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Primitive Love and Love-Stories by Henry Theophilus Finck

Part 8 out of 19

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still no Indian was allowed to marry a squaw of his own clan, though
there might be no blood, relationship between them. If an Algonkin
married a girl of his clan he committed a crime for which his nearest
relatives might put him to death. This law has prevailed widely among
the wild races in various parts of the globe. McLennan, who first
called attention to its prevalence and importance, called it exogamy,
or marrying-out.

What led to this custom is not known definitely; nearly every
anthropologist has his own theory on the subject.[134] Luckily we are
not concerned here with the origin and causes of exogamy, but only
with the fact of its existence. It occurs not only among barbarians of
a comparatively high type, like the North American Indians, but among
the lowest Australian savages, who put to death any man who marries or
assaults a woman of the same clan as his. In some Polynesian islands,
among the wild tribes of India as well as the Hindoos, in various
parts of Africa, the law of exogamy prevails, and wherever it exists
it forms a serious obstacle to free choice--_i.e._, free love, in the
proper sense of the expression. As Herbert Spencer remarks,

"The exogamous custom as at first established [being
connected with capture] implies an extremely abject
condition of women; a brutal treatment of them; an entire
absence of the higher sentiments that accompany the
relations of the sexes."

While exogamy thwarts love by minimizing the chances of intimate
acquaintance and genuine courtship, there is another form of sexual
taboo which conversely and designedly frustrates the tendency of
intimate acquaintance to ripen into passion and love. Though we do not
know just how the horror of incest arose, there can be no doubt that
there must be a natural basis for so strong and widely prevalent a
In so far as this horror of incest prevents the marriage of near
relatives, it is an obstacle to love that must be commended as
doubtless useful to the race. But when we find that in China there are
only 530 surnames, and that a man who marries a woman of the same
surname is punished for the crime of "incest"; that the Church under
Theodosius the Great forbade the union of relatives to the seventh
degree; that in many countries a man could not wed a relative by
marriage; that in Rome union with an adopted brother or sister was as
rigidly forbidden as with a real sister or brother;--when we come
across such facts we see that artificial and foolish notions regarding
incest must be added to the long list of agencies that have retarded
the growth of free choice and true love. And it should be noted that
in all these cases of exogamy and taboos of artificial incest, the
man's liberty of choice was restricted as well as the woman's. Thus
our cumulative evidence against the Darwin-Westermarck theory of free
choice is constantly gaining in weight.


Max O'Rell once wrote that he did not understand how there could be
such a thing as mulattoes in the world. It is certainly safe to say
that there are none such as a consequence of love. The features,
color, odor, tastes, and habits of one race have ever aroused the
antagonism of other races and prevented the growth of that sympathy
which is essential to love. In a man strong passion may overcome the
aversion to a more or less enduring union with a woman of a lower
race, just as extreme hunger may urge him to eat what his palate would
normally reject; but women seem to be proof against this temptation to
stoop: in mixed marriages it is nearly always the man who belongs to
the superior race. At first thought it might seem as if this racial
aversion could not do much to retard the growth of free choice and
love, since in early times, when facilities for travel were poor, the
races could not mix anyway as they do now. But this would be a great
error. Migrations, wars, slave-making and plundering expeditions have
at all times commingled the peoples of the earth, yet nothing is more
remarkable than the stubborn tenacity of racial prejudices.

"Count de Gobineau remarks that not even a common
religion and country can extinguish the hereditary
aversion of the Arab to the Turk, of the Kurd to the
Nestorian of Syria, of the Magyar to the Slav. Indeed,
so strong, among the Arabs, is the instinct of ethnical
isolation that, as a traveller relates, at Djidda,
where sexual morality is held in little respect, a
Bedouin woman may yield herself for money to a Turk or
European, but would think herself forever dishonored if
she were joined to him in lawful wedlock."[135]

We might suppose that the coarser races would be less capable of such
aversions than the half-civilized, but the contrary is true. In
Australia nearly every tribe is the deadly enemy of every other tribe,
and according to Chapman a Bushman woman would consider herself
degraded by intercourse with anyone not belonging to her tribe.
"Savage nations," says Humboldt, in speaking of the Chaymas of New

"are subdivided into an infinity of tribes, which, bearing a
cruel hatred toward each other, form no intermarriages, even
when their languages spring from the same root, and when
only a small arm of a river, or a group of hills, separates
their habitation."

Here there is no chance for Leanders to swim across the waters to meet
their Heros. Poor Cupid! Everybody and everything seems to be against


Apart from racial prejudice there is the further obstacle of language.
A man cannot court a girl and learn to love her sentimentally unless
he can speak to her. Now Africa alone has 438 languages, besides a
number of dialects. Dr. Finsch says (38) that on the Melanasian island
of Tanua nearly every village has a dialect of its own which those of
the next village cannot understand; and this is a typical case.
American Indians usually communicate with each other by means of a
sign language. India has countless languages and dialects, and in
Canton the Chinamen from various parts of the Empire have to converse
with each other in "pidjin English." The Australians, who are perhaps
all of one race, nevertheless have no end of different names for even
so common a thing as the omnipresent kangaroo.[136] In Brazil, says
von Martins, travellers often come across a language

"used only by a few individuals connected with each other by
relationship, who are thus completely isolated, and can hold
no communication with any of their other countrymen far or

and how great was the confusion of tongues among other South American
Indians may be inferred from the statement (Waitz, III., 355) that the
Caribs were so much in the habit of capturing wives from different
tribes and peoples that the men and women of each tribe never spoke
the same language. Under such circumstances a wife might become
attached to her husband as a captured, mute, and maltreated dog might
to his master; but romantic love is as utterly out of the question as
it is between master and dog.


Not content with hating one another cordially, the different races,
peoples, and tribes have taken special pains at all times and
everywhere to erect within their own limits a number of barriers
against free choice and love. In France, Germany, and other European
countries there is still a strong prejudice against marriages between
nobles and commoners, though the commoner may be much nobler than the
aristocrat in everything except the genealogical table. Civilization
is gradually destroying this obstacle to love, which has done so much
to promote immorality and has led to so many tragedies involving a
number of kings and princes, victims to the illusion that accident of
birth is nobler than brains or refinement. But among the ancient
civilized and mediaeval peoples the social barrier was as rigidly held
up as the racial prejudices. Milman remarks, in his _History of Latin
Christianity_ (I., 499, 528), that among the ancient Romans

"there could be no marriages with slaves [though
slaves, being captives, were not necessarily of a lower
rank, but might be princesses].... The Emperor
Valentinian further defined low and abject persons who
might not aspire to lawful union with
freemen--actresses, daughters of actresses,
tavern-keepers, the daughters of tavern-keepers,
procurers (leones) or gladiators, or those who had kept
a public shop.... Till Roman citizenship had been
imparted to the whole Roman Empire, it would not
acknowledge marriage with barbarians to be more than a
concubinage. Cleopatra was called only in scorn the
wife of Antony. Berenice might not presume to be more
than the mistress of Titus. The Christian world closed
marriages again within still more and more jealous
limits. Interdictory statutes declared marriages with
Jews and heathens not only invalid but adulterous."

"The Salic and Ripuarian law condemned the freeman
guilty of this degradation [marrying a slave] to
slavery; where the union was between a free woman and a
slave, that of the Lombards and of the Burgundians,
condemned both parties to death; but if her parents
refused to put her to death, she became a slave of the
crown. The Ripuarian law condemned the female
delinquent to slavery; but the woman had the
alternative of killing her base-born husband. She was
offered a distaff and a sword. If she chose the distaff
she became a slave; if a sword she struck it to the
heart of her paramour and emancipated herself from her
degrading connection."

In mediaeval Germany the line was so sharply drawn between the social
classes that for a long time slavery, or even death, was the
punishment for a mixed marriage. In course of time this barbarous
custom fell into disuse, but free choice continued to be discouraged
by the law that if a man married a woman beneath him in rank, neither
she nor her children were raised to his rank, and in case of his death
she had no claim to the usual provisions legally made for widows.

In India the caste prejudices are so strong and varied that they form
almost insuperable barriers to free love-choice. "We find castes
within castes," says Sir Monier Williams (153), "so that even the
Brahmans are broken up and divided into numerous races, which again
are subdivided into numerous tribes, families, or sub-castes," and all
these, he adds, "do not intermarry." In Japan, until three decades
ago, social barriers as to marriage were rigidly enforced, and in
China, to this day, slaves, boatmen, actors, policemen, can marry
women of their own class only. Nor are these difficulties eliminated
at once as we descend the ladder of civilization. In Brazil, Central
America, in the Polynesian and other Pacific Islands and elsewhere we
find such barriers to free marriage, and among the Malayan Hovas of
Madagascar even the slaves are subdivided into three classes, which do
not intermarry! It is only among those peoples which are too low to be
able to experience sentimental love anyway that this formidable
obstacle of class prejudice vanishes, while race and tribal hatred
remain in full force.


Among peoples sufficiently advanced to have dogmas, religion has
always proved a strong barrier in the way of the free bestowal of
affection. Not only have Mohammedans and Christians hated and shunned
each other, but the different Christian sects for a long time detested
and tabooed one another as cordially as they did the heathen and the
Jews. Tertullian denounced the marriage of a Christian with a heathen
as fornication, and Westermarck cites Jacobs's remark that

"the folk-lore of Europe regarded the Jews as something
infra-human, and it would require an almost impossible
amount of large toleration for a Christian maiden of
the Middle Ages to regard union with a Jew as anything
other than unnatural."

There are various minor obstacles that might be dwelt on, but enough
has been said to make it clear why romantic love was the last of the
sentiments to be developed.

Having considered the divers ingredients and different kinds of love
and distinguished romantic love from sensual passion and
sentimentality, as well as from conjugal affection, we are now in a
position to examine intelligently and in some detail a number of races
in all parts of the world, by way of further corroborating and
emphasizing the conclusions reached.


