Next Chapter

Typos — p. i: mysogyny [= misogyny]; p. xv: Schopenhaur's [= Schopenhauer's]

A Vindication

Anthony M. Ludovici

Constable & Co. Limited
First Published 1923
Reissued 1926
Reprinted 1929


Chap.     Page
     Introduction vii

Part I
Preliminary Considerations

I     Positiveness — The Saying of "Yea" to Life 3
II     The Subject Treated Generally 24
III     Woman and Her Unconscious Impulses 37
IV     The Positive Man and the Positive Woman 54
V     Virgin Love in the Positive Man and the Positive Girl 80
VI     The Positive English Girl 104

Part II
Inferences from Part I

VII     The Marriage of the Positive Girl and the Positive Man 125
VIII     Breaches of the Marriage Contract and Divorce 178
IX     The Old Maid and her Relation to Society 229
X     The Virtues and Vices of Women 280
XI     Women in Art, Philosophy and Science. The Outlook. Conclusion 346
     Index 369

- p. i -
Preface to the Second Edition

"A nation given over to the worship of women has not even the energy which would enable it to grasp that there are patriots in the world." — Napoleon. (From Napoleon and his Women Friends, by Gertrude Aretz.)

The demand for a fresh edition of this work has not induced me to make any alterations of the original text. By this I do not mean to imply that the book has not been attacked and criticised, but rather that it does not appear to me to have been answered. Rightly or wrongly I felt convinced that a good many of the criticisms came from people who had somehow mistaken my aim, while not a few emanated from readers who were opponents from the beginning.
        Of these title-page opponents, let it be said without bitterness that, in dealing with a subject regarding which feelings easily run high, they were perhaps a little too prone to read anti-feminine views into a context that was only anti-feminist, and to suppose that I was necessarily hostile to women, because I inveighed against certain modern tendencies which I still believe are falsely assumed to express the wish of .women as a whole.
        It is, of course, difficult at a time when words are ruthlessly abused and when, consequently, much vagueness has been imparted even to the simplest terms, to escape the suspicion of Schopenhauerian misogyny, when one is really only a defender of the eternal feminine against the transitory and sporadic claims of the feminist. And seeing that my opponents' cause was not badly served by those who represented me as a preacher of mysogyny, it is not surprising that for many years I have been regarded by those who are content to base their judgments upon hearsay, as a determined woman-hater.
        Nothing could be further from the truth, as these pages are here to show. So far am I from being unfriendly and, least of all unfair, to woman, that I suggest many cogent reasons for believing that even her proverbial vices are essential to life and its multiplication, and can only be eradicated at our peril. This floes not mean, however, that I do not advance many arguments

- p. ii -
which are offensive and humiliating to the feminist and the so-called "advanced woman". Chapter X, in fact, is full of such arguments, many of which lose none of their sting for constituting a genuine vindication of women as such. And, although they do not seem to me to have been answered, it is not difficult to understand why, at the present time, they should have been misinterpreted or misunderstood, even by the least disingenuous of people.
        Meanwhile, many changes have occurred, all of which have been in the direction of consolidating and extending the feminist position. But there is so little evidence of their having effected any improvement in the happiness either of women or of the nation as a whole that, as a solution of our problems and difficulties, or even as a small contribution to their solution, it would seem that modern feminism must soon be as wholly discredited as was the Woman Movement of ancient Greece, ancient Rome, or Seventeenth-Century France and England.
        When things go wrong with the social structure of a nation, through the general decline in the ability and stamina of its manhood, two distinct tendencies seem always to become noticeable. The one is to interpret changes which are merely the break-down and decay of old and healthy institutions, as signs of progress (in our Age this is called Evolution), and the other (owing to the justifiable loss of confidence in the governing classes) is for every one, qualified or unqualified, to regard himself as entitled to make an attempt to put matters right.
        It is through the latter tendency that women naturally spring into prominence as zealous and eager helpers; but unfortunately, always with the mistaken idea that a mere multiplication of ineffectual people can compensate the nation for its total lack of great or able men. Truth to tell, such a multiplication of nobodies, far from producing somebody, merely increases and complicates the already existing muddle.
        This mistake has occurred so often in history, and always with the same disastrous results, that one is left wondering how often it will have to occur again, before the fundamental and eternal truth becomes generally accepted that the only remedy for a nation suffering from a decadent and impoverished manhood, is to build up that manhood afresh, and to preserve as far as possible the healthy old institutions of the nation, until this re-building process has been accomplished. My formula for this remedy is A Masculine Renaissance, and feminism is merely a red-herring drawn

