Typos p. 186, n. 1: qiu [= qui]; p. 207: lesiure [= leisure]; p. 217: numeral for note 1 missing from text [but should probably be after "the true nature of woman"]
- p. 178 -
Breaches of the Marriage Contract and Divorce
(1) Analysis of the Married Life of Positive People
Indeed, woman's unconscious demand for the experience of this whole cycle is so persistent and clamorous that they may be excused who, like Schopenhauer, perceive in it the importunate voice of the Will of the Species (Wille der Gattung) resolutely demanding Life, and ever more and more guarantees of its survival. 1
1 See Chapter 44 of the Ergänzung zum vierten Buch of the Welt als Wille und Vorstellung. In La Femme Criminelle et la Prostituée, by C. Lombroso and G. Ferrero (Paris, Felix Alcan, 1896) the authors, wishing to emphasize the same fact, say very plainly: "C'est le besoin de l'espèce, le besoin maternel, qui pousse la femme vers l'homme, l'amour féminin étant une fonction subordonnée à la maternité" (p. 107).
Short of impossible conduct on his part, therefore, it may be taken for granted that it never occurs to the positive healthy married woman, who bears children at regular intervals, to make any effort to seek another love affair, and even if the opportunity for such a love affair should come her way, and be set before her with all the persuasiveness that deep desire in the other party can lend it, she will, as a rule, resist it and let it pass by without very much of a struggle. She is finding the consummation of her being in the life she is leading, and let her husband be ever so besotted, ignorant, boring and uncompanionable, it will never occur to her to go in search of another love.
This conclusion is, I think, borne out by the statistics of divorce in England and Wales, where separations between people who do not attempt to limit the family, is extremely rare. It is usually said with reference to such cases that it is the children who "strengthen the union." This is the popular and even the learned opinion. 2 The prevalence of this opinion, and the high
1 See ante, p. 148. See also Lombroso and Ferrero, Op. cit. (p. 112): "Psychiquement, l'amour de la mère se greffe toujours et l'emporte sur le besoin du sexe."
2 See Sir Bargrave Deane's evidence before the Royal Commission on Divorce and Matrimonial Causes, 1912, para. 1163: "My impression is that it is a very serious question this absence of children to the
We must not allow ourselves to be blinded by sentimental tears, therefore, to the extent of supposing that offspring invariably increase conjugal affection. A long observation of our fellow-creatures convinces us, on the contrary, that the presence of children operates in precisely the opposite direction, and that if we are going in search of "romantic" love, lasting long after the
married life, and I believe you will find (I am certain it is so from my experience this term) that if there are children it keeps the home together, and they both work together." Lord Salvesen (Judge of Court of Sessions, Scotland), speaking before the same Commission, and discussing the statistics as to childless and fruitful marriages, said: "I draw this inference, that I think they show where there are children the union is strengthened, and parties are more unwilling to have it dissolved" (para. 6214 of the Report).
The alacrity with which a young mother becomes absorbed in her young ones, the lightning speed with which all her activities, mental and physical, concentrate upon her brood, their wants and their development, is hardly calculated to effect that "cementing" which is believed to take place in marital relations from the moment children begin to appear.
Very soon after the birth of the first children there occurs in all decent positive women a certain definition of the maternal side of their nature, which tends to convert them ever more and more into the nun, miser, or prophet type that is to say, self-centred, impatient of distracting forces, and fanatical. They listen to matters foreign to the nursery and their children, as if they had been wakened out of a dream or roused from some thrilling meditation. A certain vagueness comes over them in regard to all matters not strictly domestic, which, while it may please the wise and understanding husband, as furnishing a conclusive proof of their perfect femininity, nevertheless can hardly fail to inform him that his rank in the household has suffered noticeable degradation. 1
When he speaks concerning topics which interest him, he is no longer listened to with the same attention not to mention eagerness. Indeed, he soon finds that strangers outside his home are very much more inclined to vouchsafe him an attentive hearing than the spouse
1 In addition to the engrossing character of the rôle of mother, and the tendency it has to invade every controlling centre in a positive woman's nature, we should also remember that, inasmuch as man is only important to woman as a means to an end, his importance must diminish pro rata as the end tends to be achieved and visibly materialized in the form of the growing family.
It is true that the normal father acquires a deep fondness for his children, and that this attaches him to the home in which he has suffered his degradation of rank. 1 It is also true that, as the children grow older and realize him as their father, he may enjoy a fresh access of the very importance of which their arrival deprived him. But, while all these facts are readily admitted, they can hardly be used to prove that the presence of children "strengthens" the union between the parents as lovers. That has been shaken once and for all beyond any hope of recovery. Economic reasons, the attitude of each parent to the children, reasons of policy, etc., may now attach each parent individually to the home; but that does not mean that the other parent is the lasting attracting force.
Later on, when the children grow old enough to discriminate or to draw comparisons, and the original dependence, which makes filial affection so fanatical, is beginning to wane, certain members of the growing brood may, and frequently do, exhibit preferences for one parent or the other preferences which nine times out of ten are reciprocated. The more passionate the attachment between the parents and the children has been in infancy and childhood, the more likely is this to occur. But distinctions of this sort drawn by children in favour
1 The modern man's chief safeguard against becoming a complete nonentity in the home is, of course, his hold on the purse-strings. This procures him a sort of perfunctory regard.
Quite apart, however, from the possibility of particular children appealing more to one parent than the other, and the cleavage which such factions confirm or start in the home, children and their multifarious wants are, in themselves, an inexhaustible source of contention. Their particular foibles, their wilfulness, their education, are matters which, while they are constantly to the fore among the problems of the home, as constantly give rise to friction, or, to say the least, to differences of opinion between their parents. When once, therefore, one of the parents the father has naturally and inevitably suffered so marked a degradation in rank that his word, his opinion, his judgment, is no longer attended to with the respect and eagerness which he encountered in his wife in their early childless days, it is not surprising that discussions or arguments, from being merely amicable exchanges of opinion, should degenerate into acrimonious and heated quarrels the husband resenting every minute more and more the cavalier manner in which his views are rejected as worthless by the "spouse of his heart," the wife resenting every moment more and more the presumption with which the mere means to an end, this sparking-plug and breadwinner, is daring to assume supreme authority over her brood, her babes, the fruit of her womb.
Now, in view of all this, can it any longer be maintained that this element in the home the children actually contributes to the affection between the parents? In the happiest cases the ardent love of the father for one child, and the ardent love of the mother for another, may
I have stated the extreme case in order to make the nature of the cleavage, in so far as it arises from the presence of the children, as plain as possible. In all families it does not become acute, because there is too much at stake; and much is therefore suffered in silence, swallowed down or repressed, for the sake of the home. The only point it is necessary to make clear is, that when it is also argued here that the presence of children in the home does contribute to a very great extent to the stability of that home, something very different is meant from what sentimentalists and other muddlers are likely to infer. I most emphatically do not mean that the presence of the children increases the mutual love of the parents nay, I would go farther and say that it leads to exactly the opposite result.
What, then, is the precise influence of children?
