Primitive Love and Love-Stories
by Henry Theophilus Finck
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Regarding the musical and poetic features of Dakota courtship, S.R. Riggs has this to say (209):

"A boy begins to feel the drawing of the other sex and, like the ancient Roman boys, he exercises his ingenuity in making a 'cotanke,' or rude pipe, from the bone of a swan's wing, or from some species of wood, and with that he begins to call to his lady-love, on the night air. Having gained attention by his flute, he may sing this:

Stealthily, secretly, see me, Stealthily, secretly, see me, Stealthily, secretly, see me, Lo! thee I tenderly regard; Stealthily, secretly, see me."

Or he may commend his good qualities as a hunter by singing this song:

Cling fast to me, and you'll ever have plenty, Cling fast to me, and you'll ever have plenty, Cling fast to me...."

"A Dacota girl soon learns to adorn her fingers with rings, her ears with tin dangles, her neck with beads. Perhaps an admirer gives her a ring, singing:

Wear this, I say; Wear this, I say; Wear this, I say; This little finger ring, Wear this, I say."

For traces of real amorous sentiment one would naturally look to the poems of the semi-civilized Mexicans and Peruvians of the South rather than to the savage and barbarous Indians of the North. Dr. Brinton (E. of A., 297) has found the Mexican songs the most delicate. He quotes two Aztec love-poems, the first being from the lips of an Indian girl:

I know not whether thou hast been absent: I lie down with thee, I rise up with thee, In my dreams thou art with me. If my ear-drop trembles in my ears, I know it is thou moving within my heart.

The second, from the same language, is thus rendered:

On a certain mountain side, Where they pluck flowers, I saw a pretty maiden, Who plucked from me my heart, Whither thou goest, There go I.

Dr. Brinton also quotes the following poem of the Northern Kioways as "a song of true love in the ordinary sense:"

I sat and wept on the hillside, I wept till the darkness fell; I wept for a maiden afar off, A maiden who loves me well.

The moons are passing, and some moon, I shall see my home long-lost, And of all the greetings that meet me, My maiden's will gladden me most.

"The poetry of the Indians is the poetry of naked thought. They have neither rhyme nor metre to adorn it," says Schoolcraft (Oneota, 14). The preceding poem has both; what guarantee is there that the translator has not embellished the substance of it as he did its form? Yet, granting he did not embroider the substance, we know that weeping and longing for an absent one are symptoms of sensual as well as of sentimental love, and cannot, therefore, be accepted as a criterion. As for the Mexican and other poems cited, they give evidence of a desire to be near the beloved, and of the all-absorbing power of passion (monopoly) which likewise are characteristic of both kinds of love. Of the true criteria of love, the altruistic sentiments of gallantry, self-sacrifice, sympathy, adoration, there is no sign in any of these poems. Dr. Brinton admits, too, that such poems as the above are rare among the North American Indians anywhere.

"Most of their chants in relation to the other sex are erotic, not emotional; and this holds equally true of those which in some tribes on certain occasions are addressed by the women to the men."

Powers says (235) that the Wintun of California have a special dance and celebration when a girl reaches the age of puberty. The songs sung on this occasion "sometimes are grossly licentious." Evidences of this sort might be supplied by the page.[245]

An interesting collection of erotic songs sung by the Klamath Indians of Southern Oregon has been made by A.S. Gatschet.[246] "With the Indians," he says,

"all these and many other erotic songs pass under the name of puberty songs. They include lines on courting, love-sentiments, disappointments in love, marriage fees paid to the parents, on marrying and on conjugal life."

From this collection I will cite those that are pertinent to our inquiry. Observe that usually it is the girl that sings or does the courting.

1. I have passed into womanhood.

3. Who comes there riding toward me?

4. My little pigeon, fly right into the dovecot!

5. This way follow me before it is full daylight.

9. I want to wed you for you are a chief's son.

7. Very much I covet you as a husband, for in times to come you will live in affluence.

8. She: And when will you pay for me a wedding gift? He: A canoe I'll give for you half filled with water.

9. He spends much money on women, thinking to obtain them easily.

11. It is not that black fellow that I am striving to secure.

14. That is a pretty female that follows me up.

16. That's because you love me that rattle around the lodge.

27. Why have you become so estranged to me?

37. I hold you to be an innocent girl, though I have not lived with you yet.

38. Over and over they tell me, That this scoundrel has insulted me.

52. Young chaps tramp around; They are on the lookout for women.

54. Girls: Young man, I will not love you, for you run around with no blanket on; I do not desire such a husband. Boys: And I do not like a frog-shaped woman with swollen eyes.[247]

Most of these poems, as I have said, were composed and sung by women. The same is true of a collection of Chinook songs (Northern Oregon and adjacent country) made by Dr. Boas.[248] The majority of his poems, he says, "are songs of love and jealousy, such as are made by Indian women living in the cities, or by rejected lovers." These songs are rather pointless, and do not tell us much about the subject of our inquiry. Here are a few samples:

1. Yaya, When you take a wife, Yaya, Don't become angry with me. I do not care.

2. Where is Charlie going now? Where is Charlie going now? He comes back to see me, I think.

3. Good-by, oh, my dear Charlie! When you take a wife Don't forget me.

4. I don't know how I feel Toward Johnny. That young man makes a foe of me.

5. My dear Annie, If you cast off Jimmy Star, Do not forget How much he likes You.

Of much greater interest are the "Songs of the Kwakiutl Indians," of Vancouver Island, collected by Dr. Boas.[249] One of them is too obscene to quote. The following lines evidence a pretty poetic fancy, suggesting New Zealand poetry:

1. Yī! Yawa, wish I could——and make my true love happy, haigia, hayīa.

Yī! Yawa, wish I could arise from under the ground right next to my true love, haigia hayīa.

Yī! Yawa, wish I could alight from the heights, from the heights of the air right next to my true love, haigia, hayīa.

Yī! Yawa, wish I could sit among the clouds and fly with them to my true love.

Yī! Yawa, I am downcast on account of my true love.

Yī! Yawa, I cry for pain on account of my true love, my dear.

Dr. Boas confesses that this song is somewhat freely translated. The more's the pity. An expression like "my true love," surely is utterly un-Indian.

2. Anāma! Indeed my strong-hearted, my dear. Anāma! Indeed, my strong hearted, my dear. Anāma! Indeed my truth toward my dear. Not pretend I I know having master my dear. Not pretend I I know for whom I am gathering property, my dear. Not pretend I I know for whom I am gathering blankets, my dear.

3. Like pain of fire runs down my body my love to you, my dear! Like pain runs down my body my love to you, my dear. Just as sickness is my love to you, my dear. Just as a boil pains me my love to you, my dear. Just as a fire burns me my love to you, my dear. I am thinking of what you said to me I am thinking of the love you bear me. I am afraid of your love, my dear. O pain! O pain! Oh, where is my true love going, my dear? Oh, they say she will be taken away far from here. She will leave me, my true love, my dear. My body feels numb on account of what I have said, my true love, my dear. Good-by, my true love, my dear.[250]


Apart from "free translations" and embellishments, the great difficulty with poems like these, taken down at the present day, is that one never knows, though they may be told by a pure Indian, how far they may have been influenced by the half-breeds or the missionaries who have been with these Indians, in some cases for many generations. The same is true of not a few of the stories attributed to Indians.

Powers had heard among other "Indian" tales one of a lover's leap, and another of a Mono maiden who loved an Awani brave and was imprisoned by her cruel father in a cave until she perished. "But," says Powers (368), "neither Choko nor any other Indian could give me any information touching them, and Choko dismissed them all with the contemptuous remark, 'White man too much lie.'" I have shown in this chapter how large is the number of white men who "too much lie" in attributing to Indians stories, thoughts, and feelings, which no Indian ever dreamt of.[251]

The genuine traditional literature of the Indians consists, as Powers remarks (408), almost entirely of petty fables about animals, and there is an almost total lack of human legends. Some there are, and a few of them are quite pretty. Powers relates one (299) which may well be Indian, the only suspicious feature being the reference to a "beautiful" cloud (for Indians know only the utility, not the charm, of nature).

"One day, as the sun was setting, Kiunaddissi's daughter went out and saw a beautiful red cloud, the most lovely cloud ever seen, resting like a bar along the horizon, stretching southward. She cried out to her father, 'O father, come and see this beautiful [bright?] cloud!' He did so.... Next day the daughter took a basket and went out into the plain to gather clover to eat. While picking the clover she found a very pretty arrow, trimmed with yellow-hammer's feathers. After gazing at it awhile in wonder she turned to look at her basket, and there beside it stood a man who was called Yang-wi'-a-kan-ueh (Red Cloud) who was none other than the cloud she had seen the day before. He was so bright and resplendent to look upon that she was abashed; she modestly hung down her head and uttered not a word. But he said to her, 'I am not a stranger. You saw me last night; you see me every night when the sun is setting. I love you; you love me; look at me; be not afraid.' Then she said, 'If you love me, take and eat this basket of grass-seed pinole.' He touched the basket and in an instant all the pinole vanished in the air, going no man knows whither. Thereupon the girl fell away in a swoon, and lay a considerable time there upon the ground. But when the man returned to her behold she had given birth to a son. And the girl was abashed, and would not look in his face, but she was full of joy because of her new-born son."