What is the lowest of all human races? The Bushmen of South Africa,
say some ethnologists, while others urge the claims of the natives of
Australia, the Veddahs of Ceylon, or the Fuegians of South America. As
culture cannot be measured with a yardstick, it is impossible to
arrive at any definite conclusion. For literary and geographic
reasons, which will become apparent later on, I prefer to begin the
search for traces of romantic love with the Bushmen of South Africa.
And here we are at once confronted by the startling assertion of the
explorer James Chapman, that there is "love in all their marriages."
If this is true--if there is love in all the marriages of what is one
of the lowest human races--then I have been pursuing a
will-o'-the-wisp in the preceding pages of this book, and it will be a
waste of ink and paper to write another line. But _is_ it true? Let us
first see what manner of mortals these Bushmen are, before subjecting
Mr. Chapman's special testimony to a cross-examination. The following
facts are compiled from the most approved authorities.


The eminent anatomist Fritsch, in his valuable work on the natives of
South Africa (386-407), describes the Bushmen as being even in
physical development far below the normal standard. Their limbs are
"horribly thin" in both sexes; both women and men are "frightfully
ugly," and so much alike that, although they go about almost naked, it
is difficult to tell them apart. He thinks they are probably the
aboriginal inhabitants of Africa, scattered from the Cape to the
Zambesi, and perhaps beyond. They are filthy in their habits, and
"washing the body is a proceeding unknown to them." When the French
anatomist Cuvier examined a Bushman woman, he was reminded of an ape
by her head, her ears, her movements, and her way of pouting the lips.
The language of the Bushmen has often been likened to the chattering
of monkeys. According to Bleek, who has collected their tales, their
language is of the lowest known type. Lichtenstein (II., 42) found the
Bushman women like the men, "ugly in the extreme," adding that "they
understand each other more by their gestures than by their speaking."
"No one has a name peculiar to himself." Others have described them as
having protuberant stomachs, prominent posteriors, hollowed-out backs,
and "few ideas but those of vengeance and eating." They have only two
numerals, everything beyond two being "much," and except in those
directions where the struggle for life has sharpened their wits, their
intellectual faculties in general are on a level with their
mathematics. Their childish ignorance is illustrated by a question
which some of them seriously asked Chapman (I., 83) one day--whether
his big wagons were not the mothers of the little ones with slender

How well their minds are otherwise adapted for such an
intellectualized, refined, and esthetic feeling as love, may also be
inferred from the following observations. Lichtenstein points out that
while necessity has given them acute sight and hearing,

"they might almost be supposed to have neither taste, smell,
nor feeling; no disgust is ever evinced by them at even the
most nauseous kind of food, nor do they appear to have any
feeling of even the most striking changes in the temperature
of the atmosphere."

"No meat," says Chapman (I., 57), "in whatever state of decomposition,
is ever discarded by Bushmen." They dispute carrion with wolves and
vultures. Rabbits they eat skins and all, and their menu is varied by
all sorts of loathsome reptiles and insects.

No other savages, says Lichtenstein, betray "so high a degree of
brutal ferocity" as the Bushmen. They "kill their own children without
remorse." The missionary Moffat says (57) that "when a mother dies
whose infant is not able to shift for itself, it is, without any
ceremony, buried alive with the corpse of its mother." Kicherer,
another missionary, says

"there are instances of parents throwing their tender
offspring to the hungry lion, who stands roaring before
their cavern, refusing to depart till some peace-offering be
made to him."

He adds that after a quarrel between husband and wife the one beaten
is apt to take revenge by killing their child; and that, on various
occasions, parents smother their children, cast them away in the
desert, or bury them alive without remorse. Murder is an amusement,
and is considered a praiseworthy act. Livingstone (_M.T._, 159) tells
of a Bushman who thought his god would consider him a "clever fellow"
because he had murdered a man, two women, and two children. When
fathers and mothers become too old to be of any use, or to take care
of themselves, they are abandoned in the desert to be devoured alive
by wild beasts. "I have often reasoned with the natives on this cruel
practice," says the missionary Moffat (99); "in reply to which, they
would only laugh." "It appears an awful exhibition of human
depravity," he adds, "when children compel their parents to perish for
want, or to be devoured by beasts of prey in a desert, _from no other
motive but sheer laziness._" Kicherer says there are a few cases of
"natural affection" sufficient to raise these creatures to "a level
with the brute creation," Moffat, too, refers to exceptional cases of
kindness, but the only instance he gives (112) describes their terror
on finding he had drunk some water poisoned by them, and their
gladness when he escaped--which terror and gladness were, however,
very probably inspired not by sympathy but by the idea of punishment
at causing the death of a white man. Chapman himself, the chosen
champion of the Bushmen, relates (I., 67) how, having heard of Bushmen
rescuing and carrying home some Makalolos whom they had found dying of
thirst in the desert, he believed it at first; but he adds:

"Had I at that time possessed a sufficient knowledge of
native character, I should not have been so credulous
as to have listened to this report, for the idea of
Bushmen carrying human beings whom they had found half
dead out of a desert implies an act of charity quite
inconsistent with their natural disposition and

Barrow declares (269) that if Bushmen come across a Hottentot guarding
his master's cattle,

"not contented with putting him to immediate death,
they torture him by every means of cruelty that their
invention can frame, as drawing out his bowels, tearing
off his nails, scalping, and other acts equally

They sometimes bury a victim up to the neck in the ground and thus
leave him to be pecked to death by crows.


And yet--I say it once more--we are asked to believe there is "love in
all the marriages" of these fiendish creatures--beings who, as
Kicherer says, live in holes or caves, where they "lie close together
like pigs in a sty" and of whom Moffat declares that with the
exception of Pliny's Troglodites "no tribe or people are surely more
brutish, ignorant, and miserable." Our amazement at Chapman's
assertion increases when we examine his argument more closely. Here it
is (I., 258-59):

"Although they have a plurality of wives, which they
also obtain by purchase, there is still love in all
their marriages, and courtship among them is a very
formal and, in some respects, a rather punctilious
affair. When a young Bushman falls in love, he sends
his sister to ask permission to pay his addresses; with
becoming modesty the girl holds off in a playful, yet
not scornful or repulsive manner if she likes him. The
young man next sends his sister with a spear, or some
other trifling article, which she leaves at the door of
the girl's home. If this be not returned within the
three or four days allowed for consideration, the
Bushman takes it for granted that he is accepted, and
gathering a number of his friends, he makes a grand
hunt, generally killing an elephant or some other large
animal and bringing the whole of the flesh to his
intended father-in-law. The family now riot in an
abundant supply.... After this the couple are
proclaimed husband and wife, and the man goes to live
with his father-in-law for a couple of winters, killing
game, and always laying the produce of the chase at his
feet as a mark of respect, duty, and gratitude."

It would take considerable ingenuity to condense into an equal number
of lines a greater amount of ignorance and naivete than this passage
includes. And yet a number of anthropologists have accepted this
passage serenely as expert evidence that there is love in all the
marriages of the lowest of African races. Peschel was misled by it;
Westermarck triumphantly puts it at the head of his cases intended to
prove that "even very rude savages may have conjugal affection;" Moll
meekly accepts it as a fact (_Lib. Sex._, Bd. I., Pt. 2, 403); and it
seems to have made an impression on Katzel, and even on Fritsch. If
these writers had taken the trouble to examine Chapman's
qualifications for serving as a witness in anthropological questions,
they would have saved themselves the humiliation of being thus duped.
His very assertion that there is love in _all_ Bushman marriages ought
to have shown them what an untrustworthy witness he is; for a more
reckless and absurd statement surely was never penned by any
globe-trotter. There is not now, and there never has been, a people
among whom love could be found in all marriages, or half the
marriages. In another place (I., 43) Chapman gives still more striking
evidence of his unfitness to serve as a witness. Speaking of the
family of a Bamanwato chief, he says:

"I was not aware of this practice of early marriages
until the wife of an old man I had engaged here to
accompany us, a child of about eight years of age, was
pointed out to me, and in my ignorance I laughed
outright, until my interpreter explained the
matrimonial usages of their people."

Chapman's own editor was tempted by this exhibition of ignorance to
write the following footnote: "The author seems not to have been aware
that such early marriages are common among the Hindoos." He might have
added "and among most of the lower races."

The ignorance which made Chapman "laugh outright" when he was
confronted by one of the most elementary facts of anthropology, is
responsible for his reckless assertions in the paragraph above quoted.
It is an ignorant assumption on his part that it is the feelings of
"respect, duty, and gratitude" that make a Bushman provide his bride's
father with game for a couple of winters. Such feelings are unknown to
the Bushman's soul. Working for the bride's father is simply his way
(if he has no property to give) of paying for his wife--an
illustration of the widespread custom of service. If polygamy and the
custom of purchasing wives do not, as Chapman intimates, prevent love
from entering into all Bushman marriages, then these aborigines must
be constructed on an entirely different plan from other human beings,
among whom we know that polygamy crushes monopoly of affection, while
a marriage by purchase is a purse-affair, not a heart-affair--the girl
going nearly always to the highest bidder.

But Chapman's most serious error--the one on which he founded his
theory that there is love in all Bushman marriages--lies in his
assumption that the ceremony of sham capture indicates modesty and
love, whereas, as we saw in the chapter on Coyness, it is a mere
survival of capture, the most ruffianly way of securing a bride, in
which her choice or feelings are absolutely disregarded, and which
tells us nothing except that a man covets a woman and that she feigns
resistance because custom, as taught by her parents, compels her to do
so. Inasmuch as she _must_ resist whether she likes the man or not,
how could such sham "coyness" be a symptom of love? Moreover, it
appears that even this sham coyness is exceptional, since, as Burchell
informs us (II., 59), it is only when a girl grows up to womanhood
without having been betrothed--"which, however, seldom happens"--that
the female receives the man's attentions with such an "affectation of
great alarm and disinclination on her part."

Burchell also informs us that a Bushman will take a second wife when
the first one has become old, "not in years but in constitution;" and
Barrow discovered the same thing (I., 276): "It appeared that it was
customary for the elderly men to have two wives, one old and past
child-bearing, the other young." Chapman, too, relates that a Bushman
will often cast off his early wife and take a younger one, and as that
does not prevent him from finding affection in their conjugal unions,
we are enabled from this to infer that "love" means to him not
enduring sympathy or altruistic capacity and eagerness for
self-sacrifice, but a selfish, transient fondness continuing only as
long as a woman is young and can gratify a man's sexual appetite. That
kind of love doubtless does exist in all Bushman marriages.

