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Primitive Love and Love-Stories by Henry Theophilus Finck

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gods. Fijian women believed "that to be tattooed is a passport to the
other world, where it prevents them from being persecuted by their own
sex."[76] An Australian custom ordained that every person must have
the septum of the nose pierced and must wear in it a piece of bone, a
reed, or the stalks of some grass. This was not done, however, with
the object of adorning the person, but for superstitious reasons: "the
old men used to predict to those who were averse to this mutilation
all kinds of evil." The sinner, they said, would suffer in the next
world by having to eat filth. "To avoid a punishment so horrible, each
one gladly submitted, and his or her nose was pierced accordingly."
(Brough Smyth, 274.) Wilhelmi says that in the Northwest the men place
in the head-band behind the ears pieces of wood decorated with very
thin shavings and looking like plumes of white feathers. They do this
"on occasions of rejoicings and when engaged in their mystic
ceremonies." Nicaraguans trace the custom of flattening the heads of
children to instructions from the gods, and Pelew Islanders believed
that to win eternal bliss the septum of the nose must be perforated,
while Eskimo girls were induced to submit to having long stitches made
with a needle and black thread on several parts of the face by the
superstitious fear that if they refused they would, after death, be
turned into train tubs and placed under the lamps in heaven.[77] In
order that the ghost of a Sioux Indian may travel the ghost road in
safety, it is necessary for each Dakota during his life to be tattooed
in the middle of the forehead or on the wrists. If found without
these, he is pushed from a cloud or cliff and falls back to this
world.[78] In Australia, the Kurnai medicine men were supposed to be
able to communicate with ghosts only when they had certain bones
thrust through the nose.[79] The _American Anthropologist_ contains
(July, 1889) a description of the various kinds of face-coloring to
indicate degrees in the Grand Medicine Society of the Ojibwa. These
Indians frequently tattooed temples, forehead, or cheeks of sufferers
from headache or toothache, in the belief that this would expel the
demons who cause the pain. In Congo, scarifications are made on the
back for therapeutic reasons; and in Timor-Laut (Malay Archipelago),
both sexes tattooed themselves "in imitation of immense smallpox
marks, in order to ward off that disease."[80]


Australian women of the Port Lincoln tribes paint a ring around each
eye and a streak over the stomach, and men mark their breasts with
stripes and paints in different patterns. An ignorant observer, or an
advocate of the sexual selection theory, would infer that these
"decorations" are resorted to for the purpose of ornamentation, to
please individuals of the opposite sex. But Wilhelmi, who understood
the customs of these tribes, explains that these divers stripes and
paints have a practical object, being used to "indicate the different
degrees of relationship between a dead person and the mourners."[81]
In South Australia widows in mourning "shave their heads, cover them
with a netting, and plaster them with pipe-clay"[82]. A white band
around the brow is also used as a badge of mourning[83]. Taplin says
that the Narrinyeri adorn the bodies of the dead with bright-red
ochre, and that this is a wide-spread custom in Australia. A Dyeri, on
being asked why he painted red and white spots on his skin, answered:
"Suppose me no make-im, me tumble down too; that one [the corpse]
growl along-a-me." A further "ornament" of the women on these
occasions consists in two white streaks on the arm to indicate that
they have eaten some of the fat of the dead, according to their
custom. (Smyth, I., 120.) In some districts the mourners paint
themselves white on the death of a blood relation, and black when a
relative by marriage dies. The corpse is often painted red. Red is
used too when boys are initiated into manhood, and with most tribes it
is also the war-color. Hence it is not strange that they should
undertake long journeys to secure fresh supplies of ochre: for war,
mourning, and superstition are three of the strongest motives of
savage activity. African Bushmen anoint the heads of the dead with a
red powder mixed with melted fat. Hottentots, when mourning, shave
their heads in furrows. Damaras wear a dark-colored skin-cap: a piece
of leather round the neck, to which is attached a piece of ostrich
egg-shell. Coast negroes bury the head of a family in his best clothes
and ornaments, and Dahomans do the same[84]. Schweinfurth says that
"according to the custom, which seems to belong to all Africa, as a
sign of grief the Dinka wear a cord round the neck."[85] Mourning New
Zealanders tie a red cloth round the head or wear headdresses of dark
feathers. New Caledonians cut off their hair and blacken and oil their
faces[85]. Hawaiians cut their hair in various forms, knock out a
front tooth, cut the ears and tattoo a spot on the tongue[86]. The
Mineopies use three coloring substances for painting their bodies; and
by the way they apply them they let it be known whether a person is
ill or in mourning, or going to a festival.[87] In California the
Yokaia widows make an unguent with which they smear a white band two
inches wide all around the edge of the hair[88]. Of the Yukon Indians
of Alaska "some wore hoops of birch wood around the neck and waists,
with various patterns of figures cut on them. These were said to be
emblems of mourning for the dead."[89] Among the Snanaimuq "the face
of the deceased is painted with red and black paint... After the death
of husband or wife the survivor must paint his legs and his blanket
red."[90] Numerous other instances may be found in Mallery, who
remarks that "many objective modes of showing mourning by styles of
paint and markings are known, the significance of which are apparent
when discovered in pictographs."[91]


Among the customs which, in Darwin's opinion, show "how widely the
different races of man differ in their taste for the beautiful," is
that of moulding the skull of infants into various unnatural shapes,
in some cases making the head "appear to us idiotic." One would think
that before accepting such a monstrous custom as evidence of any kind
of a sense of beauty, Darwin, and those who expressed the same opinion
before and after him, would have inquired whether there is not some
more rational way of accounting for the admiration of deformed heads
by these races than by assuming that they approved of them for
_esthetic_ reasons. There is no difficulty in finding several
non-esthetic reasons why peculiarly moulded skulls were approved of.
The Nicaraguans, as I have already stated, believed that heads were
moulded in order to make it easier to bear burdens, and the Peruvians
also said they pressed the heads of children to make them healthier
and able to do more work. But vanity--individual or tribal--and
fashion were the principal motives. According to Torquemada, the kings
were the first who had their heads shaped, and afterward permission to
follow their example was granted to others as a special favor. In
their classical work on Peruvian antiquities (31-32) Eivero and
Tschudi describe the skulls they examined., including many varieties
"artificially produced, and differing according to their respective

"These irregularities were undoubtedly produced by
mechanical causes, and were considered as the _distinctive
marks of families_; for in one Huaca [cemetery] will always
be found the same form of crania; while in another, near by,
the forms are entirely different from those in the first."

The custom of flattening the head was practised by various Indian
tribes, especially in the Pacific States, and Bancroft (I., 180) says
that, "all seem to admire a flattened forehead as _a sign of noble
birth_;" and on p. 228, he remarks:

"Failure properly to mould the cranium of her offspring
gives the Chinook matron the reputation of a lazy and
un-dutiful mother, and subjects the neglected children to
the ridicule of their companions; so despotic is fashion."

The Arab races of Africa alter the shapes of their children's heads
because they are jealous of their noble descent. (Bastian, _D.M_.,
II., 229.)

"The genuine Turkish skull," says Tylor _(Anth.,_ 240),

"is of the broad Tatar form, while the natives of Greece and
Asia Minor have oval skulls, which gives the reason why at
Constantinople it became the fashion to mould the babies'
skulls round, so that they grew up with the broad head of
the conquering race. Relics of such barbarism linger on in
the midst of civilization, and not long ago a French
physician surprised the world by the fact that nurses in
Normandy were still giving the children's heads a sugar-loaf
shape by bandages and a tight cap, while in Brittany they
preferred to press it round."

Knocking out some of the teeth, or filing them into certain shapes, is
another widely prevalent custom, for which it is inadmissible to
invoke a monstrous and problematic esthetic taste as long as it can be
accounted for on simpler and less disputable grounds, such as vanity,
the desire for tribal distinction, or superstition. Holub found (II.,
259), that in one of the Makololo tribes it was customary to break out
the top incisor teeth, for the reason that it is "only horses that eat
with all their teeth, and that men ought not to eat like horses." In
other cases it is not contempt for animals but respect for them that
accounts for the knocking out of teeth. Thus Livingstone relates
_(L. Tr_., II., 120), in speaking of a boy from Lomaine, that "the

upper teeth extracted seemed to say that the tribe have cattle. The
knocking out of the teeth is in imitation of the animals they almost
worship." The Batokas also give as their reason for knocking out their
upper front teeth that they wish to be like oxen. Livingstone tells us
_(Zamb.,_ 115), that the Manganja chip their teeth to resemble those
of the cat or crocodile: which suggests totemism, or superstitious
respect for an animal chosen as an emblem of a tribe. That the
Australian custom of knocking out the upper front teeth at puberty is
part of a religious ceremonial, and not the outcome of a desire to
make the boys attractive to the girls, as Westermarck naively assumes
(174, 172), is made certain by the details given in Mallery (1888-89,
513-514), including an excerpt from a manuscript by A.W. Howitt, in
which it is pointed out that the humming instrument kuamas, the
bull-roarer, "has a sacred character with all the Australian tribes;"
and that there are marked on it "two notches, one at each end,
representing the gap left in the upper jaw of the novice after his
teeth have been knocked out during the rites."[92] But perhaps the
commonest motive for altering the teeth is the desire to indicate
tribal connections. "Various tribes," says Tylor _(Anthr._ 240),
"grind their front teeth to points, or cut them away in angular
patterns, so that in Africa and elsewhere a man's tribe is often known
by the cut of his teeth."

Peculiar arrangements of the hair also have misled unwary observers
into fancying that they were made for beauty's sake and to attract the
opposite sex, when in reality they were tribal marks or had other
utilitarian purposes, serving as elements in a language of signs, etc.
Frazer, _e.g._, notes (27) that the turtle clan of the Omaha Indians
cuts off all the hair from a boy's head except six locks which hang
down in imitation of the legs, head, and tail of a turtle; while the
Buffalo clan arranges two locks of hair in imitation of horns. "Nearly
all the Indian tribes," writes Mallery (419), "have peculiarities of
the arrangement of the hair and of some article of apparel or
accoutrement by which they can always be distinguished." Heriot
relates (294) that among the Indians

"the fashion of trimming the hair varies in a great degree,
and an enemy may by this means be discovered at a
considerable distance." "The Pueblos generally, when
accurate and particular in delineation [pictographs],
designate the women of that tribe by a huge coil of hair
over either ear. This custom prevails also among the
Coyotero Apaches, the woman wearing the hair in coil to
denote a virgin or an unmarried person, while the coil is
absent in the case of a married woman."

By the Mokis, maidenhood is indicated by wearing the hair as a disk on
each side of the head. (Mallery, 231-32.) Similar usages on other
continents might be cited.

Besides these arbitrary modifications of the skull and the teeth, and
the divers arrangements of the hair, there are various other ways in
which the lower races indicate tribal connection, rank, or other
conditions. Writing about negroes Burton says _(Abeok.,_ I., 106),
that lines, welts, and all sorts of skin patterns are used, partly for
superstitious reasons, partly to mark the different tribes and
families. "A volume would not suffice to explain all the marks in
detail." Of the Dahomans, Forbes says (I., 28), "that _according to
rank and wealth_ anklets and armlets of all metals, and necklaces of
glass, coral, and Popae beads, are worn by both sexes." Livingstone
relates _(Mis. Trav_., 276) that the copper rings worn on their ankles
by the chiefs of Londa were so large and heavy that they seriously
inconvenienced them in walking. That this custom was entirely an
outcome of vanity and emulation, and not a manifestation of the
esthetic sense, is made clear by the further observations of
Livingstone. Men who could not afford so many of these copper rings
would still, he found, strut along as if they had them. "That is the
way," he was informed, "in which they show off their lordship in these
parts." Among the Mojave Indians "nose-jewels designate a man of
wealth and rank," and elaborate headdresses of feathers are the
insignia of the chiefs[93]. Champlain says that among the Iroquois
those who wore three large plumes were chiefs. In Thurn says (305)
that each of the Guiana tribes makes its feather head-dresses of
special colors; and Martins has the following regarding the Brazilian
Indians: "Commonly all the members of a tribe, or a horde, or a
family, agree to wear certain ornaments or signs as characteristic
marks." Among these are various ornaments of feathers on the head,
pieces of wood, stones, or shells, in the ears, the nose, and lips,
and especially tattoo marks.


