Friday, 19 October 2012

The Prurient Physicality of the Purple Publication

                   There are some works, just as there are some people, which you suspect right from the outset. There is just something about them. That certain je ne sais quoi which immediately puts you on the back foot. A badly-cut jib, if you will. 

One such piece is Frederick Hollick MD’s 1850 tome which goes by the name,  
The Marriage Guide, Or Natural History Of Generation; A Private Instructor For Married Persons And Those About To Marry Both Male And Female; In Every Thing Concerning The Physiology And Relations Of The Sexual System And The Production Or Prevention Of Offspring— Including All The New Discoveries, Never Before Given in the English Language

F Hollick - The Marriage Guide - 1850

It’s just too much information all in the same place at the same time. And maybe, that’s the thing. Hollick tries too hard, he doth protest too much, as it were. Now I don’t know too much about the system of nomenclature favoured in the Americas, but why put MD after his name rather than putting Dr before it? Perhaps it is a local thing, rather like the propensity of our German cousins to call anyone who is capable of joined-up writing Herr Doktor. Still. And then he goes on to add that he is an “Author And Lecturer Upon The Physiology And Diseases Of The Generative Organs.” 

Detail from the title page above

Well, I don’t doubt that you are, although simply by the act of mentioning it, I am now starting to ask why do you feel the need to bring it up. Then, before we even get to the text, there is a little paragraph on the reverse of the title page. I quote: - 
N. B. — This Book is the only strictly Scientific, popular, and practically useful one of the kind ever published. The price of it is One Dollar, and it may be obtained of the publisher or of booksellers generally. —The publisher will also send it anywhere by post on receiving One Dollar and the address. All Dr. H.'s other books will also be sent by T. W. Strong, in the same way.

Hollick's little paragraph

Do you see what I mean? It simply screams ‘too much’. Why is scientific in capitals, and why is the author referred to as Dr H – there is plenty of space for his full name? But Hollick hoicks up his sleeves and really goes to town in his Preface. He informs us why he is writing this ‘much needed’ work, ‘the first of its kind’ and rattles on about well qualified he is to write it. Over and over again. And then, just for good measure, he tells us again, just in case, presumably, we missed it the first few times. Then, after the table of contents and list of illustrations, what do we get? 

An advertisement for Hollick MD’s other publications, of course. And on the next page? Yet another advertisement. Then, off we pop, right? Wrong. We come next to a ‘Notice’, wherein Hollick informs us that, for a mere $5 he will answer specific questions written to him and can also provide the goods and services he just happens to mention, although he adds that,
 “…many of these from requiring his personal supervision, and occupying considerable time, are necessarily expensive.” 

Hollick's Notice

Do you see where this is going? Good old Doctor Hollick is just a bloody quack, a humbug, a fraud. He actually gets down the real business in an ‘over view’ of the reproduction functions. These are ‘Universal’
The manner in which Reproduction is effected is the same in all kinds of beings, both animal and vegetable,” 
there are Male and Female functions and, 
These two principles, in some form or other, universally exist, though under various conditions, and are always united.” 
Got that? Male and Female – universally and always united. But then Hollick has a rethink – universally except for the hermaphrodites, actually, you know, snails and slugs and leeches and those sorts of things. OK, three functions, then. Male, Female and Hermaphrodites. And Males and Females are Universally and always united. Apart from some fishes. Which don’t unite. They lay eggs which are fertilised outside the body. So Male and Female and Hermaphrodites and some Fishes. Oh, and Marsupials, because they’re a bit different as well

Dr Hollick's Aphrodisiac Remedy (only $5)

Let’s be honest Doc, you haven’t really thought this through, have you? Anyway, we get the general idea – so, what’s next. Another advert, naturally, because 
This Book is the only strictly Scientific, popular, and practically useful one of the kind ever published.’ 
So get your Dr Hollick’s Aphrodisiac Remedy now. And don’t forget (because you are reminded again, on the next page), that you can write to Dr Hollick and get an answer for $5. The next chapter is devoted to a detailed description of the Female organs of reproduction, which is very medical and not at all titillating, and doesn’t mention Hottentot Venuses, or what Negresses or Turks get up to. Or maybe, it does. But it’s medical, right. So don’t go getting the wrong idea. That’s why there are ninety pages of this stuff. And then Hollick turns to the Chaps, to whom he devotes, oh, twenty-five pages. But it’s medical. It’s just that there isn’t as much to describe, right. 