Chapman further declares (II., 75) that these people lead
"comparatively" chaste lives. I had supposed that, as an egg is either
good or bad, so a man or woman is either chaste or unchaste. Other
writers, who had no desire to whitewash savages, tell us not only
"comparatively" but positively what Bushman morals are. A Bushman told
Theophilus Halm (_Globus_, XVIII., 122) that quarrels for the
possession of women often lead to murder; "nevertheless, the
lascivious fellow assured me it was a fine thing to appropriate the
wives of others." Wake (I., 205) says they lend their wives to
strangers, and Lichtenstein tells us (II., 48) that "the wife is not
indissolubly united to the husband; but when he gives her permission,
she may go whither she will and associate with any other man." And
again (42):

"Infidelity to the marriage compact is not considered a
crime, it is scarcely regarded by the offended
person.... They seem to have no idea of the distinction
of girl, maiden, and wife; they are all expressed by
one word alone. I leave every reader to draw from this
single circumstance his own inference with regard to
the nature of love and every kind of moral feeling
among them."[137]

That this is not too severe a criticism is obvious from the fact that
Lichtenstein, in judging savages, was rather apt to err on the side of
leniency. The equally generous and amiable missionary Moffat (174-75)
censures him, for instance, for his favorable view of the Bechuanas,
saying that he was not with them long enough to know their real
character. Had he dwelt among them, accompanied them on journeys, and
known them as he (Moffat) did, "he would not have attempted to revive
the fabled delights and bliss of ignorance reported to exist in the
abodes of heathenism."

It is in comparison with these Bechuanas that Chapman calls the
Bushmen moral, obviously confounding morality with licentiousness.
Without having any moral principles at all, it is quite likely that
the Bushmen are less licentious than their neighbors for the simple
reason that they are less well-fed; for as old Burton remarks, for the
most part those are "aptest to love that are young and lusty, live at
ease, stall-fed, free from cares, like cattle in a rank
pasture"--whereas the Bushmen are nearly always thin, half-starved
denizens of the African deserts, enervated by constant fears, and so
unmanly that "a single musket shot," says Lichtenstein, "will put a
hundred to flight, and whoever rushes upon them with only a good stick
in his hand has no reason to fear any resistance from ever so large a

Such men are not apt to be heroes among women in any sense. Indeed,
Galton says (_T.S.A._, 178), "I am sure that Bushmen are, generally
speaking, henpecked. They always consult their wives. The Damaras do
not." Chapman himself, with unconscious humor, gives us (I., 391) a
sample of the "love" which he found in "all Bushman marriages;" his
remarks confirming at the same time the truth I dwelt on in the
chapter on Individual Preference, that among savages the sexes are
less individualized than with us, the men being more effeminate, the
women viragoes:

"The passive and _effeminate_ disposition of the men,
of which we have had frequent reason to complain in the
course of this narrative, was illustrated in the revel
which accompanied the parting feast, when the men
allowed themselves to be beaten by the women, who, I am
told, are in the constant habit of belaboring their
devoted husbands, in order to keep them in proper
subjection. On this occasion the men got broken heads
at the hands of their gentle partners; one had his
nose, another his ear, nearly bitten off."

Notwithstanding this affectionate "constant habit" of breaking their
husbands' heads, the Bushman women have not succeeded in teaching them
even the rudiments of gallantry. "The woman is a beast of burden,"
says Hahn; "at the same time she is subjected to ill-treatment which
not seldom leads to death." When camp is moved, the gallant husband
carries his spear and quiver, the wife "does the rest," carrying the
baby, the mat, the earthen cooking-pot, the ostrich shells, and a
bundle of skins. If it happens, as it often does, that there is not
enough to eat, the wife has to go hungry. In revenge she usually
prepares her own food only, leaving him to do his own cooking. If a
wife falls ill on the way to a new camping-place, she is left behind
to perish. (Ratzel, I., 7.)

In conclusion, and as a climax to my argument, I will quote the
testimony of three missionaries who did not simply make a flying visit
or two to the country of the Bushmen, as Chapman did, but lived among
them. The Rev. R. Moffat (49) cites the missionary Kicherer, "whose
circumstances while living among them afforded abundant opportunities
of becoming intimately acquainted with their real condition," and who
wrote that the Bushmen "are total strangers to domestic happiness. The
men have several wives, but conjugal affection is little known." This
opinion is thus endorsed by Moffat, and a third missionary, the Rev.
F. Fleming, wrote (167) that among Bushmen "conjugal affection seems
totally unknown," and pre-matrimonial love is of course out of
question in a region where girls are married as infants. The wife
always has to work harder than the husband. If she becomes weak or ill
she is unceremoniously left behind to starve. (Ratzel, I., 72.)


Darwin has well observed that a false argument is comparatively
harmless because subsequent discussion is sure to demolish it, whereas
a false fact may perplex speculation for ages. Chapman's assertion
that there is love in all Bushman marriages is one of these false
facts, as our cross-examination has shown. In passing now to the
neighbors of the Bushmen, the Hottentots, let us bear in mind the
lesson taught. They called themselves Khoi-Khoin, "men of men," while
Van Riebeck's followers referred to them as "black stinking hounds."
There is a prevalent impression that nearly all Africans are negroes.
But the Hottentots are not negroes any more than are the Bushmen, or
the Kaffirs, whom we shall consider next. Ethnologists are not agreed
as to the relationship that exists between Bushmen and Hottentots, but
it is certain that the latter represent a somewhat higher level of
civilization. Yet, here again we must guard carefully against "false
facts," especially in reference to the topic that interests us--the
relations of the sexes. As late as 1896 the eminent American
anthropologist, Dr. Brinton, had an article in _Science_ (October
16th), in which he remarked that "one trait which we admire in
Hottentots is their regard for women," He was led into making this
assertion by an article entitled "Woman in Hottentot Poetry," which
appeared in the German periodical _Globus_ (Vol. 70, pp. 173-77). It
was written by Dr. L. Jakobowski, and is quite as misleading as
Chapman's book. Its logic is most peculiar. The writer first shows (to
his own satisfaction) that the Hottentots treat their women somewhat
better than other South Africans do, and from this "fact" he goes on
to infer that they must have love-songs! He admits, indeed, that (with
a few exceptions, to be presently considered) we know nothing of these
songs, but it "seems certain" that they must be sung at the erotic
dances of the natives; these, however, carefully conceal them from the
missionaries, and as Jakobowski naively adds, to heed the missionaries
"would be tantamount to giving up their old sensual dances."

What facts does Jakobowski adduce in support of his assertion that
Hottentots have a high regard for their women? He says:

"Without his wife's permission a Hottentot does not
drink a drop of milk, and should he dare to do so, the
women of his family will take away the cows and sheep
and add them to their flocks. A girl has the right to
punish her brother if he violates the laws of courtesy.
The oldest sister may have him chained and punished,
and if a slave who is being castigated implores his
master by the name of his (the master's) sister to
desist, the blows must cease or else the master is
bound to pay a fine to the sister who has been


If all these statements were real facts--and we shall presently see
that they are not--they would prove no more than that the modern
Hottentots, like their neighbors, the Bushmen, are hen-pecked. Barrow
(I., 286) speaks of the "timid and pusillanimous mind which
characterizes the Hottentots," and elsewhere (144) he says that their

"impolitic custom of hording together in families, and of
not marrying out of their own kraals, has, no doubt, tended
to enervate this race of men, and reduced them to their
present degenerated condition, which is that of a languid,
listless, phlegmatic people, in whom the prolific powers of
nature seem to be almost exhausted."

It does not, therefore, surprise us to be told (by Thunberg) that "it
frequently happens that a woman marries two husbands." And these women
are anything but feminine and lovable. One of the champions of the
Hottentots, Theophilus Hahn, says (_Globus_, XII., 304) of the Namaqua
women that they love to torture their slaves: "When they cudgel a
slave one can easily read in their faces the infernal joy it gives
them to witness the tortures of their victims." He often saw women
belaboring the naked back of a slave with branches of the cruel
_acacia delinens_, and finally rub salt or saltpetre into the wounds.
Napier (I., 59) says of the Hottentots, that

"if the parents of a newly born child found him or her _de
trop_, the poor little wretch was either mercilessly buried
alive, or exposed in a thicket, there to be devoured by
beasts of prey."

While he had to take it for granted that there must be love-songs
among these cruel Hottentots, Jakobowski had no trouble in finding
songs of hate, of defiance, and revenge. Even these cannot be cited
without omitting objectionable words. Here is one, properly

"Take this man away from me that he may be beaten and
his mother weep over him and the worms eat him.... Let
this man be brought before your counsel and cudgelled
until not a shred of flesh remains on his ... that the
worms would care to eat; for the reason that he has
done me such a painful injury," etc.


Jakobowski's assertion that a man's oldest sister may have him chained
and punished is obviously a cock-and-bull story. It is diametrically
opposed to what Peter Kolben says: "The eldest son has in a manner an
absolute authority over all his brothers and sisters." "Among the
Hottentots an eldest son may after his father's death retain his
brothers and sisters in a sort of slavery." Kolben is now accepted as
the leading authority on the aboriginal Hottentots, as he found them
two centuries ago, before the missionaries had had time to influence
their customs. What makes him the more unimpeachable as a witness in
our case is that he is decidedly prejudiced in favor of the
Hottentots.[138] What was the treatment of women by Hottentots as
witnessed by Kolben? Is it true that, as Jakobowski asserts, the
Hottentot woman rules at home? Quite true; most emphatically so. The
husband, says Kolben (I., 252-55), after the hut is built,

"has absolutely nothing more to do with the house and
domestic affairs; he turns the care for them over to
his wife, who is obliged to procure provisions as well
as she can and cook them. The husband devotes himself
to drinking, eating, smoking, loafing, and sleeping,
and takes no more concern about the affairs of his
family than if he had none at all. _If he goes out to
fish or hunt, it is rather to amuse himself than to
help his wife and children...._ Even the care of his
cattle the poor wife, despite all her other work,
shares with him. The only thing she is not allowed to
meddle with is the sale. This is a prerogative which
constitutes the man's honor and which he would not
allow anyone to take away from him with impunity."