The Indian's anthropomorphic way of looking at nature (instead of the esthetic or scientific, both of which are as much beyond his mental capacity as the faculty for sentimental love) is also illustrated by the following Dakota tale, showing how two girls got married.[252]

"There were two women lying out of doors and looking up to the shining stars. One of them said to the other, 'I wish that very large and bright shining star was my husband,' The other said, 'I wish that star that shines so brightly were my husband.' Thereupon they both were immediately taken up. They found themselves in a beautiful country, which was full of twin flowers. They found that the star which shone most brightly was a large man, while the other was only a young man. So they each had a husband, and one became with child."

Fear and superstition are, as we know, among the obstacles which prevent an Indian from appreciating the beauties of nature. The story of the Yurok siren, as related by Powers (59), illustrates this point:

"There is a certain tract of country on the north side of the Klamath River which nothing can induce an Indian to enter. They say that there is a beautiful squaw living there whose fascinations are fatal. When an Indian sees her he straightway falls desperately in love. She decoys him farther and farther into the forest, until at last she climbs a tree and the man follows. She now changes into a panther and kills him; then, resuming her proper form, she cuts off his head and places it in a basket. She is now, they say, a thousand years old, and has an Indian's head for every year of her life."

Such tales as these may well have originated in an Indian's imagination. Their local color is correct and charming, and they do not attribute to a savage notions and emotions foreign to his mind and customs.


It is otherwise with a class of Indian tales of which Schoolcraft's are samples, and a few more of which may here be referred to. With the unquestioning trust of a child the learned Waitz accepts as a specimen of genuine romantic love a story[253] of an Indian maiden who, when an arrow was aimed at her lover's heart, sprang before him and received the barbed shaft in her own heart; and another of a Creek Indian who jumped into a cataract with the girl he loved, meeting death with her when he found he could not escape the tomahawk of the pursuers. The solid facts of the first story will be hinted at presently in speaking of Pocahontas; and as for the second story it is, reduced to Indian realism, simply an incident of an elopement and pursuit such as may have easily happened, though the motive of the elopement was nothing more than the usual desire to avoid paying for the girl. Such sentences as "she loved him with an intensity of passion that only the noblest souls know," and "they vowed eternal love; they vowed to live and die with each other," ought to have opened Waitz's eyes to the fact that he was not reading an actual Indian story, but a story sentimentalized and embellished in the cheapest modern dime-novel style. The only thing such stories tell us is that "white man too much lie."

White woman, too, is not always above suspicion. Mrs. Eastman assures us that she got her Sioux legends from the Indians themselves. One of these stories is entitled "The Track Maker" (122-23). During an interval of peace between the Chippewas and Dakotas, she relates, a party of Chippewas visited a camp of the Dakotas. A young Dakota warrior fell in love with a girl included in the Chippewa party. "Though he would have died to save her from sorrow, yet he knew that she could never be his wife," for the tribes were ever at war. Here Mrs. Eastman, with the recklessness of a newspaper reporter, puts into an Indian's head a sentiment which no Indian ever dreamt of. All the facts cited in this chapter prove this, and, moreover, the sequel of her own story proves it. After exchanging vows of love (!) with the Dakotan brave, the girl departed with her Chippewa friends. Shortly afterward two Dakotas were murdered. The Chippewas were suspected, and a party of warriors at once broke up in pursuit of the innocent and unsuspecting party. The girl, whose name was Flying Shadow, saw her lover among the pursuers, who had already commenced to slaughter and scalp the other women, though the maidens clasped their hands in a "vain appeal to the merciless wretches, who see neither beauty nor grace when rage and revenge are in their hearts." Throwing herself in his arms she cried, "Save me! save me! Do not let them slay me before your eyes; make me your prisoner! You said that you loved me, spare my life!" He did spare her life; he simply touched her with his spear, then passed on, and a moment later the girl was slain and scalped by his companions. And why did the gallant and self-sacrificing lover touch her with his spear before he left her to be murdered? Because touching an enemy—male or female—with his spear entitles the noble red man to wear a feather of honor as if he had taken a scalp! Yet he "would have died to save her from sorrow"!

An Indian's capacity for self-sacrifice is also revealed in a favorite Blackfoot tale recorded by Grinnell (39-42). A squaw was picking berries in a place rendered dangerous by the proximity of the enemy. Suddenly her husband, who was on guard, saw a war party approaching. Signalling to the squaw, they mounted their horses and took to flight. The wife's horse, not being a good one, soon tired out and the husband had to take her on his. But this was too much of a load even for his powerful animal. The enemy gained on them constantly. Presently he said to his wife: "Get off. The enemy will not kill you. You are too young and pretty. Some one of them will take you, and I will get a big party of our people and rescue you." But the woman cried "No, no, I will die here with you." "Crazy person," cried the man, and with a quick jerk he threw the woman off and escaped. Having reached the lodge safely, he painted himself black and "walked all through the camp crying." Poor fellow! How he loved his wife! The Indian, as Catlin truly remarked, "is not in the least behind us in conjugal affection." The only difference—a trifling one to be sure—is that a white man, under such circumstances, would have spilt his last drop of blood in defence of his wife's life and her honor.


The rescue of John Smith by Pocahontas is commonly held to prove that the young Indian girl, smitten with sudden love for the white man, risked her life for him. This fanciful notion has however, been irreparably damaged by John Fiske (O.V., I., 102-111). It is true that "the Indians debated together, and presently two big stones were placed before the chiefs, and Smith was dragged thither and his head laid upon them;" and that

"even while warriors were standing with clubs in hand, to beat his brains out, the chief's young daughter Pocahontas rushed up and embraced him, whereupon her father spared his life."

It is true also that Smith himself thought and wrote that "Pocahontas hazarded the beating out of her own brains to save" his. But she did no such thing. Smith simply was ignorant of Indian customs:

"From the Indian point of view there was nothing romantic or extraordinary in such a rescue: it was simply a not uncommon matter of business. The romance with which readers have always invested it is the outcome of a misconception no less complete than that which led the fair dames of London to make obeisance to the tawny Pocahontas as to a princess of imperial lineage. Time and again it used to happen that when a prisoner was about to be slaughtered some one of the dusky assemblage, moved by pity or admiration or some unexplained freak, would interpose in behalf of the victim; and as a rule such interposition was heeded. Many a poor wretch, already tied to the fatal tree and benumbed with unspeakable terror, while the firebrands were heating for his torment, has been rescued from the jaws of death and adopted as brother or lover by some laughing young squaw, or as a son by some grave wrinkled warrior. In such cases the new-comer was allowed entire freedom and treated like one of the tribe.... Pocahontas, therefore, did not hazard the beating out of her own brains, though the rescued stranger, looking with civilized eyes, would naturally see it in that light. Her brains were perfectly safe. This thirteen-year-old squaw liked the handsome prisoner, claimed him, and got him, according to custom."


In the hundreds of genuine Indian tales collected by Boas I have not discovered a trace of sentiment, or even of sentimentality. The notion that there is any refinement of passion or morality in the sexual relations of the American aborigines has been fostered chiefly by the stories and poems of the whites—generally such as had only a superficial acquaintance with the red men. "The less we see and know of real Indians," wrote G.E. Ellis (111), "the easier will it be to make and read poems about them." General Custer comments on Cooper's false estimate of Indian character, which has misled so many.

"Stripped of the beautiful romance with which we have been so long willing to envelop him, transferred from the inviting pages of the novelist to the localities where we are compelled to meet with him in his native village, on the warpath, and when raiding upon our frontier settlements and lines of travel, the Indian forfeits his claim to the appellation of the 'noble red man'" (12).

The great explorer Stanley did not see as much of the American savage as of the African, yet he had no difficulty in taking the American's correct measure. In his Early Travels and Adventures (41-43), he pokes fun at the romantic ideas that poets and novelists have given about Indian maidens and their loves, and then tells in unadorned terms what he saw with his own eyes—Indian girls with "coarse black hair, low foreheads, blazing coal-black eyes, faces of a dirty, greasy color"—and the Indian young man whose romance of wooing is comprised in the question, "How much is she worth?'"

One of the keenest and most careful observers of Indian life, the naturalist Bates, after living several years among the natives of Brazil, wrote concerning them (293):

"Their phlegmatic, apathetic temperament; coldness of desire and deadness of feeling; want of curiosity and slowness of intellect, make the Amazonian Indians very uninteresting companions anywhere. Their imagination is of a dull-gloomy quality, and they seemed never to be stirred by the emotions—love, pity, admiration, fear, wonder, joy, enthusiasm. These are characteristics of the whole race,"

In Schoolcraft (V., 272) we read regarding the Creeks that "the refined passion of love is unknown to any of them, although they apply the word love to rum or anything else they wish to be possessed of." A capital definition of Indian love! I have already quoted the opinion of the eminent expert George Gibbs that the attachment existing among the Indians of Oregon and Washington, though it is sometimes so strong as to lead to suicide, is too sensual to deserve the name of love. Another eminent traveller, Keating, says (II., 158) concerning the Chippewas:

"We are not disposed to believe that there is frequently among the Chippewas an inclination entirely destitute of sensual considerations and partaking of the nature of a sentiment; such may exist in a few instances, but in their state of society it appears almost impossible that it should be a common occurrence."

M'Lean, after living for twenty-five years among Indians, says, in writing of the Nascopies (II., 127):

"Considering the manner in which their women are treated it can scarcely be supposed that their courtships are much influenced by sentiments of love; in fact, the tender passion seems unknown to the savage breast."

