appeal irresistibly to the feminine
mind. (And, of course, many men have feminine minds.) It is true that
such laws are only meant for show. But then women are so accustomed to
things that are only meant for show, and are well aware that if one
attempted to use such things they would fall to pieces at once.

However that may be, we shall probably find at last that we must fall
back on the ancient truth that no external regulation, however pretty and
plausible, will suffice to lead men and women to the goal of any higher
social end. We must realise that there can be no sure guide to fine
living save that which comes from within, and is supported by the firmly
cultivated sense of personal responsibility. Our prayer must still be the
simple, old-fashioned prayer of the Psalmist: "Create in me a clean
heart, O God"--and to Hell with your laws!

In other words, our aim must be to evolve a social order in which the
sense of freedom and the sense of responsibility are both carried to the
highest point, and that is impossible by the aid of measures which are
only beneficial for the children of Perdition. That there are such
beings, incapable alike either of freedom or of responsibility, we have
to recognise. It is our business to care for them--until with the help of
eugenics we can in some degree extinguish their stocks--in such refuges
and reformatories as may be found desirable. But it is not our business
to treat the whole world as a refuge and a reformatory. That is fatal to
human freedom and fatal to human responsibility. By all means provide the
halt and the lame with crutches. But do not insist that the sound and the
robust shall never stir abroad without crutches. The result will only be
that we shall all become more or less halt and lame.

It is only by such a method as this--by segregating the hopelessly feeble
members of society and by allowing the others to take all the risks of
their freedom and responsibility even though we strongly disapprove--that
we can look for the coming of a better world. It is only by such a method
as this that we can afford to give scope to all those varying and
ever-contradictory activities which go to the making of any world worth
living in. For Conflict, even the conflict of ideals, is a part of all
vital progress, and each party to the conflict needs free play if that
conflict is to yield us any profit. That is why Masculinists have no
right to impede the play of Feminism, and Feminists no right to impede
the play of Masculinism. The fundamental qualities of Man, equally with
the fundamental qualities of Woman, are for ever needed in any harmonious
civilisation. There is a place for Masculinism as well as a place for
Feminism. From the highest standpoint there is not really any conflict at
all. They alike serve the large cause of Humanity, which equally includes
them both.

[1] "Würdelose Weiber," _Die Neue Generation_, Aug.-Sept., 1914.

[2] Havelock Ellis, _Man and Woman_, fifth ed., 1914, p. 21.

[3] The conception of sexuality as dependent on the combined operation of
various internal ductless glands, and not on the sexual glands proper
alone, has been especially worked out by Professor W. Blair Bell, _The
Sex Complex_, 1916.

[4] H.H. Laughlin, _The Legal, Legislative, and Administrative Aspects of
Sterilisation_, Eugenics Record Office Bulletin, No. 1, OB, 1914.

[5] I have discussed these already in a chapter of my book, _The Task of
Social Hygiene_.



The Great War, which has changed so many things, has nowhere effected
a greater change than in the sphere of women's activities. In all the
belligerent countries women have been called upon to undertake work
which they had never been offered before. Europe has thus become a great
experimental laboratory for testing the aptitudes of women. The results
of these tests, as they are slowly realised, cannot fail to have
permanent effects on the sexual division of labour. It is still too early
to speak confidently as to what those effects will be. But we may be
certain that, whatever they are, they can only spring from deep-lying
natural distinctions.

The differences between the minds of men and the minds of women are,
indeed, presented to all of us every day. It should, therefore, we
might imagine, be one of the easiest of tasks to ascertain what they
are. And yet there are few matters on which such contradictory and often
extravagant opinions are maintained. For many people the question has not
arisen; there are no mental differences, they seem to take for granted,
between men and women. For others the mental superiority of man at every
point is an unquestionable article of faith, though they may not always
go so far as to agree with the German doctor, Mobius, who boldly wrote a
book on "The Physiological Weak-mindedness of Women." For others, again,
the predominance of men is an accident, due to the influences of brute
force; let the intelligence of women have freer play and the world
generally will be straightened out.

In these conflicting attitudes we may trace not only the confidence we
are all apt to feel in our intimate knowledge of a familiar subject we
have never studied, but also the inevitable influence of sexual bias. Of
such bias there is more than one kind. There is the egoistic bias by
which we are led to regard our own sex as naturally better than any other
could be, and there is the altruistic bias by which we are led to find a
charming and mysterious superiority in the opposite sex. These different
kinds of sexual bias act with varying force in particular cases; it is
usually necessary to allow for them.

Notwithstanding the fantastic divergencies of opinion on this matter, it
seems not impossible to place the question on a fairly sound and rational
base. In so complex a question there must always be room for some
variations of individual opinion, for no two persons can approach the
consideration of it with quite the same prepossessions, or with quite the
same experience.

At the outset there is one great fundamental fact always to be borne
in mind: the difference of the sexes in physical organisation. That we
may term the _biological_ factor in determining the sexual mental
differences. A strong body does not involve a strong brain nor a weak
body a weak brain; but there is still an intimate connection between the
organisation of the body generally and the organisation of the brain,
which may be regarded as an executive assemblage of delegates from all
parts of the body. Fundamental differences in the organisation of the
body cannot fail to involve differences in the nervous system generally,
and especially in that supreme collection of nervous ganglia which we
term the brain. In this way the special adaptation of woman's body to the
exercise of maternity, with the presence of special organs and glands
subservient to that object, and without any important equivalents in
man's body, cannot fail to affect the brain. We now know that the
organism is largely under the control of a number of internal secretions
or hormones, which work together harmoniously in normal persons,
influencing body and mind, but are liable to disturbance, and are
differently balanced and with a different action in the two sexes.[1] It
is not, we must remember, by any means altogether the exercise of the
maternal function which causes the difference; the organs and aptitudes
are equally present even if the function is not exercised, so that a
woman cannot make herself a man by refraining from childbearing.

In another way this biological factor makes itself felt, and that is in
the differences in the muscular systems of men and women. These we must
also consider fundamental. Although the extreme muscular weakness of
average civilised women as compared to civilised men is certainly
artificial and easily possible to remove by training, yet even in
savages, among whom the women do most of the muscular work, they seldom
equal or exceed the men in strength; any superiority, when it exists,
being mainly shown in such passive forms of exertion as bearing burdens.
In civilisation, even under the influence of careful athletic training,
women are unable to compete muscularly with men; and it is a significant
fact that on the variety stage there are very few "strong women." It
would seem that the difficulty in developing great muscular strength in
women is connected with the special adaptation of woman's form and
organisation to the maternal function. But whatever the cause may be, the
resulting difference is one which has a very real bearing on the mental
distinctions of men and women. It is well ascertained that what we call
"mental" fatigue expresses itself physiologically in the same bodily
manifestation as muscular fatigue. The avocations which we commonly
consider mental are at the same time muscular; and even the sensory
organs, like the eye, are largely muscular. It is commonly found in
various great business departments where men and women may be said to
work more or less side by side that the work of women is less valuable,
largely because they are not able to bear additional strain; under
pressure of extra work they give in before men do. It is noteworthy that
the claims for sick benefit made by women under the National Insurance
System in England have proved much greater (even three times greater)
than the actuaries anticipated beforehand; while the Sick Insurance
Societies of Germany, France, Austria, and Switzerland also report that
women are ill oftener and for longer periods than men. Largely, no doubt,
that is due to the special strain and the rigid monotony of our modern
industrial system, but not entirely. Nearly two hundred years ago (in
1729) Swift wrote of women to Bolingbroke: "I protest I never knew a very
deserving person of that sex who had not too much reason to complain of
ill-health." The regulations of the world have been mainly made by men on
the instinctive basis of their own needs, and until women have a large
part in making them on the basis of their needs, women are not likely to
be so healthy as men.

This by no means necessarily implies any mental inferiority; it is much
more the result of muscular inferiority. Even in the arts muscular
qualities count for much and are often essential, since a solid muscular
system is needed even for very delicate actions; the arts of design
demand muscular qualities; to play the violin is a muscular strain, and
only a robust woman can become a famous singer.

The greater precocity of girls is another aspect of the biological factor
in sexual mental differences. It is a psychic as well as a physical fact.
This has been shown conclusively by careful investigation in many parts
of the civilised world and notably in America, where the school system
renders such sexual comparison easy and reliable at all ages. There can
now be no doubt that a girl at, let us say, the age of fourteen is on the
average taller and heavier than a boy at the same age, though the degrees
of this difference and the precise age at which it occurs vary with the
individual and the race. Corresponding to this is a mental difference; in
many branches of study, though not all, the girl of fourteen is superior
to the boy, quicker, more intelligent, gifted with a better memory.
Precocity, however, is a quality of dubious virtue. It is frequently
found, indeed, in men of the highest genius; but, on the other hand, it
is found among animals and among savages, and is here of no good augury.
Many observers of the lower races have noted how the child is highly
intelligent and well disposed, but seems to degenerate as he grows older;
In the comparison of girls and boys, both as regards physical and mental
qualities, it is constantly found that while the girls hold their own,
and in many respects more than hold their own, with boys up to the age of
fifteen or sixteen, after that the girls remain almost or quite
stationary, while in the boys the curve of progress is continued without
interruption. Some people have argued, hypothetically, that the greater
precocity of girls is an artificial product of civilisation, due to the
confined life of girls, produced, as it were, by the artificial
overheating of the system in the hothouse of the home. This is a mistake.
The same precocity of girls appears to exist even among the uncivilised,
and independently of the special circumstances of life. It is even found
among animals also, and is said to be notably obvious in giraffes. It
will hardly be argued that the female giraffe leads a more confined and
domestic life than her brother.

Yet another aspect of the biological factor is to be found in the bearing
of heredity on this question. To judge by the statements that one
sometimes sees, men and women might be two distinct species, separately
propagated. The conviction of some men that women are not fitted to
exercise various social and political duties, and the conviction of some
women that men are a morally inferior sex, are both alike absurd, for
they both rest on the assumption that women do not inherit from their
fathers, nor men from their mothers. Nothing is more certain than
that--when, of course, we put aside the sexual characters and the special
qualities associated with those characters--men and women, on the
average, inherit equally from both of their parents, allowing for the
fact that that heredity is controlled and modified by the special
organisation of each sex. There are, indeed, various laws of heredity
which qualify this statement, and notably the tendency whereby extremes
of variation are more common in the male sex--so that genius and idiocy
are alike more prevalent in men. But, on the whole, there can be no doubt
that the qualities of a man or of a woman are a more or less varied
mixture of those of both parents; and, even when there is no blending,
both parents are almost equally likely to be influential in heredity. The
good qualities of the one parent will therefore benefit the child of the
opposite sex, and the bad qualities will equally be transmitted to the
offspring of opposite sex.