The wife, he goes on to say, has to cut the fire-wood and carry it to
the house, gather roots and other food and prepare it for the whole
family, milk the cows, and take care of the children. The older
daughters help her, but need so much watching that they are only an
additional care; and all this time the husband "lies lazily on his
back." "Such is the wretched life of the Hottentot woman," he sums up;
"she lives in a perpetual slavery." Nor is there any family life or
companionship, they eat separately, and

"the wife never sets foot in the husband's room, which is
separated from the rest of the house; she seldom enjoys his
company. He commands as master, she obeys as slave, without
ever complaining."


"What we admire in Hottentots is their regard for women." Here are
some more illustrations of this loving "regard for women." The Rev. J.
Philip (II., 207) says that the Namaqua women begged Moffat to remain
with them, telling him that before he came "we were treated by the men
as brutes, and worse than they treated brutes." While the men loafed
they had to go and collect food, and if they returned unsuccessful, as
was often the case, they were generally beaten. They had to cook for
the men and were not allowed a bite till they had finished their meal.
"When they had eaten, we were obliged to retire from their presence to
consume the offals given to us." When twins are born, says Kolben
(304), there is great rejoicing if they are boys; two fat buffaloes
are killed, and all the neighbors invited to the feast; but if the
twins are girls, two sheep only are killed and there is no feast or
rejoicing. If one of the twins is a girl she is invariably killed,
buried alive, or exposed on a tree or in the bushes. When a boy has
reached a certain age he is subjected to a peculiarly disgusting
ceremony, and after that he may insult his mother with impunity
whenever he chooses: "he may cudgel her, if he pleases, to suit his
whim, without any danger of being called to an account for it." Kolben
says he often witnessed such insolence, which was even applauded as a
sign of manliness and courage. "What barbarity!" he exclaims. "It is a
result of the contempt which these peoples feel for women." He used to
remonstrate with them, but they could hardly restrain their
impatience, and the only answer he could get was "_it is the custom of
the Hottentots, they have never done otherwise_."

Andersson (_Ngami_, 332) says of the Namaqua Hottentots:

"If a man becomes tired of his wife, he unceremoniously
returns her to the parental roof, and however much she (or
the parents) may object to so summary a proceeding, there is
no remedy."

In Kolben's time wives convicted of adultery were killed, while the
men could do as they chose. In later times a lashing with a strap of
rhinoceros hide was substituted for burning. Kolben thought that the
serious punishment for adultery prevalent in his time argued that
there must be love among the Hottentots, though he confessed he could
see no signs of it. He was of course mistaken in his assumption, for,
as was made clear in our chapter on Jealousy, murderous rage at an
infringement on a man's conjugal property does not constitute or prove
love, but exists entirely apart from it.


The injuriousness of "false facts" to science is illustrated by a
remark which occurs in the great work on the natives of South Africa
by Dr. Fritsch, who is justly regarded as one of the leading
authorities on that subject. Speaking of the Hottentots (Namaqua) he
says (351) that "whereas Tindall indicates sensuality and selfishness
as two of their most prominent characteristics, Th. Hahn lauds their
conjugal attachment independent of fleshly love." Here surely is
unimpeachable evidence, for Theophilus Hahn, the son of a missionary,
was born and bred among these peoples. But if we refer to the passage
which Fritsch alluded to (_Globus_, XII., 306), we find that the
reasons Hahn gives for believing that Hottentots are capable of
something higher than carnal desires are that many of them, though
rich enough to have a harem, content themselves with one wife, and
that if a wife dies before her husband, he very seldom marries again.
Yet in the very next sentence Hahn mentions a native trait which
sufficiently explains both these customs. "Brides," he says, "cost
many oxen and sheep, and the men, as among other South African
peoples, the Kaffirs, for instance, would rather have big herds of
cattle than a good-looking wife." Apart from this explanation, I fail
to see what necessary connection there is between a man's being
content with one wife and his capacity for sentimental love, since his
greed for cattle and his lack of physical stamina and appetite fully
account for his monogamy. This matter must be judged from the
Hottentot point of view, not from ours. It is well known that in
regions where polygamy prevails a man who wishes to be kind to his
wife does not content himself with her, but marries another, or
several others, to share the hard work with her. These Hottentots have
not enough consideration for their hard-worked wives to do even that.


The coarseness and obscenity of the Hottentots constitute further
reasons for believing them incapable of refined love. Their eulogist,
Kolben, himself was obliged to admit that they "find a peculiar
pleasure in filth and stench" and "are in the matter of diet the
filthiest people in the world." The women eat their own vermin, which
swarm in their scant attire. Nor is decency the object for which they
wear this scant dress---quite the reverse. Speaking of the male
Hottentot's very simple dress, Barrow says (I., 154) that

"if the real intent of it was the promotion of decency,
it should seem that he has widely missed his aim, as it
is certainly one of the most immodest objects, in such
a situation as he places it, that could have been

And concerning the little apron worn by the women he says:

"Great pains seem to be taken by the women to attract notice
toward this part of their persons. Large metal buttons ...
or anything that makes a great show, are fastened to the
borders of this apron."

Kolben relates that when a Hottentot desires to marry a girl he goes
with his father to the girl's father, who gives the answer after
consulting with his wife. If the verdict is unfavorable "the gallant's
love for the beauty is readily cured and he casts his eyes on another
one." But a refusal is rarely given unless the girl is already
promised to another. The girl, too, is consulted, but only nominally,
for if she refuses she can retain her liberty only by an all-night
struggle with her suitor in which she usually succumbs, after which
she has to marry him whether she wishes to or not. Kolben gives other
details of the marriage ceremony which are too filthy to be even
hinted at here.


By persons who had lived many years among the Colonial Hottentots,
Fritsch (328) was assured that these people, far from being the models
of chastity Kolben tried to prove them, indulged in licentious
festivals lasting several days, at which all restraints were cast
aside. And this brings us back to our starting-point--Dr. Jakobowski's
peculiar argument concerning the "love poems" which he feels sure must
be sung at the erotic dances of the natives, though they are carefully
concealed from the missionaries. If they were poems of sentiment, the
missionaries would not disapprove, and there would be no reason for
concealing them; but the foregoing remarks show clearly enough what
kind of "love" they would be likely to sing about. If any doubt
remained on the subject the following delightful confession, which the
eugolist Hahn makes in a moment of confidence, would settle the
matter. To appreciate the passage, bear in mind that the Hottentots
are the people among whom excessive posterior corpulence (steatopyga)
is especially admired as the acme of physical attractions. Now Hahn
says (335):

"The young girls drink whole cups of liquid fat, and
for a good reason, the object being to attain a very
rotund body by a fattening process, in order that Hymen
may claim them as soon as possible. They do not grow
sentimental and sick from love and jealousy, nor do
they die from the anguish and woes of love, as our
women do, nor engage in love-intrigues, but they look
at the whole matter in a very materialistic and sober
way. _Their sole love-affair is the fattening process,
on the result of which, as with a pig, depends the
girl's value and the demand for her._"

In this last sentence, which I have taken the liberty to italicize,
lies the philosophy of African "love" in general, and I am glad to be
able to declare it on such unquestionable authority. What a Hottentot
"regards" in a woman is _Fat_; _Sentiment_ is out of the question.
When Hottentots are together, says Kolben,

"you never see them give tender kisses or cast loving
glances at each other. Day and night, on every
occasion, they are so cold and so indifferent to each
other that you would not believe that they love each
other or are married. If in a hut there were twenty
Hottentots with their wives, it would be impossible to
tell, either from their words or actions, which of them
belonged together."


As intimated on a preceding page, there are, among Dr. Jakobowski's
examples of Hottentot lyrics[139] a few which may be vaguely included
in the category of love-poems. "Where did you hear that I love you
while you are unloving toward me?" complained one Hottentot; while
another warned his friend: "That is the misfortune pursuing you that
you love where you ought not to!" A third declared. "I shall not cease
to love however much they (_i.e._, the parents or guardians) may
oppose me," A fourth addresses this song to a young girl:

My lioness!
Are you afraid that I may bewitch you?
You milk the cow with fleshy hand.
Bite me!
Pour out (the milk) for me!
My lioness!
Daughter of a great man!

It is needless to say that in the first three of these aboriginal
"lyrics" there is not the slightest indication that the "love"
expressed rises above mere covetous desire of the senses; and as for
the fourth, what is there in it besides reference to the girl's
fatness (fleshy hand), her utility in milking and serving the milk and
her carnal bites? Yet in this frank avowal of masculine selfishness
and sensuality Hahn finds "a certain refinement of sentiment"!


Though a Hottentot belle's value in the marriage market is determined
chiefly by the degree of her corpulence, girls of the higher families
are not, it seems, devoid of other means of attracting the attention
of men. At least I infer so from the following passage in Dalton's
book (_T.S.A._, 104) relating to a certain chief:

"He had a charming daughter, the greatest belle among
the blacks that I had ever seen, and the most
thorough-paced coquette. Her main piece of finery, and
one that she flirted about in a most captivating
manner, was a shell of the size of a penny-piece. She
had fastened it to the end of a lock of front hair,
which was of such length as to permit the shell to
dangle to the precise level of her eyes. She had
learned to move her head with so great precision as to
throw the shell exactly over whichever eye she pleased,
and the lady's winning grace consisted in this feat of
bo-peep, first eclipsing an eye and languishing out of
the other, and then with an elegant toss of the head
reversing the proceedings."


Our search for true love in Africa has thus far resulted in failure,
the alleged discoveries of a few sanguine sentimentalists having
proved to be illusory. If we now turn to the Kaffirs, who share with
the Hottentots the southern extremity of Africa, we find that here
again we must above all things guard against "false facts."
Westermarck (61), after citing Barrow (I., 206) to the effect that "a
Kaffir woman is chaste and extremely modest," adds:

"and Mr. Cousins informs me that between their various
feasts the Kaffirs, both men and women, have to live in
strict continence, the penalty being banishment from the
tribe if this law is broken."