From his observations of Canadian Indians Heriot came to the conclusion (324) that "The passion of love is of too delicate a nature to admit of divided affections, and its real influence can scarcely be felt in a society where polygamy is tolerated." And again (331): "The passion of love, feeble unless aided by imagination, is of a nature too refined to acquire a great degree of influence over the mind of savages." He thinks that their mode of life deadens even the physical ardor for the sex, but adds that the females appear to be "much more sensible of tender impressions." Even Schoolcraft admits implicitly that Indian love cannot have been sentimental and esthetic, but only sensual, when he says (Travels, etc., 231) that Indian women are "without either mental resources or personal beauty."

But the most valuable and weighty evidence on this point is supplied by Lewis A. Morgan in his classical book, The League of the Iroquois (320-35). He was an adopted member of the Senecas, among whom he spent nearly forty years of his life, thus having unequalled opportunities for observation and study. He was moreover a man of scientific training and a thinker, whose contributions to some branches of anthropology are of exceptional value. His bias, moreover, is rather in favor of the Indians than against them, which doubles the weight of his testimony. This testimony has already been cited in part, but in summing up the subject I will repeat it with more detail. He tells us that marriage among these Indians "was not founded on the affections ... but was regulated exclusively as a matter of physical necessity." The match was made by the mothers, and

"not the least singular feature of the transaction was the entire ignorance in which the parties remained of the pending negotiations; the first intimation they received being the announcement of their marriage without, perhaps, ever having known or seen each other. Remonstrance or objections on their part was never attempted; they received each other as the gift of their parents."

There was no visiting or courting, little or no conversation between the unmarried, no attempts were made to please each other, and the man regarded the woman as his inferior and servant. The result of such a state of affairs is summed up by Morgan in this memorable passage:

"From the nature of the marriage institution among the Iroquois it follows that the passion of love was entirely unknown among them. Affections after marriage would naturally spring up between the parties from association, from habit, and from mutual dependence; but of that marvellous passion which originates in a higher development of the passions of the human heart and is founded upon the cultivation of the affections between the sexes they were entirely ignorant. In their temperaments they were below this passion in its simplest forms. Attachments between individuals, or the cultivation of each other's affections before marriage, was entirely unknown; so also were promises of marriage."

Morgan regrets that his remarks "may perhaps divest the mind of some pleasing impressions" created by novelists and poets concerning the attachments which spring up in the bosom of Indian society; but these, he adds, are "entirely inconsistent with the marriage institution as it existed among them, and with the facts of their social history." I may add that another careful observer who had lived among the Indians, Parkman, cites Morgan's remarks as to their incapacity for love with approval.

There is one more important conclusion to be drawn from Morgan's evidence. The Iroquois were among the most advanced of all Indians. "In intelligence," says Brinton (A.R., 82), "their position must be placed among the highest." As early as the middle of the fifteenth century the great chief Hiawatha completed the famous political league of the Iroquois. The women, though regarded as inferiors, had more power and authority than among most other Indians. Morgan speaks of the "unparallelled generosity" of the Iroquois, of their love of truth, their strict adherence to the faith of treaties, their ignorance of theft, their severe punishment for the infrequent crimes and offences that occurred among them. The account he gives of their various festivals, their eloquence, their devout religious feeling and gratitude to the Great Spirit for favors received, the thanks addressed to the earth, the rivers, the useful herbs, the moving wind which banishes disease, the sun, moon, and stars for the light they give, shows them to be far superior to most of the red men. And yet they were "below the passion of love in its simplest forms." Thus we see once more that refinement of sexual feeling, far from being, as the sentimentalists would have us believe, shared with us by the lowest savages, is in reality one of the latest products of civilization—if not the very latest.


Throughout this chapter no reference has been made to the Eskimos, who are popularly considered a race apart from the Indians. The best authorities now believe that they are a strictly American race, whose primal home was to the south of the Hudson Bay, whence they spread northward to Labrador, Greenland, and Alaska.[254] I have reserved them for separate consideration because they admirably illustrate the grand truth just formulated, that a race may have made considerable progress in some directions and yet be quite below the sentiment of love. Westermarck's opinion (516) that the Eskimos are "a rather advanced race" is borne out by the testimony of those who have known them well. They are described as singularly cheerful and good-natured among themselves. Hall says "their memory is remarkably good, and their intellectual powers, in all that relates to their native land, its inhabitants, its coasts, and interior parts, is of a surprisingly high order" (I., 128). But what is of particular interest is the great aptitude Eskimos seem to show for art, and their fondness for poetry and music. King[255] says that "the art of carving is universally practised" by them, and he speaks of their models of men, animals, and utensils as "executed in a masterly style." Brinton indeed says they have a more artistic eye for picture-writing than any Indian race north of Mexico. They enliven their long winter nights with imaginative tales, music, and song. Their poets are held in high honor, and it is said they get their notion of the music of verse by sleeping by the sound of running water, that they may catch its mysterious notes.

Yet when we look at the Eskimos from another point of view we find them horribly and bestially unaesthetic. Cranz speaks of "their filthy clothes swarming with vermin." They make their oil by chewing seal blubber and spurting the liquid into a vessel. "A kettle is seldom washed except the dogs chance to lick it clean." Mothers wash children's faces by licking them all over.[256]

Such utter lack of delicacy prepares us for the statement that the Eskimos are equally coarse in other respects, notably in their treatment of women and their sexual feelings. It would be a stigma upon an Eskimo's character, says Cranz (I., 154), "if he so much as drew a seal out of the water." Having performed the pleasantly exciting part of killing it, he leaves all the drudgery and hard work of hauling, butchering, cooking, tanning, shoe-making, etc., to the women. They build the houses, too, while the men look on with the greatest insensibility, not stirring a finger to assist them in carrying the heavy stones. Girls are often "engaged" as soon as born, nor are those who grow up free allowed to marry according to their own preference. "When friendly exhortations are unavailing she is compelled by force, and even blows, to receive her husband." (Cranz, I., 146.) They consider children troublesome, and the race is dying out. Women are not allowed to eat of the first seal of the season. The sick are left to take care of themselves. (Hall, II., 322, I., 103.) In years of scarcity widows "are rejected from the community, and hover about the encampments like starving wolves ... until hunger and cold terminate their wretched existence." (M'Lean, II., 143.) Men and women alike are without any sense of modesty; in their warm hovels both sexes divest themselves of nearly all their clothing. Nor, although they fight and punish jealousy, have they any regard for chastity per se. Lending a wife or daughter to a guest is a recognized duty of hospitality. Young couples live together on trial. When the husband is away hunting or fishing the wife has her intrigues, and often adultery is committed sans gene on either side. Unnatural vices are indulged in without secrecy, and altogether the picture is one of utter depravity and coarseness.[257]

Under such circumstances we hardly needed the specific assurance of Rink, who collected and published a volume of Tales and Traditions of the Eskimo, and who says that "never is much room given in this poetry to the almost universal feeling of love." He refers, of course, to any kind of love, and he puts it very mildly. Not only is there no trace of altruistic affection in any of these tales and traditions, but the few erotic stories recorded (e.g., pp. 236-37) are too coarse to be cited or summarized here. Hall, too, concluded that "love—if it come at all—comes after marriage." He also informs us (II., 313) that there "generally exists between husband and wife a steady but not very demonstrative affection;" but here he evidently wrongs the Eskimos; for, as he himself remarks (126), they

"always summarily punish their wives for any real or imaginary offence. They seize the first thing at hand—a stone, knife, hatchet, or spear—and throw it at the offending woman, just as they would at their dogs."

What could be more "demonstrative" than such "steady affection?"


India, it has been aptly said, "forms a great museum of races in which we can study man from his lowest to his highest stages of culture." It is this multiplicity of races and their lack of patriotic co-operation that explains the conquest of the hundreds of millions of India by the tens of millions of England. Obviously it would be impossible to make any general assertion regarding love that would apply equally to the 10,000,000 educated Brahmans, who consider themselves little inferior to gods, the 9,000,000 outcasts who are esteemed and treated infinitely worse than animals, and the 17,000,000 of the aboriginal tribes who are comparable in position and culture to our American Indians. Nevertheless, we can get an approximately correct composite portrait of love in India by making two groups and studying first, the aboriginal tribes, and then the more or less civilized Hindoos (using this word in the most comprehensive sense), with their peculiar customs, laws, poetic literature, and bayaderes, or temple girls.

In Bengal and Assam alone, which form but a small corner of this vast country, the aborigines are divided into nearly sixty distinct races, differing from each other in various ways, as American tribes do. They have not been described by as many and as careful observers as our American Indians have, but the writings of Lewin, Galton, Rowney, Man, Shortt, Watson and Kaye, and others supply sufficient data to enable us to understand the nature of their amorous feelings.


Lewin gives us the interesting information (345-47) that with the Chittagong hill-tribes

"women enjoy perfect freedom of action; they go unveiled, they would seem to have equal rights of heritage with men, while their power of selecting their own husband is to the full as free as that of our own English maidens."

Moreover, "in these hills the crime of infidelity among wives is almost unknown; so also harlots and courtesans are held in abhorrence amongst them."

On reading these lines our hopes are raised that at last we may have come upon a soil favorable to the growth of true love. But Lewin's further remarks dispel that illusion:

"In marriage, with us, a perfect world springs up at the word, of tenderness, of fellowship, trust, and self-devotion. With them it is a mere animal and convenient connection for procreating their species and getting their dinner cooked. They have no idea of tenderness, nor of the chivalrous devotion that prompted the old Galilean fisherman when he said 'Give ye honor unto the woman as to the weaker vessel,' ... The best of them will refuse to carry a burden if there be a wife, mother, or sister near at hand to perform the task." "There are whole tracts of mind, and thought, and feeling, which are unknown to them."


