Primitive Love and Love-Stories
by Henry Theophilus Finck
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It is obvious, however, that since the human infant needs parental care much longer than young animals need it, natural selection must have favored the survival of the offspring of couples who did not separate after a mating period but remained together some years. This tendency would be further favored by the warrior's desire to have a private drudge or conjugal slave. Having stolen or bought such a "wife" and protected her against wild beasts and men, he would come to feel a sense of ownership in her—as in his private weapons. Should anyone steal his weapons, or, at a higher stage, his cattle or other property, he would be animated by a fierce desire for revenge; and the same would be the case if any man stole his wife—or her favors. This savage desire for revenge is the second phase of "jealousy," when women are guarded like other property, encroachment on which impels the owner to angry retaliation either on the thief or on the wife who has become his accomplice. Even among the lowest races, such as the Fuegians and Australians, great precautions are taken to guard women from "robbers." From the nature of the case, women are more difficult to guard than any other kind of "movable" property, as they are apt to move of their own accord. Being often married against their will, to men several times their age, they are only too apt to make common cause with the gallant. Powers relates that among the California Indians, a woman was severely punished or even killed by her husband if seen in company with another man in the woods; and an Australian takes it for granted, says Curr, "that his wife has been unfaithful to him whenever there has been an opportunity for criminality." The poacher may be simply flogged or fined, but he is apt to be mutilated or killed. The "injured husband" reserves the right to intrigue with as many women as he pleases, but his wife, being his absolute property, has no rights of her own, and if she follows his bad example he mutilates or kills her too.


Strangling, stoning, burning, impaling, flaying alive, tearing limb from limb, throwing from a tower, burying alive, disemboweling, enslaving, drowning, mutilating, are some of the punishments inflicted by savages and barbarians in all parts of the world on adulterous men or women. Specifications would be superfluous. Let one case stand for a hundred. Maximilian Prinz zu Wied relates (I., 531, 572), that the Indians (Blackfeet),

"severely punished infidelity on the part of their wives by cutting off their noses. At Fort Mackenzie we saw a number of women defaced in this hideous manner. In about a dozen tents we saw at least half a dozen females thus disfigured."

Must we not look upon the state of mind which leads to such terrible actions as genuine jealousy? Is there any difference between it and the feeling we ourselves know under that name? There is—a world-wide difference. Take Othello, who though a Moor, acts and feels more like an Englishman. The desire for revenge animates him too: "I'll tear her to pieces," he exclaimed when Iago slanders Desdemona—"will chop her into messes," and as for Cassio,

Oh, that the slave had forty thousand lives! One is too poor, too weak for my revenge.

* * * * *

Arise, black vengeance from the hollow hell.


But this eagerness for revenge is only one phase of his passion. Though it leads him, in a frenzy of despair, to smother his wife, it is yet, even in his violent soul, subordinate to those feelings of wounded honor and outraged affection which constitute the essence of true jealousy. When he supposes himself betrayed by his wife and his friend he clutches, as Ulrici remarks (I., 404), with the blind despair of a shipwrecked man to his sole remaining property—honor:

"His honor, as he thinks, demands the sacrifice of the lives of Desdemona and Cassio. The idea of honor in those days, especially in Italy, inevitably required the death of the faithless wife as well as that of the adulterer. Othello therefore regards it as his duty to comply with this requirement, and, accordingly it is no lie when he calls himself 'an honorable murderer,' doing 'naught in hate, but all in honor,'.... Common thirst for revenge would have thought only of increasing the sufferings of its victim, of adding to its own satisfaction. But how touching, on the other hand, is Othello's appeal to Desdemona to pray and to confess her sins to Heaven, that he may not kill her soul with her body! Here, at the moment of the most intense excitement, in the desperate mood of a murderer, his love still breaks forth, and we again see the indestructible nobility of his soul."

Schlegel erred, therefore, when he maintained that Othello's jealousy was of the sensual, Oriental sort. So far as it led to the murder, it was; but Shakspere gave it touches which allied it to the true jealousy of the heart of which Schlegel himself has aptly said that it is "compatible with the tenderest feeling and adoration of the beloved object." Of such tender feeling and adoration there is not a trace in the passion of the Indian who bites off his wife's nose or lower lip to disfigure her, or who ruthlessly slays her for doing once what he does at will. Such expressions as "outraged affection," or "alienated affection," do not apply to him, as there is no affection in the case at all; no more than in that of the old Persian or Turk who sews up one of his hundred wives in a sack and throws her into the river because she was starving and would eat of the fruits of the tree of knowledge. This Oriental jealousy is often a "dog-in-the-manger" feeling. The Iroquois were the most intelligent of North American Indians, yet in cases of adultery they punished the woman solely, "who was supposed to be the only offender" (Morgan, 331). Affection is out of the question in such cases, anger at a slave's disobedience, and vengeance, being the predominant feelings. In countries where woman is degraded and enslaved, as Verplanck remarks (III., 61),

"the jealous revenge of the master husband, for real or imagined evil, is but the angry chastisement of an offending slave, not the terrible sacrifice of his own happiness involved in the victim's punishment. When woman is a slave, a property, a thing, all that jealousy may prompt is done, to use Othello's own distinction, 'in hate' and 'not in love.'"

Another equally vital distinction between the jealousy of savagery and civilization is indicated in these lines from Othello:

I had rather be a toad, And live upon the vapor of a dungeon, Than keep a corner in the thing I love For other's uses.

And again:

I had been happy, if the general camp, Pioners and all, had tasted her sweet body, So I had nothing known.


It is the knowledge, or suspicion, that he has not a monopoly of his wife that tortures Shakspere's Othello, and constitutes the essence of his jealousy, whereas a savage is his exact antipode in that respect; he cares not a straw if the whole camp shares the embraces of his wife—provided he knows it and is rewarded for it. Wounded pride, violated chastity, and broken conjugal vows—pangs which goad us into jealousy—are considerations unknown to him. In other words, his "jealousy" is not a solicitude for marital honor, for wifely purity and affection, but simply a question of lending his property and being paid for it. Thus, in the case of the Blackfeet Indians referred to a moment ago, the author declares that while they mutilated erring wives by cutting off their noses (the Comanches and other tribes, down to the Brazilian Botocudos, did the same thing), they eagerly offered their wives and daughters in exchange for a bottle of whiskey. In this respect, too, this case is typical. Sutherland found (I., 184) that in regard to twenty-one tribes of Indians out of thirty-eight there was express record of unlimited intercourse before marriage and the loaning or exchanging of wives. In seventeen he could not get express information, and in only four was it stated that a chaste girl was more esteemed than an unchaste one. In the chapter on Indifference to Chastity I cited testimony showing that in Australia, the Pacific Islands, and among aborigines in general, chastity is not valued as a virtue. There are plenty of tribes that attempt to enforce it, but for commercial, sensual, or at best, genealogical reasons, not from a regard for personal purity; so that among all these lower races jealousy in our sense of the word is out of the question.

Care must be taken not to be imposed on by deceptive facts and inaccurate testimony. Thus Westermarck says (119) that

"in the Pelew Islands it is forbidden even to speak about another man's wife or mention her name. In short, the South Sea Islanders are, as Mr. Macdonald remarks, generally jealous of the chastity of their wives."

Nothing could be more misleading than these two sentences. The men are not jealous of the women's chastity, for they unhesitatingly lend them to other men; they are "jealous" of them simply as they are of their other movable property. As for the Pelew Islanders in particular, what Westermarck cites from Ymer is quite true; it is also true that if a man beats or insults a woman he must pay a fine or suffer the death penalty; and that if he approaches a place where women are bathing he must put them on their guard by shouting. But all these things are mere whimsicalities of barbarian custom, for the Pelew Islanders are notoriously unchaste even for Polynesians. They have no real family life; they have club-houses in which men consort promiscuously with women; and no moral restraint of any sort is put upon boys and girls, nor have they any idea of modesty or decency.[17] (Ploss, II., 416; Kotzebue, III., 215.)

A century ago Alexander Mackenzie wrote (66) regarding the Knistenaux or Cree Indians of the Northwest:

"It does not appear ... that chastity is considered by them as a virtue; or that fidelity is believed to be essential to the happiness of wedded life; though it sometimes happens that the infidelity of a wife is punished by the husband with the loss of her hair, nose, and perhaps life; such severity proceeds from its having been practised without his permission; for a temporary exchange of wives is not uncommon; and the offer of their persons is considered as a necessary part of the hospitality due to strangers."

Of the Natchez Indians Charlevoix wrote (267): "There is no such thing as jealousy in these marriages; on the contrary the Natchez, without any ceremony, lend one another their wives." Concerning the Eskimos we read in Bancroft:

"They have no idea of morality, and the marriage relation sits so loosely as to hardly excite jealousy in its abuse. Female chastity is held a thing of value only as men hold property in it." "A stranger is always provided with a female companion for the night, and during the husband's absence he gets another man to take his place" (I., 81, 80).

The evidence collected by him also shows that the Thlinkeets and Aleuts freely exchanged or lent their wives. Of the coast Indians of Southern Alaska and British Columbia, A.P. Niblack says (Smithson. Rep., 1888, 347):

"Jealousy being unknown amongst the Indians, and sanctioned prostitution a common evil, the woman who can earn the greatest number of blankets or the largest sum of money wins the admiration of others for herself and a high position for her husband by her wealth."