- p. iii -
across the path of history, to divert the attention of the crowd from the real and only means of salvation.
        It is true that this red-herring brings enormous temporary satisfaction to thousands of women whose sense of importance and vanity are out of all proportion greater than either their acumen or their candour; but there are also hundreds of thousands of other women who are modest and intelligent enough to perceive the "fishiness" of the diversion, and who in their hearts are more inclined to hope that their sons may become the stalwart builders of the future, than to believe that they themselves can ever successfully lend a hand in the task of reconstruction.
        Naturally, however, these more modest and shrewder women are as a rule inarticulate before the general public, while many of them, having learnt the pitiable inadequacy of modern men in their own homes, are apt to look on with a sort of weary and doubting curiosity at the experiment of modern feminism, just as a sinking crew can be imagined to look up at the stormy sky for the miracle that might possibly happen.
        How do I know of the existence of these women? Merely through the host of letters which, as a publicist engaged in anti-feminist and pro-feminine propaganda, have reached me from every part of Great and Greater Britain during the last twelve years. And in these letters I have read not only a deep sympathy with my destructive criticism of the Feminist Movement, but also an eager and earnest desire to support my constructive proposal of a Masculine Renaissance.
        The urgent need of a Masculine Renaissance I have explained in my Lysistrata and my Man: an Indictment, both published since Woman: a Vindication first appeared; but the unpopularity of the formula was immediately demonstrated by the hostility or silence with which both these books were met.
        To deny that the advent of women in places of political and social power, can contain any promise of better things, and to prophesy, furthermore, that women's interference with man's creation, modern civilization, can have no other effect than either to destroy that civilization or else to destroy women themselves, does not to-day constitute one a suitable candidate for popular honours. But fortunately the bestowers of such honours have not necessarily a very strict or very penetrating perception of truth, nor does the history of the winners of popularity in times of decadence and degeneration tempt one to compete with such people in the art either of false interpretation or actual falsehood.

- p. iv -
        Nevertheless, strange as it may seem, extraordinarily valuable confirmation of the most important of my claims has come to me from the most unexpected and most authoritative quarter — from a work which was hailed with the wildest enthusiasm by the feminist camp, and which still passes, I believe, for a masterly defence of the feminist position. I refer to Mr. Robert Briffault's scholarly and profound treatise. The Mothers, published in 1927, four years after Woman: a Vindication.
        No one, least of all the feminists, will deny that Mr. Robert Briffault appears, on the surface, to be very much more friendly to the Feminist Cause than I am; nor, as far as I am aware, has anyone, up to the present, successfully contested either his facts or his conclusions; and yet, at the end of a treatise, which for its erudition and the mass of evidence it marshals, surpasses every other work of its kind in the literature of Sex, Mr. Briffault says:
        "Those achievements which constituted what, in the best sense, we term civilization, have taken place in societies organized on patriarchal principles, they are for the most part the work of men. Women have had very little share in them. . . .
        "Women are constitutionally deficient in the qualities that mark the masculine intellect. . . . The Intellectual structure of the higher forms of culture and organization, which constitute civilization are masculine products and are reached by the qualities and characteristics of the masculine intellect." (The Mothers. Vol. III, pp. 507–8.)
        But, if this is so, there can be only two possible consequences of women's interference with man's civilization — either they will destroy it, or else, in attempting to fit themselves for directing it, they will destroy their own womanhood. Both processes are actually in full swing.
        No fact could be more plain; but no fact could be more distasteful to those who are now engaged in trying to guide public opinion. And, let it be well understood, these very people who are now trying to guide public opinion, are either actually women, or, through the power of trade advertising, which ultimately depends to a great extent on women, largely in women's pay.
        In journalism, in the publishing business, and in the theatre, — everywhere, the representative of masculine ideas and ideals has to face a barrage of feminist fire, the object of which is to prevent everything that is hostile to feminist power from passing through alive; while, in addition, the representatives of masculine ideas and ideals get fewer and fewer every year.

