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Primitive Love and Love-Stories by Henry Theophilus Finck

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Roberton has pointed out, the coarseness of the men. The list might be
extended indefinitely. In Old Calabar sometimes, we read in Ploss,

"a man who has already several wives may be seen with an
infant of two or three weeks on his lap, caressing and
kissing it as his wife. Wives of four to six years we found
occasionally (in China, Guzuate, Ceylon, and Brazil); from
seven to nine years on they are no longer rare, and the
years from ten to twelve are a widely prevalent marriage

The amorous savage betrays his inferiority to animals not only in his
cruel maltreatment of girls before they have reached the age of
puberty,[119] but in his ignorance, in most cases, of the simplest
caresses and kisses for which we often find corresponding acts in
birds and other animals. The nerves of primitive men are too coarse
for such a delicate sensation as labial contact, and an embrace would
leave them cold. An African approximation to a kiss is described by
Baker (_Ismailia_, 472). He had liberated a number of female slaves,
and presently, he says, "I found myself in the arms of a naked beauty,
who kissed me almost to suffocation, and, with a most unpleasant
embrace, licked both my eyes with her tongue." If we may venture an
inference from Mr. A.H. Savage Landor's experience[120] among the
aboriginal Ainos of Yezo (Japan), one of the lowest of human races, we
may conclude that, in the course of evolution, biting preceded
kissing. He had made the acquaintance of an Ainu maiden, the most
lovely Ainu girl he had ever come across. They strolled together into
the woods, and he sketched her picture. She clutched his hand tightly,
and pressed it to her chest:

"I would not have mentioned this small episode if her ways
of flirting had not been so extraordinary and funny. Loving
and biting went together with her.... As we sat on a stone
in the semi-darkness she began by gently biting my fingers
without hurting me, as affectionate dogs often do their
masters; she then bit my arm, then my shoulder, and when she
had worked herself up into a passion she put her arms round
my neck and bit my cheeks. It was undoubtedly a curious way
of making love, and when I had been bitten all over, and was
pretty tired of the new sensation, we retired to our
respective homes."

Sensuality has had its own evolution quite apart and distinct from
that of love. The ancient Greeks and Romans, and the Orientals,
especially the Hindoos, were familiar, thousands of years ago, with
refinements and variations of lust beyond which the human imagination
cannot go. According to Burton,

"Kornemannus in his book _de linea amoris,_ makes five
degrees of lust, out of Lucian belike, which he handles in
five chapters, _Visus, Colloquium, Convictus, Oscula,
Tactus_--sight, conference, association, kisses, touch."

All these degrees are abundantly illustrated in Burton, often in a way
that would not bear quotation in a modern book intended for general

It is interesting to observe, furthermore, that among the higher
barbarians and civilized races, lust has become to a certain extent
mentalized through hereditary memory and association. Aristotle made a
marvellous anticipation of modern scientific thought when he suggested
that what made birds sing in spring was the memory of former seasons
of love. In men as in animals, the pleasant experiences of love and
marriage become gradually ingrained in the brain, and when a youth
reaches the age for love-making the memory of ancestral amorous
experiences courses through his nerves vaguely but strongly. He longs
for something, he knows not what, and this mental longing is one of
the earliest and strongest symptoms of love. But it characterizes all
sorts of love; it may accompany pure fancies of the sentimental lover,
but it may also be a result of the lascivious imaginings and
anticipations of sensualism. It does not, therefore, in itself prove
the presence of romantic love; a point on which I must place great
emphasis, because certain primitive poems expressing a longing for an
absent girl or man have been quoted as positive evidence of romantic
love, when as a matter of fact there is nothing to prove that they may
not have been inspired by mere sensual desires. I shall cite and
comment on these poems in later chapters.

Loss of sleep, loss of appetite, leanness, hollow eyes, groans,
griefs, sadness, sighing, sobbing, alternating blushes and pallor,
feverish or unequal pulse, suicidal impulses, are other symptoms
occurring among such advanced nations as the Greeks and Hindoos and
often accepted as evidence of true love; but since, like longing, they
also accompany lust and other strong passions or violent emotions,
they cannot be accepted as reliable symptoms of romantic love. The
only certain criteria of love are to be found in the manifestation of
the altruistic factors--sympathy, gallantry, and self-sacrificing
affection. Romantic love is, as I have remarked before, not merely an
emotional phenomenon, but an _active impulse._ The true lover does
not, like the sensualist and the sentimentalist, ululate his time away
in dismal wailing about his bodily aches and tremors, woes and
pallors, but lets his feelings expend themselves in multitudinous acts
revealing his eagerness to immolate his personal pleasures on the
altar of his idol.

It must not be supposed that sensual love is necessarily coarse and
obscene. An antique love-scene may in itself be proper and exquisitely
poetic without rising to the sphere of romantic love; as when
Theocritus declares: "I ask not for the land of Pelops nor for talents
of gold. But under this rock will I sing, holding you in my arms,
looking at the flocks feeding together toward the Sicilian Sea." A
pretty picture; but what evidence is there in it of affection? It is
pleasant for a man to hold a girl in his arms while gazing at the
Sicilian Sea, even though he does not love her any more than a
thousand other girls.

Even in Oriental literature, usually so gross and licentious, one may
come across a charmingly poetic yet entirely sensual picture like the
following from the Persian _Gulistan_ (339). On a very hot day, when
he was a young man, Saadi found the hot wind drying up the moisture of
his mouth and melting the marrow of his bones. Looking for a refuge
and refreshment, he beheld a moon-faced damsel of supreme loveliness
in the shaded portico of a mansion:

"She held in her hand a goblet of snow-cold water, into
which she dropt some sugar, and tempered it with spirit of
wine; but I know not whether she scented it with attar, or
sprinkled it with a few blossoms from her own rosy cheek. In
short, I received the beverage from her idol-fair hand: and
having drunk it off, found myself restored to new life."

Ward writes (115) that the following account of Sharuda, the daughter
of Brumha, translated from the Shiva Purana, may serve as a just
description of a perfect Hindoo beauty. This girl was of a yellow
color; had a nose like the flower of a secamum; her legs were taper,
like the plantain-tree; her eyes large, like the principal leaf of the
lotos; her eyebrows extended to her ears; her lips were red, like the
young leaves of the mango-tree; her face was like the full moon; her
voice like the sound of the cuckoo; her throat was like that of a
pigeon; her loins narrow, like those of a lion; her hair hung in curls
down to her feet; her teeth were like the seeds of the pomegranate;
and her gait like that of a drunken elephant or a goose.

There is nothing coarse in this description, yet every detail is
purely sensual, and so it is with the thousands of amorous rhapsodies
of Hindoo, Persian, Turkish, Arabic, and other Eastern poets.
Concerning the Persians, Dr. Polak remarks (I., 206) that the word
_Ischk_ (love) is always associated with the idea of carnality
(_Was'l_). Of the Arabs, Burckardt says that "the passion of love
is indeed much talked of by the inhabitants of the towns; but I doubt
whether anything is meant by them more than the grossest animal
desire." In his letters from the East the keen-eyed Count von Moltke
notes that the Turk "passes over all the preliminary rigmarole of
falling in love, paying court, languishing, revelling in ecstatic joy,
as so much _faux frais_, and goes straight to the point."


But is the German field-marshal quite just to the Turk? I have before
me a passage which seems to indicate that these Orientals do know a
thing or two about the "rigmarole of love-making." It is cited by
Kremer[121] from the Kitab almowascha, a book treating of social
matters in Baghdad. Its author devotes a special chapter to the
dangers lurking in female singers and musical slaves, in the course of
which he says:

"If one of these girls meets a rich young man, she sets
about ensnaring him, makes eyes at him, invites him with
gestures, sings for him ... drinks the wine he left in his
cup, throws kisses with her hands, till she has the poor
fellow in her net and he is enamoured. ... Then she sends
messages to him and continues her crafty arts, lets him
understand that she is losing sleep for love of him, is
pining for him; maybe she sends him a ring, or a lock of her
hair, a paring of her nails, a splinter from her lute, or
part of her toothbrush, or a piece of fragrant gum (chewed
by her) as a substitute for a kiss, or a note written and
folded with her own hands and tied with a string from her
lute, with a tearstain on it; and finally sealed with
Ghalija, her ring, on which some appropriate words are

Having captured her victim, she makes him give her valuable presents
till his purse is empty, whereupon she discards him.

Was Count Moltke, then, wrong? Have we here, after all, the
sentimental symptoms of romantic love? Let us apply the tests provided
by our analysis of love--tests as reliable as those which chemists use
to analyze fluids or gases. Did the Baghdad music-girl prefer that man
to all other individuals? Did she want to monopolize him jealously?
Oh, no! any man, however old and ugly, would have suited her, provided
he had plenty of money. Was she coy toward him? Perhaps; but not from
a feeling of modesty and timidity inspired by love, but to make him
more ardent and ready to pay. Was she proud of his love? She thought
him a fool. Were her feelings toward him chaste and pure? As chaste
and pure as his. Did she sympathize with his pleasures and pains? She
dismissed him as soon as his purse was empty, and looked about for
another victim. Were his presents the result of gallant impulses to
please her, or merely advance payment for favors expected? Would he
have sacrificed his life to save her any more than she would hers to
save him? Did he respect her as an immaculate superior being, adore
her as an angel from above--or look on her as an inferior, a slave in
rank, a slave to passion?

The obvious moral of this immoral episode is that it is not
permissible to infer the existence of anything higher than sensual
love from the mere fact that certain romantic tricks are associated
with the amorous dalliance of Orientals, or Greeks and Romans.
Drinking from the same cup, throwing kisses, sending locks of hair or
tear-stained letters, adjusting a foot-stool, or fanning a heated
brow, are no doubt romantic _incidents_, but they are no proof of
romantic _feeling_ for the reason that they are frequently associated
with the most heartless and mercenary sensuality. The coquetry of the
Baghdad girl is romantic, but there is no _sentiment_ in it. Yet--and
here we reach the most important aspect of that episode--there is an
_affectation of sentiment_ in that sending of locks, notes, and
splinters from her lute; and this affectation of sentiment is
designated by the word _sentimentality_. In the history of love
sentimentality precedes sentiment; and for a proper understanding of
the history and psychology of love it is as important to distinguish
sentimentality from sentiment as it is to differentiate love from

When Lowell wrote, "Let us be thankful that in every man's life there
is a holiday of romance, _an illumination of the senses by the soul_,
that makes him a poet while it lasts," he made a sad error in assuming
that there is such a holiday of romance in every man's life; millions
never enjoy it; but the words I have italicized--"an illumination of
the senses by the soul"--are one of those flashes of inspiration which
sometimes enable a poet to give a better description of a psychic
process than professional philosophers have put forth.

From one point of view the love sentiment may be called an
illumination of the senses by the soul. Elsewhere Lowell has given
another admirable definition: "Sentiment is intellectualized emotion,
emotion precipitated, as it were, in pretty crystals of thought."
Excellent, too, is J.F. Clarke's definition: "Sentiment is nothing but
thought blended with feeling; _thought made affectionate, sympathetic,
moral_." The Century Dictionary throws further light on this word:

"Sentiment has a peculiar place between thought and feeling,
in which it also approaches the meaning of principle. It is
more than that feeling which is sensation or emotion, by
containing more of thought and by being _more lofty_, while
it contains too much feeling to be merely thought, and it
_has large influence over the will_; for example, the
sentiment of patriotism; the sentiment of honor; the world
is ruled by sentiment. The thought in a sentiment is often
that of _duty_, and is penetrated and _exalted_ by feeling."

