Primitive Love and Love-Stories
by Henry Theophilus Finck
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Dire confusion regarding woman's status has been created in many minds by three distinct ethnologic phenomena, which are, moreover, often confounded: (1) kinship and heredity through females; (2) matriarchy, or woman's rule in the family (domestic); (3) gynaicocracy, or woman's rule in the tribe (political).

(1) It is a remarkable fact that among many tribes, especially in Australia, America, and Africa, children are named after their mother, while rank and property, too, are often inherited in the female line of descent. Lafitau observed this custom among American Indians more than a century ago, and in 1861 a Swiss jurist, Bachofen, published a book in which he tried to prove, with reference to this "kinship through mothers only," that it indicated that there was a time when women everywhere ruled over men. A study of ethnologic data shows, however, that this inference is absolutely unwarranted by the facts. In Australia, for instance, where children are most commonly named after their mother's clan, there is no trace of woman's rule over man, either in the present or the past. The man treats the woman as a master treats his slaves, and is complete master of her children. Cunow, an authority on Australian relationships, remarks (136):

"Nothing could be more perverse than to infer from the custom of reasoning kinship through females, that woman rules there, and that a father is not master of his children. On the contrary, the father regards himself everywhere, even in tribes with a female line of descent, as the real procreator. He is considered to be the one who plants the germ and the woman as merely the soil in which it grows. And as the wife belongs to him, so does the child that comes from her womb. Therefore he claims also those children of his wife concerning whom he knows or assumes that he did not beget them; for they grew on his soil."

Similarly with the American Indians. Grosse has devoted several pages (73-80) to show that with the tribes among which kinship through females prevails woman's position is not in the least better than with the others. Everywhere woman is bought, obliged to submit to polygamy, compelled to do the hardest and least honorable work, and often treated worse than a dog. The same is true of the African tribes among whom kinship in the female line prevails.

If, therefore, kinship through mothers does not argue female supremacy, how did that kinship arise? Le Jeune offered a plausible explanation as long ago as 1632. In the Jesuit Relations (VI., 255), after describing the immorality of the Indians, he goes on to say:

"As these people are well aware of this corruption, they prefer to take the children of their sisters as heirs, rather than their own, or than those of their brothers, calling in question the fidelity of their wives, and being unable to doubt that these nephews come from their own blood. Also among the Hurons—who are more licentious than our Montagnais, because they are better fed—it is not the child of a captain but his sister's son, who succeeds the father."

The same explanation has been advanced by other writers and by the natives of other countries where kinship through females prevails;[29] and it doubtless holds true in many cases.

In others the custom of naming children after their mothers is probably simply a result of the fact that a child is always more closely associated with the mother than with the father. She brings it into the world, suckles it, and watches over it; in the primitive times, even if promiscuity was not prevalent, marriages were of short duration and divorces frequent, wherefore the male parentage would be so constantly in doubt that the only feasible thing was to name the children after their mothers. For our purposes, fortunately, this knotty problem of the origin of kinship through females, which has given sociologists so much trouble,[30] does not need to be solved. We are concerned solely with the question, "Does kinship in the female line indicate the supremacy of women, or their respectful treatment?" and that question, as we have seen, must be answered with a most emphatic No. There is not a single fact to bear out the theory that man's rule was ever preceded by a period when woman ruled. The lower we descend, the more absolute and cruelly selfish do we find man's rule over woman. The stronger sex everywhere reduces the weaker to practical slavery and holds it in contempt. Primitive woman has not yet developed these qualities in which her peculiar strength lies, and if she had, the men would be too coarse to appreciate them.


(2) As we ascend in the scale we find a few cases where women rule or at least share the rule with the men; but these occur not among savages but with the lower and higher barbarians, and at the same time they are, as Grosse remarks (161), "among the scarcest curiosities of ethnology." The Garos of Assam have women at the head of their clans. Dyak women are consulted in political matters and have equal rights with the men. Macassar women in Celebes also are consulted as regards public affairs, and frequently ascend the throne. A few similar cases have been noted in Africa, where, e.g., the princesses of the Ashantees domineer over their husbands; but these apply only to the ruling class, and do not concern the sex as a whole. Some strange tales of masculine submission in Nicaragua are told by Herrera. But the best-known instance is that of the Iroquois and Hurons. Their women, as Lafitau relates (I., 71), owned the land, and the crops, they decided upon peace or war, took charge of slaves, and made marriages. The Huron Wyandots had a political council consisting of four women. The Iroquois Seneca women could chase lazy husbands from the premises, and could even depose a chief. Yet these cases are not conclusive as to the real status of the women in the tribe. The facts cited are, as John Fiske remarks (Disc. Amer., I., 68), "not incompatible with the subjection of women to extreme drudgery and ill-treatment." Charlevoix, one of the eye-witnesses to these exceptional privileges granted to some Indian women, declares expressly that their domination was illusory; that they were, at home, the slaves of their husbands; that the men despised them thoroughly, and that the epithet "woman" was an insult.[31] And Morgan, who made such a thorough study of the Iroquois, declares (322) that "the Indian regarded woman as the inferior, the dependent, and the servant of man, and, from nature and habit, she actually considered herself to be so." The two honorable employments among Indians were war and hunting, and these were reserved for the men. Other employments were considered degrading and were therefore gallantly reserved for the women.


Comanche Indians, who treated their squaws with especial contempt, nevertheless would not hesitate on occasion to submit to the rule of a female chief (Bancroft, I., 509); and the same is true of other tribes in America, Africa, etc. (Grosse, 163). In this respect, barbarians do not differ from civilized races; queenship is a question of blood or family and tells us nothing whatever about the status of women in general. As regards the "equal rights" of the Dyak women just referred to, if they really have them, it is not as women, but as men, that is, in so far as they have become like men. This we see from what Schwaner says (I., 161) of the tribes in the Southeast:

"The women are allowed great privileges and liberties. Not infrequently they rule at home and over whole tribes with manly power, incite to war, and often personally lead the men to battle."

Honors paid to such viragoes are honors to masculinity, not to femininity.


Here again the transition from the barbarian to the Greek is easy and natural. The ancient Greek looked down on women as women. "One man," exclaims Iphigenia in Euripides, "is worth more than ten thousand women." There were, of course, certain virtues that were esteemed in women, but these, as Becker has said, differed but little from those required of an obedient slave. It is only in so far as women displayed masculine qualities that they were held worthy of higher honor. The heroines of Plutarch's essay on "The Virtues of Women" are women who are praised for patriotic, soldier-like qualities, and actions. Plato believed that men who were bad in this life would, on their next birth, be women. The elevation of women, he held, could be best accomplished by bringing them up to be like men. But this matter will be discussed more fully in the chapter on Greece, as will that of the adulation which was paid to wanton women by Greek and Roman poets, and which has been often mistaken for adoration. George Eliot speaks of "that adoration which a young man gives to a woman whom he feels to be greater and better than himself." No Greek ever felt a woman to be "greater and better than himself," wherefore true adoration—the deification of persons—was out of the question. But there was no reason why a Greek or Roman should not have indulged in servile flattery and hypocritical praise for the selfish purpose of securing the carnal favors of a mercenarily coy courtesan. He was capable of adulation but not of adoration, for one cannot adore a slave, a drudge or a wanton. The author of the Lover's Lexicon claims, indeed, that "love can and does exist without respect," but that is false. Infatuation of the senses may exist without respect, but refined, sentimental love is blighted by the discovery of impurity or vulgarity. Adoration is essential to true love, and adoration includes respect.


If we must, therefore, conclude that man in primitive and ancient times was unable to feel that love of which adoration is an essential ingredient, how is it with women? From the earliest times, have they not been taught, with club and otherwise, to look up to man as a superior being, and did not this enable them to adore him with true love? No, for primitive women, though they might fear or admire man for his superior power, were too coarse, obscene, ignorant, and degraded—being as a rule even lower than the men—to be able to share even a single ingredient of the refined love that we experience. At the same time it may be said (though it sounds sarcastic) that woman had a natural advantage over man in being gradually trained to an attitude of devotion. Just as the care of her infants taught her sympathy, so the daily inculcated duty of sacrificing herself for her lord and master fostered the germs of adoration. Consequently we find at more advanced stages of civilization, like those represented by India, Greece, and Japan, that whenever we come across a story whose spirit approaches the modern idea of love, the embodiment of that love is nearly always a woman. Woman had been taught to worship man while he still wallowed in the mire of masculine selfishness and despised her as an inferior. And to the present day, though it is not considered decorous for young women to reveal their feelings till after marriage or engagement, they adore their chosen ones:

For love's insinuating fire they fan With sweet ideas of a god like man.

