Youth and Sex
by Mary Scharlieb and F. Arthur Sibly
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Dangers and Safeguards for Girls and Boys



























Probably the most important years in anyone's life are those eight or ten preceding the twenty-first birthday. During these years Heredity, one of the two great developmental factors, bears its crop, and the seeds sown before birth and during childhood come to maturity. During these years also the other great developmental force known as Environment has full play, the still plastic nature is moulded by circumstances, and the influence of these two forces is seen in the manner of individual that results.

This time is generally alluded to under two heads: (1) Puberty, (2) Adolescence.

By Puberty we understand the period when the reproductive organs are developed, the boy or girl ceasing to be the neutral child and acquiring the distinctive characteristics of man or woman. The actual season of puberty varies in different individuals from the eleventh to the sixteenth year, and although the changes during this time are not sudden, they are comparatively rapid.

By Adolescence we understand the time during which the individual is approximating to the adult type, puberty having been already accomplished. Adolescence corresponds to the latter half of the developmental period, and may be prolonged even up to twenty-five years.



1. Changes in the Bodily Framework.—During this period the girl's skeleton not only grows remarkably in size, but is also the subject of well-marked alterations and development. Among the most evident changes are those which occur in the shape and inclination of the pelvis. During the years of childhood the female pelvis has a general resemblance to that of the male, but with the advent of puberty the vertical portion of the hip bones becomes expanded and altered in shape, it becomes more curved, and its inner surface looks less directly forward and more towards its fellow bone of the other side. The brim of the pelvis, which in the child is more or less heart-shaped, becomes a wide oval, and consequently the pelvic girdle gains considerably in width. The heads of the thigh bones not only actually, in consequence of growth, but also relatively, in consequence of change of shape in the pelvis, become more widely separated from each other than they are in childhood, and hence the gait and the manner of running alters greatly in the adult woman. At the same time the angle made by the junction of the spinal column with the back of the pelvis, known as the sacro-vertebral angle, becomes better marked, and this also contributes to the development of the characteristic female type. No doubt the female type of pelvis can be recognised in childhood, and even before birth, but the differences of male and female pelves before puberty are so slight that it requires the eye of an expert to distinguish them. The very remarkable differences that are found between the adult male and the adult female pelvis begin to appear with puberty and develop rapidly, so that no one could mistake the pelvis of a properly developed girl of sixteen or eighteen years of age for that of a boy. These differences are due in part to the action of the muscles and ligaments on the growing bones, in part to the weight of the body from above and the reaction of the ground from beneath, but they are also largely due to the growth and development of the internal organs peculiar to the woman. All these organs exist in the normal infant at birth, but they are relatively insignificant, and it is not until the great developmental changes peculiar to puberty occur that they begin to exercise their influence on the shape of the bones. This is proved by the fact that in those rare cases in which the internal organs of generation are absent, or fail to develop, there is a corresponding failure in the pelvis to alter into the normal adult shape. The muscles of the growing girl partake in the rapid growth and development of her bony framework. Sometimes the muscles outgrow the bones, causing a peculiar lankiness and slackness of figure, and in other girls the growth of the bones appears to be too rapid for the muscles, to which fact a certain class of "growing pain" has been attributed.

Another part of the body that develops rapidly during these momentous years is the bust. The breasts become large, and not only add to the beauty of the girl's person, but also manifestly prepare by increase of their glandular elements for the maternal function of suckling infants.

Of less importance so far as structure is concerned, but of great importance to female loveliness and attractiveness, are the changes that occur in the clearing and brightening of the complexion, the luxuriant growth, glossiness, and improved colour of the hair, and the beauty of the eyes, which during the years which succeed puberty acquire a new and singularly attractive expression.

The young girl's hands and feet do not grow in proportion with her legs and arms, and appear to be more beautifully shaped when contrasted with the more fully developed limb.

With regard to the internal organs, the most important are those of the pelvis. The uterus, or womb, destined to form a safe nest for the protection of the child until it is sufficiently developed to maintain an independent existence, increases greatly in all its dimensions and undergoes certain changes in shape; and the ovaries, which are intended to furnish the ovules, or eggs (the female contribution towards future human beings), also develop both in size and in structure.

Owing to rapid growth and to the want of stability of the young girl's tissues, the years immediately succeeding puberty are not only those of rapid physiological change, but they are those during which irreparable damage may be done unless those who have the care of young girls understand what these dangers are, how they are produced, and how they may be averted.

With regard to the bony skeleton, lateral curvature of the spine is, in mild manifestation, very frequent, and is too common even in the higher degrees. The chief causes of this deformity are:

(1) The natural softness and want of stability in the rapidly growing bones and muscles;

(2) The rapid development of the bust, which throws a constantly increasing burden on these weakened muscles and bones; and

(3) The general lassitude noticeable amongst girls at this time which makes them yield to the temptation to stand on one leg, to cross one leg over the other, and to write or read leaning on one elbow and bending over the table, whereas they ought to be sitting upright. Unless constant vigilance is exerted, deformity is pretty sure to occur—a deformity which always has a bad influence over the girl's health and strength, and which, in those cases where it is complicated by the pathological softness of bones found in cases of rickets, may cause serious alteration in shape and interfere with the functions of the pelvis in later life.

2. Changes in the Mental Nature.—These are at least as remarkable as the changes in the bodily framework. There is a slight diminution in the power of memorising, but the faculties of attention, of reasoning, and of imagination, develop rapidly. Probably the power of appreciation of the beautiful appears about this time, a faculty which is usually dormant during childhood. More especially is this true with regard to the beauty of landscape; the child seldom enjoys a landscape as such, although isolated beauties, such as that of flowers, may sometimes be appreciated.

As might be anticipated, all things are changing with the child during these momentous years: its outlook on life, its appreciation of other people and of itself, alter greatly and continuously. The wonderfully rapid growth and alterations in structure of the generative organs have their counterpart in the mental and moral spheres; there are new sensations which are scarcely recognised and are certainly not understood by the subject: vague feelings of unrest, ill-comprehended desires, and an intense self-consciousness take the place of the unconscious egoism of childhood.

The processes of Nature as witnessed in the season of spring have their counterpart in the changes that occur during the early years of adolescence. The earth warmed by the more direct rays of the sun and softened by recurring showers is transformed in a few weeks from its bare and dry winter garb into the wonderful beauty of spring. This yearly miracle fails to impress us as it should do because we have witnessed it every year of our lives, and so, too, the great transformation from child to budding woman fails to make its appeal to our understanding and sympathy because it is of so common occurrence. If it were possible for adults to really remember their own feelings and aspirations in adolescent years, or if it were possible for us with enlightened sympathy to gain access to the enchanted garden of youth, we should be more adequate guides for the boys and girls around us. As it is we entirely fail to appreciate the heights of their ambitions, hopes, and joys, and we have no measure with which to plumb the depths of their fears, their disappointments, and their doubts. The transition between radiant joy and confident hope in the future to a miserable misinterpretation of sensations both physical and psychical are rapid. It is the unknown that is terrible to us all, and to the child the changes in its body, the changes in its soul and spirit, which we pass by as commonplace, are full of suggestions of abnormality, of disaster, and of death. Young people suffer much from the want of comprehension and intelligent sympathy of their elders, much also from their own ignorance and too fervid imagination. The instability of the bodily tissues and the variability of their functions find a counterpart in the instability of the mental and moral natures and in the variability of their phenomena. Adolescents indeed "never continue in one stay;" left to themselves they will begin many pursuits, but persevere with, and finish, nothing.

Youth is the time for rapidly-succeeding friends, lovers, and heroes. The schoolfellow or teacher who is adored to-day may become the object of indifference or even of dislike to-morrow. Ideas as to the calling or profession to be adopted change rapidly, and opinions upon religion, politics, &c., vary from day to day. It is little wonder that there is a special type of adolescent insanity differing entirely from that of later years, one in which, owing to the want of full development of mental faculties, there are no systematised delusions, but a rapid change from depression and melancholy to exaltation bordering on mania. Those parents and guardians who know something of the peculiar physical and mental conditions of adolescence will be best prepared both to treat the troubles wisely, and by sympathy to help the young people under their care to help themselves.

