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Title: Love and Marriage
Author: Key, Ellen
Language: English
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  Love and Marriage


  By

  Ellen Key

  Author of “The Century of the Child,” etc.


  Translated from the Swedish by

  Arthur G. Chater


  With a Critical and Biographical Introduction by

  Havelock Ellis

  G. P. Putnam’s Sons
  New York and London

  The Knickerbocker Press

  COPYRIGHT, 1911

  BY

  G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS

  Ninth Printing

  The Knickerbocker Press. New York



PUBLISHERS’ NOTE


In this treatise, the veteran Swedish reformer attacks problems the
most vital to the welfare of the human race, problems which have
throughout the centuries engaged the attention of leaders of thought.

The writers who have given attention to the complex subject of the
relations of the sexes, of the obligations of the state in the control
of these relations, and of the organisation of the family as the
foundation of society, include such authors as Plato, Goethe, Richter,
Rousseau, Mary Wollstonecraft, Fourier, Comte, Mrs. Browning, Mill,
Ibsen, Westermarck, Charlotte Gilman, Havelock Ellis, and many others.

These problems are complex, and the difficulties presented by them
most serious. No writer has ever yet presented solutions that could
be accepted as finally satisfactory. Ellen Key writes with a profound
antagonism to the philistinism and hypocrisy which have characterised
much of the consideration given by the community to the subjects. She
points out (as has, of course, been emphasised by many earlier writers)
that the ignoring of an evil does not dispose of it, and that so far
from preserving society from its influence, the burying of an evil
merely tends to increase its corrupting and demoralising results.

Whether or not the reader be prepared to accept the conclusions and
recommendations of the Swedish thinker, he must recognise that these
conclusions represent the result of painstaking and scholarly thought
and investigation. Daring and iconoclastic as they may be, the views of
Ellen Key are presented with a calmness and philosophy of method that
is absolutely free from any trace of sensationalism. The book, which is
being distributed in half a dozen languages to a world’s public, must
be accepted as a most important contribution to philosophic thought.

The introduction by Havelock Ellis, himself an authority on social
problems, will help to make clear its purpose and character.


NEW YORK, January, 1911.



CONTENTS


                                                        PAGE

  INTRODUCTION BY HAVELOCK ELLIS                         vii

  CHAPTER

      I. THE COURSE OF DEVELOPMENT OF SEXUAL MORALITY      1

     II. THE EVOLUTION OF LOVE                            57

    III. LOVE’S FREEDOM                                  107

     IV. LOVE’S SELECTION                                140

      V. THE RIGHT OF MOTHERHOOD                         169

     VI. EXEMPTION FROM MOTHERHOOD                       200

    VII. COLLECTIVE MOTHERLINESS                         246

   VIII. FREE DIVORCE                                    287

     IX. A NEW MARRIAGE LAW                              359



INTRODUCTION


Ellen Key, whose most important book is here for the first time
presented in English, is no stranger in the English-speaking world.
Her _Century of the Child_ has already found many appreciative readers
in America as well as in England. Ellen Key is descended from a Scotch
Highlander, Colonel M’Key (probably of the famous MacKay clan) who
fought under Gustavus Adolphus, and she attaches no little significance
to this ancestry. She has always interested herself in English matters,
and is well acquainted with the life and literature of Great Britain;
but she belongs first and foremost to Scandinavia.

She was born in 1849 in the Swedish province of Smaland, on a country
estate of her father. He had played a distinguished part in the Swedish
parliament as an avowed radical, but his wife was a representative of
an old and noble family. Ellen, their eldest child, was marked from an
early age by her love of nature and of natural things. This devotion
to nature may be considered hereditary, for her great-grandfather was
an ardent disciple of Rousseau, and a special admirer of Rousseau’s
famous treatise on Education. He gave to his son the name of Émile,
which was handed down to Ellen Key’s father. It was perhaps owing
to the Rousseau tradition that the young girl was initiated from
childhood in swimming, rowing, riding, and other exercises then usually
reserved for boys. At the same time, she loved music and devoured
books including Scott’s novels and Shakespeare’s plays. An early
enthusiasm was for Goethe’s _Hermann and Dorothea_; it may be said,
indeed, that the ideal of natural, beautiful, and harmonious living
for which that book stands has never left Ellen Key. She was educated
for the most part at home by German, French, and Swedish teachers,
but it may easily be believed that a girl of so much individuality of
character, so impetuous and so independent, proved a difficult child
to manage and was often misunderstood. One may divine as much from
the sympathetic attitude towards children and the reverence for their
healthy instincts, which are revealed in _The Century of the Child_.
Fortunately young Ellen had a wise and discerning mother, to whom she
owed much; with a fine intuition, this mother overlooked her daughter’s
indifference to domestic vocations and left her free to follow her own
instincts, at the same time exercising a judicious influence over her
development. While still a young girl, the future author, inspired by
Björnson and other Scandinavian writers, conceived the idea of devoting
herself to the study of the condition of the people and wrote several
novels on peasant life. A remark of her mother’s—that her daughter
surely could not be meant to write novels, because the main questions
for her were “the questions of her own soul”—opened her eyes to the
truth that fiction could not be her vocation. But she was very far from
knowing what her life’s work was to be, and her dreams were of love and
motherhood, not of a career.

With Björnson she was throughout in friendly relationship. He had
recognised her fine abilities before she even began to write, and
she on her side was full of admiration for his genius, strength, and
goodness. The other world-famous writer of Scandinavia Ellen Key
learned to know through his work at the age of eighteen, when her
mother presented to her _Love’s Comedy_, _Brand_, and _Peer Gynt_;
this also was an influential event in her life. Among writers to whom
she was later attracted were Elizabeth B. Browning, George Eliot, John
Stuart Mill, Herbert Spencer, and John Ruskin.

At the age of twenty-three, Ellen Key began those constant excursions
to all the great centres of Europe, which may be said never since to
have ceased, at first in the company of her father, whose secretary,
confidant, and almost co-worker she had become, and she was thus
gradually led to writing for journals. A love of art seems to have been
a primary inspiration of these early journeys, for at this time Ellen
Key was fascinated by the art of painting as she has always been by
the greater art of living, and her wide knowledge of pictures has often
happily illuminated her later writings. After 1880, however, when her
father, as the result of an agricultural crisis, lost his property,
she was compelled, at the age of thirty, to choose a career and for a
time became a teacher in a girls’ school. She had always been attracted
to teaching and many years earlier, at the instigation of Björnson,
had studied the school system of Denmark. At a later period she gave
courses of lectures in literature, history, and æsthetics. For twenty
years she occupied the Chair of History of Civilisation in Sweden at
the Popular University of Stockholm.

The early years of her career as a teacher seem to have been a period
in Ellen Key’s life of much struggle, hardship, and mental depression
due to personal sorrows. Amongst these were the deaths in rapid
succession of several distinguished women with whom she was closely
associated, Sophie Kowalevsky, Anna Charlotte Leffler, and (by suicide)
Ernst Ahlgren. She had not yet reached full development nor found her
true place in the world. Although her abilities, when she was still a
girl of twenty, had been discerned by a distinguished Swedish woman’s
rights advocate, Sophie Adlersparre, who encouraged her to write
for her journal, she has always been shy and diffident, with none
of the self-confident qualities, which an outsider might be tempted
to attribute to her, of an imposing Corinne. She published no book
till she had reached middle-age—most of her best books belong to the
present century—and though she had so far overcome her timidity as
to discuss literary and æsthetic questions before a public audience,
she had yet scarcely touched openly on those dangerous and difficult
questions which arouse fierce antagonisms. It required some assault
on her most cherished convictions to arouse her latent courage. This
occurred when an old Swedish law against heresy was revived in order to
send to prison some young men who had freely argued the consequences,
as they conceived them, of the Darwinian doctrine in religion and
sexual morals. There is nothing so sacred to Ellen Key as the right to
personal opinion and personal development; the sight of any injustice
or oppression has always moved her profoundly, and on this occasion she
sprang forward into the fray like a lioness in defence of her cubs. She
is, in the opinion of Georg Brandes, “a born orator,” and she publicly
brought her eloquence to the service of the cause she had at heart.
Her discussion of the question was marked by moderation, skill, and
learning, but her attitude on this occasion served to define publicly
her real position. Thenceforward the conventionally respectable
elements of Swedish society felt justified, according to the usual
rule, in dealing out reckless and random abuse to the daring pioneer.
She, on her side, retained her serenity, remaining a true woman, with
much of the mother in her and something of the child, but before
long her literary activities developed along her own native lines,
and in full maturity she frankly approached the essential questions
of life and the soul. A considerable series of volumes began rapidly
to appear, often rather informal in method and personal in style, but
freely following the author’s thought and feeling, full, not only of
ardent enthusiasm but of fine intuition and mellow wisdom. In 1903
was begun the publication of her most extensive work, _Lifslinjer_
(Lines of Life), of which work the first two volumes constitute the
book here presented to the English reader. A few years later appeared
_The Century of the Child_ and in 1909 _The Woman’s Movement_, by many
regarded as the best statement which has been made of that movement
in its widest bearings. Ellen Key has also published a long series of
essays on literary personalities—C. J. L. Almquist, the Brownings,
Anna Charlotte Leffler, Ernst Ahlgren, etc.—who have appealed to her
as illustrating some aspect of her own ideals. The latest of these is a
lengthy study of Rahel Varnhagen.[1]

Ellen Key is a Scandinavian and may perhaps even be said to be a
typical figure of the country whose foremost woman she is. Moreover,
she loves her own land and is resolved to spend the rest of her life
in a house she proposes to build in a beautiful part of the country,
Alvastra, near Lake Wetter, close to the ruins of the first Swedish
monastery, a spot already sacred through its associations with the
great Swedish saint, Brigitta. But the prophet is a prophet everywhere
except in his own country. It is easy to find estimable Swedes who
are far from anxious to claim the honour which Ellen Key reflects on
their land. It is in Germany that her fame has been made. To-day the
Germans, and not least the German women, awaking from a long period of
quiescence, are inaugurating a new phase of the woman movement. The
first phase of that movement dates from the eighteenth century, and its
ideals were chiefly moulded by a succession of distinguished English
women who claimed for their sex the same human rights as for men: the
same right to be educated, the same right to adopt the occupation they
were fitted for, the same political rights. In the course of a century
these claims, although not yet completely realised, have gradually been
more and more generally conceded as reasonable.

At the same time, however, it began to be seen that these demands,
important as they are, by no means cover the whole ground, while,
taken separately, they were liable to lead in a false direction; they
tended to masculinise women and they ignored the claims of the race.
In their ardour for emancipation, women sometimes seemed anxious to
be emancipated from their sex. Thus it was not enough to claim woman’s
place as a human being—especially in an age when man was regarded
as the human being _par excellence_—but it also became necessary to
claim woman’s place in the world as a woman. That was not, as it might
at first seem, a narrower but a wider claim. For on the merely human
basis women were reduced to the level of competitive struggle with men,
were allowed to bring no contribution of their own to the solution of
common problems, and, worst of all, their supreme position in the world
as mothers of the race was altogether ignored. So that the assertion
of the essential rights of women as women meant at the same time the
assertion of the rights of society and the race to the best that women
have to give. It was certainly by no accident that the Germans, who
once before led the evolution of Europe by their triumphant assertion
of the fundamental human impulses and have since been pioneers in
social organisation, should take the leading part in the inauguration
of this new phase of the woman movement.

The publication of Ellen Key’s books corresponded in date with the
recent tendency of the Germans to bring to bear on the questions of sex
their characteristic Teutonic thoroughness and practicality. It is not
surprising, therefore, that this Swedish woman, with her many-sided
vision of the world, her daring yet serene statement of the secrets of
human hearts, should be greeted as the natural leader of the movement
on its most womanly side. Love, as Ellen Key regards it, is at the core
of the woman question, and these opening volumes of _Lifslinger_ are,
above all, a contribution to the woman question, a modern and more
mature version of that _Vindication of the Rights of Woman_ which Mary
Wollstonecraft had set forth a century earlier.

In England, and the same may be said of America, we are yet but at
the beginning of this new phase of the woman movement. We have been
mainly concerned with the rights of women to be like men; we are only
now beginning to understand the rights of women to be unlike men,
rights which, as Ellen Key understands them, include, although they
go beyond, the rights embodied in the earlier claims. The dogmatic
fanatics of every party, it is true, cannot endure Ellen Key; they
cannot understand her, though she understands them, and even regards
them with a certain sympathetic tolerance, as we should expect from a
disciple of Montaigne and Shakespeare and Goethe. She is many-sided and
is quite able to see and to accept both halves of a truth. In one of
her earliest essays she showed how individualism and socialism, which
some people suppose to be incompatible, are really woven together,
and in the same way she now shows that eugenics and love—the social
claims of the race and the individual claims of the heart —are not
opposed but identical. Similarly, she declares that to build up, to
help, to console is the greatest of women’s rights; but, she adds,
they cannot adequately exercise that right unless they also possess
the right of citizenship—so disconcerting the narrow partisan on each
side. In matters of detail we may at many points reserve our opinion.
Ellen Key is, above all,—like Olive Schreiner, to whom she is, in
some respects, akin—the prophet of a movement which transcends merely
isolated measures of reform. Her writings are the candid expression of
her intimate self. In this book, especially, we feel that we are in the
inspiring presence of a woman whose personality is one of the chief
moral forces of our time.

  [Illustration: Signature of Havelock Ellis]

LONDON, September, 1910.


Love and Marriage



CHAPTER I

THE COURSE OF DEVELOPMENT OF SEXUAL MORALITY


All thoughtful persons perceive that the ideas of the morality of
sexual relations upheld by the religions and laws of the Western
nations are in our time undergoing a radical transformation.

Like all other such changes, this one is opposed by the distrust of
the guardians of society, a distrust which is based upon the view that
human beings lack the power of themselves directing their development
on an upward course. According to these critics, this direction is the
concern of transcendental reason, which expresses itself in the real
and thus causes the real to become rational. Marriage as it exists is a
historically produced reality, and therefore also rational. Historical
continuity—as well as religious and ethical needs—must entail the
permanence of the actual institution of marriage as an indispensable
condition of the existence of society.

The reformers leave transcendental reason on one side. But they too
acknowledge the connection between the real and the rational to this
extent, that what has been real, has also been rational—so long as
in certain given sociological and psychological conditions it has
answered best the needs of humanity in some particular direction. They
acknowledge the necessity of fixed laws and customs, since these alone
intensify the feelings into sources of impulse, strong enough to be
translated into action. They perceive that the conservative, tenacious
emotions have the same importance for the soul as the skeleton for the
body.

But the historical necessity, on the other hand, according to which
it is alleged that mankind awaits and surrenders itself to a fate
over which it has no control, is to these reformers an absurdity.
The “historical necessity” in every age is the realised will of the
strongest men, either in number or character, realised in the degree in
which nature and history favour their exercise of power. The reformers
know that the Western institution of marriage has arisen partly from
the permanent, physico-psychological causes of the maintenance of the
race, partly from historical causes which were transitory, although
their effects in this domain, as in many others, still continue.
They know that of all the fabrics of society marriage is the most
complicated, the most delicate, and the most significant; they
understand, therefore, that the majority must be seized with terror
when the shrine of so many generations is threatened.

But they know also that all life is subject to transformation; that
each transformation involves the death of once active realities, and
the formation of new ones. They know that this dying-off and replacing
never takes place uniformly; that laws and customs, which have become
a drag upon the lives of those in a better position, are still of
advantage to the majority, and therefore ought to continue in existence
as long as they remain so. But they know at the same time that it is
through the few in a better position—those whose needs and powers are
most ennobled—that a higher standard of existence will finally become
the portion also of the majority. The condition of all development is,
not to be content with the present, but to have the courage to ask how
everything can be made better and the good fortune to find a right
answer to this question in thought or in action.

It is thus the dissatisfaction of the most cultured class with the
existing contradictions between its sexual needs and the form of
their legitimate gratification which is now giving rise to attacks
on that institution of marriage which was still sufficient for their
own grandparents, just as it is even now for a countless number of
their contemporaries. These people know well enough that their
dissatisfaction will not destroy marriage, so long as the psychological
and social conditions which now maintain it continue to exist. But
they know at the same time that their will is destined gradually to
transform these psychological and social conditions. And they already
see on the hemisphere of the soul signs and wonders which portend that
the fulness of time is at hand.

The reformers do not believe that the inconsistencies and
contradictions which are indissolubly connected with the natural
conditions of the maintenance of the race can be got rid of by any
legislation. And since they understand that complete freedom is an idea
which only corresponds with perfected development, they are also aware
that new forms frequently entail hitherto unknown limitations, as well
as extensions, of liberty.

What they desire is such forms as, whether they limit or extend liberty
of action, will promote a life-enhancing use of the sexual powers both
for the individual and for the race. They have no hope that the new
form will arrive in a state of perfection, any more than they expect
that all mankind will be prepared for it. But they hope to foster the
higher needs, to awaken the richer powers, which are destined finally
to render the new form necessary also to the majority. This hope
kindles their calculated efforts, which are directed by the certainty
that personal love is life’s highest value, as well directly for the
individual himself as indirectly for the new lives his love creates.
And this certainty is spreading from day to day all over the world.

Unless one believes in a superhuman reason which directs evolution,
one is bound to believe in a reason inherent in humanity, a motive
power transcending that of each separate people, just as the power of
the organism transcends that of the organ. This reason increases in
proportion as the unity of mankind becomes established. Less and less
are the individual nations able to preserve their own peculiarities
from the influence of their neighbours. And this is now becoming
especially plain with regard to sexual questions. While Scandinavian
and Anglo-Saxon ideas on sexual morality appear here and there in
the literature of the Latin races, the Latin view of love has helped
to shape the ideas which in Scandinavia go by the name of “the new
immorality.”

Thus from one country to another fly the shuttles of gold and shuttles
of steel, drawing the fine and many-coloured woof of contemporary
consciousness through thread after thread of the strong warp, made up
of the laws and customs of various nations. What follows is in part
a drawing of the new pattern this weaving is fashioning, in part an
insertion into this pattern of certain new motives.


Those who regard monogamy as the only standard of sexual morality and
the only legitimate form of personal love, do not mean the ostensible
monogamy now established by law but circumvented by custom. They mean
real monogamy: one man for one woman during that man’s lifetime;
one woman for one man during that woman’s lifetime, and beyond that
complete abstinence. In the way of development, they acknowledge
only one gradual realisation of this ideal; in the tendency of the
present day to adopt several lines of development they see nothing but
decadence.

Again, those who profess the faith of Life regard the ideals of
mankind as an expression of man’s higher needs. Ideals which were
once incentives to development thus become a drag upon it, whenever
life’s needs demand new forms that are not recognised by the prevailing
idealism. Only he who believes in supersensuous, God-inspired ideals
will consider these fixed for all natures and all times. Evolution, on
the other hand, shows us that the same ideals never have been and never
can be accepted by all the beings we include in the single expression,
the human race, but which in reality belong to almost as many separate
races as the animal world. Evolutionists indeed rejoice that humanity
cannot be equated under a single faith, a single code of custom, a
single ideal, since in the diversity of life they see a great part of
its worth. They think that this in itself is a sufficient reason for
gradually granting to individuals of the same time and country that
liberty which, from a historical point of view, is allowed to the same
nation at different periods, and, from an ethnographical point of view,
to different nations at the same period: namely, the liberty, within
certain limits, of choosing its own form of sexual life. And they
would be the more ready to do so, since the geographical, climatic,
historical, and economic differences between individuals are just as
great as those between nations and periods, and thus what is adequate
to the needs and development of one cannot answer to those of the rest.

Few propositions are so lacking in proof as that monogamy is the form
of sexual life which is indispensable to the vitality and culture
of nations. Neither history nor ethnography need be appealed to
against an assertion which is sufficiently refuted by the fact that
_monogamy_, according to our strict definition above, _has never
yet been a reality even among the Christian nations_, except for a
minority of individuals; that all the progress that is ascribed to
Christian civilisation has taken place while monogamy was indeed the
law but polygamy the custom. During the period which is rhetorically
alluded to as that of “virtue and manliness,” the days of heathenism
in the North, those laws and customs prevailed which now—after
a thousand years’ further refinement of the emotional life under
Christianity—are regarded as involving the dissolution of society! Our
excellent forefathers, whose morals seem so greatly to have outshone
our own, were all born in civil matrimony and brought up in homes
where not infrequently the concubine lived by the same hearth as the
wife, and where the latter was liable to be repudiated for reasons as
trivial as those for which she might herself obtain divorce. Indeed,
these ancestors were sometimes the offspring of a “free love” which
found a home in the wilderness when the guardian had forbidden the
lawful union of a loving couple. The introduction by the Catholic
Church of an indissoluble marriage tie did not prevent the people
from narrowly escaping ruin in the Middle Ages. No one, again, will
give to eighteenth-century France the credit for monogamous morality.
Nevertheless, France retained vitality enough to determine the history
of Europe by her economical, intellectual, and military power. And,
in spite of its erotic “immorality,” the heart of the French nation
still possesses a great reserve of health and tenacity, together with
excellent civic virtues and powers of work.

Those who are so fond of asserting that monogamy and indissoluble
marriage determine the existence of nations, are either ignorant of the
past history and present condition of the nations, or conceal their
knowledge behind the prejudiced view that the white humanity of Europe
is to be taken as the criterion for the morality as well as for the
faith of the whole race.

On the other hand, what can be proved is this: that the vitality of
a people depends first and foremost on the capacity and willingness
of its women to bear and foster children fit to live, and on their
husbands’ capacity and willingness to protect the national existence.
In the next place, it depends on the whole people’s fondness for
work and ability in the achievement of prosperity for itself and of
value for mankind at large, and finally on the will of the individual
to sacrifice his own ends when the common weal demands it. What can
further be proved is that, if a people wastes its strength in sexual
dissipation, this will often prevent its fulfilling the conditions we
have mentioned as necessary to its progress, and will thus bring about
its ruin.

But this does not involve any proof that a nation will be ruined if it
alters the forms of sexual life according to a newly-acquired knowledge
of the most reasonable sexual morality!

Monogamy was victorious from many causes, above all from experience
of its advantages. It minimised the struggle of the men for the women
and thus economised forces for other ends; it provided an incentive
to work for offspring; it developed modesty and tenderness within the
sexual relationship and thus raised the position of the woman and with
it her importance in the bringing-up of the children; it provided them
and her with a protection against the arbitrary will of the husband;
through home life it fostered self-command and co-operation; the need
of the two for each other led to mutual kindness. The authority of
the husband was ennobled by the sense of responsibility and the joy
of protection; the dependence of the wife by devotion and fidelity.
This last was strengthened by fear of the husband’s proprietary
jealousy, by his craving for the certainty that his property would
be inherited by his own children; by religions, according to which
the admixture of foreign blood in the race was a sin; by the hope of
Christianity for a life together beyond the grave; and by their common
children, the feeling of tenderness for whom grew deeper as development
proceeded. And monogamy still continues to exercise this cultivating
influence on the morals and on the soul. It might, therefore, seem that
this admission of the value of even an imperfect monogamy rendered
all further proof unnecessary for those who assert that the true
development of sexual morality can only be secured through a gradually
perfected monogamy. But they forget that monogamy, which was a custom
long before the introduction of Christianity, _became injurious as
well as beneficial to true sexual morality, from the moment the Church
prescribed it as the only form of this morality_.

Then, by a common trick of thought, the conclusion was drawn that the
mighty development of culture which had taken place under monogamy
would have been impossible if this had not been the sole legitimate
form of sexual relationship. And thus it was established as the
indispensable condition of all higher culture!

The import of the moral controversies which now arise with increasing
frequency is _the examination of the relatively higher value for real
sexual morality of marriage or love_.

So long as man believed that he had been created perfect, had then
fallen and continued in everlasting strife between the spirit and the
flesh, no doubt could arise of the absolute value of the Christian
ideal of morality. Even those who strove hardest to attain this
ideal, even those vanquished in the strife, confessed themselves
sinners in so far as the flesh triumphed over the spirit. It was
evolutionism that first gave man courage to wonder whether he may not
also be “sinning” when the spirit triumphs over the flesh; to ask
himself whether perchance marriage did not exist for mankind, and
not mankind for marriage; to assert the right of the present time
to more universal experience with regard to the sexual customs most
favourable to the development of the race. For “the idea of marriage”
is to them nothing else than to further this development. But universal
experience cannot be won so long as religion and law prescribe a
single custom as certainly the right custom and all others are thus
condemned and obstructed—as soon as they show themselves with serious
frankness—while secret trespass against the monogamous ideal is
countenanced. It cannot be denied that the sanctioning of this ideal
has incited many to try to realise it; indeed, hypocrisy itself is an
indirect tribute to its worth. But its fixity has now become a danger
to continued evolution.


On the question of marriage, as in all other respects, Lutheranism is
a compromise, a bridge between two logical views of the universe: the
Catholic-Christian and the Individualistic Monist. And bridges are made
to go over, not to stand upon.

None of our “immoral” authors has insisted more strongly than Luther
and Olaus Petri on the power of the sexual life. Both regard modesty
without marriage as unthinkable. Both see in marriage the means given
by God to satisfy desire, just as food is the means given by God to
satisfy hunger. But man has as little right to satisfy the former by
unchastity as he has to still the latter by theft. There would be
nothing to object to in this if unchastity had not been made synonymous
with every form of sexual relation outside matrimony, while chastity
became equivalent to every form of marriage.

Luther showed some knowledge of nature when he taught that, though
it may be possible for human beings to repress their actions outside
wedlock, they cannot repress their feelings and desires. On the other
hand he knew nothing of that creation of culture, love, and therefore
he failed to see that exactly the same sentence which he used to
confute celibacy may also be employed to confute marriage, for the
vow of fidelity no more entails real faithfulness than the vow of
chastity is the cause of true purity. Real fidelity can only arise when
love and marriage become equivalent terms. The substance of Luther’s
controversy on marriage was not a higher conception of matrimony than
that of the Catholic Church, it was merely the restoration of marriage
to churchmen and monastic communities. We have to thank Luther for
the Lutheran parsonage and with it for a great contribution to the
poetry of country life, to popular culture, to the production of many
great minds, and—indirectly—to the moulding of many passionate
free-thinkers. The Lutheran doctrine of marriage, on the other hand,
deserves no thanks, since—like Protestantism as a whole—it stopped
short in an insoluble contradiction. Instead of upholding, in the
spirit of the Catholic Church and of Christ, the indissolubility of
marriage and demanding the suppression of sensuality when the peace
of the soul required it, Luther, by his insistence on the strength of
natural inclinations, was forced into concessions, which—quite in
accordance with the teachings of the Bible—went so far as to approve
of bigamy. To the gross apprehension of the Reformation period the
choice of a personal love meant nothing. With marriage possible from
a natural point of view alone, it might be contracted with any one;
indeed, to the genuinely pious it seemed a higher thing to enter into
matrimony without any earthly love, which interfered with the love of
God. The Lutheran doctrine of marriage made God “indulgent” towards all
the impurity that the sexual life shut up within the whited sepulchre
of lawful wedlock. He has shut his eyes to all the wife-murders that
the command of fecundity involved; to all the worthless children
produced by ill-matched and impure marriages. He has “blessed” all
unions entered into, even though from the lowest motives, under the
most unnatural circumstances: between a sick person and a healthy
one, an old and a young, a willing and an unwilling or two unwilling
ones, coupled together by their families. To-day, countless women
are still being sacrificed to this doctrine of marriage, or to its
unconscious effects; their exhausted wombs are a poor soil for the new
generation; their crushed souls a broken support for the growth of
new wills. For one woman who defends herself with the resolution lent
by horror, there are thousands who have conceived and still conceive
children in loathing. For one wife who is met with the modest prayer
of love, there are thousands who with a feeling of humiliation concede
to their proprietors the right inculcated by the Lutheran doctrine
of matrimony. But the signs of the times are visible even within the
Lutheran Church. There are to be found younger men who maintain that
love—not merely the formula about love in the marriage-service—must
be present if the marriage is to be regarded as a moral one. And
probably these neo-Lutheran prophets of love use their influence to
prevent a number of repulsive marriages. But it does not occur either
to them or to their congregation to treat with contempt a couple who
have been married for the most despicable reasons. On the other hand,
if two young and healthy people, united only by their love, should
live together and fulfil the command of fruitfulness, then indeed
this couple would be made to feel, through shameful treatment—if
not by the young clergyman himself, then by his flock—that a sexual
connection sanctioned by law is the only one that is respected, and
that, therefore, it is not the seriousness of personal love in itself,
but primarily society’s official stamp that makes it pass as a moral
ground for the cohabitation of two human beings. And if a person who is
unhappy in a loveless marriage frees himself and establishes a new home
on “personal love, the moral ground of marriage,” then the churchmen
hasten to substitute for “the moral ground of marriage” that of duty.

The doctrine that love is the moral ground of sexual relations is thus
as yet only an unendorsed sequence of words. The attempt to realise it
was for a long time a punishable crime in Lutheran countries, and will
probably be still treated about the year 2000 as a culpable error.

Thus the marriage doctrine of Lutheranism—like that of Christianity
in general—has ended, according to the moral ideas of the religion of
Life, in immorality, since it no more protects the right of the race to
the best conditions of life than it admits the right of the individual
to realise his love according to the needs of his personal morality.
The object of the Lutheran marriage was to unite man and woman, with
or without love, as a means to securing their mutual morality, to
make them breeders of children for society, and in addition to retain
the husband as breadwinner. By relentlessly pursuing this object, the
church has succeeded in damming up but not in purifying sensuality,
in developing the sense of responsibility but not of love. It has
thus merely rough-planed the material for a higher morality. This
rough-planed material may still be the most suitable for general use,
but more and more people will now require finer instruments.

The new conception of morality grows out of the hope of the gradual
ascent of the race towards greater perfection. Those forms of sexual
life which best serve this progress must therefore become the standards
of the new morality. But as the nature of a relation can only be
determined by its results, those who hold the faith of Life will _apply
a conditional judgment also in the case of sexual affairs_. Only
cohabitation can decide the morality of a particular case—in other
words, its power to enhance the life of the individuals who are living
together and that of the race. _Thus sanction can never be granted in
advance_ nor—with certain exceptions relating to children—_can it be
denied to any matrimonial relationship. Each fresh couple_, whatever
form they may choose for their cohabitation, _must themselves prove its
moral claim_.

This is the new morality, which is now called immoral by the same type
of souls as condemned Luther on his appearance as immoral,—a judgment
which is repeated in the Catholic world, where to-day the same abuse
is heaped upon “the unchaste monk” as is poured upon the adherents of
“free love” within the Lutheran communities. The question for Luther’s
present-day “liberal” followers, both in this matter and in that of
faith, is whether they shall turn back or go forward; back to the firm
ground of absolute authority, or over the bridge of free experiment
into the untrodden country of an entirely personal faith; back to
indissoluble marriage or over the bridge of coercion to the rights
of love. The right course of a consistent thought admits of no third
possibility.

The neo-Protestant doctrine of marriage is already much less logical
than Luther’s. They agree with him in admitting the right of the
sensual side of love, and with their contemporaries in granting to love
its share in human life. But when they proceed to draw limits for both,
they bring themselves into an untenable position.

They bring themselves into an untenable position not because they
insist upon self-control within as well as outside of matrimony (all
preparation for a final enhancement of life involves temporary checks
upon life) but because the self-control they demand is so comprehensive
that it will be in a high degree obstructive to life without the
compensation of a final enhancement, for they limit the sexual part of
love to the task of continuing the species, and the part of love in
human life to a single relationship. Those couples who are unable or
unwilling to take upon themselves the responsibility for a new life are
thus condemned to celibacy in marriage. Those couples who have once
founded their marriage on love must maintain the relationship even
without love.

These demands are more ruthless to human nature than those opposed by
Luther. Complete celibacy is easier than married celibacy. The needs
of the soul are stronger than those of the senses. This ought not,
however, to prevent the setting up of the strict demands if these were
really conducive to a higher existence from the sexual point of view.
But only one who disregards life’s reality (and the Christian is often
such a one) can at the same time set up personal love as the ground of
sexual morality and limit its rights within certain bounds of morality.

Personal love, as now developed by civilisation, has become so
complicated, comprehensive, and involved that _not only does it
constitute in itself_ (independently of its mission to the race) _a
great asset in life, but it also raises or lowers the value of all
else_. It has acquired a new significance besides its original one:
that of bearing the flame of life from generation to generation. No
one calls him immoral who—disappointed in his love—abstains from
continuing the race in his marriage; nor would the couple be called
immoral who continue in a marriage made happy by love, although it has
shown itself to be childless. But in both these cases, the parties
concerned _follow their subjective feelings at the cost of the race and
treat their love as an end in itself_. The right already granted to the
individuals in these cases at the cost of the race will in future be
extended more and more in proportion as the significance of love grows.
On the other hand, the new morality will demand of love an ever greater
_voluntary limitation of its rights, during the times that a new life
claims it, as well as voluntary or compulsory renunciation of the right
to produce new lives, under conditions which would render them of less
value_.

The marriage doctrine of neo-Protestantism, like that of Tolstoy,
rests finally on the ascetic distrust of the sexual life. Neither
doctrine supposes that the sensual side can be ennobled otherwise than
by being placed exclusively at the service of the race. It is this
point of view which is finally decisive in all Christian conceptions
of morality. Christianity is sustained by the knowledge that the
object of man’s life on earth is his development as an eternal being.
Therefore none of his expressions of life can be an end in itself, but
must serve a higher purpose than the earthly life and happiness of the
individual—or even than that of the race.

When the foundation of sexual morality was laid in an existence
beyond this world, it lost its connection with the continuation of
the race and thus was brought into contradiction with itself. This is
the reason why Christianity, while it has indirectly done much for
the spiritualisation of love, has yet never succeeded in combining
the needs of the individual with those of the race, the cravings of
the soul with those of the senses. That moral standard will alone be
all-embracing which is determined by the belief that the meaning of
life is its development through individuals towards higher and higher
forms of life for the whole race. This standard will not regard any
asceticism as moral which contemplates the freeing of the soul from the
bonds of sensuality, as is the great aspiration of Eastern asceticism.
It only recognises the claim of such self-discipline as brings about an
ever-increasing unity between the soul and the will of the body. Such
a self-discipline, indeed, renounces the nearer and lesser good for
the more distant and greater. But it finds this good, in the domain of
love as in everything else, _in an increasingly soulful sensuousness,
or in an increasingly sensuous soulfulness_, not in the spirituality
of asceticism, more and more freed from the senses. To the chapel
of this spirituality a mountain path leads, which—however arduous
every step may be—yet goes straight to the goal. The soulful-sensual
existence again is a cell to which a labyrinth leads. Here each step
is less difficult, but the whole journey involves infinitely greater
dangers and excitement. It may be for this reason that as yet it only
attracts the strongest—those who never renounce pleasure, since they
find pleasure even in renunciation. For him who seeks the latter goal
a single standard of morality will appear inapplicable—simply because
human nature is manifold. Sexual abstinence in youth, for instance,
may strengthen nine out of ten young men. The tenth it may change into
a man of bestial impulses, who, although before marriage he has been
chaste, may show, when married, a coarseness or depravity which drags
down the wife to his level or opens an abyss between them. Purely
sensual unions may in nine cases out of ten deteriorate both the man
and the woman. In the tenth case such a connection may deepen into a
feeling that determines the course of two lives, and the resulting
marriage offers better prospects of happiness than that of many a
young couple who have entered upon married life according to the rule
which is regarded as the only one to give security of happiness. Thus
it is possible in one case out of ten that the love for which a young
man has kept himself pure until marriage really is personal love.
In the other nine cases it is not so, but on the contrary the most
impersonal of all love. Thus in nine cases out of ten, it is possible
that such disappointments can be borne through a sense of duty, so that
personality grows beneath them. In the tenth, again, persistence in the
mistake will be the ruin of personality.

Those who make—and rightly—complete purity before marriage and
personal love in the married state the standard of morality, ought, on
account of innumerable similar experiences, to make up their minds to
let every one decide for himself how this purity can best be attained,
before as well as after marriage, and what personal love shall be held
to imply. Either it must mean nothing for or against the sanctity of
marriage; or, if it is to mean sanctity at the outset of married life,
then it must also mean the same during its continuance. But only the
individual himself knows how long his marriage remains sanctified by
personal love or when it ceased to be so. No one can be burdened with
the duty of remaining in an unhallowed relation, and neo-Protestantism
must therefore either declare personal love to be the moral ground
of marriage or unconditional fidelity to be the expression of moral
personality.

The monist in these questions does not ask whether a sexual
relationship is the first and only one, before he acknowledges its
morality. He only wishes to know whether it was such that it did not
exclude the personalities of the lovers; whether it was _a union in
which_ “_neither the soul betrayed the senses nor the senses the
soul_.”

In these words George Sand gave the idea of the new chastity.


The claims of the new sexual morality show curious similarities and
dissimilarities to those to which the age of chivalry gave rise in the
same sphere. Thus the Courts of Love held the principle that marriage
and love are mutually exclusive. On the other hand, the conception
of personality has given rise to a desire for unity which makes it
repulsive to many people to live in matrimony unless there is a longing
of the soul and of the senses for one’s partner in marriage. The age
of chivalry in its idea of love ignored the new generation whereas the
hope of the present day is through love to perfect the race just as
much as the lovers themselves.

Nor does the new morality deny to the many, who have not even been
capable of dreaming of personal love, the right to contract a marriage,
which will at least contribute to their poor existence the interest of
home and the joy of parentage. But it will be severe with those who,
having had experience or intuition of love, have entered without it
into a marriage which will certainly impoverish and perhaps ruin more
lives than their own. Prudence may counsel leniency of judgment in the
individual case, since the majority of human beings learn to know their
hearts late in life, if at all. Once more, _as a guiding principle of
morality, the unity of marriage and love must be maintained_. By his
power of creating ideals, and the ever-increasing demand for happiness
which results, man has deepened his instinct of spiritual needs, and
the same power of idealisation is now ruthlessly withdrawing the
outward supports of sexual morality and replacing them by the idea
of unity. That the halt and the lame are thereby deprived of their
crutches will be no stumbling-block to him who looks beyond the halt
and the lame to the finer and healthier men of the future.

It is true that the idea of unity involves the right of every person
to shape his sexual life in accordance with his individual needs, but
only on condition that he does not prejudice unity or the rights of the
beings to whom his love gives life. _Love thus becomes more and more
a private affair of the individual, while children are more and more
the business of society_, and from this it follows that the two lowest
expressions of sexual division (dualism) sanctioned by society, namely,
_coercive marriage and prostitution, will by degrees become impossible,
since after the triumph of the idea of unity they will no longer answer
to the needs of humanity_.

By coercive marriage is meant that under which not only are the
morality of cohabitation and the rights of the children dependent on
the form of cohabitation, but the possibility of divorce for one of
the parties is also dependent on the other’s will. By prostitution is
meant all trading with one’s sex, whether this traffic is carried on
by women or by men, who from necessity or inclination sell themselves
with or without marriage. Both these things occur under grosser and
under milder forms. There is a scale of degrees for loveless marriage,
as there is for loveless—“love.” The distance is great between, for
instance, “La Dame aux Camélias” or Raskolnikoff’s “Sonja” on the one
hand, and a prowler of the gutter on the other. So it is between a
woman who contracts a marriage from the longing for motherhood and one
who does it from love of luxury; between a man who seeks a partner
in his work and one who only wants a wife to console his creditors.
But whether one, with part of one’s person, buys one’s self free from
hunger or from debts, loneliness or desire; however great in itself the
value one gains may be, still the transaction remains, for buyer as
well as for seller, a humiliation from the point of view of the sexual
morality which sees things as a whole.

The development of the consciousness of erotic personality is at
present hindered in an equal degree by the “morality” settled by
society, and by the “immorality” regulated by society. Whether it is
a question of maintaining the former or of excusing the latter, we
are told that idealism must make way for “the needs of real life.”
The same men who with reason are afraid of the dissolution of society
if the right of the hungry to steal were preached in the name of “the
needs of real life,” consider themselves wise when, in a far more
important sphere than that of property, they proclaim the necessity of
stealing, in the form of prostitution.

Real life has certainly its claims: in the one case, that all who are
hungry for food should have work, at such a rate of pay that they can
eat; in the other, that all who are of marriageable age should have
the possibility of contracting marriage at the right time. But the
changes that must take place before this can come to pass will fail to
appear so long as society—under the assumption that prostitution is
a necessary evil—superintends its results and thus gives itself the
illusion that its dangers can be provided against. For thus society
escapes the search for expedients which would better provide for the
two fundamental needs—love and hunger—for the satisfaction of which
prostitution at present provides the only means for many men and women.

But these changes will also fail to appear so long as society—under
the assumption that marriage is a necessary good—retains this as the
sole mark of morality in sexual relations.

For this state of things, those preachers of morality are to blame
who persuade themselves that the only cure for the evil is a still
stricter maintenance of the claims of monogamy. They are afraid of
any mention of the wealth of varied experience, of the longing for
happiness, or the joy of life. They proclaim nothing but the sense
of duty, responsibility for one’s individual soul, and obligations
to society. But this has been constantly preached from the dawn of
Christianity, and yet the standard of sexual morality as a whole is
no higher than it was. This gives food for reflection. The more so
when this dread of love is carried as far as Tolstoy’s—or rather, the
Oriental world’s—detestation of the senses; when marriage is regarded
solely as a palliative for a hereditary disease, which ought rather to
be stamped out so as to render the remedy unnecessary.


When psychical phenomena have been as much investigated as physical,
love will also receive its cumatology—that is, its science of waves.
We shall follow the curves of the emotions through the ages, their
movement of rise and fall, the oppositions and side-influences by
which they have been determined. Such a rising wave in our time is the
growing detestation of young men for socially protected immorality,
their longing for singleness in love. An opposing influence, again, is
the disinclination of many young women for love. They are not content,
like the neo-Protestant clergymen, with demanding that carnality
shall be sanctified by marriage: they want to kill it. They do not
merely hate—and with reason—desire apart from love: they depreciate
love itself, even when it appears as the unity of soul and senses.
According to them, marriage ought to be merely the highest form of
sympathetic friendship, in conjunction with a sense of duty directed
to the procreation and rearing of children. When marriage is freed
from feelings of carnal pleasure as well as from claims of personal
happiness, when it is the union of two friends in the duty and joy of
living entirely for their children—then alone will it become “moral”!

On the other hand, love, treated as a synthesis of spiritual sympathy
and the life of the race, as the vital force through which a human
being’s existence is enhanced and beautified, is to them worthless; and
the idea of a distinction between the nature of woman and of man is
to them meaningless. They demand of both complete abstinence outside
marriage, and within it they permit only certain few exceptions,
which nature’s yet imperfect arrangements render necessary for the
continuance of the race. With the advance of science, they hope that
chemistry and biology will set humanity free from its degradation in
love, just as Werner von Heidenstam expects his “food-powder” to bring
freedom from degradation by hunger. Possibly they will both be right.
But with these possibilities the people of the twentieth century have
nothing to do. What we rather require at present is more love—and more
food—not less.

It is therefore not likely that the line we have just touched upon will
be that followed by the development of sexual morality, for even now an
increasing proportion of mankind shows itself too exacting in erotic
questions to allow of the realisation of the above-mentioned ideal of
purity. No thought of the end will to their minds sanctify a means
which when deprived of love appears to them ugly.

The children begotten under a sense of duty would moreover be deprived
of a number of essential conditions of life; among others that of
finding in their parents beings full of life and radiating happiness,
which constitutes the chief spiritual nourishment of children—and it
may be added that parents who “live entirely for their children” are
seldom good company for them.

The programme of morality here alluded to is explicable from
a justified hatred of socially protected immorality and
a—partly—justified resentment against the love which leaves the child
out of account. But its solution of love’s deepest conflict—that
between the claims of the individual and those of the race—is
prejudicial to the will of nature as well as to the conditions of
civilisation. Independently of both factors, these zealots believe
they can attain that white world of purity which attracts their minds,
afflicted as they are by the impurity and misery with which sexual
relations still load existence. They forget that above the snow-line
only the poorest forms of life can flourish. But human development
tends towards the production of an ever richer and stronger series of
forms. Any attempt to separate morality from sensuousness will not
accelerate development but only retard it, since the transplantation
of sexual emotion to a soil other than that of the senses is an
impossibility in our present earthly conditions.

The demand for purity which aims at non-sensuousness—or
supersensuousness—may perhaps provide protection from minor dangers.
In great ones it will be as futile as a hedge against a forest
fire. No obstructing of appetites, but only their release in other
directions, can really purify them. Passions can be curbed only by
means of stronger passions. In the same appetite and the same passion
in which the danger lies, in the instinct of love itself, we have the
true starting-point for its ennobling. He to whom the destruction of
this instinct is a passionate desire possesses in this passion itself
a prospect of attaining his unnatural end. He, again, who does not
wish to kill, but only to control the sexual instinct, will become,
in his struggle against this desire—still immeasurably stimulated
through heredity and social custom—a strong and proud conqueror only
when he imagines and finally experiences unity in love. Assuredly also
secondary expedients are to be found. Before all, that of acquiring
the instinct of chastity from parents; of being strengthened and
protected from childhood against the dangers of callousness as well as
those of softness; of being instructed in a refined and gentle way of
the great purpose and great dangers of sexual destiny; of receiving
impressions through public opinion of the possibility of self-control
and its importance to the happiness of the individual himself and of
the race; of avoiding the abuse of means of enjoyment, especially of
intoxicating liquors, which both directly and indirectly weaken the
will-power in the case of sexual, as of all other kinds of, temptation.
It is beyond question that noble sport, dancing, and games—and they
are only noble when practised finely and worthily, with the mind
as well as the body—are a means of replacing and controlling the
sexual instinct. Equally certain is it that bodily and mental labour,
whether undertaken independently or as a participation in some form of
social endeavour, is important as occupying and consuming the sexual
powers in a substituted form. All genuine artistic enjoyment is in
the highest degree important for the ennobling of sexual life. But
all this self-discipline, all these aids from the world of beauty and
labour, all this cultivation of the body to strength and beauty, will
be as lines without a centre so long as they do not all lead in the
direction of love—love, which certain preachers of morality would
leave altogether outside the question, as though even it were a danger
and a temptation. No one would venture to deny that healthy habits
of life and strict self-control may be elevating for the individual,
even if love means nothing in his life. But life in its entirety gains
nothing by the production of hardened or harassed ascetic types, which
by exhausting bodily exercise, by reading that leaves the imagination
arid, and by art that smothers nudity, have succeeded in lulling
to sleep the sensuousness which, nevertheless, will perhaps some
day awake. Life has as little joy of these harsh guardians of their
“higher” nature as they themselves have of life. We have not gained
much if we are to have a youth which attains sexual abstinence at the
cost of other excellent qualities equally necessary to the race. A
youth, with large blinkers, shunning the delights of the senses, the
varied joy of life, the mobility of the fancy; a youth devoid of all
spiritual adventure—such, with all its “purity,” would be a dead asset
in life.

Those on the other hand who preserve but control the wealth of
suggestion of the sexual life will be—even though their control has
not always been complete—of infinitely greater service to existence.

The prejudice originally fostered by Christianity, that sexual purity
is in itself so great an asset in life that it outweighs the sacrifice
of all others—this prejudice must be overcome. A person is estimable
for sexual purity only to the extent to which it fits him to fulfil
the purpose of life for himself and for the race: that of leading an
ever higher life. His purity is too dearly won if it costs him, and
through him the race, irreparable losses of vital joy, courage, and
power.

And for the present—until many generations of marriage and bringing-up
have arrived at a transformation of present-day human, and especially
men’s, nature—the demand for purity will not admit of realisation
without such losses; that is, if this demand takes the shape of the
neo-Protestant formula, or, even more, that of Tolstoy.


Those ascetics who recommend only self-control as a remedy for the
mastery of the sexual instinct, even when such control becomes merely
obstructive to life, are like the physician who tried only to drive the
fever out of his patient: it was nothing to him that the sick man died
of the cure.

But these ascetics may have arrived at their fanaticism by two
different paths. One group—which includes most of the female
ascetics—hates Cupid because he has never shown to them any favour.
The other group—embracing the majority of male ascetics—curse him
because he never leaves them in peace. Meanwhile, those who put a
tremendous emphasis on purity and those who rave about pleasure,
meet on the common ground of distrust of love’s possibilities of
development. Love to them means desire and nothing else; if the soul
enters into it, it becomes friendship and that alone. They have never
experienced a love which is creative in the fullest sense of the word.
Sterility—of the soul or the body or both—is the mark of the only
love these two groups are acquainted with. The slaves of eroticism are
admirably characterised by Lord Chesterfield’s confession that he had
made violent love to at least twenty women, all of whom personally were
entirely indifferent to him. They know nothing of the soul’s desire
for one single person, from among an unlimited selection; a desire
which—when it is deeply rooted—is met by the desire of the other.
They do not know that the elective affinity of sympathy causes the one
to gather from the other’s eyes an all-mastering, liberating force. For
they themselves experience in the violence of desire only prostration
and humiliation of their higher being. An otherwise sensitive man may
feel unnerved by eroticism to such a degree that now he will wish all
women dead, to be thus freed from his thraldom; now he will desire,
as Caligula did of the Romans, that they had but a single neck—but
not to sever it. The hatred of these men for eroticism is that of the
savage for the hideous gods on whom he believes himself dependent,
and whom he knows to be making sport of his destiny. And nothing is
more certain than that love, thus conceived, makes men degraded and
ridiculous. Even he who in his innermost soul loves tragedy and hates
farce, is made, under the attraction of this love, to halt between the
two and to turn his life into a tragi-comedy; for in order to attain to
the true tragic greatness a man must be prepared to surrender himself
unconditionally to, and to suffer through what is greatest in, his
nature, his innermost ego. But the tragic destiny is apt to pass a man
by against his innermost will, and then arises the impure form of the
tragic that we have just mentioned. Thus men and women, who have only
sought fresh stimulants in eroticism, at last come across a person who
does not understand love in that way, and who ends the game for ever.
Or perchance they themselves are gripped by a great emotion, but their
past destroys the hope of its now being granted to them to worship in
any holy grove the divinity to whom hitherto they have only burned
paper lanterns in the turmoil of a fair. In most cases the tragi-comedy
takes the same form as with the drunkard: satisfaction becomes more and
more impossible; the insatiable one is continually forced to fly to
grosser means in order to quench his desire in some degree, to indulge
with increasing frequency, but with diminishing festival gladness.
He who has sunk to this kind of intoxication becomes by degrees as
weak-willed, as heartless, as devoid of character and conscience as
the dipsomaniac, and equally incapable of selection and appreciation
within the sphere of his appetites. The most sublime woman’s love will
at last leave him as insusceptible as is the drunkard to the liquid
topaz of Rhenish wine, its bouquet and dewy freshness. “Love’s freedom”
will finally mean to him nothing but freedom from responsibility,
from consideration, from danger, and from expense. In comparison with
this kind of “free love,” prostitution is doubtless more dangerous to
health, but far less injurious to personality. Prostitution detracts
from personality by a cleaving which excludes the soul; but it does not
consume the personality in the same way as the “love” with which a man
buys women who are not venal. If they expect him to redeem his bonds in
true coin, they will be disappointed. Love may possess, according to
his belief, no sterling value: he regards it as always a forged note
with which nature obtains the co-operation of human beings—especially
of women—to her ends.

This love knows no atmosphere but that of the alcoves where it has
pursued its bought or stolen pleasure. It has never breathed the air of
the wilds, the air which quivers with sunshine and shakes with storms;
the air through which murmurs all life’s longing for renewal, all the
wistful intuition of eternity born of a hunger for happiness, which
raises generation above generation towards unknown goals; an air which
immeasurably enhances and eternally absorbs vitality; the air of the
wide expanses, where ferocity and madness are not yet extinct, where
man and woman fight their eternal battles and suffer their eternal
pains; pains whose source even Lucretius knew to be dualism.

But that only unity is capable of sealing up this source—that was
known to none before our own time.

In literature it is sometimes from the alcoves, sometimes from these
wilds that the complaint arises of the mastery of the sexual instinct.

In the works of not a few of the writers on morality one fails to
find even a suspicion of these wildernesses of human life. These
teachers betray their ignorance in a boundless narrow-mindedness, a
narrow-mindedness which includes the most far-reaching questions of
humanity among—gymnastic and bath apparatus! To their short-sighted
view, immorality has revealed itself not only as venal but in the shape
of “free love.” They do not suspect that free love as well as marriage
includes many degrees of morality and immorality, rising above or
sinking below the ethical zero, at which both the free love and the
marriage of the majority are to be found.

Between the free or lawful love which becomes ugly, revengeful, or
murderous and the love which may perhaps take its own life but never
that of the loved one, the distance is therefore great. From the
point of view of enhancement of life there will be nevertheless a
great difference between the free—or lawful—love which is devoted,
courageous, self-sacrificing, faithful, and that which leaves all the
best human qualities unemployed. In the same way, the distance is
great between the sterile erotic “adventures” of a paltry vanity, a
sordid hunger for sensation, and the passion through which a human
being attains to new creative power. The concession to the storm of
passion is in one case the pennant, in the other the sail.