Herbert Spencer sums up the matter concisely _(Psych_., II., 578) when
he speaks of "that remoteness from sensations and appetites and from
ideas of such sensations and appetites which is the common trait of
the feelings we call sentiments."

It is hardly necessary to point out that in our Baghdad girl's
love-affairs there is no "remoteness from sensations and appetites,"
no "illumination of the senses by the soul," no "intellectualized
emotion," no "thought made affectionate, sympathetic, moral." But
there is in it, as I have said, a touch of sentimentality. If
sentiment is properly defined as "higher feeling," sentimentality is
"_affectation_ of fine or tender feeling or exquisite sensibility."
Heartless coquetry, prudery, mock modesty, are bosom friends of
sentimentality. While sentiment is the noblest thing in the world,
sentimentality is its counterfeit, its caricature; there is something
theatrical, operatic, painted-and-powdered about it; it differs from
sentiment as astrology differs from astronomy, alchemy from chemistry,
the sham from the real, hypocrisy from sincerity, artificial posing
from natural grace, genuine affection from selfish attachment.


Sentimentality, as I have said, precedes sentiment in the history of
love, and it has been a special characteristic of certain periods,
like that of the Alexandrian Greeks and their Roman imitators, to whom
we shall recur in a later chapter, and the mediaeval Troubadours and
Minnesingers. To the present day sentimentality in love is so much
more abundant than sentiment that the adjective sentimental is
commonly used in an uncomplimentary sense, as in the following passage
from one of Krafft-Ebing's books (_Psch. Sex_., 9):

"Sentimental love runs the risk of degenerating into
caricature, especially in cases where the sensual ingredient
is weak.... Such love has a flat, saccharine tang. It is apt
to become positively ludicrous, whereas in other cases the
manifestations of this strongest of all feelings inspire in
us sympathy, respect, awe, according to circumstances."

Steele speaks in _The Lover_ (23, No. 5) of the extraordinary skill of
a poet in making a loose people "attend to a Passion which they never,
or that very faintly, felt in their own Bosoms." La Rochefoucauld
wrote: "It is with true love as with ghosts; everybody speaks of it,
but few have seen it." A writer in _Science_ expressed his belief that
romantic love, as described in my first book, could really be
experienced only by men of genius. I think that this makes the circle
too small; yet in these twelve years of additional observation I have
come to the conclusion that even at this stage of civilization only a
small proportion of men and women are able to experience full-fledged
romantic love, which seems to require a special emotional or esthetic
gift, like the talent for music. A few years ago I came across the
following in the London _Tidbits_ which echoes the sentiments of

"Latour, who sent a pathetic complaint the other day that
though he wished to do so he was unable to fall in love, has
called forth a sympathetic response from a number of readers
of both sexes. These ladies and gentlemen write to say that
they also, like Latour, cannot understand how it is that
they are not able to feel any experience of tender passion
which they read about so much in novels, and hear about in
actual life."

At the same time there are not a few men of genius, too, who never
felt true love in their own hearts. Herder believed that Goethe was
not capable of genuine love, and Grimm, too, thought that Goethe had
never experienced a self-absorbing passion. Tolstoi must have been
ever a stranger to genuine love, for to him it seems a degrading thing
even in marriage. A suggestive and frank confession may be found in
the literary memoirs of Goncourt.[122] At a small gathering of men of
letters Goncourt remarked that hitherto love had not been studied
scientifically in novels. Zola thereupon declared that love was not a
specific emotion; that it does not affect persons so absolutely as the
writers say; that the phenomena characterizing it are also found in
friendship, in patriotism, and that the intensity of this emotion is
due entirely to the anticipation of carnal enjoyment. Turgenieff
objected to these views; in his opinion love is a sentiment which has
a unique color of its own--a quality differentiating it from all other
sentiments--eliminating the lover's own personality, as it were. The
Russian novelist obviously had a conception of the purity of love, for
Goncourt reports him as "speaking of his first love for a woman as a
thing entirely spiritual, having nothing in common with materiality."
And now follows Goncourt's confession:

"In all this, the thing to regret is that neither Flaubert
... nor Zola, nor myself, have ever been very seriously in
love and that we are therefore unable to describe love.
Turgenieff alone could have done that, but he lacks
precisely the critical sense which we could have exercised
in this matter had we been in love after his fashion."

The vast majority of the human race has not yet got beyond
the sensual stage of amorous evolution, or realized the
between sentimentality and sentiment. There is much
food for thought in this sentence from Henry James's charming
essay on France's most poetic writer--Theophile Gautier:

"It has seemed to me rather a painful exhibition of the
prurience of the human mind that in most of the notices of
the author's death (those at least published in England and
America), this work alone [_Mile. de Maupin_] should have
been selected as the critic's text."

Readers are interested only in emotions with which they are familiar
by experience. Howells's refined love-scenes have often been sneered
at by men who like raw whiskey but cannot appreciate the delicate
bouquet of Chambertin. As Professor Ribot remarks: in the higher
regions of science, art, religion, and morals there are emotions so
subtle and elevated that

"not more than one individual in a hundred thousand or even
in a million can experience them. The others are strangers
to them, or do not know of their existence except vaguely,
from what they hear about them. It is a promised land, which
only the select can enter."

I believe that romantic love is a sentiment which more than one person
in a million can experience, and more than one in a hundred thousand.
How many more, I shall not venture to guess. All the others know love
only as a sensual craving. To them "I love you" means "I long for you,
covet you, am eager to enjoy you"; and this feeling is not love of
another but self-love, more or less disguised--the kind of "love"
which makes a young man shoot a girl who refuses him. The mediaeval
writer Leon Hebraeus evidently knew of no other when he defined love
as "a desire to enjoy that which is good"; nor Spinoza when he defined
it as _laetetia concomitante idea externae causae_--a pleasure
accompanied by the thought of its external cause.


Having distinguished romantic or sentimental love from sentimentality
on one side and sensuality on the other, it remains to show how it
differs from conjugal affection.


On hearing the words "love letters," does anybody ever think of a
man's letters to his wife? No more than of his letters to his mother.
He may love both his wife and his mother dearly, but when he writes
love letters he writes them to his sweetheart. Thus, public opinion
and every-day literary usage clearly recognize the difference between
romantic love and conjugal affection. Yet when I maintained in my
first book that romantic love differs as widely from conjugal
affection as maternal love differs from friendship; that romantic love
is almost as modern as the telegraph, the railway, and the electric
light; and that perhaps the main reasons why no one had anticipated me
in an attempt to write a book to prove this, were that no distinction
had heretofore been made between conjugal and romantic love, and that
the apparent occurrence of noble examples of conjugal attachment among
the ancient Greeks had obscured the issue--there was a chorus of
dissenting voices. "The distinction drawn by him between romantic and
conjugal love," wrote one critic, "seems more fanciful than real." "He
will not succeed," wrote another, "in convincing anybody that romantic
and conjugal love differ in kind instead of only in degree or place";
while a third even objected to my theory as "essentially immoral!"

Mr. W.D. Howells, on the other hand, accepted my distinction, and in a
letter to me declared that he found conjugal affection an even more
interesting field of study than romantic love. Why, indeed, should
anyone be alarmed at the distinction I made? Is not a man's feeling
toward his sweetheart different from his feeling toward his mother or
sister? Why then should it be absurd or "immoral" to maintain that it
differs from his feeling toward his wife? What I maintain is that
romantic love disappears gradually, to be replaced, as a rule, by
conjugal affection, which is sometimes a less intense, at other times
a more intense, feeling than the emotions aroused during courtship.
The process may be compared to a modulation in music, in which some of
the tones in a chord are retained while others are displaced by new
ones. Such modulations are delightful, and the new harmony may be as
beautiful as the old. A visitor to Wordsworth's home wrote:

"I saw the old man walking in the garden with his wife. They
were both quite old, and he was almost blind; but they
seemed like sweethearts courting, they were so tender to
each other and attentive."

A husband may be, and should be, quite as tender, as attentive, as
gallant and self-sacrificing, as sympathetic, proud, and devoted as a
lover; yet all his emotions will appear in a new orchestration, as it
were. In the gallant attentions of a loving husband, the anxious
eagerness to please is displaced by a pleasant sense of duty and
gentlemanly courtesy. He still prefers his wife to all other women and
wants a monopoly of her love; but this feeling has a proprietary tinge
that was absent before. Jealousy, too, assumes a new aspect; it may,
temporarily, bring back the uncertainty of courtship, but the emotion
is colored by entirely different ideas: jealousy in a lover is a
green-eyed monster gnawing merely at his hopes, and not, as in a
husband, threatening to destroy his property and his family
honor--which makes a great difference in the quality of the feeling
and its manifestation. The wife, on her part, has no more use for
coyness, but can indulge in the luxury of bestowing gallant attentions
which before marriage would have seemed indelicate or forward, while
after marriage they are a pleasant duty, rising in some cases to
heroic self-sacrifice.

If even within the sphere of romantic love no two cases are exactly
alike, how could love before marriage be the same as after marriage
when so many new experiences, ideas, and associations come into play?
Above all, the feelings relating to the children bring an entirely new
group of tones into the complex harmony of affection. The intimacies
of married life, the revelation of characteristics undiscovered before
marriage, the deeper sympathy, the knowledge that theirs is "one glory
an' one shame"--these and a hundred other domestic experiences make
romantic love undergo a change into something that may be equally rich
and strange but is certainly quite different. A wife's charms are
different from a girl's and inspire a different kind of love. The
husband loves

Those virtues which, before untried,
The wife has added to the bride,

as Samuel Bishop rhymes it. In their predilection for maidens, poets,
like novelists, have until recently ignored the wife too much. But
Cowper sang:

What is there in the vale of life
Half so delightful as a wife,
When friendship, love and peace combine
To stamp the marriage bond divine?
The stream of pure and genuine love
Derives its current from above;
And earth a second Eden shows,
Where'er the healing water flows.

Some of the specifically romantic ingredients of love, on the other
hand--adoration, hyperbole, the mixed moods of hope and despair--do
not normally enter into conjugal affection. No one would fail to see
the absurdity of a husband's exclaiming

O that I were a glove upon that hand
That I might touch that cheek.

He _may_ touch that cheek, and kiss it too--and that makes a
tremendous difference in the tone and tension of his feelings. Unlike
the lover, the husband does not think, feel, and speak in perpetual
hyperboles. He does not use expressions like "beautiful tyrant, fiend
angelical," or speak of

The cruel madness of love
The honey of poisonous flowers.

There is no madness or cruelty in conjugal love: in its normal state
it is all peace, contentment, happiness, while romantic love, in its
normal state, is chiefly unrest, doubt, fear, anxiety, torture and
anguish of heart--with alternating hours of frantic elation--until the
Yes has been spoken.

The emotions of a husband are those of a mariner who has entered into
the calm harbor of matrimony with his treasure safe and sound, while
the romantic lover is as one who is still on the high seas of
uncertainty, storm-tossed one moment, lifted sky-high on a wave of
hope, the next in a dark abyss of despair. It is indeed lucky that
conjugal affection does differ so widely from romantic love; such
nervous tension, doubt, worry, and constant friction between hope and
despair would, if continued after marriage, make life a burden to the
most loving couples.