In this respect, as in so many others, woman has led civilization. Man, too, gradually learned to doff his selfishness, and to respect and adore women, but it took many centuries to accomplish the change, which was due largely to the influence of Christ's teachings. As long as the aggressive masculine virtues alone were respected, feminine gentleness and pity could not but be despised as virtues of a lower grade, if virtues at all. But as war became less and less the sole or chief occupation of the best men, the feminine virtues, and those who exercised them, claimed and received a larger share of respect.

Christianity emphasized and honored the feminine virtues of patience, meekness, humility, compassion, gentleness, and thus helped to place women on a level with man, and in the noblest of moral qualities even above him. Mariolatry, too, exerted a great influence. The worship of one immaculate woman gradually taught men to respect and adore other women, and as a matter of course, it was the lover who found it easiest to get down on his knees before the girl he worshipped.


One day while lunching at an African foudak, half way between Tangier and Tetuan, I was led to moralize on the conjugal superiority of Mohammedan roosters to Mohammedan men. Noticing a fine large cock in the yard, I threw him a handful of bread-crumbs. He was all alone at the moment and might have easily gobbled them all up. Instead of doing such a selfish thing, he loudly summoned his harem with that peculiar clucking sound which is as unmistakable to fowls as is the word dinner or the boom of a gong to us. In a few seconds the hens had gathered and disposed of the bread, leaving not a crumb to their gallant lord and master. I need not add that the Sultan of a human harem in Morocco would have behaved very differently under analogous circumstances.


The dictionary makers derive the word gallant from all sorts of roots in divers languages, meaning gay, brave, festive, proud, lascivious, and so on. Why not derive if from the Latin gallus, rooster? A rooster combines in himself all the different meanings of the word gallant. He is showy in appearance, brave, daring, attentive to females, and, above all, chivalrous, that is, inclined to show disinterested courtesy to the weaker sex, as we have just seen. In this last respect, it is true, the rooster stands not alone. It is a trait of male animals in general to treat their females unselfishly in regard to feeding and otherwise.


If we now turn to human beings, we have to ascend many strata of civilization before we come across anything resembling the unselfish gallantry of the rooster. The Australian savage, when he has speared a kangaroo, makes his wife cook it, then selects the juiciest cuts for himself and the other men, leaving the bones to the women and dogs.

Ascending to the much higher Polynesians and American Indians we still find that the women have to content themselves with what the men leave. A Hawaiian even considers it a disgrace to eat at the same place as his wife, or with the same utensils.

What Kowney says (173) of the Nagas of India—"she does everything the husband will not, and he considers it effeminate to do anything but fight, hunt, and fish"—is true of the lower races in general. An African Kaffir, says Wood (73), would consider it beneath his dignity to as much as lift a basket of rice on the head of even his favorite wife; he sits calmly on the ground and allows some woman to help his busy wife. "One of my friends," he continues,

"when rather new to Kaffirland, happened to look into a hut and there saw a stalwart Kaffir sitting and smoking his pipe, while the women were hard at work in the sun, building huts, carrying timber, and performing all kinds of severe labor. Struck with a natural indignation at such behavior, he told the smoker to get up and work like a man. This idea was too much even for the native politeness of the Kaffir, who burst into a laugh at so absurd a notion. 'Women work,' said he, 'men sit in the house and smoke.'"

MacDonald relates (in Africana, I., 35) that "a woman always kneels when she has occasion to talk to a man." Even queens must in some cases go on their knees before their husbands. (Ratzel, I., 254.) Caille gives similar testimony regarding the Waissulo, and Mungo Park (347) describes the return of one of his companions to the capital of Dentila, after an absence of three years:

"As soon as he had seated himself upon a mat, by the threshold of his door, a young woman (his intended bride) brought a little water in a calabash, and kneeling down before him, desired him to wash his hands; when he had done this, the girl, with a tear of joy sparkling in her eyes, drank the water; this being considered as the greatest proof she could possibly give him of her fidelity and attachment."

An Eskimo, when building a house, looks on lazily while his women carry stones "almost heavy enough to break their backs." The ungallant men not only compel the women to be their drudges, but slyly create a sentiment that it is disgraceful for a man to assist them. Of the Patagonian Indians Falkner asserts that the women are so rigidly "obliged to perform their duty, that their husbands cannot help them on any occasion, or in the greatest distress, without incurring the highest ignominy," and this is the general feeling, of which other illustrations will be given in later chapters. Foolish sentimentalists have tried to excuse the Indians on the ground that they have no time to attend to anything but fighting and hunting. But they always make the squaws do the hard work, whether there be any war and hunting or not. A white American girl, accustomed to the gallant attentions of her lover, would not smile on the red Dacota suitor of whom Riggs writes (205):

"When the family are abed and asleep, he often visits her in her mother's tent, or he finds her out in the grove in the day time gathering fuel. She has the load of sticks made up, and when she kneels down to take it on her back, possibly he takes her hand and helps her up and then walks home by her side. Such was the custom In the olden time."

Still, there is a germ of gallantry here. The Dacota at least helps to load his human donkey, while the Kaffir refuses to do even that.

Colonel James Smith, who had been adopted by the Indians, relates (45) how one day he helped the squaws to hoe corn. They approved of it, but the old men afterward chid him for degrading himself by hoeing corn like a squaw. He slyly adds that, as he was never very fond of work, they had no occasion to scold him again. We read in Schoolcraft (V., 268) that among the Creeks, during courtship, the young man used to help the girl hoe the corn in her field, plant her beans and set poles for them to run upon. But this was not intended as an act of gallant assistance; it had a symbolic meaning. The running up of the beans on the poles and the entwining of their vines was "thought emblematical of their approaching union and bondage." Morgan states expressly in his classical work on the Iroquois (332) that "no attempts by the unmarried to please or gratify each other by acts of personal attention were ever made." In other words the Indians knew not gallantry in the sense of disinterested courtesy to the weaker sex—the gallantry which is an essential ingredient of romantic love.

Germs of gallantry may perhaps be found in Borneo where, as St. John relates (I., 161), a young Dyak may help the girl he wants to marry in her farm work, carrying home her load of vegetables or wood, or make her presents of rings, a petticoat, etc. But such a statement must be interpreted with caution.

The very fact that they make the women do the field work and carry the wood habitually, shows that the Dyaks are not gallant. Momentary favors for the sake of securing favors in return, or of arranging an ephemeral Bornean "marriage," are not acts of disinterested courtesy to the weaker sex. The Dyaks themselves clearly understand that such attentions are mere bids for favors. As a missionary cited by Ling Roth (1., 13.1) remarks:

"If a woman handed to a man betel-nut and sirah to eat, or if a man paid her the smallest attention, such as we should term only common politeness, it would be sufficient to excuse a jealous husband for striking a man."

It is the same in India.

"The politeness, attention, and gallantry which the Europeans practise toward the ladies, although often proceeding from esteem and respect, are invariably ascribed by the Hindoos to a different motive."

(Dubois, I., 271.) Here, as everywhere in former times, woman existed not for her own sake but for man's convenience, comfort, and pleasure; why, therefore, should he bother to do anything to please her? In the Kaniasoutram there is a chapter on the duties of a model wife, in which she is instructed to do all the work not only at home but in garden, field, and stable. She must go to bed after her husband and get up before him. She must try to excel all other wives in faithfully serving her lord and master. She must not even allow the maid-servant to wash his feet, but must do it with her own hands. The Laws of Manu are full of such precepts, most of them amazingly ungallant. The horrible maltreatment of women in India, which it would be an unpardonable euphuism to call simply ungallant, will be dwelt on in a later chapter.

It has been said a thousand times that the best measure of a nation's civilization is its treatment of women. It would be more accurate to say that kind, courteous treatment of women is the last and highest product of civilization. The Greeks and Hindoos had reached a high level of culture in many respects, yet, judged by their treatment of women, the Greeks were barbarians and the Hindoos incarnate fiends. Scholars are sometimes surprisingly reckless in their assumptions. Thus Hommel (1., 417) declares that woman must have held an honored position in Babylonia,[32] because in the ancient texts that have come down to us the words mother and wife always precede the words father and husband. Yet, as Dubois mentions incidentally, the Brahmin texts also place the feminine word before the masculine, and the Brahmins treat women more cruelly than the lowest savages treat them.