Another advert from Hollick...

And then we’re into pregnancy, childbirth, and a not-at-all alarming chapter on Extra-Uterine Conception, and Unnatural or Monstrous Growths, where we learn that extreme violence committed at the moment of conception can cause birth defects. Honest. Bet you didn’t consider that, did you? Well, a ‘celebrated Physiologist’ once gave a pregnant female dog a violent blow on the head, so that ‘she was paralysed for several days’, and guess what? When the pups were born, they were deformed. Who’d have thunk it? 

Writing Desk & Gold Pen presented by Grateful Ladies

And as for monstrosities, these are the result of  
“…fright, sudden joy, or the sight of any disagreeable object,”
in the pregnant female, although men can also be the cause 
I have known a man who had three deformed children by one wife, and two by another, owing to imperfect Animalcules.” 
However, it’s when Hollick reaches Part Two - Miscellaneous Subjects Interesting And Important To Married Persons – that he really gets to work. 

Hollick - Part II - Miscellaneous Subjects
Did you know that the Male influences the ovaries of the Female so much during mating that
 “… a female married a second time will have children resembling the first husband, and sometimes even in a third marriage,”?
No, nor did I. Or that,  
“ … there is an innate sentiment in woman of modesty, or shame.” 
Evidently, Frederick hasn’t had a Saturday Night Out in any of our city centres. Or been to Essex. 
How about this,  
“…if a man exhaust most of his nervous energy in thinking or in muscular energy, the other functions, including the generative, must be proportionally weakened,”
So it’s one thing or t’other, chaps, but not both.

Just another advert for the published works of Dr Hollick...

We should not, for one single moment, let down our guard, for as Dr Hollick writes about beverages – 
Tea and Coffee - Both these articles, but especially coffee, act as direct stimulants to the generative organs, and if taken in excess may produce all the effects of the most powerful drugs. I have known coffee cause priapism, lascivious dreams, and involuntary emissions, and nearly always its continued use will counteract any treatment that can be followed for relief.” 
That explains a lot. So what does the good Doctor recommend instead of a warming cuppa? A little something that 
… causes great mental activity, disposes to cheerfulness, and induces a feeling of warmth and comfort over the whole system Those who have taken it in a proper manner, are delighted with its effects, and never complain of any after-depression or re-action in any way.” 
And just what is this marvellous panacea? Why, cannabis of course!

Male Generative Organs - only $1

Foods come under the microscope too. ‘Watery vegetables’ - turnips, cabbage and squash – are  
‘…proper when we wish to keep down excitement,’ and ‘rice is unstimulating, but sago, tapioca, and arrow-root are the reverse.’ 
Pesky milk puddings. They have a lot to answer for. And fruit. 
Highly-flavored ones, such as peaches, and pine-apples, … are undoubtedly aphrodisiac.”
Hollick has good things to say about roast beef, especially when it is well supplied with ozmazone, and well-prepared soups which smell of ozmazone are also recommended. I’ll write more about ozmazone on another day.

More Prizes from the Grateful Ladies

Hollick’s ‘mucky book’ went on to be published in an mind-boggling five hundred editions, he toured America with an anatomically ‘correct’  papier mâché model of a woman that he would dissect before a paying audience and eventually fell foul of the city fathers of Philadelphia, who charged him with obscenity. He claimed he was a doctor and was just doing his job. He was certainly a man who loved his work. 

I was going to say he threw himself into it, but that would be in poor taste, so I won't bother.

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