One of the phenomena of adolescence is the dawn of the sexual instinct. This frequently develops without the child knowing or understanding what it means. More especially is this true of young girls whose home life has been completely sheltered, and who have not had the advantage, or disadvantage, of that experience of life which comes early to those who live in crowded tenements or amongst the outspoken people of the countryside. The children of the poorer classes have, in a way, too little to learn: they are brought up from babyhood in the midst of all domestic concerns, and the love affairs of their elders are intimately known to them, therefore quite early in adolescence "ilka lassie has her laddie," and although the attraction be short-lived and the affection very superficial, yet it is sufficient to give an added interest to life, and generally leads to an increased care in dress and an increased desire to make the most of whatever good looks the girl may possess. The girl in richer homes is probably much more bewildered by her unwonted sensations and by the attraction she begins to feel towards the society of the opposite sex.

Probably in these days, when there is more intermingling of the sexes, the girl's outlook is franker, and, so far as this is concerned, healthier, than it was forty or fifty years ago. It is very amusing to elders to hear a boy scarcely in his teens talking of "his best girl," or to see the little lass wearing the colour or ornament that her chosen lad admires. It is true that the "best girl" varies from week to week if not from day to day, but this special regard for a member of the opposite sex announces the dawn of a simple sentiment that will, a few years later, blossom out into the real passion which may fix a life's destiny.

The mental and moral changes that occur during the early years of adolescence call for help and sympathy of an even higher order than do the changes in physical structure and function. Some of these changes, such as shyness and reticence, may be the cause of considerable suffering to the girl and a perplexity to her elders, but on the whole they are comparatively easy of comprehension, and are more likely to elicit sympathy and kindness than blame. It is far otherwise with such changes as unseemly laughter, rough manners, and a nameless difference in the girl's manner when in the presence of the other sex. A girl who is usually quiet, modest, and sensible in her behaviour may suddenly become boisterous and self-asserting, there is a great deal of giggling, and altogether a disagreeable transformation which too frequently involves the girl in trouble with her mother or other guardian, and is very frequently harshly judged by the child herself. In proportion as self-discipline has been taught and self-control acquired, these outward manifestations are less marked, but in the case of the great majority of girls there are, at any rate, impulses having their origin in the yet immature and misunderstood sex impulse which cause the young woman herself annoyance and worry although she is as far from understanding their origin as her elders may be. The remedies for these troubles are various. First in order of time and in importance comes a habit of self-control and self-discipline that ought to be coeval with conscious life. Fathers and mothers are themselves to blame if their girl lapses from good behaviour when they have not inculcated ideals of obedience, duty, and self-discipline from babyhood. It seems such a little thing to let the child have its run of the cake-basket and the sweet-box; it is in the eyes of many parents so unimportant whether the little one goes to bed at the appointed time or ten minutes later; they argue that it can make no difference to her welfare in life or to her eternal destiny whether her obedience is prompt and cheerful or grudging and imperfect. One might as well argue that the proper planting of a seed, its regular watering, and the influences of sun and wind make no difference to the life of a tree. We have to bear carefully in mind that those who sow an act reap a habit, who sow a habit reap a character, who sow a character reap a destiny both in this world and in that which is eternal. It is mere selfishness, unconscious, no doubt, but none the less fatal, when parents to suit their own convenience omit to inculcate obedience, self-restraint, habits of order and unselfishness in their children. Youth is the time when the soul is apt to be shaken by sorrow's power and when stormy passions rage. The tiny rill starting from the mountainside can be readily deflected east or west, but the majestic river hastening to the sea is beyond all such arbitrary directions. So it is with the human being: the character and habit are directed easily in infancy, with difficulty during childhood, but they are well-nigh impossible of direction by the time adolescence is established. Those fathers and mothers who desire to have happiness and peace in connection with their adolescent boys and girls must take the trouble to direct them aright during the plastic years of infancy and childhood. All natural instincts implanted in us by Him who knew what was in the heart of man are in themselves right and good, but the exercise of these instincts may be entirely wrong in time or in degree. The sexual instinct, the affinity of boy to girl, the love of adult man and woman, are right and holy when exercised aright, and it is the result of "spoiling" when these good and noble instincts are wrongly exercised. All who love their country, all who love their fellow men, and all who desire that the kingdom of God should come, must surely do everything that is in their power to awaken the fathers and mothers of the land to a sense of their heavy responsibility and of their high privilege. In this we are entirely separated from and higher than the rest of the animal creation, in that on us lies the duty not only of calling into life a new generation of human beings, but also the still higher duty, the still greater privilege and the wider responsibility of bringing up those children to be themselves the worthy parents of the future, the supporters of their country's dignity, and joyful citizens of the household of God.

Another characteristic of adolescence is to be found in gregariousness, or what has been sometimes called the gang spirit. Boys, and to almost as great a degree girls, form themselves into companies or gangs, which frequently possess a high degree of organisation. They elaborate special languages, they have their own form of shorthand, their passwords, their rites and ceremonies. The gang has its elected leader, its officers, its members; and although it is liable to sudden disruption and seldom outlasts a few terms of school-life, each succeeding club or company is for the time being of paramount importance in the estimation of its members. The gang spirit may at times cause trouble and lead to anxiety, but if rightly directed it may be turned to good account. It is the germ of the future capacity to organise men and women into corporate life—the very method by which much public and national work is readily accomplished, but which is impossible to accomplish by individual effort.

3. Changes in the Religion of the Adolescent.—The religion of the adolescent is apt to be marked by fervour and earnest conviction, the phenomenon of "conversion" almost constantly occurring during adolescence. The girl looks upon eternal truths from a completely new standpoint, or at any rate with eyes that have been purged and illuminated by the throes of conversion. From a period of great anxiety and doubt she emerges to a time of intense love and devotion, to an eager desire to prove herself worthy, and to offer a sacrifice of the best powers she possesses. Unfortunately for peace of mind, the happy epoch succeeding conversion not unfrequently ends in a dismal time of intellectual doubt and spiritual darkness. Just as the embryonic love of the youthful adolescent leads to a time when the opposite sex is rather an object of dislike than of attraction, so the fervour of early conversion is apt to lead to a time of desolation; but just as the incomplete sex love of early adolescence finds its antitype and fine flower in the later fully developed love of honourable man and woman, so does the too rapturous and uncalculating religious devotion of these early years revive after the period of doubt, transfigured and glorified into the religious conviction and devotion which makes the strength, the joy, and the guiding principle of adult life.

Much depends on the circumstances and people surrounding the adolescent. Her unbounded capacity for hero-worship leads in many instances to a conscious or unconscious copying of parent, guardian, or teacher; and although the ideals of the young are apt to far outpace those of the adult whose days of illusion are over, yet they are probably formed on the same type. One sees this illustrated by generations in the same family holding much the same religious or political opinions and showing the same aptitude for certain professions, games, and pursuits. Much there is in heredity, but probably there is still more in environment.



These may be briefly summed up by saying that we have to provide adolescent girls with all things that are necessary for their souls and their bodies, but any such bald and wholesale enunciation of our duty helps but little in clearing one's ideas and in pointing out the actual manner in which we are to perform it.

First, with regard to the bodies of adolescent girls; Their primary needs, just like the primary needs of all living beings, are food, warmth, shelter, exercise and rest, with special care in sickness.

Food.—In spite of the great advance of knowledge in the present day, it is doubtful whether much practical advance has been made in the dietetics of children and adolescents, and it is to be feared that our great schools are especially deficient in this most important respect. Even when the age of childhood is past, young people require a much larger amount of milk than is usually included in their diet sheet. It would be well for them to begin the day with porridge and milk or some such cereal preparation. Coffee or cocoa made with milk should certainly have the preference over tea for breakfast, and in addition to the porridge or other such dish, fish, egg, or bacon, with plenty of bread and butter, should form the morning repast. The midday meal should consist of fresh meat, fish, or poultry, with an abundance of green vegetables and a liberal helping of sweet pudding. The articles of diet which are most deficient in our lists are milk, butter, and sugar. There is an old prejudice against sugar which is quite unfounded so far as the healthy individual is concerned. Cane sugar has recently been proved to be a most valuable muscle food, and when taken in the proper way for sweetening beverages, fruit, and puddings, it is entirely good. The afternoon meal should consist chiefly of bread and butter and milk or cocoa, with a fair proportion of simple, well-made cake, and in the case where animal food has been taken both at breakfast and dinner, the evening meal might well be bread and butter, bread and milk, or milk pudding with stewed or fresh fruit. But it is different in the case of those adolescents whose midday meal is necessarily slight, and who ought to have a thoroughly good dinner or supper early in the evening;

One would have thought it unnecessary to mention alcohol in speaking of the dietary of young people were it not that, strange to say, beer is still given at some of our public schools. It is extraordinary that wise and intelligent people should still give beer to young boys and girls at the very time when what they want is strength and not stimulus, food for the growing frame and nothing to stimulate the already exuberant passions.

