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Title: Fruits of Philosophy - A Treatise on the Population Question
Author: Knowlton, Charles
Language: English
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By Charles Knowlton

Edited by Charles Bradlaugh and Annie Besant


The pamphlet which we now present to the public is one which has been
lately prosecuted under Lord Gampbell's Act, and which we republish,
in order to test the right of publication. It was originally written
by Charles Knowlton, M. D., whose degree entitles him to be heard with
respect on a medical question. It was first published in England, about
forty years ago, by James Watson, the gallant radical, who came to
London and took up Richard Carlile's work, when Carlile was in jail. He
sold it, unchallenged, for many years, approved it, and recommended it.
It was printed and published by Messrs. Holyoake & Co., and found its
place, with other works of a similar character, in their "Freethought
Directory," of 1853, and was thus identified with freethought literature
at the then leading freethought _depot_ Mr. Austin Holyoake, working
in con-junction with Mr. Bradlaugh at the _National Reformer_ office,
Johnson's Court, printed and published it in his turn, and this
well-known freethought advocate, in his "Large or Small Families,"
selected this pamphlet, together with R. D. Owen's "Moral Physiology"
and the "Elements of Social Science," for special recommendation. Mr.
Charles Watts, succeeding to Mr. Austin Holyoake's business, continued
the sale, and, when Mr. Watson died, in 1875, he bought the plates of
the work (with others) from Mrs. Watson, and continued to advertise and
to sell it until December 23, 1876. For the last forty years the
book has thus been identified with freethought, advertised by leading
freethinkers, published under the sanction of their names, and sold in
the headquarters of freethought literature. If, during this long period,
the party has thus--without one word of protest--circulated an indecent
work, the less we talk about freethought morality the better; the
work has been largely sold, and, if leading freethinkers have sold
it--profiting by the sale--through mere carelessness, few words could be
strong enough to brand the indifference which thus scattered obscenity
broadcast over the land. The pamphlet has been withdrawn from
circulation in consequence of the prosecution instituted against Mr.
Charles Watts, but the question of its legality or illegality has not
been tried; a plea of "Guilty" was put in by the publisher, and the
book, therefore, was not examined, nor was any judgment passed upon it;
no jury registered a verdict, and the judge stated that he had not read
the work.

We republish this pamphlet, honestly believing that on all questions
affecting the happiness of the people, whether they be theological,
political or social, fullest right of free discussion ought to be
maintained at all hazards. We do not personally indorse all that
Dr. Knowles says: his "Philosophical Proem" seems to us full of
philosophical mistakes, and--as we are neither of us doctors--we are not
prepared to indorse his medical views; but since progress can only be
made through discussion, and no discussion is possible where differing
opinions are suppressed, we claim the right to publish all opinions, so
that the public, enabled to see all sides of a question, may have the
materials for forming a sound judgment.

The alterations made are very slight, the book was badly printed, and
errors of spelling and a few clumsy grammatical expressions have been
corrected; the subtitle has been changed, and in one case four lines
have been omitted, because they are repeated word for word further on.
We have, however, made some additions to the pamphlet, which are in all
cases kept distinct from the original text. Physiology has made great
strides during the past forty years, and not considering it right to
circulate erroneous physiology, we submitted the pamphlet to a doctor
in whose accurate knowledge we have the fullest confidence, and who is
widely known in all parts of the world as the author of the "Elements of
Social Science;" the notes signed "G. B." are written by this gentleman.
References to other works are given in foot-notes for the assistance of
the reader, if he desires to study up the subject further.

Old Radicals will remember that Richard Carlile published a work
entitled "Every Woman's Book," which deals with the same subject and
advocates the same object as Dr. Knowlton's pamphlet R. D. Owen objected
to the "style and tone" of Carlile's "Every Woman's Book," as not being
in "good taste," and he wrote his "Moral Physiology" to do in America
what Carlile's work was intended to do in England. This work of
Carlile's was stigmatized as "indecent" and "immoral," because it
advocated, as does Dr. Knowlton's, the use of preventive checks to
population. In striving to carry on Carlile's work, we cannot expect to
escape Carlile's reproach; but, whether applauded or condemned, we mean
to carry it on, socially as well as politically and theologically.

We believe, with the Rev. Mr. Malthus, that population has a tendency to
increase faster than the means of existence, and that _some_ checks must
therefore exercise control over population. The checks now exercised are
semi-starvation and preventable disease; the enormous mortality among
the infants of the poor is one of the checks which now keep down the
population. The checks that ought to control population are scientific,
and it is these which we advocate. We think it more moral to prevent the
conception of children than, after they are born, to murder them by want
of food, air and clothing. We advocate scientific checks to population,
because, so long as poor men have large families, pauperism is a
necessity, and from pauperism grow crime and disease. The wages which
would support the parents and two or three children in comfort and
decency, is utterly insufficient to maintain a family of twelve or
fourteen, and we consider it a crime to bring into the world human
beings doomed to misery or to premature death. It is not only the
hard-working classes which are concerned in this question. The poor
preacher, the struggling man of business, the young professional man,
are often made wretched for life by their inordinately large families,
and their years are passed in one long battle to live; meanwhile, the
woman's health is sacrificed and her life embittered from the same
cause. To all of these we point the way of relief and happiness; for
the sake of these we publish what others fear to issue; and we do it
confident that if we fail the first time, we shall succeed at last,
and that the English public will not permit the authorities to stifle a
discussion of the most important social question which can influence a
nation's welfare.

Charles Bradlaugh.

Annie Besant.


Consciousness is not a "principle" or substance of any kind, nor is
it, strictly speaking, a property of any substance or being. It is a
peculiar action of the nervous system, and the system is said to be
sensible, or to possess the property of sensibility, because those
sentient actions which constitute our different consciousnesses may be
excited in it. The nervous system includes not only the brain and spinal
marrow, but numerous soft white cords, called nerves, which extend
from the brain and spinal marrow to every part of the body in which a
sensation can be excited.

A sensation is a sentient action of a nerve and the brain; a thought or
idea (both the same thing) is a sentient action of the brain alone. A
sensation or a thought is consciousness, and there is no consciousness
but that which consists either in a sensation or a thought.

Agreeable consciousness constitutes what we call happiness, and
disagreeable consciousness constitutes misery. As sensations are a
higher degree of consciousness than mere thought, it follows that
agreeable sensations constitute a more exquisite happiness than
agreeable thoughts. That portion of happiness which consists in
agreeable sensations is commonly called pleasure. No thoughts are
agreeable except those which were originally excited by or have been
associated with agreeable sensations. Hence, if a person never had
experienced any agreeable sensations, he could have no agreeable
thoughts, and would, of course, be an entire stranger to happiness.

There are five species of sensations--seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting
and feeling. There are many varieties of feeling--as the feelings of
hunger, thirst, cold, hardness, etc. Many of these feelings are
excited by agents that act upon the exterior of the body, such as solid
substances of every kind, heat, and various chemical irritants. These
latter feelings are called _passions_.

Those passions which owe their existence chiefly to the state of the
brain, or to causes acting directly upon the brain, are called the moral
passion. They are grief, anger, love, etc. They consist of sentient
actions, which commence in the brain and extend to the nerves in the
region of the stomach, etc. But when the cause of the internal feeling
of passion is seated in some organ remote from the brain, as in the
stomach, genital organs, etc., the sentient action which constitutes the
passion commences in the nerves of such organ and extends to the brain,
and the passion is called an _appetite, instinct, or desire_. Some
of these passions are natural, as hunger, thirst, the reproductive
instinct, the desire to urinate, etc. Others are gradually acquired by
habit A _hankering_ for stimulants, as spirits, opium and tobacco, is
one of these.

Such is the nature of things that our most vivid and agreeable
sensations cannot be excited under all circumstances, nor beyond a
certain extent under any circumstances, without giving rise in one
way or another to an amount of disagreeable consciousness or misery,
exceeding the amount of agreeable consciousness which attends such
ill-timed or excessive gratification. To excite agreeable sensations to
a degree not exceeding this certain extent is temperance; to excite
them beyond this extent is intemperance; not to excite them at all is
mortification or abstinence. This certain extent varies with different
individuals, according to their several circumstances, so that what
would be temperance in one person may be intemperance in another.

To be free from disagreeable consciousness is to be in a state which,
compared with a state of misery, is a happy state; yet absolute
happiness does not exist in the absence of misery, if it does, rocks are
happy. It consists, as aforesaid, in agreeable consciousness. That which
enables a person to excite or maintain agreeable consciousness is
not happiness; but the _idea_ of having such in one's possession is
agreeable, and of course is a portion of happiness. Health and wealth go
far in enabling a person to excite and maintain agreeable consciousness.
That which gives rise to agreeable consciousness is _good_, and we
desire it. If we use it intemperately, such use is bad, but the thing
itself is still good. Those acts (and intentions are acts of that part
of man which intends) of human beings which tend to the promotion of
happiness are good, but they are also called _virtuous_, to distinguish
them from other things of the same tendency. There is nothing for the
word _virtue_ to signify, but virtuous actions. Sin signifies nothing
but sinful actions, and sinful, wicked, vicious, or bad actions are
those which are productive of more misery than happiness.

When an individual gratifies any of his instincts in a _temperate_
degree, he adds an item to the sum total of human happiness, and causes
the amount of human happiness to exceed the amount of misery farther
than if he had not enjoyed himself, therefore it is virtuous, or, to
say the least, it is not vicious or sinful for him to do so. But it must
ever be remembered that this temperate degree depends on circumstances;
that one person's health, pecuniary circumstances, or social relation
may be such that it would cause more misery than happiness for him to do
an act which being done by a person under different circumstances would
cause more happiness than misery. Therefore, it would be right for the
latter to perform such act, but not for the former.

Again: owing to his _ignorance_, a man may not be able to gratify a
desire without causing misery (wherefore it would be wrong for him to
do it), but with knowledge of means to prevent this misery, he may so
gratify it that more pleasure than pain will be the result of the act,
in which case the act, to say the least, is justifiable. Now, therefore,
it is virtuous, nay, it is the _duty_, for him who has a knowledge of
such means, to convey it to those who have it not, for by so doing he
furthers the cause of human happiness.

Man by nature is endowed with the talent of devising means to remedy
or prevent the evils that are liable to arise from gratifying our
appetites; and it is as much the duty of the physician to inform
mankind of the means to prevent the evils that are liable to arise from
gratifying the productive instinct as it is to inform them how to keep
clear of the gout or dyspepsia. Let not the old ascetic say we ought
not to gratify our appetites any further than is necessary to maintain
health and to perpetuate the species. Mankind will not so abstain,
and if any means to prevent the evils that may arise from a farther
gratification can be devised, they _need not_. Heaven has not only given
us the capacity of greater enjoyment, but the talent of devising means
to prevent the evils that are liable to arise therefrom, and it becomes
us, "with thanksgiving," to make the most of them.



Showing how desirable it is, both in a political and a social point
of view, for mankind to be able to limit at WILL THE NUMBER OF

First.---_In a political point of view_.--If population be not
restrained by some great physical calamity, such as we have reason to
hope will not hereafter be visited upon the children of men, or by some
_moral restraint_, the time will come when the earth cannot support
its inhabitants. Population unrestrained will double three times in a
century. Hence, computing the present population of the earth at 1,000
millions, there would be at the end of 100 years from the present time,
8,000 millions.

     At the  end of 200 years,  64,000  millions.

     "         "    300    "   512,000       "

And so on, multiplying by eight for every additional hundred years.
So that in 500 years from the present time there would be thirty-two
thousand seven hundred and sixty eight times as many inhabitants as at
present. If the natural increase should go on without check for 1,500
years, one single pair would increase to more than _thirty-five thousand
one hundred and eighty-four_ times as many as the present population of
the whole earth!