The notion that genuine romantic love does not undergo a metamorphosis
in marriage is the first of five mistakes I have undertaken to correct
in this chapter. The second is summed up in Westermarck's assertion
(359-60) that it is

"impossible to believe that there ever was a time when
conjugal affection was entirely wanting in the human race
... it seems, in its most primitive form, to have been as
old as marriage itself. It must be a certain degree of
affection that induces the male to defend the female during
her period of pregnancy."

Now I concede that natural selection must have developed at an early
period in the history of man, as in the lower animals, some kind of an
_attachment_ between male and females. A wife could not seek her daily
food in the forest and at the same time defend herself and her
helpless babe against wild beasts and human enemies. Hence natural
selection favored those groups in which the males attached themselves
to a particular female for a longer time than the breeding-season,
defending her from enemies and giving her a share of their game. But
from this admitted fact to the inference that it is "affection" that
makes the husband defend his wife, there is a tremendous logical skip
not warranted by the situation. Instead of making such an assumption
offhand, the scientific method requires us to ask if there is not some
other way of accounting for the facts more in accordance with the
selfish disposition and habits of savages. The solution of the problem
is easily found. A savage's wife is his property, which he has
acquired by barter, service, fighting, or purchase, and which he would
be a fool not to protect against injury or rivals. She is to him a
source of utility, comfort, and pleasure, which is reason enough why
he should not allow a lion to devour her or a rival to carry her off.
She is his cook, his slave, his mule; she fetches wood and water,
prepares the food, puts up the camp, and when it is time to move
carries the tent and kitchen utensils, as well as her child to the
next place. If his motive in protecting her against men and beasts
were _affection_, he would not thus compel her to do all the work
while he walks unburdened to the next camping-place.

Apart from these home comforts there are selfish reasons enough why
savages should take the trouble to protect their wives and rear
children. In Australia it is a universal custom to exchange a daughter
for a new wife, discarding or neglecting the old one; and the habit of
treating children as merchandise prevails in various other parts of
the world. The gross utilitarianism of South African marriages is
illustrated in Dr. Fritsch's remarks on the Ama-Zulus. "As these women
too are slaves, there is not much to say about love, marriage, or
conjugal life," he says. The husband pays for his wife, but expects
her to repay him for his outlay by hard work and _by bearing children
whom he can sell_. "If she fails to make herself thus useful, if she
falls ill, becomes weak, or remains childless, he often sends her back
to her father and demands restitution of the cattle he had paid for
her;" and his demand has to be complied with. Lord Randolph Churchill
(249) was informed by a native of Mashonaland that he had his eye on a
girl whom he desired to marry, because "if he was lucky, his wife
might have daughters whom he would be able to sell in exchange for
goats." Samuel Baker writes in one of his books of African exploration
(_Ism_., 341):

"Girls are always purchased if required as wives. It would
be quite impossible to obtain a wife for love from any tribe
that I have visited. 'Blessed is he that hath his quiver
full of them' (daughters). A large family of girls is a
source of wealth to the father, as he sells each daughter
for twelve or fifteen cows to her suitor."

Of the Central African, Macdonald says (I., 141):

"The more wives he has the richer he is. It is his wives
that maintain him. They do all his ploughing, milling,
cooking, etc. They may be viewed as superior servants, who
combine all the capacities of male servants and female
servants in Britain--who do all his work and ask no wages."

We need not assume a problematic affection to explain why such a man

But the savage's principal marriage motive is, of course, sensualism.
If he wants to own a particular girl he must take care of her. If he
tires of her it is easy enough to get rid of her or to make her a
drudge pure and simple, while her successor enjoys his caresses.
Speaking of Pennsylvania Indians, Buchanan remarks naively (II., 95)
that "the wives are the true servants of their husbands; otherwise the
men are very affectionate to them." On another page (102) he
inadvertently explains what he means by this paradox: "the ancient
women are used for cooks, barbers, and other services, the younger for
dalliance." In other words, Buchanan makes the common mistake of
applying the altruistic word affection to what is nothing more than
selfish indulgence of the sensual appetite. So does Pajeken when he
tells us in the _Ausland_ about the "touching tenderness" of a Crow
chief toward a fourteen-year-old girl whom he had just added to the
number of his wives.

"While he was in the wigwam he did not leave her a
moment. With his own hands he adorned her with chains,
and strings of teeth and pearls, and he found a special
pleasure in combing her black, soft, silken hair. He
gambolled with her like a child and rocked her on his
knees, telling her stories. Of his other wives he
demanded the utmost respect in their treatment of his
little one."

This reference to the other wives ought to have opened Pajeken's eyes
as to the silliness of speaking of the "touching" tenderness of the
Crow chief to his latest favorite. In a few years she was doomed to be
discarded, like the others, in favor of a new victim of his carnal
appetite. Affection is entirely out of the question in such cases.

The Malayans of Sumatra have, as Carl Bock tells us (314), a local
custom allowing a wife to marry again if her faithless spouse has
deserted her for three months:

"The early age at which marriage is contracted is an
obstacle to any real affection between couples; for
girls to be wives at fourteen is a common occurrence;
indeed, that age may be put down as the average age of
first marriage. The girls are then frequently
good-looking, but hard work and the cares of maternity
soon stamp their faces with the marks of age, and spoil
their figures, and then the Malay husband forsakes his
wife, if, indeed, he keeps her so long."

Marriage with these people is, as Bock adds, a mere matter of pounds,
shillings, and pence. His servant had married a "grass-widow" of three
months' desertion. But

"before she had enjoyed her new title six weeks, a coolness
sprang up between her and her husband. I inquired the
reason, and she naively confessed that her husband had no
more rupees to give her, and so she did not care for him any

Concerning Damara women Galton writes (197):

"They were extremely patient, though not feminine,
according to our ideas: they had no strong affections
either for spouse or children; in fact, the spouse was
changed almost weekly, and I seldom knew without
inquiry who the _pro tempore_ husband of each lady was
at any particular time."

Among the Singhalese, if a wife is sick and can no longer minister to
her husband's comforts and pleasure he repudiates her. Bailey
says[123] that this heartless desertion of a sick wife is "the worst
trait in the Kandyan character, and the cool and unconcerned manner in
which they themselves allude to it shows that it is as common as it is

"How can a man be contented with one wife," exclaimed an Arab sheik to
Sir Samuel Baker (_N.T.A._, 263). "It is ridiculous, absurd." And then
he proceeded to explain why, in his opinion, monogamy is such an

"What is he to do when she becomes old? When she is
young, if very lovely, perhaps, he might be satisfied
with her, but even the young must some day grow old,
and the beautiful must fade. The man does not fade like
a woman; therefore, as he remains the same for many
years, Nature has arranged that the man shall have
young wives to replace the old; does not the prophet
allow it?"

He then pointed out what further advantage there was in having several

"This one carries water, that one grinds corn; this
makes the bread; the last does not do much, as she is
the youngest and my favorite; and if they neglect their
work they get a taste of this!"

shaking a long and tolerably thick stick.

There you have the typical male polygamist with his reasons frankly
stated--sensual gratification and utilitarianism.


One of the most gossipy and least critical of all writers on primitive
man, Bonwick, declares (97), in describing Tasmanian funerals, that

"the affectionate nature of women appeared on such
melancholy occasions.... The women not only wept, but
lacerated their bodies with sharp shells and stones, even
burning their thighs with fire-sticks.... The hair cut off
in grief was thrown upon the mound."

Descriptions of the howling and tortures to which savages subject
themselves as part of their funeral rites abound in works of travel,
and although every school-boy knows that the deepest waters are
silent, it is usually assumed that these howling antics betray the
deep grief and affection of the mourners. Now I do not deny that the
lower races do feel grief at the loss of a relative or friend; it is
one of the earliest emotions to develop in mankind. What I object to
in particular is the notion that the penances to which widows submit
on the death of their husbands indicate deep and genuine conjugal
affection. As a matter of fact, these penances are not voluntary but
prescribed, each widow in a tribe being expected to indulge in the
same howlings and mutilations, so that this circumstance alone would
make it impossible to say whether her lamentations over her late
spouse came under the head of affection, fondness, liking, or
attachment, or whether they are associated with indifference or
hatred. It is instructive to note that, in descriptions of mourning
widows, the words "must" or "obliged to" nearly always occur. Among
the Mandans, we read in Catlin (I., 95), "in mourning, like the Crows
and most other tribes, the women _are obliged_ to crop their hair all
off; and the usual term of that condolence is until the hair has grown
again to its former length." The locks of the men (who make them do
this), "are of much greater importance," and only one or two can be
spared. According to Schomburgk, on the death of her husband, an
Arawak wife _must_ cut her hair; and until this has again grown to a
certain length she _cannot_ remarry. (Spencer, _D.S._, 20.) Among the
Patagonians, "the widow, or widows, of the dead, are _obliged_ to
mourn and fast for a whole year after the death of their husbands."
They _must_ abstain from certain kinds of food, and _must not_ wash
their faces and hands for a whole year; while "during the year of
mourning they are _forbidden_ to marry." (Falkner, 119.) The grief is
all prescribed and regulated according to tribal fancy. The Brazilians
"repeat the lamentation for the dead twice a day." (Spix and Martins,
II., 250.) The Comanches

"mourn for the dead _systematically and periodically_ with
great noise and vehemence; at which time the _female_
relatives of the deceased scarify their arms and legs with
sharp flints until the blood trickles from a thousand pores.
The duration of these lamentations depends on the quality
and estimation of the deceased; varying from three to five
or seven days."

(Schoolcraft, I., 237.) James Adair says in his _History of the
American Indians_ (188), "They _compel_ the widow to act the part of
the disconsolate dove, for the irreparable loss of her mate."

In Dahomey, during mourning "the weeping relatives _must_ fast and
refrain from bathing," etc. (Burton, II., 164.) In the Transvaal,
writes the missionary Posselt,

"there are a number of heathenish customs which the widows
are _obliged_ to observe. There is, first, the terrible
lamentation for the dead. Secondly, the widows _must_ allow
themselves to be fumigated," etc.

Concerning the Asiatic Turks Vambery writes that the women are not
allowed to attend the funeral, but "are _obliged_ meanwhile to remain
in their tent, and, while lamenting incessantly, scratch their cheeks
with their nails, _i.e._, mar their beauty." The widow _must_ lament
or sing dirges for a whole year, etc. Chippewa widows are _obliged_ to
fast and must not comb their hair for a year or wear any ornament. A
Shushwap widow _must not_ allow her shadow to fall on any one, and
must bed her head on thorns. Bancroft notes (I., 731) that among the
Mosquito Indians

"the widow was _bound_ to supply the grave of her husband
with provisions for a year, after which she took up the
bones and carried them with her for another year, at last
placing them upon the roof of her house, and then only was
she _allowed_ to marry again."