The artistic temperament often expresses itself in the demand for
erotic renewal. But while some thus increase their strength and health,
others grow ever poorer and uglier. Goethe was one of the former sort,
George Sand likewise. Natures of this type contain a wonderful power
of renewal. They can love several times without becoming erotically
depreciated. Their souls, like the volcanic soils of the South, can
bear three crops without being exhausted. But this is not the spiritual
soil or climate of humanity at large. And even such Olympian gods
and goddesses suspect that love may have some secret kept from them.
Goethe, who prayed of fate that he might only be required to love once
in another existence, may have known less of love than Dante, to whom
was vouchsafed the marvellous vision described in the wonderful words

  _Vede il cuor tuo_ ...

George Sand, who implored of the gods the flame of a great love,
was never so thoroughly fired thereby as her sister poet, Elizabeth
Barrett Browning, who gave witness of her sympathy for her in the
perfect lines which begin,

  _Thou large-brained woman and large-hearted man_ ...

But great love, like great genius, can never be a duty: both are
life’s gracious gifts to its elect. _There can be no other standard
of morality for him who loves more than once than for him who loves
once only: that of the enhancement of life._ He who in a new love
hears the singing of dried-up springs, feels the sap rising in dead
boughs, the renewal of life’s creative forces; he who is prompted anew
to magnanimity and truth, to gentleness and generosity, he who finds
strength as well as intoxication in his new love, nourishment as well
as a feast—that man has a right to the experience. Those on the other
hand—and they are the majority—whom every new love makes poorer in
the qualities common to humanity and in personal sense of power, weaker
in will, less efficient in work, have, from the point of view of the
religion of Life, no right to such self-deterioration. By its fruits
love is known. Nothing is truer than that “there is no such thing as
local demoralisation.” A person who in all his other doings is healthy
and genuine; who continues strong and sound in his work, is in most
cases moral also in sexual matters according to his conscience—even if
this does not harmonise with the doctrine of monogamy. He, on the other
hand, who shows himself a cheat or a wretch in his other dealings will
probably be the same in the affairs of love, whether his morals are
those of monogamy or polygamy; and it is therefore more unreasonable to
judge of a man’s morality in other matters from his sexual code than
it is to judge of his sexual morality from his ethical standpoint in
other questions. Nor does the latter afford an infallible criterion,
for these are people who reach the summit of their natures in a great
love, but remain below it in the rest of their affairs. Others again
never succeed in raising their erotic dealings to the level of the
rest of their personality. But in regard to the accuracy of the result
the latter standard is nevertheless as superior to the former as a
chemist’s scales are to an old-fashioned steelyard. It may often be
the case that a person’s other manifestations are in a certain sense
greater or less than himself, but his love, on the other hand, will
in a thousand cases to one be his inmost self. Great or mean, rich or
poor, pure or impure as he is in that, so will one also find him in
the other important relations of life. Of all summary characteristics
of a person, therefore, none is more sure than this that, as a man has
loved, so he is.


Although in this way a follower of the religion of Life regards the
Tolstoy code of sexual morality as profoundly immoral, he recognises
that it has a purer as well as a less pure origin.

The former is the case with those who have suffered deeply from the
passions which they now advise others to uproot for the sake of their
peace; also with those who are in the early spring of their age, when
life is still asleep and nature appears to wear the hues of autumn.

The latter is the case with those for whom life has been all autumn,
since they were born withered; women and men who have been seized
with a hatred of the conditions of procreation because they have been
the victims of those vices and sufferings which still make of erotics
the _Divina Commedia_ of earthly life; but not as in that of Dante an
architectonic arrangement of hell, heaven, and purgatory, giving them
a definite sequence in space and time, but a drama wherein the three
states break in upon one another like waves on the shore. But whether
the haters of sexual life belong to the exhausted or to the excluded,
to the sterile or to the immature, the withered or the poisoned, they
may doubtless be entitled individually to more or less leniency; their
doctrine of morality, however, must for the reasons we have given, be
rejected as entirely worthless.

The same holds good of those who solve the sexual problem as though
it were one with the claim of individual liberty, irrespective of any
consideration for the race.

These latter are in the habit of comparing the right to satisfy sexual
desire with the right to satisfy hunger. The former, on the other
hand, reject this comparison as untenable, since, of course, a person
can live healthily in lifelong sexual abstinence. Instead of it they
compare the erotic passion with other passions, such as gambling and
drunkenness, in which popular opinion recommends self-control and the
will is capable of it.

Both regard the question in an equally superficial way. To compare the
fundamental conditions of natural life, the motive forces of civilised
life, love and hunger, with any other passion than each other,
falsifies the whole statement of the problem. The instinct of love, as
that of hunger, may to a certain extent be suppressed; in both cases an
increase of strength in a certain direction may incidentally be gained.
But both needs must be satisfied in the right way if the individual
being and the human race are to live and fulfil the intention of life
in a higher development. Fasting men in the question of love are of as
little value to the enhancement of life as they are in other fields.

Christianity has so accustomed us to treat sexual purity as a question
of the individual that, whether we regard it from the point of view
of the enthusiast for chastity or from that of the enthusiast for
liberty, we do not perceive that, while one satisfies hunger to prolong
one’s own life, one produces children to prolong that of the race.
This renders the ascetic talk about the innocuousness of abstinence as
superficial as the alleged right to satisfy sexual desire with the
same freedom as hunger.

If the individual remains without food, he himself loses his life;
_but if he remains without the right of procreation, the race loses
the life he might have given to it_. Again, if the individual dies of
overeating, he is the only one who suffers; _if the sexual instinct is
abused through excess, it is the race that suffers_.

The existing immorality involves an uninterrupted blood-poisoning of
the organism of humanity. The existing order of society and morality
starves this organism. It is not only with the melancholy their own
inevitable fate inspires in them, but also with indignation against
unnecessary suffering, that innumerable excellent men and women know
that they are condemned to die without having given their blood, their
souls, as an inheritance to a new generation of beings.

It is beyond all question that the instinct of the individual to
continue his existence in the race must be controlled, if it is to be
an enhancement, and not an obstruction, to life. _But this, in the
most literal sense, is the vital question for the individual and for
the race_: HOW _and_ WHY _and_ TO WHAT EXTENT _this control is to be
exercised_.

Thus both the life of the individual and that of the race are enhanced
when young people live in abstinence till they have reached full
maturity. The development of the race gains when the lives less
worthy to survive are not reproduced in offspring; but the life of the
individual and of the race suffers when young people, mature and in
every way fit, are not in a position to produce and rear offspring.

At a low stage of development, hunger as well as celibacy has been an
ennobling force. Man has gradually learned to limit the quantity of
his food while improving its quality and regulating the supply. He now
knows that the value of food depends to a large extent on the enjoyment
it provides and the gratification with which it is associated; that
what is unappetising does not fulfil its purpose. He knows too that the
organism cannot be nourished by a diet accurately calculated for every
age or for every class of work, but that only a certain superfluity
really gives the necessary satisfaction. Experience has shown that
too great economy is as injurious as excess and that personal needs
must within certain limits be the deciding criterion in a full and
life-enhancing system of diet. Our understanding of this subject is now
far in advance of the ability of the bulk of mankind to follow it. In
the question of the racial instinct, on the other hand, we are still a
long way from knowledge of the conditions of equilibrium, and we have
much farther still to go before we actually arrive at that equilibrium
between the starvation and excess in the satisfaction of this need
which are at present characteristic of our Western communities.

It was natural that Luther should put an end to fasting as well as
celibacy. Both were expressions of the Oriental longing to attain the
ideal condition of freedom from desire; both had been necessary factors
in the education of the Germanic peoples. But at the same time it
was unfortunately inevitable that Luther’s work of liberation should
be inconclusive; that he was incapable of adopting the belief of the
ancients in the divinity of humanity, the rights of nature; that he
continually sought the sanctification of human nature by means exterior
to itself. Someone has said that the courage of Luther the monk in
marrying a nun was worth more than all his doctrine. That is a true
saying. Filippo Lippi certainly did the same. The world gained thereby
some magnificent madonnas and—Filippino Lippi. But neither Fra Filippo
nor any other vow-breaking monk brought about a revolution: that was
the achievement of Luther alone, who asserted his divine and natural
right to his action.

The problem of the present day is to follow up the consequences of this
declaration of natural rights.

But nature is no more infallible than she is perfect, no more
reasonable than unreasonable, no more consistent than contrary in her
purposes; since she is all these. She may be transformed—ennobled or
debased—by culture, and therefore a natural declaration of rights
implies only _the right of man consciously to cultivate nature_, so
that in a certain direction she may fulfil her own purpose with a
gradual approach to perfection; or, in other words, that the needs
created by nature in and with human beings may by them be satisfied in
a more beautiful and healthy way. But this culture of the erotic nature
cannot find its moral criterion in any divine command or transcendental
idea. _It can only find it in the same mysterious longing for
perfection, which in the course of evolution has raised instinct into
passion, passion into love, and which is now striving to raise love
itself to an even greater love._

There are some who think that love should therefore advance a claim to
a glory of its own, which is incompatible with its “natural” mission,
namely the perpetuation of the race.

Every one knows, however, that evolution brings about a more
complicated, heterogeneous state than the original one; and in this
respect love is the most conspicuous example. Love—as we have already
shown—has now become a great spiritual power, a form of genius
comparable with any other creative force in the domain of culture,
and its production in that region is just as important as in the
so-called natural field. Just as we now recognise the right of the
artist to shape his work, or of the scientific man to carry out his
investigations as it seems good to him, so must we allow to love the
right to employ its creative force in its own way provided only that in
one way or another it finally conduces to the general good.

From this point of view, then, we cannot extend the proposition
that love is an end in itself so far as to say that _it may remain
unfruitful_. It must give life; if not new living beings then new
values; it must enrich the lovers themselves and through them mankind.
Here as everywhere the truth which gives faith in life and creates
morality is to be found included in the experience which creates
happiness; and the most serious charge against certain forms of “free
love” is that it is unhappy love; for there is no unhappy love but the
unfruitful.

The capacity of mankind for forgetting is more wonderful than its
capacity for learning. If this were not so, there would be no necessity
to recall again and again that every band of apostles includes a Judas;
nay, that the truth can only be accepted by disciples in the hands
of its enemies. One is reminded by this that every reformation has
its visionaries who arrest the blow when the reformers have put their
axe to the root of the tree; and one is not surprised that with every
spring flood not only the ice but the earth itself is washed away.

Mankind seems determined not to remember. They must therefore be
reminded once more that the new morality’s band of combatants, ever
more closely united and more rapidly increasing, are distinguished
from their scattered followers and from their light advance-guard
by the knowledge that _love is subject to the same law as every
other creative force; the law of dependence on the whole for its own
enhancement to its highest possible value_. Love, indeed, whose origin
is the very instinct of the race, must be more deeply bound up with the
race than any other emotion. And experience shows too that it cannot
preserve and promote its vital force if it lacks any connection with,
and does not stand in some relation, either of giving or receiving,
to the race. It is therefore an indisputable necessity that every
love entirely detached from the rest of humanity must die for want of
nourishment.

But the band which attaches it to humanity may be woven of several
materials; the gift to the race may express itself in various ways. In
one case a great emotion may bring about a tragic fate, which opens the
eyes of humanity to the red abysses it contains within itself. Another
time it may create a great happiness, which sheds a radiance around the
happy ones, illuminating all who come near them. In many cases love
translates itself into intellectual achievements, or useful social
work; in most it results in two more perfect human beings, and new
creatures, still more perfect than themselves.

Those couples, on the other hand, who have shed no radiance either in
their life or in their death; who have not taken one step on the golden
ladder to a higher humanity, and who have only found in each other the
lust of the beasts—without their readiness to sacrifice themselves for
offspring —these are immoral, since their love has not served the
ascending development of life. Whether this lifeless love has taken the
form of a light and irregular or of a lifelong and lawful connection,
it has in no respect enriched the life of the couple, much less
therefore that of the race.

With the enhancement of life as love’s standard of morality, it is thus
impossible, as we maintained at the beginning, to decide in advance
whether either a free or a married love, an interrupted or a continued
marriage, voluntary childlessness or parentage, is moral or immoral;
for the result depends in each individual case on the will, the choice,
which lies behind it, and _only the development of events can decide
the nature of this will and this choice_.

It is true enough that human beings are often weaker in execution
than in resolve. But then they must content themselves with enlarging
old ideas of morality, for such as they are not called to make new
morals. And it is true that life occasionally lends an unexpected hand
in the correction of a mistake; but as a rule the consequences are as
the cause. A woman who for purely selfish reasons shuns motherhood
will thus usually show herself to be a mistress without affection; a
wife who breaks loose from a marriage before she has tried to extract
from it its possibilities of happiness will probably throw away her
chances in the same way in a new one. No relation can be better
than the persons who compose it. This law is so inflexible that the
administration of moral justice might confidently be left to time.
This does not imply that love, more than any other expression of life,
can be withdrawn from human arbitration, but it implies that _such
arbitration will be faulty when it is decided by the forms of a union
instead of by its results_. Here we are on the watershed between the
old and the new morality. The course of the former is determined by
doubts of, and that of the latter by belief in, the resources of the
power in human nature. The doubts of the former lead to the obligation
of the individual to submit himself to the claims of society; the
belief of the latter leads to the liberty of the individual to choose
his own duty to society. On account of the weakness of human nature,
and of consequent care for the well-being of society, the conservatives
claim that the individual must convince society in advance of his
willingness to serve its ends in his love, by renouncing a part of
his easily misused liberty. On account of the richness of human
nature and the claims of development, the reformers demand for the
individual the right of _serving the community with his love according
to his own choice, and of using the freedom of his love under his own
responsibility_.

He who does not allow his eye to be caught by the light straws that
float and are lost upon the stream of time will soon become aware that
the new morality is growing deeper and deeper with fresh tributaries.


Christian morality starts from the conception of human nature as
complete in its constitution though not in its culture, and of a human
being divided into body and soul. The soul is of divine origin, but
fallen, and must be raised again by a process of culture determined
by religion, the object of which is that mankind may attain the ideal
provided by religion, that is, Christ.

There is another morality which rests—or which rested—upon the belief
in the inborn divinity of human nature and the equality of all men;
this belief ended in the efforts of the eighteenth century towards
universal welfare, and in the expectation that liberty, equality, and
fraternity could be realised even with the existing human material.

The new morality, on the other hand, adopts humanism in the form of
evolutionism. It is determined by a monistic belief in the soul and
body as two forms of the same existence; by the belief of evolutionism
that man’s psycho-physical being is neither fallen nor perfect, but
capable of perfection; _that it is susceptible of modification for the
very reason that it is not constitutively completed_. Both utilitarian
and Christian humanism saw “culture,” “progress,” and “development” in
man’s improvement of material and non-material resources within and
without himself. But evolutionism knows that all this has only been
the preparation for a development which is to _improve and ennoble the
very material of mankind, hitherto, so to speak, only experimentally
produced_.

Our present “nature” means only what, at this stage of development,
is psychologically and physiologically necessary that we may exist as
people of a certain time, a certain race, a certain nation. Hairiness
was once “nature,” as nakedness is now. Marriage by capture was once
“natural,” as courtship is now. What new transformations the race is
destined to undergo; what losses and gains, at present unsuspected, of
organs and senses, faculties and properties of the soul, await it—this
is the secret of the future. But the more mankind is convinced of its
power of intervening in its own development, the more necessary does
a conscious purpose become. We must understand what obstructions we
will root out, what roads we will block up, and what sacrifices we will
impose upon ourselves.

The new morality is in the stage of enquiry on many questions—such as
labour, crime, and education—but above all on the sexual life. Even on
this question it no longer accepts commandments from the mountains of
Sinai or Galilee; here as everywhere else evolutionism can only regard
_continuous experience as revelation_. Evolutionism does not reject the
results of historical experience, nor the fruits of Christian-human
civilisation—even if it were possible to “reject” what has become
soul and blood in humanity. But it regards the course of historical
civilisation that lies behind us as a battle-field of mutually
conflicting ideas and purposes, with no more conscious plan than
the warfare of savages. Not until humanity chooses its ends and its
means—and makes its more immediate end the enhancement of all that is
at present characteristic of humanity—not until it begins to measure
all its other gains and losses by the degree in which they further or
retard that enhancement, will it also adopt the right attitude towards
its inheritance from former ages. Then it will reject what hinders and
select what assists _its struggle for the strengthening of its position
as humanity and its elevation to super-humanity_.

We stand on the verge of a stage of culture which will be that of the
depths, not, as hitherto, of the surface alone; a stage which will not
be merely a culture _through_ mankind, but culture _of_ mankind. For
the first time, the great fashioners of culture will be able to work
in marble, instead of, as hitherto, being forced to work in snow. The
true relation between the rights of the individual and those of the
race will become in the field of love as important as the relation
between the rights of the individual and those of society in the field
of labour. The conditions of labour raise or lower the value of the
present as well as of the future generation. The same holds good—and
in an even higher degree—of the conditions of love.

How the boundary will finally be defined—in the one case as in the
other—we cannot know at present. It is true that there is here and
there a glimmer of light which already shows the way; but until these
gleams become more frequent, mankind can only grope and stumble along
the path by which perhaps it will one day march in full daylight.

Many who regard sexual morality from the point of view of evolutionism
have never enquired whether monogamy—and an increasingly perfect
monogamy—is really the best means of human development. These
evolutionists unite with the champions of Christian idealism in
condemnation of “the immorality of the present day,” which declares
itself in sexual matters in the form of free connections outside
matrimony; of an increase of divorce among those married; of
disinclination for parentage and of the claim of unmarried women to the
right of motherhood. Other evolutionists think that all this is the
earliest announcement of the awakening which will assign to love its
full importance, not only for the perpetuation, but for the progress
of the race. With the will of active, effective life they attack the
current standard of morality and the rights of the family. The object
of the conflict is not itself new; what is new is only the boldness,
fostered, consciously or unconsciously, by the evolutionary idea, of
thus asserting the rights of love against those of society, the code of
the future against that of the past.

The new morality knows that in a wide sense civilisation will only
attain lasting power over nature when it combines higher emotions
of happiness with the ends in the pursuit of which harsh means may
be demanded. That creed of life which makes the mission of the race
co-operate with personal happiness in love, will also demand of the
latter the sacrifices which the former renders necessary. But it must
not augment these requirements by ascetic demands for purity which
are meaningless for the racial mission. The followers of this creed
will take love as the criterion of the individual’s sexual emotions
and actions, above all because they believe that _the happiness of the
individual is the most important condition also for the enhancement of
the race_.

They desire to fill the earth with hungerers for happiness, since they
know that only thus will earthly life attain its inmost purpose, that
of forming—in an altogether new sense—creatures of eternity.

The word, which through Eros became flesh and dwells among us, is the
profoundest of all: _Joy is perfection._

If we accept this dictum of Spinoza as the highest revelation of
life’s meaning, our eyes are at the same time opened to the harmony
of existence. We perceive that the more perfect race will be in the
fullest sense of the word _created by love_. But this will not take
place until love has become a religion, the highest expression of the
fear of life—not the fear of God;—when faith in life has scattered
the superstition and unbelief which still disfigure love. When the
eldest of the gods has no other god before him, then will the monsters
who now fill the murky deeps over which the spirit of the god moves
perish in the light of the new day of creation.


For the sake of clearness, it has been necessary to sum up here the
main ideas of the following exposition. In some measure it will
therefore be also necessary to return to them during the following
treatment of the movements which have the deepest influence on sexual
morality: _the evolution of love_, its _freedom_ and its _selection_;
the claims of a _right to_ and an _exemption from motherhood_; of
_collective motherhood_, of _free divorce_, and of a _new marriage
law_.



CHAPTER II

THE EVOLUTION OF LOVE


Just as the Swedes, in comparison with some other of the Germanic
peoples, are behindhand in their view of _l’amour passion_, so are the
Germanic races as a whole behindhand as compared with the foremost
Latin peoples. The Gallic counterpart of the Lutheran doctrine of
marriage is to be found in another monk, Luther’s contemporary,
Rabelais, with his joyous project of a new kind of convent, where
every monk should have his nun, with the power of separating after a
year of probation; a plan which perhaps would not have been a much
more roundabout way of educating mankind to love than was the Lutheran
doctrine of marriage. Nothing is farther from the truth than that the
Reformation increased respect for love and woman. It raised the esteem
for the married state as compared with the unmarried, but it enhanced
neither the position of woman in matrimony nor the importance of love
in regard to marriage. Even in the Middle Ages, the Latin nations
render a homage to woman which to-day is still almost incomprehensible
to the man of a Germanic race. And if, on the one hand, this homage
took the form of the cult of Venus, which is born in the Latin blood,
on the other, it expressed through the cult of Mary its reverence for
what is deepest in woman, motherhood. Even to-day, the Frenchwoman is
esteemed not according to her age but according to her qualities. It
is not only the mothers who worship their sons, but also the latter
their mothers; and not only the mother, but besides her every admirable
elderly woman receives attention in social life as in the family from
men of all ages. The middle-class wife—though indeed at the cost of
the children—co-operates in her husband’s calling with a seriousness
unknown in the Germanic middle-class. In France as in Italy, family
life has a kind of warm intimacy which the German does not understand;
since the Latin temperament lacks that geniality which sheds its light
over the frequently rough lines and harsh colours of the landscape of
the Germanic soul. It is rather the coldness of his disposition than
the strength of his soul that makes the German so much less erotic than
the Southerner; it is more indifference to woman than respect for her
that expresses itself in the distinction between the erotic customs of
North and South. But when all this has been admitted for the sake of
justice, we may fairly lay stress upon the influence of the Germanic
spirit in the struggle to put an end to that cleavage between love and
marriage which has prevailed among the Southern nations ever since the
days of the Courts of Love. For the peculiarity of the Gallic spirit
is to discriminate. This gives it the power of following out an idea
to its uttermost conclusions, but at the same time renders it liable
in actual life to split itself up among superficialities. The strength
of the German, on the other hand, is his desire of unity. This makes
him inconsistent as a thinker, since he must include everything, but
against this it makes him strive after consistency in life. The same
deep sense of personality which created Protestantism has in the
Germanic world sought to make love as well as faith the affair of the
individual and to make marriage one with love. Among the educated
classes in the North, marriages of convenience or those arranged by
the family are now things of the past, while in the Latin world they
are still the rule, though with increasingly frequent exceptions.
But in most cases it is still in free connections, before and during
marriage, that the Frenchman engages his erotic feelings; and the
French wife has abundantly shown the emptiness of the assertion that
“a woman always loves the father of her child,” the most dangerous
of the false doctrines which have led women into marriage and thence
into adultery. In Shakespeare, on the other hand, we already find the
wife and the mistress united in the same person, and it is always in
English literature that we meet with the highest expression of the
Germanic feeling for unity in love. Since the mediæval minnesingers
ceased to sing, the literature of Germany and Scandinavia, dominated
by Lutheranism, bears witness chiefly of “the lust of the flesh.”
Women are esteemed according as they fulfil their destiny as bearers
of children and housewives. The abolition of the cloister and celibacy
has, however, brought about the good result of the transmission of
spiritual forces which formerly died with the individual. And it may
well have been through some of those who formerly took refuge with
their idealism in a cloister, that the longing for a great love has
been left as an inheritance to sons and daughters.

In Germany, the leading poet of the “age of enlightenment,” Gottsched,
asserts woman’s right to culture; in America, during the War of
Independence, the women gave evidence of their sense of citizenship;
and it was during a more recent struggle for liberty, that against
slavery, that the woman’s question came to the front in that country.

In France, the eighteenth century, more than any other period of
history, is “the century of woman.” The salons are the focussing
point of all ideas; the most eminent men write for women, who become
electric batteries from which the ideas of the time send out kindling
sparks in all directions. Thus the women of France help to prepare the
French Revolution. During the Revolution, Olympe de Gouges writes
her “declaration of the rights of woman,” as a counterpart to that of
the rights of man, and Condorcet speaks in support of woman’s claims.
The same spirit of a new age confronts us in Mary Wollstonecraft’s _A
Vindication of the Rights of Woman_ (1792), as also in Hippel’s _Ueber
die bürgerliche Verbesserung der Weiber_, published the same year,
and in the Swede Thorild’s contemporary treatise _Om kvinnokönets
naturliga höghet_ (“On the Natural Greatness of Women”). Each in its
way was a remarkable sign of the time which already included the whole
“emancipation” programme of equality of position: the same rights for
woman as for man as regards education, labour, a share in legislation,
and an equality of position under the law and in marriage.

Isolated instances of emancipated women were nothing new. In Greece,
the type was common enough to be employed in comedy; in Rome,
self-supporting women were to be found; during the Middle Ages not
only Bridget but many another woman—in the quality of abbess or
regent—exercised a great and often beneficial activity. The days of
antiquity, of the Middle Ages, and of the Renaissance all possessed
female scholars, physicians, and artists. But it is not until the
century of the great Revolution that we find among women themselves
as well as among certain men a persistent and conscious striving to
elevate the education and to secure the rights of women.

And wherever this striving has been profound, it has been united with
the desire to reform the position of woman in love and in marriage.


It is a very common but erroneous opinion that monogamy has given rise
to love. Love appears already among animals, and with them, as in the
world of men, has shown itself independent of monogamy.

The origin of the latter in human society was the relation of
proprietorship, religious ideas, considerations of collective utility,
but not perception of the importance of love’s selection. On the
contrary, love has been in perpetual strife with monogamy, and it is
therefore a profound mistake to suppose that the higher view of love
has been formed solely through monogamy. The idea of love has been
developed in as great a degree by attacks on marriage as in association
with marriage itself.

While, in spite of the accumulation of evidence to the contrary,
Christianity’s share in the origin of human love is constantly
exaggerated, sufficient stress has not been laid upon its indirect
influence on the development of sexual love. It is true that all over
the world—from Iceland to Japan—songs and legends are to be found
which give glorious evidence of the power of love in the heart of man
in all ages. But the sexual emotion, nevertheless, held a subordinate
position in the life of the human soul until Christianity granted to
woman also a soul to save—in other words, a personality to cultivate.
Christianity, moreover commended the womanly rather than the manly
virtues, and although Christ himself ignored woman, love, and the
family life, his ethics became thus in an indirect form a glorification
of woman. The importance attached by Christianity to the value of
the individual as a soul—in contradistinction to the insistence by
paganism on his value as a citizen—was likewise one of the unseen
contributary causes which during the Middle Ages made love a life-power.

In antiquity, marriage was a duty to society; friendship, on the
other hand, was the free expression of sympathy. Not until man’s
consciousness admitted a soul in woman, could personal love arise. But
so mysterious are the influences through which the soul of mankind
grows, that the youthful love of the ancients indirectly developed the
need of sympathy also between grown men and women; and the suppression
of the sexual instinct by Catholic asceticism indirectly furthered the
introspective, soulful emotion of love which rises above sensuality.

The modern view of love as the most lofty state of the soul had already
taken shape in the time of the Crusades sufficiently to bring into
existence at this period the Courts of Love in the south of France.
Woman, the knight, and the singer together intensify and refine love,
in part by laying stress upon its incompatibility with marriage!

Students have shown how the refined expression of love in poetry
corresponds with the forms of the sexual life of the upper classes,
since monogamy became the law and a secret polygamy the custom. This
dual division of the erotic feelings has on the one side brought
about such fine and lofty, and on the other such coarse and debased
manifestations that neither one nor the other has any counterpart
among the nations—or classes within a nation—where this division is
unknown, since there the freedom of sexual choice is undisputed.

And this is natural; for there the sexual life preserves its
innocence of “paradise,” one of simple animality perturbed by no
higher consciousness. This innocence can only be replaced on a higher
plane after a long period of development. The way thither is by the
cleavage which “the division of labour” involves even in regard to the
development of the feelings.

The Middle Ages were thus only capable of dividing love from marriage.
This is witnessed by the greatest singers of love and by the greatest
love stories. Tristan and Isolde in the world of poetry, Abelard and
Heloïse in that of reality, are the highest types of the new age, even
then dawning, which is finally to bring about the declaration of
rights of human emotion as of human thought. These lovers, united in
life and death, are the highest testimony of the Middle Ages to that
free love which makes its own laws and abolishes all others; to that
great love which is the sense of eternity of great souls, in opposition
to the ephemeral inclination of small ones.

Scholasticism, ever extending introspective psychology; mysticism,
ever refining the life of the soul devoted to God, unconsciously pour
oil upon the red flame of love as upon the white flame of faith.
The _Vita Nuova_ of love breaks out in the fire of poetry, whose
most aspiring flame was Dante. It lived on in the souls of the elect
among Latin peoples. The Platonism of the Renaissance refined the
mediæval conception of love as the most excellent means of bringing to
perfection the highest human qualities. And thus was established the
right of lovers to independence of the customs of society.

It is significant that, at the mediæval Courts of Love as at the courts
of the Renaissance and in the contests of wit of the seventeenth
century, women are granted not only the same right of sentiment as
men but also the same liberty of using their spiritual gifts; for
every intensifying of love is connected, openly or otherwise, with the
augmentation of woman’s spiritual life and with man’s thus enhanced
estimation of the value of her personality. Instead of being to him
“the sex,” the means of enjoyment, woman becomes the mistress, when
love has come to mean an exclusive desire for one woman, who is only to
be won by devoted service. Whenever woman has taken the lead in erotic
matters, man’s love has been ennobled. In Shakespeare, we find the
whole of the preceding spiritual culture summed up. All his best women
are chaste in the same degree as they are devoted, but they are also in
the same degree spiritually rich and complete personalities. Therefore
they are also leaders through their clear-sightedness and promptness in
the moment of action. And although Shakespeare, like every other great
poet, formed his women more of the material of dreams than of reality;
although the foremost men of the Italian Renaissance probably had more
often a Boccaccio’s than a Petrarch’s experience of love; although
the age of baroque turned _le Pays du tendre_ into a stiff garden
surrounding decorative figures, nevertheless life itself, especially
the life of the Latin peoples—as well as their best literature—can
always show proud and beautiful examples of loving couples and
sacrifices for love, even in that century whose male “philosophers”
deprived woman of the lead, when love became “galanterie,” gay and ugly
by turns.

At the time when Rousseau appeared, love was equally degraded through
Latin-Epicurean immorality and through Germanic-Lutheran “morality.”

What he did for love was the same that he would have done for the
lungs, if in one of the boudoirs of those days, stuffy with perfumes
and wax candles, he had thrown open the windows to the summer night,
with its scent of productive earth and blossoming plants, dark masses
of foliage and the star-sown sky.

But Rousseau did not follow out the ideas that lay nearest to his
own: that only love ought to constitute marriage; that only the
development of the woman’s personality deepens love. Even Goethe,
who after Rousseau carried the gleaming trail farther, by showing
love as the mysterious fateful power of elective affinity, saw the
happiness of love rather in the directness of woman’s nature than
in its development. The French Revolution drew the consequences of
Rousseau’s propositions also in the questions of love and woman; it
made marriage civil and divorce free, but it did not give to woman the
franchise; indeed, it did not even preserve the form of it which she
had previously possessed. All the spirits influenced by Rousseau and
the Revolution have since, in literature and in life, followed out
love’s declaration of rights.

In the nineteenth century as in the Middle Ages, it was women, poets,
and knights—the last under the name of social utopians—who took
the lead in this. In Germany, it was first the romantic school, then
“Young Germany,” which went foremost; in England, Shelley, Byron,
Browning, and a number of other thinkers; in Norway, Camilla Collet
and some great poets among the men. In France,—in the midst of
the reaction which reintroduced indissoluble marriage,—Madame de
Staël attacks this in _Delphine_. In the country of literary salons,
it is attempted to prevent woman’s genius from acting as a social
force—and through _Corinne_ and Coppet, Mme. de Staël makes it a
universal force. Her confidence that honour for a woman can signify
only a means of winning love; her complaint that life denies to the
woman of genius the fulfilment of her most beautiful dream, love in
marriage, were the prologue to innumerable tragedies during woman’s
century. After her, came the followers of St. Simon and the rest of the
social revolutionaries, and above all another of Rousseau’s spiritual
daughters, the woman in whose veins all the blood was mingled which
the Revolution had poured out on the scaffold and on the battle-field:
blood of the mob, blood of the bourgeois, noble blood, royal blood!
The courage of her nation to follow truth to its utmost consequences,
the fervent faith of her childhood, the wistfulness of her blood,
her soul’s longing for eternity, the volcanic ardour and ashes of
her experiences—all this George Sand hurls forth in her indictment
of the marriage upheld by Church and State, which to her was “lawful
ravishing” and “prostitution under vows.” Long before her time, the
rights of love had been asserted in the case of exceptional natures.
George Sand’s new courage was shown in demanding this right for all; in
branding it upon the conscience of her time that, when two human beings
wish to be together, no bond is needed to hold them together; that,
when they do not wish it, to hold them together by force is a violation
of their human rights and of their human dignity.

From this moment the battle was transferred from Olympus to the earth.
And since then all “saviours of society” have sought to quench, and all
“enemies of society” have striven to spread, its flames.

The love which a George Sand herself sought in vain on paths from which
she returned with feet wounded, and sometimes soiled; the love a Rahel
Varnhagen suffered from and lived on, a Camilla Collet implored, and an
Elizabeth Browning realised—this is the love of which the woman of the
new age is also dreaming.

George Sand—like the followers of St. Simon, and like the modern
feminists—looked upon freedom in love as the central point in the
woman’s question. Like George Sand, the feminism of the present day
asserts the right of free thought against the creed of authority in
every field; the solidarity of mankind and the cause of peace against
the patriotism of militarism; social reform against the existing
relations of society. The American-English-Scandinavian woman’s
question—whose supreme confession of faith is still J. S. Mill’s
book, published in 1854, on _The Subjection of Women_—has, on the
other hand, overlooked to a great extent erotic, religious, and social
emancipation, and asserted only woman’s rights as a citizen. Thus,
especially in Scandinavia, the new gospel of love has had to encounter
from the leaders of emancipation, now indifference, now resentment.

Ridicule and resentment from men have also fallen to the lot of the
women’s demand for a new love. With arguments, for which Schopenhauer
and Hartmann once provided the philosophical formulæ, it has been shown
that soulful love is an illusion of nature, and that the unity in love,
which woman now claims of man, demands sacrifices which are opposed to
his physiological and psychological nature.

Undisturbed by ridicule and resentment, however, the women of the new
age have continued to preach the love of their dreams—which is also
that of the dreams of poets.

For thousands of years, poetry has been picturing love as a mysterious
and tragic power. But when anyone says the same thing in plain prose,
and adds that life would be colourless and poor without the great
passions, then this is called immorality! Century after century, poetry
sets forth the loftiness of love. But if anyone in everyday prose
ventures to say that love may become an ever loftier emotion, then this
is called extravagance; for it does not occur to the people of the
present day to regard poetry as prophetic.

The new love is still the natural attraction of man and woman to each
other for the continuance of the race. It is still the desire of the
active human being to relieve through comradeship the hardships of
another and of himself at the same time. But above this eternal nature
of love, beyond this primeval cause of marriage, another longing has
grown with increasing strength. This is not directed towards the
continuance of the race. It has sprung from man’s sense of loneliness
within his race, a loneliness which is ever greater in proportion as
his soul is exceptional. It is the pining for that human soul which
is to release our own from this torment of solitude; a torment which
was formerly allayed by repose in God, but which now seeks its rest
with an equal, with a soul that has itself lain wakeful with eyelids
heated from the same longing; a soul empowered by love to the miracle
of redeeming our soul—as itself by ours is redeemed—from the sense of
being a stranger upon earth; a soul before whose warmth our own lets
fall the covering that the world’s coldness has imposed upon it and
shows its secrets and its glories without shame. Richard Dehmel has
summed this up in two immortal lines:

  _Liebe ist die Freiheit der Gestalt
   Vom Wahn der Welt, vom Bann der eignen Seele._

The same feeling has possessed many a man before our time. One of them
was Eugène Delacroix, who speaks in his journal of the pain of only
being able to show to each of his friends the aspect of himself which
that friend understood, and of thus being obliged to become another
for each of them, without ever feeling himself completely understood;
a suffering for which he only knew one remedy, _une épouse qui est de
votre force_.

But what is new about it is that this sentiment has become diffused and
has taken shape in the consciousness of the many; that it is beginning
to set its stamp upon the whole spirit of the age.

Meanwhile, mankind continues to be guided by erotic impulses which lie
deep below its conscious erotic needs. Man’s senses are spurred by a
desire which thrusts aside that of the soul. The culture of the idea of
love is far in advance of the instincts of love. And thus our time is
brimful of love-conflicts.

To this must be added that the increased sensibility of modern man
has rendered him more and more inclined to wear masks, protective
disguises, artistically decorated armour. Protection is indispensable,
since no one would be able to endure life if he were hourly seeing the
ill-bound or still open wounds of others, or feeling his own touched by
anyone. Existence would lose much of its excitement without secrets,
suspected or unsuspected, in the destinies and souls of men. But at
the same time this protection renders love’s struggle to penetrate
appearances more and more difficult. Therefore a certain form of
“flirtation” serves as the attempt of awakening love to tear off the
mask, to outwit the protective disguise, a game of fence which aims at
the joints of the tight-fitting armour.

But the attempts are often unsuccessful and life is more and more
crowded with destinies that have miscarried, while more and more people
wring their hands in solitude over what might have been! Man feels more
deeply than ever before that life gave him a poor portion, when his
love has been nothing but sinking in an embrace. An ever greater number
know that love is absorption into that spirit, in which one’s own finds
its foothold without losing its freedom; the nearness of that heart
which stills the disquiet in our own; that attentive ear which catches
what is unspoken and unspeakable; the clear sight of those eyes which
see the realisation of our best possibilities; the touch of those hands
which, dying, we would feel closed on our own.

When two souls have joys which the senses share, and when the senses
have delights which the souls ennoble, then the result is neither
desire nor friendship. Both have been absorbed in a new feeling,
not to be compared with either taken by itself, just as the air is
incomparable with its component elements. Nitrogen is not air, nor is
oxygen; sensuousness is not love, nor is sympathy. In combination they
are the air of life and love. If either of the component elements is
in the wrong proportion to the other, then love—like air—becomes
too heavy or too rarefied. But as the proportions between oxygen and
nitrogen may within a wide limit vary without disadvantage, so also
may the components of love. Affinity of soul is doubtless the most
enduring element in love, but not therefore the only valuable one; the
love that fills life with intoxication is separated from even the most
lofty friendship by an ocean as deep as that which divides the India of
legend from utilitarian America—a lifetime in which will not equal a
single day in the other!

Great love arises only when desire of a being of the other sex
coalesces with the longing for a soul of one’s own kind. It is like
fire, the hotter it is, the purer; and differs from the ardour of
desire as the white heat of a smelting-furnace differs from the ruddy,
smoking flames of a torch carried along the streets.


The constantly increased importance of sympathy in the life of the soul
finds expression, however, at the present time within the feminine
world in an over-estimation of friendship, both between one woman and
another and in relation to love. A passionate worship between persons
of the same age—or of an elder by a younger member of the same sex—is
among women as among men the customary and beautiful morning glow of
love, which always pales after sunrise. An entirely personal, great
friendship is, on the other hand, as rare as a great love, and equally
rare among women as among men. Those who expect to find the complement
of their being in friendship have therefore no greater prospect of
attaining the essential in this sphere, and moreover they run the risk
of missing it in the sphere of love, through shutting themselves off
from or impoverishing themselves of love’s emotions. The women of older
times also cultivated friendship. But they did not content themselves
with it in the place of love. And if women were once seriously to do
this, then winter would have come upon the world. The way of evolution
is to demand of love all that friendship affords—and infinitely more!
But the rich spiritual intercourse between female fellow-workers and
fellow-students, as also between comrades of different sexes, is now
preparing the third historical stage of development, that of individual
sympathy. It is true that great love has been individually sympathetic
in all ages. What is new is that an ever greater number of spirits
are guided by the same need; that the possibility of great love has
become apparent to many, not only to a chosen few. Just as we have been
able to gauge the revival of love by the diminution of marriages of
convenience, by the recognition of young people’s liberty of choice,
and by the popular condemnation of marriages for money, so can we now
measure the strength of the new revival by other, equally significant
phenomena; those, namely, called “the new immorality.” It has been said
with truth that love as it now is—the great psychological reality with
which one has to reckon—in its present complicated, manifold, and
refined condition, is the result of all the progress of human activity:
of the victory of intelligence and sentiment over crude force, of
the transformation in the relations between man and woman which new
economic, religious, and ethical ideas have brought about; of the
growing desire for inward and outward beauty, of the will to ennoble
the race, and other causes. But among these we have not named the most
important, that in which many now see a sign of degeneration, but which
is really one of development, the cause on which rests the hope of the
final abolition of erotic dualism: the conciliation of the excessive
opposition of sex.

So long as man and woman are so divided in their erotic needs as is
at present often the case, love will be the “everlasting conflict”
described by those poets and thinkers who see only the immediate
present, without faith in the development of love or mankind’s
education in loving; for in the midst of the age of evolutionism men
neither think nor feel according to its doctrines. To him, however,
who does so feel, nothing is more certain than that “the everlasting
conflict” will one day end in the conclusion of peace.

The sceptics just referred to smile ambiguously at the mention of
friendship between women, as at that of the refinement and craving
for sympathy in woman’s love. It is not until a mistress or a wife,
misunderstood in the depths of her being, leaves him, that such a man
discovers that the being he believed himself to be making entirely
happy, has not even had her senses satisfied—since the soul received
nothing from the senses and gave them nothing.

Those men—for the rest often men of fine culture—of whom this is
true, are generally verging on middle age. Among men comparatively
young, on the other hand, the erotic longing is often as refined and
craves as much for sympathy, as with women, although it is still rare
for the man to possess that balance between soul and senses which
his equal in the other sex has attained. That women now venture to
acknowledge that they possess erotic senses, while men are beginning to
discover erotically that they have souls; that woman demands feelings
in a man and he ideas in her—this is the great and happy sign of the
times. Sensitive young men of the present day suffer perhaps as much
as their sisters when loved only for their sex, not personally and
on account of their personality. They for their part love just that
womanly individuality for which they provide freedom of movement,
instead of—as their own fathers did—trying to assimilate it to their
own.

On the highest plane—as on the lowest—the similarities between man’s
love and woman’s are already greater than the dissimilarities; and
there may be more danger to love in the growing likeness between the
sexes than in continued unlikeness. Man becomes a human being—and
woman likewise—at the cost of his secondary sexual characters. There
are already some who think that the close of psychical development will
present the same phenomenon as the beginning of physical development,
namely, that the embryo at a certain stage is neither male nor female
but includes both possibilities!

The romanticists, F. Schlegel in particular, lay stress upon the
distinction that, while the ancients put greatness of heart, nobility
of mind, and strength of soul above the purely sexual qualities, the
moderns have made woman one-sidedly feminine and man one-sidedly
masculine, and assert that this extreme view on both sides must be got
rid of in order to arrive at morality, beauty, and harmony in sexual
relations; a view which was also that of Schleiermacher. And if we
will see a deeper meaning in the tale of Aristophanes of the cloven
human being, it will be the same that an apocryphal tradition ascribes
to Jesus, in the saying that “the kingdom of God is at hand when the
two again become one.” That Plato already emphasises the sufferings
imposed on both halves of the being by the “cleavage,” is evidence
of the commencement of development of love; for this development has
progressed through the increasing opposition of the sexes, with the
passion and the pain it has caused. Now at last the moment has arrived
when the divided sections again converge towards a higher unity.

In reality, this desirable conciliation of sexual opposition is
proceeding with such rapidity that there might be a fear of its
becoming a danger to love in a near future, if the psychical opposition
of sex were not always dependent finally on the physical, and if the
modern man and woman were not becoming simultaneously more and more
individualised.

And it is in this circumstance that the future possibilities of great
love lie. Individualisation is already so powerful that a thoughtful
person is ever more inclined to check himself when the abstract
expressions “man” and “woman” escape his lips. For already men and
women respectively differ among themselves almost as much as the two
sexes from each other. And as a compensation for the enfeebling through
conciliation of universal erotic attraction, we have the charm of
individual contrasts. Love’s spiritual longing—to be resolved together
with another soul into a higher harmony—will not be enfeebled, but, on
the contrary, will be enhanced in proportion as this contrast is more
personal.

A. Rodin—who like every great Frenchman understands great love—has
glorified it in his statue of a pair of lovers, who have through
each other become more perfect beings than either could have been
alone. Rodin makes the man thoroughly masculine, the woman thoroughly
feminine, while each line in their two figures shows primitive force
ennobled into spiritual power, and love as the consummation of the
human man and the human woman.

When life from time to time shows us this proud and beautiful vision,
then we are in the presence of a happiness which is overpoweringly
great. For as an economical housewife shuts out the sunlight, so life
often lets fall the curtain of death when happiness shines; or indeed
men kill their own happiness through instincts surviving from a lower
stage.

Chief of these is that instinct which makes the force of primitive
animality still erotically attractive even to the spiritually
sensitive. Men and women with this power of elementary passion,
intoxicate because they are themselves intoxicated, because, without
being checked by any consideration or held back by the soul, they give
themselves up wholly and hotly to the moment. It is as superficial a
psychology to say that Don Juan’s reputation makes him irresistible
as that conquest of Cleopatra is tempting because it is also conquest
over Cæsar. No, the power of these natures lies in their undivided,
unscrupulous will to use all the resources of their being to attain
their end. And only that by which one’s whole being is held at the
moment has the power of holding others. Thus the question is answered

  _Comment fais-tu les grands amours,
   Petite ligne de la bouche?_

Soulful people, especially women, have hitherto only loved partially.
But when sensuousness—in alliance with the mission of the
race—regains its ancient dignity, then the power of giving erotic
rapture will not be the monopoly of him who is inhuman in his love. The
wise virgins’ deadly sin against love is that they disdained to learn
of the foolish ones the secret of fascination; that they would know
none of the thousand things that bind a man’s senses or lay hold on his
soul; that they regarded the power to please as equivalent to the will
to betray. When all women who can love are also able to make goodness
fascinating and completeness of personality intoxicating, then Imogen
will conquer Cleopatra.

As yet the charming ones are not always good, the good not always
charming, and the majority neither good nor charming. During this
transition between an old and a new womanliness it is natural that she
should be strongest who unites in herself

  _Ève, Joconde, et Delila._

From observation of love’s realisation in marriage—as it is still
realised in the majority of cases—young women have been more and more
possessed by a disinclination to wed. They wish for the love of their
dreams or none at all. A lower claim, a poorer gift of love has for
them no value which can be compared with their free personal life. To
the man who only seeks her lips but does not listen to the words from
them, who longs for her embrace but smiles or frowns when she reveals
the nature of her soul, such a woman has nothing to give. Her love is
now filled with the whole nourishing force of her human nature, replete
with the whole sap of her woman’s nature, and she desires that the
sacrament she thus dispenses shall be received with devotion.

She will no longer be captured like a fortress or hunted like a quarry;
nor will she like a placid lake await the stream that seeks its way
to her embrace. A stream herself, she will go her own way to meet the
other stream.


We live in a period of spiritual reformation of immense importance
in the history of the world. Every human being who himself has soul
is being more and more penetrated by the sense of the mysterious
effects of elective affinities; of sympathetic and antipathetic
influences; of subconscious powers, above all in the erotic sphere.
Sensations of the erotically dæmonic are not new. But they were
formerly condemned to as great an extent as they are now recognised and
indeed sometimes assisted. It is this exquisite sensitiveness, these
vibrating nerves, these changing moods, this irritability of sensation
that the woman—like the man—of the present day has acquired as her
superiority, her gain through culture, her right of precedence before
any other generation. But this new wealth involves innumerable new
conflicts. The senses go their own way and are attracted where the soul
is estranged, or repelled although the heart is filled with tenderness.
Until the physiology and psychology of loathing are understood, we
shall not have gone far towards the solution of the erotic problem.
Every day—and night—these innumerable influences, conscious or
unconscious, are at work transforming the feelings of married people
and lovers. And although our time is becoming increasingly conscious of
this, it does not yet understand either how to counteract the dangerous
or encourage the favourable influence of the important trifles of
married life.

Only the foremost of women with a genius for love have arrived at that
degree of sensitiveness which makes it impossible for them to give or
receive anything in love without the feeling which one of Charlotte
Brontë’s women expresses in the words: _You fit me into the finest
fibre of my being._

Every developed modern woman wishes to be loved not _en mâle_ but _en
artiste_. Only a man whom she feels to possess an artist’s joy in her,
and who shows this joy in discreet and delicate contact with her soul
as with her body, can retain the love of the modern woman. She will
belong only to a man who longs for her always, even when he holds her
in his arms. And when such a woman exclaims: “You desire me, but you
cannot caress, you cannot listen ...” then that man is doomed.

Modern woman’s love differs from that of older times by, amongst other
things, the insatiability of its demand for completeness and perfection
in itself, and for corresponding completeness and perfection in the
feeling of the man.

Our soul is doubtless often deeper, but occasionally also shallower,
than our conscious existence and will. Therefore it may happen that the
new love in all its force exists in a woman who is unconscious of her
own erotic greatness, while, on the other hand, another, who desires
it with all her will, perhaps may lack the depth of feeling, the
instinctive sureness of choice.

The women of the present day learn everything and arrive at much, even
at the finest ideas of love. But, full of insight as they are into
the _ars amandi_, have modern women indeed learned how with all their
soul, all their strength, and all their mind to love? Their mothers and
grandmothers—on a much lower plane of conscious erotic idealism—knew
of only one object: that of making their husbands happy. This
then meant that the wife ought to submit to everything and ask for
nothing; to serve her husband’s ends untiringly, even when she did
not understand them, and to receive with gratitude any crumbs of his
personality that might fall to her from the table to which his friends
were bidden to feast. But what watchful tenderness, what dignified
desire to please, what fair gladness could not the finest of these
spiritually ignored women develop!

The new man lives in a dream of the new woman, and she, in a dream of
the new man. But when they actually find one another it frequently
results that two highly developed brains together analyse love, or that
two worn-out nervous systems fight out a disintegrating battle over
love. The whole thing usually ends in each of them seeking peace with
some surviving incarnation of the old Adam and the eternal Eve. But not
with a clear conscience; for they are continually aware that they were
intended for the new experience, although their powers of loving were
small while their ideas of love were great.

Not until the spring rain of the new ideas has fallen sufficiently to
penetrate the roots and rise as sap in the tree of life, will a greater
happiness grow from the new love, which is not to be blamed because men
have dreamed it greater than they themselves are at present.

Individualism has made love deeper and at the same time increased
its difficulties. It has called forth an enhanced consciousness
of our own nature, our own moods; it has created new spiritual
conditions and—as already pointed out—set in vibration innumerable
formerly latent feelings of pleasure and aversion. But our personal
irritable sensitiveness has not yet been developed to the point of a
corresponding delicacy of feeling for the equally sensitive spiritual
life of others. The capacity for giving and sacrificing has not grown
at an equal pace with that of accepting and demanding. Of love’s double
heart-beat—the finding one’s self, and the forgetting one’s self in
another—the first is now considerably more advanced than the second.
Not until those women who are absorbed in self-analysis combine their
own personal store of life’s riches, their individual diversity, their
unique spirituality with the sunny, healthy peace, the self-sacrificing
devotion of older times, will their new development render them more
powerful than the women who preceded them. It is a healthy sign that
men and women exchange experiences and ideas on these subjects with
a frankness that was never known before; that they are much less
affected before marriage, as women indeed have ceased to be so after
marriage. There was a heroic kind of affectation, of which Mrs. Carlyle
was the typical example, but in itself it was borrowed from man’s
ethical development. Nevertheless one would often wish that the young
wives of the present day possessed more of the old-fashioned gift of
conceding the desires of the beloved with a happy smile, instead of
insisting on their own. The modern woman will not feign anything for
the sake of occasional peace or understanding. And she is right—when
anything of real importance in the domain of ideas or will is at
stake; she is doubly right in holding that all the lies and ruses
which married “happiness” enforced on the wives of an older time were
degrading to both parties; that what was thus gained was no real gain.
Nothing is more true than that the souls which are parted by a lack of
perfect frankness never belonged to one another; that complete mutual
confidence is the true sign of union. Nothing could be wiser than the
modern woman’s desire to see life with her own eyes, not—as was the
case with the women who went before her—only with those of a husband.
But has she also retained the power of seeing everything with the
thought of what the loved one’s eyes will find in it?


Upon the answer to these questions of conscience will depend the
success of the new woman in guiding the development of love in the
direction of her will. For only by herself loving better will she
gradually humanise man’s passion and liberate it from the blind force
of the blood, which makes of the capercailzie’s play or the rivalry of
stags a spectacle beautiful in its animality, but, on the other hand,
renders man’s love bestial. Those who think that the healthy strength
of nature will be thereby enfeebled are as foolish as those who try to
prove that the artistic instinct in the woodcock’s note is healthier
and stronger than that which created Beethoven’s symphonies.

But it is not sufficient that woman should take the lead and appoint
the goal. She must herself be developed for the task, and that not only
in the direction just mentioned. Her soul is as yet no sure guide to
her senses, nor her senses to her soul. So much the less can she then
be a guide to man’s soul or senses, which moreover she frequently fails
to understand and therefore unhesitatingly condemns—for the sins to
which she herself has not unfrequently seduced him!

The new woman demands purity of man. But has she any suspicion as to
how her treatment, on the one hand, of the awkward and uncertain youth,
on the other, of the experienced and confident “lady-killer” type, acts
upon the former, who is perhaps striving after erotic purity in the
hope of being rewarded by the happy smile of a woman, but who sees that
woman treat him with haughty commiseration while, on the other hand,
she regards the leopard’s spots of his rival with admiration? One may
ask whether all young women who now express their detestation of the
impurity in man’s sexual habits are themselves guided only by a soft
and noble joy in giving pleasure. Do they never permit themselves the
most despicable of hypocrisies, that of love?

