The physiological and also the legal understanding of marriage is, that it is a union for the purpose of offspring.

Therefore both the lawyer and the physician must condemn any marriage in which this purpose is not at all, or only im perfectly carried out. In other words, virility is a necessary preliminary to marriage. Not merely should the age of puberty be passed, but the whole body should be so developed, and the special functions so matured, that intercourse may not prove injurious to the male, nor his unripe secretion be unequal to the formation of a healthy child.

Impotence, we shall speak of hereafter, but here we insist on virility. Marriage works sure and irreparable injuries on the constitution of boys or very young men. Their lives are shortened, their health enfeebled, their mental powers frequently impaired. Then their children are usually puny and sickly, apt to have hereditary weakness, and not to attain advanced years.

The most advisable age to marry has been much discussed by writers in all ages. We shall not repeat their conflicting opinions, many of them purely theoretical, but say at once that in this country in the majority of cases, the full stature and complete development of physical powers are not attained before the age of twenty-five years, and that from that to thirty-five is the decade in which a man may the most suitably seek a wife.

Physicians are not unfrequently appealed to on the question whether a person of feeble constitution will be benefited or injured by marriage. Many families have hereditary taints, and not a few young men through misfortune or temptation have incurred maladies which they fear may be aggravated by the novel relations under which they will be placed, or possibly transmitted in some form to their offspring.

So far as such inquiries relate to those diseases which ordinarily arise from impure intercourse we have already replied to them in the previous portion of this work. In cases of a consumptive, a scrofulous, or an insane tendency, it is probable that a predisposition to such weakness will be passed down, and quite certain that they will, should a like tendency exist in the wife. But it is not likely that any of these diseases will be aggravated or hastened by marriage; on the contrary, very many facts could readily be adduced to show that in both sexes, providing that the other partner has not the same tendency, such constitutional disorders are decidedly mitigated and often altogether avoided by a union. The exercise of the generative functions in marriage has a powerful derivative effect, and not rarely alters for the better a feeble constitution. Epilepsy, nervous depression, and even occasional insanity have been known to be greatly relieved or removed by a judicious union.

When, however, such debility arises from a progressive and natural decay of the body - in other words, when it is the consequence of advancing age - the very worst results may be apprehended from such a step. There are matrimonial engagements occasionally contracted by elderly men which are eminently satisfactory both physically and mentally. But in such instances the man must be healthy and vigorous, or else, like King David, he must content himself with the proximity alone of her who is his partner in life, otherwise he will soon fall a victim to some serious disease. Dr. Reich, in his learned work on the Degeneration of the Human Race, finds an active cause of the increasing number of diseases and weakened muscles of our generation in the growing tendency now-a-days to postpone marriage until time and perhaps indulgence have diminished the forces, and exposed the system to succumb readily to any unusual drain upon its resources. Therefore, after the age of thirty-five, a man in poor health, or with an obvious tendency to disease, should be extremely cautious how he contracts a lien of thus nature.

Malformations of various kinds, whether by nature or accident, not unfrequently occasion poignant distress of mind lest they constitute an insuperable barrier to matrimony. Generally, such anxiety is unfounded. A diminished or an excessive growth of the parts rarely is carried to such an extent as to constitute a barrier to intercourse. The absence of one or even both of the testicles may arise from the fact that they have never descended from the interior of the abdomen, where they are always located before birth. This retention of their original position does not necessarily interfere with their functions, however. Sometimes the prepuce is long, thick, and adherent to such a degree that it seriously interferes with the exercise of the function. In such cases it should be submitted to the examination of a surgeon, as an operation may be required. A more rare condition is when the orifice of exit is not at the extremity, but on the side or close to the body. This usually does not prevent connec-tion, but does produce sterility. It, too, can often be removed by a skilful surgeon.

The size of the organ sometimes excites fear lest matrimony could not be completed. But there is no permanent proportion between size and vigor. Generally an unusual size is accompanied with debility, and it is not infrequently observed, indeed it may be said to be the rule, that persons of vigorous powers have small but well-shaped parts. Those who have studied the models of classical antiquity will have noticed that the most perfect representations of manly strength present these parts even unusally small. The negro race have the parts larger than the white, but they do not proportionately increase in size on erection. A small and shrivelled condition in either race is a sign of impotence.