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CELIBACY AND THE STRUGGLE TO GET ON.
THE end-of-the-century young man is on his trial. The lady novelist is his judge, and the jury, packed largely with New Women, will have little hesitation in finding him guilty. Manifold are his crimes, if but the half one hears be true. He is selfish, luxurious, effeminate, and vicious. He has no pluck. The modern analytical spirit has so paralysed his natural impulses that he cannot make up his mind to propose. He tyrannises abominably over poor, weak, defenceless woman. He is overfond of his club. To sum up, he is a worthless and somewhat disgusting creature, and Woman the New Woman rebelling against her natural instincts, will no more seek intercourse with him, but rather shrink from him with aversion and loathing.
The indictment is a heavy one, and it is variously framed. It is. chiefly contained in the works of the new female school of physiologico - psychological fiction, with which novel-readers are becoming so unpleasantly familiar. The neurotic story has long since supplanted the erotic. We are forced now to read of heredity and pathology, of diseased babies, and of anæmic, morbidly introspective damsels full of self-torturings and soul-questionings. Formerly the French and Scandinavian novelists, with their numerous male imitators, had this field to themselves, but now the "monstrous regiment of women," who have carried by storm so many man- garrisoned citadels, have invaded the domain. of pathological story-telling. And, strange as it seems, the novelreading public, or at any rate the female section of it, seems to prefer
As these highly seasoned stories are presumably written with a lofty moral purpose, one is forcibly reminded of Swift's epigram, that "nice persons are persons of nasty ideas." They are written by ladies for ladies, and paterfamilias will be wise if, before taking one of them up, he first ascertains from his daughters whether it is fit for him to read. As a rule, he is so much more easily shocked than they. Besides, his ears may tingle and his feelings be harrowed when he finds what nasty things the lady novelist has been saying about him and his unregenerate male compeers. According to her, Man is a vile, degraded being, diseased and enfeebled, as a rule, both in. mind and body, and in every respect
thoroughly objectionable. No de- male creature shudders to contemcent-minded girl ought to touch plate. Probably they are very inhim with a barge-pole. The ladies significant. It is, however, conhave picked and pulled his char- soling to know that, while men acter to pieces till he has not a have been thus shrinking to their rag of reputation left, and he true proportions, the ladies are stands naked, so to speak, yet, I regret to say, not ashamed. His most truculent critic, as every one knows, is Mrs Sarah Grand, though Mr Grant Allen has recently added that shrill vox clamantium of his to the feminine clamour against the wickedness of his sex.1 Mrs Grand gave us a taste of her quality in 'The Heavenly Twins,' but she has since greatly improved on that peculiar performance. The modern Caliban, the Man of the Moment, finds his ugly lineaments vividly portrayed by her with a hand that does not spare. She has ruthlessly torn aside the veil which hitherto shrouded his iniquities, and he stands revealed, like Mokanna, in his utter repulsiveness. "Here-judge if Hell, with all its power to damn,
Can add one curse to the foul thing I
He raised the veil the maid turned slowly round; Looked at him-shrieked-and sunk upon the ground!"
The modern woman shrieks, like Zelica, on beholding the monster (was there a Shrieking Sisterhood even in those days, I wonder?), and probably joins the Pioneer Club.
A volume might be filled with the flowers of Mrs Grand's vituperative rhetoric, but I cannot refrain from culling a few of her choicer and more recent specimens. "Man," she tells us, "has shrunk to his true proportions" in the eyes of the ladies. What those proportions may be the shrinking
expanding to theirs "-subaudi, I imagine, in their own eyes also. For we are told with refreshing frankness that, in spite of the decay of male manners and morals, "the manners of the New Woman are perfect." I would we could say the same of her literary style! To the just modern girl thus made perfect in manners "the man of the moment is not of much account." A strong dislike for him is arising in her mind. She makes merry over him, and thinks him "a subject both for contempt and pity." For is he not "a skulking creature - indolent, feeble, and nerveless? Does he not lie long abed, while the New Woman is up and doing? Does he not " 'grow ever more effeminate "? Small wonder, then, that to the New Woman "he appears a common creature, of no ideals, deficient in breadth and depth, and only of a boundless assurance." >> he appears as a suitor, or "candidate for marriage," does he cease to puff himself out and comport himself with proper humility. And we may be quite sure that the girl of the period will not. accept him unless he can show a certificate-medical or otherwise
of a blameless life, from which one gathers that the world must be getting in a parlous state. For if, as it seems, man is almost uniformly vicious, and woman will only wed such as have no "horrid past," the human race must be in some danger of final extinction. Perhaps in view of its widespread