There is another element in the settlement of this question which may
also be fairly called objective, and that is the _historical_ factor. We
are prone to believe that the particular status of the sexes that
prevails among ourselves corresponds to a universal and unchangeable
order of things. In reality this is far from being the case. It may,
indeed, be truly said that there is no kind of social position, no sort
of avocation, public or domestic, among ourselves exclusively
appertaining to one sex, which has not at some time or in some part of
the world belonged to the opposite sex, and with the most excellent
results. We regard it as alone right and proper for a man to take the
initiative in courtship, yet among the Papuans of New Guinea a man would
think it indecorous and ridiculous to court a girl; it was the girl's
privilege to take the initiative in this matter, and she exercised it
with delicacy and skill and the best moral results, until the shocked
missionaries upset the native system and unintentionally introduced
looser ways. There is, again, no implement which we regard as so
peculiarly and exclusively feminine as the needle. Yet in some parts of
Africa a woman never touches a needle; that is man's work, and a wife who
can show a neglected rent in her petticoat is even considered to have a
fair claim for a divorce. Innumerable similar examples appear when we
consider the human species in time and space. The historical aspect of
this matter may thus be said in some degree to counterbalance the
biological aspect. If the fundamental constitution of the sexes renders
their mental characters necessarily different, the difference is still
not so pronounced as to prevent one sex sometimes playing effectively the
parts which are generally played by the other sex.

It is not necessary to go outside the white European race to find
evidences of the reality of this historical factor of the question before
us. It would appear that at the dawn of European civilisation women were
taking a leading part in the evolution of human progress. Various
survivals which are enshrined in the myths and legends of classic
antiquity show us the most ancient deities as goddesses; and, moreover,
we encounter the significant fact that at the origin nearly all the arts
and industries were presided over by female, not by male, deities. In
Greece, as well as in Asia Minor, India, and Egypt, as Paul Lafargue has
pointed out, woman seems to have taken divine rank before men; all the
first inventions of the more useful arts and crafts, except in metals,
are ascribed to goddesses; the Muses presided over poetry and music long
before Apollo; Isis was "the lady of bread," and Demeter taught men to
sow barley and corn instead of eating each other. Thus even among our own
forefathers we may catch a glimpse of a state of things which, as various
anthropologists have shown (notably Otis Mason in his _Woman's Share in
Primitive Culture_), we may witness in the most widely separated parts of
the world. Thus among the Xosa Kaffirs, as well as other A-bantu stocks,
Fritsch states that "the man claims for himself war, hunting, occupation
with cattle; all household cares, even the building of the house, as well
as the cultivation of the ground, are woman's affair; hardly in the most
laborious work will a man lend a hand."[2] So that when to-day we see
women entering the most various avocations, that is not a dangerous
innovation, but perhaps merely a return to ancient and natural

It is not until specialisation becomes necessary and until men are
relieved from the constant burden of battle and the chase that the
frequent superiority of woman is lost. The modern industrial activities
are dangerous, when they are dangerous, not because the work is too
hard--for the work of primitive women is harder--but because it is an
unnaturally and artificially dreary and monotonous work which stifles the
mind, depresses the spirits, and injures the body, so that, it is said,
40 per cent. of married women who have been factory girls are treated for
pelvic disorders before they are thirty. It is the conditions of women's
work which need changing in order that they may become, like those of
primitive women, so various that they develop the mind and fortify the
body. This, however, is an evil which will be righted by the development
of the mechanical side of industry, for machines tend constantly to
become larger, heavier, speedier, more numerous and more automatic,
requiring fewer workers to tend them, and these more frequently men.[3]

It may be added that the early predominance of woman in the work of
civilisation is altogether independent of that conception of a primitive
matriarchate, or government of women, which was set forth some fifty
years ago by Bachofen, and has since caused so much controversy. Descent
in the female line, not uncommonly found among primitive peoples,
undoubtedly tended to place women in a position of great influence; but
it by no means necessarily involved any gynecocracy, or rule of women,
and such rule is merely a hypothesis which by some enthusiasts has been
carried to absurd lengths.

We see, therefore, that when we are approaching the question of the
mental differences of the sexes among ourselves to-day, it is not
impossible to find certain guiding clues which will save us from running
into extravagance in either direction.

Without doubt the only way in which we can obtain a satisfactory answer
to the numerous problems which meet us when we approach the question is
by experiment. I have, indeed, insisted on the importance of these
preliminary biological and historical considerations mainly because they
indicate with what safety and freedom from risk we may trust to
experiment. The sexes are far too securely poised by organic constitution
and ancient tradition for any permanently injurious results to occur from
the attempt to attain a better social readjustment in this matter. When
the experiment fails, individuals may to some extent suffer, but social
equilibrium swiftly and automatically rights itself. Practically,
however, nearly every social experiment of this kind means that certain
restrictions limiting the duties or privileges of women are removed, and
when artificial coercions are thus taken away it can merely happen, as
Mary Wollstonecraft long ago put it, that by the common law of gravity
the sexes fall into their proper places. That, we may be sure, will be
the final result of the interesting experiments for which the laboratory
to-day is furnished by all the belligerent countries.

Definitely formulated statistical data of these results are scarcely yet
available. But we may study the action of this natural process on one
great practical experiment in mental sexual differences which has been
going on for some time past. At one time in the various administrations
of the International Postal Union there was a sudden resolve to introduce
female labour to a very large extent; it was thought that this would be
cheaper than male labour and equally efficient. There was consequently a
great outcry at the ousting of male labour, the introduction of the thin
end of a wedge which would break up society. We can now see that that
outcry was foolish. Within recent years nearly all the countries which
previously introduced women freely into their postal and telegraph
services are now doing so only under certain conditions, and some are
ceasing to admit them at all. This great practical experiment, carried
out on an immense scale in thirty-five different countries, has, on the
whole, shown that while women are not inferior to men, at all events
within the ordinary range of work, the substitution of a female for a
male staff always means a considerable increase of numbers, that women
are less rapid than men, less able to undertake the higher grade work,
less able to exert authority over others, more lacking both in initiative
and in endurance, while they require more sick leave and lose interest
and energy on marriage. The advantages of female labour are thus to some
extent neutralised, and in the opinions of the administrations of some
countries more than neutralised, by certain disadvantages. The general
result is that men are found more fitted for some branches of work and
women more fitted for other branches; the result is compensation without
any tendency for one sex to oust the other.

It may, indeed, be objected that in practical life no perfectly
satisfactory experiments exist as to the respective mental qualities of
men and women, since men and women are never found working under
conditions that are exactly the same for both sexes. If, however, we turn
to the psychological laboratory, where it is possible to carry on
experiments under precisely identical conditions, the results are still
the same. There are nearly always differences between men and women, but
these differences are complex and manifold; they do not always agree;
they never show any general piling up of the advantages on the side of
one sex or of the other. In reaction-time, in delicacy of sensory
perception, in accuracy of estimation and precision of movement, there
are nearly always sexual differences, a few that are fairly constant,
many that differ at different ages, in various countries, or even in
different groups of individuals. We cannot usually explain these
differences or attach any precise significance to them, any more than we
can say why it is that (at all events in America) blue is most often the
favourite colour of men and red of women. We may be sure that these
things have a meaning, and often a really fundamental significance, but
at present, for the most part, they remain mysterious to us.

When we attempt to survey and sum up all the variegated facts which
science and practical life are slowly accumulating with reference to the
mental differences between men and women[4] we reach two main
conclusions. On the one hand there is a fundamental equality of the
sexes. It would certainly appear that women vary within a narrower range
than men--that is to say, that the two extremes of genius and of idiocy
are both more likely to show themselves in men. This implies that the
pioneers in progress are most likely to be men. That, indeed, may be said
to be a biological fact. "In all that concerns the evolution of
ornamental characters the male leads; in him we see the trend which
evolution is taking; the female and young afford us the measure of their
advance along the new line which has to be taken."[5] In the human sphere
of the arts and sciences, similarly, men, not women, take the lead. That
men were the first decorative artists, rather than women, is indicated by
the fact that the natural objects designed by early pre-historic artists
were mainly women and wild beasts, that is to say, they were the work of
masculine hunters, executed in idle intervals of the chase. But within
the range in which nearly all of us move, there are always many men who
in mental respects can do what most women can do, many women who can do
what most men can do. We are not justified in excluding a whole sex
absolutely from any field. In so doing we should certainly be depriving
the world of some portion of its executive ability. The sexes may always
safely be left to find their own levels.

On the other hand, the mental diversity of men and women is equally
fundamental. It is rooted in organisation. The well-intentioned efforts
of many pioneers in women's movements to treat men and women as
identical, and, as it were, to force women into masculine moulds, were
both mischievous and useless. Women will always be different from men,
mentally as well as physically. It is well for both sexes that it should
be so. It is owing to these differences that each sex can bring to the
world's work various aptitudes that the other lacks. It is owing to these
differences also that men and women have their undying charm for each
other. We cannot change them, and we need not wish to.

[1] See, for instance, Blair Bell's _The Sex Complex_, 1916, though
the deductions drawn in this book must not always be accepted without

[2] G. Fritsch, _Die Eingeborene Süd-Afrikas_, 1892, p. 79.

[3] 1 D.R. Malcolm Keir, "Women in Industry," _Popular Science Monthly_,
October, 1913.

[4] See, for many of the chief of these, Havelock Ellis, _Man and Woman_,
5th Edition, 1914.

[5] W.P. Pycraft, _The Courtship of Animal_, p. 9.



During recent years we have witnessed a remarkable attempt--more popular
and more international in character than any before--to deal with that
ancient sexual evil which has for some time been picturesquely described
as the White Slave Traffic. Less than forty years ago Professor Sheldon
Amos wrote that this subject can scarcely be touched upon by journalists,
and "can never form a topic of common conversation." Nowadays Churches,
societies, journalists, legislators have all joined the ranks of the
agitators. Not only has there been no voice on the opposite side, which
was scarcely to be expected--for there has never been any anxiety to cry
aloud the defence of "White Slavery" from the house-tops--but there has
been a new and noteworthy conquest over indifference and over that sacred
silence which was supposed to encompass all sexual topics with suitable
darkness. The banishment of that silence in the cause of social hygiene
is, indeed, not the least significant feature of this agitation.