I have not been able to find evidence of a gallant, chivalrous, magnanimous attitude toward women in the records of any ancient nation, and as romantic love is inconceivable without such an attitude, and a constant interchange of kindnesses, we may infer from this alone that these nations were strangers to such love. Professor Ebers makes a special plea for the Egyptians. Noting the statements of Herodotus and Diodorus regarding the greater degree of liberty enjoyed by their women as compared with the Greek, he bases thereon the inference that in their treatment of women the Egyptians were superior to all other nations of antiquity. Perhaps they were; it is not claiming much. But Professor Kendrick notes (I., 46) that although it may be true that the Egyptian women went to market and carried on trades while the men remained at home working at the loom, this is capable of receiving quite a different interpretation from that given by Ebers. The Egyptians regarded work at the loom more as a matter of skill than the Greeks did; and if they allowed the women to do the marketing, that may have been because they preferred to have them carry the heavy burdens and do the harder work, after the fashion of savages and barbarians.

If the Egyptians ever did show any respect for women they have carefully wiped out all traces of it in modern life. To-day,

"among the lower classes and in rural districts the wife is her husband's servant. She works while he smokes and gossips. But among the higher classes, too, the woman actually stands far below the man. He never chats with her, never communicates to her his affairs and cares. Even after death she does not rest by his side, but is separated from him by a wall." (Ploss, II., 450.)

Polygamy prevails, as in ancient times, and polygamy everywhere indicates a low position of woman. Ebers comments on the circumspection shown by the ancient Egyptians in drawing up their marriage contracts, adding that "in many cases there were even trial marriages"—a most amazing "even" in view of what he is trying to prove. A modern lover, as I have said before, would reject the very idea of such a trial marriage with the utmost scorn and indignation, because he feels certain that his love is eternal and unalterable. Time may show that he was mistaken, but that does not affect his present feeling. That sublime confidence in the eternity of his passion is one of the hall-marks of romantic love. The Egyptian had it not. He not only sanctioned degrading trial marriages, but enacted a barbarous law which enabled a man to divorce any wife at pleasure by simply pronouncing the words "thou art expelled." In modern Egypt, says Lane (I., 247-51), there are many men who have had twenty, thirty, or more wives, and women who have had a dozen or more husbands. Some take a new wife every month. Thus the Egyptians are matrimonially on a level with the savage and barbarian North American Indians, Tasmanians, Samoans, Dyaks, Malayans, Tartars, many negro tribes, Arabs, etc.


Arabia is commonly supposed to be the country in which chivalry originated. This belief seems to rest on the fact that the Arabs spared women in war. But the Australians did the same, and where women are saved only to be used as slaves or concubines we cannot speak of chivalry. The Arabs treated their own women well only when they were able to capture or buy slaves to do the hard work for them; in other cases their wives were their slaves. To this day, when the family moves, the husband rides on the camel while the wife trudges along on foot, loaded down with kitchen utensils, bedding, and her child on top. If a woman happens to ride on a camel she must get off and walk if she meets a man, by way of showing her respect for the superior sex. (Niebuhr, 50.) The birth of a daughter is regarded as a calamity, mitigated only by the fact that she will bring in some money as a bride. Marriage is often little more than a farce. Burckhardt knew Bedouins who, before they were fifty years old, had been married to more than fifty different women. Chavanne, in his book on the Sahara (397-401), gives a pathetic picture of the fate of the Arab girls:

"Usually wedded very young (the marriage of a youth of fourteen to a girl of eleven is nothing unusual), the girl finds in most cases, after five or six years, that her conjugal career is at an end. The husband tires of her and sends her back, without cogent reasons, to her parents. If there are no parents to return to, she abandons herself, in many cases, to the vice of prostitution."

If not discarded, her fate is none the less deplorable. "While young she receives much attention, but when her charms begin to fade she becomes the servant of her husband and of his new wife."

Chavanne gives a glowing description of the ravishing but short-lived beauty of the Arab girl; also a specimen of the amorous songs addressed to her while she is young and pretty. She is compared to a gazelle; to a palm whose fruits grow high up out of reach; she is equal in value to all Tunis and Algiers, to all the ships on the ocean, to five hundred steeds and as many camels. Her throat is like a peach, her eyes wound like arrows. Exaggerations like these abound in the literature of the Arabs, and are often referred to as proof that they love as we do. In truth, they indicate nothing beyond selfish, amorous desires. The proof of unselfish affection lies not in words, however glowing and flattering, but in kind actions; and the actions of the Arabs toward their women are disgustingly selfish, except during the few years that they are young and pretty enough to serve as toys. The Arabs, with all their fine talk, are practically on a level with the Samoyedes who, as we saw, ignore or maltreat their wives, "except on an occasional amorous evening"; on a level with the Sioux Indian, of whom Mrs. Eastman remarks that a girl is to him an object of contempt and neglect from her birth to her grave, except during the brief period when he wants her for his wife and may have a doubt of his success.


A few pages back I cited the testimony of Morgan, who lived many years among the Indians and studied them with the intelligence of an expert ethnologist, that "no attempts by the unmarried to please or gratify each other by acts of personal attention were ever made." From this we can, once more, make a natural transition from the aboriginal American to the ancient Greek. The Greek men, says the erudite Becker (III., 335), "were quite strangers to that considerate, self-sacrificing courtesy and those minute attentions to women which we commonly call gallantry," Greek literature and all that we know of Greek life, bear out this assertion fully. It is true the Alexandrian poets and their Roman imitators frequently use the language of sentimental gallantry; they declare themselves the slaves of their mistresses, are eager to wear chains, to go through fire, to die for them, promising to take their love to the next world. But all these things are mere "words, words, words"—adulation the insincerity of which is exposed as soon as we examine the actions and the motives of these poets, of whom more will be said in a later chapter. Their flatteries are addressed invariably to hetairai; they are conceived and written with the selfish desire to tickle the vanity of these wantons in the hope and expectation of receiving favors for which the poets, who were usually poor, were not able to pay in any other way. Thus these poets are below the Arabs, for these sons of the desert at least address their flatteries to the girls whom they are eager to marry, whereas the Greek and Roman poets sought merely to beguile a class of women whose charms were for sale to anyone. One of these profligate men might cringe and wail and cajole, to gain the good will of a capricious courtesan, but he never dreamed of bending his knees to win the honest love of the maid he took to be his wife (that he might have male offspring.) Roman love was not romantic, nor was Greek. It was frankly sensual, and the gallantry of the men was of a kind that made them erect golden images in public places to honor Phryne and other prostitutes. In a word, their gallantry was sham gallantry; it was gallantry not in the sense of polite attentions to women, springing from unselfish courtesy and esteem, but in the sinister sense of profligacy and amorous intrigue. There were plenty of gallants, but no real gallantry.


While it is undoubtedly true that Ovid exercised a greater influence on mediaeval bards, and through them on modern erotic writers, than any other ancient poet, and while I still maintain that he anticipated and depicted some of the imaginative phases of modern love (see my R.L.P.B., 90-92), a more careful study of the nature of gallantry has convinced me that I erred in finding the "morning dawn of romantic love" in the counsels regarding gallant behavior toward women given in the pages of Ovid.[33] He does, indeed, advise a lover never to notice the faults of a woman whose favor he wishes to win, but to compliment her, on the contrary, on her face, her hair, her tapering fingers, her pretty foot; to applaud at the circus whatever she applauds; to adjust her cushion and put the footstool in its place; to keep her cool by fanning her; and at dinner, when she has put her lips to the wine-cup to seize the cup and put his lips to the same place. But when Ovid wrote this, nothing was farther from his mind than what we understand by gallantry—an eagerness to perform acts of disinterested courtesy and deference for the purpose of pleasing a respected or adored woman. His precepts are, on the contrary, grossly utilitarian, being intended not for a man who wishes to win the heart and hand of an honest girl, but for a libertine who has no money to buy the favors of a wanton, and therefore must rely on flatteries and obsequious fawning.

The poet declares expressly that a rich man will not need his Ars Amandi, but that it is written for the poor, who may be able to overcome the greed of the hetairai by tickling their vanity. He therefore teaches his readers how to deceive such a girl with false flattery and sham gallantry. The Roman poet uses the word domina, but this domina, nevertheless, is his mistress, not in the sense of one who dominates his heart and commands his respect and affection, but of a despised being lower than a concubine, on whom he smiles only till he has beguiled her. It is the story of the cat and the mouse.