It would be interesting to know what Barrow means by "extremely
modest" since he admits that that attribute

"might be questioned. If, for instance, a young woman
be asked whether she be married, not content with
giving the simple negative, she throws open her cloak
and displays her bosom; and as most frequently she has
no other covering beneath, she perhaps may discover at
the same time, though unintentionally, more of her

But it is his assertion that "a Kaffir woman is chaste" that clashes
most outrageously with all recorded facts and the testimony of the
leading authorities, including many missionaries. Dr. Fritsch says in
the preface to his standard book on the natives of South Africa that
the assertions of Barrow are to be accepted "with caution, or rather
with suspicion." It is the absence of this caution and suspicion that
has led Westermarck into so many erroneous conclusions. In the present
instance, however, it is absolutely incomprehensible why he should
have cited the one author who calls the Kaffirs chaste, ignoring the
crushing weight of countless facts showing them to be extremely

It is worthy of note that testimony as to the chastity of wild races
generally comes from mere travellers among them, ignorant of their
language and intimate habits, whereas the writings of those who have
dwelt among them give one a very different idea. As the Rev. Mr.
Holden remarks (187), those who have "boasted of the chastity, purity,
and innocence of heathen life" have not been "behind the scenes."
Here, for instance, is Geo. McCall Theal, who lived among the Kaffir
people twenty years, filling various positions among them, varying
from a mission teacher to a border magistrate, and so well acquainted
with their language that he was able to collect and print a volume on
_Kaffir Folk Lore_. Like all writers who have made a specialty of a
subject, he is naturally somewhat biased in favor of it, and this
gives still more weight to his words on negative points. Regarding the
question of chastity he says:

"Kaffir ideas of some kinds of morality are very low.
The custom is general for a married woman to have a
lover who is not her husband, and little or no disgrace
attaches to her on this account. The lover is generally
subject to a fine of no great amount, and the husband
may give the woman a beating, but that finishes the

The German missionary Neuhaus bears witness to the fact that (like the
Bushmen and most other Africans) the Kaffirs are in one respect lower
than the lowest beasts, inasmuch as for the sake of filthy lucre
parents often marry off their daughters before they have attained
maturity. Girls of eight to ten are often given into the clutches of
wealthy old men who are already supplied with a harem. Concerning
girls in general, and widows, we are told that they can do whatever
they please, and that they only ask their lovers not to be imprudent,
as they do not wish to lose their liberty and assume maternal duties
too soon if they can help it. Lichtenstein says (I., 264) that

"a traveller remaining some time with a horde easily
finds an unmarried young woman with whom he contracts
the closest intimacy; nay, it is not uncommon, as a
mark of hospitality, to offer him one as a companion,"

and no wonder, for among these Kaffirs there is "no feeling of love in
marriage" (161). The German missionary Alberti relates (97) that
sometimes a Kaffir girl is offered to a man in marriage. Having
assured himself of her health, he claims the further privilege of a
night's acquaintance; after which, if she pleases him, he proceeds to
bargain for her permanent possession. Another competent and reliable
observer, Stephen Kay, corresponding member of the South African
Institution, who censures Barrow sharply for his incorrect remarks on
Kaffir morals, says:

"No man deems it any sin whatever to seduce his
neighbor's wife: his only grounds of fear are the
probability of detection, and the fine demanded by law
in such cases. The females, accustomed from their youth
up to this gross depravity of manners, neither
manifest, nor apparently feel, any delicacy in stating
and describing circumstances of the most shameful
nature before an assemblage of men, whose language is
often obscene beyond description" (105). "Fornication
is a common and crying sin. The women are well
acquainted with the means of procuring miscarriage; and
those means are not unfrequently resorted to without
bringing upon the offender any punishment or disgrace
whatever.... When adultery is clearly proved the
husband is generally fully satisfied with the fine
usually levied upon the delinquent.... So degraded
indeed are their views on subjects of this nature ...
that the man who has thus obtained six or eight head of
cattle deems it a fortunate circumstance rather than
otherwise; he at once renews his intimacy with the
seducer, and in the course of a few days becomes as
friendly and familiar with him as ever" (141-42).

"Whenever the Kaffir monarch hears of a young woman
possessed of more than ordinary beauty, and at all
within his reach, he unceremoniously sends for her or
fetches her himself.... Seldom or never does any young
girl, residing in his immediate neighborhood, escape
defilement after attaining the age of puberty (165)."
"Widows are constantly constrained to be the servants
of sin" (177).

"The following singular usage obtains universally ...
all conjugal intercourse is entirely suspended from the
time of accouchement until the child be completely
weaned, which seldom takes place before it is able to
run about. Hence during the whole of that period, an
illicit and clandestine intercourse with strangers is
generally kept up by both parties, to the utter
subversion of everything like attachment and connubial
bliss. Something like affection is in some instances
apparent for awhile, but it is generally of
comparatively short duration."

Fritsch (95) describes a Kaffir custom called _U'pundhlo_ which has
only lately been abolished:

"Once in awhile a troupe of young men was sent from the
principal town to the surrounding country to capture
all the unmarried girls they could get hold of and
carry them away forcibly. These girls had to serve for
awhile as concubines of strangers visiting the court.
After a few days they were allowed to go and their
places were taken by other girls captured in the same

Before the Kaffirs came under the influence of civilization, this
custom gave no special offence; "and why should it?" adds Fritsch,
"since with the Kaffirs marriageable girls are morally free and their
purity seems a matter of no special significance." When boys reach the
age of puberty, he says (109), they are circumcised;

"thereupon, while they are in the transition stage between
boyhood and manhood, they are almost entirely independent of
all laws, especially in their sexual relations, so that they
are allowed to take possession with impunity of any
unmarried women they choose."

The Kaffirs also indulge in obscene dances and feasts. Warner says
(97) that at the ceremony of circumcision virtue is polluted while yet
in its embryo. "A really pure girl is unknown among the raw Kaffirs,"
writes Hol. "All demoraln sense of purity and shame is lost." While
superstition forbids the marrying of first cousins as incestuous, real
"incest in its worst forms"--between mother and sons--prevails. At the
ceremony called _Ntonjane_ the young girls "are degraded and polluted
at the very threshold of womanhood, and every spark of virtuous
feeling annihilated" (197, 207, 185).

"Immorality," says Fritsch (112),

"is too deeply rooted in African blood to make it difficult
to find an occasion for indulging in it; wherefore the
custom of celebrating puberty, harmless in itself, is made
the occasion for lascivious practices; the unmarried girls
choose companions with whom they cohabit as long as the
festival lasts ... usually three or four days."

After giving other details, Fritsch thus sums up the situation:

"These diverse facts make it clear that with these tribes
(Ama-Xosa) woman stands, if not morally, at least
judicially, little above cattle, and consequently it is
impossible to speak of family life in one sense of the

In his _Nursery Tales of the Zulus_ (255) Callaway gives an account,
in the native language as well as in the English, of the license
indulged in at Kaffir puberty festivals. Young men assemble from all
quarters. The maidens have a "girl-king" to whom the men are obliged
to give a present before they are allowed to enter the hut chosen for
the meeting. "The young people remain alone and sport after their own
fancies in every way." "It is a day of filthiness in which everything
may be done according to the heart's desire of those who gather around
the _umgongo_." The Rev. J. MacDonald, a man of scientific
attainments, gives a detailed account of the incredibly obscene
ceremonies to which the girls of the Zulu-Kaffirs are subjected, and
the licentious yet Malthusian conduct of the young folks in general
who "separate into pairs and sleep _in puris naturalibus_, for that is
strictly ordained by custom." The father of a girl thus treated feels
honored on receiving a present from her partner.[140]


The utter indifference of the Kaffirs to chastity and their
licentiousness, approved and even prescribed by national custom, were
not the only obstacle to the growth of sentiments rising above mere
sensuality. Commercialism was another fatal obstacle. I have already
quoted Hahn's testimony that a Kaffir "would rather have big herds of
cattle than a good-looking wife." Dohne asserts (Shooter, 88) that "a
Kaffir loves his cattle more than his daughter," and Kay (111) tells
us that

"he is scarcely ever seen shedding tears, excepting
when the chief lays violent hands upon some part of his
horned family; this pierces him to the heart and
produces more real grief than would be evinced over the
loss of wife and child."

On another page (85) he says that in time of war the poor women fall
into the enemy's hands, because

"their husbands afford them no assistance or protection
whatever. The preservation of the cattle constitutes
the grand object of their solicitude; and with these,
which are trained for the purpose, they run at an
astonishing rate, leaving both wives and children to
take their chances."

Such being the Kaffir's relative estimation of cows and women, we
might infer that in matrimonial arrangements bovine interests were
much more regarded than any possible sentimental considerations; and
this we find to be the case. Barrow (149) tells us that

"the females being considered as the property of their
parents, are always disposed of by sale. The common
price of a wife is an ox or a couple of cows. Love with
them is a very confined passion, taking but little hold
on the mind. When an offer is made for the purchase of
a daughter, she feels little inclination to refuse; she
considers herself as an article at market, and is
neither surprised, nor unhappy, nor interested, on
being told that she is about to be disposed of. There
is no previous courtship, no exchange of fine
sentiments, no nice feelings, no attentions to catch
the affections and to attach the heart."[141]


The Rev. L. Grout says in his _Zululand_ (166):

"So long as the government allows the custom called
_ukulobolisha_, the selling of women in marriage for
cattle, just so long the richer and so, for the most
part, the older and the already married man will be
found, too often, the successful suitor--not indeed at
the feet of the maiden, for she is allowed little or no
right to a voice as to whom she shall marry, but at the
hands of her heathen proprietor, who, in his
degradation, looks less at the affections and
preferences of his daughter than at the surest way of
filling his kraal with cattle, and thus providing for
buying another wife or two."

So purely commercial is the transaction that if a wife proves very
fruitful and healthy, a demand for more cattle is made on her husband
(165). Should she be feeble or barren he may send her back to her
father and demand compensation. A favorite way is to retain a wife as
a slave and go on marrying other girls as fast as the man's means
allow. Theal says (213) that if a wife has no children the husband has
a right to return her to her parents and if she has a marriageable
sister, take her in exchange. But the acme of commercialism is reached
in a Zulu marriage ceremony described by Shooter. At the wedding the
matrons belonging to the bridegroom's party tell the bride that too
many cows have been given for her; that she is rather plain than
otherwise, and will never be able to do a married woman's work, and
that altogether it is very kind of the bridegroom to condescend to
marry her. Then the bride's friends have their innings. They condole
with her parents on the very inadequate number of cows paid for her,
the loveliest girl in the village; declare that the husband is quite
unworthy of her, and ought to be ashamed for driving such a hard
bargain with her parents.