It is inevitable, however, that these periodical fits of virtuous
indignation by which Society is overtaken should speedily be spent. The
victim of the moral fever finds himself exhausted by the struggle,
scarcely able to cope with the complications of the disease, and, at the
best, only too anxious to forget what he has passed through. He has an
uneasy feeling that in the course of his delirium he has said and done
many foolish things which it would now be unpleasant to recall too

There is no use in attempting to disguise the fact that this is what
happened in the White Slave Traffic agitation. It became clear that we
had been largely misled in regard to the evils to be combated, and that
we were seduced into sanctioning various remedies for these evils which
in cold blood it is impossible to approve of, even if we could believe
them to be effective.

It is not even clear that all those who have talked about the "White
Slave Traffic" have been quite sure what they meant by the term. Some
people, indeed, have seemed to think that it meant prostitution in
general. That is, of course, an absurd misapprehension. We are
concerned with a trade which flourishes on prostitution, but that
trade is not itself the trade or (as some prefer to call it) the
profession of prostitutes. Indeed, the prostitute, under ordinary
conditions and unharassed by persecution, is in many respects anything
but a slave. She is much less a slave than the ordinary married woman.
She is not fettered in humble dependence on the will of a husband from
whom it is the most difficult thing in the world to escape; she is
bound to no man and free to make her own terms in life; while if she
should have a child, that child is absolutely her own, and she is not
liable to have it torn from her arms by the hands of the law. Apart
from arbitrary and accidental circumstances, due to the condition of
social feeling, the prostitute enjoys a position of independence which
the married woman is still struggling to obtain.

The White Slave Traffic, therefore, is not prostitution; it is the
_commercialised exploitation of prostitutes_. The independent
prostitute, living alone, scarcely lends herself to the White Slave
trader. It is on houses of prostitution, where the less independent and
usually weaker-minded prostitutes are segregated, that the traffic is
based. Such houses cannot even exist without such traffic. There is
little inducement for a girl to enter such a house, in full knowledge
of what it involves, on her own initiative. The proprietors of such
houses must therefore give orders for the "goods" they desire, and it
is the business of procurers, by persuasion, misrepresentation, deceit,
intoxication, to supply them. "The White Slave Traffic," as Kneeland
states, "is thus not only a hideous reality, but a reality almost
wholly dependent on the existence of houses of prostitution," and as
the authors of _The Social Evil_ state, it is "the most shameful
species of business enterprise in modern times."[1]

In this intimate dependence of the White Slave Traffic on houses of
prostitution, there lies, it may be pointed out, a hope for the future.
We are concerned, for the most part, with the more coarse-grained part
of the masculine population and with the more ignorant, degraded, and
weak-minded part of the army of prostitutes. Although much has been said
of the enormous extension of the White Slave Traffic during recent
years, it is important to remember that that extension is chiefly marked
in connection with the great new centres of population in the younger
countries. It is fostered by the conditions prevailing in crude,
youthful, prosperous, but incompletely blended, communities, which have
too swiftly attained luxury, but have not yet attained the more humane
and refined developments of civilisation, and among whom women are often
scarce.[2] Although there are not yet any very clear signs of the decay
of prostitution in civilisation, there can hardly be a doubt that
civilisation is unfavourable to houses of prostitution. They offer no
inducements to the more intelligent and independent prostitutes, and
their inmates usually present little attraction to any men save those
whose demands are of the humblest character. There is, therefore, a
tendency to the natural and spontaneous decay of organised houses of
prostitution under modern civilised conditions; the prostitute and her
clients alike shun such houses. Along this line we may foresee the
disappearance of the White Slave Traffic, apart altogether from any
social or legal attempts at its direct suppression.[3]

It is sometimes said that the relation of the isolated prostitute to her
_souteneur_ constitutes a form of "white slavery." Undoubtedly that may
sometimes be the case. We are here in a confused field where the facts
are complicated by a number of considerations, and where circumstances
may very widely differ, for the "fancy boy"--selected from affection by
the prostitute herself--may easily become the _souteneur_, or "cadet" as
he is termed in New York, who seduces and trains to prostitution a large
number of girls. The prostitute is so often a little weak in character
and a little defective in intelligence; she is so often regarded as a
legitimate prey by the world in which she moves, and a legitimate object
of contempt and oppression by the social world above her and its legal
officers, that she easily becomes abjectly dependent on the man who in
some degree protects her from this extortion, contempt, and oppression,
even though he sometimes trains her to his own ends and exploits her
professional activities for his own advantage. These circumstances so
often occur that some investigators consider that they represent the
general rule. No doubt they are the most conspicuous cases. But they can
scarcely be regarded as representing the normal relations of the
prostitute to the man she is attracted to. She is earning her own
living, and if she possesses a little modicum of character and
intelligence, she knows that she can choose her own lover and dismiss
him when she so pleases. He may beat her occasionally, but all over the
world this is not always displeasing to the primitively feminine woman.
"It is indeed true," as Kneeland remarks, "that many prostitutes do not
believe their lovers care for them unless they 'beat them up'
occasionally." The woman in this position is not more of a "white slave"
than many wives, and some husbands, who submit to the whims and
tyrannies of their conjugal partners, with, indeed, the additional
hardship and misfortune that they are legally bound to them. And the
_souteneur_, although from the respectable point of view he has put
himself into a low-down moral position, is, after all, not so very
unlike those parasitic wives who, on a higher social level, live lazily
on their husbands' professional earnings, and sometimes give much less
than the _souteneur_ in return.

When, however, we put aside the complicated question of the prostitute's
relationship to the man who is her lover, protector, and "bully," we
have to recognise that there really is a "White Slave Traffic," carried
on in a ruthlessly business-like manner and on an international scale,
with watchful agents, men and women, ever ready to detect and lure the
victims. But even this too amply demonstrated fact was not found
sufficiently highly spiced by the White Slave Traffic agitators. It was
necessary to excite the public mind by sensational incidents. Everyone
was told stories, as of incidents that had lately occurred in the next
street, of innocent, refined, and well-bred girls who were snatched away
by infamous brigands beneath the eyes of their friends, to be immured in
dungeons of vice and never more heard of. Such incidents, if they ever
occurred, would be too bizarre to be justifiably taken into account in
great social movements. But it is even doubtful whether they ever occur.
The White Slave traders are not heroes of romance, even of infamous
romance; less so, indeed, than many more ordinary criminals; they are
engaged in a very definite and very profitable business. They have no
need to run serious risks. The world is full of girls who are
over-worked, ill-paid, ignorant, weak, vain, greedy, lazy, or even only
afflicted with a little innocent love of adventure, and it is among
these that White Slave traders may easily find what their business
demands, while experience enables them to detect the most likely

Careful inquiry, even among those who have made it their special
business to collect all the evidence that can be brought together to
prove the infamous character of the White Slave Traffic, has apparently
failed to furnish any reliable evidence of these sensational stories. It
is easy to find prostitutes who are often dissatisfied with the life (in
what occupation is it not easy?), but it is not easy to find prostitutes
who cannot escape from that life when they sufficiently wish to do so,
and are willing to face the difficulty of finding some other occupation.
The very fact that the whole object of their exploitation is to bring
them in contact with men belonging to the outside world is itself a
guarantee that they are kept in touch with that world. Mrs.
Billington-Grieg, a well-known pioneer in social movements, has
carefully investigated the alleged cases of forcible abduction which
were so freely talked about when the White Slave Bill was passed into
law in England, but even the Vigilance Societies actively engaged in
advocating the bill could not enable her to discover a single case in
which a girl had been entrapped against her will.[4] No other result
could reasonably have been expected. When so many girls are willing, and
even eager, to be persuaded, there is little need for the risky
adventure of capturing the unwilling. The uneasy realisation of these
facts cannot fail to leave many honest Vice-Crusaders with unpleasant
memories of their past.

It is not only in regard to alleged facts, but also in regard to
proposed remedies, that the White Slave Agitation may properly be
criticised. In England it distinguished itself by the ferocity with
which the lash was advocated, and finally legalised. Benevolent bishops
joined with genteel old maids in calling loudly for whips, and even in
desiring to lay them personally on the backs of the offenders,
notwithstanding that these Crusaders were nominally Christians, the
followers of a Master who conspicuously reserved His indignation, not
for sinners and law-breakers, but for self-satisfied saints and
scrupulous law-keepers--just the same kind of excellent people, in
fact, who are most prone to become Vice-Crusaders. Here again, it is
probable, many unpleasant memories have been stored up.

It is well recognised by criminologists that the lash is both a
barbarous and an ineffective method of punishment. "The history of
flagellation," as Collas states in his great work on this subject, "is
the history of a moral bankruptcy."[5] The survival of barbarous
punishments from barbarous days, when ferocious punishments were a
matter of course and the death penalty was inflicted for horse-stealing
without in the least diminishing that offence, may be intelligible. But
the re-enactment of such measures in so-called civilised days is an
everlasting discredit to those who advocate it, and a disgrace to the
community which permits it. This was pointed out at the time by a large
body of social reformers, and will no doubt be realised at leisure by
the persons concerned in the agitation.

Apart altogether from its barbarity, the lash is peculiarly unsuited
for use in the White Slave trade, because it will never descend on the
back of the real trader. The whip has no terrors for those engaged in
illegitimate financial transactions, for in such transactions the
principal can always afford to arrange that it shall fall on a
subordinate who finds it worth while to run the risks. This method has
long been practised by those who exploit prostitution for profit. To
increase the risks merely means that the subordinate must be more
heavily paid. That means that the whole business must be carried on
more actively to cover the increased risks and expenses. It is a very
ancient fact that moral legislation increases the evil it is designed
to combat.[6]

It is necessary to point out some of the unhappy features of this
agitation, not in order to minimise the evils it was directed against,
nor to insinuate that they cannot be lessened, but as a warning against
the reaction which follows such ill-considered efforts. The fiery
zealot in a fury of blind rage strikes wildly at the evil he has just
discovered, and then flings down his weapon, glad to forget all about
his momentary rage and the errors it led him into. It is not so that
ancient evils are destroyed, evils, it must be remembered, that derive
their vitality in part from human nature and in part from the structure
of our society. By ensuring that our workers, and especially our women
workers, are decently paid, so that they can live comfortably on their
wages, we shall not indeed have abolished prostitution, which is more
than an economic phenomenon,[7] but we shall more effectually check the
White Slave trader than by the most draconic legislation the most
imaginative Vice-Crusader ever devised. And when we ensure that these
same workers have ample time and opportunity for free and joyous
recreation, we shall have done more to kill the fascination of the
White Slave Traffic than by endless police regulations for the moral
supervision of the young.