Some check then there must be, or the time will come when millions will
be born but to suffer and to perish for the necessaries of life. To what
an inconceivable amount of human misery would such a state of things
give rise! And must we say that vice, war, pestilence and famine are
desirable to prevent it? Must the friends of temperance and domestic
happiness stay their efforts? Must peace societies excite to war
and bloodshed? Must the physician cease to investigate the nature
of contagion, and to search for the means of destroying its baneful
influence? Must he that becomes diseased be marked as a victim to die
for public good, without the privilege of making an effort to restore
him to health? And in case of a failure of crops in one part of the
world, must the other parts withhold the means of supporting life that
the far greater evil of excessive population throughout the world may be
prevented? Can there be no effectual moral restraint, attended with far
less human misery than such physical calamities as these? Most surely
there can. But what is it? Malthus, an English writer on the subject of
population, gives us none but celibacy to a late age. But how foolish
it is to suppose that men and women will become as monks and nuns during
the very holiday of their existence, and abjure during the fairest
years of life the nearest and dearest of social relations, to avert
a catastrophe which they and perhaps their children will not live to
witness. But, besides being ineffectual, or if effectual, requiring a
great sacrifice of enjoyment, this restraint is highly objectionable
on the score of its demoralizing tendency. It would give rise to a
frightful increase of prostitution, of intemperance and onanism, and
prove destructive to health and moral feelings. In spite of preaching,
human nature will ever remain the same; and that restraint which forbids
the gratification of the reproductive instinct will avail but little
with the mass of mankind. The checks to be hereafter mentioned are
the only moral restraints to population known to the writer that are
unattended with serious objections.

Besides starvation, with all its accompanying evils, overpopulation is
attended with other public evils, of which may be mentioned, ignorance
and slavery. Where the mass of the people must toil incessantly to
obtain support, they must remain ignorant; and where ignorance prevails,
tyranny reigns.*

     * The scientific part of Malthus' Doctrine of Population is
     not very clearly or correctly given in the above passages.
     His great theory, now or generally held by the most eminent
     political economists, is that the increase of population is
     always powerfully checked in old countries by the difficulty
     in increasing the supply of food; that the existing evils of
     poverty and low wages are really at bottom caused by this
     check, and are brought about by the pressure of population
     on the soil, and the continual overstocking of the labor
     markets with laborers; and hence that the only way in which
     society can escape from poverty, with all its miseries, is
     by putting a strong restraint on their natural powers of
     multiplication. "It is not in the nature of things," he
     says, "that any permanent and general improvement in the
     condition of the poor can be effected without an increase in
     the preventive checks to population."--G. R.

Second--_In a social point of view_.--"Is it not notorious that the
families of the married often increase beyond which a regard for the
young beings coming into the world, and the happiness of those who give
them birth, would dictate. In how many instances does the hard-working
father, and more especially the mother, of a poor family remain slave
throughout their lives, tugging at the oar of incessant labor, toiling
to live, and living to toil; when, if their offspring had been limited
to two or three only, they might have enjoyed comfort and comparative
affluence? How often is the health of the mother, giving birth every
year to an infant--happy if it be not twins--and compelled to toil on,
even at those times when nature imperiously calls for some relief from
daily drudgery,--how often is the mother's comfort, health, nay, even
her life, thus sacrificed? Or if care and toil have weighed down the
spirit, and at length broken the health of the father; how often is
the widow left unable, with the most virtuous intentions, to save her
fatherless offspring from becoming degraded objects of charity, or
profligate votaries of vice!

"Nor is this all. Many women are so constituted that they cannot give
birth to healthy, sometimes not to living children. Is it desirable,
is it moral, that such women should become pregnant? Yet this is
continually the case. Others there are who ought never to become
parents; because, if they do, it is only to transmit to their offspring
grievous hereditary diseases, which render such offspring mere subjects
of misery throughout their sickly existence. Yet such women will not
lead a life of celibacy. They marry. They become parents, and the sum of
human misery is increased by their doing so. But it is folly to expect
that we can induce such persons to live the lives of Shakers. Nor is it
necessary; all that duty requires of them is to refrain from becoming
parents. Who can estimate the beneficial effect which a rational
moral restraint may thus have on the health and beauty and physical
improvement of our race throughout future generations?"

Let us now turn our attention to the case of unmarried youth.

"Almost all young persons, on reaching the age of maturity, desire to
marry. That heart must be very cold, or very isolated, that does not
find some object on which to bestow its affections. Thus, early marriage
would be almost universal did not prudential consideration interfere.
The young man thinks, 'I cannot marry yet; I cannot support a family.
I must make money first, and think of a matrimonial settlement

"And so he goes to making money, fully and sincerely resolved in a few
years to share it with her whom he now loves. But passions are strong
and temptations great. Curiosity, perhaps, introduces him into the
company of those poor creatures whom society first reduces to a
dependence on the most miserable of mercenary trades, and then curses
for being what she has made them. There his health and moral feelings
are alike made shipwreck. The affections he had thought to treasure up
for their first object are chilled by dissipation and blunted by excess.
He scarcely retains a passion but avarice. Years pass on--years of
profligacy and speculation--and his wish is accomplished, his fortune is
made. Where now are the feelings and resolve of his youth?

     'Like the dew on the mountain,
     Like the foam on the river,
     Like the bubbles on the fountain,
     They are gone--and forever.'

"He is a man of pleasure, a man of the world. He laughs at the romance
of his youth, and marries a fortune. If gaudy equipage and gay parties
confer happiness, he is happy. But if these be only the sunshine on
the stormy sea below, he is a victim to that system of morality which
forbids a reputable connection until the period when provision has been
made for a large expected family. Had he married the first object of his
choice, and simply delayed becoming a father until his prospects seemed
to warrant it, how different might have been his lot. Until men and
women are absolved from the fear of becoming parents, except when they
themselves desire it, they will ever form mercenary and demoralizing
connections, and seek in dissipation the happiness they might have found
in domestic life.

"I know that this, however common, is not a universal case. Sometimes
the heavy responsibilities of a family are incurred at all risks; and
who shall say how often a life of unremitting toil and poverty is the
consequence. Sometimes, if even rarely, the young mind does hold its
first resolves. The youth plods through years of cold celibacy and
solitary anxiety, happy if, before the best hours of his life are gone
and its warmest feelings withered, he may return to claim the reward of
his forbearance and his industry. But even in this comparatively happy
case, shall we count for nothing the years of ascetic sacrifice at which
after happiness is purchased? The days of youth are not too many, nor
its affections too lasting. We may, indeed, if a great object require
it, sacrifice the one and mortify the other. But is this, in itself,
desirable? Does not wisdom tell us that such a sacrifice is a dead
loss--to the warm-hearted often a grievous one? Does not wisdom bid us
temperately enjoy the springtimes of life, 'while the evil day come not,
nor the years draw nigh, when we shall say we have no pleasure in them?'

"Let us say, then, if we will, that the youth who thus sacrifices the
present for the future, chooses wisely between the two evils, profligacy
and asceticism. This is true. But let us not imagine the lesser evil
to be good. It is _not_ good for man to be alone. It is for no man or
woman's happiness or benefit that they should be condemned to Shakerism.
It is a violence done to the feelings and an injury to the character.
A life of rigid celibacy, though infinitely preferable to a life of
dissipation, is yet fraught with many evils. Peevishness, restlessness,
vague longings and instability of character, are amongst the least of
these. The mind is unsettled, and the judgment warped. Even the very
instinct which is thus mortified assumes an undue importance, and
occupies a portion of the thoughts which does not of right or nature
belong to it, and which, during a life of satisfied affection, it would
not obtain."

In many instances, the genital organs are rendered so irritable by the
repletion to which unnatural continency gives rise, and by the much
thinking caused by such repletion, as to induce a disease known to
medical men by the name of _Gonorrhoea Dormientium_. It consists in
an emission or discharge of the semen during sleep. This discharge is
immediately excited in most instances by a lascivious dream, but such
dream is caused by the repletion and irritability of the genital organs.
It is truly astonishing to what a degree of mental anguish the disease
gives rise in young men. They do not understand the nature, or rather,
the cause of it. They think it depends on a weakness--indeed, the
disease is often called a "seminal weakness"--and that the least
gratification in a natural way would but serve to increase it.
Their anxiety about it weakens the whole system. This weakness they
erroneously attribute to the discharges; they think themselves totally
disqualified for entering into or enjoying the married state. Finally,
the genital and mental organs act and react upon each other so
perniciously as to cause a degree of nervousness, debility, emaciation
and melancholy--in a word, wretchedness that sets description at
defiance. Nothing is so effectual in curing this diseased state of
a body and mind in young men as marriage. All restraint, fear and
solicitude should be removed.

"Inasmuch, then, as the scruples of incurring heavy responsibilities
deter from forming moral connections and encourage intemperance and
prostitution, the knowledge which enables man to limit the number of his
offspring would, in the present state of things, save much unhappi-ness
and prevent many crimes. Young persons sincerely attached to each other,
and who might wish to marry, should marry early, merely resolving not
to become parents until prudence permitted it. The young man, instead
of solitary toil and vulgar dissipation, would enjoy the society and the
assistance of her he has chosen as his companion; and the best years of
life, whose pleasures never return, would not be squandered in riot, nor
lost through mortification."*

     * The passages quoted are from Robert Dale Owen's "Moral


I hold the following to be important and undeniable troths: That every
man has a natural right both to receive and convey a knowledge of all
the facts and discoveries of every art and science, excepting such only
as may be secured to some particular person or persons by copyright or
patent; that a physical truth in its general effect cannot be a moral
evil; that no fact in physics or in morals ought to be concealed from
the inquiring mind.

Some may make a misuse of knowledge, but that is their fault; and it is
not right that one person should be deprived of knowledge, of spirits,
of razors, or of anything else which is harmless in itself and may be
useful to him, because another may misuse it.

The subject on generation is not only interesting as a branch of
science, but it is so connected with the happiness of mankind that it is
highly important in a practical point of view. Such, to be sure, is
the custom of the age, that it is not considered a proper subject to
investigate before a popular assembly, nor is it proper to attend the
calls of nature in a like place; yet they must and ought to be attended
to, for the good, the happiness of mankind require it; so, too, for like
reason, the subject of generation ought to be investigated until it be
rightly understood by all people, but at such opportunities as the
good sense of every individual will easily decide to be proper. This,
I presume to say, not simply upon the abstract principle that
all knowledge of Nature's workings is useful, and the want of it
disadvantageous, but from the known moral fact that ignorance of this
process has in many instances proved the cause of a lamentable "mishap,"
and more especially as it is essential to the attainment of the great
advantage, which it is the chief object of this work to bestow upon

People generally, as it was the case with physicians until late years,
entertain a very erroneous idea of what takes place in the conception.
Agreeably to this idea the "check" which I consider far preferable
to any other, would not be effectual, as would be obvious to all.
Consequently, entertaining this idea, people would not have due
confidence in it. Hence, it is necessary to correct a long-held and
widely extended error. But this I cannot expect to do by simply saying
it is an error. Deeply rooted and hitherto undisputed opinions are not
so easily eradicated. If I would convince any one that the steps in one
of the most recondite processes of nature are not such as he has always
believed, it will greatly serve my purpose to show what these steps are.
I must first prepare him to be reasoned with, and then reason the
matter all over with him. I must point out the facts which disprove his
opinion, and show that my own is unattended with difficulties.

But what can be more obvious than that it is absolutely impossible
to explain any process or function of the animal economy, so as to be
understood, before the names of the organs which perform this function
have been defined, that is, before the organs themselves have been
described. Now it is well known to every anatomist, and indeed it may
be obvious to all, that in describing any organ or system of organs,
we must always begin with some external and known parts, and proceed
regularly, step by step, to the internal and unknown. As in arithmetic,
"everything must be understood as you go along."*

     * This is an Americanism, which appears to us to convey a
     false idea. If it refers to the cases used as illustrations,
     Dr. Knowlton is more sparing in his use of them than either
     Dr. Bull or Dr. Chavasse.--Publishers' Note.

