VITALOGY, Lesson the Second: How to Choose your Life’s Partner, and Warnings against ‘Secret Vice’

In this second installment, I’ll just repeat that the information comes from a wonderful book I discovered at a flea market, with the title of, “Vitalogy, or Encyclopedia of Health and Home.”  It is described on the title page inside the cover as:  “Beacon Lights for Old and Young, Showing How to Secure Health, Long Life, Success and Happiness, from the Ablest Authorities in this Country, Europe and Japan.”  The date of publication is 1922, it’s published by the “Vitalogy Association, Chicago, Illinois,” and there are two copyrights:  1904 and 1913.

The authors are two doctors by the names of Dr. Geo. P. Wood, and Dr. E. H Ruddock, and their photos appear in the banner photo for this article.  I’ve been trying to discover some biographical information on the authors, but can’t find anything on the internet.  It seems that the first edition of this book was in 1899…at least that’s the earliest edition I can see ‘out there.’

In any case, judging by the photos, the doctors were over 50 years old at the time of writing it, so likely received their medical training in the 1870s.  That’s an important point to note in terms of this particular article, because their advice on choosing a marriage partner largely derives from physiognomy (analysis of a person’s character based on physical attributes, predominantly facial features), which was the predecessor to phrenology (analysis of a person’s character and intellectual attributes based on the shape or irregularities of the head or skull).  The doctors have expanded on the main focus of  physiognomy to include other physical attributes, but it’s the same basic premise:  that the interior of a person can be learned from their exterior.

Physiognomy has been around a long time, apparently, and was posited by the ancient Greek, Aristotle—or at least the school of Aristotle, if not Aristotle himself.  “The principal promoter of physiognomy in modern times was the Swiss pastor Johann Kaspar Lavater (1741–1801).  The principal sources from where Lavater found ‘confirmation’ of his ideas were from the English physician-philosopher Sir Thomas Browne (1605–1682), and the Italian Giambattista Della Porta (1535–1615).”  (Wikipedia)

The following gives us an idea of the type of interpretation that would be applied to various features.  This is from Faces we meet and how to read them, by R.D.B. Wells, published by Vickers, London, in 1870, p 14:

Anatomical interpretations :

The forehead is the principal seat of reasoning, reflective and perspective qualities.  Prominence of the lower part of forehead is indicative of a desire to see the world, to study science, learn languages and master matters of fact. Fleshy and blunt foreheads show obtuseness of mind, dullness of comprehension and weakness of understanding. Large and prominent eyes indicate power of expression. Deep-seated penetrating eyes suggest far sightedness and shrewdness. Upward and oblique eyes are seen in cunning, plotting and enthusiastic people. In men a large nose is suggestive of strong character and endurance, whereas in women a large nose is suggestive of aggressiveness and of dominance. A short, flat and upturned nose indicates weakness, inquisitiveness and dependant nature. A large mouth shows possession of good character. If the corners of the mouth are drawn downwards, it shows a gloomy and morose nature. A pointed and narrow chin indicates that the person may be crafty while a small and square chin shows an affectionate nature. If the chin is retreating, the person may show lack of perseverance and feebleness of organization. Large ears suggest generosity while small ears suggest greed for money.

Physiognomy and phrenology were largely discredited as pseudosciences during the late 19th century, but would have had a following during the time Drs. Wood and Ruddock were in training, or in the early years of their medical practice.  Which explains a lot, as you will see from these sections excerpted from Vitalogy

woman to shun

“A Man Hater” Sexually

It is in the nature of things that man should desire to “multiply and replenish the earth.”  With some women and with many men the chief object and aim in marriage is to bring into the world healthy, intelligent and robust children to illumine their early and cheer their declining days.

With all who seek the married state the expectation is that it shall result in a prolonged intimacy with the chosen one and in securing a home—a peaceful, happy home.  It is not then of the utmost importance that steps should be taken, intelligently, to so choose as to gain the ends desired? And is it not the height of folly to go blindly into this, by far the most important relation of his lifetime?

