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Primitive Love and Love-Stories by Henry Theophilus Finck

Part 9 out of 19

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her, I.' And the King said, 'If you succeed in having
her, I will divide my palace into two halves and will
give you one-half.'

"One day Buje, the slender, took an earthen pot and
went to fetch water. Tortoise, seeing this, took his
hoe, and cleared the path that led to the spring. He
found a snake in the grass, and killed it. Then he put
the snake in the middle of the path.

"When Buje, the slender, had filled her pot, she came
back. She saw the snake in the path, and called out,
'Hi! hi! Come and kill this snake.'

"Tortoise ran up with his cutlass in his hand. He
struck at the snake and wounded himself in the leg.

"Then he cried out, 'Buje the slender, has killed me. I
was cutting the bush, I was clearing the path for her.
She called to me to kill the snake, but I have wounded
myself in the leg. O Buje, the slender, Buje, the
slender, take me upon your back and hold me close.'

"He cried this many times, and at last Buje, the
slender, took Tortoise and put him on her back. And
then he slipped his legs down over her hips....

"Next day, as soon as it was light, Tortoise went to
the King. He said, 'Did I not tell you I should have
Buje, the slender? Call all the people of the town to
assemble on the fifth day, and you will hear what I
have to say.'

"When it was the fifth day, the King sent out his crier
to call all the people together. The people came.
Tortoise cried out, 'Everybody wanted Buje, the
slender, and Buje refused everybody, but I have had

"The King sent a messenger, with his stick, to summon
Buje, the slender. When she came the King said, 'We
have heard that Tortoise is your husband; is it so?'

"Buje, the slender, was ashamed, and could not answer.
She covered her head with her cloth, and ran away into
the bush.

"And there she was changed into the plant called Buje."


Robert Hartmann (480) describes the Yoruba people as vivacious and
intelligent. But the details given by Ellis (154) regarding the
peculiar functions of bridesmaids, and the assertion that "virginity
in a bride is only of paramount importance when the girl has been
betrothed in childhood," explain sufficiently why we must not look for
sentimental features in a Yoruba love-story. The most noticeable thing
in the above tale is the girl's power to refuse chiefs and even the
King. In Ellis's book on the Ewe-speaking peoples of the Slave Coast,
there is also a love-story (271) concerning a "Maiden who always
refused." It has a moral which seems to indicate masculine disapproval
of such a feminine privilege. The following is a condensed version:

There was a beautiful girl whose parents were rich. Men
came to marry her, but she always said "Not yet." Men
continued to come, but she said "My shape is good, my
skin is good, therefore I shall stay;" and she stayed.

Now the leopard, in the leopard's place, hears this. He
turns himself to resemble man. He takes a musical
instrument in his hand and makes himself a fine young
man. His shape is good. Then he goes to the parents of
the maiden and says, "I look strong and manly, but I do
not look stronger than I love." Then the father says,
"Who looks strong takes;" and the young man says, "I am

The young man comes in the house. His shape pleases the
young girl. They give him to eat and they give him to
drink. Then the young man asks the maiden if she is
ready to go, and the maiden says she is ready to go.
Her parents give her two female slaves to take along,
and goats, sheep, and fowls. Ere long, as they travel
along the road, the husband says, "I am hungry." He
eats the fowls, but is still hungry: he eats the goats
and sheep and is hungry still. The two slaves next fall
a victim to his voracity, and then he says, "I am

Then the wife weeps and cries aloud and throws herself
on the ground. Immediately the leopard, having resumed
his own shape, makes a leap toward her. But there is a
hunter concealed in the bush; he has witnessed the
scene; he aims his gun and kills the leopard on the
leap. Then he cuts off his tail and takes the young
woman home.

"This is the way of young women," the tale concludes.
"The young men come to ask; the young women meet them,
and continue to refuse--again, again, again--and so the
wild animals turn themselves into men and carry them


While the main object of this discussion is to show that Africans are
incapable of feeling sentimental love, I have taken the greatest pains
to discover such traces of more refined feelings as may exist. These
one might expect to find particularly in the collections of African
tales such as Callaway's _Nursery Tales of the Zulus_, Theal's _Kaffir
Folk Lore_, the _Folk Lore of Angola_, Stanley's _My Dark Companions
and their Stories_, Koelle's _African Native Literature_, Jacottet's
_Contes Populaires des Bassoutos_. All that I have been able to find
in these books and others bearing on our topic is included in this
chapter--and how very little it is! Love, even of the sensual kind,
seems to be almost entirely ignored by these dusky story-tellers in
favor of a hundred other subjects--in striking contrast to our own
literature, in which love is the ruling passion. I have before me
another interesting collection of South and North African stories and
fables--Bleek's _Reinecke Fuchs in Afrika_. Its author had unusual
facilities for collecting them, having been curator of Sir G. Grey's
library at Cape Town, which includes a fine collection of African
manuscripts. In Bleek's book there are forty-four South African,
chiefly Hottentot, fables and tales, and thirty-nine relating to North
Africans. Yet among these eighty-three tales there are only three that
come under the head of love-stories. As they take up eight pages, I
can give only a condensed version of them, taking care, however, to
omit no essential feature.[147]


Four handsome youths tried to win a beautiful girl
living in the same town. While they were quarrelling
among themselves a youth came from another town, lifted
the girl on his horse and galloped away with her. The
father followed in pursuit on his camel, entered the
youth's house, and brought back the girl.

One day the father called together all the men of his
tribe. The girl stepped among them and said, "Whoever
of you can ride on my father's camel without falling
off, may have me as wife." Dressed in their best
finery, the young men tried, one after another, but
were all thrown. Among them sat the stranger youth,
wrapped only in a mat. Turning toward him the girl
said, "Let the stranger make a trial." The men
demurred, but the stranger got on the camel, rode about
the party three times safely, and when he passed the
girl for the fourth time he snatched her up and rode
away with her hastily.

Quickly the father mounted his fleet horse and followed
the fugitives. He gained on them until his horse's head
touched the camel's tail. At that moment the youth
reached his home, jumped off the camel and carried the
bride into the house. He closed the door so violently
that one foot of the pursuing horse caught between the
posts. The father drew it out with difficulty and
returned to the four disappointed suitors.


A king had a beautiful daughter and many desired to
marry her. But all failed, because none could answer
the King's question: "What is enclosed in my amulet?"
Undismayed by the failure of men of wealth and rank,
Tamba, who lived far in the East and had nothing to
boast of, made up his mind to win the princess. His
friends laughed at him but he started out on his trip,
taking with him some chickens, a goat, rice,
rice-straw, millet-seed, and palm-oil. He met in
succession a hungry porcupine, an alligator, a horned
viper, and some ants, of all of whom he made friends by
feeding them the things he had taken along. He reserved
some of the rice, and when he arrived at the King's
court he gave it to a hungry servant who in turn told
him the secret of the amulet. So when he was asked what
the amulet contained, he replied: "Hair clipped from
the King's head when he was a child; a piece of the
calabash from which he first drank milk; and the tooth
of the first snake he killed."

This answer angered the King's minister, and Tamba was
put in chains. He was subjected to various tests which
he overcame with the aid of the animals he had fed on
his trip. But again he was fettered and even lashed.

One day the King wanted to bathe, so he sent his four
wives to fetch water. A young girl accompanying them
saw how all of them were bitten by a horned viper and
ran back to tell the news. The wives were brought back
unconscious, and no one could help them. The King then
thought of Tamba, who was brought before him. Tamba
administered an antidote which the viper he had fed had
given him, the wives recovered, the wicked minister was
beheaded and Tamba was rewarded with the hand of the


The third tale is herewith translated verbatim:

"There was a man who had a most beautiful daughter, the
favorite of all the young men of the place; two,
especially, tried to win her regard. One day these two
came together and begged her to choose one of them. The
young girl called her father; when the young men had
told him that they were suing for his daughter's hand,
he requested them to come there the next day, when he
would set them a task and the one who got through with
it first should have the girl.

"Meanwhile the father bought in the market a piece of
cloth and cut it up for two garments. Now when the two
rivals appeared the next morning he gave to each the
materials for a garment and told them to sew them
together, promising his daughter to the one who should
get done first. The daughter he ordered to thread the
needles for both the men.

"Now the girl knew very well which of the two young men
she would rather have for a husband; to him, therefore,
she always handed needles with short threads, while the
other was always supplied with long threads. Noon came
and neither of them had finished his garment. After
awhile, however, the one who always got the short
threads finished his task.

"The father was then summoned and the young man showed
him the garment; whereupon the father said: 'You are a
quick worker and will therefore surely be able to
support your wife. Take my daughter as your wife and
always do your work rapidly, then you will always have
food for yourself and your wife.'

"Thus did the young man win his beloved by means of her
cunning. Joyfully he led her home as his wife."


This tale reveals the existence of individual preference, but does not
hint at any other ingredient of love, while the father's promise of
the girl to the fastest worker shows a total indifference to what that
preference might be. In the following tale (also from Koelle) the girl
again is not consulted.

"A certain man had a most beautiful daughter who was
beset by many suitors. But as soon as they were told
that the sole condition on which they could obtain her
was to bale out a brook with a ground-nut shell (which
is about half the size of a walnut shell), they always
walked away in disappointment. However, at last one
took heart of grace, and began the task. He obtained
the beauty; for the father said, '_Kam ago tsuru
baditsia tsido_--he who undertakes whatever he says,
will do it.'"


The last two tales I have cited were gathered among the Bornu people
in the Soudan. In Burton's _Wit and Wisdom from West Africa_ we find a
few proverbs about women that are current in the same region.

"If a woman speaks two words, take one and leave the other."
"Whatever be thy intimacy, never give thy heart to a woman."
"If thou givest thy heart to a woman, she will kill thee."
"If a man tells his secrets to his wife, she will bring him
into the way of Satan." "A woman never brings a man into the
right way." "Men who listen to what women say, are counted
as women."