Fully to effect the objects of this work, it is, therefore, a matter of
necessity that I give an anatomical description of certain parts--even
external parts--which some, but imagine what I have just said, might
think it useless to mention. It is not to gratify the idle curiosity of
the light-minded that this book is written; it is for _utility_ in the
broad and truly philosophical sense of the term; nay, farther, it shall
with the exception of here and there a little spicing*, have confined
to _practical utility_. I shall, therefore, endeaver to treat of the
subject in this chapter so as to be understood, without giving any
description of the male organs of generation; though I hold it an
accomplishment for one be able to speak of those organs, as diseases
often put them under the necessity of doing, without being compelled use
low and vulgar language. But I must briefly describe the female organs;
in doing which I must, of course, speak as do other anatomists and
physiologists; and whoever objects to this will discover more
affectation and prudery than good sense and good will to mankind.

The adipose, or fatty matter, immediately over the share bone, forms
a considerable prominence in females, which, at the age of puberty, is
covered with hair, as in males. This prominence is called Mons Veneris.

The exterior orifice commences immediately below this. On each side of
this orifice is a prominence continued from the mons veneris, which
is largest above and gradually diminishes as it descends. These two
prominences are called the Labia Externa, or external lips. Near the
latter end of pregnancy they become somewhat enlarged and relaxed, so
that they sustain little or no injury during parturition. Just within
the upper or anterior commissure, formed by the junction of these lips,
a little round oblong body is situated. The body is called the clitoris.
Most of its length is bound down, as it were, pretty closely to the
bone; and it is of very variable size in different females. Instances
have occurred where it was so enlarged as to allow the female to have
venereal commerce with others; and in Paris this fact was once made a
public exhibition to the medical faculty. Women thus formed appear to
partake in their general form of the male character, and are called
hermaphrodites. The idea of human beings, called hermaphrodites, which
could be either father or mother, is, doubtless, erroneous. The clitoris
is analogous in its structure to the penis, and like it, is exquisitely
sensitive, being, as it is supposed, the principal seat of pleasure. It
is subject to erection or distension, like the penis, from like causes.

The skin which lines the internal surface of the external lips is folded
in such manner as to form two flat bodies, the exterior edges of which
are convex. They are called the nymphse. They extend downward, one on
each side, from the clitoris to near the middle of the external orifice,
somewhat diverging from each other. Their use is not very evident The
orifice of the urethra (the canal, short in females, which leads to the
bladder) is situated an inch or more farther inward than the clitoris,
and is a little protuberant.

Passing by the external lips, the clitoris, the nymphse and the orifice
of the urethra, we come to the membrane called the hymen. It is situated
just at, or a trifle behind the orifice of the urethra. It is stretched
across the passage, and were it a complete septum, it would close up the
anterior extremity of that portion of the passage which is called the
vagina. But the instances in which the septum or partition is complete
are very rare, there being, in almost all cases, an aperture either in
its center, or frequently in its anterior edge, giving the membrane the
form of a crescent Through this aperture passes the menstrual fluid.
Sometimes, however, this septum is complete, and the menstrual fluid
is retained month after month, until appearances and symptoms much
like those of pregnancy are produced, giving rise to perhaps unjust
suspicions. Such cases require the simple operation of dividing the
hymen. In many instances the hymen is very imperfect, insomuch that some
have doubted whether it is to be found in the generality of virgins.
Where it exists it is generally ruptured in the first intercourse of
the sexes, and the female is said to lose her virginity. In some
rare instances it is so very strong as not to be ruptured by such
intercourse, and the nature of the difficulty not being understood, the
husband has sued for a divorce. But everything may be put to rights by
a slight surgical operation. The parts here described are among those
called the external parts of generation.

The internal organs of generation consist in the female of the Vagina,
the Uterus, the Ovaries and their appendages.

The Vagina is a membranous canal commencing at the hymen and extending
to the uterus. It is a little curved, and extends backward and upward
between the bladder, which lies before and above it, and that extreme
portion of the bowels called the rectum, which lies behind it. The
coat of membrane which lines the internal surface of the vagina forms a
number of transverse ridges. These are to be found only in the lower
or anterior half of the vagina, and they do not extend all round the
vagina, but are situated on its anterior and posterior sides, while
their lateral sides are smooth. I mention these ridges because a
knowledge of them may lead to a more effectual use of one of the checks
to be made known hereafter.

The uterus or womb is also situated between the bladder and the rectum,
but above the vagina. Such is its shape that it has been compared to
a pear with a long neck. There is, of course, considerable difference
between the body and the neck, the first being twice as broad as the
last. Each of these parts is somewhat flattened. In subjects of mature
age, who have been pregnant, the whole of the uterus is about two inches
and a half in length, and more than an inch and a half in breadth at the
broadest part of the body. It is near an inch in thickness. The neck of
the uterus is situated downward, and may be said to be inserted into
the upper extremity of the vagina. It extends down into the vagina the
better part of an inch. In the uterus is a cavity which approaches the
triangular form, and from which a canal passes down through the neck of
the uterus into the vagina. This cavity is so small that its sides are
almost in contact So that the uterus is a thick, firm organ for so small
a one. Comparing the cavity of the uterus to a triangle, we say the
upper side or line of this triangle is transverse with respect to the
body, and the other two lines pass downward and inward, so that they
would form an angle below, did they not before they meet take a turn
more directly downward to form the canal just mentioned. In each of the
upper angles there is an orifice of such size as to admit of a hog's
bristle. These little orifices are the mouths of two tubes, called the
Fallopian tubes, of which more will be said presently. The canal which
passes through the neck of the uterus, connecting the cavity of
this organ with that of the vagina, is about a quarter of an inch in
diameter. It is different from other ducts, for it seems to be a part
of the cavity from which it extends, inasmuch as when the cavity of the
uterus is enlarged in the progress of pregnancy, this canal is gradually
converted into a part of that cavity.

The lower extremity of the neck of the uterus is irregularly convex and
tumid. The orifice of the canal in it is oval, and so situated that it
divides the convex surface of the lower extremity of the neck in two
portions, which are called the lips of the uterus. The anterior is
thicker than the posterior. The orifice itself is called _os tincæ_ or
_os uteri_, or in English, the mouth of the womb. When the parts are in
a weak, relaxed state, the mouth or neck of the uterus is quite low, and
in almost all oases it may be reached by a finger introduced into the
vagina, especially by a second person, who carries the hand behind.

The Ovaries are two bodies of a flattened or oval form, one of which is
situated on each side of the uterus at a little distance from it, and
about as high up as where the uterus becomes narrow to form its neck.
The longest diameter of the ovarium is about an inch. Each ovarium has a
firm coat of membrane. In those who have not been pregnant, it contains
from ten to twenty _vesicles_, which are little round bodies, formed of
a delicate membrane, and filled with a transparent fluid. Some of
these vesicles are situated so near the surface of the ovarium as to
be prominent on its surface. They are of different sizes, the largest
nearly a quarter of a inch in diameter.*

     * The vesicles here mentioned are the so-called Graafian
     vesicles, or ovisacs, each of which contains in its interior
     a little ovum or egg. In the human female the ovum is
     extremely minute, so as only to be visible with the aid of a
     lens. The Graafian vesicles are not limited to a certain
     small number, as was formerly thought, but continue to be
     formed in the ovaries, and to discharge at intervals mature
     ova during the whole of the fruitful period.--G. R.

In those in whom conception has ever taken place, some of these vesicles
are removed, and in their place a cicatrix or scar is formed which
continues through life. However, the number of cicatrices does not
always correspond with the number of conceptions. They often exceed
it, and are sometimes found where conception has not been known to take
place. The Fallopian Tubes are two canals four or five inches in length,
proceeding from the upper angles of the cavity of the uterus, in a
transverse direction in respect to the body. Having so proceeded
for some distance they turn downward toward the ovaries. At their
commencement in the uterus they are very small, but they enlarge as much
as they progress. The large ends, which hang loose, terminate in open
mouths, the margins of which consist of fimbriated processes, and nearly
touch the ovaria.

We are now prepared to treat of conception. Yet, as menstruation is
closely connected with it, and as a knowledge of many things concerning
menstruation may contribute much to the well-being of females, for
whom this work is at least as much designed as for males, I shall first
briefly treat of this subject.

Menstruation.--When females arrive at the age of puberty they begin to
have a discharge once every month, by way of the vagina, of the color of
blood. This discharge is termed the menses. To have it is to menstruate.
The age at which menstruation commences varies with different
individuals, and also in different climates. The warmer the climate
the earlier it commences and ceases. In temperate climates it
generally commences at the age of fourteen or fifteen, and it ceases at
forty-four, or a little later. *

Whenever it commences the girl acquires a more womanly appearance. It
is a secretion of the uterus, or, in other words, the minute vessels
distributed to the inner coat of uterus, select as it were, from the
blood, and pour out in a gradual manner the materials of this fluid. It
has one of the properties, color, of blood, but it does not coagulate,
or separate into different parts like blood, and cannot properly be
called blood.**

     * Dr. Chavasse, on p. 94 of his "Advice to a Wife"
     published by W. H. Smith & Son gives instances of very
     early menstruation and consequent fecundity.--Publishers'

     ** "The menstrual discharge," says Dr. Kirkes, "consists of
     blood effused from the inner surface of the uterus, and
     mixed with mucus from the uterus, vagina, and the external
     parts of the generative apparatus. Being diluted by this
     admixture, the menstrual blood coagulates less perfectly
     than ordinary blood; and the frequent acidity of the vaginal
     mucus tends still further to diminish its coagulability."--
     Handbook of Physiology, 8th ed., p. 727, 1874.--G. R.

When this discharge is in all respects regular, it amounts in most
females to six or eight ounces, and from two to four days' continuance.
During its continuance the women is said to be unwell, or out of order.
Various unpleasant feelings are liable to attend it; but when it is
attended with severe pain, as it not infrequently is, it becomes a
disease, and the woman is not likely to conceive until it is cured.
During the existence of the "turns," or "monthlies," as they are often
called, indigestible food, dancing in warm rooms, sudden exposure
to cold or wet, and mental agitations, should be avoided as much as
possible. The "turns" do not continue during pregnancy, nor nursing,
unless nursing be continued after the "turns" recommence. Some women, it
is true, are subject to a slight hemorrhage that sometimes occurs with
considerable regularity during pregnancy, and which has led them to
suppose they have their turns at such times; but it is not so; the
discharge at such times is real blood.*

     * Consult on the whole of this Dr. Chavasse's book, pp. 91-
     101, where full details are given.--Publishers' note.

The use of the menstrual discharge seems to be to prepare the uterine
system for conception. For females do not become pregnant before
they commence, nor after they cease having turns; nor while they are
suppressed by some disease, by cold or by nursing. Some credible women,
however, have said that they become pregnant while nursing, without
having had any turn since their last lying-in. It is believed that in
these oases they had some discharge, colorless, perhaps, which they did
not notice, but which answered the purposes of the common one. Women
are not nearly so likely to conceive during the week before a monthly
as during the week immediately after.* But although the use of this
secretion seems to be to prepare for conception, it is not to be
inferred that the reproductive instinct ceases at the "turn of life,"
or when the woman ceases to menstruate. On the contrary, it is said that
this passion often increases at this period, and continues in a greater
or less degree to an extreme age.

     * See, however, Dr. Bull's "Hints to Mothers," pp. 31-58,
     and 127-129 (published by Longmans, Green & Co.)--
     Publishers' note.

Conception.--The part performed by the male in the reproduction of the
species consists in exciting the organism of the female, and depositing
the semen in the vagina. Before I inquire what takes place in the
females I propose to speak of the semen.

This fluid, which is secreted by the testicles, may be said to possess
three kinds of properties, physical, chemical, physiological. Its
physical properties are known to every one--it is a thickish, nearly
opaque fluid, of a peculiar odor, saltish taste, etc. As to its chemical
properties, it is found by analysis to consist of 900 parts of water,
60 of animal muscilage, 10 of soda, 30 of phosphate of lime. Its
physiological property is that of exciting the female genital organs in
a peculiar manner.

When the semen is examined by microscope, there can be distinguished a
multitude of small animalculæ, which appear to have a rounded head and a
long tail. These animalculæ move with a certain degree of rapidity. They
appear to avoid the light and to delight in the shade. Leeuwenhoek, if
not the discoverer of the seminal animalculse, was the first who brought
the fact of their existence fully before the public. With respect to
their size, he remarked that ten thousand of them might exist in a space
not larger than a grain of sand. They have a definite figure, and are
obviously different from the animalculse found in any other fluid.*

     * See Dr. Carpenter's "Animal Physiology," p. 558 (published
     by H. G. Bonn); Nichol's "Human Physiology," pp. 253-255
     (published by Trubner & Co.)--Publishers' note.

