Primitive Love

December 9, 2009

Primitive love and love-stories

Henry Theophilus Finck

Found from Psychological Review review of Des Indes a la Planete Mars, next review Primitive love and Love Stories

From this review things looked promising and interesting….

The latter half of the book gives illustrations of primitive love among African, Australian, Polynesian, American, Hindoo, Hebrew and Greek peoples, and concludes with a chapter on the utility and future of love in which the author follows Schopenhauer. The work contains a good bibliography and index.

….but Yikes!

19th century ethnography at its worst, makes the premise that in order for love to arrive at that pinnacle of perfection which was Victorian Virtue it had to make a long painful evolution from lower states. Tries to prove that the baser races don’t have capacity to feel love.

The section headers pretty much say it all:

Personal Charms of Australians
Cruel Treatment of Women
Were Savages Corrupted by Whites?
Aboriginal Horrors
Naked and not Ashamed
Is Civilization Demoralizing
Aboriginal Wantonness
Lower than Brutes
Indifference to Chastity

There are some interesting quotes from travelers/missionaries throughout but the author made an effort to pick the most despicable ones:

The eminent anatomist Fritsch, in his valuable work on the natives of South Africa (38G-407), describes the Bushmen as being even in physical development far below the normal standard. Their limbs are ” horribly thin ” in both sexes; both women and men are ” frightfully ugly,” and so much alike that, although they go about almost naked, it is difficult to tell them apart. He thinks they are probably the aboriginal inhabitants of Africa, scattered from the Cape to the Zambesi, and perhaps beyond. They are filthy in their habits, and ” washing the body is a proceeding unknown to them.” When the French anatomist Cuvier examined a Bushman woman, he was reminded of an ape by her head, her ears, her movements, and her way of pouting the lips. The language of the Bushmen has often been likened to the chattering of monkeys. According to Bleek, who has collected their tales, their language is of the lowest known type. Lichtenstein (II., 42) found the Bushman women like the men, ” ugly in the extreme,” adding that ” they understand each other more by their gestures than by their speaking.” “No one has a name peculiar to himself.” Others have described them as having protuberant stomachs, prominent posteriors, hollowed-out backs, and “few ideas but those of vengeance and eating.” They have only two numerals, everything beyond two being ” much,” and except in those directions where the struggle for life has sharpened their wits, their intellectual faculties in general are on a level with their mathematics. Their childish ignorance is illustrated by a question which some of them seriously asked Chapman (I., 83) one day— whether his big wagons were not the mothers of the little ones with slender tires.

There are also positive ones:

…was promiscuous in a remarkable degree. They may indeed be proclaimed as a colony of free lovers. Curiously enough the sweetheart system was largely in vogue ; though no one confined his or her attentions to one only. Each girl in fact had several sweethearts, and what is still stranger, this seemed to give rise- to no jealousies. The most perfect equality prevailed between the Ditto and Elmoran, and in their savage circumstances it was really pleasant to see how common it was for a young girl to wander about the camp with her arm round the waist of a stalwart warrior.

but these are quickly countered by Finck, who I gather was/is a respected music critic. Some of his books on music are still in print, thought this one not so much.

All in all a very depressing book, saying people don’t have rational logic is one thing, but that they don’t have the capacity for basic human emotion is nauseating.