My reply is, that in all homes where the wife is a positive, healthy and desirable woman, the repeated birth of a child at regular intervals thoroughly adapts the woman by giving her a full physiological and spiritual life, and thus reconciles the principal member of the household (as far as stability is concerned) to the monogamic state and to the home.
She can afford to control her temper when she is enjoying the perfect serenity of mind and body that complete adaptation brings. She can afford to pretend devotion, for economic and other reasons, to a creature
1 See footnote, pp. 170, 189.
The fact that this curious compound appears to the outside world in the false light of connubial affection does not disturb her, because, as a rule, she is constitutionally and congenitally predisposed herself to a romantic interpretation of phenomena, and eagerly seizes the tinselly cloak the world gives her, in order to conceal the sordid truth.
In such circumstances the union might last for ever. The only event that can bring it to an end is the demise of one of the parties to it.
The husband, actuated by habit, timidity, a sense of duty and propriety, attached to his home by his deep affection for one or more of his many children, and deluded both by the voice of the world and by the repeated asseverations of his wife into believing that there is a deep affection uniting them, endeavours to act up to the
Truth to tell, the father of a large family is attracted to the position he holds by very deep and very powerful appeals to his most primitive instincts. But again, it requires emphasizing that these deep and powerful appeals are as a rule quite independent of his attitude towards his wife, and provided that she do not actively conspire to displease or to harass him, they will continue to bind him to his home long after all genuine affection for her has entirely subsided.
These appeals are: The sense of power he derives from the visible extension of his own identity in his offspring, and: The silent tribute that the presence of offspring makes daily and hourly to the deepest source of his self esteem virile potency. 2
Both of these appeals act secretly, and chiefly through the least conscious functions of his mind, so that he may never be perfectly aware of them. Nevertheless, they give rise to a constant feeling of self-assurance and self confidence which is pleasant and fortifying, and which, being interpreted roughly by the conscious mind, appears
1 Buffon in his Discours sur la nature des Animaux makes the following profound remark which English people as a whole would do well to take to heart: "Amour, pourquoi fais-tu l'état heureux de tous les êtres, et le malheur de l'homme? C'est qu'il n'y a que le physique de cette passion qiu soit bon; c'est que, malgré ce que peuvent dire les gens épris, le moral n'en vaut rien" (see Oeuvres Complètes. Tome 3me, Paris, 1837, pp. 2122).
2 As a proof of this, behold the aggressive exultation of the ordinary man over every fresh addition to his family.
The world speaks of him as "unselfish," "devoted," "self sacrificing," good-natured," etc., and his children are reared, sometimes by their mother, but always by strangers, in the belief that he is entitled to all these epithets, because there are so many men who have not acted as he has. He himself, however, accepts these epithets with a mild pretence of modest deprecation, for in his heart of hearts he realizes that somehow they ring strangely by the side of his intimate knowledge of the deep satisfaction he has derived from the whole business.
Now statistics and legal authorities tell us that this kind of marriage is the best, the most lasting, and the happiest kind of marriage. The judges say that it is because "children strengthen the union" or "keep the home together." We have seen in what way a growing family effects this end. We have seen that it has very little to do with the attitude of the parents towards each other. Now we have to discover how it is that, according to statistics, divorces are more frequent where there are only one, two, or three children, and where child-birth may be said to have stopped.
(2) Unhappiness in the Home of the Positive Couple
In another chapter the positive woman has been called "the custodian of Life"; we have already seen that Schopenhauer has graphically described her unconscious insistence on experiencing the whole physical cycle from the coitus to the weaning of the child as the Will of the Species (Wille der Gattung) demanding more Life and thus achieving human survival. We have also spoken of the voice of nature in her, clamouring not only for Life, but also for Life's multiplication.
These are only different more or less successful attempts at describing that instinct which in the positive woman is paramount the instinct to employ her elaborate reproductive equipment effectively. The fact that when this equipment remains idle the existence of the species is imperilled, evidently led Schopenhauer to discern the unconscious will of the species in the positive woman's restlessness in awaiting fertilization. But we should always be careful in using these descriptions of woman, to remember that in her the end, which is the multiplication of life, is quite unrealized by her conscious mind. She acts in a way that brings about the multiplication of life; her instincts impel her to achieve that end; but she is not intelligently concerned with anything so remote as the will of the species or its preservation. 1 She is much more concerned with her own personal wishes, her own personal notion of pleasure, and her own sensations. When once these are gratified, the fact that the demands of the species are also satisfied is, as far as woman is concerned, merely a happy coincidence, in which she can have but an academic interest.
Nevertheless, in judging of her conduct, and in drawing
1 So far from being conscious of the will to the multiplication of life, it frequently happens that women do all that is required in order to achieve fertilization, and yet protest that they do not wish to have children, or that they do not care for children.
More than nine-tenths of the abuse to which women have been subjected throughout the ages has been due precisely to man's omission to allow her the full benefit of this view. The gratification of woman's passions serves her own end, inasmuch as it affords her pleasure Yes! but it also serves the purpose of the race. That is the fundamental fact to remember.
In another chapter I have described how Life itself is woman's hardest taskmaster, and that her first impulse in all circumstances is to be faithful to this taskmaster, even at the cost of infidelity to human pledges.
(a) Adultery of the positive spouse through absence of the mate.
Long absences of husbands, therefore, during wars, transoceanic voyages, explorations, etc., should always be viewed in the light of a rebuff to woman's hardest taskmaster. The prolonged absence of the male imposes idleness on the female's reproductive organs, and, since the best women are primarily faithful to Life itself, and only secondarily so to their mates, it must follow that in all cases in which husbands are absent for long periods, that the call of Life in positive women becomes too imperious to be ignored hence the thousands of wives who were unfaithful to their husbands during the last war, both in England and on the Continent. 1
1 The ancient Hindus, from whose great wisdom nothing was hidden, not only openly recognized this fact, but made special provision for it. In the Book of Manu there were special periods of absence allowed for husbands, beyond which their wives were no longer forbidden from seeking fertilization elsewhere (see Book IX, verse 76). It should be borne in mind, however, that a very large proportion of the women who committed adultery during the war did so out of vanity rather than out of passion. The preponderance of negative women in England makes the passionate crime a much rarer occurrence than is generally supposed. See explanation of the rôle of vanity in adultery in the second half of this chapter.
The English world is almost comic in the light of its most cherished illusions. It does not base its outlook upon the unalterable laws of life, consequently it is constantly receiving the rudest shocks and the most unpleasant surprises. The fact that so many thousands of women in England and Wales were unfaithful to their husbands during the war came as a shock to the dear Puritanical and ignorant old ladies, chiefly unmarried, that rule public opinion in England.
1 Even in regard to the legendary Penelope we have to remember that tradition relates certain facts about her that cast some reflection upon her normality. Why, for instance, was she thrown into the sea by her parents? Both of her parents came from Sparta, and the Spartans did not scruple to destroy abnormal children. In fact, they regarded it as a religious duty to do so. At the very beginning of her life, therefore, some suspicion is cast which entitles us to question whether she can have been as desirable as the number of her suitors leads us to believe. Further, we may quite pertinently inquire what it was that ever induced Odysseus to spend twenty years of his life away from his wife, unless there were some secret and profound reason. It is true that his adventures are presented to us in the narrative as being forced upon him. Rut who has ever known an adventurer whose adventures were not inevitable?