How different this from the modern chivalry which in face of womanhood makes a gentleman even out of a rough California miner. Joaquin Miller relates how the presence of even an Indian girl—"a bud that in another summer would unfold itself wide to the sun," affected the men in one of the camps. Though she seldom spoke with the miners, yet the men who lived near her hut dressed more neatly than others, kept their beards in shape, and shirt-bosoms buttoned up when she passed by:

"On her face, through the tint of brown, lay the blush and flush of maidenhood, the indescribable sacred something that makes a maiden holy to every man of a manly and chivalrous nature; that makes a man utterly unselfish and perfectly content to love and be silent, to worship at a distance, as turning to the holy shrines of Mecca, to be still and bide his time; caring not to possess in the low, coarse way that characterizes your common love of to-day, but choosing rather to go to battle for her—bearing her in his heart through many lands, through storms and death, with only a word of hope, a smile, a wave of the hand from a wall, a kiss, blown far, as he mounts his steed below and plunges into the night. That is love to live for. I say the knights of Spain, bloody as they were, were a noble and a splendid type of men in their day."[34]

While the knights of Spain and other parts of mediaeval Europe doubtless professed sentiments of chivalry like those uttered by Joaquin Miller, there was as a rule nearly as much sham in their pretensions as in Ovid's rules for gallant conduct. In the days of militant chivalry, in the midst of deeds of extravagant homage to individual ladies, women in general were as much despised and maltreated as at any other time. "The chivalrous spirit is above all things a class spirit," as Freeman wrote (V., 482):

"The good knight is bound to endless fantastic courtesies toward men, and still more toward women, of a certain rank; he may treat all below that rank with any degree of scorn and cruelty."

This is still very far removed from the modern ideal; the knight may be considered to stand half-way between the boor and the gentleman: he is polite, at least, to some women, while the gentleman is polite to all, kind, gentle, sympathetic, without being any the less manly. Nevertheless there was an advantage in having some conception of gallantry, a determination and vow to protect widows and orphans, to respect and honor ladies. Though it was at first only a fashion, with all the extravagances and follies usual to fashions, it did much good by creating an ideal for later generations to live up to. From this point of view even the quixotic pranks of the knights who fought duels in support of their challenge that no other lady equalled theirs in beauty, were not without a use. They helped to enforce the fashion of paying deference to women, and made it a point of honor, thus forcing many a boor to assume at least the outward semblance and conduct of a gentleman. The seed sown in this rough and stony soil has slowly grown, until it has developed into true civilization—a word of which the last and highest import is civility or disinterested devotion to the weak and unprotected, especially to women.

In our days chivalry includes compassion for animals too. I have never read of a more gallant soldier than that colonel who, as related in Our Animal Friends (May, 1899), while riding in a Western desert at the head of five hundred horsemen, suddenly made a slight detour—which all the men had to follow—because in the direct path a meadow lark was sitting on her nest, her soft brown eyes turned upward, watching, wondering, fearing. It was a nobler deed than many of the most gallant actions in battle, for these are often done from selfish motives—ambition, the hope of promotion—while this deed was the outcome of pure unselfish sympathy.

"Five hundred horses had been turned aside, and five hundred men, as they bent over the defenceless mother and her brood, received a lesson in that broad humanity which is the essence of higher life."

To this day there are plenty of ruffians—many of them in fine clothes—who are strangers to chivalrous feelings toward defenceless women or animals—men who behave as gentlemen only under compulsion of public opinion. The encouraging thing is that public opinion has taken so strong a stand in favor of women; that it has written Place aux Dames on its shield in such large letters. While the red American squaw shared with the dogs the bones left by her contemptuous ungallant husband, the white American woman is served first at table and gets the choicest morsels; she receives the window-seat in the cars, the lower berth in the sleeper; she has precedence in society and wherever she is in her proper place; and when a ship is about to sink, the captain, if necessary (which is seldom the case), stands with drawn revolver prepared to shoot any man who would ungallantly get into a boat before all the women are saved.


This change from the primitive selfishness described in the preceding pages, this voluntary yielding by man of the place of honor and of the right of the strongest, is little less than a miracle; it is the grandest triumph of civilization. Yet there are viragoes who have had the indecency to call gallantry an "insult to woman." There is indeed a kind of gallantry—the Ovidian—which is an insult to women; but true masculine gallantry is woman's chief glory and conquest, indicating the transformation of the savage's scorn for woman's physical weakness into courteous deference to her as the nobler, more virtuous and refined sex. There are some selfish, sour, disappointed old maids, who, because of their lack of feminine traits, repel men and receive less than their share of gallant courtesy. But that is their own fault. Ninety-nine per cent. of all women have a happier lot to-day than at any previous time in history, and this change is due to the growth of the disinterested courtesy and sympathy known as gallantry. At the same time the change is strikingly illustrated in the status of old maids themselves. No one now despises an unselfish woman simply because she prefers to remain single; but formerly old maids were looked on nearly everywhere with a contempt that reached its climax among the Southern Slavs, who, according to Krauss (Ploss, II., 491), treated them no better than mangy dogs. No one associated with them; they were not tolerated in the spinning-room or at the dances; they were ridiculed and derided; were, in short, regarded as a disgrace to the family.


To sum up: among the lower races man habitually despises and maltreats woman, looking on her as a being made, not for her own sake, but for his comfort and pleasure. Gallantry is unknown. The Australian who fights for his family shows courage, not gallantry, for he is simply protecting his private property, and does not otherwise show the slightest regard for his women. Nor does the early custom of serving for a wife imply gallantry; for here the suitor serves the parents, not the maid; he simply adopts a primitive way of paying for a bride. Sparing women in battle for the purpose of making concubines or slaves of them is not gallantry. One might as well call a farmer gallant because, when he kills the young roosters for broilers, he saves the young hens. He lets these live because he needs eggs. The motive in both cases is utilitarian and selfish. Ovidian gallantry does not deserve such a name, because it is nothing but false flattery for the selfish purpose of beguiling foolish women. Arabic flatteries are of a superior order because sincere at the time being and addressed to girls whom the flatterer desires to marry. But this gallantry, too, is only skin deep. Its motives are sensual and selfish, for as soon as the girl's physical charm begins to fade she is contemptuously discarded.

Our modern gallantry toward women differs radically from all those attitudes in being unselfish. It is synonymous with true chivalry—disinterested devotion to those who, while physically weaker, are considered superior morally and esthetically. It treats all women with polite deference, and does so not because of a vow or a code, but because of the natural promptings of a kind, sympathetic disposition. It treats a woman not as a toper does a whiskey bottle, applying it to his lips as long as it can intoxicate him with pleasure and then throwing it away, but cherishes her for supersensual attributes that survive the ravages of time. To a lover, in particular, such gallantry is not a duty, but a natural impulse. He lies awake nights devising plans for pleasing the object of his devotion. His gallantry is an impulse to sacrifice himself for the beloved—an instinct so inbred by generations of practice that now even a child may manifest it. I remember how, when I was six or seven years old, I once ran out the school-house during recess to pick up some Missouri hailstones, while others, large as marbles, were falling about me, threatening to smash my skull. I gave the trophies to a dark-eyed girl of my age—not with a view to any possible reward, but simply because I loved her more than all the other girls combined and wanted to please her.


Black relates in his Things Chinese, that after the wedding ceremony

"the bride tries hard ... to get a piece of her husband's dress under her when she sits down, for if she does, it will insure her having the upper hand of him, while he tries to prevent her and to do the same thing himself."

Similar customs prevail in other parts of the world, as among the Esthonians. (Schroeder, 234.) After the priest has united the couple they walk toward the wagon or sleigh, and in doing so each of the two tries to be first to step on the other's foot, because that will decide who is to rule at home. Imagine such petty selfishness, such a disgraceful lack of gallantry, on the very wedding-day! In our own country, when we hear of a bride objecting to the word "obey" in the wedding ceremony, we may feel absolutely sure that the marriage is not a love-match, at least as far as she is concerned. A girl truly in love with a man laughs at the word, because she feels as if she would rather be his slave than any other man's queen; and as for the lover, the bride's promise to "obey" him seems mere folly, for he is determined she shall always remain the autocratic queen of his heart and actions. Conjugal disappointments may modify that feeling, to be sure, but that does not alter the fact that while romantic love exists, one of its essential ingredients is an impulse of gallant devotion and deference on both sides—an impulse which on occasion rises to self-sacrifice, which is simply an extreme phase of gallantry.


In the very olden time, if we may confide in the ingenious Frank Stockton, there lived a semi-barbaric king who devised a highly original way of administering justice, leaving the accused man's fate practically in his own hands. There was an arena with the king's throne on one side and galleries for the people all around. On a signal by the king a door beneath him opened and the accused subject stepped out into the amphitheatre. Directly opposite the throne were two doors, exactly alike, and side by side. The person on trial had to walk to those doors and open either of them. If he opened one, there sprang out a fierce tiger who immediately tore him to pieces; if the other, there came forth a beautiful lady, to whom he was forthwith married. No one ever knew behind which of the doors was the tiger, so that the audience no more than the prisoner knew whether he was to be devoured or married.

