Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/139

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

ousy, coyness, gallantry, self-sacrifice, sympathy, pride of conquest and possession, emotional hyperbole, mixed moods—major and minor—and admiration of personal beauty. Love thus constituted, he maintains, is unknown to savages, and was not experienced even by the civilized peoples of antiquity. In fact, he affirms that animals approach nearer to the emotion of romantic love than savages, for many animals, especially birds, have a period of courtship in which they display at least four of the "overtones" of romantic love, viz., jealousy, coyness, individual preference, and admiration of personal beauty, while savage men obtain their wives by capture or by paying a price for them in goods or labor, without any preliminary love-making. Even among ancient civilized nations he maintains that romantic love could not exist, because women then held a degraded position, and were carefully secluded both as maids and matrons, marriages being arranged for by the parents of the young people, thus allowing no opportunities for courtship and for free matrimonial choice. Among his evidence for this thesis is the statement that there is no mention of romantic love in the Bible, not excepting the Canticles. He disposes of Herder, who has asserted the opposite, by calling him "a very unsafe and shallow guide in this matter," and says, "So far as love is referred to in the Song of Solomon, it is probable that conjugal affection is meant." He makes a sharp distinction between conjugal and pre-matrimonial love, in which many persons will not agree with him, and claims that the former is developed earlier in the history of all peoples than the latter. Mr. Finck sees no evidence of a knowledge of romantic love in the verses of Anacreon or Sappho, of Catullus or Ovid, nor in the deification of Eros and Cupid. He does credit Ovid with depicting an approach to romantic love, but this approximation was soon lost to the world, and the sentiment remained unknown throughout the dark ages, even including the period of chivalry, which much-lauded institution Mr. Finck deems to have been less refined in practice than in theory. According to our author, romantic love began its existence a. d. 1274, in the breast of Dante, when he was a nine-year-old boy, and its advent is described in the "Vita Nuova." But Mr. Finck says that Dante "hyperidealized his passion," and that it was Shakespeare who first mingled the sensuous, aesthetic, and intellectual elements in proper proportion; next to Shakespeare's poetry, he deems Heine's the most valuable depository of modern love. In giving a further detailed account of the genuine romantic sentiment, he touches on the topics, old maids, bachelors, genius in love, kissing—past, present, and future—how to win and how to cure love, and the characteristics of French, Italian, Spanish, German, English, and American love.

In treating of personal beauty he very properly insists on hygienic living, which involves shunning many so-called beautifiers, as the basis of physical beauty, and credits some beautifying influence to crossing, romantic love, and mental refinement. After a short discussion of the evolution of taste, he describes the different ideals of beauty, savage and civilized, for the various parts of the human form, from the feet to the hair, with hints for improving the appearance of each part, and concludes with an examination of national types of beauty.

Mr. Finck supports his various statements with a multitude of analogies, allusions, and quotations. He maintains throughout a playful attitude toward his subject, which leads him into the use of slang and colloquial language in order to make fun; for instance, such expressions as "get left," "high-toned," "sparking," and "stabbed by a white wench's black eye." He is also careless about his syntax, thus he says, "A favorite Slavonic device is to cut the finger, let a few drops of her blood run into a glass of beer," etc., the pronoun having no antecedent. He defines a morganatic marriage as "a special royal euphemy for bigamy," but such a marriage need not involve bigamy. His science is as careless as his language; thus he speaks of existing savages as representing "a later stage of evolution" than existing animals. In short, this book is the production of a clever writer; it is clean and entertaining reading, but it is no addition to our knowledge of a subject which is really worthy of earnest study.