The widows of the Tolkotin Indians in Oregon were subjected to such
maltreatment that some of them committed suicide to escape their
sufferings. For nine days they were obliged to sleep beside the corpse
and follow certain rules in regard to dressing and eating. If a widow
neglected any of these, she was on the tenth day thrown on the funeral
pile with the corpse and tossed about and scorched till she lost
consciousness. Afterward she was obliged to perform the function of a
slave to all the other women and children of the tribe.[124]

So far as I am aware, no previous writer on the subject has emphasized
the obligatory character of all these performances by widows. To me
that seems by far the most important aspect of the question, as it
shows that the widows were not prompted to these actions by
affectionate grief or self-sacrificing impulses, but by the command of
the men; and if we bear in mind the superlative selfishness of these
men we have no difficulty in comprehending that what makes them compel
the women to do these penances is the desire to make them eager to
care for the comfort and welfare of their husbands lest the latter die
and they thus bring upon themselves the discomforts arid terrors of

Martius justly remarks that the great dependance of savage women makes
them eager to please their husbands (121); and this eagerness would
naturally be doubled by making widowhood forbidding. Bruhier wrote, in
1743, that in Corsica it was customary, in case a man died, for the
women to fall upon his widow and give her a sound drubbing. This
custom, he adds significantly, "prompted the women to take good care
of their husbands."

It is true that the widowers also in some cases subjected themselves
to penance; but usually they made it very much easier for themselves
than for the widows. In his _Lettres sur le Congo_ (152) Edouard
Dupont relates that a man who has lost his wife and wants to show
grief shaves his head, blackens himself, _stops work_, and sits in
front of his chimbeque several days. His neighbors meanwhile feed him
[no fasting for _him_!], and at last a friend brings him a calabash of
malofar and tells him "stop mourning or you will die of starvation."
"It does not happen often," Dupont adds, "that the advice is not
promptly followed."

Selfish utilitarianism does not desert the savage even at the grave of
his wife. An amusing illustration of the shallowness of aboriginal
grief where it seems "truly touching" may be found in an article by
the Rev. F. McFarlane on British New Guinea.[125] Scene: "A woman is
being buried. The husband is lying by the side of the grave,
apparently in an agony of grief; he sobs and cries as if his heart
would break." Then he jumps into the grave and whispers into the ears
of the corpse--what? a last farewell? Oh, no! "He is asking the spirit
of his wife to go with him when he goes fishing, and make him
successful also when he goes hunting, or goes to battle," etc.; his
last request being, "_And please don't be angry if I get another

The simple truth is that in their grief, as in everything else,
savages are nothing but big children, crying one moment, laughing the
next. Whatever feelings they may have are shallow and without
devotion. If the widows of Mandans, Arawaks, Patagonians, etc., do not
marry until a year after the death of their husband this is not on
account of affectionate grief, but, as we have seen, because they are
not allowed to. Where custom prescribes a different course, they
follow that with the same docility. When a Kansas or Osage wife finds,
on the return of a war-party, that she is a widow, she howls dismally,
but forthwith seeks an avenger in the shape of a new husband. "After
the death of a husband, the sooner a squaw marries again, the greater
respect and regard she is considered to show for his memory." (Hunter,
246.) The Australian custom for women, especially widows, is to mourn
by scratching the face and branding the body. As for the grief itself,
its quality may be inferred from the fact that these women sit day
after day by the grave or platform, howling their monotonous dirge,
but, as soon as they are allowed to pause for a meal they indulge in
the merriest pranks. (K.E. Jung, 111.)


In many cases the mourning of savages, instead of being an expression
of affection and grief, appears to be simply a mode of gratifying
their love of ceremonial and excitement. That is, they mourn for
entertainment--I had almost said for fun; and it is easy to see too,
that vanity and superstition play their role here as in their
"ornamenting" and everything else they do. By the Abipones "women are
appointed to go forward on swift steeds to dig the grave, and _honor_
the funeral with lamentations." (Dobrizhoffer II., 267.) During the
ceremony of making a skeleton of a body the Patagonians, as Falkner
informs us (119), indulge in singing in a mournful tone of voice, and
striking the ground, to _frighten away_ the Valichus or Evil Beings.
Some of the Indians also visit the relatives of the dead, indulging in
antics which show that the whole thing is done for effect and pastime.
"During this visit of condolence," Falkner continues,

"they cry, howl, and sing, in the most dismal manner;
straining out tears, and pricking their arms and thighs with
sharp thorns, to make them bleed. For this _show of grief_
they are _paid_ with glass beads," etc.

The Rev. W. Ellis writes that the Tahitians, when someone had died,
"not only wailed in the loudest and most affecting tone, but tore
their hair, rent their garments, and cut themselves with shark's teeth
or knives in a most shocking manner." That this was less an expression
of genuine grief than a result of the barbarous love of excitement,
follows from what he adds: that in a milder form, this loud wailing
and cutting with shark's teeth was "an expression of joy as well as of
grief." (_Pol. Res_., I., 527.) The same writer relates in his book on
Hawaii (148) that when a chief or king died on that island,

"the people ran to and fro without their clothes,
appearing and acting more like demons than human
beings; every vice was practised and almost every
species of crime perpetrated."

J.T. Irving tells a characteristic story (226-27) of an Indian girl
whom he found one day lying on a grave singing a song "so despairing
that it seemed to well out from a broken heart." A half-breed friend,
who thoroughly understood the native customs, marred his illusion by
informing him that he had heard the girl say to her mother that as she
had nothing else to do, she believed she would go and take a bawl over
her brother's grave. The brother had been dead five years!

The whole question of aboriginal mourning is patly summed up in a
witty remark made by James Adair more than a century ago (1775). He
has seen Choctaw mourners, he declares (187), "pour out tears like
fountains of water; but after thus tiring themselves they might with
perfect propriety have asked themselves, '_ And who is dead?_'"


Instructive, from several points of view, is an incident related by
McLean (I., 254-55): A carrier Indian having been killed, his widow
threw herself on the body, shrieking and tearing her hair. The other
females "evinced all the external symptoms of extreme grief, chanting
the death-song in a most lugubrious tone, the tears streaming down
their cheeks, and beating their breasts;" yet as soon as the rites
were ended, these women "were seen as gay and cheerful as if they had
returned from a wedding." The widow alone remained, being "obliged by
custom" to mourn day and night.

"The bodies were formerly burned; the relatives of the
deceased, as well as those of the widow, being present, all
armed; a funeral pile was erected, and the body placed upon
it. The widow then set fire to the pile, and was compelled
to stand by it, anointing her breast with the fat that oozed
from the body, until the heat became insupportable; when the
wretched creature, however, attempted to draw back, she was
thrust forward by her husband's relatives at the point of
their spears, and forced to endure the dreadful torture
until either the body was reduced to ashes, or she herself
almost scorched to death. Her relatives were present merely
to preserve her life; when no longer able to stand they
dragged her away, and this intervention often led to bloody

Obviously the compulsory mourning enforced in McLean's day was simply
a mild survival of this former torture, which, in turn, was a survival
of the still earlier practice of actually burning the widows alive, or
otherwise killing them, which used to prevail in various parts of the
world, as in India, among some Chinese aboriginal tribes, the old
Germans, the Thracians and Scythians, some of the Greeks, the
Lithuanians, the Basutos, the natives of Congo and other African
countries, the inhabitants of New Zealand, the Solomon Islands, New
Hebrides, Fiji Islands, the Crees, Comanches, Caribs, and various
other Indian tribes in California, Darien, Peru, etc.[126]

Some writers have advanced the opinion that jealousy prompted the men
to compel their wives to follow them into death. But the most widely
accepted opinion is that expressed long ago by St. Boniface when he
declared regarding the Wends that

"they _preserve their conjugal love_ with such ardent zeal
that the wife refuses to survive her husband; and _she_ is
especially admired among women who takes her own life in
order to be burnt on the same pile with her master."

This view is the fourth of the mistakes I have undertaken to demolish
in this chapter.

In the monumental work of Ploss and Bartels (II., 514), the opinion is
advanced that the custom of slaughtering widows on the death of their
husbands is the result of the grossly materialistic view the races in
question hold in regard to a future world. It is supposed that a
warrior will reappear with all his physical attributes and wants; for
which reason he is arranged in his best clothes, his weapons are
placed by his side, and often animals and slaves are slaughtered to be
useful to him in his new existence. His principal servant and provider
of home comforts, however, is his wife, wherefore she, too, is
expected to follow him.

This, no doubt, is the truth about widow-burning; but it is not the
whole truth. To comprehend all the horrors of the situation we must
realize clearly that it was the fiendish selfishness of the men,
extending even beyond death, which thus subjected their wives to a
cruel death, and that the widows, on their part, did not follow them
because of the promptings of affection, but either under physical
compulsion or in consequence of a systematic course of moral
reprobation and social persecution which made death preferable to
life. In Peru, for instance, where widows were not killed against
their will, but were allowed to choose between widowhood and being
buried alive,

"the wife or servant who preferred life to the act of
martyrdom, which was to attest their fidelity, was an
object of general contempt, and devoted or doomed to a
life worse than death."

The consequence of this was that

"generally the wives and servants offered themselves
voluntarily, and there are even instances of wives who
preferred suicide to prove their conjugal devotion when
they were prevented from descending to the grave with
the body of their consort." (Rivero and Tschudi, 186.)

Usually, too, superstition was called to aid to make the widows
docile. In Fiji, for instance, to quote Westermarck's summing up (125)
of several authorities, widows

"were either buried alive or strangled, often at their
own desire, because they believed that in this way
alone could they reach the realms of bliss, and that
she who met her death with the greatest devotedness
would become the favorite wife in the abode of spirits.
On the other hand, a widow who did not permit herself
to be killed was considered an adulteress."

To realize vividly how far widow-burning is from being an act of
voluntary wifely devotion one must read Abbe Dubois's account of the
matter (I., chap. _21_). He explains that, however chaste and devoted
a wife may have been during her husband's life, she is treated worse
than the lowest outcast if she wants to survive him. By a "voluntary"
death, on the contrary, she becomes "an illustrious victim of conjugal
attachment," and is "considered in the light of a deity." On the way
to the funeral pyre the accompanying multitude stretch out their hands
toward her in token of admiration. They behold her as already
translated into the paradise of Vishnu and seem to envy her happy lot.
The women run up to her to receive her blessing, and she knows that
afterward crowds of votaries will daily frequent her shrine. The
Brahmans compliment her on her heroism. (Sometimes drugs are
administered to stifle her fears.) She knows, too, that it is useless
to falter at the last moment, as a change of heart would be an eternal
disgrace, not only to herself but to her relatives, who, therefore,
stand around with sabres and rifles to _intimidate_ her. In short,
with satanic ingenuity, every possible appeal is made to her family
pride, vanity, longing for future bliss and divine honors after life,
enforced by the knowledge that if she lives earth will be a hell to
her, so that refusal is next to impossible. And this is the
much-vaunted "conjugal affection and fidelity" of Hindoo widows!


The practice of "voluntary" widow-burning is, as the foregoing shows,
about as convincing proof of wifely devotion as the presence of an ox
in the butcher's stall is proof of his gastronomic devotion to man. In
reality it is, as I have said, simply the most diabolical aspect of
man's aboriginal disposition to look on woman as made solely for his
own comfort and pleasure, here and hereafter. Now it is very
instructive to note that whenever there is a story of conjugal
devotion in Oriental or ancient classical literature it is nearly
always inspired by the same spirit--the idea that the woman, as an
inferior being, should subject herself to any amount of suffering if
she can thereby save her sacred lord and master the slightest pang.
For instance, an old Arabic writer (Kamil Mobarrad, p. 529) relates
how a devoted wife whose husband was condemned to death disfigured her
beautiful face in order to let him die with the consoling feeling that
she would not marry again. The current notion that such stories are
proof of conjugal devotion is the fifth of the mistakes to be
corrected in this chapter. These stories were written by men, selfish
men, who intended them as lessons to indicate to the women what was
expected of them. Were it otherwise, why should not the men, too, be
represented, at least occasionally, as devoted and self-sacrificing?
Hector is tender to Andromache, and in the Sanscrit drama, _Kanisika's
Wrath,_ the King and the Queen contend with one another as to who
shall be the victim of that wrath; but these are the only instances of
the kind that occur to me. This interesting question will be further
considered in the chapters on India and Greece, where corroborative
stories will be quoted. Here I wish only to emphasize again the need
of caution and suspicion in interpreting the evidence relating to the
human feelings.