An invariable rule with regard to the food of children should be that their meals should be regular, that they should consist of good, varied, nourishing food taken at regular hours, and that nothing should be eaten between meals. The practice of eating biscuits, fruit, and sweets between meals during childhood and adolescence not only spoils the digestion and impairs the nutrition at the time, but it is apt to lay the foundation of a constant craving for something which is only too likely to take the form of alcoholic craving in later years. It is impossible for the stomach to perform its duty satisfactorily if it is never allowed rest, and the introduction of stray morsels of food at irregular times prevents this, and introduces confusion into the digestive work, because there will be in the stomach at the same time food in various stages of digestion.

Warmth.—Warmth is one of the influences essential to health and to sound development, and although artificial warmth is more urgently required by little children and by old people than it is by young adults, still, if their bodies are to come to their utmost possible perfection, they require suitable conditions of temperature. This is provided in the winter partly by artificial heating of houses and partly by the wearing of suitable clothing. Ideal clothing is loose of texture and woven of wool, although a fairly good substitute can be obtained in materials that are made from cotton treated specially.

This is not the time or place in which to insist on the very grave dangers that accompany the use of ordinary flannelette, but a caution must be addressed in passing to those who provide clothing for others. In providing clothes it is necessary to remember the two reasons for their existence: (1) to cover the body, and (2) as far as possible to protect a large area of its surface against undue damp and cold.

Adolescents, as a rule, begin early to take a great interest in their clothes. From the time that the appreciation of the opposite sex commences, the child who has hitherto been indifferent or even slovenly in the matter of clothing takes a very living interest in it; indeed the adornment of person and the minute care devoted to details of the toilet by young people of both sexes remind one irresistibly of the preening of the feathers, the strutting and other antics of birds before their mates.

Girls especially are apt to forget the primary object of clothing, and to think of it too much as a means of adornment. This leads to excesses and follies such as tight waists, high-heeled shoes, to the ungainly crinoline or to indecent scantiness of skirts. Direct interference in these matters is badly tolerated, but much may be accomplished both by example and by cultivating a refined and artistic taste in sumptuary matters.

Sleep.—Amongst the most important of the factors that conduce to well-being both of body and mind must be reckoned an adequate amount of sleep. This has been made the subject of careful inquiry by Dr. Dukes of Rugby and Miss Alice Ravenhill. Both these trained and careful observers agree that the majority of young people get far too little rest and sleep. We have to remember that although fully-grown adults will take rest when they can get it in the daytime, young people are too active, and sometimes too restless, to give any repose to brain or muscle except during sleep. In the early years of adolescence ten hours sleep is none too much; even an adult in full work ought to have eight hours, and still more is necessary for the rapidly-growing, continually-developing, and never-resting adolescent. It is unfortunately a fact that even in the boarding schools of the well-to-do the provision of sleep is too limited, and for the children of the poor, whose homes are far from comfortable and who are accustomed to doing pretty nearly as their elders do, the night seldom begins before eleven or even twelve o'clock. It is one of the saddest sights of London to see small children dancing on the pavement in front of the public-houses up to a very late hour, while groups of loafing boys and hoydenish girls stand about at the street corners half the night. There is little wonder that the morning finds them heavy and unrefreshed, and that schoolwork suffers severely from want of the alert and vigorous attention that might be secured by a proper night's sleep.

Great harm is done by allowing children to take work home with them from school; if possible, the day's work should finish with school hours, and the scanty leisure should be spent in healthy exercise or in sleep.

Overcrowding.—In considering the question of adequate sleep it would be well to think of the conditions of healthy sleep.

For sleep to be refreshing and health-giving, the sleeper ought to have a comfortable bed and an abundant supply of fresh air. Unfortunately the great majority of our people both in town and country do not enjoy these advantages. In both town and country there is a great deficiency of suitable dwellings at rents that can be paid with the usual rate of wages. In consequence families are crowded into one, two, or three rooms, and even in the case of people far above the status of day labourers and artisans it is the exception and not the rule for each individual to have a separate bed. The question of ventilation is certainly better understood than it was a few years ago, but still leaves much to be desired, and there is still an urgent necessity for preaching the gospel of the open window.

Exercise.—In considering the question of the exercise of adolescents, one's thoughts immediately turn to athletics, games, and dancing. As a nation the English have always been fond of athletics, and have attributed to the influence of such team games as cricket and football not only their success in various competitions but also their success in the sterner warfare of life. This success has been obtained on the tented field and in the work of exploring, mountaineering, and other pursuits that make great demand not only on nerve and muscle but also on strength of character and powers of endurance.

Team games appear to be the especial property of adolescents, for young children are more or less individualistic and solitary in many of their games, but boys and girls alike prefer team games from the pre-adolescent age up to adult life. It is certain that no form of exercise is superior to these games: they call into play every muscle of the body, they make great demands on accuracy of eye and coordination, they also stimulate and develop habits of command, obedience, loyalty, and esprit de corps. In the great public schools of England, and in the private schools which look up to them as their models, team games are played, as one might say, in a religious spirit. The boy or girl who attempts to take an unfair advantage, or who habitually plays for his or her own hand, is quickly made to feel a pariah and an outcast. Among the greatest blessings that are conveyed to the children of the poorer classes is the instruction not only in the technique of team games but also in the inoculation of the spirit in which they ought to be played. It is absolutely necessary that the highest ideals connected with games should be handed down, for thus the children who perhaps do not always have the highest ideals before them in real life may learn through this mimic warfare how the battle of life must be fought and what are the characters of mind and body that deserve and ensure success. It has been well said that those who make the songs of a nation help largely to make its character, and equally surely those who teach and control the games of the adolescents are making or marring a national destiny.

Among the means of physical and moral advancement may be claimed gymnastics. And here, alas, this nation can by no means claim to be facile princeps. Not only have we been relatively slow in adopting properly systematised exercises, but even to the present day the majority of elementary schools are without properly fitted gymnasia and duly qualified teachers. The small and relatively poor Scandinavian nations have admirably fitted gymnasia in connection with their Folkschule, which correspond to our elementary schools. The exercises are based on those systematised by Ling; each series is varied, and is therefore the more interesting, and each lesson commences with simple, easily performed movements, leading on to those that are more elaborate and fatiguing, and finally passing through a descending series to the condition of repose.

The gymnasia where such exercises are taught in England are relatively few and far between, and it is lamentable to find that many excellent and well-appointed schools for children, whose parents pay large sums of money for their education, have no properly equipped gymnasia nor adequately trained teachers. When the question is put, "How often do you have gymnastics at your school?" the answer is frequently, "We have none," or, "Half an hour once a week." Exercises such as Ling's not only exercise every muscle in the body in a scientific and well-regulated fashion, but being performed by a number of pupils at once in obedience to words of command, discipline, co-operation, obedience to teachers, and loyalty to comrades, are taught at the same time. The deepest interest attaches to many of the more complex exercises, while some of them make large demands on the courage and endurance of the young people.

In Scandinavia the State provides knickerbockers, tunics, and gymnasium shoes for those children whose parents are too poor to provide them; and again, in Scandinavia there is very frequently the provision of bathrooms in which the pupils can have a shower bath and rub-down after the exercises. These bathrooms in connection with the gymnasia need not necessarily be costly; indeed many of them in Stockholm and Denmark merely consist of troughs in the cement floor, on the edge of which the children sit in a row while they receive a shower bath over their heads and bodies. The feet get well washed in the trough, and the smart douche of water on head and shoulders acts as an admirable tonic.

Another exercise which ought to be specially dear to a nation of islanders is swimming, and this, again, is a relatively cheap luxury too much neglected amongst us. Certainly there are public baths, but there are not enough to permit of all the elementary school children bathing even once a week, and still less have they the opportunity of learning to swim. There is much to be done yet before we can be justly proud of our national system of education. We must not lose sight of the ideal with which we started—viz. that we should endeavour to do the best that is possible for our young people in body, soul, and spirit. The three parts of our nature are intertwined, and a duty performed to one part has an effect on the whole.



If measured by the death-rate the period of adolescence should cause us little anxiety, but a careful examination into the state of health of children of school age shows us that it is a time in which disorders of health abound, and that although these disorders are not necessarily, nor even generally, fatal, they are frequent, they spoil the child's health, and inevitably bear fruit in the shape of an injurious effect on health in after life.