As it was, the phenomenon was quite unexpected, and proved a most terrible blow to the national conscience. For it was realized only too shrewdly that if thousands of these women were ultimately found out, many more thousands must have escaped the discovery; and thus the character of the nation seemed to have suffered very severe deterioration.
Truth to tell, the parties to blame were not the women at all, but the hopelessly vain men who were the co-respondents in the actions, and who understood so little of female psychology that they interpreted these adulteresses' fidelity to Life and its multiplication, as a preference, if you please, for themselves before their legal spouses. Not knowing of the positive woman's inveterate fidelity to Life, they arrogantly imagined that their personal and irresistible attractions were the cause of these adulteresses' infidelity to their husbands.
They these men were the people against whom the world ought to have inveighed; for the man who is capable of so misunderstanding the human female as to flatter himself that it is his personal attractions that are seducing her, when all the time it is the Will of the Species, neglected by her absent husband, that is impelling her to go in search of fertilization elsewhere, is not worth the rope with which he ought to be hanged.
The mistake, as a mistake, is all the more monstrous, seeing that it is the outcome of maniacal vanity. For no man who was not too much elated by a woman's attention to retain calm reflection, could ever be such a fool as to imagine that his triumph over her husband was due to his own personal charm.
Would the reader perhaps have it otherwise? Would he have a race of women reared (we are unfortunately not so very far from the attainment of this ideal to-day) to whom the claims of Life are secondary women, that is to say, who are so constituted that they could hesitate between Life's call and some trumpery human convention? Would he have women so constituted that their self-preservative instinct is more powerful than their reproductive? Because that is what it amounts to. A woman who, when confronted by Life's call, can calmly discriminate between that and her own safety, her own future, her own smug ease, and can proceed to select the latter in preference to the former, is not a. desirable woman in the best sense, for she cannot be trusted to do the right thing for the species in all circumstances. The spark of vitality in her does not glow with sufficient ardour to compel her to serve Life's interests before her own. She is the kind of woman that is rapidly coming into power in all classes above the working class, but hers is a bad character, not a good character, for a woman to possess.
No, we want to keep the best women as they are. We do not want to tame the life out of them. But since we cannot have it both ways, if we insist on women remaining desirable that is to say, faithful primarily to Life itself, we must breed a race of men who understand them,
1 The realism and methodical certainty with which adultery was expected in the wife by the absent husband both in antiquity and the Middle Ages is shown (l) by the general attitude of wonder and admiration maintained towards Penelope, and (2) by the famous ceintures de chasteté in which the aid of the locksmith was enlisted in order to safeguard an absent husband's honour.
Thus adultery, when the wife is the defaulter, is always a case of a man betraying another man, and never that of a woman betraying her man. Woman, if she is the right sort, remains throughout faithful to Life. Only if she betrays Life does she cease to be desirable.
Continuing our consideration of the positive couple, we must now examine the forces which operate in causing a woman to be unfaithful to her husband while yet living and cohabiting with him in apparent peace and happiness.
(b) Adultery of the positive spouse through impotence of the male or through childlessness.
If the positive female cannot tolerate long absences
1 The fact that during the war numbers of married women were thus served by men very much older than themselves, only shows how, as his years increase, a foolish man's vanity sets ever greater store by a female's favours. It is too easily forgotten that when a man is a born fool, old age does but increase his foolishness; it does not, as most people suppose, turn bad wine into good.
Truth to tell, I have known cases of male impotence where the natural modesty and fear of publicity in the wife prevented an action for nullity and also all adulterous liaisons; both parties to the match having advanced quite peaceably and resignedly to middle, and ultimately to old age, without anyone, except the couple themselves and their immediate relatives, knowing the truth; 1 and it is probable that in many cases of childless marriages, in modern England, impotence on the part of the male may be suspected as the cause, although the wife may have been too timid or too shamefast to drag the misery of their married life before the courts. But in almost all marriages where this occurs without adultery on the part of the wife, it is safe to infer that the female of the match is herself partly or wholly negative, or that she has become so in process of time, otherwise it is inconceivable that her timidity or shame should thus override the deepest force within her, which, as we have seen, is the Will of the Species for Life and its multiplication.
In the case of most positive and desirable women it is safe to argue that, where the husband is impotent, either adultery or a suit for nullity will be the inevitable result. 2
Among the positive couples where, although the male may be potent, childlessness is secured by some contraceptive method, for reasons of economy, or because it
1 In one case this occurred, despite the fact that all the woman's relatives and friends constantly urged her to rid herself of her useless mate by fair means or foul.
2 The Laws of Manu make special provision for a woman who is childless owing to her husband's fault.
When the male is impotent the positive woman knows that this is so, and she consciously realizes the need of seeking fertilization elsewhere, lest she remain childless for the rest of her life. This alternative is presented plainly to her consciousness and there is no doubt about it.
In the case of the couple using contraceptives while cohabiting affectionately together, however, the female is not conscious of a desire to seek fertilization elsewhere. Not realizing clearly that, in fact, her life is equivalent (but for the repeated orgasms) to that of the married woman whose male is impotent, she has no conscious motive or warrant for seeking fertilization outside her home. Very few women indeed know that the orgasm forms such an insignificant part of their sexual experience as to leave their bodies completely unsatisfied and disappointed. 1 It follows, therefore, that if her love for her husband be very deep and guileless, she may continue living with him for years without taking any notice of other men. If her positiveness persist, however, despite the deleterious influence of the contraceptive
1 A good deal of the pseudo-scientific literature of their day even tells them that the orgasm is just as important to them as to the male, and lays such stress upon it that they may be forgiven for misunderstanding its real value to their lives.
Now let us try to ascertain precisely what has occurred in the body of the young wife in question,
1 Women of a slightly more intellectual mould of mind generally become interested in some public movement or Cause, or begin to take up a new religion or philosophy, or express the desire to go in for acting at this stage. But the same forces are at work in them as in the woman described above that is to say, their old environment having failed to procure them the whole physiological cycle which they need, their instincts urge them blindly to seek a fresh environment.
We will suppose she has been married three or four years, and all this time has been living in perfect concord with her husband. Occasional differences there have been, of course; but they have been unimportant. They have all turned, as is customary in English houses, upon the ridiculous words "selfish" and "unselfish." When the young wife has wanted her way against her man she has endeavoured to make him yield by giving him a guilty conscience over the matter, and calling his opposition "selfish"; and when at last he has yielded, she has declared both to his face and to the world, that he was the most "unselfish" of husbands. 1 Likewise the man, when he has wanted to exert some leverage upon his wife's mind, has warned her that resistance on her part would be "selfish," and upon her yielding has admitted that she was "unselfish." But apart from these foolish verbal quibbles around the utterly fantastic antithesis "selfish" and "unselfish," they have had no quarrels.
Meanwhile, however, although the husband's sexual experience has been complete, his wife's has been of the most fragmentary order. Her reproductive organs .and functions, though repeatedly stimulated as if their important business were about to begin, have been robbed each time of the natural sequel to that stimulation. Despite hundreds of alarms and starts, the complete cycle has never been experienced. As a result, this large reproductive equipment has not only remained idle, but in this very idleness has also been cheated again and again of its legitimate expectations, when those expectations seemed most certain of being fulfilled.
