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A non-fiction by Henry Theophilus Finck

Sensuality, Sentimentality, And Sentiment

Title:     Sensuality, Sentimentality, And Sentiment
Author: Henry Theophilus Finck [More Titles by Finck]

From beginnings not yet understood--though Haeckel and others have speculated plausibly on the subject--there has been developed in animals and human beings an appetite which insures the perpetuation of the species as the appetite for food does that of the individual. Both these appetites pass through various degrees of development, from the utmost grossness to a high degree of refinement, from which, however, relapses occur in many individuals. We read of Indians tearing out the liver from living animals and devouring it raw and bloody; of Eskimos eating the contents of a reindeer's stomach as a vegetable dish; and the books of explorers describe many scenes like the following from Baker's _Ismailia_ relating to the antics of negroes after killing a buffalo:

"There was now an extraordinary scene over the
carcass; four hundred men scrambling over a mass
of blood and entrails, fighting and tearing with
each other and cutting off pieces of flesh with
their lance-heads, with which they escaped as
dogs may retreat with a bone."



What aeons of culture lie between such a scene and a dinner party in Europe or America, with its refined, well-behaved guests, its table etiquette, its varied menu, its choice viands, skilfully cooked and blended so as to bring out the most diverse and delicate flavors, its esthetic features--fine linen and porcelains, silver and cut glass, flowers, lights--its bright conversation, and flow of wit. Yet there are writers who would have us believe that these Indians, Eskimos, and Africans, who manifest their appetite for food in so disgustingly coarse a way, are in their love-affairs as sentimental and aesthetic as we are! In truth they are as gross, gluttonous, and selfish in the gratification of one appetite as in that of the other. To a savage a woman is not an object of chaste adoration and gallant devotion, but a mere bait for wanton lust; and when his lust hath dined he kicks her away like a mangy dog till he is hungry again. In Ploss-Bartels[118] may be found an abundance of facts culled from various sources in all parts of the world, showing that the bestiality of many savages is not even restrained by the presence of spectators. At the phallic and bacchanalian festivals of ancient and Oriental nations all distinctions of rank and all family ties were forgotten in a carnival of lust. Licentious orgies are indeed carried on to this day in our own large cities; but their participants are the criminal classes, and occasionally some foolish young men who would be very much ashamed to have their doings known; whereas the orgies and phallic festivals of savages and barbarians are national or tribal institutions, approved by custom, sanctioned by religion, and indulged in openly by every man and woman in the community; often regardless even of incest.

[FOOTNOTE 118: II., 271-74. See also _Zeitschrift fuer Ethnologie_, 1887, 31; Hellwald, 144.]

More shockingly still are the grossness and diabolical selfishness of the savage's carnal appetite revealed by his habit of sacrificing young girls to it years before they have reached the age of puberty. Some details will be found in the chapters on Australia, Africa, and India. Here it may be noted--to indicate the wide prevalence of a custom which it would be unjust to animals to call bestial, because beasts never sink so low--that Borneans, as Schwaner notes, marry off girls from three to five; that in Egypt child-wives of seven or eight can be seen; that Javanese girls may be married at seven; that North American Indians often took brides of ten or eleven, while in Southern Australia girls were appropriated as early as seven. Hottentot girls were not spared after the age of seven, nor were Bushman girls, though they did not become mothers till ten or twelve years old; while Kaffir girls married at eight, Somals at six to eight. The cause of these early marriages is not climatic, as some fancy, but simply, as Roberton has pointed out, the coarseness of the men. The list might be extended indefinitely. In Old Calabar sometimes, we read in Ploss,

"a man who has already several wives may
be seen with an infant of two or three weeks
on his lap, caressing and kissing it as
his wife. Wives of four to six years we
found occasionally (in China, Guzuate,
Ceylon, and Brazil); from seven to nine
years on they are no longer rare, and the
years from ten to twelve are a widely
prevalent marriage age."