In the same government reports (1886, Pt. I.) C. Willoughby writes of the Quinault Agency Washington Indians: "In their domestic relations chastity seems to be almost unknown." Of the Chippewayans Hearne relates (129) that it is a very common custom among the men to exchange a night's lodging with each other's wives. But this is so far from being considered as an act which is criminal, that it is esteemed by them as one of the strongest ties of friendship between two families.[18] The Hurons and many other tribes from north to south had licentious festivals at which promiscuous intercourse prevailed betraying the absence of jealousy. Of the Tupis of Brazil Southey says (I., 241): "The wives who found themselves neglected, consoled themselves by initiating the boys in debauchery. The husbands seem to have known nothing of jealousy." The ancient inhabitants of Venezuela lived in houses big enough to hold one hundred and sixty persons, and Herrera says of them:

"They observed no law or rule in matrimony, but took as many wives as they would, and they as many husbands, quitting one another at pleasure, without reckoning any harm done on either part. There was no such thing as jealousy among them, all living as best pleased them, without taking offence at one another."

The most painstaking research has failed to reveal to me a single Indian tribe in North or South America that showed a capacity for real jealousy, that is, anguish based on a sense of violated wifely chastity and alienated affection. The actions represented as due to jealousy are always inspired by the desire for revenge, never by the anguish of disappointed affection; they are done in hate, not in love. A chief who kills or mutilates one of his ten wives for consorting with another man without his consent, acts no more from jealousy, properly so called, than does a father who shoots the seducer of his daughter, or a Western mob that lynches a horse-thief. Among the Australian aborigines killing an intriguing wife is an every-day occurrence, though "chastity as a virtue is absolutely unknown amongst all the tribes of which there are records," as one of the best informed authorities, J.D. Wood, tells us (403). Detailed evidence that the same is true of the aborigines of all the continents will be given in later chapters. The natives usually share their females both before and after marriage; monopoly of body and soul—of which true jealousy is the guardian—is a conception beyond their moral horizon. A few more illustrations may be added.

Burton (T.T.G.L., II., 27) cites a writer who says that the natives of Sao Paulo had a habit of changing wives for a time, "alleging, in case of reproof, that they are not able to eat always of the same dish." Holub testifies (II., 83) that in South Africa jealousy "rarely shows itself very prominently;" and he uses the word in the widest sense. The fierce Masai lend their wives to guests. The Mpongwe of the Gaboon River send out their wives—with a club if necessary—to earn the wages of shame (Campiegne, 192). In Madagascar Ellis (137) found sensuality gross and universal, though concealed. Unchastity in either sex was not regarded as a vice, and on the birth of the king's daughter "the whole capital was given up to promiscuous debauchery." According to Mrs. French Sheldon (Anth. Inst., XXL, 360), all along the east coast of Africa no shame attaches to unchastity before marriage. It is needless to add that in all such cases punishment of a wife cannot be prompted by real jealousy for her "chastity." It is always a question of proprietorship. Cameron relates (Across Africa, II., Chap. IV.) that in Urua the chief boasted that he exercised a right to any woman who might please his fancy, when on his journeys about the country.

"Morals are very lax throughout the country, and wives are not thought badly of for being unfaithful; the worst they may expect being severe chastisement from the injured husband. But he never uses excessive violence for fear of injuring a valuable piece of household furniture."

When Du Chaillu travelled through Ashango Land King Quenqueza rose to receive him.

"With the figurative politeness of a negro chief, he assured me that his town, his forests, his slaves, his wives, were mine (he was quite sincere with regard to the last") (19).

Asia affords many instances of the absence of jealousy. Marco Polo already noted that in Thibet, when travellers arrived at a place, it was customary to distribute them in the houses, making them temporary masters of all they contained, including the women, while their husbands meanwhile lodged elsewhere. In Kamtschatka it was considered a great insult if a guest refused a woman thus offered him. Most astounding of all is what G.E. Robertson relates of the Kaffirs of Hindu-Kush (553):

"When a woman is discovered in an intrigue, a great outcry is made, and the neighbors rush to the scene with much laughter. A goat is sent for on the spot for a peace-making feast between the gallant and the husband. Of course the neighbors also partake of the feast; the husband and wife both look very happy, and so does every one else except the lover, who has to pay for the goat, and in addition will have to pay six cows later on."

Here we see a great value attached apparently to conjugal fidelity, but in reality an utter and ludicrous indifference to it.

Asia is also the chief home of polyandry, though, as we saw in the preceding chapter, this custom has prevailed on other continents too. The cases there cited to show the absence of monopoly also prove the absence of jealousy. The effect of polyandry is thus referred to by Colonel King (23):

"A Toda woman often has three or four husbands, who are all brothers, and with each of whom she cohabits a month at a time. What is more singular, such men as, by the paucity of women among the tribe, are prevented from obtaining a share in a wife, are allowed, with the permission of the fraternal husbands, to become temporary partners with them. Notwithstanding these singular family arrangements, the greatest harmony appears to prevail among all parties—husbands, wives, and lovers."

Whatever may have been the causes leading to the strange custom of marrying one woman to several men—poverty, the desire to reduce the population in mountainous regions, scarcity of women due to female infanticide, the need of protection of a woman during the absence of one husband—the fact stares us in the face that a race of men who calmly submit to such a disgusting practice cannot know jealousy. So, too, in the cases of jus primae noctis (referred to in the chapter on Indifference to Chastity), where the men not only submitted to an outrage so damnable to our sense of honor, affection, and monopoly, but actually coveted it as a privilege or a religious blessing and paid for it accordingly. Note once more how the sentiments associated with women and love change and grow.

Petherick says (151) that among the Hassangeh Arabs, marriages are valid only three or four days, the wives being free the rest of the time to make other alliances. The married men, far from feeling this a grievance,

"felt themselves highly flattered by any attentions paid to their better halves during their free-and-easy days. They seem to take such attentions as evidence that their wives are attractive."

A readiness to forgive trespasses for a consideration is widely prevalent. Powers says that with the California Indians "no adultery is so flagrant but the husband can be placated with money, at about the same rate that would be paid for murder." The Tasmanians illustrate the fact that the same tribes that are the most ferocious in the punishment of secret amours—that is, infringements on their property rights—are often the most liberal in lending their wives. As Bonwick tells us (72), they felt honored if white men paid attention to them. A circumstance which seems to have puzzled some naive writers: that Australians and Africans have been known to show less "jealousy" of whites than of their own countrymen, finds an easy explanation in the greater ability of the white man to pay for the husband's complaisance. In some cases, in the absence of a fine, the husband takes his revenge in other ways, subjecting the culprit's wife to the same outrage (as among natives of Guiana and New Caledonia) or delivering his own guilty (or rather disobedient) wife to young men (as among the Omahas) and then abandoning her. The custom of accepting compensation for adultery prevailed also among Dyaks, Mandingoes, Kaffirs, Mongolians, Pahari and other tribes of India, etc. Falkner says (126) that among the Patagonians in cases of adultery the wife is not blamed, but the gallant is punished

"unless he atones for the injury by some valuable present. They have so little decency in this respect, that oftentimes, at the command of the wizards, they superstitiously send their wives to the woods to prostitute themselves to the first person they meet."


Enough has been said to prove the incorrectness of Westermarck's assertion (515) that the lack of jealousy is "a rare exception in the human race." Real jealousy, as a matter of fact, is unknown to the lower races, and even the feeling of revenge that passes by that name is commonly so feeble as to be obliterated by compensations of a more or less trifling kind. When we come to a stage of civilization like that represented by Persians and other Orientals, or by the ancient Greeks, we find that men are indeed no longer willing to lend their wives. They seem to have a regard for chastity and a desire for conjugal monopoly. Other important traits of modern jealousy are, however, still lacking, notably affection. The punishments are hideously cruel; they are still inflicted "in hate, not in love." In other words, the jealousy is not yet of the kind which may form an ingredient of love. Its essence is still "bloody thoughts and revenge."

Reich cites (256) a typical instance of Oriental ferocity toward an erring wife, from a book by J.J. Strauss, who relates that on June 9, 1671, a Persian avenged himself on his wife for a trespass by flaying her alive, and then, as a warning to other women, hanging up her skin in the house. Strauss saw with his own eyes how the flayed body was thrown into the street and dragged out into a field. Drowning in sacks, throwing from towers, and other fiendish modes of vengeance have prevailed in Persia as far back as historic records go; and the women, when they got a chance, were no better than the men. Herodotus relates how the wife of Xerxes, having found her husband's cloak in the house of Masista, cut off his wife's breasts and gave them to the dogs, besides mutilating her otherwise, as well as her daughter.

The monogamous Greeks were not often guilty of such atrocities, but their custom (nearly universal and not confined to Athens, as is often erroneously stated) of locking up their women in the interior of the houses, shutting them off from almost everything that makes life interesting, betrays a kind of jealousy hardly less selfish than that of the savages who disposed of their wives as they pleased. It practically made slaves and prisoners of them, quite in the Oriental style. Such a custom indicates an utter lack of sympathy and tenderness, not to speak of the more romantic ingredients of love, such as adoration and gallantry; and it implies a supreme contempt for and distrust of, character in wives, all the more reprehensible because the Greeks did not value purity per se but only for genealogical reason, as is proved by the honors they paid to the disreputable hetairai. There are surprisingly few references to masculine jealousy in Greek erotic literature. The typical Greek lover seems to have taken rivalry as blandly as the hero of Terence's play spoken of in the last chapter, who, after various outbursts of sentimentality, is persuaded, in a speech of a dozen lines, to share his mistress with a rich officer. Nor can I see anything but maudlin sentimentality in such conceits as Meleager utters in two of his poems (Anthology, 88, 93) in which he expresses jealousy of sleep, for its privilege of closing his mistress's eyes; and again of the flies which suck her blood and interrupt her slumber. The girl referred to is Zenophila, a common wanton (see No. 90). This is the sensual side of the Greek jealousy, chastity being out of the question.