It is significant that in the four hundred and fifty-five pages of
Burton's book, which includes over four hundred proverbs and tales,
there are only half a dozen brief references to women, and those are


As I have had occasion to remark before, African women lack the finer
feminine qualities, both bodily and mental, wherefore even if an
African man were able to feel sentimental love he could not find an
object to bestow it on. An incident related by Du Chaillu (_Ashango
Land_, 187) illustrates the martial side of African femininity. A
married man named Mayolo had called another man's wife toward him. His
own wife, hearing of this, got jealous, told him the other must be his
sweetheart, and rushed out to seek her rival. A battle ensued:

"Women's fights in this country always begin by their
throwing off their _dengui_--that is, stripping
themselves entirely naked. The challenger having thus
denuded herself, her enemy showed pluck and answered
the challenge by promptly doing the same; so that the
two elegant figures immediately went at it literally
tooth and nail, for they fought like cats, and between
the rounds reviled each other in language the most
filthy that could possibly be uttered. Mayolo being
asleep in his house, and no one seeming ready to
interfere, I went myself and separated the two furies."

In Dahomey, as everybody knows, the bellicose possibilities of the
African woman have been utilized in forming bands of Amazons which are
described as "the flower of the army." They are made up of female
captives and other women, wear special uniforms, and in battle are
credited with even greater ferocity than the men. These women are
Amazons not of their own accord but by order of the king. But in other
parts of Africa there is reason to believe that bands of
self-constituted female warriors have existed at various times.
Diodorus Siculus, who lived in the time of Julius Caesar, says that on
the western coast of Libya (Africa) there used to live a people
governed by women, who carried on wars and the government, the men
being obliged to do domestic work and take care of the children. In
our time Livingstone found in the villages of the Bechuanas and Banyas
that men were often badly treated by the women, and the eminent German
anthropologist Bastian says(_S.S._, 178) that in "the Soudan the power
of the women banded together for mutual protection is so great that
men are often put under ban and obliged to emigrate." Mungo Park
described the curious bugaboo(_mumbo-jumbo_)by means of which the
Mandingo negroes used to keep their rebellious women in subjection.
According to Bastian, associations for keeping women in subjection are
common among men along the whole African West Coast. The women, too,
have their associations, and at their meetings compare notes on the
meanness and cruelty of their husbands. Now it is easy to conceive
that among tribes where many of the men have been killed off in wars
the women, being in a great majority, may, for a time at least, turn
the tables on the men, assume their weapons and make them realize how
it feels to be the "inferior sex." For this reason Bastian sees no
occasion to share the modern disposition to regard all the Amazon
legends as myths.


If we now return from the West Coast to Eastern Africa we find on the
northern confines of Abyssinia a strange case of the subjection of
men, which Munzinger has described in his _Ostafrikanische Studien_
(275-338). The Beni Amer are a tribe of Mohammedan shepherds among
whom "the sexes seem to have exchanged roles, the women being more
masculine in their work." Property is legally held in common,
wherefore the men rarely dare to do anything without consulting their
wives. In return for this submission they are treated with the utmost

"For every angry word that the husband utters he is
compelled to pay a fine, and perhaps spend a whole
rainy night outdoors till he has promised to give his
weaker half a camel and a cow. Thus the wife acquires a
property of her own, which the husband never is allowed
to touch; many women have in this way ruined their
husbands and then left them. The women have much
_esprit de corps_; if one of them has ground for
complaint, all the others come to her aid.... Of course
the man is always found in the wrong; the whole village
is in a turmoil. This _esprit de corps_ demands that
every woman, whether she loves her husband or not, must
conceal her love and treat him contemptuously. It is
considered disgraceful for her to show her love to her
husband. This contempt for men goes so far that if a
wife laments the death of her husband who has died
without issue, her companions taunt her.... One often
hears women abuse their husbands or other men in the
most obscene language, even on the street, and the men
do not dare to make the least retort." "The wife can at
any time return to her mother's house, and remain there
months, sending word to her husband that he may come to
her if he cares for her."


The causes of this singular effeminacy of the men and masculinity of
the women are not indicated by Munzinger; but so much is clear that,
although the tables are turned, Cupid is again left in the cold. Nor
is there any romance in the courtship which leads to such hen-pecked
conjugal life:

"The children are often married very early, and engaged
earlier still. The bridegroom goes with his companions
to fetch his bride; but after having talked with her
parents he returns without having seen her. The bride
thereafter remains another whole year with her parents.
After its expiration the bridegroom sends women and a
camel to bring her to his home; she is taken away with
her tent, but the bridal escort is often fooled by the
substitution in the bride's place of another girl, who
allows herself to be taken along, carefully veiled, and
after the village has been left behind betrays herself
and runs away."

These Beni Amer are of course far superior in culture to the Bushmen,
Hottentots, Kaffirs, and West Coast peoples we have been considering
so far, having long been in contact with Oriental influences. It is
therefore as strange as it is instructive to note that as soon as a
race becomes civilized enough to feel a kind of love exalted above
mere sensuality, special pains are taken to interpose fresh obstacles,
as in the above case, where it is good form to suppress all affection,
and where a young man may not see his bride even after engagement.
This last custom seems to be of common occurrence in this part of
Africa. Munzinger (387) says of the Kunama: "As among the border
peoples engagements are often made at a very early age, after which
time bride and bridegroom avoid each other;" and again (147)
concerning the region of Massua, on the Red Sea:

"From the day of the engagement the young man is
obliged to carefully avoid the bride and her mother.
The desire to see her after the engagement is
considered very improper, and often leads to a
breaking-up of the affair. If the youth meets the girl
accidentally, she veils her face and her friends
surround her to cover her from the bridegroom's sight."


These attachments are so shallow that if the fortune-teller who is
always consulted gives an unfavorable forecast, the engagement is
forthwith broken off. It is instructive to note further that the rigid
separation of a man from his betrothed serves merely to stifle
legitimate love; its object cannot be to prevent improper intimacies,
for before engagement the girls enjoy perfect liberty to do what they
please, and after engagement they may converse with _anyone except the
lover_. As Parkyns (II., 41) tells us, he is never allowed to see his
intended wife even for a moment, unless he can bribe some female
friend to arrange it so he can get a peep at her by concealing
himself; but if the girl discovers him she covers her face, screams,
runs away, and hides. This "coyness" is a pure sham. In reality the
Abyssinian girl is anything but coy. Munzinger thus describes her

"The shepherd girls in the neighborhood of Massua
always earn some money by carrying water and provisions
to the city. The youngest girls are sent there
heedlessly, and are often cheated out of more than
their money, and therefore they do not usually make the
best of wives, being coquettish and very eager for
money. The refinements of innocence must not be sought
for in this country; they are incompatible with the
simple arrangement of the houses and the unrestrained
freedom of conversation. No one objects to this, a
family's only anxiety being that the girl should not
lose the semblance of virginity.... If a child is born
it is mercilessly killed by the girl's grandmother."

Sentimental admirers of what they suppose to be genuine "pastoral love
poetry" will find further food for thought in the following Abyssinian
picture from Parkyns (II., 40):

"The boys are turned out wild to look after the sheep
and cattle; and the girls from early childhood are sent
to fetch water from the well or brook, first in a
gourd, and afterward in a jar proportioned to their
strength. These occupations are not conducive to the
morality of either sex. If the well be far from the
village, the girls usually form parties to go thither,
and amuse themselves on the road by singing sentimental
or love songs, which not unfrequently verge upon the
obscene, and indulge in conversation of a similar
description; while, during their halt at the well for
an hour or so, they engage in romps of all kinds, in
which parties of the other sex frequently join. This
early license lays the foundation for the most corrupt
habits, when at a later period they are sent to the
woods to collect fuel."

James Bruce, one of the earliest Europeans to visit the Abyssinians,
describes them as living practically in a state of promiscuity,
divorce being so frequent that he once saw a woman surrounded by seven
former husbands, and there being hardly any difference between
legitimacy and illegitimacy. Another old writer, Rev. S. Gobat,
describes the Abyssinians as light-minded, having nothing constant but
inconstancy itself. A more recent writer, J. Hotten (133-35),
explains, in the following sentence, a fact which has often misled
unwary observers:

"Females are rarely gross or immodest outwardly, seeing that
they need in no way be ashamed of the freest intercourse
with the other sex," "Rape is venial, and adultery regards
only the husband."

The Christian Abyssinians are in this respect no better than
the others, regarding lewd conduct with indifference. But the most
startling exhibition of Abyssinian grossness is given by the Habab and
Mensa concerning whom Munzinger says (150), that whenever a girl
decides to give herself up to a dissolute life "a public festival is
arranged, cows are butchered and a night is spent amid song and

The four volumes of Combes and Tamisier on Abyssinia give a vivid idea
of the utter absence of sexual morality in that country. With an
intelligence rare among explorers they distinguish between love of the
senses and love of the heart, and declare that the latter is not to be
found in this country. "Abyssinian women love everybody for money and
no one gratis." They do not even suspect the possibility of any other
kind of love, and the only distinction they make is that a man who
pleases them pays less.

"But what one never finds with anyone in Abyssinia is
that refined and pure sentiment which gives so much
charm to love in Europe. Here the heart is seldom
touched; tender words are often spoken, but they are
banal and rarely sincere; never do these people
experience those extraordinary emotions of which the
very remembrance agitates us a long time, those
celestial feelings which convert an atheist into a
believer. In this country love has all its existence in
a moment, having neither a past nor a future."

The authors go so far as to doubt a story they heard of a girl who was
said to have committed suicide to escape a hated suitor forced on her;
but there is nothing improbable in this, as we know that a strong
aversion may exist even where there is no capacity for true love, and
the former by no means implies the latter. Jealousy, they found

"is practically unknown in Abyssinia," "If jealousy is
manifested occasionally by women we must not deceive
ourselves regarding the nature of this feeling; when an
Abyssinienne envies the love another inspires she is jealous
only of the comfort which that love may insure for the
other" (II., Chap. V.).


