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Becklard’s Physiology; or, the Quaint Backwardness of 1850s Medicine – Part Three

Chapter Four. Everyone should have children, but even this doctor recognizes the fact that sometimes, the time is not ripe for children – due to economy, or injury or disease, and so on. He knows that some will take umbrage with his tips to prevent pregnancy, but he avers that it is better to teach prevention than wind up with cases of infanticide.

Here are some ways to prevent pregnancy, as thought of in the nineteenth century:

– brisk exercise, such as horseback riding

– bathing in salt water after intercourse

– use of a sponge (which is once again on the market)

– an “oiled-silk covering,” presumably an early version of a condom

– eating spicy food

– warm water douches

– seeds of the Chaste Tree (which was thought to inhibit libido)

– a “supine” vagina, as without contractions, there can be no pregnancy. Women can’t become pregnant from rape, sayeth Becklard.

    “Thus, unless the female vagina [as opposed to the male vagina?] is in a busy, active state, there is but little apprehension of offspring. Let me add, that this supineness, even in the most healthy females, is a sure attendant of disgust or abhorrence; therefore, I have no faith in the stories of women, who are said to have borne children as the consequence of rape or violation. Indeed, the thing is impossible unless the parties are agreed, for the muscular effort, to the action of which the uterus responds, is voluntary on the part of the female, and is only called in play in moments of enjoyment.”

    A few sentences prior to this, however, he admits that the process of impregnation is “still a mystery.” Now we know where the “body has a way of shutting that thing down” bullshit has its origins. Sigh.

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Becklard’s Physiology; or, the Quaint Backwardness of 1850s Medicine – Part Two

Chapter One is a brief introduction, and one that we have heard before. Self-pollution is bad, mmkay? Lots of turrible things happen when you play with yourself. Hot flashes, acne, blindness . . . you know the drill. Let’s move on to new territory.

Chapter Two. Must Man be born of Woman? You’d be surprised! Becklard talks about some theories and ideas that others have had upon this. However, he concludes that man is always born of woman. Thanks for clearing that up, doc.

Chapter Three talks about barrenness. He waxes lyrical about the immortality of the soul. He feels that man’s soul must be immortal, or how else to explain man’s horrid goal of living and dying in a world that is, essentially, hostile to him? Anyway, Becklard is convinced that all normal men and women are capable of having children; the exceptions are deformity or injury to the generative parts.

So, why are there so many “unfruitful” marriages? The good doctor gives a few reasons: mutual coldness of the parties, mutual intensity of desire, physical unfitness of the parties for intercourse (anatomically, that is), disgust, shyness, et cetera. Also, and this is rare, but women who are lacking a vaginal canal, or ovaries. These women are monsters, and horrible liars if they know they are unable to have children and still get married. Ouch.

For an example of mutual intensity and coldness, one need only to look at Napoleon and Josephine, who did not have any children together, but once they separated, were able to have fruitful marriages with others. People who have really amorous sex will not have children, for they need to

Differences in anatomical structure should be prevented by foreknowledge prior to marriage. However, Becklard knows that people are too “delicate” to discuss such things, which he finds shameful, as we as a society seem to choose a horse more carefully than a marriage partner!

Sometimes, men become debilitated and need a stimulant, but beware of those that are not nourishing to the system. The good doctor recommends Lucina Cordial, which even HE is unable to tell the contents of, but has seen its effects in action. I am unable to really find anything on it myself, except the bottles look really cool and sell for quite a bit at auction. If Lucina Cordial is not available, Verrey’s Tincture will also serve. I suppose these items were so well known during the time period that the doctor felt it wasn’t necessary to explain. He relates a story of a barren couple who were finally able to conceive after several bottles of the cordial. I found an old advertisement for it in a vintage newspaper, and the stuff certainly wasn’t cheap – 3 dollars for a bottle, or four bottles for ten dollars. Now, the Inflation Calculator only goes back as far as 1913, but for argument’s sake, US $3 in 1913 would be US $70.59 in 2013. With a little imagination, one can see how desperate one would have to be for children to shell out 3 bucks for some nineteenth-century Viagra.

Some more tips from Dr. Becklard regarding “fecundation” – morning nookie is better. Women, if you have “low wombs” and are married to “very masculine” men, be sure that your husbands to not attempt to plant BEYOND the soil. It doesn’t go in your stomach!

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Becklard’s Physiology; or the Quaint Backwardness of 1850s Medicine – Part One

Readers, I have found a veritable treasure trove of old advice books! Husband-to-be has university borrowing privileges and I had the opportunity to go prowl around the library and take out some real gems that shall be featured on here soon.

The first of these lovelies is Beckard’s Physiology; rather, the full title is The Physiologist; or Sexual Physiology Revealed, being Mysteries and Revelations in Matters of great Importance to the Married and Unmarried of both Sexes; – and Useful Hints to Lovers, Husbands, and Wives. A complete Guide to Health, Happiness, and Personal Beauty. – Containing such Information as can be had by those only who have the advantage of a Medical Education.

With Practical Remarks on Manhood, with the causes of its premature decline, and modes of perfect restoration.

Economy and Abuse of the Generative Organs. Effects of excessive Indulgences. Love, Courtship, and Marriage. Its proper Season. Directions for choosing a Partner. Mysteries of Generation. Causes and Cure of Barrenness. Prevention of Offspring. Solitary Practices, with their best mode of Treatment, &c. &c.

Gotta love those long, ridiculous titles. The original publication date appears to be 1844, at least in the United States, with a reprint edition by Bela Marsh in 1859. The edition I hold in my hands is a facsimile edition of this work, as well as another entitled Marriage Physiologically Discussed, by Jean DuBois, under the heading Sex for the Common Man, which was part of a series of nineteenth-century marriage manuals published by Arno Press in 1974.

Eugene Becklard is a mystery in himself. Not much appears to be known about him, except what he says about himself in the text. The translator of his work, one M. Sherman Wharton, is also a cipher. In his “Translator’s Note,” Dr. Wharton tells us that Dr. Becklard is “one of the most distinguished physicians in France.” Okay, well, great. So, how come he has been lost to history? This writer wonders if, perhaps, “Becklard” and “Wharton” are, in fact, the same person, and that whoever this man was, it was an attempt to lend credence to his work. Which was successful, I suppose, as this book went into several editions!

In the Preface, Dr. Becklard tells his readers that he has over thirty years of experience in the medical field, and has worked in the maternity hospital, as well, which gives him a superior kind of knowledge over others who have not. Unlike Dr. Dewees’ book, which I have yet to finish, this book was written for the layperson, and Dr. Becklard encourages all adults to read it, as well as children at least ten years of age, because keeping our children ignorant just leads to more problems.

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