Thus we see that an immense number of mutilations of the body and
alleged "decorations" of it are not intended by these races as things
of beauty, but have special meanings or uses in connection with
protection, war, superstition, mourning, or the desire to mark
distinctions between the tribes, or degrees of rank within one tribe
or horde. Usually the "ornamentations" are prescribed for all members
of a tribe of the same sex, and their acceptance is rigidly enforced.
At the same time there is scope for variety in the form of deviations
or exaggerations, and these are resorted to by ambitious individuals
to attract attention to their important selves, and thus to gratify
vanity, which, in the realm of fashion, is a thing entirely apart
from--and usually antagonistic to--the sense of beauty[94]. At
Australian dances various colors are used with the object of
attracting attention. Especially fantastic are their "decorations" at
the corroborees, when the bodies of the men are painted with white
streaks that make them look like skeletons. Bulmer believed that their
object was to "make themselves as terrible as possible to the
beholders and not beautiful or attractive," while Grosse thinks (65)
that as these dances usually take place by moonlight, the object of
the stripes is to make the dancers more conspicuous--two explanations
which are not inconsistent with each other.

Fry relates[95] that the Khonds adorn their hair till they may be seen
"intoxicated with vanity on its due decoration." Hearne (306) saw
Indians who had a single lock of hair that "when let down would trail
on the ground as they walked." Anderson expresses himself with
scientific precision when he writes (136) that in Fiji the men "who
like to _attract the attention_ of the opposite sex, don their best
plumage." The attention may be attracted by anything that is
conspicuous, entirely apart from the question whether it be regarded
as a thing of beauty or not. Bourne makes the very suggestive
statement (69-70) that in Patagonia the beautiful plumage of the
ostrich was not appreciated, but allowed to blow all over the country,
while the natives adorned themselves with beads and cheap brass and
copper trinkets. We may therefore assume that in those cases where
feathers are used for "adornment" it is not because their beauty is
appreciated but because custom has given them a special significance.
In many cases they indicate that the wearer is a person of rank--chief
or medicine man--as we saw in the preceding pages. We also saw that
special marks in feathers among Dakotas indicated that the wearer had
taken a human life, which, more than anything else, excites the
admiration of savage women; so that what fascinates them in such a
case is not the feather itself but the deed it stands for.
Panlitzschke informs us (_E.N.O.Afr.,_ chap. ii.), that among the
African Somali and Gallas every man who had killed someone, boastfully
wore an ostrich feather on his head to call attention to his deed. The
Danakil wore these feathers for the same purpose, adding ivory rods in
their ear-lobes and fastening a bunch of white horsehair to their
shield. A strip of red silk round the forehead served the same
purpose. Lumholtz, describing a festival dance in Australia (237),
says that some of the men hold in their mouths tufts of talegalla
feathers "for the purpose of giving themselves a savage look." By some
Australians bunches of hawk's or eagle's feathers are worn "either
when fighting or dancing, and also used as a fan" (Brough Smyth, I.,
281-282), which suggests the thought that the fantastic head-dresses
of feathers, etc., often seen in warm countries, may be worn as
protection against the sun[96].

I doubt, too, whether the lower races are able to appreciate flowers
esthetically as we do, apart from their fragrance, which endears them
to some barbarians of the higher grades. Concerning Australian women
we find it recorded by Brough Smyth (I., 270) that they seem to have
no love of flowers, and do not use them to adorn their persons. A New
Zealander explained his indifference to flowers by declaring that they
were "not good to eat."[97] Other Polynesians were much given to
wearing flowers on the head and body; but whether this was for
_esthetic_ reasons seems to me doubtful on account of the revelations
made by various missionaries and others. In Ellis, _e.g._ (_P.R._, I.,
114), we read that in Tahiti the use of flowers in the hair, and
fragrant oil, has been in a great degree discontinued, "partly from
the connection of these ornaments with the evil practices to which
they were formerly addicted."


So far tattooing has been mentioned only incidentally; but as it is
one of the most widely prevalent methods of primitive personal
"decoration" a few pages must be devoted to it in order to ascertain
whether it is true that it is one of those ornamentations which, as
Darwin would have us believe, help to determine the marriages of
mankind, or, as Westermarck puts it, "men and women began to... tattoo
themselves chiefly in order to make themselves attractive to the
opposite sex--that they might court successfully, or be courted." We
shall find that, on the contrary, tattooing has had from the earliest
recorded times more than a dozen practical purposes, and that its use
as a stimulant of the passion of the opposite sex probably never
occurred to a savage until it was suggested to him by a philosophizing

Twenty-four centuries ago Herodotus not only noted that the Thracians
had punctures on their skins, but indicated the reason for them: they
are, he said, "a mark of nobility: to be without them is a testimony
of mean descent."[98] This use of skin disfigurements prevails among
the lower races to the present day, and it is only one of many
utilitarian and non-esthetic functions subserved by them. In his
beautifully illustrated volume on Maori tattooing, Major-General
Robley writes:

"Native tradition has it that their first settlers used to
mark their faces for battle with charcoal, and that the
lines on the face thus made were the beginnings of the
tattoo. To save the trouble of this constantly painting
their warlike decorations on the face, the lines were made
permanent. Hence arose the practice of carving the face and
the body with dyed incisions. The Rev. Mr. Taylor ...
assumes that the chiefs being of a lighter race, and having
to fight side by side with slaves of darker hues, darkened
their faces in order to appear of the same race."


When Captain Cook visited New Zealand (1769) he was much interested in
the tattooing of the Maoris, and noted that each tribe seemed to have
a different custom in regard to it; thus calling attention to one of
its main functions as a means to distinguish the tribes from each
other. He described the different patterns on divers parts of the body
used by various tribes, and made the further important observation
that "by adding to the tattooing they grow old and honorable at the
same time." The old French navigator d'Urville found in the Maori
tattooing an analogy to European heraldry, with this difference: that
whereas the coat-of-arms attests the merits of ancestors, the Maori
moko illustrates the merits of the persons decorated with it. It makes
them, as Robley wittily says, "men of mark." One chief explained that
a certain mark just over his nose was his name; it served the purposes
of a seal in signing documents. It has been suggested that the body of
a warrior may have been tattooed for the sake of identification in
case the head was separated from it; for the Maoris carried on a
regular trade in heads. Rutherford, who was held for a long time as a
captive, said that only the great ones of the tribe were allowed to
decorate the forehead, upper lip, and chin. Naturally such marks were
"a source of pride" (a sign of rank), and "the chiefs were very
pleased to show the tattooing on their bodies." To have an untattooed
face was to be "a poor nobody." Ellis (_P.R._, III., 263) puts the
matter graphically by saying the New Zealander's tattooing answers the
purpose of the particular stripe or color of the Highlander's plaid,
marking the clan or tribe to which they belong, and is also said to be
employed as "a means of enabling them to distinguish their enemies in

In his great work on Borneo (II., 83), Roth cites Brooke Low, who said
that tattooing was a custom of recent introduction: "I have seen a few
women with small patterns on their breasts, but they were the
exception to the rule and were not regarded with favor." Burns says
that the Kayan men do not tattoo, but

"many of the higher classes have small figures of stars,
beasts, or birds on various parts of their body, chiefly the
arms, distinctive of rank. The highest mark is that of
having the back of the hands colored or tattooed, which is
only conferred on the brave in battle."

St. John says that "a man is supposed to tattoo one finger only, if he
has been present when an enemy has been killed, but tattoos hand and
fingers if he has taken an enemy's head." Among the Ida'an a man makes
a mark on his arm for each enemy slain. One man was seen with
thirty-seven such stripes on the arm. A successful head-hunter is also
allowed to "decorate" his ears with the canine teeth of a Bornean
leopard. "In some cases tatu marks appear to be used as a means of
communicating a fact," writes Roth (II., 291). Among the Kayan it
indicates rank. Slaughter of an enemy, or mere murder of a slave, are
other reasons for tattooing. "A Murut, having run away from the enemy,
was tatued on his back. So that we may justly conclude that tatuing
among the natives of Borneo is one method of writing." Among the Dusun
the men that took heads generally had a tattoo mark for each one on
the arm, and were looked upon as very brave, though their victim might
have been only a woman or a child (159).

In the fifth volume of Waitz-Gerland's _Anthropologie_ (Pt. II.,
64-67), a number of authors are cited testifying that in the
Micronesian Archipelago the natives of each island had special kinds
of tattoo marks on different parts of the body, to distinguish them
from others. These marks were named after the islands. The
Micronesians themselves attached also a religious significance to
these marks. The natives of Tobi believed that their island would be
destroyed if the English visitors who came among them were not at once
tattooed. Only those completely marked could enter the temple. The men
were more tattooed than the women, who were regarded as inferiors.

In the sixth volume of Waitz-Gerland (30-40) is gathered a large mass
of evidence, all of which shows that on the Polynesian islands, too,
tattooing was indulged in, not for aesthetic and amorous but for
religious and practical reasons. In Tonga it was a mark of rank, not
permitted to common people or to slaves. Not to be tattooed was
considered improper. In the Marquesas the older and more distinguished
a man, the more he was tattooed. Married women were distinguished by
having marks on the right hand and left foot. In some cases tattoo
marks were used as signs to call to mind certain battles or festivals.
A woman in Ponape had marks for all her successive husbands made on
her arm--everything and anything, in fact, except the purpose of
decorating for the sake of attracting the other sex. Gerland (33-40)
makes out a very strong case for the religions origin of tattooing,
which he aptly compares to our confirmation.

In Samoa the principal motive of tattooing seems to have been
licentiousness. It was prohibited by the chiefs on account of the
obscene practices always connected with it, and there is a legend of
the incestuous designs of two divine brothers on their sister which
was successful.

"Tattooing thus originated among the gods and was first
practised by the children of Taaroa, their principal deity.
In imitation of their example, and for the accomplishment of
the same purpose, it was practised among men." (Ellis,
_P.R._, I., 262.)


On the American continent we find tattooing practised from north to
south, from east to west, for the most diverse reasons, among which
the desire to facilitate courtship is never even hinted at. The
Eskimos, about the age of puberty, apply paint and tattooing to their
faces, cut holes and insert plugs or labrets. The object of these
disfigurements is indicated by Bancroft (I., 48): "Different tribes,
and different ranks of the same tribe, have each their peculiar form
of tattooing." Moreover, "these operations are supposed to possess
some significance other than that of mere ornament. Upon the occasion
of piercing the lip, for instance, a religious feast is given." John
Murdoch relates (Mallery, 396) that the wife of an Eskimo chief had "a
little mark tattooed in each corner of her mouth, which she said were
'whale marks,' indicating that she was the wife of a successful
whaleman." Of the Kadiaks Bancroft says (72): "The more the female
chin is riddled with holes, the greater the respectability." Among the
Chippewayan Indians Mackenzie found (85) that both sexes had "blue or
black bars, or from one to four straight lines, on their cheeks or
foreheads to distinguish the tribe to which they belong." Swan writes
(Mallery, 1882-83, 67) that

"the tattoo marks of the Haidas are heraldic designs or the
family totem, or crests of the wearers, and are similar to
the carvings depicted in the pillars and monuments around
the homes of the chiefs."