Leslie's assertion (194) that 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," is contradicted by the
concurrent testimony of the leading authorities. Some of these have
already been cited. The reliable Fritsch says (112) of the Ama-Xosa

"It is characteristic that as a rule the inclination of
the girl to be married is never consulted, but that her
nearest male relatives select a husband for her to whom
she is unceremoniously sent. They choose, of course, a
man who can pay."

If she is a useful girl he is not likely to refuse the offer, yet he
bargains to get her as cheaply as possible (though he knows that a
Kaffir girl's chief pride is the knowledge that many heads of cattle
were paid for her). Regarding the Ama-Zulu, Fritsch says (141-42) that
the women are slaves and a wife is regarded as so much invested
capital. "If she falls ill, or remains childless, so that the man does
not get his money's worth, he often returns her to her father and asks
his cattle back." Older and less attractive women are sometimes
married off on credit, or to be paid for in instalments. "In all
this," Fritsch sums up, "there is certainly little of poetry and
romance, but it cannot be denied that under the influence of European
residents an improvement has been effected in some quarters." He
himself saw at Natal a young couple who "showed a certain interest in
each other," such as one expects of married persons; but in parts
untouched by European influence, he adds, true conjugal devotion is an
unusual thing.


It is probably owing to such European influences that Theal (209)
found that although a woman is not legally supposed to be consulted in
the choice of a husband, in point of fact "matches arising from mutual
love are not uncommon. In such cases, if any difficulties are arranged
by the guardians on either side, the young people do not scruple to
run away together." The word "love" in this passage is of course used
in that vague sense which indicates nothing but a preference of one
man or woman to others. That a Kaffir girl should prefer a young man
to an old suitor to the point of running away with him is to be
expected, even if there is nothing more than a merely sensual
attachment. The question how far there are any amorous preferences
among Kaffirs is an interesting one. From the fact that they prefer
their cows to their wives in moments of danger, we infer that though
they might also like one girl better than another, such preference
would be apt to prove rather weak; and this inference is borne out by
some remarks of the German missionary Alberti which I will translate:

"The sentiment of tender and chaste love is as unknown
to the Kaffir as that respect which is founded on
agreement and moral worth. The need of mutual aid in
domestic life, combined with the natural instinct for
the propagation of the species, alone seem to occasion
a union of young men and women which afterward gains
permanence through habitual intercourse and a community
of interests."

"It is true that the young man commonly seeks to gain
the favor of the girl he likes before he applies to her
parents, in which case, if his suit is accepted, the
supreme favor is at once granted him by the girl; but
inasmuch as he does not need her good will necessarily,
the parental consent being sufficient to secure
possession of her, he shows little zeal, and his peace
of mind is not in the least disturbed by a possible
refusal. Altogether, he is much less solicitous about
gaining her predilection than about getting her for the
lowest possible price."

Alberti was evidently a thinker as well as a careful observer. His
lucid remarks gives us a deep insight into primitive conditions when
love had hardly yet begun to germinate. What a worldwide difference
between this languid Kaffir wooer, hardly caring whether he gets this
girl or another, and the modern lover who thinks life not worth
living, unless he can gain the love of his chosen one. In all the
literature on the subject, I have been able to find only one case of
stubborn preference among Kaffirs. Neuhaus knew a young man who
refused for two years to marry the girl chosen for him by his father,
and finally succeeded in having his way with another girl whom he
preferred. As a matter of course, strong aversion is more frequently
manifested than decided preference, especially in the case of girls
who are compelled to marry old men. Neuhaus[142] saw a Zulu girl whose
hands had been nearly burned off by her tormentors; he knew of two
girls who committed suicide, one just before, the other just after, an
enforced marriage. Grout (167) speaks of the "various kinds of torture
resorted to by the father and friends of a girl to compel her to marry
contrary to her choice." One girl, who had fled to his house for
refuge, told him repeatedly that if delivered into the hands of her
tormentors "she would be cruelly beaten as soon as they were out of
sight and be subjected to every possible abuse, till she should comply
with the wishes of her proprietor."


Where men are so deficient in sentiment and manly instincts that one
young woman seems to them about as good as another, it is hardly
strange that the women too should lack those qualities of delicacy,
gentleness, and modesty which make the weaker sex adorable. The
description of the bloody duels often fought by Kaffir women given by
the British missionary Beste (Ploss, II., 421) indicates a decidedly
Amazonian disposition. But the most suggestive trait of Kaffir women
is the lack of feminine coyness in their matrimonial preliminaries.
According to Gardiner (97),

"it is not regarded as a matter either of etiquette or
of delicacy from which side the proposal of marriage
may proceed--the overture is as often made by the women
as the men."

"Courtship," says Shooter (50), "does not always begin with the men."
Sometimes the girl's father proposes for her; and when a young woman
does not receive an early proposal, her father or brother go from
kraal to kraal and offer her till a bidder is found. Callaway (60)
relates that when a young Zulu woman is ready to be married she goes
to the kraal of the bridegroom, to stand there. She remains without
speaking, but they understand her. If they "acknowledge" her, a goat
is killed and she is entertained. If they do not like her, they give
her a burning piece of firewood, to intimate that there is no fire in
that kraal to warm herself by; she must go and kindle a fire for


Though in all this there is considerable romance, there is no evidence
of romantic love. But how about love-charms, poems, and stories?
According to Grout (171), love-charms are not unknown in Zulu land.
They are made of certain herbs or barks, reduced to a powder, and sent
by the hand of some unsuspected friend to be given in a pinch of
snuff, deposited in the dress, or sprinkled upon the person of the
party whose favor is to be won. But love-powders argue a very
materialistic way of regarding love and tell us nothing about
sentiments. A hint at something more poetic is given by the Rev. J.
Tyler (61), who relates that flowers are often seen on Zulu heads, and
that one of them, the "love-making posy," is said to foster "love."
Unfortunately that is all the information he gives us on this
particular point, and the further details supplied by him (120-22)
dash all hopes of finding traces of sentiment. The husband "eats
alone," and when the wife brings him a drink of home-made beer "she
must first sip to show there is no 'death in the pot.'" While he
guzzles beer, loafs, smokes, and gossips, she has to do all the work
at home as well as in the field, carrying her child on her back and
returning in the evening with a bundle of firewood on her head. "In
the winter the natives assemble almost daily for drinking and dancing,
and these orgies are accompanied by the vilest obscenities and evil

As regards poems Wallaschek remarks (6) that "the Kaffir in his poetry
only recognizes a threefold subject: war, cattle, and excessive
adulation of his ruler." One Kaffir love-poem, or rather
marriage-poem, I have been able to find (Shooter, 236), and it is
delightfully characteristic:

We tell you to dig well,
Come, girl of ours,
Bring food and eat it;
Fetch fire-wood
And don't be lazy.


Among the twenty-one tales collected in Theal's _Kaffir Folk Lore_
there is one which approximates what we call a love-story. As it takes
up six pages of his book it cannot be quoted entire, but in the
following condensed version I have retained every detail that is
pertinent to our inquiry. It is entitled _The Story of Mbulukazi_.

There was once a man who had two wives; one of them had
no children, wherefore he did not love her. The other
one had one daughter, who was very black, and several
children besides, but they were all crows. The barren
wife was very downcast and often wept all day.

One day two doves perching near her asked why she
cried. When they had heard her story they told her to
bring two earthen jars. Then they scratched her knees
until the blood flowed, and put it into the jars. Every
day they came and told her to look in the jars, till
one day she found in them two beautiful children, a boy
and a girl. They grew up in her hut, for she lived
apart from her husband, and he knew nothing of their

When they were big, they went to the river one day to
fetch water. On the way they met some young men, among
whom was Broad Breast, a chief's son who was looking
for a pretty girl to be his wife. The men asked for a
drink and the boy gave them all some water, but the
young chief would take it only from the girl. He was
very much smitten with her beauty, and watched her to
see where she lived. He then went home to his father
and asked for cattle with which to marry her. The
chief, being rich, gave him many fine cattle, and with
these the young man went to the husband of the girl's
mother and said: "I want to marry your daughter." So
the girl who was very black was told to come, but the
young chief said: "That is not the one I want; the one
I saw was lighter in color and much prettier." The
father replied: "I have no other children but crows."

But Broad Breast persisted, and finally the
servant-girl told the father about the other daughter.
In the evening he went to his neglected wife's hut and
to his great joy saw the boy and his sister. He
remained all night and it was agreed that the young
chief should have the girl. When Broad Breast saw her
he said: "This is the girl I meant." So he gave the
cattle to the father and married the girl, whose name
was Mbulukazi.

To appease the jealousy of the very black girl's mother
he also married that girl, and each of them received
from her father an ox, with which they went to their
new home. But the young chief did not care for the very
black girl and gave her an old rickety hut to live in
while Mbulukazi had a very nice new house. This made
the other girl jealous, and she plotted revenge, which
she carried out one day by pushing her rival over the
edge of a rock, so that she fell into the river and was
drowned. The corpse was, however, found by her favorite
ox, who licked her till her life came back, and as soon
as she was strong once more she told what had happened.

When the young chief heard the story he was angry with
the dark wife and said to her: "Go home to your father;
I never wanted you at all; it was your mother who
brought you to me." So she had to go away in sorrow and
Mbulukazi remained the great wife of the chief.

In this interesting story there are two suspicious details. Theal says
he has taken care in his collection not to give a single sentence that
did not come from native sources. He calls attention, however, to the
fact that tens of thousands of Kaffirs have adopted the religion of
Europeans and have accepted ideas from their teachers, wherefore "it
will surprise no one to learn that these tales are already undergoing
great changes among a very large section of the natives on the
border." I suspect that the touch of sentiment in the place where the
young chief will accept a drink from the girl's hand alone is such a
case of European influence, and so, in all probability is the
preference for a light complexion implied in the tale; for Shooter (p.
I) tells us expressly that to be told that he is light-colored "would
be esteemed a very poor compliment by a Kaffir."