The purely genealogical side of Greek masculine jealousy is strikingly revealed in the Medea of Euripides. Medea had, after slaying her own brother, left her country to go with Jason to Corinth. Here Jason, though he had two children by her, married the daughter of the King Creon. With brutal frankness, but quite in accordance with the selfish Greek ideas, he tries to explain to Medea the motives for his second marriage: that they might all dwell in comfort instead of suffering want,

"and that I might rear my sons as doth befit my house; further, that I might be the father of brothers for the children thou hast borne, and raise these to the same high rank, uniting the family in one—to my lasting bliss. Thou, indeed, hast no need of more children, but me it profits to help my present family by that which is to be. Have I miscarried here? Not even thou wouldst say so unless a rival's charms rankled in thy bosom. No, but you women have such strange ideas, that you think all is well so long as your married life runs smooth; but if some mischance occur to ruffle your love, all that was good and lovely erst you reckon as your foes. Yea, men should have begotten children from some other source, no female race existing; thus would no evil ever have fallen on mankind."

Jason, Greek-fashion, looked upon a woman's jealousy as mere unbridled lust, which must not be allowed to stand in the way of the men's selfish desire to secure filial worship of their precious shades after death. As Benecke remarks (56): "For a woman to wish to keep her husband to herself was a sign that she was at once unreasonable and lascivious." The women themselves were trained and persuaded to take this view. The chorus of Corinthian women admonishes Medea: "And if thy lord prefers a fresh love, be not angered with him for that; Zeus will judge 'twixt thee and him herein." Medea herself says to Jason: "Hadst thou been childless still, I could have pardoned thy desire for this new union." And again: "Hadst thou not had a villain's heart, thou shouldst have gained my consent, then made this match, instead of hiding it from those who loved thee"—a sentiment which would seem to us astounding and inexplicable had we not became familiar with it in the preceding pages relating to savages and barbarians, by whom what we call infidelity was considered unobjectionable, provided it was not done secretly.

By her subsequent actions Medea shows in other ways that her jealousy is entirely of the primitive sort—fiendish revenge proceeding from hate. Of the chorus she asks but one favor: "Silence, if haply I can some way or means devise to avenge me on my husband for this cruel treatment;" and the chorus agrees: "Thou wilt be taking a just vengeance on thy husband, Medea." Creon, having heard that she had threatened with mischief not only Jason but his bride and her father, wants her to leave the city. She replies, hypocritically:

"Fear me not, Creon, my position scarce is such that I should seek to quarrel with princes. Why should I, for how hast thou injured me? Thou hast betrothed thy daughter where thy fancy prompted thee. No, 'tis my husband I hate."

But as soon as the king has left her, she sends to the innocent bride a present of a beautifully embroidered robe, poisoned by witchcraft. As soon as the bride has put it on she turns pale, foam issues from her mouth, her eyeballs roll in their sockets, a flame encircles her, preying on her flesh. With an awful shriek she sinks to the earth, past all recognition save to the eye of her father, who folds her in his arms, crying, "Who is robbing me of thee, old as I am and ripe for death? Oh, my child! would I could die with thee!" And his wish is granted, for he

"found himself held fast by the fine-spun robe...and then ensued a fearful struggle. He strove to rise but she still held him back; and if ever he pulled with all his might, from off his bones his aged flesh he tore. At last he gave it up, and breathed forth his soul in awful suffering; for he could no longer master the pain."

Not content with this, Medea cruelly slays Jason's children—her own flesh and blood—not in a frenzied impulse, for she has meditated that from the beginning, but to further glut her revengeful spirit. "I did it," she says to Jason, "to vex thy heart." And when she hears of the effect of the garment she had sent to his bride, she implores the messenger, "Be not so hasty, friend, but tell the manner of her death, for thou wouldst give me double joy, if so they perished miserably."


A passion of which such horrors are a possible outcome may well have led Euripides to write: "Ah me! ah me! to mortal man how dread a scourge is love!" But this passion is not love, or part of love. The horrors of such "jealousy" are often witnessed in modern life, but not where true love—affection—ever had its abode. It is the jealousy of the savage, which still survives, as other low phases of sexual passion do. The records of missionaries and others who have dwelt among savages contain examples of deeds as foul, as irrational, as vindictive as Medea's; deeds in which, as in the play of Euripides, the fury is vented on innocent victims, while the real culprit escapes with his life and sometimes even derives amusement from the situation. In Oneota (187-90), Schoolcraft relates the story of an Indian's wife who entered the lodge when his new bride was sitting by his side and plunged a dagger in her heart. Among the Fuegians Bove found (131) that in polygamous households many a young favorite lost her life through the fury of the other wives. More frequently this kind of jealousy vents itself in mutilations. Williams, in his book on the Fijians (152), relates that one day a native woman was asked, "How is it that so many of you women are without a nose?" The answer was: "It grows out of a plurality of wives. Jealousy causes hatred, and then the stronger tries to cut or bite off the nose of the one she hates," He also relates a case where a wife, jealous of a younger favorite, "pounced on her, and tore her sadly with nails and teeth, and injured her mouth by attempting to slit it open," A woman who had for two years been a member of a polygamous family told Williams that contentions among the women were endless, that they knew no comfort, that the bitterest hatred prevailed, while mutual cursings and recriminations were of daily occurrence. When one of the wives is so unfortunate as to fall under the husband's displeasure too, the others "fall upon her, cuffing, kicking, scratching, and even trampling on the poor creature, so unmercifully as to leave her half dead." Bourne writes (89), that Patagonian women sometimes "fight like tigers. Jealousy is a frequent occasion. If a squaw suspects her liege lord of undue familiarity with a rival, she darts upon the fair enchantress with the fury of a wild beast; then ensues such a pounding, scratching, hair-pulling, as beggars description." Meanwhile the gay deceiver stands at a safe distance, chuckling at the fun. The licentiousness of these Indians, he says, is equal to their cruelty. Powers (238) gives this graphic picture of a domestic scene common among the Wintun Indians of California. A chief, he says, may have two or more wives, but the attempt to introduce a second frequently leads to a fight.

"The two women dispute for the supremacy, often in a desperate pitched battle with sharp stones, seconded by their respective friends. They maul each other's faces with savage violence, and if one is knocked down her friends assist her to regain her feet, and the brutal combat is renewed until one or the other is driven from the wigwam. The husband stands by and looks placidly on, and when all is over he accepts the situation, retaining in his lodge the woman who has conquered the territory."


As a rule, however, there is more bark than bite in the conduct of the wives of a polygamous household, as is proved by the ease with which the husband, if he cares to, can with words or presents overcome the objections of his first wife to new-comers; even, for instance, in the case of such advanced barbarians as the Omaha Indians, who are said to have actually allowed a wife to punish a faithless husband—an exception so rare as to be almost incredible. Dorsey says of the Omahas (26):

"When a man wishes to take a second wife he always consults his first wife, reasoning thus with her: 'I wish you to have less work to do, so I think of taking your sister, your aunt, or your brother's daughter for my wife. You can then have her to aid you with your work.' Should the first wife refuse, the man cannot marry the other woman. Generally no objection is offered, if the second woman be one of the kindred of the first wife. Sometimes the wife will make the proposition to her husband: 'I wish you to marry my brother's daughter, as she and I are one flesh.'"

Concerning the inhabitants of the Philippine island of Mindanao, a German writer says (Zeit. fuer Ethn., 1885, 12):

"The wives are in no way jealous of one another; on the contrary, they are glad to get a new companion, as that enables them to share their work with another."

Schwaner says of the Borneans that if a man takes a second wife he pays to the first the batu saki, amounting to from sixty to one hundred guilders, and moreover he gives her presents, consisting of clothes, "in order to appease her completely," In reference to the tribes of Western Washington and Northwestern Oregon, Gibbs says (198):

"The accession of a new wife in the lodge very naturally produces jealousy and discord, and the first often returns for a time in dudgeon to her friends, to be reclaimed by her husband when he chooses, perhaps after propitiating her by some presents."

Such instances might be multiplied ad libitum.

In a still larger number of cases primitive woman's objection to rivals is easily overcome by the desire for the social position, wealth, and comfort which polygamy confers. I have already cited, in the chapter on Honorable Polygamy, a number of typical incidents showing how vanity, the desire to belong to a man who can afford several wives, or the wish to share the hard domestic or field work with others, often smothers the feeling of jealousy so completely that wives laugh at the idea of having their husbands all to themselves, beg them to choose other companions, or even use their own hard-earned money to buy them for their husbands. As this point is of exceptional importance, as evidencing radical changes in the ideas relating to sexual relations—and the resulting feelings themselves—further evidence is admissible.

Of the Plains Indians in general Colonel Dodge remarks (20):

"Jealousy would seem to have no place in the composition of an Indian woman, and many prefer to be, even for a time, the favorite of a man who already has a wife or wives, and who is known to be a good husband and provider, rather than tempt the precarious chances of an untried man."

And again:

"I have known several Indians of middle age, with already numerous wives and children, who were such favorites with the sex that they might have increased their number of wives to an unlimited extent had they been so disposed, and this, too, from among the very nicest girls of the tribe."