1 Women are particularly prone to endeavour to rule in the home by means of this trick of giving their spouse a guilty conscience, and they do not mind much what words they use or abuse to achieve that end. The word "selfish," however, is a very convenient word for this purpose, particularly if they happen to be dealing with a man who believes, as they do, that it has a meaning and that this meaning is offensive.
It must not be supposed, however, that these messages are deciphered as accurately as this by the woman's conscious mind. She is vaguely conscious of the importunate calls from her dissatisfied reproductive equipment; but she is aware of them only as dissatisfaction. Whence they hail, what they mean, she has not the slightest idea. If you told her that they amounted to protests from her inactive reproductive equipment, she would probably feel so utterly outraged that she would never speak to you or see you again. She would need to be a psychologist herself to interpret them accurately.
Now it is when this vague feeling of dissatisfaction first becomes insistent in her conscious mind that she proceeds to act upon it in the manner already described (see p. 196).
Quite unsuspecting, her husband falls in eagerly with her plans. Truth to tell, any such marked change in a young married woman is a very serious sign; but the husband knowing nothing of these matters, and concluding after a review of the last three years that he has perhaps invited his wife to lead too dull a life, acquiesces with alacrity in her schemes.
Now if we suppose that the new regime, with its constant round of gaiety and variety, has lasted a further six months or a year, and still nothing has happened that is to say, the young wife's reproductive equipment is still inactive a second and more dangerous phase very rapidly sets in.
At first she is a little alarmed and suppresses her feeling of irritation. She feels that it is unfriendly, and that he does not deserve a rebuke for something so ridiculously trifling. Very soon, however, after she has continued to note the exasperating peculiarity for four or five days, her irritation begins to choke her, and she feels she must express it. The next time she observes him doing the fatal thing, therefore, she snaps sharply at him with a "Don't, Harry, you fidget me with that constant noise!" or "Don't, Harry, you always finger your tie in that ridiculous manner when you are talking why do you do it?" etc.
She has not the faintest suspicion that this irritation and exasperation over a trifling aspect of her husband's behaviour is only a surface ripple of a very much deeper and more bitter exasperation, down somewhere in her body; and the young husband, who is even less conscious of the matter than she is, turns to her in a manner utterly dumbfounded, and wonders what on earth can have happened.
He sees that she is serious. He has noted the strain of bitterness in her rebuke and its threatening note of anger, and, if he is a man of spirit, he points out to her that if she is out of sorts she had better go to bed, but that it is absurd for her to start now, after four years of marriage, rebuking him for something he has done regularly every day of their married life.
This discussion may end in a serious quarrel the first serious quarrel in which words very much more stinging than "selfish" and "unselfish" are used freely for the
It is about this time that the young wife shows the eagerness described above in her attitude towards other men. These men may be, and usually are, a hundred times plainer, prosier and less potent than her husband; but this does not disturb her. She looks into their faces as if in their countenances alone she expected to find a spark of intelligence or manliness. Her husband's superior witticisms fall flat, while at the grossest pun from his friends she contorts herself with laughter. She organizes games, picnics, excursions, and even summer holidays, in which some of her husband's friends always contribute their share to the entertainment. Quiet lanes in Devonshire alone with her husband are no longer her ideal. She wants to organize a "jolly" party for the holidays, and learn to dive and swim with the other girls and young men of the party.
It is usually at this juncture that some prize fool of a man comes forward, who, in his superlative vanity and his crass ignorance of the true state of affairs, sets all the young woman's restless eagerness, and particularly her attentiveness to himself, down to the credit of his own irresistible charm.
This sums up the psychology of all co-respondents. They are fatuously vain, they are criminally ignorant of female psychology, and they eagerly place to the credit account of their wit, their good looks, their intelligence, and their virility, a so-called conquest in which the part they have played is no more than that of an old horse's leg that is taken into a stagnant pond to catch hungry leeches with.
At all events, if such a dangerous fool happens to be in the neighbourhood at such a juncture, and the young wife is thrown much into his company, the chances are that, encouraged by his eager acceptation of a situation in which his personal characteristics count for nothing, she is likely to imagine herself both " loved" and "in
Her blind manuvres will have achieved what her reproductive equipment most ardently desired; they will have removed her from a male who abused without satisfying this equipment, and will have thrown her into the arms of a man who, though possibly inferior to her husband in every respect (as she herself would have realized had her reproductive organs been content), or at any rate not so very much superior to him to justify all this fuss, was at least holding out to her reproductive equipment a fresh promise of fertilization. 1
And since fertilization is what the will of the species insists upon, and woman is that will, she must be forgiven if, in the circumstances, she goes over to the vain ass who imagines he has captivated her affections. At any rate, she herself is in no way to blame. She has been true to the power to which she owes all her fidelity. The blame, if any, lies, in the first place, with her husband for having deprived a positive and desirable woman of her full sexual experience for a number of years, and for not having realized that this was her trouble when she first became restless; and secondly, with the co-respondent for having mistaken an exasperated woman's longing for fertilization not for "companionship," for "understanding" or for a "kindred soul" as she has declared for a triumph attributable to his irresistible attractions. The illicit lover in this case, besides being a vain fool, betrays his own sex in the man whose wife he robs.
In such cases a little knowledge of sex psychology will, as a rule, save the situation. But so long as the world
1 All this time she may have been protesting consciously that she does not want children and that she is quite happy without them. It is her blind instinct and the impelling force of her dissatisfied reproductive organs that have been driving her (despite her conscious disinclination or indifference to motherhood) into situations in which she can be fertilized.
The strange part of the whole affair is that the young wife's notion of promised bliss with the co-respondent is based entirely upon her unconscious or bodily hope that fertilization is now sure to follow. Unless it do follow, therefore, she finds herself a twofold dupe; for she has exchanged a man to whom she is at least legally attached for a man who in nine cases out of ten is either no more than her husband's equal, or his inferior; and she is no better off; because, the moment the novelty of the situation will have died down, the same dissatisfaction that takes its root in her rebuffed reproductive organs will make itself felt again.
Now the above analysis of the workings of a positive married woman's mind in all cases of adultery resulting from physiological disappointment, is typical, and may stand as the unalterable frame or pattern which all similar cases may be made to fit. For it matters not whether the marriage is a childless one, or whether it be one in which, from motives of economy, child-birth has been stopped after the birth of one, two, or three children; the phases which mark the approach to adultery are always the same. And it may be said with perfect accuracy that, where positiveness persists in the woman, and child-birth is stopped while she is still too young for her reproductive equipment to tolerate idleness gladly, some kind of unhappiness is bound to enter the home, and as a rule this unhappiness will lead to adultery.
When we note in the statistics of divorce the comparatively high figures shown for marriages in which there have been one or two children only, therefore, we may take it that unhappiness began to enter the home in the third, fourth, or fifth year after the birth of the
This is now the time and the place to consider whether there are not perhaps other physiological and psychical conditions resulting from deliberate childlessness, or from the deliberate limitation of the family, besides those discussed above, which hasten the rupture between the positive couple.