No doubt the element of human nature in the manifestations we are
concerned with will still be at work, an obscure instinct often acting
differently in each sex, but tending to drive both into the same risks.
Here we need even more fundamental social changes. It is sheer
foolishness to suppose that when we raise our little dams in the path of
a great stream of human impulse that stream will forthwith flow calmly
back to its source. We must make our new channels concurrently with our
dams. If we wish to influence prostitution we must re-make our marriage
laws and modify our whole conception of the sexual relationships. In the
meanwhile, we can at least begin to-day a task of education which must
slowly though surely undermine the White Slave trader's stronghold. Such
an education needs to be not merely instruction in the facts of sex and
wise guidance concerning all the dangers and risks of the sexual life;
it must also involve a training of the will, a development of the sense
of responsibility, such as can never be secured by shutting our young
people up in a hot-house, sheltered from every fortifying breath of the
outside world. Certainly there are many among us--and precisely the most
hopeless persons from our present point of view--who can never grow into
really responsible persons.[8] Neither should they ever have been born.
It is our business to see that they are not born; and that, if they are,
they are at least placed under due social guardianship, so that we may
not be tempted to make laws for society in general which are only needed
by this feeble and infirm folk. Thus it is that when we seek to deal
with the White Slave Trader and his victims and his patrons we have to
realise that they are all very much, as we have made them, moulded by
their parents before birth, nourished on their mothers' knees. The task
of making them over again next time, and making them better, is a
revolutionary task, but it begins at home, and there is no home in which
some part of the task cannot be carried out.

It is possible that at some period in the world's history, not only will
the White Slave Traffic disappear, but even prostitution itself, and it
is for us to work towards that day. But we may be quite sure that the
social state which sees the last of the "social evil" will be a social
state very unlike ours.

[1] The nature of prostitution and of the White Slave Traffic and their
relation to each other may clearly be studied in such valuable
first-hand investigations of the subject as _The Social Evil: With
Special Reference to Conditions Existing in the City of New York_, 2nd
edition, edited by E.R.A. Seligman, Putnam's, 1912; _Commercialised
Prostitution in New York City_, by G.J. Kneeland, New York Century Co.,
1913; _Prostitution in Europe_, by Abraham Flexner, New York Century
Co., 1914; _The Social Evil in Chicago_, by the Vice-Commission of
Chicago, 1911. As regards prostitution in England and its causes I
should like to call attention to an admirable little book, _Downward
Paths_, published by Bell & Sons, 1916. The literature of the subject
is, however, extensive, and a useful bibliography will be found in the
first-named volume.

[2] This is especially true of many regions in America, both North and
South, where a hideous mixture of disparate nationalities furnishes
conditions peculiarly favourable to the "White Slave Traffic," when
prosperity increases. See, for instance, the well-informed and temperately
written book by Miss Jane Addams, _A New Conscience and
an Ancient Evil_, 1912.

[3] See Havelock Ellis: _Sex in Relation to Society (Studies in the
Psychology of Sex)_, Vol. VI., Ch. VII.

[4] "The White Slave Traffic," _English Review_, June, 1913. It is just
just the same in America. Mr. Brand-Whitlock, when Mayor of Toledo,
thoroughly investigated a sensational story of this kind brought to him
in great detail by a social worker and found that it possessed not the
slightest basis of truth. "It was," he remarks in an able paper on "The
White Slave" (_Forum_, Feb., 1914), "simply another variant of the story
that had gone the rounds of the continents, a story which had been
somehow psychologically timed to meet the hysteria which the pulpit,
the Press, and the legislature had displayed."

[5] G.F. Collas, _Geschichte des Flagellantismus_, 1913, Vol. I., p. 16.

[6] I have brought together some of the evidence on this point in the
chapter on "Immorality and the Law" in my book, _The Task of Social

[7] The idea is cherished by many, especially among socialists, that
prostitution is mainly an economic question, and that to raise wages is
to dry up the stream of prostitution. That is certainly a fallacy,
unsupported by careful investigators, though all are agreed that the
economic condition of the wage-earner is one factor in the problem. Thus
Commissioner Adelaide Cox, at the head of the Women's Social Wing of the
Salvation Army, speaking from a very long and extensive acquaintance
with prostitutes, while not denying that women are often "wickedly
underpaid," finds that the cause of prostitution is "essentially a
moral one, and cannot be successfully fought by other than moral
weapons."--(_Westminster Gazette_, Dec. 2nd, 1912). In a yet wider
sense, it may be said that the question of the causes of prostitution
is essentially social.

[8] This is a very important clue indeed in dealing with the problem of
prostitution. "It is the weak-minded, unintelligent girl," Goddard
states in his valuable work on _Feeblemindedness_, "who makes the White
Slave Traffic possible." Dr. Hickson found that over 85 per cent. of
the women brought before the Morals Court in Chicago were distinctly
feeble-minded, and Dr. Olga Bridgeman states that among the girls
committed for sexual delinquency to the Training School of Geneva,
Illinois, 97 per cent. were feeble-minded by the Binet tests, and to be
regarded as "helpless victims." (Walter Clarke, _Social Hygiene_, June,
1915, and _Journal of Mental Science_, Jan., 1916, p. 222.) There are
fallacies in these figures, but it would appear that about half of the
prostitutes in institutions are to be regarded as mentally defective.



The final Report of the Royal Commission on Venereal Diseases has brought
to an end an important and laborious investigation at what many may
regard as an unfavourable moment. Perhaps, however, the moment is not so
unfavourable as it seems. There is no period when venereal diseases
flourish so exuberantly as in war time, and we shall have a sad harvest
to gather here when the War is over.[1] Moreover, the War is teaching us
to face the real facts of life more frankly and more courageously than
ever before, and there is no field, scarcely even a battlefield, where a
training in frankness and courage is so necessary as in this of Venereal
Disease. It is difficult even to say that there is any larger field, for
it has been found possible to doubt whether the great War of to-day, when
all is summed up, will have produced more death, disease, and misery than
is produced in the ordinary course of events, during a single generation,
by venereal disease.

There are, as every man and woman ought to know, two main and quite
distinct diseases (any other being unimportant) poetically termed
"Venereal" because chiefly, though not by any means only, propagated in
the intercourse over which the Roman goddess Venus once presided. These
two diseases are syphilis and gonorrhoea. Both these diseases are very
serious, often terrible, in their effects on the individual attacked,
and both liable to be poisonous to the race. There has long been a
popular notion that, while syphilis is indeed an awful disease,
gonorrhoea may be accepted with a light heart. That, we now know, is a
grave mistake. Gonorrhoea may seem trivial at the outset, but its
results, especially for a woman and her children (when it allows her to
have any), are anything but trivial; while its greater frequency, and
the indifference with which it is regarded, still further increase its

About the serious nature of syphilis there is no doubt. It is a
comparatively modern disease, not clearly known in Europe before the
discovery of America at the end of the fifteenth century, and by some
authorities[2] to-day supposed to have been imported from America. But
it soon ravaged the whole of our world, and has continued to do so ever
since. During recent years it has perhaps shown a slight tendency to
decrease, though nothing to what could be achieved by systematic
methods; but its evils are still sufficiently alarming. Exactly how
common it is cannot be ascertained with certainty. At least 10 per
cent., probably more, of the population in our large cities have been
infected by syphilis, some before birth. In 1912 for an average strength
of 120,000 men in the English Navy, nearly 300,000 days were lost as a
result of venereal disease, while among 100,000 soldiers in the Home
Army for the same year, an average of nearly 600 men were constantly
sick from the same cause. We may estimate from this small example how
vast must be the total loss of working power due to venereal disease.
Moreover, in Sir William Osler's words, "of the killing diseases
syphilis comes third or fourth." Its prevalence varies in different
regions and different social classes. The mortality rate from syphilis
for males above fifteen is highest for unskilled labour, then for the
group intermediate between unskilled and skilled labour, then for the
upper and middle class, followed by the group intermediate between this
class and skilled labour, while skilled labour, textile workers, and
miners follow, and agricultural labourers come out most favourably of
all. These differences do not represent any ascending grade in virtue or
sexual abstinence, but are dependent upon differences in social
condition; thus syphilis is comparatively rare among agricultural
labourers because they associate only with women they know and are not
exposed to the temptation of strange women, while it is high among the
upper class because they are shut out from sexual intimacy with women of
their own class and so resort to prostitutes. On the whole, however, it
will be seen, the poison of syphilis is fairly diffused among all
classes. This poison may work through many years or even the whole of
life, and its early manifestations are the least important. It may begin
before birth: thus, one recent investigation shows that in 150
syphilitic families there were only 390 seemingly healthy children to
401 infant deaths, stillbirths, and miscarriages (as against 172 in 180
healthy families), the great majority of these failures being infant
deaths and thus representing a large amount of wasted energy and
expense.[3] Syphilis is, again, the most serious single cause of the
most severe forms of brain disease and insanity, this often coming on
many years after the infection, and when the early symptoms were but
slight. Blindness and deafness from the beginning of life are in a large
proportion of cases due to syphilis. There is, indeed, no organ of the
body which is not liable to break down, often with fatal results,
through syphilis, so that it has been well said that a doctor who knows
syphilis thoroughly is familiar with every branch of his profession.

Gonorrhoea is a still commoner disease than syphilis; how common it is
very difficult to say. It is also an older disease, for the ancient
Egyptians knew it, and the Biblical King Esarhaddon of Assyria, as the
records of his court show, once caught it. It seems to some people no
more serious than a common cold, yet it is able to inflict much
prolonged misery on its victims, while on the race its influence in the
long run is even more deadly than that of syphilis, for gonorrhoea is
the chief cause of sterility in women, that is to say, in from 30 to 50
per cent. of such cases, while of cases of sterility in men (which form
a quarter to a third of the whole) gonorrhoea is the cause in from 70 to
90 per cent. The inflammation of the eyes of the new-born leading to
blindness is also in 70 per cent. cases due to gonorrhoea in the mother,
and this occurs in over six per 1,000 births.