Abyssinian women are not deficient in a certain sensual kind of
beauty. Their fine figures, large black eyes, and white teeth have
been admired by many travellers. But Parkyns (II., 5) avers that
"though flowers of beauty nowhere bloom with more luxuriance than in
Aethiopia, yet, alas! there shines on them no mental sun." They make
use of their eyes to great advantage--but not to express soul-love.
What flirtation in this part of the world consists in, may be inferred
from Donaldson Smith's amusing account (245, 270) of a young Boran
girl who asked permission to accompany his caravan, offering to cook,
bring wood, etc. She was provided with a piece of white sheeting for a
dress, but when tired from marching, being unused to so much clothing,
she threw the whole thing aside and walked about naked. Her name was
Ola. Some time afterward one of the native guides began to make love
to Ola:

"I oversaw the two flirting and was highly amused at the
manner in which they went about it. It consisted almost
entirely in tickling and pinching, each sally being
accompanied by roars of laughter. They never kissed, as such
a thing is unknown in Africa."


South of Abyssinia there are three peoples--the Galla, Somali, and
Harari--among some of whom, if we may believe Dr. Paulitschke, the
germs of true love are to be found. Let us briefly examine them in
turn, with Paulitschke's arguments. Hartmann (401) assigns to the
Gallas a high rank among African races, and Paulitschke (_B.z.E_.,
51-56) describes them as more intelligent than the Somali, but also
more licentious. Boys marry at sixteen to eighteen, girls at twelve to
sixteen. The women are compelled to do most of the hard work; wives
are often badly treated, and when their husbands get tired of them
they send them away. Good friends lend each other their wives, and
they also lend them to guests. If a man kills his wife no one minds
it. Few Schoa girls are virgins when they marry (_Eth. N. Afr.,_ 195),
and the married women are easily led from the path of virtue by small
presents. In other parts girls take a pride in preserving their
purity, but atone for it by a dissolute life after marriage. Brides
are subjected to an obscene examination, and if not found pure are
supposed to be legally disqualified from marriage. To avoid the
disgrace, the parents bribe the bridegroom to keep the secret, and to
assert the bride's innocence. A curious detail of Galla courtship
consists in the precautions the parents of rich youths have to take to
protect them from designing poor girls and their mothers. Often, when
the parents of a rich youth are averse to the match, the coy bride
goes to their hut, jumps over the surrounding hedge, and remains there
enduring the family's abuse until they finally accept her. To prevent
such an invasion--a sort of inverted capture, in which the woman is
the aggressor--the parents of rich sons build very high hedges round
their houses to keep out girls! Not infrequently, boys and girls are
married when only six or eight years old, and forthwith live together
as husband and wife.


It is among the neighbors of these Gallas that Paulitschke (30)
fancied he discovered the existence of refined love:

"Adult youths and maidens have occasion, especially
while tending the cattle, to form attachments. These
are of an idealized nature, because the young folks are
brought up in a remarkably chaste and serious manner.
The father is proud of his blooming daughter and guards
her like a treasure.... In my opinion, marriages among
the Western Somals are mostly based on cordial mutual
affection. A young man renders homage to his beloved in
song. 'Thou art beautiful,' he sings, 'thy limbs are
plump, if thou wouldst drink camel's milk thou wert
more beautiful still.' The girl, on her part, gives
expression to her longing for the absent lover in this
melancholy song: 'The camel needs good grazing, and
dislikes to leave it. My beloved has left the country.
On account of the children of Sahal (the lover's
family), my heart is always so heavy. Others throw
themselves into the ocean, but I perish from grief.
Could I but find the beloved.'"

What evidence of "idealized" love is there in these poems? The girl
expresses longing for an absent man, and longing, as we have seen,
characterizes all kinds of love from the highest to the lowest. It is
one of the selfish ingredients of love, and is therefore evidence of
self-love, not of other-love. As for the lover's poem, what is it but
the grossest sensualism, the usual African apotheosis of fat? Imagine
an American lover saying to a girl, "You are beautiful for you are
plump, but you would be more beautiful still if you ate more pork and
beans"--would she regard this as evidence of refined love, or would
she turn her back and never speak to him again? Anthropologists are
sometimes strangely naive. We have just seen what kind of
"attachments" are formed by African youths and girls while tending
cattle; Burton adds to the evidence _(F.F_., 120) by telling us that
among the Somali "the bride, as usual in the East, is rarely
consulted, but frequent _tete-a-tetes_ at the well and in the bush
when tending cattle effectually obviate this inconvenience." "At the
wells," says Donaldson Smith (15), "you will see both sexes bathing
together, with little regard for decency." They are indeed lower than
brutes in their impulses, for the only way parents can save their
infant girls from being maltreated is by the practice of infibulation,
to which, as Paulitschke himself tells us, the girls are subjected at
the early age of four, or even three; yet, even this, he likewise
informs us, is not always effectual.

As for the father's great pride in his daughter, and his guarding her
like a treasure, that is, by the concurrent testimony of the
authorities, not a token of affection or a regard for virtue, but a
purely commercial matter. Paulitschke himself says (30) that while the
mother is devoted to her child, "the father pays no attention to it."
On the following page he adds:

"The more well-to-do the father is, and the more beautiful
his daughter, the longer he seeks to keep her under the
paternal roof, for the purpose of securing a bigger price
for her through the competition of suitors."

Of the Western Somali tribes at Zayla, Captain J.S. King says[148]
that when a man has fixed his choice on a girl he pays her father $100
to $800. After that

"the proposer is entitled (on payment of $5 each time)
to private interviews with his fiancee to enable him by
a closer inspection to judge better of her personal
charms. But it frequently happens that the young man
squanders all his money on these 'interviews' before
paying the _dafa_ agreed upon. The girl then (at her
parents' instigation) breaks off the match, and her
father, when expostulated with, replies that he will
not force his daughter's inclinations. Hence arise
innumerable breach-of-promise-of-marriage suits, in
which the man is invariably the plaintiff. I have known
instances of a girl being betrothed to three or four
different men in about a year's time, their father
receiving a certain amount of _dafa_ from each

Donaldson Smith remarks (12) that Somali women "are regarded merely as
goods and chattels. In a conversation with one of my boys he told me
that he only owned five camels, but that he had a sister from whom he
expected to get much money when he sold her in marriage." The gross
commercialism of Somali love-affairs is further illustrated by the
Ogaden custom (Paulitschke, _E.N.A._, 199) of pouring strong perfumes
over the bride in order to stimulate the ardor of the suitor and make
him willing to pay more for her--a trick which is often successful.
How, under such circumstances, Somal marriages can be "mostly based on
cordial mutual affection" is a mystery for Dr. Paulitschke to explain.
Burton proved himself a keener observer and psychologist when he wrote
(_F.F._, 122), "The Somal knows none of the exaggerated and chivalrons
ideas by which passion becomes refined affection among the Arab
Bedouins and the sons of civilization." I may add what this writer
says regarding Somal poetry:

"The subjects are frequently pastoral; the lover, for
instance, invites his mistress to walk with him toward
the well in Lahelo, the Arcadia of the land; he
compares her legs to the tall, straight Libi tree, and
imprecates the direst curses on her head if she refuses
to drink with him the milk of his favorite camel."


The Harari, neighbors of the Somals, are another people among whom
Paulitschke fancied that he discovered signs of idealized love
(_B.E.A.S._, 70). Their youthful attachments, he says, are intense and
noble, and in proof of this he translates two of their poems on the
beauty of a bride.

I. "I tell thee this only: thy face is like silk, Aisa;
I say it again, I tell thee nothing but that. Thou art
slender as a lance-shaft; thy father and thy mother are
Arabs; they all are Arabs; I tell thee this only."

II. "Thy form is like a burning lamp, Aisa; I love
thee. When thou art at the side of Abrahim, thou
burnest him with the light of thy beauty. To-morrow I
shall see thee again."

In a third (freely translated and printed in the appendix of the same
volume) occur these lines:

"The honey is already taken out and I come with it. The
milk is already drawn and I bring it. And now thou art
the pure honey, and now thou art the fresh milk. The
gathered honey is very sweet, and therefore it was
drunk to thy health. Thine eyes are black, dyed with
Kahul. The fresh milk is very sweet and therefore it
was drunk to thy health. I have seen Sina--oh, how
sweet was Sina.... Thine eyes are like the full moon,
and thy body is fragrant as the fragrance of
rose-water. And she lives in the garden of her father
and the garments on her body become fragrant as
basil.... And thou art like a king's garden in which
all perfumes are united."

It is easy to note Arabic influences in these poems. The Harari are
largely Arabic; their very language is being absorbed in the Arabic;
yet I cannot find in these poems the least evidence of amorous
idealism or "noble" sentiment. To have a lover compare a girl's face
to silk, her form to a lance-shaft or a burning lamp, her eyes to the
full moon, may be an imaginative sort of sensualism, but it is purely
sensual nevertheless. If an American lover told a girl, "I bought some
delicious candy and ate it, thinking of you; I ordered a glass of
sweet soda-water and drank it to your health"--would she regard that
as evidence of "noble" love, or of any kind of love at all, except a
kind of cupboard love?

No, not even here, where Arabian influences prevail, do we come across
the germs of true love. It is the same all over Africa. Nowhere do we
find indications that men admire other things in women except, at
most, voluptuous eyes and plump figures; nowhere do the men perform
unselfish acts of gallantry and self-sacrifice; nowhere exhibit
sympathy with their females, who, far from being goddesses, are not
even companions, but simply drudges and slaves to lust. A whole volume
would be required to demonstrate that this holds true of all parts of
Africa; but the present chapter is already too long and I must close
with a brief reference to the Berbers of Algeria (Kabyles) to show
that at the northern extremity of Africa, as at the southern, the
eastern, the western, love spells lust. Here, too, man is lower than
animals. Camille Sabatier, who was a justice of the peace at
Tizi-Ouzan, speaks[150] of "_la brutalite du male qui, souvent meme
chez les Kabyles, n'attend pas la nubilite pour deflorer la jeune
enfant._" The girls, he adds,

"detest their husbands with all their heart. Love is
almost always unknown to them--I mean by love that
ensemble of refined sentiments, which, among civilized
peoples, ennoble the sexual appetite."