1 See The Humanitarian' for September, and 'The North American Review' for March and May.
One feels tempted to ask what is Mrs Grand's warrant for the assertion that men "grow ever more effeminate," and that idleness and luxury are making them flabby? From the physical point of view the evidence all points in the contrary direction. The records of athleticism, so far as they can be taken as a guide, seem to prove that man is improving rather than degenerating. The spirit of adventure is as rife as ever, though the field for its exercise of necessity becomes more limited. Even your young Guardsman, who is usually represented as the type of all that is lazy and dissolute, is not behindhand in volunteering for a Soudan or Nile campaign whenever he gets the chance. Men are as ready as ever to risk their lives in distant travel and exploration, if only for amusement. In the Alps, the Caucasus, the Andes, and the Himalayas, peaks are scaled and climbing feats performed which twenty
ago would have been deemed impossible. I do not say that all these things are wise or admirable; but at least they are evidence of latent energy that must have an outlet somehow, of steam that must find its vent somewhere. When we come to the moral sphere one is on less
sure ground. Here we are forced to descend to generalities, and in this field one is necessarily somewhat at a disadvantage when arguing with a lady. No doubt we are less impulsive in these ratiocinative days; but, speaking generally, I should say there is more serious purpose in men's lives than formerly, and also a greater desire to do some good in the world. If there is less plain living, there is also more high thinking. It would be strange were it otherwise in our altruistic age, when the worship of humanity in one form or another is so prevalent.
Of course, as I have said, all this cannot be proved. I am merely stating my views in opposition to those of the lady novelists concerning the moral degradation of the masculine creature. Happily, however, his feminine censors do not leave him without hope of consolation in the future. Fallen as the big baby Man is, Womanthe New Woman- "holds out a strong hand to the child-man, and insists, but with infinite tenderness and pity, upon helping him up." Our feelings in return, Mrs Grand may rest assured, will be those of unutterable regard and gratitude. From our clubs, from the moral gutters where we lie wallowing, we will stretch forth our hands to meet those of the lady novelist and her angel helpmates. With "infinite tenderness" will we welcome their clasp, and when they have assisted us to rise and set us on our legs again-why, words fail to express the emotions we shall experience then.
Now all this, with much more to the same effect, is of course intensely comical, and none the less so because the humour is so obviously unconscious. The question naturally suggests itself, however, Why is the "trumpet of sexual
revolt being blown so shrilly and continuously? What is all the pother about? Does it represent any real feeling or want, or is it merely one of those passing duststorms which sweep periodically across the barren wilderness of magazine and newspaper controversy ? According to one lady critic1 there is nothing new in the Woman Question, which existed. as far back as the days of King Charles the Second. It is the same old trumpet that is being blown, only different performers are exercising their lungs upon it. In other words, the New Woman is no more of a novelty than, let us say, Mrs Humphry Ward's new theological ideas. This is quite possible, though I cannot help thinking that woman's rebellion in its latest form springs from the altered conditions of contemporary social existence. If "the sex are going on strike there is a reason for it. I may be wrong, but I suspect that the movement arises in the main from the celibate tendencies of modern mankind. What is called the Sex Problem, or the Woman Question, resolves itself largely into the question of marriage. In the words of Mrs Grand, "the Woman Question is the Marriage Question." To speak plainly, man's chief crime in the average woman's eyes is that he does not marry her. This is the head and front of his offending, though, as we have seen, many other crimes are laid at his door. Herein we have the real origin of the revolt of the daughters, as the perfectly natural demand of the girls for rather more liberty is somewhat unreasonably called. Matrimony has ceased to be the sole aim and end of women's lives. In not a few cases it is not an aim
at all. Many women are unable, and some have no desire, to marry. This being so, small blame to them if they are rebelling against the tyranny of the chaperon, who not unfrequently is more youthful than her charges both in years and discretion. No wonder that they are calling out for latch-keys, Wanderjähre, rational bicycling costumes, new religions, boxes at the musichalls, and a variety of other hitherto forbidden joys and privileges. They ask to be allowed sufficient freedom to follow their bent, to develop their own personalities and talents, so that when man comes up humbly and submissively as a "candidate for marriage" they may be free to take him or leave him just as they please. If, as is highly probable, he does not come at all, they will be perfectly well able to get along without him. Nobody now thinks that a woman has necessarily missed her mark in life merely because she never marries. In the days that are to be, let us hope, the girl of the moment, if Mrs Grand will permit me to coin the phrase, will never be tempted to make a loveless match merely to secure emancipation from burdensome home restraints.