Three years ago a Royal Commission was appointed to investigate the best
methods of controlling venereal disease, as small-pox, typhus, and to a
large extent typhoid, have already been controlled. The Commission was
well composed, not merely of officials and doctors, but of experienced
men and women in various fields, and the final Report is signed by all
the members, any difference of opinion being confined to minor points
(which it is unnecessary to touch on here) and to two members only. The
recommendations are conceived in the most practical and broad-minded
spirit. They are neither faddy nor goody-goody. Some indeed may wish that
they had gone further. The Commission leave over for later consideration
the question of notifying venereal disease as other infectious diseases
are notified, and there is no recommendation for the provision of
preventive methods against infection for use before intercourse, such as
are officially favoured in Germany. But at both these points the
Commissioners have been wise, for they are points to which sections of
public opinion are still strongly hostile.[4] As they stand, the
recommendations should carry conviction to all serious and reasonable
persons. Already, indeed, the Government, without opposition, has
expressed its willingness to undertake the financial burden which the
Commission would impose on it.

The main Recommendations made by the Commission, if we put aside the
suggestions for obtaining a more exact statistical knowledge, may be
placed under the heads of Treatment and Prevention. As regards the
first, it is insisted that measures should be taken to render the best
modern treatment, which should be free to all, readily available for
the whole community, in such a way that those affected will have no
hesitation in taking advantage of the facilities thus offered. The
means of treatment should be organised by County Councils and Boroughs,
under the Local Government Board, which should have power to make
independent arrangements when the local authorities fail in their
duties. Institutional treatment should be provided at all general
hospitals, special arrangements made for the treatment of out-patients
in the evenings, and no objection offered to patients seeking treatment
outside their own neighbourhoods. The expenditure should be assisted by
grants from Imperial Funds to the extent of 75 per cent. It may be
added that, however heavy such expenditure may be, an economy can
scarcely fail to be effected. The financial cost of venereal disease
to-day is so vast as to be beyond calculation. It enters into every
field of life. It is enough merely to consider the significant little
fact that the cost of educating a deaf child is ten times as great as
that of educating an ordinary child.

Under the head of Prevention we may place such a suggestion as that the
existence of infective venereal disease should constitute legal
incapacity for marriage, even when unknown, and be a sufficient cause
for annulling the marriage at the discretion of the court. But by far
the chief importance under this head is assigned by the Commission to
education and instruction. We see here the vindication of those who for
years have been teaching that the first essential in dealing with
venereal disease is popular enlightenment. There must be more careful
instruction--"through all types and grades of education"--on the sexual
relations in regard to conduct, while further instruction should be
provided in evening continuation schools, as well as factories and
works, with the aid of properly constituted voluntary associations.

These are sound and practical recommendations which, as the Government
has realised, can be put in action at once. A few years ago any attempt
to control venereal disease was considered by many to be almost impious.
Such disease was held to be the just visitation of God upon sin and to
interfere would be wicked. We know better now. A large proportion of
those who are most severely struck by venereal disease are new-born
children and trustful wives, while a simple kiss or the use of towels and
cups in common has constantly served to spread venereal disease in a
family. Even when we turn to the commonest method of infection, we have
still to remember that we are dealing largely with inexperienced youths,
with loving and trustful girls, who have yielded to the deepest and most
volcanic impulse of their natures, and have not yet learnt that that
impulse is a thing to be held sacred for their own sakes and the sake of
the race. In so far as there is sin, it is sin which must be shared by
those who have failed to train and enlighten the young. A Pharisaic
attitude is not only highly mischievous in its results, but is here
altogether out of place. Much harm has been done in the past by the
action of Benefit Societies in withholding recognition and treatment from
venereal disease.

It is evident that this thought was at the back of the minds of those
who framed these wise recommendations. We cannot expect to do away all
at once with the feeling that venereal disease is "shameful." It may
not even be desirable. But we can at least make clear that, in so far
as there is any shame, it must be a question between the individual and
his own conscience. From the point of view of science, syphilis and
gonorrhoea are just diseases, like cancer and consumption, the only
diseases with which they can be compared in the magnitude and extent of
their results, and therefore it is best to speak of them by their
scientific names, instead of trying to invent vague and awkward
circumlocutions. From the point of view of society, any attitude of
shame is unfortunate, because it is absolutely essential that these
diseases should be met in the open and grappled with methodically and
thoroughly. Otherwise, as the Commission recognises, the sufferer is
apt to become the prey of ignorant quacks whose inefficient treatment
is largely responsible for the development of the latest and worst
afflictions these diseases produce when not effectually nipped in the
bud. That they can be thus cut short--far more easily than consumption,
to say nothing of cancer--is the fact which makes it possible to hope
for a conquest over venereal disease. It is a conquest that would make
the whole world more beautiful and deliver love from its ugliest
shadow. But the victory cannot be won by science alone, not even in
alliance with officialdom. It can only be won through the enlightened
co-operation of the whole nation.

[1] The increase of venereal disease during the Great War has been
noted alike in Germany, France, and England. Thus, as regards France,
Gaucher has stated at the Paris Academy of Medicine (_Journal de
Medicine_, May 10th, 1916) that since mobilisation syphilis had
increased by nearly one half, alike among soldiers and civilians; it
had much increased in quite young people and in elderly men. In
Germany, Neisser, a leading authority, states (_Deutsche Medizinische
Wochenschrift_, 14th Jan., 1915) that the prevalence of venereal
disease is much greater than in the war of 1870, and that "every day
many thousands, not to say tens of thousands, of otherwise able-bodied
men are withdrawn from the service on this account."

[2] The chief is Iwan Bloch who, in his elaborate work, _Der Ursprung
der Syphilis_ (2 vols., 1901, 1911), has fully investigated the evidence.

[3] N. Bishop Harman, "The Influence of Syphilis on the Chances of
Progeny," _British Medical Journal_, Feb. 5th, 1916.

[4] It is true that in my book, _Sex in Relation to Society_ (Ch. VIII.)
I have stated my belief that notification, as in the case of other
serious infectious diseases, is the first step in the conquest of
venereal disease. I still think it ought to be so. But a yet more
preliminary step is popular enlightenment as to the need for such
notification. The recommendations seem to me to go as far as it is
possible to go at the moment in English-speaking countries without
producing friction and opposition. In so far as they are carried out
the recommendations will ensure the necessary popular enlightenment.



It was inevitable that we should some day have to face the problem of
medical reorganisation on a social basis. Along many lines social
progress has led to the initiation of movements for the improvement
of public health. But they are still incomplete and imperfectly
co-ordinated. We have never realised that the great questions of health
cannot safely be left to municipal tinkering and the patronage of
Bumbledom. The result is chaos and a terrible waste, not only of what
we call "hard cash," but also of sensitive flesh and blood. Health,
there cannot be the slightest doubt, is a vastly more fundamental and
important matter than education, to say nothing of such minor matters
as the post office or the telephone system. Yet we have nationalised
these before even giving a thought to the Nationalisation of Health.

At the present day medicine is mainly in the hands, as it was two
thousand years ago, of the "private practitioner." His mental status
has, indeed, changed. To-day he is submitted to a long and arduous
training in magnificently equipped institutions; all the laboriously
acquired processes and results of modern medicine and hygiene are
brought within the student's reach. And when he leaves the hospital,
often with the largest and noblest conception of the physician's place
in life, what do we do with him? He becomes a "private practitioner,"
which means, as Duclaux, the late distinguished Director of the Pasteur
Institute, put it, that we place him on the level of a retail grocer
who must patiently stand behind his counter (without the privilege of
advertising himself) until the public are pleased to come and buy
advice or drugs which are usually applied for too late to be of much
use, and may be thrown away at the buyer's good pleasure, without the
possibility of any protest by the seller. It is little wonder that in
many cases the doctor's work and aims suffer under such conditions; his
nature is subdued to what it works in; he clings convulsively to his
counter and its retail methods.

The fact is--and it is a fact that is slowly becoming apparent to
all--that the private practice of medicine is out of date. It fails to
answer the needs of our time. There are various reasons why this should
be the case, but two are fundamental. In the first place, medicine has
outgrown the capacity of any individual doctor; the only adequate
private practitioner must have a sound general knowledge of medicine
with an expert knowledge of a dozen specialties; that is to say, he must
give place to a staff of doctors acting co-ordinately, for the present
system, or lack of system, by which a patient wanders at random from
private practitioner to specialist, from specialist to specialist
_ad infinitum_, is altogether mischievous. Moreover, not only is it
impossible for the private practitioner to possess the knowledge
required to treat his patients adequately: he cannot possess the
scientific mechanical equipment nowadays required alike for diagnosis
and treatment, and every day becoming more elaborate, more expensive,
more difficult to manipulate. It is installed in our great hospitals
for the benefit of the poorest patient; it could, perhaps, be set up
in a millionaire's palace, but it is hopelessly beyond the private
practitioner, though without it his work must remain unsatisfactory and
inadequate.[1] In the second place, the whole direction of modern
medicine is being changed and to an end away from private practice; our
thoughts are not now mainly bent on the cure of disease but on its
prevention. Medicine is becoming more and more transformed into hygiene,
and in this transformation, though the tasks presented are larger and
more systematic, they are also easier and more economical. These two
fundamental tendencies of modern medicine--greater complexity of its
methods and the predominantly preventive character of its aims--alone
suffice to render the position of the private practitioner untenable. He
cannot cope with the complexity of modern medicine; he has no authority
to enforce its hygiene.

The medical system of the future must be a national system co-ordinating
all the conditions of health. At the centre we should expect to find a
Minister of Health, and every doctor of the State would give his whole
time to his work and be paid by salary which in the case of the higher
posts would be equal to that now fixed for the higher legal offices, for
the chief doctor in the State ought to be at least as important an
official as the Lord Chancellor. Hospitals and infirmaries would be alike
nationalised, and, in place of the present antagonism between hospitals
and the bulk of the medical profession, every doctor would be in touch
with a hospital, thus having behind him a fully equipped and staffed
institution for all purposes of diagnosis, consultation, treatment, and
research, also serving for a centre of notification, registration,
preventive and hygienic measures. In every district the citizen would
have a certain amount of choice as regards the medical man to whom he
may go for advice, but no one would be allowed to escape the medical
supervision and registration of his district, for it is essential that
the central Health Authority of every district should know the health
conditions of all the inhabitants of the district. Only by some such
organised and co-ordinated system as this can the primary conditions of
Health, and preventive measures against disease, be genuinely socialised.