Leeuwenhoek believed them to be the beginnings of future animals--that
they are of different sexes, upon which depends the future sex of the
foetus. Be this as it may, it appears to be admitted on all hands that
the animalculæ are present in the semen of the various species of
male animals, and that they cannot be detected when either from age or
disease the animals are rendered sterile. "Hence," says Bostock, "we can
scarcely refuse our assent to the position that these animalculæ are
in some way or other instrumental to the production of the foetus."
The secretion of the semen commences at the age of puberty. Before this
period the testicles secrete a viscid, transparent fluid, which has
never been analyzed, but which is doubtless essentially different from
semen. The revolution which the whole economy undergoes at this period,
such as the tone of the voice, and development of hairs, the beard, the
increase of the muscles and bones, etc., is intimately connected with
the testicles and the secretion of this fluid.* "Eunuchs preserve the
same form as in childhood; their voice is effeminate, they have no
beard, their disposition is timid; and finally their physical and moral
character very nearly resembles that of females. Nevertheless, many of
them take delight in venereal intercourse, and give themselves up with
ardor to a connection which must always prove unfruitful."**

     * Nichol's  "Human Physiology,"  pp.    256-257.
     --Publishers' note

     ** Magendic's Physiology.--Author's note.

The part performed by the female in the reproduction of the species is
far more complicated than that performed by the male. It consists, in
the first instance, in providing a substance which, in connection
with the male secretion, is to constitute the foetus; in furnishing a
suitable situation in which the foetus may be developed; in affording
due nourishment for its growth; in bringing it forth, and afterward
furnishing it with food especially adapted to the digestive organs of
the young animal. Some parts of this process are not well understood,
and such variety of hypotheses have been proposed to explain them that
Drelincourt, who lived in the latter part of the seventeenth century, is
said to have collected two hundred and sixty hypotheses of generation.

It ought to be known that women have conceived when the semen was merely
applied to the parts anterior to the hymen, as the internal surface
of the external lips, the nymphæ, etc. This is proved by the fact that
several cases of pregnancy have occurred when the hymen was entire. The
fact need not surprise us, for, agreeable to the theory of absorption,
we have to account for it only to suppose that some of the absorbent
vessels are situated anterior to the hymen--a supposition by no means

There are two peculiarities of the human species respecting conception
which I will notice. First, unlike other animals they are liable, and
for what has been proved to the contrary, equally liable--to conceive
at all seasons of the year. Second, a woman rarely, if ever, conceives
until after having several sexual connections; nor does one connection
in fifty cause conception in the matrimonial state, where the husband
and wife live together uninterruptedly. Public women rarely conceive,
owing probably to a weakened state of the genital system, induced by too
frequent and promiscuous intercourse.

It is universally agreed, that some time after a fruitful connection,
a vesicle (two in case of twins) of one or the other ovary becomes so
enlarged that it bursts forth from the ovary and takes the name of
ovum, which is taken up, or rather received, as it bursts forth, by the
fimbriated extremity of the Fallopian tube, and is then conducted along
the tube into the uterus, to the inner surface of which it attaches

     * Since Dr. Knowlton's work was written, the very important
     fact has been discovered that ova are periodically
     discharged from the ovaries in the human female and other
     animals, not in consequence of fruitful connection having
     taken place, as was formerly believed, but quite
     independently of intercourse with the male. Such a discharge
     of ova occurs in the lower animals at the time of heat or
     rut, and in women during menstruation. At each menstrual
     period, a Graafian vesicle becomes enlarged, bursts, and
     lets the ovum which it contains escape into the Fallopian
     tube, along which it passes to the uterus. "It has long been
     known," says Dr. Kirke, "that in the so-called oviparous
     animals, the separation of ova from the ovary may take place
     independently of impregnation by the male, or even of sexual
     union. And it is now established that a like maturation and
     discharge of ova, independently of coition, occurs in
     Mammalia, the periods at which the matured ova are separated
     from the ovaries and received into the Fallopian tubes being
     indicated in the lower Mammalia by the phenomena of _heat_
     or _rut_; in the human female by the phenomena of
     _menstruation_. Sexual desire manifests itself in the human
     female to a greater degree at these periods, and in the
     female of mammiferous animals at no other time. If the union
     of the sexes takes place, the ovum may be fecundated, and if
     no union occur, it perishes. From what has been said it may
     therefore be concluded that the two states, heat and
     menstruation, are analogous, and that the essential
     accompaniment of both is the maturation and extrusion of
     ova."--"Handbook of Physiology," page 724.--G. R.

Here it becomes developed into a full grown foetus, and is brought forth
about forty-two weeks from the time of conception by a process termed
parturition. But one grand question is, how the semen operates itself,
or any part thereof reaches the ovary, and if so, in what way it is
conveyed to them. It was long the opinion that the semen was ejected
into the uterus in the act of coition, and that it afterward, by some
unknown means, found its way into and along the Fallopian tubes to the
ovary. But there are several facts which weigh heavily against this
opinion, and some that entirely forbid it. In the first place, there are
several well attested instances in which impregnation took place while
the hymen remained entire, where the vagina terminated in the rectum,
where it was so contracted by a cicatrix as not to admit the penis. In
all these cases the semen could not have been lodged anywhere near
the mouth of the uterus, much less ejected into it. Secondly, it has
followed a connection where from some defect in the male organs, as the
urethra terminating some inches behind the end of the penis, and it is
clear that the semen could not have been injected into the uterus, nor
even near its mouth. Third, the neck of the unimpregnated uterus is so
narrow as merely to admit a probe, and is filled with a thick tenacious
fluid, which seemingly could not be forced away by any force which the
male organ possesses of ejecting the semen, even if the mouth of the
male urethra were in opposition with that of the uterus. But fourth, the
mouth of the uterus is by no means fixed. By various causes it is made
to assume various situations, and probably the mouth of the urethra
rarely comes in contact with it.

Fifth. "The tenacity of the male semen is such as renders its passage
through the small aperture in the neck of the uterus impossible, even by
a power of force much superior to that which we may rationally suppose
to reside in the male organs of generation."

Sixth. "Harvey and DeGraaf dissected animals at almost every period
after coition for the express purpose of discovering the semen, but were
never able to detect the smallest vestige of it in the uterus in any one

     * Dewees' Essay on Superfoetation.--Author's note.

Aware of the insurmountable objection to this view of the manner
in which the semen reaches the ovary, it has been supposed by some
physiologists that the semen is absorbed from the vagina into the great
circulating system, where it is mixed, of course, with the blood, and
goes the whole round of the circulation subject to the influence of
those causes which produce great changes in the latter fluid.

To this hypothesis it may be objected, that while there is no direct
evidence in support of it, it is exceedingly unreasonable, inasmuch
as we can scarcely believe that the semen can go the whole round of
circulation, and then find its way to the ovary in such a pure unaltered
state as the experiments of Spallanzani prove it must be in, that it may

A third set of theorists have maintained that an imperceptible
something, which they have called _aura seminalis_, passes from the
semen lodged in the vagina to the ovary, and excites those actions which
are essential to the development of an ovum. Others, again, have told us
that it is all done by sympathy. That neither the semen nor any volatile
part of it finds its way to the ovary; but that the semen excites the
parts with which it is in contact in a peculiar manner, and by the law
of animal economy, termed sympathy, or consent of parts, a peculiar
action commences in the ovary, by which an ovum is developed.

To both these conjectures it may be objected that they have no other
foundation but the supposed necessity of adopting them, to account for
the effect of impregnation; and, further, they "make no provision for
the formation of mules; for the peculiarities of, and likeness to,
parents, and for the propagation of predisposition to disease, from
parent to child; for the production of mulattoes," etc.

A fifth, and to me far more satisfactory view of the subject than any
other, is that advanced by our distinguished countryman, Dr. Dewees, of
Philadelphia. It appears to harmonize with all known facts relating
to the conception and something from analogy may also be drawn in its
favor. It is this, that there is a set of absorbent vessels, leading
directly from the inner surface of the _labia externa_ and the vagina,
to the ovaries, the whole office of which vessels is to absorb the semen
and convey it to the ovaries.* I do not know that these vessels have
yet been fully discovered, but in a note on the sixteenth page of his
"Essays on Various Subjects," the doctor says: "The existence of these
vessels is now rendered almost certain, as Dr. Gartner, of Copenhagen,
has discovered a duct leading from the ovary to the vagina."

     * This view is not held at the present day. The commonly
     received doctrine now is that the seminal fluid enters the
     uterus, whether during the intercourse or after it, and
     passes along the Fallopian tubes to the ovaries; and that
     fecundation takes place at some point of this course, most
     frequently in the tubes, but also at times in the ovary
     itself, or even, perhaps, in the uterus. It is essentially
     necessary for fecundation that the spermatozoa should come
     into actual contact with the ovum. "That the spermatozoa
     make their way toward the ovarium, and fecundate the ovum
     either before it entirely quits the ovisac or very shortly
     afterward," says Dr. Carpenter, "appears to be the general
     rule in regard to the Mammalia; and their power of movement
     must obviously be both vigorous and long continued to enable
     them to traverse so great an extent of mucous membrane,
     especially when it is remembered that they ascend in
     opposition to the direction of the ciliary movement of the
     epithelial cells and to the downward peristaltic action of
     the Fallopian tubes. * * * There can be no doubt that it is
     the contact of the spermatozoa with the ovum, and in the
     changes which occur as the immediate consequence of that
     contact, that the act of fecundation essentially consists."
     --"Principles of Human Physiology," 8th ed., p. 961,1876.--G.R.

Another question of considerable moment relating to generation is from
which parent are the first rudiments of the foetus derived.

The earliest hypothesis with which we are acquainted, and which has
received the support of some of the most eminent of the moderns,
ascribes the original formation of the foetus to the combination of
particles of matter derived from each of the parents. This hypothesis
naturally presents itself to the mind as the obvious method of
explaining the necessity for the cooperation of the two sexes, and the
resemblance in external form, and even in mind and character, which the
offspring often bears to the male parent. "The principal objections,"
says Bostock, "to his hypothesis, independent of the want of any direct
proof of a female seminal fluid, are of two descriptions, those which
depend upon the supposed impossibility of unorganized matter forming
an organized being, and those which are derived from observations and
experiments of Haller and Spallanzani, which they brought forward in
support of their theory of pre-existent germs."

In relation to these objections I remark, first those whose experience
has been with hale females, I suspect, can have no doubt but that the
female organism increases like that of the male, until an emission of
fluid of some kind or other takes place. But whether this secretion may
properly be called semen, whether any part of it unites with the male
semen in forming the rudiments of the foetus, is another question. For
my part I am inclined to the opinion that it does not.* I rather regard
it as the result of exalted excitation, analogous to the increased
secretion of other organs from increased stimulation; and if it may be
for any object or use, as it probably is, it is that of affording
nature a means of relieving herself; or, in other words, of quieting the
venereal passion. If this passion, being once roused, could not by some
means or other be calmed, it would command by far too great a portion of
our thoughts, and with many constitutions the individuals, whether male
or female, could not conduct themselves with due decorum. One fact which
leads me to think that the female secretion in the act of coition is not
essential to impregnation is, that many females have conceived, if their
unbiased testimony may be relied on, when they experienced no pleasure.
In these cases it is more than probable that there was no orgasm, nor
any secretion or emission of fluid on the part of the female.

     * With regard to this secretion in the female, which has
     nothing of a seminal character, Dr. Carpenter observes: "Its
     admixture with the male semen has been supposed to have some
     connection with impregnation; but no proof whatever has been
     given that any such admixture is necessary."--"Human
     Physiology," p. 991.--G. R.