There are certainly many such physiological and psychical conditions, and the foremost of these is the deleterious effect which the constant use of contraceptives has upon the happy sexual relations of the young couple. That there should be no known contraceptive which does not in some way mar the complete happiness of marital intercourse, will perhaps be regarded by some as a very wise dispensation of Providence; for certainly the best brains of all nations for many thousands of years have concerned themselves with the problem, and it seems astonishing that, so far, nothing really perfect should have been discovered; but at all events this fact goes a considerable way towards making the marriage-bed of people who deliberately limit the family at least a breeding-place of very serious trouble.
The reduction of any human function to the plane of sensationalism alone has this strange result that, in the end, the very sensations it provides tend to decline in intensity. It is as if sensation alone were an insufficient psychical foundation to support the whole arch of any permanent human interest or effort, and that where it is not correlated with the feelings of power or purposefulness, it tends to crumble and to perish.
The woman in such cases suffers even more quickly than the man, because in her the physiological disappointment sings in chorus with the psychical disillusionment. But in the man too ultimate anæsthesia is inevitable; for, sooner or later, the fact that the natural consequences of his act (offspring) are not forthcoming, will begin to tell on his self-esteem and his sense of power, with which elements more than half the savour of sexual relations must certainly have been associated by his
A further psychological factor must be reckoned with, which has its share in bringing about matrimonial difficulties in the state of deliberate childlessness, or of the limitation of the family, and that is the feeling of aimlessness that ultimately supervenes, when any two people associate together without any further object in life than that of eating, drinking, or making merry. This is not due to the fact that eating, drinking, and making
1 To this anthropologists may object: What about the Australian Bushmen who did not associate the coitus with reproduction? True; but they knew that children came with marriage, although they did not know that the coitus had anything to do with their appearance. And the fact of being a married man would thus become inextricably mingled with the condition of paternity.
Before concluding this discussion of the positive couple in relation to divorce, which we propose to do with an examination of the statistics, it will now be necessary to consider the circumstances under which the positive man himself becomes unfaithful. 1
From the statistics it would appear that more women than men go wrong in a childless marriage. This is only what, from our argument, we should have expected; because since the coitus represents a complete physiological experience to the man, he is less likely to become vaguely dissatisfied with childlessness than the woman. Nevertheless, should the childless state be continued too long that is to say, for five, six, or more years there are
1 Among the reasons given for the wife's unfaithfulness there are of course a few that apply also to the husband. These the reader will readily pick out, and they do not require to be re-stated here. To give one example of these common reasons, however, I would remind the reader of the effect of the continued use of contraceptives on happy sexual relations.
It should also be borne in mind that, where there are no children, the man is more likely, owing to the absence of heavy responsibilities, to indulge that inclination to varied sexual experiences, to which every positive man is subject after some years of marriage. We have seen how entirely man's sexual experience depends for its savour upon desire the desire he feels for the object of his sexual passion. When, therefore, through years of regular intimacy with his wife, this desire tends to decline, there naturally follows a corresponding decline in the savour of his sexual experience. To correct this he is tempted to go in search of change, of novelty. Now, when this inclination arises in monogamic marriages, it is frequently checked out of consideration for the children, and more especially by the secret satisfaction derived from their presence. Where there are no children, it is much more likely to be given free rein.
Another factor which ought to be given due weight in the sexual psychology of man, is his love of protecting and patronizing. The wife who gives him a number of children not only makes a strong appeal to this love in her own person but also in the persons of her offspring. He becomes, figuratively, a huge buttress supporting the dependent members of his family, and this gratifies the self-esteem of the average simple-minded man, and in innumerable cases induces him not only to accept the burden, but also to love it deeply and passionately for
Finally, in the conduct of the man of high ethical development, there will enter the factor of moral ideals. When once he feels his family about him, he will be conscious of certain duties, certain obligations, which will preclude all idea, all velleity, of not abiding by his original pledges. This man will be able to live till the end of his days with a woman, however much his feelings may have changed towards her, and still give the world the impression of being a most dutiful and most devoted husband. Temptation, sexual passion, the desire for variety, will simply not enter within his purview. The moment an irregular thought occurs to his mind, it will be, as it were, "switched off." It should, however, be remembered that when such men are positive by nature, they will usually be found to practise in their lesiure hours some kind of sport (hard walking, cycling, golf, riding) or industry (carpentry true of thousands of Englishmen to-day; wood-cutting, e.g. Gladstone and the ex-Emperor of Germany; stamp-collecting and numismatics true of thousands of modern Englishmen) or religious activity (Christian, Spiritualistic or other propaganda) in which much of their sex becomes absorbed.
In Chart I, I have given figures covering a period of twenty one years from 1899 to 1919 inclusive, for England and Wales; and the most important conclusions to be drawn from them at a glance are the following:
(a) The preponderance of divorces which occur as the result of husbands' petitions over those which occur as the result of wives' petitions.
Bearing in mind the more insistent impulse to variety in sexual experience which harasses the male throughout life, this preponderance of husbands' petitions only tends to show the extreme difficulty with which women can tolerate either the premature cessation of child-birth or no child-birth at all. For although it may be argued
Chart I. Number of Children at Time of Filing Petition of Divorce.
1 "H" signifies husband's petition "W" signifies wife's.
2 Unfortunately these figures were unobtainable, as for the previous years, distinct for husband and wife.
- p. 209 -
The high figures for faithless wives revealed in these statistics, therefore, point to the extreme refractoriness of women under the conditions imposed by modern economic pressure, which makes the limitation of families an ineluctable rule in most homes. This is furthermore confirmed by a comparison of the high figures given for childless marriages, or marriages of only one, two, or three children, with those given for marriages which have more than three children.
On the other hand, the proportion of husbands' petitions to wives' in those marriages in which there are more than six children, leaves no doubt that in most of these cases not the wife but the husband was at fault, which is exactly what we should expect.
(b) It is interesting to note the steady rise in husbands' petitions during the years 19151919 all years of war: the figure 4,076 as against 1,009 in 1919 constituting the most convincing evidence we have of the difficulty with which women tolerate the lack of children or the cessation of child birth, even when it is due to the absence of their husbands on what was believed to be a "Crusade." It seems probable that the bulk of these women must have been young, for the total number of divorces for that year, in cases where there was only one child or none, amounts to 3,965.
Of course, from my point of view, the value of these figures is lessened by the fact that it is impossible to differentiate between marriages of positive and negative couples; but perhaps the steadiness with which certain
When we add to this Lord Salvesen's evidence before the Royal Commission on Divorce (1912), in which he declared that in Scotland the proportion of divorces among childless couples was "immensely larger" than that among fertile couples, it can leave little doubt in our minds that, in order to be so constant and universal, this rule must be based on unalterable laws taking their root in deep physiological and psychological conditions, and that the sentimental and emotional factors can be but surface phenomena accompanying rather than affecting the operation of these laws. For, if we have been right in arguing that the presence of children does not operate as a strengthener of the union by cementing the love of married couples, but by meeting certain instinctive needs in their physical and mental constitution, it is clear that the sentimental elements in the union are the most insignificant hence their inability to tide large numbers of positive couples over the periods of physiological and psychical stress which childlessness or the limitation of the family imposes.
