glad of advice as to the manner in which the subject can best be dealt
with in their case. For boys of this age, I am strongly of opinion
that it is better in most cases to make use of a pamphlet than to
attempt oral instruction. Probably they already have some knowledge on
the subject; possibly some sense of guilt. If so, it will be found
very difficult to treat the matter orally without embarrassment - a
thing to be avoided at all costs. I was interested to find that on
receipt of my pamphlet Professor Geddes - one of the greatest experts
on sex - placed it at once in the hands of his own boy, a fact from
which his opinion on the relative merits of oral and printed
instruction can easily be inferred.
Many of my readers who have boys of fourteen and upwards to whom they
have hitherto given no instruction will, I hope, feel that they must
now do this. I venture, therefore, to give a detailed account of the
manner in which I should myself act in similar circumstances. I should
arrange to be with the lad when there was no danger of interruption,
and in such circumstances as would put him at his ease. I should tell
him that I was conscious of unwisdom in not speaking to him before
about a subject of supreme importance to him; that I took upon myself
all blame for anything he might, in ignorance, have said or done; that
through ignorance I had myself fallen and suffered, and that I should
like him now to sit down and read through this pamphlet slowly and
carefully. When he finished I should try by every possible means to
make him sensible of my affection for him. I should associate myself
in a few words with the sentiments of the writer, and should invite
the lad to tell me whether he had fallen into temptation, and if so to
what extent. A confidence of this kind assists a boy greatly and
establishes a delightful intimacy.
There are several points with regard to purity-teaching which need to
Such teaching can hardly be too explicit. "Beating about the bush" is
always indicative of the absence of self-possession. The embarrassment
manifested is quickly perceived even by a young child, and is certain
to communicate itself to the recipient. It is of paramount importance
that the child should, from the first, feel that the knowledge
imparted is pure; anything which suggests that it is indelicate should
be studiously avoided. The introduction of a few science terms is
advantageous in several ways: amongst others it relieves the tension
which the spiritual aspect of the question may engender, it gives a
lad a terminology which is free from filthy contamination.
It is important that the information given should be full, otherwise
the boy lives in a chronic state of curiosity, which, to his great
detriment, he is ever trying to satisfy. If the reader feels that the
information is dangerous, and aims, therefore, at imparting as little
as possible, he is not fitted to do the work at all.
No greater mistake can be made than that of taxing a boy with impurity
as though it were a conscious and egregious fault. I have already
expressed my strong opinion that, in almost every instance, the boy is
a victim to be sympathised with, not a culprit to be punished. This
opinion is shared, I believe, by everyone who has investigated the
subject. It is certainly the opinion of Canon Lyttelton and Dr. Dukes.
It is, indeed, easy to exaggerate the conscious guilt even of boys who
have initiated others into masturbation. Apart from the injustice to
the boy of an attitude of severity, it is certain to shut the boy's
heart up with a snap.
If a pamphlet is used it should, without fail, be taken from a boy
when he has read it. Much harm may, I fear, result from supplying boys
with the cheap pamphlets which well-meaning but inexperienced persons
Should the time ever come when parents give timely warning and
instruction to boys, a very difficult problem will be solved for the
schoolmaster. But in the meantime what ought the schoolmaster to do?
The following plan commends itself to some eminent teachers. As soon
as a boy is about to enter the school a letter is sent to his parents
advising them to give the boy instruction, and a pamphlet is enclosed
for this purpose. This plan has the decided advantage of shifting the
responsibility on to the shoulders of those who ought to take it. The
weakness of the plan arises from the fact that most parents do not
believe in the prevalence of impurity among boys, and are quite
confident that their own boys need no warning. Hence they may do
nothing at all, or merely content themselves with some vague and quite
The traditions of most boys' schools make it impossible for those
intimate and respectful relations to exist between masters and boys
without which confidential teaching of this kind may be even worse
than useless. Where masters are invariably referred to disrespectfully
if not contemptuously, where a teacher's most earnest address is a
"jaw" which the recipient is expected to betray and mock at with his
companions; where to shield profanity, indecency, and bullying from
detection is the imperative duty of every boy below the Sixth; where
failure to avert from a moral leper the kindly treatment which might
restore him to health and prevent the wholesale infection of others is
the one unpardonable sin, only one or two teachers of a generation can
hope to do much, and the risk of failure is immense. I can hardly
believe that the present race of teachers will long tolerate the
system I here advert to. Public opinion _can_ be organised and
enlisted as strongly on the side of Right as it is now, but too often,
on the side of Evil. Mr. A.C. Benson is very moderate when he writes:
"To take no steps to arrive at such an organisation, and to leave it
severely alone, is a very dark responsibility."