That the health of adolescents should be unstable is what we ought to expect from the general instability of the organism due to the rapidity of growth and the remarkable developmental changes that are crowded into these few years. Rapidity of growth and increase of weight are very generally recognised, although their effects upon health are apt to be overlooked. On the other hand, the still more remarkable development that occurs in adolescence is very generally ignored.

As a general rule the infectious fevers, the so-called childish diseases—such as measles, chicken-pox, and whooping-cough—are less common in adolescence than they are in childhood, while the special diseases of internal organs due to their overwork, or to their natural tendency to degeneration, is yet far in the future. The chief troubles of adolescents appear to be due to overstress which accompanies rapid development, to the difficulty of the whole organism in adapting itself to new functions and altered conditions, and no doubt in some measure to the unwisdom both of the young people and of their advisers.

This is not the place for a general treatise on the diseases of adolescents, but a few of the commonest and most obvious troubles should be noted.

The Teeth.—It is quite surprising to learn what a very large percentage of young soldiers are refused enlistment in the army on account of decayed or defective teeth, and anyone who has examined the young women candidates for the Civil Service and for Missionary Societies must have recognised that their teeth are in no way better than those of the young men. In addition to several vacancies in the dental series, it is by no means unusual to find that a candidate has three or even five teeth severely decayed. The extraordinary thing is that not only the young people and their parents very generally fail to recognise the gravity of this condition, but that even their medical advisers have frequently acquiesced in a state of things that is not only disagreeable but dangerous. A considerable proportion of people with decayed teeth have also suppuration about the margins of the gums and around the roots of the teeth. This pyorrhoea alveolaris, as it is called, constitutes a very great danger to the patient's health, the purulent discharge teems with poisonous micro-organisms, which being constantly swallowed are apt to give rise to septic disease in various organs. It is quite probable that some cases of gastric ulcer are due to this condition, so too are some cases of appendicitis, it has been known to cause a peculiarly fatal form of heart disease, and it is also responsible for the painful swelling of the joints of the fingers, with wasting of the muscles and general weakness which goes by the name of rheumatoid arthritis. In addition to this there are many local affections, such as swollen glands in the neck, that may be due to this poisonous discharge. One would think that the mere knowledge that decayed teeth can cause all this havoc would lead to a grand rush to the dentist, but so far from being the case, doctors find it extremely difficult to induce their patients to part with this unsightly, evil-smelling, and dangerous decayed tooth.

The Throat.—Some throat affections, such as diphtheria and quinsy, are well known and justly dreaded; and although many a child's life has been sacrificed to the slowness of its guardians to procure medical advice and the health-restoring antitoxin, yet on the whole the public conscience is awake to this duty. Far otherwise is it with chronic diseases of the tonsils: they may be riddled with small cysts, they may be constantly in a condition of subacute inflammation dependent on a septic condition, but no notice is taken except when chill, constipation, or a general run-down state of health aggravates the chronic into a temporary acute trouble. And yet it is perhaps not going too far to say that for one young girl who is killed or invalided rapidly by diphtheria there are hundreds who are condemned to a quasi-invalid life owing to this persistent supply of poison to the system.

Another condition of the throat which causes much ill-health is well known to the public under the name of adenoids. Unfortunately, however, many people have an erroneous idea that children will "grow out of adenoids." Even if this were true it is extremely unwise to wait for so desirable an event. Adenoids may continue to grow, and during the years that they are present they work great mischief. Owing to the blocking of the air-passages the mouth is kept constantly open, greatly to the detriment of the throat and lungs. Owing to the interference with the circulation at the back of the nose and throat, a considerable amount both of apparent and real stupidity is produced, the brain works less well than it ought, and the child's appearance is ruined by the flat, broad bridge of the nose and the gaping mouth. The tale of troubles due to adenoids is not even yet exhausted; a considerable amount of discharge collects about them which it is not easy to clear away, it undergoes very undesirable changes, and is then swallowed to the great detriment of the stomach and the digestion. The removal of septic tonsils and of adenoids is most urgently necessary, and usually involves little distress or danger. The change in the child's health and appearance that can thus be secured is truly wonderful, especially if it be taught, as it should be, to keep its mouth shut and to breathe through the nose. In the course of a few months the complexion will have cleared, the expression will have regained its natural intelligence, digestion will be well performed, and the child's whole condition will be that of alert vigour instead of one of listless and sullen indifference.

Errors of Digestion.—From the consideration of certain states of the nose, mouth, and throat, it is easy to turn to what is so often their consequence. Many forms of indigestion are due to the septic materials swallowed. It would not, however, be fair to say that all indigestion is thus caused; not infrequently indigestion is due to errors of diet, and here the blame must be divided between the poverty and ignorance of many parents and the self-will of adolescents. The foods that are best for young people—such as bread, milk, butter, sugar, and eggs—are too frequently scarce in their dietaries owing to their cost; and again, in the case of many girls whose parents are able and willing to provide them with a thoroughly satisfactory diet-sheet, dyspepsia is caused by their refusal to take what is good for them, and by their preference for unsuitable and indigestible viands.

A further cause of indigestion must be sought in the haste with which food is too often eaten. The failure to rise at the appointed time leads to a hasty breakfast, and this must eventually cause indigestion. The food imperfectly masticated and not sufficiently mixed with saliva enters the stomach ill-prepared, and the hasty rush to morning school or morning work effectually prevents the stomach from dealing satisfactorily with the mass so hastily thrust into it.

There is an old saying that "Those whom the gods will destroy they first make mad," and in many instances young people who fall victims to the demon of dyspepsia owe their sorrows, if not to madness, at any rate to ignorance and want of consideration. The defective teeth, septic tonsils, discharging adenoids, poverty of their parents and their own laziness, all conspire to cause digestive troubles which bear a fruitful crop of further evils, for thus are caused such illnesses as anaemia and gastric ulcer.

Constipation claims a few words to itself. And here again we ought to consider certain septic processes. The refuse of the food should travel along the bowels at a certain rate, but if owing to sluggishness of their movements or to defects in the quality and amount of their secretion, the refuse is too long retained the masses become unduly dry, and, constantly shrinking in volume, are no longer capable of being urged along the tube at the proper rate. In consequence of this the natural micro-organisms of the intestine cease to be innocent and become troublesome; they lead in the long run to a peculiar form of blood-poisoning, and to so many diseased conditions that it is impossible to deal with them at the present moment. The existence of constipation is too often a signal for the administration of many doses of medicine. The wiser, the less harmful, and the more effectual method of dealing with it would be to endeavour to secure the natural action of the bowels by a change in the diet, which should contain more vegetable and less animal constituents. The patient should also be instructed to drink plenty of water, either hot or cold, a large glassful on going to bed and one on first awaking, and also if necessary an hour before each meal. Steady exercise is also of very great service, and instead of starting so late as to have no time for walking to school or work, a certain portion of the daily journey should be done on foot. Further, in all cases where it is possible, team games, gymnastics, and dancing should be called in to supplement the walk.

Headache.—Headache may be due to so many different causes that it would be impossible in this little book to adequately consider them, but it would not be fair to omit to mention that in many cases the headache of young people is due to their want of spectacles. The idea that spectacles are only required by people advanced in life is by this time much shaken, but even now not only many parents object to their children enjoying this most necessary assistance to imperfect vision, but also employers may be found so foolish and selfish as to refuse to employ those persons who need to wear glasses. The folly as well as selfishness of this objection is demonstrated by the far better work done by a person whose vision has been corrected, and the absolute danger incurred by all who have to deal with machinery if vision is imperfect. Among other causes for headache are the defects of mouth, throat, stomach, and bowels already described, because in all of them there is a supply of septic material to the blood which naturally causes headache and other serious symptoms.

Abnormalities of Menstruation.—The normal period should occur at regular intervals about once a month. Its duration and amount vary within wide limits, but in each girl it should remain true to her individual type, and it ought not to be accompanied by pain or distress. As a rule the period starts quite normally, and it is not until the girl's health has been spoiled by over-exertion of body or mind, by unwise exertion during the period, or by continued exposure to damp or cold, that it becomes painful and abnormal in time or in amount.

One of the earliest signs of approaching illness—such as consumption, anaemia, and mental disorder—is to be found in the more or less sudden cessation of the period. This should always be taken as a danger-signal, and as indicating the need of special medical advice.