(c) When we turn to Chart II and examine the figures given for the duration of the marriage up to the time when the petition was filed (for the years 19101919), we also note a fact that does not surprise us, and that is the immeasurably higher figures given for the four years lying between the fifth and the tenth years of marriage, than for all other periods.
It is precisely during these four years that those two disturbing forces which do most to mar modern marriages are most likely to begin to operate, viz:
(a) The irascibility of the wife as the result of the cessation of child-birth; this irascibility showing itself in a decreasing satisfaction with her home and her husband, and an increasing interest in outside amusements and occupations, and in other men.
(b) The loss of desire for his wife, in the hus-
With regard to (a) it is obvious that during the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth years of marriage, most couples who are attempting to limit their families will have ceased from procreating. They will have had from one to three children, and will have decided to have no more. The wife will therefore tend to become increasingly impatient with her lot, and ultimately make a confidant of some idiot of a man, who will interpret her marked attentions as a proof of his irresistible charm, and the two will end in what the world is pleased to call "falling in love."
With regard to (b), six, seven, eight or nine years is a long period over which to extend the average man's desire for fresh sexual experience, and in the event of a cessation of child-birth (which means the use of contraceptives always unfavourable to happy marital relations) it is during these last years of his first decade of married life that he is most likely to feel the ardent desire for a change.
The two factors (a) and (b) conspiring together soon force the couple asunder, if they are positive, brave, and intolerant of conventions and rules hence, I believe, the high figures for the period in question.
1 Figures for the years 1913 and 1914 unobtainable.
If we compare these total figures 2 with the corresponding figures given for the divorces in each category, we see the enormously high percentage of divorces that occur in the professional classes, as compared with both the mining and agricultural industry, and although in accounting for this conspicuous difference we have to bear in mind the facilities, chiefly financial, for procuring divorce in the professional classes, we are nevertheless confronted by a disparity which requires some explanation.
When, however, we consider the greater prevalence of birth control among the professionals, with the inevitable unconscious disaffection that it introduces among the wives of that class; when, also, we reflect upon the more artificial circumstances in which this class lives, and the higher and less natural demands that its spouses make upon each other; when, moreover, we remember the greater irascibility and nervousness, together with the usually lower passion, of all people engaged in the more intellectual pursuits of life, which make them more prone to chafe under the many vexations to which married life gives rise, and less likely to attain that physiological serenity which is the pre-requisite of all solid contentment, these statistics seem to confirm the conclusions at which we have arrived, and, on the whole,
1 Priests of the Holy Catholic Church not included.
2 As they include unmarried men, they are somewhat in excess of the correct figures for families, but the proportions between them would not be so very much affected by the omission of the unmarried.
Having dealt with divorce in so far as it concerns positive couples, I have now to deal with it in its relation to the negative man and woman. My present task is, therefore, by far the more difficult of the two, seeing that the moment we leave the uniformity of natural law and the regularity of indomitable forces, we find ourselves in a maze of possibilities, which, while they defy enumeration owing to their extreme multiplicity, also elude all effort at classification because of the infinite combinations and permutations that low health and eccentricity are capable of producing.
It must be clear that the moment the driving force of healthy, normal passion ceases to be the motive actuating male and female, the vagaries of human conduct are no longer calculable. One knows what in certain circumstances a healthy passionate animal will do. It is impossible to foretell what an unhealthy or unpassionate one will do. 1
To describe all the possible complications that will ultimately lead a negative couple into the Divorce Court, or cause them to seek a judicial separation, or induce them to conclude that they would be happier living apart, is therefore beyond the powers of any human being. The negative man and woman, like the invalid or the eccentric, must remain an enigma, because natural laws and forces no longer operate normally or calculably in them.
1 It is this omission to draw a sharp distinction between the proclivities of flourishing health-and those of lack of health or of sub-normal health, that vitiates the arguments and conclusions in such books as Otto Weininger's Sex and Character, and essays like Schopenhauer's on Woman and The Metaphysics of Love. This omission is more particularly fatal to-day when negative people are becoming very much more numerous than positive people.
For instance, we may say of negative men and women that:
(a) The physiological promptings of an instinctive and organic kind are never likely (as with their healthier brethren) to weigh very heavily with them. (The ethereal lovers who believe that marriage is a union of souls.)
(b) The sentimental and intellectual aspects of a sexual situation are more likely to determine their conduct than its vital or reproductive aspects. (The lovers in most modern novels, in which "Luvv" is supposed never to have bodily union as its aim, but only companionship, or sweet words, or pure affection, or a life of "unselfish" mutual service, or some other high-falutin' nonsense.)
(c) The force of passion being no longer the ruling determinant in them, such factors as vanity, caution, cowardice, and even indolence, may dominate the sex impulses and direct conduct to their own ends. (The bulk of hasty marriages made during the war were of this nature, vanity both in the man and the woman giving rise in each individual to such elated feelings that these were mistaken for depth of passion.)
(d) The intellectual attitude towards love, and the passions which it tends to assume, may cause negative people to imitate without feeling the behaviour of their more passionate fellows and their love affairs, thus producing a false but fairly accurate image of true passion. (The actors in modern society, all of which are by no means professional histrions.)
Dealing with (a) first, it must be fairly obvious that where physiological promptings are feeble, deep bodily disappointments, and particularly rebuffs to the reproductive system of the women, can be tolerated very much
Thus all negative women are likely to endure for a very much longer period a childless marriage, or a marriage in which child-birth has ceased in the first four to six years, than are their positive sisters. In all "happy" marriages of this kind, therefore, which have only terminated with the demise of one of the parties, negativeness may certainly be suspected in the woman, and, since like tends to attract like, also in the man.
When, therefore, unhappiness supervenes in such a home, other causes must be sought than the secret and unconscious revolt of the woman's reproductive equipment, or the man's fiery need for sexual variety.
Negativeness being the outcome of an atonic condition of the body, or, at least, of the genital organs, and negative women being less likely to function properly than their more positive sisters, there will naturally arise a tendency, in all such matches (owing to the small amount of pleasure and gratification that is derived from the whole of the physical side of marriage and motherhood), to discount the physiological side, and to exalt only states of the soul and the mind. These people will have the old maids of all Puritanical communities with them when they cast scorn upon the pleasures of the body: and as their number is increasing daily, the chorus of body-despisers grows steadily louder and louder in all the countries enjoying Western Civilization.
The women in these matches are likely to confound motherhood with self-sacrifice and martyrdom, and their husbands to confound the birth of a child with the threat of financial ruin. Science, costly and inefficient science, helps them at every step, and when finally child-birth stops, which is never too soon (for the women in any case), and nurses and perambulators take their leave, science remains to the last to try to repair or neutralize the debility that unwelcome fertility has left behind.
In their most private moments the women of such
Divorce, if it is ever resorted to by such couples, is usually the fault of the husbands. They may at length manifest a desire to have a breath of air untainted by sickness or debility, and in that case usually become entangled with a woman quite as negative as their wife. The women hardly ever go further than to cultivate an apparently ardent but platonic attachment to some poet, musician, or other artist, to whom they write long soulful letters, full of hints about a non-physical kind of bliss in love, which they have longed all their lives to experience. But in a large majority of cases, negative couples of precisely this kind tend to finish their days more or less tiresomely together, each bewailing the fact that such a white elephant as the body ever became associated with the more "exalted" spiritual side of man.