As to the objection of the supposed impossibility of unorganized matter
forming an organized being, I do not believe such a thing takes place,
even if we admit that "the original formation of the foetus is a
combination of particles of matter derived from each of the parents."
What do, or rather what ought we to mean by organized matter? Not,
surely, that it exhibits some obvious physical structure, unlike what is
to be found in inorganic matter, but that it exhibits phenomena, and of
course may be said to possess properties unlike any kind of inorganic
matter. Matter unites with matter in three ways, mechanically,
chemically and organically, and each mode of union gives rise to
properties peculiar to itself. When matter unites organically, the
substance or being so formed exhibits some phenomena essentially
different from what inorganic bodies exhibit. It is on this account that
we ascribe to organic bodies certain properties, which we call
physiological properties, such as contractility, sensibility, life, etc.
When, from any cause, these bodies have undergone such a change that
they no longer exhibit the phenomena peculiar to them, they are said to
have lost these properties, and to be dead. A substance need not possess
all the physiological properties of an animal of the higher orders to
entitle it to the name of an organized or living substance, nor need it
possess the physical property of solidity. The blood, as well as many of
the secretions, does several things, exhibits several phenomena, which
no mechanical or mere chemical combinations of matter do exhibit. We
must therefore ascribe to it certain physiological properties, and
regard it as an organized, a living fluid, as was contended by the
celebrated John Hunter. So with respect to the semen, it certainly
possesses physiological properties, one in particular peculiar to
itself, namely, the property of impregnating the female; and upon no
sound principle can it be regarded in any other light than as an
organized, and of course a living fluid. And if the female secretion or
any part of it unite with the male secretion in the formation of the
rudiments or the foetus in a different manner than any other substance
would, then it certainly has the property of doing so, whether we give
this property a name or not; and a regard to the soundest principles of
physiology compels us to class this property with the physiological or
vital, and of course to regard this secretion as an organized and living
fluid So, then, unorganized matter does not form an organized being,
admitting the hypothesis before us as correct.

That organized being should give rise to other organized beings under
favorable circumstances as to nourishment, warmth, etc., is no more
wonderful than that fire should give rise to fire when air and fuel are
present. To be sure, there are some minute steps in the processes which
are not fully known to us; still, if they ever should be known, we
should unquestionably see that there is a natural cause for every one
of them; and that they are all consonant with certain laws of the animal
economy. We should see no necessity of attempting to explain the process
of generation by bringing to our aid, or rather to the darkening of
the subject, any imaginary principle, as the _visus formaticus_ of

As to the "observations and experiments of Haller and Spallanzani," I
think, with Dr. Bostock, that they weigh but little, if any, against the
theory before us. I shall not be at the labor of bringing them forward
and showing their futility as objections to this theory, for I am far
from insisting on the correctness of it; that is, I do not insist that
any part of the female secretion, during coition, unites with the male
semen in the formation of the rudiments of the foetus.

The second hypothesis or theory, I shall notice, as to the rudiments of
the foetus, is that of Leeuwenhoek, who regarded the seminal animalculse
of the male semen as the proper rudiments of the foetus, and thought
that the office of the female is to afford them a suitable receptacle
where they may be supported and nourished until they are able to exist
by the exercise of their own functions. This is essentially the view of
the subject which I intend to give more particularly presently.

I know of no serious objections to this hypothesis, nothing but the
"extreme improbability," as its opponents say, "that these animalculæ
should be the rudiments of being so totally dissimilar to them." But I
wish to know if there is more difference between a foetus and a seminal
animalcule than there is between a foetus and a few material particles
in some other form than that of such animalcule?

The third hypothesis, or that of pre-existing germs, proceeded upon a
precisely opposite view of the subject to that of Leeuwenhoek, namely,
that the foetus is properly the production of the female; that it exists
previous to the sexual congress, with all its organs, in some parts of
the uterine system; and that it receives no proper addition from the
male, but that the seminal fluid acts merely by exciting the powers of
the foetus, or endowing it with vitality.

It is not known who first proposed this hypothesis; but strange as it
may appear, it has had the support of such names as Bonnet, Haller and
Spallanzani, and met with a favorable reception in the middle of the
last century. Agreeable to this hypothesis, our common mother, Eve,
contained a number of homuncules (little men) one within another, like
a nest of boxes, and all within her ovaries, equal to all the number of
births that have ever been, or ever will be, not to reckon abortions.
Were I to bring forward all the facts and arguments that have been
advanced in support of this idea, it seems to me I should fail to
convince sound minds of its correctness; as to arguments against it,
they surely seem uncalled for. Having now presented several hypotheses
of generation, some as to the manner in which the semen reaches or
influences the ovary, and others as to the rudiments of the foetus, I
shall now bring together those views which, upon the whole, appear to me
the most satisfactory.

I believe, with Dr. Dewees, that a set of absorbent vessels extend from
the innermost surface of the _labia externa_, and from the vagina to the
ovary, the whole office of which is to take up the semen or some part
thereof, and convey it to the ovary. I believe, with Leeuwenhoek, that
the seminal animalculæ are the proper rudiments of the foetus, and are
perhaps of different sexes; that in cases of impregnation one of them
is carried not only to, but into a vesicle of an ovary, which is in a
condition to receive and be duly affected by it.* It is here surrounded
by the albuminous fluid which the vesicle contains. This fluid being
somewhat changed in its qualities by its new-comer, stimulates the
minute vessels of the parts which surround it, and thus causes more of
this fluid to be formed; and while it affords the animalcule material
for its development, it puts the delicate membrane of the ovary which
retains it in its place upon the stretch, and finally bursts forth
surrounded probably by an exceedingly delicate membrane of its own. This
membrane, with the albuminous fluid it contains and the animalcule in
the center of it, constitutes the ovum or egg. It is received by the
fimbriated extremity of the Fallopian tube, which by this time has
grasped the ovary, and is by this tube slowly conveyed into the uterus,
to the inner surface of which it attaches itself, through the medium
of the membrane, which is formed by the uterus itself in the interim
between impregnation and the arriving of the ovum in the way I have just

     * The opinion that the spermatozoa of seminal filaments are
     real animalculæ is now abandoned, but it is held by Dr.
     Carpenter and other authorities that they actually, as here
     stated, penetrate into the interior of the ovum. "The nature
     of impregnation," says Dr. Hermann, "is as yet unknown. In
     all probability it is, above all, essential, in order that
     it should occur, that one or more spermatozoa should
     penetrate the ovum. At any rate, spermatozoa have been found
     within the fecundated eggs of the most diverse species of
     animals."--Elements of "Human Physiology," translated from
     the 5th ed., by Dr. Gamgee, p. 534, 1875.--G. R.

The idea that a seminal animalcule enters an ovum while it remains in
the ovary, was never before advanced to my knowledge; hence I consider
it incumbent upon me to advance some reason for the opinion.

First, it is admitted on all hands that the seminal animalculæ are
essential to impregnation, since "they cannot be detected when either
from age or disease the animal is rendered sterile."

Second, the ovum is impregnated while it remains in the ovary. True,
those who never met with Dr. Dewees' theory, and who, consequently, have
adopted the idea that the semen is ejected into the uterus, as the least
improbable of any with which they were acquainted, have found it very
difficult to dispose of the fact that the ovum is impregnated in the
ovary, and have consequently presumed this is not generally the case.
They admit it is certainly so sometimes, and that it is difficult to
reject the conclusion that it is always so. Dr. Bostock--who, doubtless,
had not met with Dewees' theory at the time he wrote, and who admits
it impossible to conceive how the semen can find its way along the
Fallopian tubes, how it can find its way toward the ovary, farther, at
most, than into the uterus, and, consequently, cannot see how the ovum
can be impregnated into the ovary--says, "Perhaps the most rational
supposition may be that the ovum is transmitted to the uterus in the
unimpregnated state; but there are certain facts which seem almost
incompatible with this idea, especially the cases which not infrequently
occur of perfect foetuses having been found in the tubes, or where they
escaped them into the cavity of the abdomen. Hence it is demonstrated
the ovum is occasionally impregnated in the tubes (why did he not say
ovaria?), and we can scarcely resist the conclusion that it must always
be the case."..."Haller discusses this hypothesis (Bostock's 'most
natural supposition, perhaps') and decides against it."..."The
experiments of Cruikshank, which were very numerous, and appear to have
been made with the requisite degree of skill and correctness, led to
the conclusion that the rudiment of the young animal is perfected in
the ovarium."... "A case is detailed by Dr. Granville, of a foetus which
appears to have been lodged in the body of the ovarium itself, and is
considered by its author as a proof that conception always takes place
in this organ."

The above quotations are from the third volume of Bostock's Physiology.

Now, as the seminal animalculæ are essential to impregnation, and as the
ovum is impregnated in the ovarium, what more probable conjecture can we
form than that an animalcule, as the real proper rudiment of the foetus,
enters the ovum, where, being surrounded with albuminous fluid with
which it is nourished, it gradually becomes developed? It may be noticed
that Leeuwenhoek estimates that ten thousand animalculæ of the human
semen may exist in a space not larger than a grain of sand. There can,
therefore, be no difficulty in admitting that they may find their way
along exceedingly minute vessels from the vagina, not only to, but into
the ovum while situated in the ovarium.

I think no one can be disposed to maintain that the animalculæ merely
reaches the surface of the ovum and thus impregnates it. But possibly
some may contend that its sole office is to stimulate the ovum, and
in this way set going that train of actions which are essential to
impregnation. But there is no evidence in favor of this last idea, and
certainly it does not so well harmonize with the fact that the offspring
generally partakes more or less of the character of its male parent. As
Dr. Dewees says of the doctrine of sympathy, "It makes no provision
for the formation of mules; for the peculiarities of and likeness of
parents; and for the propagation of predisposition to disease from
parent to child; for the production of mulattoes," etc.

Considering it important to do away with the popular and mischievous
error that the semen must enter the uterus to effect impregnation, I
shall, in addition to what has been already advanced, here notice the
experiments of Dr. Haighton. He divided the Fallopian tubes in numerous
instances, and that after the operation a foetus is never produced, but
that _corpora lutea_ were formed. The obvious conclusions from these
facts are that the semen does not traverse the Fallopian tubes to reach
the ovaria; yet, that the ovum becomes impregnated while in the ovarium
and, consequently, that the semen reaches the ovum in some way, except
by the uterus and Fallopian tubes. I may remark, however, that a _corpus
luteum_ is not positive proof that impregnation at some time or other
has taken place; yet they are so rarely found in virgins that they were
regarded as such proofs until the time of Blumenbach, a writer of the
present century.*

     * A _corpus luteum_ is a little yellowish body, formed in
     the ovary by changes that take place in the Graafian vesicle
     after it has burst and discharged its contents. _Corpora
     lutea_ were formerly considered a sure sign of impregnation,
     as they were thought to be developed only or chiefly in
     cases of pregnancy, but it is now known that they occur in
     all cases where a vesicle has been ruptured and an ovum
     discharged; though they attain a larger, size and are longer
     visible in the ovary when pregnancy takes place than when it
     does not.--G. R.

"Harvey and DeGraaf dissected animals at most every period after coition
for the express purpose of discovering the semen, but were never able
to detect the smallest vestige of it in the uterus in any one
instance."--Dewells Essay on Superfoetation. The fact of superfoetation
furnishes a very strong argument against the idea that the semen enters
the uterus in impregnation.

A woman being impregnated while she is already impregnated constitutes
superfoetation. It is established beyond a doubt that such instances
have occurred, yet those who have supposed that it is necessary for the
semen to pass through the mouth of the uterus to produce conception have
urged that superfoetation could not take place, because, say they--and
they say correctly--"so soon as impregnation shall have taken place,
the _os uteri_ closes and becomes impervious to the semen ejected in
subsequent acts of coition."