Another point that should enter into intimate talk with girls is to make them understand the co-relation of their own functions to the great destiny that is in store. A girl is apt to be both shocked and humiliated when she first hears of menstruation and its phenomena. Should this function commence before she is told about it, she will necessarily look upon it with disgust and perhaps with fear. It is indeed a most alarming incident in the case of a girl who knows nothing about it, but if, before the advent of menstruation, it be explained to her that it is a sign of changes within her body that will gradually, after the lapse of some years, fit her also to take her place amongst the mothers of the land, her shame and fear will be converted into modest gladness, and she will readily understand why she is under certain restrictions, and has at times to give up work or pleasure in order that her development may be without pain, healthy, and complete.



The years of adolescence, during which rapid growth and development inevitably cause so much stress and frequently give rise to danger, are the very years in which the weight of school education necessarily falls most heavily. The children of the poor leave school at fourteen years of age, just the time when the children of the wealthier classes are beginning to understand the necessity of education and to work with a clearer realisation of the value and aim of lessons. The whole system of education has altered of late years, and school work is now conducted far more intelligently and with a greater appreciation of the needs and capacities of the pupils than it was some fifty years ago. Work is made more interesting, the relation of different studies to each other is more adequately put in evidence, and the influence that school studies have on success in after life is more fully realised by all concerned. The system of training is, however, far from perfect. In the case of girls, more particularly, great care has to be exercised not to attempt to teach too much, and to give careful consideration to the physiological peculiarities of the pupils. It is impossible for girls who are undergoing such rapid physiological and psychical changes to be always equally able and fit for strenuous work. There are days in every girl's life when she is not capable of her best work, and when a wise and sympathetic teacher will see that it is better for her to do comparatively little. And yet these slack times are just those in which there is the greatest danger of a girl indulging in daydreams, and when her thoughts need to be more than usually under control. These times may be utilised for lighter subjects and for such manual work as does not need great physical exertion. It is not a good time for exercises, for games, for dancing, and for gardening, nor are they the days on which mathematics should be pressed, but they are days in which much supervision is needed, and when time should not be permitted to hang heavily on hand.

Just as there are days in which consideration should be shown, so too there are longer periods of time in which it is unwise for a girl to be pressed to prepare for or to undergo a strenuous examination. The brain of the girl appears to be as good as that of the boy, while her application, industry, and emulation are far in advance of his, but she has these physiological peculiarities, and if they are disregarded there will not only be an occasional disastrous failure in bodily or mental health, but girls as a class will fail to do the best work of which they are capable, and will fail to reap the fullest advantage from an education which is costly in money, time, and strength. It follows that the curriculum for girls presents greater difficulties than the curriculum for boys, and that those ladies who are responsible for the organisation of a school for girls need to be women of great resource, great patience, and endowed with much sympathetic insight. The adolescent girl will generally do little to help her teachers in this matter. She is incapable of recognising her own limitations, she is full of emulation, and is desirous of attaining and keeping a good position not only in her school but also in the University or in any other public body for whose examination she may present herself. The young girl most emphatically needs to be saved from herself, and she has to learn the lessons of obedience and of cheerful acquiescence in restrictions that certainly appear to her simply vexatious.

One of the difficulties in private schools arises from the necessity of providing occupation for every hour of the waking day, while avoiding the danger of overwork with its accompanying exhaustion. In the solution of this problem such subjects as gymnastics, games, dancing, needlework, cooking, and domestic economy will come in as a welcome relief from the more directly intellectual studies, and equally as a relief to the conscientious but hard-pressed woman who is trying to save her pupils from the evils of unoccupied time on the one hand and undue mental pressure on the other.

Boys, and to a less extent girls, attending elementary schools who leave at fourteen are not likely to suffer in the same way or from the same causes. One of the difficulties in their case is that they leave school just when work is becoming interesting and before habits of study have been formed, indeed before the subjects taught have been thoroughly assimilated, and that therefore in the course of a few years little may be left of their painfully acquired and too scanty knowledge. Free education has been given to the children of the poor for nearly fifty years, and yet the mothers who were schoolgirls in the seventies and eighties appear to have saved but little from the wreck of their knowledge except the power to sign their names and to read in an imperfect and blundering manner.

Here, too, there are many problems to be solved, one among them being the great necessity of endeavouring to correlate the lessons given in school to the work that the individual will have to perform in after life. It would appear as if the girls of the elementary schools, in addition to reading, writing, and simple arithmetic, sufficient to enable them to write letters, to read books, and to keep simple household accounts, ought to be taught the rudiments of cookery, the cutting out and making of garments, and the best methods of cleansing as applied to houses, household utensils and clothing. In addition, and as serious subjects, not merely as a recreation, they should be taught gymnastics, part singing and mother-craft. No doubt in individual schools much of this modification of the curriculum has been accomplished, but more remains to be done before we can be satisfied that we have done the best in our power to fit the children of the country for their life's work.

Another of the great problems connected with the children in elementary schools, a problem which, indeed, arises out of their leaving at fourteen, is that of the Continuation School or Evening School, and the system which is known as "half-timing." It is well known that although young people from fourteen to sixteen years of age are well able to profit by continued instruction, they are, with very few exceptions, not at all well adapted for commencing their life's work as industrials. The general incoherency and restlessness peculiar to that age frequently lead to a change of employment every few months, while their general irresponsibility and want of self-control lead to frequent disputes with foremen and other officials in factories and shops, in consequence of which the unfortunate child is constantly out of work. In proportion to the joy and pride caused by the realised capacity to earn money and by the sense of independence that employment brings, is the unhappiness, and in many cases the misery, due to unemployment, and to repeated failures to obtain and to keep an independent position. The boy or girl out of work has an uneasy feeling that he or she has not earned the just and expected share towards household expenses. The feeling of dependence and well-nigh of disgrace causes a rapid deterioration in health and spirits, and it is only too likely that in many instances where unemployment is continuous or frequently repeated, the unemployed will quickly become the unemployable.

So far as the young people themselves are concerned, it would be nearly always an unmixed benefit that they should pass at fourteen into a Technical School or Continuation School, as the case may be. Among the great difficulties to the solution of this problem is the fact that in many working-class households the few weekly shillings brought into the family store by the elder children are of very real importance, and although the raising of the age of possible employment and independence would enable the next generation to work better and to earn higher and more continuous wages, it is difficult for the parents to acquiesce in the present deprivation involved, even though it represents so much clear gain in the not distant future.

At the present time there are Evening Schools, but this system does not work well. All busy people are well aware that after a hard day's work neither brain nor body is in the best possible condition for two or three hours of serious mental effort. The child who has spent the day in factory or shop has really pretty nearly used up all his or her available mental energy, and after the evening meal is naturally heavy, stupid, irritable, and altogether in a bad condition for further effort. The evenings ought to be reserved for recreation, for the gymnasium, the singing class, the swimming bath, and even for the concert and the theatre.

The system of "half-timing" during ordinary school life does not work well, and it would be a great pity should a similar system be introduced in the hope of furthering the education of boys and girls who are just entering industrial life. There is reason to hope that a great improvement in education will be secured by Mr. Hayes Fisher's bill.

Another subject to which the attention of patriots and philanthropists ought to be turned is the sort of employment open to children at school-leaving age. The greatest care should be taken to diminish the number of those who endeavour to achieve quasi-independence in those occupations which are well known as "blind alleys." In England it is rare that girls should seek these employments, but in Scotland there is far too large a number of girl messengers. In this particular, the case of the girl is superior to that of the boy. The "tweeny" develops into housemaid or cook; the young girls employed in superior shops to wait on the elder shopwomen hope to develop into their successors, and the girls who nurse babies on the doorsteps are, after all, acquiring knowledge and dexterity that may fit them for domestic service or for the management of their own families a few years later.

The girls of the richer classes have not the same difficulties as their poorer sisters. They generally remain at school until a much later age, and subsequently have the joy and stimulus of college life, of foreign travel, of social engagements, or of philanthropic enterprise. Still, a residue remains even of girls of this class whose own inclinations, or whose family circumstances, lead to an aimless, purposeless existence, productive of much injury to both body and mind, and only too likely to end in hopeless ennui and nervous troubles. It should be thoroughly understood by parents and guardians that no matter what the girl's circumstances may be, she ought always to have an abundance of employment. The ideas of obligation and of duty should not be discarded when school and college life cease. The well-to-do girl should be encouraged to take up some definite employment which would fill her life and provide her with interests and duties. Any other arrangement tends to make the time between leaving school or college and a possible marriage not only a wasted time but also a seed-time during which a crop is sown of bad habits, laziness of body, and slackness of mind, that subsequently bear bitter fruit. It is quite time for us to recognise that unemployment and absence of duties is as great a disadvantage to the rich as it is to the poor; the sort of employment must necessarily differ, but the spirit in which it is to be done is the same.