A guileless reader of Chavanne's book on the Sahara is apt to get the
impression that there is, after all, an oasis in the desert of African
lovelessness and contempt for women. Touareg women, we are told
therein (208-10), are allowed to dispose of their hands and to eat
with the men, certain dishes being reserved for them, others
(including tea and coffee) for the men. In the evening the women
assemble and improvise songs while the men sit around in their best
attire. The women write mottoes on the men's shields, and the men
carve their chosen one's name in the rocks and sing her praises. The
situation has been compared to mediaeval chivalry. But when we examine
it more critically than the biassed Chavanne did, we find, using his
own data, more of Africa than appeared to be there at first sight. The
woman, we are informed, owes the husband obedience, and he can divorce
her at pleasure. When a woman talks to a man she veils her face "as a
sign of respect." And when the men travel, they are accompanied by
those of their female slaves who are young and pretty. Their morals
are farther characterized by the fact that descent is in the female
line, which is usually due to uncertain paternity. The women are ugly
and masculine, and Chavanne does not mention a single fact or act
which proves that they experience supersensual, altruistic love.

So far as the position of Touareg women is superior to that of other
Africans, it is due to the fact that slaves are kept to do the hard
work and to certain European and Christian influences and the
institution of theoretical monogamy. Possibly the germs of a better
sort of love may exist among them, as they may among the Bedouins;
they must make a beginning somewhere.


T.J. Hutchinson declares that the gentle god of love is unknown in the
majority of African kingdoms: "It in fact seems to be crawling into
life only in one or two places where our language is the established
one." He prints a quaint love-letter addressed by a Liberian native to
his colored sweetheart. The substance of the letter, it is true, is
purely egotistic; it might be summed up in the words, "Oh, how I wish
you were here to make me happy." Yet it opens up vistas of future
possibilities. I cite it verbatim:

"My Dear Miss,--I take my pen in hand to Embrac you of
my health, I was very sick this morning but know I am
better but I hope it may find you in a state of
Enjoying good health and so is your Relation. Oh my
dear Miss what would I give if I could see thy lovely
Face this precious minnit O miss you had promis me to
tell me something, and I like you to let you know I am
very anxious to know what it is give my Respect to the
young mens But to the young ladys especially O I am
long to see you O miss if I don't see you shortly
surely I must die I shut my mouth to hold my breath
Miss don't you cry O my little pretty turtle dove I
wont you to write to me, shall I go Bound or shall I go
free or shall I love a pretty girl a she don't love me
give my Respect all enquiring Friend Truly Your


"Nothing more to say O miss."


The founders of the Australian race, Curr believes, were Africans, and
may have arrived in one canoe. The distance from Africa to Australia
is, however, great, and there are innumerable details of structure,
color, custom, myth, implements, language, etc., which have led the
latest authorities to conclude that the Australian race was formed
gradually by a mixture of Papuans, Malayans, and Dravidians of Central
India.[151] Topinard has given reasons for believing that there are
two distinct races in Australia. However that may be, there are
certainly great differences in the customs of the natives. As regards
the relations of the sexes, luckily, these differences are not so
great as in some other respects, wherefore it is possible to give a
tolerably accurate bird's-eye view of the Australians as a whole from
this point of view.


Once in awhile, in the narrative of those who have travelled or
sojourned among Australians, one comes across a reference to the
symmetrical form, soft skin, red lips, and white teeth of a young
Australian girl. Mitchell in his wanderings saw several girls with
beautiful features and figures. Of one of these, who seemed to be the
most influential person in camp, he says (I., 266):

"She was now all animation, and her finely shaped mouth,
beautiful teeth, and well-formed person appeared to great
advantage as she hung over us both, addressing me

etc. Of two other girls the same writer says (II., 93):

"The youngest was the handsomest female I had ever seen
amongst the natives. She was so far from black that the
red color was very apparent in her cheeks. She sat
before me in a corner of the group, nearly in the
attitude of Mr. Bailey's fine statue of Eve at the
fountain, and apparently equally unconscious that she
was naked. As I looked upon her for a moment, while
deeply regretting the fate of her mother, the chief,
who stood by, and whose hand had been more than once
laid upon my cap, as if to feel whether it were proof
against the blow of a waddy, begged me to accept of her
in exchange for a tomahawk!"

Eyre, another famous early traveller, writes on this topic (II.,

"Occasionally, though rarely, I have met with females
in the bloom of youth, whose well-proportioned limbs
and symmetry of figure might have formed a model for
the sculptor's chisel. In personal appearance the
females are, except in early youth, very far inferior
to the men. When young, however, they are not
uninteresting. The jet black eyes, shaded by their long
dark lashes, and the delicate and scarcely formed
features of incipient womanhood give a soft and
pleasing expression to a countenance that might often
be called good-looking--occasionally pretty."

"Occasionally, though rarely," and then only for a few years, is an
Australian woman attractive from _our_ point of view. As a rule she is
very much the reverse--dirty, thin-limbed, course-featured, ungainly
in every way;[152] and Eyre tells us why this is so. The extremities
of the women, he says, are more attenuated than those of the men;
probably because "like most other savages, the Australian looks upon
his wife as a slave," makes her undergo great privations and do all
the hard work, such as bringing in wood and water, tending the
children, carrying all the movable property while on the march, _often
even her husband's weapons_:

"In wet weather she attends to all the outside work,
whilst her lord and master is snugly seated at the
fire. If there is a scarcity of food, she has to endure
the pangs of hunger, often, perhaps, in addition to
ill-treatment and abuse. No wonder, then, that the
females, and especially the younger ones (for it is
then they are exposed to the greatest hardships), are
not so fully or so roundly developed in person as the

The rule that races admire those personal characteristics which
climate and circumstances have impressed on them is not borne out
among Australians. An arid soil and a desiccating climate make them
thin as a race, but they do not admire thinness. "Long-legged,"
"thin-legged," are favorite terms of abuse among them, and Grey once
heard a native sing scornfully

Oh, what a leg,

* * * * *

You kangaroo-footed churl!

Nor is it beauty, in our sense of the word, that attracts them, but
fat, as in Africa and the Orient. I have previously quoted Brough
Smyth's assertion that an Australian woman, however old and ugly, is
in constant danger of being stolen if she is fat. That women have the
same standard of "taste," appears from the statement of H.E.A. Meyer
(189), that the principal reason why the men anoint themselves with
grease and ochre is that it makes them look fat and "gives them an air
of importance in the eyes of the women, for they admire a fat man
however ugly." But whereas these men admire a fat woman for sensual
reasons, the women's preference is based on utilitarian motives. Low
as their reasoning powers are, they are shrewd enough to reflect that
a man who is in good condition proves thereby that he is
"somebody"--that he can hunt and will be able to bring home some meat
for his wife too. This interpretation is borne out by what was said on
a previous page (278) about one of the reasons why corpulence is
valued in Fiji, and also by an amusing incident related by the eminent
Australian explorer George Grey (II., 93). He had reproached his
native guide with not knowing anything, when the guide replied:

"I know nothing! I know how to keep myself fat; the
young women look at me and say, 'Imbat is very
handsome, he is fat'--they will look at you and say,
'He not good--long legs--what do you know? Where is
your fat? What for do you know so much, if you can't
keep fat?"


Eyre was no doubt right in his suggestion that the inferiority of
Australian women to the men in personal appearance was due to the
privations and hardships to which the women were subjected. Much as
the men admire fat in a woman, they are either too ignorant, or too
selfish otherwise, to allow them to grow fat in idleness. Women in
Australia never exist for their own sake but solely for the
convenience of the men. "The man," says the Rev. H.E.A. Meyer (11),
"regarding them more as slaves than in any other light, employs them
in every possible way to his own advantage." "The wives were the
absolute property of the husband," says the Rev. G. Taplin (XVII. to

"and were given away, exchanged, or lent, as their owners
saw fit." "The poor creatures ... are always seen to a
disadvantage, being ... the slaves of their husbands and of
the tribes." "The women in all cases came badly off when
they depended upon what the men of the tribes chose to give

"The woman is an absolute slave. She is treated with the
greatest cruelty and indignity, has to do all laborious
work, and to carry all the burthens. For the slightest
offence or dereliction of duty, she is beaten with a waddy
or a yam-stick, and not unfrequently speared. The records of
the Supreme Court in Adelaide furnish numberless instances
of blacks being tried for murdering their lubras. The
woman's life is of no account if her husband chooses to
destroy it, and no one ever attempts to protect or take her
part under any circumstances. In times of scarcity of food,
she is the last to be fed and the last considered in any
way. That many of them die in consequence cannot be a matter
of wonder.... The condition of the women has no influence
over their treatment, and a pregnant female is dealt with
and is expected to do as much as if she were in perfect
health.... The condition of the native women is wretched and
miserable in the extreme; in fact, in no savage nation of
which there is any record can it be any worse."

And again (p. 72):

"The men think nothing of thrashing their wives,
knocking them on the head, and inflicting frightful
gashes; but they never beat the boys. And the sons
treat their mothers very badly. Very often mere lads
will not hesitate to strike and throw stones at them."

"Women," says Eyre (322), "are frequently beaten about the head with
waddies, in the most dreadful manner, or speared in the limbs for the
most trivial offences."

There is hardly one, he says, that has not some frightful
scars on the body; and he saw one who "appeared to have been
almost riddled with spear-wounds." "Does a native meet a
woman in the woods and violate her, he is not the one to
feel the vengeance of the husband, but the poor victim whom
he has abused" (387). "Women surprised by strange blacks are
always abused and often massacred" (Curr, I., 108). "A black
hates intensely those of his own race with whom he is
unacquainted, always excepting the females. To one of these
he will become attached if he succeeds in carrying one off;
otherwise he will kill the women out of mere savageness and
hatred of their husbands" (80). "Whenever they can, blacks
in their wild state never neglect to massacre all male
strangers who fall into their power. Females are ravished,
and often slain afterward if they cannot be conveniently
carried off."

The natives of Victoria "often break to pieces their six-feet-long
sticks on the heads of the women" (Waitz, VI., 775). "In the case of a
man killing his own gin [wife], he has to deliver up one of his own
sisters for his late wife's friends to put to death" (W.E. Roth, 141).
After a war, when peace is patched up, it sometimes happens that "the
weaker party give some nets and women to make matters up" (Curr, II.,
477). In the same volume (331) we find a realistic picture of
masculine selfishness at home:

"When the mosquitoes are bad, the men construct with
forked sticks driven into the ground rude bedsteads, on
which they sleep, a fire being made underneath to keep
off with its smoke the troublesome insects. No
bedsteads, however, fall to the share of the women,
whose business it is to keep the fires burning whilst
their lords sleep."

