Case D.—This boy came to me at thirteen. He was always a conscientious and amiable boy, but was nervous and dull. By fifteen his dullness had increased, and he complained of brain-strain and poorness of memory. Finally he began to develop St. Vitus's dance. I sent him to our school doctor, who returned him with a note saying that his condition was serious—that he must stop all work, &c. &c. I was in my study when the lad came back, and I at once told him what was the matter. He frankly admitted frequent self-abuse, which he had learned from an elder brother. He had not the least suspicion that the habit was injurious; but was very apprehensive about his future until I reassured him. He wanted me to write at once and warn a younger brother who had fallen into the habit. By great effort he got himself rapidly under control. His nervous twitchings disappeared, his vitality improved, the brain-fag gradually ceased; and when he left, eighteen months later, he was fairly normal. His improvement continued afterwards, and he is now a successful man of business and a married man.
Case E.—This boy entered at twelve. He was very weak physically and highly nervous—owing, his people thought, to severe bullying at a previous school. He was an able boy, of literary and artistic tastes, and almost painfully conscientious. He was very shy; always thought that he was despised by other boys; and was a duffer at games, which he avoided to the utmost. With my present experience I should have known him to be a victim of self-abuse. Then, I did not suspect him; and it was not until he was leaving at eighteen for the University that we talked the matter over, on his initiative. Then I found that he had been bullied into impurity at eleven, and was now a helpless victim. After two years at the University he wrote me that, though the temptation now came less frequently, he seemed absolutely powerless when it did come; that he despised himself so much that the impulse to suicide often haunted him; but that the cowardice which had kept him from games at school would probably prevent his taking his life. With the assistance of an intense and devoted religious life he gradually began to gain self-mastery. It is some years now since he has mentioned the subject to me.
These are merely specimen cases. Cases A, B, and C illustrate my assertions that parents are wonderfully blind; Cases B and E, that quite exceptional refinement in a boy gives no protection from temptation to impurity; Case D, that a boy, even in an extreme case, does not know that the habit is injurious. In respect of their severity, C, D, and E are not normal but extreme cases. The reader must not imagine that boys ordinarily suffer as much as these did.
PREVALENCE OF IMPURITY AMONG BOYS: THE OPINIONS OF CANON LYTTELTON, DR. DUKES, AND OTHERS.
I propose now to make clear to the reader the fact that the conclusions I have reached as to the existence of sexual knowledge among boys, and as to the prevalence of self-abuse, are entirely borne out by the opinion of the most distinguished teachers and medical men.
Canon Lyttelton writes with an authority which no one will question. Educated at Eton, he was for two years an assistant master at Wellington College; then, for fifteen years, headmaster of Haileybury College, and has now been headmaster of Eton for over six years. He has intimate knowledge of boys, derived, as regards the question of purity, from confidential talks with them. The quotations which follow are from his work Training of the Young in Laws of Sex. Canon Lyttelton does not think it needful to make statements as to the prevalence of impurity among boys. He rather assumes that this prevalence is obvious and, under present conditions, inevitable. I have already quoted one passage which involves this assumption, and now invite the reader to consider two others. "In the school life of boys, in spite of very great improvements, it is impossible that sexual subjects should be wholly avoided in common talk.... Though, in preparatory schools of little boys under fourteen, the increasing vigilance of masters, and constant supervision, combined with constant employment, reduce the evil of prurient talk to a minimum, yet these subjects will crop up.... It should be remembered that the boys who are talkative about such subjects are just those whose ideas are most distorted and vicious. In the public school, owing not only to freer talk and more mixed company but to the boy's own wider range of vision, sexual questions, and also those connected with the structure of the body, come to the fore and begin to occupy more or less of the thoughts of all but a peculiarly constituted minority of the whole number.
"Men, as I have shown, have been severely dealt with by Nature in this respect: she has forced them, at a time of life when their minds are ill compacted, their ideas chaotic, and their wills untrained, to face an ordeal which demands above all things reverence based on knowledge and resolution sustained by high affections. An enormously large proportion flounder blindly into the mire before they know what it is, not necessarily, but very often into the defilement of evil habit, but, still more often, into the tainted air of diseased opinion, and after a few years some of them emerge saved, but so as by fire."[B]
[Footnote B: Pages 4 et seq.: the italics are mine.]
The following are quotations from the Upton Letters, written by Mr. A.C. Benson. Mr. Benson is one of the most distinguished of modern teachers: he has had long experience of public-school life both as a boy and as a master: he has that insight into the heart of boyhood which can come only to one who has affectionate sympathy with boys and has been the recipient of their confidences. It will be abundantly evident from the passages which follow that in Mr. Benson's opinion no boy is likely to preserve his "innocence" in passing through a public school.
"The subject is so unpleasant that many masters dare not speak of it at all, and excuse themselves by saying that they don't want to put ideas into boys' heads. I cannot conscientiously believe that a man who has been through a big public school himself can honestly be afraid of that." "The standard of purity is low: a vicious boy does not find his vicious tendencies by any means a bar to social success." This, of course, assumes that the vicious tendencies are a matter of notoriety. A similar implication is involved in the following: "I do not mean to say that there are not many boys who are both pure-minded and honest; but they treat such virtues as a secret preference of their own, and do not consider that it is in the least necessary to interfere with the practice of others or even to disapprove of it." He further gives it as his opinion that "The deadly and insidious temptation of impurity has, as far as one can learn, increased," and tells us "An innocent-minded boy whose natural inclination to purity gave way before perpetual temptation and even compulsion might be thought to have erred, but would have scanty, if any, expression of either sympathy or pity from other boys; while if he breathed the least hint of his miserable position to a master and the fact came out, he would be universally scouted.... One hears of simply heart-rending cases where a boy dare not even tell his parents of what he endures." It would thus appear that in some of the premier schools of the world impurity is a matter of notoriety, sometimes of compulsion; and that, to a boy's own strong inclination to concealment, is superadded, by the public opinion of the school, an imperious command that this concealment shall, even in heart-rending cases, be maintained.
No one, I think, will maintain that private schools as a class are in the least degree lees corrupt than public schools; while there are, I am sure, at least a few schools in which public opinion condemns open impurity, and will not tolerate impure talk. And while I am confident that it is possible, not merely to attain this condition in a school, but also to reduce private impurity to a negligible quantity, impurity—in one form or another—is, in general, so widely spread in boys' schools of every type, that it is difficult to understand how anyone familiar with school life can doubt its prevalence.