- p. v -
        But there are great beauties yet in our civilization — beauties which have not so far been tarnished or destroyed by the breath of feminism, and which therefore may still be saved. And, although I have no intention of suggesting that England is still a Paradise, or even remotely akin to one, I would remind the reader that man is known to have lost blissful contentment before through the crime of feminism. For the Great Jehovah who became the God of the Christians is at heart an anti-feminist too, and in banishing Adam from Eden, he used the following most significant words:
        " Because thou hast harkened unto the voice of thy woman, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life."

- p. vii -

"The most disgusting cant permeates everything. Except for the representation of savage and violent sentiments, everything is stifled by it." — Stendhal, De l'Amour.

The object of this volume is twofold: in the first place to raise certain weighty objections to that industrialization and commercialization of woman, which has stamped the "progress" of Western Europe during the last fifty years; and, secondly, to reveal woman, not only as a creature whose least engaging characteristics are but the outcome of the most vital qualities within her, but also as a social being in whom these least engaging characteristics themselves only become disturbing and undesirable when she is partially or totally out of hand.
        While trying to escape the influence of all that "tinsel of false sentiment" which in the atmosphere of Democracy and sentimentality has gathered about the subject of Woman in modern England, it has been my endeavour to defend her against certain traditional and well-founded charges, by showing that the very traits in her character which have given rise to these charges form so essential a part of her vital equipment that it would be dangerous to the race to modify or to alter them. Thus, despite the fact that there is much in this book that may possibly strike the reader as unfriendly, if not actually harsh, I am aware of no other work in which so complete and so elaborate a plea (from the standpoint of Life and Life's needs) has been made in defence of Woman's whole character, including all that side of it which the wisest of mankind, and the oldest traditions of mankind, have consistently and unanimously deprecated.
        Couched in the briefest possible terms, my thesis is

- p. viii -
practically this, that, whether we contemplate Woman in the rôle of the adulteress, of the heartless step-mother, of the harlot, or of the creature whose duplicity has been the riddle of all ages; or whether we contemplate her as the staunchest of lovers, as the most reliable of allies, as the mother whose noble devotion to her offspring will drive her to any extreme of danger in defence of them, and as the representative of that sex which has given us a Joan of Arc, an Emily Brontë, and an Emily Davison of Derby fame; we are always confronted by a creature whose worst can, on final analysis, be shown to be only the outcome of her best and most vital qualities, turned to evil by mal-adaptation; and whose best is but the normal and effortless expression of her natural endowments.
        Seeing, however, that among the mal-adaptations which cause Woman's best to manifest itself as her worst, I include lack of guidance and control from the quarter of her men-folk, I range myself naturally among the Anti-Feminists, though at the same time I most emphatically disclaim all anti feminine prejudices. Indeed, so far from this being the case, I am a deep and passionate admirer and lover of Woman. In order to love her, however, I do not find it necessary to exalt her to a plane on which all her sturdier, more vital, and more "dangerous" characteristics are whittled down to mere sweetness. Those to whom the love of woman depends upon so gross an idealization of her nature as to cause them to overlook or deny that "wickedness" in her, which is at once her greatest vital strength and her most powerful equipment as the custodian and the promoter of life, will find very little to sustain them in this love throughout the present volume. And, if in this age of "Safety first," they fancy that it is expedient to rear and to love only those women from whom all "danger" has been removed, they will find that I have endeavoured to demonstrate to them the extreme peril even of this plausible ideal.