One point that one would wish to emphasise with regard to all adolescents is that although occupation for the whole day is most desirable, hard work should occupy but a certain proportion of the waking hours. For any adolescent, or indeed for any of us to attempt to work hard for twelve or fourteen hours out of the twenty-four is to store up trouble. It is not possible to lay down any hard and fast rule as to the length of hours of work, because the other factors in the problem vary so greatly. One person may be exhausted by four hours of intellectual effort, whereas another is less fatigued by eight; and further, the daily occupations vary greatly in the demand that they make on attention and on such qualities as reason, judgment, and power of initiation. Those who teach or learn such subjects as mathematics, or those who are engaged in such occupations as portrait-painting and the higher forms of musical effort, must necessarily take more out of themselves than those who are employed in feeding a machine, in nursing a baby, or in gardening operations.



The great problem before those who have the responsibility for the training of the young is that of preparing them to take their place in the world as fathers, mothers, and citizens, and among the fundamental duties connected with this responsibility must come the placing before the eyes of the young people high ideals, attractive examples, and the securing to them the means of adequate preparation. As a nation it seems to be with us at present as it was with the people of Israel in the days of Eli: "the word of the Lord was precious (or scarce) in those days; there was no open vision." We seem to have come to a time of civilisation in which there is much surface refinement and a widespread veneer of superficial knowledge, but in which there is little enthusiasm and in which the great aim and object of teaching and of training is but too little realised. In the endeavour to know a little of all things we seem to have lost the capacity for true and exhaustive knowledge of anything. It would appear as if the remedy for this most unsatisfactory state of things has to commence long before the years of adolescence, even while the child is yet in its cradle. The old-fashioned ideas of duty, obedience, and discipline must be once more household words and living entities before the race can enter on a period of regeneration. We want a poet with the logic of Browning, the sweetness of Tennyson, and the force of Rudyard Kipling, to sing a song that would penetrate through indifference, sloth, and love of pleasure, and make of us the nation that we might be, and of which the England of bygone years had the promise.

Speaking specially with regard to girls, let us first remember that the highest earthly ideal for a woman is that she should be a good wife and a good mother. It is not necessary to say this in direct words to every small girl, but she ought to be so educated, so guided, as to instinctively realise that wifehood and motherhood is the flower and perfection of her being. This is the hope and ideal that should sanctify her lessons and sweeten the right and proper discipline of life. All learning, all handicraft, and all artistic training should take their place as a preparation to this end. Each generation that comes on to the stage of life is the product of that which preceded it. It is the flower of the present national life and the seed of that which is to come. We ought to recognise that all educational aims and methods are really subordinate to this great end; if this were properly realised by adolescents it would be of the greatest service and help in their training. The deep primal instinct of fatherhood and motherhood would help them more than anything else to seek earnestly and successfully for the highest attainable degree of perfection of their own bodies, their own minds, and their own souls. It is, however, impossible to aim at an ideal that is unseen and even unknown, and although the primal instinct exists in us all, its fruition is greatly hindered by the way in which it is steadily ignored, and by the fact that any proclamation of its existence is considered indiscreet and even indelicate. How are children to develop a holy reverence for their own bodies unless they know of their wonderful destiny? If they do not recognise that at least in one respect God has confided to them in some measure His own creative function, how can they jealously guard against all that would injure their bodies and spoil their hopes for the exercise of this function? There is, even at the present time, a division of opinion as to when and in what manner children are to be made aware of their august destiny. We are indeed only now beginning to realise that ignorance is not necessarily innocence, and that knowledge of these matters may be sanctified and blessed. It is, however, certain that the conspiracy of silence which lasted so many years has brought forth nothing but evil. If a girl remains ignorant of physiological facts, the shock of the eternal realities of life that come to her on marriage is always pernicious and sometimes disastrous. If, on the other hand, such knowledge is obtained from servants and depraved playfellows, her purity of mind must be smirched and injured.

Even among those who hold that children ought to be instructed, there is a division of opinion as to when this instruction is to begin. Some say at puberty, others a few years later, perhaps on the eve of marriage, and yet others think that the knowledge will come with less shock, with less personal application, and therefore in a more natural and useful manner from the very beginning of conscious life. These last would argue—why put the facts of reproduction on a different footing from those of digestion and respiration? As facts in the physical life they hold a precisely similar position. Upon the due performance of bodily functions depends the welfare of the whole organism, and although reproduction, unlike the functions of respiration and digestion, is not essential to the life of the individual, it is essential to the life of the nation.

The facts of physiology are best taught to little children by a perfectly simple recognition of the phenomena of life around them—the cat with her kittens, the bird with its fledgelings, and still more the mother with her infant, are all common facts and beautiful types of motherhood. Instead of inventing silly and untrue stories as to the origin of the kitten and the fledgeling, it is better and wiser to answer the child's question by a direct statement of fact, that God has given the power to His creatures to perpetuate themselves, that the gift of Life is one of His good gifts bestowed in mercy on all His creatures. The mother's share in this gift and duty can be observed by, and simply explained to, the child from its earliest years; it comes then with no shock, no sense of shame, but as a type of joy and gladness, an image of that holiest of all relations, the Eternal Mother and the Heavenly Child.

Somewhat later in life, probably immediately before puberty in boys and shortly after puberty in girls, the father's share in this mystery may naturally come up for explanation. The physiological facts connected with this are not so constantly in evidence before children, and therefore do not press for explanation in the same way as do those of motherhood, but the time comes soon in the schoolboy's life when the special care of his own body has to be urged on him, and this knowledge ought to come protected by the sanction that unless he is faithful to his trust he cannot look to the reward of a happy home life with wife and children. In the case of the girl the question as to fatherhood is more likely to arise out of the reading of the Bible or other literature, or by her realisation that at any rate in the case of human parenthood there is evidently the intermediation of a father. The details of this knowledge need not necessarily be pressed on the adolescent girl, but it is a positive cruelty to allow the young woman to marry without knowing the facts on which her happiness depends.

Another way in which the mystery of parenthood can be simply and comfortably taught is through the study of vegetable physiology. The fertilisation of the ovules by pollen which falls directly from the anthers on to the stigma can be used as a representation of similar facts in animal physiology. It is very desirable, however, that this study of the vegetable should succeed and not precede that of the domestic animals in the teaching of boys and girls.

Viewed from this standpoint there is surely no difficulty to the parent in imparting to the child this necessary knowledge. We have to remember that children have to know the mysteries of life. They cannot live in the world without seeing the great drama constantly displayed to them in family life and in the lives of domesticated animals. They cannot read the literature of Greece and Rome, nay, they cannot study the Book of Books, without these facts being constantly brought to mind. A child's thirst for the interpretation of this knowledge is imperative and unsatiable—not from prurience nor from evil-mindedness, but in obedience to a law of our nature, the child demands this knowledge—and will get it. It is for fathers and mothers to say whether these sublime and beautiful mysteries shall be lovingly and reverently unveiled by themselves or whether the child's mind shall be poisoned and all beauty and reverence destroyed by depraved school-fellows and vulgar companions.

In the hope of securing the purity, reverence and piety of our children, in the hope that they may grow up worthy of their high destiny, let us do what we may to keep their honour unsmirched, to preserve their innocence, and to lead them on from the unconscious goodness of childhood to the clear-eyed, fully conscious dignity of maturity, that our sons may grow up as young plants, and our daughters as the polished corners of the temple.




My contribution to this little book was originally intended for the eyes of parents, scoutmasters, and other adults. Since 1913, when the book was first published, it has been my privilege to receive from these so many letters of warm appreciation that it seems needless to retain the apologetic preface which I then wrote. The object which I had in view at that time was the hastening of a supremely important reform. I have to-day the very deep joy of knowing that my words have carried conviction to many adults and have given help to countless boys.

One result of this publication was entirely unlooked for. It did not occur to me, as I wrote, that the book would be read by boys and young men. It was not written at all for this purpose. In some respects its influence over them has, however, been increased by this obvious fact. In this book boys have, as it were, overheard a confidential conversation about themselves carried on by adults anxious for their welfare, and some at least are evidently more impressed by this conversation than by a direct appeal—in which they are liable to suspect exaggeration.