Let us now consider the opinion of Dr. Clement Dukes, the medical officer of Rugby School and the greatest English authority on school hygiene. In the preface to the fourth edition of his well-known work Health at School, Dr. Dukes writes: "I have studied children in all their phases and stages for many years—two years at the Hospital for Sick Children in 61 Ormond Street, London, followed by thirty-three years at Rugby School—a professional history which has provided me with an almost unique experience in all that relates to the Health and Disease of Childhood and Youth, and has compelled constant and steady thought upon every aspect of this problem." In an earlier work, The Preservation of Health, Dr. Dukes gives his estimate of the prevalence of masturbation, and quotes the opinion of other authorities whose credentials he has verified; In this work, on page 150, he writes of masturbation: "I believe that the reason why it is so widespread an evil—amounting, I gather, although from the nature of the case no complete evidence can ever be accurately obtained, to somewhere about 90 to 95 per cent. of all boys at boarding-schools—is because the boy leaves his home in the first instance without one word of warning from his parents ... and thus falls into evil ways from his innocence and ignorance alone.... This immorality is estimated by some at 80 per cent., by others at 90 per cent. Another says that not 10 per cent. are innocent. Another that it has always begun at from eight to twelve years of age. Others that it is always worst amongst the elder boys. Others that 'it is universal.'" Professor Stanley Hall, in his great work on Adolescence, after a similar and exhaustive review of the numerous works on this subject in different languages, concludes: "The whole literature on the subject attests that whenever careful researches have been undertaken the results are appalling as to prevalence." And yet there are people who deprecate purity-teaching for boys because they feel that a boy's natural modesty is quite a sufficient protection, and that there is danger of destroying a boy's innocence by putting ideas into his head! To hear such people talk, and to listen to the way in which they speak of self-abuse as though it implied monstrous moral perversion, one would think that the condition of morals when they were young was wholly different. The great novelist Thackeray gives little countenance to this opinion when he writes in Pendennis: "And, by the way, ye tender mothers and sober fathers of Christian families, a prodigious thing that theory of life is as orally learned at a great public school. Why if you could hear those boys of fourteen who blush before mothers and sneak off in silence in the presence of their daughters, talking among each other—it would be the woman's turn to blush then. Before he was twelve years old little Pen had heard talk enough to make him quite awfully wise upon certain points—and so, madam, has your pretty rosy-cheeked son, who is coming home from school for the ensuing holidays. I don't say that the boy is lost, or that the innocence has left him which he had from 'Heaven, which is our home,' but that the shades of the prison-house are closing fast over him, and that we are helping as much as possible to corrupt him."
Before concluding this chapter I would caution the reader against the error of supposing that the opinions expressed by Canon Lyttelton and Dr. Dukes are indicative merely of the conditions they have met at Haileybury, Eton, and Rugby. They are equally significant of the conditions which obtain in the innumerable schools from which Haileybury, Eton, and Rugby are recruited; and as there is no reason why other preparatory schools should differ from these, they are significant of the almost universal condition of boys' schools.
CAUSES OF THE PREVALENCE OF IMPURITY AMONG BOYS.
The evidence I have adduced in the previous chapters will convince most of my readers that few boys retain their innocence after they are of school age. There may, however, be a few who find it impossible to reconcile this conclusion with their ideas of boy nature. I will therefore now examine current conceptions on this subject and expose their fundamental inaccuracy.
There are some people who imagine that a boy's innate modesty is quite sufficient protection against defilement. Does experience really warrant any such conclusion? Those who know much of children will recognise the fact that even the cardinal virtues of truthfulness and honesty have often to be learned, and that ideas of personal cleanliness, of self-restraint in relation to food, and of consideration for others have usually to be implanted and fostered. Among people of refinement these virtues are often so early learned that there is danger lest we should consider them innate. The susceptibility of some children to suggestions conveyed to them by the example and precept of their elders is almost unlimited. Hence a child may, at two, have given up the trick of clearing its nostrils with the finger-nail, and may, before five, have learned most of the manners and virtues of refined people. The majority, however, take longer to learn these things, so that a jolly little chap of ten or twelve is often by no means scrupulously clean in hands, nails, ears, and teeth, is often distinctly greedy, and sometimes far from truthful.
That cleanliness and virtue are acquired and not innate is obvious enough from the fact that children who grow up among dirty and unprincipled people are rarely clean and virtuous. Were it possible for the child of refined parents to grow up without example or precept in relation to table manners and morals, except the example and advice of vulgar people, who would expect refinement and consideration from him? Is there anyone who has such faith in innate refinement that he would be content to let a child of his own, grow up without a hint on these matters, and with such example only as was supplied by association with vulgar people? Yet this is precisely what we do in relation to the subject of personal purity. The child has no good example to guide him. The extent to which temptation comes to those whom he respects, the manner in which they comport themselves when tempted, the character of their sex relations are entirely hidden from him. He is not only without example, he is without precept. No ideals are set before him, no advice is given to him: the very existence of anything in which ideals and advice are needful is ignored.
If in conditions like these we should expect a boy to grow up greedy, we may be certain that he will grow up impure. At puberty there awakes within him by far the strongest appetite that human nature can experience—an appetite against which some of the noblest of mankind have striven in vain. The appetite is given abnormal strength by the artificial and stimulating conditions under which he lives. The act which satisfies this appetite is also one of keen pleasure. He has long been accustomed to caress his private parts, and the pleasure with which he does this is greatly enhanced. He does not suspect that indulgence is harmful. This pleasure, unlike that of eating, costs him nothing, and is ever available. His powers of self-control are as yet undeveloped. He can indulge himself without incurring the least suspicion. He probably knows that most boys, of his age and above, indulge themselves. The result is inevitable. He finds that sexual thoughts are keenly pleasurable, and that they produce bodily exaltation. He has much yet to learn on the subject of sex, and he enjoys the quest. Wherever he turns he finds it now—in his Bible, in animal life, in his classics, in the encyclopaedia, in his companions, and in the newspaper. Day and night the subject is ever with him. It is inevitable. And at this juncture comes along the theorist who is aghast at our destroying the lad's "innocence," and at our "suggesting evils to him which otherwise he would never have thought of." "The boy's innate modesty is quite a sufficient protection"!
To me the wonderful thing is the earnestness with which a boy sets about the task of cleansing his life when once he has been made to realise the real character of the thoughts and acts with which he has been playing. Boys, as I find them, rarely err in this matter, or in any other, from moral perversity, but merely from ignorance and thoughtlessness. Severe rebukes and punishments are rarely either just or useful. The disposition which obliges the teacher to use them in the last resort, and the rebellion against authority which is said to follow puberty, arise almost invariably from injudicious training in the home or at school. Boys who have received a fair home training, and who find themselves in a healthy atmosphere at school, are almost invariably delightful to deal with; and even those who have been less fortunate in their early surroundings adapt themselves in most cases to the standards which a healthy public opinion in the school demands.
It may be thought that the mere reticence of adults about reproduction and the reproductive organs would impress the child's mind with the idea that it is unclean to play with his private parts or to talk about their functions with his companions. This is a psychological error. For some years past adults have avoided any allusion to the subject of excretion, and the child assumes that public attention to bodily needs and public reference to these needs are alike indelicate. He does not, however, conclude that excretion in private is an indelicate act, nor does any sense of delicacy oblige him to maintain, with regard to companions of his own sex and age, the reticence which has become habitual to him in his relations with adults. Why should the child think it "dirty" to fondle and excite his private parts or to talk about them with his boy friends? The knowledge which makes us feel as we do is as yet hidden from him.