In regard to (b) it can only be said that the type is so very prevalent that it is becoming almost the norm of modern civilization. Its principal characteristic is that both the male and the female tend to choose each other for reasons which are as remote as possible from the body. The men of this type choose "clever," "artistic," sylph-like, narrow-hipped "sweet" women, with thin slender hands, spiritual interests, and probably a history of some intestinal irregularity in their past. The women, while aspiring to a high ideal of health and manliness in their mates, have not the instinct to pick out the passionate man, but usually select one, who though he may be big of body and limb, intellectual and "breezy," is quite fireless, unpassionate and dull.
The women in such unions very frequently outstrip their male companions in mental nimbleness, and this disturbance of the proper balance frequently leads them, in their vague discontent, to become prominent exponents and defenders of all those claims of sex-equality and sex-levelling, which have agitated the home life of northern European countries (where most negative people are to be found) for the last hundred years. The spectacle of their lady-like and unobtrusive male, there can be no doubt, is usually the first incentive towards these kinds of activities, and, seeing that they have the constant substantiation of their claims in the tame animal with
1 The reason why women live in such dread of the man who can see through them, and endeavour to heap every kind of ignominy upon him, is that in their alleged "mystery" lies their power over the average man, and that their sentiments and insistence on a sentimental view of their sex, all help to furnish their arsenal with the weapons they can wield most effectively against man in general. The wonder is that they have been able to impose their view of the penetrating man upon the mass of British mankind.
Indeed, it not infrequently happens that the "male" of these militant women is himself an active collaborator in his wife's public work, and so complete is their intellectual and sentimental agreement on the question, that he will echo her words with the docility of a parrot.
The type (c) is also common enough and is growing more plentiful in all classes of society. It is the negative type which approximates most to the passionate, tragic type of real life and fiction; because, while it possesses no deep passions, its extreme vanity makes it capable of the wildest excesses.
In all the possible situations of married life, this type never consults any other arbiter than vanity, and it is only when its caution, cowardice or indolence can overpower its vanity that the latter does not decide the issue.
Having no real deep passion to direct them, the men and women of this type are actually drawn into marriage in the first place solely from motives of vanity, because the state of being betrothed is a state of (l) supreme importance, (2) conspicuousness, (3) intense and unscrupulous mutual worship, and (4) romantic glamour.
Their marriage is likely to be the least stable of all marriages among negative people, however, for the moment their vanity ceases to be fed, or humoured, they are likely to weary of an association that affords them ever less and less of the joys of their engaged days. Lacking the sound physiological promptings which make a fully-adapted life sufficient for their happiness and serenity, they become restless the moment (l) adulation declines from the quarter of the spouse, (2) the attention of their world ceases from being concentrated upon them, and (3) that feeling of exaltation which filled their breast
The woman in this kind of match finds out soon after marriage that while she has become the mistress of her own home, she is living in an atmosphere which, compared with that she had grown accustomed to in the days when her matchmaking mother directed her life, and during the months or years of her courtship, is depressingly deficient in appeals to her vanity.
Her husband is securely bound to her by law. His first raptures are over, and the two seem to be settling down to a hum-drum existence, in which those deep thrills of yore seem entirely to have gone from her life. But precisely those thrills were the breath of her nostrils. All the joys of marital intimacy with the man she "loves" do not make up for the loss of that. Her body is not tonic or vital enough to provide any comfort for the exaltation her vanity once afforded her.
She therefore contrives so to modify her hum-drum existence as to restore to it some of the atmosphere of her late adolescence and the days of her courtship. She goes in search of company; she insists on men coming to the house. She sings, or acts, or goes in for sports all with a view to restoring that atmosphere in which she became engaged. In the end, she easily finds some idiot of a man who will be ignorant and vain enough to court her, and when this happens she will at last breathe deeply again.
These courtships which the vain negative woman contrives to bring about, in order to feed her vanity, may or may not lead to adultery. Frequently they do, because, although she is certainly not actuated by passion in contriving them, she may by chance light upon a paramour who is passionate, and then, in order to prolong the farce, she finds she must yield to his importunacies. Indeed, unless she do yield, the whole of the realistic nature of the love affair, which she has done her best to impart to the experience, will be destroyed. Thus, despite her lack of real passion, this kind of vain
Very frequently indeed these women do not allow the consummating step to be taken. Not being at all disposed to it physically, their caution, their cowardice, and their indolence easily get the upper hand, and they ultimately disappoint their expectant lover; but as a rule this happens only when they have squeezed him dry of every possible flattering epithet and attention.
But, the reader will object, as far as behaviour and results are concerned, where is the difference here between the negative woman acting on the impulse of vanity, and the positive woman acting on the impulse of passion?
To judge from the evidence heard in the Divorce Court, the difference is admittedly slight. There is the same dissatisfaction with the home and the mate, leading to the same longing for amusements and activities of all kinds which promise a chance of variety. In actual practice, however, the differences are marked. The positive woman goes about the business with more solemn, even sullen determination. She does not smile, laugh, and frivol about it as the negative woman does. The latter betrays her immediate aim, which is the satisfaction of vanity, by her extreme enjoyment of every step along her irregular path. She enjoys the mere means to an end, which supply the gratification that her vanity needs. The former, having only the end in view, accepts the means as a necessary preliminary, but these means obviously leave her much more unmoved than they do her negative sister.
The vain, negative woman, moreover, is always conscious of an observing public when she is in the company of her admirer, and her triumphant glances at onlookers in such circumstances are a sort of challenge to them to contemplate her in the full intensity of her joy. Part of the gratification of her vanity consists in drawing the envious looks of other women upon her. Hence, too, her perpetual grin, a good deal of which is meant for public notice. The positive woman, on the other hand, is too deeply interested, too seriously concerned, to be able to give a thought to the onlookers. She may even shun the crowd. In her, everything is subordinated to the principal end she has in view.
The vain, negative woman, moreover, because she does not really desire the man who happens to be worshipping her, will brook no breach of manners, of chivalry, of steady worship from him. She is constantly on the alert and vigilant. She keeps him up to the mark, and will quickly rap his knuckles if the incense he is burning at the altar of her self-esteem is the least bit stale, or burns with only a moderate fury, or is swung with any sign of diminished zeal. The passionate woman, on the other hand, will bear anything from the man she really desires, except absence.
The vain woman's hatred is roused, not by a refusal to cohabit with her, but by a noticeable lameness in her worshipper's flattering fluency. She hates those who wound her vanity, not those who cheat her will to Life and its multiplication. She will become homicidal only if she is made to look small or ridiculous, not if she is left
The positive woman, on the other hand, longs for privacy and secrecy, and forgives nothing less easily than a lack of virile ardour in her male pursuer. He may be silent to the point of dumbness, inarticulate to the point of being unable to apologise when he spills his soup over her dress at table; all these things she overlooks if he has the first pre-requisite of Life, which is virile ardour rising to impatient and restless importunacy. On the other hand, the worshipper who spills his soup over his negative mistress's dress in a restaurant or any public assembly, would thenceforward be loathed on that account alone. Because it is mortifying to one's vanity to be made ridiculous in public.