So long as “pure” women take pleasure in the cruel sport of the cat;
so long as with the facile changes of mood of the serpentine dancer
they evade the responsibilities of their flirtations; so long as they
delight in provoking jealousy as a homage to themselves, so long will
they be helping to brew the hell-broth around which men will celebrate
the witches’ sabbath in the company of the bat-winged bevies of the
night.

There are more men led astray by “pure” than by “impure” women.

And not even those women who are pure in the true sense of the word
are free from blame in this. Woman—for whom love is a life-and-death
matter in a much deeper sense than for man—experiences on the approach
of love those tremblings that follow a sunrise for which one has
lain awake and waited. Her physico-psychical timidity takes on by
turns the expressions, incomprehensible to the man who loves, of dumb
avoidance, of abrupt change, of empty girlish giggling, of sullen
misunderstanding. And all that is contradictory—not that which is
mysterious—in woman stirs the unrest in a man’s blood.


The modern woman’s great distress has been the discovery of the
dissimilarity between her own erotic nature and that of man; or
rather, she has refused and still refuses to make this discovery and
thinks that only the custom of society—with its wholesome severity
towards her, its reckless leniency towards him—has brought about the
difference which exists and which she would abolish. But while one
group proposes to do so by demanding feminine chastity of the man, the
other would claim masculine freedom for the woman.

The book world is now full of works on purity, written by men as well
as women, of literary tone and otherwise. Now it is the story of a
woman who breaks with the man she loves when he confesses his past;
now that of a woman who forces her lover to marry another because the
latter has borne him a child; and so on to infinity. Finally there is
one who takes her life from grief over her husband’s past, which she
thinks will ruin their future. Literature is the roll of the drum which
announces the approach of the troop—that army of strong women who are
to educate men to chastity by denying them their love.

But will it really be the Amazons who will play the leading part in the
struggle against man’s erotic dualism? Will not perhaps wisdom be found
also in this case in the hope of being able to conquer the evil with
the good, not the evil with the worse, by allowing a man awakened by
love to the desire of unity to turn again to disunion?

Would not woman accomplish more in the renovation of morals if she
stayed with the man she loves, so as with her whole being to let him
learn how a woman can suffer and be made happy through a man? The means
of salvation for men suffering under erotic dualism may well be an
increase of tenderly chaste, delicately feeling, and kindly wise wives.
Even such a mother, sister, or friend is a strength to a man. But only
the wife who remains a mistress can be sure of victory.

It is true that she cannot efface her husband’s past. But she can
create together with him a new and stronger generation. The man who
knows what his beloved has suffered through his past; who has seen the
wings of her courage lose something of their power, her confidence
something of its smile, her joy something of its playfulness—he will
in time teach his sons that a man may certainly become once more
strong and healthy through happiness in love, but that he cannot win
so beautiful and sure a happiness as self-control can prepare; such
queenly pride as his victory might have given the loved one, he will
never see in her. But if woman is to help man’s struggle for purity,
she must for her share take another view of what has been degrading to
man’s nature and what has not.

A woman who marries a widower has to go through a pain which will be
deep in proportion as her love is personal. She will then wish to be
not only her husband’s last, but also his first love; she suffers from
all the memories they have not in common. She would fain have sat by
his cradle and received his first smile; she longs to have played with
him as a sister, to have shared as a friend his troubles and his joys.
She envies all who have been able to see him at those stages of his
life and in those spiritual conditions that she has not seen. Above all
she envies the woman who first saw him made happy by the love she gave
him.

But all these sufferings do not bring her to regard the beloved as
morally sunken, because before her he has been the husband of another
woman. And the same must hold good of earlier relations of love. The
man may have developed, through a former marriage or free connection,
his powers of giving a personal love, or he may, in the same way,
have lost them. If no baseness is connected with these earlier
experiences, if he has not degraded himself to voluntary division of
his erotic nature—and bought love is always such a degradation—or to
contemptible duplicity; if he has not treated any woman as a means, but
received and given personality, then he does not enter “impure” into
his marriage, even if he has not evidence of abstinence.

At present it is unfortunately often the case that men enter into
marriage with deep stains from earlier connections, and it is
this circumstance that gives the demand for purity its general
applicability.

During each new phase of the development of love women, probably
earlier and certainly more consciously than men, have connected the
demand for unity with the idea of love. The sense of unity is quite
another and a far later phenomenon than monogamy. The enforced fidelity
in monogamy, the voluntary fidelity in love, gave rise in woman
first to control of desire, then to the weakening of desire through
control. Thus by degrees erotic unity became with many women an organic
condition, or, as is significantly said, a physical necessity. Not with
all, not even with the majority, but still sufficiently frequently
to enable us to call the unity of soul and senses in love—as also
a lifelong fidelity in a single love—the provision of nature for
innumerable women, while with men both are still exceptions so rarely
to be met with that they are often called unnatural. But he who
concludes from this that one has only to demand the same of men for the
effect to be the same, is attributing the same effect to two different
causes. For the erotic conditions of man and woman are and will remain
different causes. The purity which a man is capable of attaining must
always, therefore, to a certain degree be different from a woman’s,
but not on that account of less worth. He will certainly remain more
polygamous than she, but this does not involve a division of himself
in the satisfaction of his erotic needs. Love possesses, nay, besets,
dominates, and determines woman’s whole being in an entirely different
way from man’s. He is more strongly possessed at rapidly passing
moments, by the erotic emotion, but at the same time he liberates
himself more quickly and completely. On the other hand, in the degree
in which a woman is womanly, is she completely determined by love. This
gives a unity, completeness, and equilibrium to her sensuousness which
man lacks. When he is warm, he often believes woman is cool; when he
sees her warm, he thinks that she is so in the same way as himself.
Women are undoubtedly to be found, shifting, like men, between sudden
ardour and abrupt chill, and these women are ever the most exciting
erotically. With the majority of women, however, love is, for the
reasons already given, a constant warmth, a never-quenched fervour. But
this makes the woman suffer through the man, who in the intervals of
his passion is so much more tranquil than she, so little capable of her
unremitting tenderness. Therefore she seldom finds herself occupying
his thoughts and feelings so completely as he occupies hers.

A woman has aptly said that “it is precisely woman’s greater
sensuousness that makes her less sensuous than man: on account of
motherhood—and all that it implies—she is sensuous, so to speak,
from head to foot and chronically, while man is so only acutely and
locally.” If one transfers one’s thoughts from erotics to motherhood,
the truth of this will at once be clear: the feeling of motherhood
is the most thoroughly sensuous and therefore the most thoroughly
soulful of emotions; the same transport of the senses in which the
mother exclaims that she could “eat” her child, expresses itself in the
affection which would prompt her to die for it. But the author just
quoted goes on to consider that even with men the erotic emotions could
be transposed or released in many ways besides the one which to most
of them still represents the whole expression of “love.” What Rousseau
revealed to his unbelieving contemporaries will perhaps one day become
true in a psycho-physical sense: that a look may fill a lover with
voluptuousness; that the great emotions are the chief conditions of
love’s happiness; that the lightest touch of the loved one’s hand gives
greater bliss than the possession of the most beautiful women without
love—feelings which all great lovers in all times have confirmed, and
as to which even the most contrary natures give the same testimony.
The peasant’s love, which knows nothing of caresses, comes lower in
the scale of happiness than that of the cultivated person, who finds
in love all the refined delights of the senses; and this again is far
below the happiness of those who even in the encounter of two ideas or
two moods can experience all the transport of love.

The conviction that sensuousness can only be controlled through being
spiritualised is what directs those women who are now hoping to
convert men, not to the duty of monogamy, but to the joy of unity.

Before woman’s will could thus become conscious, her long struggle
for liberation had to take place. Marriage had to cease to be a trade
among the upper classes, as prostitution still is among the hungry
lower classes. Love must have become free at least in the sense that
a woman had no choice but charity from her family or forced sale to
her husband; her personality must have attained consideration, not
only for her value as a woman and dignity as a human being, but also
individually. Not until—by her own labour and activity—she no longer
exclusively depended on a man’s courtship for both her livelihood and
her life’s destiny, did woman’s salvation come to be, not “that the
man wills” (Nietzsche), but that she herself can exercise her will.
Language already reflects the change of custom. We seldom hear it asked
nowadays of a woman: _Why has she not married?_ but it is all the more
frequently enquired: What has her love-story been, _since she has never
married_?

Here also the line of development is a zigzag. Women sometimes act as
though their whole liberation was of no avail. But in spite of much
that is contradictory, the evolution of love—above all through the new
woman’s claims of love—is to him who stands high enough to have a full
view of the situation, the most certain of realities.

Evidence of this evolution can be found in life as well as in
literature, where it now takes every kind of form, from experiences
translated into genuine poetry down to the productions which tempt one
to think that these people have only loved to get “copy” for a book.
The feminine fiction of the present day reminds one of a relief on a
sacrificial altar in the Roman Forum, where the ox, the sheep, and the
pig proceed in file to meet the knife. Hecatombs of these animals—in
the likeness of husbands or lovers—are now sacrificed to Eros by
the new woman. It may not be very long before the vow of fidelity is
exchanged for an oath of silence and the marriage contract contains a
provision that in case of a rupture love-letters are not to be used as
literature.

No doubt it will ever remain true that a living book on love is never
written with other ink than blood. But such books are not those
which resemble a trial in which the prosecutor, witness, judge, and
executioner are united in one person.

But whether powerful or weak, discreet or audacious, noble or
ignoble—the new woman’s books are always instructive to those who seek
to follow the course of love’s evolution.


The great danger to this evolution is that women never take sufficient
account of sensuousness, nor men of spirituality. And it is especially
woman who now one-sidedly applies her own erotic nature—with its warm
penetration, its completeness that frees it from temptation—as the
ethical and erotic standard for that of man with its sudden heat, its
dangerous incompleteness.

It is without doubt a feminine exaggeration to say that a “pure”
woman only feels the force of her sex’s need when she loves. But the
enormous difference between her and man is that she cannot obey this
need without loving. It is doubtless true that besides her love a
woman may have a calling in life. But the profound distinction between
her and man is at present this: that he more often gives of his best
as a creator than as a lover—while for her the reverse is nearly
always the case. And while thus man is appraised by himself and others
according to his work, woman in her heart values herself—and wishes to
be valued—according to her love. Not until this is fully appreciated
and working for happiness does she feel her own worth. It is no doubt
true that woman also wishes to be made happy by man through her senses.
But while this longing in her not unfrequently awakes long after she
already loves a man so that she could give her life for him, with man
the desire to possess a woman often awakes before he even loves her
enough to give his little finger for her. That with women love usually
proceeds from the soul to the senses and sometimes does not reach so
far; that with man it usually proceeds from the senses to the soul
and sometimes never completes the journey—this is for both the most
painful of the existing distinctions between man and woman. It is quite
certain that both man and woman are humbled by their great love, and
that the knowledge of having awakened reciprocal love turns even the
freethinker into a believer in miracles. But man often conceals his
humility behind a security which wounds the woman; she, on the other
hand, hides hers in an uncertainty which wounds the man. And from this
difference of instinct arises a new kind of complication, when man also
has begun to desire an unspoken understanding on the part of woman;
when he becomes convinced of her love only when she has guessed this
and loved his reticence itself. But against this conscious and refined
will of the modern man stands his hereditary instinct of a conqueror.
And no woman is more sure of all the older as well as all the newer
sufferings of love than she who really acts according to the words of
her lover: that he will accept love only from a woman who herself has
the courage to declare it to him. For, on the other side, the primitive
desire of being captured survives in woman. And therefore also her
strongest instincts come into conflict with her newly acquired courage
in action.

For all these reasons it is difficult for a person of the present day
to believe himself loved or to know that he is loved.

And it is this which will preserve to love its excitement, even
when the animal habits—with pursuit on one side and flight on the
other—have gradually ceased. Conflict and the intoxication of victory
will always form a part of the vital stimulation and pleasurable
emotion of love,—but they will be removed to a higher plane. Man’s
forward rush to win a woman who perhaps would not otherwise have
remarked him; woman’s turning aside to egg the man on, or else to
defend in some measure the independent decision of her feelings, will
be transformed by the desire of each to wait until the other has
chosen. The erotic tension will then be released in the contest for the
most refined expressions of sympathy, the most convincing assurances
of comprehension, the most rapidly vibrating sensitiveness to the
other’s moods, the fullest communication of confidence. Victory will
mean a constantly deeper penetration into the other’s nature, an ever
richer fulness and joy in the communication of one’s own; a constantly
growing faith as regards what is mysterious, and a like gratitude for
what is revealed. The stimulation will be renewed daily in moods the
transitions of which are as imperceptible as those of the evening sky
from the reddest gold to the purest white; in the border lines of
sympathy and antipathy, now fine as a straw, now broad as a river. It
will be renewed through the test of innumerable uniting and repellent
emotions, as rapidly and irrevocably decisive as the fall of a star in
space, or of a silver piece in the river.

And this tension of married life will not be relaxed as now by the
puffed-up arrogance of proprietorship on the part of the man or by
dull complaisance on that of the woman. Since all sense of happiness
is connected with the exertion of force to attain an end and with
the equilibrium that results from its attainment, it has been the
misfortune of love that courtship has absorbed all the tension, and
married life the subsequent equilibrium. Only the sense of impending
loss—through life or through death—has, as a rule, evoked a new
spiritual tension. This, for reasons mentioned above, has especially
concerned the husband. Wives have often suffered long from the
self-satisfied comfort of the daily life of marriage before they have
resigned the peace of consummation, the equilibrium without movement,
which was their dream of happiness.

But now women will no longer resign, nor allow themselves to be cheated
of life. More and more their demand for a new love becomes one with the
demand for a new marriage, the chief value of which will not, as now,
consist in “security and calm.”

Woman knows—and man still more—that it is in periods of calm, when
all vital stimulation is wanting, that the temptation comes to seek it
in new relations. But at the same time they are beginning to see that
when one and the same feeling affords an unceasing excitement—through
the desire of constantly attaining higher conditions of that
feeling—then such temptation becomes of necessity less and less
dangerous, simply because the human soul can only with great difficulty
transfer the spiritual wealth it has accumulated in one place. Love
in its impersonal form is movable capital, easily realised. In its
personal form, on the other hand, it is fixed property, which increases
in value the more one sinks in it, and which, owing to its very nature,
is difficult to disperse.

Whenever a woman has captivated a man with a lifelong fascination, the
secret has been that he has never exhausted her; that she “has not
been one, but a thousand” (G. Heiberg); not a more or less beautiful
variation on the eternal theme of the female sex, but a music in
which he has found the wealth of inexhaustibility, the enticement of
impenetrability, while she has given him an incomparable happiness
of the senses. The more the modern woman acquires courage for a
love as rich in the senses as in the soul, the more complicated and
self-inclosed her personality becomes, the more will she obtain that
power which is now only the fortunate advantage of the exceptional.

Man tells woman that her new way of love is opposed not only to man’s
nature but to the welfare of the new generation.

She answers that great love doubtless betrays a childish lack of
understanding in all departments of worldly wisdom, but that in its own
sphere—with all its riddles and problems—it is godlike wisdom, the
gift of divining, the power of working miracles; that the only thing
needful in order that love may re-create the race is that it shall
become an even greater vital force, through mankind investing it with
more and more of its spiritual power.


Even at the present day couples are to be found who are inspired by
great love. They show an insatiable desire for all the riches of life,
so as to have the means of being regally lavish towards each other.
Neither defrauds the other of so much as a dewdrop. The fervour they
give one another, the freedom they possess through one another, make
the space that surrounds them warm and ample. Love is constantly giving
them new impulses, new powers and new employment for their powers,
whether these are directed inwards to home life or outwards to that of
society. And thus the happiness, which for themselves is the source of
life, becomes also a tributary stream by which the happiness of all
is raised. The power of great love to enhance a person’s value for
mankind can only be compared with the glow of religious faith or the
creative joy of genius, but surpasses both in universal life-enhancing
properties. Sorrow may sometimes make a person more tender towards the
sufferings of others, more actively benevolent than happiness with its
concentration upon self. But sorrow never led the soul to those heights
and depths, to those inspirations and revelations of universal life, to
that kneeling gratitude before the mystery of life, to which the piety
of great love leads it.

Like faith, this piety sanctifies all things. It gives significance to
attention bestowed on one’s self, since

  _... If I am dear to some one else
   Then must I be to myself more dear._

It combines the most trifling things of life into an intelligent whole.
He who is loved and loves in this way bears the same stamp as the
Christian mystic, who grows ever clearer and yet more rich in mystery;
ever fuller of life and yet calmer; ever more introspective and yet
more radiant.

There are some who think that this state is visionary and unnatural.

But the truth—for everyone who has beheld it—is that _le vrai amour
est simple comme un bas relief antique_. Such a relief, which before
all others corresponds to the image, is to be found in the Naples
museum. It shows a man and a woman, standing still on either side of
a tree. An artist of antiquity may have already foreseen all the
significance that a son of our time interpreted, when he placed a youth
and a maiden beneath the tree of life with a cloven apple in their
hands: _they divided the apple of life and ate it together_....

For a couple who share it thus, everyday life will scintillate with
little delights as a wheat-field at midsummer with cornflowers; and
the high days will be white with joy as a spring garden with fruit
blossoms. A couple who live thus will be able to play so that beyond
their sport will always be the calm of tenderness; to smile so that
behind their smiles will always lie an easily-aroused seriousness.
Unless death interrupts them they will thus build up their life
together as the Gothic cathedrals were built: buttress upon buttress,
arch above arch, ornament within ornament, until finally the gilding of
the topmost spire catches the last rays of the sunset.


Thus great love already gives to two human beings what only completed
development can give to mankind as a whole: unity between senses and
soul, desire and duty, self-assertion and self-devotion, between the
individual and the race, the present moment and the future.

This condition—in which every advantage gained becomes a gift and
every gift a profit; in which are united a continual emotion and a
calm peace—is even now that which dreamers await as that of the third
kingdom.[2]



CHAPTER III

LOVE’S FREEDOM


The most delicate test of a person’s sense of morality is his power of
interpreting ambiguous signs of the times in the ethical sphere; for
only the profoundly moral can discover the dividing line, sharp as the
edge of a sword, between new morality and old immorality.

In our time ethical obtuseness betrays itself first and foremost
by the condemnation of those young couples who freely unite their
destinies. The majority does not perceive the advance in morality which
this implies in comparison with the code of so many men, who without
responsibility—and without apparent risk—purchase the repose of their
senses.

Those young men who choose “free love” know that bought love may
destroy their finest instruments of mental activity; that it may result
in injury to the wife as well as in the danger either of degeneracy on
the part of the children, or of childishness, and may finally bring
about their own premature downfall.

But they also know that these results may not occur and that, on the
other hand, they may suffer spiritually by curbing their personality
and ruining their possibilities of single-hearted love. At the same
time they despise their fathers’ less dangerous, but for that reason
more unprincipled, expedient for sexual satisfaction, the seduction
of women of the people, women with whom they never had any thought of
community of life.

“Free love,” on the other hand, gives them an enhancement of life which
they consider that they gain without injuring anyone. It answers to
their idea of love’s chastity, an idea which is justly offended by the
incompleteness of the period of engagement with all its losses in the
freshness and frankness of emotion. When their soul has found another
soul, when the senses of both have met in a common longing, then they
consider that they have a right to the full unity of love, although
compelled to secrecy, since the conditions of society render early
marriage impossible. They are thus freed from a wasteful struggle,
which would neither give them peace nor inner purity and which would be
doubly hard for them, since they have attained the end—love—for the
sake of which self-control would have been imposed.


When in this connection we speak of youth, we can mean only the young
men and girls of the upper classes. For among the rest of society the
free union of love has long been the custom. Our working classes—as
those of many European countries—simply use the same freedom which the
custom of society allows to many extra-European peoples. Ethnographical
research shows that this is no new degraded habit, but, on the
contrary, a relic of primitive customs. Among certain extra-European
peoples—for example, one in north Burmah—this custom was accompanied
by definite guarantees for the possible children. Young people may
without hindrance unite freely, and separate if they do not find their
feeling deep enough for continued life together. In the contrary case,
they marry, and after marriage infidelity is as good as unknown. If the
girl becomes a mother, without a marriage following, the man is obliged
to secure the child through a sum paid to the girl’s father, who is
then answerable for it.

It is from similar sexual customs that the majority of our Swedish
people derive theirs—that people which in royal and academic speeches
has gained the character of being “the most law-abiding and loyal”
in the world. Failing a deeper love or a sense of responsibility,
these customs involve the abandonment of the woman, infanticide, and
sometimes the prostitution of the woman, when she has passed from one
man to another; finally the encumbrance of society with the children
of different fathers to whom she has given life, besides the neglect
of the children. And the custom leads—even in those cases where both
love and responsibility are present, but where the lovers are too
young—to the enfeebling of themselves and of the children, and to the
great mortality of the latter. Not only hard labour and scanty food,
but also a premature sexual life, contribute to hinder the full bodily
development of the lower classes and to hasten their growing old.

But by the side of these evil effects there are good ones. In most
cases, a young couple’s prospect of parentage leads their relatives to
make their marriage possible. When this cannot take place immediately,
the daughter and her child stay with the parents of one of them, or
she leaves the child with them, while she on her side, and the young
man on his, work for the future. Even when the man has not always
been disposed for marriage, their common life of work and the sense
of parentage soon show a uniting force. Such couples who have come
together in youth probably have better prospects for their life
together than an upper-class couple, worn out by a long engagement, in
which the bride has a full right to her orange-flowers—to say nothing
of the health contributed by the man of the people in comparison
with the majority of men of the upper class, who have bought their
injurious substitute for marriage while waiting for the promotion which
should make marriage possible. One thing at any rate is certain: that
matrimonial fidelity among the people is as great as freedom before
marriage is unlimited. That the free love of the peasant and working
class ends, as a rule, in marriage, often depends on the fact that
public opinion supports this as a point of morality. But—in those
cases where love itself does not bring about community of life—the
sense of parentage and the need of a helpmate are as decisive as
public opinion; for even among the erotically undeveloped the need of
cohabitation makes itself felt for other purposes than the instinct
of the race. It is the desire for such community of life—with its
sharing of pleasure and hardship, sorrow and attention—which makes it
really uniting. Where no such desire exists, the relationship becomes
immoral from the point of view of life-enhancement. If this standard
of morality be not adhered to, free love among the upper class—as
among the lower class—will, it is true, contribute to the abolition of
prostitution, but not to the exaltation of mankind through a greater
love, a higher morality.

For if, on the one hand, the sexual customs of the lower class allow
more right than those of the upper class to the direct claims of
nature, on the other hand, the customs of the latter still provide the
same opportunities for the elevation into love of the instinct which,
from an historical and ethnographical point of view, has everywhere
been provided by self-control. Among those nations with which sexual
connections begin early, morals are, as a rule, loose, and where morals
are loose, the emotion of love has small importance. The control of
sensuality develops the deeper feelings of love. We need not go to
the nations of the past, or to existing extra-European peoples, but
only to the town and country labourers of our own and other European
lands, to see how the feelings become lax and feeble, the senses coarse
and greedy, when they have acquired the habit of satisfying physical
hunger before that of the soul has awakened. The miserable conditions
of dwelling among the lower classes are enough by themselves to rob
sexual life of its discretion; immature age or the tie of blood is
frequently no hindrance to unchastity, and its consequences—coarseness
and lack of responsibility towards one another as well as towards the
offspring—at times take hideous forms. The first condition therefore
for love’s freedom is that the freedom shall concern love, the most
universal sign of which is the desire of continued community of life.
As this sign is, as a rule, to be found among young people of the
educated class who now claim love’s freedom, they are thus far within
their rights, as also are the young people of the lower class when they
use the same freedom and as a result form many excellent connubial
unions. We could with every reason—and with more reason—draw the same
conclusions with regard to the upper class, if it were not the case
that among these love has become a so much more penetrating force.
While the majority of the working class—for even there a minority
with more refined erotic feelings is to be found,—in addition to the
satisfaction of its instincts, contents itself with a capable and
devoted comrade to bear its burden, the developed man or woman of
the present day has deeper erotic needs. It is the satisfaction of
these that is often missed by a youthful decision in life; for even
when youthful love is soulful—and nearly all youthful love can so be
described—it is nevertheless in most cases a longing for love rather
than love, a craving for experience rather than the new life itself.
And therefore the erotic feelings of early youth are founded upon the
illusions which make a Romeo lament the harshness of Rosalind a moment
before meeting Juliet, and a Titania to fondle Bottom’s ass’s ears.
Never in after life has the world such a marvellous glamour as when the
first dream of love has swathed all contours in its opalescent mists
of sunrise, but—never do we so easily go astray. It may happen that
the lifting of the mists will disclose the most beautiful landscape.
But there are more chances that the course one has steered in the fog
will end in one of many shipwrecks. Therefore the “’teens” should be
the age of the erotic prologue, not of the drama. For this reason also,
that no one can decide to what degree the transient may injure the
final relations of life; nor to what degree great love may be missed
or spoiled, when accidental love has anticipated its rights, even
though this happened in the full and frank belief that the accident was
destiny.

No part of the art of living is more important for youth than
developing in one’s self the knowledge of a predestined fellowship
which permits of waiting. People curse the hazards which separate
lovers. But it is less the hazards which separate than those which
unite at the wrong time, that ought to be cursed. First youth seldom
loses in love anything but what is unimportant; the reality shows
itself—when both are free—as what cannot be lost. Those who belong
to each other come together in the end; those whom chance parts, never
belonged to each other. A man may fail of happiness by finding out
too late what is real in himself or others; not by abstaining from
action before this discovery. Therefore youth should wait before making
decisive plunges into its own and others’ destinies, since great love
may resemble the Japanese divinity, to pray to whom more than once is a
crime, since it answers prayer only once.


But even when a young couple has the profoundest mutual sense of the
permanence of their feeling, it does not follow that their love ought
immediately to involve the rights and the accompanying responsibilities
of a later age. For young trees break or bend under too heavy a weight
of fruit, nor does the fruit attain its full value on trees that are
too young. Here nature herself is the opponent of youthful marriages.
Let us leave on one side the possibility of people being unwillingly
bound together through the consequences of an over-hasty union, and
deal only with the certainty that the young people in a profound
sense continue to belong to each other. They will nevertheless as
surely suffer through the possible or probable consequence of their
action, the child. Their consciousness of not being able to bear this
consequence will doubtless make them try to avoid it. But this is an
ugly beginning to a life of love. Many consider that it also involves
dangers. For those who have already given to the race their tribute
of new life, or who ought never thus to give, the choice must be free
between the two dangers. But for the opening of a life in common this
resource may be equally unsafe and unwholesome, since the racial
instinct as a whole is left unaccomplished. And thus love is robbed
of a part of its spiritual meaning, and sensuousness of its natural
restraint. But even if these consequences do not follow, “failure” may
yet be the most fortunate occurrence in these cases—and also the most
usual. How then does it appear in reality?

In most cases young people have entered into their free union because
they have seen no possibility of an open marriage. They are the less
able to support a child, as they themselves are supported by others,
in so far as they are not keeping themselves by running into debt or
by badly-paid labour. In the latter case, the child means a further
hindrance to life, the more so as it must involve for the woman
a diminution, perhaps a total loss, of her powers of work. It is
therefore the young people’s relatives who have to help. And, when
this is possible, the form it takes is that the lovers are obliged to
marry and receive the help that the parents can afford. In the case of
the poorer classes, this is comparatively slight, as the newly-married
pair frequently stay with the parents of one of them. But in the upper
classes, on the other hand, they prefer, with full reason, to form
their own home, and then there ensue the inevitable cares of child
and housekeeping, however simple the latter may be. But these will be
a hindrance to their studies, their freedom of movement, and general
development. They become cage-birds, at best fed by their parents;
bound by duties during the years which should have been wholly devoted
to their self-development.

Thus premature marriages, whether lawful or unlawful in form, may
arrest in their growth countless excellent forces, and ruin the full
possibilities of happiness in later years. It is true that the early
union will have stilled a powerful longing in the young people’s being.
But they soon find out that it has at the same time rendered difficult,
perhaps impossible, the satisfaction of their desire of knowledge,
the taste for research, the creative power, and freedom of action in
other, more or less important, directions; for example, in the love of
travel which is felt by all young people of spirit, and in the love of
pleasure in a wholesome sense. The young mother’s beauty probably never
attains the fulness designed by nature, and she is destined to grow
old before her time. And even when her children are not weaklings—as
is most frequently the case—they do not afford her the happiness they
might have brought if they had been longed for; if she had not had
to sacrifice to them her youthful joy, the fulness of her strength
and beauty, but, on the contrary, had felt this enhanced through
motherhood. Above all, the children do not receive the bringing-up
which the mother might give them at a somewhat maturer age.

Even if a pair of lovers are themselves willing to be subject to the
hindrances imposed in most cases by a premature union, this must be
their own affair; but for the child there must be loss.

In order that the child may enjoy the full possibility of favourable
conditions of life—in birth as well as in bringing-up—in northern
Europe the age of the woman at marriage should be at least twenty, that
of the man about twenty-five. This is the period of full maturity, and
until this age is reached youth itself gains by complete abstinence, in
order by its marriage at the proper age, in the words of Tacitus, to
“let the children witness to their parents’ strength.” In the opinion
of most younger men of science it is less and less probable that
acquired qualities are inherited. Others, again, who have defended or
still hold this view, have maintained with more or less force—as a
condition of the progress of the race—that procreation should not take
place until the activity and surroundings of the parents have acquired
a definite character. Acute psychologists who have given attention to
woman’s nature, consider that it does not attain its full spiritual
maturity before about the age of thirty, while she then still possesses
her youthfulness unimpaired; that until then her countenance does not
acquire its true completeness of expression; that her individuality,
intellectual powers, and passion are then for the first time fully
awake; that only these properties can inspire deep love, and that thus
woman gains everything by a later marriage, whereas the result of early
marriages, where the husband has to “educate” his wife, is frequently,
as a witty lady has remarked, that he is destined instead to educate a
wife for someone else.

Nor is it only narrow-viewed preachers of morality, but men of science
with the broadest outlook in these matters, who declare ever more
positively that abstinence until the age of maturity is in a high
degree favourable to the physico-psychical strength and elasticity of
both sexes, and that such favourable effect may sometimes extend beyond
this age.

To this direct gain must also be added the indirect one: that all
self-control for a greater and gladdening end—and what end can be
greater than this one?—gives to the will that force and to the
personality that joy in its strength which will later be all-important
in every other department of life.

Such an advancement of the age of marriage will probably not be opposed
by many women. Young girls have learned by the experience of others,
and now there is scarcely to be found a woman married before the age of
twenty who has not discovered that it was premature before she reaches
twenty-five. Moreover it is seldom the woman’s desire that hurries on a
secret union; for, in the absence of any admixture of Southern blood,
it is a long time, many years indeed in some cases, before the senses
of the Northern woman are consciously awakened.

But the young girl loves and wishes to satisfy the longing from which
she sees her lover suffer, the more so when she comes to know that
the demonstrations of affection which have satisfied her needs have
increased his suffering. And therefore she silences her own innermost
consciousness, which adjures her to wait.

This silencing of the inner voice not infrequently has for its result
that the two souls are never fully united, since the senses have stood
in their way; or in Nietzsche’s words: _Die Sinnlichkeit übereilt oft
das Wachsthum der Liebe so dass die Wurzeln schwach bleiben und leicht
auszureissen sind._ In every pure feeling of morality, a young woman
who thus surrenders herself in love stands immeasurably above the
engaged girl of good family who allows the man she says she loves to
toil alone during the best years of his young manhood, so as at last
to prepare for her the position which her own ideas of life, or those
of her family, demand. But higher than either stands the young woman
who has known how to preserve the freshness of love’s springtime. And
when women’s own claims of happiness have become more refined, when
their insight into nature is more profound, when they thus become fit
to take the lead in erotic development—which in Scandinavia during
the last generation has unfortunately been in man’s hands,—then they
will also understand this. They must prolong the happy time when love
is unspoken, unfettered by promises, full of expectation and intuition.
And they need not on this account give up the comradeship in sport,
in walks, and studies, which is wholesome in itself, cheerful and
preparatory to happiness, but which now leads to premature unions.
Women will come to understand when they ought to be on their guard, in
order that the sufferings of the period of waiting may be minimised.
They will shorten the secret engagement, and they will do away with the
public engagement, with the dangers both involve of attenuation of the
feelings, and with the latter’s profanation of love’s privacy.

If the youth of the North does not feel its soul in harmony with this
mood, its life will have lost its springtime—without receiving in
exchange a longer summer; for premature warmth has its revenge in life
as in nature. To experience fully the peculiar beauty of each season
of life is the attribute of a profounder comprehension of life’s
meaning—and this truth is not less true because a Juliet was only
fourteen. What Shakespeare has revealed in her is not the force of
early love, incomparable with any other power; rather does he show the
love, instantaneous, fatal, overcoming all obstacles, which—equally
powerful at every age—yet shows its force most unmistakably when
it drives two human beings to death just at the time when the yet
unlived life they have before them makes the thought of death most full
of horror. Only such an exception can anticipate in springtime the
flowering of summer. It is therefore not from the whole necessity of
their nature, but from attaching too much importance to one side of it,
that many young people now have the idea that love loses its fire and
its purity by waiting until the organism can bear its fruits. Nothing
is more certain than that the chastity of perfect love is conditioned
towards unity by the will of the soul and the senses. But this chaste
will may be found before or after the possibility of its realisation.
And love’s chastity may then show itself as well in waiting for
complete unity as in altogether renouncing the same.

It is true that a young man will not experience the intoxication of
love at twenty-five as he experienced it some years earlier. But if he
feels it for the first time at about twenty-five, then—according to
all the laws of physico-psychical sensations of pleasure—just at the
height of his sexual existence, and after years of self-control and
labour for happiness, he ought to be able to experience a richer vital
intoxication than he would have been capable of in the earlier years of
his youth.

It is incontestable that premature erotic claims are less the result of
the needs of the organism than of the influence of the imagination upon
it. Only a new healthiness and beauty in the method of treating erotic
questions will gradually refashion the now over-excited imagination,
calm erotic curiosity, and strengthen the sense of responsibility
towards self and towards the new generation, so that premature sexual
life may lose its attraction for the young.


All this however concerns only immature youth.

When, on the other hand, a pair of lovers have reached the age referred
to as that of full maturity, and their complete union can only further
their own life-enhancement and that of the race, then they commit a sin
against themselves and the race if they do not enter into union.

But not even in such a case is secret love desirable, in which
the woman goes in constant uneasiness for the possible child, and
yet—after the first period of happiness—in a growing desire not only
for it but for all the other conditions of life which might give sun
and fresh air to her feeling, confined, as it were, in forcing-house or
cellar.

In most cases it is only a question of time how soon this secret
happiness will languish, since the risk is almost entirely on the
woman’s side and the man is too much in the position of one who
receives. For human nature is such that this makes one hard; and love
is such that this makes one weak. If the man is not hardened thereby,
it is because he is extremely sensitive. And again, if he is so, then
the secret union, in which the woman gives most, becomes just as
humiliating to the man as a marriage in which the wife keeps him by her
fortune or her work. The woman, on her side, will be the more difficult
to please, will make higher claims upon the love which is to compensate
her for the home and for the child, the two interests through which she
would first have felt her powers developed in every direction, or, in
other words, would have gained complete happiness.

For a woman’s best qualities, even as a mistress, are inseparably bound
up with the motherhood in her nature.

There has been and is an infinity of talk about the degradation of
woman by her complete surrender without marriage; that the man thus
depreciates his loved one in his own eyes and himself in hers; that he
is selfish in proposing a union which injures the virtue and modesty of
love; that he “sacrifices” the woman to his desire; and so on without
end. All this talk is worthless, simply because a woman who loves feels
herself degraded neither in her own eyes nor in those of the man;
because she has no idea of a “sacrifice,” but of giving and receiving.
For she desires the completeness of love with a much profounder will
than man, since her erotic needs are stronger—although calmer—than
his. But she is frequently—and often for a long time—unconscious
that her profound desire to be made happy at any price through love
nevertheless refers at bottom to the child. The man sees only the
woman’s longing and his happy smile not unfrequently tells of an easy
victory. But he does not know—for a long time she does not know
herself—when her love becomes a sacrifice; when she begins to feel
her position as a degrading one. The man does not see what her smile
conceals; he does not understand her when she is silent, and perhaps
he does not listen when she speaks. He thus believes her to be still
satisfied, when she has begun to hunger for more.

Woman’s need of living and suffering for the race gives her love a
purer glow, a higher flame, a profounder will, a more tireless fidelity
than man’s. The unsatisfied longing for motherhood is released in an
ever warmer, ever more self-sacrificing affection for the loved one.
Man, on the other hand, who has less and less opportunity of giving,
thereby comes to love less and less. When the woman discovers this, she
begins to remember what she has given. And then strife, sin, sorrow,
and their wages—death—have entered into what was perhaps at the
beginning a genuine love; a love which might have had a full and fair
life, if it had had the unifying and purifying influence of a common
end, a great purpose.

When love possesses nothing of this kind, its power of motion is
directed against itself. The feelings of both parties then become the
object of a game like that of _parfiler_, which was the rage in the
eighteenth century, and which consisted in drawing the threads out of
worn-out cloth of gold. The feelings are torn up, ripped open, tied
together; tangled, disentangled, and wound up. But feelings are roots,
not threads—not even gold threads. It is in the great, wholesome
realities of life that the creative force of love, like that of art,
finds the productive earth for its growth. Torn out of this earth,
love, as surely as art, is like a tree blown down by a spring storm,
which may indeed put forth leaves this spring—though all its roots are
exposed to the air—but which will not live through the summer.

Clandestine love is in this respect like an upper-class marriage
without children and without common pursuits, although the
self-sacrificing, self-supporting, clandestine mistress stands far
above the kept wife, fashionable and full of pretension.

Thus it is not abstract ideas of duty, but real selfishness, which is
one with real morality, that will teach youth to understand the meaning
of Spinoza’s profound thought, made still more profound by the doctrine
of evolution: that “the sexual love which has its origin in what is
external and accidental, may easily be turned to hate, a kind of
madness that is nourished on discord; but that love, on the other hand,
is lasting, _which has its cause in freedom of soul and in the will to
bear and bring up children_.”

Through the religion of life and its countless influences, through
gradual, scarcely perceptible transformations, will love’s freedom more
and more come to mean freedom for enduring love.

The spirit of the age, working through the standards of literature
and public opinion, transforms with infallible certainty thoughts and
feelings in the direction in which the strongest lead them.

It now rests with the young to be these strong ones.

With the growing desire for a many-sided enhancement of life, parentage
will also become an ever more important condition of this enhancement.
Young people will be no more willing to depreciate by a premature
sexual life the value of those years which ought to be devoted to
furthering their individual growth, than they will be to diminish
their joy of parentage by putting a weak and unwelcome child into the
world. For they will wish to possess all happiness fully and frankly.
The expected child ought to give them beautiful dreams, not tormenting
uneasiness; it must be carried in rejoicing, not in unwilling, arms,
and must have received life from the fulness of happiness—not from a
mischance.

Here as everywhere, what is the most genuine and lasting happiness for
the individual is also for the moral enhancement the race.

When two lovers have this desire and have reached that maturity, when
the will has a right to realisation, and is in full agreement with the
health and beauty of themselves, of the new generation, and of society,
it is right that they should come together, even though it may not be
possible for their pure desire of common life and common work to take
the form of marriage.

For him who has ears to hear, these figures will speak: they show that
the average age of unlawful unions is the right age appointed by nature
for marriage. Thus the statistics of Sweden for 1900 show that 6340
“illegitimate” children were born of mothers between 20 and 25 years
old, while those born of mothers under 20 were 2028, and of mothers
between 25 and 30, 3857. Another eloquent fact is that, even before
the extension of compulsory military service, the highest figures of
emigration, for men as well as women, occur among the unmarried within
a year or two on either side of twenty.

By unlawful unions, the race is often defrauded of the children’s
fitness for life, which is ruined by the unfavourable conditions in
which the children are brought up; and by emigration the best blood of
the country is drained away. And even if the latter is occasioned by
a variety of causes, no thoughtful person could omit to reckon among
them the difficulty of marrying at the right time. Another equally
eloquent circumstance fully supported by statistical evidence is this:
that prostitution increases in direct proportion as the general social
conditions and the economical situation are unfavourable to marriage,
and that it decreases as marriage is facilitated. And the majority of
prostitutes—as of unmarried mothers—are of the right age for marriage.

The youth of the upper classes ought not, however, in their struggle
against actual conditions, to descend to the irresponsibility of the
lower classes. Educated young people must set an example to the rest,
not only by entering into their matrimonial alliances at the right
time, but also in a way that is unimpeachable as regards the claims
of the race and of society. The young have a perfect right—like
their contemporaries among the people—to assume the responsibility
of founding a home, which may be denied to them, before the child is
expected. But they have only a right to this kind of defiance if they
are willing, as soon as they are able, themselves to provide for the
new creatures who will one day replace them in the race. But above all
things, educated young people must also take part in the social reform
which—speaking broadly—will be the only solution of the marriage
question.

Instead of defending “free love,” which is a much-abused term capable
of many interpretations, we ought to strive for the freedom of love;
for while the former has come to imply freedom for any sort of love,
the latter must only mean freedom for a feeling which is worthy the
name of love.

This feeling, it may be hoped, will gradually win for itself the same
freedom in life as it already possesses in poetry. The flowering, as
well as the budding of love will then be a secret between the lovers,
and only its fruit will be a matter between them and society. As
always, poetry has pointed out the way to development. A great poet has
seldom sung of lawfully-wedded happiness, but often of free and secret
love; and in this respect too the time is coming when there will no
longer be one standard of morality for poetry and another for life.
Even the poet of Sakuntala calls that love the most beautiful which
gives itself freely in the “Gandoarva marriage,” sanctified only by the
fulness of emotion. But even then the danger was recognised of

  ... _unknown heart closing against unknown heart_.

Even then it was uneasiness about the fate of the child which coupled
responsibility to society with love’s freedom.

The new moral consciousness is thus an old thing. But it must
nevertheless be called new, since it is only beginning to be
wide-spread. It is becoming plain to more and more people that a man
or woman—whether married or free—does wrong to the nobility of self
by giving himself or herself to one who is at heart a stranger; it is
more and more becoming intuitively felt that it is the sense of home in
another soul which gives devotion its sanctity.

The suitor who—dressed for the occasion—went first to the father to
declare his feelings for the daughter is already such an old-fashioned
type that it is past ridicule. The brilliant wedding festival will
soon come to be regarded as ridiculous, then unbecoming, and finally
immoral. And—like other survivals of the time when marriage was the
affair of the family—it has already begun to disappear, in the same
degree as love has developed. Lovers are less and less inclined to
tolerate a spying upon their finest feelings; they are increasingly
anxious to rescue these from the prying fingers of society, of family,
and of friends. More and more is love venerated as part of nature’s
mysticism, whose course no outsider can determine, whose sensitive
manifestations and uncertain possibilities no one may disturb, a
mysticism within whose sphere a fixed timetable would be out of place.

How can Love, one of the great lords of life, take its freedom from the
hands of society any more than Death, the other, can do so? “Love and
Death, which meet like the two sides of a mountain-ridge, whose highest
points are ever where they come together” (G. Rodenbach); Love and
Death, which—one with the wings of the dawn, the other with those of
the night sky—overshadow the portals between earthly life and the two
great darknesses which enclose it—only these two powers are comparable
in majesty.

But while there is only one death, there are many sorts of love. Death
never plays. When all love becomes equally serious, it will also
possess death’s right to choose its own time.


In the springtime of love, parents can be of significance to their
children only when they feel reverence for the marvel which is
accomplished in their presence. But it seldom happens that parents have
previously been so sensitive that their children then treat them as
perfect friends. The period of youth is commonly full of strife, which
is brought about partly by the parents’ desire of remodelling their
children according to their own ideas—against which children are only
now venturing to defend themselves,—partly by the children’s desire to
assert their own ideals, which are always different from those of the
parents, for otherwise “the new generation would own no title to exist”
(G. Brandes). Parents might save for themselves and for their children
endless suffering, if they understood from the beginning that children
are significant exclusively as new personalities, with new gods and
new aims; with the right to protect their own nature, with the duty of
finding out new paths, without forfeiting the right of being respected
by their parents in the same degree as the latter on their side retain
the right of being venerated by their children—for the best of what
they are or have been, what they will or have willed. The only right
that parents ought never to renounce in dealing with their grown-up
children is that of giving to them the benefit of their own experience.
But in so doing they must remember what a poor loving heart forgets
easiest of all: that not even their own most bitter experience will be
able to save their children from making sad discoveries for themselves.
They will probably avoid their parents’ mistakes, but only to make
others of their own! The only real power a father or mother possesses
over the child’s fate—but indeed this is an immense one—is to fill
the home with his or her strong and beautiful personality; with love
and joy, with work and culture; and thus to make the atmosphere so rich
and so pure that the children may calmly delay their choice and have a
high standard to choose by.

But if parents see that in spite of this their children are tempted to
confuse accident with destiny, then they are called upon to show an
almost godlike wisdom in order to divert the danger. In most cases,
parents consciously or unconsciously play into the hands of the
accidental, while they raise obstacles against what is predestined.
Their warnings are not directed against what is silent and has nothing
to give; no, they advance mean and paltry reasons which the young
oppose with all that is best in their nature. Thus they silence their
own uneasy intuitions, which their parents might have induced them to
follow if they themselves had had a clearer perception of what was
essential.

Even in homes where there is most affection, the children, in their
stormy period of springtime, are as riddles which their parents often
try in vain to solve. A young soul never suffers so much as during
the solution of its own riddle. But only such a father or mother as
has succeeded in becoming renewed and rejuvenated through his or her
children will be able to help them in the solution. Otherwise the
result will only be that the parents on their side will bring stones to
the wall which the children on theirs are building ever higher.

Even parents who have not grown into crabbed working-machines; who
do not use their authority because they have the means of power, but
only because they possess spiritual superiority; who in their home let
their children have not only freedom for gladness but also the joy of
freedom, will nevertheless many a time fall short in the endeavour
to render their superiority serviceable to the children, or by their
broad-mindedness to liberate them from the one-sidedness of youth. And
in that case they must give up the struggle; for it will not improve
the difficulties of the present, but only destroy future chances of
understanding.

In the three greatest decisions to be taken in life—those of the
fundamental view of life, of one’s life work, and of love—each soul
must be its own counsel. In these matters, parents must restrict their
authority to saving their children from vital dangers; but they must
also be able to discover such dangers, and to differentiate profound
from superficial needs, the high-road from the by-road. If their
parents are not capable of this, then the children must perform their
duty to themselves and to life, by—sooner or later—going their own
way.

If, like a young couple in a similar case, the children can “smile and
be silent,” while showing their seriousness in their actions, then they
will probably be capable of educating their parents. In that case, it
will frequently be apparent that the heart of a father or mother was
stronger, their soul greater than either child or parents had believed
before the test was made. If, on the other hand, it should prove that
the faults and prejudices of the parents were the sole cause of the
conflict, then these faults and prejudices are not entitled to any more
respect because they are those of a father or mother.

But even if it should be the case that the parents have no souls
capable of profound feeling, but only hearts which can bleed—it is
nevertheless the duty of the child towards itself, and towards past
and future generations, to give to its own nature the highest possible
perfection through love. Parents are only a link in the infinite chain
of the race: it is the blood of hundreds of thousands that the parents
have transmitted to their children, who now in their turn are to pass
it on. Children have higher duties towards all these dead and unborn
beings than they have towards the single couple who became their father
and mother. It behooves the young to let all these dead ones live
again as fully as possible through the development of their own being
and in the blood of their children. A human being may owe a greater
debt of gratitude for his own nature to his grandmother’s heart or to
his grandfather’s imagination than to his own narrow-hearted mother
or unintelligent father. So far is it from being an invariable duty
to bring joy to the parents, that it may be one’s duty to bring them
sorrow—in order to bring joy to one’s successors. It is a good thing
to honour one’s father and mother; but the commandment which Moses
forgot is more important still: to honour one’s son and daughter even
before they are born.

When the sense of the dead and of the unborn becomes a conscious motive
of human action, through being a force in human emotion, then the claim
of the parents to decide their children’s life—as well as the claim
of the latter to decide that of their parents—will gradually fall to
pieces before the majesty of the past and of the future.


It results from the foregoing that any doctrine of morality is of
little worth which does not involve the need of providing the means of
marriage for healthy persons between the ages of twenty and thirty;
a possibility which was possessed without exception by the Germanic
ancestors whose example of abstinence is now appealed to.

So long as increasingly difficult examinations, the scale of pay in
government departments, the division of profits in business, and the
general rate of living, stand in the way of young people’s chances of
marriage, things will remain as they are, in spite of an increasing
minority of men who, for their own personality’s sake or for that of
their love, maintain abstinence until marriage or remain celibate.

The abolition of this sacrifice to the state of society and
civilisation is a matter of sufficient importance to the individual,
but of infinitely greater importance to society, whose forces are now
being wasted by the effects of immorality and checked by those of
morality: society, whose strength depends to such a great degree upon
young and healthy parents for the new generation.

Even under actual conditions, the chances of marriage for young people
might be increased by a judicious realisation of the “own home” idea
in country districts; by a shortening of the university course; by the
raising of salaries in the lower ratings (they appear at present to be
calculated upon the satisfaction of sexual needs through prostitution);
by the granting of pensions at an earlier age, so that the higher rates
of pay may be reached in middle age—when the burden of educating
children is heaviest;—and by increased exemption from taxation for men
and women who have to provide for a family.

In addition, a thorough change in social pretensions and habits of life
is necessary, above all in the large towns, where building societies
for the erection of small flats with common kitchen, offices for
providing domestic help, paid by the hour, and co-operative societies
for the cheaper supply of the necessaries of life, might considerably
assist young people in establishing their homes. It is, however, not
only this, but also communal employment that must be promoted, if
men of about twenty-five are to be ready to enter upon their various
occupations and—after thirty-five years in the service of the
State—to be entitled to their pensions, but at the same time under the
obligation to retire, except in the rare cases where special talent
renders a person indispensable in some leading position. The experience
a man has gained, and the strength that is left to him, would find full
employment in other social affairs or in personal interests.

It is not against immoral literature, but against the Treasury, the
Budget Committee and against private employers of labour that moral
reformers should draw up their resolutions. So long as a business man
is able to make two or three millions a year net profit while of those
employed in his office scarcely two or three are so paid that they can
think of marriage before the age of thirty; so long as the head of
a government department can reply, to the application of a class of
officials for an increase of salary in order to facilitate marriage,
by a gracious promise of more frequent leave to go to town; or an
employer refuse a female employee’s demand for a raise of salary with
a gallant reference to the ease with which— with her advantages of
appearance—she might increase her income; so long will the marriage
question remain unsolved.


All preaching of morality to youth which does not at the same time
condemn the state of society that favours immorality, but makes the
realisation of youthful love an impossibility, is more than stupidity,
it is a crime.

So long as the present low rates of pay and uncertain conditions of
employment continue, the blood of men will continue more and more to
be corrupted, and that of women to be impoverished, while waiting for
the marriage which might have given to society excellent children born
of healthy and happy parents. So long as societies thus fatuously
sacrifice their highest values will every other kind of social reform
be nothing but a work of Penelope, of which the night will undo what
the day has done.



CHAPTER IV

LOVE’S SELECTION


In the foregoing chapter it was insisted that love’s freedom in the
procreation of new life must have a downward limit, in that this
freedom can only be allowed to those who have attained the age of
sexual maturity. But it ought also to have an upward limit, since a
great difference in age between father and mother—like the advanced
age of one of them—offers unfavourable conditions for the health,
strength, and upbringing of the children. And as, for reasons given in
the last chapter, the lawful age of marriage for both sexes must be put
at twenty-one, a difference in age of twenty-five years should be the
highest the law ought to allow in one or the other case.

No one who sees the meaning of life in its advance towards higher forms
would dispute nowadays the obvious duty of not transmitting serious
diseases the hereditariness of which is already ascertained by science.
But as this has only been ascertained in a few cases, legal hindrances
as regards the many doubtful cases would be not only a—perhaps
meaningless—interference with the life of the individual, but also an
unfavourable circumstance for continued research in the most important
branch of biology.

What ought to be insisted upon even now is that each party before
marriage should possess full knowledge of its possible dangers,
but that the choice should thereupon be left to their own sense of
responsibility. No one—at least not yet—can ask the individual
to sacrifice his happiness for contested possibilities; but in the
interests of the individual, as of that of the race, we can, on the
other hand, demand that no one shall make his choice in love in
ignorance. And the more the sense of racial community approaches its
renaissance under the influence of evolutionism, the more natural will
all safeguards appear with which that choice may be surrounded to the
advantage of posterity. Even now it is considered quite natural that
a medical examination should precede life insurance. In the future it
may be equally obvious that before marriage the woman should ascertain
from a female doctor and the man from a male doctor whether they are
capable of fulfilling their duty to the race. And it is not only a
question of insuring the new lives, but also of assuring the couple
themselves that they have no organic defects which in some instances
might make marriage impossible, which in others are easily avoidable,
but ignorance regarding which would in each case entail unnecessary
suffering.