The same thing is certainly true of conversation about the facts of reproduction when those who converse are uncorrupted. Another element, however, at once appears when these facts are divulged by a corrupt boy, because his manner is irresistibly suggestive of uncleanness as well as of secrecy. Similarly when self-abuse is fallen into spontaneously by a boy who is otherwise clean, no sense of indecency attaches itself to the act. When, however, it is taught by an unclean boy, there is a feeling of defilement from the first. In boys under the age of puberty this feeling may overpower the temptation; in boys above that age it is, as a rule, totally inadequate as a safeguard.
Many people imagine that a boy who is impure must betray himself, and that if no overt acts of indecency are observed the innocence of a boy's mind may be safely inferred. Knowledge on these subjects has, however, been almost invariably gained under conditions of the utmost secrecy, and the behaviour of adults has effectively fostered the idea of concealment. Hence we might expect that the secret would be jealously guarded and that any overt act of impurity would be avoided in the presence of adults with even greater circumspection than the public performance of an excretory act. The habit of self-abuse, moreover, is practised usually under the double cover of darkness and the bed-clothes. The temptation occurs far less by day than by night, and a boy who yields to it in the day invariably chooses a closet or other private place in which he feels secure from detection.
To many people it is inconceivable that a lad can harbour impure feelings and habits without obvious deterioration; but even if a child's lapses into these things were associated with conscious guilt, does our knowledge of human nature justify us in supposing that evil in the heart is certain to betray itself in a visible degradation of the outer life? If we believe the language of the devout, we must admit that the most spiritual of men hide in their heart thoughts of which they are heartily ashamed. It is not into the mouth of the reprobate but into the mouth of her devoted members as they enter upon their sacramental service that the Church puts the significant prayer, "Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts in our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit." Inconsistency in adults is far too well recognised to need proof. In children it is even more obvious, and for this reason that, looked at aright, it is the faculty of maintaining the general health of the soul, spite of local morbid conditions—a faculty which is strongest in the simpler and more adaptable mind of the child.
Impurity as a disease has a long incubation period. When he contracts the disease, its victim is often wholly unconscious of his danger; and, both because the disease is an internal one and is slow in development, it is a very long time before obvious symptoms appear. Meanwhile a corruption may have set in which will ultimately ruin the whole life.
RESULTS OF YOUTHFUL IMPURITY.
It is difficult to exaggerate the evils which result from the present system under which boys grow to manhood without any adult guidance in relation to the laws of sex.
It has already been stated that the immediate physical results of self-abuse are small evils indeed compared with the corruption of mind which comes from perverted sex ideas. They are, however, by no means negligible; and are, in some cases, very serious. The great prevalence of self-abuse among boys, combined with the inevitable uncertainty as to the degree of a boy's freedom from, or indulgence in, this vice, makes it very difficult to institute a reliable comparison between those who are chaste and those who are unchaste. Greater significance attaches, I think, to a comparison in individual cases of a boy's condition during a period of indulgence in masturbation and his condition after its total, or almost total, relinquishment. I have no hesitation in saying that the difference in a boy's vitality and spiritual tone after relinquishing this habit is very marked. The case D quoted in Chapter I. is, in this respect, typical.
In my pamphlet, Private Knowledge for Boys, I have quoted a striking passage from Acton on the Reproductive Organs, in which he contrasts the continent and the incontinent boy. But in the case of men like Dr. Acton—specialists in the diseases of the male reproductive organs—it must be remembered that it is mostly the abnormal and extreme cases which come under their notice: a fact which is liable to affect their whole estimate. The book can be recommended to adults who wish to see the whole subject of sex diseases dealt with by a specialist who writes with a high moral purpose.
My own estimate is given in the pamphlet already referred to. After quoting Dr. Acton's opinion, I add:—
"You will notice that Dr. Acton is here describing an extreme case. I want to tell you what are the results in a case which is not extreme. My difficulty is that these results are so various. The injury to the nerves and brain which is caused by sexual excitement and by the loss of semen leaves nothing in the body, mind or character uninjured. The extent of the injury varies greatly with the strength of a boy's constitution and with the frequency of his sin. The character of the injury varies with the boy's own special weaknesses and tendencies. If he is naturally shy and timid, it makes him shyer and more timid. If he is stupid and lazy, it makes him more stupid and lazy. If he is inclined to consumption or other disease, it destroys his power of resisting such disease. In extreme cases only does it actually change an able boy into a stupid one, an athletic boy into a weak one, and a happy boy into a discontented one; but in all cases it weakens every power a boy possesses. Its most prominent results are these: loss of will-power and self-reliance, shyness, nervousness and irritability, failure of the reasoning powers and memory, laziness of body and mind, a diseased fondness for girls, deceitfulness. Of these results, the loss of will-power leaves the boy a prey not only to the temptations of impurity, but to every other form of temptation: the deceitfulness destroys his self-respect and turns his life into a sham."
Of incomparably greater importance than Acton's wide but abnormal experience and my own narrow but normal experience is the experience of Dr. Clement Dukes, which is very wide and perfectly normal. No man has probably been in so good a position for forming an estimate as he has been. Dr. Dukes thus sums up his opinion: "The harm which results is moral, intellectual, and physical. Physically it is a frequent drain at a critical time of life when nature is providing for growth and development, and is ill able to bear it; it is a powerful nervous shock to the system ill-prepared to meet it.... It also causes muscular and mental debility, loss of spirit and manliness, and occasional insanity, suicide and homicide. Moreover it leads to further uncontrollable passions in early manhood.... Further, this vice enfeebles the intellectual powers, inducing lethargy and obtuseness, and incapacity for hard mental work. And last, and most of all, it is an immorality which stains the whole character and undermines the life."
In this passage Dr. Dukes refers to the intellectual and moral harm of self-abuse as well as to its physical consequences. Intimately connected as these are with one another, I am here attempting to give them separate treatment. It is, however, impossible to treat perverted sex-knowledge and self-abuse separately; for though in young boys they are found independently of one another, and sometimes co-exist in elder boys without any intimate conscious association, their results are identical. In the following pages, therefore, I shall refer to them jointly as impurity.
The earliest evil which springs from impurity is the destruction of the intimacy which has hitherto existed between the boy and his parents. Closely associated with this is that duplicity of life which results from secrets which may be shared with the coarse but must be jealously concealed from everyone who is respected. Untold harm follows these changes in a lad. Hitherto he has had nothing to conceal from his mother—unless, indeed, his parents have been foolish enough to drive him into deception by undue severity over childish mistakes, and accidents, and moral lapses. Every matter which has occupied his thoughts he has freely shared with those who can best lead him into the path of moral health.
