Thursday 19 August 2010

The Perils of Over Indulgence

Just reading a great book on my shelf, The Conjugal Relationships at to Health  (1894), which includes chapters such as 'Is Continence Physically Injurious?' and 'Personal Pollution.' I must digitise it all, but here's a couple of good bits ... on the dangers of the polka ... (and, to be fair, the genuinely dangerous tight-lacing):

The muscular dances of the present day, the polka, galop, etc., are entered into by young girls, irrespective of their condition. The parent exercises no restraint, and the thoughtless giddy girl has never been taught any physiological reason for care. She has never been taught that at these periods the internal organs are praeternaturally gorged with blood, consequently unusually heavy, that the tissues are lax, that dresses tight round the waist must force these expanded organs into abnormal positions and places, and displacements and diseases are very likely to be the permanent result.

In the chapter on 'The Injurious Results of Physical Excess' the author warns of too readily entering into repeated intimacy with a new wife or husband - a practice, we are told, common in young clergymen ('imaginative men, of highly nervous temperaments, [who] thoughtlessly anticipate a repayment for all past restraints, in unlimited physical gratification'). In the husband, the resulting exhaustion may be treated by 'rest', whereas in the female, 'not unfrequently more permanent disorganisations have been effected. The integrity of her more delicate apparatus has been marred ...'

Ouch. Sorry, but they're not doing it right.

In advising restraint, the author (one Augustus K. Gardner) gives the following paragraph to help you visualise what he's getting at:

'The same laws hold good here that are recognised in every other action of life. The pedestrian undertaking a journey is moderate in the walk of the first days. The woodchopper in the forest, as well as the girl who sweeps the parlour, finds the instrument blisters the unaccustomed hand, and works gently till time has gradually hardened the palm for the occupation.'

I think I know what he's getting at; but I just need to give Mr. Freud another call ...


  1. Yes, but what about the inherent dangers in carriage riding?!

    (great site!)

  2. Glad you like it. Yes, it certainly was an awkward and hazardous thing to be in possession of a womb, according to Victorian doctors!