Concerning woman in the lower Murray tribes, Bulmer says[153] that "on
the journey her lord would coolly walk along with merely his war
implements, weighing only a few pounds, while his wife was carrying
perhaps sixty pounds."

The lives of the women "are rated as of the less value than those of
the men." "Their corpses are often thrown to dogs for food" (Waitz,
VL, 775). "These poor creatures," says Wilkinson of the South
Australian women (322),

"are in an abject state, and are only treated with about the
same consideration as the dogs that accompany them; they are
obliged to give any food that may be desired to the men, and
sit and see them eat it, considering themselves amply repaid
if they are rewarded by having a piece of gizzle, or any
other leavings, pitched to them."

J.S. Wood (71) relates this characteristic story:

"A native servant was late in keeping his appointment
with his master, and, on inquiry, it was elicited that
he had just quarrelled with one of his wives, and had
speared her through the body. On being rebuked by his
master, he turned off the matter with a laugh, merely
remarking that white men had only one wife, whereas he
had two, and did not mind losing one till he could buy

Sturt. who made two exploring expeditions (1829-1831), wrote (II., 55)
that the men oblige their women to procure their own food, or they
"throw to them over their shoulders the bones they have already
picked, with a nonchalance that is extremely amusing." The women are
also excluded from religious ceremonies; many of the best things to
eat are taboo to them; and the cruel contempt of the men pursues them
even after death. The men are buried with ceremony (Curr, I., 89), but
"as the women and children are held to be very inferior to the men
whilst alive, and their spirits are but little feared after death,
they are interred with but scant ceremony... the women alone wailing."
Thus they show their contempt even for the ghosts of women, though
they are so afraid of other ghosts that they never leave camp in the
dark or have a nocturnal dance except by moonlight or with big fires!


Such is the Australian's treatment of woman--a treatment so selfish,
so inconsistent with the altruistic traits and impulses of romantic
love--sympathy, gallantry, and self-sacrificing affection, not to
speak of adoration--that it alone proves him incapable of so refined a
sentiment. If any doubt remained, it would be removed by his utter
inability to rise above the sensual sphere. The Australian is
absolutely immoral and incredibly licentious. Here, however, we are
confronted by a spectre with which the sentimentalists try to frighten
the searchers for truth, and which must therefore be exorcised first.
They grant the wantonness of savages, but declare that it is "due
chiefly to the influence of civilization." This is one of the favorite
subterfuges of Westermarck, who resorts to it again and again. In
reference to the Australians he cites what Edward Stephens wrote
regarding the former inhabitants of the Adelaide Plains:

"Those who speak of the natives as a naturally degraded
race, either do not speak from experience, or they
judge them by what they have become when the abuse of
intoxicants and contact with the most wicked of the
white race have begun their deadly work. As a rule to
which there are no exceptions, if a tribe of blacks is
found away from the white settlement, the more vicious
of the white men are most anxious to make the
acquaintance of the natives, and that, too, solely for
purposes of immorality. ... I saw the natives and was
much with them before those dreadful immoralities were
well known ... and I say it fearlessly, that nearly all
their evils they owed to the white man's immorality and
to the white man's drink."

Now the first question a conscientious truth-seeker feels inclined to
ask regarding this "fearless" Stephens who thus boldly accuses of
ignorance all those who hold that the Australian race was degraded
before it came in contact with whites, is, "Who is he and what are his
qualifications for serving as a witness in this matter?" He is, or
was, a simple-minded settler, kindly no doubt, who for some
inscrutable reason was allowed to contribute a paper to the _Journal
of the Royal Society of New South Wales_ (Vol. XXXIII.). His
qualifications for appearing as an expert in Australian anthropology
may be inferred from various remarks in his paper. He naively tells a
story about a native who killed an opossum, and after eating the meat,
threw the intestines to his wife. "Ten years before that," he adds,
"that same man would have treated his wife as himself." Yet we have
just seen that all the explorers, in all parts of the country, found
that the natives who had never seen a white man treated their women
like slaves and dogs.


If the savage learned his wantonness from the whites, did he get all
his other vicious habits from the same source? We know on the best
authorities that the disgusting practice of cannibalism prevailed
extensively among the natives. "They eat the young men when they die,
and the young women if they are fat" (Curr, III., 147). Lumholtz
entitled his book on Australia _Among Cannibals_. The Rev. G. Taplin
says (XV.):

"Among the Dieyerie tribe cannibalism is the universal
practice, and all who die are indiscriminately devoured
... the mother eats the flesh of her children, and the
children that of their mother," etc.

"If a man had a fat wife," says the same writer (2), "he was always
particularly careful not to leave her unprotected, lest she might be
seized by prowling cannibals." Among the wilder tribes few women are
allowed to die a natural death, "they being generally despatched ere
they become old and emaciated, that so much good food may not be
lost."[154] Would the "fearless" Stephens say that the natives learned
these practices from the whites? Would he say they learned from the
whites the "universal custom ... to slay every unprotected male
stranger met with" (Curr, I., 133)?

"Infanticide is very common, and appears to be practised solely to get
rid of the trouble of rearing children," wrote Eyre (II., 324). Curr
(I., 70) heard that "some tribes within the area of the Central
Division cut off the nipples of the females' breasts, in some
instances, for the purpose of rendering their rearing of children
impossible." On the Mitchell River, "children were killed for the most
trivial offences, such as for accidentally breaking a weapon as they
trotted about the camp" (Curr, II., 403). Twins are destroyed in South
Australia, says Leigh (159), and if the mother dies "they throw the
living infant into the grave, while infanticide is an every-day
occurrence." Curr (I., 70) believes that the average number of
children borne by each woman was six, the maximum ten; but of all
these only two boys and one girl as a rule were kept, "the rest were
destroyed immediately after birth," as we destroy litters of puppies.
Sometimes the infants were smothered over a fire (Waitz, VI., 779),
and deformed children were always killed. Taplin (13) writes that
before his colony was established among them infanticide was very
prevalent among the natives. "One intelligent woman said she thought
that if the Europeans had waited a few more years they would have
found the country without inhabitants." Strangulation, a blow of the
waddy, or filling the ears with red-hot embers, were the favorite ways
of killing their own babies.

Did the whites teach the angelic savages all these diabolical customs?
If so, they must have taught them customs invented for the occasion,
since they are not practised by whites in any part of the world. But
perhaps Stephens would have been willing to waive this point.
Sentimentalists are usually more or less willing to concede that
savages are devils in most things if we will only admit in return that
they are angels in their sexual relations. For instance, if we may
believe Stephens, no nun was ever more modest than the native
Australian woman. Once, he says, he was asked to visit a poor old
black woman in the last stages of consumption:

"Her case was hopeless, and when she was in almost the
last agony of mortal dissolution I was astounded at her
efforts at concealment, indicative of extreme modesty.
As I drew her opossum rug over her poor emaciated body
the look of gratitude which came from her dying eyes
told me in language more eloquent than words that
beneath that dark and dying exterior there was a soul
which in a few hours angels would delight to honor."

The poor woman was probably cold and glad to be covered; if she had
any modesty regarding exposure of the body she could have learned it
from no one but the dreadful, degraded whites, for the Australian
himself is an utter stranger to such a feeling. On this point the
explorers and students of the natives are unanimous. Both men and
women went absolutely naked except in those regions where the climate
was cold.


"They are as innocent of shame as the animals of the forest," says E.
Palmer; and J. Bonwick writes: "Nakedness is no shame with them. As a
French writer once remarked to a lady, 'With a pair of gloves you
could clothe six men.'" Even ornaments are worn by the men only:
"females are content with their natural charms." W.E. Roth, in his
standard work on the Queensland natives, says that "with both sexes
the privates are only covered on special public occasions, or when in
close proximity to white settlements." With the Warburton River tribe
(Curr, II, 18) "the women go quite naked, and the men have only a belt
made of human hair round the waist from which a fringe spun of hair of
rats hangs in front." Sturt wrote (I., 106): "The men are much better
looking than the women; both go perfectly naked."

At the dances a covering of feathers or leaves is sometimes worn by
the women, but is removed as soon as the dance is over. Narrinyeri
girls, says Taplin (15), "wear a sort of apron of fringe, called
Kaininggi, until they bear their first child. If they have no children
it is taken from them and burned by their husbands while they are
asleep." Meyer (189) says the same of the Encounter Bay tribe, and
similar customs prevailed at Port Jackson and many other places.
Summing up the observations of Cook, Turnbull, Cunningham, Tench,
Hunter, and others, Waitz remarks (VI., 737):

"In the region of Sydney, too, the natives used to be
entirely nude, and as late as 1816 men would go about
the streets of Paramatta and Sydney naked, despite many
prohibitions and attempts to clothe them, which always

--so ingrained was the absence of shame in the native mind.

Jackman, the "Australian Captive," an Englishman who spent seventeen
months among the natives, describes them as being "as nude as Adam and
Eve" (99). "The Australians' utter lack of modesty is remarkable,"
writes F. Mueller (207):

"it reveals itself in the way in which their clothes
are worn. While an attempt is made to cover the upper,
especially the back part of the body, the private parts
are often left uncovered."

One early explorer, Sturt (II., 126), found the natives of the
interior, without exception, "in a complete state of nudity."

The still earlier Governor Philipps (1787) found that the inhabitants
of New South Wales had no idea that one part of the body ought to be
covered more than any other. Captain Flinders, who saw much of
Australia in 1795, speaks in one place (I., 66) of "the short skin
cloak which is of kangaroo, and worn over the shoulders, leaving the
rest of the body naked." This was in New South Wales. At Keppel Bay
(II., 30) he writes: "These people ... go entirely naked;" and so on
at other points of the continent touched on his voyage. In Dawson (61)
we read: "They were perfectly naked, as they always are." Nor has the
Australian in his native state changed in the century or more since
whites have known him. In the latest book on Central Australia (1899)
by Spencer and Gillen we read (17) that to this day a native woman
"with nothing on except an ancient straw hat and an old pair of boots
is perfectly happy."