If a man is full-blooded, sexually vigorous and strong, do you suppose that he could reasonably expect satisfaction if he married a girl like the one illustrated as “A Man Hater Sexually”?  A woman whose sexual development was arrested in early youth—who has not enough sexual passion to last her through two years of wedlock?  Assuredly not.  Such women usually have flat chests, narrow hips, bloodless and thin or peaked features, indicative of arrested sexual development and a lack of that warmth and softness that attracts and holds the affections of men.  Some women marry because they want a man to support them.  They will have a horror of bearing children or rearing a family.  Sexually they are man haters.  Let them alone, young man, unless you likewise are indifferent to such things.

How to Find Happiness in Conjugal Relations

When mother or sister perceive, as they are apt to do, that the son or brother designs to “get married” to or is “keeping company” with some member of the other sex whom they have reason to believe would be altogether unsuitable as a life companion, it is of the most vital importance that promptly and tactfully some word of warning be given to that son or brother before it is too late—before the final step is taken that is to result, and so often does result, in a life of misery and sometimes of sin or of crime.  The young man, as a rule, is blind to the facts, attracted by some fancy or some alluring trait; he cannot distinguish its evanescent quality or note that this attraction of feature or mind, as it may happen to be, will not stand the test of intimacy or of time.

If, then, other and sterling qualities are lacking in the woman of his choice love soon fades to discontent, then to apathy, and then to disgust and loathing.  Hence the importance of “whispering in his ear” the timely word that as he values his future happiness or would avoid a life of misery and wretchedness he must stop.  Many may not listen to the timely warning but more will, and thousands of affectionate sisters and often mothers have thus saved a much-loved brother or son from that “hell on earth”—an unhappy, mismated married existence.

woman to marry

Test for a Good Husband

Prof. Goodrich, one of the greatest experts in reading human character, was once asked by a young lady to tell her how she could determine whether a certain young man, who was keeping company with her, would make a kind-hearted husband.  She was a little afraid about getting married because it was such a very important step.

The professor declared that his best advice was, to introduce her young man to some old lady and leave him alone with her for awhile, the longer the better.  Then ask the old lady what she thought of him.  Also, to introduce the young man, incidentally of course, to a young baby, and “do not stay around yourself.”  Get the baby’s opinion of the young man from the baby’s mother or nurse.  If the baby likes him and pulls his mustache or “crows” to him, it is a sure sign that the young man may be trusted.  Babies and very old persons are the very best judges of human nature.  With either, the young man will be off his guard, unless he thinks that he is being watched, and act out his inner nature.  The baby will intuitively feel an unkind presence and promptly turn from it.  The old lady whose sight has grown dim depends more upon her inner or intuitive impressions, and is rarely mistaken when she does.  This, he declared, was his very best advice.


The man who has what is often termed a “bad eye” or a crafty expression should be shunned, as he will surely lead any woman who marries him a miserable life.  Sometimes these eyes are fierce, often restless, while the eyebrows have a tendency to lower.  Notice them when their possessor meets strangers or people he does not like, and the evil spirit back of the eye will be apparent, although otherwise well hidden.  Then, too, we hear much said nowadays about degenerates, not because people have changed, but simply because some scientific students have gathered the actual facts about the number of people who have been deteriorating and have given the proofs to the world.

Anybody looking at the young ladies in any of our large cities cannot help noting how the very slim, narrow-hipped, and narrow-shouldered girls and young women predominate.  This is attributed by the scientists to the very general habit of wearing tight clothing and of tight lacing that prevailed among their mothers a generation ago.  These pretty, trim, vivacious, nervous, sexually undeveloped young women make the poorest kind of wives and still worse mothers.  They are degenerates suffering for the sins of their ancestors.

Young men would do better and be happier to remain bachelors than to marry such girls.

man to shun

Defects of Men

In any city or town one has not far to go to find young men with a more or less slouchy gait, low forehead, chin narrow, jaw widening rapidly until it becomes prominent under the ear, eyes near together, and generally restless, receding forehead and chin, back of head almost in line with the back of the neck, etc.  Such a man, even though of pleasing address, will prove to be cruel, selfish, heartless, liable to fail in business or commit some crime,–if a workman, likely to engage in strikes and frequently out of work.  They are degenerates in whom the natural mental qualities are illy developed and who are sadly deficient in that most important of all qualities, self-control.  They are like an engine without a safety-valve or balance wheel.  They may run all right for a time, but trouble is sure to come before long.  So it is with the degenerate.  He may make a fairly good appearance for a time, but it is not in him to do well.  He, too, will cause trouble.  To a careful observer, the signs of degeneracy are always apparent, and such persons should be shunned for companions and especially avoided when matrimony is the end of the companionship.