Even in such a school, some good is, I know, done by tactful public
references to the existence of masturbation and to its deplorable
The question is not free from difficulty even when the general
atmosphere of the school is healthy and helpful. If one dared to leave
this instruction until the age of puberty, the lad would be capable of
a much deeper impression than he is at an earlier age, and the
impression would be fresh just at the time at which it is most needed.
In the case of boys who have come to me at nine or ten I have
sometimes ventured to defer my interview for four or five years, and
have found them quite uncorrupted. On the other hand, within an hour
of penning these lines I have been talking to a little boy of eleven
who commenced masturbation two years ago while he was under excellent
home influence. One such boy may, without guilt, corrupt a whole set,
for impurity is one of the most infectious as well as the most
terrible of diseases. The ideal state in a school is not reached until
periodical addresses on purity can be given to all with the certainty
that by all they will be listened to and treated reverently and
respectfully. Such addresses cannot well be made the vehicle of sex
information, but they can be so constructed as to guide those to whom
individual instruction has not yet been given, and to strengthen those
who, spite of full instruction, periodically need a helping hand.
What results may we reasonably expect from adequate and timely
instruction? I have so rarely met a case in which this has been given
at home that I can only infer what these results might be from the
cases in which my own instruction has been given in time. In almost
every instance I feel sure that the results have been beneficial,
that the temptation to impurity has been little felt, and that a
healthy and chaste boyhood has resulted. Canon Lyttelton writes: "The
influences of school life have been found to be impotent to deprave
the tone of a boy who has been fortified by the right kind of
instruction from his parents." This I can well believe, for, if the
schoolmaster can do much, there can be no limit to a power which has
been cradled in the sanctity of home and cherished by a mother's love.
This appears to be the emphatic opinion also of Dr. Dukes. Of a boy
thus favoured, Canon Lyttelton writes: "He will feel that any rude
handling of such a theme, even of only its outer fringe, is like the
profaning of the Holy of Holies in his heart, and he will no more
suffer it than he would suffer a stranger to defile the innermost
shrine of his feelings by taking his mother's or his sister's name in
vain. All the goading curiosity which drives other boys to pry
greedily into nature's laws, in blank ignorance of their mighty
import, their unspeakable depth, and spiritual unearthly harmonies,
has been for him forestalled, enlightened, and purified."
It is a sad step down from such a boy to the lad who has been given
warning after corruption has begun. Most boys feel such shame in
confessing to failure that one has to accept with reserve the
statements made by even the most truthful of those who are treading
the upward path. After making due allowance for this source of error,
my experience enables me to say confidently that, if a boy has not
been long or badly corrupted, a radical change of attitude may be
expected in him at once, and the habit of self-abuse will be instantly
or rapidly relinquished. Very different is the case of a lad who has
long practised masturbation, or who has practised it for some time
after the advent of puberty, or who has associated sexual imaginations
with the practice. Few such boys conquer the habit at once, however
much they desire to, and, if the above conditions co-exist, a boy's
progress is very slow, and years may pass without anything approaching
cure. If in addition to the temptations from within he has foes also
without in the form of companions who sneer at his desire for
improvement, controvert the statements made to him, and throw
temptation in his way, his chance of cure must be enormously
decreased. Of such cases I know nothing; for my experience lies solely
among boys who have, outside their own hearts, little to hinder and
very much to help. As I have dealt elsewhere with the question of aids
to chastity, I will make only a brief reference to it here.