The negative man of this class is of the cold Don Juan type, who gratifies his vanity more than his sexual appetite by repeated conquests. He too soon tires of his wife and of his home. He does this all the more readily, seeing that his marriage itself has usually been quite an unintended consummation on his part of one of the many flirtations his vanity led him into in early manhood, and that he has been chafing ever since it was finally settled at the thought of the many conquests he might have made before taking the final step.
His nostrils, too, yearn for the hot breath of adulation. He is a tormentor of positive women, because he can so readily hold himself aloof at the last station before the terminus.
If this man becomes unfaithful, it will be because his enormous vanity has overcome his caution. In order to extract the last and most enthralling confession from a young woman's heart which will cause him to reach his highest pinnacle of exaltation one day he will go too far, either in his protestations or in his caresses, 1 and then,
1 The same lack of caution probably led to his marriage; for, in view of the negative character of his constitution he is not likely to marry in order to meet the deep bodily need St. Paul speaks of.
The fact that the law of England deals too lightly with this kind of dandified scoundrel (for such men almost always dress well) is due not merely to the fact that, generally speaking, it is grotesquely lenient to co respondents as a class, but also to its inability to distinguish between the adultery of the negative man and woman, whose misdemeanour is the outcome of vanity alone, and whose ruin of another's home is, therefore, wanton and unnecessary, and the adultery which is the outcome of genuine passion, and which, therefore, partakes far more of that quality of human action which is elemental and inevitable.
This man only becomes tragic under a snub. He finds no infinite resource in a deep knowledge of his own value, and is, therefore, incapable of self-consolation when shown the cold-shoulder. Hence the woman who does not fall in with his scheme of mutual worship, incurs his homicidal loathing. She destroys his joie de vivre, his very primum mobile, the source of his will to live. His career is a series of escapes from female fires he has deliberately kindled; but he is always more ready to forgive a burn than the fuel that refuses to flare up under the power of his bellows.
Before concluding section (c) perhaps it would be advisable and also helpful to give a brief analysis of the psychological forces which impel the negative, vain man and woman along their career of vanity-gratification at all costs. For, while to understand them will be in a measure to exonerate them, it will also serve as a means of recognizing their type when we see it.
Now the fundamental truth to be grasped about vanity is that it is always found in conjunction with modesty.
What, then, is modesty? In ultimate practice it amounts to an inability to set a value on oneself, an inability to place oneself according to one's worth in the graduated hierarchy of human beings. The modest man waits to be given his place, to be told where he stands, to be priced and valued by his fellow men. Compliments mean a good deal to him, because, since he has no settled opinion of himself, they promote his self-esteem. In short, his self-esteem fluctuates according to his receipts in compliments and abuse. And since his good spirits depend largely upon his self-esteem, his spirits may also be said to fluctuate according to these receipts. Unlike his proud brother, he does not hold a good or poor opinion of himself because of an inner conviction of his worth, which is settled; he holds it because he has been modest enough to wait for the world to give it to him.
But this makes him entirely dependent upon his fellow-men for his knowledge of his worth, and consequently for the condition of his spirits. By throwing him always upon the judgment of his fellows for his opinion of himself and his good spirits, his modesty therefore tends to lead the modest man into the constant practice of trying to seduce his fellow-men to such an opinion of himself as will not cause his spirits to suffer. He covets good opinions, because on them alone can his self-esteem, and therefore his good spirits, thrive. In order to enjoy that comfortable feeling of satisfaction which promoted self-esteem affords, he is constantly tempted to persuade his fellow-men into giving it to him. This makes him amenable, and what the modern world calls "lovable,"; because he glows under compliments, and becomes pliable and susceptible to influence, and by the side of him his proud inflexible brother appears to the modern world as cold and inaccessible. 1 The vain man asks: "What
1 Truth to tell, the proud man is disliked nowadays. There is no place for him. The whole of the modern world is run and organized
The proud man does not care what So-and-so thinks of him. He is not concerned with public opinion. He knows his own good and bad points, and no views about himself, entertained by his fellows, can modify that knowledge one way or the other. Consequently he is not always busy trying to seduce his circle of relatives, friends, and acquaintances into a good opinion of him. This makes him stiff, independent, unamenable, and dignified in fact, everything that the modern world is least able to tolerate with patience.
The modest man lives in his neighbour's views of himself. He depends on them for his self-esteem, and therefore for his joie de vivre. On these views he measures his worth. It is only human, therefore, that he should be anxious to make them as favourable as possible.
Now it is this constant effort to make these views as favourable as possible, and the pleasure he feels over the success of his efforts, that constitute the characteristic known as "vanity," for which the modest man is notorious. It is obvious that when no other deeper motives interfere as in the case of all those people whom I call negative, and whose physiological or bodily promptings are hardly audible vanity very soon becomes the only mainspring of action. It constitutes the only tribunal before which life's alternatives are drawn for examination; and, according to whether vanity promises to be gratified or not by a certain course, that course is adopted or rejected.
When I say, therefore, that these vain, modest and negative people approximate nearest to the passionate, tragic type, it will readily be seen why this must be so.
on such lines, that only the vain man and woman are regarded as desirable. The bulk of modern men are of the modest-vain type, who purr contentedly when their fellows smile upon them; hence the enormous increase in futile and meaningless orders and badges of honour in recent years, and the stampede there is to obtain them.
In class (d) we also have a very large and growing section of the population, particularly among the middle classes. It consists of people, not unlike the former, but
1 In his House of the Dead, Dostoiewsky lays some stress on the frequent occurrence of vanity in criminals. See particularly Chapter I.
2 It is this fact that makes the judgments of vain people so unreliable and worthless; because a vain person always judges all people, not according to their true worth, but according to the satisfaction his vanity has derived from them. Thus a genius who mortifies a vain man's vanity (or a vain woman's vanity) is called a "fool," a "detestable fraud," a "stuck-up, pretentious prig," etc., etc. On the other hand, the fool who knows how to flatter is regarded as intelligent, understanding, perspicacious, knowledgable, etc., etc., by the vain person. The whole of modern opinion, based as it largely is upon vain impulses, thus becomes quite worthless.
Of the whole negative class it may be said that they are radically unstable in marriage, because they are not actuated by any natural passion or impulse, and therefore do not become wedded to any environment where their instincts find perfect adaptation. On the other hand, however, they are frequently able, owing to this very lack of natural passion, to endure for a lifetime matrimonial unions which would be intolerable to the positive type for a month, and this accounts for the fact that, in England particularly, there are so many peaceful lifelong unions of couples who are childless and doomed to childlessness.
The most constant characteristic of all negative people, however, is this, that they are always prepared, and able, to silence the natural passions (because in them these forces are so feeble) and to direct their conduct according to any conceivable rule other than that of these natural passions. Thus opportunism, vanity, an eye to the main chance, love of display, histrionic tastes, indolence, caution, cowardice each one of these factors may at different moments direct their lives; but true passion certainly never will, and the very fact that it cannot, they will dress in every form of high-falutin' euphemism. They