The following passage, which occurs in another of Theal's stories
(107), shows how unceremonious Kaffir "courtship" is in relation to
the girl's wishes.

"Hlakanyana met a girl herding some goats.

"He said: 'Where are the boys of your village, that the
goats are herded by a girl?'

"The girl answered: 'There are no boys in the village.'

"He went to the father of the girl and said: 'You must
give me your daughter to be my concubine, and I will
herd the goats.'

"The father of the girl agreed to that. Then Hlakanyana
went with the goats, and every day he killed one and
ate it till all were done."


If we now leave the degraded and licentious Kaffirs, going northward
in Eastern Africa, into the region of the lakes--Nyassa, Victoria
Nyanza and Albert Nyanza--embracing British Central, German East, and
British East Africa, we are doomed to disappointment if we expect to
find conditions more favorable to the growth of refined romantic or
conjugal love. We shall not only discover no evidence of what is
vaguely called Platonic love, but we shall find men ignoring even
Plato's injunction (_Laws_, VIII., 840) that they should not be lower
than beasts, which do not mate till they have reached the age of
maturity. H.H. Johnston, in his recent work on British Central Africa,
gives some startling revelations of aboriginal depravity. As these
regions have been known a few years only, the universality of this
depravity disproves most emphatically the ridiculous notion that
savages are naturally pure in their conduct and owe their degradation
to intercourse with corrupt white men. Johnston (409) says:

"A medical missionary who was at work for some time on
the west coast of Lake Nyassa gave me information
regarding the depravity prevalent among the young boys
in the Atonga tribe of a character not even to be
described in obscure Latin. These statements might be
applied with almost equal exactitude to boys and girls
in many other parts of Africa. As regards the little
girls, over nearly the whole of British Central Africa,
chastity before puberty is an unknown condition....
Before a girl becomes a woman (that is to say, before
she is able to conceive), it is a matter of absolute
indifference what she does, and scarcely any girl
remains a virgin after about five years of age."

Girls are often betrothed at birth, or even before, and when four or
five years old are placed at the mercy of the degraded husbands.
Capture is another method of getting a wife, and Johnston's
description of this custom indicates that individual preference is as
weak as we have found it among Kaffirs:

"The women as a rule make no very great resistance on
these occasions. It is almost like playing a game. A
woman is surprised as she goes to get water at the
stream, or when she is on her way to or from the
plantation. The man has only got to show her she is
cornered and that escape is not easy or pleasant and
she submits to be carried off. Of course there are
cases where the woman takes the first opportunity of
running back to her first husband if her captor treats
her badly, and again she may be really attached to her
first husband and make every effort to return to him
for that reason. But as a general rule they seem to
accept very cheerfully these abrupt changes in their
matrimonial existence."

In a footnote he adds:

"The Rev. Duff Macdonald, a competent authority on Yao
manners and customs, says in his book _Africana_: 'I was
told ... that a native man would not pass a solitary woman,
and that her refusal of him would be so contrary to custom
that he might kill her.' Of course this would apply only to
females that are not engaged."


Of the Taveita forest region Johnston says:

"After marriage the greatest laxity of manners is allowed
among the women, who often court their lovers under their
husband's gaze; provided the lover pays, no objection is
raised to his addresses."

And regarding the Masai (415):

"The Masai men rarely marry until they are twenty-five nor
the women until twenty. But both sexes, _avant de se
ranger_, lead a very dissolute life before marriage, the
young warriors and unmarried girls living together in free

The fullest account of the Masai and their neighbors we owe to
Thomson. With the M-teita marriage is entirely a question of cows.

"There is a very great disproportion between the sexes, the
female predominating greatly, and yet very few of the young
men are able to marry for want of the proper number of
cows--a state of affairs which not unfrequently leads to
marriage with sisters, though this practice is highly

Of the Wa-taveta, Thomson says (113): "Conjugal fidelity is unknown,
and certainly not expected on either side; they might almost be
described as colonies of free lovers." As for life among the Masai
warriors, he says (431) that it

"was promiscuous in a remarkable degree. They may
indeed be proclaimed as a colony of free lovers.
Curiously enough the sweetheart system was largely in
vogue; though no one confined his or her attentions to
one only. Each girl in fact had several sweethearts,
and what is still stranger, this seemed to give rise to
no jealousies. The most perfect equality prevailed
between the Ditto and Elmoran, and in their savage
circumstances it was really pleasant to see how common
it was for a young girl to wander about the camp with
her arm round the waist of a stalwart warrior."[144]


Crossing the waters of the Victoria Nyanza we come to Uganda, a region
which has been entertainingly described by Speke. One day, he tells us
(379), he was crossing a swamp with the king and his wives:

"The bridge was broken, as a matter of course; and the
logs which composed it, lying concealed beneath the
water, were toed successively by the leading men, that
those who followed should not be tripped up by them.
This favor the King did for me, and I in return for the
women behind; they had never been favored in their
lives with such gallantry and therefore could not
refrain from laughing. He afterward helped the girls
over a brook. The king noticed it, but instead of
upbraiding me, passed it off as a joke, and running up
to the Kamraviona, gave him a poke in the ribs and
whispered what he had seen, as if it had been a secret.
'Woh, woh!' says the Kamraviona, 'what wonders will
happen next?'"

There is perhaps no part of Africa where such an act of gallantry
would not have been laughed at as an absurd prank. In Eastern Central

"when a woman meets any man on the path, the etiquette is
for her to go off the path, to kneel, and clasp her hands to
the 'lords of creation' as they pass. Even if a female
possesses male slaves of her own she observes the custom
when she meets them on the public highway. A woman always
kneels when she has occasion to talk to a man" (Macdonald,
I., 129).

"It is interesting to meet a couple returning from a journey for
firewood," says the same writer (137). "The man goes first, carrying
his gun, bow and arrows, while the woman carries the invariable bundle
of firewood on her head." He used to amuse such parties by taking the
wife's load and putting it on the husband, telling him, 'This is the
custom in our country.' The wife has to do not only all the domestic
but all the hard field work, and the only thing the lazy husband does
in return is to mend her clothes. That constitutes her "rights;"
neglect of it is a cause for divorce! Burton notes the absence of
chivalrous ideas among the Somals (_F.F._, 122), adding that

"on first entering the nuptial hut, the bridegroom draws
forth his horsewhip and inflicts memorable chastisement upon
the fair person of his bride, with the view of taming any
lurking propensity to shrewishness."

Among the natives of Massua, on the eighth of the month of Ashur,
"boys are allowed," says Munzinger,

"to mercilessly whip any girl they may meet--a liberty
of which they make use in anything but a sentimental
way. As the girls naturally hide themselves in their
houses on this day, the boys disguise themselves as
beggars, or use some other ruse to get them out."

Adults sometimes take part in this gallant sport. But let us return to

The Queen of Uganda offered Speke the choice between two of her
daughters as a wife. The girls were brought and made to squat in front
of him. They had never seen him.

"The elder, who was in the prime of youth and beauty,
very large of limb, dark in color, cried considerably;
whilst the younger one ... laughed as if she thought
the change in her destiny very good fun."

He had been advised that when the marriage came off he was to chain
the girl two or three days, until she became used to him, else, from
mere fright, she might run away.

A high official also bestowed on him a favor which throws light on the
treatment of Uganda women. He had his women come in, made them strip
to the waist, and asked Speke what he thought of them. He assured him
he had paid him an unusual compliment, the Uganda men being very
jealous of one another, so much so that anyone would be killed if
found staring upon a woman, even in the highways. Speke asked him what
use he had for so many women, to which he replied,

"None whatever; the King gives them to us to keep up
our rank, sometimes as many as one hundred together,
and we either turn them into wives, or make servants of
them, as we please."


The northeastern boundary of Uganda is formed by the waters of the
lake whose name Sir Samuel Baker chose for the title of one of his
fascinating books on African travel, the _Albert N'yanza_. Baker was a
keen observer and he had abundant experience on which to base the
following conclusions (148):

"There is no such thing as love in these countries, the
feeling is not understood, nor does it exist in the
shape in which we understand it. Everything is
practical, without a particle of romance. Women are so
far appreciated as they are valuable animals. They
grind the corn, fetch the water, gather firewood,
cement the floors, cook the food, and propagate the
race; but they are mere servants, and as such are
valuable.... A savage holds to his cows and to his
women, but especially to his cows. In a razzia fight he
will seldom stand for the sake of his wives, but when
he does fight it is to save his cattle."

The sentimentalist's heart will throb with a flutter of hope when he
reads in the same book (240) that among the Latookas it is considered
a disgrace to kill a woman in war. Have these men that respect for
women which makes romantic love possible? Alas, no! They spare them
because women are scarce and have a money value, a female being worth
from five to ten cows, according to her age and appearance. It would
therefore be a waste of money to kill them.

I may as well add here what Baker says elsewhere (_Ismailia_, 501) by
way of explaining why there is no insanity in Central Africa: there
are "no hearts to break with overwhelming love." Where coarseness is
bliss, 'twere folly to be refined.


Let us now cross Central Africa into the Congo region on the Western
side, returning afterward to the East for a bird's-eye view of the
Abyssinians, the Somali, and their neighbors.

In his book _Angola and the River Congo_ (133-34) Monteiro says that
negroes show less tenderness and love than some animals:

"In all the long years I have been in Africa I have
never seen a negro manifest the least tenderness for or
to a negress.... I have never seen a negro put his arm
round a woman's waist or give or receive any caress
whatever that would indicate the slightest loving
regard or affection on either side. They have no words
or expressions in their language indicative of
affection or love. Their passion is purely of an animal
description, unaccompanied by the least sympathetic
affections of love or endearment."[145]

In other words, these negroes not only do not show any tenderness,
affection, sympathy, in their sexual relations, they are too coarse
even to appreciate the more subtle manifestations of sensual passion
which we call caresses. Jealousy, too, Monteiro says, hardly exists.
In case of adultery "the fine is generally a pig, and rum or other
drink, with which a feast is celebrated by all parties. The woman is
not punished in any way, nor does any disgrace attach to her conduct."
As a matter of course, where all these sentiments are lacking,
admiration of personal beauty cannot exist.