This semi-barbaric king had a daughter who fell in love with a handsome young courtier. When the king discovered this love-affair he cast the youth into prison and had his realm searched for the fiercest of tigers. The day came when the prisoner had to decide his own fate in the arena by opening one of the doors. The princess, who was one of the spectators, had succeeded, with the aid of gold, in discovering the secret of the doors; she knew from which the tiger, from which the lady, would issue. She knew, too, who the lady was behind the other door—one of the loveliest of the damsels of the court—one who had dared to raise her eyes to her loved one and had thereby aroused her fiercest jealousy. She had thought the matter over, and was prepared for action. The king gave the signal, and the courtier appeared. He had expected the princess to know on which side lay safety for him, nor was he wrong. To his quick and anxious glance at her, she replied by a slight, quick movement of her arm to the right. The youth turned, and without the slightest hesitation opened the door on the right. Now, "which came out of the opened door—the lady or the tiger?"


With that question Stockton ends his story, and it is generally supposed that he does not answer it. But he does, on the preceding page, in these words:

"Think of it, fair reader, not as if the decision of the question depended upon yourself, but upon that hot-blooded, semi-barbaric princess, her soul at white heat beneath the combined fires of despair and jealousy. She had lost him, but who should have him?"

In these words the novelist hints plainly enough that the question was decided by a sort of dog-in-the-manger jealousy. If the princess could not have him, certainly her hated rival should never enjoy his love. The tiger, we may be sure, was behind the door on the right.

In allowing the tiger to devour the courtier, the princess showed that her love was of the primitive, barbarous type, being in reality self-love, not other-love. She "loved" the man not for his own sake, but only as a means of gratifying her desires. If he was lost to her, the tiger might as well dine on him. How differently an American girl would have acted, under the impulse of romantic love! Not for a moment could she have tolerated the thought of his dying, through her fault—the thought of his agony, his shrieks, his blood. She would have sacrificed her own happiness instead of her beloved's life. The lady would have come out of the door opened by him. Suppose that, overcome by selfish jealousy, she acted otherwise; and suppose that an amphitheatre full of cultured men and women witnessed her deed: would there not be a cry of horror, condemning her as worse than the tiger, as absolutely incapable of the feeling of true love? And would not this cry of horror reveal on the part of the spectators an instinctive perception of the truth which this chapter, this whole book, is written to enforce, that voluntary self-sacrifice, where called for, is the supreme, the infallible, test of love?


If we imagine the situation reversed—a man delivering his "beloved" into the clutches of a tiger rather than to the legitimate caresses of a rival—our horror at his loveless selfishness would be doubled. Yet this is the policy habitually followed by savages and barbarians. In later chapters instances will be given of such wooers killing coveted girls with their own spears as soon as they find that the rival is the winner. After what has been said about the absence of unselfish gallantry among the lower races it would, of course, be useless to look for instances of altruistic self-sacrifice for a woman's sake, since such sacrifice implies so much more than gallantry. As for the Greeks, in all my extensive reading I have come across only one author who seemingly appreciates the significance of self-sacrifice for a woman loved. Pausanias, in his Description of Greece (Bk. VII., chap. 21), relates this love-story:

"When Calydon still existed there was among the priests of Dionysus one named Coresus, whom love made, without any fault of his own, the most wretched of mortals. He loved a girl Callirrhoe, but as great as his love for her was her hatred of him. When all his pleadings and offerings of presents failed to change the girl's attitude, he at last prostrated himself before the image of Dionysus, imploring his help. The god granted the prayers of his priest, for suddenly the Calydonians began to lose their senses, like drunkards, and to die in fits of madness. They appealed to the oracle of Dodona ... which declared that the calamity was due to the wrath of the god Dionysus, and that it would not cease until Coresus had sacrificed to Dionysus either Callirrhoe or anyone else willing to die for her. Now when the girl saw no way of escaping, she sought refuge with her former educators, but when they too refused to receive her, nothing remained for her but death. When all the preparations for the sacrifice had been made in accordance with the precepts of the oracle of Dodona, she was brought to the altar, adorned like an animal that is to be sacrificed; Coresus, however, whose duty it was to offer the sacrifice, let love prevail in place of hate, and slew himself instead of Callirrhoe, thus proving by his deed that he had been animated by the purest love. But when Callirrhoe saw Coresus as a corpse, overcome by pity and repentance for her treatment of him, she went and drowned herself in the fountain not far from the Calydonian harbor, which since that time is known as the fountain of Callirrhoe."

If a modern lover, desiring to possess a girl, got her into a predicament which culminated in the necessity of his either slaying her with his own hands or killing himself, and did not choose the latter alternative, we should regard him as more contemptible than the vilest assassin. To us self-sacrifice in such a case would seem not a test of love, nor even of honor so much as of common decency, and we should expect a man to submit to it even if his love of the poor girl had been a mere infatuation of the senses. However, in view of the contempt for women, and for love for women, prevalent among the Greeks in general, we may perhaps discover at least a gleam of better things in this legend of masculine self-sacrifice.


A closer approximation to our ideal may be found in a story related by the Persian poet Saadi (358):

"There was a handsome and well-disposed young man, who was embarked in a vessel with a lovely damsel: I have read that, sailing on the mighty deep, they fell together into a whirlpool: When the pilot came to offer him assistance; God forbid that he should perish in that distress; he was answering, from the midst of that overwhelming vortex, Leave me and take the hand of my beloved! The whole world admired him for this speech, which, as he was expiring, he was heard to make; learn not the tale of love from that faithless wretch who can neglect his mistress when exposed to danger. In this manner ended the lives of those lovers; listen to what has happened, that you may understand; for Saadi knows the ways and forms of courtship, as well as the Tazi, or modern Arabic, is understood at Baghdad."

How did this Persian poet get such a correct and modern notion about love into his head? Obviously not from his experiences and observations at home, for the Persians, as the scholarly Dr. Polak observes in his classical work on them (I., 206), do not know love in our sense of the word. The love of which their poets sing has either a symbolical or an entirely carnal meaning. Girls are married off without any choice of their own at the early age of twelve or thirteen; they are regarded as capital and sold for cash, and children are often engaged in the cradle. When a Persian travels, he leaves his wife at home and enters into a temporary marriage with other women in the towns he visits. In rural districts if the traveller is a person of rank, the mercenary peasants eagerly offer their daughters for such "marriages." (Hellwald, 439.) Like the Greek poets the Persians show their contempt for women by always speaking of boy-favorites when their language rises above the coarsest sensuality. Public opinion regarding Persian stories and poems has been led astray by the changes of sex and the expurgations made freely by translators. Burton, whose version of the Thousand and One Nights was suppressed in England, wrote (F.F., 36), that "about one-fifth is utterly unfit for translation, and the most sanguine Orientalist would not dare to render literally more than three-quarters of the remainder."

Where, then, I repeat, did Saadi get that modern European idea of altruistic self-sacrifice as a test of love? Evidently from Europe by way of Arabia. His own language indicates this—his suspicious boast of his knowledge of real love as of one who has just made a strange discovery, and his coupling it with the knowledge of Arabic. Now it is well known that ever since the ninth century the Persian mind had been brought into a contact with the Arabic which became more and more intimate. The Arabs had a habit of sacrificing their lives in chivalrous efforts to save the life or honor of maidens whom the enemy endeavored to kidnap. The Arabs, on their part, were in close contact with the European minds, and as they helped to originate the chivalrous spirit in Europe, so they must have been in turn influenced by the developments of the troubadour spirit which culminated in such maxims as Montagnogout's declaration that "a true lover desires a thousand times more the happiness of his beloved than his own." As Saadi lived in the time of the troubadours—the twelfth and thirteenth centuries—it was easy for him to get a knowledge of the European "ways and forms of courtship." In Persia itself there was no courtship or legitimate lovemaking, for the "lover" hardly ever had met his bride before the wedding-day. Nevertheless, if we may believe William Franklin,[35] a Persian woman might command a suitor to spend all day in front of her house reciting verses in praise of her beauty; and H.C. Trumbull naively cites, as evidence that Orientals love just as we do, the following story:

"Morier tells ... of a large painting in a pleasure-house in Shiraz, illustrative of the treatment of a loyal lover by a heartless coquette, which is one of the popular legends of Persia. Sheik Chenan, a Persian of the true faith, and a man of learning and consequence, fell in love with an Armenian lady of great beauty who would not marry him unless he changed his religion. To this he agreed. Still she would not marry him unless he would drink wine. This scruple also he yielded. She resisted still, unless he consented to eat pork. With this also he complied. Still she was coy, and refused to fulfil her engagement, unless he would be contented to drive swine before her. Even this condition he accepted. She then told him that she would not have him at all, and laughed at him for his pains. The picture represents the coquette at her window, laughing at Sheik Chenan as he is driving his pigs before her."