Dr. Dewees related two cases, evidently cases of superfoetation, that
occurred to his own personal knowledge. The first shows that, agreeable
to the old theory, the semen must have met with other difficulties
than a closed month of the uterus,--it must have passed through several
membranes, as well as the waters surrounding the foetus, to have reached
even the uterine extremity of a Fallopian tube. The second case I will
give in his own words:

"A white woman, servant to Mr. H., of Abington township, Montgomery
county, was delivered about five and twenty years since of twins, one of
which was perfectly white, the other perfectly black. When I resided
in that neighborhood I was in the habit of seeing them almost daily and
also had frequent conversations with Mrs. H. respecting them. She was
present at their birth, so that no possible deception could have been
practiced respecting them. The white girl is delicate, fair-skinned,
light-haired and blue eyed, and is said very much to resemble the
mother. The other has all the characteristic marks of the African; short
of stature, flat, broad-nosed, thick-lipped, woolly-headed, flat-footed,
and projecting heels; she is said to resemble a negro they had on the
farm, but with whom the woman would never acknowledge an intimacy; but
of this there was no doubt, as both he and the white man, with whom her
connection was detected, ran from the neighborhood as soon as it was
known the girl was with child."

I am aware that some have thought that they had actually discovered
semen in the uterus, while Ruysch, an anatomist of considerable
eminence, who flourished at the close of the seventeenth century,
asserted in the most unequivocal manner that he found the semen in its
gross white state in one of the Fallopian tubes of a woman, who died
very soon after, or during the act of coition; but says Dewees, "the
semen, after it has escaped from the penis, quickly loses its albuminous
appearance and becomes as thin and transparent as water. And we are
certain that Ruysch was mistaken. Some alteration in the natural
secretion of the parts was mistaken for semen. This was nowise difficult
for him to do, as he had a particular theory to support, and more
especially as this supposed discovery made so much for it. It is not
merely speculative when we say that some change in the natural secretion
of the parts may be mistaken for semen, for we have the testimony of
Morgani on our side. He tells us he has seen similar appearances in
several instances in virgins and others, who have been subject during
their lives to leucorrhæ, and that it has been mistaken by some for
male semen."

On the whole I would say, that in some instances, where the mouth of the
uterus is uncommonly relaxed, the semen may, as it were, accidentally
have found its way into it; but that is not generally the case, nor is
it essential to impregnation; and further, that whatever semen may at
any time be lodged in the uterus, has nothing to do with conception. It
is not consistent with analogy to suppose that the uterus has vessels
for absorbing the semen and conveying it to the ovaria, considering the
other important functions which we know it performs.

The circumstances under which a female is most likely to conceive are,
first, when she is in health; second, between the ages of twenty-six
and thirty; third, after she has for a season been deprived of
those intercourses she had previously enjoyed; fourth, soon after
menstruating. Respect-ing this latter circumstance, Dr. Dewees remarks,
"Perhaps it is not erring greatly to say, that the woman is liable
to conceive at any part of the menstrual interval. It is generally
supposed, however, that the most favorable instant is immediately after
the catamenia have ceased." Perhaps this is so as a general rule, but
it is certainly liable to exceptions,* and he relates the following case
which occurred to his own notice:

     * This view, which concerns a question of the utmost
     practical importance, is held at the present day by the
     great physiologists. It is believed that although conception
     may occur at other times, it is much more likely to happen
     from intercourse a few days before or after the menstrual
     periods; that is to say, during the time when ova are in
     process of being ripened and detached from the ovaries, and
     before they perish and are conveyed out of the body. "There
     is good reason to believe," says Dr. Carpenter, "that in the
     human female the sexual feeling becomes stronger at the
     period of menstruation; and it is quite certain that there
     is a greater aptitude for conception immediately before and
     after that epoch, than there is at any immediate period.
     This question has been made the subject of special inquiry
     by M. Raciborski, who affirms that the exceptions to the
     rule--that conception occurs immediately before or after or
     during menstruation--are not more than six or seven per
     cent. Indeed, in his latest work on the subject, he gives
     the details of fifteen cases, in which the date of
     conception could be accurately fixed, and the time of the
     last appearance of the catamenia was also known, and in all
     but one of them the correspondence between the periods was
     very close."--"Human Physiology," p. 959. So, too, Dr.
     Kirkes remarks, that "although conception is not confined to
     the periods of menstruation, yet it is more likely to occur
     within a few days after cessation of the menstrual flux than
     at other times."--"Handbook of Physiology," p. 725.

"The husband of a lady who was obliged to absent himself many months
in consequence of the embarrassment of his affairs, returned one night
clandestinely, his visit being only known to his wife, his mother, and
myself. The consequence of this visit was the impregnation of his wife.
The lady was at that time within a week of her menstrual period; but as
this did not fail to take place, she was led to hope that she had not
suffered by the visit of her husband. But her catamenia not appearing at
the next period, gave rise to a fear that she had not escaped! and the
birth of a child nine months and thirteen days from the night of the
clandestine visit proved her apprehensions too well grounded."

I think this case is an exception to a general rule; and, furthermore,
favors an idea which reason and a limited observation, rather than
positive knowledge, has led me to advance, the above, namely, that a
woman is more likely to conceive, other things being the same, after
being deprived for a season of those intercourses she had previously
enjoyed. Had this lady's husband remained constantly at home, she would
probably either not have conceived at all, or have done so a fortnight
sooner than she did.

This case is also remarkable for two other facts: one, "that a woman in
perfect health, and pregnant with a healthy child, may exceed the period
of nine months by several days; the other, that a check is not always
immediately given to the catamenial flow by an ovum being impregnated."
Probably it is not so generally so as many suppose.

The term of utero-gestation, or the length of time from conception to
the commencement of labor, is not precisely determined by physiologists.
"It seems, however," says Dr. Dewees, "from the best calculations that
can be made, that nine calendar months, or forty weeks, approaches the
truth so nearly that we can scarcely need or desire more accuracy, could
it be obtained." Unquestionably, however, some cases exceed this period
by many days, or even weeks, and it has been a question much agitated,
how far this period is ever exceeded. It is a question of some moment
in a legal point of view. Cases are reported where the usual period
was exceeded by five or six months; cases, too, where the circumstances
attending them and the respectability of their reporters are such as to
command our belief. Dr. Dewees has paid much attention to this subject,
and he declares himself entirely convinced "that the commonly fixed
period may be extended from thirteen days to six weeks, under the
influence of certain causes or peculiarities of constitution."*

     * See tables in Dr. Bull's "Hints to Mothers," pp. 130-141.
     --Publishers' note.

These occasional departures from the general rule will, perhaps, be the
more readily admitted when we consider that they are not confined to the
human species. From the experiments of Tessier, it appears that the term
of utero-gestation varies greatly with the cow, sheep, horse, swine and
other animals to which his attention was directed.

Properly connected with the subject of generation are the signs of
pregnancy. Dr. Dewees remarks that "our experience furnishes no certain
mark by which the moment conception takes place is to be distinguished.
All appeals by the women to particular sensations experienced at the
instant should be very guardedly received, for we are certain they
cannot be relied upon; for enjoyment and indifference are alike
fallacious. Nor are certain nervous tremblings, nausea, palpitation of
the heart, the sensation of something flowing from them during coition,
etc, more to be relied upon." Burns, however, says, "Some women feel,
immediately after conception, a peculiar sensation, which apprises them
of their situation, but such instances are not frequent, and generally
the first circumstances which lead a woman to suppose herself pregnant
are the suppression of the menses;" a fickle appetite, some sickness,
perhaps vomiting, especially in the morning; returning qualms, or
languor in the afternoon; she is liable to heartburn, and to disturbed
sleep. The breasts at first often become smaller and sometimes tender;
but about the third month they enlarge, and occasionally become painful.
The nipple is surrounded with an aureole or circle of a brown color, or
at least of a color sensibly deeper or darker than before. She loses her
looks, becomes paler, and the under part of the lower eyelid is often
somewhat of a leaden hue. The features become sharper, and sometimes
the whole body begins to emaciate, while the pulse quickens. In
many instances particular sympathies take place, causing salivation,
toothache, jaundice, etc. In other cases very little disturbance is
produced, and the woman is not certain of her condition until the time
of quickening, which is generally about four months from conception. It
is possible for a woman to mistake the effects of wind for the motion of
the child, especially if they have never borne children, and be anxious
for a family; but the sensation produced by wind in the bowels is not
confined to one spot, but is often felt at a part of the abdomen where
the motion of a child could not possibly be felt. Quite as frequently,
perhaps, do fleshy women think themselves dropsical, and mistake motions
of the child for movements of water within the abdominal cavity. The
motion of the child is not to be confounded with the sensation sometimes
produced by the uterus rising out of the pelvis, which produces the
feeling of fluttering. At the end of the fourth month, the uterus
becomes so large that it is obliged to rise out of the pelvis, and if
this elevation takes place suddenly, the sensation accompanying it is
pretty strong, and the woman at the time feels sick or faint, and in
irritable habits; even a hysterical fit may accompany it After this the
morning sickness and other sympathetic effects of pregnancy generally
abate, and the health improves.

Very soon after impregnation, if blood be drawn and suffered to stand
a short time undisturbed, it will become sizy, of a yellowish or bluish
color, and somewhat of an oily appearance. But we cannot from such
appearances of the blood alone pronounce a woman pregnant, for a
suppression of the menses, accompanied with a febrile state, may
give the blood a like appearance as pregnancy, so also may some local
disease. Of the above-mentioned symptoms, perhaps there is no _one_ on
which we can place more reliance than the increased color of the circle
around the nipple.*

     * See "Advice to a Wife," P. H. Chavasse, pp. 115-124, where
     many details are given.--Publishers' note.

Six or eight weeks after conception, the most sure way of ascertaining
pregnancy is to examine the mouth and neck of the uterus, by way of the
vagina. The uterus will be found lower down than formerly, its mouth
is not directed so much forward as before impregnation, and is more
completely closed, and the neck is felt to be thicker, or increased in
circumference. When raised on the finger it is found to be heavier or
more resisting. Whoever makes this examination must have examined the
same uterus in an unimpregnated state, and retained a tolerably correct
idea of its feeling at that time, or he will be liable to uncertainty,
because the uterus of one woman is naturally different in magnitude from
another, and the uterus is frequently lower down than natural from other
causes than pregnancy.*

     * No one but a doctor, or one trained in physiology could,
     of course, make any such examination with safety and
     utility.--Publishers' note.

It has not been fully ascertained how long it is after a fruitful
connection before an effect is produced upon the ovaria, that is before
any alteration could be discovered, were the female to be dissected.
But Brighton's experiments have established the fact, that with
rabbits, whose term of utero-gestation is but thirty days, no effect
is propagated to the ovaria until nearly fifty hours after coition; we
should judge, therefore, that with the human species it must be several
days, and it is generally estimated by physiologists that the ovum does
not reach the uterus until the expiration of twenty days from the time
of connection.*

     * "The time occupied in the passage of the ovum from the
     ovary to the uterus," says Dr. Kirkes, "occupies probably
     eight or ten days in the human female."--"Handbook of
     Physiology," p. 741.--G. R.

It is probable that in all cases in which any matter is absorbed from
any part of the animal system, some little time is required for such
matter, after its application, to stimulate and arouse the absorbent
vessels to action; hence it is probable that after the semen is lodged
in the vagina, it is many minutes, possibly some hours, before any part
of it is absorbed.


Sterility depends either on imperfect organization, or imperfect action
of the organs of generation. In the former cases, which are rare, the
menses do not generally appear, the breasts are not developed, and the
sexual desire is inconsiderable. There is no remedy in these cases.

The action may be imperfect in several respects. The menses may be
obstructed or sparing, or they may be too profuse or frequent. It
is extremely rare for a woman to conceive who does not menstruate
regularly. Hence where this is the case the first step is to regulate
this periodical discharge. For this purpose the advice of a physician
will generally be required, for these irregularities depend upon such
various causes and require such a variety of treatment that it would
be inconsistent with the plan of this work to give instructions for
remedying them. A state of exhaustion or weakness of the uterine
system, occasioned by too frequent intercourse, is a frequent cause of
sterility. The sterility of prostitutes is attributed to this cause, but
I doubt it being the only one. With females who are apparently healthy,
the most frequent cause is a torpor, rather than weakness of the genital

For the removal of sterility from this cause, I shall give some
instructions, and this I do the more readily because the requisite means
are such as will regulate the menses in many cases, where they do not
appear so early in life, so freely or so frequently as they ought.