"From their utter want of love and appreciation of female
beauty or charms they are quite satisfied and content with
any woman possessing even the greatest amount of hideous
ugliness with which nature has so bountifully provided


Thus we find the African mind differing from ours as widely as a
picture seen directly with the eyes differs from one reflected in a
concave mirror. This is vividly illustrated by a quaint story recorded
in the _Folk Tales of Angola_ (_Memoirs of Amer. Folk Lore Soc._, Vol.
I., 1804, 235-39), of which the following is a condensed version:

An elderly man had an only child, a daughter. This
daughter, a number of men wanted her. But whenever a
suitor came, her father demanded of him a living deer;
and then they all gave up, saying, "The living deer, we
cannot get it."

One day two men came, each asking for the daughter. The
father answered as usual, "He who brings me the living
deer; the same, I will give him my daughter."

The two men made up their minds to hunt for the living
deer in the forest. They came across one and pursued
it; but one of them soon got tired and said to himself:
"That woman will destroy my life. Shall I suffer
distress because of a woman? If I bring her home, if
she dies, would I seek another? I will not run again to
catch a living deer. I never saw it, that a girl was
wooed with a living deer." And he gave up the chase.

The other man persevered and caught the deer. When he
approached with it, his companion said, "Friend, the
deer, didst thou catch it indeed?" Then the other: "I
caught it. The girl delights me much. Rather I would
sleep in forest, than to fail to catch it."

Then they returned to the father and brought him the
deer. But the father called four old men, told them
what had happened, and asked them to choose a
son-in-law for him among the two hunters. Being
questioned by the aged men, the successful hunter said:
"My comrade pursued and gave up; I, your daughter
charmed me much, even to the heart, and I pursued the
deer till it gave in.... My comrade he came only to
accompany me."

Then the other was asked why he gave up the chase, if
he wanted the girl, and he replied: "I never saw that
they wooed a girl with a deer.... When I saw the great
running I said, 'No, that woman will cost my life.
Women are plentiful,' and I sat down to await my

Then the aged men: "Thou who gavest up catching the
deer, thou art our son-in-law. This gentleman who
caught the deer, he may go with it; he may eat it or he
may sell it, for he is a man of great heart. If he
wants to kill he kills at once; he does not listen to
one who scolds him, or gives him advice. Our daughter,
if we gave her to him, and she did wrong, when he would
beat her he would not hear (one) who entreats for her.
We do not want him; let him go. This gentleman who gave
up the deer, he is our son-in-law; because, our
daughter, when she does wrong, when we come to pacify
him, he will listen to us. Although he were in great
anger, when he sees us, his anger will cease. He is our
good son-in-law, whom we have chosen."


According to Livingstone, in Angola suicide is sometimes committed by
a girl if it is predicted to her that she will never have any
children, which would be a great disgrace. A writer in the _Globus_
(Vol. 69, p. 358) sums up the observations of the medical missionary,
G. Liengme, on suicides among the peoples of Africa. The most frequent
cause is a family quarrel. Sometimes a girl commits suicide rather
than marry a man whom she detests, "whereas on the other hand suicide
from unhappy love seems to be unknown." In another number of the
_Globus_ (70: 100), however, I find mention of a negro who killed
himself because he could not get the girl he wanted. This, of course,
does not of itself suffice to prove the existence of true love, for we
know that lust may be as maddening and as obstinate as love itself;
moreover, as we shall see in the chapter on American Indians, suicide
does not argue strong feelings, but a weak intellect. Savages are apt
to kill themselves, as we shall see, on the slightest and most trivial


In his entertaining book on the Congo, H.H. Johnston says (423) of the
races living along the upper part of that river: "They are decidedly
amorous in disposition, but there is a certain poetry in their
feelings which ennobles their love above the mere sexual lust of the
negro." If this is true, it is one of the most important discoveries
ever made by an African explorer, one on which we should expect the
author to dwell at great length. What does he tell us about the Congo
tribes? "The women," he says of the Ba-Kongo, "have little regard for
their virtue, either before or after marriage, and but for the
jealousy of the men there would be promiscuous intercourse between the
sexes." These women, he says, rate it as especially honorable to be a
white man's mistress:

"Moreover, though the men evince some marital jealousy
among themselves, they are far from displaying anything
but satisfaction when a European is induced to accept
the loan of a wife, either as an act of hospitality or
in consideration of some small payment. Unmarried girls
they are more chary of offering, as their value in the
market is greater; but it may be truly said that among
these people womanly chastity is unknown and a woman's
honor is measured by the price she costs."

These remarks, it is true, refer to the lower Congo, and it is only of
the upper river that Johnston predicates the poetic features which
ennoble love. Stanley Pool being accepted by him as the dividing line,
we may there perhaps begin our search for romantic love. One day, the
author relates, rain had driven him to a hut on the shore of the Pool,
where there was a family with two marriageable daughters. The father

"was most anxious I should become his son-in-law,
'moyennant' several 'longs' of cloth. Seeing my
hesitation, he mistook it for scorn and hastened to
point out the manifold charms of his girls, whilst
these damsels waxed hotly indignant at my coldness.
Then another inspiration seized their father--perhaps I
liked a maturer style of beauty, and his wife, by no
means an uncomely person, was dragged forward while her
husband explained with the most expressive gestures,
putting his outspread hands before his eyes and
affecting to look another way, that, again with the
simple intermediary of a little cloth, he would remain
perfectly unconscious of whatever amatory passages
might occur between us."

Evidently the poetry of love had not drifted down as far as the Pool.
Let us therefore see what Johnston has to say of the Upper Congo

"Husbands are fond of their own wives, _as well as of those
of other people_." "Marriage is _a mere question of
purchase_, and is attended by no rejoicings or special
ceremony. A man procures _as many wives as possible_, partly
because they labor for him and also because soon after one
wife becomes with child _she leaves him for two or three
years_ until her baby is weaned." Apart from these facts
Johnston gives us no hint as to what he understands by
affection except what the following sentence allows us to
infer (429):

"The attachment between these dogs and their African
masters is deep and fully reciprocated. They are
_considered very dainty eating_ by the natives, and are
indeed such a luxury that by an unwritten law only _the
superior sex_--the men--are allowed to partake of
roasted dog."

The amusing italics are mine.

If Johnston really found traces of poetic, ennobling love in this
region, surely so startling a novelty in West Africa would have called
for a full "bill of particulars," which would have been of infinitely
greater scientific value than the details he gives regarding
unchastity, infidelity, commercialism, separation from wives and
contempt for women, which are so common throughout the continent as to
call for no special notice. Evidently his ideas regarding "poetic
love" were as hazy as those of some other writers quoted in this
chapter, and we have once more been led on by the mirage of a "false

In 1891 the Swedish explorer Westermarck published a book describing
his adventures among the cannibal tribes of the Upper Congo. I have
not seen the book, but the Rev. James Johnston, in summing up its
contents, says (193):

"A man can sell wife and children according to his own
depraved pleasure. Women are the slave drudges, the men
spending their hours in eating, drinking, and sleeping.
Cannibalism in its worst features prevails. Young women
are prized as special delicacies, particularly girls'
ears prepared in palm oil, and, in order to make the
flesh more palatable, the luckless victims are kept in
water up to their necks for three or four days before
they are slaughtered and served as food."


From the banks of the Congo to Kamerun is not a very far cry as
distances go in Africa. Kamerun is under the German flag, and a German
writer, Hugo Zoeller, has described life in that colony with the eyes
of a shrewd observer. What he says about the negro's capacity for love
shows deep psychological insight (III., 68-70):

"Europeans residing in Africa who have married a negro
woman declare unanimously that there is no such thing
there as love and fidelity in the European sense. It
happens with infinitely greater frequency that a
European falls in love with his black companion than
she with him; or rather the latter does not happen at
all. A hundred times I have listened to discussions of
this topic in many different places, but I have never
heard of a single case of a genuine full-blooded
negress falling in love with a white man.... The
stupidest European peasant girl is, in comparison with
an African princess, still an ideally endowed being."

Zoeller adds that in all his African experiences he never found a
negress of whom he should have been willing to assume that she would
sacrifice herself for a man she was attached to. On another page he

"A negro woman does not fall in love in the same sense
as a European, not even as the least civilized peasant
girl. Love, in our sense of the word, is a product of
our culture belonging to a higher stage in the
development of latent faculties than the negro race has
reached. Not only is the negro a stranger to the
diverse intellectual and sentimental qualities which we
denote by the name of love: nay, even in a purely
bodily sense it may be asserted that his nervous system
is not only less sensitive, but less well-developed.
The negro loves as he eats and drinks.... And just as
little as a black epicure have I ever been able to
discover a negro who could rise to the imaginative
phases of amorous dalliance. A negro ... may buy dozens
upon dozens of wives without ever being drawn by an
overpowering feeling to any one of them. Love is, among
the blacks, as much a matter of money as the palm oil
or ivory trade. The black man buys his wife when she is
still a child; when she reaches the age at which our
maidens go to their first ball, her nervous system,
which never was particularly sensitive anyway, is
completely blunted, so that she takes it as a matter of
course to be sold again and again as a piece of
property. One hears often enough of a 'woman palaver,'
which is regarded exactly like a 'goat palaver,' as a
damage to property, but one never, positively never,
hears of a love-affair. The negress never has a
sweetheart, either in her youngest days or after her
so-called marriage. She is regarded, and regards
herself, as a piece of property and a beast of burden."


Travelling a short distance northwest from Kamerun we reach the Slave
Coast of West Africa, to which A.B. Ellis has devoted two interesting
books, including chapters in the folklore of the Yoruba and
Ewe-speaking peoples of this region. Among the tales recorded are two
which illustrate African ideas regarding love. I copy the first
verbatim from Ellis's book on the Yoruba (269-70):

"There was a young maiden named Buje, the slender, whom
all the men wanted. The rich wanted her, but she
refused. Chiefs wanted her, and she refused. The King
wanted her, and she still refused.

"Tortoise came to the King and said to him, 'She whom
you all want and cannot get, I will get. I will have

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