So much for the feminine aspect of conjugal devotion. In regard to the
masculine aspect something must be added to what was said in preceding
pages (307-10). We saw there that primitive man desires wives chiefly
as drudges and concubines. It was also indicated briefly that wives
are valued as mothers of daughters who can be sold to suitors. As a
rule, sons are more desired than daughters, as they increase a man's
power and authority, and because they alone can keep up the
superstitious rites which are deemed necessary for the salvation of
the father's selfish old soul. Now the non-existence or extreme rarity
of conjugal attachment--not to speak of affection--is painfully
indicated by the circumstance that wives were, among many races,
valued (apart from grossly utilitarian and sensual motives) as mothers
only, and that the men had a right, of which they commonly availed
themselves, of repudiating a wife if she proved barren. On the lower
Congo, says Dupont (96), a wife is not respected unless she has at
least three children. Among the Somali, barren women are dieted and
dosed, and if that proves unavailing they are usually chased away.
(Paulitschke, _B.E.A.S_., 30.) If a Greenlander's wife did not bear
him any children he generally took another one. (Cranz, I., 147.)
Among the Mexican Aztecs divorce, even from a concubine, was not easy;
but in case of barrenness even the principal wife could be repudiated.
(Bancroft, II., 263-65.) The ancient Greeks, Romans, and Germans, the
Chinese and Japanese, could divorce a wife on account of barrenness.
For a Hindoo the laws of Manu indicate that "a barren wife may be
dispensed with in the eighth year; one whose children all die, in the
tenth; one who bears only daughters, in the eleventh." The tragic
import of such bare statements is hardly realized until we come upon
particular instances like those related by the Indian authoress
Ramabai (15):

"Of the four wives of a certain prince, the eldest had
borne him two sons; she was therefore his favorite, and
her face beamed with happiness.... But oh! what
contrast to this happiness was presented in the
apartments of the childless three. Their faces were sad
and careworn; there seemed no hope for them in this
world, since their lord was displeased with them on
account of their misfortune."

"A lady friend of mine in Calcutta told me that her husband had warned
her not to give birth to a girl, the first time, or he would never see
her face again." Another woman

"had been notified by her husband that if she persisted
in bearing daughters she should be superseded by
another wife, have coarse clothes to wear, scanty food
to eat," etc.[127]


The conclusion to be drawn from the testimony collected in this
chapter is that genuine conjugal love--the affection for a wife _for
her own sake_--is, like romantic love, a product chiefly of modern

I say chiefly, because I am convinced that conjugal love was known
sooner than romantic love, and for a very simple reason. Among those
of the lower races where the sexes were not separated in youth, a
license prevailed which led to shallow, premature, temporary alliances
that precluded all idea of genuine affection, even had these folk been
capable of such a sentiment; while among those tribes and peoples that
practised the custom of separating the boys and girls from the
earliest age, and not allowing them to become acquainted till after
marriage, the growth of real, prematrimonial affection was, of course,
equally impossible. In married life this was different. Living
together for years, having a common interest in their children,
sharing the same joys and sorrows, husband and wife would learn the
rudiments of sympathy, and in happy cases there would be an
opportunity for the growth of liking, attachment, fondness, or even,
in exceptional instances, of affection. I cannot sufficiently
emphasize the fact that my theory is psychological or cultural, not
chronological. The fact that a man lives in the year 1900 makes it no
more self-evident that he should be capable of sexual affection than
the fact that a man lived seven centuries before Christ makes it
self-evident that he could not love affectionately. Hector and
Andromache existed only in the brain of Homer, who was in many
respects thousands of years ahead of his contemporaries. Whether such
a couple could really have existed at that time among the Trojans, or
the Greeks, we do not know, but in any case it would have been an
exception, proving the rule by the painful contrast of the surrounding

Exceptions may possibly occur among the lower races, through happy
combinations of circumstances. C.C. Jones describes (69) a picture of
conjugal devotion among Cherokee Indians:

"By the side of the aged Mico Tomo-chi-chi, as, thin
and weak, he lies upon his blanket, hourly expecting
the summons of the pale-king, we see the sorrowing form
of his old wife, Scenauki, bending over and fanning him
with a bunch of feathers."

In his work on the Indians of California (271), Powers writes:

"An aged Achomauri lost his wife, to whom he had been
married probably half a century, and he tarred his face
in mourning for her as though he were a woman--_an act
totally unprecedented_, and regarded by the Indians as
evincing an _extraordinary_ affection."

St. John relates the following incident in his book on Borneo:

"Ijan, a Balau chief, was bathing with his wife in the
Lingga River, a place notorious for man-eating
alligators, when Indra Lela, passing in a boat,
remarked, 'I have just seen a very large animal
swimming up the stream.' Upon hearing this, Ijan told
his wife to go up the steps and he would follow. She
got safely up, but he, stopping to wash his feet, was
seized by the alligator, dragged into the middle of the
stream, and disappeared from view. His wife, hearing a
cry, turned round, and seeing her husband's fate,
sprang into the river, shrieking 'Take me also,' and
dived down at the spot where she had seen the alligator
sink with his prey. No persuasion could induce her to
come out of the water; she swam about, diving in all
the places most dreaded from being a resort of
ferocious reptiles, seeking to die with her husband; at
last her friends came down and forcibly removed her to
their house."

These stories certainly imply conjugal attachment, but is there any
indication in them of affection? The Cherokee squaw mourns the
impending death of her husband, which is a selfish feeling. The
Californian, similarly, laments the loss of his spouse. The only thing
he does is to "tar his face in mourning," and even this is regarded by
the other Indians as "extraordinary" and "unprecedented." As for the
woman in the third story, it is to be noted that her act is one of
selfish despair, not of self-sacrifice for her husband's sake. We
shall see in later chapters that women of her grade abandon themselves
to suicidal impulses, not only where there is occasion for real
distress, but often on the most trivial pretexts. A few days later, in
all probability, that same woman would have been ready to marry
another man. There is no evidence of altruistic action--action for
another's benefit--in any of these incidents, and altruism is the only
test of genuine affection as distinguished from mere liking,
attachment, and fondness, which, as was explained in the chapter on
Affection, are the products of selfishness, more or less disguised. If
this distinction had been borne in mind a vast amount of confusion
could have been avoided in works of exploration and the
anthropological treatises based on them. Westermarck, for instance,
cites on page 357 a number of authors who asserted that sexual
affection, or even the appearance of it, was unknown to the Hovas of
Madagascar, the Gold Coast, and Winnabah natives, the Kabyles, the
Beni-Amer, the Chittagong Hill Tribes, the Ponape islanders, the
Eskimo, the Kutchin, the Iroquois, and North American Indians in
general; while on the next pages he cites approvingly authors who
fancied they had discovered sexual affection among tribes some of whom
(Australians, Andamanese, Bushmans) are far below the peoples just
mentioned. The cause of this discrepancy lies not in these races
themselves, but in the inaccurate use of words, and the different
standards of the writers, some accepting the rubbing of noses or other
sexual caresses as evidence of "affection," while others take any acts
indicating fondness, attachment, or a suicidal impulse as signs of it.
In a recent work by Tyrrell (165), I find it stated that the Eskimo
marriage is "purely a love union;" and in reading on I discover that
the author's idea of a "love union" is the absence of a marriage
ceremony! Yet I have no doubt that Tyrrell will be cited hereafter as
evidence that love unions are common among the Eskimos. So, again,
when Lumholtz writes (213) that an Australian woman

"may happen to change husbands many times in her life, but
sometimes, despite the fact that her consent is not asked,
she gets the one she loves--for a black woman can love too"

--we are left entirely in the dark as to what kind of "love" is
meant--sensual or sentimental, liking, attachment, fondness, or real
affection. Surely it is time to put an end to such confusion, at least
in scientific treatises, and to acquire in psychological discussions
the precision which we always employ in describing the simplest weeds
or insects.

Morgan, the great authority on the Iroquois--the most intelligent of
North American Indians--lived long enough among them to realize
vaguely that there must be a difference between sexual attachment
before and after marriage, and that the latter is an earlier
phenomenon in human evolution. After declaring that among the Indians
"marriage was not founded on the affections ... but was regulated
exclusively as a matter of physical necessity," he goes on to say:

"Affection after marriage would naturally spring up
between the parties from association, from habit, and
from mutual dependence; but of that marvellous passion
which originates in a higher development of the
passions of the human heart, and is founded upon a
cultivation of the affections between the sexes, they
were entirely ignorant. In their temperaments they were
below this passion in its simplest forms."

He is no doubt right in declaring that the Indians before marriage
were "in their temperaments" below affectionate love "in its simplest
forms"; but, that being so, it is difficult to see how they could have
acquired real affection after marriage. As a matter of fact we know
that they treated their wives with a selfishness which is entirely
incompatible with true affection. The Rev. Peter Jones, moreover, an
Indian himself, tells us in his book on the Ojibwas:

"I have scarcely ever seen anything like social
intercourse between husband and wife, and it is
remarkable that the women say little in presence of the

Obviously, at the beginning of the passage quoted, Morgan should have
used the word attachment in place of affection. Bulmer (by accident, I
suspect) uses the right word when he says (Brough Smyth, 77) that
Australians, notwithstanding their brutal forms of marriage, often
"get much attached to each other." At the same time it is easy to show
that, if not among Australians or Indians, at any rate with such a
people as the ancient Greeks, conjugal affection may have existed
while romantic love was still impossible. The Greeks looked down on
their women as inferior beings. Now one can feel affection--conjugal
or friendly--toward an inferior, but one cannot feel adoration--and
adoration is absolutely essential to romantic love. Before romantic
love could be born it was necessary that women should not only be
respected as equal to man but worshipped as his superior. This was not
done by any of the lower or ancient races; hence romantic love is a
peculiarly modern sentiment, later than any other form of human


When Shakspere wrote that "The course of true love never did run
smooth" he had in mind individual cases of courtship. But what is true
of individuals also applies to the story of love itself. For many
thousands of years savagery and barbarism "proved an unrelenting foe
to love," and it was with almost diabolical ingenuity that obstacles
to its birth and growth were maintained and multiplied. It was
crushed, balked, discountenanced, antagonized, discredited,
disheartened so persistently that the wonder is not that there should
be so little true love even at the present day, but that there is any
at all. A whole volume might be written on the Obstacles to Love; my
original plan for this book included a long chapter on this matter;
but partly to avoid repetition, partly to save space, I will condense
my material to a few pages, considering briefly the following
obstacles: I. Ignorance and stupidity. II. Coarseness and obscenity.
III. War. IV. Cruelty. V. Masculine selfishness. VI. Contempt for
women. VII. Capture and sale of brides. VIII. Infant marriages. IX.
Prevention of free choice. X. Separation of the sexes. XI. Sexual
taboos. XII. Race aversion. XIII. Multiplicity of languages. XIV.
Social barriers. XV. Religious prejudice.