Henceforth all is changed. The lad has his own inner life which he must completely screen from the kind eyes which have hitherto been his spiritual lights. Concealment is soon found to be an easy thing. Acts and words are things of which others may take cognisance; the inner life no one can ever know. A world is opened to the lad in which the restraints of adult opinion are not felt at all and the guidance and inspiration of a father's or mother's love never come. How completely this is the case in regard to impurity the reader will hardly doubt if he remembers that all parents believe their boys to be innocent, and that some 90 per cent. of them are hopelessly hoodwinked. But this double life is not long confined to the subject of purity. The concealment which serves one purpose excellently can be made to serve another; and henceforth parents and adult friends need never know anything but what they are told. It is a sad day for the mother when first she realises that the old frankness has gone; it is a very, very much sadder day for the boy. There is no fibre of his moral being but is, or will be, injured by this divorce of home influences and by this ever-accumulating burden of guilty memories. "His mother may not know why this is so," writes Canon Lyttelton; "the only thing she may be perfectly certain of is that the loss will never be quite made up as long as life shall last."
Another injury done by impurity to the growing mind of the lad is that, in all matters relating to sex, he learns to look merely for personal enjoyment. In every other department of life he is moved by a variety of motives: by the desire to please, the desire to excel, by devotion to duty, by the love of truth, and by many other desires. Even in gratifying the appetite most nearly on the same plane as the sexual appetite—namely, that of hunger—he has more or less regard for his own well-being, more or less consideration for the wishes of others, and a constant desire to attain the standard expected of him. Meanwhile, as regards the sexual appetite—the racial importance of which is great; and the regulation of which is of infinite importance for himself, for those who may otherwise become its victims, for the wife he may one day wed, and for the children, legitimate or illegitimate, that he may beget—his one idea is personal enjoyment. One deplorable result of this idea will be adverted to in the next chapter.
When boyish impurity involves a coarse way of looking at sexual relations, as it always must when these are matters of common talk and jest, the boy suffers a loss which prejudicially affects the whole tone of his mind and every department of his conduct—I mean the loss of reverence. It is those things alone which are sacred to us, those things about which we can talk only with friends, and about which we can jest with no one, that have inspiration in them, that can give us power to follow our ideals and to lay a restraining hand on the brute within us. Fortunately the self-control which manifests itself in heroism, in good form, and in the sportsmanlike spirit is sacred to almost all. To most, a mother's love is sacred. To many, all that is implied in the word religion. To a few, sexual passion and the great manifestations of human genius in poetry, music, painting, sculpture, and architecture. Exactly in proportion as these things are profaned by jest and mockery, is the light of the soul quenched and man degraded to the level of the beast. Considering how large a part the sex-passion plays in the lives of most men and women; considering how it permeates the literature and art of the World and is—as the basis of the home—the most potent factor in social life, its profanation is a terrible loss, and the habit of mind which such profanation engenders cannot fail to weaken the whole spirit of reverence. I must confess that the man who jests over sex relations is to me incomparably lower than the man who sustains clean but wholly illegitimate sex relations; and while I am conscious of a strong movement of friendship towards a lad who has admitted impurity in his life but retains reverence for purity, it is hard to feel anything but repulsion towards one who profanes the subject of sex with coarse and ribald talk.
As a result of the two evils of which I have now spoken, together with the physical effects of masturbation, young men become powerless to face the sexual temptations of manhood; and many, who in all other relations of life are admirable, sink in this matter into the mire of prostitution or the less demoralising, but far crueller, sin of seduction.
Thrown on the streets, usually through no fault of her own, often merely from an over-trustful love, the prostitute sinks to the lowest depths of degradation and despair. It is not merely that she sells to every comer, clean or bestial, without even the excuse of appetite or of passion, what should be yielded alone to love; but it is also that to do this she poisons body and mind with spirit-drinking, leads a life of demoralising indolence and self-indulgence, is cut off from all decent associations, and sinks, under the combined influence of these things and of fell disease, into a loathsome creature whom not the lowest wants; sinks into destitution, misery, suicide, or the outcast's early grave. Writing of the young man who is familiar with London, the Headmaster of Eton says: "He cannot fail to see around him a whole world of ruined life—a ghastly varnish of gaiety spread over immeasurable tracts of death and corruption; a state of things so heart-rending and so hopeless that on calm consideration of it the brain reels, and sober-minded people who, from motives of pity, have looked the hideous evil in the face, have asserted that nothing in their experience has seemed to threaten them so nearly with a loss of reason."
Into the contamination of this inferno, into active support of this cruel infamy, many and many a young man is led by the impurity of his boyhood. Such at least is the conclusion of some who know boys best. Thus Dr. Dukes writes:
"This evil, of which I have spoken so long and so freely, is, I believe, the root of the evil of prostitution and similar vices; and if this latter evil is to be mitigated, it can only be, to my mind, by making the life of the schoolboy purer.
"How is it possible to put a stop to this terrible social evil? How is it possible to elevate women while the demand for them for base purposes is so great? We must go to the other end of the scale and make men better; we must train young boys more in purity of life and chastity BEFORE their passions become uncontrollable.
"Whereas the cry of every moralist and philanthropist is, 'Let us put a stop to this prostitution, open and clandestine.' This cannot be effected at present, much as it is to be desired; the demand for it is too great, even possibly greater than the supply. If we wish to eradicate it, we must go to the fountainhead and make those who create the demand purer, so that, the demand falling off, the supply will be curtailed."[C]
[Footnote C: The Preservation of Health, p. 161.]
To this I venture to add that by teaching chastity we not merely decrease the demand for prostitutes, but we greatly diminish the supply. Few girls, if any, take to the streets until they have been seduced; and the antecedents of seduction are the morbid exaggeration of the sexual appetite, the lack of self-control, and the selfish hedonism which youthful impurity engenders.
The selfishness, and consequent blindness to cruelty, of which I write, manifests itself quite early. A boy of chivalrous feeling, whose blood would boil at any other form of outrage on a girl, will read a newspaper account of rape or indecent assault with a pleasure so intense that indignation and disgust are quite crowded out of his mind.
If, repelled by the coarseness of the streets, the young man allows lust or passion to lead him into seduction, he commits a crime the consequences of which are usually cruel in the extreme; for in most cases the seduced girl sinks of necessity into prostitution. So blind, so callous does impurity make even the refined and generous, that many a young man who can be a good son, a good brother, a noble friend, a patriotic citizen, will doom a girl whose only fault is that she is physically attractive—and possibly too affectionate and trusting—to torturing anxiety, to illness, to the horrible suffering of undesired travail, to disgrace, and in nineteen cases out of twenty to ostracism and the infamy of the streets. Murder is a small thing compared with this. Who would not rather that his daughter were killed in her innocence than that she should be doomed to such a fate?
Many young men are ignorant of the fact that sexual relations with prostitutes frequently result in the foulest and most terrible of diseases. Venereal diseases, as these are called, commence in the private parts themselves, but the poison which they engender soon attacks other parts of the body and often wrecks the general health. It gives rise to loathsome skin disease, to degeneration of the nervous system and paralysis, to local disease in the heart, lungs, and digestive organs, and to such lowering of vitality as renders the body an easy prey to disease generally. No one is justified in looking upon this risk as a matter of merely private concern. Health is of supreme importance not merely to the personal happiness and success of the man himself, but also to the services he can render to his friends, to his nation, and to humanity. Even if a young man is foolish enough to risk his happiness and success for the sake of animal enjoyment, he cannot without base selfishness and disloyalty disregard the duties he owes to others. Further, the man who suffers from venereal disease is certain to pass its poison on to his wife and children—cursing thus with unspeakable misery those whom of all others it is his duty to protect and bless.
