This section is from the book "The Transmission Of Life. Counsels On The Nature And Hygiene Of The Masculine Function", by George H. Napheys. Also available from Amazon: The Transmission of Life.
The age of forty-five years, which we have just stated as the average term at which sexual decadence commences, is very far from a fixed rule. Perhaps in no one cyclical change in life do individuals differ more than in this. In our great cities, where inherited debility is added to a luxurious and dissipated life, it is no unusual thing to find men of forty in whom the procreative faculty is about extinct. While, on the contrary, as we have just seen, instances are not wanting where men have married and had children, undoubtedly their own, at the advanced ages of fourscore, ninety, and even one hundred years.
" It is usually at the age of fifty or sixty," says the eminent French physician, Dr. Parise, in his treatise on old age - putting the change of life in the male at a somewhat later date than seems to us to hold good in this country - " that the generative functions become weakened. It is at this period that a man begins to mark that power decrease, and is apt to do so with a feeling almost akin to indignation. The first step toward feebleness announces to him, beyond all doubt, that he is not the man he was. He may husband his strength, and retard the effect up to a certain point by judicious living, but not avoid it alogether. The law of decrepitude is hard to bear, but it is still a law. The activity of the organs diminishes, their functions abate, they languish, and at length cease entirely. The blood flows thither in smaller quantities. The sensibility becomes blunted, the parts wrinkle and wither, the power of erection disappears, and the secretion loses its consistence and force."
Generally, and always in the healthy state, step by step with these physical changes the passions likewise lose their force, and change in nature. Love, which in early youth was impetuous and sensual, which in middle life was powerful, but controlled and centred in the family, should at the decline of life be freed from animal propensities, assume a purely moral character, and be directed toward the younger generations, the children and grandchildren, or, when these are not, should find its proper sphere of activity in philanthropic endeavor, and patriotic attachment.
Like the ancient philosopher, the old should be able to recall the memory of departed pleasure without a sigh of vain regret, and they should adapt themselves with determined mind to the altered condition of their physical life. Let them bear in mind the reply of Cicero, who, when asked in old age if he ever indulged in the pleasures of love, replied, "Heaven forbid! I have forsworn it as I would a savage and furious taskmaster." If this prospect seems a cheerless one to the fiery youth or the vigorous adult, let him remember that desire subsides with power, and that it is still within his reach by the observance of wise precautions and a proper rule et life, to extend the period of virility considerably beyond the limit we have set to it. How this is to be done we shall presently reveal.
Whenever old age is tormented by passions which either cannot be gratified, or gratified only at the expense of health. one of two causes is at work. Either there is some local irritation from a diseased condition of the bladder or adjacent parts of the nervous system, or else it is a sting which previous libidinous excesses either in thought or act have left behind. For, "The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices, Make instruments to scourge us."
In the latter case the priest, rather than the physician, is their proper attendant. He will tell them, as Othello told Desdemona, that they require "A sequester from liberty, fasting, and prayer, Much castigation, exercise devout.'
But if, on the other hand - and this is much more frequently the case - these passions are excited by local or general irritation, then the physician and the surgeon must be consulted. Some writers call the period of decadence "the change of life in man," and aver that it is attended with almost as many diseases and dangers as the corresponding epoch in the physical life of woman.
At this period he is most exposed to those maladies which have their seat in the bladder and connected portions of the body. Gravel and stone, difficulty in relieving the organ, affections of the kidney, and swelling of the glandular structures, make their appearance. So, too, it is about this epoch that gout, chronic rheumatism, plethora, vertigo, and apoplexy are most frequent. It may, indeed, be doubted if these various signs of approaching decrepitude are any more closely connected with the change which takes place in the sexual organs, than are the grayness and baldness, the dimness of sight, the quavering and broken voice and uncertainty of muscular movement, which are associated with them. But certain it is that the association is a most intimate one, and we are perfectly justified in saying that virility is a test of the general physical powers, and that if it is preserved in a healthy and vigorous condition, these signs of advancing age can be long postponed.
This is the chief, and there are many other reasons why a man should so live, and so order his labors, his nourishment, and his pleasures, as to retain to the furthest natural limit the exercise of his specific powers. So intimately are these allied to the well-being of the whole economy, that unless he is guarded and wise in their management, he will undermine his general health, and render vain all other precautions he may take. Therefore it is, that we deem it eminently proper to lay down definite directions how to retain virility.