Intelligence alone does not imply a capacity for romantic love. Dogs
are the most intelligent of all animals, but they know nothing of
love; the most intelligent nations of antiquity--the Greeks, Romans
and Hebrews--were strangers to this feeling; and in our times we have
seen that such intelligent persons as Tolstoi, Zola, Groncourt,
Flaubert have been confessedly unable to experience real love such as
Turgenieff held up to them. On the other hand, there can be no genuine
love without intelligence. It is true that maternal love exists among
the lowly, but that is an instinct developed by natural selection,
because without it the race could not have persisted. Conjugal
attachment also was, as we have seen, necessary for the preservation
of the race; whereas romantic love is not necessary for the
preservation of the race, but is merely a means for its improvement;
wherefore it developed slowly, keeping pace with the growth of the
intellectual powers of discrimination, the gradual refinement of the
emotions, and the removal of diverse obstacles created by selfishness,
coarseness, foolish taboos, and prejudices. A savage lives entirely in
his senses, hence sensual love is the only kind he can know. His love
is as coarse and simple as his music, which is little more than a
monotonous rhythmic noise. Just as a man, unless he has musical
culture, cannot understand a Schumann symphony, so, unless he has
intellectual culture, he cannot love a woman as Schumann loved Clara

Stupid persons, men and women with blunt intellects, also have blunt
feelings, excepting those of a criminal, vengeful kind. Savages have
keener senses than we have, but their intellect and emotions are blunt
and untrained. An Australian cannot count above ten, and Galton says
(132) that Damaras in counting "puzzle very much after five, because
no spare hand remains to grasp and secure the fingers that are
required for units." Spix and Martins (384) found it very difficult to
get any information from the Brazilian (Coroado) because "scarcely has
one begun to question him about his language when he gets impatient,
complains of headache, and shows that he cannot endure this
effort"--for he is used to living entirely in and for his senses.
Fancy such savages writing or reading a book like _The Reveries of a
Bachelor_ and you will understand why stupidity is an obstacle to
love, and realize the unspeakable folly of the notion that love is
always and everywhere the same. The savage has no imagination, and
imagination is the organ of romantic love; without it there can be no
sympathy, and without sympathy there can be no love.


Kissing and other caresses are, as we have seen, practices unknown to
savages. Their nerves being too coarse to appreciate even the more
refined forms of sensualism, it follows of necessity that they are too
coarse to experience the subtle manifestations of imaginative
sentimental love. Their national addiction to obscene practices and
conversation proves an insuperable obstacle to the growth of refined
sexual feelings. Details given in later chapters will show that what
Turner says of the Samoans, "From their childhood their ears are
familiar with the most obscene conversation;" and what the Rev. George
Taplan writes of the "immodest and lewd" dances of the Australians,
applies to the lower races in general. The history of love is, indeed,
epitomized in the evolution of the dance from its aboriginal obscenity
and licentiousness to its present function as chiefly a means of
bringing young people together and providing innocent opportunities
for courtship; two extremes differing as widely as the coarse drum
accompaniment of a primitive dance from the sentimental melodies,
soulful harmonies, and exquisite orchestral colors of a Strauss waltz.
A remark made by Taine on Burns suggests how even acquired coarseness
in a mind naturally refined may crush the capacity for true love:

"He had enjoyed too much.... Debauch had all but
spoiled his fine imagination, which had before been
'the chief source of his happiness'; and he confessed
that, instead of tender reveries, he had now nothing
but sensual desires."

The poets have done much to confuse the public mind in this matter by
their fanciful and impossible pastoral lovers. The remark made in my
first book, that "only an educated mind can feel romantic love," led
one of its reviewers to remark, half indignantly, half mournfully,
"There goes the pastoral poetry of the world at a single stroke of the
pen." Well, let it go. I am quite sure that if these poetic dreamers
had ever come across a shepherdess in real life--dirty, unkempt,
ignorant, coarse, immoral--they would themselves have made haste to
disavow their heroines and seek less malodorous "maidens" for
embodiments of their exalted fancies of love[128]. Richard Wagner was
promptly disillusioned when he came across some of those modern
shepherdesses, the Swiss dairy-maids. "There are magnificent women
here in the Oberland," he wrote to a friend, "but only so to the eye;
they are all tainted with rabid vulgarity."


Herbert Spencer has devoted some eloquent pages[129] to showing that
along with chronic militancy there goes a brutal treatment of women,
whereas industrial tribes are likely to treat their wives and
daughters well. To militancy is due the disregard of women's claims
shown in stealing or buying them, the inequality of status between the
sexes entailed by polygamy; the use of women as laboring slaves, the
life-and-death power over wife and child. To which we may add that war
proves an obstacle to love, by fostering cruelty and smothering
sympathy, and all the other tender feelings; by giving the coarsest
masculine qualities of aggressiveness and brute prowess the aspect of
cardinal virtues and causing the feminine virtues of gentleness,
mercy, kindness, to be despised, and women themselves to be esteemed
only in so far as they appropriate masculine qualities; and by
fostering rape and licentiousness in general. When Plutarch wrote that
"the most warlike nations are the most addicted to love," he meant, of
course, lust. In wars of the past no incentive to brutal courage
proved so powerful as the promise that the soldiers might have the
women of captured cities. "Plunder if you succeed, and paradise if you
fall. Female captives in the one case, celestial houris in the
other"--such was, according to Burckhardt, the promise to their men
given by Wahabi chiefs on the eve of battle.


Love depends on sympathy, and sympathy is incompatible with cruelty.
It has been maintained that the notorious cruelty of the lower and
war-like races is manifested only toward enemies; but this is an
error. Some of the instances cited under "Sentimental Murder" and
"Sympathy" show how often superstitious and utilitarian considerations
smother all the family feelings. Three or four more illustrations may
be added here. Burton says of the East Africans, that "when childhood
is past, the father and son become natural enemies, after the manner
of wild beasts." The Bedouins are not compelled by law or custom to
support their aged parents, and Burckhardt (156) came across such men
whom their sons would have allowed to perish. Among the Somals it
frequently occurs that an old father is simply driven away and exposed
to distress and starvation. Nay, incredible cases are related of
fathers being sold as slaves, or killed. The African missionary,
Moffat, one day came across an old woman who had been left to die
within an enclosure. He asked her why she had been thus deserted, and
she replied:

"I am old, you see, and no longer able to serve them [her
grown children]. When they kill game, I am too feeble to aid
in carrying home the flesh; I am incapable of gathering wood
to make fire, and I cannot carry their children on my back
as I used to do."


The South American Chiquitos, as Dobrizhoffer informs us (II., 264),
used to kill the wife of a sick man, believing her to be the cause of
his illness, and fancying that his recovery would follow her
disappearance. Fijians have been known to kill and eat their wives,
when they had no other use for them. Carl Bock (275) says of the
Malays of Sumatra, that the men are extremely indolent and make the
women their beasts of burden (as the lower races do in general).

"I have," he says,

"continually met a file of women carrying loads of rice or
coffee on their heads, while the men would follow, lazily
lounging along, with a long stick in their hands, like
shepherds driving a flock of sheep.... I have seen a man go
into his house, where his wife was lying asleep on the bed,
rudely awake her, and order her to lie on the floor, while
he made himself comfortable on the cushions."

But I need not add in this place any further instances to the hundreds
given in other parts of this volume, revealing uncivilized man's
disposition to regard woman as made for his convenience, both in this
world and the next. Nor is it necessary to add that such an attitude
is an insuperable obstacle to love, which in its essence is


As late as the sixth century the Christian Provincial Council of Macon
debated the question whether women have souls. I know of no early
people, savage, barbarous, semi-civilized or civilized--from the
Australian to the Greek--in which the men did not look down on the
women as inferior beings. Now contempt is the exact opposite of
adoration, and where it prevails there can of course be no romantic


In the Homeric poems we read much about young women who were captured
and forced to become the concubines of the men who had slain their
fathers, brothers, and husbands. Other brides are referred to as
[Greek: alphesiboiai], wooed with rich presents, literally "bringing
in oxen." Among other ancient nations--Assyrians, Hebrews,
Babylonians, Chaldeans, etc., brides had to be bought with property or
its equivalent in service (as in the case of Jacob and Rachel).
Serving for a bride until the parents feel repaid for their selfish
trouble in bringing her up, also prevails among savages as low as the
African Bushman and the Fuegian Indians, and is not therefore, as
Herbert Spencer holds, a higher or later form of "courtship" than
capture or purchase. But it is less common than purchase, which has
been a universal custom. "All over the earth," says Letourneau (137),

"among all races and at all times, wherever history gives us
information, we find well-authenticated examples of marriage
by purchase, which allows us to assert that during the
middle period of civilization, the right of parents over
their children, and especially over their daughters,
included in all countries the privilege of selling them."

In Australia a knife or a glass bottle has been held sufficient
compensation for a wife. A Tartar parent will sell his daughter for a
certain number of sheep, horses, oxen, or pounds of butter; and so on
in innumerable regions. As an obstacle to free choice and love unions,
nothing more effective could be devised; for what Burckhardt writes
(_B. and W._, I., 278) of the Egyptian peasant girls has a general
application. They are, he says, "sold in matrimony by their fathers
_to the highest bidders_; a circumstance that frequently causes the
most mean and unfeeling transactions."

In his collection of Esthonian folk-songs Neus has a poem which
pathetically pictures the fate of a bartered bride. A girl going to
the field to cut flax meets a young man who informs her bluntly that
she belongs to him, as he has bought her. "And who undertook to sell
me?" she asks. "Your father and mother, your sister and brother," he
replies, adding frankly that he won the father's favor with a present
of a horse, the mother's with a cow, the sister's with a bracelet, the
brother's with an ox. Then the unwilling bride lifts her voice and
curses the family: "May the father's horse rot under him; may the
mother's cow yield blood instead of milk!" Hundreds of millions of
bartered brides have borne their fate more meekly. It is needless to
add that what has been said here applies _a fortiori_ to captured


Of the diabolical habit of forcing girls into marriage before they had
reached the age of puberty and its wide prevalence I have already
spoken (293), and reference will be made to it in many of the pages
following this. Here I may, therefore, confine myself to a few details
relating to one country, by way of showing vividly what a deadly
obstacle to courtship, free choice, love, and every tender and
merciful feeling, this cruel custom forms. Among all classes and
castes of Hindoos it has been customary from time immemorial to unite
boys of eight; seven, even six years, to girls still younger. It is
even prescribed by the laws of Manu that a man of twenty-four should
marry a girl of eight. Old Sanscrit verses have been found declaring
that "the mother, father, and oldest brother of a girl shall all be
damned if they allow her to reach maturity without being married;" and
the girl herself, in such a case, is cast out into the lowest class,
too low for anyone to marry her.[131] In some cases marriage means
merely engagement, the bride remaining at home with her parents, who
do not part with her till some years later. Often, however, the
husband takes immediate possession of his child-wife, and the
consequences are horrible. Of 205 cases reported in a Bengal
Medico-Legal Report, 5 ended fatally, 38 were crippled, and the
general effect of such cruelty is pathetically touched on by Mme.
Ryder, who found it impossible to describe the anguish she felt when
she saw these half-developed females, with their expression of
hopeless suffering, their skeleton arms and legs, marching behind
their husbands at the prescribed distance, with never a smile on their

It would be a mistake to seek a partial excuse for this inhumanity in
the early maturing effects of a warm climate. Mme. Ryder expressly
states that a Hindoo girl of ten, instead of seeming older than a
European girl of that age, resembles our children at five or six


One of the unfortunate consequences of Darwin's theory of sexual
selection was that it made him assume that

"in utterly barbarous tribes the women have more power in
choosing, rejecting, and tempting their lovers, or of
afterward exchanging their husbands than might have been
expected. As this is a point of importance,"

he adds, "I will give in detail such evidence as I have been able to
collect;" which he proceeds to do. This "evidence in detail" consists
of three cases in Africa, five among American Indians, and a few
others among Fijians, Kalmucks, Malayans, and the Korarks of
Northeastern Asia. Having referred to these twelve cases, he proceeds
with his argument, utterly ignoring the twelve hundred facts that
oppose his assumption--a proceeding so unlike his usual candid habit
of stating the difficulties confronting him, that this circumstance
alone indicates how shaky he felt in regard to this point. Moreover,
even the few instances he cites fail to bear out his doctrine. It is
incomprehensible to me how he could claim the Kaffirs for his side.
Though these Africans "buy their wives, and girls are severely beaten
by their fathers if they will not accept a chosen husband, it is
nevertheless manifest," Darwin writes, "from many facts given by the
Rev. Mr. Shooter, that they have considerable power of choice. Thus,
very ugly, though rich men, have been known to fail in getting wives."
What Shooter really does (50) is to relate the case of a man so
ill-favored that he had never been able to get a wife till he offered
a big sum to a chief for one of his wards. She refused to go, but "her
arms were bound and she was delivered like a captive. Later she
escaped and claimed the protection of a rival chief."