The amorous savage betrays his inferiority to animals not only in his cruel maltreatment of girls before they have reached the age of puberty,[119] but in his ignorance, in most cases, of the simplest caresses and kisses for which we often find corresponding acts in birds and other animals. The nerves of primitive men are too coarse for such a delicate sensation as labial contact, and an embrace would leave them cold. An African approximation to a kiss is described by Baker (_Ismailia_, 472). He had liberated a number of female slaves, and presently, he says, "I found myself in the arms of a naked beauty, who kissed me almost to suffocation, and, with a most unpleasant embrace, licked both my eyes with her tongue." If we may venture an inference from Mr. A.H. Savage Landor's experience[120] among the aboriginal Ainos of Yezo (Japan), one of the lowest of human races, we may conclude that, in the course of evolution, biting preceded kissing. He had made the acquaintance of an Ainu maiden, the most lovely Ainu girl he had ever come across. They strolled together into the woods, and he sketched her picture. She clutched his hand tightly, and pressed it to her chest:

"I would not have mentioned this small episode if her ways of flirting had not been so extraordinary and funny. Loving and biting went together with her.... As we sat on a stone in the semi-darkness she began by gently biting my fingers without hurting me, as affectionate dogs often do their masters; she then bit my arm, then my shoulder, and when she had worked herself up into a passion she put her arms round my neck and bit my cheeks. It was undoubtedly a curious way of making love, and when I had been bitten all over, and was pretty tired of the new sensation, we retired to our respective homes."

[FOOTNOTE 119: Which even in tropical countries seldom comes before the eleventh or twelfth year. See the statistics in Ploss-Bartels, I., 269-70.]

[FOOTNOTE 120: _Alone among the Hairy Ainu_, 140-41.]

Sensuality has had its own evolution quite apart and distinct from that of love. The ancient Greeks and Romans, and the Orientals, especially the Hindoos, were familiar, thousands of years ago, with refinements and variations of lust beyond which the human imagination cannot go. According to Burton,

"Kornemannus in his book _de linea amoris,_
makes five degrees of lust, out of Lucian belike,
which he handles in five chapters, _Visus,
Colloquium, Convictus, Oscula, Tactus_--sight,
conference, association, kisses, touch."

All these degrees are abundantly illustrated in Burton, often in a way that would not bear quotation in a modern book intended for general reading.

It is interesting to observe, furthermore, that among the higher barbarians and civilized races, lust has become to a certain extent mentalized through hereditary memory and association. Aristotle made a marvellous anticipation of modern scientific thought when he suggested that what made birds sing in spring was the memory of former seasons of love. In men as in animals, the pleasant experiences of love and marriage become gradually ingrained in the brain, and when a youth reaches the age for love-making the memory of ancestral amorous experiences courses through his nerves vaguely but strongly. He longs for something, he knows not what, and this mental longing is one of the earliest and strongest symptoms of love. But it characterizes all sorts of love; it may accompany pure fancies of the sentimental lover, but it may also be a result of the lascivious imaginings and anticipations of sensualism. It does not, therefore, in itself prove the presence of romantic love; a point on which I must place great emphasis, because certain primitive poems expressing a longing for an absent girl or man have been quoted as positive evidence of romantic love, when as a matter of fact there is nothing to prove that they may not have been inspired by mere sensual desires. I shall cite and comment on these poems in later chapters.

Loss of sleep, loss of appetite, leanness, hollow eyes, groans, griefs, sadness, sighing, sobbing, alternating blushes and pallor, feverish or unequal pulse, suicidal impulses, are other symptoms occurring among such advanced nations as the Greeks and Hindoos and often accepted as evidence of true love; but since, like longing, they also accompany lust and other strong passions or violent emotions, they cannot be accepted as reliable symptoms of romantic love. The only certain criteria of love are to be found in the manifestation of the altruistic factors--sympathy, gallantry, and self-sacrificing affection. Romantic love is, as I have remarked before, not merely an emotional phenomenon, but an _active impulse._ The true lover does not, like the sensualist and the sentimentalist, ululate his time away in dismal wailing about his bodily aches and tremors, woes and pallors, but lets his feelings expend themselves in multitudinous acts revealing his eagerness to immolate his personal pleasures on the altar of his idol.