In the first place, it will generally be necessary to do something
toward invigorating the system by exercise in the open air, by
nourishing food of easy digestion, by sufficient dress, particularly
flannel, and especially by strict temperance in all things. With this
view, also, some scales which fall from the blacksmith's anvil, or some
steel filings may be put into old cider or wine (cider the best), and
after standing a week or so, as much may be taken two or three times a
day as can be borne without disturbing the stomach.

All the while the bowels are to be kept rather open by taking from one
to three of _Pill rufi_ every night on going to bed. These pills consist
of four parts of aloes, two parts of myrrh, and one of saffron, by

These measures having been regularly pursued until the system be brought
into a vigorous state, medicines which are more particularly calculated
to arouse the genital organs from a state of torpor may be commenced,
and continued for months if necessary. The cheapest, most simple (and
I am not prepared to say it is not the most effectual in many cases) is
cayenne. All the virtues of this article are not generally known even
to physicians. I know it does not have the effect upon the coats of the
stomach that many have conjectured. It may be taken in the quantity of
from one to two rising teaspoonsful, or even more, everyday up on food
or on any liquid vehicle. Another medicine of much efficacy is Dewees'
Volatile Tincture of Guaiac. It is generally kept by apothecaries, and
is prepared as follows:

Take of Gum Guaicum, in powder, eight ounces; carbonate of Potash, or
of Soda, or (what will answer) Saleratus, three drachms; Allspice, in
powder, two ounces; any common spirits of good strength, two pounds,
or what is about the same two pints and a gill. Put all into a bottle,
which may be shaken now and then, and use of it may be commenced in
a few days. To every gill of this, at least a large teaspoon-ful of
Spirits of Ammonia is to be added. A teaspoonful is to be taken for
a dose, three times a day, in a glass of milk, cider or wine. It is
usually given before eating; but if it should chance to offend the
stomach when taken before breakfast, it may in this case be taken an
hour after.

Dr. Dewees found this tincture, taken perhaps for months, the most
effectual remedy for painful menstruation, which is an obstinate
complaint. If there be frequent strong pulse, heat, thirst, florid
countenance, etc., it is not to be taken until these symptoms be removed
by low diet, a few doses of salts, and bleeding, if required.

A third medicine for arousing the genital organs, is tincture of Spanish
Flies. But I doubt its being equal, in sterility, to the above mentioned
medicines, though it may exceed them in some cases, and may be tried if
these fail. A drachm of them may be put to two gills of spirits. Dose,
25 drops, in water, three times a day, increasing each one by two or
three drops, until some degree of stranguary occurs, then omit until
this pass off, as it will in a day or two. Should the stranguary be
severe, drink freely of milk and water, slippery elm, or flaxseed tea.

In many cases of sterility, where the general health is considerably
in fault, and especially when the digestive organs are torpid, I should
have much faith in a Thomsonian course. It is calculated to arouse the
capillary vessels throughout the whole system, and thus to open the
secretions, to remove obstructions, and free the blood of those effete
and phlegmy materials which nature requires to be thrown off. The views
of the Thomsonian as to heat and cold appear to me unphilosophical. But
this has nothing to do with the efficiency of their measures.

In relation to sterility, I would here bring to mind, what has before
been stated, that a woman is most likely to conceive immediately after
a menstrual turn. And now, also, let me suggest the idea that Nature's
delicate beginnings may be frustrated by the same means that put her a
going. This idea is certainly important when the woman is known to have
miscarried a number of times. Sterility is sometimes to be attributed
to the male, though he apparently be in perfect health. It would be an
interesting fact to ascertain if there be no seminal animalculæ in these
cases; and whether medicines of any kind are available.

It has been ascertained that a male and female may be sterile in
relation to each other, though neither of them be so with others.

The foregoing measures for sterility are also suitable in cases of
impotency. This term, I believe, is generally con-lined to, and defined
as a want of desire or ability, or both on the part of the male; but I
see no good reason why it should not comprehend the case in which there
is neither desire nor pleasure with the female. Such females, it is
true, may be fruitful; but so, on the other hand, the semen may not have
lost its fecundating property. Impotency, at a young or middle age,
and in some situations in life especially, is certainly a serious
misfortune, to say the least of it. The whole evil by no means consists,
in every case, in the loss of a source of pleasure. All young people
ought to be apprised of the causes of it--causes which, in many
instances, greatly lessen one's ability of giving and receiving that
pleasure which is the root of domestic happiness. I shall allude to
one cause, that of premature, and especially solitary gratification, in
another place. Intemperance in the use of spirits is another powerful
cause. Even a moderate use of spirits, and also of tobacco, in any form,
have some effect It is a law of animal economy, that no one part of the
system can be stimulated or excited, without an expense of vitality, as
it is termed. The part which is stimulated draws the energy from other
parts. And hence it is, that close and deep study, as well as all
the mental passions when excessive, impair the venereal appetite.
All excesses, all diseases and modes of life which impair the general
health, impair this appetite, but some things more directly and
powerfully than others.

As to the remedies for impotency, they are much the same as for
sterility. It is of the first importance that the mind be relieved
from all care and anxiety. The general health is to be improved by
temperance, proper exercise in the open air, cheerful company, change
of scenery, or some occupation to divert the mind without requiring much
exercise of it; nourishing food of easy digestion; flannel worn next to
the skin. The cold bath may be tried, and if it be followed by agreeable
feelings, it will do good. The bowels may be gently stimulated by
the pills before mentioned; and the preparation of iron also, already
mentioned, should be taken.

To stimulate the genital organs more directly, cayenne, Dewees' tincture
of guaiac, or tincture of flies, may be taken. I have given directions
for making and taking the tincture of flies, chiefly because it is
esteemed one of the best remedies for impotency caused by or connected
with nocturnal emissions, to which I have before alluded.

It is in cases where little or no pleasure, nor erection, attend these
emissions--cases brought on by debauchery, or in elderly persons--that
I would recommend tincture of flies, and the other measures above
mentioned. In some bad cases, enormous doses of this tincture are
required, say two or three hundred drops. Yet the best rule for taking
it is that already given, namely, begin with small doses, and gradually
increase until some stranguary be felt, or some benefit be received. In
this affection, as well as in all cases of impaired virility, the means
I have mentioned are to be pursued for a long time, unless relief be
obtained. These have cured after having been taken for a year or more
without the result. In all cases of impotency not evidently depending
upon disease of some part besides the genital organs, I should have much
confidence in blisters applied to the lower part of the spine.

Occasional nocturnal emissions, accompanied with erection and pleasure,
are by no means to be considered a disease, though they have given
many a one such uneasiness. Even if they be frequent, and the system
considerably debilitated, if not caused by debauch, and the person be
young, marriage is the proper measure.

There have been several means proposed and practiced for checking
conception. I shall briefly notice them, though a knowledge of the best
is what most concerns us. That of withdrawal immediately before emission
is certainly effectual, if practiced with sufficient care. But if (as
I believe) Dr. Dewees' theory of conception be correct, and as
Spallanzani's experiments show that only a trifle of semen, even largely
diluted with water, may impregnate by being injected into the vagina, it
is clear that nothing short of entire withdrawal is to be depended
upon. But the old notion that the semen must enter the uterus to
cause conception, has led many to believe that a partial withdrawal
is sufficient, and it is on this account that this error has proved
mischievous, as all important errors generally do. It is said by those
who speak from experience that the practice of withdrawal has an effect
upon the health similar to intemperance in eating. As the subsequent
exhaustion is probably mainly owing to the shock the nervous system
sustains in the act of coition, this opinion may be correct. It is
further said that this practice serves to keep alive those fine feelings
with which married people first come together. Still, I leave it for
every one to decide for himself whether this check be so far from
satisfactory as not to render some other very desirable.

As to the baudruche, which consists in a covering used by the male, made
of very delicate skin, it is by no means calculated to come into general
use. It has been used to secure immunity from syphilitic affections.

Another check which the old idea of conception has led some to recommend
with considerable confidence, consists in introducing into the vagina,
previous to connection, a very delicate piece of sponge, moistened with
water, to be immediately afterward withdrawn by means of a very narrow
ribbon attached to it, But, as our views would lead us to expect, this
check has not proved a sure preventive. As there are many little ridges
or folds in the vagina, we cannot suppose the withdrawal of the sponge
would dislodge all the semen in every instance. If, however, it were
well moistened with some liquid which acted chemically upon the semen,
it would be pretty likely to destroy the fecundating property of what
might remain. But if this check were ever so sure, it would, in my
opinion, fall short of being equal, all things considered, to the one
I am about to mention--one which not only dislodges the semen pretty
effectually, but at the same time destroys the fecundating property of
the whole of it.

It consists in syringing the vagina immediately after connection with a
solution of sulphate of zinc, of alum, pearl-ash, or any salt that acts
chemically on the semen, and at the same time produces no unfavorable
effect on the female.

In all probability a vegetable astringent would answer--as an infusion
of white oak bark, of red rose leaves, of nut-galls, and the like. A
lump of either of the above-mentioned salts, of the size of a chestnut,
may be dissolved in a pint of water, making the solution weaker or
stronger, as it may be borne without any irritation of the parts to
which it is applied. These solutions will not lose their virtues by age.
A female syringe, which will be required in the use of the check, may be
had at the shop of an apothecary for a shilling or less. If preferred,
the semen may be dislodged as far as it can be, by syringing with simple
water, after which some of the solution is to be injected, to destroy
the fecundating property of what may remain lodged between the ridges of
the vagina, etc.

I know the use of this check requires the woman to leave her bed for
a few moments, but this is its only objection; and it would be
unreasonable to suppose that any check can ever be devised entirely free
of objections. In its favor it may be said, it costs nearly nothing; it
is sure; it requires no sacrifice of pleasure; it is in the hand of
the female; it is to be used after, instead of before the connection,
a weighty consideration in its favor, as a moment's reflection
will convince any one; and last, but not least, it is conducive to
cleanliness, and preserves the parts from relaxation and disease. The
vagina may be very much contracted by a persevering use of astringent
injections, and they are constantly used for this purpose in cases of
_procidentia uteri_, or a sinking down of the womb; subject as women are
to _fluor albus_, and other diseases of the genital organs, it is rather
a matter of wonder that they are not more so, considering the prevailing
practices. Those who have used this check (and some have used it, to my
certain knowledge with entire success for nine or ten years, and under
such circumstances as leave no room to doubt its efficacy) affirm that
they would be at the trouble of using injections merely for the purposes
of health and cleanliness.

By actual experiment it has been rendered highly probable that pregnancy
may, in many instances, be prevented by injections of simple water,
applied with a tolerable degree of care. But simple water has failed,
and its occasional failure is what we should expect, considering the
anatomy of the parts, and the results of Spallanzani's experiments
heretofore alluded to.

This much did I say respecting this check in the first edition of this
work. That is what I call the chemical check. The idea of destroying the
fecundating property of the semen was original, if it did not originate
with me. My attention was drawn to the subject by the perusal of "Moral
Physiology." Such was my confidence in the chemical idea that I sat down
and wrote this work in July, 1831. But the reflection that I did not
know that this check would never fail, and that if it should, I might
do someone an injury in recommending it, caused the manuscript to lie on
hand until the following December. Some time in November I fell in with
an old acquaintance, who agreeably surprised me by stating that to his
personal knowledge this last check had been used as above stated. I have
since conversed with a gentleman with whom I was acquainted, who stated
that, being in Baltimore some few years ago, he was there informed of
this check by those who have no doubt of its efficacy. From what has
as yet fell under my observation, I am not warranted in drawing any
conclusion. I can only say that I have never known it to fail. Such are
my views on the whole subject, that it would require many instances of
its reputed failure to satisfy me that such failures were not owing to
an insufficient use of it. I even believe that quite cold water alone,
if thoroughly used, would be sufficient. In Spallanzani's experiments
warm water was unquestionably used. As the seminal animalcule are
essential to impregnation, all we have to do is to change the condition
of, or, if you will, to kill them; and as they are so exceedingly small
and delicate, this is doubtless easily done, and hence cold water may be

What has now been advanced in this work will enable the reader to judge
for himself or herself of the efficacy of the chemical or syringe check,
and time will probably determine whether I am correct in this matter. I
do know that those married females who have much desire to escape will
not stand for the little trouble of using this check, especially when
they consider that on the score of cleanliness and health alone it is
worth the trouble.