In most cases it is the anxiety of one’s self contracting or
transmitting diseases to the other party and to the children that the
physician has to confirm or dispel. It is beyond all question that
healthy selfishness, which desires to preserve its own individuality,
as well as the growing appreciation of a worthy offspring, will
then hinder many an unsuitable marriage. In other cases love might
triumph over these considerations for its own part, the married couple
abstaining, however, from parentage. In those cases, again, where
the law would definitely forbid marriage, this would doubtless be no
hindrance to diseased people having offspring outside wedlock. But
the same is true, of course, of all legal enactments: the best people
do not require them, the worst do not obey them, but through them the
ideas of justice of the majority are cultivated.

Only those who are ignorant of the laws of psychological transformation
doubt the possibility of the simultaneous enhancement of the feeling
of love and the racial sense. Century after century the emotion of
love has been growing, while at the same time men have nevertheless
sacrificed it to religious prejudices, superficial ideas of duty,
tyrannical parental authority, and empty forms. Now, when the sacrifice
is called for on behalf of the highest of possible gains—the conquest
of disease by health, the ennobling of the human body itself—now,
of all times, it is asserted that mankind would be incapable of
this sacrifice—because in the course of time the power of love has
increased.

On the contrary, it is through the greatness of their feeling for
each other that two married people can bear the loss of children,
when—knowing that neither of them thus deprives the race of a
material asset—they enter upon their union with the resolve not to
become parents. Through the same greatness in their love, the party on
whose side the danger lies may gain strength to sacrifice individual
happiness in order that the other may gain a happiness more significant
to himself and to the race with some one else. Such sacrifices occur
even now more frequently than is supposed.

But above all it is the extension of the instinct of love through
the racial sense which will secure the ennobling of the race without
sacrificing individual happiness.

The point of view of racial ennobling found expression even in the
Mosaic marriage law. In ancient Greece also this ennobling was a
conscious factor. But Christianity’s insistence on the importance of
the individual and of humanity weakened the feeling of the individual
for the race, as did likewise the doctrine of souls supplied to the
bodies from heaven and returning thither. It was only through the
enhancement of man’s spiritual force, by the mortification of his
sinful body, that Christianity raised the quality of the race.
The doctrine of hereditary sin was its only—half-rational and
half-irrational—insistence on our connection with our ancestors. Since
Christianity regarded the human species as once for all determined
by God—though bungled by Adam—restoration, not new creation, was,
as already stated, its fundamental idea. In the very conditions of
the renewal of life Christianity saw the root and origin of sin in
the world. This way of viewing things must be entirely overcome; and
fortunately the church has of necessity lost—and will continue to
lose—in every conflict with love. But in this way the advance takes
place by a turning-aside from the direct line of development: the
enhancement of the race. At the present time many symptoms show that
love and the racial sense are beginning to approach one another.

Whenever abstract, logical thought confronts real life with a problem
that admits of only two solutions, the latter asserts its proud
determination not to allow itself to be confined within definitions or
ruled by deductions. Life is movement, movement implies variability,
transformation, in other words, development in an upward or downward
direction. Never will the upward curve assume a more pronounced
elevation than when the desire of procreation has reached the point at
which it is directed by the selection of personal love, this selection
again being directed by a clear-sighted instinct tending to the
ennobling of the race.

That the choice of personal love at present appears often either to
lack or to oppose this instinct, is no proof that it will always lack
or oppose it. Love’s selection has already in certain cases—such
as those of near blood-relations, different races, and certain
diseases—become an instinct, since law and custom have influenced
selection sufficiently long for this to have influenced feeling and
instinct. At the present time brother and sister—since they are
aware of their relationship—seldom have to suppress a mutual erotic
feeling, as such a thing does not arise. No prohibition, but only all
the impulses of her blood, hinder the American woman from marrying a
negro or a Chinese. The woman who is known to have epilepsy is excluded
from marriage less by the law, in this case easily circumvented, than
by the fact that no man wants her as his wife. On the other hand, it is
known that under conditions favourable to the cultivation of the beauty
and strength of the human body, this has in a great degree influenced
the erotic selection of either sex—so far as they otherwise possessed
freedom of choice. The law of inheritance, which makes it easy for
the degenerate to contract marriage, and women’s need of maintenance
have, on the other hand, falsified the instinct of the latter in this
direction. The prevailing customs and ideas of morality have as a rule
deprived future mothers of their full freedom of choice and thus to a
great extent neutralised the importance of womanly love’s selection
for the spiritual and bodily improvement of the race. To this must be
added that the Christian doctrine of fraternity, the eighteenth-century
doctrine of equality, the transference of economical power to the
third estate—in a word, the whole democratisation of society—have
broken down the laws and customs which prevented the mixing of blood
between different classes and races. This has certainly favoured the
selection of personal love, but at the same time, to a greater extent
than formerly, it has favoured a selection governed by pecuniary
considerations. In the marriages which were formerly a matter of family
arrangement, many other advantages, besides those of money, were taken
into consideration. But in this case also, as in that of the marriage
of near relations, it was less and less a clear-sighted solicitude
to preserve noble blood, more and more an empty pride of birth, a
narrow race-prejudice, that raised obstacles to marriage. It was thus
necessary for love’s selection to conquer these obstructions, which
in addition, even from the point of view of racial enhancement, were
often of doubtful value. But all the more must we deplore the influence
of money in determining matrimonial selection, above all when this
influence makes itself felt at the cost of the inclination which love
shows, in spite of everything, of making its choice by preference among
equals; an inclination which—besides other easily explicable causes—
may also imply an instinct developed in the course of generations,
tending to the preservation of the best peculiarities in a class or a
race.

Since Christianity and the civilisation influenced by it
modestly veiled the natural mission of love and obscured it by
transcendentalism, mankind began to be ashamed even of self-examination
or self-confession in this relation. We ought again to pay attention
to family history, though not to such as used to be recorded in old
family Bibles, with the dates of birth, marriage, and death, but such
a history as should include the circumstances which determined birth
and death. We must resume the casting of horoscopes, but not so much
according to the signs in the heavens—although perhaps these will
regain something of their former importance—as according to those
on earth; and not only from the signs at birth but from those long
previous to it. Just as alchemy became chemistry and astrology led to
astronomy, it is possible that such a reading of signs might prepare
the way for what we may call—while waiting for a word of more extended
meaning than Galton’s eugenics or Haeckel’s ontogony—erotoplastics:
the doctrine of love as a consciously formative art, instead of a blind
instinct of procreation. It would be of infinitely greater significance
for humanity if the majority of the women, who now translate their
experiences into half-candid and wholly inartistic fiction, were to
write down for the benefit of science entirely true family chronicles
and perfectly frank confessions.

It is certain even now that the customs and ways of thought, the
artistic and emotional tendencies, which make up the atmosphere of
love, unconsciously operate upon its selection to the advantage of the
race. This also involves the possibility of such influence becoming
conscious, when once it is clearly seen in what direction it ought to
go, which are the spiritual and bodily properties that it is desired
to eradicate or to enhance, and by what means the properties of the
new generation may depend upon the choice of parents. But above all,
racial considerations will operate indirectly in the same direction,
so that love will be less and less likely to arise under conditions
unfavourable to the race. Man is not inwardly a logical creature: _les
entrailles ne raisonnent pas, elles ne sont pas faites pour ça_ (George
Sand). But by degrees our nature becomes unconsciously transformed
through reciprocal influences: the body together with the soul, the
soul together with the body; the desires through the thoughts, the
thoughts through the desires. It is true that love’s selection will
always remain a mystery—from this among many other causes, equally
or more important. But the individual and universal qualities which
in the main act as an attraction will gradually be more clearly
perceived, more sought after by both sexes, and will have more weight
in determining their choice.

We have already seen that a displacement of motives, a division of
motive power, has during a certain period altered the character of
love. Thus, as pointed out above, the influence of the spirit of
the age was able during the age of chivalry, and again during the
eighteenth century, to separate love both from marriage and from the
mission of the race. By the same psychic process a new spirit of
the age—full of the aspirations of evolution and determined by the
religion of life—may restore this connection and make it closer than
ever before. Then will mankind look for a new Blake to glorify the
feeling of devotion which fills hearts and souls at the coinciding
selection of personal love and of the racial sense, a coincidence which
alone gives the certainty that

  I am for you, and you are for me,
  Not only for our own sake, but for others’ sakes,
  Envelop’d in you deep greater heroes and bards,
  They refuse to awake at the touch of any man but me.[3]

Religion, poetry, art, and social custom have collaborated to elevate
the racial feeling into love. They ought now to collaborate again to
make the racial feeling conscious in love. The altars that the ancients
raised to the divinities of procreation must be rebuilt. Not for men
and women to assemble around them in frenzied orgies, in the red
glow of sunset, but in the golden light of the morning and the joy of
creative day.

Family feeling, ancestor-worship, pride of pure blood will regain, in a
new sense, their decisive power over emotions and actions.

Thus will love’s freedom be limited—but not through idealistic
philosophy’s abstract conceptions of citizenship and duty, nor yet
through the hard-and-fast breeding rules of a Spartan evolutionism.

_Freedom for love’s selection, under conditions favourable to the race;
limitation of the freedom, not of love, but of procreation, when the
conditions are unfavourable to the race_—this is the line of life.

Love, like every other emotion, has its ebb and flow. Thus, even in the
greatest souls, it is not always at the same height. But the greater
the soul that the wave of erotic emotion inundates, the more surely
does this wave quiver at its highest with the longing of eternity. The
child is the only true answer to this longing.

This does not mean that lovers in the moments of rapture divide their
consciousness between the present and the future, between their own
bliss and the possible child. The life of the soul does not work
so awkwardly as this. But the conscious conditions of the soul are
determined by emotions—reduced for the moment to unconsciousness;
and motives, which are forgotten in the hour of fulfilment, have not
therefore been less decisive. The athlete in the moment of victory
does not remember the training which preceded his race, but it was
nevertheless that which decided the fate of that moment. The artist in
the hour of creation does not remember the toil of his student years,
but that nevertheless determines the perfection of his creation. The
will to ennoble the race need not be conscious in a pair of lovers,
who in each other forget time and existence, but without the emotions,
which, consciously or unconsciously, have been influenced by that will,
they would not be united in an ecstasy of the soul and the senses.


Young men are becoming increasingly conscious that the thought of the
child influenced them in their choice of love; women are increasingly
aware that never was their longing for a child stronger than in the
embrace of the man to whom they have been attracted by a great love.
More and more often do mothers search the features and souls of their
children for evidence of their love. More and more often does one hear
the unmarried woman confess the hungry longing for motherhood, which a
few decades ago she concealed as a shame.

Every awakened soul perceives that the consciousness of the time
comprehends the mission of the race with a new intensity, although
centuries must pass before it can be proved what influence love’s free
selection has had upon the production of beings above the present
standard of humanity.

Even from believers in the religion of life warnings are still heard
against the love which is a matter of personal choice, which excludes
all else, and which dissolves all former ties. Evolutionists thus admit
that this emotion certainly produces in the individual the highest
possible development of force, the fullest richness of life, and that
this indirectly and in many ways is to the good of the whole. But
at the same time they assert that love itself often consumes these
enhanced powers; that it ought therefore only to occupy a brief period
of human life and should not be allowed any decisive importance in
shaping the course of life, since this would be to the detriment of
the new generation. Their special objection to love is, that just
as monastic life and the celibacy of the clergy during the Middle
Ages and down to the present day have deprived the race of excellent
qualities—since the most gifted often choose the calm of the cloister
or the call of the priesthood—so now many of the best men and women
are kept from marriage by the dream or by the loss of a great love’s
happiness.

Finally, from the point of view of evolutionary ethics, not only
the desire of great love, excluding all else, but monogamy itself
has been attacked. This purely scientific line of thought has at
present no conscious part in the utterances of what is called the “new
immorality,” all the less as the scientific reasoning lays stress upon
the point that _if_ mankind is to abandon monogamy, which has possessed
such enormous advantages, then this must be done with a conscious
purpose, to further the development of the whole race, not the passions
of individuals.

But if this evolutionistic reasoning be conceded, then it will result
in a transformation of society’s view of love’s freedom of choice,
both in the direction of extension and of limitation. Much of what is
now called the “new immorality” may then appear as the unconscious
self-protection of the race against a degeneration forced upon it by
the customs and arrangements of society.


Against the future claims of evolutionism, however, the conviction
asserts itself that personal love, the great creation of culture,
will not disappear; and thereby the danger of polygamy is removed. It
must therefore continue to be love’s selection which will occasion
the ethical “adulteries” just alluded to, but it will be a love
determined by the point of view of the ennobling of the race. At
present the claims of evolution in this respect have scarcely begun
to be perceived, still less have they succeeded in exercising a
transforming influence on moral opinion, which will perhaps one day
apply in this connection Plato’s saying: that what is useful is fit,
and what is hurtful is shameful. Where good reasons exist for not
outwardly dissolving the marriage, the right may perhaps be admitted
which even now a man or woman has here and there appropriated: that of
becoming a father by another woman, or a mother by another man, since
they themselves have a passionate longing for a child and are eminently
suited for parentage, but have been deprived of its joys because the
wife or husband has been wanting in these possibilities.

Even now people begin to perceive the psychological justification of
the oft-repeated experience that a man—sometimes also a woman—can
at the same time and in a different way love more than one, since
the great love, the love which is one and indivisible and pervades
their whole being for ever, has not been given to them. Even now such
conflicts are solved in a new way—there are examples of it known
throughout Europe—not as Luther solved it for Philip of Hesse, who
kept the wife that had just borne him a ninth child, while secretly
wedding a new one, but as Goethe first intended to bring about the
solution in _Stella_: that the wife, without any open rupture, should
step aside; that the devotion, the tenderness of memories, which united
her and her husband, should still render possible their meeting now and
then as friends, in a common care for their children, although the
husband had contracted a new matrimonial relation to another woman.

From the children’s point of view such a solution may come to be looked
upon in the future as more desirable—and more worthy of respect—than
it seems now.


The new sexual morality—where the light, as in Correggio’s _Night_,
will radiate from the child—may, however, continue to uphold single
love as the ideal for the highest happiness and development both of the
lovers and of the children. It has already been contended that this is
the direction in which the evolution of love is moving. But we must
likewise admit—and always for the well-being of the race as well as
of the individual—that love may take lower as well as higher forms
without our being obliged to regard the former as immoral. When the
point of view of the ennobling of the race has penetrated the ethical
ideas of mankind, the following may be described as immoral, with a
force at present unsuspected:

_All parentage without love;_

_All irresponsible parentage;_

_All parentage of immature or degenerate persons;_

_All voluntary sterility of married people fitted for the mission of the
race_; and finally

_All such manifestations of sexual life as involve violence or
seduction, and entail unwillingness or incapacity to fulfil the mission
of the race._

But, on the other hand, society will admit, with a freedom wholly
different from that now existing, the union of people, not only in
their best years, but also in their best feelings; it will perceive the
present hindrances to be an injustice which falls not only upon the
individuals but upon society itself—since connubial unhappiness not
only interferes with the highest development of many people’s powers
for the good of all, but it also deprives society of the children to
whom life might have been given by a new happiness.

It is through its view of the social importance of love’s selection
that the new morality will be a transforming force.

That a pioneer of reform who puts his ideas into practice may be a
dangerous example is certain. It is possible to be fully convinced
of the future of, for instance, the art of flying, without therefore
denying the dangers of experiment or encouraging people to jump off
church-towers with nothing but a pair of goose-wings on their shoulders.

No thorough reshaping of emotions and customs takes place according to
dogmas and programmes; this one least of all. But no other motive power
exists which will finally induce all—the small and the great, the
weak and the strong— to follow the line of development, except the
increased freedom of choice of personal love, with a correspondingly
increased certainty as regards the influence of that choice upon the
welfare of the race. For unless love continued to be the condition of
morality, the cause of selection, the new humanity would gradually
lose advantages already gained. Neither the “breeding institute” nor
“freedom of pairing” is capable of enhancing the spiritual and bodily
resources of mankind in a universal, permanent, and organic way. Love
alone can do this.

It is true that it has yet to be proved that love—other conditions
being equal—produces the best children. But this will one day be
proved.

This knowledge is for the present only intuition. But so are all
truths in the beginning. Moreover, possibilities of indirect proof
are not wanting even now. First and foremost this, that love has not
its origin in human life, and is not a product of civilisation, but
shows itself already in the animal world. Among animals it is capable
of resulting in death from sorrow at the loss of a mate, as also in
other emotional phenomena of human life. It may even lead to monogamy,
although with animals as with human beings monogamy is neither a
necessary result of love nor an indispensable condition of development.
For many of the higher species of animals are polygamous, while others,
below them in the scale, are monogamous. If love did not involve any
great advantage, it might doubtless have arisen, but would not have
persisted, in the face of the hindrances which its personal selection
appears to put in the way of the maintenance of the race. Mankind has
thus already brought the emotion of love from its primitive animal stem
and grafted it upon the tree of civilisation. It has gradually been
ennobled and exalted into one of the highest powers of human life. And
how would this growing importance of love be possible, if it enhanced
only the happiness of the individual, and not also the life of the race?

The evolution of human love has shown itself partly in an increasingly
definite individualisation in selection, partly in a more complete
admission and enhancement of individual qualities.

In other words: personal characteristics have tended more and more
to inspire love, and love has more and more developed personal
characteristics. This again—as already admitted—has resulted in
more and more individuals failing to perform their duty to the race,
either because their feeling, although reciprocated, could not lead
to marriage, or because the feeling in some respect or other has been
disappointed. This passionate selection of a single one among the
many by whom—from an objective point of view—the duty to the race
might equally well have been performed, has thus in a sense become
anti-social.

But such lives, wasted as they are from the immediate point of view
of the ennobling of the race, have yet been able to serve the same end
indirectly. Many of these persons, childless in an ordinary sense, have
left immortal offspring. Others have shed upon the battle-field, in
winning victories for humanity, the blood which they never saw flowing
in the fine network of veins on a child’s temples. By the greatness of
their own ideals they have enlarged the hearts of their fellow-men; and
their courage has not had to sink before the possibility of their own
failure to realise their ideals being cast in their teeth. They have
bought their prophetic power at the highest possible price: that of
never having had a happiness to lose; and they bear without bitterness
the poverty which has made them richer in faith.

That many lives—and worthy lives—are wasted through love is only one
manifestation of life’s impenetrable tendency to universal prodigality.
It is one with the great necessity, whose hand smites and wounds us so
long as we curse it, but caresses and supports as soon as we bless it.

We must not look at the victims—even if we ourselves are among
them—if we would see the meaning of life in life itself. We must fix
our eyes upwards. And then it is certain—since love continually and in
spite of all is extending its power—that individual love, with all its
victims and all its mistakes, nevertheless in the long run assists the
elevation of the race.


The great Western prophet of pessimism argued that love was nothing but
a task imposed in this fashion upon the individual by _der Genius der
Gattung_; that only contradictions attract one another and that the
offspring inherits the complementary qualities that each has sought in
the other. These contradictions—through the hostility of which the
parents afterwards make each other unhappy—coalesce and neutralise
each other in the child, so that the latter, at the expense of its
parents, becomes a well-equipped, rich, or harmonious personality.
Carried to an extreme, this saying of Schopenhauer’s, like many other
such pregnant thoughts, becomes an absurdity. But every one who has
observed love must have found—long before he knows, or without ever
knowing, that this experience is exalted into pessimism—that all
powerful love arises between opposed natures. The harmony that results
from similarity is monotonous, poor, and moreover dangerous to the
development of the individual, as well as that of the race. But what is
contrary is certainly not always conflicting, although it may prove so
if the contrariness extends to views of life and its purpose, its value
and conduct. Conflicting natures are—in spite of Schopenhauer—not
unfrequently equally unfavourable for the child’s disposition and for
its bringing-up, and the will of the race often fails of its purpose
through their very compulsion to unite in a love which is soon turned
to hatred. Again, contrary natures often become conflicting, owing to
their turning the wrong side of their qualities to each other after
marriage, while in the early period of love they had shown each other
the right side of these qualities. That such a marriage is unhappy is
no evidence against love’s selection, but a great one for mankind’s
lack of culture for marriage. That every sympathetic dissimilarity
between persons has a limit, the overstepping of which leads further
and further towards antipathetic dissimilarities, is a psychological
lesson which is deeply inculcated by marriage.

The more, however, the art of living is developed, the more will human
beings be able to minimise their own loss of happiness through this
selection of love to the advantage of the race; for married people will
come more and more to delight in and preserve each other’s differences;
to restrain the antipathetic contradictions in themselves; to make
more conscious use of the sympathetic dissimilarities in the other
for the completion of their own one-sidedness; to cease from the
endeavour, so hostile to happiness, of reforming the other according
to their own nature. Even now, moreover, the need of sympathy in
love is so awakened, so sensitive, that the blind passion aroused
by external contradictions is less and less able to overmaster it.
The need of sympathy is now quickly warned when it encounters the
irreconcilable contradictions which show that each is on a different
plane of existence; that each belongs to a different psychological
period or continent or race. This perception even now checks the
development of love in many cases, where the contradiction really is a
conflicting incompatibility, and not the elective affinity determined
by nature into which enter both primary dissimilarities and secondary
similarities. The latter results in the lovers’ contradictions
forming a rich harmony, both in their own life together and in the
personalities of their children. When this attraction of contradictions
has once missed its mark, one still often sees that it is one and the
same type that a person will love a second or third time, or even
oftener, with a persistence of selection which makes it true in a way
that the object of love has all the time been the same woman or man.

The relentless force of nature’s uniting will shows itself not only
in the way love brings together contradictions in marriage, but also
in the rupture of marriage. A good wife, married to a good husband,
loving and loved, is thus seized by a passion, incomprehensible to
herself, for another man. Without reflection she gives herself up
to her passion, to return again to the husband she has not ceased
to love, but who never inspired in her the overmastering emotion
whose purpose—according to the will of nature and of the woman
herself—ought to have been a child. The same will of nature manifests
itself in a number of phenomena, incomprehensible to others. An
intellectual man or woman is seized by a passion for a person far
inferior. How often has not a “good-looking fellow” vanquished the
most high-souled man in the affections of such a woman; how often
have not thoughtless beauty and empty gaiety won from a superior man
what the personality of an exceptional woman could not secure! The
whole secret was nature’s will to counterbalance cerebral and nervous
genius by healthy, sensuous strength, to the advantage of the race.
As sexual love has its origin in the fact that the sexual characters,
which biologically are favourable to the race, are the most attractive,
this general attraction constantly operates side by side with the
individual; and it operates most strongly precisely in that kind of
love which is rightly called “blind passion,” the kind which thus
brings together to their misfortune conflicting contradictions.

But there is no reason to doubt that love’s selection in this case
will be able to retain its instinctive sureness, although love is
continually widening its instincts of psychical sympathy also. The
consequence of this is that the number of contradictions which may
attract will become less, but on the other hand the fewer possibilities
will be more finely adapted; that the selection among contradictions
will thus become more and more difficult but at the same time more
and more valuable. Love’s selection now not infrequently has for
its result that, of two contradictions, irresistibly united by the
affinity of souls, one or both does not offer the best physical
conditions for children. But to make up for this the selection may
turn out excellently for the enhancement of a particular disposition,
the formation of a harmonious temperament, or the fostering of a great
spiritual quality. It is not only by avoirdupois and yard-measure that
the advance of the race must be tested.

Such a race-enhancing selection may, for example, take place through
the tendency of young women of the present day to feel or retain love
less and less for a man who is erotically divided, while, on the other
hand, the men who have preserved unity in their love have more and
more prospect of being attractive to women. Thus, generation after
generation, erotic unity may become more and more natural with men, as
in the same way it has become so with women. Man’s desire for woman’s
purity has determined his choice, and this choice has then through
heredity further advanced the feelings of the next generation, until
these have become the strongest in his erotic instincts. The clearest
consciousness of the injustice of the different moral demands on man
and woman; the most “liberal” view of woman’s right to the same freedom
as man, are in this case unable to vanquish his instincts. When a man
learns that the woman he loves has given herself to another before
him, or that he shares her with another, his feeling often becomes
diseased at its root: the will of sole possession that has grown up in
him through the love-selection of thousands of years, and has now been
further heightened by the desire for unity of individual love.

These indications may be enough to show the superficiality of the
conclusions about love’s selection which are confined exclusively to
physical improvement, although naturally this also is of great value.
But that a pair of lovers can have a feeble-bodied child ought in
itself to be no more used as evidence against love’s selection than
would be the physically excellent children of an unhappy couple.

Even if the erotic attraction of dissimilarities is thus the strongest
proof of the probability of love’s influence from the point of view of
the enhancement of the race, it is nevertheless far from being the only
one. Another is the astonishing excess of first-born or only children
among distinguished personalities in different departments. A third
is the proverbial ability of so-called “love-children.” A fourth,
the result, often favourable to the disposition of the children, of
marriages between people of different nationalities. In the first two
cases we may suppose that the parents’ happiness in love—or at least
their sensual passion—was at the height of its freshness and strength
at the conception of the child. In the case of “love-children” it
is not unfrequently a healthy woman of the people who with genuine
devotion encounters the sensual desire of a man intellectually her
superior. In the last case, again, it is usually a powerful love which
has conquered the obstructions raised by patriotism and traditions
against the attraction by means of which the national contradictions
are to be blended in the child into a happy unity.

Observation in this connection is misled by innumerable side
influences, counteractions, and contradictions as yet unsolved. So
long as any wreck of humanity is allowed by “the right of love” to
reproduce the species, the lines of conclusion in this subject will
continue to intersect one another in all directions. _Not until cases
arise where the conditions are comparable in every other respect, shall
we begin to approach an objective demonstration in the question of
children’s decreasing physico-psychical vitality when they are born
in unwillingness or indifference, and, on the other hand, of their
increasing vitality when they are born in love._ And it is not in the
tender years of childhood, but when they have lived their life, that
the question can first be finally answered.

That the development of children’s inherited dispositions, their
childhood’s happiness, and the future tenor of their life are
determined to a great extent by their being brought up in a home bright
with happiness, by parents who co-operate in sympathetic understanding,
this need not be dwelt upon. Everyone knows how children from such
homes have received the gift of a faith in life and a feeling of
security, a courage and a joy in life which no subsequent sufferings
can wholly destroy. They have laid up enough warmth of sunshine to
prevent their being frozen through even in the most severe winter.
Those, on the other hand, who began with winter, sometimes freeze even
under the summer sun.


It is no more true with regard to love’s selection than in any
other respect that passion is opposed to duty otherwise than in the
intermediary stage of development. In the state of innocence there is
no division, since no other duty exists but blindly to follow instinct.
When development is completed and “the second innocence” attained, duty
will be abolished, since it will have become one with instinct.

It will then be seen that they were wrong who now think that—while God
walked in Paradise and founded marriage—the devil went about in the
wilderness and instituted love. Dualism will be vanquished by monism
when the circular course of development has brought the starting-point
near to the goal; when the natural instinct of the race meets the will
to ennoble the race, born of culture; when the golden ring from either
side encircles the gem with the sacred sign of life: the child. But
the treasure which is now regarded as the most precious, monogamy,
is perhaps destined not to be encircled by the golden ring until
after many new spiral turns. _It will be so when love’s selection has
finally made every man and woman well fitted to reproduce the race._
Not till then can the desired ideal—one man for one woman, one woman
for one man—universally include the best vital conditions, for the
individual and for the race. And when we have come so far, the will of
erotic choice may also be so delicately and firmly entwined with every
fibre of the personality’s physico-psychical material, that a man will
only be able to find, win, and keep a single woman, a woman a single
man. Then it may be that many human beings will experience through
love’s selection what is even now the fortune of a few: the highest
enhancement of their individual personality, their highest form of life
as members of the race, and their highest perception of eternal life.



CHAPTER V

THE RIGHT OF MOTHERHOOD


Everyone knows that the methods of production of modern society tend
more and more to limit woman’s domestic work to directing consumption,
whereas at earlier stages she used also to produce a great part of the
commodities consumed in the home. Everyone can see too that the most
profoundly influential cause of the woman’s movement has thus not been
the assertion of woman’s political-juridical rights as a human being,
but first and foremost the question of how she is to find employment
for her powers of work which are no longer required in the home, and
be enabled to find that self-maintenance outside the home which the
altered conditions of production have rendered necessary.

Through the ever-increasing connection between the different parts of
society, woman’s work has had profound influence in other quarters
than those of the labour market. Competition between the sexes has
produced—as regards manual labour—for men and women those lower
conditions of labour which are the usual result of an overcrowding of
the labour market, namely, low wages, long hours, and uncertainty of
employment. The possibility of marriage has become dependent on the
bread-winning labour of both husband and wife. Those married women who
are partly maintained by their husbands, have by their supplementary
earnings reduced the wages of the self-supporting unmarried ones, and
when these in their turn are married, they lack the desire and capacity
to look after the home and waste through negligence more than they earn
in the factory. The consequence of the outside employment of wives—as
of children—has furthermore been sterility, a high infant mortality,
and the degeneration of the surviving children, both physically and
psychically; a debased domestic life with its consequences: discomfort,
drunkenness, and crime.

Among the middle classes, again, the competition between the sexes has
directly reduced man’s chances of marriage, and indirectly diminished
the desire of both sexes to contract matrimony.

The apparently inevitable law that one-sidedness alone gives strength
has made the champions of woman’s rights left-handed in their treatment
of all social questions connected with their “cause.” They have pressed
forward woman’s right to work, while overlooking both the conditions
and the effects of her work. Women, actuated by the combined motive
power of the spirit of the age and of necessity, have looked for
employment of any kind and at however low a wage. Among the middle
classes, the result has been that many girls, who were in no need of
supporting themselves entirely by work, have depressed the conditions
of labour for those women who needed it. Thus the latter are held down
to a minimum which is dangerous alike to health and to morality. Girls
living at home, on the other hand, have been able to satisfy their
increased demands, and this has made it still more difficult for a man
to offer them acceptable conditions in marriage.

It has already been pointed out that the self-maintenance of women has
had and still has a profound influence on love in marriage. The Swedish
poet Almquist indicated this when he wrote that only the woman who “_in
glad activity can provide all that is necessary for her living_” makes
it possible for the man to whom she gives herself “_to say rightly to
himself, I am loved_.”

But no one can calculate in advance how a new social force is going to
work in every respect; how even souls are changed with altered needs,
so that new demands and forces arise. The erotic problem of the youth
of the present day is one of the most illuminating pieces of evidence
of this impossibility.

Woman’s competition with man in the field of labour has, in fact,
occasioned a profound ill-feeling between the sexes. Women feel
themselves—rightly or wrongly—cheapened and underestimated, and men,
on the other hand, consider themselves thrust aside, when woman’s lower
demands of wages decide the competition in her favour. But this is
still the external side of the matter.

It is the new woman—the transformed type of soul—that man objects to.
The mannish emancipated ladies will soon, however, have died out. We
can therefore pass them by and consider only the young women who have
preserved or tried to preserve their possibilities of erotic attraction.

These have, however, lost the calm, the equilibrium, the receptivity,
which formerly made of woman a beautiful, easily-comprehended
piece of nature, like nature in her unconditional yielding. When a
man came to the woman he loved with his worries, his fatigue, his
disappointments, he washed himself clean as in a cool wave, found
peace as in a silent forest. Nowadays she meets him with her worries,
her disquiet, her fatigues, her disappointments. _Her_ picture has
been refused, _her_ book is misunderstood, _her_ work is abused, _her_
examination has to be prepared for ... always hers! All this makes the
man think her disturbed, unapproachable, and apt to misunderstand.
Even if she retains her affectionate attention for him, she has lost
her elasticity. She does not choose the conditions of her work; she
is obliged to overwork herself if she wishes to keep her work. But
love—as has been aptly said—requires peace, love will dream; it
cannot live upon remnants of our time and our personality. And thus
the value of love—like all other personal values—sinks under modern
conditions of work, which drain the vital forces and make people
forget even the meaning of the idea of living. Thus the people of the
present day are excluded from love: not merely from the possibility
of realising it in marriage, but also from the possibility of fully
experiencing it.

Nor have these over-tired young women a chance of preserving their
charm in outward appearance and manner. This is only done nowadays in
a conscious style by ladies of the highest society—and by those of
the _demi-monde_—who perform no other duty to the community than the
more elegant than worthy one of illustrating the parable of the lilies
of the field. But even now few women can afford—and fewer still feel
that they have the right to or the leisure for—this worship of their
own intoxicating and self-intoxicating loveliness. More and more have
to take part in a life of work; while, moreover, women are becoming
less attracted by the ideal of perfection of form, and more by that
of formation of personality. But this movement involves uncertainty
of form, until new forms have been created; and man loves in woman
precisely that sureness, lightness, and repose in her own sense of
power which are generally wanting in the tentative young woman of the
present day. A new kind of young women is, however, already to be met
with, who will neither work nor charm exclusively, and who are solving
the problem of being at the same time active and beautiful.

Thus the deepest conflict of all lies herein, that young men feel young
women to be independent of the love they offer; they feel themselves
weighed and—found wanting. Woman’s capacity for making a living has
thus undoubtedly resulted, as Almquist hoped, in giving man a greater
chance of believing himself loved, but at the same time—a smaller
chance of being so.

We see two groups of the daughters of our time, as new manifestations
of woman’s primitive double nature.

For one group the child is not the immediate end of love, and still
less can the child sanctify all the means for its attainment. If such
a woman has to choose between giving and inspiring a love as great as
that of her dreams, without motherhood, and becoming a mother through
a lesser love, then she will choose the former without hesitation. And
if she becomes a mother, without having attained the full height of her
being in love, she feels it as a degradation; for neither child nor
marriage nor love are enough for her, only great love satisfies her.

This is the most important step in advance that woman has taken since
from the emotional sphere of the female animal she approached that of
the human woman. And—however great may be the sufferings that this
attitude of the soul may involve for the individual—no one who sees
sufficiently deeply can hesitate as to the certainty of this being the
true line of life.

This, on the other hand, will not coincide with the path of those women
who are now demanding liberty for motherhood, not only without wedlock
but also without love.

Those who hoped that woman’s independence through work would assure
man’s knowledge of being loved, did not reckon for woman’s dependence
on man in and for the tenor of her life. This dependence, created by
nature and not by society, still drives many otherwise independent
women into marriage without love; and it drives other women, who wish
to preserve their independence by not contracting marriage, to the
desire of attaining a mother’s happiness without it. The new woman’s
will to live through herself, with herself, for herself, reaches its
limit when she begins to regard man merely as a means to the child.
Woman could scarcely take a more complete revenge for having herself
been treated for thousands of years as a means.

We must hope, however, that woman’s lust for vengeance will not long
retain this form. Woman’s degradation to a means has retarded man’s and
her own development. But a similar degradation of man would have the
same effect, and the children might suffer just as much through woman’s
misuse of man as through his of her.

The child must be an end in itself. It requires love as its origin;
it requires in its mother love’s understanding of the qualities it
has inherited from its father, not a surprised coldness or resentment
of the unsuspected or unwelcome elements in its nature. The woman who
has never loved her child’s father will infallibly injure that child
in some way—if in no other, then by her way of loving it. The child
needs the joy of brothers and sisters, and not even the tenderest
motherly love can take the place of this; and finally the child needs
the father as the father the child. That children, both in and out of
wedlock, often lose their father or brother or sister through death or
life, belongs to the inevitable, in most cases at any rate. But that
a woman with full knowledge and purpose should deprive her child of
the right of gaining life through love, that she should exclude it in
advance from the possibility of a father’s affection, is a piece of
selfishness which must avenge itself. The right of motherhood without
marriage must not be equivalent to the right of motherhood without
love. It is equally degrading to surrender one’s self without love in
a free relationship as in marriage. In both cases one can steal one’s
child and thereby lose the right of one day proudly assuring it that
it has enjoyed the best conditions for its entry into life. Love—it
must be constantly repeated—desires the future, not the moment; it
desires union, not only at the formation of a new being, but in order
that two persons through each other may care for a new and greater
being than either of themselves. A woman may be mistaken in this love,
as she may be in her suitability for marriage. But this she cannot
know in advance. She experiences these things first in loving. If she
has misplaced her devotion, then it will not save her to conceal the
mistake in a marriage. But to receive her child from a man with whom
she knows in advance that she never intends to live, this is having
an illegitimate child in the deepest sense of the word. But this is
nevertheless the way in which a number of women now think that “the
madonna of the future” is to win a mother’s happiness.


Work is always a development of force, and the more it exercises
our individual powers, the greater happiness will it give. No part
of the old catechism is more valuable than that which is omitted in
the new, on the blessings of labour. The path of every cherished and
reasonable work might be marked by milestones, on which the good old
words should be carved: here “health,” there “welfare”; here “comfort
and consolation in adversity,” and there “preventing lapses into
sin,”—above all, that of doubting the value of life.

But the man to whom work has given all this has all the more reason
to curse the work of women, who are able neither to choose their
labour according to their talents nor to proportion their hours of work
according to their strength. Greater and greater are the multitudes
who move forward upon the road of toil, where the milestones bear the
inscriptions: ill-health, uncertainty for the morrow as for the future,
joylessness, lethargy of the soul, and the sins that thrive in the
shadow, above all that of blaspheming life as meaningless.

For others again work has come to mean in our time drunkenness, vice,
and superstition. It has made men and women unscrupulous, empty, hard,
restless. It has made them destroy for others the remaining treasures
of life—sorrow, love, the home, nature, beauty, books, peace—peace
above all, since it is the condition of the full realisation of
suffering as of joy. The grand words about the liberty and the joy
of labour mean in reality slavery and trouble over labour, the only
trouble our time fully experiences.

With thoughtless hymns of praise to this massacring labour, society
allows one holy springtime after another to wither without having
blossomed—whereas thousands of years ago the cities of antiquity sent
their “holy springs” to open up new districts and build new dwellings
for men.

Just as true as that the losses of the individual mean the poverty
of all, when these losses involve a diminution of health and power;
just as certain as that nothing becomes better without the desire to
improve it, so is it a healthy sign of the times that starvation wages
for conscientious drudgery no longer fill young women with heartfelt
gratitude. They know, these young women, that their own nature also can
be outraged; that there are other suppressed forces in woman’s being
besides only the desire of knowledge and the thirst for activity, and
that neither the right to work nor that of citizenship can compensate
for trampled possibilities of happiness.

Far from its being the duty of any thoughtful person to lull to rest
this despondency of the young, we should render the best service to
them and to life by taking from them everyday contentment and the calm
of resignation; for only the suffering which is kept awake, the longing
which remains alive, can become forces in the revolt against that order
of society which has added meaningless pangs, hostile to life, to those
that the laws of life and life’s development still necessarily involve
in the relations of sex.


All confined forces, which do not find employment, may degenerate; and
our time, with its repression of the erotic forces, can show even among
women such signs of degeneration.

It is therefore a necessary self-assertion when those who are excluded
from love seek to preserve their health and enrich their life with the
sources of joy which are at the disposal of every living person. Even
he who is chained to an uninteresting work can find some moments to
feel his way along some path which leads to a glimpse of the infinite
space of science. Almost every kind of work may bring with it an
increase of individual capacity, and therewith also of joy at feeling
one’s value as a workman and one’s dignity as a personality enhanced.
There is no day which may not bring with it a glimpse of delight
in beauty. Finally there is no hour—except the heaviest hours of
sorrow—in which a human being cannot feel the strength and greatness
of his own soul; its independence of all external fortunes; its power
of seeking itself, finding itself, enhancing itself through all and
in spite of all. The words which Victor Hugo put to a young woman in
sorrow:

  _N’avez-vous pas votre âme?_

are addressed to all who have been badly treated by life.

And whatever belief or unbelief a person may profess, it is in the last
resort this consciousness of his own soul’s worth which saves him when
no other help is to be found—and there is no other help.

In this sense it is doubtless true that the human being, woman as well
as man, is an end in herself; that she has fulfilled her task if she
has not suffered injury to her soul, even if she has gained nothing
else from life; if she has increased the power of her soul, discovered
her own individuality and realised it; for this alone is saving one’s
soul. In this sense it is true that the “mission” of woman as of man
cannot be the sexual mission, which does not depend upon our own will
alone; nor, therefore, can he who has not fulfilled this be said to
have lived in vain. In this sense also there is at bottom a certain
agreement between the feeling of self-glorification just described and
that of those who think that neither woman’s nor man’s highest destiny
can be love, but only the life of an eternal being above all earthly
and social considerations; that the highest reality of every human
being is within himself, and that his highest happiness can be only to
grow in holiness and godliness.

But for the shaping of life the difference is immeasurable. Here we
are confronted once more by the dualist and monist views of life, the
belief in the soul as supersensuous, and the belief in the soul as
dwelling in the senses; the belief that the soul can attain its highest
development and happiness independently of—instead of by means of—its
earthly conditions.

According to the latter view man and woman are determined by their
sexual life even in the greatest emotions of their soul. Sexual
emotions pulsate in the age of puberty’s dreams of heroic deeds and
martyrdom; they are the warm undercurrent in the religious needs
which awaken at that time. Every woman who has afterwards performed
a brilliant achievement of love, who has become a great Christian
character—like St. Bridget of Sweden, like St. Catherine of Siena, or
like St. Teresa—has had the fire of great love in her soul; her blood
has been on fire with the longing to serve the race with body and soul.
And therefore also her charity had warmth in it, while the victims of
so much other benevolence freeze like shorn sheep.

A woman’s essential ego must be brought out by love before she can
do anything great for others or for herself. She whose existence has
been erotically blank seldom finds the way to what is human in a
great sense, while, on the other hand, she to whom life has denied
the opportunity of manifesting her erotic being in the usual sense,
transforms it into an Eros that embraces all life, the Eros of whom
Plato had the intuition when he made Diotima proclaim him: a touch of
infinite delicacy; for may it not possibly be only woman who—since
her whole nature is erotic—can thus satisfy her love-longing from the
whole of existence?

But this sense of oneness with the universe—which the theosophist, the
mystic, the pantheist, and the evolutionist express each in his own
way, but which they all feel alike—is, above all, the gift of a great
happiness in love. It is this way of loving of which it is especially
true to say, that only he who loves knows God, the great word for
unity in the all, in which we live and move and have our being. Not
because God created mankind to increase and inhabit the earth, but
because they were fruitful and filled the earth with beings and with
work, did they give the Creator’s name to life and worshipped in the
likeness of gods their own creative power, on account of which they
also dreamed that they were eternal.

Because fruitfulness, the power of production in all its forms, is the
divine part of man, it is impossible for anyone without it to attain
“holiness and communion with God” in the meaning of the religion of
life, or, in other words, full humanity. Even in its limited form,
that of creating a family, it is the unerring means of extending the
ego beyond its own limits, the simplest condition for humanisation.
It can transform the egoist into a generous man, merely by giving him
something to live for. For this reason love has taken the place of
religion with innumerable people, because it has the same power of
making them good and great, but a hundredfold greater power of making
them happy. Therefore all great and beautiful resignation—flowing with
sweetness and benevolence—is like a vineyard, made upon the slope of a
crater.

But therefore also it is true of all who have quenched the warmth
of fruitfulness in themselves, that they have committed the one
unpardonable sin, that against the holy spirit of life. These women
have received their condemnation in Lessing’s fable of Hera, who sent
Iris to earth to seek out three virtuous, perfectly chaste maidens,
unsoiled by any dreams of love. And Iris certainly found them, but
did not bring them back to Olympus; for Hades had already made Hermes
fetch them for the infernal regions—there to replace the superannuated
Furies.


Because the means of life must never eclipse the meaning of life—which
is to live with one’s whole being, and thus to be able to impart an
ever greater fulness of life—it is immoral to live solely either for
sanctity or for work, fatherland or humanity, or even love, for man is
to live by all these. His exclusion from one of these means of full
humanity can never be compensated by his participation in any of the
others, just as little as one of his senses can be replaced by another,
even though the latter be perfected under the necessity of serving
in the place of the lost one. And the resignation which prematurely
contents itself with part of the rights of its human nature instead of
aspiring to the whole, such resignation is a falling to sleep in the
snow. It is undeniably a calmer state than that of keeping one’s soul
on the stretch for new experiences; for in that case one must also be
prepared for new wounds; and he who keeps his suffering awake can be
sure of more pain than he who puts it to sleep with an opiate. But
no criterion is meaner than that of suffering or not suffering. The
question is only what a man suffers from, and what he becomes—for
himself and others—or does not become as the result of his pain.

Life holds in one hand the golden crown of happiness, in the other the
iron crown of suffering. To her favoured ones she hands them both. But
only he is an outcast whose temples have felt the weight of neither.


A woman of feeling once said that, although love was acknowledged by
the majority as life’s greatest treasure, mankind has not yet been able
to prepare a place for love in life. Outside of marriage it is called
sin; within it—as marriage now is—love can seldom live, and if it
arises for another than the partner in marriage, then for the sake of
the children it must be sacrificed.

It is this observation which made the new women all the more decided to
prepare a place for love outside matrimony.

Women—and men too—have begun to examine the ideas of morality in
which the small and the great values are mixed together like the
cards in a shuffled pack. As far as woman is concerned, all morality
has become synonymous with sexual morality; all sexual morality
synonymous with the absence of sensuality and the existence of a
marriage certificate. In speech and in poetry woman’s mission as “wife
and mother” is glorified, but at the same time the mission is not
considered honourable until it is attained, but, on the contrary,
dishonourable so long as it is sought after with the healthy strength
which is the condition of its complete fulfilment. A woman may be proud
and strong, good and active, courageous and generous, honourable and
trustworthy, faithful and loyal—in a word, she may possess all the
virtues prized by man—and yet be called immoral if she gives a new
life to the race. On the other hand, a woman, irreproachable from the
point of view of sexual morality, may be as cowardly, slanderous, and
untruthful as she can be without being denied the respect of society.

This confusion of thought is to such an extent one with the feelings,
that it may take centuries for new ideas of justice to work a change.

In spite of all, however, it remains a truth that a woman’s morality
in other respects is more profoundly connected with her sexual
morality than is the case with a man. Nature herself established this
connection, when she made love and the child more closely bound up
with woman’s existence than with man’s. It must always be a matter of
paramount importance to a woman’s whole personality to abandon herself
to the possibility of creating a new life; and therefore a woman’s
attitude, not with regard to marriage, but certainly with regard to
motherhood, will be decisive evidence of her moral development in other
respects and of her spiritual culture.

The same sexual freedom for woman as for man is to every profoundly
womanly woman a demand contrary to nature. But this does not mean
either that man ought to continue to misuse his freedom or that woman
must continue to confine hers within “lawful” bounds; nor yet does it
mean that women ought to go on lying to themselves, to men, and to
each other concerning their nature as sexual beings. It is true that
many women exist who have no feeling of this kind, and that other
married women deny the claims of the senses—because they have had
them satisfied before they became conscious. But when the development
of love has introduced a purer and healthier view, neither women nor
men will consider it a merit or superiority in a woman to develop
in herself the character of “the third sex.” Then everyone will
acknowledge that human life, to be in the fullest sense healthy and
rich, must imply fulfilment of the sexual destiny, and that even if
a restriction of the vital forces in this respect does not entail
physical suffering, then it must involve profound psychical injury
resulting in diminished powers. Nor will one then wilfully blink at
the fact that—among many strong, well-balanced, active unmarried
women—others are to be found who are equally worthy of respect,
although they cannot attain harmony without motherhood. And the cause
is not want of self-discipline or seriousness in work, but simply
the fact already stated: that sexual life in a woman—when it has
become strong and healthy—dominates her in a far more intimate way
than it does a man. She seldom suffers acutely, often unconsciously or
half-consciously, from restriction in this direction; but to make up
for this she suffers in a far more radical way, which slowly exhausts
her vital forces; and many cases of madness, hysteria, etc., are due to
this cause.

Every victim of this kind makes life the poorer; for it is often the
warmest feminine natures, the richest in goodness and in soul, the most
fruitful in every sense, that go under in this way. And in them the
race loses not only directly, but also indirectly, in their children
that were never born.

For the present it can be only by an altered criterion of morality
that these losses can be avoided, at least so long as there is not one
man for every woman. For we can look only for a very slow operation of
the measures which may restore the balance that nature seems to intend
by an actual excess in the birth-rate of boys over girls; measures,
that is, for the better protection of the lives of male children and
men. A proposal which was put forward a few years ago in one of the
leading civilised countries undoubtedly deserves consideration as an
incidental remedy; namely, to arrange an organised and well-supervised
emigration of capable women from the countries where they are in excess
to others where the reverse is the case; for while their proficiency
in work would make these women independent of marriage, they would thus
be afforded increased possibilities of marrying, as would the surplus
men—at present, in the countries referred to, left to the alternatives
of celibacy or prostitution.

In the main it is, however, only the awakening of the consciousness of
society that can provide a remedy. But until youth itself awakens the
conscience of the time with the tocsin of action, that remedy is likely
to be long in coming.

In one respect young working men and women might take their destiny
in their own hands, namely, in the purely external point of providing
themselves with the opportunities they lack—which in the case of young
people of the student class now form the foundation of many a life’s
happiness—opportunities of getting to know each other under pleasant
and worthy conditions of comradeship.

In those cases again where a woman’s destiny from one cause or another
has rendered the realisation of love impossible, she ought—like the
wife in a childless marriage—oftener than at present to enrich her
life and partly satisfy her motherly feeling by choosing one among
the destitute children, who are unfortunately still to be found in
abundance, to provide for and love. Such grafts upon one’s own stem
often give splendid fruit. The lonely woman thereby avoids falling
a victim to that hardness and bitterness, which are not necessary
consequences of a checked sexual life, but are all the more so of a
frozen life of the heart.

In those cases where a woman suffers a lasting and unendurable clogging
of her life through the want of motherhood, she must choose the lesser
evil, that of becoming a mother even without love, in or out of
wedlock. Necessity is its own law—and he who steals to save his life
ought to go free. But she must not be made an example for others who
are not placed in the same necessity.

The solution of the right of motherhood, therefore, ought not to be the
encouragement of the majority of unmarried women to provide themselves
with children without love; not even the encouragement of the majority
to obtain them through love when they know in advance that a continued
community of life with the child’s father is impossible.

But, on the other hand, the unmarried woman, from her own point of view
as well as from that of the race, has a right to motherhood, when she
possesses so rich a human soul, so great a mother’s heart, and so manly
a courage that she can bear an exceptional lot. She has all the riches
of her own and her lover’s nature to leave through the child as a
heritage to the race; she has the whole development of her personality,
her mental and bodily vital force, her independence won through labour,
to give to the child’s bringing-up. In her occupation she has had use
only for a part of her being: she desires to manifest it fully and
wholly, before she resigns the gift of life. She therefore becomes a
mother with the full approval of her conscience.

All this, however, seldom applies to a woman before she has reached
or exceeded the limit of _la seconda primavera_; not till then will
she feel fully sure of her longing and her courage, nor will she have
reason to know that life has no higher destiny for her. And even she
must not be taken as an example of a final solution of the problem.
But in times like ours, when the hindrances to life in this direction
have become unendurable, bold experiments are justified—when they are
successful.

In order that such an experiment shall succeed, the woman must be not
merely as pure as snow, she must be as pure as fire in her certainty of
giving her own life a bright enhancement and a new treasure to the race
in the child of her love.

If she is this—then indeed there is a gulf, deep as the centre of the
earth, fixed between this unmarried woman, who presents her child to
the race, and the unmarried woman, who “has a child.”

Beyond all doubt the first-named would have considered it the ideal of
happiness to be able to bring up her child together with its father.
The circumstances which prevent her may be many. The man’s liberty,
for instance, may be limited by earlier duties or feelings, which
bind him, against his will or not. The conditions of life or of work
of one of them may prevent a complete union. So may the experience
that the personality of one of them is fettered through marriage. Or
again, love itself was not what it had promised to be, and the woman
was proud enough not to consider herself fallen and in need of being
rehabilitated by a marriage which, on the contrary, would under these
circumstances be a fall.

Finally, there are exceptional cases, where a superior woman—for it is
often the best who are seized by the powerful desire of a child—feels
that she cannot combine her motherhood with the claims of love and of
intellectual production; that she can suffice for only two duties, and
therefore accepts from love the child but renounces marriage.

But there are also destinies entirely contrary to these, where a woman
for her own part wished to have a child but renounces it for the man’s
sake.

In most cases this is because she surrounds his work with such
affection that, when it is asked of her, she sacrifices to it her
mother’s happiness in the spirit of Heloïse. And the more love is
perfected, the more does woman thus learn to love her husband’s work as
her child, while he, on the other hand, loves her work as his own.

But it may also be for other reasons that a woman desires a man to keep
his complete freedom; it may be, for instance, that he is the younger,
or that she knows she cannot give him a child. Such unions are not
unusual in Europe, unions by which two people long make their own lives
and the lives of those about them richer. In such a case the woman
transforms her motherliness into affection for the man. She gives the
best of her powers of production for his use, so that he grows while
she stops short. But she thereby enjoys the bliss of a mother with a
child at her breast; as the mother feeds herself for the child, so
does such a mistress seek the finest intellectual nourishment that she
may afterwards impart it: she feels that she steals what she enjoys
alone. Perhaps the legend of the pelican, which nourished its young
with its own blood, would be a better symbol for these women, who must
be prepared sooner or later to see the man choose the young bride who
in every respect will answer to his longing. Cases like these, if any,
verify Nietzsche’s words that “great love desires more than a return,”
and that “it will create.” Here, if ever, woman’s nature reveals that
its great genius is for love; that the higher a woman attains, the more
certainly will her own honour, her own triumphs, her own future weigh
lightly as a feather against the joy of being able to develop in all
its fulness her great talent, that of loving. And when does she love
more highly than in lavishing the whole superfluity of her developed
feminine nature on the perfecting of her lover—for another woman?

