The hollow, sunken eye, the blanched cheek, the withered hands, and emaciated frame, and the listless life, have other sources than the ordinary illnesses of all large communities.
When a child, after having given proofs of memory and intelligence, experiences daily more and more difficulty in retaining and understanding what is taught him, it is not only from unwillingness and idleness, as is commonly supposed, but from a disease eating out life itself, brought on by a self-abuse of the private organs. Besides the slow and progressive derangement of his or her health, the diminished energy of application, the languid movement, the stooping gait, the desertion of social games, the solitary walk, late rising, livid and sunken eye, and many other symptoms, will fix the attention of every intelligent and competent guardian of youth that something is wrong.
[Illustration: GUARD WELL THE CRADLE. EDUCATION CANNOT BEGIN TOO YOUNG.]
Nor are many persons sufficiently aware of the ruinous extent to which the amative propensity is indulged by married persons. The matrimonial ceremony does, indeed, sanctify the act of sexual intercourse, but it can by no means atone for nor obviate the consequences of its abuse. Excessive indulgence in the married relation is, perhaps, as much owing to the force of habit, as to the force of the sexual appetite.
More lamentable still is the effect of inordinate sexual excitement of the young and unmarried. It is not very uncommon to find a confirmed onanist, or, rather, masturbator, who has not yet arrived at the period of puberty. Many cases are related in which young boys and girls, from eight to ten years of age, were taught the method of self-pollution by their older playmates, and had made serious encroachments on the fund of constitutional vitality even before any considerable degree of sexual appetite was developed.
Here, again, the fault was not in the power of passion, but in the force of habit. Parents and guardians of youth can not be too mindful of the character and habits of those with whom they allow young persons and children under their charge to associate intimately, and especially careful should they be with whom they allow them to sleep.
It is customary to designate self-pollution as among the “vices.” I think misfortune is the more appropriate term. It is true, that in the physiological sense, it is one of the very worst “transgressions of the law.” But in the moral sense it is generally the sin of ignorance in the commencement, and in the end the passive submission to a morbid and almost resistless impulse.