E.R. Smith, in his book on the Araucanians (213-14) tells of a Mapuche wife who, when he saw her,

"was frequently accompanied by a younger and handsomer woman than herself, whom she pointed out, with evident satisfaction, as her 'other self'—that is, her husband's wife number two, a recent addition to the family. Far from being dissatisfied, or entertaining any jealousy toward the newcomer, she said that she wished her husband would marry again; for she considered it a great relief to have someone to assist her in her household duties and in the maintenance of her husband."

McLean, who spent twenty-five years among the Tacullies and other Indians of the Hudson Bay region, says (301) that while polygamy prevails "the most perfect harmony seems to subsist among them." Hunter, who knew the Missouri and Arkansas Indians well, says (255) that "jealousy is a passion but little known, and much less indulged, among the Indians." In cases of polygamy the wives have their own lodges, separated by a short distance. They "occasionally visit each other, and generally live on the most friendly terms." But even this separation is not necessary, as we see from Catlin, who relates (I., 119) that among the Mandans it is common to see six or eight wives of a chief or medicine man "living under one roof, and all apparently quiet and contented."

In an article on the Zulus (Humanitarian, March, 1897), Miss Colenso refers to the fact that while polygamy is the custom, each wife has her own hut, wherefore

"you have none of the petty jealousies and quarrelling which distinguish the harems of the East, among the Zulu women, who, as a rule, are most friendly to each other, and the many wives of a great chief will live in a little colony of huts, each mistress in her own house and family, and interchanging friendly visits with the other ladies similarly situated."

But in Africa, too, separation is not essential to secure a peaceful result. Paulitschke (B.E.A.S., 30) reports that among the Somali polygamy is customary, two wives being frequent, and he adds that "the wives live together in harmony and have their household in common." Among the Abyssinian Arabs, Sir Samuel Baker found (127) that "concubinage is not considered a breach of morality; neither is it regarded by the legitimate wives with jealousy." Chillie (Centr. Afr., 158), says of the Landamas and Nalous: "It is very remarkable that good order and perfect harmony prevail among all these women who are called to share the same conjugal couch." The same writer says of the polygamous Foulahs (224):

"In general the women appear very happy, and by no means jealous of each other, except when the husbands make a present to one without giving anything to the rest."

Note the last sentence; it casts a strong light on our problem. It suggests that even where a semblance of jealousy is manifested by such women it may often be an entirely different thing from the jealousy we associate with love; envy, greed, or rivalry being more accurate terms for it. Here is another instance in point. Drake, in his work on the Indians of the United States has the following (I., 178):

"Where there is a plurality of wives, if one gets finer goods than the others, there is sure to be some quarrelling among the women; and if one or two of them are not driven off, it is because the others have not strength enough to do so. The man sits and looks on, and lets the women fight it out. If the one he loves most is driven off, he will go and stay with her, and leave the others to shift for themselves awhile, until they can behave better, as he says."

The Rev. Peter Jones gives this description (81) of a fight he witnessed between the two wives of an Ojibway chief:

"The quarrel arose from the unequal distribution of a loaf of bread between the children. The husband being absent, the wife who had brought the bread to the wigwam gave a piece of it to each child, but the best and largest portion to her own. Such partiality immediately led to a quarrel. The woman who brought the bread threw the remainder in anger to the other; she as quickly cast it back again; in this foolish way they kept on for some time, till their fury rose to such a height that they at length sprang at one another, catching hold of the hair of the head; and when each had uprooted a handful their ire seemed satisfied."

To make clear the difference between such ebullitions of temper and the passion properly called jealousy, let us briefly sum up the contents of this chapter. In its first stage it is a mere masculine rage in presence of a rival. An Australian female in such a case calmly goes off with the victor. A savage looks upon his wife, not as a person having rights and feelings of her own, but as a piece of property which he has stolen or bought, and may therefore do with whatever he pleases. In the second stage, accordingly, women are guarded like other movable property, infringement on which is fiercely resented and avenged, though not from any jealous regard for chastity, for the same husband who savagely punishes his wife for secret adultery, willingly lends her to guests as a matter of hospitality, or to others for a compensation. In some cases the husband's "wounded feelings" may be cured by the payment of a fine, or subjecting the culprit's wife to indignities. At a higher stage, where some regard is paid to chastity—at least in the women reserved for genealogical purposes—masculine jealousy is still of the sensual type, which leads to the life-long imprisonment of women in order to enforce a fidelity which in the absence of true love could not be secured otherwise. As for the wives in primitive households, they often indulge in "jealous" squabbles, but their passion, though it may lead to manifestations of rage and to fierce and cruel fights, is after all only skin deep, for it is easily overcome with soft words, presents, or the desire for the social position and comfort which can be secured in the house of a man who is wealthy enough to marry several women—especially if the husband is rich and wise enough to keep the women in separate lodges; though even that is often unnecessary.

There is no difficulty in understanding why primitive feminine "jealousy," despite seeming exceptions, should have been so shallow and transient a feeling. Everything conspired to make it so. From the earliest times the men made systematic efforts to prevent the growth of that passion in women because it interfered with their own selfish desires. Hearne says of the women of the Northern Indians that "they are kept so much in awe of their husbands, that the liberty of thinking is the greatest privilege they enjoy" (310); and A.H. Keane (Journ. of Anthrop. Inst., 1883) remarks that while the Botocudos often indulge in fierce outbreaks of jealousy, "the women have not yet acquired the right to be jealous, a sentiment implying a certain degree of equality between the sexes." Everywhere the women were taught to subordinate themselves to the men, and among the Hindoos as among the Greeks, by the ancient Hebrews as well as by the mediaeval Arabs freedom from jealousy was inculcated as a supreme virtue. Rachel actually fancied she was doing a noble thing in giving her handmaids to Jacob as concubines. Lane (246) quotes the Arab historian El-Jabartee, who said of his first wife:

"Among her acts of conjugal piety and submission was this that she used to buy for her husband beautiful slave girls, with her own wealth, and deck them with ornaments and apparel, and so present them to him confidently looking to the reward and recompense which she should receive [in Paradise] for such conduct."

"In case of failure of an heir," says Griffis, in his famous work on Japan (557), "the husband is fully justified, often strongly advised even by his wife, to take a handmaid to raise up seed to preserve their ancestral line." A Persian instance is given by Ida Pfeiffer (261), who was introduced at Tabreez to the wives of Behmen-Mirza, concerning whom she writes:

"They presented to me the latest addition to the harem—a plump brown little beauty of sixteen; and they seemed to treat their new rival with great good nature and told me how much trouble they had been taking to teach her Persian."


Casting back a glance over the ground traversed, we see that women as well as men—primitive, ancient, oriental—were either strangers to jealousy of any kind, or else knew it only as a species of anger, hatred, cruelty, and selfish sensuality; never as an ingredient of love. Australian women, Lumholtz tells us (203), "often have bitter quarrels about men whom they love[19] and are anxious to marry. If the husband is unfaithful, the wife frequently becomes greatly enraged." As chastity is not by Australians regarded as a duty or a virtue, such conduct can only be explained by referring to what Roth, for instance, says (141) in regard to the Kalkadoon. Among these, where a man may have as many as four or five wives,

"the discarded ones will often, through jealousy, fight with her whom they consider more favored; on such occasions they may often resort to stone-throwing, or even use fire-sticks and stone-knives with which to mutilate the genitals."

Similarly, various cruel disfigurements of wives by husbands or other wives, previously referred to as customary among savages, have their motive in the desire to mar the charms of a rival or a disobedient conjugal slave. The Indian chief who bites off an intriguing wife's nose or lower lip takes, moreover, a cruel delight at sight of the pain he inflicts—a delight of which he would be incapable were he capable of love. To such an Indian, Shakspere's lines

But O, what damned minutes tells he o'er Who dotes yet doubts, suspects, yet strongly loves,

would be as incomprehensible as a Beethoven symphony. With his usual genius for condensation, Shakspere has in those two lines given the essentials of true jealousy—suspicion causing agony rather than anger, and proceeding from love, not from hate. The fear, distress, humiliation, anguish of modern jealousy are in the mind of the injured husband. He suffers torments, but has no wish to torment either of the guilty ones. There are, indeed, even in civilized countries, husbands who slay erring wives; but they are not civilized husbands: like Othello, they still have the taint of the savage in them. Civilized husbands resort to separation, not to mutilation or murder; and in dismissing the guilty wife, they punish themselves more than her—for she has shown by her actions that she does not love him and therefore cannot feel the deepest pang of the separation. There is no anger, no desire for revenge.

How comes this gentle concord in the world, That hatred is so far from jealousy?

It comes in the world through love—through the fact that a man—or a woman—who truly loves, cannot tolerate even the thought of punishing one who has held first place in his or her affections. Modern law emphasizes the essential point when it punishes adultery because of "alienation of the affections."


Thus, whereas the "jealousy" of the savage who is transported by his sense of proprietorship to bloody deeds and to revenge is a most ignoble passion, incompatible with love, the jealousy of modern civilization has become a noble passion, justified by moral ideals and affection—"a kind of godly jealousy which I beseech you call a virtuous sin."

Where Love reigns, disturbing Jealousy Doth call himself Affection's sentinel.

And let no one suppose that by purging itself of bloody violence, hatred, and revenge, and becoming the sentinel of affection, jealousy has lost any of its intensity. On the contrary, its depth is quintupled. The bluster and fury of savage violence is only a momentary ebullition of sensual passion, whereas the anguish of jealousy as we feel it is

Agony unmix'd, incessant gall, Corroding every thought, and blasting all Love's paradise.