A Haida Indian remarked to Swan (69): "If you were tattooed with the
design of a swan, the Indians would know your family name." It is at
festivals and masquerade performances, says the same writer, that "the
tatoo marks show with the best effect, and the rank and family
connection [are] known by the variety of design," Lafitan reports
(II., 43) regarding the Iroquois and Algonquins that the designs which
they have tattooed on their faces and bodies are employed as
hieroglyphics, writing, and records, to indicate victories, etc. The
designs tattooed on an Indian's face or body distinguish him, he adds,
as we do a family by its armorial bearings.

"In James's Long it is reported that the Omahas are often
neatly tattooed.... The daughters of chiefs and those of
wealthy Indians generally are denoted by a small round spot
tattooed on the forehead."

(Mallery, 1888-89, 395.) Bossu says regarding the practice of
tattooing by the Osages (in 1756): "It is a kind of knighthood to
which they are only entitled by great actions." Blue marks tattooed
upon the chin of a Mojave woman indicate that she is married. The
Serrano Indians near Los Angeles had, as late as 1843, a custom of
having special tattoo marks on themselves which were also made on
trees to indicate the corner boundaries of patches of land. (Mallery,
1882-83, 64, 182.) In his book on the California Indians, Powers
declares (109) that in the Mattoal tribe the men tattoo themselves; in
the others the women alone tattoo. The theory that the women are thus
marked in order that the men may be able to recognize them and redeem
them from captivity seems plausible for the reasons that these Indians
are rent into a great number of divisions and that "the squaws almost
never attempt any ornamental tattooing, but adhere closely to the
plain regulation mark of the tribe." The Hupa Indians have discovered
another practical use for body-marks. Nearly every man has ten lines
tattooed across the inside of his left arm, and these lines serve as a
measurement of shell-money.

The same non-esthetic motives for tattooing prevail in South and
Central America. In Agassiz's book on Brazil we read (318) concerning
the Mundurucu Indians:

"Major Coutinho tells us that the tattooing _has nothing to
do with individual taste_, but that the pattern is appointed
for both sexes, and is _invariable throughout the tribe_. It
is connected with their caste, the limits of which are very
precise, and with their religion."

The tattooing "is also an indication of aristocracy; a man who
neglected this distinction would not be respected in his tribe."
Concerning the Indians of Guiana we read in Im Thurn (195-96) that
they have small distinctive tribal marks tattooed at the corners of
the mouth or on the arms. Nearly all have "indelibly excised lines"
which are

"scars originally made for _surgical_, not ornamental
purposes." "Some women specially affect certain little
figures, like Chinese characters, which looks as if some
meaning were attached to them, but which the Indians are
either unable or unwilling to explain."

In Nicaragua, as Squire informs us (III., 341), the natives tattooed
themselves to designate by special marks the tribes to which they
belonged; and as regards Yucatan, Landa writes (Sec. XXI.) that as
tattooing was accompanied by much pain, they thought themselves the
more gallant and strong the more they indulged in it; and that those
who omitted it were sneered at--which gives us still another motive
for tattooing--the fear of being despised and ridiculed for not being
in fashion.


Many more similar details might be given regarding the races of
various parts of the world, but the limits of space forbid. But I
cannot resist the temptation to add a citation from Professor
Chamberlain's article on tattooing in his _Things Japanese_, because
it admirably illustrates the diversity of the motives that led to the
practice. A Chinese trader, "early in the Christian era," Chamberlain
tells us, "wrote that the men all tattoo their faces and ornament
their bodies with designs, differences of rank being indicated by the
position and size of the patterns." "But from the dawn of regular
history," Chamberlain adds,

"far down into the middle ages, tattooing seems to have been
confined to criminals. It was used as branding was formerly
in Europe, whence probably the contempt still felt for
tattooing by the Japanese upper classes. From condemned
desperadoes to bravoes at large is but a step. The
swashbucklers of feudal times took to tattooing, apparently
because some blood and thunder scene of adventure, engraven
on their chest and limbs, helped to give them a terrific air
when stripped for any reason of their clothes. Other classes
whose avocations led them to baring their bodies in public
followed--the carpenters, for instance, and running grooms;
and the tradition remained of ornamenting almost the entire
body and limbs with a hunting, theatrical, or other showy

Shortly after 1808 "the government made tattooing a penal offence."

It will be noticed that in this account the fantastic notion that the
custom was ever indulged in for the purpose of beautifying the body in
order to attract the other sex is, as in all the other citations I
have made, not even hinted at. The same is true in the summary made by
Mallery of the seventeen purposes of tattooing he found. No. 13 is,
indeed, "to charm the other sex;" but it is "magically," which is a
very different thing from esthetically. I append the summary (418):

"1, to distinguish between free and slave, without reference
to the tribe of the latter; 2, to distinguish between a high
and low status in the same tribe; 3, as a certificate of
bravery exhibited by supporting the ordeal of pain; 4, as
marks of personal prowess, particularly; 5, as a record of
achievements in war; 6, to show religious symbols; 7, as a
therapeutic remedy for disease; 8, as a prophylactic against
disease; 9, as a brand of disgrace; 10, as a token of a
woman's marriage, or, sometimes, 11, of her marriageable
condition; 12, identification of the person, not as a
tribesman, but as an individual; 13, to charm the other sex
magically; 14, to inspire fear in the enemy; 15, to
magically render the skin impenetrable to weakness; 16, to
bring good fortune, and, 17, as the device of a secret


Dark races, like the Africans and Australians, do not practise
tattooing, because the marks would not show conspicuously on their
black skins. They therefore resort to the process of raising scars by
cutting the skin with flint or a shell and then rubbing in earth, or
the juice of certain plants, etc. The result is a permanent scar, and
these scars are arranged by the different tribes in different
patterns, on divers parts of the body. In Queensland the lines,
according to Lumholtz (177),

"always denote a certain order of rank, and here it depends
upon age. Boys under a certain age are not decorated; but in
time they receive a few cross-stripes upon their chests and
stomachs. The number of stripes is gradually increased, and
when the subjects have grown up, a half-moon-shaped line is
cut around each nipple."

The necessity for such distinctive marks on the body is particularly
great among the Australians, because they are subdivided in the most
complicated ways and have an elaborate code of sexual permissions and
prohibitions. Therefore, as Frazer suggests (38),

"a chief object of these initiation ceremonies was to teach
the youths with whom they might or might not have
connection, and to put them in possession of a visible
language, ... by means of which they might be able to
communicate their totems to, and to ascertain the totems of,
strangers whose language they did not understand."

In Africa, too, as we have seen, the scars are used as tribal names,
and for other practical purposes. Holub (7) found that the Koranna of
Central South Africa has three cuts on the chest. They confessed to
him that they indicated a kind of free-masonry, insuring their being
well received by Koranna everywhere. On the Congo, scarifications are
made on the back for therapeutic reasons, and on the face as tribal
marks. (Mallery, 417; H. Ward, 136.) Bechuana priests make long scars
on a warrior's thigh to indicate that he has slain an enemy in battle.
(Lichtenstein, II., 331.) According to d'Albertis the people of New
Guinea use some scars as a sign that they have travelled (I., 213).
And so on, _ad infinitum_.


In face of this imposing array of facts revealing the non-esthetic
character of primitive personal "decorations," what have the advocates
of the sexual selection theory to say? Taking Westermarck as their
most erudite and persuasive spokesman, we find him placing his
reliance on four things: (1) the practical ignoring of the vast
multitude of facts contradicting his theory; (2) the alleged testimony
of a few savages; (3) the testimony of some of their visitors; (4) the
alleged fact that "the desire for self-decoration is strongest at the
beginning of the age of puberty," the customs of ornamenting,
mutilating, painting, and tattooing being "practised most zealously at
that period of life." Concerning (1) nothing more need be said, as the
large number of decisive facts I have collected exposes and
neutralizes that stratagem. The other three arguments must be briefly

A native of Lukunor being asked by Mertens what was the meaning of
tattooing, answered: "It has the same object as your clothes; that is,
to please the women," In reply to the question why he wore his
ornaments, an Australian answered Bulmer: "In order to look well and
make himself agreeable to the women," (Brough Smyth, I., 275.) To one
who has studied savages not only anthropologically but
psychologically, these stories have an obvious cock-and-bull aspect. A
native of the Caroline Islands would have been as incapable of
originating that philosophical comparison between the object of our
clothes and of his tattooing as he would have been of writing
Carlyle's _Sartor Resartus_. Human beings in his stage of evolution
never consciously reflect on the reasons of things, and considerations
of comparative psychology or esthetics are as much beyond his mental
powers as problems in algebra or trigonometry. That such a sailor's
yarn could be accepted seriously in an anthropologic treatise shows
that anthropology is still in its cradle. The same is true of that
Australian's alleged answer. The Australian is unequal to the mental
effort of counting up to ten, and, like other savages, is easily
fatigued by the simplest questions[99]. It is quite likely that Bulmer
asked that native whether he ornamented himself "in order to look well
and make himself agreeable to the women," and that the native answered
"yes" merely to gratify him or to get rid of the troublesome question.

The books of missionaries are full of such cases, and no end of
confusion has been created in science by such false "facts." The
answer given by that native is, moreover, utterly opposed to all the
well-attested details I have given in the preceding pages regarding
the real motives of Australians in "decorating" themselves; and to
those facts I may now add this crushing testimony from Brough Smyth
(_I.,_ 270):

"The proper arrangement of their apparel, the ornamentation
of their persons by painting, and attention to deportment,
were important only when death struck down a warrior, when
war was made, and when they assembled for a corroboree. In
ordinary life little attention was given to the ornamenting
of the person."


"The Australians throughout the continent scar their persons, as Mr.
Curr assures us, only as a means of decoration," writes Westermarck
(169), and in the pages preceding and following he cites other
evidence of the same sort, such as Carver's assertion that the
Naudowessies paint their faces red and black, "which they esteem as
greatly ornamental;" Tuckey's assumption that the natives of the Congo
file their teeth and raise scars on the skin for purposes of ornament
and principally "with the idea of rendering themselves agreeable to
the women;" Kiedel's assertion, that in the Tenimber group the lads
decorate their locks with leaves, flowers, and feathers, "only in
order to please the women;" Taylor's statement that in New Zealand it
was the great ambition of the young to have fine tattooed faces, "both
to render themselves attractive to the ladies, and conspicuous in
war," etc.