This story suggests and may have been invented in imitation of the foolish and capricious tests to which mediaeval dames in Europe put their quixotic knights. Few of these knights, as I have said elsewhere (R.L.P.B., 100), "were so manly as the one in Schiller's ballad, who, after fetching his lady's glove from the lion's den, threw it in her face," to show how his feelings toward her had changed. If the Persian in Trumbull's story had been manly and refined enough to be capable of genuine love, his feelings toward a woman who could wantonly subject him to such persistent insults and degradation, would have turned into contempt. Ordinary sensual infatuation, on the other hand, would be quite strong enough and unprincipled enough to lead a man to sacrifice religion, honor, and self-respect, for a capricious woman. This kind of self-sacrifice is not a test of true love, for it is not altruistic. The sheik did not make his sacrifice to benefit the woman he coveted, but to benefit himself, as he saw no other way of gratifying his own selfish desires.[36]


Very great importance attaches to this distinction between selfish and altruistic self-sacrifice. The failure to make this distinction is perhaps more than anything else responsible for the current belief that romantic love was known to the ancients. Did not Leander risk and sacrifice his life for Hero, swimming to her at night across the stormy Hellespont? Gentle reader, he did not. He risked his life for the purpose of continuing his illicit amours with a priestess of Venus in a lonely tower. As we shall see in the chapter devoted to Greek romances, there is in the story told by Musaeus not a single trait rising above frank sensuality. In his eagerness to gratify his appetite, Leander risked Hero's life as well as his own. His swimming across the strait was, moreover, no more than any animal would do to meet its mate on the other side of a river. It was a romantic thing to do, but it was no proof of romantic love. Bearing in mind what Westermarck says (134)—

"With wild animals sexual desire is not less powerful as an incentive to strenuous exertion than hunger and thirst. In the rut-time, the males, even of the most cowardly species, engage in mortal combats"

—we see that Hero's risking of death for the sake of his intrigue was not even a mark of exceptional courage; and regarding the quality and nature of his "love" it tells us nothing whatever.


In the Hindoo drama Malavika and Agnimitra, Kalidasa represents the king as seeking an interview with a new flame of his. When his companion warns him that the queen might surprise them, the king answers:

When the elephant sees the lotos leaves He fears no crocodile.

Lotos leaves being the elephant's favorite food, these lines admirably sum up the Hindoo idea of risking life for "love"—cupboard love. But would the elephant risk his life to save the beautiful lotos flowers from destruction? Foolish question! Was not the lotos created to gratify the elephant's appetite just as beautiful women were created to subserve man's desires?

Fighting crocodiles for the sake of the sweet lotos is a characteristic of primitive "love" in all its various strata. "Nothing is more certain," writes M'Lean (135), "than that the enamoured Esquimau will risk life and limb in the pursuit of his object." Women, he says, are the main cause of all quarrels among the Esquimaux; and the same is true of the lower races in general. If an Australian wants to run away with another man's wife, the thought of risking his life—and hers too—does not restrain him one moment. Ascending to the Greeks, we may cite Robert Burton's summing up of one of their legends:

"Thirteen proper young men lost their lives for that fair Hipodamia's sake, the daughter of Onomaus, King of Elis: when that hard condition was proposed of death or victory [in a race], they made no account of it, but courageously for love died, till Pelops at last won her by a sleight."

What is this but another version of the story of the lotos and the elephant? The prize was great, and worth the risk. Men risk their lives daily for gold, and for objects infinitely less attractive to the senses and the selfish ambitions than a beautiful princess. In the following, which Burton quotes from Hoedus, the sensual and selfish basis of all such confronting of death for "love's" sake is laid bare to the bone:

"What shall I say of the great dangers they undergo, single combats they undertake, how they will venture their lives, creep in at windows, gutters, climb over walls to come to their sweethearts, and if they be surprised, leap out at windows, cast themselves headlong down, bruising or breaking their legs or arms, and sometimes losing life itself, as Calisto did for his lovely Meliboea?"

I have known rich young Americans and Europeans risk their lives over and over again in such "gallant" adventures, but if I had asked them if they loved these women, i.e., felt such a disinterested affection for them (like a mother's for her child) that they would have risked their lives to benefit them when there was nothing to gain for themselves—they would have laughed in my face. Whence we see how foolish it is to infer from such instances of "gallantry" and "self-sacrifice" that the ancients knew romantic love in our sense of the word. It is useless to point to passages like this (again from Burton):

"Polienus, when his mistress Circe did but frown upon him, in Petronius, drew his sword, and bade her kill, stab, or whip him to death, he would strip himself naked and not resist."

Such fine talk occurs in Tibullus and other poets of the time; but where are the actions corresponding to it? Where do we read of these Romans and Greeks ever braving the crocodile for the sake of preserving the purity of the lotos herself? Or of sparing a lotos belonging to another, but at their mercy? Perseus himself, much vaunted for his chivalry, did not undertake to save the rock-chained Andromeda from the sea monster until he had extorted a promise that she should be his prize. Fine sort of chivalry, that!


One more species of pseudo-self-sacrifice remains to be considered. When Hero finds Leander's dead body on the rocks she commits suicide. Is not this self-sacrifice for love's sake? It is always so considered, and Eckstein, in his eagerness to prove that the ancient Greeks knew romantic love,[37] gives a list of six legendary suicides from hopeless or foiled love. The question of suicide is an interesting one and will be considered in detail in the chapter on the American Indians, who, like other savages, were addicted to it, in many cases for the most trivial reasons. In this place I will content myself with noting that if Eckstein had taken the pains to peruse the four volumes of Ramdohr's Venus Urania (a formidable task, I admit), he would have found an author who more than a hundred years ago knew that suicide is no test of true love. There are indeed, he says (III., 46), plenty of old stories of self-sacrifice, but they are all of the kind where a man risks comfort and life to secure possession of a coveted body for his own enjoyment, or else where he takes his own life because he feels lonely after having failed to secure the desired union. These actions are no index of love, for they "may coexist with the cruelest treatment" of the coveted woman. Very ambitious persons or misers may commit suicide after losing honor or wealth, and

"a coarse negro, in face of the danger of losing his sweetheart, is capable of casting himself into the ocean with her, or of plunging his dagger into her breast and then into his own."

All this is selfish. The only true index of love, Ramdohr continues, lies in the sacrifice of one's own happiness for another's sake; in resigning one's self to separation from the beloved, or even to death, if that is necessary to secure her happiness or welfare. Of such self-sacrifice he declares he cannot find a single instance in the records and stories of the ancients; nor can I.

The suicide of Dido after her desertion by Aeneas is often cited as proof of love, but Ramdohr insists (338) that, apart from the fact that "a woman really in love would not have pursued Aeneas with curses," such an act as hers was the outcome of purely selfish despair, on a par with the suicide of a miser after the loss of his money. It is needless to add to this that Hero's suicide was likewise selfish; for of what possible benefit was it to the dead Leander that she took her own life in a cowardly fit of despondency at having lost her chief source of delight? Had she lost her life in an effort to save his, the case would have been different.

Instances of women sacrificing themselves for men's sake abound in ancient literature, though I am not so sure that they abounded in life, except under compulsion, as in the Hindoo suttee.[38] As we shall see in the chapter on India, tales of feminine self-sacrifice were among the means craftily employed by men to fortify and gratify their selfishness. Still, in the long run, just as man's fierce "jealousy" helped to make women chaster than men, so the inculcation in women of self-sacrifice as a duty, gradually made them naturally inclined to that virtue—an inclination which was strengthened by inveterate, deep-rooted, maternal love. Thus it happened that self-sacrifice assumed rank in course of time as a specifically feminine virtue; so much so that the German metaphysician Fichte could declare that "the woman's life should disappear in the man's without a remnant," and that this process is love. No doubt it is love, but love demands at the same time that the man's life should disappear in the woman's.