Anguish of mind is infinitely more intense than mere physical pain, and the more cultivated the mind, the deeper is its capacity for such "agony unmix'd." Mental anguish doth, like a poisonous mineral, gnaw the inwards, and create a condition in which "not poppy, nor mandragora, nor all the drowsy syrups of the world shall ever medicine" the victim to that sleep which he enjoyed before. His heart is turned to stone; he strikes it and it hurts his hand. Trifles light as air are proofs to him that his suspicions are realities, and life is no longer worth living.

O now for ever Farewell the tranquil mind! farewell content! Farewell the plumed troop, and the big wars That make ambition virtue!


The assertion that modern jealousy is a noble passion is of course to be taken with reservations. Where it leads to murder or revenge it is a reversion to the barbarous type, and apart from that it is, like all affections of the mind, liable to abnormal and morbid states. Harry Campbell writes in the Lancet (1898) that

"the inordinate development of this emotion always betokens a neurotic diathesis, and not infrequently indicates the oncoming of insanity. It is responsible for much useless suffering and not a little actual disease."

Dr. O'Neill gives a curious example of the latter, in the same periodical. He was summoned to a young woman who informed him that she wished to be cured of jealousy: "I am jealous of my husband, and if you do not give me something I shall go out of my mind." The husband protested his innocence and declared there was no cause whatever for her accusations:

"The wife persisted in reiterating them and so the wrangle went on till suddenly she fell from her chair on the floor in a fit, the spasmodic movements of which were so strange and varied that it would be almost impossible to describe them. At one moment the patient was extended at full length with her body arched forward in a state of opisthotonos. The next minute she was in a sitting position with the legs drawn up, making, while her hands clutched her throat, a guttural noise. Then she would throw herself on her back and thrust her arms and legs about to the no small danger of those around her. Then becoming comparatively quiet and supine she would quiver all over while her eyelids trembled with great rapidity. This state perhaps would be followed by general convulsive movements in which she would put herself into the most grotesque postures and make the most unlovely grimaces. At last the fit ended, and exhausted and in tears she was put to bed. The patient was a lithe, muscular woman and to restrain her movements during the attack with the assistance at hand was a matter of impossibility, so all that could be done was to prevent her injuring herself and to sprinkle her freely with cold water. The after-treatment was more geographical than medical. The husband ceased doing business in a certain town where the object of his wife's suspicions lived."

I have been told by a perfectly healthy married woman that when jealous of her husband she felt a sensation as of some liquid welling up in her throat and suffocating her. Pride came into play in part; she did not want others to think that her husband preferred an ignorant girl to her—a woman of great physical and mental charm.

Such jealousy, if unfounded, may be of the "self-harming" kind of which one of Shakspere's characters exclaims "Fie! beat it hence!" Too often, however, women have cause for jealousy, as modern civilized man has not overcome the polygamous instincts he has inherited from his ancestors since time immemorial. But whereas cause for feminine jealousy has existed always, the right to feel it is a modern acquisition. Moreover, while Apache wives were chaste from fear and Greek women from necessity, modern civilized women are faithful from the sense of honor, duty, affection, and in return for their devotion they expect men to be faithful for the same reasons. Their jealousy has not yet become retrospective, like that of the men; but they justly demand that after marriage men shall not fall below the standard of purity they have set up for the women, and they insist on a conjugal monopoly of the affections as strenuously as the men do. In due course of time, as Dr. Campbell suggests, "we may expect the monogamous instinct in man to be as powerful as in some of the lower animals; and feminine jealousy will help to bring about this result; for if women were indifferent on this point men would never improve."


The jealousy of romantic love, preceding marriage, differs from the jealousy of conjugal love in so far as there can be no claim to a monopoly of affection where the very existence of any reciprocated affection still remains in doubt. Before the engagement the uncertain lover in presence of a rival is tortured by doubt, anxiety, fear, despair, and he may violently hate the other man, though (as I know from personal experience) not necessarily, feeling that the rival has as much claim to the girl's attention as he has. Duels between rival lovers are not only silly, but are an insult to the girl, to whom the choice ought to be submitted and the verdict accepted manfully. A man who shoots the girl herself, because she loves another and refuses him, puts himself on a level below the lowest brute, and cannot plead either true love or true jealousy as his excuse. After the engagement the sense of monopoly and the consciousness of plighted troth enter into the lover's feelings, and intruders are properly warded off with indignation. In romantic jealousy the leading role is played by the imagination; it loves to torture its victim by conjuring visions of the beloved smiling on a rival, encircled by his arm, returning his kisses. Everything feeds his suspicions; he is "dwelling in a continual 'larum of jealousy." Oft his jealousy "shapes faults that are not" and he taints his heart and brain with needless doubt. "Ten thousand fears invented wild, ten thousand frantic views of horrid rivals, hanging on the charms for which he melts in fondness, eat him up." Such passion inflames love but corrodes the soul. In perfect love, as I said at the beginning of this chapter, jealousy is potential only, not actual.


When a man is in love he wears his heart on his sleeve and feels eager to have the beloved see how passionately it throbs for her. When a girl is in love she tries to conceal her heart in the innermost recesses of her bosom, lest the lover discover her feelings prematurely. In other words, coyness is a trait of feminine love—the only ingredient of that passion which is not, to some extent, common to both sexes. "The cruel nymph well knows to feign, ... coy looks and cold disdain," sang Gay; and "what value were there in the love of the maiden, were it yielded without coy delay?" asks Scott.

'Tis ours to be forward and pushing; 'Tis yours to affect a disdain,

Lady Montagu makes a man say, and Richard Savage sings:

You love; yet from your lover's wish retire; Doubt, yet discern; deny, and yet desire. Such, Polly, are your sex—part truth, part fiction, Some thought, much whim, and all a contradiction.

"Part truth, part fiction;" the girl romances regarding her feelings; her romantic love is tinged with coyness. "She will rather die than give any sign of affection," says Benedick of Beatrice; and in that line Shakspere reveals one of the two essential traits of genuine modern coyness—dissemblance of feminine affection.

Was coyness at all times an attribute of femininity, or is it an artificial product of modern social conditions and culture? Is coyness ever manifested apart from love, or does its presence prove the presence of love? These two important questions are to be answered in the present section.


The opinion prevails that everywhere and always the first advances were made by the men, the women being passive, and coyly reserved. This opinion—like many other notions regarding the relations of the sexes—rests on ignorance, pure ignorance. In collecting the scattered facts bearing on this subject I have been more and more surprised at the number of exceptions to the rule, if, indeed, rule it be. Not only are there tribes among whom women must propose—as in the Torres Straits Islands, north of Australia, and with the Garos of India, concerning whom interesting details will be given in later chapters; but among many other savages and barbarians the women, instead of repelling advances, make them.

"In all Polynesia," says Gerland (VI., 127), "it was a common occurrence that the women wooed the men." "A proposal of marriage," writes Gill (Savage Life in Polynesia, II.), "may emanate with propriety from a woman of rank to an equal or an inferior." In an article on Fijian poetry (731-53), Sir Arthur Gordon cites the following native poem:

The girls of Vunivanua all had lovers, But I, poor I, had not even one. Yet I fell desperately in love one day, My eye was filled with the beauty of Vasunilawedua. She ran along the beach, she called the canoe-men. She is conveyed to the town where her beloved dwells. Na Ulumatua sits in his canoe unfastening its gear. He asks her, "Why have you come here, Sovanalasikula?" "They have been falling in love at Vunivanua," she answers; "I, too, have fallen in love. I love your lovely son, Vasunilawedua." Na Ulumatua rose to his feet. He loosened a tambua whale's tooth from the canoe. "This," he said, presenting it to her, "is my offering to you for your return. My son cannot wed you, lady." Tears stream from her eyes, they stream down on her breast. "Let me only live outside his house," she says; "I will sleep upon the wood-pile. If I may only light his seluka [cigarrette] for him, I shall rejoice. If I may only hear his voice from a distance, it will suffice. Life will be pleasant to me." Na Ulumatua replied, "Be magnanimous, lady, and return. We have many girls of our own. Return to your own land. Vasunilawedua cannot wed a stranger." Sovanalasikula went away crying. She returned to her own town, forlorn. Her life was sadness. Ia nam bosulu.

Tregear (102) describes the "wooing house" in which New Zealand girls used to stand up in the dark and say: "I love so-and-so, I want him for a husband;" whereupon the chosen lover, if willing, would say yes, or cough to signify his assent. Among the Pueblo Indians

"the usual order of courtship is reversed; when a girl is disposed to marry, she does not wait for a young man to propose to her, but selects one to her own liking and consults her father, who visits the parents of the youth and acquaints them with his daughter's wishes. It seldom happens that any objections to the match are made" (Bancroft, I., 547);

and concerning the Spokane Indians the same writer says (276) that a girl "may herself propose if she wishes." Among the Moquis, "instead of the swain asking the hand of the fair one, she selects the young man who is to her fancy, and then her father proposes the match to the sire of the lucky youth" (Schoolcraft, IV., 86). Among the Dariens, says Heriot (325), "it is considered no mark of forwardness" in a woman "openly to avow her inclination," and in Paraguay, too, women were allowed to propose (Moore, 261). Indian girls of the Hudson River region

"were not debarred signifying their desire to enter matrimonial life. When one of them wished to be married, she covered her face with a veil and sat covered as an indication of her desire. If she attracted a suitor, negotiations were opened with parents or friends, presents given, and the bride taken" (Ruttenber).

