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

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

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

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