It must not be supposed that sensual love is necessarily coarse and obscene. An antique love-scene may in itself be proper and exquisitely poetic without rising to the sphere of romantic love; as when Theocritus declares: "I ask not for the land of Pelops nor for talents of gold. But under this rock will I sing, holding you in my arms, looking at the flocks feeding together toward the Sicilian Sea." A pretty picture; but what evidence is there in it of affection? It is pleasant for a man to hold a girl in his arms while gazing at the Sicilian Sea, even though he does not love her any more than a thousand other girls.

Even in Oriental literature, usually so gross and licentious, one may come across a charmingly poetic yet entirely sensual picture like the following from the Persian _Gulistan_ (339). On a very hot day, when he was a young man, Saadi found the hot wind drying up the moisture of his mouth and melting the marrow of his bones. Looking for a refuge and refreshment, he beheld a moon-faced damsel of supreme loveliness in the shaded portico of a mansion:

"She held in her hand a goblet of snow-cold
water, into which she dropt some sugar, and
tempered it with spirit of wine; but I know
not whether she scented it with attar, or
sprinkled it with a few blossoms from her own
rosy cheek. In short, I received the beverage
from her idol-fair hand: and having drunk it
off, found myself restored to new life."

Ward writes that the following account of Sharuda, the daughter of Brumha, translated from the Shiva Purana, may serve as a just description of a perfect Hindoo beauty. This girl was of a yellow color; had a nose like the flower of a secamum; her legs were taper, like the plantain-tree; her eyes large, like the principal leaf of the lotos; her eyebrows extended to her ears; her lips were red, like the young leaves of the mango-tree; her face was like the full moon; her voice like the sound of the cuckoo; her throat was like that of a pigeon; her loins narrow, like those of a lion; her hair hung in curls down to her feet; her teeth were like the seeds of the pomegranate; and her gait like that of a drunken elephant or a goose.

There is nothing coarse in this description, yet every detail is purely sensual, and so it is with the thousands of amorous rhapsodies of Hindoo, Persian, Turkish, Arabic, and other Eastern poets. Concerning the Persians, Dr. Polak remarks (I., 206) that the word _Ischk_ (love) is always associated with the idea of carnality (_Was'l_). Of the Arabs, Burckardt says that "the passion of love is indeed much talked of by the inhabitants of the towns; but I doubt whether anything is meant by them more than the grossest animal desire." In his letters from the East the keen-eyed Count von Moltke notes that the Turk "passes over all the preliminary rigmarole of falling in love, paying court, languishing, revelling in ecstatic joy, as so much _faux frais_, and goes straight to the point."



But is the German field-marshal quite just to the Turk? I have before me a passage which seems to indicate that these Orientals do know a thing or two about the "rigmarole of love-making." It is cited by Kremer[121] from the Kitab almowascha, a book treating of social matters in Baghdad. Its author devotes a special chapter to the dangers lurking in female singers and musical slaves, in the course of which he says:

"If one of these girls meets a rich young man, she sets about ensnaring him, makes eyes at him, invites him with gestures, sings for him ... drinks the wine he left in his cup, throws kisses with her hands, till she has the poor fellow in her net and he is enamoured. ... Then she sends messages to him and continues her crafty arts, lets him understand that she is losing sleep for love of him, is pining for him; maybe she sends him a ring, or a lock of her hair, a paring of her nails, a splinter from her lute, or part of her toothbrush, or a piece of fragrant gum (chewed by her) as a substitute for a kiss, or a note written and folded with her own hands and tied with a string from her lute, with a tearstain on it; and finally sealed with Ghalija, her ring, on which some appropriate words are carved."

[FOOTNOTE 121: _Culturgeschichte des Orients_, II, 109.]

Having captured her victim, she makes him give her valuable presents till his purse is empty, whereupon she discards him.

Was Count Moltke, then, wrong? Have we here, after all, the sentimental symptoms of romantic love? Let us apply the tests provided by our analysis of love--tests as reliable as those which chemists use to analyze fluids or gases. Did the Baghdad music-girl prefer that man to all other individuals? Did she want to monopolize him jealously? Oh, no! any man, however old and ugly, would have suited her, provided he had plenty of money. Was she coy toward him? Perhaps; but not from a feeling of modesty and timidity inspired by love, but to make him more ardent and ready to pay. Was she proud of his love? She thought him a fool. Were her feelings toward him chaste and pure? As chaste and pure as his. Did she sympathize with his pleasures and pains? She dismissed him as soon as his purse was empty, and looked about for another victim. Were his presents the result of gallant impulses to please her, or merely advance payment for favors expected? Would he have sacrificed his life to save her any more than she would hers to save him? Did he respect her as an immaculate superior being, adore her as an angel from above--or look on her as an inferior, a slave in rank, a slave to passion?