A comic mode of catching a husband is described in an episode from the tale "Owasso and Wayoond" (Schoolcraft, A.R. II., 210-11):

"Manjikuawis was forward in her advances toward him. He, however, paid no attention to it, and shunned her. She continued to be very assiduous in attending to his wants, such as cooking and mending his mocassins. She felt hurt and displeased at his indifference, and resolved to play him a trick. Opportunity soon offered. The lodge was spacious, and she dug a hole in the ground, where the young man usually sat, covering it very carefully. When the brothers returned from the chase the young man threw himself down carelessly at the usual place, and fell into the cavity, his head and feet remaining out, so that he was unable to extricate himself. 'Ha! ha!' cried Manjikuawis, as she helped him out, 'you are mine, I have caught you at last, and I did it on purpose.' A smile came over the young man's face, and he said, 'So be it, I will be yours;' and from that moment they lived happily as man and wife."

It was a common thing among various Indian tribes for the women to court distinguished warriors; and though they might have no choice in the matter, they could at any rate place themselves temptingly in the way of these braves, who, on their part, had no occasion to be coy, since they could marry all the squaws they pleased. The squaws, too, did not hesitate to indulge, if not in two husbands, in more than one lover. Commenting on the Mandans, for instance, Maximilian Prinz zu Wied declares (II., 127) that "coyness is not a virtue of the Indian women; they often have two or three lovers at a time." Among the Pennsylvania Indians it was a common thing for a girl to make suit to a young man.

"Though the first address may be by the man, yet the other is the most common. The squaws are generally very immodest in their words and actions, and will often put the young men to the blush. The men commonly appear to be possessed of much more modesty than the women." (Bancroft, II., 140.)

Even a coating of culture does not seem to curb the young squaw's propensity to make the first advances. Captain R.H. Pratt (U.S. Geol. and G.S., IX., 260), of the Carlisle School, relates an amusing story of a Kiowa young man who, under a variety of circumstances, "never cared for girl. 'But when Laura say she love me, then I began to care for girl.'"

In his First Footsteps (85, 86) Burton gives a glimpse of the "coyness" of Bedouin women:

"We met a party of Esa girls, who derided my color and doubted the fact of my being a Moslem. The Arabs declared me to be a shaykh of shaykhs, and translated to the prettiest of the party an impromptu proposal of marriage. She showed but little coyness and stated her price to be an Andulli or necklace, a couple of Tobes—she asked one too many—a few handfuls of beads, and a small present for her papa. She promised, naively enough, to call next day and inspect the goods. The publicity of the town did not deter her, but the shamefacedness of my two companions prevented our meeting again."

In his book on Southern Abyssinia Johnston relates how, while staying at Murroo, he was strongly recommended to follow the example of his companions and take a temporary wife. There was no need of hunting for helpmates—they offered themselves of their own accord. One of the girls who presented herself as a candidate was stated by her friends to be a very strong woman, who had already had four or five husbands. "I thought this a rather strange recommendation," he adds, "but it was evidently mentioned that she might find favor in my eyes." He found that the best way out of such a dilemma was to engage the first old hag that came along and leave it to her to ward off the others. Masculine coyness under such conditions has its risks. Johnston mentions the case of an Arab who, in the region of the Muzeguahs, scorned a girl who wanted to be his temporary wife; whereupon "the whole tribe asserted he had treated them with contempt by his haughty conduct toward the girl, and demanded to know if she was not good enough for him." He had to give them some brass wire and blue sood before he could allay the national indignation aroused by his refusal to take the girl. Women have rights which must be respected, even in Africa!

In Dutch Borneo there is a special kind of "marriage by stratagem" called matep. If a girl desires a particular man he is inveigled into her house, the door is shut, the walls are hung with cloth of different colors and other ornaments, dinner is served up and he is informed of the girl's wish to marry him. If he declines, he is obliged to pay the value of the hangings and the ornaments. (Roth, II., CLXXXI.)

"Uncertain, coy, and hard to please" obviously cannot be sung of such women.

In one of the few native Australian stories on record the two wives of a man are represented as going to his brother's hut when he was asleep, and imitating the voice of an emu. The noise woke him, and he took his spear to kill them; but as soon as he ran out the two women spoke and requested him to be their husband. (Wood's Native Tribes, 210.)

The fact that Australian women have absolutely no choice in the assignment of husbands, must make them inclined to offer themselves to men they like, just as Indian girls offer themselves to noted warriors in the hope of thus calling attention to their personal attractions. As we shall see later, one of the ways in which an Australian wins a wife is by means of magic. In this game, as Spencer and Gillen tell us (556), the women sometimes take the initiative, thus inducing a man to elope with them.


The English language is a queer instrument of thought. While coyness has the various meanings of shyness, modest reserve, bashfulness, shrinking from advances or familiarity, disdainfulness, the verb "to coy" may mean the exact opposite—to coax, allure, entice, woo, decoy. It is in this sense that "coyness" is obviously a trait of primitive maidens. What is more surprising is to find in brushing aside prejudice and preconceived notions, that among ancient nations too it is in this second sense rather than in the first that women are "coy." The Hebrew records begin with the story of Adam and Eve, in which Eve is stigmatized as the temptress. Rebekah had never seen the man chosen for her by her male relatives, yet when she was asked if she would go with his servant, she answered, promptly, "I will go." Rachel at the well suffers her cousin to kiss her at first sight. Ruth does all the courting which ends in making her the wife of Boaz. There is no shrinking from advances, real or feigned, in any of these cases; no suggestion of disguised feminine affection; and in two of them the women make the advances. Potiphar's wife is another biblical case. The word coy does not occur once in the Bible.

The idea that women are the aggressors, particularly in criminal amours, is curiously ingrained in the literature of ancient Greece. In the Odyssey we read about the fair-haired goddess Circe, decoying the companions of Odysseus with her sweet voice, giving them drugs and potions, making them the victims of swinish indulgence of their appetites. When Odysseus comes to their rescue she tries to allure him too, saying, "Nay, then, pat up your blade within its sheath, and let us now approach our bed that there we too may join in love and learn to trust each other." Later on Odysseus has his adventure with the Sirens, who are always "casting a spell of penetrating song, sitting within a meadow," in order to decoy passing sailors. Charybdis is another divine Homeric female who lures men to ruin. The island nymph Calypso rescues Odysseus and keeps him a prisoner to her charms, until after seven years he begins to shed tears and long for home "because the nymph pleased him no more." Nor does the human Nausicaea manifest the least coyness when she meets Odysseus at the river. Though he has been cast on the shore naked, she remains, after her maids have run away alarmed, and listens to his tale of woe. Then, after seeing him bathed, anointed, and dressed, she exclaims to her waiting maids: "Ah, might a man like this be called my husband, having his home here and content to stay;" while to him later on she gives this broad hint: "Stranger, farewell! when you are once again in your own land, remember me, and how before all others it is to me you owe the saving of your life."

Nausicaea is, however, a prude compared with the enamoured woman as the Greek poets habitually paint her. Pausanias (II., Chap. 31), speaking of a temple of Peeping Venus says:

"From this very spot the enamoured Phaedra used to watch Hippolytus at his manly exercises. Here still grows the myrtle with pierced leaves, as I am told. For being at her wit's ends and finding no ease from the pangs of love, she used to wreak her fury on the leaves of this myrtle."

Professor Rohde, the most erudite authority on Greek erotic literature, writes (34):

"It is characteristic of the Greek popular tales which Euripides followed, in what might be called his tragedies of adultery, that they always make the woman the vehicle of the pernicious passion; it seems as if Greek feeling could not conceive of a man being seized by an unmanly soft desire and urged on by it to passionate disregard of all human conventions and laws."


Greek poets from Stesichorus to the Alexandrians are fond of representing coy men. The story told by Athenaeus (XIV., ch. 11) of Harpalyke, who committed suicide because the youth Iphiclus coyly spurned her, is typical of a large class. No less significant is the circumstance that when the coy backwardness happens to be on the side of a female, she is usually a woman of masculine habits, devoted to Diana and the chase. Several centuries after Christ we still find in the romances an echo of this thoroughly Greek sentiment in the coy attitude, at the beginning, of their youthful heroes.[20]

The well-known legend of Sappho—who flourished about a thousand years before the romances just referred to were written—is quite in the Greek spirit. It is thus related by Strabo:

"There is a white rock which stretches out from Leucas to the sea and toward Cephalonia, that takes its name from its whiteness. The rock of Leucas has upon it a temple of Apollo, and the leap from it was supposed to stop love. From this it is said that Sappho first, as Menander says somewhere, in pursuit of the haughty Phaon, urged on by maddening desire, threw herself from its far-seen rocks, imploring thee [Apollo], lord and king."

Four centuries after Sappho we find Theocritus harping on the same theme. His Enchantress is a monologue in which a woman relates how she made advances to a youth and won him. She saw him walking along the road and was so smitten that she was prostrated and confined to her bed for ten days. Then she sent her slave to waylay the youth, with these instructions: "If you see him alone, say to him: 'Simaitha desires you,' and bring him here." In this case the youth is not coy in the least; but the sequel of the story is too bucolic to be told here.