The mind is so much influenced by the body that purity is impossible
when the body is unduly indulged. No man exists who could inhale the
vapour of chloroform without an irresistible desire to sleep. Under
these conditions the strongest will would not avail even if the victim
knew that by surrender he was sacrificing everything he reverenced and
held dear. The lad past the age of puberty who has much stimulating
food, who drinks alcohol, who sleeps in a warm and luxurious bed and
occupies it for some time before or after sleep, is certain, even if
he takes much exercise, to be tempted irresistibly. Dr. Dukes
considers that a heavy meat meal with alcohol shortly before bedtime
is in itself sufficient to ensure a lad's fall.
Meanwhile, no abstinence which it not unduly rigorous, can save a boy
from impurity if he gets into the habit of exchanging glances with
girls who are socially inferior, if he reads suggestive books, looks
at stimulating pictures and sights, and falls into the hopeless folly
of entertaining sexual thoughts even momentarily. He who has not the
strength to tread out a spark is little likely to subdue a
The best and most timely teaching will never make carelessness in
these matters justifiable, and a boy who has once been corrupted and
desires to master his lower nature has no chance of self-conquest
unless he gives them his constant and careful attention.
It is very important to fill a boy's leisure with congenial
occupation. Idleness and dullness make a boy specially susceptible to
temptation. On the other hand, the fond parent who satisfies a boy's
every whim and encourages the lad to think that his own enjoyment is
the chief thing in life does his utmost to destroy the lad's chance of
purity - or, indeed, of any virtue whatever.
Can anything be done for boys and young men who have become the slaves
of self-abuse to such an extent that they groan in the words of St.
Paul: "The good that I would I do not, but the evil which I would not,
that I do.... I delight in the law of God after the inward man, but I
see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind and
bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O
wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this
death?" Can anything be done for the lad who has become so defiled by
lustful thoughts that his utmost efforts fail to carry him forward,
and even leave him to sink deeper in the mire. There are many, many
such cases, alas! for as Dr. Acton says, "The youth is a dreamer who
will open the floodgates of an ocean, and then attempt to prescribe at
will a limit to the inundation."
Yes there is a remedy - I believe a specific - which can rapidly and, I
think, finally restore strength to the enfeebled will and order the
unclean spirit to come out of the man. It is hypnotic suggestion. Let
not the reader, however, think that the matter is a simple one. In all
ages any great advance in the art of healing has, by the ignorant,
been attributed to the powers of darkness. The Divine Healer Himself
did not escape from the charge of casting out devils by the prince of
the devils, and, while hypnotic suggestion has long been used for
therapeutic purposes on the Continent and is now practised in
Government institutions there, the doctor or clergyman or teacher who
uses it in England runs great risks; for in this subject, as in all
others, it is those who are entirely without experience who are most
In the case of the schoolmaster, its use in this connection is
practically excluded. If he applies to a parent for permission to use
it he probably runs his head against a blank wall of ignorance; for
hypnotism, to most people, means a dangerous power by which an
unscrupulous, strong-willed Svengali dominates an abnormally
weak-willed Trilby whose will continues to grow weaker until the
subject becomes a mere automaton; and most of us would rightly prefer
that a boy should be his own master - even if he were rushing to
headlong ruin - than that he should be the mere puppet of the most
saintly man living. The human will is sacred and inviolable, and we do
unwisely if we seek to control it or to remove those obstacles from
its way by which alone it can gain divine strength. Meanwhile the
stimulus by which the mind acquires self-mastery usually comes from
without in the form of spiritual inspiration; and to remove from a
boy's path an obstacle which blocks it and is entirely beyond his own
strength is equally desirable both in the physical and in the
spiritual realm. Those who think that without this obstacle a boy's
power of self-control is likely to receive insufficient exercise will,
of course, object to the instruction advocated in this book. If it is
unwise to remove this obstacle from a boy's path it is equally unwise
so to instruct him as to prevent the obstacle from arising. In
_trustworthy_ hands hypnotic suggestion is a beneficent power which
has no dangers and no drawbacks, and to decline to use it is to accept
a very serious responsibility.