A great part of the time no check is necessary, and women of experience
and observation, with the information conveyed by this work, will be
able to judge pretty correctly when it is and when it is not. They may
rest assured that none of the salts mentioned will have any deleterious
effect. The sulphate of zinc is commonly known by the name of white
vitriol. This, as well as alum, have been extensively used for
leucorrhæ. Acetate of lead would doubtless be effectual--indeed, it
has proven to be so; but I do not recommend it, because I conceive it
possible that a long continued use of it might impair the instinct.

I hope that no failures will be charged of efficacy of this check which
ought to be attributed to negligence or insufficient use of it. I will
therefore recommend at least two applications of the syringe, the sooner
the surer, yet it is my opinion that five minutes' delay would not prove
mischievous--perhaps not ten.


I scarcely need observe that by this instinct is meant the desire for
sexual intercourse. Blumenbach speaks of this instinct as "superior
to all others in universality and violence." Perhaps hunger is an
exception. But surely no instinct commands a greater proportion of our
thoughts or has a greater influence upon happiness for better or for
worse. "Controlled by reason and chastened by good feelings, it gives
to social intercourse much of its charm and zest, but directed
by selfishness or governed by force, it is prolific of misery and
degradation. In itself it appears to be the most social and least
selfish of all instincts. It fits us to give even while we receive
pleasure, and among cultivated beings the former power is even more
highly valued than the latter. Not one of our instincts perhaps affords
larger scope for the exercise of disinterestedness, or fitter play for
the best moral feelings of our race. Not one gives birth to relations
more gentle, more humanizing and endearing; not one lies more
immediately at the root of the kindliest charities and most generous
impulses that honor and bless human nature. It is a much more noble,
because less purely selfish, instinct than hunger or thirst. It is
an instinct that entwines itself around the warmest feelings and best
affections of the heart"--_Moral Physiology_. But too frequently its
strength, together with a want of moral culture, is such that it is not
"controlled by reason;" and consequently, from time immemorial, it
has been gratified, either in a mischievous manner, or to such an
intemperate degree, or under such improper circumstances, as to give
rise to an incalculable amount of human misery. For this reason it has,
by some, been regarded as a low, degrading and "carnal" passion, with
which family life must be ever at war. But in the instinct itself the
philosopher sees nothing deserving of degrading epithets. He sees not
that nature should war against herself. He believes that in savage
life it _is_, and in wisely organized society of duly enlightened and
civilized beings it should be the source of ten-fold more happiness than

A part of the evil consequences to which this instinct is daily giving
rise under the present state of things, it belongs more particularly to
the moralist to point out; whilst of others it falls within the province
of the physician to treat. But let me first remark that physicians have
hitherto fallen far short of giving those instructions concerning this
instinct which its importance demands. In books, pamphlets, journals,
etc., they have laid much before the public respecting eating, drinking,
bathing, lacing, air, exercise, etc., but have passed by the still more
important subject now before us, giving only here and there spine faint
allusion to it This, it is true, the customs, not to say pruderies,
of the age have compelled them to do, in publications designed for the
public eye, yet, in some small work, indicated by its title to be for
private perusal, they might, with the utmost propriety, have embodied
much highly useful instruction in relation to this instinct.

This instinct is liable to be gratified at improper times, to an
intemperate degree, and in a mischievous manner.

True philosophy dictates that this and all other appetites be so
gratified as will most conduce to human happiness--not merely the
happiness attending the gratification of one of the senses, but all the
senses--not merely sensual happiness, but intellectual--not merely the
happiness of the individual, but of the human family.

First.--Of the times at which this instinct ought not to be gratified.
With females it ought not to be gratified until they are seventeen or
eighteen years of age, and with males not until they are a year or two
older. The reason is, if they refrain until these ages, the passion will
hold out the longer, and they will be able to derive much more pleasure
from it in after life, than if earlier gratified, especially to any
great extent A due regard to health also enjoins with most persons some
restraint on this instinct--indeed, at all times, but especially for
a few years after the above-mentioned ages. It ought not to be rashly
gratified at first. Begin temperately, and as the system becomes
more mature, and habituated to the effects naturally produced by the
gratification of this instinct, it will bear more without injury. Many
young married people, ignorant of the consequences, have debilitated
the whole system--the genital system in particular; have impaired their
mental energies; have induced consumptive and other diseases; have
rendered themselves irritable, unsocial, melancholy and finally much
impaired, perhaps destroyed their affection for each other by an undue
gratification of the reproductive instinct. In almost all diseases,
if gratified at all, it should be very temperately. It ought not to be
gratified during menstruation, as it might prove productive to the man
of symptoms similar to those of syphilis, but more probably to the woman
of a weakening disease called _fluor albus_. In case of pregnancy a
temperate gratification for the first two or three months may be of no
injury to the woman or the coming offspring. But it ought to be known
that the growth of the foetus in utero may be impaired, and the seeds
of future bodily infirmity and mental imbecility of the offspring may be
sown by much indulgence during utero-gestation or pregnancy, especially
when the woman experiences much pleasure in such indulgences.

Having already glanced at some of the bad effects of an undue
gratification of this instinct, I have but little more to offer
under the head of Intemperate Degree. It will be borne in mind that
intemperance in this thing is not to be decided by numbers, but that it
depends on circumstances; and what would be temperance in one, may be
intemperance in another. And with respect to an individual, too, what
he might enjoy with impunity, were he a laboring man, or a man whose
business requires but little mental exercise, would, were he a student,
unfit him for the successful prosecution of his studies. Intemperance
in the gratification of this instinct has a tendency to lead to
intemperance in the use of ardent spirits. The languor, depression of
spirits, in some instances faintness and want of appetite, induced by
intemperate gratification, call loudly for some stimulus, and give a
relish to spirits. Thus the individual is led to drink. This inflames
the blood, the passions, and leads to further indulgence. This again
calls for more spirits; and thus two vicious habits are commenced,
which mutually increase each other. Strange as it may appear to
those unacquainted with the animal economy, an intemperate indulgence
sometimes gives rise to the same disease--so far as the name makes it
so--that is frequently cured by a temperate indulgence; viz, nocturnal

Every young married woman ought to know that the male system is
exhausted in a far greater degree than the female by gratification.
It seems, indeed, to have but little effect, comparatively, upon some
females. But with respect to the male, it has been estimated by Tissot
that the loss of one ounce of semen is equal in its effects upon the
system of forty ounces of blood. As it respects the immediate effects,
this estimation, generally speaking, may not be too great. But a man
living on a full meat diet might, doubtless, part with fifty ounces of
semen in the course of a year, with far less detriment to the system
than with 2,000 ounces of blood. It is a fact, that mode of living,
independent of occupation, makes a great difference with respect to what
the system will bear. A full meat diet, turtles, oysters, eggs, spirits,
wine, etc., certainly promote the secretion of semen, and enable the
system to bear its emission. But a cool vegetable and milk diet calms
all the passions, the venereal especially. Most men adopting such a diet
as this will suffer no inconvenience in extending the intervals of their
gratification to three or four weeks; on the contrary, they will enjoy
clear intellect, and a fine flow of spirits. This is the diet for men of
literary pursuits, especially the unmarried.

As to the mischievous manner, it consists in the unnatural habit of
onanism, or solitary gratification; it is an antisocial and demoralizing
habit, which, while it proves no quietus to the mind, impairs the bodily
powers as well as mental, and not infrequently leads to insanity.

While the gratification of the reproductive instinct in such manner
as mentioned leads to bad consequences, a temperate and natural
gratification, under proper circumstances, is attended with good,
besides the mere attendant pleasure, which alone is enough to recommend
such gratification. I admit that human beings might be so constituted
that if they had no reproductive instinct to gratify, they might enjoy
health; but being constituted as they are, this instinct cannot be
mortified with impunity. It is a fact universally admitted, that
unmarried females do not enjoy so much good health and attain to so
great an age as the married; notwithstanding that the latter are
subject to the diseases and pains incident to child-bearing. A temperate
gratification promotes the secretions, and the appetite for food; calms
the restless passions; induces pleasant sleep; awakens social feeling;
and adds a zest to life which makes one conscious that life is worth


     [I here connect with this work, by way of Appendix, the
     following extract from an article which appeared in the
     Boston Investigator, a paper which, _mirabile dictu_, is so
     "crazy" as to be open to the investigation of all subjects
     which mightily concern mankind.]

The only seeming objection of much weight that can be brought against
diffusing a knowledge of checks is, that it will serve to increase
illegal connections. Now, this is exactly the contrary effect of that
which those who have diffused such knowledge most confidently believe
will arise from it. To diminish such connections is indeed one of the
grand objects of this publication,--an object which laws and prisons
cannot, or, at least, do not, accomplish. Why is there so much
prostitution in the land? The true answer to the question is not, and
never will be, Because the people have become acquainted with certain
facts in physiology; it is because there are so many unmarried men and
women,--men of dissipation and profligacy, owing to their not having
married in their younger days and settled down in life. But why are
there so many unmarried people in the country? Not because young hearts
when they arrive at the age of maturity do not desire to marry; but
because prudential considerations interfere. The young man thinks: I
cannot marry yet; I cannot support a family; I must make money first,
and think of a matrimonial settlement afterward. And so it is, that
through fear of having a family, before they have made a little headway
in the world, and of being thereby compelled to "tug at the oar of
incessant labor throughout their lives," thousands of young men do not
marry, but go abroad into the world and form vicious acquaintances
and practices. The truth, then, is this,--there is so much illegal
connection in the land, because the people had not, twenty years ago,
that very information which, it would seem, some, doubtless through want
of due reflection, are apprehensive will increase this evil. I might
quote pages to the point from "Every Woman's Book," but I fear my
communication would be too lengthy. I content myself with a few lines.
"But when it has become the custom here as elsewhere to limit the number
of children, so that none need have more than they wish, no man will
fear to take a wife; all will marry while young; debauchery will
diminish; while good morals and religious duties will be promoted."

It has been asked if a general knowledge of checks would not diminish
the general increase of population? I think that such would not be
the result in this country until such result would be desirable. In
my opinion the effect would be a good many more families (and, on the
whole, as many births), but not so many overgrown and poverty-stricken
ones. It has been said, It is better to let Nature take her course. Now,
in the broadest sense of the word "Nature," I say so too. In this sense
there is nothing unnatural in the universe. But if we limit the sense
of the word Nature so as not to include what we mean by art, then is
civilized life one continued warfare against Nature. It is by art that
we subdue the forest; by art we contend against the elements; by art we
combat the natural tendency of disease, etc.

As to the outrageous slander which here and there one has been heard
to utter against the fair sex, in saying that fear of conception is
the foundation of their chastity, it must be the sentiment of a "carnal
heart," which has been peculiarly unfortunate in its acquaintances. "To
the pure, all things are pure." Chastity, as well as its opposite, is
in a great degree constitutional; and ought, in a like degree, to be
regarded as a physical property, if I may so say, rather than a moral
quality. Where the constitution is favorable a very indifferent degree
of moral training is sufficient to secure the virgin without the
influence of the above-mentioned fear; but where it is the reverse you
may coop up the individual in the narrow dark cage of ignorance and
fear, as you will, but still you must watch. An eminent moralist has
said, "That chastity which will not bear the light [of physiology] is
scarcely worth preserving." But verily, I believe there is very little
such in the market. What there be is naturally short-lived, and, after
its demise, the unhappily constituted individual stands in great need of
this light to save her from ignominy. What might it not have prevented
in the Fall River affair? And if one of two things must happen--either
the destruction of fecundity or the destruction of life--which of the
two is the greater evil? In these cases alone this light is calculated
to do sufficient good to counterbalance all the evil that would arise
from it; so that we should have its important advantages to the married
in a political, a domestic and a medical point of view, as so much
clear gain. This, of course, is my opinion; but since I have probably
reflected more upon the subject than all the persons concerned in my
imprisonment put together, until it can be shown that I have not as
clear a head and as pure a heart as any of them, I think it entitled to
some weight.

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