What every woman needs, in our time more than in any other, has been
expressed by Ricarda Huch in these words: _Courage for one’s self,
sympathy for others_.

Courage for one’s own destiny; courage to bear it or break under it.
But also courage to wait for, to choose one’s destiny. Sympathy with
the many who have lacked one part or another of the new courage:
boldness or vigilance or patience.


Both these courses which woman’s new courage has found out—the man
and work without the child, or the child and work without the man—may
doubtless be called justified forms of life, when they show themselves
life-enhancing. But they cannot be the line of life for the majority.
This line follows the direction of the old Indian proverb: that the man
is half a human being, and the woman half; only the father and mother
with their child can become a whole. And even if women have the right,
so far as life is thereby enhanced, to satisfy their erotic longing,
they ought never to forget that they never attain their full humanity
until through love they have given their husband a child and their
child a father.


We have not spoken here of the young women who are unmarried wives
of men, while waiting till the latter are able to provide a home
for the child and a full domestic life. These women may, it is
true, experience the grief of having trusted too much to their own
or another’s heart. But they have been pure in their will and their
will has been directed towards the future domestic life, not towards
“adventures,” whose only value for them has been that they rapidly
succeeded each other.

The young women alluded to must, therefore, be carefully distinguished
from those who have become the hetairæ of the present day. These
neo-Greek women are finely cultured, richly endowed, choice and pure
types of the cerebral and polygamous woman. Love for them is an element
of enjoyment—somewhat higher than that of the cigarette with which
their dainty fingers toy, or of the alcohol which warms their pale
cheeks—but decidedly lower than the joy of colour or the intoxication
of poetry.

They share with man the joy of work, the desire of creation, delight
in beauty, ideas, and freedom in love. Nothing would be more unwelcome
to them than possible consequences of their “love,” which passes from
one relation to another, with a growing sense of emptiness, fatigue,
and prostration. Unfruitfulness in every respect, that is their lot and
their condemnation; for life has no use for the solitary unfruitful.
Sometimes indeed they are not even capable of continuing to live—only
to prove again and again that their soul cannot love, cannot create,
cannot suffer, and has no other will but to free itself from the tree
of life like a damaged bud, a spoilt fruit.


The right to an exceptional destiny belongs only to one whose
happiness it provides for; in other words, one whom it places in such
an agreement between the needs of his own life and the surrounding
conditions that the powers of the individual thus attain their
highest possible development. And as this is seldom the case when the
individual creates for himself a position which places him in conflict
with society, no thoughtful person can thus refer to an exceptional
destiny the majority of young women now oppressed by compulsory labour,
who wish to improve their lot. The most immediate possibility to begin
with is to improve the character and conditions of their labour.

Women must be more eager to discover or invent for themselves
departments of work which will give them the opportunity of expressing
something of their feminine nature, their human personality. It is
one of the gladdening signs of the times that this is beginning
to be done. Thus, for instance, in Denmark a distinguished lady
mathematician—determined by precisely the reasons given above—has
abandoned her science and become the first female inspector of
factories in Scandinavia. Thus in Germany a lady chemist, for the
same reasons, has chosen the same career. A lady lawyer in the same
country is devoting herself entirely to the protection of children;
another—in France—to the profession of advocate for the assistance
of poor women. But there are still to be found far too many women
whose fortunate situation has given them free choice in their work and
who, nevertheless, have sought the profession which offers them the
surest income or the largest pension, not the most liberal use of their
personal powers.

But even the possibility of the choice belongs to exceptional ability
or exceptional circumstances. The majority of women, who must work or
wish to work, have difficulty in finding a calling which really gives
them a backbone, not merely a stick to hold them up. To render possible
a greater organic connection between woman and her work, nothing is
more necessary than a business and professional agency or exchange, to
which reports would be sent from different places as to local needs
of practical or ideal work, and then, in connection therewith, a new
kind of mortgage bank, but one in which the mortgages would be upon
young women’s courage, industry, and invention; a bank, in fact, which
would advance on easy terms of repayment the loans which would be
necessary to enable these at present unutilised assets to be invested
in the wealth of the nation. The sum of happiness of unmarried women
would rise if their creative instinct were thus at least directed into
a strong and healthy activity, by means of which they could in some
measure satisfy their need of having something to care for, of evoking
around them comfort and beauty.

No fund would be more worthy of the subscriptions of enlightened
patrons than such a one as this.

It is important, again, that all those women who are forced to continue
working for wages should enter into the social question at least as
much as is necessary to make them understand the duty of solidarity and
the need of organisation if they would obtain the higher wages, the
shorter hours, the summer holiday, and the better conditions in other
respects which they must win in order to preserve in some degree their
spiritual and bodily powers and with them that measure of joy in life
which everyone may thus possess. The first condition for this is that
girls who live with their parents should cease to take work at other
rates of pay than those which the wholly self-supporting can live on;
and that women in general should cease to think themselves meritorious
merely because they work—without troubling about the harm their
underpaid labour may do to the whole community.

But it is not only the will to elevate their own lives, but above all
a more lively feeling for social organisation as a whole that these
working women need. Their personal demands for education, rest, beauty,
love, motherhood, must be placed in connection with those of everyone
else, so that they may begin to claim also for others what they
desire for themselves. Instead of making their own existence poorer by
unfortunate experiments, they ought to fill the souls of other women
with their dreams of a more beautiful life. And to be able to do this
they must be constantly active and on the watch, giving and taking on
every hand.

Thus innumerable little streams swell the flood of wills, which shall
one day remove the old landmarks between the power to wish and the
compulsion to renounce. Thus shall the woman deprived of love be able
to forget her own little lot in the destiny of the many, and in spite
of the limitations of her own life to feel that she lives by feeling
the beat of humanity’s heart in her own.



CHAPTER VI

EXEMPTION FROM MOTHERHOOD


To him whose thoughts go beyond the surface of life to its depths, the
demand for the right of motherhood is a sign of health, an evidence
of the existence in a nation of the strong, sound woman’s will to
people the earth, without which the nation shall no longer live upon
earth. Even if certain manifestations of this will fall short of the
life-enhancing purpose, in itself the will is only worthy of respect.

It is, however, significant of the confusion of ideas on this
subject that the evidence of health inspires terror in the guardians
of morality, while they regard with calmness that tendency of the
age which is charged with the materials of tragedy, alike for the
individual and for the nation—namely, the desire of exemption from
motherhood.

Christianity, with its extension of the idea of personality and
corresponding lack of consideration for the race, in opposition to the
world of antiquity, made marriage the affair of the individual. The
development of love has carried on the liberation that Christianity
began. As stated in the first chapter, the champions of Christianity
constantly admit the right both to remain unmarried and to limit the
birth of children, if both are only the result of abstinence.

To the evolutionist, on the other hand, only the cause, not the manner,
is the deciding point. Danger to the possible children or to the
mother herself; the fear of pecuniary or personal insufficiency for
the bringing-up of the children; the desire of using all one’s powers
and resources for an important life-work; a Malthusian point of view
in the question of population—these and other motives are regarded by
the evolutionist as good reasons for limiting or altogether abstaining
from parentage. And in this respect the individual is allowed freedom
of choice also as regards the method which best agrees with the opinion
of science on hygiene, and with his own on morality and fitness.

As soon as it is recognised that the individual is also an end in
himself, with the right and duty of satisfying in the first place his
own demands according to his nature, then it must remain the private
affair of the individual whether he will either leave altogether
unfulfilled his mission as a member of the race, or whether he will
limit its fulfilment.

But as the individual cannot attain his highest life-enhancement or
fulfil his own purpose otherwise than in connection with the race, he
acquires duties also towards it, and not least as a sexual being.
If life has given the individual a lot which renders moral parentage
possible, and conditions which are favourable to new lives, then the
only moral limitation of the number of children is one which—in and
by means of the individual’s own life-enhancement and that of the
children—is to the advantage of the whole community.

But when only petty and selfish reasons—such as considerations of
the children’s inheritance, personal good-living and voluptuousness,
beauty and comfort—determine fathers and mothers to keep the number of
their children below the average required to secure the due increase of
population, then their conduct is anti-social. A person, on the other
hand, who is content with few or no children, because he or she has a
work to perform, may be able to compensate society by the production of
another class of value.

To these now moral, now immoral, motives for having few children or
none at all, must be added woman’s desire to devote her purely human
qualities to other tasks. This, however, does not refer to those
wives who are obliged to establish their married life upon their own
bread-winning labour as well as their husband’s; a necessity which for
the present hinders them from motherhood although they are continually
dreaming of the future child. It is here a question only of women’s
personal self-assertion.

Women are no longer content to manage their husbands’ incomes, but wish
to earn their own; they will not use their husband as a middleman
between themselves and society, but will themselves look after their
interests; they will not confine their gifts to the home but will also
put them in public circulation. And in all these respects they are
right. But when, in order thus to be able to “live their life,” they
wish to be “freed from the burden of the child,” one begins to doubt.
For until automatic nurses have been invented, or male volunteers have
offered themselves, the burden must fall upon other women, who—whether
themselves mothers or not—are thus obliged to bear a double one. Real
liberation for women is thus impossible; the only thing possible is a
new division of the burdens.

Those already “freed” declare that, by making money, studying,
writing, taking part in politics, they feel themselves leading a
higher existence with greater emotions than the nursery could have
afforded them. They look down upon the “passive” function of bearing
children—and rightly, when it remains only passive—without perceiving
that it embodies as nothing else does the possibility of putting their
whole personality in activity. Every human being has the right to
choose his own happiness—or unhappiness.

But what these women have no right to, is to be considered equally
worthy of the respect of society with those who find their highest
emotions through their children, the beings who not only form the
finest subject for human art, but are at the same time the only work
by which the immortality of its creator is assured. Another thing
that these women who are afraid of children cannot expect is, that
their experience should be considered equally valuable with that
of women who—after they have fulfilled their immediate duties as
mothers—employ for the public benefit the development they have gained
in their private capacity.


There is no secret and infallible guide to natural instinct, any more
than there is to the tendency of civilisation. Both may lead the
individual as well as the race astray with regard to the goal which
both, consciously or unconsciously, are seeking: higher forms of life.
In motherliness, humanity has attained what is at present its most
perfect form of life within the race taken as a whole. Motherhood is
a natural balance between the happiness of the individual and of the
whole, between self-assertion and self-devotion, between sensuousness
and soulfulness. A great love, a power of creation amounting to genius,
may in solitary instances attain the same unity. But the immense
advantage of the mother is that, with her child in her arms,—without
being conscious of a struggle and without belonging to the favoured
exceptions,—she possesses that unity between happiness and duty which
mankind as a whole will attain in other departments only after endless
toil and trouble. But if this personal self-assertion, this personal
joy in woman’s consciousness be gradually released from its connection
with the child, then this unity will be broken up.

An incidental displacement of it was necessary; for the liberation
of woman—like every other movement of the kind—involved precisely
the disturbance of that equilibrium which had been produced by the
pressure of superior force and by hereditary inertness, an artificial
equilibrium, which could be maintained only by pressure on one side and
inertness on the other. It was necessary that daughters should rise up
against their fathers’ ideals of wives; sisters against the brothers’
share of inheritance, which had increased so greatly to their cost;
mothers against the view of their duties which kept them within the
sphere of female animals.

They must carry through that emancipation which has already made it
possible for them to use their brains—not only their hearts—in
fulfilling their eternal mission: that of fostering and preserving new
lives.

Already the educated—nay, even the uneducated—mother of the present
day makes use in her care of children of double the brain power but of
only half the muscular force that her grandmother employed. She knows
better how to differentiate between the essential and the unessential;
she can by circumspection obviate much toil and trouble. And when all
mothers receive the practical and theoretical training in nursing
children and the sick, which must be their form of universal service
corresponding to the military service of men, then the problem will be
even more simplified in the direction of the impersonal and more and
more extended in the direction of the personal. The mother must use her
intelligence and her imagination, her artistic sense and her feeling
for nature, her instincts in physiology and psychology, in order to
provide the child with the conditions under which it may develop itself
in the best and freest way; but, on the other hand, she must beware
of—remoulding the child. She will in this way gain much time which at
present is wasted in unnecessary attentions and harmful education.

But avoidance of the personal charge is impossible to the mother
without incurring the dishonour of a fugitive.

There are a number of women who think that the feeling of motherhood
can exist independently of a mother’s care and responsibility for
the child, and that the latter may therefore be taken charge of by
the community and still retain the treasure of motherly and fatherly
affection. These women can never have reflected that, with human
beings as with animals, parental affection is formed by care and
self-sacrifice; that it rises with these; that the less demand is made
upon it, the poorer it becomes. When a father for a time takes the
place of the mother, he becomes as tender as she; when a sick child
exhausts its mother’s strength, it is nearest her heart; and as the
child grows up, her affection becomes less spontaneously intimate,
although instead it may increase through personal intercourse. State
care of young children would mean a withering of the intimacy of
parental affection. The tenderness evoked by the child’s bodily
presence shows, better than any other feeling, the unity of soul and
senses. Without the sensuous presence, the psychical impression loses
its power, as does the bodily impression without the psychical. The
instinct of motherhood, like all others, has been formed through
constancy of external conditions. It is acquired through definite
sensations and associations of ideas. When certain of these emotions,
at first conscious, became unconscious, and were then performed by
lower nerve-centres, the higher nerve-centres, which had formerly been
occupied, were set at liberty for higher uses. But if the sensations
and associations of ideas, which originally formed the instinct,
are weakened, then the instinct loses its automatic sureness. What
worked easily, “of its own accord,” as popular speech rightly has it,
becomes once more laborious. With the displacement of the instinct,
corresponding dislocations result, though with extreme slowness, in the
organ with which it is connected. Thus nursing was perhaps an acquired
faculty, which became “natural.” It has now become so difficult that
among the upper classes the majority, even with the best will, can
scarcely perform this function for a couple of months, or perhaps
not at all. Science is already enquiring into the possibility of the
disappearance of the mammary glands and with them of the peculiar
character of woman’s breast.

It is often only the future that can decide what is progress and what
degeneration. But certainly nothing can be more unscientific than to
dismiss all anxiety about the future with the dogma: that the will to
live in offspring is so strong that only the degenerate do not possess
it, and that with a healthy woman nothing can injure the motherly
instinct.

To a thinker of the evolutionist school, everything is subject to
possible transformation, and nowhere is there anything at work which
can “make no difference.” There is not a brain, not a nervous system
which can evade even the involuntary impressions of the street. These
sink into the subconscious soul and thence may arise again after many
years. Not one person is the same—or will ever be the same,—when,
for instance, he comes away from a lecture, as he was when he went
to it. Some psychic waves have always been set in motion and this
motion is continued to infinity. If this is even true of a notice on a
shop-front, or of a momentary feeling of anger or joy, how much more
then must it be so of the impressions which dominate our days and
years. Our conceptions are forged from the true or false metal of our
moods and become in turn the implements by which the bronze or gold of
moods is wrought. All sanctity, all self-culture rest upon man’s power
of diverting certain thoughts, suppressing certain conceptions, turning
aside certain impulses of the will; of introducing other thoughts,
intensifying other conceptions, encouraging other impulses; in other
words, partly utilising and partly rejecting certain states of mind. In
this way, bad habits arise from one class of moods, good habits from
another. When these have acquired sufficient strength, new modes of
action, new plans of life gradually become “natural”; new instincts are
formed, in which willingness and reluctance often stand in an opposite
relation to that they occupied at the commencement of the process.
Sensuousness and soul are thus both the creations of development, and
it is the voluptuousness of many thousands of years that stirs in
the mother when she feels her child’s lips at her breast; it is the
tenderness of as many ages which bends in the shape of every new mother
over her child’s cot.

However powerful these emotions of the senses and of the soul may
have become, there is always the possibility—for the reasons just
given—that the mighty stream of tenderness may dry up, if its supply
be cut off, and that thus humanity may lose its most indispensable
motive power in the development of civilisation.

Our destiny is shaped, not only by what we have experienced, but also
by what we have turned aside to avoid experiencing.

Our conscious ego is made up of our states of mind, the images,
feelings, and thoughts which through our earlier life have become our
inner property; and which by certain processes are connected with each
other and with our present ego. The less these images, feelings, and
thoughts in a woman’s past life have been determined by the sense of
motherhood—intuitive or actual,—the less valuable will be the “ego”
she has to assert, or the destiny she shapes for herself. And the woman
whom no higher reason keeps from motherhood is a parasite upon the
parent stem. The majority of these women have not even a deeper meaning
in their claim to “live their own life.” They fritter themselves away
in many directions and do not get much profit by the process—since it
is only great feelings which give great rewards.

These women, who thus without more ado renounce motherhood, have
they ever held a child, not in their bosom, but even in their arms?
Have they ever felt the thrill of tenderness such a soft-limbed
creature, made, as it seems, of a flower’s soft surfaces and fair
tints, inspires? Have they ever fallen in worship before the great and
marvellous world that we thoughtlessly call “a little child’s soul”?

If they have not, then we can understand these poor women, who do
not perceive their poverty, wishing to make the rich as poor as
themselves—whereas all the poor should be made rich.

If this “liberation” of woman’s personality succeeds, it may go with
her as with the princess in the story, who found herself in the rain
outside the kingdom she had given up for a toy.

In a modern poem a woman, when offered as a consolation the thought
that childlessness will spare her many sufferings, exclaims:

  _Spared! To be spared what I was born to have:
   I am a woman and this my flesh
   Demands its nature’s pangs, its rightful throes,
   And I implore with vehemence these pains!_

  (STEPHEN PHILLIPS.)

When this ceases to be the desire and the choice of woman, then the
prophecies of pessimistic thinkers of the voluntary extinction of the
human race will be in a fair way to be realised. But in that case women
would not possess the nobility which a logical reading of the world’s
processes implies: they would only operate like a wheel unconsciously
rolling towards the abyss.


To every thoughtful person, it is becoming increasingly evident that
the human race is approaching the parting of the ways for its future
destiny. Either—speaking generally—the old division of labour,
founded in nature, must continue: that by which the majority of women
not only bear but also bring up the new generation within the home;
that men—directly in marriage or indirectly through a State provision
for motherhood—should work for women’s support during the years they
are performing this service to society; and that women, during their
mental and bodily development, should aim, in their choice of work and
their habits of life, at preserving their fitness for their possible
mission as mothers.

Or, on the other hand, woman must be brought up for relentless
competition with man in all the departments of production—thus
necessarily losing more and more the power and the desire to provide
the race with new human material—and the State must undertake the
breeding as well as the rearing of children, in order to liberate her
from the cares which at present most hinder her freedom of movement.

Any compromise can only relate to the extent, not to the kind, of the
division of labour; for no hygiene, however intelligent, no altered
conditions of society with shorter hours of labour and better pay, no
new system of study with moderate brainwork can abolish the law of
nature: that woman’s function as a mother, directly and indirectly,
creates a need of caution, which at times interferes with her daily
work if she obeys the need; while if, on the other hand, she disregards
it, it revenges itself on her and on the new generation. Nor could any
improvements in the care of children and domestic arrangements prevent
what always remains above these things—if the home is to be more than
a place for eating and sleeping—from taking up time and thought,
powers and feelings. If, therefore, we are to retain the old division
of labour, under which the race has hitherto progressed, then woman
must be won back to the home.

But this involves more than a thorough transformation of the present
conditions of production; for we are here face to face with the
profoundest movement of the time, woman’s desire of freedom as a human
being and as a personality, and in this we are confronted with the
greatest tragic conflict the world’s history has hitherto witnessed.
For if it is tragic enough for an individual or a nation relentlessly
to seek out its innermost ego and to follow it even to destruction—how
tragic will it not be, when the same applies to half of humanity? Such
a tragedy is profound even when it occurs in the struggle between
what are usually called the “good” and “evil” powers in man—a form
of speech which followers of the religion of Life have given up,
since they know that so-called crime may also increase human nature
and human worth; that what is profoundly human may appear as evil and
yet be healthy and beautiful, since it involves the enhancement of
life. But infinitely greater will be the tragedy when the conflict
arises between powers unquestionably good—those in the highest sense
life-enhancing—and not even between secondary powers of this order,
but between the very highest, the fundamental powers themselves, the
profoundest conditions of being.

That is how woman’s tragic problem now stands, if we leave out of
consideration the egoists just alluded to and turn our eyes to the
majority: woman’s nature against man’s nature, exercise of power in
order to satisfy the claims of the member of the race or those of the
personality. If Shakespeare came back to earth, he would now make
Hamlet a woman, for whom the question “to be or not to be” would be
full of a double pathos: the eternal terror of the human race and the
new terror of the female sex before its own riddle; the bearer of the
most refined spiritual consciousness of the time, and therefore—while
forced by circumstances to make a decision—a victim of hesitancy,
doubt, and fortuity. As true as that all life is a development of
force, so is it that happiness is an ever more complete use of one’s
powers, ever richer in promise for the future, in the direction of
their greatest aptitude. But when these aptitudes lead in two contrary
directions, then the soul is in the same position as the wanderers in
the legend of Theseus, whom the “pine-benders” bound to the tops of two
trees.

The struggle that woman is now carrying on is more far-reaching than
any other; and if no diversion occurs, it will finally surpass in
fanaticism any war of religion or race.

The woman’s movement circles round the periphery of the question
without finding any radius to its centre, which is the limitation of
human existence to time and space; the limitation of the soul in the
power of simultaneously giving itself up to different spheres of
thought and feeling, and the limitation of the body in the capacity for
bearing a constantly increased burden.

The heaviest cause of degeneration at the present time—the necessity
for millions of women of earning their bread under miserable
conditions, and the risk that they may lose, some the possibility,
some the wish, for motherhood—may disappear, and nevertheless the
chief problem will remain unsolved for any woman who has attained
individually-human development.

In however high degree a woman may be bodily and mentally competent,
this can never prevent the time her outdoor work occupies being a
deduction from the time she can bestow on her home, since she cannot
simultaneously be in two places; she cannot have her thoughts and
feelings simultaneously centred upon and absorbed by her work and her
home. And all that is personal in her home life, all that cannot be
left to another, will thus necessarily interfere with her individual
freedom of movement, in an inward as well as an outward sense.

If the child and the husband mean anything at all in a woman’s life,
she cannot allow another to have the affection, the care, and the
anxiety about them: she must give her own soul to this.

But then, on the other hand, it will interfere with her book, her
picture, her lecture, her research, just as infallibly as would the
trouble of in her own person nursing and taking care of the child— a
trouble which she is really able to renounce, though with a great loss
of happiness and of insight into the child’s character.

In a word, the most momentous conflict is not between health and
sickness, development or degeneration, but between the two equally
strong, healthy, and beautiful forms of life: the life of the soul or
the life of the family.

Many women, who see the necessity of deciding for one or the other,
choose the former and thus avoid or limit their motherhood, since they
believe themselves to have another, richer contribution to make to
civilisation. But would not the race have gained more by the talents of
which these gifted women might have been the mothers?

We may pity for their own sake the barren women of the aristocracy
or plutocracy, who from pure selfishness have refused to become
mothers. But they do an involuntary service to the race, in that fewer
degenerate children are born.

Full-blooded women, in a mental or bodily sense, are, on the other
hand, the most valuable from the standpoint of generation. When these
are content with one child or none, because they wish to devote
themselves to their individual pursuits, then it is their work, not
the race, which receives the richness of their blood, the fire of
their creative joy, the sap of their thought, and the beauty of their
feelings.

But it may be—according to a very moderate calculation—that there are
annually produced by the women of the world a hundred thousand novels
and works of art, which might better have been boys and girls!

It is nearly always the best women who are confronted by the tragic
necessity of choosing one sphere or the other, or of dividing
themselves in an unsatisfied way between the two; for, the more they
increase their demands upon themselves, the more surely do they feel
this partition as a half-measure.

Partly by economical necessity, however, partly by the spirit of
the age, the choice is more and more often determined in favour of
work, when the two alternatives are evenly balanced in a woman’s
own feelings; for the emancipation of women has laid the stress of
feeling upon independence, social work, creation. This has raised
these considerations in the mind of woman to the same extent as it has
depreciated those of home life. Want of psychological insight makes
the champions of women’s rights candid when they declare that they
have never depreciated the tasks of the home, but on the contrary have
tried to educate woman for them. Schools of housekeeping deserve all
recognition, but as regards creating greater enthusiasm for domestic
duties they have not hitherto been signally successful. It is because
their enthusiasm has been directed to every manifestation of woman’s
desire to work in man’s former sphere, that the calling of wife and
mother has now lost in attraction.

Viewed historically, the work of emancipation must be advanced by this
one-sided enthusiasm. But now it is a question whether woman, in a
new way, will be capable of being inspired by devotion to her purely
womanly sphere of activity?

For nothing short of this would in the main be the solution of the
question. A return to the old ideal of womanliness would be as
unthinkable as it would be unfortunate. A continued struggle to get rid
of the ancient division of labour between the sexes is thinkable—and
equally unfortunate. That woman should apply her new will to her
ancient mission would be the most fortunate solution. But—is this even
thinkable?

The answer is unconditionally in the negative as regards exceptional
natures, such as now, in their increased vitality and capacity for
suffering, beat their heads against the limitation of life which
prevents their giving themselves wholly either to love, or to the joy
of motherhood, or to the mission of civilisation.

Here we are faced by the fundamental cause of the modern woman’s
nervosity. She lives year in and year out above her powers.

She still retains the old consciousness that a mother ought to be
unselfishly absorbed in her mission; that she ought to repose in it
with a profound calm; that she ought therefore to allow the inner
voices, which urge her to follow her instinct of personal development,
to remain unheard. Added to this, she has the new consciousness that
the bringing-up of a child demands the same undivided attention as the
production of a work; that the child is just as sensitive as the work
to a divided mind, a wandering attention. She wishes, as an authoress
has aptly said, “that she could be at the same time the mother of past
ages: the patiently bearing caryatid, who was always in her place, with
the bowl ready for the child’s thirsty lips; and the mother of the
present day: ever on the move, seeking out all new paths, quenching her
thirst at all the springs of life.” She becomes more and more unique,
by being ever more firmly and delicately individualised, and in the
process her desire increases to live her own life in every direction.
But at the same time her feeling of community with the race increases,
and therewith her consciousness of responsibility as mother and human
being becomes more and more aroused. The more “egocentric” she has
become, the less does she remain a family-egoist. The demands of her
personality become ever more definite, ever wider but at the same
time more fastidious in their choice, ever more difficult to satisfy.
Her growing sense of personal dignity imposes on her an ever stronger
self-control—while her whole being is quivering with an ever more
delicate sensitiveness.

And upon this new woman, who is already the embodiment of unrest,
thirst for life, and suffering, the hungry, violent spirit of the
present day flings itself like a cat seizing a bird. A hundred times a
day such a woman is forced to subordinate the claims of personality
to those of society; a hundred times the will of her personality
has to elude her feeling of responsibility. Perfected methods of
work may spare her hands and her footsteps, but they cannot prevent
her eyes from watching with increasing disquiet the balance wherein
affection, sympathy, and responsibility are weighed against her most
intimate longing, her creative joy, her thirst for solitude, and her
self-development. And as first one side of the balance rises and then
the other, it will always seem to her that the heavier one contains a
piece of living flesh cut from her heart; while the side which is—for
the moment—lighter has nothing but dead, though perhaps golden,
weights.

The brain-woman’s time-tables know nothing of collisions. Her
train-schedule is clear: nursing institute and kindergarten, school
and dormitory for the children, whose number is fixed according to the
requirements of society. The meals are served automatically from a
common kitchen; the housekeeping is done by adding up the cash-book. In
a costume designed for work or athletics, she goes to her study. When
the work is done, there is five minutes’ conversation on the telephone
with each of the children; two hours’ exercise in the open air. In the
afternoon, ten minutes’ conversation on the telephone with her husband,
thirty-five minutes’ pause for reception of ideas; the evening is given
up to meetings of a utilitarian or social nature. On Sundays, the
husband and children are invited, when three hours are set apart for
the elimination of their defects, the rest of the time for profitable
amusement. Such a woman never has a thought of the children while at
work; never wants to snatch ten minutes’ extra chat with her husband,
never has promptings at night. She wakes refreshed after the hygienic
number of hours’ sleep; everything goes like clockwork—better indeed,
for the woman of the future is never behind or ahead of time. But
love’s selection will probably not tend towards any great increase
of this type, whose present representatives seem physically and
psychically so little affected by motherhood, that for their part one
is inclined to believe in the stork! And with the other poor, weak, and
“sensual” creatures the blood will no doubt continue to be “a strange
sap,” which makes the head hot with anguish when it ought to be cool
for thought; which forces the heart to beat with longing, when it ought
to be still for deciding; which makes the nerves quiver with anxiety,
when they ought to be tense for creation.

And it is the consciousness of this which in her innermost heart makes
the new woman shy of the love for which she longs. A little emotion she
will not give; the great one would swallow up all the forces of her
soul, and what would then become of the revelation of her personality,
of the word she alone among all beings has within her, the word for the
pronouncement of which she was born?

Mona Lisa’s mysterious smile—interpreted by Barrès as _une
clairvoyance sans tristesse_—expresses, as someone has said, the
feminine individualism of the Renaissance. It is certain, on the
other hand, that the feminine individualism of the present day has a
clairvoyance that is sorrowful even to death.

Never has the earth seen a more complicated and contradictory being
than this woman, melancholy and wistful, cold and sensitive, thirsting
for life and tired of life at the same time. The blood dances otherwise
in her veins, sings another song in her ears, than it has in those of
any other woman since time began. She sees through her husband and is
a stranger to him; his desire seems brutal to her finely-shaded and
contradictory moods: she is not won, even when she allows herself to
be embraced. She fears the child, since she knows she cannot fulfil
its simple demands. When fate attempts to tune these fragile beings to
their full pitch, they break like harp-strings under a rough touch.
They are only able to live partially—but thus they do not find life
worth living.

Even if such a woman chooses this partial life and gives herself
entirely to work, she will nevertheless be still disturbed, in the
domain of personal self-assertion, by the woman’s nature she has in the
main suppressed; for she will often be confronted by the choice of not
succeeding at all or of succeeding by the means of man, the means she
abhorred in him before she herself discovered that it is the struggle
for existence which gives the bird of prey its beak and claws.

She is forced to lament in the choice between relentlessly seeking
her own or failing; between the necessity of being hammer or anvil,
of dividing herself in order to give, or collecting herself in order
to create. Until woman took up a position in the world of public
competition, she did not suffer from this necessity. It was thus
that—in a literal as well as a spiritual sense—she could afford to
develop affection, sympathy, goodness. It is therefore a melancholy
truth that woman’s nature, as it has become when removed from the
struggle for existence, is profoundly opposed to the condition which in
the present economical and psychological circumstances brings success
in this struggle, the condition, namely, of forcing one’s way over
others.

This conflict often begins in a field where woman cannot renounce her
relation to motherhood—that is, where she herself is the daughter.
Even in this character she has a choice to make, pain to inflict and to
suffer.

When we thus see the woman of the present day placed between insoluble
conflicts on every side—or agonising, if solved—we are no longer
tempted to agree with the poet’s dictum that woman’s name is weakness.
For in every fibre we feel that her name is pain.


Those men who, from the observation that woman’s professional and brain
work seems to stand in inverse proportion to her fecundity, have drawn
the conclusion that woman must “return to nature,” leave her brain
unemployed and exclusively bear children, are easily refuted. There
is no satisfactory evidence that mental work in itself need injure
woman’s capacity for easy and happy motherhood. In the animal world,
as among savages, the females easily bear motherhood together with
other great burdens. In civilised communities, on the other hand, it
is partly through a lower class, whose bodies are overworked, partly
through an upper class, who overwork their brains—or else do not work
at all,—that the physical difficulties of motherhood have arisen. That
the world’s greatest female geniuses have had few children or none,
is in full analogy with the great male geniuses—while these men as a
rule have had gifted and distinguished mothers, an experience which
alone is sufficient proof that woman’s “weak-mindedness” may not be
the most favourable state of mind for the enhancement of the race. No
conclusive evidence can be adduced against the statement that, when
brainwork is moderate and combined with proper care of the health, it
may have good effects also in women. The same is true of bodily labour.
But as both are carried on at present, the woman, no more than the man,
has been able to keep within the limit of her powers. Therefore at
present woman’s studies and bread-winning labour involve dangers which
have been increased under the spur of the dogma of equality, which
has driven woman on to show that she could bear everything that man
bears—that is to say, more than man or woman can endure.

But when once studies and labour have been somewhat organised, they do
not in themselves involve anything that will make the unmarried woman
any less fit to be a mother of the race; on the contrary, they are
certain to involve much that will make her more valuable. It is thus
not for the unmarried woman that the conflict is presented in the form
of a choice between renouncing—even in the uncertain possibility of
motherhood—the development or use of one’s purely human powers. And
when perfect candour as regards the sexual life has become the custom
between the sexes even from childhood, it will also be possible for
women, during work, study, or exercise, to have those considerations
for health which modesty has hitherto led them to neglect. In this
way, but not through the employment itself, many a woman has lost her
chances of motherhood.

Thus the conflict does not commence until marriage; and for the
exceptionally gifted, as we have already said, it may be tragic. For
the majority it will not become so unless the wife is obliged to
earn her living outside the home and at the same time wishes fully
to perform her duties as mother, or when she wishes to attend to her
personal business but is prevented by a large family from so doing.

The question is thus for the majority: either the abandonment of the
work which produces a living, or the limitation of the number of
children.

The first alternative will be dealt with later. As for the second, it
is here that the main conflict takes place.

It is from the point of view of the ennobling of the race, as well
as from that of the nation, that men implore women to “return to
nature”[4]; it is from that of civilisation that women now refuse
nature their allegiance.

Nothing—even from the national point of view—is more justified than
woman’s unwillingness to produce children by the dozen or score. The
former consumption of wives, for a man between fifty and sixty, was
seldom less than three wives in succession and as a rule half the
children of each of them. Limitation of the number of children—apart
from other sociological points of view—has above all the advantage,
that many children of poor quality return a low interest upon the
capital of working-powers and other expenses that their birth
and bringing-up cost, while a smaller number of fully efficient
children return a high rate of interest in the shape of increased
working-powers, as is sufficiently shown by the prosperity of France.

But when we turn to the question, up to what point the limitation may
be unattended with danger either to the nation or to the individual,
then opinion is so sharply divided that to any unprejudiced examination
it must seem premature at present to lay down the line of development
of the woman’s question as coinciding with the limitation of the number
of children. Even if it be finally agreed that a nation’s welfare
demands of the women who ought and can be mothers, the birth and
upbringing of but three or four children, it is not decided that the
enhancement of the race is thereby sufficiently provided for.

Besides which, the new woman does not want three or four children, but
only one or at most two.

Besides the danger, in this case incontestable, from the point of view
of the nation, and the possible danger from that of the race, there
is here a great danger for the children themselves. Their childhood’s
happiness demands a circle of brothers and sisters and the difference
in age between the children should preferably not be more than two
years. Not only their happiness but their development is aided by this.
The position of an only child, or of only son or daughter, usually
results in childhood in great selfishness, while in later years, on the
other hand, it produces frequently a heavy burden of duty, and thus, in
both cases, brings danger to harmonious development.

One or two children have a poorer, and also a more dangerous, childhood
than those who among a number of brothers and sisters learn the
value of mutual consideration, of shared joys and troubles. Thus,
without any risk of loss of individuality, awkwardness is polished
and sensitiveness strengthened, which otherwise in later life would
cause great losses of power. For a circle of school-fellows can only
imperfectly take the place of the nursery’s first education in social
humanity.

Besides which it may easily happen that parents lose an only child, or
the only son or daughter.

Thus perhaps from the point of view of the nation, always from that of
the children, and most frequently from that of the parents, the normal
condition for the majority of healthy, well-to-do married people must
be, that the number of children shall not fall short of three or four.

But in this case a mother must reckon that her children will occupy
about ten years of her life, if she will herself give them the nursing
and care which will make them fully efficient. And during these
years—if her contribution in either direction is to have its full
value—she must neither divide her powers by working for a living nor
by constant public activity. During these years, she may continue
her own general development; she may take occasional part in social
work; now and then she may have time for mental production. But
any continuous and exhausting work outside the home will, at least
indirectly, diminish her own vital force and that of her children.

Thus the majority of women will never avoid a conflict, lasting
for years, between the renewal of the race and their own outward
self-assertion, in whatever direction the latter may go; just as little
as they can avoid the conflict of the double burden, now laid with
increasing frequency upon women: that of bread-winning and the increase
of the race.

When to all this is added the need, for both husband and wife, of
mutual converse, and finally the cares of housekeeping, then every
thoughtful person must see that woman—and with her society—is
confronted by a problem in the form of “either—or,” not of “both—and.”

Only by society undertaking the support of those women who by well
fulfilling the duties of motherhood have produced the highest social
asset, can the question of married women’s bread-winning be solved.

And only if women put their personal creative desire into their mission
as mothers during their children’s first years, will the problem be
solved of woman’s self-assertion and of her simultaneous devotion to
the mission of the race.


No, is the answer of Charlotte Perkins Stetson[5] and of many others
with her; the solution is State care of children. Look at all the
wretched homes, where the children lack the most necessary mental and
bodily conditions for healthy development. The collective rearing of
all children would be both better and cheaper. Only those women who
are liberated from the toils of the nursery and the kitchen are really
free. To the woman accustomed to public activity, the tasks of the home
are monotonous and tiresome. On the other hand, as a calling freely
chosen, the care of children would satisfy those who have the gift
for it. The majority of mothers are only ape-mothers to their little
children, and, as the latter grow bigger, this vague affection is
replaced by an obstinate misunderstanding.

This is what one hears over and over again at the present time. And the
more it is repeated, the more certain do women become that all these
half-truths are—the truth.

Thus it is the mothers who are not good enough to bring up their
own children, that are expected to provide the new illustrious
leaders of the community. It is the parents who themselves lack the
talent and inclination for bringing up children, that—directly or
indirectly—will have to superintend and select the persons who, in
their place, will perform the duties of parents. In other words, they
are to discover and appreciate qualities that they do not themselves
possess. The trouble that a woman cannot take for the children to whom
she has herself given life, is to be borne by other women for ten,
twenty, or thirty children, who are not their own.

Even to-day, there is sometimes to be found a kind of primitive
type of womanliness, so widely maternal, with such a superfluity of
strength, of tenderness, of talent for organisation that it is too
powerful for a single home; a type which really possesses the immense
wealth of spiritual elasticity, joy, and warmth, that is necessary
in order that every such child should have its full share of these.
But most women probably do not possess any more of these things than
is just sufficient for their own children. And with these “elected
mothers,” quickly worn out as they would be, ten, twenty, or thirty
children would be as badly off mentally as they would be bodily if a
single mother’s milk had to be divided among them all. It is even now
a serious loss to society that so many human beings are enfeebled for
life by insufficient nourishment in childhood. But according to the
plan we have been discussing, which now has so many adherents, everyone
would be starved in childhood as regards affection. It is even now a
serious loss to culture that school-life makes children uniform. Still
more irreparable would be the harm if their fashioning were in the
hands of a thorough-going State care of children.

The danger of uniformity is inseparable from the present tendency to
a hard-and-fast organisation of society, with an ever greater need of
co-operation, an ever closer connection, an ever more intimate feeling
of relationship between its component parts. The organisation must
go on, because, amongst other reasons, it is only in this way that
the individual can now gain increased freedom for development and the
use of his personal powers. But if these increased possibilities of
satisfying personal needs and using personal powers are to be of value
to the individual—and through him to the whole community—then we
must also have some individualities left who will be capable of taking
advantage of their possibilities.

And now it is certain that the home—with its changing conditions of
good and evil—is first and foremost the best means of forming an
organically developing sense of solidarity with the whole community.
Life itself creates in the home an inter-dependence among its members,
a sympathy for others’ destiny, a contact with the realities of life,
and with the seriousness of work, which no institution can create. It
is by the efforts of a father and a mother that the joys of home are
provided; it is affection for all which counter-balances the mutual
rights of all; which gives to each his weight and his counterpoise in a
way so natural that the methodical arrangements of an institution would
never be able to imitate it. And furthermore, different homes, with
the variety of different impressions they offer, are the best means of
forming different characters and peculiarities. However straitened and
poor in every sense a home may be, it nevertheless, as a rule, provides
more personal freedom of movement and results in less uniformity than
a collective system of bringing-up.

If this is even true of those homes where there can be no question of
education in a higher sense, then in better homes the watchfulness and
warmth of affection, its understanding and sensitiveness, will be the
forces which will induce and protect individuality of character, and
which will most surely discover what ought to be counteracted and what
left alone for self-development. To this must be added the insight
which the parents’ knowledge of themselves and of each other gives into
their children’s character, an insight which no stranger can possess.

To this it is objected that, if every quarter of a town and every few
square miles of country had its “State nursery,” parents would often
be able to see to their children, as well as to take them home and
thus have an opportunity of using their influence. But apart from the
circumstance that the relationship would then in most cases resemble
that of the French _petite bourgeoisie_ visiting their children _en
nourrice_—that is to say, that affection would be shown in a desire
to amuse and deck out the child, to caress and play with it—the most
important point is forgotten. This is that time, more time, and still
more time, is one condition of education, and quiet the other. Souls
are not to be tended like maladies, in fixed hours of treatment.

There is no sphere—as parents are still too apt to forget—in which
the psychological moment is more important than in education. The
action which a mother has seen in the morning, should often be first
mentioned by the child’s bedside at night; the confidence which at the
right moment might have burst from the child’s lips, will never be
given if the father has not availed himself of that moment; the words
which pained the mother this week, must perhaps wait till next before
a natural opportunity of effectively combating them occurs. The caress
for which a little head feverishly longs this evening, will perhaps
to-morrow leave it indifferent. The word of affection which might have
been all-powerful at one moment, is powerless a couple of hours later.
And above all, direct advice or correction is worthless in comparison
with the unpremeditated words that parents let fall in the course of
the day, with the result that the child simply sees the full human life
of its parents.

Only living together on week-days and holidays deepens the immediate
influence of parents; only this makes it possible for the parents
to distinguish in the child the accidental from the essential, the
newly-acquired from the intrinsic in its changing moods.

And finally, when we think we have found that children receive too
much warmth at home, and that they ought rather to be hardened against
life—have we then not observed such “hardened” ones? Have we not seen
how they are beautified when they are admitted to a corner in a home;
have we not discovered that, though in intelligence they may be far in
advance of their time, their feelings are still on a level with those
of the savage?

So far from homes being too warm, they are seldom sufficiently
warmed by the only love that lasts for life, that of knowledge and
comprehension. Never yet was a human being too much loved, but only too
little, or not in the right way. The whole spirit of the age is now
opposed to the fatherly and motherly feelings of older times, which
were related to the blind affection of animal parents. The affection
that is left must be intensified, not weakened.

The child’s splendid, unconscious happiness is in making others happy;
in being answered by the smiles it produces; in showing outbursts of
affection and receiving affection in return; in feeling the security
and pride of itself owning and belonging to its father or mother; in
allowing this delight to show itself in play and caresses and being
met with the same delight without its being empty. For in a home,
where some seriousness prevails, a child soon learns that affection
also means work and sacrifice for others. From such affection the
psychically personal tie of blood is formed, while the “natural” one
grows weak, as it is not renewed by the apparently unimportant daily,
hourly influence of the intangible, invisible things, through which,
as even the _Edda_ tells us, the indestructible ties are formed. In
a word, the home of one’s childhood is for the development of human
feelings, what one’s native place is for the development of patriotism.
Even now home-life suffers in a disquieting degree from the school’s
increasing grasp of the older children; from the indifference to and
disconnection from the home which occurs when it sees the children only
at meal-times, on Sundays, and during the holidays. But if even the
little children were to be placed in the same situation, then this evil
would be extended to the most decisive years of their lives.

To turn now from parents and children to the new foster-mothers of
the town and country nurseries, how is it intended that these shall
suffice for their own children, if they are mothers, how—if they are
motherly—are they to content themselves with the children of others,
which they will furthermore be compelled to lose over and over again?
Have the women who want to be “freed” ever given a thought to the
sufferings of these others?

The only possibility of endurance for such nurses will be to give the
children only that general kindness that is not enough for them. Love
they will not be able to give. No word is more abused than love, not
least by the interpreters of Christianity, who attenuate it into a
wafer for the nourishment of all, under the name of universal love. But
there is no such thing as universal love, or love of humanity; there
cannot be such a thing; it would be as much a contradiction in terms
as a quadrilateral triangle. There is a charity which pours itself
out like oil upon all wounds; there is sympathy in joy and sorrow
between individuals; mutual help and mutual responsibility in society;
a common feeling of rejoicing or suffering with our nation or with
humanity at great moments. But all love from one human being to another
which deserves that name, is in the highest degree individual; it is
a selection, a separation. If it is not this, it is nothing. A woman
chooses her children even when she chooses their father; and she often
shows her preference among the children themselves. An individually
developed mother rightly asserts her privilege of not loving all her
children equally. She gives them all the affection they need in the
same degree; she is capable of the same broad justice towards them all,
but she has for one of them a more personal love than for the rest.
The profound tragedy in the relations between parents and children
is precisely this, that this relationship is often as passionate as
personal love, but without the latter’s understanding; that it involves
the claims of a great emotion, but not the power that an individual
feeling has of becoming intensified in the same degree as the claim is
increased.

Individual love is alone sufficient for a child’s needs. An “elected
mother” may perhaps once, or several times, be able to feel such a love
for one or more of the children entrusted to her. But she cannot have
this love for all of them, and she will herself be torn asunder when
one after the other the children she loves are taken from her.

The mothers for the State institution must furthermore be found by
thousands, if the whole of society is to be constructed on this plan.
And then it will be with them as with the clergy, who in the earliest
congregations were called by the Holy Spirit, but afterwards by the
congregation. It would be more and more rarely the proved personal
aptitude and inner necessity that would decide the choice, but in its
place the accepted standard of professional training.

It is by means of these professional mothers, as is now the opinion,
that children would have better conditions of life than in their own
homes, where, in spite of all shortcomings, personal responsibility
and personal affection render imperfection in the higher grades of
education less dangerous than perfection in a lower grade.

Exceptional circumstances exist, to provide for which the crèche, the
kindergarten, the asylum, and the industrial school must continue for
the present. But instead of trying to make these expedients universal,
we ought to endeavour to eradicate the causes which render them
necessary. This would be road-making in the right direction. The other
is a short cut, which will infallibly take us longer round.

It is true that poverty now gives many children unhealthy homes. Attack
the causes of poverty then, instead of taking away the children and
leaving the parents in misery. It is true that much parental affection
is injudicious. Then educate people to be parents. It is true that
parents now increase the inheritance of certain children at the cost of
the others. Then lessen the possibility of this.

But do not deprive all children of their rightful inheritance: home
feelings and memories of home, home sorrows and home joys, all that
gives its peculiar tone, colour, and perfume to every human being’s
disposition.

Do not abolish the most important of all collective education, that
of the children through the parents and of the parents through the
children.

Doubtless, love’s freedom will bring about more complicated family
relations than at present. From this point of view there seems to be an
evident advantage to the children in State institutions, where their
lives would not be so immediately affected by dislocations in those of
their parents. But to deprive the majority of children of their homes,
because the minority might thus lose theirs, would be a worse expedient
than that of connecting the home more closely with the mother and
developing human beings so that they may remain friends even when they
have ceased to be husband and wife, and may thus continue to be capable
of co-operating for the welfare of the children.

In a word, it is not the family that ought to be abolished, but
the rights of the family that must be reformed; not education by
parents that ought to be avoided, but education of parents that must
be introduced; not the home that ought to be done away with, but
homelessness that must cease.

The State rearing of children would work like the feeding of foundlings
on Pasteurised milk: they sickened when they were thus deprived of
certain indispensable bacilli. The people who were brought up on
the germ-free milk of universal benevolence, in the untainted air
of uniform order; who had their origin in the love of the majority,
their nourishment from the automatic machine of the institution, their
education in the mould of the school, their occupation as wax-makers
in the social hive—these unfortunate creatures might find existence
so tame and so empty that those of them whom weariness of life had not
driven to suicide before the age of twenty might use their atavistic
longing for happiness in burning down the institutions and rebuilding
homes for human beings.

Can people not understand that State care of children would force upon
the young generation life’s last and hardest experience, that of not
being the most important or the nearest to anyone, and that this heavy
fruit—under which old trees may give way—might deform the young ones
for ever? Do not people see that, even if many homes are now hell,
we should not sink to the lowest circle of hell—which Dante’s fancy
made ice-cold—until the warmth was quenched which the hearths of home
still throw out, and their place was taken by the steam-heating of the
institution? When existence is made up of beings with starved hearts,
frozen souls, obliterated characteristics—what materials will these
afford for constructing the society of which they will form part?
Will they even care to produce children as raw material for the human
factories; or the necessaries for the maintenance of that life in which
the elements of personal happiness are wanting? Will they even have the
energy to take a decision about the order of society which robs them of
life’s greatest values?


So wonderfully strong is in man the need of having some place of his
own, of being among his own, feeling himself at home in one poor corner
of the world, in a single poor heart, that this feeling has even the
power of clearing a morass into a spring by subterranean ways.

On a railway journey in the South I once saw a woman, whose face,
figure, and manners betrayed the completest downfall. This mother had
a beautiful six-year-old daughter. Never was it more horrible to see
a child at her mother’s knee; never did an amulet seem more powerless
than the saint’s image that a pitying hand had hung about the child’s
neck. But when the child leaned towards her mother, she was embraced
by the drunken harlot with a tender emotion, which restored to her a
spark of human dignity. And when the child read in the looks of her
fellow-travellers the disgust her mother inspired, her dark eyes glowed
with angry sorrow and she took up before her mother a position of
protesting affection. No one could doubt that this child ought to be
taken out of such unclean hands. But I wonder whether a better guardian
would be able to give her the great emotion which at that moment
dilated the child’s soul? If in a case like this one can even hesitate
about the line between disadvantage and advantage, then in many other
cases one will be convinced that it is not necessarily where a child
has the best food, the cleanest bed, the most uninterrupted care, that
it will thrive best, but rather where its soul may be expanded by
the warmest and greatest emotions. Moreover it is one of the sacred
mysteries of life that most parents, in themselves and towards one
another, are worse than the child sees them; for the last being before
whom a wretch casts off his protecting rags of human dignity is his
child.

Against the wickedness of parents, however, as against their
ill-treatment, the child must be protected, and that in a much greater
degree than now by a constant extension of the right and duty of
society’s intervention in these cases. But, when it can be avoided, the
children ought just as little to be deprived of the protection of home
as the home should be deprived of the protection children give to it,
by compelling the parents to at least some measure of self-discipline,
self-control, and self-sacrifice, whereby their souls are extended
beyond the individual ego. In the day when the “hardening” atmosphere
of the State institutions encompasses all children, human virtue will
sink with even greater rapidity them human happiness.


All that has been said above does not imply any blindness to the fact
that even the best homes are now penitentiaries in comparison with what
they may become when the formation of a home has become a science and
an art. At present the home is fortunately—or unfortunately—neither
inspected nor rewarded with prizes. But perhaps this time is coming—as
already in France the seventh child is brought up at the cost of the
State, and decorations are proposed for those women who have borne and
brought up the greatest number of efficient children. Then, if not
before, will the “liberated” women perhaps regain some interest in the
development of their powers in the direction of the home.

What now frequently diminishes externally the value even of good
homes, is that they are arranged to promote a kind of “aspiration,”
diametrically opposed to genuine life-enhancement, whose first
condition is that the home in a material respect should bear a
relation to the health and comfort of its own members, not the habits
of life of outsiders. What again detracts in a spiritual respect
from even the very best homes is that their members still retain the
family rudeness and want of consideration of older days, a rudeness
which—owing to the new sensitiveness, the deeper strength of personal
consciousness—causes even from childhood daily pain that, as
infallibly as the grosser faults of bad homes, poisons air and food.

People still allow themselves within the home circle a scornfulness
of each other’s peculiarities, a silencing of each other’s opinions,
a prying into each other’s secrets, a betrayal of each other’s
confidences, which in daily life place the members of the circle on a
footing of armed neutrality. In good homes, affection, and in inferior
ones fear, stops them from breaking out into open war; for in both
cases all know each other’s vulnerable spots so well, that they are
perfectly well aware how severe the conflict would be for themselves as
well as for the others.

But so long as homes, even the best ones, have these faults,
institutions must exhibit similar results—since both will be formed
of the same human material. The institutions, on the other hand, would
not possess the advantages which in the case of homes outweigh the
faults. These faults may be gradually diminished by a higher spiritual
culture. But nothing could compensate for what mankind would lose by
the abolition of the home.


The conclusion is thus that—however differently the conflict must
be resolved in exceptional cases between woman’s personal claims and
her motherly feelings—in the main those women who, in order to serve
humanity, renounce motherhood or its cares, are conducting themselves
like a warrior who should prepare for the battle of the morrow by
opening his veins the evening before.