For the teacher a further difficulty - not to mention that of time - is
that, without betraying a boy's confidence or inducing him to allow
his admissions to be passed on to his father, it is impossible to give
his parents an idea of the urgency of the case.
Altogether the time for hypnotic suggestion in education is not yet,
but the day must come when its use is recognised not only in physical
cases such as nocturnal emissions and constipation, but in all cases
in which the will-power is practically in abeyance, as it is in bad
cases of impurity.
For intelligent parents the difficulties are far less, and if any such
care to pursue the subject farther, I would refer them to the volume
on _Hypnotism_ in the People's Books series or to one of the larger
medical works on the subject, such as _Hypnotism and Suggestion_, by
Dr. Bernard Hollander.
To those who know boys well and love them much, there is something
intensely interesting and pathetic about the spiritual struggle
through which they have to pass. The path of self-indulgence seems so
obviously the path to happiness; self-denial is so hard and
self-control so difficult. "The struggle of the instinct that enjoys
and the more noble instinct that aspires" is ever there. The young
soul reaches out after good, but its grasp is weak. It needs much
enlightenment, much encouragement, much inspiration, much patient
tolerance of its faults, much hopeful sympathy with its strivings, if
it is ever to attain the good it seeks. In the past it has met,
without light or aid, unwarned and unprepared, the deadliest foe which
can assail the soul. An appetite which has in all ages debased the
weak, wrestled fiercely with the strong, and vanquished at times even
the noble, is let loose upon an unwarned, unarmed, defenceless child.
Oh, the utter, the utter folly of it!
For life after death the writer has no longing. Immortality, if
vouchsafed, appears to him to be a gift to be accepted trustfully and
humbly, not to be yearned after with a sort of transcendental egoism.
But to him the wish to -
"Join the choir invisible
Of those immortal dead who live again
In minds made better by their presence"
grows ever stronger as the inevitable end draws nearer.
To save young lives from the needless struggles and failures of my
own, to secure healthy motherhood or maiden life to some whom lust
might otherwise destroy, to add, for some at least, new sanctity to
human passion - these have been my hopes in penning the foregoing
pages. It has been my privilege and joy, in my own quiet sphere, to
preserve boys from corruption and to restore the impure to cleanness
of heart. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity these pages afford
of extending this delightful work. When the hand which writes these
lines has long been cold in death, may the message which it speeds
this day breathe peace and strength into many an eager heart.
NOTE TO CORRESPONDENTS.
I warmly invite any boy who has read these pages to write to me if he
feels inclined to do so. Since this book was first published I have
received hundreds of letters from boys who have, without any definite
invitation, understood that it would please me much to hear from them.
Many boys feel all the better for frankly confessing their
difficulties to a man who fully understands and sympathises with them.
Some desire advice about their own case. Anyone who accepts this
invitation will do wisely to give me a full and frank history of his
difficulties. His confidences will, of course, be strictly respected.
He will also, I hope, remember that I am an extremely busy man with
many and urgent claims on my time, and that I cannot always reply as
quickly and as fully as I should like to do.
TO YOUNG MEN.
Before a young man marries he should always seek advice from a
trustworthy source with regard to his conduct as a husband. No
satisfactory book is, or perhaps could be, published on this subject;
and even if a young man can make up his mind to consult a doctor, it
is by no means every doctor who has the needful knowledge on this
subject or the best moral outlook. It has been my privilege to help
several in this matter, and I am always happy to do this.
TO BOYS AND YOUNG MEN.
I earnestly warn you against those who, by advertisement in the
papers, offer to cure young men who are suffering from weakness of the
private parts and other ills which impurity entails. Many such
advertisers are little better than rogues, who are out to make money
by trading on the fears of their victims; their "treatment" - quite
apart from a far greater cost than at first appears - often does more
harm than good. In every case in which disease or weakness exists, or
is suspected, a reliable medical man should be at once consulted. If
this is done, a cure may generally be looked for. Do not write to me;
this is a doctor's business, not mine.