Beginning with Curr, it must be conceded that he is one of the leading
authorities on Australia, the author of a four-volume treatise on that
country and its natives. Yet his testimony on the point in question
happens to be as worthless as that of the most hasty globe-trotter,
partly because he had evidently paid little attention to it, and
partly also, I fancy, because of the fatal tendency of men of science
to blunder as soon as they touch the domain of esthetics. What he
really wrote (II., 275) is that Chatfield had informed him that scars
were made by the natives on the right thigh "for the purpose of
denoting the particular class to which they belong." This Curr doubts,
"without further evidence," because it would conflict with the custom
prevalent throughout the continent, "as far as known, which is to make
these marks for ornament only." Now this is a pure assumption of
Curr's, based on a preconceived notion, and contradicted by the
specific evidence of a number of explorers who, as even Grosse is
obliged to admit (75), "unanimously account for a part at least of the
scars as tribal marks."[100]

If so eminent an authority as Curr can err so grievously, it is
obvious that the testimony of other writers and casual observers must
be accepted with extreme caution. Europeans and Americans are so
accustomed to regard personal decorations as attempts to beautify the
appearance that when they see them in savages there is a natural
disposition to attribute them to the same motive. They do not realize
that they are dealing with a most subtle psychological question. The
chief source of confusion lies in their failure to distinguish between
what is admired as a thing of beauty as such and what pleases them for
other reasons. As Professor Sully has pointed out in his _Handbook of
Psychology_ (337):

"At the beginning of life there is no clear separation of
what is beautiful from what is simply pleasing to the
individual. As in the history of the race, so in that of the
individual, the sense of beauty slowly extricates itself
from pleasurable consciousness in general, and
differentiates itself from the sense of what _is personally
useful and agreeable_."

Bearing in mind this very important distinction between what is
beautiful and what is merely pleasing because of its being useful and
agreeable, we see at once that the words "decorative," "ornamental,"
"attractive," "handsome," etc., are constantly used by writers on this
subject in a misleading and question-begging way. We can hardly blame
a man like Barrington for writing (11) that among the natives of
Botany Bay "scars are, by both sexes, deemed highly ornamental"; but a
scientific author who quotes such a sentence ought to be aware that
the evidence did not justify Barrington in using any word but
_pleasing_ in place of "ornamental," because the latter implies and
takes for granted the esthetic sense, the existence of which is the
very thing to be proved. This remark applies generally to the evidence
of this kind which Westermarck has so industriously collected, and
which, on account of this undiscriminating, question-begging
character, is entirely worthless. In all these cases the fact is
overlooked that the "decorations" of one sex may be agreeable to the
other for reasons that have nothing to do with the sense of beauty.

Briefly summed up, Westermarck's theory is that in painting,
tattooing, and otherwise decorating his person, primitive man's
original and conscious object was to beautify himself for the sake of
gaining an advantage in courtship; whereas my theory is that all these
decorations originally subserved useful purposes alone, and that even
where they subsequently may have served in some instances as means to
please the women, this was not as things of beauty but indirectly and
unintentionally through their association with rank, wealth,
distinction in war, prowess, and manly qualities in general. When
Dobrizhoffer says (II., 12) that the Abipones, "more ambitious to
be dreaded by their enemies than to be loved, to terrify than attract
beholders, think the more they are scarred and sunburnt, the
_handsomer_ they are," he illustrates glaringly the slovenly and
question-begging use of terms to which I have just referred; for, as
his own reference to being loved and to attracting beholders shows, he
does not use the word "handsome" in an esthetic sense, but as a
synonyme for what is pleasing or worthy of approval on other grounds.
If the scars of these Indians do please the women it is not because
they are considered beautiful, but because they are tokens of martial
prowess. To a savage woman nothing is so useful as manly valor, and
therefore nothing so agreeable as the signs of it. In that respect the
average woman's nature has not changed. The German high-school girl
admires the scars in the face of a "corps-student," not, certainly,
because she considers them beautiful, but because they stand for a
daredevil, masculine spirit which pleases her.

When the Rev. R. Taylor wrote (321) that among the New Zealanders "to
have fine tattooed faces was the great ambition of the young, both to
render themselves attractive to the ladies and conspicuous in war," he
would have shown himself a better philosopher if he had written that
by making themselves conspicuous in war with their tattooing they also
make themselves attractive to the "ladies." That the sense of beauty
is not concerned here becomes obvious when we include Robley's
testimony (28, 15) that a Maori chief's great object was to excite
fear among enemies, for which purpose in the older days he "rendered
his countenance as terrible as possible with charcoal and red ochre";
while in more recent times,

"not only to become more terrible in war, when fighting was
carried on at close quarters, but to appear more
distinguished and attractive to the opposite sex, must
certainly be included"

among the objects of tattooing. It is hardly necessary to point out
that if we accept the sexual selection theory this expert testimony
lands us in insuperable difficulty; for it is clearly impossible that
on the same island, and in the same race, the painting and tattooing
of the face should have the effect of terrifying the men and of
appearing beautiful to the women. But if we discard the beauty
theory and follow my suggestion, we have no difficulty whatever. Then
we may grant that the facial daubs or skin mutilations may seem
terrible or hideous to an enemy and yet please the women, because the
women do not regard them as things of beauty, but as distinguishing
marks of valiant warriors.

By way of illustrating his maxim that "in every country, in every
race, beauty stimulates passion," Westermarck cites (257) part of a
sentence by Lumholtz (213) to the effect that Australian women take
much notice of a man's face, particularly of the part about the eyes.
He does not cite the rest of the sentence--"and they like to see a
frank and open, _or perhaps, more correctly, a wild expression of
countenance,_" which makes it clear to the reader that what stimulates
the passion of these women is not the lines of beauty in the
[never-washed] faces of these men, but the unbeautiful aspect peculiar
to a wild hunter, ferocious warrior, and intrepid defender of his
home. Their admiration, in other words, is not esthetic, but
instinctively utilitarian.


We come now to the principal argument of Westermarck--the alleged fact
that in all parts of the world the desire for self-decoration is
strongest at the beginning of the age of puberty, the customs of
ornamenting, painting, mutilating, and tattooing the person being
practised most zealously at that period. This argument is as futile as
the others, for several reasons. In the first place, it is not true
that in all parts of the world self-decoration is practised most
zealously at that period. More frequently, perhaps, it is begun some
years earlier, before any idea of courtship can have entered the heads
of these children. The Congo cannibals begin the process of scarring
the face at the age of four.[101] Dyak girls are tattooed at
five.[102] The Botocudos begin the mutilating of children's lips at
the age of seven.[103] Eskimo girls are tattooed in their eighth
year,[104] and on the Andaman Islands few children are allowed to pass
their eighth year without scarification.[105] The Damaras chip the
teeth with a flint "when the children are young."[106] The female
Oraons are "all tattooed in childhood."[107] The Tahitians began
tattooing at eight.[108] The Chukchis of Siberia tattoo girls at
nine;[109] and so on in various parts of the world. In the second
place, of the divers personal "decorations" indulged in by the lower
races it is only those that are intended to be of a permanent
character (tattooing, scarring, mutilating) that are made chiefly,
though by no means exclusively[110] about or before the age of

All the other methods of "decorating" described in the preceding pages
as being connected with the rites of war, superstition, mourning,
etc., are practised throughout life; and that they constitute by far
the greater proportion of "ornamentations" is evidenced by the
citation I have already made, from Brough Smyth, that the
ornamentation of their persons was considered important by Australians
only in connection with such ceremonies, and that "in ordinary life
little attention was given to the ornamenting of the person"; to which
much similar testimony might be added regarding other races; such as
Kane's (184), regarding the Chinooks: "Painting the face is not much
practised among them, except on extraordinary occasions, such as the
death of a relative, some solemn feast, or going on a war-party;" or
Morgan's (263), that the feather and war dances were "the chief
occasions" when the Iroquois warrior "was desirous to appear in his
best attire," etc.

Again, even if it were true that "the desire for self-decoration is
strongest at the beginning of the age of puberty," it does not by any
means follow that this must be due to the desire to make one's self
attractive to the opposite sex. Whatever their desire may be, the
children have no choice in the matter. As Curr remarks regarding
Australians (11., 51),

"The male must commonly submit, _without hope of escape_, to
have one or more of his teeth knocked out, to have the
septum of his nose pierced, to have certain painful cuttings
made in his skin, ...before he is allowed the rights of

There are, however, plenty of reasons why he should desire to be
initiated. What Turner writes regarding the Samoans has a general

"Until a young man was tattooed, he was considered in his
minority. He could not think of marriage, and he was
constantly exposed to taunts and ridicule, as being poor and
of low birth, and as having no right to speak in the society
of men. But as soon as he was tattooed he passed into his
majority, and considered himself entitled to the respect and
privileges of mature years. When a youth, therefore, reached
the age of sixteen, he and his friends were all anxiety that
he should be tattooed."[111]

No one can read the accounts of the initiatory ceremonies of
Australian and Indian boys (convenient summaries of which may be found
in the sixth volume of Waitz-Gerland and in Southey's _Brazil_ III.,
387-88) without becoming convinced that with them, as with the
Samoans, etc., there was no thought of women or courtship. Indeed the
very idea of such a thing involves an absurdity, for, since all the
boys in each tribe were tattooed alike, what advantage could their
marks have secured them? If all men were equally rich, would any woman
ever marry for money? Westermarck accepts (174) seriously the
assertion of one writer that the reason why Australians knock out some
of the teeth of the boys at puberty is because they know "that
otherwise they would run the risk of being refused on account of
ugliness." Now, apart from the childish supposition that Australian
women could allow their amorous inclinations to depend on the presence
or absence of two front teeth, this assertion involves the assumption
that these females can exercise the liberty of choice in the selection
of a mate--an assumption which is contrary to the truth, since all the
authorities on Australia agree on at least one point, which is that
women have absolutely no choice in the selection of a husband, but
have to submit in all cases to the dispositions made by their male
relatives. These Australian women, moreover, perversely act in a
manner utterly inconsistent with the theory of sexual selection. Since
they do not choose, but are chosen, one would naturally expect, in
accordance with that theory, that they would decorate themselves in
order to "stimulate the passion" of the _desirable_ men; but they do
no such thing.

While the men are apt to dress their hair carefully, the women "let
their black locks grow as irregular and tangled as do the Fuegians"
(Grosse, 87); and Buhner says they "did little to improve their
appearance;" while such ornaments as they had "were not much regarded
by the men." (Brough Smyth, I, 275.)[112]


One of the most important reasons why young savages approaching
puberty are eager to receive their "decorations" remains to be
considered. Tattooing, scarring, and mutilating are usually very
painful processes. Now, as all who are familiar with the life of
savages know, there is nothing they admire so much as courage in
enduring torture of any kind. By showing fortitude in bearing the pain
connected with tattooing, etc., these young folks are thus able to win
admiration, gratify their vanity, and show that they are worthy to be
received in the ranks of adults. The Sea Dyaks are proud of their
scars, writes Brooke Low.

"The women often prove the courage and endurance of the
youngsters by placing a lighted ball of tinder in the arm
and letting it burn into the skin. The marks ... are much
valued by the young men as so many proofs of their power of

(Roth, II., 80.) Here we have an illustration which explains in the
most simple way why scars _please_ both the men and the women, without
making necessary the grotesque assumption that either sex admires them
as things of beauty. To take another case, equally eloquent: Bossu
says of the Osage Indians that they suffer the pain of tattooing with
pleasure in order to pass for men of courage. If one of them should
have himself marked without having previously distinguished himself in
battle, he would be degraded and looked upon as a coward, unworthy of
such an honor. (Mallery, 1889-90, 394.)

Grosse is inclined to think (78) that it is in the male only that
courage is expected and admired, but he is mistaken, as we may see,
_e.g._, in the account given by Dobrizhoffer (II., 21) of the
tattooing customs of the Abipones, whom he studied so carefully. The
women, he says,

"have their face, breast, and arms covered with black
figures of various shapes, so that they present the
appearance of a Turkish carpet." "This savage ornament is
purchased with blood and many groans."