In other words, this man did _not_ fail to get a wife, and the girl
had _no_ choice. Darwin ignores the rest of Shooter's narrative
(55-58), which shows that while perhaps as a rule moral persuasion is
first tried before physical violence is used, the girl in any case is
obliged to take the man chosen for her. The man is highly praised in
her presence, and if she still remains obstinate she has to
"encounter the wrath of her enraged father ... the furious parent will
hear nothing--go with her husband she must--if she return she shall be
slain." Even if she elopes with another man she "may be forcibly
brought back and sent to the one chosen by her father," and only by
the utmost perseverance can she escape his tyranny. Leslie (whom
Darwin cites) is therefore wrong when he says "it is a mistake to
imagine that a girl is sold by her father in the same manner, and with
the same authority, with which he would dispose of a cow." Those who
knew the Kaffirs most intimately agree with Shooter; the Rev. W.C.
Holden, _e.g._, who writes in his elaborate work, _The Past and Future
of the Kaffir Races_ (189-211) that "it is common for the youngest,
the healthiest, ... the handsomest girls to be sold to old men who
perhaps have already half-a-dozen concubines," and whom the work of
these wives has made rich enough to buy another. A girl is in many
instances "compelled by torture to accept the man she hates. The whole
is as purely a business transaction as the bartering of an ox or
buying a horse." From Dugmore's _Laws and Customs_ he cites the
following: "It sometimes occurs that the entreaties of the daughter
prevail over the avarice of the father; but such cases, the Kaffirs
admit, are rare ... the highest bidder usually gains the prize."
Holden adds that when a girl is obstreperous "they seize her by main
strength, and drag her on the ground, as I have repeatedly seen;" and
in his chapter on polygamy he gives the most harrowing details of the
various cruelties practised on the poor girls who do not wish to be
sold like cows.

That Kaffir girls "have been known to propose to a man," as Darwin
says, does not indicate that they have a choice, any more than the
fact that they "not rarely run away with a favored lover." They might
propose to a hundred men and not have their choice; and as for the
elopement, that in itself shows they have no liberty of choice; for if
they had they would not be obliged to run away. Finally, how could
Darwin reconcile his attitude with the remark of C. Hamilton, cited by
himself, that with the Kaffirs "the chiefs generally have the pick of
the women for many miles round, and are most persevering in
establishing or confirming their privilege"?

I have discussed this case "in detail" in order to show to what
desperate straits a hopeless theory may reduce a great thinker. To
suppose that in this "utterly barbarous tribe" the looks of the race
can be gradually improved by the women accepting only those males who
"excite or charm them most" is simply grotesque. Nor is Darwin much
happier with his other cases. When he wrote that "Among the degraded
Bushmen of Africa" (citing Burchell) "'when a girl has grown up to
womanhood without having been betrothed, _which, however, does not
often happen_, her lover must gain her approbation as well as that of
her parents'"--the words I have italicized ought to have shown him
that this testimony was not for but against his theory. Burchell
himself tells us that Bushman girls "are most commonly betrothed" when
about seven years old, and become mothers at twelve, or even at ten.
To speak of choice in such cases, in any rational sense of the word,
would be farcical even if the girls were free to do as they please,
which they are not. With regard to the Fuegians, Darwin cites King and
Fitzroy to the effect that the Indian obtains the consent of the
parents by doing them some service, and then attempts to carry off the
girl; "but if she is unwilling, she hides herself in the woods until
her admirer is heartily tired of looking for her and gives up his
pursuit; _but this seldom happens_." If this passage means anything,
it means that it is customary for the parents to decide upon who is to
marry their daughters, and that, though she may frustrate the plan,
"this seldom happens." Darwin further informs us that "Hearne
describes how a woman in one of the tribes of Arctic America
repeatedly ran away from her husband and joined her lover." How much
this single instance proves in regard to woman's liberty of choice or
power to aid sexual selection, may be inferred from the statement by
the same "excellent observer" of Indian traits (as Darwin himself
calls him) that "it has ever been the custom among these people to
wrestle for any woman to whom they are attached; and, of course, the
strongest party always carries off the prize"--an assertion borne out
by Richardson (II., 24) and others. But if the strongest man "always
carries off the prize," where does woman's choice come in? Hearne adds
that "this custom prevails throughout all their tribes" (104). And
while the other Indian instances referred to by Darwin indicate that
in case of decided aversion a girl is not absolutely compelled, as
among the Kaffirs, to marry the man selected for her, the custom
nevertheless is for the parents to make the choice, as among most
Indians, North and South.

Whereas Darwin's claim that primitive women have "more power" to
decide their fate as regards marriage "than might have been expected,"
is comparatively modest, Westermarck goes so far as to declare that
these women "are not, _as a rule,_ married without having any voice of
their own in the matter." He feels compelled to this course because he
realizes that his theory that savages originally ornamented themselves
in order to make themselves attractive to the opposite sex
"presupposes of course that savage girls enjoy great liberty in the
choice of a mate." In the compilation of his evidence, unfortunately,
Westermarck is even less critical and reliable than Darwin. In
reference to the Bushmen, he follows Darwin's example in citing
Burchell, but leaves out the words "which, however, does not often
happen," which show that liberty of choice on the woman's part is not
the rule but a rare exception.[132] He also claims the Kaffirs,
though, as I have just shown, such a claim is preposterous. To the
evidence already cited on my side I may add Shooter's remarks (55),
that if there are several lovers the girl is asked to decide for
herself. "This, however, is merely formal," for if she chooses one who
is poor the father recommends to her the one of whom he calculated to
get the most cattle, and that settles the matter. Not even the widows
are allowed the liberty of choice, for, as Shooter further informs us
(86), "when a man dies those wives who have not left the kraal remain
with the eldest son. If they wish to marry again, they must go to one
of their late husband's brothers." Among the African women "who have
no difficulty in getting the husbands whom they may desire,"
Westermarck mentions the Ashantees, on the authority of Beecham (125).
On consulting that page of Beecham I find that he does indeed declare
that "no Ashantee compels his daughter to become the wife of one she
dislikes;" but this is a very different thing from saying that she can
choose the man she may desire. "In the affair of courtship," writes
Beecham, "the wishes of the female are but little consulted; the
business being chiefly settled between the suitor and her parents."
And in the same page he adds that "it is not infrequently the case
that infants are married to each other ... and infants are also
frequently wedded to adults, and even to elderly men," while it is
also customary "to contract for a child before it is born." The same
destructive criticism might be applied to other negroes of Western
Africa whom both Darwin and Westermarck claim on the very dubious
evidence of Reade.[133]

Among other peoples to whom Westermarck looks for support of his
argument are the Fijians, Tongans, and natives of New Britain, Java,
and Sumatra. He claims the Fijians on the peculiar ground (the italics
are mine) that among them "forced marriages are _comparatively_ rare
among the _higher classes_." That may be; but are not the higher
classes a small minority? And do not all classes indulge in the habits
of infant betrothal and of appropriating women by violence without
consulting their wishes? Regarding the Tongans, Westermarck cites the
supposition of Mariner that perhaps two-thirds of the girls had
married with their own free consent; which does not agree with the
observations of Vason (144), who spent four years among them:

"As the choice of a husband is not in the power of the
daughters but he is provided by the discretion of the
parents, an instance of refusal on the part of the daughter
is unknown in Tonga."

He adds that this is not deemed a hardship there, where divorce and
unchastity are so general.

"In the New Britain Group, according to Mr. Romilly, after
the man has worked for years to pay for his wife, and is
finally in a position to take her to his house, she may
refuse to go, and _he cannot claim back from the parents the
large sums he has paid_ them in yams, cocoa-nuts, and

This Westermarck guilelessly accepts as proof of the liberty of choice
on the girl's part, missing the very philosophy of the whole matter.
Why are girls not allowed in so many cases to choose their own
husbands? Because their selfish parents want to benefit by selling
them to the highest bidder. In the above case, on the contrary, as the
italics show, the selfish parents benefit by making the girl refuse to
go with that man, keeping her as a bait for another profitable suitor.
In all probability she refuses to go with him at the positive command
of her parents. What the real state of affairs is on the New Britain
Group we may gather from the revelations given in an article on the
marriage customs of the natives by the Rev. B. Danks in the _Journal
of the Anthropological Institute_ (1888, 290-93): In New Britain, he
says, "the marriage tie has much the appearance of a money tie." There
are instances of sham capture, when there is much laughter and fun;

"but in many cases which came under my notice it was not a
matter of form but painful earnestness." "It often happens
that the young woman has a liking for another and none for
the man who has purchased her. She may refuse to go to him.
In that case her friends consider themselves disgraced by
her conduct. She ought, according to their notions, to fall
in with their arrangements with thankfulness and gladness of
heart! They drag her along, beat her, kick and abuse her,
and it has been my misfortune to see girls dragged past my
house, struggling in vain to escape from their fate.
Sometimes they have broken loose and then ran for the only
place of refuge in all the country, the mission-house. I
could render them no assistance until they had bounded up
the steps of my veranda into our bedroom and hidden
themselves under the bed, trembling for their lives. It has
been my privilege and duty to stand between the infuriated
brother or father, who has followed close upon the poor
girl, spear in hand, vowing to put her to death for the
disgrace she has brought upon them." "Liberty of choice,"


"In some parts of Java, much deference is paid to the bride's
inclinations," writes Westermarck. But Earl declares (58) that among
the Javanese "courtship is carried on entirely through the medium of
the parents of the young people, and any interference on the part of
the bride would be considered highly indecorous," And Raffles writes
(I., Ch. VII.) that in Java "marriages are invariably contracted, not
by the parties themselves, but by their parents or relations on their
behalf." Betrothals of children, too, are customary. Regarding the
Sumatrans, Westermarck cites Marsden to the effect that among the
Rejang a man may run away with a virgin without violating the laws,
provided he pays her parents for her afterward--which tells us little
about the girl's choice. But why does he ignore Marsden's full
account, a few pages farther on, of Sumatran marriages in general?
There are four kinds, one of which, he says, is a regular treaty
between the parties on a footing of equality; this is called marriage
by _semando_. In the _jujur_ a sum of money is given by one man to
another "as a consideration for the person of his daughter, whose
situation in this case differs not much from that of a slave to the
man she marries, and to his family." In other cases one virgin is
given in exchange for another, and in the marriage by _ambel anak_ the
father of a young man chooses a wife for him. Finally he shows that
the customs of Sumatrans do not favor courtship, the young men and
women being kept carefully apart.