The obvious moral of this immoral episode is that it is not permissible to infer the existence of anything higher than sensual love from the mere fact that certain romantic tricks are associated with the amorous dalliance of Orientals, or Greeks and Romans. Drinking from the same cup, throwing kisses, sending locks of hair or tear-stained letters, adjusting a foot-stool, or fanning a heated brow, are no doubt romantic _incidents_, but they are no proof of romantic _feeling_ for the reason that they are frequently associated with the most heartless and mercenary sensuality. The coquetry of the Baghdad girl is romantic, but there is no _sentiment_ in it. Yet--and here we reach the most important aspect of that episode--there is an _affectation of sentiment_ in that sending of locks, notes, and splinters from her lute; and this affectation of sentiment is designated by the word _sentimentality_. In the history of love sentimentality precedes sentiment; and for a proper understanding of the history and psychology of love it is as important to distinguish sentimentality from sentiment as it is to differentiate love from lust.

When Lowell wrote, "Let us be thankful that in every man's life there is a holiday of romance, _an illumination of the senses by the soul_, that makes him a poet while it lasts," he made a sad error in assuming that there is such a holiday of romance in every man's life; millions never enjoy it; but the words I have italicized--"an illumination of the senses by the soul"--are one of those flashes of inspiration which sometimes enable a poet to give a better description of a psychic process than professional philosophers have put forth.

From one point of view the love sentiment may be called an illumination of the senses by the soul. Elsewhere Lowell has given another admirable definition: "Sentiment is intellectualized emotion, emotion precipitated, as it were, in pretty crystals of thought." Excellent, too, is J.F. Clarke's definition: "Sentiment is nothing but thought blended with feeling; _thought made affectionate, sympathetic, moral_." The Century Dictionary throws further light on this word:

"Sentiment has a peculiar place between thought and feeling, in which it also approaches the meaning of principle. It is more than that feeling which is sensation or emotion, by containing more of thought and by being _more lofty_, while it contains too much feeling to be merely thought, and it _has large influence over the will_; for example, the sentiment of patriotism; the sentiment of honor; the world is ruled by sentiment. The thought in a sentiment is often that of _duty_, and is penetrated and _exalted_ by feeling."

Herbert Spencer sums up the matter concisely _(Psych_., II., 578) when he speaks of "that remoteness from sensations and appetites and from ideas of such sensations and appetites which is the common trait of the feelings we call sentiments."

It is hardly necessary to point out that in our Baghdad girl's love-affairs there is no "remoteness from sensations and appetites," no "illumination of the senses by the soul," no "intellectualized emotion," no "thought made affectionate, sympathetic, moral." But there is in it, as I have said, a touch of sentimentality. If sentiment is properly defined as "higher feeling," sentimentality is "_affectation_ of fine or tender feeling or exquisite sensibility." Heartless coquetry, prudery, mock modesty, are bosom friends of sentimentality. While sentiment is the noblest thing in the world, sentimentality is its counterfeit, its caricature; there is something theatrical, operatic, painted-and-powdered about it; it differs from sentiment as astrology differs from astronomy, alchemy from chemistry, the sham from the real, hypocrisy from sincerity, artificial posing from natural grace, genuine affection from selfish attachment.



Sentimentality, as I have said, precedes sentiment in the history of love, and it has been a special characteristic of certain periods, like that of the Alexandrian Greeks and their Roman imitators, to whom we shall recur in a later chapter, and the mediaeval Troubadours and Minnesingers. To the present day sentimentality in love is so much more abundant than sentiment that the adjective sentimental is commonly used in an uncomplimentary sense, as in the following passage from one of Krafft-Ebing's books (_Psch. Sex_., 9):

"Sentimental love runs the risk of degenerating into caricature, especially in cases where the sensual ingredient is weak.... Such love has a flat, saccharine tang. It is apt to become positively ludicrous, whereas in other cases the manifestations of this strongest of all feelings inspire in us sympathy, respect, awe, according to circumstances."