The reader is now in a position to judge of the reliability of the
"fearless" Stephens as a witness, and of the blind bias of the
anthropologist who uses him as such. It surely ought not to be
necessary to prove that races among whom cannibalism, infanticide,
wife enslavement and murder, and other hideous crimes are rampant as
unreproved national customs, could not possibly be refined and moral
in their sexual relations, which offer the greatest of all temptations
to unrestrained selfishness. Yet Stephens tells us in his article that
before the advent of the whites these people were chaste, and
"conjugal infidelity was almost if not entirely unknown;" while
Westermarck (61, 64, 65) classes the Australians with those savages
"among whom sexual intercourse out of wedlock is of rare occurrence."
On page 70 he declares that "in a savage condition of life ... there
is comparatively little reason for illegitimate relations;" and on
page 539, in summing up his doctrines, he asserts that "we have some
reason to believe that irregular connections between the sexes have,
on the whole, exhibited a tendency to increase along with the progress
of civilization." The refutation of this libel on civilization--which
is widely believed--is one of the main objects of the following
pages--is, in fact, one of the main objects of this whole volume.

There are a few cities in Southern Europe where the rate of
illegitimacy equals, and in one or two cases slightly exceeds, the
legitimate births; but that is owing to the fact that betrayed girls
from the country nearly always go to the cities to find a refuge and
hide their shame. Taking the countries as a whole we find that even
Scotland, which has always had a somewhat unsavory reputation in this
respect, had, in 1897, only 6.98 per cent of illegitimate births--say
seven in a hundred; the highest rate since 1855 having been 10.2.
There are, of course, besides this, cases of uncertain paternity, but
their number is comparatively small, and it certainly is much larger
in the _less_ civilized countries of Europe than in the more
civilized. Taking the five or six most advanced countries of Europe
and America, it is safe to say that the paternity is certain in ninety
cases out of a hundred. If we now look at the Australians as described
by eye-witnesses since the earliest exploring tours, we find a state
of affairs which makes paternity uncertain _in all cases without
exception_, and also a complete indifference on the subject.


One of the first explorers of the desert interior was Eyre (1839). His
experiences--covering ten years--led him to speak (378) of "the
illicit and almost unlimited intercourse between the sexes." "Marriage
is not looked upon as any pledge of chastity; indeed, no such virtue
is recognized" (319). "Many of the native dances are of a grossly
licentious character." Men rarely get married before they are
twenty-five, but that does not mean that they are continent. From
their thirteenth year they have promiscuous intercourse with girls who
abandon themselves at the age of ten, though they rarely become
mothers before they are sixteen.[155]

Another early explorer of the interior (1839), T.L. Mitchell, gives
this glimpse of aboriginal morality (I., 133):

"The natives ... in return for our former disinterested
kindness, persisted in their endeavors to introduce us
very particularly to their women. They ordered them to
come up, divested of their cloaks and bags, and placed
them before us. Most of the men appeared to possess
two, the pair in general consisting of a fat plump gin
and one much younger. Each man placed himself before
his gins, and bowing forward with a shrug, the hands
and arms being thrown back pointing to each gin, as if
to say, Take which you please. The females, on their
part, evinced no apprehension, but seemed to regard us
as beings of a race so different, without the slightest
indication of either fear, aversion, or surprise. Their
looks were rather expressive of a ready acquiescence in
the proffered kindness of the men, and when at length
they brought a sable nymph _vis-a-vis_ to Mr. White, I
could preserve my gravity no longer, and throwing the
spears aside, I ordered the bullock-drivers to

George Grey, who, during his two exploring expeditions into
Northwestern and Western Australia, likewise came in contact with the
"uncontaminated" natives, found that, though "a spear through the calf
of the leg is the least punishment that awaits" a faithless wife if
detected, and sometimes the death-penalty is inflicted, yet "the
younger women were much addicted to intrigue" (I., 231, 253), as
indeed they appear to be throughout the continent, as we shall see

Of all Australian institutions none is more characteristic than the
corrobborees or nocturnal dances which are held at intervals by the
various tribes all over the continent, and were of course held
centuries before a white man was ever seen on the continent; and no
white man in his wildest nightmare ever dreamt of such scenes as are
enacted at them. They are given preferably by moonlight, are apt to
last all night, and are often attended by the most obscene and
licentious practices. The corrobboree, says Curr (I., 92), was
undoubtedly "often an occasion of licentiousness and atrocity";
fights, even wars, ensue, "and almost invariably as the result of
outrages on women." The songs heard at these revels are sometimes
harmless and the dances not indecent, says the Rev. G. Taplin (37),

"but at other times the songs will consist of the vilest
obscenity. I have seen dances which were the most disgusting
displays of obscene gesture possible to be imagined, and
although I stood in the dark alone, and nobody knew I was
there, I felt ashamed to look upon such abominations.... The
dances of the women are very immodest and lewd."
John Mathew (in Curr, III., 168) testifies regarding the corrobborees
of the Mary Eiver tribes that

"the representations were rarely free from obscenity,
and on some occasions indecent gestures were the main
parts of the action. I have seen a structure formed of
huge forked sticks placed upright in the ground, the
forks upward, with saplings reaching from fork to fork,
and boughs laid over all. This building was part of the
machinery for a corrobboree, at a certain stage of
which the males, who were located on the roof, rushed
down among the females, who were underneath and handled
them licentiously."[156]


The lowest depth of aboriginal degradation remains to be sounded. Like
most of the Africans, Australians are lower than animals inasmuch as
they often do not wait till girls have reached the age of puberty.
Meyer (190) says of the Narrinyeri: "They are given in marriage at a
very early age (ten or twelve years)." Lindsay Cranford[157] testifies
regarding five South Australian tribes that "at puberty no girl,
without exception, is a virgin." With the Paroo River tribes "the
girls became wives whilst mere children, and mothers at fourteen"
(Curr, II., 182). Of other tribes Curr's correspondents write (107):

"Girls become wives at from eight to fourteen years." "One
often sees a child of eight the wife of a man of fifty."
"Girls are promised to men in infancy, become wives at about
ten years of age, and mothers at fourteen or fifteen" (342).

The Birria tribe waits a few years longer, but atones for this by a
resort to another crime: "Males and females are married at from
fourteen to sixteen, but are not allowed to rear children until they
get to be about thirty years of age; hence infanticide is general."
The missionary O.W. Schuermann says of the Port Lincoln tribe (223):
"Notwithstanding the early marriage of females, I have not observed
that they have children at an earlier age than is common among
Europeans." Of York district tribes we are told (I., 343) that "girls
are betrothed shortly after birth, and brutalities are practised on
them while mere children." Of the Kojonub tribe (348): "Girls are
promised in marriage soon after birth, and given over to their
husbands at about nine years of age." Of the Natingero tribe (380):
"The girls go to live with their husbands at from seven to ten years,
and suffer dreadfully from intercourse." Of the Yircla Meening tribe

"Females become wives at ten and mothers at twelve
years of age." "Mr. J.M. Davis and others of repute
declare, as a result of long acquaintance with
Australian savages, that the girls were made use of for
promiscuous intercourse when they were only nine or ten
years old." (Sutherland, I., 113.)

It is needless to continue this painful catalogue.


Eyre's assertion regarding chastity, that "no such virtue is
recognized," has already been quoted, and is borne out by testimony of
many other writers. In the Dieyerie tribe "each married woman is
permitted a paramour." (Curr, II., 46.) Taplin says of the Narrinyeri
(16, 18) that boys are not allowed to marry until their beard has
grown a certain length; "but they are allowed the abominable privilege
of promiscuous intercourse with the younger portion of the other sex."
A.W. Howitt describes[158] a strange kind of group marriage prevalent
among the Dieri and kindred tribes, the various couples being allotted
to each other by the council of elder men without themselves being
consulted as to their preferences. During the ensuing festivities,
however, "there is for about four hours a general license in camp as
regards" the couples thus "married." Meyer (191) says of the Encounter
Bay tribes that if a man from another tribe arrives having anything
which a native desires to purchase, "he perhaps makes a bargain to pay
by letting him have one of his wives for a longer or shorter period."
Angas (I., 93) refers to the custom of lending wives. In Victoria the
natives have a special name for the custom of lending one of their
wives to young men who have none. Sometimes they are thus lent for a
month at a time.[159] As we shall presently see, one reason why
Australian men marry is to have the means of making friends by lending
their wives to others. The custom of allowing friends to share the
husband's privileges was also widely prevalent.

In New South Wales and about Riverina, says Brough Smyth (II., 316),

"in any instance where the abduction [of a woman] has taken
place by a party of men for the benefit of some one
individual, each of the members of the party claims, as a
right, a privilege which the intended husband has no power
to refuse."

Curr informs us (I., 128) that if a woman resist her husband's orders
to give herself up to another man she is "either speared or cruelly
beaten." Fison (303) believes that the lending of wives to visitors
was looked on not as a favor but a duty--a right which the visitor
could claim; and Howitt showed that in the native gesture language
there was a special sign for this custom--"a peculiar folding of the
hands," indicating "either a request or an offer, according as it is
used by the guest or the host."[160] Concerning Queensland tribes Roth
says (182):

"If an aboriginal requires a woman temporarily for
venery he either borrows a wife from her husband for a
night or two in exchange for boomerangs, a shield,
food, etc., or else violates the female when
unprotected, when away from the camp out in the bush.
In the former case the husband looks upon the matter as
a point of honor to oblige his friend, the greatest
compliment that can be paid him, provided that
permission is previously asked. On the other hand, were
he to refuse he has the fear hanging over him that the
petitioner might get a death-bone pointed at him--and
so, after all, his apparent courtesy may be only
Hobson's choice. In the latter case, if a married
woman, and she tells her husband, she gets a hammering,
and should she disclose the delinquent, there will
probably be a fight, and hence she usually keeps her
mouth shut; if a single woman, or of any paedomatronym
other than his own, no one troubles himself about the
matter. On the other hand, death by the spear or club
is the punishment invariably inflicted by the camp
council collectively for criminally assaulting any
blood relative, group-sister (_i.e._, a female member
of the same paedomatronym) or young woman that has not
yet been initiated into the first degree."