One of the most important details of my theory is that while there can be no romantic love without opportunity for genuine courtship and free choice, nevertheless the existence of such opportunity and choice does not guarantee the presence of love unless the other conditions for its growth—general refinement and altruistic impulses—coexist with them. Among the Chittagong hill-tribes these conditions—constituting "whole tracts of mind, and thought, and feeling"—do not coexist with the liberty of choice, hence it is useless to look for love in our sense of the word. Moreover, when we further read in Lewin that the reason why there are no harlots is that they "are rendered unnecessary by the freedom of intercourse indulged in and allowed to both sexes before marriage," we see that what at first seemed a virtue is really a mark of lower degradation. Some of the oldest legislators, like Zoroaster and Solon, already recognized the truth that it was far better to sacrifice a few women to the demon of immorality than to expose them all to contamination. The wild tribes of India in general have not yet arrived at that point of view. In their indifference to chastity they rank with the lowest savages, and usually there is a great deal of promiscuous indulgence before a mate is chosen for a union of endurance. Among the Oraons, as Dalton tells us (248), "liaisons between boys and girls of the same village seldom end in marriage;" and he gives strange details regarding the conduct of the young people which may not be cited here, and in which the natives see "no impropriety." Regarding the Butias Rowney says (142):

"The marriage tie is so loose that chastity is quite unknown amongst them. The husbands are indifferent to the honor of their wives, and the wives do not care to preserve that which has no value attached to it. ... The intercourse of the sexes is, in fact, promiscuous."

Of the Lepchas Rowney says (139) that "chastity in adult girls previous to marriage is neither to be met with nor cared for." Of the Mishmees he says (163): "Wives are not expected to be chaste, and are not thought worse off when otherwise," and of the Kookies (186): "All the women of a village, married or unmarried, are available to the chief at his will, and no stigma attaches to those who are favored by him." In some tribes wives are freely exchanged. Dalton says of the Butan (98) that "the intercourse between the sexes is practically promiscuous." Rhyongtha girls indulge in promiscuous intercourse with several lovers before marriage. (Lewin, 121.) With the Kurmuba, "no such ceremony as marriage exists." They "live together like the brute creation." (W.R. King, 44.)

My theory that in practice, at any rate, if not in form, promiscuity was the original state of affairs among savages, in India as elsewhere, is supported by the foregoing facts, and also by what various writers have told us regarding the licentious festivals indulged in by these wild tribes of India. "It would appear," says Dalton (300),

"that most of the hill-tribes found it necessary to promote marriage by stimulating intercourse between the sexes at particular seasons of the year.... At one of the Kandh festivals held in November all the lads and lasses assemble for a spree, and a bachelor has then the privilege of making off with any unmarried girl whom he can induce to go with him, subject to a subsequent arrangement with the parents of the maiden."

Dalton gives a vivid description of these festivals as practised by the Hos in January, when the granaries are full of wheat and the natives "full of deviltry:"

"They have a strange notion that at this period men and women are so overcharged with vicious propensities, that it is absolutely necessary for the safety of the person to let off steam by allowing, for a time, full vent to the passions. The festival therefore becomes a saturnale, during which servants forget their duties to their masters, children their reverence for parents, even their respect for women, and women all notions of modesty, delicacy, and gentleness; they become raging bacchantes....

"The Ho population of the village forming the environs of Chaibasa are at other seasons quiet and reserved in manner, and in their demeanor toward women gentle and decorous; even in the flirtations I have spoken of they never transcend the bounds of decency. The girls, though full of spirits and somewhat saucy, have innate notions of propriety that make them modest in demeanor, though devoid of all prudery.... Since their adoption of clothing they are careful to drape themselves decently as well as gracefully, but they throw all this aside during the Magh feast. Their natures appear to undergo a temporary change. Sons and daughters revile their parents in gross language, and parents their children; men and women become almost like animals in the indulgence of their amorous propensities. They enact all that was ever portrayed by prurient artists in a bacchanalian festival or pandean orgy; and as the light of the sun they adore and the presence of numerous spectators seem to be no restraint on their indulgence, it cannot be expected that chastity is preserved when the shades of night fall on such a scene of licentiousness and debauchery."


Nor are these festivals of rare occurrence. They last three or four days and are held at the different villages at different dates, so the inhabitants of each may take part in "a long succession of these orgies." When Dalton declares (206) regarding these coarse and dissolute Hos, who thus spend a part of each year in "a long succession of orgies," in which their own wives and daughters participate, that they are nevertheless capable of the higher emotions—though he admits they have no words for them—he merely proves that long intercourse with such savages blunted his own sensibilities, or what is more probable—that he himself never understood the real nature of the higher emotions—those "tracts of feeling" which Lewin found missing among the hill-tribes. We are confirmed in this suspicion by noticing Dalton's ecstatic delight over the immoral courtship customs of the Bhuiyas, which he found "marvellously pretty and romantic" and describes as follows:

"In each village there is, as with the Oraons, an open space for a dancing ground, called by the Bhuiyas the Darbar; and near it the bachelors' hall.... here the young men must all sleep at night, and here the drums are kept. Some villages have a 'Dhangarin bassa,' or house for maidens, which, strange to say, they are allowed to occupy without anyone to look after them. They appear to have very great liberty, and slips of morality, as long as they are confined to the tribe, are not much heeded. Whenever the young men of the village go to the Darbar and beat the drums the young girls join them there, and they spend their evenings dancing and enjoying themselves without any interference on the part of the elders.

"The more exciting and exhilarating occasions are when the young men of one village proceed to visit the maidens of another village, or when the maidens return the call. The young men provide themselves with presents for the girls, generally consisting of combs for the hair and sweets, and going straight to the Darbar of the village they visit, they proclaim their arrival loudly by beating their drums and tambourines. The girls of that village immediately join them. Their male relations and neighbors must keep entirely out of view, leaving the field clear for the guests. The offerings of the visitors are now gallantly presented and graciously accepted and the girls at once set to work to prepare a dinner for their beaux, and after the meal they dance and sing and flirt all night together, and the morning dawns on more than one pair of pledged lovers. Then the girls, if the young men have conducted themselves to their satisfaction, make ready the morning meal for themselves and their guests; after which the latter rise to depart, and still dancing and playing on the drums, move out of the village followed by the girls, who escort them to the boundary. This is generally a rock-broken stream with wooded banks; here they halt, the girls on one side, the lads on the other, and to the accompaniment of the babbling brook sing to each other in true bucolic style. The song on these occasions is to a certain extent improvised, and is a pleasant mixture of raillery and love-making....

"The song ended, the girls go down on their knees, and bowing to the ground respectfully salute the young men, who gravely and formally return the compliment, and they part.

"The visit is soon returned by the girls. They are received by the young men in their Darbar and entertained, and the girls of the receiving village must not be seen....

"They have certainly more wit, more romance, and more poetry in their composition than is usually found among the country folk in India."


All this may indeed be "marvellously pretty and romantic," but I fail to see the least indication of the "higher emotions." Nor can I find them in some further interesting remarks regarding the Hos made by the same author (192-93). Thirty years ago, he says, a girl of the better class cost forty or fifty head of cattle. Result—a decrease in the number of marriages and an increase of immoral intimacies. Sometimes a girl runs away with her lover, but the objection to this is that elopements are not considered respectable.

"It is certainly not from any yearning for celibacy that the marriage of Singbhum maidens is so long postponed. The girls will tell you frankly that they do all they can to please the young men, and I have often heard them pathetically bewailing their want of success. They make themselves as attractive as they can, flirt in the most demonstrative manner, and are not too coy to receive in public attentions from those they admire. They may be often seen in well-assorted pairs returning from market with arms interlaced, and looking at each other as lovingly as if they were so many groups of Cupids and Psyches, but with all this the 'men will not propose.' Tell a maiden you think her nice-looking, she is sure to reply 'Oh, yes! I am, but what is the use of it, the young men of my acquaintance don't see it.'"

Here we note a frankly commercial view of marriage, without any reference to "higher emotions." In this tribe, too, the girls are not allowed the liberty of choice. Indeed, when we examine this point we find that Westermarck is wrong, as usual, in assigning such a privilege to the girls of most of these tribes. He himself is obliged to admit (224) that

"in many of the uncivilized tribes of India parents are in the habit of betrothing their sons.... The paternal authority approaches the patria potestas of the ancient Aryan nations."