All this, in my humble opinion, is quite as it should be. In fact it would seem to be the inevitable outcome of our altered social conditions, now that marriage is so notably on the decline. And one may well hold these views without committing oneself to approval of the ravings of the New Woman or the prancing of the over-advanced girl. I do not know whether Mrs Grand means to give us an accurate description of the chaste and delicate communings of the modern maiden who, we are told, says in her heart, "Don't offer me the
1 Mrs Gosse in the 'New Review.'
mutilated remains of a man," or, "I shall never marry unless I can find a man of honour with no horrid past." If, however, such a maiden exists, I fancy that in the majority of cases she will be spared the pain of refusing her unwelcome suitor. In the words of the old song, slightly altered,
66 6 'Nobody asked you, Miss,' he said." In future times, perhaps, the bashful girl of the period will come forward herself as a "candidate for marriage"; but at present, in flat contradiction of the French proverb, man no longer proposes. Many and varied are the reasons given for his remissness. The subject has been frequently ventilated, and, "Why men don't marry" has more than once formed the theme of a copious newspaper correspondence. Some attribute it to the selfishness and luxury of the "skulking" male creature; others to his shilly-shally and want of pluck; others, again, lay the blame on those odious clubs. One brutal person of my acquaintance says it is all the fault of the modern girl, who has such expensive and luxurious habits; but then I do not hesitate to characterise him as a 66 man of the moment" of the worst possible description! Mr Grant Allen in his Post-Prandial Philosophy' disagrees with them all. He thinks that in most things the modern young man is an improvement on his progenitors, but he nevertheless discerns in him a distinct and disastrous weakening of the matrimonial impulse. He attributes the present crisis in the English marriagemarket to the cumulative effect of nervous over - excitement, consequent upon the wear and tear of modern existence. Tot homines quot sententiæ: no two people can agree as to the cause; only the dis
tressing fact remains, patent to all mothers of marriageable girls. The decline of marriage is, in fact, a new social phenomenon that has to be reckoned with and, if possible, explained.
For my own part, I doubt whether any of these things have much to do with the celibate tendencies of the latter-day male. They are very possibly contributory causes, though I cannot but think that their influence is greatly exaggerated. The real reason must be sought in the bad times, in the gloom and uncertainty of the present business outlook. I do not believe that the men of our day are any more misogamists than their forefathers. They are not so romantic, perhaps, for they have lost most of their illusions; but their instincts are no less sound and healthy. They remain bachelors, not because they are selfish and vicious, but because they cannot afford the luxury of a wife. Of my own rich or well-to-do friends by far the larger proportion are married, which would seem to point to the permanence of the matrimonial impulses, so long as the means for satisfying them exist. For most of the others a state of single blessedness is a matter of, dire necessity, or at any rate of ordinary prudence. Never was a living so difficult to make as now; never, from a monetary point of view, was the prospect more cheerless. Never was there so much distress in the upper classes, or so many families among the multitude of the outwardly well-to-do struggling to make both ends meet. Mrs Grand is very severe on the idleness and luxury of the "man of the moment," as she calls him. Is she merely indulging in a journalistic scream, or does she really think that her effeminate slug-abed is fairly re