The thorns used to puncture the skin are poisonous, and after the
operation the girl has her eyes, cheeks, and lips so horribly swelled
that she "looks like a Stygian fury." If she groans while undergoing
the torture, or shows signs of pain in her face, the old woman who
operates on her exclaims, in a rage: "You will die single, be assured.
Which of our heroes would think _so cowardly a girl_ worthy to be his
wife?" Such courage, Dobrizhoffer explains further, is admired in a
girl because it makes her "prepared to bear the pains of parturition
in time." In some cases vanity supplies an additional motive why the
girls should submit to the painful operation with fortitude; for those
of them who "are most pricked and painted you may know to be of high

Here again we see clearly that the tattooing is admired for other than
esthetic reasons, and we realize how foolish it is to philosophize
about the peculiar "taste" of these Indians in admiring a girl who
looks like "a Turkish carpet" or "a Stygian fury." If they had even
the rudiments of a sense of beauty they would not indulge in such
disgusting disfigurements.


Grosse declares (80) that "we know definitely at least, that tattooing
is regarded by the Eskimo as an embellishment." He bases this
inference on Cranz's assertion that Eskimo mothers tattoo their
daughters in early youth "for fear that otherwise they would not get a
husband." Had Grosse allowed his imagination to paint a particular
instance, he would have seen how grotesque his inference is. A
favorite way among the Eskimo of securing a bride is, we are told, to
drag her from her tent by the hair. This young woman, moreover, has
never washed her face, nor does any man object to her filth. Yet we
are asked to believe that an Eskimo could be so enamoured of the
_beauty_ of a few simple lines tattooed on a girl's dirty face that he
would refuse to marry her unless she had them! Like other champions of
the sexual selection theory, Grosse searches in the clouds for a
comically impossible motive when the real reason lies right before his
eyes. That reason is fashion. The tattoo marks are tribal signs
(Bancroft, I., 48) which _every_ girl _must_ submit to have in
obedience to inexorable custom, unless she is prepared to be an object
of scorn and ridicule all her life.

The tyranny of fashion in prescribing disfigurements and mutilations
is not confined to savages. The most amazing illustration of it is to
be found in China, where the girls of the upper classes are obliged to
this day to submit to the most agonizing process of crippling their
feet, which finally, as Professor Flower remarks in his book on
_Fashion and Deformity_, assume "the appearance of the hoof of some
animal rather than a human foot." There is a popular delusion that the
Chinese approve of such deformed small feet because they consider them
beautiful--a delusion which Westermarck shares (200). Since the
Chinese consider small feet "the chief charm of women," it might be
supposed, he says, that the women would at least have the pleasure of
fascinating men by a "beauty" to acquire which they have to undergo
such horrible torture;

"but Dr. Strieker assures us that in China a woman is
considered immodest if she shows her artificially distorted
feet to a man. It is even improper to speak of a woman's
foot, and in decent pictures this part is always concealed
under the dress."

To explain this apparent anomaly Westermarck assumes that the object
of the concealment "is to excite through the unknown!" To such
fantastic nonsense does the doctrine of sexual selection lead. In
reality there is no reason for supposing that the Chinese consider
crippled feet--looking like "the hoof of an animal"--beautiful any
more than mutilations of other parts of the body. In all probability
the origin of the custom of crippling women's feet must be traced to
the jealousy of the men, who devised this procedure as an effective
way of preventing their wives from leaving their homes and indulging
in amorous intrigues; other practices with the same purpose being
common in Oriental countries. In course of time the foot-binding
became an inexorable fashion which the foolishly conservative women
were more eager to continue than the men. All accounts agree that the
anti-foot-binding movement finds its most violent and stubborn
opponents in the women themselves. The _Missionary Review_ for July,
1899, contains an article summing up a report of the _Tien Tsu Hui,_
or "Natural Foot Society," which throws a bright light on the whole
question and from which I quote as follows:

"The male members of a family may be opposed to the maiming
of their female relatives by the senseless custom, but the
women will support it. One Chinese even promised his
daughter a dollar a day to keep her natural feet, and
another, having failed with his older girls, arranged that
his youngest should be under his personal supervision night
and day. The one natural-footed girl was sought in marriage
for the dollars that had been faithfully laid by for her.
But at her new home she was so _ridiculed_ by the hundreds
who came to see her--and her feet--that she lost her reason.
The other girl also became insane as a result of the
_persecutions_ which she had to endure."

Thus we see that what keeps up this hideous custom is not the women's
desire to arouse the esthetic admiration and amorous passion of the
_men_ by a hoof of beauty, but the fear of ridicule and persecution by
the other women, slaves of fashion all. These same motives are the
source of most of the ugly fashions prevalent even in civilized Europe
and America. Theophile Gautier believed that most women had no sense
of beauty, but only a sense of fashion; and if explorers and
missionaries had borne in mind the fundamental difference between
fashion and esthetics, anthropological literature would be the poorer
by hundreds of "false facts" and ludicrous inferences.[113]

The ravages of fashion are aggravated by emulation, which has its
sources in vanity and envy. This accounts for the extremes to which
mutilations and fashions often go among both, civilized and
uncivilized races, and of which a startling instance will be described
in detail in the next paragraph. Few of our rich women wear their
jewels because of their intrinsic beauty. They wear them for the same
reason that Polynesian or African belles wear all the beads they can
get. In Mariner's book on the Tongans (Chap. XV.) there is an amusing
story of a chiefs daughter who was very anxious to go to Europe. Being
asked why, she replied that her great desire was to amass a large
quantity of beads and then return to Tonga, "because in England beads
are so common that no one would admire me for wearing them, and _I
should not have the pleasure of being envied."_ Bancroft (I., 128)
says of the Kutchin Indians: "_Beads are their wealth,_ used in the
place of money, and the rich among them literally load themselves with
necklaces and strings of various patterns." Referring to the tin
ornaments worn by Dyaks, Carl Bock says he has "counted as many as
sixteen rings in a single ear, each of them the size of a dollar";
while of the Ghonds Forsyth tells us (148) that they "deck themselves
with an inordinate amount of what they consider ornaments. _Quantity
rather than quality is aimed at."_


Must we then, in view of the vast number of opposing facts advanced so
far in this long chapter, assume that savages and barbarians have no
esthetic sense at all, not even a germ of it? Not necessarily. I
believe that the germ of a sense of visible beauty _may_ exist even
among savages as well as the germ of a musical sense; but that it is
little more than a childish pleasure in bright and lustrous shells and
other objects of various colors, especially red and yellow, everything
beyond that being usually found to belong to the region of utility
(language of signs, desire to attract attention, etc.) and not to
_esthetics_--that is, _the love of beauty for its own sake._ Such a
germ of esthetic pleasure we find in our infants _years before they
have the faintest conception of what is meant by personal beauty;_ and
this brings me to the pith of my argument. Had the facts warranted it,
I might have freely conceded that savages decorate themselves for the
sake of gaining an advantage in courtship without thereby in the least
yielding the main thesis of this chapter, which is that the admiration
of personal beauty is not one of the motives which induce a savage to
marry a particular girl or man; for most of the "decorations"
described in the preceding pages are not elements of _personal_ beauty
at all, but are either external appendages to that beauty, or
mutilations of it. I have shown by a superabundance of facts that
these "decorations" do not serve the purpose of exciting the amorous
passion and preference of the opposite sex, except non-esthetically
and indirectly, in some cases, through their standing as marks of
rank, wealth, distinction in war, etc. I shall now proceed to show,
much more briefly, that still less does personal beauty proper serve
among the lower races as a stimulant of sexual passion. This we should
expect naturally, since in the race as in the child the pleasure in
bright baubles must long precede the pleasure in beautiful faces or
figures. Every one who has been among Indians or other savages knows
that nature produces among them fine figures and sometimes even pretty
faces; but these are not appreciated. Galton told Darwin that he saw
in one South African tribe two slim, slight, and pretty girls, but
they were not attractive to the natives. Zoeller saw at least one
beautiful negress; Wallace describes the superb figures of some of the
Brazilian Indians and the Aru Islanders in the Malay Archipelago
(354); and Barrow says that some of the Hottentot girls have beautiful
figures when young--every joint and limb well turned. But as we shall
see presently, the criterion of personal charm among Hottentots, as
among savages in general, is fat, not what we call beauty. Ugliness,
whether natural or inflicted by fashion, does not among these races
act as a bar to marriage. "Beauty is of no estimation in either sex,"
we read regarding the Creeks in Schoolcraft (V., 272): "It is
strength or agility that recommends the young man to his mistress; and
to be a skilful or swift hunter is the highest merit with the woman he
may choose for a wife." Belden found that the squaws were valued "only
for their strength and ability to work, and no account whatever is
taken of their personal beauty," etc., etc. Nor can the fact that
savages kill deformed children be taken as an indication of a regard
for personal beauty. Such children are put out of the way for the
simple reason that they may not become a burden to the family or the

Advocates of the sexual selection theory make much ado over the fact
that in all countries the natives prefer their own peculiar color and
features--black, red, or yellow, flat noses, high cheek bones, thick
lips, etc.--and dislike what we consider beautiful. But the likes of
these races regarding personal appearance have no more to do with a
sense of beauty than their dislikes. It is merely a question of habit.
They like their own faces because they are used to them, and dislike
ours because they are strange. In their aversion to our faces they are
actuated by the same motive that makes a European child cry out and
run away in terror at sight of a negro--not because he is ugly, for he
may be good-looking, but because he is strange.

Far from admiring such beauty as nature may have given them, the lower
races exercise an almost diabolical ingenuity in obliterating or
mutilating it. Hundreds of their visitors have written of certain
tribes that they would not be bad looking if they would only leave
nature alone. Not a single feature, from the feet to the eyeballs, has
escaped the uglifying process. "Nothing is too absurd or hideous to
please them," writes Cameron. The Eskimos afford a striking
illustration of the fact that a germ of taste for ornamentation in
general is an earlier manifestation of the esthetic faculty than the
appreciation of personal beauty; for while displaying considerable
skill and ingenuity in the decorations of their clothes, canoes, and
weapons, they mutilate their persons in various ways and allow them to
be foul and malodorous with the filth of years. One of the most
disgusting mutilations on record is that practised by the Indians of
British Columbia, who insert a piece of bone in the lower lip, which,
gradually enlarged, makes it at last project three inches. Bancroft
(I., 98) devotes three pages to the lip mutilation indulged in by the
Thlinkeet females. When the operation is completed and the block is
withdrawn "the lip drops down upon the chin like a piece of leather,
displaying the teeth, and presenting altogether a ghastly spectacle."
The lower teeth and gum, says one witness, are left quite naked;
another says that the plug "distorts every feature in the lower part
of the face"; a third that an old woman, the wife of a chief, had a
lip "ornament" so large "that by a peculiar motion of her under-lip
she could almost conceal her whole face with it"; and a fourth gives a
description of this "abominably revolting spectacle," which is too
nauseating to quote.


"Abominably revolting," "hideous," "filthy," "disgusting,"
"atrocious"--such are usually the words of observers in describing
these shocking mutilations. Nevertheless they always apply the word
"ornamentation" to them, with the implication that the savages look
upon them as beautiful, although all that the observers had a right to
say was that they pleased the savages and were approved by fashion.
What is worse, the philosophers fell into the pitfall thus dug for
them. Darwin thinks that the mutilations indulged in by savages show
"how different is the standard of _taste_"; Humboldt (III., 236)
reflects on the strange fact that nations "attach the idea of beauty"
to whatever configuration nature has given them; and Ploss (I., 48)
declares bluntly that there is no such thing as an absolute standard
of beauty and that savages have "just as much right" to their ideas on
the subject as we have to admire a madonna of Raphael. This view,
indeed, is generally held; it is expressed in the old saw, _De
gustibus non est disputandum_. Now it is true that it is _unwise_ to
dispute about tastes _conversationally_; but scientifically speaking,
that old saw has not a sound tooth in it.