One cannot help feeling at times that the blessings of home—and of the monogamy which makes home possible—are terribly discounted by a condition of things which offer a young man no other alternatives to chastity than these terrible evils. Now that year by year the rising standard of living and the increased exactions which the State makes on the industrious and provident cause marriage to be a luxury too expensive for many, and delayed unduly for most, the problem of social purity becomes ever greater and more urgent. The instruction of the young in relation to sex provides the only solution, and is, I venture to think, incomparably the most important social reform now needed.
I am confident that a boy who receives wise training and sex guidance from his early days will never find lust the foul and uncontrollable element which it is to-day in the lives of most men; that in a few generations our nation could be freed from the seething corruption which poisons its life; and that, while freer scope could be given to the ineffable joys of pure sexual love, very much could be done to diminish the awful misery and degradation engendered by lust.
If children had from their infancy an instinctive and growing desire for alcohol, with secret and unrestrained means of gratifying it; if by its indulgence this desire grew into an overmastering craving; if throughout childhood they received no word of warning or guidance from the good, but were tempted and corrupted by the evil, we should have a nation in which most men and women were drunkards, ready to break all laws—human and divine—which stood in the way of an imperious need; a nation in which, among those who declined to yield to iniquity, the craving for drink caused unceasing and life-long struggle.
On the young man of to-day we lay a burden which no ordinary man was ever yet able to bear. His boyhood and youth become, through ignorance, the prey of lust; his passions become tyrannous; his will is enslaved. Even if he contracts marriage, his troubles are not at an end, for man, as an animal, is neither monogamous nor wholly constant. His neglected sex-education makes him far more susceptible to physical attractions than to those qualities which make a wife a good companion, a good housekeeper, and a good mother; and but too often, as a result, the beneficent influence of marriage is transient; the domestic atmosphere ceases to be congenial; both husband and wife become susceptible to other attachments, and the old struggle begins all over again.
SEX KNOWLEDGE IS COMPATIBLE WITH PERFECT REFINEMENT AND INNOCENCE.
The reader who has followed me through the preceding chapters will, I hope, feel that, whatever objections there may be to giving explicit instruction on sex matters to the young, such instruction is immensely to be preferred to the almost inevitable perversion which follows ignorance. If we had to choose between a state of "innocence" and a state of reverent knowledge, many people would doubtless incline to the former. No such option exists. Our choice lies between leaving a lad to pick up information from vulgar and unclean minds, and giving it ourselves in such a manner as to invest it from the first with sacredness and dignity.
Even if the reader is still inclined to think that sex-knowledge is, at best, an unholy secret, he will hardly doubt that it can be divulged with less injury by an adult who is earnestly anxious for the child's welfare than by coarse and irreverent lips.
I am not content to leave the reader in this dilemma. I am confident that the following words of Canon Lyttelton spring from the truest spiritual insight: "To a lover of nature, no less than to a convinced Christian, the subject ought to wear an aspect not only negatively innocent, but positively beautiful. It is a recurrent miracle, and yet the very type and embodiment of law; and it may be confidently affirmed that, in spite of the blundering of many generations, there is nothing in a normally-constituted child's mind which refuses to take in the subject from this point of view, provided that the right presentation of it is the first."
Nothing more forcibly convicts the present system of the evil which lies at its door than the current beliefs on this subject. At present, sexual knowledge is picked up from the gutter and the cesspool; and no purification can free it entirely in many minds from its original uncleanness.
"Love's a virtue for heroes!—as white as the snow on high hills, And immortal as every great soul is that struggles, endures, and fulfils."
This is the prophet's belief, and yet, putting on one side those who actually delight in uncleanness, there appear to be many people who look upon the marriage certificate as a licence to impurity, and upon sexual union as a form of animal indulgence to which we are so strongly impelled that even the most refined are tempted by it into an act of conscious indelicacy and sin. Such people read literally the psalmist's words: "Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." It is surely some such feeling as this which makes parents shrink from referring to the subject, which underlies the constant use of the word "innocence" as the aptest description of a state of mind which precedes the acquisition of sexual knowledge.
That individuals, at least, have risen to a loftier conception than this is certain; and the only possible explanations of the prevalence of the current idea are that sex-knowledge has almost always been obtained from a tainted source; and that, while the coarse have not merely whispered their views in the ear in the closet, but have, in all ages, proclaimed them from the house-tops, the refined have hardly whispered their ideas, much less discussed them publicly. Children growing up with perverted views have listened to the loud assertions of disputants on the one side, have witnessed the demoralisation which so often attends the sexual passion, but have received no hint of what may be said on the other side of the question.
An instructed public opinion would be horrified at our sovereign's taking shares in a slave-trading expedition as Queen Elizabeth did. We are aghast at the days when crowds went forth to enjoy the torture at the stake of those from whom they differed merely on some metaphysical point. We have even begun to be restless under man's cruel domination over the animal creation. But we have made far less advance in our conceptions on sexual matters; and we are content here with ideas which were current in Elizabethan days. But for this, no passion for conservatism, no reverence for a liturgy endeared by centuries of use, could induce us to tell every bride as she stands before God's altar that it is one of her functions to provide an outlet for her husband's passion and a safeguard against fornication. Lust is at least as degrading in married life as it is outside it. No legal contract, no religious ceremony, can purify, much less sanctify, what is essentially impure.
Those who desire to assist in the uplifting of humanity cannot afford to be silent and to allow judgment to go against them by default. Courage they will need; for a charge of indecency is sure to be levelled against them by the indecent, and they may be misjudged even by the pure.
This is not the place in which so delicate a matter can be fully discussed, nor does space permit; but if the movement towards sex instruction is not to be stultified by the very ideas which evidence the need for it, the subject cannot be wholly ignored here, and I venture to throw out a few suggestions.
Are we indeed to believe that the noblest and most spiritual of men will compromise themselves in the eyes of the woman they love best, and whose respect they most desire, by committing in her presence and making her the instrument of an indelicate act? A great poet, who remained an ardent lover and a devoted companion until his wife died in his arms—blissfully happy that she might die so—has written:
"Let us not always say, 'Spite of the flesh to-day I strove, made head, gained ground upon the whole.' As the bird wings and sings, Let us cry, 'All good things Are ours, nor soul helps flesh more, now, than flesh helps soul.'"
Again: are we, who believe in a Divine government of the world, able to imagine that God has made the perpetuation of the race dependent upon acts of sin or of indelicacy? Did He who graced with His presence the marriage at Cana in Galilee really countenance a ceremony which was a prelude to sin? Did He who took the little children in His arms and blessed them know, as He said "for of such is the kingdom of heaven," that not one of them could have existed without indelicacy, and that they were but living proof of their fathers' lapses and their mothers' humiliation? Is He whom we address daily as "Our Father" willing to be described by a name with which impurity is of necessity connected? And has He implanted in us as the strongest of our instincts that which cannot elevate and must debase?