True, not many will show all the signs of degeneracy noted in a very marked degree, but some will show marked deficiency in some one feature and slighter ones in others.  Some will show slight deficiency in nearly all, though marked in none.  But all alike are unfitted for parenthood.  It is not their fault, but their misfortune, and society must come to the point where it shall protect itself from the perpetuation of such blemishes of character before it can hope to make real progress and secure a preponderance of noble, capable citizens.


There are various names given to the unnatural and degrading vice of producing venereal excitement by the hand, or other means, generally resulting in a discharge of semen in the male and a corresponding emission in the female.  Unfortunately, it is a vice by no means uncommon among the youth of both sexes, and is frequently continued into riper years.

Symptoms—The following are some of the symptoms of those who are addicted to the habit:  Inclination to shun company or society; frequently being missed from the company of the family, or others with whom he or she is associated; becoming timid and bashful, and shunning the society of the opposite sex; the face is apt to be pale and often a bluish or purplish streak under the eyes, while the eyes themselves look dull and languid and the edges of the eyelids often become red and sore; the person can not look any one steadily in the face, but will drop the eyes or turn away from your gaze as if guilty of something mean.

The health soon becomes noticeably impaired; there will be general debility, a slowness of growth, weakness in the lower limbs, nervousness and unsteadiness of the hands, loss of memory, forgetfulness and inability to study or learn, a restless disposition, weak eyes and loss of sight, headache and inability to sleep or wakefulness.  Next come sore eyes, blindness, stupidity, consumption, spinal affection, emaciation, involuntary seminal emissions, loss of all energy or spirit, insanity and idiocy—the hopeless ruin of both body and mind.  These latter results do not always follow.  Yet they or some of them do often occur as the direct consequences of the pernicious habit.

The subject is an important one.  Few, perhaps, ever think, or ever know, how many of the unfortunate inmates of our lunatic asylums have been sent there by this dreadful vice.  Were the whole truth upon this subject known, it would alarm parents, as well as the guilty victims of the vice, more even than the dread of the cholera or small-pox.

How to prevent Secret Vice

[Along with preaching the evils of it to the young…] The regular daily use of the sponge bath conduces greatly to the cure or prevention of self-abuse.  The too free use of meat, highly-seasoned dishes, coffee, wine, late suppers, etc., strongly tend to excite animal propensities, which directly predispose to vice.

A Terrible EvilIn the City of Chicago in one school, an investigation proved that over sixty children under thirteen years of age were habitually practicing this degrading, health and life destroying habit, while among the older ones the habit was even worse, though not so easily detected.

In a country school in Black Hawk Co., Iowa, one bad boy secretly taught all the rest until the entire school practiced this private vice during the noon hour when the teacher was away.

In New Orleans nearly all the pupils in a large female boarding school were practicing this horrible vice and the scandal of the fearful discovery is not yet forgotten.

Worth MillionsThe foregoing article on self-abuse should be in the hands of every young person as it would be the means of saving many bright intellects from becoming stupid or imbeciles, or lunatics or from filling premature graves and be worth to them more than Astor’s millions.

And so we are given photos of this unfortunate fellow, whose name is published, along with his city of residence, Harris, Pennsylvania.  As we are told in the captions, the second photo was taken three years after the first, when the practice of ‘secret vice’ began to take its toll (helped along by a bit of manual touching-up, we think!).  Puts me in mind of The Portrait of Dorian Gray…

vice before and after

I’m fascinated that photos of actual people are included in this book, only one of whom (the type of woman a man may safely marry) might find it complimentary.

In any case, I trust that you are now well instructed as to the best means of choosing a suitable mate, as well as stringently warned of associated evils.  If this advice comes too late to save you from error, I humbly apologize, on behalf of the good doctors, that their wise words were not brought to your attention in a more timely fashion.

Be well.



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