If a peasant who has never had an opportunity to cultivate his musical
sense insisted that a certain piano was exquisitely in tune and had as
beautiful a tone as any other piano, whereas an expert musician
declared that it had a shrill tone and was terribly out of tune, would
anybody be so foolish as to say that the peasant had as much right to
his opinion as the musician? Or if an Irish toper declared that a
bottle of Chambertin, over which French epicures smacked their lips,
was insipid and not half as fine as the fusel-oil on which he daily
got drunk, would not everybody agree that the Irishman was no judge of
liquors, and that the reason why he preferred his cheap whiskey to the
Burgundy was that his nerves of taste were too coarse to detect the
subtle and exquisite bouquet of the French wine? In both these
examples we are concerned only with simple questions of sense
perception; yet in the matter of personal beauty, which involves not
only the senses, but the imagination, the intellect, and the subtlest
feelings, we are asked to believe that any savage who has never seen a
woman but those of his own race has as much right to his opinion as a
Ruskin or a Titian, who have given their whole life to the study of

If an astronomer--to take another illustration--were told that _de
astronomia non est disputandum_, and that the Namaquas, who believe
that the moon is made of bacon, or the Brazilian tribes who think that
an eclipse consists in an attempt on the part of a monstrous jaguar to
swallow the sun--have as much right to their opinion as he has, he
would consider the person who advanced such an argument either a wag
or a fool. Only a wag or a fool, again, would argue that a Fijian has
just as much right as we have to his opinions on medical matters, or
on the morality of polygamy, infanticide, and cannibalism. Yet when we
come across a dirty, malodorous savage, so stupid that he cannot count
ten, who mutilates every part of his body till he has lost nearly all
semblance to a human being, we are soberly asked to look upon this as
merely a "difference in the standard of esthetic taste," and to admit
that the savage has "as much right to his taste," as we have. The more
I think of it, the more I am amazed at this unjust and idiotic
discrimination against the esthetic faculty--a discrimination for
which I can find no other explanation than the fact already referred
to, that most men of science know so much less about matters of beauty
than about everything else in the world. They labor under the delusion
that the sense of beauty is one of the earliest products of mental
evolution, whereas their own attitude in the matter affords painful
proof that it is one of the latest. They will understand some day that
a steatopygous "Hottentot Venus" is no more beautiful because an
African finds her attractive, than an ugly, bloated, blear-eyed harlot
is beautiful because she pleases a drunken libertine.

What makes the traditional attitude of scientific men in this matter
the less pardonable is that--as we have seen--there is always a
simple, practical explanation for the predilections of these savages,
so that there is no necessity whatever for assuming the existence of
so paradoxical and impossible a thing as an esthetic admiration of
these hideous deformities. Thus, in regard to the nauseating lip
"ornaments" of the Thlinkeets just referred to, the testimony
collected by Bancroft indicates unmistakably that they are approved
of, perpetuated, and aggravated for two reasons--both
non-esthetic--namely, as indications of rank, and from the necessity
of conforming to fashion. Ladies of distinction, we read, increase the
size of their lip plug. Langsdorff even saw women "of very high rank"
with this "ornament" full five inches long and three broad; Dixon says
the mutilation is always in proportion to the person's wealth; and
Mayne relates, in his book on the British Columbia Indians, that "a
woman's rank among women is settled according to the size of her
wooden lip."


That savages can have no sense of personal beauty is further proved by
their habitual indifference to personal cleanliness, the most
elementary and imperative of esthetic requirements. When we read in
McLean (II., 153) that some Eskimo girls "might pass as pretty if
divested of their filth;" or in Cranz (I., 134) that "it is almost
sickening to view their hands and faces smeared with grease ... and
their filthy clothes swarming with vermin;" and when we further read
in Kotzebue (II., 56) regarding the Kalush that his "filthy
countrywomen with their lip-trough ... often awaken in him the most
vehement passion," we realize vividly that that passion is a coarse
appetite which exists quite apart from, and independently of, anything
that might be considered beautiful or ugly.

The subject is not a pleasant one; but as it is one of my strongest
arguments, I must be pardoned for giving some more unsavory details.
Among some of the British Columbia Indians "pretty women may be seen;
nearly all have good eyes and hair, but the state of filth in which
they live generally neutralizes any natural charms they may possess."
(Mayne, 277.) Lewis and Clarke write (439) regarding the Chinook

"Their broad, flat foreheads, their falling breasts, their
ill-shaped limbs, the awkwardness of their positions, and
_the filth which intrudes through their finery_--all these
render a Chinook or Clatsop beauty in full attire one of the
most disgusting objects in nature."

Muir says of the Mono Indians of the California Mountains (93): "The
dirt on their faces was fairly stratified, and seemed so ancient and
so undisturbed it might also possess a geological significance."
Navajo girls "usually evince a catlike aversion to water."
(Schoolcraft, IV., 214.) Cozzens relates (128) how, among the
Apaches, "the sight of a man washing his face and hands almost
convulsed them with laughter." He adds that their personal appearance
explained their surprise. Burton (80) found among the Sioux a dislike
to cleanliness "which nothing but the fear of the rod will subdue."
"In an Indian village," writes Neill (79), "all is filth and
litter.... Water, except in very warm weather, seldom touches their

The Comanches are "disgustingly filthy in their persons."
(Schoolcraft, I., 235.) The South American Waraus "are exceedingly
dirty and disgusting in their habits, and their children are so much
neglected that their fingers and toes are frequently destroyed by
vermin." (Bernau, 35.) The Patagonians "are excessively filthy in
their personal habits." (Bourne, 56.) The Mundrukus "are very dirty"
(Markham, 172), etc.

Of the Damara negroes, Anderson says (_N._, 50): "Dirt often
accumulates to such a degree on their persons as to make the color of
their skins totally undistinguishable;" and Galton (92) "could find no
pleasure in associating or trying to chat with these Damaras, they
were so filthy and disgusting in every way." Thunberg writes of the
Hottentots (73) that they "find a peculiar pleasure in filth and
stench;" wherein they resemble Africans in general. Griffith declares
that the hill tribes of India are "the dirtier the farther we
advance;" elsewhere[114] we read:

"Both males and females, as a class, are very dirty and
filthy in both person and habits. They appear to have an
antipathy to bathing, and to make matters worse, they have a
habit of anointing their bodies with _ghee_ (melted

and of another of these tribes:

"The Karens are a dirty people. They never use soap, and
their skins are enamelled with dirt. When water is thrown on
them, it rolls off their backs like globules of quicksilver
on a marble slab. To them bathing has a cooling, but no
cleansing effect."

The Mishinis are "disgustingly dirty." By the Kirgliez "uncleanliness
is elevated into a virtue hallowed by tradition." The Kalmucks are
described as filthy, the Kamtschadales as exceedingly so, etc.


Among the inhabitants of the islands of the Pacific we meet with
apparent exceptions. These natives are practically amphibious,
spending half their time in the ocean, and are therefore of necessity
clean. So are certain coast negroes and Indian tribes living along
river-banks. But Ellis _(Pol. Res._, I., 110) was shrewd enough to see
that the habit of frequent bathing indulged in by the South Sea
Islanders was a luxury--a result of the hot climate--and not an
indication of the virtue of cleanliness. In this respect Captain Cook
showed less acumen, for he remarks (II., 148) that "nothing appears to
give them greater pleasure than personal cleanliness, to produce which
they frequently bathe in ponds." His confusion of ideas is made
apparent in the very next sentence, where he adds that the water in
most of these ponds "stinks intolerably." That it is merely the desire
for comfort and sport that induces the Polynesians to bathe so much is
proved further by the attitude of the New Zealanders. Hawksworth
declares (III., 451) that they "stink like Hottentots;" and the reason
lies in the colder climate which makes bathing less of a luxury to
them. The Micronesians also spend much of their time in the water, for
comfort, not for cleanliness. Gerland cites grewsome details of their
nastiness. (Waitz, V., Pt. II., 81, 188.) The Kaffirs, says Gardiner
(101), "although far from cleanly," are fond of bathing. In some other
cases the water is sought for its warmth instead of its coolness. In
Brazil the morning air is much colder than the water, wherefore the
natives take to the river for comfort, as the Japanese do in winter to
their hot tubs. All Indians, says Bancroft (I., 83), "attach great
importance to their sweatbaths," not for cleanliness--for they are
"extremely filthy in their persons and habits"--but "as a remedial

Unless they happen to indulge in bathing for comfort, the lowest of
savages are also the dirtiest. Leigh writes (147) that in South
Australia many of the women, including the wives of chiefs, had "sore
eyes from the smoke, the filth, and their abominable want of
cleanliness." Sturt (II., 53) refers to the Australian women as
"disgusting objects." At funerals, "the women besmear themselves with
the most disgusting filth." The naked boys in Taplin's school "had no
notion of cleanliness." The youths from the age of ten to sixteen or
seventeen were compelled by custom to let their hair grow, the result
being "a revolting mass of tangled locks and filth." (Woods, 20, 85.)
Sturt sums up his impressions by declaring (II., 126): "Really, the
loathsome condition and hideous countenances of the women would, I
should imagine, have been a complete antidote to the sexual passion."


An instructive instance of the loose reasoning which prevails in the
esthetic sphere is provided by the Rev. H.N. Hutchinson, in his
_Marriage Customs in Many Lands_. After describing some of the customs
of the Australians, he goes on to say:

"One would think that such degraded creatures as these men
are would be quite incapable of appreciating female beauty,
but that is not the case. Good-looking girls are much
admired and consequently frequently stolen away."

As a matter of fact, beauty has nothing to do with the stealing of the
women. The real motive is revealed in the following passage from
Brough Smyth (79):

"_A very fat woman_ presents such an attractive appearance
to the eyes of the blacks that she is always liable to be
stolen. _However old and ugly she way be_, she will be
courted and petted and sought for by the warriors, who
seldom hesitate to risk their lives if there is a chance for
obtaining so great a prize."

An Australian Shakspere obviously would have written "Fat provoketh
thieves sooner than gold," instead of "beauty provoketh thieves." And
the amended maxim applies to savages in general, as well as to
barbarians and Orientals. In his _Savage Life in Polynesia_, the Rev.
W.W. Gill remarks:

"The great requisites for a Polynesian beauty are to be fat
and as fair as their dusky skins will permit. To insure
this, favorite children, whether boys or girls, were
regularly fattened and imprisoned till nightfall when a
little gentle exercise was permitted. If refractory, the
guardian would whip the culprit for not eating more."[115]

American Indians do not differ in this respect from Australians and
Polynesians. The horrible obesity of the squaws on the Pacific Coast
used to inspire me with disgust, as a boy, and I could not understand
how anyone could marry such fat abominations. Concerning the South
American tribes, Humboldt says (_Trav.,_ I., 301): "In several
languages of these countries, to express the beauty of a woman, they
say that she is fat, and has a narrow forehead."