These views were put forward by the present writer twenty years ago in
a little book on _The Nationalisation of Health_, which, though it met
with wide approval, was probably regarded by most people as Utopian.
Since then the times have moved, a new generation has sprung up, and
ideas which, twenty years ago, were brooded over by isolated thinkers
are now seen to be in the direct line of progress; they have become the
property of parties and matters of active propaganda. Even before the
introduction of State Insurance Professor Benjamin Moore, in his able
book, _The Dawn of the Health Age_, anticipating the actual march of
events, formulated a State Insurance Scheme which would lead on, as he
pointed out, to a genuinely National Medical Service, and later, Dr.
Macilwaine, in a little book entitled _Medical Revolution_, again
advocated the same changes: the establishment of a Ministry of Health,
a medical service on a preventive basis, and the reform of the
hospitals which must constitute the nucleus of such a service. It may
be said that for medical men no longer engaged in private practice it
is easy to view the disappearance of private practice with serenity;
but it must be added that it is precisely that disinterested serenity
which makes possible also a clear insight into the problems and a wider
view of the new horizons of medicine. Thus it is that to-day the
dreamers of yesterday are justified.

The great scheme of State Insurance was certainly an important step
towards the socialisation of medicine. It came short, indeed, of the
complete Nationalisation of Health as an affair of State. But that
could not possibly be introduced at one move. Apart even from the
difficulty of complete reorganisation, the two great vested interests
of private medical practice on the one hand and Friendly Societies on
the other would stand in the way. A complicated transitional period is
necessary, during which those two interests are conciliated and
gradually absorbed. It is this transitional period which State
Insurance has inaugurated. To compare small things to great--as we may,
for the same laws run all through Nature and Society--this scheme
corresponds to the ancient Ptolomaean system of astronomy, with its
painfully elaborate epicycles, which preceded and led on to the sublime
simplicity of the Copernican system. We need not anticipate that the
transitional stage of national insurance will endure as long as the
ancient astronomy. Professor Moore estimated that it would lead to a
completely national medical service in twenty-five years, and since the
introduction of that method he has, too optimistically, reduced the
period to ten years. We cannot reach simplicity at a bound; we must
first attempt to systematise the recognised and established activities
and adjust them harmoniously.

The organised refusal of the medical profession at the outset to carry
on, under the conditions offered, the part assigned to it in the great
National Insurance scheme opened out prospects not clearly realised by
the organisers. No doubt its immediate aspects were unfortunate. It not
only threatened to impede the working of a very complex machine, but it
dismayed many who were not prepared to see doctors apparently taking up
the position of the syndicalists, and arguing that a profession which
is essential to the national welfare need not be carried out on
national lines, but can be run exclusively by itself in its own
interests. Such an attitude, however, usefully served to make clear how
necessary it is becoming that the extension of medicine and hygiene in
the national life should be accompanied by a corresponding extension in
the national government. If we had had a Council of National Health, as
well as of National Defence, or a Board of Health as well as a Board of
Trade, a Minister of Health with a seat in the Cabinet, any scheme of
Insurance would have been framed from the outset in close consultation
with the profession which would have the duty of carrying it out. No
subsequent friction would have been possible.

Had the Insurance scheme been so framed, it is perhaps doubtful whether
it would have been so largely based on the old contract system. Club
medical practice has long been in discredit, alike from the point of
view of patient and doctor. It furnishes the least satisfactory form of
medical relief for the patient, less adequate than that he could obtain
either as a private patient or as a hospital patient. The doctor, on
his side, though he may find it a very welcome addition to his income,
regards Club practice as semi-charitable, and, moreover, a form of
charity in which he is often imposed on; he seldom views his club
patients with much satisfaction, and unless he is a self-sacrificing
enthusiast, it is not to them that his best attention, his best time,
his most expensive drugs, are devoted. To perpetuate and enlarge the
club system of practice and to glorify it by affixing to it a national
seal of approval, was, therefore, a somewhat risky experiment, not
wisely to be attempted without careful consultation with those most

Another point might then also have become clear: the whole tendency of
medicine is towards a recognition of the predominance of Hygiene. The
modern aim is to prevent disease. The whole national system of medicine
is being slowly though steadily built up in recognition of the great
fact that the interests of Health come before the interests of Disease.
It has been an unfortunate flaw in the magnificent scheme of Insurance
that this vital fact was not allowed for, that the old-fashioned notion
that treatment rather than prevention is the object of medicine was
still perpetuated, and that nothing was done to co-ordinate the
Insurance scheme with the existing Health Services.

It seems probable that in a Service of State medical officers the
solution may ultimately be found. Such a solution would, indeed,
immensely increase the value of the Insurance scheme, and, in the end,
confer far greater benefits than at present on the millions of people who
would come under its operation. For there can be no doubt the Club system
is not only unscientific; it is also undemocratic. It perpetuates what
was originally a semi-charitable and second-rate method of treatment of
the poorer classes. A State medical officer, devoting his whole time and
attention to his State patients, has no occasion to make invidious
distinctions between public and private patients.

A further advantage of a State Medical Service is that it will facilitate
the inevitable task of nationalising the hospitals, whether charitable or
Poor-law. The Insurance Act, as it stands, opens no definite path in this
direction. But nowadays, so vast and complicated has medicine become,
even the most skilful doctor cannot adequately treat his patient unless
he has a great hospital at his back, with a vast army of specialists and
research-workers, and a manifold instrumental instalment.

A third, and even more fundamental, advantage of a State Medical Service
is that it would help to bring Treatment into touch with Prevention. The
private practitioner, as such, inside or outside the Insurance scheme,
cannot conveniently go behind his patient's illness. But the State doctor
would be entitled to ask: _Why_ has this man broken down? The State's
guardianship of the health of its citizens now begins at birth (is
tending to be carried back before birth) and covers the school life. If
a man falls ill, it is, nowadays, legitimate to inquire where the
responsibility lies. It is all very well to patch up the diseased man
with drugs or what not. But at best that is a makeshift method. The
Consumptive Sanatoriums have aroused enthusiasm, and they also are all
very well. But the Charity Organisation Society has shown that only about
50 per cent. of those who pass through such institutions become fit for
work. It is not more treatment of disease that we want, it is less need
for treatment. And a State Medical Service is the only method by which
Medicine can be brought into close touch with Hygiene.

The present attitude of the medical profession sometimes strikes people
as narrow, unpatriotic, and merely self-interested. But the Insurance
Act has brought a powerful ferment of intellectual activity into the
medical profession which in the end will work to finer issues. A
significant sign of the times is the establishment of the State Medical
Service Association, having for its aim the organisation of the medical
profession as a State Service, the nationalisation of hospitals, and
the unification of preventive and curative medicine. To many in the
medical profession such schemes still seem "Utopian"; they are blind to
a process which has been in ever increasing action for more than half a
century and which they are themselves taking part in every day.

[1] The result sometimes is that the ambitious doctor seeks to become
a specialist in at least one subject, and instals a single expensive
method of treatment to which he enthusiastically subjects all his
patients. This would be comic if it were not sometimes rather tragic.



The cry is often heard to-day from those who watch with disapproval the
efforts made to discourage the reckless procreation of the degenerate
and the unfit: You are stamping out the germs of genius! It is widely
held that genius is a kind of flower, unknown to the horticulturist,
which only springs from diseased roots; make the plant healthily sound
and your hope of blossoms is gone, you will see nothing but leaves. Or,
according to the happier metaphor of Lombroso, the work of genius is an
exquisite pearl, and pearls are the product of an obscure disease. To
the medical mind, especially, it has sometimes been, naturally and
properly no doubt, a source of satisfaction to imagine that the
loveliest creations of human intellect may perhaps be employed to shed
radiance on the shelves of the pathological museum. Thus we find eminent
physicians warning us against any effort to decrease the vigour of
pathological processes, and influential medical journals making solemn
statements in the same sense. "Already," I read in a recent able and
interesting editorial article in the _British Medical Journal_,
"eugenists in their kind enthusiasm are threatening to stamp out the
germs of possible genius."

Now it is quite easy to maintain that the health, happiness, and sanity
of the whole community are more precious even than genius. It is so
easy, indeed, that if the question of eugenics were submitted to the
Referendum on this sole ground there can be little doubt what the result
would be. There are not many people, even in the most highly educated
communities, who value the possibility of a new poem, symphony, or
mathematical law so highly that they would sacrifice their own health,
happiness, and sanity to retain that possibility for their offspring. Of
course we may declare that a majority which made such a decision must be
composed of very low-minded uncultured people, altogether lacking in
appreciation of pathology, and reflecting no credit on the eugenic cause
they supported; but there can be little doubt that we should have to
admit their existence.

We need not hasten, however, to place the question on this ground. It
is first necessary to ascertain what reason there is to suppose that a
regard for eugenic considerations in mating would tend to stamp out the
germs of genius. Is there any reason at all? That is the question I am
here concerned with.

The anti-eugenic argument on this point, whenever any argument is
brought forward, consists in pointing to all sorts of men of genius and
of talent who, it is alleged, were poor citizens, physical degenerates
the prey of all manner of constitutional diseases, sometimes candidates
for the lunatic asylum which they occasionally reached. The miscellaneous
data which may thus be piled up are seldom critically sifted, and often
very questionable, for it is difficult enough to obtain any positive
biological knowledge concerning great men who died yesterday, and
practically impossible in most cases to reach an unquestionable
conclusion as regards those who died a century or more ago. Many of the
most positive statements commonly made concerning the diseases even of
modern genius are without any sure basis. The case of Nietzsche, who was
seen by some of the chief specialists of the day, is still really quite
obscure. So is that of Guy de Maupassant. Rousseau wrote the fullest and
frankest account of his ailments, and the doctors made a _post-mortem_
examination. Yet nearly all the medical experts--and they are many--who
have investigated Rousseau's case reach different conclusions. It would
be easy to multiply indefinitely the instances of great men of the past
concerning whose condition of health or disease we are in hopeless

This fact is, however, one that, as an argument, works both ways, and
the important point is to make clear that it cannot concern us. No
eugenic considerations can annihilate the man of genius when he is once
born and bred. If eugenics is to stamp out the man of genius it must do
so before he is born, by acting on his parents.

Nor is it possible to assume that if the man of genius, apart from his
genius, is an unfit person to procreate the race, therefore his parents,
not possessing any genius, were likewise unfit to propagate. It is easy
to find persons of high ability who in other respects are unfit for
the ends of life, ill-balanced in mental or physical development,
neurasthenic, valetudinarian, the victims in varying degrees of all
sorts of diseases. Yet their parents, without any high ability, were, to
all appearance, robust, healthy, hard-working, commonplace people who
would easily pass any ordinary eugenic tests. We know nothing as to the
action of two seemingly ordinary persons on each other in constituting
heredity, how hypertrophied intellectual aptitude comes about, what
accidents, normal or pathological, may occur to the germ before birth,
nor even how strenuous intellectual activity may affect the organism
generally. We cannot argue that since these persons, apart from their
genius, were not seemingly the best people to carry on the race,
therefore a like judgment should be passed on their parents and the
germs of genius thus be stamped out.

