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A Report by Andrew Collins
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Descent of Man [ 1871]

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Author Topic: Descent of Man [ 1871]  (Read 5493 times)
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« Reply #195 on: February 10, 2009, 01:27:58 pm »

Chapter XX - Secondary Sexual Characters of Man- Continued

  WE have seen in the last chapter that with all barbarous races
ornaments, dress, and external appearance are highly valued; and
that the men judge of the beauty of their women by widely different
standards. We must next inquire whether this preference and the
consequent selection during many generations of those women, which
appear to the men of each race the most attractive, has altered the
character either of the females alone, or of both sexes. With
mammals the general rule appears to be that characters of all kinds
are inherited equally by the males and females; we might therefore
expect that with mankind any characters gained by the females or by
the males through sexual selection would commonly be transferred to
the offspring of both sexes. If any change has thus been effected,
it is almost certain that the different races would be differently
modified, as each has its own standard of beauty.
  With mankind, especially with savages, many causes interfere with
the action of sexual selection as far as the bodily frame is
concerned. Civilised men are largely attracted by the mental charms of
women, by their wealth, and especially by their social position; for
men rarely marry into a much lower rank. The men who succeed in
obtaining the more beautiful women will not have a better chance of
leaving a long line of descendants than other men with plainer
wives, save the few who bequeath their fortunes according to
primogeniture. With respect to the opposite form of selection, namely,
of the more attractive men by the women, although in civilised nations
women have free or almost free choice, which is not the case with
barbarous races, yet their choice is largely influenced by the
social position and wealth of the men; and the success of the latter
in life depends much on their intellectual powers and energy, or on
the fruits of these same powers in their forefathers. No excuse is
needed for treating this subject in some detail; for, as the German
philosopher Schopenhauer remarks, "the final aim of all love
intrigues, be they comic or tragic, is really of more importance
than all other ends in human life. What it all turns upon is nothing
less than the composition of the next generation.... It is not the
weal or woe of any one individual, but that of the human race to come,
which is here at stake."*

  * "Schopenhauer and Darwinism," in Journal of Anthropology, Jan.,
1871, p. 323.

  There is, however, reason to believe that in certain civilised and
semi-civilised nations sexual selection has effected something in
modifying the bodily frame of some of the members. Many persons are
convinced, as it appears to me with justice, that our aristocracy,
including under this term all wealthy families in which
primogeniture has long prevailed, from having chosen during many
generations from all classes the more beautiful women as their
wives, have become handsomer, according to the European standard, than
the middle classes; yet the middle classes are placed under equally
favourable conditions of life for the perfect development of the body.
Cook remarks that the superiority in personal appearance "which is
observable in the erees or nobles in all the other islands (of the
Pacific) is found in the Sandwich Islands"; but this may be chiefly
due to their better food and manner of life.
  The old traveller Chardin, in describing the Persians, says their
"blood is now highly refined by frequent intermixtures with the
Georgians and Circassians, two nations which surpass all the world
in personal beauty. There is hardly a man of rank in Persia who is not
born of a Georgian or Circassian mother." He adds that they inherit
their beauty, "not from their ancestors, for without the above
mixture, the men of rank in Persia, who are descendants of the
Tartars, would be extremely ugly."* Here is a more curious case; the
priestesses who attended the temple of Venus Erycina at San-Giuliano
in Sicily, were selected for their beauty out of the whole of
Greece; they were not vestal virgins, and Quatrefages,*(2) who
states the foregoing fact, says that the women of San-Giuliano are now
famous as the most beautiful in the island, and are sought by
artists as models. But it is obvious that the evidence in all the
above cases is doubtful.

  * These quotations are taken from Lawrence (Lectures on
Physiology, &c., 1822, p. 393), who attributes the beauty of the upper
classes in England to the men having long selected the more
beautiful women.
  *(2) "Anthropologie," Revue des Cours Scientifiques, Oct., 1868,
p. 721.

  The following case, though relating to savages, is well worth giving
for its curiosity. Mr. Winwood Reade informs me that the Jollofs, a
tribe of negroes on the west coast of Africa, "are remarkable for
their uniformly fine appearance." A friend of his asked one of these
men, "How is it that every one whom I meet is so fine looking, not
only your men but your women?" The Jollof answered, "It is very easily
explained: it has always been our custom to pick out our worst-looking
slaves and to sell them." It need hardly be added that with all
savages, female slaves serve as concubines. That this negro should
have attributed, whether rightly or wrongly, the fine appearance of
his tribe to the long-continued elimination of the ugly women is not
so surprising as it may at first appear; for I have elsewhere shewn*
that negroes fully appreciate the importance of selection in the
breeding of their domestic animals, and I could give from Mr. Reade
additional evidence on this head.

  * Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, vol. i., p.

  The Causes which prevent or check the Action of Sexual Selection
with Savages.- The chief causes are, first, so-called communal
marriages or promiscuous intercourse; secondly, the consequences of
female infanticide; thirdly, early betrothals; and lastly, the low
estimation in which women are held, as mere slaves. These four
points must be considered in some detail.
  It is obvious that as long as the pairing of man, or of any other
animal, is left to mere chance, with no choice exerted by either
sex, there can be no sexual selection; and no effect will be
produced on the offspring by certain individuals having had an
advantage over others in their courtship. Now it is asserted that
there exist at the present day tribes which practise what Sir J.
Lubbock by courtesy calls communal marriages; that is, all the men and
women in the tribe are husbands and wives to one another. The
licentiousness of many savages is no doubt astonishing, but it seems
to me that more evidence is requisite, before we fully admit that
their intercourse is in any case promiscuous. Nevertheless all those
who have most closely studied the subject,* and whose judgment is
worth much more than mine, believe that communal marriage (this
expression being variously guarded) was the original and universal
form throughout the world, including therein the intermarriage of
brothers and sisters. The late Sir A. Smith, who had travelled
widely in S. Africa, and knew much about the habits of savages there
and elsewhere, expressed to me the strongest opinion that no race
exists in which woman is considered as the property of the
community. I believe that his judgment was largely determined by
what is implied by the term marriage. Throughout the following
discussion I use the term in the same sense as when naturalists
speak of animals as monogamous, meaning thereby that the male is
accepted by or chooses a single female, and lives with her either
during the breeding-season or for the whole year, keeping possession
of her by the law of might; or, as when they speak of a polygamous
species, meaning that the male lives with several females. This kind
of marriage is all that concerns us here, as it suffices for the
work of sexual selection. But I know that some of the writers above
referred to imply by the term marriage a recognised right protected by
the tribe.

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