I have received hundreds of letters from boys and young men. These confirm in every way the conclusions set forth in this book, and prove that the need for guidance in sex matters is acute and universal. The relief and assistance which many boys have experienced from correspondence with me, and the interest which I find in their letters have caused me—spite of the extreme preoccupation of a strenuous life—to issue a special invitation to those who may feel inclined to write to me.

Great diversity of opinion exists as to the best method of giving sex instruction, and those who have had experience of one method are curiously blind to the merits of other methods, which they usually strongly denounce. While I have my own views as to the best method to adopt, I am quite sure that each one of very many methods can, in suitable hands, produce great good, and that the very poorest method is infinitely superior to no method at all.

Some are for oral teaching, some for the use of a pamphlet, some favour confidential individual teaching, others collective public teaching. Some would try to make sex a sacred subject; some would prefer to keep the emotional element out and treat reproduction as a matter-of-fact science subject. Some wish the parent to give the teaching, some the teacher, some the doctor, some a lecturer specially trained for this purpose. Good results have been obtained by every one of these methods.

During recent years much additional evidence has accumulated in my hands of the beneficent results of such teaching as I advocate in these pages, and I am confident that of boys who have been wisely guided and trained, few fail to lead clean lives even when associated with those who are generally and openly corrupt. I must, however, emphasise my belief that the cleanliness of a boy's life depends ultimately not upon his knowledge of good and evil but upon his devotion to the Right.

"Self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control, These three alone lead life to sovereign power."

Where these are not, it is idle to inculcate the rarest and most difficult of all virtues.




The term puberty will so often be used in the following chapters that a brief account of the phenomena of puberty may appropriately be given at the outset of this work. Puberty is a name given to the age at which a boy becomes capable of being a father. In temperate climates this age is reached at about fifteen years, though some boys attain it at twelve and some not until seventeen. The one obvious and invariable sign of puberty is a change of pitch in the voice, which assumes its bass character after an embarrassing period of squeaky alternations between the high and low tones.

The age is a critical one, as several important changes take place in body and in mind. The reproductive organs undergo considerable development and become sensitive to any stimulus, physical or mental. The seminal fluid, which in normal cases has hitherto been secreted little, if at all, is now elaborated by the testicles, and contains spermatazoa—minute organisms which are essential to reproduction. Under the stimulus of sexual thoughts this fluid is secreted in such quantity as to give rise to involuntary discharge during sleep. These nocturnal emissions are so often found among boys and young men that some physiologists consider them to be quite normal. My experience leads me to doubt this conclusion.

Another physical change associated with puberty is the growth of hair on the pubes and on the face: in this latter situation the growth is slow.

With the capacity for fatherhood comes a very strong awakening of the sexual instinct, which manifests itself in passion and in lust—the unconscious and the conscious sex hunger. The passion shows itself in a ludicrously indiscriminate and exaggerated susceptibility to female attractions—a susceptibility the sexual character of which is usually quite unrecognised. Among boys who have sex knowledge there is also a tendency to dwell on sexual thoughts when the mind is not otherwise occupied. Passion and lust do not at once develop their full strength; but, coming at a time when self-control is very weak, and coming with all the attraction of novelty, they often dominate the mind even in normal cases, and may become tyrannous when the reproductive system has been prematurely stimulated.

A heightened self-consciousness and an antagonism to authority so often follow the attainment of puberty that they are usually considered to be its results. My own experience with boys satisfies me that this conclusion is not correct. Self-consciousness, when it occurs in boyhood, is usually the result of an unclean inner life. Puberty merely increases the self-consciousness by intensifying its cause. When the mind is clean there is no marked change in this respect at puberty. The antagonism to authority so often observed after puberty is the product of unsatisfactory external influences. With puberty the desire to stand well with others, and in particular the desire to seem manly, increases. If a debased public opinion demands of a boy the cheap manliness of profanity, tobacco, and irreverence, the demand creates a plentiful supply, while it also suppresses as priggish or "pi" any avowed or suspected devotion to higher ideals. A healthy public opinion, working in harmony with a boy's nobler instincts, calls forth in him an earnest devotion to high ideals, and causes him to exercise, on the development of his powers and in a crusade against wrong, the new energies which a wholesome puberty places at his disposal.



Of the perils which beset the growing boy all are recognised, and, in a measure, guarded against except the most inevitable and most fatal peril of all. In all that concerns the use and abuse of the reproductive organs the great majority of boys have hitherto been left without adult guidance, and have imbibed their ideas from the coarser of their companions and from casual references to the subject in the Bible and other books. Under these conditions very few boys escape two of the worst dangers into which it is possible for a lad to fall—the artificial stimulation of the reproductive organs and the acquisition of degraded ideas on the subject of sex. That many lives are thus prematurely shortened, that many constitutions are permanently enfeebled, that very many lads who might otherwise have striven successfully against the sexual temptations of adult life succumb—almost without a struggle—to them, can be doubted by no one who is familiar with the inner life of boys and men.

Of these two evils, self-abuse, though productive of manifold and disastrous results, is distinctly the less. Many boys outgrow the physical injuries which, in ignorance, they inflict upon themselves in youth; but very few are able wholly to cleanse themselves from the foul desires associated in their minds with sex. These desires make young men impotent in the face of temptation. Under their evil dominance, even men of kind disposition will, by seduction, inflict on an innocent girl agony, misery, degradation, and premature death. They will indulge In the most degrading of all vices with prostitutes on the street. They will defile the atmosphere of social life with filthy talk and ribald jest. Even a clean and ennobling passion can do little to redeem them. The pure stream of human love is made turbid with lust. After a temporary uplifting in marriage the soul is again dragged down, marriage vows are broken and the blessings of home life are turned into wormwood and gall.

That a system so destructive of physical and of spiritual health should have lasted almost intact until now will, I believe, shortly become a matter for general amazement; for while evidence of the widespread character of youthful perversion is a product of quite recent years, the assumptions on which this system has been based are unreasonable and incapable of proof.

Since conclusive evidence of the prevalence of impurity among boys is available, I will not at present invite the reader to examine the assumptions which lead most people to a contrary belief. When I do so, I shall hope to demonstrate that we might reasonably expect to find things precisely as they are. In the first and second chapters we shall see to what conclusions teachers who have actual experience in the matter have been led.

There are several teachers whose authority in most matters stands so very much above my own that it might seem presumptuous to begin by laying my own experiences before the reader; but I venture to take this course because no other teacher, as far as I know, has published quite such definite evidence as I have done; and I think that the more general statements of such eminent men as Canon Lyttelton, Mr. A.C. Benson, and Dr. Clement Dukes will appeal to the reader more powerfully when he has some idea of the manner in which conclusions on this subject may be reached. I have some reason, also, for the belief that the paper I read in 1908 at the London University before the International Congress on Moral Education has been considered of great significance by very competent judges. By a special decision of the Executive of the Congress it—alone of all sectional papers—was printed in extenso in the official report. Later on, it came under the notice of Sir R. Baden-Powell, at whose request it was republished in the Headquarters Gazette—the official organ of the Boy Scout movement.

It certainly did require some courage at the time to put my results before the public, for I was not then aware that men of great eminence in the educational world had already made equally sweeping, if less definite, statements. Emboldened by this fact and by the commendations above referred to, I venture to quote the greater part of this short paper.

"The opinions I am about to put forward are based almost entirely on my own twenty years' experience as a housemaster. My house contains forty-eight boys, who vary in age from ten to nineteen and come from comfortable middle-class homes.

"Private interviews with individual boys in my study have been the chief vehicle of my teaching and the chief source of my information. My objects in these interviews have been to warn boys against the evils of private impurity, to supply them with a certain amount of knowledge on sexual subjects in order to prevent a prurient curiosity, and to induce them to confide to me the history of their own knowledge and difficulties. In my early days I interviewed those only who appeared to me to be obviously suffering from the effects of impurity, and, of late years, the extreme pressure of my work has forced me very reluctantly to recur to this plan.

"For several years, however, I was accustomed to interview every boy under my care during his first term with me. Very rarely have I failed in these interviews so to secure a boy's confidence as to learn the salient facts of the history of his inner life. Sunday afternoon addresses to the Sixth Form on the sexual dangers of late youth and early manhood have resulted at times in elder boys themselves seeking an interview with me. Such spontaneous confidences have naturally been fuller, and therefore more instructive, than the confidences I have invited.