The population of Africa comprises hundreds of different peoples and
tribes, the vast majority of whom make bulk and weight the chief
criterion of a woman's charms. The hideous deformity known as
steatopyga, or hypertrophy of the buttocks, occurs among South African
Bushman, Koranna, and Hottentot women. Darwin says that Sir Andrew

"once saw a woman who was considered a beauty, and she was
so immensely developed behind that when seated on level
ground she could not rise, and had to push herself along
until she came to a slope. Some of the women in various
negro tribes have the same peculiarity; and according to
Burton, the Somal men, 'are said to choose their wives by
ranging them in a line and by picking her out who projects
farthest _a tergo_. Nothing can be more hateful to a negro
than the opposite form.'"[116]

The notions of the Yoruba negroes regarding female perfection consist,
according to Lander, in "the bulk, plumpness, and rotundity of the

Among the Karague, women were exempted from hard labor because the men
were anxious to have them as fat as possible. To please the men, they
ate enormous quantities of bananas and drank milk by the gallon. Three
of Rumanika's wives were so fat that they could not go through an
ordinary door, and when they walked they needed two men each to
support them.

Speke measured one of the much-admired African wonders of obesity, who
was unable to stand except on all fours. Result: around the arms, 1
foot 11 inches; chest, 4 feet 4 inches; thigh, 2 feet 7 inches; calf,
1 foot 8 inches; height, 5 feet 8 inches.

"Meanwhile, the daughter, a lass of sixteen, sat stark-naked
before us, sucking at a milk-pot, on which her father kept
her at work by holding a rod in his hand; for as fattening
is the first duty of fashionable female life, it must be
duly enforced by the rod if necessary. I got up a bit of
flirtation with missy, and induced her to rise and shake
hands with me. Her features were lovely, but her body was
round as a ball."

Speke also tells (370) of a girl who, a mere child when the king died,
was such a favorite of his, that he left her twenty cows, in order
that she might fatten upon milk after her native fashion.


Mungo Park declared that the Moorish women

"seem to be brought up for no other purpose than that of
ministering to the sensual pleasures of their imperious
masters. Voluptuousness is therefore considered as their
chief accomplishment.... The Moors have singular ideas of
feminine perfection. The gracefulness of figure and motion,
and a countenance enlivened by expression, are by no means
essential points in their standard: With them _corpulence
and beauty seem to be terms nearly synonymous_: A woman of
even moderate pretensions must be one who cannot walk
without a slave under each arm, to support her; and a
perfect beauty is a load for a camel.... Many of the young
girls are compelled, by their mothers, to devour a great
quantity of kouskous, and drink a large bowl of camel's milk
every morning.... I have seen a poor girl sit crying, with
the bowl at her lips, for more than an hour; and her mother,
with a stick in her hand watching her all the while, and
using the stick without mercy, whenever she observed that
her daughter was not swallowing."

A Somali love-song says: "You are beautiful and your limbs are fat;
but if you would drink camel's milk you would be still more
beautiful." Nubian girls are especially fattened for their marriage by
rubbing grease over them and stuffing them with polenta and goat milk.
When the process is completed they are poetically likened to a
hippopotamus. In Egypt and India, where the climate naturally tends to
make women thin, the fat ones are, as in Australia, the ideals of
beauty, as their poets would make plain to us if it were not known
otherwise. A Sanscrit poet declares proudly that his beloved is so
borne down by the weight of her thighs and breasts that she cannot
walk fast; and in the songs of Hala there are numerous "sentiments"
like that. The Arabian poet Amru declares rapturously that his
favorite beauty has thighs so delightfully exuberant that she can
scarcely enter the tent door. Another Arabian poet apostrophizes "the
maid of Okaib, who has haunches like sand-hills, whence her body rises
like a palm-tree." And regarding the references to personal appearance
in the writings of the ancient Hebrews, Rossbach remarks:

"In all these descriptions human beauty is recognized in the
luxurious fulness of parts, not in their harmony and
proportion. Spiritual expression in the sensual form is not
adverted to" (238).

Thus, from the Australian and the Indian to the Hebrew, the Arab, and
the Hindoo, what pleases the men in women is not their beauty, but
their voluptuous rotundity; they care only for those sensual aspects
which emphasize the difference between the sexes. The object of the
modern wasp waist (in the minds of the class of females who, strange
to say, are allowed by respectable women to set the fashion for them)
is to grossly exaggerate the bust and the hips, and it is for the same
reason that barbarian and Oriental girls are fattened for the marriage
market. The appeal is to the appetite, not to the esthetic sense.


In writing this I do not ignore the fact that many authors have held
that personal beauty and sensuality are practically identical or
indissolubly associated. The sober philosopher, Bain, gravely advances
the opinion that, on the whole, personal beauty turns, 1, upon
qualities and appearances that heighten the expression of favor or
good-will; and, 2, upon qualities and appearances that suggest the
endearing embrace. Eckstein expresses the same idea more coarsely by
saying that "finding a thing beautiful is simply another way of
expressing the manifestation of the sexual appetite." But it remained
for Mantegazza to give this view the most cynical expression:

"We look at woman through the prism of desire, and she looks
at us in the same way; her beauty appears to us the more
perfect the more it arouses our sexual desires--that is, the
more voluptuous enjoyment the possession of her promises

He adds that for this reason a man of twenty finds nearly all women

Thus the beauty of a woman, in the opinion of these writers, consists
in those physical qualities which arouse a man's concupiscence. I
admit that this theory applies to savages and to Orientals; the
details given in the preceding pages prove that. It applies also, I
must confess, to the majority of Europeans and Americans. I have paid
special attention to this point in various countries and have noticed
that a girl with a voluptuous though coarse figure and a plain face
will attract much more masculine attention than a girl whose figure
and face are artistically beautiful without being voluptuous. But this
only helps to prove my main thesis--that the sense of personal beauty
is one of the latest products of civilization, rare even at the
present day. What I deny most emphatically is that the theory
advocated by Bain, Eckstein, and Mantegazza applies to those persons
who are so lucky as to have a sense of beauty. These fortunate
individuals can admire the charms of a living beauty without any more
concupiscence or thought of an endearing embrace than accompanies
their contemplation of the Venus de Milo or a Madonna painted by
Murillo; and if they are in love with a particular girl their
admiration of her beauty is superlatively free from carnal
ingredients, as we saw in the section on Mental Purity. Since in such
a question personal evidence is of importance, I will add that,
fortunately, I have been deeply in love several times in my life and
can therefore testify that each time my admiration of the girl's
beauty was as purely esthetic as if she had been a flower. In each
case the mischief was begun by a pair of brown eyes.

Eyes, it is true, can be as wanton and as voluptuous as a plump
figure. Powers notes (20) that some California Indian girls are pretty
and have "large, voluptuous eyes." Such eyes are common among the
lower races and Orientals; but they are not the eyes which inspire
romantic love. Lips, too, it might be said, invite kisses; but a lover
would consider it sacrilege to touch his idol's lips unchastely.
Savages are strangers to kissing for the exactly opposite reason--that
it is too refined a detail of sensuality to appeal to their coarse
nerves. How far they are from being able to appreciate lips
esthetically appears from the way in which they so often deform them.
The mouth is peculiarly the index of mental and moral refinement, and
a refined pair of lips can inspire as pure a love as the celestial
beauty of innocent eyes. As for the other features, what is there to
suggest lascivious thoughts in a clear complexion, an oval chin, ivory
teeth, rosy cheeks, or in curved eyebrows, long, dark lashes, or
flowing tresses? Our admiration of these, and of a graceful gait, is
as pure and esthetic--as purely esthetic--as our admiration of a
sunset, a flower, a humming-bird, a lovely child. It has been truly
said that a girl's marriage chances have been made or marred by the
size or shape of her nose. What has the size or shape of a girl's nose
to do with the "endearing embrace?" This question alone reduces the
concupiscence theory _ad absurdum_.


Almost as repulsive as the view which identifies the sense of personal
beauty with concupiscence is that which would reduce it to a matter of
coarse utility. Thus Eckstein, misled by Schopenhauer, holds that
healthy teeth are beautiful for the reason that they guarantee the
proper mastication of the food; while small breasts are ugly because
they do not promise sufficient nourishment to the child that is to be

This argument is refuted by the simple statement that our teeth, if
they looked like rusty nails, might be even more useful than now, but
could no longer be beautiful. As for women's breasts, if utility were
the criterion, the most beautiful would be those of the African
mothers who can throw them over their shoulders to suckle the infants
on their backs without impeding their work. As a matter of fact, the
loveliest breast is the virginal, which serves no use while it remains
so. A dray horse is infinitely more useful to us than an Arab racer,
but is he as beautiful? Tigers and snakes are anything but useful to
the human race, but we consider their skins beautiful.


No, the sense of personal beauty is neither a synonyme for libidinous
desires nor is it based on utilitarian considerations. It is
practically a new sense, born of mental refinement and imagination. It
by no means scorns a slight touch of the voluptuous, so far as it does
not exceed the limits of artistic taste and moral refinement--a
well-rounded figure and "a face voluptuous, yet pure"--but it is an
entirely different thing from the predilection for fat and other
coarse exaggerations of sexuality which inspire lust instead of love.
This new sense is still, as I have said, rare everywhere; and, like
the other results of high and recent culture, it is easily
obliterated. In his treatise on insanity Professor Krafft-Ebing shows
that in degeneration of the brain the esthetic and moral qualities are
among the first to disappear. It is the same with normal man when he
descends into a lower sphere. Zoller relates (III., 68) that when
Europeans arrive in Africa they find the women so ugly they can hardly
look at them without a feeling of repulsion. Gradually they become
habituated to their sight, and finally they are glad to accept them as
companions. Stanley has an eloquent passage on the same topic (_II. I.
F.L_., 265):

"The eye that at first despised the unclassic face of the
black woman of Africa soon loses its regard for fine lines
and mellow pale color; it finds itself ere long lingering
_wantonly_ over the inharmonious and heavy curves of a
negroid form, and looking lovingly on the broad,
unintellectual face, and into jet eyes that never flash with
the dazzling love-light that makes poor humanity beautiful."

The word I have italicized explains it all. The sense of personal
beauty is displaced again by the concupiscence which had held its
place in the early history of mankind.


To realize fully what such a relapse may mean, read what Galton says
(123) of the Hottentots. They have

"that peculiar set of features which is so characteristic of
bad characters in England, and so general among prisoners
that it is usually, I believe, known by the name of the
'felon-face;' I mean that they have prominent cheek-bones,
bullet-shaped head, cowering but restless eyes, and heavy
sensual lips, and added to this a shackling dress and

Of the Damaras Galton says (99) that "their features are often
beautifully chiselled, though the expression in them is always coarse
and disagreeable." And to quote Mungo Park on the Moors once more

"I fancied that I discovered in the features of most of them
a disposition toward cruelty and low cunning.... From the
staring wildness of their eyes, a stranger would immediately
set them down as a nation of lunatics. The treachery and
malevolence of their character are manifested in their
plundering excursions against the negro villages."


Galton's reference to the Damaras illustrates the well-known fact
that, even where nature makes an effort at chiselling beautiful
features the result is a failure if there is no moral and intellectual
culture to inspire them, and this puts the grave-stone on the
Concupiscence Theory--for what have moral and intellectual culture to
do with carnal desires? A noble soul even possesses the magic power of
transforming a plain face into a radiant vision of beauty, the emotion
changing not only the expression but the lines of the face. Goethe
(Eckermann, 1824) and others have indeed maintained that intellect in
a woman does not help a man to fall in love with her. This is true in
so far as brains in a woman will not make a man fall in love with her
if she is otherwise unattractive or unfeminine. But Goethe forgot that
there is such a thing as _hereditary intellectual culture incarnated
in the face_. This, I maintain, makes up more than half of the
personal beauty which makes a man fall in love. A girl with good
features is twice as beautiful if she is morally pure and has a bright
mind. Sometimes a face is accidentally moulded, into such a regular
beauty of form that it seems to mirror mental beauty too. A man may
fall in love with such a face, but as soon as he finds out that it is
inhabited by a stupid or coarse mind he will make haste to fall out
again, unless his love was predominantly sensual. I remember once
falling in love with a country girl at first sight; her face and
figure seemed to me extremely beautiful, except that hard work had
enlarged and hardened her hands. But when I found that her intellect
was as coarse as her hands, my ardor cooled at once.