Again: it needs no wide experience of life, nor any very indulgent view of it, to feel some truth at least in the words Tennyson puts into the mouth of his ideal man:
"Indeed I knew Of no more subtle master under heaven Than is the maiden passion for a maid Not only to keep down the base in man, But teach high thought, and amiable words, And courtliness, and the desire for fame, And love of truth, and all that makes a man."
And yet this passion is indisputably sexual passion, and the chastest of lovers has bodily proof that the most spiritual of his kisses is allied to the supreme embrace of love. Our body is the instrument by which all our emotions are expressed. The most obvious way of expressing affection is by bodily contact. The mother fondles her child, kisses its lips and its limbs, and presses it to her breast. Young children hold hands, put their arms round one another and kiss; and, although later we become less demonstrative, we still take our friend's arm, press his hand with ours, and lay a hand upon his shoulder; we pat our horse or dog and stroke our cat. The lover returns to the spontaneous and unrestrained caresses of his childhood. These become more and more intimate until they find their consummation in the most intimate and most sacred of all embraces. From first to last these caresses—however deep the pleasure they bestow—are sought by the mother or the lover, not for the sake of that pleasure, but as a means of expressing emotion. He only who realises this fact and conforms to it can enter on married life with any certainty of happiness. The happiness of very many marriages is irretrievably shattered at the outset through the craving for sexual excitement which, in the absence of wise guidance, grows up in every normal boy's heart, and by the contemplation of sexual intercourse as an act of physical pleasure.
And once again: It is the experience of those who have given instruction in sex questions to the young that by those whose minds have never been defiled the instruction is received with instant reverence, as something sacred; not with shame, as something foul. I venture once more to quote Canon Lyttelton, who sets forth his experience and my own in language the beauty of which I cannot imitate:
"There is something awe-inspiring in the innocent readiness of little children to learn the explanation of by far the greatest fact within the horizon of their minds. The way they receive it, with native reverence, truthfulness of understanding, and guileless delicacy, is nothing short of a revelation of the never-ceasing bounty of Nature, who endows successive generations of children with this instinctive ear for the deep harmonies of her laws. People sometimes speak of the indescribable beauty of children's innocence, and insist that there is nothing which calls for more constant thanksgiving than that influence on mankind. But I will venture to say that no one quite knows what it is who has foregone the privilege of being the first to set before them the true meaning of life and birth and the mystery of their own being."
To the arguments thus briefly indicated it is no answer to say that sexual union is essentially physical, and that to regard it in any other way is transcendental. Among primitive men eating and drinking were merely animal. We have made them, in our meals, an accompaniment to social pleasures, and in our religious life we have raised them to a sacramental level.
CONDITIONS UNDER WHICH PURITY TEACHING IS BEST GIVEN: REMEDIAL AND CURATIVE MEASURES.
We have now seen that impurity is almost universal among boys who have been left without warning and instruction; that, under these conditions, it is practically inevitable; that its direct results are lowered vitality and serious injury to character, its indirect results an appalling amount of degradation and misery; finally, that there is nothing in sex knowledge, when rightly presented, which can in the least defile a child's mind. All that now remains is for us to consider by whom and under what circumstances instruction on this subject should be given, and what assistance can be rendered to boys who desire to lead chaste lives.
Without doubt, instruction should be given to a boy by his parents in the home. When young children ask questions with regard to reproduction, parents should neither ignore these question nor give the usual silly answers. If the occasion on which the question is asked is not one in which an answer can appropriately be given, the child should be gently warned that the question raised is one about which people do not openly talk, and the promise of an answer hereafter should be made. Then, at the first convenient hour, the child can either be given the information he seeks or told that he shall hear all about the matter at some future specified time, as for example, his sixth or eighth birthday.
In the absence of questions from a child, the ideal thing would be for the child, at the age of six, seven, or eight, to learn orally from his mother the facts of maternity and to receive warning against playing with his private parts. Whether at this time it is best to teach him the facts of paternity is, I think, doubtful. Canon Lyttelton is strongly of opinion that the father's share in the child's existence should be explained when the mother's share is explained, and there is much weight in what he says. If the question of paternity is reserved, it should not be on the ground that there is anything embarrassing or indelicate about the matter, and, when the facts are revealed, the child should clearly understand that they have been withheld merely until his mind was sufficiently developed to understand them. The only safe guide in such matters is experience, and of this as yet we have unfortunately little.
The question next arises: should it be the mother or the father who gives this instruction? As regards the earlier part of the instruction a confident reply can be made to this question. The information should be given by the parent whose relations with the child are the more intimate and tender, and whose influence over him is the greater. This will, of course, usually be the mother. The subject of paternity may, if reserved for future treatment, be appropriately given by the father, provided that he and his son are on really intimate terms. If timely warning is given to a child about playing with his private parts, no reference need be made to self-abuse until a boy leaves home for school, or until he is nearing the age of puberty.
There are many mothers whose insight and tact will enable them to approach these questions in the best possible way and to say exactly the right thing. There are others—a large majority, I think—who would be glad of guidance, and there are not a few who would certainly leave the matter alone unless thus guided. It was mainly to assist parents in this work that I published last year a pamphlet entitled Private Knowledge for Boys.[D] This embodies just what, in my opinion, should be said to an intelligent child, and it has, in my own hands, proved effective for many years past. In the case of young children the teaching should certainly be oral, provided that the mother knows clearly what to say, has sufficient powers of expression to say it well, and can talk without any feeling of embarrassment. Unless these conditions co-exist I recommend the use of a pamphlet. As I have found that children often do not know what one means by the "private parts," I make this clear at the outset.
[Footnote D: To be obtained post free for nine stamps from Mr. M. Whiley, Stonehouse, Glos.]
Some into whose hands this book may come and who have boys of twelve and upwards to whom they have never given instruction, may possibly be glad of advice as to the manner in which the subject can best be dealt with in their case. For boys of this age, I am strongly of opinion that it is better in most cases to make use of a pamphlet than to attempt oral instruction. Probably they already have some knowledge on the subject; possibly some sense of guilt. If so, it will be found very difficult to treat the matter orally without embarrassment—a thing to be avoided at all costs. I was interested to find that on receipt of my pamphlet Professor Geddes—one of the greatest experts on sex—placed it at once in the hands of his own boy, a fact from which his opinion on the relative merits of oral and printed instruction can easily be inferred.
Many of my readers who have boys of fourteen and upwards to whom they have hitherto given no instruction will, I hope, feel that they must now do this. I venture, therefore, to give a detailed account of the manner in which I should myself act in similar circumstances. I should arrange to be with the lad when there was no danger of interruption, and in such circumstances as would put him at his ease. I should tell him that I was conscious of unwisdom in not speaking to him before about a subject of supreme importance to him; that I took upon myself all blame for anything he might, in ignorance, have said or done; that through ignorance I had myself fallen and suffered, and that I should like him now to sit down and read through this pamphlet slowly and carefully. When he finished I should try by every possible means to make him sensible of my affection for him. I should associate myself in a few words with the sentiments of the writer, and should invite the lad to tell me whether he had fallen into temptation, and if so to what extent. A confidence of this kind assists a boy greatly and establishes a delightful intimacy.