The Kisans, Mundas, Santals, Marias, Mishmis, Bhils, and Yoonthalin Karens are tribes among whom fathers thus reserve the right of selecting wives for their sons; and it is obvious that in all such cases daughters have still less choice than sons. Colonel Macpherson throws light on this point when he says of the Kandhs:

"The parents obtain the wives of their sons during their boyhood, as very valuable domestic servants, and their selections are avowedly made with a view to utility in this character."[258]

Rowney reports (103) that the Khond boys are married at the age of ten and twelve to girls of fifteen to sixteen; and among the Reddies it is even customary to marry boys of five or six years to women of sixteen to twenty. The "wife," however, lives with an uncle or relation, who begets children for the boy-husband. When the boy grows up his "wife" is perhaps too old for him, so he in turn takes possession of some other boy's "wife".[259] The young folks are obviously in the habit of obeying implicitly, for as Dalton says (132) of the Kisans, "There is no instance on record of a youth or maiden objecting to the arrangement made for them." With the Savaras, Boad Kandhs, Hos, and Kaupuis, the prevalence of elopements shows that the girls are not allowed their own choice. Lepcha marriages are often made on credit, and are breakable if the payment bargained for is not made to the parent within the specified time. (Rowney, 139.)[260]


While among the Nagas, as already stated, the women must do all the hard work, they have one privilege: tribal custom allows them to refuse a suitor until he has put in their hands a human skull or scalp; and the gentle maidens make rigorous use of this privilege—so much so that in consequence of the difficulty of securing these "gory tokens of love" marriages are contracted late in life. The head need not be that of an enemy: "A skull may be acquired by the blackest treachery, but so long as the victim was not a member of the clan," says Dalton (39), "it is accepted as a chivalrous offering of a true knight to his lady," Dalton gives another and less grewsome instance of "chivalry" occurring among the Oraons (253).

"A young man shows his inclination for a girl thus: He sticks flowers in the mass of her back-hair, and if she subsequently return the compliment, it is concluded that she desires a continuance of his attention. The next step may be an offering to his lady-love of some nicely grilled field-mice, which the Oraons declare to be the most delicate of food. Tender looks and squeezes whilst both are engaged in the dance are not much thought of. They are regarded merely as the result of emotions naturally arising from pleasant contiguity and exciting strains; but when it comes to flowers and field-mice, matters look serious."


Coyness as well as primitive gallantry has its amusing phases among these wild tribes. The following description seems so much like an extravaganza that the reader may suspect it to be an abstract of a story by Frank Stockton or a libretto by Gilbert; but it is a serious page from Dalton's Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal (63-64). It relates to the Garos, who are thus described:

"The women are on the whole the most unlovely of the sex, but I was struck with the pretty, plump, nude figures, the merry musical voices and good-humored countenances of the Garos girls. Their sole garment is a piece of cloth less than a foot in breadth that just meets round the loins, and in order that it may not restrain the limbs it is only fastened where it meets under the hip at the upper corners."

But if they have not much to boast of in the way of dress, these girls enjoy a privilege rare in India or elsewhere of making the first advances.

"As there is no restriction on innocent intercourse, the boys and girls freely mixing together in the labors of the field and other pursuits, an amorous young lady has ample opportunity of declaring her partiality, and it is her privileged duty to speak first.... The maiden coyly tells the youth to whom she is about to surrender herself that she has prepared a spot in some quiet and secluded valley to which she invites him.... In two or three days they return to the village and their union is then publicly proclaimed and solemnized. Any infringement of the rule which declares that the initiative shall in such cases rest with the girl is summarily and severely punished."

For a man to make the advances would be an insult not only to the girl but to the whole tribe, resulting in fines. But let us hear the rest of the topsy-turvy story.

"The marriage ceremony chiefly consists of dancing, singing, and feasting. The bride is taken down to the nearest stream and bathed, and the party next proceeds to the house of the bridegroom, who pretends to be unwilling and runs away, but is caught and subjected to a similar ablution, and then taken, in spite of the resistance and the counterfeited grief and lamentation of his parents, to the bride's house."

It is true that this inversion of the usual process of proposing and acting a comedy of sham coyness occurs only in the case of the poor girls, the wealthy ones being betrothed by their parents in infancy; but it would be interesting to learn the origin of this quaint custom from someone who has had a chance to study this tribe. Probably the girl's poverty furnishes the key. The whole thing seems like a practical joke raised to the dignity of an institution. The perversion of all ordinary rules is consistently carried out in this, too, that "if the old people refuse they can be beaten into compliance!" That the loss of female coyness is not a gain to the cause of love or of virtue is self-evident.


Thus, once more, we are baffled in our attempts to find genuine romantic love. Of its fourteen ingredients the altruistic ones are missing entirely. What Dalton writes (248) regarding the Oraons,

"Dhumkuria lads are no doubt great flirts, but each has a special favorite among the young girls of his acquaintance, and the girls well know to whose touch and pressure in the dance each maiden's heart is especially responsive," will not mislead any reader of this book, who will know that it indicates merely individual preference, which goes with all sorts of love, and is moreover, characteristically shallow here; for, as Dalton has told us, these village flirtations "seldom end in marriage."

The other ingredients that primitive love shares with romantic love—monopoly, jealousy, coyness, etc., are also, as we saw, weak among the wild tribes of India. Westermarck (503) indeed fancied he had discovered the occurrence among them of "the absorbing passion for one." "Colonel Dalton," he says, "represents the Paharia lads and lasses as forming very romantic attachments; 'if separated only for an hour,' he says, 'they are miserable.'" In reality Dalton does not "represent them" thus; he says "they are represented;" that is, he gives his information at second-hand, without naming his authority, who, to judge by some of his remarks, was apparently a facetious globe-trotter. It is of course possible that these young folks are much attached to each other. Even sheep are "miserable if separated only for an hour;" they bleat pathetically and are disconsolate, though there is no question of an "absorbing passion for one." What kind of love unites these Paharia lads and lasses may be inferred from the further information given in Dalton's book that "they work together, go to market together, eat together, and sleep together;" while indiscretions are atoned for by shedding the blood of an animal, whereupon all is forgiven! In other words, where Westermarck found "the absorbing passion for one," a critical student can see nothing but a vulgar case of reprehensible free lust.

And yet, though we have found no indications of true love, I can see reasons for Dalton's exclamation,

"It is singular that in matters of the affections the feelings of these semi-savages should be more in unison with the sentiments and customs of the highly organized western nations than with the methodical and unromantic heart-schooling of their Aryan fellow-countrymen."

Whether these wild tribes are really more like ourselves in their amorous customs than the more or less civilized Hindoos to whom we now turn our attention, the reader will be able to decide for himself after finishing this chapter.


Twenty years ago there were in India five million more men than women, and there has been no change in that respect. The chief cause of this disparity is the habitual slaughter of girl babies. The unwelcome babes are killed with opium pills or exposed to wild beasts. The Pundita Ramabai Sarasvati, in her agonizing book, The High Caste Hindu Woman, writes with bitter sarcasm, that

"even the wild animals are so intelligent and of such refined taste that they mock at British law and almost always steal girls to satisfy their hunger." "The census of 1870 revealed the curious fact that three hundred children were stolen in one year by wolves from within the city of Umritzar, all the children being girls."

Hindoo females who escape the opium pills and the wolves seldom have occasion to congratulate themselves therefor. Usually a fate worse than death awaits them. Long before they are old enough, physically or mentally, to marry, they are either delivered bodily or betrothed to men old enough to be their grandfathers. A great many girls are married literally in the cradle, says the authoress just quoted (31). "From five to eleven years is the usual period for this marriage among the Brahmans all over India." Manu made twenty-four the minimum age for men to marry, but "popular custom defies the law. Boys of ten and twelve are now doomed to be married to girls of seven to eight years of age." This early marriage system is "at least five hundred years older than the Christian era." As superstitious custom compels poor parents to marry off their daughters by a given age "it very frequently happens that girls of eight or nine are given to men of sixty or seventy, or to men utterly unworthy of the maidens."[261]


In an article on "Child Marriages in Bengal,"[262] D.N. Singha explains the superstition to which so many millions of poor girls are thus ruthlessly sacrificed. "It is," he says,

"a well-nigh universal conviction among Hindoos that every man's soul goes to a hell called Poot, no matter how good he may have been. Nothing but a son's fidelity can release or deliver him from it, hence all Hindoos are driven to seek marriage as early as possible to make sure of a son." "A son, the fruit of marriage, saves him from perdition, so that the one purpose of marriage is to leave a son behind him."[263] A daughter's son may take his son's place: hence the eagerness to marry off the girls young. In other words, in order to save themselves from a hell hereafter the brutal fathers drive their poor little daughters to a hell on earth. And what is worse, public opinion compels them to act in this cruel manner; for, as the same writer informs us, the man who suffers his daughter to remain unmarried till she is thirteen or fourteen years old is "subjected to endless annoyances, beset with stinging remarks, unpleasant whisperings and slanderous gossip. No orthodox Hindoo will allow his son to accept the hand of such a grown-up girl."

How preventive of all possibility of free choice or love such a custom is may be inferred from another brief extract from the same article:

"The superstitious notion of a Hindoo parent that it is a sin not to give his daughter in marriage before she ceases to to be a child impels him urgently to get her a husband before she has passed her ninth or tenth year. He sends out to match-makers and spares no pains to discover a bridegroom in some family of rank equal or superior to his own. Having found a boy ... he endeavors to secure him by entreaty or by large offers of money or jewels."

The Pundita Ramabai Sarasvati (22) gives some further grewsome details which would seem like the inventions of a burlesque writer were they not attested by such unbiassed authority. "Religions enjoin that every girl must be given in marriage; the neglect of this duty means for the father unpardonable sin, public ridicule, and caste excommunication."