It is interesting to note the sexual aspects of gallantry and self-sacrifice. Women are prevented by custom, etiquette, and inbred coyness from showing gallant attentions to men before marriage, whereas the impulse to sacrifice happiness or life for love's sake is at least as strong in them as in men, and of longer standing. If a girl of affectionate impulses on hearing that the man she loved—though he might not have proposed to her—lay wounded, or ill of yellow fever, in a hospital, threw away all reserve, coyness, and fear of violating decorum, and went to nurse him day and night, at imminent risk of her own life, all the world would applaud her, convinced that she had done a more feminine thing than if she had allowed coyness to suppress her sympathetic and self-sacrificing impulses.


A German poem printed in the Wunderhorn relates how a young man, after a long absence from home, returns and eagerly hastens to see his former sweetheart. He finds her standing in the doorway and informs her that her beauty pleases his heart as much as ever:

Gott gruess dich, du Huebsche, du Feine, Von Herzen gefallst du mir.

To which she retorts: "What need is there of my pleasing you? I got a husband long ago—a handsome man, well able to take care of me." Whereupon the disappointed lover draws his knife and stabs her through the heart.

In his History of German Song (chap, v.), Edward Schure comments on this poem in the following amazing fashion:

"How necessary yet how tragic is this answer with the knife to the heartless challenge of the former sweetheart! How fatal and terrible is this sudden change of a passionate soul from ardent love to the wildest hatred! We see him taking one step back, we see how he trembles, how the flush of rage suffuses his face, and how his love, offended, injured, and dragged in the dust, slakes its thirst with the blood of the faithless woman."


It seems almost incredible that such a villanous sentiment should have been allowed to appear in a book without sending its author to prison. "Necessary" to murder a sweetheart because she has changed her mind during a man's long absence! The wildest anarchist plot never included a more diabolical idea. Brainless, selfish, impulsive young idiots are only too apt to act on that principle if their proposals are not accepted; the papers contain cases nearly every week of poor girls murdered for refusing an unwelcome suitor; but the world is beginning to understand that it is illogical and monstrous to apply the sacred word of love to the feeling which animates these cowardly assassins, whose only motives are selfish lust and a dog-in-the-manger jealousy. Love never "slakes its thirst" with the blood of a woman. Had that man really loved that woman, he would have been no more capable of murdering her than of murdering his father for disinheriting him.

Schure is by no means the only author who has thus confounded love with murderous, jealous lust. A most astounding instance occurs in Goethe's Werther—the story of a common servant who conceived a passion for a well-to-do widow.

He lost his appetite, his sleep, forgot his errands; an evil spirit pursued him. One day, finding her alone in the garret, he made an improper proposal to her, and on her refusing he attempted violence, from which she was saved only through the timely arrival of her brother. In defending his conduct the servant, in a most ungallant, unmanly, and cowardly way, tried to fasten the guilt on the widow by saying that she had previously allowed him to take some liberties with her. He was of course promptly ejected from the house, and when subsequently another man was engaged to take his place, and began to pay his addresses to the widow, the discharged servant fell upon him and assassinated him. And this disgusting exhibition of murderous lust and jealousy leads Goethe to exclaim, rapturously:

"This love, this fidelity(!), this passion, is thus seen to be no invention of the poets(!). It lives, it is to be found in its greatest purity(!) among that class of people whom we call uneducated and coarse."

In view of the sensual and selfish attitude which Goethe held toward women all his life, it is perhaps not strange that he should have written the silly words just quoted. It was probably a guilty conscience, a desire to extenuate selfish indulgence at the expense of a poor girl's virtue and happiness, that led him to represent his hero, Werther, as using every possible effort in court to secure the pardon of that erotomaniac who had first attempted rape and then finished up by assassinating his rival.

If Werther's friend had murdered the widow herself, Goethe would have been logically bound to see in his act still stronger evidence of the "reality," "fidelity," and "purity" of love among "people whom we call uneducated and coarse." And if Goethe had lived to read the Rev. W.W. Gill's Savage Life in Polynesia, he might have found therein (118) a story of cannibal "love" still more calculated to arouse his rapturous enthusiasm—

"An ill-looking but brave warrior of the cannibal tribe of Ruanae, named Vete, fell violently in love with a pretty girl named Tanuau, who repelled his advances and foolishly reviled him for his ugliness. His only thought now was how to be revenged for this unpardonable insult. He could not kill her, as she wisely kept to the encampment of Mantara. After some months Tanuau sickened and died. The corpse was conveyed across the island to be let down the chasm of Raupa, the usual burial-place of her tribe."

Vete chose this as the time for revenge. Arrangements were made to intercept the corpse secretly, and he had it carried away. It was too decomposed to be eaten, so they cut it in pieces and burned it—burning anything belonging to a person being the greatest injury one can inflict on a native.


But what have all these disgusting stories to do with affection, the subject of this chapter? Nothing whatever—and that is why I have put them here—to show in a glaring light that what Goethe and Schure, and doubtless thousands of their readers accepted as love is not love, since there is no affection in it. A true patriot, a man who feels an affection for his country, lays down his life for it without a thought of personal advantage; and if his country treats him ungratefully he does not turn traitor and assassin—like the German and Polynesian "lovers" we have just read about. A real lover is indeed overjoyed to have his affection returned; but if it is not reciprocated he is none the less affectionate, none the less ready to lay down his life for the other, and, above all, he is utterly incapable of taking hers. What creates this difference between lust and love is affection, and, so far at least as maternal love is concerned, the nature of affection was known thousands of years ago. When two mothers came before King Solomon, each claiming the same child as her own, the king sent for a sword and said, "Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other." To this the false claimant agreed, but the real mother exclaimed, "O my lord, give her the living child and in no wise slay it." Then the king knew that she was the child's mother and gave him to her. "And all Israel saw that the wisdom of God was in Solomon, to do judgment."

If we ask why this infallible test of love was not applied to the sexual passion, the answer is that it would have failed, because ancient love between the sexes was, as all the testimony collected in this book shows, too sensual and selfish to stand such a test. Yet it is obvious that if we to-day are to apply the word love to the sexual relations, we must use the same test of disinterested affection that we use in the case of maternal love or love of country; and that love is not love before affection is added to all the other ingredients heretofore considered. In that servant's "love" which so excited the wonder of Goethe, only three of the fourteen ingredients of love were present—individual preference, monopoly, and jealousy—and those three, as we have seen, occur also in plain lust. Of the tender, altruistic, loving traits of love—sympathy, adoration, gallantry, self-sacrifice, affection—there is not a trace.


When a great poet can blunder so flagrantly in his diagnosis of love, we cannot wonder that minor writers should often be erratic. For instance, in The Snake Dance of the Moquis of Arizona (45-46), Captain J.D. Bourke exclaims:

"So much stuff and nonsense has been written about the entire absence of affection from the Indian character, especially in the relations between the sexes, that it affords me great pleasure to note this little incident"

—namely, a scene between an Indian and a young squaw:

"They had evidently only lately had a quarrel, for which each was heartily sorry. He approached, and was received with a disdain tempered with so much sweetness and affection that he wilted at once, and, instead of boldly asserting himself, dared do nothing but timidly touch her hand. The touch, I imagine, was not disagreeable, because the girl's hand was soon firmly held in his, and he, with earnest warmth, was pouring into her ear words whose purport it was not difficult to conjecture."

That the simplest kind of a sensual caress—squeezing a young woman's hand and whispering in her ear—should be accepted as evidence of affection is naive, to say the least, and need not be commented on after what has just been said about the true nature of affection and its altruistic test. Unfortunately many travellers who came in contact with the lower races shared Bourke's crude conception of the nature of affection, and this has done much to mislead even expert anthropologists; Westermarck, for instance, who is induced by such testimony to remark (358) that conjugal affection has among certain uncivilized peoples "reached a remarkably high degree of development." Among those whom he relies on as witnesses is Schweinfurth, who says of the man-eating African Niam-Niam that "they display an affection for their wives which is unparalleled among natives of so low a grade. ... A husband will spare no sacrifice to redeem an imprisoned wife" (I., 472).


This looks like strong evidence, but when we examine the facts the illusion vanishes. The Nubians, it appears, are given to stealing the wives of these Niam-Niam, to induce them to ransom them with ivory. A case occurred within Dr. Schweinfurth's own experience (II., 180-187). Two married women were stolen, and during the night

"it was touching, through the moaning of the wind, to catch the lamentations of the Niam-Niam men bewailing the loss of their captured wives; cannibals though they were, they were evidently capable of true conjugal affection. The Nubians remained quite unaffected by any of their cries, and never for a moment swerved from their purpose of recovering the ivory before they surrendered the women."