"Many people are inclined to look upon the instruction of boys in relation to adolescence as needless and harmful; needless because few boys, they imagine, awake to the consciousness and problems of sex until manhood; harmful because the pristine innocence of the mind is, they think, destroyed, and evils are suggested of which a boy might otherwise remain unconscious. To one who knows what boys really are such ideas are nothing less than ludicrous.

"Boys come to our school from many different classes of preparatory and secondary schools. Almost every such school seems to possess a few boys who delight to initiate younger boys into sexual knowledge, and usually into knowledge of solitary vice. The very few boys who have come to me quite ignorant of these matters have come either straight from home at ten or eleven, or from a school in which a few young boys are educated with girls. Of boys who have come under my care as late as twelve I have known but two who even professed total ignorance on sexual subjects, and in one of these cases I am quite sure that no such ignorance existed.

"In a large majority of cases solitary vice has been learned and practised before a boy has got into his teens. The lack of insight parents display in relation to these questions is quite phenomenal. The few who mention the subject to me are always quite satisfied of the complete 'innocence' of their boys. Some of the most precocious and unclean boys I have known have been thus confidently commended to me. Boys are wholly unsuspicious of the extent to which their inner life lies open to the practised eye, and they feel secure that nothing can betray their secrets if they themselves do not.

"In no department of our life are George Eliot's words truer than in this department: 'Our daily familiar life is but a hiding of ourselves from each other behind a screen of trivial words and deeds, and those who sit with us at the same hearth are often the farthest off from the deep human soul within us—full of unspoken evil and unacted good.' We cannot prevent a boy's obtaining information on sexual questions. Our choice lies between leaving him to pick it up from unclean and vulgar minds, which will make it guilty and impure, and giving it ourselves in such a way as to invest it from the first with a sacred character.

"Another idea which my experience proves to be an entire delusion is the idea that a boy's natural refinement is a sufficient protection against defilement. Some of the most refined boys I have had the pleasure of caring for have been pronounced victims of solitary sin. That it is a sin at all, that it has, indeed, any significance, either ethical or spiritual, has not so much as occurred to most of them. On what great moral question dare we leave the young to find their own way absolutely without guidance? In this most difficult and dangerous of all questions we leave the young soul, stirred by novel and blind impulses, to grope in the darkness. Is it any wonder if it fails to see things in their true relations?

"Again, it is sometimes thought that the consequences of secret sin are so patent as to deter a boy from the sin itself. So far is this from being the case that I have never yet found a single boy (even among those who have, through it, made almost complete wrecks physically and mentally) who has of himself connected these consequences with the sin itself. I have, on the other hand, known many sad cases in which, through the weakening of will power, which this habit causes, boys of high ideals have fallen again and again after their eyes have been fully opened. This sin is rarely a conscious moral transgression. The boy is a victim to be sympathised with and helped, not an offender to be reproved and punished."

I desire to call the attention of the reader to two points in the foregoing extract. I was particular in giving my credentials to state the character and limitations of my experience. Everywhere in life one finds confident and sweeping generalisations made by men who have little or no experience to appeal to. This is specially the case in the educational world, and perhaps most of all in discussions on this very subject. Some men, at least, are willing to instruct the public with nothing better to guide them than the light of Nature. It would greatly assist the quest of truth if everyone who ventures to address the public on this question would first present his credentials.

There is danger lest the reader should discount the significance of the statements I make in the foregoing paper by falling into the error of supposing that the facts stated apply, after all, to one school only. This is not by any means so. The facts have been collected at one school; but those which refer to the prevalence of sex knowledge and of masturbation have reference solely to the condition of boys when they first entered, and are significant of the conditions which obtain at some scores of schools and in many homes. I venture here to quote and to warmly endorse Canon Lyttelton's opinion: "It is, however, so easy to be misunderstood in this matter that I must insert a caution against an inference which may be drawn from these words, viz. that school life is the origin of immorality among boys. The real origin is to be found in the common predisposition to vicious conceptions, which is the result of neglect. Nature provides in almost every case an active curiosity on this subject; and that curiosity must be somehow allayed; and if it were not allayed at school, false and depraved ideas would be picked up at home.... So readily does an ignorant mind at an early age take in teaching about these subjects that there are no conceivable conditions of modern social life not fraught with grave peril to a young boy, if once he has been allowed to face them quite unprepared, either by instruction or by warning. And this manifestly applies to life at home, or in a day-school, or in a boarding-school to an almost equal degree."[A]

[Footnote A: Training of the Young in Relation to Sex, p. 1 et seq.]

One of the facts which I always tried to elicit from boys was the source of their information, or rather the character of that source, for I was naturally anxious not to ask a boy to incriminate any individual known to me. In many cases, information came first to the boy at home from a brother, or cousin, or casual acquaintance, or domestic servant. In one of the worst cases I have known the information was given to a boy by another boy—an entire stranger to him—whom he happened to meet on a country road when cycling. Since boys meet one another very much more at school than elsewhere and spend three-fourths of their lives there, of course information is more often obtained at school than at home. My own experience leads me to think that in this respect the day-school—probably on account of its mixed social conditions—is worse than the boarding-school.

Before passing from matters of personal experience, it may interest the reader if I give particulars of a few typical cases to illustrate some points on which I have insisted.

Case A.—The father and mother of a boy close on thirteen came to see me before entering the lad. They had no idea that I was specially interested in purity-teaching; but they were anxious to ascertain what precautions we took against the corruption of small boys. They struck me as very good parents. I was specially pleased that they were alive to the dangers of impurity, and that the mother could advert openly to the matter without embarrassment. I advised them to give the boy explicit warning; but they said that they were anxious to preserve his innocence as long as possible. He was at present absolutely simple, and they hoped that he would long remain so. It was a comfort to them that I was interested in the subject, and they would leave the boy with confidence in my care. As soon as I saw the boy, I found it difficult to believe in his innocence; and I soon discovered that he was thoroughly corrupt. Not merely did he begin almost at once to corrupt other boys, but he actually gave them his views on brothels! In a private interview with me he admitted all this, and told me that he was corrupted at ten years of age, when he was sent, after convalescence from scarlet fever, to a country village for three months. There he seems to have associated with a group of street boys, who gave him such information as they had, and initiated him into self-abuse. Since then he had been greedily seeking further information and passing it on.

Case B.—A delicate, gentle boy of eleven, an only son, was sent to me by an intellectual father, who had been his constant companion. The lad was very amiable and well-intentioned. A year later he gave me particulars of his corruption by a cousin, who was three years older than he. Since that time—particularly of late—he had practised masturbation. He had not the least idea that it was hurtful or even unrefined, and thought that it was peculiar to himself and his cousin. He knew from his cousin the chief facts of maternity and paternity, but had not spoken to other boys about them. He was intensely anxious to cleanse himself entirely, and promised to let me know of any lapse, should it occur. In the following vacation he developed pneumonia. For some days his life hung in the balance, and then flickered out. His father wrote me a letter of noble resignation. Terribly as he felt his loss, he was greatly consoled, he said, by the knowledge that his boy had died while his mind was innocent and before he could know even what temptation was. It is needless to add that I never hinted the real facts to the father; and—without altering any material detail—I am disguising the case lest it should possibly be recognised by him. I have often wondered whether, when the lad's life hung in the balance, it might not have been saved if Death's scale had not been weighted by the child's lowered vitality.

Case C.—A boy of fourteen came to me. He was a miserable specimen in every way—pale, lethargic, stupid almost beyond belief. He had no mother; and the father, though a man of leisure, evidently found it difficult to make the lad much of a companion. I felt certain from the first that the boy was an exceptionally bad victim of self-abuse; And this I told his father, advising him to investigate the matter. He was horrified at my diagnosis, and committed the great indiscretion of taxing the boy with self-abuse as though it were a conscious and grave fault. The father wrote during the vacation saying that he found I was entirely mistaken: not, content with the lad's assurance, he had watched him with the utmost care. As soon as the boy returned to school I interviewed him. He admitted readily that he had long masturbated himself daily—sometimes oftener. He had first—as far as he could remember, at about six—had his private parts excited by his nurse, who apparently did this to put an irritable child into a good temper! My warning had little effect upon him, as he had become a hopeless victim. He was too delicate a boy for us to desire to keep; and after a brief stay at school, during which we nursed him through a critical illness, he left to finish his education under private tuition at home.

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