But in the higher castes the cost of a marriage is at least $200, wherefore if a man has several daughters his ruin is almost certain. Female infanticide is often the result, but even if the girls are allowed to grow up there is a way for the father to escape. There is a special high class of Brahmans who make it their business to marry these girls. They go up and down the land marrying ten, twenty, sometimes as many as one hundred and fifty of them, receiving presents from the bride's parents and immediately thereafter bidding good-by to her, going home never to see their "wife" again. The parents have now done their duty; they have escaped religious and social ostracism at the expense, it is true, of their daughters, who remain at home to make themselves useful. These poor girls can never marry again, and whether or not they become moral outcasts, their life is ruined; but that, to a Hindoo, is a trifling matter; girls, in his opinion, were not created for their own sake, but for the pleasure, comfort, and salvation of man.


In some parts of India the infant girls are merely subjected to an "irrevocable betrothal" for the time being, while in others they fall at once into the clutches of their degraded husbands.[264] In either case they have absolutely no choice in the selection of a life-partner. As Dubois remarks (I., 198):

"In negotiating marriage the inclinations of the future spouses are never attended to. Indeed, it would be ridiculous to consult girls of that age; and, accordingly, the choice devolves entirely upon the parents," "The ceremony of the 'bhanwar,' or circuit of the pole or branch, is," says Dalton (148), "observed in most Hindu marriages.... Its origin is curious.. As a Hindu bridegroom of the upper classes has no opportunity of trotting out his intended previous to marriage, and she is equally in the dark regarding the paces of her lord, the two are made to walk around the post a certain number of times to prove that they are sound in limb."

Even the accidental coincidence of the choice of a husband with the girl's own preference—should any such exist—is rendered impossible by a superstitious custom which demands that a horoscope must in all cases be taken to see if the signs are propitious, as Ramabai Sarasvati informs us (35), adding that if the signs are not propitious another girl is chosen. Sometimes a dozen are thus rejected, and the number may rise to three hundred before superstition is satisfied and a suitable match is found! The same writer gives the following pathetic instance of the frivolous way in which the girls are disposed of. A father is bathing in the river; a stranger comes in, the father asks him to what caste he belongs, and finding that all right, offers him his nine-year-old daughter. The stranger accepts, marries the child the next day, and carries her to his home nine hundred miles away. These poor child brides, she says, are often delighted to get married, because they are promised a ride on an elephant!

But the most extraordinary revelation made by this doctor is contained in the following paragraph which, I again beg the reader to remember, was not written by a humorous globetrotter or by the librettist of Pinafore, but by a native Hindoo woman who is bitterly in earnest, a woman who left her country to study the condition of women in England and America, and who then returned to devote her life to the attempt to better the dreadful fate of her country-women:

"As it is absurd to assume that girls should be allowed to choose their future husbands, in their infancy, this is done for them by their parents or guardians. In the northern part of this country the family barber is generally employed to select the boys and girls to be married, it being considered too humiliating and mean an act on the part of the parents and guardians to go out and seek their future daughters and sons-in-law."


A more complete disregard of the real object of marriage and of the existence of love could hardly be found among clams and oysters. In their sexual relations the civilized Hindoos are, indeed, far beneath the lowest of animals. Young animals are never prevented by their parents from mating according to their choice; they never unite till they have reached maturity; they use their procreative instinct only for the purpose for which it was designed, whereas the Hindoos—like their wild neighbors—indulge in a perpetual carnival of lust; they never kill their offspring, and they never maltreat their females as the Hindoos do.[265] On this last point some more details must be given:

"The Hindu is supposed to be, of all creatures on earth, the most generous, the most kind-hearted, the most gentle, the most sympathetic, and the most unselfish. After living for nearly seven years in India, I must tell you that the reverse of this is true.... It has been said that among the many languages spoken by the people of Hindustan there is no such word as home, in the sense in which we understand it; that among the languages spoken there is no such word as love, in the sense in which we know it. I cannot vouch for the truth of this, as I am not acquainted with the languages of India, but I do know that among all the heathen people of that country there is no such place as home, as we understand it; there is no such sentiment as love, as we feel it."

The writer of the above is Dr. Salem Armstrong-Hopkins, who, during her long connection with the Woman's Hospital of Hyderabad, Sindh, had the best of opportunities for observing the natives of all classes, both at the hospital and in their homes, to which she was often summoned. In her book Within the Purdah she throws light on the popular delusion that Hindoos must be kind to each other since they are kind to animals. In Bombay there is even a hospital for diseased and aged animals: but that is a result of religious superstition, not of real sympathy, for the same Brahman who is afraid to bring a curse upon his soul by killing an animal "will beat his domestic animals most cruelly, and starve and torture them in many ways, thus exhibiting his lack of kindness." And the women fare infinitely worse than the animals. The wealthiest are perpetually confined in rooms without table or chairs, without a carpet on the mud floor or picture on the mud walls—and this in a country where fabulous sums are spent on fine architecture. All girl babies are neglected, or dosed with opium if they cry; the mother's milk—which an animal would give to them—being reserved for their brothers, though these brothers be already several years old. Unless a girl is married before her twelfth year she is considered a disgrace to the family, is stripped of all her finery and compelled to do the drudgery of her fathers household, receiving

"kicks and abuses from any and all its members, and often upon the slightest provocation. Should she fall ill, no physician is consulted and no effort is made to restore her health or to prolong life." "The expression of utter hopelessness, despair, and misery" on such a girl's face "beggars description."

Nor are matters any better for those who get married. Not only are they bestowed in infancy on any male—from an infant boy to an old man with many wives—whom the father can secure[266]—but the daughter-in-law becomes "a drudge and slave in her husband's home." One of her tasks is to grind wheat between two great stones. "This is very arduous labor, and the slight little women sometimes faint away while engaged in the task", yet by a satanic refinement of cruelty they are compelled to sing a grinding song while the work lasts and never stop, on penalty of being beaten. And though they prepare all the food for the family and serve the others, they get only what is left—which often is nothing at all, and many literally starve to death. No wonder these poor creatures—be they little girls or women—all wear "the same look of hopeless despair and wretchedness," making an impression on the mind more pitiable than any disease. The writer had among her patients some who tried by the most agonizing of deaths—voluntary starvation—to escape their misery.


No one can read these revelations without agreeing with the writer that "the Hindu is of all people the most cowardly and the most cruel," and that he cannot know what real love of any kind is. The Abbe Dubois, who lived many years among the Hindoos, wearing their clothes and adopting their customs so far as they did not conflict with his Christian conscience, wrote (I., 51) that

"the affection and attachment between brothers and sisters, never very ardent, almost entirely disappears as soon as they are married. After that event, they scarcely ever meet, unless it be to quarrel."

Ramabai Sarasvati thinks that loving couples can be found in India, but Dubois, applying the European standard, declared (I., 21, 302-303):

"During the long period of my observation of them and their habits, I am not sure that I have ever seen two Hindu marriages that closely united the hearts by a true and inviolable attachment."

The husband thinks his wife "entitled to no attentions, and never pays her any, even in familiar intercourse." He looks on her "merely as his servant, and never as his companion." "We have said enough of women in a country where they are considered as scarcely forming a part of the human species." And Ramabai herself confesses (44) that at home "men and women have almost nothing in common." "The women's court is situated at the back of the houses, where darkness reigns perpetually." Even after the second ceremony the young couple seldom meet and talk.

"Being cut off from the chief means of forming attachment, the young couple are almost strangers, and in many cases ... a feeling kindred to hatred takes root between them." There is "no such thing as the family having pleasant times together."

Dr. Ryder thinks that for "one kind husband there are one hundred thousand cruel ones," and she gives the following illustration among others:

"A rich husband (merchant caste) brought his wife to me for treatment. He said she was sixteen, and they had been married eight years. 'She was good wife, do everything he want, wait on him and eight brothers, carry water up three flights of stairs on her head; now, what will you cure her for? She suffer much. I not pay too much money. When it cost too much I let her die. I don't care. I got plenty wives. When you cure her for ten shilling I get her done, but I not pay more.' I explained to him that her medicines would cost more than that amount, and he left, saying, 'I don't care. Let her die. I can have plenty wives. I like better a new wife.'"[267]

Though the lawgiver Manu wrote "where women are honored there the gods are pleased," he was one of the hundreds of Sanscrit writers, who, as Ramabai Sarasvati relates, "have done their best to make woman a hateful being in the world's eye." Manu speaks of their "natural heartlessness," their "impure desires, wrath, dishonesty, malice, and bad conduct." Though mothers are more honored than other women, yet even they are declared to be "as impure as falsehood itself."

"I have never read any sacred book in Sanscrit literature without meeting this kind of hateful sentiment about women.... Profane literature is by no means less severe or more respectful toward women."

The wife is the husband's property and classed by Manu with "cows, mares, female camels, slave girls, buffalo cows, she goats, and ewes." A man may abandon his wife if he finds her blemished or diseased, while she must not even show disrespect to a husband who is diseased, addicted to evil passions, or a drunkard. If she does she shall be deserted for three months and deprived of her ornaments and furniture.[268] Even British rule has not been able to improve the condition of woman, for the British Government is bound by treaties not to interfere with social and religious customs; hence many pathetic cases are witnessed in the courts of unwilling girls handed over, in accordance with national custom, to the loathed husbands selected for them. "The gods and justice always favor the men." "Many women put an end to their earthly sufferings by committing suicide."


If anything can cast a ray of comfort into the wretched life of a Hindoo maiden or wife it is the thought that, after all, she is much better off than if she were a widow—though, to be sure, she runs every risk of becoming one ere she is old enough to be considered marriageable in any country where women are regarded as human beings. In considering the treatment of Hindoo widows we reach the climax of inhuman cruelty—a cruelty far exceeding that practised by American Indians toward female prisoners, because more prolonged and involving mental as well as physical agonies.