CHAPTER VII

COLLECTIVE MOTHERLINESS


At a Scandinavian meeting on the woman’s question, a cantata was sung
which proclaimed that the human race under the supremacy of man had
stumbled in darkness and crime. But the race was now to be newly born
from the soul of woman, the sunrise would scatter the darkness of
night, and the advent of the Messiah was certain.

That men during the period of their ascendancy had nevertheless
produced a few trifles—for example, religions and laws, sciences and
arts, discoveries and inventions—that the darkness of their night was
thus at least illumined by a Milky Way, all this her majesty Woman was
pleased to forget.

If man were sufficiently vindictive to set about finding out what
woman has accomplished in the course of ages to justify her towering
self-esteem—or in other words to justify her challenging the
comparison with these works of man—then he would find only one thing.

When nature formed the instinct of the race, woman remoulded it as
love; when necessity made the dwelling, woman transformed it into the
home. Her great contribution to culture is thus affection.

And this work is in truth great enough to counterbalance man’s
contribution—but not to make it worthless.


Fortunately we hear less and less about man’s “tyranny” having robbed
woman of the chance of also proving her powers within his sphere of
activity. It is more and more recognised that in the struggle for
existence necessity decreed that woman’s social work should take the
form of home work. The same necessity has now—in the main—liberated
the powers that were confined in home work, although woman has never,
at any time, been excluded from the use of her mental gifts. Such use
was, however, obviously an occasional one, so long as the total of her
activity belonged to another sphere.

It is from the point of view of their now emancipated personality that
women—and many men on their behalf—demand the right of employing
these personally-human powers in social work. They point in particular
to the neglect of the State in that sphere of duty, which is already
theirs in the home, namely, that of protecting and improving the
existence of the young and of the weak. And men are beginning to see
that, the more fixedly society is organised, the more indispensable
will be the co-operation between all its parts, if the social organism
is really to fulfil its purpose, the welfare of all; they see that the
new forms both of State help and self-help, which are now being sought
after with increasing consciousness of purpose, cannot be adjusted
to actual needs unless woman is able to co-operate with man in every
department and take part in the legislation which is to decide the
welfare of herself and of her child.

But that the organisation of society has now progressed so far that man
is beginning to look for woman’s help, must not be taken by women as a
reason for putting the whole blame for the slow development of society
on men. This slowness results in an equal degree from the hitherto
existing nature of woman and of man, from the limitations of both,
and from their both being bound by the laws of development. Progress
towards higher conditions depends in an equal degree on transformations
in the nature of both, the ideals of both, the means and aims of
both in the furtherance of culture. The very beginning of these
transformations is the education women give to the new generation,
which is afterwards to make the laws, to arrange the work, and to
determine consumption according to the needs they bring with them into
life and the virtues they have learned to love at home.

Our time is probably more conscious of its own shortcomings than any
other. But nothing is more revolting to one’s sense of justice than
when this consciousness takes the form of women’s megalomania as
regards their own omnipotence for altering the course of the world.

Following on nature’s rough division of the race, nature and
civilisation in conjunction have produced a finer one, that of creator
on the one side and material on the other. Next to being one’s self
a creator, it is a great thing to be worthy material in a creator’s
hand. And enhancement of culture in a spiritual as well as a material
sense is brought about by the creators’ success in dealing with their
material. When that material is human, this means that the creators—or
leaders—are successful in converting the rest into real collaborators
with will and judgment of their own. Flocks driven on by shepherds, or
masses of humanity led by one no more remarkable than themselves, have
never had lasting effects on the course of civilisation. Such effects
only follow when a creator fires the multitude with the enthusiasm of
new aims, or teaches them to ennoble the means by which they may attain
ends worthy of aspiration.

Thus, if women are to give the development of society a direction
wholly different from that which man has given it, this will depend on
the appearance among women of leaders who shall point the way to higher
aims and employ purer means.

But what gives us reason to expect this of women? The reason cannot
be sought elsewhere than within the sphere of their own creations,
love, motherliness, the home, domestic economy. If it can be shown
that women have brought all these to the full perfection of which they
are capable, then there will really be good reason to believe in their
miraculous power in the organisation of society.

But even if we fully admit the hindrances which man’s ordering of
society, his legislation, his nature have placed in the way of
women—is there a single thoughtful woman who can maintain that she
herself, or that women in general, have nevertheless done all that
they could within their own special sphere; that they have used to the
utmost the opportunities they have possessed? What conscientious woman
does not perceive that the majority still bungle the great discoveries
of their sex, by the way in which they act as guardians and educators
of children, as lovers, wives, makers of homes, housekeepers! In
every department they lack art and science, clearness of view and
circumspection. Frequently they do not possess the first conditions for
intensifying and refining a happy love; that of bearing and bringing up
worthy children; that of attaining the greatest sum of material comfort
for the members of the family with the least expenditure of force and
of means; that of arranging the spiritual balance-sheet so that the
highest possible enhancement of life will be the net profit. Exactly as
the majority of men only slowly and partially receive and transmit the
thoughts, the works of beauty, the discoveries that their leaders bring
them, so also do women slowly and partially receive the leading ideas
in their sphere.

There must then be something, not only in man’s nature but in woman’s
also, which hinders perfection and delays progress.

If such be the case—and the supposition need not be considered too
bold—then also we may perhaps wonder whether mankind would really have
progressed so far, if women had had the lead during past centuries.
And if we have ventured thus far, we may also be bold enough to ask:
whether these same women—who have been so far from perfecting their
own work—when they come to take part in the organisation of society,
will immediately perfect what man has bungled; twist the sword into
a ploughshare and bring about the Messianic kingdom, where peace and
righteousness shall kiss one another.

It is not until she has renounced all communion with the glorification
of woman and the assertion of woman’s superiority, that a woman with a
sense of intellectual propriety can occupy herself with the question of
the social work of her sex.


Those who conduct the woman’s movement form in every country a “right”
and a “left,” each with an extreme wing.

The particular cult of the right is woman as an ideal being. In
addition, its dogmas include Christianity, monogamy, and the rest of
the existing arrangements of society. It seeks to place woman on an
equal footing with man within the old forms. To the extremists of this
group, duty, labour, and utility are the great words of life; love and
beauty do not come within the scope either of woman’s rights or of her
obligations. To whitewash the stains on the existing social edifice; to
give themselves more space by building out a wing on the right—this
is their chief concern; the main building itself they would preserve
unaltered.

The left has also its deities—but “woman” is not one of them. Its view
of life is radical; that is to say, evolutionist and social. It seeks
to reform the existing institution of marriage by a new morality, and
existing society by a higher organisation, which will express a deeper
sense of solidarity. It thus looks at the rights and liberty of woman
and of man in connection with the welfare of the whole community. From
this point of view, it regards woman’s freedom to love and right to
motherhood as of equal importance with her right to vote and liberty to
work.

Here, however, a difference comes in between this and the extreme left,
which would give woman complete personal freedom of movement by leaving
the children in charge of the State.

Thus the extreme wing of the old feminism meets that of the new on this
point, that to both woman’s activity is an end in itself to the extent
that her right is independent of whether this activity raises or
lowers the vital efficiency of the whole organism.

In everything else the opposition is diametrical, except on the plane
where all the groups meet: in the demand for woman’s juridical and
political equality with man.

Those who demand political rights for woman in return for her liability
to taxation and her cares as a mother, have a well-founded claim.
But the position becomes still stronger when the claim is based upon
the need of society that every member of it should co-operate to
further the satisfaction of his own requirements. For modern society
corresponds more and more to the idea of an organism increasing in
complexity, every part of which becomes more and more important to the
whole, determines more and more by its needs and powers the welfare or
failure of the whole, and itself receives more and more profit or harm
from the condition of the whole organism.

Society means human beings—men, women, and children, dead, living,
and unborn—neither more nor yet less; human beings banded together in
order thus the higher to enhance the life of the individual and of all.
This combination takes at first simple, then more and more complicated
forms of organisation: simple, so long as their needs are so, since
only his needs move man to organise. An increasing civilisation means
a more and more perfect satisfaction of increasingly complicated
and higher needs. But as it is our needs that set us in motion, any
hindrance of movement will also produce immediate suffering through our
not being able to get rid of the cause of our displeasure; and indirect
suffering through our losing the sense of pleasure that movement might
have brought.

When the aim of society is seen to be that each of its members shall
employ and develop his powers to the highest possible extent for
the highest possible ends, then it will no longer be in abstract
constructions of constitutional law, but rather in the laws of human
life, that the criteria of social well-being will be sought.

The order of society must then favour the life-enhancement of the
individual; the limitation of individual liberty must favour the
life-enhancement of the whole—this will be to the evolutionist the
motive for now extending, now limiting, the freedom of movement of the
individual.

The parallelism with the human organism is evident. The formation and
activity of the individual cells determine the structure of the whole;
the degree in which their needs are satisfied determines the well-being
of the organism. The total vital needs of the organism limit the cells’
expansion of force and self-determination, for without the health of
the whole organism the cells would also languish.

Every powerful movement of society—and the demand for women’s
suffrage is already such a one—is brought about by the will of many
individuals to modify society in some respect, in order better to
satisfy their own needs and therewith those of the whole community.
Such a movement is always opposed in the beginning from the point of
view of the agreement, equilibrium, and health of the community. And
since a transformation in a society never occurs uniformly in time or
degree; since the need of new forms is thus for a long time not widely
spread, the conservatives, as a rule, are right at the beginning of
their opposition; they are right even until the transformation has been
taking place so long that the health of the whole organism demands that
the class of society, religious body, or group of opinion in question
should be given the freedom of activity without which it is ill at
ease; for the uneasiness of many injures all. Conservatism is thus
finally in the wrong by reason of the ever-repeated experience, that
when the vital force is increased in any important organ, it is also
increased in the whole organism.

Woman’s suffrage ought above all to be demanded from the point of view
of the social value, and consequent right to freedom of movement, of
woman’s powers. Its opponents answer: “We never thought of disputing
either one or the other. Woman has already the same power as man in
degree, though not in kind, just as truly as the heart is an organ
equally essential to life as the brain. But the whole organism would
go under, if the heart insisted on usurping the functions of the
brain. Woman has become the organ of the emotions in human life—but
the emotions cannot have a leading mission in public affairs. In that
field woman must either be untrue to herself or lose her significance.
It would be an immense loss to civilisation if she were forced into the
paths of masculine egoism, instead of putting her whole strength into
the rearing of future men. Thus new generations of great-minded and
far-seeing men would reform society in accordance with woman’s ideals,
and woman would not lose her ideals in party strife, where the chief
thing is victory by any means and the end is lost sight of.” “If,” it
was thus said by a thoughtful young working woman,—“if the child saw
both its father and mother striving for power, with all the hardness
and relentlessness this implies, then idealism would soon become
extinct, whereas, on the other hand, women, by unequivocally making the
highest ideal demands upon fathers and brothers, husbands and sons,
could bring about by degrees an ideal condition of things.”

This view, which gives to woman the function of one central organ in
the social organism and to man the other, does not, however, correspond
to the reality. Just as the individual is determined from head to foot
by his sex, so also is society from top to bottom bi-sexual; every
function of government affects, therefore, all women just as much as
all men. At present, however, only the latter possess the power of
directly remedying what hinders and furthering what enhances their
life, through also taking part in the functions by which they are
affected.

Since every “cell,” which indirectly or directly makes up the
social organism, is male or female, it is unthinkable that a higher
organisation of society would not finally of necessity manifest this
its bi-sexual character. Like the family—the first “State”—it
is probable that the final State will appear as a unity combining
the male and female principles. Or, in other words, it will be a
“State-marriage,” not as hitherto merely a State-celibacy! Simply by
performing the functions themselves, instead of allowing the male
cells to do so on their behalf, the female cells may now as members
of society experience their highest possible life-enhancement.
So long as women were content to let men represent them, woman’s
non-enfranchisement did not disturb the well-being of the organism.
Now, on the other hand, the disturbance has set in and can be removed
only by change. But what the health of the organism demands in the
highest degree, is that—when the female cells begin to perform their
social functions—they should preserve their sexual character, for
otherwise no higher form of development would be attained. Not the
male sex, but the government of society may with truth be likened to
its brain, as representation may be compared with its nervous system.
The society of the present day suffers from one-sided paralysis, so
long as half of it is excluded from the possibility of making known
its needs through the nervous system. And society suffers from this
condition just as much as the body would from a corresponding state.
We can best see this by observing that society where the whole body
is paralysed and only the head acts, namely Russia. There only the
wounds bear witness that the organism as a whole is alive. But all
the societies of Europe now include within themselves a Russia, that
part of the community which Camilla Collet rightly called “the Camp of
Silence.” From the same inner necessity that prompted a number of the
men in those countries whose condition once was like that of Russia to
shake off the care of a parental government and take upon themselves
the liberty of making known their own needs, of themselves deciding
the conditions for their well-being, must women—and the labouring
classes—win this right. This does not mean that the female half will
work more perfectly or with less danger than the male. But it means
that the whole organism will work more, will fare better, and will
be developed to a higher condition. Those at present in possession
are challenged by women as by working men, when they assert that they
fully secure the interests of the unrepresented and direct their forces
satisfactorily. And it may not be they, contented as they are with
their power and with themselves, but the discontented that we should
listen to, if higher conditions are to be attained.

To these general considerations must be added, in the case of the
smaller nations, this: that the more alive and thoroughly active the
whole social body is, the more power of resistance it will possess in
the struggle for its existence. Those nations, in which every person
can protect his own interests in and with those of the community,
will—other conditions being equal—surpass the others, as an army of
athletes would overcome one of invalids.


Society is confronted by tasks of increasing complexity. A force
hitherto unused, that of woman, now become socially conscious, offers
its co-operation in dealing with them.

All thinking persons desire new conditions with growing earnestness.
But new conditions do not arise, as the socialist is far too willing
to believe, through new external relations alone; nor through new
ideas and discoveries, as the man of science with his bias is too apt
to think. New conditions arise above all through new human beings,
new souls, new emotions. Only these form new plans of life, new modes
of action; only these revalue the objects which are then pursued day
by day by innumerable individuals. A new idea becomes feeling and
motive power, at first with one individual, then with a few, then with
many, and finally with all. He who has been able to witness this with
regard to any particular idea, knows that it comes about as in the
spring, when first a solitary birch-tree on the sunny side unfolds
its golden-green banner: then the veil of yellow, reddish-brown, and
green is drawn closer and closer over the grey, till finally all the
tree-tops are rounded and full, all colours subdued to one shade,
and one scarcely remembers what it was like in the play of shifting
colours, when the wild cherry gleamed white among the green, the
dandelions spread themselves in wild profusion among the grass, the
lilies of the valley peeped out from the sheath of their leaves, and
the cuckoo called in the summer.

Emotions are the sap which rises when the human landscape thus changes
colour and form. Therefore no profound spiritual transformation has
ever taken place unless women have taken part in it. It is upon this
great power of woman, already indirectly effective, that we may with
reason base the hope of her direct exertion of force becoming even more
effective—if with it she preserves her womanly character.

Precisely as the stricter sexual morality made woman’s love more
soulful—till she can now claim love’s freedom, since she has a new
contribution to make therewith—so the hindering of woman’s external
activity dammed up her emotional life. Under the division of labour
into a “manly” and a “womanly” field, woman’s peculiar character became
more established; her feeling became intensified in the direction in
which she is now ready to use it in the immediate service of humanity.
Tenderness distinguishes her whole way of thinking and feeling, of
wishing and working. Thus has she reached that dissimilarity to man,
which she must now maintain in a public capacity.

It is as natural as it is fortunate that woman should come forward with
her claims to participation in social duties and social rights just in
our time, when the idea of interconnection, the sense of solidarity,
has become increasingly conscious in every nation, as well as between
the nations. For a clearer idea of interconnection will have the effect
of saving woman from a number of man’s mistakes; a profounder sense of
solidarity from a number of woman’s weaknesses—while the best traits
of the womanly character will be invaluable for intensifying the sense
of solidarity. The man and woman of the present day have become more
sensitive to their own sufferings, and this is the first condition for
becoming more sensitive to those of others. But now the problem is also
really to intensify and to refine the feeling for others to such a
degree that the social organism will no longer be able to endure that
any of its members should suffer a hindrance to life in any avoidable
way. It is in this respect that woman’s deeper sensitiveness, her
richer tenderness, are given their great mission. It is true that—as
was remarked in connection with the evolution of love—it is becoming
more and more impossible to speak of “man” or “woman” in general, since
individualisation makes each sex more and more dissimilar within
itself, while development makes them more and more mutually alike.
Average women and average men have more understanding than feeling. But
when feeling is found in a man, it is more violent and more transitory,
whereas it is more intimate and more effective in a woman. The majority
of men as of women seldom think. But when man and woman think, man’s
method is, as a rule, that of deduction and analysis, woman’s that of
intuition and synthesis. She unites instinct and reflection as the poet
does: the thought of both forms a connected line of light only in the
way that a row of lamps seen in perspective does so. Her actions—like
his poems—have the unconscious purpose of inspiration.

These general characteristics are reversed, it is true, in many
individual cases. It is thus certain that the most conspicuous
revelations of Christian charity have occurred in men. This, however,
does not alter the fact that “the milk of human kindness” flows more
richly in women than in the majority of men.

This superiority is the natural result of motherliness, which has
gradually been developed in the female sex into immediate feeling for
all that is weak and in want of help, all that is budding and growing.

But it follows from this that if woman, by her participation in public
life, is to provide a great, new, progressive element—then not only
must she not lose the power of sympathy she already possesses; she
must, on the contrary, intensify and extend it. Motherliness is not
to be found in all those who are already mothers, and we have arrived
indeed at the strange position that—while man is beginning to see
how much society needs the motherly feeling—a number of women are no
longer willing to become mothers, since their personal development
and civil occupation would thus be interfered with. Nothing is more
necessary than that woman should be intellectually educated for her new
social mission. But if meanwhile she loses her womanly character, then
she will come to the social mission like a farmer with a complete set
of agricultural implements but no seed.

In all private activity the individuality is the best seed, while, on
the other hand, in the social field women will probably for a long
time be most valuable owing to their universal-womanly character;
for unfortunately it is still true in public life that individuality
is frequently a hindrance to co-operation, which takes place rather
through partisanship in interests and views than through the working
together of diverging characters. It is only in rare cases that a
non-party man has the chance of interposing in a decision. At present,
woman may be able to influence society not as a single personality,
but rather as a new and powerful principle, a great contribution of a
hitherto unemployed element. Doubtless individual women—through mental
superiority, intellectual development, strength of will, and powers
of work—will bring a great increase of general human value to social
work. But it will nevertheless be upon the difference in kind between
the nature of man and woman that we must base our hope that women’s
participation in the work of society will have far-reaching results.

When women think themselves able to accomplish what the whole aggregate
of man’s courage, genius, devotion, self-sacrifice, and idealism has
hitherto not been able to do; when in every difference of opinion on
man’s and woman’s nature they attribute to him every feminine failing
in addition to his own, while claiming for themselves all man’s merits,
then one can be certain only about woman’s superfluity for the time
being.

Woman’s right to participate in public life would, however, be in a bad
way, if she could not bring to it something really indispensable, new,
and peculiar to herself.

This new thing is her idealism and enthusiasm, however finely and
easily they may blaze up, since woman is so much more inflammable than
man, so much more eager to translate her enthusiasm into action.

For only such an enthusiast and idealist is of account who can carry
the flame of his zeal in his bare hand, in spite of burns, keep it
alight in spite of gusts of wind, and thus step by step come nearer his
ideal. But such enthusiasts and idealists—whether male or female—are
rare, much rarer than genius. They are the wine and the salt of life,
whereas the virtues that the majority can show are only the daily bread
on the table of society.

If then we look at the majority, the sense of justice in man and the
feeling of tenderness in woman may be the greatest virtues. This does
not mean that men do not both submit to and commit immense injustices,
or women immense cruelties. But it means that the feeling which has
been the strongest motive power in man’s public actions—in revolts
and in revolutions—is the sense of justice, while the feeling of
tenderness sets a hundred women in motion for one that is moved by an
outraged sense of justice. Nothing is more common than to hear even
from the lips of a boy the words: “It served him right”; while from a
girl we should hear: “I’m sorry for him anyhow!”

It is the masculine feeling alone which has decided the structure of
society. Not until woman’s feeling has the same scope as man’s; not
until each can counterbalance what is extreme in the other—his what
is too weak in hers, hers what is too hard in his—will society in its
fatherliness and motherliness really provide for the rightful needs of
all its children.

Someone has maintained that the social brain in the course of ages
has developed more than the individual: by thinking and feeling more
in common, the capacity has also been increased of finding means for
furthering the common weal.

It is probable that women’s brains will show their efficiency above
all in finding means of enhancing and preserving life, which has so
much greater significance for woman than for man; for every life has
cost some woman infinitely more than any man; every mangled body on the
field of battle or of labour has once made some woman happy with its
child’s smile, and leaves some woman in tears.

But in order thus to become inventive, women must remain what they
now are: passionate in the force of their love, rapidly vibrating;
otherwise they will not counterbalance the partialities of man in
the work of civilisation. There are perhaps no more remarkable pages
in J. S. Mill’s book, _On the Subjection of Women_, than those in
which he maintains the faculty of woman—guided by her individual
observation—for intuitively finding a general truth and, unfettered
by theorising, for unhesitatingly and clear-sightedly applying it in
a particular case. Woman, he says, keeps to reality, while man loses
himself in abstractions; she sees what a decision will mean in an
individual case, while he loses sight of this in face of the general
truths he has abstracted from reality, which he tries to force into
abstraction. These qualities of woman make her more unflinching, more
rapid, and more immediate in her actions, while at the same time her
more intimate and passionate feeling gives her more perseverance and
patience in the face of trouble, disappointment, and suffering.

And this opinion of Mill is confirmed by that of Ibsen, whose
fundamental view of woman is precisely that she becomes stronger in
self-assertion and tenacity of purpose when it is a question of values
of personality, but at the same time more devoted and self-sacrificing
in the personal sphere. He regards her as less fettered by religious or
social dogmas, but with greater piety and a deeper sense of community
than man; he sees in her more unity between thought and action, a surer
grasp of life and more courage to live it. In a word: he thinks that
woman more often is something, because she has not tried to be it;
that she more often attempts the unreasonable, because she cannot be
satisfied with the possible.

Thus woman became, not more perfect, but—fortunately for the fulness
of life—different, when first life differentiated the natural function
of mother and father; made them into separate beings, neither being
superior or inferior to the other, merely incomparable. It is this
differentiation which must continue—not least in politics; for
otherwise women’s votes would only double the poll, without altering
the result, and their participation in politics would thus only be a
waste of their precious powers.

Thus even in public life woman must preserve the belief in miracles,
the courage of apparent foolhardiness which her love gives her; that
courage of which the most beautiful images are already to be found in
national legends. What private life has taught her, she must now teach
in turn to public life.

This is the most difficult of all tasks; for here she must preserve
the sudden anger or enthusiasm of her feeling, but purge it of
arbitrariness and injustice. She must trust to her feeling’s
unconscious sureness of direction, but secure it against the risks of
foolhardiness. She must allow her feeling its mobility, but free it
from the connection with caprice and untrustworthiness. She must keep
her eyes for the individual, but yet be capable of lifting them to the
universal.

To be able to do all this, woman must be willing to learn of man where
he is the stronger, without letting man’s scorn of womanly weaknesses
or his pretensions to superiority mislead her into seeking a kind of
strength which cannot be hers; for she could thus lose only what is
already her own.


Unfortunately, all the signs are not favourable to the hope that woman
will pass through academies and carry on the service of the State
without injury to her rapidity of view, delicacy of observation,
and liberality of soul. “The conclusions of science,” “the laws of
history,” “the demands of social security,” “the opportunity of
compromise,” and all the other things that men pile up in the way of
reform, are also alarming to woman’s courage, make her too ask for
proofs instead of feeling strong in her intuition.

In the university, the government department, and the business office
the soul of woman also may run the risk of becoming tied by red tape,
officially dry, amenable to public injustice, sober in the face of
enthusiasm. Such official and business women will be as apprehensive
as men of being suspected to be dreamers and agitators; they will be
as logical in proving the unreasonableness of those who think for the
future. In a word: when women bear men’s burdens they will also get
their bent backs; when they earn their bread in the general field
of work, their hands will also be hardened. But we may hope—and
everything depends upon this hope—that woman will attain her social
power before she has yet lost her special characteristics, and that
she will then give her whole mind to bringing about new conditions, in
which she will be able to keep her hands soft and her attitude upright.

If this hope fails, then woman’s entrance into public life will not
change, for a thousand years to come, its tendency to put safety before
boldness; to allow prudence to chill enthusiasm, facts to clip the
wings of inspiration, and practical considerations to quench ideas. The
demands of humane feeling will continue to be blunted by the sharing of
responsibility among many; nay, we shall even see woman uniting herself
with the majority in curing the madness of idealists or—if this is
impossible—in rendering them harmless.

It is thus not by hymns of praise in honour of her sex, but by great
and inexorable claims on herself and on all other women, that each
individual woman can best co-operate in the education of her sex for
public life. Only the spiritual education that each one gives herself
will prevent in the political field false estimates of value and a
confused sense of justice; for in truth political life in this respect
gives nothing to him who has nothing; on the contrary, it is there, if
anywhere, that the words of the Bible are applicable: from him that
hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. Public life in
itself widens neither the view nor the heart of anyone; of this our
parish and district councils, our municipalities and our parliament
give sufficient evidence.

It is not only want of education, but in an equal degree
half-education, that has the peculiar shady side; and such is the
education still provided for the majority by school and high-school:
ability to pass examinations without formation of personality,
specialised knowledge without spiritual culture. The sign of this
half-education is that it swallows up the individuality and makes the
instincts shallow.

This evil will above all be fraught with danger to woman’s peculiar
gift, intuition. The whole existing plan of education aims at rendering
more acute the characteristics of man, and is successful therein,
so that he is strong though one-sided in his half-education. Woman,
on the other hand, becomes weak in hers, since it detracts from her
characteristics without giving her, however, those of man. We often
find in an unlettered woman an instinct for essentiality which the
half-educated have lost or to which at least they no longer dare
to trust themselves. And, above all, this is true of the qualities
essential to woman herself. Thus women who are working in the service
of the community often show their resentment of the gladdening power
of other, young and attractive, women even within the sphere of
social activity. Only the form and contents of the long catechism
could convince them of a young girl’s seriousness. Whether these
beauty-haters belong to the pietists of Christianity or to those of the
woman’s movement, they are agreed in the opinion that the attractive
woman is also the less valuable, and that men show their lack of
discernment in so easily allowing themselves to be charmed by her.
Man’s sense is, however, not so far wrong, even though he often takes
appearance for reality. For what man looks for above all in woman—and
loves most deeply, when he finds it—is the joy of goodness. It is this
which is made visible in all real charm and gains its rightful victory;
and only when women possess this joy of goodness and know how to
communicate some of its charm to public life, will their participation
in the latter tend to beautify it.

In judging of the position of affairs at the present moment we
ought to remember that it is not only mothers-in-law but also
daughters-in-law, not only the mistress of the house but also the
cook, who would receive the franchise. But none of these groups seems
inclined to regard the others as at present endowed with the greatest
imaginable perfections—in private life! It may not, therefore, be too
presumptuous if an outside observer should wonder whether it will be
given to them to exhibit greater perfections in political life.

In a word, we must remember that developed women are not more numerous
in proportion to the undeveloped than the former kind of men are to the
latter. The same or other prejudices, self-interests, and stupidities,
which on the part of men delay progress, will also stand in its way
on the part of women. Just as one now sees herds of male “electoral
cattle” in the wrong place, so will one see crowds of electoral
hens—and the wrong place does not mean either the right or the left,
but the place to which one is driven without personal choice and where
one nevertheless remains without a feeling of shame.

Woman will, however, have the advantage of being able to learn from
man’s mistakes, and she learns more quickly than he. But only the power
of being one’s self active where one has the responsibility, and the
right of deciding where one is to act, are educative. Developed women
will naturally exhibit one-sidedness, like developed men; not until
each sex comes forward with its own peculiarities will legislation
and administration become universal. But universality is not yet
connection. Whether one strums with one finger or with all ten on an
instrument, this does not make music. Not until each finger does its
work—and can play together with the others—does harmony result,
whether one is speaking of instrumental or of social music.

Before social politics have replaced the politics of self-interest and
class instinct, it is probable that the vital forces of many will be
wasted, and among them those of many women, if in the meantime women
enter political life. But neither the argument that women are too good,
nor that they are too immature, will weigh heavily in keeping them from
political work; for they will hasten development in the degree in which
they preserve their worth; they will attain the maturity they lack in
the degree in which they participate in development. Only by being used
can tools be gradually adapted and perfected for what they have to do;
only by performing its functions does the organ become developed for
its purpose. And to this must be added the equally weighty argument
that the women even now necessary for development are, no more than the
men, to be found on one side only of a dividing line of money or birth
or education. Only the great democratic principle—equal possibilities
for all—involves in spite of its defects the best prospect of the
right man or the right woman arriving in the right place. It is more
important to the community that one man or woman through right of
election or eligibility should reach the prominent position for which
nature intended them, than that a hundred others should make mistakes
as electors. Even if women are at first on the side of reaction—and in
Sweden this would certainly be the case—their direct influence would
nevertheless be less dangerous than their indirect and irresponsible
influence is now; for there would be a possibility of their being
convinced by public life that, as long as a dominant social and
economical group maintains the conditions which make innumerable other
members of society the victims of militarism and industrialism, of
prostitution and alcoholism—so long will all social work be casting
seed into the snow. But even if women did not allow themselves to be
convinced, but only became a support to those at present in power, this
still ought not to be a hindrance to their enfranchisement. Just as
nothing makes us more persevering than working for justice, so there is
no better evidence of the purity of our own claims than when we adhere
to them in spite of our knowledge that their attainment will for a long
time be to the advantage, not of ourselves, but of our opponents.


Everyone with eyes to see is more and more clearly aware that in our
time new paths must be found. Women too are more and more frequently
among those who see this, although the majority of women, by their
ignorance, their lack of understanding, their petty aims, still place
obstacles in the way of the pioneer work of their male kinsmen and
fellow-workers.

But even among women fully conscious of the importance of social
questions, there is little perception of their significance. This
perception must be raised, but, above all, the idea of collective
motherliness must be intensified, by fundamentally distinguishing it
from that of benevolence. The latter may be justified in the individual
case. But all social work, which is directed to the whole community,
must aim at attaining so far in _right_-thinking that all _well_-doing
may disappear. Collective motherliness must act more as an eternal
subterranean fire and less as the soaring but soon burnt-out flame of
a sacrifice. It is not enough that the instinct of mutual help and
sympathy is more immediate in woman than in man. Just as affection is
not sufficient for the care of children, if insight into the vital laws
of the body and soul is lacking, so also do women need an understanding
of the biology and psychology of society in order to fulfil their
individual tasks in national economy, and to understand the problems
which are summed up under the name of social organisation.

Only thus can sympathy with the victims of society lead women to an
ever stronger opposition to the system which permits these sacrifices.
They must thus begin—and that very soon—by obtaining power to
restrict this, at any rate where it applies to the bringing-up of
children and the education of the young; to places where women work
or are brought to justice; where the sick and aged are cared for;
where laws are made for all these. The majority of women—who are
still on Christian ground—preach at the best charity as the duty of
the favoured and patience as that of the unfortunate. But no more
than the individual mother will be satisfied with charity for her own
child, but will have full justice—which implies full possibilities
of development, full satisfaction of wholesome needs, full employment
of personal powers—even so will collective motherliness refuse to be
satisfied with less on behalf of any child of the community.

Not until the idea of poor-law relief is exchanged for that of
self-help, aided by society but without sacrifice of pride, not until
charity is exchanged for justice, patience for assertion of rights,
will there be a prospect for the many of an existence compatible
with human dignity. We need not fear that the virtues of charity and
patience will therefore disappear: everyone will doubtless have only
too much daily use for them—not only towards God, but towards himself
and his neighbour.

But as regards the life of the community their time is gone by—or at
least will be so, in proportion as the belief in a fatherly providence
above is exchanged for a knowledge of the power of human providence
upon earth. When women’s brains and hearts begin to exercise this
providence in such a way that their views of life and their social work
no longer conflict with one another, then and not till then will these
brains and hearts become a reforming force.

Now, for instance, the majority of women are afraid of socialism, as
to which however only one opinion should prevail: that as a party
policy in the near future it is the most indispensable motive power
of development, while as a principle—when cleared of the mutually
conflicting dogmas of different schools—in its widest meaning it
expresses the ever firmer coalescence of society into an ever more
intimate unity, in which the sincere assurance of the old hymn, “the
good of one, the good of all,” will gradually be realised in and
through the whole organisation of society. When this has made the
fine image of the suffering of every member through that of one come
true—then will the social State be attained.

The fear of socialism now hinders the leading women of the upper
classes from supporting the others in conflicts which can result only
in the victory of the cause they themselves wish to further. They are
alarmed at the mere word _claims_, behind which they see the great
hosts of the labouring classes streaming on with their red flags. They
therefore prefer to speak of the duty of voting rather than of the
right to vote. They hope it may be possible to carry on politics as
peacefully as a college of teachers, that a public meeting may be as
amenable to discipline as a school class. But this lack of a sense of
proportion misses both the end and the means.

Women are thus desirous—and with full reason—of abolishing
prostitution. But the first condition is a wholesale raising—for at
least fifty per cent. a doubling—of the present wages of working women
and shop assistants. This increase can take place only by means of
trade-unions, and then strikes will be necessary. But the Christian
champions of the woman’s movement have a horror of both these things.

The latter desire—and with full reason—to stop the abuse of
intoxicating liquors. But they do not see that this is not to be
brought about by prohibitions and tea-meetings; that only by better
opportunities and an increased appetite for the joys of home comfort,
education, beauty, and nature can the intoxication of life take the
place of the intoxication of alcohol. But these enhanced possibilities
of life will result only from the stubbornly waged class-war, of which
Christian women in general disapprove.

A number of women wish to abolish war. But the same women are not able
in education to renounce those kinds of forcible methods which keep
alive crude passions and low ideas of justice; they still believe
that the souls of children are to be cleansed like mats, by beating.
It is in vain that all the most eminent educationalists, as well as
many of the foremost criminologists of our time, have again and again
condemned corporal punishment—which one of the greatest contemporary
authorities on jurisprudence has called the “fruitless bloodshed”
of the centuries—since experience has incontrovertibly shown that
physical fear never produces morality in the true sense of the term.
Women, however, continue to lighten their work in the nursery by
employing fear. In other words, they themselves practise—and train
their children in—acts of violence, such as correspond in the life of
nations to the wars these very women wish to abolish.

These examples might be multiplied. They do not prove that woman is
more ignorant or more inconsistent than man in her social activity.
But they prove that women, like men, will be of very little value in
their public capacity, so long as they follow the methods of piece-work
rather than of continuity.


To begin with, therefore, it would seem that individual women, and not
the majority of the sex, will represent that collective motherliness
which is to be at the same time far-seeing and warm-hearted. And these
women can no more expect to go on from one victory to another, than
can individual men. Those who—with their souls glowing against all
injustice, their hearts warm and anxious with sympathy—enter into
cold reality, must be prepared to experience what has been the lot of
innumerable reformers in thought and action among the other sex: that
they have won the best for themselves—martyrdom; but not the best
for society—victory. And it is a poor consolation that it is often
the best who become martyrs and the next best who are victorious. The
former are those who throw themselves into the fight, urged by justice
or love of humanity or passion for liberty—without asking themselves
whether they will conquer, or at least without knowing what will be the
answer to this question. The latter again are usually those who within
themselves have answered it in the affirmative; for this conviction of
success gives them the power of arraying an army behind them, and the
courage to inspire it.

The precursors among women will also find out how unspeakably difficult
it is to aristocratise the democracy, which does not mean simply
cleaner hands and better manners, but purer actions and finer thoughts.
And if they retain their sensitiveness—as they must—the leading women
will thus have to suffer not only from their own wounds, but from the
shame of seeing so many of their own sex as incapable as the men of
sacrificing their own advantage—or the imaginary advantages of their
country—when humanity and justice demand it. And it will be the fate
of these women—as of so many men before them—that the pure will, the
rich personality, which cannot bend, will be forced to break.

Everyone who has had anything to do with politics must have seen
something of these tragedies in which a noble heart is broken piece by
piece, and know how cruel these bloodless struggles really are.

Will the best women endure to witness such tragedies? Will they endure
to see how year by year politics and the press—indirectly, if not
directly, under the sway of financial interest—succeed in producing
the greatest possible number of half-measures and the greatest possible
amount of stagnation, accompanied by inevitable self-surrender on the
part of the best, and unconditional self-satisfaction on the part of
the others? Will they endure seeing how in questions of culture, where
selfishness can mean nothing, omniscient stupidity decides the great
vital interests of the nation?

A gathering of people on great national festivals can together feel
and act more greatly than each individual for himself. But in the
everyday life of nations the individual is often better than he becomes
in co-operation with others. What collective stupidity, collective
cowardice, and collective untruthfulness together produce without shame
in public life, would cause almost everyone who makes up the mass
to hesitate in his private life. To rescue the effectiveness of the
private conscience—but at the same time to preserve the power of the
collective conscience for great moments—this should be the great task
of political morality.


Women must be prepared to find that their participation in public life
will cost them, not only various unjustified prejudices, but also many
hardships. They must, moreover, understand that it will take much time
away from their home; for the whole thing is not so simple as merely
handing in one’s voting-paper, reading the leading article instead of
the feuilleton, and going to an election meeting instead of to supper.
If one hands in a voting-paper without knowing how one has voted,
one’s participation is of no great importance. If one wants to know
how one is voting, this involves the sacrifice of time; and when once
one has begun to take part in public affairs, one is often forced by
circumstances further and further into their vortex.

Fathers of families, who “take up” politics, are even now the despair
of those families. And what if mothers of families begin likewise?

This is the kernel of the question. As mother of a family the woman
who takes part in politics must make her choice between an outward
direction of her activities which will be unfortunate for the home and
children and a lack of independence which will be personally painful to
her. She can sacrifice her private pleasures, not her private duties.
But it is this latter temptation which will present itself to the woman
of the poorer classes. The wife of a working man wants to go to an
election meeting with her husband—but what of the little children?
There is no servant. The neighbour’s wife? She too wants to go to the
meeting. The crèche? It is closed in the evening, for its manageress
also takes an interest in public affairs! There is therefore no way out
of it but that the wife must be content with her husband’s judgment.

In the suffrage question—as always when it was a question of woman’s
rights—attention has been too one-sidedly directed to the point of
view of the unmarried woman of the upper class. But these are so far
from being the most important that we might rather assert that a
mother of the working class, who—with all the trouble and privations
this involves for her—has cared well for her children both bodily
and spiritually, has made a happy home for them and her husband and
therewithal has acquired for herself education and insight in social
questions, affords so extraordinary a social power, that the most just
of proportional suffrage methods would be to give her—and all other
mothers of remarkable children—a double vote.

We are here again faced by the difficulty already pointed out: that
it is precisely the most excellent women, the most indispensable for
the task, who will have to choose between the duties of collective
motherliness and those of motherhood, as well as between the latter and
those of individual development. During her children’s earlier years no
mother can well fulfil both these motherly calls. She will be forced to
acknowledge that, if anyone could be said to cross the river to fetch
water—and with one of the Danaids’ pitchers at that—then it would be
one who should set aside her children for her social mission.

Here and there we already meet one or another of these strong, proud,
and beautiful mothers of the twentieth century, who have lost nothing
of their full-blooded womanliness, but rather doubled it through a
personal quality which year by year embraces the kernel of their being
more closely.

Human being and woman, citizen and personality—less than this the
social mother of the future cannot be. She has destroyed all bridges
which might take her back to the womanly ideal of older times: the
powerful but narrow-minded housekeeper, the thoughtlessly devoted
wife. But at the same time she has nothing in common with the
short-sighted woman’s rights woman, who takes pride in being a restless
working-machine or a specialist rewarded by diplomas but otherwise
half-educated.

She has learned something from the older as well as from the new type.
But she resembles neither, for only completeness of life is to her the
meaning of life.


Many a little girl, leaning over her history book, must have been
indignant at the way humanity used to be reckoned in past times: so
many men—“besides women and children”!

It was long before women began to be counted at all, and they are still
only half-counted. Children are still under “besides.” But some day we
may perhaps have come so far in our feeling for what is coming on, that
we shall invert the order and reckon “so many children—besides women
and men.” We shall then give evidence in our treatment of children of
our reverence for these profoundly wise and mysterious beings, whom
we never fathom. We shall see behind the figure of every child the
infinite line of past generations, before it the equally endless ranks
of those to come. We shall remember in our actions that the child is
the sum of these dead ones, the hope of those unborn. We shall let the
child reveal itself and receive its revelations with a discretion at
present unsuspected.

The tragedies of the childish soul are still waiting for their
Shakespeare, although the child is already appearing in literature as
never before. And here, as ever, literature is the precursor of the
great movement of liberty which shall bring the children’s declaration
of rights and make an end of the spiritual and bodily ill-treatment of
children, which must appear to the future as monstrous as negro slavery
does to us. It may be that children too will have their right to vote,
as well as their own representatives in the legislature and in the
courts of law.[6]

It should be the collective mothers who would thus finally liberate
the children of society. It will then be seen that the octave of the
child’s soul was just as indispensable as that of woman or man, in
order that the great harmony of humanity might be complete.

When this happens the third kingdom will have arrived, whose Messiah
the age now awaits. But it is not in the lap of collective motherliness
that he will be borne.

Again and again saviours will be born to humanity. But always of some
young woman with forehead pure as a lily and deep eyes. And Bethlehem
will always be there, where a young mother kneels in prayer by her
child’s cradle.



CHAPTER VIII

FREE DIVORCE


The desire of the young to abolish prostitution by means of love’s
freedom has already been adduced as one of the proofs of the higher
development of sexual morality. Another such proof is the desire of the
present day to abolish adultery by means of free divorce.

The preachers of monogamy are afraid that this desire will prepare
the way for an open polygamy, instead of that which at present is
at least secret. In the press and in the pulpit, in schoolrooms and
lecture-rooms, modern literature is blamed for this “new immorality.”

And yet we all know that long before our time, married men and their
sons in country houses were too often ready to seduce the wives and
daughters of their dependents as well as the servants of the house.
The wives and mothers of these gentlemen were frequently not ignorant
of this—but they were praised for their wisdom when they pretended to
suspect nothing. It was a matter of common knowledge that not a few
married men and married women had mistresses and lovers within their
own social circle; and every one knew that in the towns many men,
during or before marriage, had illegitimate families.

Serious preachers of morality doubtless reply that they no more condone
this secret adultery than they would an open one; that they see in
one and the other a manifestation of that power of sin which only
religion can vanquish. We have the right then to ask, whether within
their own ranks—among clergymen, missionaries, readers—no similar
transgressions occur.

The honest ones answer Yes, but point out that this causes shame
among their fellow-Christians, and that these believers themselves
acknowledge that they have sinned. Such men of the world, who play
the hypocrite to retain their respectability, do the same thing. But
the great danger to society first comes in when free-thinkers with no
qualms of conscience commit, and authors without moral indignation
describe, the sin. This it is that degrades the ideal of morality.

Here we are at the very cross-roads of the old and the new morality.

The champions of the latter go on to ask whether all
adulterers—children of this world as well as children of God—in their
innermost consciousness really feel themselves to be sinners. The need
which impelled them was perhaps so imperious that it justified them
before their own conscience in choosing a lesser evil in preference to
a greater, when—from one cause or another—they could not or ought
not to satisfy the need in their marriage.

And if this be so, then the exponents of the new morality may have
grounds for their opinion: that self-control cannot and must not be the
only answer to all the problems of sexual life; that a solution must
be found which shall by degrees prevent men from wasting, either in
unchastity or in a celibacy disguised as marriage, the strength which
belongs to the race. The solution can only be this, that we not only
assert love’s freedom to unite without external tie, but also man’s
right more freely than at present to loosen the tie, when real union is
no longer possible.

When speaking of love’s selection, it was put forward that a growing
insight into the value and conditions of the enhancement of the race
might produce cases where a marriage could be openly broken without
therefore being dissolved. But the true line of development will quite
certainly be this: that divorce will be free, depending solely on
the will of both parties or of one, maintained for a certain time;
that public opinion as regards a dissolved marriage will take the
broader view that it has already acquired in the question of a broken
engagement, which at one time was thought just as humiliating as a
divorce is now.

With ever-growing seriousness the new conception of morality is
affirmed: that the race does not exist for the sake of monogamy, but
monogamy for the sake of the race; that mankind is therefore master of
monogamy, to preserve or to abolish it.

Even the advocates of free divorce know well enough that it will
involve abuses. But at the same time they know that there is no better
proof of man’s incredible indolence of mind than the uneasiness
produced by the thought of possible abuses resulting from a new
social form, while the ancient abuses are tolerated with the dullest
tranquillity.

Whatever abuses free divorce may involve, they cannot often be worse
than those which marriage has produced and still produces—marriage,
which is degraded to the coarsest sexual habits, the most shameless
traffic, the most agonising soul-murders, the most inhuman cruelties,
and the grossest infringements of liberty that any department of modern
life can show.

We may answer that abuses do not prove anything against the value of
any particular social arrangement, so long as its right use serves well
the purpose for which it was introduced.

The majority thinks that this is still the case with marriage. The
minority, on the other hand, considers that its constraint now tends to
defeat its original object, an enhanced sexual morality.

This minority thinks that, as soon as love is admitted as the moral
ground of marriage, it will be a necessary consequence that he who has
ceased to love should be allowed a moral as well as a legal right to
withdraw from his marriage, if he chooses to avail himself of this
right.

And this same minority is aware that love may cease, independently of
a person’s will; that therefore no one can be held to the terms of a
promise, the performance of which lies outside his powers.

Nothing is more natural than that love’s longing for eternity should
prompt lovers to vows of eternal fidelity; nothing is more true than
that it is a satanic device of society to seize upon this promise and
base thereon a legal institution (Carpenter). Nothing is more necessary
than to abolish the legal claims that people have on one another,
supported by promises of love and vows of fidelity.

The more people understand the laws of their own being, the more will
the conscientious begin to hesitate about making promises which perhaps
some day they will be forced by inner necessity to break. An increasing
number of people find it impossible to contract marriage, or to ask it
of the other party—or to continue in marriage or ask its continuance
of the other—when their love has died or has awakened for another. A
generation ago, an engaged person could refuse his or her betrothed’s
petition for liberation with the answer that he or she had love enough
for both. In corresponding circles at the present day, such a speech
is unthinkable. But then a public engagement was still regarded as a
binding tie and the marriage took place. After a long engagement it
was a “point of honour” for the man not to let a woman run the risk
of being unmarried, and she was satisfied if he only paid his debt of
honour.

Such coarseness of feeling is fortunately becoming more and more rare,
although it is far from disappearing. People see more and more that
they have no more right to marry simply to fulfil a duty of fidelity
than they have to steal in order to fulfil a duty of maintenance; that
there is no more obligation to abide by a marriage which one feels to
be one’s ruin than there is a duty to commit suicide for the sake of
another.

The love of older times was above all afraid that the other party
should not feel sufficiently bound. The finest erotic feeling of the
present day shudders at the idea of becoming a bond; trembles at pity
and recoils from the possibility of becoming a hindrance. This state of
the soul knows of no other right than that of perfect candour. To place
legal limits to each other’s liberty, so that neither shall cause pain
to the other, is under these conditions meaningless; for each suffers
just as much through a union maintained without full reciprocity.

Thus the question of divorce presents itself to modern souls, in cases
where there are no children. And when there are children—as is of
course the rule—they think that the mistakes of parents do not absolve
them from the duty of co-operating in the rearing of the children to
whom they have given life.

But they maintain that this need not always be effected by means of
continued cohabitation. On the other hand, this may often be necessary,
and in such cases they subordinate their personal claims of happiness
to those of the race. One who holds these opinions regards him who
gives the same answer in every case—whether this answer be “freedom at
any price” or “renunciation at any price”—simply as a moral automaton.


It is true that modern men and women are less able to bear unhappiness
in marriage than were those of former times. This shows that connubial
idealism makes greater demands than formerly.

The conscious will to live, of our time, revolts against the
meaningless sufferings through which the people of bygone days, above
all the women, allowed themselves to be degraded, benumbed, and
embittered. A finer knowledge of self, a stronger consciousness of
personality, now puts a limit to one’s own suffering, since the danger
is understood of taking hurt in one’s soul. This determination of
individualism makes it impossible for the modern woman to be fired by
the ideal of Griselda—if for no other reason, because she feels how
all-suffering meekness increases injustice. The “good old” marriages,
sustained by the willing sacrifice of wives, are disappearing—that is
happily true! But no one takes notice of the new good ones that are
coming in their place. If those who now grudgingly reckon up divorces
would also count all happy marriages, it would be seen that new
formation has proceeded further than dissolution.

It must be evident that the question of divorce is the pursuance of the
line of development of Protestantism. With the formation of a right
and a left party, as usual in the treatment of a problem of culture,
the Reformation succeeded only in asserting the right of the senses in
human life. That it is the right of the soul in sexual life that is now
most intimately affected by the question, people will not understand.
Against the right of the individual they set up that of the child. If
there is none, then a certain number of Christians are willing to admit
that divorce is sometimes justified. Unhappy parents, on the other
hand, must remain together for the sake of the children.

But the erotically noble person of the present day cannot, without the
deepest sense of humiliation, belong to one he does not love, or by
whom he knows he is not loved. Thus for one or both of the parties a
marriage that is persisted in without the love of one or both causes
profound suffering either through this humiliation or through lifelong
celibacy.

This is the kernel of the question, which is avoided by all who, in
their care for the children, forget that the parents must nevertheless
be considered as an end in themselves. It is not asked that for the
sake of the children they should commit other crimes; thus a woman who
committed forgery to support her child would be disapproved of. But
other women are judged leniently who “for the sake of their children”
feel themselves prostituted year after year in their marriage.

That married people are to be found who continue to live as friends,
since the erotic needs of both are small; that others do not feel the
humiliation of cohabitation without love; that the former as well
as the latter are probably acting best for the children in keeping
together a home for them—this does not prevent others under similar
circumstances from suffering in such a way that life loses all its
value. And these are they who end either in adultery or divorce.

Even if an enemy of divorce admits these difficulties, he replies,
that the individual must still suffer for his erotic as for his other
mistakes, since only so can people be taught not to commit mistakes.

But the true state of the case may be, that just as in old times
murders increased in proportion to the number of executions people
witnessed, so unhappy marriages may become more frequent, the more
there are at present; for it is, above all, the whole spirit that
prevails around us which determines our action. If the young are
accustomed to see their elders content with false and ugly relations,
they will learn to be so likewise. If they see around them an
aspiration towards ideal conditions in love—an idealism which is
revealed now in a beautiful married life, now in the dissolution of
one that is not beautiful—then their ideals will also be lofty. Those
again, who have once made a mistake, will perhaps be more clear-sighted
if they choose again.

But neither those who make mistakes nor those who witness them can be
saved by the misfortunes of others from that great source of error,
erotic illusion. And until erotic sympathy has become more refined,
these mistakes are the most innocent of all. Every lover believes
himself to be exempted from the sacrifice of illusion and no experience
of the irretrievable erotic mistakes of others has ever opened the eyes
of one blinded by love.

As it is recognised that society ought to make the lives of all as
valuable as possible, this involves the claim that innocent mistakes
should cause as little ruin as need be.

In marriage as in other fields, the modern principle must be put in
force, that punishment should improve the faulty and prepare the way
for a higher idea of justice. But this higher idea is that marriage
should be contracted under gradually improving conditions, not that it
should continue under gradually deteriorating influences.

Marriage under constraint forces people to continue their cohabitation
and to bring children into the world in a revolt of the soul which
must leave its mark in their children’s nature and thus influence
their future destiny. But this is not a “well-deserved punishment”
for a mistake: it is the profoundest violation of the sanctity of the
personality and of the race.

Here as ever the only logical alternative is full individual liberty or
unconditional surrender.

The Catholic Church maintains—and rightly from its own point of
view—that, since even marriages entered into with the warmest love
and under the most favourable conditions may turn out unhappily, it is
impossible to base the morality of marriage on the emotion of love.
Nothing that is founded upon emotion can be permanent. Nay, the richer,
the more individually and universally developed a personality is, the
less immutable will be the state of its soul. Thus even the highest
need an inflexible law, an irremovable tie, to prevent their being at
the mercy of winds and waves through their emotions, while inferior
beings need them so as not to be driven out of their course by their
desires. The concessions of Protestantism, therefore, lead to the
dissolution of marriage, since when love is made the basis of marriage
it is built upon sand.

Marriage, which the Church therefore made a sacrament and indissoluble,
had already become the legal expression of the husband’s right of
private ownership over his wife and children. The course of development
has consisted in an unceasing transformation of this religio-economical
view, and development cannot stop until the last remnant of this
conception has been destroyed.

Therefore the believers in Life refuse to admit either the
half-admissions of Protestantism or the logical compulsion of
Catholicism. They demand that the step from authority to freedom shall
be taken outright, since they know that the external authority which
simplifies life does not create the deeper morality. Compulsion fetters
legal freedom of action, but thereby only makes secret crime a social
institution.