Here we see what the expression that the Niam-Niam "spare no sacrifice to redeem their imprisoned women" amounts to: the Nubians counted on it that they would rather part with their ivory than with their wives! This, surely, involved no "sacrifice"; it was simply a question of which the husbands preferred, the useless ivory or the useful women—desirable as drudges and concubines. Why should buying back a wife be evidence of affection any more than the buying of a bride, which is a general custom of Africans? As for their howling over their lost wives, that was natural enough; they would have howled over lost cows too—as our children cry if their milk is taken away when they are hungry. Actions which can be interpreted in such sensual and selfish terms can never be accepted as proof of true affection. That the captured wives, on their part, were not troubled by conjugal affection is evident from Schweinfurth's remark that they "were perfectly composed and apparently quite indifferent."


Let us take one more case. There are plenty of men who would like to kiss every pretty girl they see, and no one would be so foolish as to regard a kiss as proof of affection. Yet Lyon (another of the witnesses on whom Westermarck relies) accepts, with a naivete equalling Captain Bourke's, the rubbing together of noses, which among the Eskimos is an equivalent of our kissing, as a mark of "affection." In the case of unscientific travellers, such a loose use of words may perhaps be pardonable, but a specialist who writes a history of marriage should not put the label of "affection" on everything that comes into his drag-net, as Westermarck does (pp. 358-59); a proceeding the less excusable because he himself admits, a few pages later (362), that affection is chiefly provoked by "intellectual, emotional, and moral qualities" which certainly could not be found among some of the races he refers to. I have investigated a number of the alleged cases of conjugal "affection" in books of travel, and found invariably that some manifestation of sensual attachment was recklessly accepted as an indication of "affection."

In part, it is true, the English language is to be blamed for this state of affairs. The word affection has been used to mean almost any disposition of the mind, including passion, lust, animosity, and a morbid state. But in good modern usage it means or implies an altruistic feeling of devotion which urges us to seek the welfare of another even at the expense of our own. We call a mother affectionate because she willingly and eagerly sacrifices herself for her child, toils for it, loses sleep and food and health for its sake. If she merely cared for it [note the subtle double sense of "caring for"] because it is pretty and amusing, we might concede that she "liked" it, was "attached" to it, or "fond" of it; but it would be incorrect to speak of affection. Liking, attachment, and fondness differ from affection not only in degree but in kind; they are selfish, while affection is unselfish; they occur among savages, while affection is peculiar to civilized persons and perhaps some animals.


Liking is the weakest kind of inclination toward another. It "never has the intensity of love." To say that I like a man is to indicate merely that he pleases me, gives me selfish pleasure—in some way or other. A man may say of a girl who pleases him by her looks, wit, vivacity, or sympathy, "I like her," though he may have known her only a few minutes; while a girl who will rather die than give any sign of affection, may be quite willing to confess that she likes him, knowing that the latter means infinitely less and does not betray her; that is, it merely indicates that he pleases her and not that she is particularly anxious to please him, as she would be if she loved him. Girls "like" candy, too, because it gives them pleasure, and cannibals may like missionaries without having the least affection for them.

Attachment is stranger than liking, but it also springs from selfish interests and habits. It is apt to be similar to that gratitude which is "a lively sense of favors to come." Mrs. Bishop (Isabella Bird) eloquently describes (II, 135-136) the attachment to her of a Persian horse, and incidentally suggests the philosophy of the matter in one sentence: "To him I am an embodiment of melons, cucumbers, grapes, pears, peaches, biscuits, and sugar, with a good deal of petting and ear-rubbing thrown in." Cases of attachment between husband and wife no doubt abound among savages, even when the man is usually contemptuous and rude in his treatment of the wife. The Niam-Niam husbands of Schweinfurth did not, as we saw, give any evidence of unselfish affection, but they were doubtless attached to their wives, for obvious reasons. As for the women among the lower races, they are apt, like dogs, to cling to their master, no matter how much he may kick them about. They get from him food and shelter, and blind habit does the rest to attach them to his hearth. What habit and association can do is shown in the ease with which "happy families" of hostile animals can be reared. But the beasts of prey must be well fed; a day or two of fasting would result in the lamb lying down inside the lion. The essential selfishness of attachment is shown also in the way a man becomes attached to his pipe or his home, etc. At the same time, personal attachment may prove the entering wedge of something higher. "The passing attachments of young people are seldom entitled to serious notice; although sometimes they may ripen by long intercourse into a laudable and steady affection" (Crabb).


The word fondness is sometimes used in the sense of a tender, loving disposition; yet there is nearly always an implication of silly extravagance or unseemly demonstrativeness, and in the most accurate usage it means a foolish, doting indulgence, without discriminating intelligence, or even common-sense. As Crabb puts it in his English Synonyms, "A fond parent does not rise above a fool." Everybody knows fathers and mothers whose fondness induces them to indulge all the appetites, desires, and whims of their children, thereby ruining their health and temper, making them greedy and selfish, and laying the foundation for a wretched life for the children themselves and all who are unfortunate enough to come into contact with them. This irrational fondness is what travellers and anthropologists have so often mistaken for genuine affection in the cases of savages and barbarians who were found to be fondling their babes, doting upon them, playing with them, and refusing to punish them for any naughtiness. But it is far from being affection, because it is not only foolish, but selfish. To some of my readers this may seem a strange accusation, but it is a fact recognized in the best literary usage, for, as Crabb remarks, "a person is fond, who caresses an object or makes it a source of pleasure to himself." Savages fondle their children because in doing so they please and amuse themselves. Their pranks entertain the fathers, and as for the mothers, nature (natural selection) has implanted in them an unconscious instinct of race preservation which, recognizing the selfishness of primitive man, has brought it about that it gives the mother a special pleasure to suckle and fondle her infant. The essential selfishness of this fondness is revealed when there is a conflict between the mother's comfort and the child's welfare. The horrible prevalence among many of the lower races, of infanticide—merely to save trouble—of which many examples are given in various parts of this book (see index)—shows not only how selfish, but how shallow, fondness is. There are thousands of mothers in our modern cities who have not risen above this condition. An Italian, Ferriani, has written a book on degenerate mothers (Madri Snaturate), and I have in my note-books a statement of the London Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children referring to a record of 2,141 cases of proved cruelty in the one month of August, 1898; which would make at least 25,000 cases a year, in one city alone, or possibly double that number, for many cases are never found out, or else consist of mental torture which is worse than bodily maltreatment. Yet there can be no doubt that all, or nearly all, of these mothers were fond of their babies—i.e., fondled them at first, till the animal instinct implanted in them was overcome by the desire for personal comfort. This animal instinct, given to them by nature, is no virtue, for it is unconscious. A tigress has it, but we do not call it a virtue in her any more than we call her cruelty to her prey a vice; she is acting unconsciously in either case, knowing no distinction between good and evil. Fondness, in a word, is not an ethical virtue. In addition to all its enumerated shortcomings, it is, moreover, transient. A dog mother will care for her young for a few months with the watchfulness and temporary ferocity implanted in her by natural selection, but after that she will abandon them and recognize them no more as her own. Sometimes this instinctive fondness ceases with startling rapidity. I remember once in a California yard, how a hen flew in my face angrily because I had frightened her chicks. A few days later she deserted them, before they were really quite old enough to take care of themselves, and all my efforts to make her return and let them sleep again under her warm feathers failed. She even pecked at them viciously. Some of the lower savages similarly abandon their young as soon as they are able to get along, while those who care for them longer, do so not from affection, but because sons are useful assistants in hunting and fighting, and daughters can be sold or traded off for new wives. That they do not keep them from affection is proved by the fact that in all cases where any selfish advantage can be gained they marry them off without reference to their wishes or chances of happiness.[39]


While the fondness of savages, which has been so often mistaken for affection, is thus seen to be foolish, unconscious, selfish, shallow, and transient, true affection is rational, conscious, unselfish, deep, and enduring. Being rational, it looks not to the enjoyment or comfort of the moment, but to future and enduring welfare, and therefore does not hesitate to punish folly or misdeeds in order to avert future illness or misfortune. Instead of being a mere instinctive impulse, liable to cease at any moment, like that of the California hen referred to, it is a conscious altruism, never faltering in its ethical sense of duty, utterly incapable of sacrificing another's comfort or well-being to its own. While fondness is found coexisting with cruelty and even with infanticide and cannibalism (as in those Australian mothers, who feed their children well and carry them when tired, but when a real test of altruism comes—during a famine—kill and eat them,[40] just as the men do their wives when they cease to be sensually attractive), affection is horrified at the mere suggestion of such a thing. No man into whose love affection enters as an ingredient would ever injure his beloved merely to gratify himself. Crabb is utterly wrong when he writes that

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