In 1881 there were in British India alone 20,930,000 widows, 669,000 of whom were under nineteen, and 78,976 under nine years of age.[269] Now a widow's life is naturally apt to be one of hardship because she has lost her protector and bread-winner; but in India the tragedy of her fate is deepened a thousandfold by the diabolical ill-treatment of which she is made the innocent victim. A widow who has borne sons or who is aged is somewhat less despised than the child widow; on her falls the worst abuse and hatred of the community, though she be as innocent of any crime as an angel. In the eyes of a Hindoo the mere fact of being a widow is a crime—the crime of surviving her husband, though he may have been seventy and the wife seven.

All women love their soft glossy hair; and a Hindoo woman, says Ramabai Sarasvati (82), "thinks it worse than death to lose her hair"; yet "among the Brahmans of Deccan the heads of all widows must be shaved regularly every fortnight." "Shaved head" is a term of derision everywhere applied to the widows. All their ornaments are taken from them and they are excluded from every ceremony of joy. The name "rand" given to a widow "is the same that is borne by a Nautch girl or a harlot." One poor woman wrote to a missionary:

"O great Lord, our name is written with drunkards, with lunatics, with imbeciles, with the very animals; as they are not responsible, we are not. Criminals confined in jails for life are happier than we."

Another of these widows wrote:[270] "While our husbands live we are their slaves, when they die we are still worse off." The husband's funeral, she says, may last all day in a broiling sun, and while the others are refreshed, she alone is denied food and water. After returning she is reviled by her own relatives. Her mother says: "Unhappy creature! I can't bear the thought of anyone so vile. I wish she had never been born." Her mother-in-law says: "The horned viper! She has bitten my son and killed him, and now he is dead, and she, useless creature, is left behind." It is impossible for her to escape this fate by marrying again. The bare mention of remarriage by a widow, though she be only eight or nine years old, would be regarded, says Dubois (I., 191), "as the greatest of insults." Should she marry again "she would be hunted out of society, and no decent person would venture at any time to have the slightest intercourse with her."

Attempts have been made in recent times by liberal-minded men to marry widows; but they were subjected to so much odium and persecution therefor that they were driven to suicide.

When a widow dies her corpse is disposed of with hardly any ceremony. Should a widow try to escape her fate the only alternatives are suicide or a life of shame. To a Hindoo widow, says Ramabai Sarasvati, death is "a thousand times more welcome than her miserable existence." It is for this reason that the suttee or "voluntary" burning of widows on the husband's funeral pyre—the climax of inhuman atrocity—lost some of its horrors to the victims until the moment of agony arrived. I have already (p. 317) refuted the absurd whim that this voluntary death of Hindoo widows was a proof of their conjugal devotion. It was proof, on the contrary, of the unutterably cruel selfishness of the male Hindoos, who actually forged a text to make the suttee seem a religious duty—a forgery which during two thousand years caused the death of countless innocent women. Best was told that the real cause of widow-burning was a desire on the part of the men to put an end to the frequent murders of husbands by their cruelly treated wives (Reich, 212). However that may be, the suttee in all probability was due to the shrewd calculation that the fear of being burned alive, or being more despised and abused than the lowest outcasts, would make women more eager to follow obediently the code which makes of them abject slaves of their husbands, living only for them and never having a thought or a care for themselves.


Since, as Ward attests (116), the young widows "without exception, become abandoned women," it is obvious that one reason why the priests were so anxious to prevent them from marrying again was to insure an abundant supply of victims for their immoral purposes. The hypocritical Brahmans were not only themselves notorious libertines, but they shrewdly calculated that the simplest way to win the favor and secure control of the Indian populace was by pandering to their sensual appetites and supplying abundant opportunities and excuses for their gratification—making these opportunities, in fact, part and parcel of their religious ceremonies. Their temples and their sacred carts which traversed the streets were decorated with obscene pictures of a peculiarly disgusting kind,[271] which were freely exposed to the gaze of old and young of both sexes; their temples were little more than nurseries for the rearing of bayaderes, a special class of "sacred prostitutes;" while scenes of promiscuous debauchery sometimes formed part of the religious ceremony, usually under some hypocritical pretext.

It would be unjust, however, to make the Brahman priests entirely responsible for Hindoo depravity. It has indeed been maintained that there was a time when the Hindoos were free from all the vices which now afflict them; but that is one of the silly myths of ignorant dreamers, on a level with the notion that savages were corrupted by whites. One of the oldest Hindoo documents, the Mahabharata, gives us the native traditions concerning these "good old times" in two sentences:

"Though in their youthful innocence the women abandoned their husbands, they were guilty of no offence; for such was the rule in early times." "Just as cattle are situated, so are human beings, too, within their respective castes"

which suggests a state of promiscuity as decided as that which prevailed in Australia. Civilization did not teach the Hindoos love—for that comes last—but merely the refinements of lust, such as even the Greeks and Romans hardly knew. Ovid's Ars Amandi is a model of purity compared with the Hindoo "Art of Love," the Kāmasūtram (or Kama Soutra) of Vātsyāyana, which is nothing less than a handbook for libertines, of which it would be impossible even to print the table of contents. Whereas the translator of Ovid into a modern language need not omit more than a page of the text, the German translator of the Kāmasūtram, Dr. Richard Schmidt, who did his work in behalf of the Kgl. Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, felt it incumbent on him to turn more than fifty pages out of four hundred and seventy into Latin. Yet the author of this book, who lived about two thousand years ago, recommends that every one, including young girls, should study it. In India, as his French translator, Lamairesse, writes, "everything is done to awaken carnal desires even in young children of both sexes." The natural result is that, as the same writer remarks (186):

"Les categories des femmes faciles sont si nombreuses qu'elles doivent comprendre presque toutes les personnes du sexe. Aussi un ministre protestant ecrivait-il au milieu de notre siecle qu'il n'existait presque point de femmes vertueuses dans l'Inde."

The Rev. William Ward wrote (162) in 1824:

"It is a fact which greatly perplexes many of the well-informed Hindus, that notwithstanding the wives of Europeans are seen in so many mixed companies, they remain chaste; while their wives, though continually secluded, watched, and veiled, are so notoriously corrupt. I recollect the observation of a gentleman who had lived nearly twenty years in Bengal, whose opinions on such a subject demanded the highest regard, that the infidelity of the Hindu women was so great that he scarcely thought there was a single instance of a wife who had been always faithful to her husband."[272]


The Brahman priests, who certainly knew their people well, had so little faith in their virtue that they would not accept a girl to be brought up for temple service if she was over five years old. She had to be not only pure but physically flawless and sound in health. Yet her purity was not valued as a virtue, but as an article of commerce. The Brahmans utilized the charms of these girls for the purpose of supporting the temples with their sinful lives, their gains being taken from them as "offerings to the gods." As soon as a girl was old enough she was put up at auction and sold to the highest bidder. If she was specially attractive the bids would sometimes reach fabulous sums, it being a point of honor and eager rivalry among Rajahs and other wealthy men, young and old, to become the possessors of bayadere debutantes. Temporarily only, of course, for these girls were never allowed to marry. While they were connected with the temple they could give themselves to anyone they chose, the only condition being that they must never refuse a Brahman (Jacolliot, 169-76). The bayaderes, says Dubois, call themselves Deva-dasi, servants or slaves of the gods, "but they are known to the public by the coarser name of strumpets." They are, next to the sacrificers, the most important persons about the temples. While the poor widows who had been respectably married are deprived of all ornaments and joys of life, these wantons are decked with fine clothes, flowers, and jewelry; and gold is showered upon them. The bayaderes Vasantasena is described by the poet Cudraka as always wearing a hundred gold ornaments, living in her own palace, which has eight luxurious courts, and on one occasion refusing an unwelcome suitor though he sent 100,000 gold pieces.

Bayaderes are supposed to be originally descendants of the apsaras, or dancing girls of the god Indra, the Hindoo Jupiter. In reality they are recruited from various castes, some parents making it a point to offer their third daughter to the Brahmans. Bands of the bayaderes are engaged by the best families to provide dancing and music, especially at weddings. To have dealings with bayaderes is not only in good form, but is a meritorious thing, since it helps to support the temples. And yet, when one of these girls dies she is not cremated in the same place as other women, and her ashes are scattered to the winds. In some provinces of Bengal, Jacolliot says, she is only half burnt, and the body then thrown to the jackals and vultures.

The temple of Sunnat had as many as five hundred of these priestesses of Venus, and a Rajah has been known to entertain as many as two thousand of them. Bayaderes, or Nautch girls, as they are often called in a general way, are of many grades. The lowest go about the country in bands, while the highest may rise to the rank and dignity of an Aspasia. To the former class belong those referred to by Lowrie (148)—a band of twenty girls, all unveiled and dressed in their richest finery, who wanted to dance for his party and were greatly disappointed when refused. "Most of them were very young—about ten or eleven years old." Their course is brief; they soon lose their charms, are discarded, and end their lives as beggars.