- p. ix -
        As far as I know this work represents the first radical attempt that has been made to differentiate two very definite and dissimilar types of women — the positive and the negative — and to account for their respective virtues and vices on the grounds of their peculiarities of health, tonality, vigour, and constitutional bias in favour of life. It is my belief that this is a necessary and useful differentiation, that without it there can be no clarity about Woman, and that the fact that it has not been attempted by previous writers, accounts for much in their work which is both unfair and untrue. It must be quite plain to everyone, that in a world where so-called virtue is all too frequently the outcome of a minus rather than of a plus in vitality, it would be grossly inaccurate to class all women together; for while in the case of one woman chastity may be a great feat of discernment and self-overcoming, in the case of another whose body is less tonic and less vital, it may be the easiest of human accomplishments. All reactions are known to differ according to the vitality of the organism stimulated. To overlook tonality and vitality in any description of, human beings would therefore be a most unpardonable omission. Thus, Weininger's and Schopenhauer's failure to differentiate between positive and negative women effectually invalidates, in my opinion, most of what they have said about her; while a good deal of the rest of the literature dealing with the subject of sex seems to me to fail owing to the fact that it makes no attempt to describe a standard or a norm before it proceeds to expatiate upon sex characteristics and their consequences.
        The fact that a classification on these broad lines does not prevent me from occasionally bringing charges which wilt seem severe against the very type that I most warmly recommend, is in no way inconsistent with my claim that my work is a vindication; for while I show that all the charges that I myself advance are only an indictment of Woman in so far as she is unguided and uncon-

- p. x -
trolled, I also defend her against many other harsh judgments which are commonly passed against her, and with which I will have nothing to do.
        Thus in the course of this work, the reader will find that I defend even the so-called "male" woman against the gibes which recently it has been the fashion to level against her. And on what grounds do I undertake her vindication? — I point out that, in a nation that can boast, as England undoubtedly can, of great and worldwide masculine achievements in the past, such achievements can only have been possible because the women of the nation did not too seriously dilute the masculine qualities of the race, with the element "effeminine." But for this to have been the rule, these women must have had a large share of masculine virtues. I show that other nations, such as the Romans and the Red Indians, also reared generations of masculine women, and always to the advantage of the community. These male women, against whom so much has been said, are therefore merely the vestiges of our great masculine past. Now they are ill-adapted, because they can no longer find the men to whose greater masculinity they might adapt themselves. It is the degeneration of man that is the cause of their mal-adaptation. Women, or at least the best women, nowadays, are no longer inspired or uplifted by their association with him.
        To reply to this, as most people all too hastily do, that the last War was a proof that Englishmen at least have not degenerated, does not constitute a serious objection to my statement. For, after all, successful fighting is only one — and the most primitive — among the many desirable qualities that the masculine civilized being has cultivated.
        Degeneration may be defined as a departure from the high qualities of a race or a kind. But it is possible to depart from a very great number of cultivated qualities, and still to retain the moral and physical equipment of the good fighter. When, therefore, I seek to explain a good deal of Woman's discontent with Man, and

- p. xi -
most of her very justifiable contempt of him, by pointing to his degeneration, I mean that, despite the evidence of the great War, in which the modern European admittedly revealed the primitive fighting qualities in all their pristine strength, the man of to-day in many other respects — in the matter of catholicity of tastes, for instance, versatility of gifts, will-power, vigour, character, and health — shows a marked departure from the higher endowments of his ancestors. The fact that this degeneration is due to the devitalizing, cramping and specialized labours which several generations of Commercialism and Industrialism and excessive "Urbanism" have imposed upon the male sex, can hardly be questioned; and if we are in search of an explanation of Feminism, if we are anxious to discover how and why it is that women are now coming forward in large numbers to measure their strength against men in all those callings and offices which hitherto have been regarded as Man's special spheres, we may be sure that the true cause of all this does not lie so much in a desirable change in Woman's nature itself, as it does in an undesirable depreciation in our own general abilities, which women have been only too slow to observe.
        To point to the great War in such circumstances, is only cant; but like all cant, it is the outcome of a desire to spare our vanity at a moment when everything points indubitably to our humiliation.
        There is, however, no subject in the whole world, or at least in the whole of our English world, around which more cant has collected, than the subject of sex and the relation of the sexes. But perhaps it would be as well to make quite clear what is precisely meant by "cant" in this respect. With Stendhal, I am of the opinion that cant is created more by vanity than by Puritanism, or the sense of propriety. And it is because vanity is involved, that the fight against cant is so stubborn. If Psycho-Analysis had really assailed our vanity, instead of merely offending our sense of propriety,