If intellect, as revealed in the face, in words, and in actions, did
not assist in inspiring the amorous sentiment, it would be as easy to
fall in love with a doll-faced, silly girl as with a woman of culture;
it would even be possible to fall in love with a statue or with a
demented person. Let us imagine a belle who is thrown from a horse and
has become insane from the shock. For a time her features will remain
as regular, her figure as plump, as before; but the mind will be gone,
and with it everything that could make a man fall in love with her.
Who has ever heard of a beautiful idiot, of anyone falling in love
with an imbecile? The vacant stare, the absence of intellect, make
beauty and love alike impossible in such a case.


The important corollary follows, from all this, that in countries
where women receive no education sensual love is the only kind men can
feel toward them. Oriental women are of that kind, and so were the
ancient Greeks. The Greeks are indeed renowned for their statuary, yet
their attitude toward personal beauty was of a very peculiar kind.
Their highest ideal was not the feminine but the masculine type, and
accordingly we find that it was toward men only that they professed to
feel a noble passion. The beauty of the women was regarded merely from
a sensual point of view. Their respectable women were deliberately
left without education, wherefore their charms can have been at best
of a bodily kind and capable of inspiring love of body only. There is
a prevalent superstition that the Greeks of the day of Perikles had a
class of intelligent women known as hetairai, who were capable of
being true companions and inspirers of men; but I shall show, in a
later chapter, that the mentality of these women has been ludicrously
exaggerated; they were coarse and obscene in their wit and
conversation, and their morals were such that no man could have
respected them, much less loved them with a pure affection; while the
men whom they are supposed to have inspired were in most cases
voluptuaries of the most dissolute sort.


Our attempt to answer the question "What is romantic love," has taken
up no fewer than two hundred and thirty-five pages, and even this
answer is a mere preliminary sketch, the details of which will be
supplied in the following chapters, chiefly, it is true, in a negative
way, by showing what is _not_ romantic love; for the subject of this
book is Primitive Love.


Can love be defined in one sentence? The _Century Dictionary's_
definition, which is as good as any, is: "Intimate personal affection
between individuals of opposite sex capable of intermarriage; the
emotional incentive to and normal basis of conjugal union." This is
correct enough as far as it goes; but how little it tells us of the
nature of love! I have tried repeatedly to condense the essential
traits of romantic love into one brief definition, but have not
succeeded. Perhaps the following will serve as an approximation. Love
is an intense longing for the reciprocal affection and jealously
exclusive possession of a particular individual of the opposite sex; a
chaste, proud, ecstatic adoration of one who appears a paragon of
personal beauty and otherwise immeasurably superior to all other
persons; an emotional state constantly hovering between doubt and
hope, aggravated in the female heart by the fear of revealing her
feelings too soon; a self-forgetful impulse to share the tastes and
feelings of the beloved, and to go so far in affectionate and gallant
devotion as to eagerly sacrifice, for the other's good, all comfort
and life itself if necessary.

These are the essential traits. But romantic love is altogether too
complex and variable to be defined in one sentence; and it is this
complexity and variability that I wish to emphasize particularly.
Eckermann once suggested to Goethe that no two cases of love are quite
alike, and the poet agreed with him. They did not, however, explain
their seeming paradox, so diametrically opposed to the current notion
that love is everywhere and always the same, in individuals as in
nations; nor could they have explained it unless they had analyzed
love into its component elements as I have done in this volume. With
the aid of this analysis it is easy to show how and why love has
changed and grown, like other sentiments; to explain how and why the
love of a civilized white man must differ from that of an Australian
or African savage, just as their faces differ. Since no two races look
alike, and no two individuals in the same race, why should their loves
be alike? Is not love the heart of the soul and the face merely its
mirror? Love is varied through a thousand climatic, racial, family,
and cultural peculiarities. It is varied through individual tastes and
proclivities. In one case of love admiration of personal beauty may be
the strongest ingredient, in another jealous monopoly, in a third
self-sacrificing affection, and so on. The permutations and
combinations are countless, and hence it is that love-stories are
always fresh, since they can be endlessly varied. A lover's varied
feelings in relation to the beloved become gradually blended into a
sentiment which is a composite photograph of all the emotions she has
ever aroused in him. This has given rise to the delusion that love is
a simple feeling.[117]


In the introductory chapter of this book I alluded briefly to my
reasons for calling pure prematrimonial infatuation romantic love,
giving some historic precedents for such a use of the word. We are now
in a position to appreciate the peculiar appropriateness of the term.
What is the dictionary definition of "romantic"?

"Pertaining to or resembling romance, or an ideal state of
things; partaking of the heroic, the marvellous, the
supernatural, or the imaginative; chimerical, fanciful,
extravagantly enthusiastic."

Every one of these terms applies to love in the sense in which I use
the word. Love is ideal, heroic, marvellous, imaginative, chimerical,
fanciful, extravagantly enthusiastic; its hyperbolic adoration even
gives it a supernatural tinge, for the adored girl seems more like an
angel or a fairy than a common mortal. The lover's heroine is as
fictitious as any heroine of romance; he considers her the most
beautiful and lovable person in the world, though to others she may
seem ugly and ill-tempered. Thus love is called romantic, because it
is so great a romancer, attributing to the beloved all sorts of
perfections which exist only in the lover's fancy. What could be more
fantastic than a lover's stubborn preference for a particular
individual and his conviction that no one ever loved so frantically as
he does? What more extravagant and unreasonable than his imperious
desire to completely monopolize her affection, sometimes guarding her
jealously even from her girl friends or her nearest relatives? What
more romantic than the tortures and tragedies, the mixed emotions,
that doubt or jealousy gives rise to? Does not a willing but coyly
reserved maiden romance about her feelings? What could be more
fanciful and romantic than her shy reserve and coldness when she is
longing to throw herself into the lover's arms? Is not her proud
belief that her lover--probably as commonplace and foolish a fellow as
ever lived--is a hero or a genius a romantic exaggeration? Is not the
lover's purity of imagination, though real as a feeling, a romantic
illusion, since he craves ultimate possession of her and would be the
unhappiest of mortals if she went to a nunnery, though she promised to
love him always? What could be more marvellous, more chimerical, than
this temporary suppression of a strong appetite at the time when it
would be supposed to manifest itself most irresistibly--this
distilling of the finer emotions, leaving all the gross, material
elements behind? Can you imagine anything more absurdly romantic than
the gallant attentions of a man on his knees before a girl whom, with
his stronger muscles, he could command as a slave? Who but a romantic
lover would obliterate his selfish ego in sympathetic devotion to
another, trying to feel her feelings, forgetting his own? Who but a
romantic lover would sacrifice his life in the effort to save or
please another? A mother would indeed do the same for her child; but
the child is of her own flesh and blood, whereas the beloved may have
been a stranger until an hour ago. How romantic!

The appropriateness of the word romantic is still further emphasized
by the consideration that, just as romantic art, romantic literature,
and romantic music are a revolt against artificial rules and barriers
to the free expression of feeling, so romantic love is a revolt
against the obstacles to free matrimonial choice imposed by parental
and social tyranny.

Indeed, I can see only one objection to the use of the word--its
frequent application to any strange or exciting incidents, whence some
confusion may ensue. But the trouble is obviated by simply bearing in
mind the distinction between romantic _incidents_ and romantic
_feelings_ which I have summed up in the maxim that _a romantic
love-story is not necessarily a story of romantic love_. Nearly all
the tales brought together in this volume are romantic love-stories,
but not one of them is a story of romantic love. In the end the
antithesis will aid us in remembering the distinction.

In place of "romantic" I might have used the word "sentimental"; but
in the first place that word fails to indicate the essentially
romantic nature of love, on which I have just dwelt; and secondly, it
also is liable to be misunderstood, because of its unfortunate
association with the word sentimentality, which is a very different
thing from sentiment. The differences between sentiment,
sentimentality, and sensuality are indeed important enough to merit a
brief chapter of elucidation.


From beginnings not yet understood--though Haeckel and others have
speculated plausibly on the subject--there has been developed in
animals and human beings an appetite which insures the perpetuation of
the species as the appetite for food does that of the individual. Both
these appetites pass through various degrees of development, from the
utmost grossness to a high degree of refinement, from which, however,
relapses occur in many individuals. We read of Indians tearing out the
liver from living animals and devouring it raw and bloody; of Eskimos
eating the contents of a reindeer's stomach as a vegetable dish; and
the books of explorers describe many scenes like the following from
Baker's _Ismailia_ (275) relating to the antics of negroes after
killing a buffalo:

"There was now an extraordinary scene over the carcass; four
hundred men scrambling over a mass of blood and entrails,
fighting and tearing with each other and cutting off pieces
of flesh with their lance-heads, with which they escaped as
dogs may retreat with a bone."


What aeons of culture lie between such a scene and a dinner party in
Europe or America, with its refined, well-behaved guests, its table
etiquette, its varied menu, its choice viands, skilfully cooked and
blended so as to bring out the most diverse and delicate flavors, its
esthetic features--fine linen and porcelains, silver and cut glass,
flowers, lights--its bright conversation, and flow of wit. Yet there
are writers who would have us believe that these Indians, Eskimos, and
Africans, who manifest their appetite for food in so disgustingly
coarse a way, are in their love-affairs as sentimental and aesthetic
as we are! In truth they are as gross, gluttonous, and selfish in the
gratification of one appetite as in that of the other. To a savage a
woman is not an object of chaste adoration and gallant devotion, but a
mere bait for wanton lust; and when his lust hath dined he kicks her
away like a mangy dog till he is hungry again. In Ploss-Bartels[118]
may be found an abundance of facts culled from various sources in all
parts of the world, showing that the bestiality of many savages is not
even restrained by the presence of spectators. At the phallic and
bacchanalian festivals of ancient and Oriental nations all
distinctions of rank and all family ties were forgotten in a carnival
of lust. Licentious orgies are indeed carried on to this day in our
own large cities; but their participants are the criminal classes, and
occasionally some foolish young men who would be very much ashamed to
have their doings known; whereas the orgies and phallic festivals of
savages and barbarians are national or tribal institutions, approved
by custom, sanctioned by religion, and indulged in openly by every man
and woman in the community; often regardless even of incest.

More shockingly still are the grossness and diabolical selfishness of
the savage's carnal appetite revealed by his habit of sacrificing
young girls to it years before they have reached the age of puberty.
Some details will be found in the chapters on Australia, Africa, and
India. Here it may be noted--to indicate the wide prevalence of a
custom which it would be unjust to animals to call bestial, because
beasts never sink so low--that Borneans, as Schwaner notes, marry off
girls from three to five; that in Egypt child-wives of seven or eight
can be seen; that Javanese girls may be married at seven; that North
American Indians often took brides of ten or eleven, while in Southern
Australia girls were appropriated as early as seven. Hottentot girls
were not spared after the age of seven, nor were Bushman girls, though
they did not become mothers till ten or twelve years old; while Kaffir
girls married at eight, Somals at six to eight. The cause of these
early marriages is not climatic, as some fancy, but simply, as

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