Steele speaks in _The Lover_ (23, No. 5) of the extraordinary skill of a poet in making a loose people "attend to a Passion which they never, or that very faintly, felt in their own Bosoms." La Rochefoucauld wrote: "It is with true love as with ghosts; everybody speaks of it, but few have seen it." A writer in _Science_ expressed his belief that romantic love, as described in my first book, could really be experienced only by men of genius. I think that this makes the circle too small; yet in these twelve years of additional observation I have come to the conclusion that even at this stage of civilization only a small proportion of men and women are able to experience full-fledged romantic love, which seems to require a special emotional or esthetic gift, like the talent for music. A few years ago I came across the following in the London _Tidbits_ which echoes the sentiments of multitudes:

"Latour, who sent a pathetic complaint the other day that though he wished to do so he was unable to fall in love, has called forth a sympathetic response from a number of readers of both sexes. These ladies and gentlemen write to say that they also, like Latour, cannot understand how it is that they are not able to feel any experience of tender passion which they read about so much in novels, and hear about in actual life."

At the same time there are not a few men of genius, too, who never felt true love in their own hearts. Herder believed that Goethe was not capable of genuine love, and Grimm, too, thought that Goethe had never experienced a self-absorbing passion. Tolstoi must have been ever a stranger to genuine love, for to him it seems a degrading thing even in marriage. A suggestive and frank confession may be found in the literary memoirs of Goncourt.[122] At a small gathering of men of letters Goncourt remarked that hitherto love had not been studied scientifically in novels. Zola thereupon declared that love was not a specific emotion; that it does not affect persons so absolutely as the writers say; that the phenomena characterizing it are also found in friendship, in patriotism, and that the intensity of this emotion is due entirely to the anticipation of carnal enjoyment. Turgenieff objected to these views; in his opinion love is a sentiment which has a unique color of its own--a quality differentiating it from all other sentiments--eliminating the lover's own personality, as it were. The Russian novelist obviously had a conception of the purity of love, for Goncourt reports him as "speaking of his first love for a woman as a thing entirely spiritual, having nothing in common with materiality." And now follows Goncourt's confession:

"In all this, the thing to regret is that neither Flaubert ... nor Zola, nor myself, have ever been very seriously in love and that we are therefore unable to describe love. Turgenieff alone could have done that, but he lacks precisely the critical sense which we could have exercised in this matter had we been in love after his fashion."

[FOOTNOTE 122: _Journal des Goncourt_, Tome V. 328-29.]

The vast majority of the human race has not yet got beyond the sensual stage of amorous evolution, or realized the difference between sentimentality and sentiment. There is much food for thought in this sentence from Henry James's charming essay on France's most poetic writer--Theophile Gautier:

"It has seemed to me rather a painful
exhibition of the prurience of the human mind
that in most of the notices of the author's
death (those at least published in England and
America), this work alone [_Mile. de Maupin_]
should have been selected as the critic's text."

Readers are interested only in emotions with which they are familiar by experience. Howells's refined love-scenes have often been sneered at by men who like raw whiskey but cannot appreciate the delicate bouquet of Chambertin. As Professor Ribot remarks: in the higher regions of science, art, religion, and morals there are emotions so subtle and elevated that

"not more than one individual in a hundred
thousand or even in a million can experience
them. The others are strangers to them, or do
not know of their existence except vaguely,
from what they hear about them. It is a promised
land, which only the select can enter."

I believe that romantic love is a sentiment which more than one person in a million can experience, and more than one in a hundred thousand. How many more, I shall not venture to guess. All the others know love only as a sensual craving. To them "I love you" means "I long for you, covet you, am eager to enjoy you"; and this feeling is not love of another but self-love, more or less disguised--the kind of "love" which makes a young man shoot a girl who refuses him. The mediaeval writer Leon Hebraeus evidently knew of no other when he defined love as "a desire to enjoy that which is good"; nor Spinoza when he defined it as _laetetia concomitante idea externae causae_--a pleasure accompanied by the thought of its external cause.

[The end]
Henry Theophilus Finck's Book: Sensuality, Sentimentality, And Sentiment