At first sight Westermarck's chapter on the Liberty of Choice seems
rather imposing, as it consists of twenty-seven pages, while Darwin
devoted only two to the subject. In reality, however, Westermarck has
filled only eight pages with what he considers proofs of his theory,
and after scouring the whole world he has not succeeded in bringing
together thirty cases which stand the test of critical examination. I
grant him, though in several instances with suspicions, some American
Indian tribes, natives of Arorae, of the Society Islands, Micronesians
in general (?), Dyaks, Minabassers of Celebes, Burmese, Shans,
Chittagong Hill tribes, and a few other wild tribes of India, possibly
some aboriginal Chinese tribes, Ainos, Kamchadales, Jakuts, Ossetes,
Kalmucks, Aenezes, Touaregs, Shulis, Madis, the ancient Cathaei and
Lydians. My reasons for rejecting his other instances have already
been given in part, and most of the other cases will be disposed of in
the pages relating to Australians, New Zealanders, American Indians,
Hindoos, and Wild Tribes of India. In the chapter on Australia, after
commenting on Westermarck's preposterous attempt to include that race
in his list in the face of all the authorities, I shall explain also
why it is not likely that, as he maintains, still more primitive races
allowed their women greater freedom of choice than modern savages
enjoy in his opinion.

To become convinced that the women of the lower races do not "as a
rule" enjoy the liberty of choice, we need only contrast the meagre
results obtained by Darwin and Westermarck with the vast number of
races and tribes whose customs indicate that women are habitually
given in marriage without being consulted as to their wishes. Among
these customs are infant marriage, infant betrothal, capture,
purchase, marrying whole families of sisters, and the levirate. It is
true that some of these customs do not affect all members of the
tribes involved, but the very fact of their prevalence shows that the
idea of consulting a woman's preference does not enter into the heads
of the men, barring a few cases, where a young woman is so
obstreperous that she may at any rate succeed in escaping a hated
suitor, though even this (which is far from implying liberty of
choice) is altogether exceptional. We must not allow ourselves to be
deceived by appearances, as in the case of the Moors of Senegambia,
concerning whom Letourneau says (138) that a daughter has the right to
refuse the husband selected for her, on condition of remaining
unmarried; if she marries another, she becomes the slave of the man
first selected for her. Of the Christian Abyssinians, Combes and
Tamisier say (II., 106) that the girls are never "seriously"
consulted; and "at Sackatou a girl is usually consulted by her
parents, but only as a matter of form; she never refuses."
(Letourneau, 139.) The same may be said of China and Japan, where the
sacred duty of filial obedience is so ingrained in a girl's soul that
she would never dream of opposing her parents' wishes.

Of the horrible custom of marrying helpless girls before they are
mature in body or mind--often, indeed, before they have reached the
age of puberty--I have already spoken, instancing some Borneans,
Javanese, Egyptians, American Indians, Australians, Hottentots,
natives of Old Calabar, Hindoos; to which may be added some Arabs and
Persians, Syrians, Kurds, Turks, natives of Celebes, Madagascar,
Bechuanas, Basutos, and many other Africans, etc. As for those who
practise infant betrothal, Westermarck's own list includes Eskimos,
Chippewayans, Botocudos, Patagonians, Shoshones, Arawaks, Macusis,
Iroquois; Gold Coast negroes, Bushmen, Marutse, Bechuanas, Ashantees,
Australians; tribes of New Guinea, New Zealand, Tonga, Tahiti, and
many other islands of the South Sea; some tribes of the Malay
Archipelago; tribes of British India; all peoples of the Turkish
stock; Samoyedes and Tuski; Jews of Western Russia.

As regards capture, good authorities now hold that it was not a
universal practice in all parts of the world; yet it prevailed very
widely--for instance, among Aleutian Islanders, Ahts, Bonaks, Macas
Indians of Ecuador, all Carib tribes, some Brazilians, Mosquito
Indians, Fuegians; Bushmen, Bechuanas, Wakamba, and other Africans;
Australians, Tasmanians, Maoris, Fijians, natives of Samoa, Tukopia,
New Guinea, Indian Archipelago; wild tribes of India; Arabs, Tartars,
and other Central Asians; some Russians, Laplanders, Esthonians,
Finns, Greeks, Romans, Teutons, Scandinavians, Slavonians, etc. "The
list," says Westermarck (387), "might easily be enlarged." As for the
list of peoples among whom brides were sold--usually to the highest
bidder and without reference to feminine choice--that would be much
larger still. Eight pages are devoted to it and two only to the
exceptions, by Westermarck himself, who concludes (390) that "Purchase
of wives may, with even more reason than marriage by capture, be said
to form a general stage in the social history of mankind," How nearly
universal the practice is, or has been, may be inferred from the fact
that Sutherland (I., 208), after examining sixty-one negro races,
found fifty-seven recorded as purchasing their wives.

Widely prevalent also was the custom of allowing a man who had married
a girl to claim all her sisters as soon as they reached a marriageable
age. Whatever their own preferences might be, they had no choice.
Among the Indian tribes alone, Morgan mentions forty who indulged in
this custom. As for the levirate, that is another very wide-spread
custom which shows an utter disregard of woman's preference and
choice. It might be supposed that widows, at any rate, ought always to
be allowed, in case they wished to marry again, to follow their own
choice. But they are, like the daughters, regarded as personal
property, and are inherited by their late husband's brother or some
other male relative, who marries them himself or disposes of them as
he pleases. Whether the acceptance of a brother's widow or widows is a
right or a duty (prescribed by the desire for sons and
ancestor-worship) is immaterial for our purpose; for in either case
the widow must go as custom commands, and has no liberty of choice.
The levirate prevails, or has prevailed, among a great number of
races, from the lowest to those considerably advanced.

The list includes Australians, many Indians, from the low Brazilians
to the advanced Iroquois, Aleuts, Eskimos, Fijians, Samoans, Caroline
Islanders, natives of New Caledonia, New Guinea, New Britain, New
Hebrides, the Malay Archipelago, Wild tribes of India, Kamchadales,
Ostiaks, Kirghiz, Mongolians in general, Arabs, Egyptians, Hebrews,
natives of Madagascar, many Kaffir tribes, negroes of the Gold Coast,
Senegambians, Bechuanas, and a great many other Africans, etc.

Twelve pages of Westermarck's chapter on the Liberty of Choice are
devoted to peoples among whom not even a son is, or was, allowed to
marry without the father's consent. The list includes Mexicans,
Guatemalans, Nicaraguans, Chinese, Japanese, Hebrews, Egyptians,
Romans, Greeks, Hindoos, Germans, Celts, Russians, etc. In all these
cases the daughters, of course, enjoyed still less liberty of
disposing of their hand. In short, the argument against Darwin and
Westermarck is simply overwhelming--all the more when we look at the
numbers of the races who do not permit women their choice--the
400,000,000 Chinese, 300,000,000 Hindoos, the Mohammedan millions, the
whole continent of Australia, nearly all of aboriginal America and
Africa, etc.

A drowning man clings to a straw. "In Indian and Scandinavian tales,"
Westermarck informs us,

"virgins are represented as having the power to dispose of
themselves freely. Thus it was agreed that Skade should
choose for herself a husband among the Asas, but she was to
make her choice by the feet, the only part of their persons
she was allowed to see."

Obviously the author of this tale from the _Younger Edda_ had more
sense of humor than some modern anthropologists have. No less
topsy-turvy is the Hindoo _Svayamvara_ or "Maiden's Choice," to which
Westermarck alludes (162). This is an incident often referred to in
epics and dramas. "It was a custom in royal circles," writes
Samuelson, "when a princess became marriageable, for a tournament to
be held, and the _victor was chosen_ by the princess as her husband."
If the sarcasm of the expression "Maiden's Choice" is unconscious, it
is all the more amusing. How far Hindoo women of all classes were and
are from enjoying the liberty of choice, we shall see in the chapter
on India.


I have given so much space to the question of choice because it is one
of exceptional importance. Where there is no choice there can he no
real courtship, and where there is no courtship there is no
opportunity for the development of those imaginative and sentimental
traits which constitute the essence of romantic love. It by no means
follows, however, that where choice is permitted to girls, as with the
Dyaks, real love follows as a matter of course; for it may be
prevented, as it is in the case of these Dyaks, by their sensuality,
coarseness, and general emotional shallowness and sexual frivolity.
The prevention of choice is only one of the obstacles to love, but it
is one of the most formidable, because it has acted at all times and
among races of all degrees of barbarism or civilization up to modern
Europe of two or three centuries ago. And to the frustration and free
choice was added another obstacle--the separation of the sexes. Some
Indians and even Australians tried to keep the sexes apart, though
usually without much success. In their cause no harm was done to the
cause of love, because these races are constitutionally incapable of
romantic love; but in higher stages of civilization the strict
seclusion of the women was a fatal obstacle to love. Wherever
separation of the sexes and chaperonage prevails, the only kind of
amorous infatuation possible, as a rule, is sensual passion, fiery but
transient. To love a girl sentimentally--that is, for her mental
beauty and moral refinement as well as her bodily charms--a man must
get acquainted with her, be allowed to meet her frequently. This was
not possible until within a few generations. The separation of the
sexes, by preventing all possibility of refined and legitimate
courtship, favored illicit amours on one side, loveless marriages on
the other, thus proving one of the most formidable obstacles to love.
"It is not enough to give time for mutual knowledge and affection
after marriage," wrote the late Henry Drummond.

"Nature must deepen the result by extending it to the time
before marriage.... Courtship, with its vivid perceptions
and quickened emotions, is a great opportunity for
evolution; and to institute and lengthen reasonably a period
so rich in impression is one of its latest and brightest


If a law were passed compelling every man living in Rochester, N.Y.,
who wanted a wife to get her outside of that city, in Buffalo,
Syracuse, Utica, or some other place, it would be considered an
outrageous restriction of free choice, calculated to diminish greatly
the chances of love-matches based on intimate acquaintance. If such a
law had existed for generations and centuries, sanctioned by religion
and custom and so strictly enforced that violation of it entailed the
danger of capital punishment, a sentiment would have grown up in
course of time making the inhabitants of Rochester look upon marriage
within the city with the same horror as they do upon incestuous
unions. This is not an absurd or fanciful supposition. Such laws and
customs actually did prevail in this very section of New York State.
The Seneca tribe of the Iroquois Indians was divided into two
phratries, each of which was again subdivided into four clans, named
after their totems or animals; the Bear, Wolf, Beaver, and Turtle
clans belonging to one phratry, while the other included the Deer,
Snipe, Heron, and Hawk clans. Morgan's researches show that originally
an Indian belonging to one phratry could marry a woman belonging to
the other only. Subsequently the line was drawn less strictly, but

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