We only arrive at the crucial question when we ask: Have the characters
of the parents of men of genius been of such an obviously unfavourable
kind that eugenically they would nowadays be dissuaded from
propagation, or under a severe _régime_ of compulsory certificates (the
desirability of which I am far indeed from assuming) be forbidden to
marry? Have the parents of genius belonged to the "unfit"? That is a
question which must be answered in the affirmative if this objection to
eugenics has any weight. Yet so far as I know, none of those who have
brought forward the objection have supported it by any evidence of the
kind whatever. Thirty years ago Dr. Maudsley dogmatically wrote: "There
is hardly ever a man of genius who has not insanity or nervous disorder
of some form in his family." But he never brought forward any evidence
in support of that pronouncement. Nor has anyone else, if we put aside
the efforts of more or less competent writers--like Lombroso in his
_Man of Genius_ and Nisbet in his _Insanity of Genius_--to rake in
statements from all quarters regarding the morbidities of genius, often
without any attempt to authenticate, criticise, or sift them, and never
with any effort to place them in due perspective.[1]

It so happens that, some years ago, with no relation to eugenic
considerations, I devoted a considerable amount of attention to the
biological characters of British men of genius, considered, so far as
possible, on an objective and impartial basis.[2] The selection, that
is to say, was made, so far as possible, without regard to personal
predilections, in accordance with certain rules, from the _Dictionary
of National Biography_. In this way one thousand and thirty names were
obtained of men and women who represent the flower of British genius
during historical times, only excluding those persons who were alive at
the end of the last century. What proportion of these were the
offspring of parents who were insane or mentally defective to a serious

If the view of Maudsley--that there is "hardly ever" a man of genius
who is not the product of an insane or nervously-disordered stock--had
a basis of truth, we should expect that in one or other parents of the
man of genius actual insanity had occurred in a very large proportion
of cases; 25 per cent. would be a moderate estimate. But what do we
find? In not 1 per cent. can definite insanity be traced among the
parents of British men and women of genius. No doubt this result is
below the truth; the insanity of the parents must sometimes have
escaped the biographer's notice. But even if we double the percentage
to escape this source of error, the proportion still remains

There is more to be said. If the insanity of the parent occurred early
in life, we should expect it to attract attention more easily than if
it occurred late in life. Those parents of men of genius falling into
insanity late in life, the critic may argue, escape notice. But it is
precisely to this group to which all the ascertainably insane parents
of British men of genius belong. There is not a single recorded
instance, so far as I have been able to ascertain, in which the parent
had been definitely and recognisably insane before the birth of the
distinguished child; so that any prohibition of the marriage of persons
who had previously been insane would have left British genius
untouched. In all cases the insanity came on late in life, and it was
usually, without doubt, of the kind known as senile dementia. This was
so in the case of the mother of Bacon, the most distinguished person in
the list of those with an insane parent. Charles Lamb's father, we are
told, eventually became "imbecile." Turner's mother became insane. The
same is recorded of Archbishop Tillotson's mother and of Archbishop
Leighton's father. This brief list includes all the parents of British
men of genius who are recorded (and not then always very definitely) as
having finally died insane. In the description given of others of the
parents of our men of genius it is not, however, difficult to detect
that, though they were not recognised as insane, their mental condition
was so highly abnormal as to be not far removed from insanity. This was
the case with Gray's father and with the mothers of Arthur Young and
Andrew Bell. Even when we allow for all the doubtful cases, the
proportion of persons of genius with an insane parent remains very low,
less than 2 per cent.

Senile dementia, though it is one of the least important and
significant of the forms of insanity, and is entirely compatible with a
long and useful life, must not, however, be regarded, when present in a
marked degree, as the mere result of old age. Entirely normal people of
sound heredity do not tend to manifest signs of pronounced mental
weakness or abnormality even in extreme old age. We are justified in
suspecting a neurotic strain, though it may not be of severe degree.
This is, indeed, illustrated by our records of British genius. Some of
the eminent men of genius on my list (at least twelve) suffered before
death from insanity which may probably be described as senile dementia.
But several of these were somewhat abnormal during earlier life (like
Swift) or had a child who became insane (like Bishop Marsh). In these
and in other cases there has doubtless been some hereditary neurotic

It is clearly, however, not due to any intensity of this strain that we
find the incidence of insanity in men of genius, as illustrated, for
example, by senile dementia, so much more marked than its incidence on
their parents. There is another factor to be invoked here: convergent
morbid heredity. If a man and a woman, each with a slight tendency to
nervous abnormality, marry each other, there is a much greater chance
of the offspring manifesting a severe degree of nervous abnormality
than if they had married entirely sound partners. Now both among normal
and abnormal people there is a tendency for like to mate with like.
The attraction of the unlike for each other, which was once supposed
to prevail, is not predominant, except within the sphere of the secondary
sexual characters, where it clearly prevails, so that the ultra-masculine
man is attracted to the ultra-feminine woman, and the feminine man to the
boyish or mannish woman. Apart from this, people tend to marry those who
are both psychically and physically of the same type as themselves. It
thus happens that nervously abnormal people become mated to the nervously
abnormal. This is well illustrated by the British men of genius
themselves. Although insanity is more prevalent among them than among
their parents, the same can scarcely be said of them in regard to their
wives. It is notable that the insane wives of these men of genius are
almost as numerous as the insane men of genius, though it rarely happens
(as in the case of Southey) that both husband and wife go out of their
minds. But in all these cases there has probably been a mutual attraction
of mentally abnormal people.

It is to this tendency in the parents of men of genius, leading to a
convergent heredity, that we must probably attribute the undue tendency
of the men of genius themselves to manifest insanity. Each of the
parents separately may have displayed but a minor degree of neuropathic
abnormality, but the two strains were fortified by union and the
tendency to insanity became more manifest. This was, for instance, the
case as regards Charles Lamb. The nervous abnormality of the parents in
this case was less profound than that of the children, but it was
present in both. Under such circumstances what is called the law of
anticipation comes into play; the neurotic tendency of the parents,
increased by union, is also antedated, so that definite insanity occurs
earlier in the life of the child than, if it had appeared at all, it
occurred in the life of the parent. Lamb's father only became
weak-minded in old age, but since the mother also had a mentally
abnormal strain, Lamb himself had an attack of insanity early in life,
and his sister was liable to recurrent insanity during a great part of
her life. Notwithstanding, however, the influence of this convergent
heredity, it is found that the total insanity of British men and women
of genius is not more, so far as can be ascertained--even when slight
and dubious cases are included--than 4.2 per cent. That ascertainable
proportion must be somewhat below the real proportion, but in any case
it scarcely suggests that insanity is an essential factor of genius.

Let us, however, go beyond the limits of British genius, and consider
the evidence more freely. There is, for instance, Tasso, who was
undoubtedly insane for a good part of his life, and has been much
studied by the pathologists. De-Gaudenzi, who has written one of the
best psychopathological studies of Tasso, shows clearly that his
father, Bernardo, was a man of high intelligence, of great emotional
sensibility, with a tendency to melancholy as well as a mystical
idealism, of somewhat weak character, and prone to invoke Divine aid in
the slightest difficulty. It was a temperament that might be considered
a little morbid, outside a monastery, but it was not insane, nor is
there any known insanity among his near relations. This man's wife,
Porzia, Tasso's mother, arouses the enthusiasm of all who ever mention
her, as a creature of angelic perfection. No insanity here either, but
something of the same undue sensitiveness and melancholy as in the
father, the same absence of the coarser and more robust virtues.
Moreover, she belonged to a family by no means so angelic as herself,
not insane, but abnormal--malevolent, cruel, avaricious, almost
criminal. The most scrupulous modern alienist would hesitate to deprive
either Bernardo or Porzia of the right to parenthood. Yet, as we know,
the son born of this union was not only a world-famous poet, but an
exceedingly unhappy, abnormal, and insane man.

Let us take the case of another still greater and more famous man,
Rousseau. It cannot reasonably be doubted that, at some moments in his
life at all events, and perhaps during a considerable period, Rousseau
was definitely insane. We are intimately acquainted with the details
of the life and character of his relations and of his ancestry. We not
only possess the full account he set forth at the beginning of his
_Confessions_, but we know very much more than Rousseau knew. Geneva
was paternal--paternal in the most severe sense--in scrutinising every
unusual act of its children, and castigating every slightest deviation
from the straight path. The whole life of the citizens of old Geneva may
be read in Genevan archives, and not a scrap of information concerning
the conduct of Rousseau's ancestors and relatives as set down in these
archives but has been brought to the light of day. If there is any great
man of genius whom the activities of these fanatical eugenists would have
rendered impossible, it must surely have been Rousseau. Let us briefly
examine his parentage. Rousseau's father was the outcome of a fine stock
which for two generations had been losing something of its fine
qualities, though without sinking anywhere near insanity, criminality, or
pauperism. The Rousseaus still exercised their craft with success; they
were on the whole esteemed; Jean-Jacques's father was generally liked,
but he was somewhat unstable, romantic, with no strong sense of duty,
hot-tempered, easily taking offence. The mother, from a modern
standpoint, was an attractive, highly accomplished, and admirable woman.
In her neighbours' eyes she was not quite Puritanical enough,
high-spirited, independent, adventurous, fond of innocent gaiety, but a
devoted wife when, at last, at the age of thirty, she married. More than
once before marriage she was formally censured by the ecclesiastical
authorities for her little insubordinations, and these may be seen to
have a certain significance when we turn to her father; he was a thorough
_mauvais sujet_, with an incorrigible love of pleasure, and constantly
falling into well-deserved trouble for some escapade with the young women
of Geneva. Thus on both sides there was a certain nervous instability, an
uncontrollable wayward emotionality. But of actual insanity, of nervous
disorder, of any decided abnormality or downright unfitness in either
father or mother, not a sign. Isaac Rousseau and Susanne Bernard would
have been passed by the most ferocious eugenist. It is again a case in
which the chances of convergent heredity have produced a result which in
its magnitude, in its heights and in its depths, none could foresee. It
is one of the most famous and most accurately known examples of insane
genius in history, and we see what amount of support it offers to the
ponderous dictum concerning the insane heredity of genius.

