A 1711 treatise on venereal disease (Part III: Human Behavior)

by Mike

Back once again with the runnagate malepert! Welcome to the third in our five-part series on Dr. John Marten’s Treatise of the Venereal Disease. Today, we’ll go through some of Dr. Marten’s best insights and anecdotes about how people behave.

For help with the old-timey words and names (Who’s Rondeletius, the expert on making women very delectable?), check out Monday’s post on vocabulary.

For Dr. Marten’s passages about pregnancy tests, delayed puberty, the eggs in women’s testicles, plastic surgery, parasites, the special properties of Brazilians and Americans, and more, check out Friday’s post on human anatomy.


  • On the folly of old age:
  • To see an old Fool dote more than he ever did in his Youth, what more absurd, what more unnatural? To see an old Letcher, what more odious, yet what more common? How many Decrepit, Hoary, Wither’d, Bursten-belly’d, Crooked, Deaf, Toothless, Bald, Blear-ey’d, Impotent, Rotten Old Men, shall you see flickering upon the Women in almost every Place? One gets him a young Wife, another a Mistress, when he can scarce left his Leg over a Sill, and has one Foot already in Charon‘s Boat; when he has the Trembling in his Joints, the Gout in his Feet, a perpetual Rheum in his Head, rotten in his Lungs, whose Sight fails, Hearing is lost, Breath stinks, his Moisture dried up, a very Child again, not able to spit, dress himself, or cut his own Meat, yet he will be dreaming of a Wife, or honing after Wenches. (p. 205)
  • On the folly of youth:
  • And we generally observe the time of Extravagancy in young People, to be between the Fourteenth and Twenty fifth Years of their Age, when who but they? They running into all manner of Riot and Excess, hating Reproof and Admonition, like Solomon‘s Brute, thinking their own Wit best; when their Head-strong Courses, inordinate Drinking, extravagant Gormandizing, sitting up late a Nights, Masturbation, Whoring, and other prodigal Ways, subvert their Healths, extinguish their Natural Heat, Corrupt their Blood and Humours, till they have brought themselves into declining Conditions, which when they once perceive, would fain have amended, When alas! it is too late. (p. 855)
  • On the folly of mismatched ages:
  • This brings to my Mind the Fable of Abstemius, of an old Fellow and a young Wench, which shews in a very lively manner, the Folly of unequal Marriages. There was a formal Piece of Gravity, says he, that liv’d to about Threescore Years and Ten without ever knowing a Woman from a Weather Cock. The Devil ow’d him a Shame, and paid him both Interest and Principal, in making the old doting Fop marry a young Girl. He would be often complaining afterwards how unluckily he had disposed of his Time. When I was a young Man, says he, I wanted a Wife, and now I’m an old Man, my Wife wants a Husband. The Reflexion of which is this: There’s nothing Good, or Natural, that’s out of Season. (p. 844)
  • On ingratitude:
  • I once knew a Gentleman that kept a Mistress, who he had long repos’d Confidence in, and believed to be Honest to him, for which he Articled to Pay her a handsome Yearly Pension, as long as she continued so; he was one that lov’d his Bottle, but always true to her, Drunk or Sober; she, notwithstanding his Kindness and Fidelity, Whore-like, lay with others, till she got a Clap, which she gave to this Gentleman, though it was before she perceiv’d it her self, upon this he with-held her Allowance, and left her; She sues him, he took my Advice what to do, which was that he would Compound it with her as well as he could, take a Release, and never after have more to do with her, which he did, for though she certainly Clapt him, he could not prove it, and if he could, it would not be to his Credit. (p. 864)
  • On misplaced blame:
  • Some strong young Sports-men of good Constitutions, have brush’d through such Misfortunes, and have after it begotten Children, but with a great Diminution of the Venereal Pleasures and Delights to what they were before; the Organs subservient to those Exercises having been shak’d and batter’d in their unclean Combats, &c. but in most Men it has totally destroy’d Prolification, a Curse half tanti to Castration; so that I have often pittied poor, innocent, young, new-married, Gentlewomen, who have Sweated and Stewed themselves in hot Baths, Season after Season. These unhappy Women, I say, thinking that the Deficiency lay on their side, were willing to undertake any Toil or Trouble in Hopes of a great Belly, &c. when alass! the Fault, says he, was in the vile and wicked Whore-masterly Husband, broke and bankrupt in his Bed-tackle; and this is the reason of so many unhappy and miserable Marriages; for Venus rara, cum re angustia domi, &c. makes Women ramble in quest of those Satisfactions, which both Art and Nature in a warm Constitution incessantly prompts ’em to; and the Husband quietly acquiesce under the Brow-Antlers of a display’d Forehead, or to Pocket his Misfortune, being Conscious that his Wife’s Extravagancies, are the Issues of his own Insufficiencies, &c. procur’d by his own Follies, &c. (p. 871)
  • On the law of niddah:
  • We all know that the Jews strictly avoid Copulation with their Wives during their Menstruous Impurity; nay, even avoid lying in the same Bed, sitting upon the same Stool or Chair, or being in their Company, which if Christians would observe, I mean only as to Copulation, would not be amiss; for by that their good Observances, vitiated and defiled Conceptions are prevented, which oftentimes fix Diseases in the Principles of the Birth, and as some say, is more the Cause of Small-Pox and Meazles than any thing else, by the Menstruous Impurities of the Mother’s Blood, which the Infant contracts in the Nutriment of the Womb. (p. 310)
  • On aphrodisiacs:
  • Rondeletius says, if you would render a Woman very delectable, take Euphorbium, Pyrethrum, Cubebs and Pepper, of each a like quantity, powder and incorporate them, and when, says he, you would lie with your Wife in order for a great Belly, anoint your Yard with it, and do the work. (p. 92)
  • On ruination:
  • To see a Fool that has kept his Coach and Six, reduced to trudge about in a Thread-bare Coat, cobled Shoes, and a Piss-burnt Wig, for an Age together, and carry Letters for a Pot of Ale, for being a Bubble to a Jilt, who never was true to him or would give him one Penny to keep him from Starving. (p. 865)
  • On frustration:
  • Concerning a Wound or Laceration of the Yard Dr. Collins gives us a remarkable Instance of a Gentleman, who being Inflam’d with amorous Desires, courted his Mistress in order to Fruition, and paid dear for his Sport, as having his unchaste Flame quench’d before it was rais’d to a height; by reason his unkind Mistress gave a speedy Check to his Amours in putting by his Thrust, by taking his drawn Weapon into her Hand, whereby the Weapon, and not her Hand, was wounded. (p. 65)
  • On Womb-fury:
  • I well remember, I was once desired to see her when one of her Fits of Womb-fury were upon her, at which time she talk’d very extravagantly indeed, calling upon this and that Man she knew, to come and lie with her, throwing off the Bed-cloaths every Minute, to expose her Nakedness, and used such Gestures as to convince every one what a grievous Disease it is; and yet when sensible, she was a modest, chaste Woman, as all that knew her could testify. (p. 234)
  • On coyness:
  • The Allured Gentleman, fired at her Coiness, thinking her Modesty the greater, and that by her Countenance and Carriage she could not be but clean, makes better Terms to her than before she had agreed to, and upon that gains her Consent; but she proved a Fire-ship to him, and infected him to the purpose; but what was worse, he putting Confidence in the Slut, before he perceiv’d any thing ail’d him, he gave the Distemper to his Wife. (p. 352)
  • On hypochondria:
  • A Melancholly single Man, about Forty-four Years of Age, by Trade a Weaver, who being of a highly Scorbutick Habit, and having greatly weakned his Spermatick Vessels and Loins, by too frequent Masturbation, (he having never in his Life so much as toucht a Woman, or knows what  Woman is, as by his relation and Case I verily believe) is very often subject to Nocturnal Pollutions, likewise much afflicted with Pains his Back, Limbs, Joints, Forehead, Throat, and Nose, which latter he will not for my Life be perswaded to believe, but will fall, for that he is sure he says, his Illness is now turned to the Pox, the thoughts of which, especially when he feels but the least tingling on his Nose, so extreamly terrifies him, as to make him sweat and tremble with fear, that really sometimes I have been afraid of his laying violent Hands upon himself. (p. 561)
  • On asceticism:
  • And then mixing Milk with a little Oatmeal, made a sort of Milk-pottage, on which only he lived for a whole Season; he avoided the Sight of all Women, but such as had Anti-venereal Faces for Age and Ugliness; as also all manner of Wine and Strong Drinks, and Flesh-Meats, and by this and such like means, he was perfectly recover’d to his pristine Health. (p. 851)
  • On moderation:
  • And indeed, as he wisely says, the less Men Drink, nay and Eat too, the better Health they enjoy; for this reason I chuse this Day (being the Lord-Mayor’s Festival) rather to stay at Home, and content my self with an innocent, plain, but well-dress’d Dinner, accompanied with a Glass, two or three of generous Wine, and this with a calm and quiet Mind, and home Brewed wholesome Drink, than to gorge among a great deal of Noise and Nonsence, with my Associates, those surfeiting Dainties, prepar’d for the Day; for by temperate, and regular Eating and Drinking, as says the afore-said Doctor, a Man is brisker and more lively than the Sot and Glutton, and lives twice or thrice their Ages; for their Organs are less used, and consequently less worn; they breed less Spirits, less Blood; the Veins and Arteries are not so full and crowded; the Circulations not so swift and frequent; the Bowels not so thin, and the Mucus not wash’d off, which is not only a Lining and defence to the Stomach and Bowels, but to the Veins and Arteries also, to keep their Coats from wearing in too quick and frequent Circulations, which in unnecessary and Thirstless Epotations, especially of strong and spirituous Liquors, that unthinking Animal, the Drunkard, puts the fatigu’d Troops of his own Houshold (Sots-Hall) too often upon; till they ravage and lay waste that Carkass, in a few months, which might have serv’d an honest and sober Soul to have liv’d comfortably in, a hundred Years. (p. 570)

Coming next Monday: Part IV: Venereal Disease and Treatment