There are several points with regard to purity-teaching which need to be emphasised.
Such teaching can hardly be too explicit. "Beating about the bush" is always indicative of the absence of self-possession. The embarrassment manifested is quickly perceived even by a young child, and is certain to communicate itself to the recipient. It is of paramount importance that the child should, from the first, feel that the knowledge imparted is pure; anything which suggests that it is indelicate should be studiously avoided. The introduction of a few science terms is advantageous in several ways: amongst others it relieves the tension which the spiritual aspect of the question may engender, it gives a lad a terminology which is free from filthy contamination.
It is important that the information given should be full, otherwise the boy lives in a chronic state of curiosity, which, to his great detriment, he is ever trying to satisfy. If the reader feels that the information is dangerous, and aims, therefore, at imparting as little as possible, he is not fitted to do the work at all.
No greater mistake can be made than that of taxing a boy with impurity as though it were a conscious and egregious fault. I have already expressed my strong opinion that, in almost every instance, the boy is a victim to be sympathised with, not a culprit to be punished. This opinion is shared, I believe, by everyone who has investigated the subject. It is certainly the opinion of Canon Lyttelton and Dr. Dukes. It is, indeed, easy to exaggerate the conscious guilt even of boys who have initiated others into masturbation. Apart from the injustice to the boy of an attitude of severity, it is certain to shut the boy's heart up with a snap.
If a pamphlet is used it should, without fail, be taken from a boy when he has read it. Much harm may, I fear, result from supplying boys with the cheap pamphlets which well-meaning but inexperienced persons are producing.
Should the time ever come when parents give timely warning and instruction to boys, a very difficult problem will be solved for the schoolmaster. But in the meantime what ought the schoolmaster to do? The following plan commends itself to some eminent teachers. As soon as a boy is about to enter the school a letter is sent to his parents advising them to give the boy instruction, and a pamphlet is enclosed for this purpose. This plan has the decided advantage of shifting the responsibility on to the shoulders of those who ought to take it. The weakness of the plan arises from the fact that most parents do not believe in the prevalence of impurity among boys, and are quite confident that their own boys need no warning. Hence they may do nothing at all, or merely content themselves with some vague and quite useless statement.
The traditions of most boys' schools make it impossible for those intimate and respectful relations to exist between masters and boys without which confidential teaching of this kind may be even worse than useless. Where masters are invariably referred to disrespectfully if not contemptuously, where a teacher's most earnest address is a "jaw" which the recipient is expected to betray and mock at with his companions; where to shield profanity, indecency, and bullying from detection is the imperative duty of every boy below the Sixth; where failure to avert from a moral leper the kindly treatment which might restore him to health and prevent the wholesale infection of others is the one unpardonable sin, only one or two teachers of a generation can hope to do much, and the risk of failure is immense. I can hardly believe that the present race of teachers will long tolerate the system I here advert to. Public opinion can be organised and enlisted as strongly on the side of Right as it is now, but too often, on the side of Evil. Mr. A.C. Benson is very moderate when he writes: "To take no steps to arrive at such an organisation, and to leave it severely alone, is a very dark responsibility."
Even in such a school, some good is, I know, done by tactful public references to the existence of masturbation and to its deplorable consequences.
The question is not free from difficulty even when the general atmosphere of the school is healthy and helpful. If one dared to leave this instruction until the age of puberty, the lad would be capable of a much deeper impression than he is at an earlier age, and the impression would be fresh just at the time at which it is most needed. In the case of boys who have come to me at nine or ten I have sometimes ventured to defer my interview for four or five years, and have found them quite uncorrupted. On the other hand, within an hour of penning these lines I have been talking to a little boy of eleven who commenced masturbation two years ago while he was under excellent home influence. One such boy may, without guilt, corrupt a whole set, for impurity is one of the most infectious as well as the most terrible of diseases. The ideal state in a school is not reached until periodical addresses on purity can be given to all with the certainty that by all they will be listened to and treated reverently and respectfully. Such addresses cannot well be made the vehicle of sex information, but they can be so constructed as to guide those to whom individual instruction has not yet been given, and to strengthen those who, spite of full instruction, periodically need a helping hand.
What results may we reasonably expect from adequate and timely instruction? I have so rarely met a case in which this has been given at home that I can only infer what these results might be from the cases in which my own instruction has been given in time. In almost every instance I feel sure that the results have been beneficial, that the temptation to impurity has been little felt, and that a healthy and chaste boyhood has resulted. Canon Lyttelton writes: "The influences of school life have been found to be impotent to deprave the tone of a boy who has been fortified by the right kind of instruction from his parents." This I can well believe, for, if the schoolmaster can do much, there can be no limit to a power which has been cradled in the sanctity of home and cherished by a mother's love. This appears to be the emphatic opinion also of Dr. Dukes. Of a boy thus favoured, Canon Lyttelton writes: "He will feel that any rude handling of such a theme, even of only its outer fringe, is like the profaning of the Holy of Holies in his heart, and he will no more suffer it than he would suffer a stranger to defile the innermost shrine of his feelings by taking his mother's or his sister's name in vain. All the goading curiosity which drives other boys to pry greedily into nature's laws, in blank ignorance of their mighty import, their unspeakable depth, and spiritual unearthly harmonies, has been for him forestalled, enlightened, and purified."
It is a sad step down from such a boy to the lad who has been given warning after corruption has begun. Most boys feel such shame in confessing to failure that one has to accept with reserve the statements made by even the most truthful of those who are treading the upward path. After making due allowance for this source of error, my experience enables me to say confidently that, if a boy has not been long or badly corrupted, a radical change of attitude may be expected in him at once, and the habit of self-abuse will be instantly or rapidly relinquished. Very different is the case of a lad who has long practised masturbation, or who has practised it for some time after the advent of puberty, or who has associated sexual imaginations with the practice. Few such boys conquer the habit at once, however much they desire to, and, if the above conditions co-exist, a boy's progress is very slow, and years may pass without anything approaching cure. If in addition to the temptations from within he has foes also without in the form of companions who sneer at his desire for improvement, controvert the statements made to him, and throw temptation in his way, his chance of cure must be enormously decreased. Of such cases I know nothing; for my experience lies solely among boys who have, outside their own hearts, little to hinder and very much to help. As I have dealt elsewhere with the question of aids to chastity, I will make only a brief reference to it here.
The mind is so much influenced by the body that purity is impossible when the body is unduly indulged. No man exists who could inhale the vapour of chloroform without an irresistible desire to sleep. Under these conditions the strongest will would not avail even if the victim knew that by surrender he was sacrificing everything he reverenced and held dear. The lad past the age of puberty who has much stimulating food, who drinks alcohol, who sleeps in a warm and luxurious bed and occupies it for some time before or after sleep, is certain, even if he takes much exercise, to be tempted irresistibly. Dr. Dukes considers that a heavy meat meal with alcohol shortly before bedtime is in itself sufficient to ensure a lad's fall.
