Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/504

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
488
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

persons of opposite sex is generally considered to be instinctive. Reichenbach sought to explain it on the theory that the mouth was the focus of his "odic force" and that these two foci of opposite sexes possessed natural attraction to each other. The hypothesis that the kiss is to be derived from the mutual licking of each other by the subhuman animals is unsatisfactory, because those animals seldom bring the soft parts of their respective mouths into contact. They exchange licking as they exchange rubbing of other parts of the body, and such lickings and rubbings are unrelated to sex. But the fact that the mutual kiss between opposite sexes is not general among the tribes of men is abundantly shown by the observations of travelers in the lands where savagery and barbarism still exist. Where it is now practiced it is not probably of great antiquity. In some languages, notably the Japanese, there is no word for kiss.

When, however, the kiss was introduced to include women, its vogue, like that of other new inventions, was carried to excess. According to the chronicle of Winsenius, it was unknown in England until the Princess Rowena, the daughter of King Hengist, of Friesland, instructed the insular Vortigern in the imported salute. Though the Saxon statistics are not probably exact, it is historical that in England, not many generations ago, it would have been the imperative duty of a visitor to have kissed all the ladies of the household, even without previous acquaintance. Such was the experience of many surprised literary foreigners, notably Erasmus. The contemporary drama shows the usage to have lasted into the Georgian era, and it is to be noticed that the performance was generally called a "salute," sometimes "the salute."

The history of the early Christian Church affords instruction on this topic. At first the kiss was an adopted sign of fellowship—"Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss" (1 Thess., v, 26). It early passed into ceremony as the kiss of peace given to a newly baptized convert, and in celebrating the Eucharist. But, as it was found to have some qualities not adapted to religious and spiritual use between the sexes, it was ordered that only men should kiss men and women only women. The awkwardness of this practice, or perhaps the experience that promiscuous kissing, even when limited to the same sex, was liable to convey contagious diseases, induced another amendment, by which the ceremonial kiss in the Roman Church was only passed between the ministrants, and a relic or cross called the oscillatorium or pax was passed to the people for their lips.

It may, perhaps, be suggested that one reason for the very long delay in the practice of the mutual kiss was in the general use by one or both of the sexes of nose-rings or labrets, either of which