It is well-known that the respectable women of Greece, especially the virgins, were practically kept under lock and key in the part of the house known as the gynaikonitis. This resulted in making them shy and bashful—but not coy, if we may judge from the mirror of life known as literature. Ramdohr observes, pertinently (III., 270):

"Remarkable is the easy triumph of lovers over the innocence of free-born girls, daughters of citizens, examples of which may be found in the Eunuchus and Adelphi of Terence. They call attention to the low opinion the ancients had of a woman's power to guard her sensual impulses, and of her own accord resist attacks on her honor."

The Abbe Dubois says the same thing about Hindoo girls, and the reason why they are so carefully guarded. It is hardly necessary to add that since no one would be so foolish as to call a man honest who refrains from stealing merely because he has no opportunity, it is equally absurd to call a woman honest or coy who refrains from vice only because she is locked up all the time. The fact (which seems to give Westermarck (64-65) much satisfaction), that some Australians, American Indian and other tribes watch young girls so carefully, does not argue the prevalence of chaste coyness, but the contrary. If the girls had an instinctive inclination to repel improper advances it would not be necessary to cage and watch them. This inclination is not inborn, does not characterize primitive women, but is a result of education and culture.


Greatly as Greeks and Indians differ in some respects, they have two things in common—a warlike spirit and contempt for women. "When Greek meets Greek then comes a tug of war," and the Indian's chief delight is scalp hunting. The Greeks, as Rohde notes (42),

"depict their greatest heroes as incited to great deeds only by eagerness for battle and desire for glory. The love of women barely engages their attention transiently in hours of idleness."

Militarism is ever hostile to love except in its grossest forms. It brutalizes the men and prevents the growth of feminine qualities, coyness among others. Hence, wherever militarism prevails, we seek in vain for feminine reserve. An interesting illustration of this may be found in a brochure by Theodor Krabbes, Die Frau im Altfranzoesischen Karls-Epos (9-38). The author, basing his inferences on an exhaustive study and comparison of the Chansons de Geste of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, draws the following general conclusions:

"Girlish shyness is not a trait of the daughters, least of all those of heathen origin. Masculine tendencies characterize them from childhood. Fighting pleases them and they like to look on when there is a battle.... Love plays an important role in nearly all the Chansons de Geste.... The woman wooes, the man grants: nearly always in these epics we read of a woman who loves, rarely of one who is loved.... In the very first hour of their acquaintance the girl is apt to yield herself entirely to the chosen knight, and she persists in her passion for him even if she is entirely repulsed. There is no more rest for her. Either she wooes him in person, or chooses a messenger who invites the coveted man to a rendezvous. The heathen woman who has to guard captured Franks and who has given her heart to one of them, hies herself to the dungeon and offers him her love. She begs for his love in return and seeks in every way to win it. If he resists, she curses him, makes his lot less endurable, withholds his food or threatens him with death until he is willing to accede to her wishes. If this has come to pass she overwhelms him with caresses at the first meeting. She is eager to have them reciprocated; often the lover is not tender enough to please her, then she repeatedly begs for kisses. She embraces him delightedly even though he be in full armor and in presence of all his companions. Girlish shyness and modest backwardness are altogether foreign to her nature.... She never has any moral scruples.... If he is unwilling to give up his campaign, she is satisfied to let him go the next morning if he will only marry her.

"The man is generally described as cold in love. References to a knight's desire for a woman's love are very scant, and only once do we come across a hero who is quite in love. The young knight prefers more serious matters; his first desire is to win fame in battle, make rich booty.[21] He looks on love as superfluous, indeed he is convinced that it incapacitates him from what he regards as his proper life-task. He also fears the woman's infidelity. If he allows her to persuade him to love, he seeks material gain from it; delivery from captivity, property, vassals.... The lover is often tardy, careless, too deficient in tenderness, so that the woman has to chide him and invite his caresses. A rendezvous is always brought about only through her efforts, and she alone is annoyed if it is disturbed too soon. Even when the man desires a woman, he hardly appears as a wooer. He knows he is sure of the women's favor; they make it easy for him; he can have any number of them if he belongs to a noble family.... Even when the knight is in love—which is very rare—the first advances are nearly always made by the woman; it is she who proposes marriage.

"Marriage as treated in the epics is seldom based on love. The woman desires wedlock, because she hopes thereby to secure her rights and better her chances of protection. It is for this reason that we see her so often eagerly endeavoring to secure a promise of marriage."


Sufficient evidence has now been adduced to make it clear that the first of the two questions posed at the outset of this chapter must be answered in the negative. Coyness is not an innate or universal trait of femininity, but is often absent, particularly where man's absorption in war and woman's need of protection prevent its growth and induce the females to do the courting. This being the case and war being the normal state of the lower races, our next task is to ascertain what were the influences that induced woman to adopt the habit of repelling advances instead of making them. It is one of the most interesting questions in sexual psychology, which has never been answered satisfactorily; it and gains additional interest from the fact that we find among the most ancient and primitive races phenomena which resemble coyness and have been habitually designated as such. As we shall see in a moment, this is an abuse of language, confounding genuine resistance or aversion with coyness.

Chinese maidens often feel so great an aversion to marriage as practised in their country that they prefer suicide to it. Douglas says (196) that Chinese women often ask English ladies, "Does your husband beat you?" and are surprised if answered "No." The gallant Chinaman calls his wife his "dull thorn," and there are plenty of reasons apart from Confucian teachings why "for some days before the date fixed, the bride assumes all the panoply of woe, and weeps and wails without ceasing." She is about to face the terrible ordeal of being confronted for the first time with the man who has been chosen for her, and who may be the ugliest, vilest wretch in the world—possibly even a leper, such cases being on record. Douglas (124) reports the case of six girls who committed suicide together to avoid marriage. There exist in China anti-matrimonial societies of girls and young widows, the latter doubtless, supplying the experience that serves as the motive for establishing such associations.

Descending to the lowest stratum of human life as witnessed in Australia, we find that, as Meyer asserts (11), the bride appears "generally to go very unwillingly" to the man she has been assigned to. Lumholtz relates that the man seizes the woman by the wrists and carries her off "despite her screams, which can be heard till she is a mile away." "The women," he says, "always make resistance; for they do not like to leave their tribe, and in many instances they have the best of reasons for kicking their lovers." What are these reasons? As all observers testify, they are not allowed any voice in the choice of their husbands. They are usually bartered by their father or brothers for other women, and in many if not most cases the husbands assigned to them are several times their age. Before they are assigned to a particular man the girls indulge in promiscuous intercourse, whereas after marriage they are fiercely guarded. They may indeed attempt to elope with another man more suited to their age, but they do so at the risk of cruel injury and probable death. The wives have to do all the drudgery; they get only such food as the husbands do not want, and on the slightest suspicion of intrigue they are maltreated horribly. Causes enough surely for their resistance to obligatory marriage. This resistance is a frank expression of genuine unwillingness, or aversion, and has nothing in common with real coyness, which signifies the mere semblance of unwillingness on the part of a woman who is at least half-willing. Such expressions as Goldsmith's "the coy maid, half willing to be pressed," and Dryden's

When the kind nymph would coyness feign, And hides but to be found again,

indicate the nature of true coyness better than any definitions. There are no "coy looks," no "feigning" in the actions of an Australian girl about to be married to a man who is old enough to be her grandfather. The "cold disdain" is real, not assumed, and there is no "dissemblance of feminine affection."


The same reasoning applies to the customs attending wife-capturing in general, which has prevailed in all parts of the world and still prevails in some regions. To take one or two instances of a hundred that might be cited from books of travel in all parts of the world: Columbus relates that the Caribs made the capture of women the chief object of their expeditions. The California Indians worked up their warlike spirit by chanting a song the substance of which was, "let us go and carry off girls" (Waitz, IV., 242). Savages everywhere have looked upon women as legitimate spoils of war, desirable as concubines and drudges. Now even primitive women are attached to their homes and relatives, and it is needless to say their resistance to the enemy who has just slain their father and brothers and is about to carry them off to slavery, is genuine, and has no more trace of coyness in it than the actions of an American girl who resists the efforts of unknown kidnappers to drag her from her home.

But besides real capture of women there has existed, and still exists in many countries, what is known as sham-capture—a custom which has puzzled anthropologists sorely. Herbert Spencer illustrates it (P.S., I., Sec. 288) by citing Crantz, who says, concerning the Eskimos, that when a damsel is asked in marriage, she

"directly falls into the greatest apparent consternation, and runs out of doors tearing her hair; for single women always affect the utmost bashfulness and aversion to any proposal of marriage, lest they should lose their reputation for modesty."

Spencer also quotes Burckhardt, who describes how the bride among Sinai Arabs defends herself with stones, even though she does not dislike the lover; "for according to custom, the more she struggles, bites, kicks, cries, and strikes, the more she is applauded ever after by her own companions." During the procession to the husband's camp "decency obliges her to cry and sob most bitterly." Among the Araucanians of Chili, according to Smith (215) "it is a point of honor with the bride to resist and struggle, however willing she may be."