- p. xii -
we should have heard much less about it. Also we have only to think of the huge popular success of writers like Zola in order to assure ourselves that for a man's work to be hushed up and ignored, he must be guilty of a greater crime than the mere violation of the proprieties or conventions.
        As a rule, mankind will listen patiently when it is told of the material and not infrequently sordid animal background to some of its dearest emotions; for, after all, it is only disturbed in its prudery by such revelations. But proceed to tear away the tinsel of cant from those activities, for instance, which are alleged to be humanitarian, "unselfish," or to belong to the class known as "self-sacrifice," and point out how all these activities themselves invariably arise from purely egotistical emotions and desires, and mankind will immediately become both incredulous and indignant. — Why is this? Obviously because a very large section of the population of the western world find the very basis of their self-esteem in the activities enumerated. To show the egotistical root of these activities, as Hobbes, Helvetius, Stendhal and Nietzsche consistently did, is therefore to wound these people in the very sanctuary of their vanity; and those against whom this kind of violence is attempted nowadays usually retaliate with both rancour and rage. Hence the determination with which writers like Hobbes, Helvetius, Nietzsche and Stendhal are forgotten and ignored.
        Over the writings of all these men there hangs a very pronounced and unmistakable fragrance, which may be almost painful at the first inhalation, and a certain atmosphere which has a noticeably low temperature. Frequently this atmosphere is quite glacial, and produces the distinctly unpleasant reaction of goose-skin in the reader's mind. Both in the ideas they present, and in their manner of presenting them, these authors scorn to please. They all possess the same penetrating insight into the psychology of man; they reveal what the French call "une psychologie fouillée," and their honesty is hampered by no desire

- p. xiii -
to fortify themselves or their fellows in their self-esteem. Unlike Swift, however, it is certain that these men did not write "to vex the world more than to divert it," but because they realized that certain falsifications of sentiment are dangerous and lead to degeneration.
        Now there is an instinctive inclination in every reader to identify himself with the picture of humanity presented to him in the book that he happens to be perusing, whether it be a novel or a scientific treatise. Naturally enough, therefore, he is exposed to the severest shocks if at every turn he is prevented from idealizing his own nature, or from thinking too well of it, owing to the fact that the picture he is contemplating is too humiliating to be pleasant, and yet too convincing to be lightly rejected.
        The bulk of modern readers, however, are women. This fact, too well known to editors and publishers, is quite inadequately understood from the standpoint of its influence on taste and quality in literary production. For not only do women reveal the trait common to all readers, which consists in a tendency to identify themselves with one of the characters of a novel, or with the portrait of humanity presented in a scientific treatise, but they are also addicted to the practice of confounding that which is pleasant to themselves with that which is true. Thus in the woman reader there is a twofold tendency to tolerate or to applaud cant; for, on the one hand, she views truth hedonistically, and, on the other, she feels deep discomfiture, either when she finds herself unable, through her false idealization of herself and her motives, to identify herself with the anti cant portrayal of a certain heroine (Stendhal's Félicie Féline, for instance), or, when she finds her reading of human nature, which is based upon her idealized reading of herself, affronted by a picture of humanity which shatters her rosy view.
        To the influence of women in this connexion, however, ought in all fairness to be added that of a vast number of men, who, in these days, whether from the same hedonistic view of truth, or prompted by a certain

- p. xiv -
poltroonery and vanity in the face of reality, tend to shrink ever more and more from any understanding of human relations and the passions that govern them, which would distort their comfortable and comforting assumptions concerning both. If, however, they actually form, together with the women, a force sufficiently powerful to govern the taste of the day, especially in the world of literature and in that department of it which treats of human psychology, we may well feel some anxiety concerning the real worth of that literature. If Byron and Stendhal could honestly complain of cant even in their time, what can be our position to-day?

