Pratensia held that the bodies of persons who feed gluttonously, live at ease, and indulge themselves with wine, "are full of bad spirits and devilish lusts;"1 and Hierome advises us, if our horse be "too lusty, to take away some of his provender."
"It is seldom that you see an hired servant" as our quaint friend Burton remarks,' one who is kept constantly at work, "troubled very much with the fires of lust;" but noble virgins, nice gentlewomen, who live lives of pleasure and ease, are its peculiar victims. On the same principle he accounts for the sexual vices of convents and monasteries, where the young priests, full blooded, well fed, and not overburdened with labor, have become famous for "their rapes, incests, adulteries, mastuprations, sodomies and buggeries;" and there is little doubt that the luxury and enlightenment of the present day bear an almost equal part in the production of those sexual vices with which we are at present concerned.
There is something in the character of modern enlightenment, notwithstanding what has already been said, which awakens too grand a hope for the future to be readily relinquished. One of its greatest achievements is the educated faculty of discriminating between what is deliberately obscent in literature, and that which, while scientifically frank and bold, is nevertheless born of a pure purpose; between that which popularizes, for instance, the mysterious phenomena of sexual life, and that which ministers simply and solely to a depraved and prurient public curiosity.
1" Dwmonitus refcrta sunt corpora nostra, illorum prfficipue qui delicatia vescuntur edulita, advolitant, et corporibus inherent," etc.
»"Anatomy of Melancholy," pp. 273, 274
Men and women everywhere are becoming better and better acquainted with the laws, physical and psychical, which underlie their being; thus preparing themselves, not only for a better and more intelligent fatherhood and motherhood, by instilling the seeds of their own knowledge into the minds of their children, but preparing humanity for the New Earth by lifting it up to a knowledge of itself, its hopes, perils, capacities and environments, and finding, in release from the broken trammels and prejudices of the past, not only immunity from the vices of the present, but grander and nobler vistas of the future.
Is it not lamentable that for lack of only a little knowledge so much misery, deformity, suffering and disease should exist in the common family of humanity? Is it not sad that a man, born and endowed to enjoy to the full that supremest of all physical pleasures, sexual union with the woman he loves, "that magnet most divine," which, "as the very centre of the earth, draweth all things to it," and to stand in the pride of his manhood, as the father of his children and perpetuator of his name and race, should be cut off from both forever? Condemned, by the insidious, but not the less fatal, grasp of a habit, perhaps, against which the untaught minds of his own parents were incapable of warning him, to a whole life of miserable longing and desire, without the power to gratify them? Is it not unutterably Bad that the middle years of life, which ought to be years of glorious ambition and splendid achievements, should be, tc a great proportion of both sexes, only bleak, barren days of hopeless un-fruitfulness—gray and leaden as the pall of autumn—in which physical decay, and "the worm that dieth not," complete the wreck which the very exuberance of youth, and love, and health most probably began?