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.
It teaches that the part of prudence is to avoid more sedulously than ever before the strains upon our systems which are unnecessary, for our nervous organizations cannot bear that which those of our fathers could.
Among the new diseases which have thus arisen is one which is peculiarly characteristic of crowded cities, of the great marts of trade and hives of busy life, where not only does the task of gaining subsistence demand the utmost exercise of the powers, but beyond this the temptations of vice are most shameless, most prominent, and most alluring.
In this disease, which has received the technical name of paresis, there is absolutely nothing present which we can put our finger upon and say, This is the weak point, here is the seat of the malady. Nor does the patient himself complain of any pain, and is hardly aware of his condition.
He feels languid, depressed, " out of sorts." His mind is not as clear as it was. It is an effort to produce anything original, or to undertake any unusual exertion; after a while even routine business is burdensome. Tired as he constitutionally feels, yet often he cannot sleep sound when in bed.
So the symptoms follow one after another - and it is not our intention to draw any harrowing picture of them to alarm the ignorant - until there is very visibly some definite enfeeblement of the functional power of the brain, showing itself in motion and in intellectual expression.
This is a disease which was certainly not recognized, even , if it existed, before this age ; it is the maladie de la Steele. And for what purpose have we introduced it here ? It is to warn against a common, perhaps the most common cause of it; that is, excessive stimulation of the sexual passions.
Dr. Handfield Jones, of London, calls especial attention to the importance of this warning, and the frequency with which the vice referred to leads to a premature and seemingly unexplainable debility of the system, a want of energy, a tedium vitas. He quotes the words of the celebrated Hufeland: " It is proved beyond all doubt that nothing renders the mind so incapable of noble and exalted sensations, destroys so much all its firmness and powers, and relaxes the system as this dissipation."
It is not easy to explain, even were it the place to do so, these effects, but the correctness of the observations is too well authenticated to be doubted, and of too much importance to the public welfare to be concealed. The men of our time are subjected to excitements such as none of their ancestors were, and they must be the more guarded therefore to avoid any needless exposure of their health. The same intelligence which has raised them from the depths of unlettered savagery, and enabled them to cultivate to such an extent the powers of the senses, must be their guide in using these new abilities as not abusing them, and in avoiding the perils with which a wider control over natural agencies is invariably associated.