And even if a husband or a wife has outwardly overcome a temptation,
this will not prevent that individual when in the embrace of the lawful
spouse from being filled with feeling for another. Have they then
avoided adultery? Not according to their own finest consciousness—that
consciousness which Goethe aroused in his great poem on elective
affinities. Duties performed may as surely as those left undone produce
incalculable and tragic results. They are foolish who think they can
lead another soul across the bridge, fine as a hair and sharp as a
knife-edge, by which every one goes his solitary way over the abyss to
salvation: the way of the choice of personal conscience.

When custom and law deprive a human being of full freedom of choice in
the matters of most profound personal concern—his belief, his work,
and his love—then existence is robbed of greater values than those the
compulsory fulfilment of duty can bring in.


In love, the idea of personality has now brought us to the view that
“property is theft”; that only free gifts are of value; that the ideas
of connubial “rights” and “duties” are to be exchanged for the great
reconstructive thought, that fidelity can never be promised, but that
indeed it may be won every day.

This will give the motive power for the attainment of ever higher
forms of erotic organisation a power which the Buddha-like calm of
indissoluble marriage has left unused.

It is sad that this truth—which was already clear to the noble minds
of the Courts of Love—should still need proclaiming; for one of the
reasons given in these Courts for love being impossible in marriage is
this: that woman cannot expect from her husband the delicate conduct
that a lover must show, since the latter only receives by favour what
the husband takes as his right.

When divorce becomes free, the attention to each other’s emotions, the
delicacy of conduct and the desire to captivate by being always new,
which belong to the period of engagement, will be continued in married
life. As in the early days of love, each will allow the other full
freedom in all essential manifestations of life, but will exercise
control over his own casual moods, whereas marriage now as a rule
reverses this happy state of things.

The security of possession now puts to sleep the eagerness of
acquisition; the compulsion to win anew will brace the energy in this
as in every other connection.

A fidelity thus won will be the only sort that will be thought worth
having in the future. A craving for happiness more sensitive than the
present may one day marvel at the legally insured fidelity of our
time, as at its inheritance of wealth. In both cases it will have been
seen that only one’s exertion of force brings happiness and gives that
felicity of victory before which hands stretched out to steal shrink
back.

The believers in Life are everywhere distinguished by their
determination to give to every relation the value of the unique, the
stamp of the exceptional, that which has never been before and will
never come again. Like the worshippers of Life of the Renaissance,
those of our time have begun to recover the power of strong enjoyment
and strong suffering which is always the sign of increasing spiritual
unity, a new gathering of force through a new religious feeling.

To this view of life the permanence of happiness will be less important
than its completeness while it lasts.

Spinoza, who described jealousy as no one else has done, has also
uttered this deep saying of love: The greater the emotion we hope that
the loved one will experience through us, and the more the loved one is
moved by joy in his relation to us, the greater also will be our own
happiness in love.

People of the present day have begun to distinguish the idea of this
“greatest joy” from lifelong proprietorship; and therewith jealousy in
its lower form has begun to disappear.

Jealousy like other shadows belongs to the rising and setting light and
disappears like them in the full clearness of noonday. But its tone
of feeling has become quite different since man has discovered that,
if the sun stands still in the zenith for him, it is a miracle—not a
right. The most highly developed people of the present day say “I am
loved” or “I am not loved” with the same simplicity as they say the sun
shines or does not shine. The difference is in both cases immeasurable,
but in one case as in the other, necessity removes the feeling of
humiliation. The grief which comes when a lover no longer feels that he
brings joy to the beloved or when he sees another bring it, is natural
and worthy of respect. It ceases to be so when it manifests itself in
the will of an avaricious proprietor, the brutal instinct which often
survives not only the feeling of the other but also its own.

But although the psychological differentiation in our time involves
greater possibilities of finding some one who will satisfy some side of
the erotic longing,—while it is more and more difficult to find one
who wholly satisfies this ever more complex desire,—the danger of such
division of self is counterbalanced by the growing wish for the longing
to be wholly satisfied. Love by thus making ever greater demands
becomes at the same time ever more faithful.

Those who dread the dissolution of society through the insistence upon
the rights of love, do not reflect that its right to break up marriage
is allowed to the feeling, which has not only the red glow of passion,
but also the clearness through which two people have become conscious
of each other as a revelation of the whole unsuspected richness of
life. A revelation which included all the fulness of comprehension,
all the serenity of confidence; where both have given with equal
exactingness and generosity—not meagrely or hesitatingly, but so that
each without reserve has rushed to meet the other—this is the only
happiness that love’s noblemen will now experience. It will be more and
more difficult even to experience it once—how much more so then to
find it many times!

A great love is never like the erotic thunderstorms which move against
the wind—that is to say, against the whole disposition of the
personality in other things.

All valuable feelings—whether entertained for a person, a belief, a
place, or a country—are conservative. The consciousness of this gives
the preacher of liberty his boldness. He never perceives how liberty
may be abused, since he knows what it costs to loosen a heart from what
it has once embraced.

To a volatile nature, the happiness that a more steadfast one
experiences in love is as unfathomable as the bliss of the mystic
becoming absorbed into the fulness of his divinity is to the polytheist.

Here, as everywhere, to the believer in Life, happiness is one with
morality. Since happiness consists in the greatest emotions, its first
condition is to intensify and enlarge all feelings, and above all that
which leads to marriage.

But in addition, the whole standard of personality depends to a great
extent upon whether we consider fidelity a life-value. He who desires
fidelity centres his moods and his powers upon what is essential and
protects them from the gusts of the accidental. Only this gives style
and greatness to existence. The desire of fidelity is therefore one
with a person’s feeling for his own integrity, his inward consistency,
the attitude and dignity of his spiritual being.

When fidelity is preserved for these profound reasons, it will also be
broken only for the same reasons. A fidelity, on the other hand, which
rests upon conventional notions of duty, will be in the fire like a
fire-escape of straw.

It is moreover forgotten, in all discussions of the dangers of free
divorce, that under the influence of love the whole disposition of
the soul is towards fidelity. Great love absorbs all associations of
ideas and thus without conscious exertion intensifies and enlarges the
personality. Fidelity will be a necessary condition of love, but a
condition whose psychological continuance is not favoured by coercive
marriage.

Fidelity towards one’s self—also in the new sense of the word—thus
involves not only the ability in case of need to destroy the bridge
between one’s self and one’s past. It also implies the building of
better bridges to strengthen the connection between our personality
and our present. It implies not only the capacity to have finished
with a destiny; but also that of not having done too soon with a
person. It may certainly involve the necessity of a new experiment
in life. But still more certainly it involves the need of not
allowing the incidental numbness of one’s feeling to seduce one
to new “experiences.” This expression—in place of the old word
“adventures”—implies, moreover, an intensification of feeling: where
formerly only the excitement of “adventure” was looked for, a richer
element of life is now sought. But it is often a fatal error to suppose
that this is to be gained in new relations, when on the contrary it
might have been won by an intensification of the former ones. By more
attention to and respect for the other’s personality one may often
discover more than one had expected; for some people are like certain
landscapes or works of art: they do not begin to make an impression
until one thinks one has done with them. But piety is required to await
the revelations of soul as of a work. Piety implies contemplation, and
this demands peace. But peace is difficult to find in our time, whose
misfortune is precisely disturbance and amusement.

That our time like every other has its particular epidemics in the
erotic sphere, is certain, and disturbance is just the condition
in which the most dangerous of these find a favourable soil. It is
therefore a part of the erotic art of living that a married couple
should now and then pass some time undisturbed in each other’s
company—or separately and alone—in order thus to strengthen the
health of their feelings. Here as in other things external precautions
against infection are unimportant in comparison with care of the
general health.

Only he who, after unceasing effort and patient self-examination, can
say that he has used all his resources of goodness and understanding;
put into his married life all his desire of happiness and all his
vigilance; tried every possibility of enlarging the other’s nature, and
yet has been unsuccessful,—only he can with an easy conscience give up
his married life.


The life-tree of a human being is formed, no more than are the trees
of the forest, according to a strict measure for the length of the
branches or a pattern for the shape of the leaves. Like nature’s
trees, its beauty depends upon the freedom of the boughs to take
unexpected curves, upon the disposition of the leaves to exhibit an
infinite diversity of shape. Only he who does not permit the tree to
grow according to its own inner laws, but clips it according to those
of gardening, can be sure of not preparing surprises for himself and
others, when one branch unexpectedly shoots out and another equally
unaccountably withers. No one can answer for the transformations to
which life thus may subject his own nature; nor for the changes which
the transformation of another’s nature may effect in his own feeling.
He may possess the rarest disposition to fidelity, the most sincere
desire to concentrate himself upon his love, to “let his personality
grow around it, as about its core”—it nevertheless does not depend
upon his will alone whether this core shall shrivel or be corrupted.

Therefore the desire of fidelity can not, must not, and ought not to
imply more than the will to be true to the deepest needs of one’s own
personality.

In other spheres than that of love, people admit this freely. Nobody
considers it an unquestionable duty for a young man to find at once
the view of life or the career in which he can continue for the rest
of his life. What young people are rightly warned against is the
wandering without method among different opinions or undertakings; for
only that belief or that work which one seriously tries to live by
and live for can really employ the powers of the personality and thus
show its efficacy in enhancing them. But the most profound seriousness
cannot prevent a continued development of the personality from one day
compelling the man to abandon that belief or that work. It probably
would not occur to a thoughtful clergyman to appeal to such a man’s
promises at confirmation, or to a thoughtful father to bring forward
his own choice of a career as an example to his son.

Lifelong tenacity was demanded in those days when it was assumed
that a single doctrine, a single set of circumstances, was entirely
adequate for personal development for a whole lifetime. The crime
of deviation was then logically punished by excommunication or by
fines. But the profounder view which we have acquired in the matters
of belief and occupation must also be extended to the third. We ought
to perceive that unconditional fidelity to one person may be just
as disastrous to the personality as unconditional continuance in a
faith or an employment. Those who are now patching the sack-cloth of
asceticism with a few shreds from the purple mantle of personality are
spoiling both. Either state the claim of renunciation clearly, like
the Catholic, or admit the whole claim of personality. But the whole
problem is unfairly stated by those who make “personal love” the moral
basis of marriage, but go on to speak of this love as though it were a
question of light-heartedly taking partners for a game, where nothing
is more usual than that each woman finds the right man and each man the
right woman—and so everything is in order. If life were so easy, there
would be reason for the pronouncements, which are now so profoundly
coarse, that only the man or woman without character, the aimless
personality, is incapable of vowing a lifelong love and keeping the
promise; nay, that a true personality can “command itself to love its
child’s father or mother.”

He who asserts that our true personality will always follow the
duty laid down by society and constantly be able to fulfil the
claims of fidelity, and that those who cannot do this are guided by
a false subjectivity and not by their personality, makes the idea
of personality equivalent to that of member of society, the whole
equivalent to the part. The personality, the unique and peculiar value,
is certainly connected through part of its nature with the standards of
right upheld by society. Yet it never becomes equivalent to them.

The only thing therefore that a psychological thinker can demand is
that love should not divide the personality in any phase of a human
being’s development, but should always be its true expression.

But only one who is ignorant of the idea of personality can believe
that the relation, into which a person at the age of twenty puts his
whole feeling, must necessarily correspond to the needs of the same
personality as it becomes at thirty or forty. Only one so ignorant can
persuade himself that the destiny of our love will necessarily resemble
our lofty theory of love, our pure desire of constancy. If even our own
will has little to do with the love we feel, how much less then will
it influence that which we receive or lose!

Thus the problem of fidelity is not solved merely by imposing the claim
of constancy upon one’s self; for in the first place, in love there are
two who must desire the same thing, and in the second, each of these
two is manifold.

No human being is sole master of his fate when he has united it with
another’s. The possibility of becoming a complete personality in and
through love depends in half upon the pure and whole desire of the
other to share in developing the common life.

It is this which is overlooked by the eloquent preachers of “constancy
as the expression of the personality,” and this makes their words about
the duty of lifelong love as meaningless as a harangue about the duty
of lifelong health.

It is a beautiful sight when two married people enjoy the happiness
of their love for the whole day of human life. It is also a beautiful
sight when life sets like a clear sun upon the horizon, and does not
lose itself like a weary river in the sand. But these are beautiful
ideals not commands of duty.

Love, like health, can certainly be neglected or cared for, and by good
care the average length of life both of human beings and of their loves
may be raised.

But the final causes both of love’s birth and of its death are as
mysterious as those of the origin and cessation of life. A person can
therefore no more promise to love or not to love than he can promise to
live long. What he can promise is to take good care of his life and of
his love.


This may be done, as already pointed out, through the conscious will to
be faithful, the firm resolve to make love a great experience.

But perhaps the majority as yet do little to preserve their happiness.
In this case, life works for them, as God “gives to his servants, while
they sleep.”

If ever the doctrine of the importance of the infinitely small has
its application, it is in respect to the power the little things of
everyday life have of uniting or dividing in marriage.

That hardships and memories, joys and sorrows shared bind people
together even without the continuance of love; that in the deepest
sense of the word they cannot be separated, since a great part of the
one’s nature remains in the other’s—this in reality forms the binding
tie, but not ideas of duty, whether clear or obscure, strict or free.
If in one case a married life has so dried up the feelings of both that
a gust of wind drives them apart like two withered leaves, in another
it may have given the feelings such deep roots that, even if all the
leaves that the springtime gave are torn away, even if life seems as
empty and cold as naked boughs in winter—it is still lived in common.

It is thus a physiological and psychological fact that the man or woman
who for the first time has communicated to the other the joys of the
senses retains a power over her or him which is never really set aside.
It is even said that long after a man’s death a woman sometimes bears
children to another man which resemble the first. As such influences
are more decided in the case of the woman, her fidelity has also for
this reason become more of a natural necessity than man’s—although the
same influence, if in a somewhat less degree, applies to him.

Even if no qualms of conscience for others’ sufferings are mingled with
a new happiness—in many other senses the two, who in each other seek
to forget the past of one of them, will perhaps for ever find a third
between them.

Marriage, in a word, has such sure allies in man’s psycho-physical
conditions of life that one need not be afraid of freedom of divorce
becoming equivalent to polygamy. What this freedom would abolish is
only lifelong slavery.


It is evident to every thoughtful person that a real sexual morality
is almost impossible without early marriage; for simply to refer the
young to abstinence as the true solution of the problem is, as we have
already maintained, a crime against the young and against the race, a
crime which makes the primitive force of nature, the fire of life, into
a destructive element.

But the consequence of early marriages must be free divorce.

As soon as one approaches the outer side of the marriage problem, one
is met by the experience which the four great Norwegian writers, Ibsen,
Bjōrnson, Lie, and Kielland, some years ago jointly and publicly
announced: that at present the majority do not marry for love. And R.
L. Stevenson may have hit the mark, when he calls the marriages of the
majority “a kind of friendship sanctioned by the police” and compares
the “fancy” which decides them to that which sometimes takes one for a
particular fruit in a dish that is being handed round.

But even if we one day come so far that early love-matches are the
rule, we shall still be faced, as regards them, by the system which
at present obtains among the upper classes: that marriage is binding
upon the lovers before love is consummated. There is therefore a truth
worthy of consideration in the words of the brothers Margueritte, in
their contribution to the question of free divorce; that as the young
girl has not experienced what she binds herself to at marriage, the
majority of divorces begin on the wedding night.

Free divorce is therefore an unconditional demand of such young people
who know that unforeseen transformations may take place in the sphere
of the soul as in that of the senses, and who now frequently seek in
the secret possession of love a security against a precipitancy which
the legal bond of marriage may make irretrievable.

The young know, if any can know, that no form of love is more beautiful
than that in which two young people find each other so early that they
do not even know when their feeling was born, and accompany each other
through all their fortunes, sometimes even to death—for now and then
life vouchsafes this crowning fortune. Never do greater possibilities
exist for the happiness both of the individuals and of the race than in
a love which begins so early that the two can grow together in a common
development; when they possess all the memories of youth as well as all
the aims of the future in common; when the shadow of a third has never
fallen across the path of either; when their children in turn dream of
the great love they have seen radiating from their parents.

These happy ones—like the old couple in Bernard’s fine fresco in the
_mairie_ of the Louvre _arrondissement_ in Paris—will one day look up
to the stars of the winter twilight, united in a more intimate devotion
than either the playtime of the spring morning or the midday toil could
afford.

If this wonderful love were really the first and only one which fell
to the lot of every young man and woman, and were it always possible
for them to realise it at the right time—then there would neither be a
problem of morality nor of divorce.

But the youth of the present day knows that this love is not the
fortune of all. It has learned so much, from literature, from life,
from its own soul, of the transformations of love, that one is tempted
to wish for these young people the romantic belief of their fathers and
mothers in a love which became extinct as easily as now. The difference
is merely this, that whereas formerly they were content with a faded
glow, we will have continual fire.

It is known now that, although youthful love may be the surest basis of
marriage, it is more often the reverse. Here, if anywhere, is the scene
of accidents. The one we have grown up with, the girl or youth we are
thrown with just when the erotic life is waking; the one we were teased
about; the one we hear is “in love” with us; the one we meet when
the happiness of others fills the air with longing—these and other
accidents, but not personal choice, often decide youthful love.

Then the imagination sets to work to transform the reality in
accordance with the ideal we have formed for ourselves—and even this
is often the result of accidental influence. It is therefore not
surprising that most people, when after ten years or so they meet again
the object of their first love, give a sigh of gratitude to the fate
which made that love “unhappy.”

When it has not been so in the usual sense of the word, one of the
parties may often be most to be pitied, and it is just those young
people who unhesitatingly realise their love in the belief of its
lifelong continuance, that in coercive marriage are made the victims
of their own pure will, their healthy courage, their bright idealism.

For the younger, in the richest sense of the word, a person is, the
more certainly does he possess the poet’s gift which transforms reality
according to his dreams. The fine curve of a pair of lips renews the
marvel of the legend: that every frog that jumps over them is changed
into a rose. Even if a dim suspicion awakes, when every serious
thought or intimate feeling is met by empty silence or equally empty
loquacity, the imagination easily convinces the instinct that silence
means “profundity of intelligence,” or speech “candour.” At every
age, but especially at this, love is a great superstition. Secure as
sleep-walkers in the presence of danger, its votaries fling themselves
into a decision. And it is this simple rashness of innocence that the
current conception of morality subjects to a lifelong punishment.
The cautious ones, on the other hand, often find in time the great
rewards—thanks to their own smaller value.

More things happen in a human life than marriage and finally death.
Much may happen in a human soul between marriage and death. The current
assumption that everything which separates a person from the partner
in matrimony is evil and ought to be overcome; everything which binds
him to her good and ought to be encouraged—this is part of the wisdom
which reduces life to the simplest terms, which is cheap and therefore
most in use; for a higher wisdom demands a higher price.

Nothing is commoner, especially for the woman whose first experience
of love is in marriage, than that she is in love with love and not her
husband. Sometimes woman is betrayed by her senses, but more often by
the morning dew of sensibility, which youth and love spread over even
the driest of men’s souls,—a dew which disappears with the morning.
Another illusion, which in these days of intercommunication causes many
mistakes in love, is the peculiarity of a foreign nationality, which
has the effect of a personal originality—until it gradually betrays
itself as only another kind of conformity than that one is used to.

In other cases again, the husband is all she sees in him. But a young
woman herself often goes through, during the years from twenty to
twenty-five, so complete a transformation of feelings and ways of
thought, that after a few years of marriage she finds herself in the
presence of a man who is a perfect stranger to her.

This period of illusions in first youth is answered by another towards
the close of youth. If a woman has not before experienced love,
this is the psychological moment at which almost every illusion is
possible. Her now universal demands of love, the longing of her mature
woman’s nature, have countless times made a noble creature cast these
pearls—if not exactly as described in the biblical image—at least
into an empty space where they have just as surely been unappreciated.

On man’s side, there are other or corresponding possibilities that
early marriage may be founded on self-deception.

But even when love is real and well-founded, there yet arise, from the
charm of contradictions already referred to, innumerable occasions of
incurable discord.

Thus there are natures so simple that they become crippled, so
uncomplex that they are foolish, so homogeneous as to be heavy. These
are they who usually love once for all, with complete devotion. But,
especially when they are women, Goethe’s words are often true of
them: that a woman’s greatest misfortune is not to be charming when
she loves. Only complete security gives these natures the calm of
equilibrium, the courage of self-confidence, which calls forth the
“smile of inward happiness” whereby they also become attractive. But
these natures, who of all most deserve happiness, usually meet with
some person of constantly changing moods, who reacts with extreme
sensitiveness to every impression, but can never love deeply, and
therefore is soon unable to bear that simplicity and seriousness in
life and death which at first charmed by their contrast.

Such people are often poets or artists, who in love seek only constant
stimulation. To them loving means “waking in the morning with new words
on one’s lips,” and their erotic fortunes therefore show a rapidity
of revolution comparable with that of the moons around Mars. Just as
for certain natures, a connection originally frivolous may become
permanent, held together by depth of feeling, so for this class of
natures—on account of the superficiality of their feelings—no kind of
connection is serious.

It is not unfrequently those who give the finest descriptions of their
soulful moods and their exquisite feelings, who in their acts of love
are narrowly selfish or relentlessly harsh. For it is the impressions
of culture stored in their intelligence which determine their conscious
utterances, but, on the other hand, it is their subconscious ego that
decides their actions. And this ego is often centuries behind their
cultured consciousness. He, on the other hand, who is reticent and
curt of speech or dull and awkward in manners may at bottom possess a
delicacy which he can show only in actions, the others only in words.
But unfortunately in our time opportunities for speech are many and for
action few—and so women pass over the latter for the former. How many
a woman has not afterwards—before some act of the man of words—asked
herself how it was possible for her ever to love that man! How many a
one, before the actions of the silent, has not sighed, What a pity that
I was never able to love him!

But in one case as in the other, through the law of contrasts, she was
united to him and feels in this union the death or paralysis of the
best possibilities of her being.

The most misleading of illusions are, however, those which are
fostered by the actions love produces; for it is not these which
determine the quality of a personality. While love is fighting for
its happiness it may transform an ordinary person into something
higher than himself, as also into something lower. When the tension is
relieved, it is seen that in the former case—especially as regards
men—love was able to

  ... unmake him from a common man
  But not complete him to an uncommon one....

It was no organic growth of the personality, but only a straining of
self that love called forth.

But she who loved him will watch till her eyes are weary for what she
has seen but once!

Those who have loved them deeply learn from these, in one way or
another, inadequate persons the most dearly-bought truth in the
knowledge of human nature, a truth that the heart acknowledges last
of all: that even if we poured out our own blood in streams for any
one—we could not thereby give him a drop of richer or more noble blood
than is found in his own heart.

Many have learned this secret in that kind of marriage, where secure
friendship and faithful comradeship abounded; just those feelings,
in fact, which are recommended as the infallible remedy for love’s
mistakes.

How often has not one of these married people active for and with the
other, found out that they never bring their mate into spiritual
activity, that the soul of one has never reached the soul of the other?
Outside observers think them suited like “hand in glove.” The image
is significant, for a glove is empty and meaningless when it does not
enclose a hand. But like hand to hand they are not suited! Therefore
it not unfrequently occurs that some day one of them is seized by a
passionate longing to meet with another hand, which shall be strongly
and quietly grasped in his own and thus double its power; that the
voice, which has continually spoken into empty space—whence a faithful
echo has unfailingly answered—will finally be dumb from the longing to
receive an answer from another voice, in words that were never heard
before.

Not a few marriages include men who have had such fine thoughts,
dreamed such fair dreams of woman, that they have desired to win her
senses only through her soul and have disdained to offer her other
than their best, the richest treasures of their personality. But
perhaps such a man has a wife who understands only money-making and
desires only the pleasures of love. If he offers all the glories of his
soul, she does not even suspect when a mood is at its height; for her
silence is never eloquent; she is incapable of waiting for another’s
thought; has no patience with what is difficult of comprehension, and
will always receive the unusual with dull misunderstanding or gay
superiority.

The gulf perhaps began to open between them when one became aware of
the other’s absence at a moment when he himself was most present;
or when one felt that their bodies stood between their souls, the
other that their souls stood between their bodies; or when one felt a
restriction of liberty from the other’s superior spiritual or sensual
force; or when one found that he could never show his innermost being
without its putting the other out of humour. Thus two persons, each one
innocent, may make each other profoundly solitary while sharing the
same bed and board. Neither receives from the other what his innermost
nature needs—and what one gives is only a constraint upon the other’s
nature. Not a note in the soul of one is tuned to the same pitch as the
other’s; not a movement in the blood of one is capable of enrapturing
the other’s. Now it is unbearable dissimilarities, now unbearable
similarities, that cause the trouble; each finds in the other “all the
virtues he detests but none of the faults he loves.” With all this,
perfect outward peace may prevail; nay, respect and devotion in a
certain sense. That this is the fortune of innumerable marriages is
overlooked in general, since married life usually continues—unless a
third appears.

In the ideas of the Church, the incapacity for marriage of one party
freed the other from the duty of fidelity. In the more spiritual view
of the future it will be equally evident that the same right exists to
dissolve a marriage which has remained unconsummated in a spiritual
sense; and there may be just as many possibilities of incapacity to
fulfil the spiritual claims of marriage as there are men and women;
therefore also just as many causes of divorce.


In the preceding pages only certain typical cases of unhappiness have
been referred to. The many tragic exceptions are here left altogether
on one side. So also are those causes of divorce which the preachers
of monogamy call the “real misfortunes”: drunkenness, bodily cruelty,
and the like; for with the customary realism of “idealism,” they admit
these as valid reasons for divorce. It is significant that among the
lower classes people still often think themselves bound to bear these
misfortunes as a part of the miscalculations of marriage as unavoidable
as those more complex sufferings which the champions of monogamy exhort
people on a higher plane to endure. The pangs a soul suffers may, they
think, be borne with God’s help, whereas unfortunately God is not in
the habit of interfering when a man beats his wife; and the longer a
soul has suffered, the more certain are they that it can continue to
suffer.

Nor do they perceive that a relationship may have seemed good—perhaps
even have been good,—until, after a lapse of years, a moment has
arrived which has stripped the soul of one of them naked, sometimes in
all its loftiness, more often in all its baseness. If the latter, then
what was possible before becomes from that hour unthinkable.

That the soul may be confronted by such an alternative, of life or
death, they will not admit. The soul, they say, is “a spirit,” an
“invisible and imperishable entity.” That its conditions of life are
just as variable and complex as those of the organism is, to a certain
sort of “idealism,” meaningless. With God’s help, they say, everyone
may save his soul. But such help is in this kind of peril as uncertain
as it is in peril of the sea—and even in the latter case it is not
“the votive tablets of the drowned, but only those of the saved, that
one sees in the temple” (Nietzsche).


It is, however, especially when a man or woman is divorced in order to
contract a fresh marriage that an outcry is raised over the weakness of
the age in bearing suffering. Indeed, it is not even acknowledged that
marriage may involve any suffering. Even those who have hitherto found
a married couple extremely ill-suited, forget at once that they did
so—should either of them “allow a third person to come between them.”

They forget not only their own former judgment but also the fact taught
by experience, that when two married people are wholly one, there is no
room for a third between the bark and the tree. In the contrary case, a
third comes between them sooner or later. Sometimes it is the child,
sometimes a life’s work, sometimes a new feeling—but something always
comes, thanks to nature’s “abhorrence of a vacuum,” which is never more
fatal than in marriage. Within the dimensions of the soul, as within
those of space, no one can take the place of another, but can occupy
only that space which another has left empty or not been able to retain.

In the latter case it is fair to admit the indirect share of literature
in the inconsiderateness of those without an erotic conscience. The
idea of justice in love has had to be extended. But during this
removal of the boundaries, which literature is carrying out, a general
insecurity has set in.

Poetry performs with the fullest freedom its duty of investigating the
secrets of love, according to which souls and senses are attracted and
repelled in answer to that law of elective affinity which our time
is seeking more and more eagerly to discover, in order to be able to
direct the erotic forces to a higher development. Literature is the
foremost of these discoverers; and this in itself is enough to justify
that complete freedom, without which, moreover, it cannot become what
Georg Brandes has called love-poetry: the finest instrument for gauging
the strength and warmth of the emotional life of a period.

That literature is often the power which gives rise to erotic
agitation, is self-evident. And thus it always co-operates in
some measure in the misfortunes which are caused by loves of the
imagination or the intellect, misfortunes which are avoided by the
firm and mature personality. The weak, on the other hand, are those
who in their loves as in their beliefs adopt the course that another’s
influence gives them.

Like lawn-tennis—which in certain circles makes or mars
marriages—love is favoured by summer air and idleness. But at all
seasons there are men and women for whom everyone is a ball that sets
their fancy or their vanity in motion. No form of self-assertion is
more justified than that of opposing one’s vigilance, one’s will,
and one’s dignity to this use of one’s personality. What stimulates
the game is not the power of the senses alone. No, this game is the
sole inventive faculty of spiritual poverty, the mark of erotic
ill-breeding. Only a refined person can rejoice at the stimulants to
life in every field, the means of which he does not himself possess.
As yet few people have attained a culture like that of the Athenian
beggar, who thanked Alcibiades for giving him the jewels that
Alcibiades indeed wore—but that the beggar was free to rejoice at.
To attain in regard to human beings this sense of joy, free from all
covetousness, is the flower of fine breeding.

But the nervosity of the present day stimulates, on the contrary,
erotic kleptomania. People steal one another, now from the same kind
of hysteria which makes thieves of Parisian ladies in the fashionable
stores; now from the same crudity which makes the child pluck every
flower he sees; now from the same desire which urges the collector
constantly to acquire new specimens.

When in regard to human beings the pleasure of the connoisseur rather
than that of the collector has been attained, then the greatest of
all joys—that of human beings in one another—will not be so often
disturbed by erotic complications. To appeal to the liberty of the
personality in frivolous concessions to eroticism is the same gross
abuse of the idea as to use the name of this liberty in sailing a leaky
yacht in a storm.

The liberty of the personality involves great risks to win great
rewards; but it does not involve allowing one’s self to be driven into
dangers, where for a trifle one stakes one’s own life and that of
others. To drift into relations where one has not the hundredth part of
the consent of one’s innermost ego, is not proving but wasting one’s
personality; for every action which is less than ourselves, degrades
our personality.

Again, it may be disastrous to perform acts greater and stronger than
ourselves. He who ventures upon an exceptional course must—like the
alpine climber—possess an abundance of strength and the sense of
security which it lends; for otherwise, in both cases, the enterprise
will be successful only if everything occurs according to the most
favourable calculation. In an unforeseen misadventure the inadequate
ones are those who are lost. Therefore, in one case as in the other,
public opinion is unwittingly right when it glorifies the daring that
succeeds, but condemns that which fails.

Most people are not equal to the consequences of their resolutions. On
the contrary, like unseated riders they are dragged by their actions
through degraded circumstances that they had not counted upon. Thus
many a pair of lovers who have broken earlier ties, have been only a
warning example—since their action was destructive, not enhancing to
life.

Ruin may be the climax of life; but inefficiency is always defeat; and
of all the rashness of this life, the rash project of an exceptional
lot is the saddest.

Few people who have passed their youth have courage or strength for
such new experiences as imply a real enhancement of life. The majority
ought rather to employ their personality in the task of worthily
bearing and making the best of their lot—and, in spite of all that is
asserted to the contrary, that is also what most people do and will
continue to do.

Those who trust only in compulsion to restrain a man’s desire to desert
his wife, forget to what a degree spiritual influences have even now
facilitated divorce, in spite of the coercive law. One seldom finds
in our day a high-minded husband or wife who insists on retaining the
other against his or her will, except when it is clear to one partner
that divorce, if conceded, would result in the certain ruin of the
other. As a rule it is now only the narrow-minded or the low-minded
who exercise the right of refusing divorce. If this right were
abolished, this would not entail the abolition of the influences which
even now keep married people together—although in most cases they
might be free if they wished it.

Those who thoughtlessly separated, when greater facilities are given,
would be the same class of people who now, in coercive marriage,
secretly deceive one another.

To the serious, divorce will always be serious. Before a person of
feeling and thought consciously hurts another who has loved or loves
him, he himself has suffered terrible pain. Gratitude for a great
devotion in a free connection has often proved more powerfully binding
than the law could have been. Nay, to anyone tender of conscience the
ties formed by a free connection are stronger than the legal ones,
since in the former case he has made a choice more decisive to his own
and the other’s personality than if he had followed law and custom.

And even when no feelings of affection exercise their retentive power,
many people prefer to remain as wreckage on the same shore, rather than
be washed away towards a new and uncertain fate.

Human nature is credited with far too great simplicity and elasticity
when it is taken for granted that one experiment in life would succeed
another if divorce were free. In this case it is life itself, not the
law, which fixes the insurmountable limits. To the deeper natures
which have broken away from a life-connection, the pain of it has often
been so great as permanently to deaden the colours of life.


In connection with the modern demand for exemption from motherhood we
have already rejected the expedient of securing love’s freedom through
the rearing of children by the State. At the same time the importance
and value of the parental home was insisted upon as strongly as
possible.

Here, on the other hand, is the place to point out the one-sidedness
of the notion that nothing is more important than that the parents
should remain together for the sake of the children—since everything
must finally depend upon how the parents remain together and what they
become through remaining together.

The more degrading cohabitation is to the personality of each parent
the less valuable will be the influence for the children of the
parental relation.

Only one who sees in marriage a system directly ordained by God, a
form of realisation of the divine reason, can maintain the proposition
that in such a system the good must outweigh human defects. Those who
hold that the maintenance of marriage is always the sound and moral
course, must take upon themselves the burden of proving that the dull
connubial habits of divided mates are a pure source for the origin of
new beings; that their mutually conflicting influences are better able
to further the welfare of the children than a tranquil bringing-up by
one of them: that the happiness of one of them in a new union is more
dangerous to the children than his unhappiness in the former one.

To those, on the other hand, who hold the faith of Life, the question
of the children is always a fresh one in every fresh divorce. Here
again we must rise to the conditional judgment, and leave behind the
chess-board morality with its equal squares of right and wrong. The
danger to the children arising from a divorce depends on all that has
gone before and all that comes after. He who dissolves his marriage in
the face of his inner consciousness of the harm that the children will
thereby suffer, commits a sin which will infallibly be succeeded by
the remorse that friends are sometimes eager to adduce as extenuating
circumstances. He, on the other hand, who “sins” with an easy
conscience, has made his choice with the welfare of the children in one
scale of the balance. This calm of conscience is then not indifference,
and, therefore, does not prevent the possibility of his suffering
deeply through the consequences of the decision which he nevertheless
does not regret. It may be that in most cases where there are children,
the less painful course, even for him who is most convinced of his
personal right, is to endeavour to the utmost to preserve a common life
which allows the children to grow up under the joint protection of a
father and mother, and for the sake of the children to give this life a
worthy and kindly character.

In former times, people mended and patched things up endlessly. The
psychologically developed generation of the present day is more
disposed to allow what is broken to remain broken. For, except in the
cases where the cause of rupture has been outward misunderstanding
or belated development, patched-up marriages—like patched-up
engagements—seldom prove lasting. It has often been profound instincts
that caused the rupture; the reconciliation violated these instincts
and sooner or later such violation revenges itself.

Thus, it happens, that even exceptional natures have a greater burden
than they can bear, and then it is not the living together but the
dying together of their parents that the children witness.

Neither religion nor the law, neither society nor the family, can
decide what a marriage kills in a human being or what it may be the
means of saving in him. Only he himself knows the one and feels the
other. Only he himself can determine how far it may be possible for him
to have so far finished with his own existence that he can completely
pass into that of his children; to bear the pain of a continued married
life so that it may enhance the powers of himself and the children. A
mother can do this oftener than a father, but in no case is there any
standard that others can use to determine when an excess of suffering
is present. More than this, there is strictly no suffering, but only
suffering beings who in every case create the suffering anew according
to their type of soul.

Only one thing is certain: that no one is more outside the question
than the very one who causes the suffering. Thus nothing can be more
unreasonable than to leave to the judgment of one of the parties the
decision we have just mentioned. The knowledge of being able to refuse
a divorce now involves want of consideration for the other’s moods of
dejection, which would never occur if consideration were necessary to
prevent separation. Such attentions are especially significant at the
beginning of married life, when most young married people solve the
small and great problems of accommodation with more or less difficulty.
The birth of the first child, moreover, is often accompanied by
abnormal states of feeling, which lead to hasty conclusions as to
incompatibility and antipathy. The opponents of free divorce think that
it is just during these years that precipitate divorces might take
place. But they do not reflect that either partner in his sense of
proprietorship now gives himself a loose rein in a way that would be
unthinkable if such security did not exist. Thus the young certainly
keep together, but not unfrequently destroy their finest chances of
happiness. The need of mutual caution during these dissensions should
have a much deeper influence in keeping a couple together than has
at present the knowledge that they cannot be free. After the advent
of children, the danger is small—except in the case of heartless
natures—that a sufferer will too hastily think his powers of endurance
are exhausted. The inter-dependence which children create between their
parents when these together care for and love them, is sometimes
indissoluble. In most cases it is so strong as to form the real tie,
without which laws twice as strict as the present ones would have no
power to keep together two unwilling beings.

When speaking of love’s selection, we pointed to the signs which
indicate that the feeling for the race—the feeling which from time
immemorial has linked together man and woman at a common hearth,
has raised the altar near it and round them both the town wall—is
approaching its renaissance. Consciousness of the children’s rights is
indubitably on the increase, together with a knowledge of the rights of
love. And against the assaults of this most turbulent and dangerous sea
the race-feeling will continue to stand as a wall protecting society,
though in a new form to give it new powers of resistance.

But the opponents of divorce think, on the contrary, that the sense
of happiness through the children—especially in the case of the
father—has now become so weak that most fathers would free themselves
from all responsibility if they only could.

If this be so, society itself is to blame. It not only countenances
sexual relations entirely independent of the mission of the race;
it frees the man from responsibility for his illegitimate children
and thus assigns to him a standpoint below that of the beasts. The
instincts favourable to offspring, which in animals have remained
undisturbed, cannot attain their full strength until man is completely
answerable for every life he creates. As soon as society decrees that
the fact of two persons becoming parents makes their union obligatory,
the relationship itself will gradually intensify their feeling and the
man will wish to possess and preserve the elements of joy for which he
must always bear the burdens. Even if man’s fatherly feelings should
be slow in awaking—and if a number of fathers of the present day
should thus really avail themselves of free divorce to leave wife and
child—there are still the mothers, who do not, as a rule, lightly
leave their children, but who, on the contrary, now suffer the deepest
misfortunes and renounce the greatest happiness so as to remain with
them, and who—even if they tear themselves from them—are hardly ever
able to release themselves. When the law gives to every mother the
rights which now only the unmarried mother possesses, but imposes
at the same time on every father the obligations which now only the
married have—then it may be that the child will become a new and
more valuable possession in the eyes of the man. If he only feels the
influence he may obtain through his wife’s respect for his fatherly
qualities; if his importance in the child’s existence comes to depend
on personal force, not on legal might, then the quality of fatherhood
may be in a high degree ennobled. And with this affection will grow,
according to the immutable law, that the more man gives, the more he
loves.

If matriarchy, in a new form, refined by the whole of development,
should become the final phase—as in the opinion of many it has been
the starting-point—of the family, then this would involve that
paternal authority became conditional, depending on the value and
warmth of the paternal feeling. At present many fathers are merely an
accident in their children’s life, an accident which never even looks
“like an idea.” And this is not only true of those fathers who, with
the support of the law, withdraw themselves from all responsibility,
but also of many others, especially of those who are driven by work or
public business and who remain inwardly strangers to their children.

For the present, it may be regarded as certain that free divorce
would, above all, afford this advantage, that a number of wives, who
now keep broken-down husbands, could work for food for their children
instead of for liquor for the children’s father; and that a number of
mothers, who now are obliged for the sake of their children to suffer
the deepest humiliation, would be able to free themselves; and in both
cases the children would gain. On the other hand, the father who took
advantage of free divorce to desert his family for frivolous reasons
might, as a rule, be easily spared by that family.

In most cases, the children are even better off through a divorce, when
the cause of it is differences of temperament and opinion between the
parents. Each of them separately may be a person of merit. When they
separate on the ground of dissension, both have a sense of something to
atone for with the children. This prompts them to try to make amends,
and thus the children receive—from each separately—far more than they
did when the parents were united, when the children were witnesses
to their conflicts and saw the worse side of the nature of each. The
children are spared the pain of being the subject of their father’s and
mother’s quarrels; of being compelled to take the part of one of them;
of being torn between two diverse wills, between the jealous endeavours
of each to win them exclusively. They, in part, avoid being brought up
from two different, mutually-counteracting points of view, where one
is trying to take away from the children the ideas that the other has
given them.

But of all this the opponents of divorce take no account. The main
thing is that the parents shall keep together, however chill or dark
with thunder may be the air in which the children grow up.

This point of view misses the reality as much as that of those who
call for divorce as soon as love is over. Keeping together may, in
certain cases, give the children a happier and richer childhood than
the state of things after a divorce. It has been maintained with reason
that discord between the parents is sometimes compensated for by the
value of the manly nature of the one and the womanly nature of the
other, which—even if they do not co-operate—still work well side by
side; and that children who, through dissensions at home, have early
been forced to think and choose for themselves, often become stronger
characters than those who have grown up in happy homes.

While, on the one hand, we hear children whose parents have separated
complain that they did not have the patience to remain together, on
the other we hear those who have grown up in unhappy homes regret the
continuance of their parents’ married life. If this had been dissolved,
the children might have had at least one good home, perhaps two,
whereas now they have none.

But, of course, each one can know only what he has suffered from a
series of events, not what he might have suffered if circumstances had
been different; and thus the children’s opinion cannot in either case
be regarded as decisive, when laying down the principle.

The experience, therefore, which we have, of the position of children
whom death has deprived of their father is more important. While the
widower, as a rule, marries again, if his children are small, the
widow, in most cases, remains unmarried. And it may be regarded as
certain that statistics of able men would give a remarkable result in
respect of the sons of widows.

A divorce often puts the child in a corresponding position of
tenderness and responsibility towards his mother. But while society
bows to the “stern necessity” of a single battle making more children
fatherless than the divorces of a generation—and calmly relies on the
mothers’ ability by themselves to make good citizens of their sons—it
shrinks from the same stern necessity when it is a question of saving a
living person from lifelong unhappiness.

The children’s chief danger in a divorce is that they are often divided
between father and mother and thus lose in part the companionship of
brothers and sisters which is so eminently productive of happiness.
Next to this, the greatest misfortune is not that the father and mother
no longer live under the same roof, but that they are no longer able to
meet. This misfortune could often be avoided, if friends and relations
would refrain from the pleasure of deciding how the divorced couple
ought to hate and variously torment each other. If people saw the
merit of two human beings—who were able to separate as friends and
to meet again as such—being also capable of this; if the presence of
either parent with the children never led to their being influenced to
the detriment of the absent one—then children, even after a divorce,
would not feel the want of their essential relation to both their
parents. Now, on the other hand, divided as they often are between two
mutually hostile parents, separated thus from each other and—lacking
common memories and other ties to bind them—gradually becoming
strangers to each other when they meet, the children lose so much by
a divorce, that parents in most cases can gain nothing which makes up
for the losses of the children and thus prefer to bear the burdens of
living together rather than lay those of divorce upon the children.

In the question of divorce also, the great fundamental idea of
protestantism must be applied in the recognition of the individual’s
full freedom of choice, since no case can be decided generally, and
since here also the right and wrong can only be discovered through the
searching of each individual conscience.

A child has often—in moments of great crisis—blocked the way which
led from the door of the home. But the home within that door did not
for that reason become brighter or warmer for the child.


In the preceding, the position of the children in divorce has been
considered from the point of view of discord between the parents. If,
on the other hand, the divorce is brought about by a new feeling on
the part of one of them, then this father or mother must be prepared
one day—when the children can understand them—to justify the step by
showing them how the new love has made him or her a richer and greater
personality. The children have a full right not to be sacrificed to the
degradation of their parents. In every case, the children are the most
incorruptible judges of their parents.

But the fact that a person has already brought children into the world
does not give to these children an unconditional right to demand that a
father or mother shall sacrifice the love that may advance themselves,
and through them the race, to which they may thus give more excellent
children or more excellent works than they have been able to produce
hitherto. Many a woman has borne children to her husband without having
seen her child; many a man has given the community his industry but
never his work—until great love accomplished their innermost longing
and the child or the work that was thus created became the only one
indispensable to the race.

The claim of society that a father or mother, radiant with
possibilities of happiness, shall sacrifice these for the sake of the
children, will be reduced when the sense of the value of life has
grown and the duty of parents to live for their children is more often
interpreted to mean that they must continue to be fully alive, with
powers of renewal. On the other hand, this very rejuvenation of parents
at the present day may often result in their living so rich a life
together with their children that they will need no other renewal than
that which is most productive of happiness to all parties; namely, to
enjoy their “second springtime” in the children’s first.

If, on the contrary, the result of this prolonged youth of the parents
is that a father or mother changes the course of his or her life, then
the children must suffer—until they can understand that perhaps in a
deeper sense they do not suffer thereby. Sometimes the new partner has
exercised a richer influence on the children than their own father or
mother—as may also be the case with a step-father or step-mother. At
present, however, this possibility is often destroyed by the common
opinion just alluded to, which also decides that the children ought to
hate, where, if left to themselves, they would perhaps have learned to
love.

The selfish demand of grown-up children that the life of their parents
shall in and with them have reached its climax and be personally
concluded, is as cruel as it is unjustified, since there are souls
which do not lose their blossom when the fruit appears, but are able
at the same time to bear both fruit and new blossom. Children receive
with life a right to the conditions which may make them fully fit for
life; no less than this, but at the same time no more. What their
parents may be willing to sacrifice of their own lives beyond this must
be reckoned to their generosity, not their duty.


If great love may thus be admitted to possess a right superior to that
of the children, the question obviously arises, how is this love to be
distinguished from the accidental?

A mistake is already a hard thing in a marriage where there are
children, for the obstacles that have to be surmounted in such a case
are so serious that only great love can overcome them—that is, if
the parents are such that they really mean anything at all to their
children.

It is precisely by its genesis, in despite of all obstacles, that the
predestined love often reveals its nature and thus becomes what is
called “criminal.” Even if those who are possessed by this emotion
allow duty to interpose oceans between them, they will, nevertheless,
come together in every great moment of their lives until the last,
convinced that

  “his kiss was on her lips before she was born.”

When people have acquired more knowledge of the laws of psychology,
they will discover, as Edward Carpenter has said, that there is also
an astronomy in the world of emotion; that inter-dependence arises
there also, in obedience to eternal laws; sympathies and antipathies
which keep all the “heavenly bodies” at the right distance or
proximity; that thus the path of love follows an equally irresistible
necessity as the orbit of a star and is equally impossible to determine
by any influences outside its own laws. And without doubt there will
some day be discovered a telescope for this field also, which will at
last reveal to the short-sighted the fixed stars, planets, nebulæ, and
comets of erotic space, and will prove that its constellations are
ordered by a higher law than that of “crude instinct.” But until we
attain this astronomical certainty we must be content with the degree
of knowledge that art criticism can give.

Great love, like a great artist, has its style. Whatever subject the
latter may handle, whatever medium he may use, he gives to the canvas
or the marble, the paper or the metal, the impress of his hand, and
this reveals itself in the smallest thing he has created. So in every
age and every country, every class and every time of life, great love
is one and the same; its signs are unmistakable, though the fortune it
leads to and the individuals on whom it sets its mark may in one case
be more important than in another.

But this mighty emotion—which arouses one’s whole being through
another’s and gives one’s whole being rest in another’s—this emotion
seizes a man without asking whether he is bound or free. He who feels
strongly and wholly enough need never wonder what it is he feels: it is
the feeble emotion that is doubtful to itself. Nor does he who feels
strongly enough ever ask himself whether he has a right to his feeling.
He is so exalted by his love, that he knows he is thus exalting the
life of mankind. It is the minor, partial passions that a person
already bound feels with good reason to be “criminal.” For him, on the
other hand, who would call his great emotion a sinful infatuation, a
shameless egoism, a bestial instinct, one who loves thus has nothing
but a smile of pity. He knows that he would commit a sin in killing his
love, just as he would in murdering his child. He knows that his love
has once more made him good as in his childhood’s prayers to God, and
rich as one for whom the gates of paradise are opened anew.

Art is interpreting a universal experience when it always depicts Adam
and Eve as young when they are driven out of Eden. One wonders that no
artist has shown them—at a maturer age—outside the walls of paradise,
tormented by the sense of now possessing wisdom enough to preserve the
happiness for which in youth they only possessed the means.

For there not unfrequently arrives a time in human life when
enlightenment enters before coldness has set in; when the blossoms
are still rich although the fruits have already begun to mature. It
is then that great happiness is often seen for an instant and then
disappears. Sometimes she is never seen, for she comes softly and—like
a playmate—lays a hand over one’s eyes, asking: Who am I? One guesses
wrongly and happiness is gone before one can bid her stay. To her
favourites only does she come with her hands full and open. To the
majority the words of the dying Hebbel are true: _We human beings lack
either the cup or the wine_.

Love’s deepest tragedy is that a number of people have first to learn
through their mistakes before their souls and senses are ready for the
great love which of two beings makes one more perfect.

In poetry as in life it is sometimes the first love, sometimes the
last, that is extolled as the strongest. Neither need be, and either
may be, this. The strongest love is that which—at whatever age it
comes—most takes up all the forces of personality.

It also sometimes happens that not until a person ought to have done
with love, is he really ready for it. The fewer are then the chances
of finding the love he wishes to give and receive. And fewer still the
chances that he can give himself up to them, with the concurrence of
his whole being.

For it is one thing to have the right to one’s great emotion; another
to have the right or the possibility of one’s full happiness.

Love may be never so free in its social aspect; no freedom of
morals or of divorce can release the sons of men from the inevitable
sufferings of their own nature, nor from the inevitable conflicts of
their connection with the past. These sufferings and conflicts have
been made so deep by life itself that there is indeed no necessity for
the law to make them deeper.

The most usual form of the conflict is that a person is bound by or
broken by casual love—whether wedded or free—when the predestined
intervenes in his existence.

That so many more unhappy marriages continue than are dissolved may
be due less to a sense of duty than to the fact that only a few are
capable of great emotions. Peer Gynt’s symbol—the bulb—illustrates
the erotic nature of the majority. It flowers as readily in sand as
in water, in the open as in a pot. But should an acorn be planted in
a pot, it is inevitable—on account of the vital conditions of the
oak—that it should one day burst its prison or die.

And in such a case, it is unfortunate when a Christian ethical view
stands in the way of serious and genuine chances of so renewing life
that it may be more valuable to the community as well as to the
individual himself. People who are equipped with rich possibilities
still allow themselves to be decided by unconditional consideration for
others’ feelings, which, taken from Christianity, have been grafted
even on evolutionism, and which, especially through George Eliot, have
obtained their great but one-sided expression.

That the race not only needs people willing to lose their lives in
order to gain them, but also people with courage to sacrifice others
in order to win their own—this is a truth which nevertheless must
be indissolubly bound up with an evolutionist view of life, to which
the will to preserve and enhance one’s own existence is a duty as
undeniable as that of preserving and enhancing the lives of others
by self-sacrifice. To have the courage of one’s happiness, to be
able to bear the pain inseparable from a rupture without pangs of
conscience, is only in the power of those who act from their innermost
necessity. That pairs of lovers outside the law now so often commit
suicide together is no proof of the overmastering power of love; it
rather proves the powerlessness of their emotion to dare and win the
right of direct and immediate living and thus increasing the riches of
life. For it is only to a love that is throughout a will to live that
circumstances become as wax in the artist’s hand.

From the point of view of the religion of Life this impotence is
regrettable, just as much as secret adultery. Doubtless both may
possess the beauty of a great love-tragedy. Probably no one who has
read the _Inferno_ wished Francesca strength to reject the love of
Paolo. And so strangely does a soul find the way home to itself, that
there are cases where a person in adultery feels himself purified
from the defilement of marriage—since he thus for the first time
experiences the unity of soul and senses which was his dream of love
from the beginning.

But even in these exceptional cases—so much the more, therefore,
in others—the secret transgression, which the older morality found
comparatively innocuous, is from the point of view of the new morality
greater than the open rupture. For the personality is humiliated by the
duplicity and the weakness whereby one avoids the responsibility of
the consequences of one’s actions. And this, moreover, decreases the
life-value of love to the race. New experiments in life, which are made
openly, which enhance the strength of the individual through conflict
and earnestness, may possess an importance for the personality itself
and for society which secret transgressions in most cases lack.

A poet or an artist, for example, has a wife, as to whose insufficiency
for him all are agreed—so long as he still has her. Suddenly he finds
the space, that was empty and waste, filled by a new creation; the air
becomes alive with songs and visions. He not only feels his slumbering
powers awake, he knows that great love has called up in him powers he
had never suspected; he sees that now he will be able to accomplish
what he could never have done before. He follows the life-will of his
love, and he does right. Marriages kept inviolable have doubtless
produced many great advantages to culture. But it is not to them that
art and poetry owe their greatest debt of gratitude. Without “unhappy”
or “criminal” love, the world’s creations of beauty would at this
moment be not only infinitely fewer, but, above all, infinitely poorer.
Nay, after such an exclusion the whole spiritual world might appear
as some mediæval church, decorated from floor to roof with frescoes,
appeared after the whitewashing of the Reformation.

But in a choice such as we have just mentioned, public opinion is
always certain that the sufferings of the wife, unimportant as she
is to the community, are the great thing, while those of the man,
important to the community, may be disregarded.