A famous representative of the superior class of bayaderes is the heroine of King Cudraka's drama just referred to—Vasantasena. She has amassed immense wealth—the description of her palace takes up several pages—and is one of the best known personages in town, yet that does not prevent her from being spoken of repeatedly as "a noble woman, the jewel of the city."[273] She is, indeed, represented as differing in her love from other bayaderes, and, as she herself remarks, "a bayaderes is not reprehensible in the eyes of the world if she gives her heart to a poor man." She sees the Brahman Tscharudatta in the temple garden of Kama, the god of love, and forthwith falls in love with him, as he does with her, though he is married. One afternoon she is accosted in the street by a relative of the king, who annoys her with his unwelcome attentions. She takes refuge in her lover's house and, on the pretext that she has been pursued on account of her ornaments, leaves her jewelry in his charge. The jewels are stolen during the night, and this mishap leads to a series of others which finally culminate in Tscharudatta being led out to execution for the alleged murder of Vasantasena. At the last moment Vasantasena, who had been strangled by the king's relative, but has been revived, appears on the scene, and her lover's life is saved, as well as his honor.

The royal author of this drama, who has been called the Shakspere of India, probably lived in one of the first centuries of the Christian era. His play may in a certain sense be regarded as a predecessor of Manon Lescaut and Camille, inasmuch as an attempt is made in it to ascribe to the heroine a delicacy of feeling to which women of her class are naturally strangers. She hesitates to make advances to Tscharudatta, and at first wonders whether it would be proper to remain in his house. See informs her pursuer that "love is won by noble character, not by importunate advances." Tscharudatta says of her: "There is a proverb that 'money makes love—the treasurer has the treasure,' But no! she certainly cannot be won with treasures." She is in fact represented throughout as being different from the typical bayaderes, who are thus described by one of the characters:

"For money they laugh or weep; they win a man's confidence but do not give him theirs. Therefore a respectable man ought to keep bayaderes like flowers of a cemetery, three steps away from him. It is also said: changeable like waves of the sea, like clouds in a sunset, glowing only a moment—so are women. As soon as they have plundered a man they throw him away like a dye-rag that has been squeezed dry. This saying, too, is pertinent: just as no lotos grows on a mountain top, no mule draws a horse's loud, no scattered barley grows up as rice; so no wanton ever becomes a respectable woman."

Vasantasena, however, does become a respectable woman. In the last scene the king confers on her a veil, whereby the stain on her birth and life is wiped away and she becomes Tscharudatta's legitimate second wife.

But how about the first wife? Her actions show how widely in India conjugal love may differ from what we know as such, by the absence of monopoly and jealousy. When she first hears of the theft of Vasantasena's jewels in her husband's house she is greatly distressed at the impending loss of his good name, but is not in the least disturbed by the discovery that she has a rival. On the contrary, she takes a string of pearls that remains from her dowry, and sends it to her husband to be given to Vasantasena as an equivalent for her lost jewels. Vasantasena, on her part, is equally free from jealousy. Without knowing whence they came, she afterward sends the pearls to her lover's wife with these words addressed to her servants:

"Take these pearls and give them to my sister, Tscharudatta's wife, the honorable woman, and say to her: 'Conquered by Tscharudatta's excellence, I have become also your slave. Therefore use this string of pearls as a necklace.'"

The wife returned the pearls with the message:

"My master and husband has made you a present of these pearls. It would therefore be improper for me to accept them: my master and husband is my special jewel. This I beg you to consider."

And, in the final scenes, the wife shows her great love for her husband by hastening to get ready for the funeral pyre to be burnt alive with his corpse. And when, after expressing her joy at his rescue and kissing him, she turns and sees Vasantasena, she exclaims: "O this happiness! How do you do, my sister?" Vasantasena replies: "Now I am happy," and the two embrace!

The translator of Cudraka's play notes in the preface that there is a curious lack of ardor in the expression of Tscharudatta's love for Vasantasena, and he naively—though quite in the Hindoo spirit—explains this as showing that this superior person (who is a model of altruistic self-sacrifice in every respect), "remains untouched by coarse outbursts of sensual passion." The only time he warms up is when he hears that the bayaderes prefers him to her wealthy persecutor; he then exclaims, "Oh, how this girl deserves to be worshipped like a goddess." Vasantasena is much the more ardent of the two. It is she who goes forth to seek him, repeatedly, dressed in purple and pearls, as custom prescribes to a girl who goes to meet her lover. It is she who exclaims: "The clouds may rain, thunder, or send forth lightning: women who go to meet their lovers heed neither heat nor cold." And again: "may the clouds tower on high, may night come on, may the rain fall in torrents, I heed them not. Alas, my heart looks only toward the lover." It is she who is so absent-minded, thinking of him, that her maid suspects her passion; she who, when a royal suitor is suggested to her, exclaims, "'Tis love I crave to bestow, not homage."


This portrayal of the girl as the chief lover is quite the custom in Hindoo literature, and doubtless mirrors life as it was and is. Like a dog that fawns on an indifferent or cruel master, these women of India were sometimes attached to their selfish lovers and husbands. They had been trained from their childhood to be sympathetic, altruistic, devoted, self-sacrificing, and were thus much better prepared than the men for the germs of amorous sentiment, which can grow only in such a soil of self-denial. Hence it is that Hindoo love-poems are usually of the feminine gender. This is notably the case with the Saptacatakam of Hala, an anthology of seven hundred Prakrit verses made from a countless number of love-poems that are intended to be sung—"songs," says Albrecht Weber, "such as the girls of India, especially perhaps the bayaderes or temple girls may have been in the habit of singing."[274] Some of these indicate a strong individual preference and monopoly of attachment:

No. 40: "Her heart is dear to her as being your abode, her eyes because she saw you with them, her body because it has become thin owing to your absence."

No. 43: "The burning (grief) of separation is (said to be) made more endurable by hope. But, mother, if my beloved is away from me even in the same village, it is worse than death to me."

No. 57: "Heedless of the other youths, she roams about, transgressing the rules of propriety, casting her glances in (all) directions of the world for your sake, O child."

No. 92: "That momentary glimpse of him whom, oh, my aunt, I constantly long to see, has (touched) quenched my thirst (as little) as a drink taken in a dream."

No. 185: "She has not sent me. You have no relations with her. What concern of ours is it therefore? Well, she dies in her separation from you."

No. 202: "No matter how often I repeat to my mistress the message you confided to me, she replies 'I did not hear' (what you said), and thus makes me repeat it a hundred times."

No. 203: "As she looked at you, filled with the might of her self-betraying love, so she then, in order to conceal it, looked also at the other persons."

No. 234: "Although all (my) possessions were consumed in the village fire, yet is (my) heart rejoiced, (when it was put out) he took the bucket as it passed from hand to hand (from my hand)."

No. 299: "She stares, without having an object, gives vent to long sighs, laughs into vacant space, mutters unintelligible words—surely she must bear something in her heart."

No. 302: "'Do give her to the one she carries in her heart. Do you not see, aunt, that she is pining away?' 'No one rests in my heart' [literally; whence could come in my heart resting?]—thus speaking, the girl fell into a swoon."

No. 345: "If it is not your beloved, my friend, how is it that at the mention of his name your face glows like a lotos bud opened by the sun's rays?"

No. 368: "Like illness without a doctor—like living with relatives if one is poor, like the sight of an enemy's prosperity—so difficult is it to endure separation from you."

No. 378: "Whatever you do, whatever you say, and wherever you turn your eyes, the day is not long enough for her efforts to imitate you."

No. 440: "...She, whose every limb was bathed in perspiration, at the mere mention of his name."

No. 453: "My friend! tell me honestly, I ask you: do the bracelets of all women become larger when the lover is far away?"

No. 531: "In whichever direction I look I see you before me, as if painted there. The whole firmament brings before me as it were a series of pictures of you."

No. 650: "From him proceed all discourses, all are about him, end with him. Is there then, my aunt, but one young man in all this village?"

While these poems may have been sung mostly by bayaderes, there are others which obviously give expression to the legitimate feelings of married women. This is especially true of the large number which voice the sorrows of women at the absence of their husbands after the rains have set in. The rainy season is in India looked on as the season of love, and separation from the lover at this time is particularly bewailed, all the more as the rains soon make the roads impassable.

No. 29: "To-day, when, alone, I recalled the joys we had formerly shared, the thunder of the new clouds sounded to me like the death-drum (that accompanies culprits to the place of execution)."

No. 47: "The young wife of the man who has got ready for his journey roams, after his departure, from house to house, trying to get the secret for preserving life from wives who have learned how to endure separation from their beloved."

No. 227: "In putting down the lamp the wife of the wanderer turns her face aside, fearing that the stream of tears that falls at the thought of the beloved might drop on it."

No. 501: "When the voyager, on taking leave, saw his wife turn pale, he was overcome by grief and unable to go."

No. 623: "The wanderer's wife does indeed protect her little son by interposing her head to catch the rain water dripping from the eaves, but fails to notice (in her grief over her absent one) that he is wetted by her tears."

These twenty-one poems are the best samples of everything contained in Hala's anthology illustrating the serious side of love among the bayaderes and married women of India. Careful perusal of them must convince the reader that there is nothing in them revealing the altruistic phases of love. There is much ardent longing for the selfish gratification which the presence of a lover would give; deep grief at his absence; indications that a certain man could afford her much more pleasure by his presence than others—and that is all. When a girl wails that she is dying because her lover is absent she is really thinking of her own pleasure rather than his. None of these poems expresses the sentiment, "Oh, that I could do something to make him happy!" These women are indeed taught and forced to sacrifice themselves for their husbands, but when it comes to spontaneous utterances, like these songs, we look in vain for evidence of pure, devoted, high-minded, romantic love. The more frivolous side of Oriental love is, on the other hand, abundantly illustrated in Hala's poems, as the following samples show:

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