Meanwhile, no abstinence which it not unduly rigorous, can save a boy from impurity if he gets into the habit of exchanging glances with girls who are socially inferior, if he reads suggestive books, looks at stimulating pictures and sights, and falls into the hopeless folly of entertaining sexual thoughts even momentarily. He who has not the strength to tread out a spark is little likely to subdue a conflagration.
The best and most timely teaching will never make carelessness in these matters justifiable, and a boy who has once been corrupted and desires to master his lower nature has no chance of self-conquest unless he gives them his constant and careful attention.
It is very important to fill a boy's leisure with congenial occupation. Idleness and dullness make a boy specially susceptible to temptation. On the other hand, the fond parent who satisfies a boy's every whim and encourages the lad to think that his own enjoyment is the chief thing in life does his utmost to destroy the lad's chance of purity—or, indeed, of any virtue whatever.
Can anything be done for boys and young men who have become the slaves of self-abuse to such an extent that they groan in the words of St. Paul: "The good that I would I do not, but the evil which I would not, that I do.... I delight in the law of God after the inward man, but I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Can anything be done for the lad who has become so defiled by lustful thoughts that his utmost efforts fail to carry him forward, and even leave him to sink deeper in the mire. There are many, many such cases, alas! for as Dr. Acton says, "The youth is a dreamer who will open the floodgates of an ocean, and then attempt to prescribe at will a limit to the inundation."
Yes there is a remedy—I believe a specific—which can rapidly and, I think, finally restore strength to the enfeebled will and order the unclean spirit to come out of the man. It is hypnotic suggestion. Let not the reader, however, think that the matter is a simple one. In all ages any great advance in the art of healing has, by the ignorant, been attributed to the powers of darkness. The Divine Healer Himself did not escape from the charge of casting out devils by the prince of the devils, and, while hypnotic suggestion has long been used for therapeutic purposes on the Continent and is now practised in Government institutions there, the doctor or clergyman or teacher who uses it in England runs great risks; for in this subject, as in all others, it is those who are entirely without experience who are most dogmatic.
In the case of the schoolmaster, its use in this connection is practically excluded. If he applies to a parent for permission to use it he probably runs his head against a blank wall of ignorance; for hypnotism, to most people, means a dangerous power by which an unscrupulous, strong-willed Svengali dominates an abnormally weak-willed Trilby whose will continues to grow weaker until the subject becomes a mere automaton; and most of us would rightly prefer that a boy should be his own master—even if he were rushing to headlong ruin—than that he should be the mere puppet of the most saintly man living. The human will is sacred and inviolable, and we do unwisely if we seek to control it or to remove those obstacles from its way by which alone it can gain divine strength. Meanwhile the stimulus by which the mind acquires self-mastery usually comes from without in the form of spiritual inspiration; and to remove from a boy's path an obstacle which blocks it and is entirely beyond his own strength is equally desirable both in the physical and in the spiritual realm. Those who think that without this obstacle a boy's power of self-control is likely to receive insufficient exercise will, of course, object to the instruction advocated in this book. If it is unwise to remove this obstacle from a boy's path it is equally unwise so to instruct him as to prevent the obstacle from arising. In trustworthy hands hypnotic suggestion is a beneficent power which has no dangers and no drawbacks, and to decline to use it is to accept a very serious responsibility.
For the teacher a further difficulty—not to mention that of time—is that, without betraying a boy's confidence or inducing him to allow his admissions to be passed on to his father, it is impossible to give his parents an idea of the urgency of the case.
Altogether the time for hypnotic suggestion in education is not yet, but the day must come when its use is recognised not only in physical cases such as nocturnal emissions and constipation, but in all cases in which the will-power is practically in abeyance, as it is in bad cases of impurity.
For intelligent parents the difficulties are far less, and if any such care to pursue the subject farther, I would refer them to the volume on Hypnotism in the People's Books series or to one of the larger medical works on the subject, such as Hypnotism and Suggestion, by Dr. Bernard Hollander.
To those who know boys well and love them much, there is something intensely interesting and pathetic about the spiritual struggle through which they have to pass. The path of self-indulgence seems so obviously the path to happiness; self-denial is so hard and self-control so difficult. "The struggle of the instinct that enjoys and the more noble instinct that aspires" is ever there. The young soul reaches out after good, but its grasp is weak. It needs much enlightenment, much encouragement, much inspiration, much patient tolerance of its faults, much hopeful sympathy with its strivings, if it is ever to attain the good it seeks. In the past it has met, without light or aid, unwarned and unprepared, the deadliest foe which can assail the soul. An appetite which has in all ages debased the weak, wrestled fiercely with the strong, and vanquished at times even the noble, is let loose upon an unwarned, unarmed, defenceless child. Oh, the utter, the utter folly of it!
For life after death the writer has no longing. Immortality, if vouchsafed, appears to him to be a gift to be accepted trustfully and humbly, not to be yearned after with a sort of transcendental egoism. But to him the wish to—
"Join the choir invisible Of those immortal dead who live again In minds made better by their presence"
grows ever stronger as the inevitable end draws nearer.
To save young lives from the needless struggles and failures of my own, to secure healthy motherhood or maiden life to some whom lust might otherwise destroy, to add, for some at least, new sanctity to human passion—these have been my hopes in penning the foregoing pages. It has been my privilege and joy, in my own quiet sphere, to preserve boys from corruption and to restore the impure to cleanness of heart. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity these pages afford of extending this delightful work. When the hand which writes these lines has long been cold in death, may the message which it speeds this day breathe peace and strength into many an eager heart.
NOTE TO CORRESPONDENTS.
I warmly invite any boy who has read these pages to write to me if he feels inclined to do so. Since this book was first published I have received hundreds of letters from boys who have, without any definite invitation, understood that it would please me much to hear from them. Many boys feel all the better for frankly confessing their difficulties to a man who fully understands and sympathises with them. Some desire advice about their own case. Anyone who accepts this invitation will do wisely to give me a full and frank history of his difficulties. His confidences will, of course, be strictly respected. He will also, I hope, remember that I am an extremely busy man with many and urgent claims on my time, and that I cannot always reply as quickly and as fully as I should like to do.
TO YOUNG MEN.
Before a young man marries he should always seek advice from a trustworthy source with regard to his conduct as a husband. No satisfactory book is, or perhaps could be, published on this subject; and even if a young man can make up his mind to consult a doctor, it is by no means every doctor who has the needful knowledge on this subject or the best moral outlook. It has been my privilege to help several in this matter, and I am always happy to do this.
TO BOYS AND YOUNG MEN.
I earnestly warn you against those who, by advertisement in the papers, offer to cure young men who are suffering from weakness of the private parts and other ills which impurity entails. Many such advertisers are little better than rogues, who are out to make money by trading on the fears of their victims; their "treatment"—quite apart from a far greater cost than at first appears—often does more harm than good. In every case in which disease or weakness exists, or is suspected, a reliable medical man should be at once consulted. If this is done, a cure may generally be looked for. Do not write to me; this is a doctor's business, not mine.