While conceding that "the manners of the inferior races do not imply much coyness," Spencer, nevertheless, thinks "we cannot suppose coyness to be wholly absent." He holds that in the cases just cited coyness is responsible for the resistance of the women, and he goes so far as to make this coyness "an important factor," in accounting for the custom of marriage by capture which has prevailed among so many peoples in all parts of the world. Westermarck declares (388) that this suggestion can scarcely be disproved, and Grosse (105) echoes his judgment. To me, on the contrary, it seems that these distinguished sociologists are putting the cart before the horse. They make the capture a sequence of "coyness," whereas in truth the coyness (if it may be so called) is a result of capture. The custom of wife capture can be easily explained without calling in the aid of what we have seen to be so questionable a thing as primitive female coyness. Savages capture wives as the most coveted spoils of war. They capture them, in other instances, because polygamy and female infanticide have disturbed the equilibrium of the sexes, thus compelling the young men to seek wives elsewhere than in their own tribes; and the same result is brought about (in Australia, for instance), by the old men's habit of appropriating all the young women by a system of exchange, leaving none for the young men, who, therefore, either have to persuade the married women to elope—at the risk of their lives—or else are compelled to steal wives elsewhere. In another very large number of cases the men stole brides—willing or unwilling—to avoid paying their parents for them.


Thus the custom of real capture is easily accounted for. What calls for an explanation is the sham capture and resistance in cases where both the parents and the bride are perfectly willing. Why should primitive maidens who, as we have seen, are rather apt than not to make amorous advances, repel their suitors so violently in these instances of mock capture? Are they, after all, coy—more coy than civilized maidens? To answer this question let us look at one of Spencer's witnesses more carefully. The reason Crantz gives for the Eskimo women's show of aversion to marriage is that they do it, "lest they lose their reputation for modesty." Now modesty of any kind is a quality unknown to Eskimos. Nansen, Kane, Hayes, and other explorers have testified that the Eskimos of both sexes take off all their clothes in their warm subterranean homes. Captain Beechey has described their obscene dances, and it is well-known that they consider it a duty to lend their wives and daughters to guests. Some of the native tales collected by Rink (236-37; 405) indicate most unceremonious modes of courtship and nocturnal frolics, which do not stop even at incest. To suppose that women so utterly devoid of moral sensibility could, of their own accord and actuated by modesty and bashfulness manifest such a coy aversion to marriage that force has to be resorted to, is manifestly absurd. In attributing their antics to modesty, Crantz made an error into which so many explorers have fallen—that of interpreting the actions of savages from the point of view of civilization—an error more pardonable in an unsophisticated traveller of the eighteenth century than in a modern sociologist.

If we must therefore reject Herbert Spencer's inference as to the existence of primitive coyness and its consequences, how are we to account for the comedy of mock capture? Several writers have tried to crack the nut. Sutherland (I., 200) holds that sham capture is not a survival of real capture, but "the festive symbolism of the contrast in the character of the sexes—courage in the man and shyness in the woman"—a fantastic suggestion which does not call for discussion, since, as we know, the normal primitive woman is anything but shy. Abercromby (I., 454) is another writer who believes that sham capture is not a survival of real capture, but merely a result of the innate general desire on the part of the men to display courage—a view which dodges the one thing that calls for an explanation—the resistance of the women. Grosse indulges in some curious antics (105-108). First he asks: "Since real capture is everywhere an exception and is looked on as punishable, why should the semblance of capture have ever become a general and approved custom?" Then he asks, with a sneer, why sociology should be called upon to answer such questions anyhow; and a moment later he, nevertheless, attempts an answer, on Spencerian lines. Among inferior races, he remarks, women are usually coveted as spoils of war. The captured women become the wives or concubines of the warriors and thus represent, as it were, trophies of their valor. Is it not, therefore, inevitable that the acquisition of a wife by force should be looked on, among warlike races, as the most honorable way of getting her, nay, in course of time, as the only one worthy of a warrior? But since, he continues, not all the men can get wives in that way, even among the rudest tribes, these other men consoled themselves with investing the peaceful home-taking of a bride also with the show of an honorable capture.

In other words, Grosse declares on one page that it is absurd to derive approved sham capture from real capture because real capture is everywhere exceptional only and is always considered punishable; yet two pages later he argues that sham capture is derived from real capture because the latter is so honorable! As a matter of fact, among the lowest races known, wife-stealing is not considered honorable. Regarding the Australians, Curr states distinctly (I., 108) that it was not encouraged because it was apt to involve a whole tribe in war for one man's sake. Among the North American Indians, on the other hand, where, as we saw in the chapter on Honorable Polygamy, a wife-stealer is admired by both men and women, sham capture does not prevail. Grosse's argument, therefore, falls to the ground.


Prior to all these writers Sir John Lubbock advanced (98) still another theory of capture, real and sham. Believing that men once had all their wives in common, he declares that

"capture, and capture alone, could originally give a man the right to monopolize a woman to the exclusion of his fellow-clansmen; and that hence, even after all necessity for actual capture had long ceased, the symbol remained; capture having, by long habit, come to be received as a necessary preliminary to marriage."

This theory has the same shortcoming as the others. While accounting for the capture, it does not explain the resistance of the women. In real capture they had real reasons for kicking, biting, and howling, but why should they continue these antics in cases of sham capture? Obviously another factor came into play here, which has been strangely overlooked—parental persuasion or command. Among savages a father owns his daughter as absolutely as his dog; he can sell or exchange her at pleasure; in Australia, "swapping" daughters or sisters is the commonest mode of marriage. Now, stealing brides, or eloping to avoid having to pay for them, is of frequent occurrence everywhere among uncivilized races. To protect themselves against such loss of personal property it must have occurred to parents at an early date that it would be wise to teach their daughters to resist all suitors until it has become certain that their intentions are honorable—that is, that they intend to pay. In course of time such teaching (strengthened by the girls' pride at being purchased for a large sum) would assume the form of an inviolable command, having the force of a taboo and, with the stubbornness peculiar to many social customs, persisting long after the original reasons have ceased to exist.

In other words, I believe that the peculiar antics of the brides in cases of sham capture are neither due to innate feminine coyness nor are they a direct survival of the genuine resistance made in real capture; but that they are simply a result of parental dictation which assigns to the bride the role she must play in the comedy of "courtship." I find numerous facts supporting this view, especially in Reinsberg-Dueringsfeld's Hochzeitsbuch and Schroeder's Hochzeitsgebraeuche der Esten.

Describing the marriage customs of the Mordvins, Mainow says that the bridegroom sneaks into the bride's house before daybreak, seizes her and carries her off to where his companions are waiting with their wagons. "Etiquette," he adds, "demands she should resist violently and cry loudly, even if she is entirely in favor of the elopement." Among the Votyaks girl-stealing (kukem) occurs to this day. If the father is unwilling or asks too much, while the young folks are willing, the girl goes to work in the field and the lover carries her off. On the way to his house she is cheerful, but when they reach the lover's house she begins to cry and wail, whereupon she is locked up in a cabin that has no window. The father, having found out where she is, comes and demands payment. If the lover offers too little, the parent plies his whip on him. Among the Ostyaks such elopements, to avoid payment, are frequent. Regarding the Esthonians, Schroeder says (40): "When the intermediary comes, the girl must conceal herself in some place until she is either found, with her father's consent, or appears of her own accord."

In the old epic "Kalewipoeg," Salme hides in the garret and Linda in the bath-room, and refuse to come out till after much coaxing and urging.


The words I have italicized indicate the passive role played by the girls, who simply carry out the instructions given to them. The parents are the stage-managers, and they know very well what they want—money or brandy. Among the Mordvins, as soon as the suitor and his friends are seen approaching the bride's house, it is barricaded, and the defenders ask, "Who are you?" The answer is, "Merchants." "What do you wish?" "Living goods." "We do not trade!" "We shall take her by force." A show of force is made, but finally the suitors are admitted, after paying twenty kopeks. In Little Russia it is customary to barricade the door of the bride's house with a wheel, but after offering a bottle of brandy as a "pass" the suitor's party is allowed to enter.

Among the Esthonians custom demands (Schroeder, 36), that a comedy like the following be enacted. The intermediary comes to the bride's house and pretends that he has lost a cow or a lamb, and asks permission to hunt for it. The girl's relatives at first stubbornly deny having any knowledge of its whereabouts, but finally they allow the suitors to search, and the bride is usually found without much delay. In Western Prussia (Berent district), after the bridegroom has made his terms with the bride and her parents, he comes to their house and says: "We were out hunting and saw a wounded deer run into this house. May we follow its tracks?" Permission is granted, whereupon the men start in pursuit of the bride, who has hidden away with the other village maidens. At last the "hound"—one of the bridegroom's companions—finds her and brings her to the lover.

Similar customs have prevailed in parts of Russia, Roumania, Servia, Sardinia, Hungary, and elsewhere. In Old Finland the comedy continues even after the nuptial knot has been tied. The bridal couple return each to their home. Soon the groom appears at the bride's house and demands to be admitted. Her father refuses to let him in. A "pass" is thereupon produced and read, and this, combined with a few presents, finally secures admission. In some districts the bride remains invisible even during the wedding-dinner, and it is "good form" for her to let the guests wait as long as possible, and not to appear until after considerable coaxing by her mother. When a Votyak bridegroom comes after the bride on the wedding-day she is denied to him three times. After that she is searched for, dragged from her hiding-place, and her face covered with a cloth, while she screams and struggles. Then she is carried to the yard, placed on a blanket with her face down, and the bridegroom belabors her with a stick on a pillow which has been tied on her back. After that she becomes obedient and amiable. A Mordvin bride must try to escape from the wagon on the way to the church. In Old Finland the bride was barricaded in her house even after the wedding, and the Island Swedes have the same custom. This burlesque of bridal resistance after marriage occurs also among the wild tribes of India. "After remaining with her husband for ten days only," writes Dalton (192), "it is the correct thing for the wife to run away from him, and tell all her friends that she loves him not and will see him no more." The husband's duty is to seek her eagerly.

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