A 1711 treatise on venereal disease (Part II: Human Anatomy)

by Mike

Welcome back to Amboceptor’s exclusive, breaking coverage of Dr. John Marten’s Treatise of the Venereal Disease, a 1711 collection of medical science, anecdotes, rants, a few jokes, lots of letters between him and his patients and his colleagues — a long and rambling work, as books tended to be at the time.

Today, we’ll go through some of Dr. Marten’s best passages on the subject of basic anatomy, sexual and otherwise. For help with some of the old-timey words (“Polypi”? What are these salacious animals?), check out Monday’s post on vocabulary.


  • On food-borne parasites:
  • I had not given her above three or four Doses of a certain Mercurial Preparation (which I ever give to Salivate with), but she voided by Stool, in two Day’s time, an infinite number of Worms, both of the Ascarides and other kinds, small and great, and as she and others said, not less than a Quart; but I’ll no more dispute the Measure than the Number, but I am sure that I saw Thousands of them my self; such is the force of Mercury, by which may be seen, what an Enemy it is to Putrefaction. Enquiring of her if she used to void them, she told me, yes, and that she used mightily to eat raw Meat from the Butcher’s Shops, and frequently dine thereof; which I forbid, and prosecuted their Cures with the expected Success. (p. 706)
  • On infertility:
  • Hippocrates in his book de Sterilibus & de Natura Mulierum, advises that when Women cannot Conceive, and there seems to be no apparent Reason for the Defect, they should eat Polypi roasted very quick, and almost half burnt, and to beat Ægyptian Nitre, Coriander and Cummin-Seeds together, and make Balls of it, and apply them to the Pudendum; But yet this Remedy, he says, is not proper for all Women, but only such as are Cold and have but little Inclination, for the Polypus is a most salacious Animal, and goes into a Consumption through too much Coition; Such Things must needs encrease Seed, for they consist of such a Juice, and are apt to be turn’d into the same. (p. 285)
  • On lust:
  • And indeed had not Nature tack’d a more than ordinary pleasing Sensation and Desire to each Sex in the Act, by giving those Parts such a quick tender Sense, and transporting Titillations, which with all the Artillery of Reason we are not able to Control, (so furious is our passion for the Imbrace) we should have no manner of Incitement or Inclination to the performing it; and consequently Procreation must soon cease and be at end; for Man, a divine and most noble Creature, endu’d, as said before, with Reason and Understanding, would never yield to make his Mind subject to a Thing so Abject and Filthy, so Unclean and Brutish, as Carnal Copulation, were he not incited by the Power of those Venereous Ticklings we have spoken of, which Nature has plac’d in the Genital Parts, and furnished with more exact and exquisite Sense than any other Parts in the Body besides. (p. 29)
  • On seminal fluid:
  • There is a further addition to its Refinements accruing from the Windings and Turnings of these Pipes; for the Particles of the Blood procure a mutual disunion by whirling about, rebounding and jostling against one another; nay, it is likewise depurated in the Excretory Ducts of the Testicles and Epidydimis; in the Passages which we call the vasa deferentia, or as some Ejaculatoria, (because in the Minute of Enjoyment they forcibly emit the Seed) it’s perfecter than any where else; for there it begins to assume its white Colour and to turn frothy, whereas in the Testicles it was only grey and fluid; but the finishing stroak of its Perfection, the Features and Impression of true Seed are owing to the Animal Spirits employ’d in the Embrace, for that Passion not only puts the Seed in motion in order for Evacuation, but also alters it by rendring it sparking and active, and the more a Man is incited to the act of Venery, and his Desire raised, and yet delayed as to the Accomplishment the better and more elaborate his Seed is rendred, and by consequence impregnated to a greater degree of Fertility. (p. 43)
  • On the eggs in women’s testicles:
  • These Ova, or Eggs are not only found in the Testicles of Married Women, but also in Virgins, in the same manner as we find them in Pullets which will lay Eggs, tho’ they have no Conversation with a Cock; these Eggs are less or more, of the bigness of a green Pea, containing within them a Humour, which when it is boil’d, becomes hard, just, as said before, like the White and Yolk of a common Egg. (p. 160)
  • On old wives’ tales:
  • The time has not been more contended about, than the ill and offensive Qualities have been asserted by divers Authors; as first from the Pain it gives many Women in the evacuation, which they say is because it is Acrimonious, nay, Venemous; Some say likewise, that the Malignity of that Blood is so great, that by meer Contact it excoriates the Glans and Prepuce of a Man, upon his having to do with a Woman at that time; Nay, some affirm, that by a Man’s Copulating with his Wife when she has her Courses upon her, he will get the Venereal Disease, for that the Menstrual Blood is Infectious; They say further, that the Breath of a Menstruous Woman will give a lasting Stain to Ivory or a Looking-Glass, and that a little of that Blood dropt upon a Vine, or Corn, or any other Vegetable, will blast or cause the same to die; That if a Woman with Child be defiled with the Menstrua of another woman, she’ll miscarry; That if a Dog tastes the Courses of a Woman, he’ll run Mad; That if a Man tastes ’em, it will render him Epileptick; which with almost innumerable other ridiculous and foolish Fancies, tho’ related by grave and great Authors, are yet justly to be despised, as being contrary to Reason, and (most of them) Experience. (p. 168)
  • On skin cream:
  • Dr. Tho. Fuller, speaking of his Mercurial Lotion prepared with Sublimate, says it doth signal Service against any sort of cutaneous Foulness, for as much as it fetches out Humours impacted in the Pores and Spaces, be they never so small, dissolves the inveterate and pertinaceous Combinations of Salts and Sulphurs, and wherever it is applied, rectifies all the ill form’d Meatus’s of the Skin, and makes it freely passable. Upon which account its a useful thing, not only for deterging the Skin, and clearing it from Spots, but also for Pushes and Redness, whether in the Face or elsewhere; as also for Erysipelatose Affections, black Specks, and little Worms that nestle in the Face, and may be squeez’d out with ones Fingers. (p. 700)
  • On plastic surgery:
  • There was a Lady that had them so closely joyn’d, that her Husband could never have entrance; she had only a small Orifice in the middle that afforded a Passage to her Urine, and her Menstrual Blood; but having recourse to Surgery, and the Lips being Artfully separated, both above and below, she had several Children afterwards; and her husband used to say in a jocose way that the Surgeon had cut too far, but at the same time own’d, that his Wife was oblig’d to him for it, because it facilitated her delivery in Child-birth. (p. 187)
  • On boniness:
  • Very rarely, or hardly ever do we hear of what Bauhinus has observ’d, concerning a Clitoris, that it became Bony in a Venetian Courtezan, which by reason of its extream hardness, did so offend and hurt her Lovers in coition, that many times, by reason of Inflammations thereby, they were forced to fly to the Surgeons for help. (p. 199)
  • On pregnancy tests:
  • There are many fabulous Stories concerning the Signs that discover a Woman to be with Child or not, such as putting the Woman’s Urine in a Glass for three Days stopt close, and then straining it through a fine Linnen-cloth, wherein, if she be with Child, you will find many small living Creatures, and that by putting a green Nettle into the Woman’s Urine, and covering it close, and letting it remain therein a whole Night, if she be with Child, you’ll find the Nettle next Morning to be full of red spots, and if not with Child full of black spots. (p. 274)
  • On delayed puberty:
  • I have read of a young Man of eighteen Years of Age, who having no Testicles in his Scrotum, had a very Musical Voice, and by that means got his Living, and was much Esteem’d for his fine Singing, Charming even those that was the most insensible of the Pleasures of Musick, and whose Voice, when he sung and was not seen, was taken  by all that knew him not, to be a Woman’s. This young Man, tho’ he had no Testicles, was Amorously inclin’d and upon doing what he could towards the Caressing a common Woman, he not being able, as he own’d, to enter, yet, by only dallying with her, got a Clap, and upon that, a violent pain in his Scrotum, soon after which to his surprize, two Testicles fell into his Cod, whereupon he lost his fine Voice, which became like that of other Men. (p. 342)
  • On discharge of non-infectious origin:
  • As there are some Gleets in Men that are occasioned by a malignant or unchaste Conversation, and also by a too frequent Reiteration of the Venereal Act in sound Persons, so likewise by Wrenches, Strains, &c. or by exessive Evacuations of Seed (which is the Elixir hominis), or the Weakness of the Person, as before noted; also an Evacuation of Seed, called Stillicidium seminis, which is taken for a Gleet, happens at times involuntarily in Persons troubled with the Falling-sickness, &c. as in another Place I have hinted; but then neither of these are attended with that Virulency, as when from Venereal Causes, neither are the Consequences thereof so dangerous, or Cure so difficult. (p. 771)
  • On lubrication:
  • As to the Liquor which Women emit in Copulation, and is generally taken for Seed, the same Harvey says, that several Women emit no such Humour, and yet conceive; Nay, says he, some after they begun to emit this Liquor upon copulation, tho’ indeed they took great Pleasure in the Act, grew less fruitful than they were before. (p. 159)
  • On the bulbourethral glands:
  • The Gleet then is an oleaginous, smooth, transparent and glutinous Mucus, engendred in the Prostate, and other small Glandules that are immerst all about the Urethra, and throughout the Yard, as the whole Body of the Yard being Spungy, you may, upon dissection observe, and by your touch perceive this oleagineous Mucus perfused; the use thereof is so necessary, that without a sufficient Proportion of it, it is not possible the Yard should be erected, or at least continue its erection long; for the Spirits thronging into that Part in so great a Confluence as they do upon a Voluptuous Erection, would in a manner take fire, inflame, dry up, and wither the whole substance of the Yard, were it not temper’d by the aforesaid Mucus, which at the same time moistens and defends it (being naturally dry), by the oleaginous Lentour; for were it of an Aqueous or Saline nature only, it would soon be dried up; this Unctious Mucus is transmitted into the Urethra, through Meatus, proceeding from the Prostates and other lesser Glandules, about the Urinary Passage, wherewith that Passage is smeared and made smooth and glib, not only to defend it from the Acrimony of the Urine, and to facilitate the transflux thereof, but also, as Mr. Cowper says, to hinder any remains of Urine from mixing with the Semen in the Urethra, Tempore Coitus; and as all Men discharge that transparent, oily, and glutinous Mucus, when excited to Copulation; so do Women, when they are enclin’d to enjoy the same Amorous Embrace, and that much more in quantity in the Act it self. (p. 789)
  • On national characteristics:
  • In Brazil and America, History tells us, the Women have never any Monthly Purgations, not naturally so, but because they divert that Flux while they are young, by some means unknown to us. (p. 172)
  • On the Inhabitants of the Southern Countries:
  • The Pudenda or Genital Parts have commonly in most their just Dimensions, and a Man’s Yard, generally speaking, ought not to be above 6 or 7 Inches long and 3 or 4 in Circumference, and if in others it be longer or bigger, it serves not so well for Generation nor for the Venereal Act; for which reason the Inhabitants of the Southern Countries, who are generally so provided, are not so proper for Procreation as we that live more Northerly. (p. 58)

Coming next Wednesday: Part III: Human Behavior