He, however, who experiences the new spring which flowers in song, in
tones, in colours, raises the life of generation after generation,
centuries after the one person or the few who suffered through him have
long ceased to suffer.

Who would have gained what the race would have lost through his
self-sacrifice? Not the wife, if she had a heart, and not only a pride,
which could suffer.

Not only from the point of view of universal, but from that of
individual life-enhancement, we ought not to give all our sympathy to
the one who is called “heart-broken.” Why is the heart that is broken
considered so much more valuable than the one or the two which must
cause the pain lest they themselves perish? And why will people not
see that he who is looked upon as “broken-hearted” sometimes finds
a new and richer happiness? But, above all, why is it constantly
forgotten that one who suffers through sorrow often becomes greater
than he could ever have been in the secure possession of his “property”?

There are other ways of living on a great emotion than that of being in
the usual sense made happy by it.

This must, however, be remembered above all by him who, already tied,
is seized by a new feeling. If all three parties are high-minded
enough, it has sometimes happened that the feeling has been transformed
into an _amitié amoureuse_, which has made all of them richer and none
of them unhappy—even if it has made none of them completely happy.

But even under other circumstances people ought to remember, that one
does not always own what one has—and sometimes possesses most surely
what one has never owned.

The sanctity and loftiness of one’s own feeling is the indestructible
part of happiness in love. No longer to be able to love is the greatest
sorrow. But a person no more becomes less worthy of love because his
own love is dead, than he becomes so through leaving love unrequited.

Therefore, he alone can feel himself really ruined who has been nothing
but the means of another’s pleasure or sport, development or work;
a means that is cast off when it no longer affords enjoyment or
profit. The person who is thus betrayed in love, either because love
never existed or because its past existence is denied; who sees the
personality he loved unveiled as another than he believed himself to
be loving—this person must exert his whole soul to save it from being
narrowed, embittered, and destroyed. All other great blows of fate may
be borne in such a way that a man grows by them: but to lose faith in
a human being is the greatest pain of all, since it is also the most
unfruitful; since it in no respect enlarges the soul or enhances the
existence.

But even from this suffering the soul may finally raise itself through
the consciousness that it has too great a value of its own to allow
itself to be destroyed by the baseness or pettiness of another.
Only he who has fought out the battle alone in all the horrors of
the desert night knows what the sunrise is. Years later it may fall
to the lot of such a man, who at one blow has lost everything—the
sanctity of his memories, the meaning of his experiences, the faith
of his love—himself to see the truth of the great, calm thinker’s
exhortation: that one ought neither to laugh nor weep at, exalt nor
curse a human being’s actions, but only to try to understand them
(Spinoza). And then there begins for him a great and difficult work,
which perhaps will last as long as life lasts, the work of looking
into the depths of this other soul; of again reviewing the past in the
perspective of distance; of perceiving his own limitations as well as
those of the other, and thus beginning to understand. This is the only
forgiveness there is.

But thus a person once dead and buried in the midst of life may finally
see the grass grow green and the sun shine over his grave.


If this can become true—and it has become true for many people whom
others regarded as broken-hearted—how much more then is it not true
to him who has once been really rich and has never been robbed of his
greatest treasure, the glory of his own love?

A woman, for example, who for years of her life has possessed complete
happiness and through this has become a mother—will she be robbed of
it all, if this happiness comes to an end?

There is still the happiness of others to serve, the sufferings of
others to alleviate, the great ends of humanity to further. To many a
one who has never even had a happiness of his own this must still be
sufficient consolation. But we judge of happiness as of wealth. That
innumerable human beings daily perish from want makes little impression
on us. But if one of our friends falls from riches into poverty, this
seems to us dreadful. We forget that he may perhaps, through poverty,
attain a development that riches never won for him; that he who is
robbed by fortune may make a new position for himself.

Life has countless possibilities as well as countless contradictions.
It is full of secret remedial powers as well as of hidden causes of
death. And, finally, it is, therefore, very uncertain whether it is
not the two who come together that are “torn asunder”—while the one
abandoned remains whole.

For loving is a healing medicine even for the wounds love gives. Only
one thing a loving person cannot bear, to see the dear ones suffer. To
take one’s self silently away in order to spare them pain is within
the power of great love. And this does not mean a tame resignation
watering the red stream of the blood. It means that love has become
so great that it takes seriously the great words so lightly uttered
in happiness, that torments caused by the beloved were dearer than
joys given by others. When love has become the power in which a person
lives and moves and has his being, the words of the _Epistle to the
Corinthians_ on love are fulfilled in a more beautiful way than Paul
dreamed of. Great love does not only love for the sake of loving; it
attains the incredible: to love the loved one more than one’s own
feeling. If it were a question of thus providing for the other a more
perfect happiness, this love would be able to quench its own flame and
with it the fulness of pain and of joy that life had gained from this
feeling. Women sometimes make such a sacrifice. Here and there a man
has been capable of it. But he who has attained to this height of
emotion lives so wonderful a life that the happiness the united couple
create for each other must be extraordinarily great if these two rich
ones are not in reality to be the poorer.

When the thought has once become inherent in mankind that no one can
be happy without the feeling that he is making others happy; that only
the highest development of one’s own feeling is imperishable happiness;
that all other happiness is charity, not justice—then there will be
fewer torn asunder, even if there be no more happy ones.

But love is still such, men, women, and the people around them are
still such, that one would rather wish a tied man or woman strength to
endure marriage than to break it, at least if they have children who
must share with them the unknown fortunes of their love. Before these,
if ever, one feels the meaning of the Breton fisher’s song:

  ... la mer est grande et ma barque est petite ...

How often has not the little boat, fraught with life’s last riches,
been lost on the wide sea?

But therefore it is that no one there seeks his pleasure, but only his
life.


That our actions in the erotic sphere—as in every other—must call
forth the criticism of others is just as unavoidable as that our
figure should be reflected in a mirror as we pass. But public opinion
is a convex mirror, a globe swollen by prejudice, which distorts the
image. Only a clear and calm soul gives a true picture of another’s
actions.

And to such a soul, it will not unfrequently be apparent that the
“transgression” was right for one nature and not for the other. The
latter will have felt that its innermost being would have been outraged
if fidelity to the past had not been preserved to the uttermost—and
will have chosen to allow its erotic powers to wither and to live only
by the will of duty. Of this kind of self-immolation the same is true
as of its bodily counterpart: sometimes they are great souls, sometimes
great cowards. Nay, the same sacrifice may be sublime at one period of
our lives and shameful at another.

Life never shows us “marriage,” but countless different marriages;
never “love,” but countless lovers. He who sets up an ideal in these
matters must, therefore, be content with possibly working for the
future, but should not use his ideal as a criterion for the present.
Nay, he ought not even to desire in the future the sole authority of
his own ideal—since a descent from the diverse to the uniform would be
a retrogressive development.

The effort of society to press into a single ideal form life’s infinite
multitude of different cases under the same circumstances or of the
same cases under different circumstances, the same influences on
different personalities or the same personalities under different
influences—this has been in the field of sexual morality as violent
a proceeding as would be the establishment for all figures of
Polycletus’s canon of beauty. The madness of the latter proceeding
would be obvious. But violence to souls is not so obvious. Therefore it
is always established by law.

Not until the diversity of souls becomes in our ideas a truth as real
as the diversity of our bodies shall we perceive that of all dogmas
monogamy has been that which has claimed most human sacrifices. It will
one day be admitted that the _auto-da-fés_ of marriage have been just
as valueless to true morality as those of religion were to the true
faith.

The Grand Inquisitors of the past probably resembled those of the
present day in that, when confronted by a particular case within the
circle of their own friends and relations, they found easily enough
extenuating circumstances which they did not otherwise admit. But
we must learn to see that every case is a separate case and that,
therefore, sometimes a new rule—not only an exception to an old
rule—becomes necessary. We cannot any longer maintain this double
standard for known or unknown, for friends or enemies, for literature
or life. It must be abolished by an earnest desire for genuine
morality.

This double standard shows us, however, that even among the orthodox
of monogamy the impossibility of carrying out a monogamous morality
which shall apply to all is beginning to be perceived. But the effort,
nevertheless, to attain in some degree the impossible now stands in
the way of the possible, which is germinating here and there: the
attainment of the morality of love.

Although the new life is already showing its strength—like spring
flowers that push their way through last year’s carpet of dead
foliage—the withered leaves must yet be cleared away.[7] And only they
who do not perceive the power of the new spring are afraid that the
earth will not be able to dispense with its withered protection.



CHAPTER IX

A NEW MARRIAGE LAW


It results from the foregoing that the ideal form of marriage is
considered to be the perfectly free union of a man and a woman, who
through mutual love desire to promote the happiness of each other and
of the race.

But as development does not proceed by leaps no one can hope that
the whole of society will attain this ideal otherwise than through
transitional forms. These must preserve the property of the old form:
that of expressing the opinion of society on the morality of sexual
relations—and thus providing a support for the undeveloped—but at
the same time must be free enough to promote a continued development
of the higher erotic consciousness of the present time. The modern
man considers himself supreme in the sense that no divine or human
authority higher than the collective power of individuals themselves
can make the laws that confine his liberty. But he admits the necessity
of a legal limitation of freedom, when this prepares the way for a
more perfect future system for the satisfaction of the needs of the
individual and a more complete freedom for the use of his powers.
Insight into the present erotic needs and powers of individuals
must thus be the starting-point of a modern marriage law, but not
any abstract theories about the “idea of the family” or juridical
considerations of the “historical origin” of marriage.

Since, as already pointed out, society is the organisation which
results when human beings set themselves in motion to satisfy their
needs and exercise their powers in common, it must also be in a
condition of uninterrupted transformation according as new needs arise
and new powers are developed. This has now taken place in the erotic
sphere, especially since those emotional needs and powers of the
soul, which formerly were nourished by and directed towards religion,
have been nourished by and directed towards love. Love itself is thus
becoming more and more a religion, and one which demands new forms for
its practice.

But while the individualist can only be satisfied with the full freedom
of love, he is compelled by the sense of solidarity, at least for the
present, to demand a new law for marriage, since the majority is not
yet ready for perfect freedom.


The sense of solidarity and individualism have equally weighty
reasons for condemning the existing institution of marriage. It
forces upon human beings, who are seldom ideal, a unity which only an
ideal happiness renders them capable of supporting. It fulfils one
of its missions—that of protecting the woman—in a way that is now
humiliating to her human dignity. It performs its second function—that
of protecting the children—in an extremely imperfect fashion.
Its third—that of setting up an ideal of the morality of sexual
relations—it performs in such a way that this ideal is now a hindrance
to the further development of morality.

From a realistic point of view, what is the value of matrimony to a
woman? That the present law compels the husband to provide for his
wife and for the children born in wedlock, and that at the death of
the husband it secures to her the widow’s share in his estate and to
the legitimate children their inheritance. But she pays for these
economical advantages by resigning the right over her children, her
property, her work, her person, which she possessed when unmarried.
Even when there is a marriage settlement the husband—as guardian and
administrator of his wife’s property—may squander this, as well as
the proceeds of her work; he can forbid her exercise of a calling or
sell the implements of its exercise. In the eyes of the law, she is
placed on a footing with her children who are under age: her husband
has to sue and to answer for her, and there are certain functions of a
citizen which she cannot perform at all, while others, which she could
perform if unmarried, she can fulfil only with her husband’s consent.

As concerns the children, the law leaves those born outside wedlock
entirely without rights, except for an insufficient contribution to
their bringing-up, if the father does not free himself from this by
oath. The law provides very imperfectly for the welfare of the new
generation by limiting the right of marriage to certain degrees of
affinity, refusing it in the case of certain diseases, and fixing the
age for lawful marriage at fifteen to seventeen for the woman and
twenty-one years for the man.[8]

Finally, marriage binds the wife to the husband and him to her, by the
fact that neither can obtain a divorce without the other’s consent
unless certain acts of ill-treatment or misconduct can be proved. Even
when married people agree to a divorce, it entails a painful procedure
for both of them and poor guarantees for the children’s welfare. If
the man refuses a divorce, the woman—owing to the above-mentioned
obligation of proof, frequently impossible—is forced to remain with
a man she despises, since only thus can she keep her children and
receive support. If the husband is no longer capable of providing this;
if, perhaps, he has squandered means belonging to her which would
have provided it; nay, if the wife, by her own work, is keeping him,
herself, and the children, he still retains the same authority over her
and them.

The unmarried woman, on the other hand, who has given her love
“freely”—that is, without legal compensation in the form of a right
of maintenance—retains full authority over her children, as well as
personal liberty, responsibility, and civil rights. In other words,
she retains all that gives her a dignified position as a human being
in society—but loses the respect of society and economic security.
The married woman, on the other hand, loses all that is important to a
member of society of full age, but retains the respect of society, her
right of inheritance, and her support.

Truly, society has not made it easy for woman to fulfil her “natural
mission”! That she nevertheless—under one or other of these two
alternatives—still gladly performs it, is strong evidence that
it must be the most powerful demand of her nature. If other needs
become stronger—as is already the case with some women—then the
conditions of either alternative will be unacceptable. And as the new
women are still less likely to content themselves with the two other
extremes—lifelong asceticism or prostitution—a new marriage has
become for them a condition of life.


The marriage law now in force is a geological formation, with
stratifications belonging to various phases of culture now concluded.
Our own phase alone has left few and unimportant traces in it.

It has been perceived in our time that love ought to be the moral
ground of marriage. And love rests upon equality. But the law of
marriage dates from a time when the importance of love was not yet
recognised. It, therefore, rests upon the inequality between a lord and
his dependent.

Our time has given to the unmarried woman the opportunity of making
her own living, a legal status, and civil rights. But the marriage law
dates from a time when women had none of these things. The married
woman, thus, under this law, now occupies a position in sharp contrast
to the independence of the unmarried, which has been acquired since
that time.

Our time has displaced the ancient division of labour, by which the
wife cared for the children and the husband provided maintenance. But
the law of marriage dates from a time when this division held full sway
and when it was, therefore, almost impossible for a woman to receive
protection for herself and her child otherwise than in matrimony. Now
society has begun to provide such protection for unmarried mothers, and
the renunciation of liberty by which the wife purchases the protection
of marriage is seen to be not only more and more unworthy, but also
unnecessary.

Our time has recognised more and more the importance of every child as
a new member of society and the right of every child to be born under
healthy conditions. But the law of marriage was framed at a time when
this aspect had not presented itself to the consciousness of mankind;
when the illegitimate child was regarded as worthless, however superior
in itself, and the legitimate child as valuable, whatever might be its
hereditary defects.

Our time has recognised the value to morality of personal choice.
It admits as really ethical only such acts as result from personal
examination and take place with the approval of the individual
conscience.

The marriage system came into being when this sovereignty of the
individual was scarcely suspected, much less recognised; when souls
were bound by the power of society, and when compulsion was society’s
only means of attaining its ends. Marriage was the halter with which
the racial instinct was tamed, or, in other words, the instinct of
nature was ennobled by being brought into unity with social purpose.

Now love has been developed, the human personality has been developed,
and woman’s powers have been liberated.

On account of woman’s present independent activity and
self-determination outside marriage, the law must provide that the
married woman shall retain her freedom of action by giving her full
authority over her person and property.

On account of the individual’s dislike of being forced into religious
forms that have no meaning for him, the legal form of marriage must be
a civil one.

On account of the individual’s desire of personal choice in actions
that are personally important, the continuance of marriage—as well as
its inception—must depend upon either of the parties and divorce be
thus free; and this all the more, since the new idea of purity implies
that compulsion in this direction is a humiliation.

These are the claims the people of the present day make upon the form
of marriage, if it is to express their personal will and further the
growth of their personality. The actual institution of marriage, on the
other hand, involves forms that have become meaningless and therefore
repulsive, and places the parties under the law in a position with
regard to one another which, looked at ideally, is as far beneath the
merits and dignity of the modern man as it actually is beneath those of
the modern woman.

While thus the development of the ideas of personality and of love
have resulted in these demands of increased liberty for the individual
within marriage, the idea of solidarity and evolutionism, on the other
hand, demand great limitations of individual freedom. The knowledge
that every new being has a right to claim that its life shall be a
real value—as well as knowledge of the right of society that the new
life shall be a valuable one—has involved the demand of prohibiting
marriages which would be dangerous to the children, and of better
protecting the children where there is no marriage or where a marriage
has been dissolved.


The economic factor has in modern society an importance for marriage
which is felt to be more and more degrading as marriage becomes
established on the basis of love.

Marriages inwardly dissolved are now often held together because both
the parties would be in a worse financial position after divorce. The
husband can not or will not make his wife a sufficient allowance; he
is, perhaps, unable to realise her fortune, which he has invested in
his business, or perhaps he has spent it; the wife at marriage has
abandoned an occupation which she cannot now take up again in order to
support herself—and so on to infinity.

But even happy marriages suffer through the wife’s subordinate
position, economically as well as judicially.

It is, therefore, of great importance both in happy and unhappy
marriages that the wife should retain control over her property and
her earnings; that she should be self-supporting in so far as she
can combine this with her duties as a mother, and that she should be
maintained by the community during the first year of each child’s life.
Similar proposals have been made from the socialist side, but also in
other quarters.

A woman ought to be able to claim this subsidy if she can prove:

That she is of full legal age;

That she has performed her equivalent of military service by undergoing
a one year’s training in the care of children and in hygiene, and—if
possible—in nursing the sick;

That she will, herself, care for the children or provide other
efficient care;

That she is without sufficient personal means or earnings to provide
for her own and half of the children’s support, or that she has given
up work for the sake of looking after the children.

Those who are unwilling to conform to the above conditions will not
apply for the subsidy, which naturally cannot be greater than what
is strictly necessary, and which will only in exceptional cases be
distributed for longer than a child’s _three_ first and most important
years.

Those who renounced the subsidy would thus be as a rule the well-to-do,
or those who wished to devote themselves to self-support and thus gave
up, either altogether or after the first year, this help from the
community. The arrangement would fulfil its purpose in those classes of
society where at present the mother’s outdoor work, both in country and
town, involves equally great dangers to herself and the children. The
charges for this most important of defensive taxes ought, like other
similar ones, to be graduated and thus to fall most heavily upon the
rich, but upon the unmarried in the same degree as the married.

Inspection should be carried out by commissioners to be appointed in
every commune, varying in number according to the size of the commune,
but always composed of two-thirds women and one-third men. These
would distribute the subsidy and supervise the care not only of young
children but also of older ones. The mother who neglected her child
would, after three cautions, be deprived of the subsidy and the child
would be taken from her. The same would also apply to other parents who
subjected their children to bodily or mental ill-treatment.

The mother’s maintenance would always amount to the same sum per
annum, but for every child she would receive in addition the half of
its maintenance, until the number of children was reached that the
community might consider desirable from its point of view. Any children
born beyond that number would be the affair of the parents. Every
father would have to contribute a corresponding half of the child’s
maintenance from its birth up to the age of eighteen. At present the
community affords a man help as breadwinner for a family in the form
of higher wages calculated to that end and a rising scale according
to age, which, however, he receives whether he is married or single,
childless or the father of a family. But by paying the subsidy to the
mother, all need of unequal wages for the two sexes would cease, and
the subsidy would really further the purpose that is of importance to
the community: the rearing of the children.

The present system, on the other hand, maintains that most crude
injustice, the difference between legitimate and illegitimate children;
it frees unmarried fathers from their natural responsibility; it drives
unmarried mothers to infanticide, to suicide, to prostitution.

All these conditions would be altered by a law which prescribed that
every mother has a right, under certain conditions, to the support
of the community during the years in which she is bearing the burden
most important to the community; and that every child has a right to
maintenance by both its parents, to the name of both and—so far as
there may be property—to the inheritance of both.

Since the mother must now, with increasing frequency, be a breadwinner
as well as the husband, it is just, even from this point of view, that
she should share with him authority over the children. But since,
furthermore, she has suffered more for them, thus loves them more and
understands them better—and thus, as a rule, not only does more for
them but also means more to them—it is likewise just that, whereas the
mother now has to be satisfied with what power the father allows her,
the conditions should be reversed, so that the mother should receive
the greatest legal authority.

When the husband is not alone in bearing the burden of breadwinner,
there will be a possibility of his duty as educator being realised. He
will then have time to develop his qualities in this direction and the
growing value of his fatherly care and fatherly love will lighten for
the mother the task of education which at present often overwhelms her,
since with a growing consciousness of its responsibility this task is
becoming more and more difficult to perform with her increasing need of
personal freedom of movement.

The mother and child would, therefore, not have to look exclusively
to the father for the necessaries of life, and they could not become
entirely destitute through his incapacity or downfall. But he would,
nevertheless, continue to bear his half of the responsibility and
the family would still be dependent on the father and his voluntary
contributions for a great part of the pleasures of life, while he
would, moreover, be freed from the often unbearable burdens under which
his spiritual worth as a father and his family joys now suffer to so
great a degree. Far from its being the case—as one has heard certain
women declare—that the majority of men are nothing but egoists,
countless numbers of them have borne and still bear burdens of slavery,
not only for wife and children but also for the support of other female
relations. On the other hand, the prevailing system of society has
prompted fathers still more to enslave themselves in order to create
an advantageous position for their children. The existing rights and
duties of a father stand in immediate connection with the right of
inheritance, one of the greatest dangers of our system of society.
For inheritance often keeps inefficiency in a leading position, but
efficiency in a dependent one; it favours the possibility of the
degenerate propagating the race, above all if the parents have died
early, although—as it has been asserted—it is precisely such children
that are the least apt to have offspring. It is unfavourable to the
chances of the efficient in this as in every other direction, where
birth in poor circumstances involves hindrances to education and the
use of personal powers which wealth permits. On the other hand, poverty
favours natural talent, in so far as it braces the capabilities, while
it is often one of the misfortunes of heirs not to experience this
inciting and pleasurable tension. It is only the strongest or the
finest natures that become stronger and finer through the advantages
and the sense of responsibility that inherited wealth brings with it.
In the main, the productive sources of society would be multiplied
upwards as well as downwards, if wealth became personal in the fullest
sense of the word, depending on each person’s contribution of efficient
force, but the goad of acquisitiveness would be broken, through the
limited possibility of increasing one’s wealth and the needlessness of
thereby securing the existence of one’s children. A new system would
do away with the necessity of applying to the state for increase of
salary for the education of children as befits their class. For if all
children were placed in an equal position by the community providing
everything—from school materials to travelling scholarships—for the
complete education of the bodily and mental powers of individuals, an
education in which a true circulation of the classes would take place
by consideration being given only to ability; if each thus had the same
position when all entered upon their different careers; if each had the
same chances of there attaining to the right use of his special powers,
since he had had every means of training them; if society gave—as a
right, not as a charity—to every worker full care during sickness and
full support in old age, then the desire to favour one’s own children
at the cost of the rest would disappear. The father whose activity
had procured him a position of power, which during his lifetime made
his children’s circumstances more favourable than those of a number
of others, would certainly thus be able—and to the advantage of the
whole community—to allow his children to enjoy that differentiation
and refinement which, for instance, the richer culture of their home
might give. But when the right of inheritance disappeared—or at least
was greatly limited and heavily taxed—he could not exempt them from
permanently securing by the exercise of their own powers the advantages
of a higher or lower kind that they had learned to value at home.

When the difference between legitimate and illegitimate children is
abolished in every respect, the paternal home, as in classical and
Scandinavian antiquity, may include more often than at present the
children of more than one living mother; sometimes even a mother’s home
may include children of more than one living father. In either case
this would be a recognition of the children’s rights which would leave
present day customs with respect to children born out of wedlock a long
way behind.


No relation shows better than marriage how morals and emotions may be
centuries in advance of the laws within whose limits they have been
developed.

Many men now show their wives a delicacy of feeling and allow them a
freedom of action which render these fortunate wives unconscious of
the fact that—in the eyes of the law—they possess these only by the
grace of their husbands. It is not until relations become unhappy that
the wife discovers that all the legal power is placed in the hands of
one, who thus has judicial support if he wishes to use his power alone,
to the exclusion of his wife, or if he wishes to misuse it, to the
detriment of her and the children.

That, in spite of these circumstances, married men so often voluntarily
place themselves in a position of equality with their wives in regard
to authority in the home and with the children is the best proof of
the power of the feelings to protect essential values. And that men, in
spite of these marriage laws, have become more and more considerate,
redounds as much to their credit as their success in becoming human
beings—in spite of all hindrances—redounds to that of royal
personages. Just as the latter have more excuse than others when they
abuse their position, so the same is true of the husband, who must be a
very fair-minded person if an _I will_ is not to be the conclusion of
a difference of opinion between himself and his wife; for not even the
tenderest love will hinder the sense of mastery from flaring up in the
face of her obstinate resistance in one direction or another.

To the majority of men, however—and this is the more the case the
lower they are in other respects—the present marriage law still
forms the great hindrance in the way of their development to a higher
humanity. To have wife and child in his power makes of the wicked man
a torturer, of the low-minded a wretch. There is no exaggeration in
Stuart Mill’s words, that so long as the family is based upon laws
which are at variance with the first principles of social life in other
things, the law will be favouring what education and civilisation are
counteracting in other spheres, namely, the right of force instead of
that of personality. Everywhere—in morals as in politics—it is now
held that not what a man becomes through being born in a certain sex
or class, but what he is personally worth determines the respect he
should enjoy; that only his conduct and merits can be the source of his
power and authority. But marriage reverses the whole of this principle
of modern constitutional law and, therefore, the social application of
the principle of personality has not yet gone beyond the surface.

That the law continues to sanction what reality has begun to transform
is, as we have said, of comparatively little weight, since the law
is—in the better sense of the words—a dead letter. But the immediate
danger to the individual and the indirect danger to society become
greater in proportion as the possessor of uncontrolled power is worse,
or the life less ideal in which this authority is decisive. And even
when circumstances are favourable, the authority of the husband is the
more painful to the modern woman in proportion as she is more conscious
of being able to attain only through perfect equality a satisfactory
co-operation with her husband in every direction. It is this profound
vexation of the modern woman with her dependence which, amongst other
things, makes many women, even when they do not need it, wish to remain
at least self-supporting after marriage.

The labour market has hitherto favoured this desire of theirs. It can,
however, only be a question of time when the unmarried women will begin
to thrust out the married ones—owing to the conditions of competition
being more favourable to the former—when legislation has begun to deal
with the present disproportionate state of things, where the wives
lower the wages of the husbands, the children those of the parents,
and the result is the neglect of the homes and the physical and moral
degeneration of the children.

But when married women’s labour has been limited by legal “protection
for mothers”—especially if this takes the form proposed above—and
when, further, the married and the unmarried are protected by the
fixing of a minimum wage, an eight hours’ day, and prohibition of
working at night and in certain industries dangerous to health, then
the mothers will still be able—when their children have passed the
age of infancy—to take part in several occupations. This will be
still more the case if a collective system of dwellings sets them free
from the work of the kitchen and renders possible a good collective
superintendence of the children while their mothers are absent.

But the best thing for the children—especially if by the prohibition
of home work they were rescued from earning a livelihood to the
advantage of their school and home life—would be the liberation of
married women from outside labour through the higher wages of their
husbands, while in return _their home work would acquire the character
of spiritual care_. This would be brought about in the fullest sense
by the mothers being allowed the above-mentioned _subsidy from the
community_ for bringing up the children. In such an arrangement,
approved by the community, the majority might find that agreement
between their occupation and their powers which constitutes the true
joy of work. For it can scarcely be doubted that even now the wife,
as a rule, finds more employment in her home work, however heavy, for
her special talents, and thus finds a greater satisfaction than the
husband, who often slaves, not at the work he has chosen, but at that
he has been able to obtain.

But what, in spite of this, now makes women more and more unwilling
to undertake the duties of the home and to prefer outside work, is
that they carry out their domestic work under conditions derogatory to
themselves.

First and foremost, women are determined to enjoy the facilities in
their domestic work which here and there are already beginning to be
provided. These, however, will probably not become general until women
make more use of their capacity for thinking out the most convenient
and agreeable methods, both for labour-saving co-operation and for
the performance of domestic duties, which will in any case always
remain; and this again necessitates their educating themselves to a
real knowledge of the questions of consumption and other details of
modern household management. This will be the more necessary as the
servant problem within a short time will have reached that point at
which women of all classes will have to choose between doing the work
themselves and the complete dissolution of the home. Woman’s domestic
work and the care of children will be facilitated for all women only in
so far as the educated agree in making new and higher demands in the
matter of domestic arrangements as well as in practical and ornamental
appliances. They would thus not only further their own work, but also
evoke a higher culture as regards beauty and appropriateness, both in
architecture and industry.

But this is not enough to enable domestic work to regain its dignity.

This will not take place until society shows such appreciation of
woman’s domestic work as shall remove her present sense of being kept
by her husband to perform a subordinate work, a work which does not
receive the appreciation which at the present time has become the
absolute standard of the economical value of labour, that of a money
wage.

The existing institution of marriage came into being when woman had no
real field of employment outside the home, since its income was for the
most part received in kind, and the wife was thus indispensable for
turning it to account. Her domestic activity was of great value from
the point of view of national economy, and under these circumstances
the joint estate was natural. Furthermore, the mistress of the
house possessed at this time—as manager of the consumption of the
commodities she had prepared from raw materials—a freedom of action
and an authority which she now quite naturally lacks in her own eyes
and those of her husband. It is of no avail that she has a legal
right to be supported by her husband according to his position and
circumstances; for if her task frequently consists simply in asking her
husband for money and keeping an account of its expenditure through
the cook and the needlewoman, she has reason to feel herself kept in a
humiliating way. Neither indirectly nor directly is it through her work
that the food comes to the table or the clothes are fitted to the body,
since the husband alone earns the means wherewith she—efficiently or
otherwise—keeps house.

For this reason wives are becoming increasingly desirous of personally
earning a livelihood. They see how their husbands are developed through
devotion to a profession, through the patience, the accumulation, and
tension of forces which this demands. And only professional training,
in the opinion of modern woman, can give her the same energy, only a
direct income can give her the same certainty of her fitness for work.

But there is another expedient which would afford these advantages
without, however, driving women away from home, namely, that their
special training for, and their work in, the field of housekeeping and
the care of children should be as serious as in any other occupation.
Not until she has a sense of the new value of her domestic work will
the wife be able to demand that it shall be economically estimated like
any other efficient work.

When wives speak of the humiliation of being kept by their
husbands—since they have more and more frequently been self-supporting
before marriage—their husbands always become profoundly idealistic.
They use fine words about the wife’s important mission, the adapting
power of love, until one asks some particular man: whether any love
could make it pleasant _for him_, instead of drawing his own income,
to be obliged to ask his wife for what she considered necessary for
their joint expenditure or for his own. In spite of the consciousness
of having herself brought wealth, or in spite of the knowledge of
constantly making important contributions of work in the home, the
necessity of asking for money is the wife’s unbearable torment. For
the husband in his heart has often the same feeling as she; that
work nowadays means earning money outside, since the management
of an income—in spite of its immense importance to the strength,
health, and comfort of the workers and thus indirectly to the whole
national economy—is more and more overlooked. In part this idea of
the husband is due to the very fact that women have not acquired the
new kind of domesticity which is necessary for the efficient conduct
of expenditure, and that the husband is, therefore, often right in
thinking that his wife neither works nor saves, but only wastes.

However touchingly idealistic a girl may be in this question before
marriage; however confidingly she allows her husband to handle her
fortune, after a few years of married life experience will turn her
into a complete realist. However happy she has otherwise been, she
will, nevertheless, remember more than one occasion when she has
bitterly regretted the absence of the freedom of action a separate
income gives; when, for instance, her husband has refused to allow her
to use—for some ideal purpose or other—the means which in many cases
she herself brought him, and how perhaps this for the first time really
made a division between them.

The dependence of woman can only be abolished through the _economic
appreciation of her domestic work_. This appreciation is an easy matter
when she has left a salaried employment for her domestic duties, for
the performance of the latter must be regarded as worth at least as
much as her occupation formerly brought her. Where there is no such
measure of value, she ought to receive the same amount as a stranger in
corresponding circumstances would receive in salary and cost of keep.

The wife would thus be able to meet her personal expenditure, her share
in the joint housekeeping and in the maintenance of the children, when
the subsidy for this purpose came to an end but the couple were agreed
that the wife’s work at home was of such value that she ought rather to
continue it than to try to earn money outside.

The carrying out of this arrangement need not cause any dislocation of
existing conditions. The wife would continue to manage the domestic
funds to which each would contribute according to agreement, but she
would probably be better able to solve the problem of making them
suffice for their joint expenses. She would be perfectly free to forego
her allowance, as her husband would be to increase it according to
need and ability. The direct economical appreciation of her domestic
work would transform her own and her husband’s respect for it and
thus give wives, on the one hand, a sense of independence which even
the conscientious are now without, on the other, a sense of duty
which in the case of the less conscientious is doubtless in need of
strengthening; for the existing arrangement favours not only domestic
tyranny on the part of the husbands, but also inefficiency on the
part of certain wives. But the fact that a small number of women of
the upper class now do no work at all in the home, or that a number
of others do it badly, must not obscure the truth that innumerable
women are constantly expending in their homes great sums of working
power, without being able legally to claim any corresponding income
of their own. This applies not only to the wives but also to the
daughters of the house, who often work from morning till night, but
are nevertheless obliged to accept as gifts from their parents all
that they personally need, and thus also have to do without anything
that their parents consider unnecessary. The same is true of the wife
in relation to her husband. When unmarried—whether she was in private
or public service, a factory hand or a clerk—she had the chance
of in some measure providing for her own interests. When married,
every present she gives, every contribution she makes for a public
purpose, every book she buys, every amusement she allows herself, has
to be taken from her husband’s money. The wife who, in a farmer’s
home perhaps, saves thousands—both by economy and by the direct
contribution of her labour—frequently has not a silver piece at her
disposal.

This dependence, as we have said, now drives wives and daughters
from their homes to earn a livelihood, which often does not by any
means compensate economically for the loss of their work at home. But
they simply cannot endure to be without the personal income, which
to them has become a more and more important value, according as
their general freedom of movement and their needs in other directions
have increased—above all, through increase of education and social
interests.

Woman’s present unpaid position in domestic work is an obsolete
survival from earlier conditions of housekeeping and production, as
from the ecclesiastical doctrine that woman was created to be man’s
helpmate and he to be her head. Women have thus often received worse
heads than nature gave them—and thereby man has had less valuable help
than life intended for him.

Not until an incorruptible realism establishes the principle within
the family as elsewhere, that each retains his own head and that every
labourer is worthy of his hire, will idealism find there a full field
for unforced generosity in the free will of mutual help.

While what is said above applies to all women who wish to work at
home, it need not apply to those who are able through the fortune they
brought with them to meet their household expenses and those of the
children and who wish in return to be free from the trouble of domestic
work.

Every attempt at mediation in the question of married women’s
property—such as an obligatory marriage settlement and similar
proposals—only introduces endless complications. It will be simple and
clear only when—as in Russia even from the time of Catherine II—the
woman simply retains her fortune. The law ought to express the great
principle, that either party owns what is his or hers, while those,
on the other hand, who desire to introduce another arrangement, must
decide by contract how much of the property is to be held jointly.

Only a separation of property carried out as a principle will be
able to form the new and clear ideas of justice that the present
time demands. A separate estate places two individuals side by side,
co-operating with the freedom that is enjoyed by a brother and sister
or two friends. Both parties retain full right of decision and full
responsibility. Either leaves transactions to the other only in that
degree that the other’s qualities have won his confidence. Both show
each other mutual consideration in the planning of joint undertakings
and neither can be drawn into such without a personal examination.
The rights of a third party are, in these circumstances, equally
well protected as when brothers and sisters or friends work or live
together. For the mutual transactions of married people must to this
end have the same publicity as all other similar transactions between
business partners.


Not only as regards her property, but also in her full civil rights
and the disposition of her person, the married woman must be placed on
an equal footing with the unmarried. It is true that the law is not so
favourable as many people believe to “conjugal rights.” But this belief
has survived for centuries and in turn influences morals; moreover,
it is not without a certain legal support, in case such a question is
brought into court. As a rule, of course, this does not happen, but, on
the other hand, the idea of legality—which is further encouraged by
the Bible—influences the husband’s sense of right and the wife’s sense
of duty. So long as the law maintains even a shadow of “rights” in that
relation which ought to be the most voluntary of all, it involves a
gross violation of love’s freedom.

This—like all other obsolete laws—is meaningless to the erotically
refined, who live above the law’s standpoint. But the lower the
level, the more certainly does the husband enforce his “right” under
circumstances the most repulsive or most dangerous to the wife, just
as—contrary to his present right—he extorts from her the earnings of
her labour.

No law will be able to hinder the wife from continuing voluntarily to
allow her husband to violate her person, squander her property, or ruin
her children; for the law cannot seal up the sources of weakness and
conflict which arise from the human being’s own nature.

But what we have a right to demand of the marriage law is that it shall
cease itself to extend these sources.

The law must be so contrived that it leaves to happiness the greatest
possible freedom for its own formative power, while, on the other hand,
it limits as far as possible the consequences of unhappiness; and this
can be brought about only by each party’s complete independence of the
other.

It is, therefore, not sufficient that the husband’s guardianship and
the wife’s legal incapacity should cease. Every provision also which
has for its object to bind the wife by her husband’s condition and
circumstances must be revoked.

The majority of men now cherish the belief that a wife who leaves her
husband’s house can be brought back with the aid of the law. This is,
doubtless, a mistake. But even if the letter of the law in this case
also is better than the popular idea of it, the whole spirit of the
law, nevertheless, entails the obligation of married people to live
together.

The more personality is developed, however, the more uncertain
it becomes that every person’s erotic needs are answered by this
arrangement. There are, on the contrary, such natures as would have
loved for life, if they had not, day after day, year after year, been
forced to adapt their wills, their habits, and their opinions to
one another. Nay, many misfortunes depend upon pure trifles, which
two people with courage and foresight might easily have dealt with,
if the instinct of happiness had not been silenced by consideration
for convention. The more a woman has enjoyed personal liberty before
marriage, the less she can endure not to have a moment or a corner in
her home which she can call her own. And the more the people of the
present day enlarge their individual freedom of movement, their need of
solitude in other respects, the more will both man and woman enlarge
them in marriage.

But even if those desiring solitude remain in the minority, they must
still be granted both by the law and by public opinion full liberty to
shape their married life according to their own requirements.

Conventionality and mental inertness pronounce this unheard-of, even
immoral. On the other hand, it is regarded as equally natural and moral
that the majority of sailors and commercial travellers should live for
the greater part of the year apart from their wives; that journeys for
scientific or artistic purposes should separate married people for
years, or that—in exceptional cases—one of them, for instance, should
spend the winters as a gymnast in England while the other is a teacher
in Sweden.

All these things, it is thought, are nothing but external necessities.
And to these one always submits! Ought we not, nevertheless, to find
room for the thought that there may also be necessities of the soul?

Our time, for instance, tends more and more to bring together artists
who work at different, or, still more often, at the same art. The
nerves of both are worn in the same way; both need the same freedom of
movement and the same undisturbed quiet. But in the claims of everyday
life for mutual sympathy and mutual consideration, nearly all their
spiritual energy is used up. They see that, if they are not to consume
one another’s mental resources, they must adopt a system of spiritual
separation, which is possible only at a certain distance. The holiday
happiness of these natures may be rapturous, the sympathetic union of
their souls richer than any others. But each feels for the other what
is expressed by one of Shakespeare’s joyous young women, when she calls
a suitor “too costly for every day’s wear.” Each is tempted at times
to exclaim, like another young woman in a modern book: “I want to be
able to say, let me now for three weeks be altogether free from loving
you”—since each knows that this freedom would only renew the feeling.
But now married people are bound by custom to a common life, which
often ends in their separating for ever, simply because conventional
considerations prevented their living apart.

Natures of other types may also feel the constraint of narrow
dependence, enforced association, the daily accommodations and constant
considerations. More people ought, therefore, quietly to begin
reforming matrimonial customs, so that they may more nearly correspond
to the need of renewal just alluded to. Let each, for instance, travel
separately, if he or she feels the desire of solitude; let one visit
by himself the entertainment the other does not care for, but formerly
either forced herself to, or kept the other from visiting. More and
more married people have separate bedrooms. And in another generation
perhaps separate dwellings will have ceased to attract attention.

Companionship on week-days as on holidays, co-operation in the
satisfaction of everyday claims as well as of life’s highest purposes,
will, nevertheless, continue to be the form of married life chosen by
the majority, even when public opinion has left room for other systems
of living. But full freedom for the latter will not be won till the law
ceases to place any limit to the self-determination of each partner in
marriage.

Another matter that ought to be left to personal decision is the
degree of publicity that is to be given to a matrimonial union. An
otherwise conservative father of a family once put forward the weighty
reasons which might be in favour of keeping secret a marriage that was,
nevertheless, intended to be fully legal. Amongst the reasons which
now frequently cause the postponement of a marriage are, for instance,
the necessity of completing studies, or reluctance to hasten, through
sorrow, the death of parents or others. The possibility of not having
to publish the union in these or similar cases would spare the lovers
unnecessary waiting without in any way encroaching on the rights of
others.

Further, to personal determination belong not only free divorce but
also new forms of divorce. As divorce itself has been treated in the
last chapter, we will speak here only of the method of it. The wife’s
infidelity, as well as the husband’s right to refuse divorce, at
present frequently affords an opportunity for blackmail on the part of
the husband from his wife, who, in the latter case, has to buy her
freedom, and in both cases often has to buy permission to keep her
children. The husband, too, may be exposed to blackmailing by a wife
who refuses divorce or who can prove his infidelity and tries to take
from him the children, whom he knows to be exposed to corruption in
her hands. But, since society and nature favour the man’s infidelity,
while both are against that of the woman, it is in the nature of the
case that the wife often has difficulty in proving the husband’s
infidelity, while he can prove hers easily. His repeated acts of
unfaithfulness have, perhaps, been the cause of her single one. But it
is, nevertheless, he—since there is no valid evidence against him—who
has the children assigned to him, or, it may be, sells them to his wife.

The same applies to divorce on account of “hatred and ill-will.” Before
a court which cannot test the reasons that have most spiritual weight,
but only the evidence that has most to say, all the details of married
life have to be dragged forth, all its wounds inspected. The evidence
which, as a rule, is decisive is that of servants! The profoundest
spiritual concerns of educated people are thus made to depend upon the
opinion of uneducated persons on all the complicated circumstances of
an unhappy marriage. And not only this: the result in most cases is
determined by the indelicacy with which the husband and wife have drawn
their servants and their acquaintances into the conflict. If husband
or wife has summoned the servants to witness violent behaviour, then
that party is in a much better position in an action for divorce than
the one who has sought to the utmost to preserve the dignity of their
marriage. There are, moreover, some sufferings of which no proof can be
produced. Such, for instance, is misuse of “conjugal rights”; another
is the power of either party, under forms of outward politeness, to
make life entirely worthless to the other; a third, the constant
opposition of two conflicting views of life.

It is only in the case of the grossest and most palpable evils that
it is now possible to furnish the necessary evidence without such
difficulties as—both in the granting of divorce and in the disposal of
the children—may give rise to the grossest injustice. And all this is
only a part of the humiliations and sufferings which now—especially
for the wife—attend a divorce. Finally, an action for divorce is
sufficiently expensive to render it on this account alone a matter
of great difficulty for many people in poor circumstances to obtain
justice.

Such a system of divorce—which makes either partner dependent on the
worst qualities of the other; which calls forth all that is indelicate
in the nature of both; which drags their weaknesses and sufferings
before the eyes of strangers, and which, nevertheless, provides no real
protection for the children—such a system ought to give no thoughtful
person peace until its degrading and deteriorating influence is
abolished and a new system, which shall protect both personal dignity
and the children, introduced.


In looking back upon the preceding, it would seem to result clearly
that nothing that has been said here contemplates the establishment of
a single form—recognised as the only moral one—for sexual life. But
since only the fixity possessed by the law is capable of transforming
in a profound and permanent manner the feelings and customs of the
majority, there is need, for the present, of a new law to support the
growth of the higher feelings which will finally render any marriage
law unnecessary.

In connection with the course of development of sexual morality it
was pointed out that the ecclesiastical and legal establishment of
the ideal of monogamy as _the only form of sexual morality_ has had
for its result the unconditional acquiescence in the idea that the
claims of evolution are in complete agreement with existing laws and
customs; with the further result that we are now—through the want of
a recognised right to manifold experience—almost in the same position
of ignorance as to the form of sexual morality most favourable to the
development of the race, as we were a thousand years ago, and that,
therefore, the vital needs of the race as well as the individual’s
demands of happiness speak for a more extended right to such
experiences.

No one knows whether, at the end of the new paths, we shall not again
be confronted by the riddle of the sphinx: how the parents are to avoid
being sacrificed for the children or the children for the parents. The
one thing certain is that on the path we have hitherto followed we have
arrived at the sphinx. And all those who have been torn to pieces at
its feet are witnesses that on this path mankind did not arrive at the
solution of the riddle.

The point of view which has here, throughout, been the leading one
is, that in the same degree as life itself becomes the meaning of
life human beings will also in all their sensations and all their
undertakings become more and more conscious of regard for the race.
It is thus only a question of time when the respect of society for a
sexual union shall not depend upon the form of cohabitation that makes
a couple of human beings become parents, but only upon the value of the
children they thus create as new links in the chain of generations. Men
and women will then dedicate to their mental and bodily fitness for
the mission of the race the same religious earnestness that Christians
devote to the salvation of their souls. Instead of divine codes of the
morality of sexual relations, the desire of, and responsibility for,
the enhancement of the race will be the support of morals. But the
knowledge of the parents that the meaning of life is also in their
own lives, that they thus do not exist solely for the sake of their
children, may liberate them from other duties of conscience which at
present bind them in respect of the children, above all that of keeping
up a union in which they themselves perish. The home may then more than
at present be synonymous with the mother, which—far from excluding the
father—contains the germ of a new and higher “right of the family.”

When every life is regarded as an end in itself from the point of view
that it can never be lived again; that it must, therefore, be lived as
completely and greatly as possible; when every personality is valued
as an asset in life that has never existed before and will never occur
again, then also the erotic happiness or unhappiness of a human being
will be treated as of greater importance, and not to himself alone. No,
it will be so also to the whole community—through the life and the
work his happiness may give the race or his unhappiness deprive it of.

For himself, as well as for others, the individual will then examine
the right of renouncing happiness as conscientiously as he now submits
to the duty of bearing unhappiness. The importance to children of their
parents’ life together will depend upon the kind of life it is, when
it has been seen that when all is said the new generation has most to
gain by love being always and everywhere set up as the condition of the
highest worth of cohabitation.

This is the rich promise that the new path offers; but the majority
cannot see the promise on account of the possible new dangers. It is
this dread that still paralyses the courage to dare the untried, in
order to win the valuable.

It is astonishing that those who tremble for the future never seek
consolation in the past. They would there find, for example, that when
the family ceased to be the match-maker, when the guardian could no
longer keep a woman in a position of legal incapacity and prevent her
marrying—then there were prophecies of exactly the same “dissolution
of society and of the family” as are now dreaded in freer forms of
matrimony. But the same people who now laugh at the former forebodings
are convinced that the latter will be realised; for man believes in
nothing so reluctantly as in his own nature’s power of replacing
outward bonds with inner ones. And yet, long before the new forms are
ready, there is an abundance of the new feelings which are to fill
them. Nothing is more certain than that, if feelings were no better
than laws, we should never have new laws (Mill). But human beings
will never believe in the possibilities of development of their own
feelings until they leave off seeking their strength from above. They
will never have faith in themselves as pathfinders until they no longer
believe themselves “guided.” As soon as a change has taken place, it is
regarded “historically,” as a given consequence of “rational” causes
and “divine” guidance. But to look historically at the future; to trust
in regard to what has not yet happened to the given consequences—for
good and evil—of the same constantly operating causes, this does not
occur to the guardians of society. Their belief in God’s guidance is
always—retrospective.

The believers in Life, on the other hand, know that vital needs were
the productive soil of the feelings that gave the pith to those laws,
whereof now only the straw remains. But the earth has not exhausted
its powers of fertility, any more than the feelings have lost their
creative force. The believers in Life, therefore, attach small
importance to the old straw, but consider the increasing of the earth’s
productiveness of supreme significance.

A great and healthy will to live is what our time needs in the matter
of the erotic emotions and claims. It is here that there is a menace of
real dangers from the woman’s side; and it is, amongst other things, to
avert these dangers that new forms of marriage must be created.

A human material increasing in value and in capacity for
development—this is what the earth will produce. The chances of
obtaining this may be decreased under fixed, but favoured under freer,
forms of sexual life. It is not only because the present day demands
more freedom that these claims are full of promise. They are so
because the claims are coming nearer and nearer to the kernel of the
question—the certainty that love is the most perfect condition for
the life-enhancement of the race and of the individual—and because
the present time acknowledges the necessity of temporarily limiting
freedom, though only by means of laws which will form an education in
love.

Such a law must, for the sake of woman’s liberty, deprive man of
certain of his present rights; for the sake of the children, limit the
present liberty both of man and woman. But these limitations will all
be to the final profit of love.


Those who believe in the perfectibility of mankind for and through love
must, however, learn to reckon not in hundreds of years, and still less
in tens, but in thousands.



FOOTNOTES:


  [1] Many of the facts in the foregoing pages are taken from a
  detailed biographical pamphlet on Ellen Key by J. F. D. Mossel
  in the series of _Mannen en Vrouwen von Beteekenis in Onze
  Dagen_. The reader may be referred to an interesting account
  of Ellen Key, from personal knowledge, by Miss Helen Zimmern,
  in _Putnam’s Magazine_, Jan., 1908.

  [2] In England, Tennyson, in _The Princess_, was the first to
  give to “the new woman” her name and to speak of her objects,
  and many others began in the middle of the last century
  indirectly to develop the idea of love, especially Elizabeth
  Barrett Browning, the sisters Brontë, and Miss Muloch among
  women writers. Robert Browning, George Meredith, and other
  great poets among the men have also furthered it indirectly.
  In later days, George Egerton in _Rosa Amorosa_ and Edward
  Carpenter in _Love’s Coming of Age_ have, in their different
  ways, given a remarkable treatment of the evolution of love.
  _Woman Free_ by Ellis Ethelmer, _A Noviciate for Marriage_ by
  Edith M. Ellis, _The Woman Who Did_ by Grant Allen, belong to
  the same group of writings.

  [3] Walt Whitman.

  [4] As far as England is concerned I will here only remind my
  readers of Galton’s contributions to this subject; of Geddes
  and Thomson’s _Evolution of Sex_; of Havelock Ellis’s _Man and
  Woman, Sex in Relation to Society_, etc.

  [5] See _Woman and Economics_ and later works by this American
  authoress, who has many adherents in Europe as well as in
  America.

  [6] Every English reader knows what Dickens achieved in this
  respect. I will only remind them here of Hannah Lynch’s
  (anonymously published) _Autobiography of a Child_.

  [7] Before 1857, no legal divorce in the usual meaning of
  the term existed in England. The ecclesiastical courts could
  grant a sort of “divorce from bed and board,” whereupon
  the aggrieved party could get rid of his unfaithful half
  by a special Act of Parliament in each particular case. As
  a consequence, only very wealthy people could afford this
  luxury, for it cost immense sums to get a special motion of
  this kind through Parliament. The further injustice prevailed,
  that in practice this course was open only to men, not to
  women.

  It was, moreover, with the greatest difficulty that Palmerston
  succeeded in carrying the reform of 1857. The friends of
  reform urged above all that the old law was unjust to poor
  people, and that among both rich and poor it had become
  increasingly common to marry again in an illegal way, so that
  in the eyes of the law thousands of people in England were
  living in bigamy.

  The new law of 1857 introduced a separate secular court for
  divorce causes, divorce was made legal, and the possibility of
  taking advantage of it was placed within the reach of others
  than the wealthiest.

  But the experience of fifty years has shown that divorce
  procedure is still altogether too costly for the poor, and
  entails an infinity of time and trouble. Furthermore, a number
  of revolting injustices remain.

  Thus, for instance, a wife cannot obtain legal divorce from
  her husband either because he is an habitual drunkard, or an
  incurable lunatic, or is imprisoned for life for some grave
  crime, or has abandoned his home and refused to contribute to
  the support of his wife and children! The most she can obtain
  under such circumstances is a judicial separation—which makes
  it possible for either party to enter into any illegitimate
  connection they please. A husband can obtain divorce from his
  wife if he can prove a single case of infidelity on her part;
  but the wife cannot obtain divorce from her husband even if
  he can be proved to be living in continual adultery. In order
  to get rid of him she must be able to prove that he has been
  guilty of cruelty towards her or has deserted her for a period
  of two years.

  The worst thing is that the greater offence is punished far
  more leniently than the less. A wife can get a judicial
  separation on account of her husband’s infidelity, but loses
  therewith the right of proceeding against him for divorce,
  and neither she nor her husband may marry again. But if the
  husband has also been guilty of cruelty to her, she obtains a
  divorce, and then both she and her husband are at liberty to
  remarry. The man who deceives his wife is not free to marry
  another; but if he both deceives her and beats her, he is
  divorced and may marry again!

  In general the opponents of the existing law declare that
  it contributes powerfully to the formation of illegitimate
  connections.

  [8] These details refer, of course, to the Swedish
  law.—TRANSLATOR.


THE END





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