*        *        *        *        *

        Frankly acknowledging my indebtedness to the school of writers that can be said to have adopted the rigorous psychological uprightness of our great philosopher Hobbes, I have endeavoured also to strip the "tinsel of sentiment" from one of the most important of human relations, in order, if possible, to build afresh, and to build wholesomely, where too much confusion and too much falsehood have been allowed to flourish in the past. In order, however, to protect myself from a charge to which the asperity and frequent severity of my language is almost sure to expose me, it may be as well for me to state at once that, unlike many that have written on the subject of Woman, I have been animated by no bitterness and by none of those unhappy experiences which often warp judgment and impair the vision. On the contrary, to all my principal relations to women I owe the most pleasant and possibly some of the most valuable experiences of my life.
        Unlike Schopenhauer, Byron, or Balzac, my relationship to my mother was an exceptionally devoted and happy one. Both friends and relatives are unanimous here, and have frequently declared that they rarely saw anything to equal it, both on her side and on my own. Up to the time of her death she was my best and dearest friend, and in my passionate love for her, my love for

- p. xv -
my subject may well be said to have begun. What has my relation to other women been? In this regard I can only say that, though I have spent an enormous amount of my time with women, I have never suffered the smallest wrong at the hands of any one of them; neither have I had any experience which could possibly give me a distorted view of the sex, or a resentful attitude towards it as a whole. I have learned a tremendous deal from women, and, having not a little of the woman in me besides (and to comprise is to comprehend), I have through the usual channels of introspection been able to supplement my objective studies with a good deal of subjective information. From my earliest youth, too, the subject of sex has interested me deeply. True, it interests every one deeply; but I have fortunately never felt any of the customary shame that so often arrests thought and speculation on the subject. Neither can I say that my environment was ever of a kind to hinder me in my free and careful study of it. Brought up in an atmosphere of art and literature, I never became acquainted with that false modesty and embarrassment that seizes upon most young people when, for the first time, they are confronted with the most mysterious and fascinating subject of existence. I was allowed to dwell on the question, had no reason to suppose it was wrong to do so, and even when, at the age of ten I took my first steps in the science of physiology — a subject I used to beg all my elders to instruct me upon — I and they little knew that I was anticipating, by at least six years, a passionate interest in the principal and most fundamental question of human relations. To this day I remember the little green manual of Physiology, by Professor Huxley, that my governess put into my hands, and I cannot say I remember any book better, save perhaps another little green volume containing Schopenhaur's essays on Woman and the Metaphysics of Love, which I read when I was eighteen. At the age of nineteen I wrote my first book, which bore the title Girls and Love; but, needless to say,

- p. xvi -
it was never published. And ever since the subject of sex has scarcely ever ceased from occupying my mind in various ways. For the rest, I have listened with respectful attention to the voice of the Ancients — of the Orient, of Egypt and of Greece — and, as usual, have listened most intently there where I knew relative permanence to have been achieved and humanity to have flourished best. Such preoccupations in regard to a matter that ought to be so natural, so well ordered, as to be taken for granted, just as breathing is, can denote but one thing, namely: that to the thoughtful, nowadays, sex has undoubtedly become a real and puzzling problem; that is to say, something that is not in order, that is not properly understood, and that every one has, as it were, to face and to overcome for himself afresh, before he can "carry on," and before he can allow time and age to overtake him.
        In the present work I have attempted to be as clear and as straightforward as is compatible with the task of handling a delicate subject delicately. I am convinced that a good deal of the dangerous silence that hangs over the vital and fundamental questions I shall sometimes have to touch upon, owes its existence for the most part to the unfortunate fact that the subject of sex, outside medical circles, has hitherto usually been confronted by only two classes of mind — the puritanically prudish, who have done their best to shelve it, and their opposite extreme, the licentious and libidinous, who have refrained from no excess or extravagance that could possibly offend and startle their opponents in the opposite camp. With neither of these classes have I any connexion. I object to the licentious as wholeheartedly as to the Puritanical. I protest against being suspected unjustly of a licentious turn of mind, because I venture to speak freely concerning a subject that is systematically hushed up to the peril of all; I also protest most emphatically against being suspected of Puritanism because I make no attempt to conceal my loathing of certain modern aspects of the sexual relationship.



Next Chapter