The last sentence would indicate that these tribes are not so
indifferent to chastity as the other natives; but the information
given by Roth (who for three years was surgeon-general to the Boulia,
Cloncurry and Normanton hospitals) dispels such an illusion most


In Central Australia, says H. Kempe,[162] "there is no separation of
the sexes in social life; in the daily camp routine as well as at
festivals all the natives mingle as they choose." Curr asserts (I.,
109) that

"in most tribes a woman is not allowed to converse or
have any relations whatever with any adult male, save
her husband. Even with a grown-up brother she is almost
forbidden to exchange a word."

Grey (II., 255) found that at dances the females sat in groups apart
and the young men were never allowed to approach them and not
permitted to hold converse with any one except their mother or
sisters. "On no occasion," he adds,

"is a strange native allowed to approach the fire of the
married." "The young men and boys of ten years of age and
upward are obliged to sleep in their portion of the

From such testimony one might infer that female chastity is
successfully guarded; but the writers quoted themselves take care to
dispel that illusion. Grey tells us that (in spite of these
arrangements) "the young females are much addicted to intrigue;" and
again (248):

"Should a female be possessed of considerable personal
attractions, the first years of her life must
necessarily be very unhappy. In her early infancy she
is betrothed to some man, even at this period advanced
in years, and by whom, as she approaches the age of
puberty, she is watched with a degree of vigilance and
care, which increases in proportion to the disparity of
years between them; it is probably from this
circumstance that so many of them are addicted to
intrigues, in which if they are detected by their
husbands, death or a spear through some portion of the
body is their certain fate."

And Curr shows in the following (109) how far the attempts at
seclusion are from succeeding in enforcing chastity:

"Notwithstanding the savage jealousy, _varied by
occasional degrading complaisance on the part of the
husband,_ there is more or less intrigue in every camp;
and the husband usually assumes that his wife has been
unfaithful to him whenever there has been an
opportunity for criminality.... In some tribes the
husband will frequently prostitute his wife to his
brother; otherwise more commonly to strangers visiting
his tribe than to his own people, and in this way our
exploring parties have been troubled with proposals of
the sort."

Apart from the other facts here given, the words I have italicized
above would alone show that what makes an Australian in some instances
guard his females is not a regard for chastity, or jealousy in our
sense of the word, but simply a desire to preserve his movable
property--a slave and concubine who, if young or fat, is very liable
to be stolen or, on account of the bad treatment she receives from her
old master, to run away with a younger man.[163]

If any further evidence were needed on this head it would be supplied
by the authoritative statement of J.D. Wood[164] that

"In fact, chastity as a virtue is absolutely unknown
amongst all the tribes of which there are records. The
buying, taking, or stealing of a wife is not at all
influenced by considerations of antecedent purity on
the part of the woman. A man wants a wife and he
obtains one somehow. She is his slave and there the
matter ends."


Since this chapter was written a new book on Australia has appeared
which bears out the views here taken so admirably that I must insert a
brief reference to its contents. It is Spencer and Gillen's _The
Native Tribes of Central Australia_ (1899), and relates to nine tribes
over whom Baldwin Spencer had been placed as special magistrate and
sub-protector for some years, during which he had excellent
opportunities to study their customs. The authors tell us (62, 63)

"In the Urabunna tribe every woman is the special
_Nupa_ of one particular man, but at the same time he
has no exclusive right to her, as she is the
_Piraungaru_ of certain other men who also have the
right of access to her.... There is no such thing as
one man having the exclusive right to one woman....
Individual marriage does not exist either in name or in
practice in the Urabunna tribe."

"Occasionally, but rarely, it happens that a man
attempts to prevent his wife's _Piraungaru_ from having
access to her, but this leads to a fight, and the
husband is looked upon as churlish. When visiting
distant groups where, in all likelihood, the husband
has no _Piraungaru_, it is customary for other men of
his own class to offer him the loan of one or more of
their _Nupa_ women, and a man, besides lending a woman
over whom he has the first right, will also lend his

In the Arunta tribe there is a restriction of a particular woman to a
particular man, "or rather, a man has an exclusive right to one
special woman, though he may of his own free will lend her to other
men," provided they stand in a certain artificial relation to her
(74). However (92):

"Whilst under ordinary circumstances in the Arunta and
other tribes one man is only allowed to have marital
relations with women of a particular class, there are
customs which allow at certain times of a man having
such relations with women to whom at other times he
would not on any account be allowed to have access. We
find, indeed, that this holds true in the case of all
the nine different tribes with the marriage customs of
which we are acquainted, and in which a woman becomes
the private property of one man."

In the southern Arunta, after a certain ceremony has been performed,
the bride is brought back to camp and given to her special _Unawa_.
"That night he lends her to one or two men who are _unawa_ to her, and
afterward she belongs to him exclusively." At this time when a woman
is being, so to speak, handed over to one particular individual,
special individuals with whom at ordinary times she may have no
intercourse, have the right of access to her. Such customs our authors
interpret plausibly as partial promiscuity pointing to a time when
still greater laxity prevailed--suggesting rudimentary organs in
animals (96).

Among some tribes at corrobboree time, every day two or three women
are told off and become the property of all the men on the corrobboree
grounds, excepting fathers, brothers, or sons. Thus there are three
stages of individual ownership in women: In the first, whilst the man
has exclusive right to a woman, he can and does lend her to certain
other men; in the second there is a wider relation in regard to
particular men at the time of marriage; and in the third a still wider
relation to all men except the nearest relatives, at corrobboree time.
Only in the first of these cases can we properly speak of wife
"lending"; in the other cases the individuals have no choice and
cannot withhold their consent, the matter being of a public or tribal
nature. As regards the corrobborees, it is supposed to be the duty of
every man at different times to send his wife to the ground, and the
most striking feature in regard to it is that the first man who has
access to her is the very one to whom, under normal conditions, she is
most strictly taboo, her _Mura_. [All women whose daughters are
eligible as wives are _mura_ to a man.]
Old and young men alike must give up their wives on these occasions.
"It is a custom of ancient date which is sanctioned by public opinion,
and to the performance of which neither men nor women concerned offer
any opposition" (98).


These revelations of Spencer and Gillen, taken in connection with the
abundant evidence I have cited from the works of early explorers as to
the utter depravity of the aboriginal Australian when first seen by
white men, will make it impossible hereafter for anyone whose
reasoning powers exceed a native Australian's to maintain that it was
the whites who corrupted these savages. It takes an exceptionally
shrewd white man even to unravel the customs of voluntary or
obligatory wife sharing or lending which prevail in all parts of
Australia, and which must have required not only hundreds but
thousands of years to assume their present extraordinarily complex
aspect; customs which form part and parcel of the very life of
Australians and which represent the lowest depths of sexual depravity,
since they are utterly incompatible with chastity, fidelity,
legitimacy, or anything else we understand by sexual morality. In some
cases, no doubt, contact with the low whites and their liquor
aggravated these evils by fostering professional prostitution and
making men even more ready than before to treat their wives as
merchandise. Lumholtz, who lived several years among these savages,
makes this admission (345), but at the same time he is obliged to join
all the other witnesses in declaring that apart from this "there is
not much to be said of the morals of the blacks, for I am sorry to say
they have none." On a previous page (42) I cited Sutherland's summary
of a report of the House of Commons (1844, 350 pages), which shows
that the Australian native, as found by the first white visitors,
manifested "an absolute incapacity to form even a rudimentary notion
of chastity." The same writer, who was born and brought up in
Australia, says (I., 121):

"In almost every case the father or husband will
dispose of the girl's virtue for a small price. When
white men came they found these habits prevailing. The
overwhelming testimony proves it absurd to say that
they demoralized the unsophisticated savages."

And again (I., 186),

"It is untrue that in sexual license the savage has
ever anything to learn. In almost every tribe there are
pollutions deeper than any I have thought it necessary
to mention, and all that the lower fringe of civilized
men can do to harm the uncivilized is to stoop to the
level of the latter, instead of teaching them a better


As regards the promiscuity question, Spencer and Gillen's observations
go far to confirm some of the seemingly fantastic speculations
regarding "a thousand miles of wives," and so on, contained in the
volume of Fison and Howitt[166] and to make it probable that
unregulated intercourse was the state of primitive man at a stage of
evolution earlier than any known to us now. Since the appearance of
Westermarck's _History of Human Marriage_ it has become the fashion to
regard the theory of promiscuity as disproved. Alfred Russell Wallace,
in his preface to this book, expresses his opinion that "independent
thinkers" will agree with its author on most of the points wherein he
takes issue with his famous predecessors, including Spencer, Morgan,
Lubbock, and others. Ernst Grosse, in a volume which the president of
the German Anthropological Society pronounced "epoch-making"--_Die
Formen der Familie_--refers (43) to Westermarck's "very thorough
refutation" of this theory, which he stigmatizes as one of the
blunders of the unfledged science of sociology which it will be best
to forget as soon as possible; adding that "Westermarck's best weapons
were, however, forged by Starcke."

In a question like this, however, two independent observers are worth
more than two hundred "independent thinkers." Spencer and Gillen are
eye-witnesses, and they inform us repeatedly (100, 105, 108, 111) that
Westermarck's objections to the theory of promiscuity do not stand the
test of facts and that none of his hypotheses explains away the
customs which point to a former prevalence of promiscuity. They have
absolutely disproved his assertion (539) that "it is certainly not
among the lowest peoples that sexual relations most nearly approach
promiscuity." Cunow, who, as Grosse admits (50), has written the most
thorough and authentic monograph on the complicated family
relationship of Australia, devotes two pages (122-23) to exposing some
of Westermarck's arguments, which, as he shows, "border on the comic."
I myself have in this chapter, as well as in those on Africans,
American Indians, South Sea Islanders, etc., revealed the comicality
of the assertion that there is in a savage condition of life
"comparatively little reason for illegitimate relations," which forms
one of the main props of Westermarck's anti-promiscuity theory; and I
have also reduced _ad absurdum_ his systematic overrating of savages
in the matter of liberty of choice, esthetic taste and capacity for
affection which resulted from his pet theory and marred his whole

It is interesting to note that Darwin (_D.M._, Ch. XX.) concluded from
the facts known to him that "_almost_ promiscuous intercourse or very
loose intercourse was once extremely common throughout the world:" and
the only thing that seemed to deter him from believing in _absolutely_
promiscuous intercourse was the "strength of the feeling of jealousy."
Had he lived to understand the true nature of savage jealousy
explained in this volume and to read the revelations of Spencer and
Gillen, that difficulty would have vanished. On this point, too, their
remarks are of great importance, fully bearing out the view set forth
in my chapter on jealousy. They declare (99) that they did not find
sexual jealousy specially developed:

"For a man to have unlawful intercourse with any woman
arouses a feeling which is due not so much to jealousy
as to the fact that the delinquent has infringed a
tribal custom. If the intercourse has been with a woman
who belongs to the class from which his wife comes,
then he is called _atna nylkna_ (which, literally
translated, is vulva thief); if with one with whom it
is unlawful for him to have intercourse, then he is
called _iturka_, the most opprobrious term in the
Arunta language. In the one case he has merely stolen
property, in the other he has offended against tribal

Jealousy, they sum up, "is indeed a factor which need not be taken
into serious account in regard to the question of sexual relations
amongst the Central Australian tribes."

The customs described by these authors show, moreover, that these
savages _do not allow jealousy to stand in the way of sexual
communism_, a man who refuses to share his wife being considered
churlish, in one class of cases, while in another no choice is allowed
him, the matter being arranged by the tribe. This point has not
heretofore been sufficiently emphasized. It knocks away one of the
strongest props of the anti-promiscuity theory, and it is supported by
the remarks of Howitt,[168] who, after explaining how, among the
Dieri, couples are chosen by headmen without consulting their
wishes,--new allotments being made at each circumcision ceremony--and
how the dance is followed by a general license, goes on to relate that
all these matters are carefully arranged _so as to prevent jealousy_.
Sometimes this passion breaks out nevertheless, leading to bloody
quarrels; but the main point is that systematic efforts are made to
suppress jealousy: "No jealous feeling is allowed to be shown during
this time under penalty of strangling." Whence we may fairly infer
that under more primitive conditions the individual was allowed still
less right to assert jealous claims of individual possession.

Australian jealousy presents some other interesting aspects, but we
shall be better able to appreciate them if we first consider why a
native ever puts himself into a position where jealous watchfulness of
private property is called for.


Since chastity among the young of both sexes is not held of any
account, and since the young girls, who are married to men four or
five times their age, are always ready for an intrigue with a young
bachelor, why does an Australian ever marry? He does not marry for
love, for, as this whole chapter proves, he is incapable of such a
sentiment. His appetites need not urge him to marry, since there are
so many ways of appeasing them outside of matrimony. He does not marry
to enjoy a monopoly of a woman's favors, since he is ready to share
them with others. Why then does he marry? One reason may be that, as
the men get older (they seldom marry before they are twenty-five or
even thirty), they have less relish for the dangers connected with
woman-stealing and intrigues. A second reason is indicated in Hewitt's
explanation (_Jour. Anthr. Inst_., XX., 58), that it is an advantage
to an Australian to have as many wives as possible, as they work and
hunt for him, and "he also obtains great influence in the tribe by
lending them his Piraurus occasionally, and receiving presents from
the young men."

The main reason, however, why an Australian marries is in order that
he may have a drudge. I have previously cited Eyre's statement that
the natives

"value a wife principally as a slave; in fact, when
asked why they are anxious to obtain wives, their usual
reply is, that they may get wood, water, and food for
them, and carry whatever property they possess."

H. Kempe (_loc. cit_., 55) says that

"if there are plenty of girls they are married as early
as possible (at the age of eight to ten), as far as
possible to one and the same man, for as it is the duty
of the women to provide food, a man who has several
wives can enjoy his leisure the more thoroughly."

And Lindsay Cranford testifies (_Jour. Anthrop. Inst_., XXIV., 181)
regarding the Victoria River natives that,

"after about thirty years of age a man is allowed to have as
many women as he likes, and the older he gets the younger
the girls are that he gets, probably to work and get food
for him, for in their wild state the man is too proud to do
anything except carry a woomera and spear."

Under these circumstances it is needless to say that there is not a
trace of romance connected with an Australian marriage. After a man
has secured his girl, she quietly submits and goes with him as his
wife and drudge, to build his camp, gather firewood, fetch water, make
nets, clear away grass, dig roots, fish for mussels, be his baggage
mule on journeys, etc. (Brough Smyth, 84); and Eyre (II., 319) thus
completes the picture. There is, he says, no marriage ceremony:

"In those cases where I have witnessed the giving away
of a wife, the woman was simply ordered by the nearest
male relative in whose disposal she was, to take up her
'rocko,' the bag in which a female carries the effects
of her husband, and go to the man's camp to whom she
had been given."


Thus the woman becomes the man's slave--his property in every sense of
the word. No matter how he obtained her--by capture, elopement, or
exchange for another woman--she is his own, as much as his spear or
his boomerang. "The husband is the absolute owner of the wife," says
Curr (I., 109). To cite Eyre once more (318):

"Wives are considered the absolute property of the
husband, and can be given away, or exchanged, or lent,
according to his caprice. A husband is denominated in
the Adelaide dialect, Yongarra, Martanya (the owner or
proprietor of a wife)."

A whole chapter in sociology is sometimes summed up in a word, as we
see in this case. Another instance is the word _gramma_, concerning
which we read in Lumholtz (126):

"The robbery of women, who also among these savages are
regarded as _a man's most valuable property_, is both
the grossest and the most common theft; for it is the
usual way of getting a wife. Hence woman is the chief
cause of disputes. _Inchastity_, which is called
_gramma, i.e._, to steal, also _falls under the head of

Here we have a simple and concise explanation of Australian jealousy.
The native knows jealousy in its crudest form--that of mere animal
rage at being prevented by a rival from taking immediate possession of
the object of his desire. He knows also the jealousy of
property--_i.e._, revenge for infringement on it. Of this it is
needless to give examples. But he knows not true jealousy--_i.e._,
anxious concern for his wife's chastity and fidelity, since he is
always ready to barter these things for a trifle. Proofs of this have
already been adduced in abundance. Here is another authoritative
statement by the missionary Schurmann, who writes (223):

"The loose practices of the aborigines, with regard to
the sanctity of matrimony, form the worst trait in
their character; although the men are capable of fierce
jealousy if their wives transgress _unknown to them_,
yet they frequently send them out to other parties, or
exchange with a friend for a night; and, as for near
relatives, such as brothers, it may almost be said that
they have their wives in common."

An incident related by W.H. Leigh (152) shows in a startling way that
among the Australians jealousy means nothing more than a desire for
revenge because of infringement on property rights:

"A chief discovered that one of his wives had been
sinning, and called a council, at which it was decided
that the criminal should be sacrificed, or the
adulterous chief give a victim to appease the wrathful
husband. This was agreed to and he _gave one of his
wives_, who was immediately escorted to the side of the
river ... and there the ceremony was preluded by a
war-song, and the enraged chief rushed upon the
innocent and unfortunate victim--bent down her head
upon her chest, whilst another thrust the pointed bone
of a kangaroo under her left rib, and drove it upwards
into her heart. The shrieks of the poor wretch brought
down to the spot many colonists, who arrived in time
only to see the conclusion of the horrid spectacle.
After they had buried the bone in her body they took
their glass-pointed spears and tore her entrails out,
and finally fractured her skull with their waddies.
This barbarous method of wreaking vengeance is common
among them."[169]

The men being indifferent to female chastity, it would be vain to
expect true jealousy on the part of the women. The men are entirely
unrestrained in their appetites unless they interfere with other men's
property rights, and in a community where polygamy prevails the
jealousy which is based in a monopoly of affection has little chance
to flourish. Taplin says (101) that

"a wife amongst the heathen aborigines has no objection
to her husband taking another spouse, provided she is
younger than herself, but if he brings home one older
than herself there is apt to be trouble"

as the senior wife is "mistress of the camp," and in such a case the
first wife is apt to run away. Vanity and envy, or the desire to be
the favorite, thus appear to be the principal ingredients in an
Australian woman's jealousy. Meyer (191) says of the Encounter Bay

"If a man has several girls at his disposal, he
speedily obtains several wives, who, however, very
seldom agree well with each other, but are continually
quarreling, each endeavoring to be the favorite."

This, it will be observed, is the jealousy two pet dogs will feel of
each other, and is utterly different from modern conjugal or lover's
jealousy, which is chiefly based on an ardent regard for chastity and
unswerving fidelity. In this phase jealousy is a noble and useful
passion, helping to maintain the purity of the family; whereas, in the
phase that prevails among savages it is utterly selfish and brutal.
Palmer says[170] that "a new woman would always be beaten by the other
wife, and a good deal would depend on the fighting powers of the
former whether she kept her position or not." "Among the Kalkadoon,"
writes Roth (141),

"where a man may have three, four, or even five gins, the
discarded ones will often, through jealousy, fight with her
whom they consider more favored. On such occasions they may
often resort to stone-throwing, or even use fire-sticks and
stone-knives with which to mutilate the genitals."

Lumholtz says (213) the black women "often have bitter quarrels about
men whom they love and are anxious to marry. If the husband is
unfaithful, the wife frequently becomes greatly enraged."

George Grey (II., 312-14) gives an amusing sketch of an aboriginal
scene of conjugal bliss. Weerang, an old man, has four wives, the last
of whom, just added to the harem, gets all his attention. This excites
the anger of one of the older ones, who reproaches the husband with
having stolen her, an unwilling bride, from another and better man.
"May the sorcerer," she adds, "bite and tear her whom you have now
taken to your bed. Here am I, rebuking young men who dare to look at
me, while she, your favorite, replete with arts and wiles, dishonors
you." This last insinuation is too much for the young favorite, who
retorts by calling her a liar and declaring that she has often seen
her exchanging nods and winks with her paramour. The rival's answer is
a blow with her stick. A general engagement follows, which the old man
finally ends by beating several of the wives severely about the head
with a hammer.[171]


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