Monday, July 30, 2007

Pleasure in Her Bodily Charms

That's a quote from page 62, Volume one of The Sexual Education Series in Ten Volumes by Dr. David H. Keller, then the assistant superintendent of Western State Hospital in Bolivar, Tennessee. These petite red-clothed volumes were published in 1928, and I discovered them in a tiny antique store in White River Junction, VT last summer.

Volume one is titled Sex and Family Through the Ages. Chapter one, The Beginning of Life discusses ". . .the one constant effort (has been) to obtain happiness" from the beginning of time. The good doctor's comparisons are fascinating, to say the least.

"For some reason, known only to herself and the God of Nature, the female stickle-back (a fish) is a modern woman in many ways. She is very fond of club life, refuses to stay at home, scorns the advances of her proper mate and whenever she has a chance eats her baby stickle-backs with a great deal of pleasure."

No, wait--it gets better.

"Under such circumstances it's hard to see how the tribe (of fish) exists. It would die out in one generation were it not for the male. (He builds the nest, yada yada). Then, he swims around hunting for the club of the independent females, and finally isolates one from her comrades. He drives this female to the nest, forces her to go in and stay in till she lays an egg or two." This brilliant male, the hope of mankind, then lets her go while he rounds up another ten or so females. He cares for the eggs by himself, poor soul. "He is a fearless fighter and a wonderful mother. It may be that if women continue to assert their independence, it will be necessary for man to imitate the stickle-back's conduct."

Our hero.

Here's the entire quote from page 62, chapter six titled Love and Marriage. "The man has the desire to possess the woman and take his pleasure in her bodily charms. The woman longs to be conquered and under that longing is the great desire, no less great because it is so often unrecognized, to become pregnant and, by giving birth to a child, to become a mother. "

The good doctor goes on to discuss the sacrifices necessary for a successful marriage, by both the male and female. And his thoughts on spiritual love are eloquent; "the relation of one soul to another, the molding of one spirit to another." Of course, he's pretty sure at the end of the day the woman needs to do most of that molding.

These volumes are a treasure. They go on to discuss sex and society, the prostitute, care of the aged, sexual life of men and woman after forty ( I was glad to hear there is one ;) ), sexual diseases and deviations . . . they go on and on. I'll share more words of wisdom on Thursday; try to curb your club-hopping, child-eating tendencies until then.

What are your research or old book treasures, either at home or in your public library? Does reading old text help you historical writers embrace the mindset of another time? And hidden among the antiquated ideals, do you ever find a grain of truth?


Alice Audrey said...

Am I supposed to be a stickle back now? Darn! How come I generally end up with the kids?

AprilsMom said...

Gillian, did you get the giggles reading that? Methinks the doctor doth protest too much about independent women. Do you suppose his own wife liked to visit clubs and "scorn(ed) the advances of her proper mate"? *g* Bet she didn't like being compared to a stickle-back fish, either!

I have a wonderful book I found in a UBS titled "The Coaching Era". The title page is missing, so I cannot tell when it was published. It has the loveliest color prints tipped in, however, of Georgian and Regency coaches. I HAD to buy the book when I opened it to a random page and read, "In 1619 the Duke of Buckingham, so beloved at Court and abhorred of the public, desiring to make a grand display, caused six horses to be harnessed to his private coach; a piece of arrogance that so enraged the haughty old Earl of Northumberland that he determined to surpass it, and promptly appeared with a coach and eight, and drove through the city of London to Bath, to the vulgar talk and admiration."

One paragraph and a whole era was brought vividly to life. If only I could write that well!

Christina said...

Is this a society in the doctor's twisted mind? I mean come on, typically has it not been the mother who has been both hunter and gatherer, the caretaker, all the while the man sits around smoking his peace pipe?

I love historical books, reading things from the era I am writing about helps me get a feel for their tongue and the point of views of the day and age.

Gillian said...

You and me both, Alice :)

Aprilsmom, yeah, I grinned all the way through, and trust me, what I posted was mild. It would have been so much fun to be his daughter. Your book and those illustrations sound wonderful.

Hi Christina-yes, it's imagining such foreign POV that makes reading these books worthwhile.

Kelly Krysten said...

Gosh, that's interesting if not a bit
I read a lot,but have nothing in front of me presently so can't list any of it. But I do find it necessary in writing historicals to constantly immerse myself in the material from the time or about the time. Great blog!

Tessa Dare said...

Oh, Gillian. What a ... find.

If that were my husband, I'd be leaving a stickleback in his bed at night!

Thanks for sharing!

Gillian said...

Hi Kelly and Tessa :)

The odd thing (well, one of them) about the good doctor is that he does go on in some chapters about the mutual respect necessary for a functional relationship. Basically, I think he's all for laying the (material) world at his wife's feet, as long as she remembers her place.

Maggie Robinson said...

Only ten volumes?

I've scored some great discards from the high school library I work in...Thackery's Irish, Eastern and Paris sketches, for example, which depict adventurous travel in the 19th century.

Ashley said...

Gillian what a great find!! I now know who to turn to when I need my questions answered about the various tendencies of the stickle backs. :-) Very funny. I'm surprised something with this much humor (maybe it wasn't humorous then)was even published during that time.