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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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