Let us turn from insanity to grave nervous disease. Epilepsy at once
comes before us, all the more significantly since it has been
considered, more especially by Lombroso, to be the special disease
through which genius peculiarly manifests itself. It is true that much
importance here is attached to those minor forms of epilepsy which
involve no gross and obvious convulsive fit. The existence of these
minor attacks is, in the case of men of genius, usually difficult to
disprove and equally difficult to prove. It certainly should not be so
as regards the major form of epilepsy. Yet among the thousand and
thirty persons of British genius I was only able to find epilepsy
mentioned twice, and in both cases incorrectly, for the National
Biographer had attributed it to Lord Herbert of Cherbury through
misreading a passage in Herbert's _Autobiography_, while the epileptic
fits of Sir W.R. Hamilton in old age were most certainly not true
epilepsy. Without doubt, no eugenist could recommend an epileptic to
become a parent. But if epilepsy has no existence in British men of
genius it is improbable that it has often occurred among their parents.
The loss to British genius through eugenic activity in this sphere
would probably, therefore, have been _nil_.

Putting aside British genius, however, one finds that it has been
almost a commonplace of alienists and neurologists, even up to the
present day, to present glibly a formidable list of mighty men of
genius as victims of epilepsy. Thus I find a well-known American
alienist lately making the unqualified and positive statement that
"Mahomet, Napoleon, Molière, Handel, Paganini, Mozart, Schiller,
Richelieu, Newton and Flaubert" were epileptics, while still more
recently a distinguished English neurologist, declaring that "the
world's history has been made by men who were either epileptics,
insane, or of neuropathic stock," brings forward a similar and still
larger list to illustrate that statement, with Alexander the Great,
Julius Caesar, the Apostle Paul, Luther, Frederick the Great and many
others thrown in, though unfortunately he fails to tell us which
members of the group he desires us to regard as epileptic. Julius
Caesar was certainly one of them, but the statement of Suetonius (not
an unimpeachable authority in any case) that Caesar had epileptic fits
towards the close of his life is disproof rather than proof of true
epilepsy. Of Mahomet, and St. Paul also, epilepsy is alleged. As
regards the first, the most competent authorities regard the convulsive
seizures attributed to the Prophet as perhaps merely a legendary
attempt to increase the awe he inspired by unmistakable evidence of
divine authority. The narrative of St. Paul's experience on the road to
Damascus is very unsatisfactory evidence on which to base a medical
diagnosis, and it may be mentioned that, in the course of a discussion
in the columns of the _British Medical Journal_ during 1910, as many as
six different views were put forward as to the nature of the Apostle's
"thorn in the flesh." The evidence on which Richelieu, who was
undoubtedly a man of very fragile constitution is declared to be
epileptic, is of the very slenderest character. For the statement that
Newton was epileptic there is absolutely no reliable evidence at all,
and I am quite ignorant of the grounds on which Mozart, Handel and
Schiller are declared epileptics. The evidence for epilepsy in Napoleon
may seem to carry slightly more weight, for there is that in the moral
character of Napoleon which we might very well associate with the
epileptic temperament. It seems clear that Napoleon really had at times
convulsive seizures which were at least epileptoid. Thus Talleyrand
describes how one day, just after dinner (it may be recalled that
Napoleon was a copious and exceedingly rapid eater), passing for a few
minutes into Josephine's room, the Emperor came out, took Talleyrand
into his own room, ordered the door to be closed, and then fell down in
a fit. Bourrienne, however, who was Napoleon's private secretary for
eleven years, knew nothing about any fits. It is not usual, in a true
epileptic fit, to be able to control the circumstances of the seizure
to this extent, and if Napoleon, who lived so public a life, furnished
so little evidence of epilepsy to his environment, it may be regarded
as very doubtful whether any true epilepsy existed, and on other
grounds it seems highly improbable.[3]

Of all these distinguished persons in the list of alleged epileptics,
it is naturally most profitable to investigate the case of the latest,
Flaubert, for here it is easiest to get at the facts. Maxime du Camp, a
friend in early life, though later incompatibility of temperament led
to estrangement, announced to the world in his _Souvenirs_ that
Flaubert was an epileptic, and Goncourt mentions in his _Journal_ that
he was in the habit of taking much bromide. But the "fits" never began
until the age of twenty-eight, which alone should suggest to a
neurologist that they are not likely to have been epileptic; they never
occurred in public; he could feel the fit coming on and would go and
lie down; he never lost consciousness; his intellect and moral
character remained intact until death. It is quite clear that there was
no true epilepsy here, nor anything like it.[4] Flaubert was of fairly
sound nervous heredity on both sides, and his father, a distinguished
surgeon, was a man of keen intellect and high character. The novelist,
who was of robust physical and mental constitution, devoted himself
strenuously and exclusively to intellectual work; it is not surprising
that he was somewhat neurasthenic, if not hysterical, and Dumesnil, who
discusses this question in his book on Flaubert, concludes that the
"fits" may be called hysterical attacks of epileptoid form.

It may well be that we have in Flaubert's case a clue to the "epilepsy"
of the other great men who in this matter are coupled with him. They
were nearly all persons of immense intellectual force, highly charged
with nervous energy; they passionately concentrated their energy on the
achievement of life tasks of enormous magnitude, involving the highest
tension of the organism. Under such conditions, even in the absence of
all bad heredity or of actual disease, convulsive discharges may occur.
We may see even in healthy and sound women that occasionally some
physiological and unrelieved overcharging of the organism with nervous
energy may result in what is closely like a hysterical fit, while even
a violent fit of crying is a minor manifestation of the same tendency.
The feminine element in genius has often been emphasised, and it may
well be that under the conditions of the genius-life when working at
high pressure we have somewhat similar states of nervous overcharging,
and that from time to time the tension is relieved, naturally and
spontaneously, by a convulsive discharge. This, at all events, seems a
possible explanation.

It is rather strange that in these recklessly confident lists of
eminent "epileptics" we fail to find the one man of distinguished
genius whom perhaps we are justified in regarding as a true epileptic.
Dostoievsky appears to have been an epileptic from an early age; he
remained liable to epileptic fits throughout life, and they plunged him
into mental dejection and confusion. In many of his novels we find
pictures of the epileptic temperament, evidently based on personal
experience, showing the most exact knowledge and insight into all the
phases of the disease. Moreover, Dostoievsky in his own person appears
to have displayed the perversions and the tendency to mental
deterioration which we should expect to find in a true epileptic. So
far as our knowledge goes, he really seems to stand alone as a
manifestation of supreme genius combined with epilepsy. Yet, as Dr.
Loygue remarks in his medico-psychological study of the great Russian
novelist, epilepsy only accounts for half of the man, and leaves
unexplained his passion for work; "the dualism of epilepsy and genius
is irreducible."

There is one other still more recent man of true genius, though not of
the highest rank, who may possibly be counted as epileptic: Vincent van
Gogh, the painter.[5] A brilliant and highly original artist, he was a
definitely abnormal man who cannot be said to have escaped mental
deterioration. Simple and humble and suffering, recklessly sacrificing
himself to help others, always in trouble, van Gogh had many points of
resemblance to Dostoievsky. He has, indeed, been compared to the
"Idiot" immortalised by Dostoievsky, in some aspects an imbecile, in
some aspects a saint. Yet epilepsy no more explains the genius of van
Gogh than it explains the genius of Dostoievsky.

Thus the impression we gain when, laying aside prejudice, we take a
fairly wide and impartial survey of the facts, or even when we
investigate in detail the isolated facts to which significance is most
often attached, by no means supports the notion that genius springs
entirely, or even mainly, from insane and degenerate stocks. In some
cases, undoubtedly, it is found in such stocks, but the ability
displayed in these cases is rarely, perhaps never, of any degree near
the highest. It is quite easy to point to persons of a certain
significance, especially in literature and art, who, though themselves
sane, possess many near relatives who are highly neurotic and sometimes
insane. Such cases, however, are far from justifying any confident
generalisations concerning the intimate dependence of genius on

We see, moreover, that to conclude that men of genius are rarely or
never the offspring of a radically insane parentage is not to assume
that the parents of men of genius are usually of average normal
constitution. That would in any case be improbable. Apart from the
tendency to convergent heredity already emphasised, there is a wider
tendency to slight abnormality, a minor degree of inaptness for
ordinary life in the parentage of genius. I found that in 5 per cent.
cases (certainly much below the real mark) of the British people of
genius, one parent, generally the father, had shown abnormality from a
social or parental point of view. He had been idle, or extravagant, or
restless, or cruel, or intemperate, or unbusinesslike, in the great
majority of these cases "unsuccessful." The father of Dickens
(represented by his son in Micawber), who was always vainly expecting
something to turn up, is a good type of these fathers of genius.
Shakespeare's father may have been of much the same sort. George
Meredith's father, again, who was too superior a person for the
outfitting business he inherited, but never succeeded in being anything
else, is another example of this group of fathers of genius. The father
in these cases is a link of transition between the normal stock and its
brilliantly abnormal offshoot. In this transitional stage we see, as it
were, the stock _reculer pour mieux sauter_, but it is in the son that
the great leap is made manifest.

This peculiarity will serve to indicate that in a large proportion of
cases the parentage of genius is not entirely sound and normal. We must
dismiss absolutely the notion that the parents of persons of genius
tend to exhibit traits of a grossly insane or nervously degenerate
character. The evidence for such a view is confined to a minute
proportion of cases, and even then is usually doubtful. But it is
another matter to assume that the parentage of genius is absolutely
normal, and still less can we assert that genius always springs from
entirely sound stocks. The statement is sometimes made that all
families contain an insane element. That statement cannot be accepted.
There are many people, including people of a high degree of ability,
who can trace no gross mental or nervous disease in their families,
unless remote branches are taken into account. Not many statistics
bearing on this point are yet available. But Jenny Roller, in a very
thorough investigation, found at Zurich in 1895 that "healthy" people
had in 28 per cent. cases directly, and in 59 per cent. cases
indirectly and altogether, a neuropathic heredity, while Otto Diem in
1905 found that the corresponding percentages were still higher--33 and
69. It should not, therefore, be matter for surprise if careful
investigation revealed a traceable neuropathic element at least as
frequent as this in the families which produce a man of genius.

It may further, I believe, be argued that the presence of a neuropathic
element of this kind in the ancestry of genius is frequently not
without a real significance. Aristotle said in his _Poetics_ that
poetry demanded a man with "a touch of madness," though the ancients,
who frequently made a similar statement to this, had not our modern
ideas of neuropathic heredity in their minds, but merely meant that

Book of the day: