The Descent of Man, by Charles Darwin

Chapter XX.

Secondary Sexual Characters of Man — Continued.

WE have seen in the last chapter that with all barbarous races ornaments, dress, and external appearance are highly valued; and that the men judge of the beauty of their women by widely different standards. We must next inquire whether this preference and the consequent selection during many generations of those women, which appear to the men of each race the most attractive, has altered the character either of the females alone, or of both sexes. With mammals the general rule appears to be that characters of all kinds are inherited equally by the males and females; we might therefore expect that with mankind any characters gained by the females or by the males through sexual selection would commonly be transferred to the offspring of both sexes. If any change has thus been effected, it is almost certain that the different races would be differently modified, as each has its own standard of beauty.

With mankind, especially with savages, many causes interfere with the action of sexual selection as far as the bodily frame is concerned. Civilised men are largely attracted by the mental charms of women, by their wealth, and especially by their social position; for men rarely marry into a much lower rank. The men who succeed in obtaining the more beautiful women will not have a better chance of leaving a long line of descendants than other men with plainer wives, save the few who bequeath their fortunes according to primogeniture. With respect to the opposite form of selection, namely, of the more attractive men by the women, although in civilised nations women have free or almost free choice, which is not the case with barbarous races, yet their choice is largely influenced by the social position and wealth of the men; and the success of the latter in life depends much on their intellectual powers and energy, or on the fruits of these same powers in their forefathers. No excuse is needed for treating this subject in some detail; for, as the German philosopher Schopenhauer remarks, “the final aim of all love intrigues, be they comic or tragic, is really of more importance than all other ends in human life. What it all turns upon is nothing less than the composition of the next generation. . . . It is not the weal or woe of any one individual, but that of the human race to come, which is here at stake.”1

There is, however, reason to believe that in certain civilised and semi-civilised nations sexual selection has effected something in modifying the bodily frame of some of the members. Many persons are convinced, as it appears to me with justice, that our aristocracy, including under this term all wealthy families in which primogeniture has long prevailed, from having chosen during many generations from all classes the more beautiful women as their wives, have become handsomer, according to the European standard, than the middle classes; yet the middle classes are placed under equally favourable conditions of life for the perfect development of the body. Cook remarks that the superiority in personal appearance “which is observable in the erees or nobles in all the other islands (of the Pacific) is found in the Sandwich Islands”; but this may be chiefly due to their better food and manner of life.

The old traveller Chardin, in describing the Persians, says their “blood is now highly refined by frequent intermixtures with the Georgians and Circassians, two nations which surpass all the world in personal beauty. There is hardly a man of rank in Persia who is not born of a Georgian or Circassian mother.” He adds that they inherit their beauty, “not from their ancestors, for without the above mixture, the men of rank in Persia, who are descendants of the Tartars, would be extremely ugly.”2 Here is a more curious case; the priestesses who attended the temple of Venus Erycina at San-Giuliano in Sicily, were selected for their beauty out of the whole of Greece; they were not vestal virgins, and Quatrefages,3 who states the foregoing fact, says that the women of San-Giuliano are now famous as the most beautiful in the island, and are sought by artists as models. But it is obvious that the evidence in all the above cases is doubtful.

The following case, though relating to savages, is well worth giving for its curiosity. Mr. Winwood Reade informs me that the Jollofs, a tribe of negroes on the west coast of Africa, “are remarkable for their uniformly fine appearance.” A friend of his asked one of these men, “How is it that every one whom I meet is so fine looking, not only your men but your women?” The Jollof answered, “It is very easily explained: it has always been our custom to pick out our worst-looking slaves and to sell them.” It need hardly be added that with all savages, female slaves serve as concubines. That this negro should have attributed, whether rightly or wrongly, the fine appearance of his tribe to the long-continued elimination of the ugly women is not so surprising as it may at first appear; for I have elsewhere shewn4 that negroes fully appreciate the importance of selection in the breeding of their domestic animals, and I could give from Mr. Reade additional evidence on this head.

The Causes which prevent or check the Action of Sexual Selection with Savages. — The chief causes are, first, so-called communal marriages or promiscuous intercourse; secondly, the consequences of female infanticide; thirdly, early betrothals; and lastly, the low estimation in which women are held, as mere slaves. These four points must be considered in some detail.

It is obvious that as long as the pairing of man, or of any other animal, is left to mere chance, with no choice exerted by either sex, there can be no sexual selection; and no effect will be produced on the offspring by certain individuals having had an advantage over others in their courtship. Now it is asserted that there exist at the present day tribes which practise what Sir J. Lubbock by courtesy calls communal marriages; that is, all the men and women in the tribe are husbands and wives to one another. The licentiousness of many savages is no doubt astonishing, but it seems to me that more evidence is requisite, before we fully admit that their intercourse is in any case promiscuous. Nevertheless all those who have most closely studied the subject,5 and whose judgment is worth much more than mine, believe that communal marriage (this expression being variously guarded) was the original and universal form throughout the world, including therein the intermarriage of brothers and sisters. The late Sir A. Smith, who had travelled widely in S. Africa, and knew much about the habits of savages there and elsewhere, expressed to me the strongest opinion that no race exists in which woman is considered as the property of the community. I believe that his judgment was largely determined by what is implied by the term marriage. Throughout the following discussion I use the term in the same sense as when naturalists speak of animals as monogamous, meaning thereby that the male is accepted by or chooses a single female, and lives with her either during the breeding-season or for the whole year, keeping possession of her by the law of might; or, as when they speak of a polygamous species, meaning that the male lives with several females. This kind of marriage is all that concerns us here, as it suffices for the work of sexual selection. But I know that some of the writers above referred to imply by the term marriage a recognised right protected by the tribe.

The indirect evidence in favour of the belief of the former prevalence of communal marriages is strong, and rests chiefly on the terms of relationship which are employed between the members of the same tribe, implying a connection with the tribe, and not with either parent. But the subject is too large and complex for even an abstract to be here given, and I will confine myself to a few remarks. It is evident in the case of such marriages, or where the marriage tie is very loose, that the relationship of the child to its father cannot be known. But it seems almost incredible that the relationship of the child to its mother should ever be completely ignored, especially as the women in most savage tribes nurse their infants for a long time. Accordingly, in many cases the lines of descent are traced through the mother alone, to the exclusion of the father. But in other cases the terms employed express a connection with the tribe alone, to the exclusion even of the mother. It seems possible that the connection between the related members of the same barbarous tribe, exposed to all sorts of danger, might be so much more important, owing to the need of mutual protection and aid, than that between the mother and her child, as to lead to the sole use of terms expressive of the former relationships; but Mr. Morgan is convinced that this view is by no means sufficient.

The terms of relationship used in different parts of the world may be divided, according to the author just quoted, into two great classes, the classificatory and descriptive, the latter being employed by us. It is the classificatory system which so strongly leads to the belief that communal and other extremely loose forms of marriage were originally universal But as far as I can see, there is no necessity on this ground for believing in absolutely promiscuous intercourse; and I am glad to find that this is Sir J. Lubbock’s view. Men and women, like many of the lower animals, might formerly have entered into strict though temporary unions for each birth, and in this case nearly as much confusion would have arisen in the terms of relationship as in the case of promiscuous intercourse. As far as sexual selection is concerned, all that is required is that choice should be exerted before the parents unite, and it signifies little whether the unions last for life or only for a season.

Besides the evidence derived from the terms of relationship, other lines of reasoning indicate the former wide prevalence of communal marriage. Sir J. Lubbock accounts for the strange and widely-extended habit of exogamy — that is, the men of one tribe taking wives from a distinct tribe — by communism having been the original form of intercourse; so that a man never obtained a wife for himself unless he captured her from a neighbouring and hostile tribe, and then she would naturally have become his sole and valuable property. Thus the practice of capturing wives might have arisen; and from the honour so gained it might ultimately have become the universal habit. According to Sir J. Lubbock,6 we can also thus understand “the necessity of expiation for marriage as an infringement of tribal rites, since according to old ideas, a man had no right to appropriate to himself that which belonged to the whole tribe.” Sir J. Lubbock further gives a curious list of facts shewing that in old times high honour was bestowed on women who were utterly licentious; and this, as he explains, is intelligible, if we admit that promiscuous intercourse was the aboriginal, and therefore long revered custom of the tribe.7

Although the manner of development of the marriage tie is an obscure subject, as we may infer from the divergent opinions on several points between the three authors who have studied it most closely, namely, Mr. Morgan, Mr. M’Lennan, and Sir J. Lubbock, yet from the foregoing and several other lines of evidence it seems probable8 that the habit of marriage, in any strict sense of the word, has been gradually developed; and that almost promiscuous or very loose intercourse was once extremely common throughout the world. Nevertheless, from the strength of the feeling of jealousy all through the animal kingdom, as well as from the analogy of the lower animals, more particularly of those which come nearest to man, I cannot believe that absolutely promiscuous intercourse prevailed in times past, shortly before man attained to his present rank in the zoological scale. Man, as I have attempted to shew, is certainly descended from some ape-like creature. With the existing Quadrumana, as far as their habits are known, the males of some species are monogamous, but live during only a part of the year with the females: of this the orang seems to afford an instance. Several kinds, for example some of the Indian and American monkeys, are strictly monogamous, and associate all the year round with their wives. Others are polygamous, for example the gorilla and several American species, and each family lives separate. Even when this occurs, the families inhabiting the same district are probably somewhat social; the chimpanzee, for instance, is occasionally met with in large bands. Again, other species are polygamous, but several males, each with his own females, live associated in a body, as with several species of baboons.9 We may indeed conclude from what we know of the jealousy of all male quadrupeds, armed, as many of them are, with special weapons for battling with their rivals, that promiscuous intercourse in a state of nature is extremely improbable. The pairing may not last for life, but only for each birth; yet if the males which are the strongest and best able to defend or otherwise assist their females and young, were to select the more attractive females, this would suffice for sexual selection.

Therefore, looking far enough back in the stream of time, and judging from the social habits of man as he now exists, the most probable view is that he aboriginally lived in small communities, each with a single wife, or if powerful with several, whom he jealously guarded against all other men. Or he may not have been a social animal, and yet have lived with several wives, like the gorilla; for all the natives “agree that but one adult male is seen in a band; when the young male grows up, a contest takes place for mastery, and the strongest, by killing and driving out the others, establishes himself as the head of the community.”10 The younger males, being thus expelled and wandering about, would, when at last successful in finding a partner, prevent too close interbreeding within the limits of the same family.

Although savages are now extremely licentious, and although communal marriages may formerly have largely prevailed, yet many tribes practise some form of marriage, but of a far more lax nature than that of civilised nations. Polygamy, as just stated, is almost universally followed by the leading men in every tribe. Nevertheless there are tribes, standing almost at the bottom of the scale, which are strictly monogamous. This is the case with the Veddahs of Ceylon: they have a saying, according to Sir J. Lubbock,11 “that death alone can separate husband and wife.” An intelligent Kandyan chief, of course a polygamist, “was perfectly scandalised at the utter barbarism of living with only one wife, and never parting until separated by death.” It was, he said, “just like the Wanderoo monkey.” Whether savages who now enter into some form of marriage, either polygamous or monogamous, have retained this habit from primeval times, or whether they have returned to some form of marriage, after passing through a stage of promiscuous intercourse, I will not pretend to conjecture.

Infanticide. — This practice is now very common throughout the world, and there is reason to believe that it prevailed much more extensively during former times.12 Barbarians find it difficult to support themselves and their children, and it is a simple plan to kill their infants. In South America some tribes, according to Azara, formerly destroyed so many infants of both sexes that they were on the point of extinction. In the Polynesian Islands women have been known to kill from four or five, to even ten of their children; and Ellis could not find a single woman who had not killed at least one. In a village on the eastern frontier of India Colonel MacCulloch found not a single female child. Wherever infanticide13 prevails the struggle for existence will be in so far less severe, and all the members of the tribe will have an almost equally good chance of rearing their few surviving children. In most cases a larger number of female than of male infants are destroyed, for it is obvious that the latter are of more value to the tribe, as they will, when grown up, aid in defending it, and can support themselves. But the trouble experienced by the women in rearing children, their consequent loss of beauty, the higher estimation set on them when few, and their happier fate, are assigned by the women themselves, and by various observers, as additional motives for infanticide.

When, owing to female infanticide, the women of a tribe were few, the habit of capturing wives from neighbouring tribes would naturally arise. Sir J. Lubbock, however, as we have seen, attributes the practice in chief part to the former existence of communal marriage, and to the men having consequently captured women from other tribes to hold as their sole property. Additional causes might be assigned, such as the communities being very small, in which case, marriageable women would often be deficient. That the habit was most extensively practised during former times, even by the ancestors of civilised nations, is clearly shewn by the preservation of many curious customs and ceremonies, of which Mr. M’Lennan has given an interesting account. In our own marriages the “best man” seems originally to have been the chief abettor of the bridegroom in the act of capture. Now as long as men habitually procured their wives through violence and craft, they would have been glad to seize on any woman, and would not have selected the more attractive ones. But as soon as the practice of procuring wives from a distinct tribe was effected through barter, as now occurs in many places, the more attractive women would generally have been purchased. The incessant crossing, however, between tribe and tribe, which necessarily follows from any form of this habit, would tend to keep all the people inhabiting the same country nearly uniform in character; and this would interfere with the power of sexual selection in differentiating the tribes.

The scarcity of women, consequent on female infanticide, leads, also, to another practice, that of polyandry, still common in several parts of the world, and which formerly, as Mr. M’Lennan believes, prevailed almost universally: but this latter conclusion is doubted by Mr. Morgan and Sir J. Lubbock.14 Whenever two or more men are compelled to marry one woman, it is certain that all the women of the tribe will get married, and there will be no selection by the men of the more attractive women. But under these circumstances the women no doubt will have the power of choice, and will prefer the more attractive men. Azara, for instance, describes how carefully a Guana woman bargains for all sorts of privileges, before accepting some one or more husbands; and the men in consequence take unusual care of their personal appearance. So amongst the Todas of India, who practise polyandry, the girls can accept or refuse any man.15 A very ugly man in these cases would perhaps altogether fail in getting a wife, or get one later in life; but the handsomer men, although more successful in obtaining wives, would not, as far as we can see, leave more offspring to inherit their beauty than the less handsome husbands of the same women.

Early Betrothals and Slavery of Women. — With many savages it is the custom to betroth the females whilst mere infants; and this would effectually prevent preference being exerted on either side according to personal appearance. But it would not prevent the more attractive women from being afterwards stolen or taken by force from their husbands by the more powerful men; and this often happens in Australia, America, and elsewhere. The same consequences with reference to sexual selection would to a certain extent follow, when women are valued almost solely as slaves or beasts of burden, as is the case with many savages. The men, however, at all times would prefer the handsomest slaves according to their standard of beauty.

We thus see that several customs prevail with savages which must greatly interfere with, or completely stop, the action of sexual selection. On the other hand, the conditions of life to which savages are exposed, and some of their habits, are favourable to natural selection; and this comes into play at the same time with sexual selection. Savages are known to suffer severely from recurrent famines; they do not increase their food by artificial means; they rarely refrain from marriage,16 and generally marry whilst young. Consequently they must be subjected to occasional hard struggles for existence, and the favoured individuals will alone survive.

At a very early period, before man attained to his present rank in the scale, many of his conditions would be different from what now obtains amongst savages. Judging from the analogy of the lower animals, he would then either live with a single female, or be a polygamist. The most powerful and able males would succeed best in obtaining attractive females. They would also succeed best in the general struggle for life, and in defending their females, as well as their offspring, from enemies of all kinds. At this early period the ancestors of man would not be sufficiently advanced in intellect to look forward to distant contingencies; they would not foresee that the rearing of all their children, especially their female children, would make the struggle for life severer for the tribe. They would be governed more by their instincts and less by their reason than are savages at the present day. They would not at that period have partially lost one of the strongest of all instincts, common to all the lower animals, namely the love of their young offspring; and consequently they would not have practised female infanticide. Women would not have been thus rendered scarce, and polyandry would not have been practised; for hardly any other cause, except the scarcity of women seems sufficient to break down the natural and widely prevalent feeling of jealousy, and the desire of each male to possess a female for himself. Polyandry would be a natural stepping-stone to communal marriages or almost promiscuous intercourse; though the best authorities believe that this latter habit preceded polyandry. During primordial times there would be no early betrothals, for this implies foresight. Nor would women be valued merely as useful slaves or beasts of burden. Both sexes, if the females as well as the males were permitted to exert any choice, would choose their partners not for mental charms, or property, or social position, but almost solely from external appearance. All the adults would marry or pair, and all the offspring, as far as that was possible, would be reared; so that the struggle for existence would be periodically excessively severe. Thus during these times all the conditions for sexual selection would have been more favourable than at a later period, when man had advanced in his intellectual powers but had retrograded in his instincts. Therefore, whatever influence sexual selection may have had in producing the differences between the races of man, and between man and the higher Quadrumana, this influence would have been more powerful at a remote period than at the present day, though probably not yet wholly lost.

The Manner of Action of Sexual Selection with Mankind. — With primeval man under the favourable conditions just stated, and with those savages who at the present time enter into any marriage tie, sexual selection has probably acted in the following manner, subject to greater or less interference from female infanticide, early betrothals, &c. The strongest and most vigorous men — those who could best defend and hunt for their families, who were provided with the best weapons and possessed the most property, such as a large number of dogs or other animals — would succeed in rearing a greater average number of offspring than the weaker and poorer members of the same tribes. There can, also, be no doubt that such men would generally be able to select the more attractive women. At present the chiefs of nearly every tribe throughout the world succeed in obtaining more than one wife. I hear from Mr. Mantell that, until recently, almost every girl in New Zealand who was pretty, or promised to be pretty, was tapu to some chief. With the Kaffirs, as Mr. C. Hamilton states,17 “the chiefs generally have the pick of the women for many miles round, and are most persevering in establishing or confirming their privilege.” We have seen that each race has its own style of beauty, and we know that it is natural to man to admire each characteristic point in his domestic animals, dress, ornaments, and personal appearance, when carried a little beyond the average. If then the several foregoing propositions be admitted, and I cannot see that they are doubtful, it would be an inexplicable circumstance if the selection of the more attractive women by the more powerful men of each tribe, who would rear on an average a greater number of children, did not after the lapse of many generations somewhat modify the character of the tribe.

When a foreign breed of our domestic animals is introduced into a new country, or when a native breed is long and carefully attended to, either for use or ornament, it is found after several generations to have undergone a greater or less amount of change whenever the means of comparison exist. This follows from unconscious selection during a long series of generations — that is, the preservation of the most approved individuals — without any wish or expectation of such a result on the part of the breeder. So again, if during many years two careful breeders rear animals of the same family, and do not compare them together or with a common standard, the animals are found to have become, to the surprise of their owners, slightly different.18 Each breeder has impressed, as von Nathusius well expresses it, the character of his own mind — his own taste and judgment — on his animals. What reason, then, can be assigned why similar results should not follow from the long-continued selection of the most admired women by those men of each tribe who were able to rear the greatest number of children? This would be unconscious selection, for an effect would be produced, independently of any wish or expectation on the part of the men who preferred certain women to others.

Let us suppose the members of a tribe, practising some form of marriage, to spread over an unoccupied continent, they would soon split up into distinct hordes, separated from each other by various barriers, and still more effectually by the incessant wars between all barbarous nations. The hordes would thus be exposed to slightly different conditions and habits of life, and would sooner or later come to differ in some small degree. As soon as this occurred, each isolated tribe would form for itself a slightly different standard of beauty;19 and then unconscious selection would come into action through the more powerful and leading men preferring certain women to others. Thus the differences between the tribes, at first very slight, would gradually and inevitably be more or less increased.

With animals in a state of nature, many characters proper to the males, such as size, strength, special weapons, courage and pugnacity, have been acquired through the law of battle. The semi-human progenitors of man, like their allies the Quadrumana, will almost certainly have been thus modified; and, as savages still fight for the possession of their women, a similar process of selection has probably gone on in a greater or less degree to the present day. Other characters proper to the males of the lower animals, such as bright colours and various ornaments, have been acquired by the more attractive males having been preferred by the females. There are, however, exceptional cases in which the males are the selectors, instead of having been the selected. We recognise such cases by the females being more highly ornamented than the males — their ornamental characters having been transmitted exclusively or chiefly to their female offspring. One such case has been described in the order to which man belongs, that of the Rhesus monkey.

Man is more powerful in body and mind than woman, and in the savage state he keeps her in a far more abject state of bondage than does the male of any other animal; therefore it is not surprising that he should have gained the power of selection. Women are everywhere conscious of the value of their own beauty; and when they have the means, they take more delight in decorating themselves with all sorts of ornaments than do men. They borrow the plumes of male birds, with which nature has decked this sex, in order to charm the females. As women have long been selected for beauty, it is not surprising that some of their successive variations should have been transmitted exclusively to the same sex; consequently that they should have transmitted beauty in a somewhat higher degree to their female than to their male offspring, and thus have become more beautiful, according to general opinion, than men. Women, however, certainly transmit most of their characters, including some beauty, to their offspring of both sexes; so that the continued preference by the men of each race for the more attractive women, according to their standard of taste, will have tended to modify in the same manner all the individuals of both sexes belonging to the race.

With respect to the other form of sexual selection (which with the lower animals is much the more common), namely, when the females are the selectors, and accept only those males which excite or charm them most, we have reason to believe that it formerly acted on our progenitors. Man in all probability owes his beard, and perhaps some other characters, to inheritance from an ancient progenitor who thus gained his ornaments. But this form of selection may have occasionally acted during later times; for in utterly barbarous tribes the women have more power in choosing, rejecting, and tempting their lovers, or of afterwards changing their husbands, than might have been expected. As this is a point of some importance, I will give in detail such evidence as I have been able to collect.

Hearne describes how a woman in one of the tribes of Arctic America repeatedly ran away from her husband and joined her lover; and with the Charruas of S. America, according to Azara, divorce is quite optional. Amongst the Abipones, a man on choosing a wife bargains with the parents about the price. But “it frequently happens that the girl rescinds what has been agreed upon between the parents and the bridegroom, obstinately rejecting the very mention of marriage.” She often runs away, hides herself, and thus eludes the bridegroom. Captain Musters who lived with the Patagonians, says that their marriages are always settled by inclination; “if the parents make a match contrary to the daughter’s will, she refuses and is never compelled to comply.” In Tierra del Fuego a young man first obtains the consent of the parents by doing them some service, and then he attempts to carry off the girl; “but if she is unwilling, she hides herself in the woods until her admirer is heartily tired of looking for her, and gives up the pursuit; but this seldom happens.” In the Fiji Islands the man seizes on the woman whom he wishes for his wife by actual or pretended force; but “on reaching the home of her abductor, should she not approve of the match, she runs to some one who can protect her; if, however, she is satisfied, the matter is settled forthwith.” With the Kalmucks there is a regular race between the bride and bridegroom, the former having a fair start; and Clarke “was assured that no instance occurs of a girl being caught, unless she has a partiality to the pursuer.” Amongst the wild tribes of the Malay Archipelago there is also a racing match; and it appears from M. Bourien’s account, as Sir J. Lubbock remarks, that “the race, ‘is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong,’ but to the young man who has the good fortune to please his intended bride.” A similar custom, with the same result, prevails with the Koraks of north-eastern Asia.

Turning to Africa: the Kaffirs buy their wives, and girls are severely beaten by their fathers if they will not accept a chosen husband; but it is manifest from many facts given by the Rev. Mr. Shooter, that they have considerable power of choice. Thus very ugly, though rich men, have been known to fail in getting wives. The girls, before consenting to be betrothed, compel the men to shew themselves off first in front and then behind, and exhibit their paces.” They have been known to propose to a man, and they not rarely run away with a favoured lover. So again, Mr. Leslie, who was intimately acquainted with the Kaffirs, says, “it is a mistake to imagine that a girl is sold by her father in the same manner, and with the same authority, with which he would dispose of a cow.” Amongst the degraded bushmen of S. Africa, “when a girl has grown up to womanhood without having been betrothed, which, however, does not often happen, her lover must gain her approbation, as well as that of the parents.”20 Mr. Winwood Reade made inquiries for me with respect to the negroes of western Africa, and he informs me that “the women, at least among the more intelligent pagan tribes, have no difficulty in getting the husbands whom they may desire, although it is considered unwomanly to ask a man to marry them. They are quite capable of falling in love, and of forming tender, passionate, and faithful attachments.” Additional cases could be given.

We thus see that with savages the women are not in quite so abject a state in relation to marriage as has often been supposed. They can tempt the men whom they prefer, and can sometimes reject those whom they dislike, either before or after marriage. Preference on the part of the women, steadily acting in any one direction, would ultimately affect the character of the tribe; for the women would generally choose not merely the handsomest men, according to their standard of taste, but those who were at the same time best able to defend and support them. Such well-endowed pairs would commonly rear a larger number of offspring than the less favoured. The same result would obviously follow in a still more marked manner if there was selection on both sides; that is, if the more attractive, and at the same time more powerful men were to prefer, and were preferred by, the more attractive women. And this double form of selection seems actually to have occurred, especially during the earlier periods of our long history.

We will now examine a little more closely some of the characters which distinguished the several races of man from one another and from the lower animals, namely, the greater or less deficiency of hair on the body, and the colour of the skin. We need say nothing about the great diversity in the shape of the features and of the skull between the different races, as we have seen in the last chapter how different is the standard of beauty in these respects. These characters will therefore probably have been acted on through sexual selection; but we have no means of judging whether they have been acted on chiefly from the male or female side. The musical faculties of man have likewise been already discussed.

Absence of Hair on the Body, and its Development on the Face and Head. — From the presence of the woolly hair or lanugo on the human foetus, and of rudimentary hairs scattered over the body during maturity, we may infer that man is descended from some animal which was born hairy and remained so during life. The loss of hair is an inconvenience and probably an injury to man, even in a hot climate, for he is thus exposed to the scorching of the sun, and to sudden chills, especially during wet weather. As Mr. Wallace remarks, the natives in all countries are glad to protect their naked backs and shoulders with some slight covering. No one supposes that the nakedness of the skin is any direct advantage to man; his body therefore cannot have been divested of hair through natural selection.21 Nor, as shewn in a former chapter, have we any evidence that this can be due to the direct action of climate, or that it is the result of correlated development.

The absence of hair on the body is to a certain extent a secondary sexual character; for in all parts of the world women are less hairy than men. Therefore we may reasonably suspect that this character has been gained through sexual selection. We know that the faces of several species of monkeys, and large surfaces at the posterior end of the body of other species, have been denuded of hair; and this we may safely attribute to sexual selection, for these surfaces are not only vividly coloured, but sometimes, as with the male mandrill and female rhesus, much more vividly in the one sex than in the other, especially during the breeding-season. I am informed by Mr. Bartlett that, as these animals gradually reach maturity, the naked surfaces grow larger compared with the size of their bodies. The hair, however, appears to have been removed, not for the sake of nudity, but that the colour of the skin may be more fully displayed. So again with many birds, it appears as if the head and neck had been divested of feathers through sexual selection, to exhibit the brightly-coloured skin.

As the body in woman is less hairy than in man, and as this character is common to all races, we may conclude that it was our female semi-human ancestors who were first divested of hair, and that this occurred at an extremely remote period before the several races had diverged from a common stock. Whilst our female ancestors were gradually acquiring this new character of nudity, they must have transmitted it almost equally to their offspring of both sexes whilst young; so that its transmission, as with the ornaments of many mammals and birds, has not been limited either by sex or age. There is nothing surprising in a partial loss of hair having been esteemed as an ornament by our ape-like progenitors, for we have seen that innumerable strange characters have been thus esteemed by animals of all kinds, and have consequently been gained through sexual selection. Nor is it surprising that a slightly injurious character should have been thus acquired; for we know that this is the case with the plumes of certain birds, and with the horns of certain stags.

The females of some of the anthropoid apes, as stated in a former chapter, are somewhat less hairy on the under surface than the males; and here we have what might have afforded a commencement for the process of denudation. With respect to the completion of the process through sexual selection, it is well to bear in mind the New Zealand proverb, “There is no woman for a hairy man.” All who have seen photographs of the Siamese hairy family will admit how ludicrously hideous is the opposite extreme of excessive hairiness. And the king of Siam had to bribe a man to marry the first hairy woman in the family; and she transmitted this character to her young offspring of both sexes.22

Some races are much more hairy than others, especially the males; but it must not be assumed that the more hairy races, such as the European, have retained their primordial condition more completely than the naked races, such as the Kalmucks or Americans. It is more probable that the hairiness of the former is due to partial reversion; for characters which have been at some former period long inherited are always apt to return. We have seen that idiots are often very hairy, and they are apt to revert in other characters to a lower animal type. It does not appear that a cold climate has been influential in leading to this kind of reversion; excepting perhaps with the negroes, who have been reared during several generations in the United States,23 and possibly with the Ainos, who inhabit the northern islands of the Japan archipelago. But the laws of inheritance are so complex that we can seldom understand their action. If the greater hairiness of certain races be the result of reversion, unchecked by any form of selection, its extreme variability, even within the limits of the same race, ceases to be remarkable.24

With respect to the beard in man, if we turn to our best guide, the Quadrumana, we find beards equally developed in both sexes of many species, but in some, either confined to the males, or more developed in them than in the females. From this fact and from the curious arrangement, as well as the bright colours of the hair about the heads of many monkeys, it is highly probable, as before explained, that the males first acquired their beards through sexual selection as an ornament, transmitting them in most cases, equally or nearly so, to their offspring of both sexes. We know from Eschricht25 that with mankind the female as well as the male foetus is furnished with much hair on the face, especially round the mouth; and this indicates that we are descended from progenitors of whom both sexes were bearded. It appears therefore at first sight probable that man has retained his beard from a very early period, whilst woman lost her beard at the same time that her body became almost completely divested of hair. Even the colour of our beards seems to have been inherited from an ape-like progenitor; for when there is any difference in tint between the hair of the head and the beard, the latter is lighter coloured in all monkeys and in man. In those Quadrumana in which the male has a larger beard than that of the female, it is fully developed only at maturity, just as with mankind; and it is possible that only the later stages of development have been retained by man. In opposition to this view of the retention of the beard from an early period is the fact of its great variability in different races, and even within the same race; for this indicates reversion — long lost characters being very apt to vary on re-appearance.

Nor must we overlook the part which sexual selection may have played in later times; for we know that with savages the men of the beardless races take infinite pains in eradicating every hair from their faces as something odious, whilst the men of the bearded races feel the greatest pride in their beards. The women, no doubt, participate in these feelings, and if so sexual selection can hardly have failed to have effected something in the course of later times. It is also possible that the long-continued habit of eradicating the hair may have produced an inherited effect. Dr. Brown-Sequard has shewn that if certain animals are operated on in a particular manner, their offspring are affected. Further evidence could be given of the inheritance of the effects of mutilations; but a fact lately ascertained by Mr. Salvin26 has a more direct bearing on the present question; for he has shewn that the motmots, which are known habitually to bite off the barbs of the two central tail-feathers, have the barbs of these feathers naturally somewhat reduced.27 Nevertheless, with mankind the habit of eradicating the beard and the hairs on the body would probably not have arisen until these had already become by some means reduced.

It is difficult to form any judgment as to how the hair on the head became developed to its present great length in many races. Eschricht28 states that in the human foetus the hair on the face during the fifth month is longer than that on the head; and this indicates that our semi-human progenitors were not furnished with long tresses, which must therefore have been a late acquisition. This is likewise indicated by the extraordinary difference in the length of the hair in the different races; in the negro the hair forms a mere curly mat; with us it is of great length, and with the American natives it not rarely reaches to the ground. Some species of Semnopithecus have their heads covered with moderately long hair, and this probably serves as an ornament and was acquired through sexual selection. The same view may perhaps be extended to mankind, for we know that long tresses are now and were formerly much admired, as may be observed in the works of almost every poet; St. Paul says, “if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her”; and we have seen that in North America a chief was elected solely from the length of his hair.

Colour of the Skin. — The best kind of evidence that in man the colour of the skin has been modified through sexual selection is scanty; for in most races the sexes do not differ in this respect, and only slightly, as we have seen, in others. We know, however, from the many facts already given that the colour of the skin is regarded by the men of all races as a highly important element in their beauty; so that it is a character which would be likely to have been modified through selection, as has occurred in innumerable instances with the lower animals. It seems at first sight a monstrous supposition that the jet-blackness of the negro should have been gained through sexual selection; but this view is supported by various analogies, and we know that negroes admire their own colour. With mammals, when the sexes differ in colour, the male is often black or much darker than the female; and it depends merely on the form of inheritance whether this or any other tint is transmitted to both sexes or to one alone. The resemblance to a negro in miniature of Pithecia satanas with his jet black skin, white rolling eyeballs, and hair parted on the top of the head, is almost ludicrous.

The colour of the face differs much more widely in the various kinds of monkeys than it does in the races of man; and we have some reason to believe that the red, blue, orange, almost white and black tints of their skin, even when common to both sexes, as well as the bright colours of their fur, and the ornamental tufts about the head, have all been acquired through sexual selection. As the order of development during growth, generally indicates the order in which the characters of a species have been developed and modified during previous generations; and as the newly-born infants of the various races of man do not differ nearly as much in colour as do the adults, although their bodies are as completely destitute of hair, we have some slight evidence that the tints of the different races were acquired at a period subsequent to the removal of the hair, which must have occurred at a very early period in the history of man.

Summary. — We may conclude that the greater size, strength, courage, pugnacity, and energy of man, in comparison with woman, were acquired during primeval times, and have subsequently been augmented, chiefly through the contests of rival males for the possession of the females. The greater intellectual vigour and power of invention in man is probably due to natural selection, combined with the inherited effects of habit, for the most able men will have succeeded best in defending and providing for themselves and for their wives and offspring. As far as the extreme intricacy of the subject permits us to judge, it appears that our male ape-like progenitors acquired their beards as an ornament to charm or excite the opposite sex, and transmitted them only to their male offspring. The females apparently first had their bodies denuded of hair, also as a sexual ornament; but they transmitted this character almost equally to both sexes. It is not improbable that the females were modified in other respects for the same purpose and by the same means; so that women have acquired sweeter voices and become more beautiful than men.

It deserves attention that with mankind the conditions were in many respects much more favourable for sexual selection during a very early period, when man had only just attained to the rank of manhood, than during later times. For he would then, as we may safely conclude, have been guided more by his instinctive passions, and less by foresight or reason. He would have jealously guarded his wife or wives. He would not have practised infanticide; nor valued his wives merely as useful slaves; nor have been betrothed to them during infancy, Hence we may infer that the races of men were differentiated, as far as sexual selection is concerned, in chief part at a very remote epoch; and this conclusion throws light on the remarkable fact that at the most ancient period, of which we have not as yet any record, the races of man had already come to differ nearly or quite as much as they do at the present day.

The views here advanced, on the part which sexual selection has played in the history of man, want scientific precision. He who does not admit this agency in the case of the lower animals, will disregard all that I have written in the later chapters on man. We cannot positively say that this character, but not that, has been thus modified; it has however, been shewn that the races of man differ from each other and from their nearest allies, in certain characters which are of no service to them in their daily habits of life, and which it is extremely probable would have been modified through sexual selection. We have seen that with the lowest savages the people of each tribe admire their own characteristic qualities — the shape of the head and face, the squareness of the cheek-bones, the prominence or depression of the nose, the colour of the skin, the length of the hair on the head, the absence of hair on the face and body, or the presence of a great beard, and so forth. Hence these and other such points could hardly fail to be slowly and gradually exaggerated, from the more powerful and able men in each tribe, who would succeed in rearing the largest number of offspring, having selected during many generations for their wives the most strongly characterised and therefore most attractive women. For my own part I conclude that of all the causes which have led to the differences in external appearance between the races of man, and to a certain extent between man and the lower animals, sexual selection has been the most efficient.

1 “Schopenhauer and Darwinism,” in Journal of Anthropology, Jan., 1871, p. 323.

2 These quotations are taken from Lawrence (Lectures on Physiology, &c., 1822, p. 393), who attributes the beauty of the upper classes in England to the men having long selected the more beautiful women.

3 “Anthropologie,” Revue des Cours Scientifiques, Oct., 1868, p. 721.

4 Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, vol. i., p. 207.

5 Sir J. Lubbock, The Origin of Civilisation, 1870, chap. iii., especially pp. 60-67. Mr. M’Lennan, in his extremely valuable work on Primitive Marriage, 1865, p. 163, speaks of the union of the sexes “in the earliest times as loose, transitory, and in some degree promiscuous.” Mr. M’Lennan and Sir J. Lubbock have collected much evidence on the extreme licentiousness of savages at the present time. Mr. L. H. Morgan, in his interesting memoir of the classificatory system of relationship. (Proceedings of the American Academy of Sciences, vol. vii., Feb., 1868, p. 475), concludes that polygamy and all forms of marriage during primeval times were essentially unknown. It appears also, from Sir. J. Lubbock’s work, that Bachofen likewise believes that communal intercourse. originally prevailed.

6 Address to British Association On the Social and Religious Condition of the Lower Races of Man, 1870, p. 20.

7 Origin of Civilisation, 1870, p. 86. In the several works above quoted, there will be found copious evidence on relationship through the females alone, or with the tribe alone.

8 Mr. C. Staniland Wake argues strongly (Anthropologia, March, 1874, p. 197) against the views held by these three writers on the former prevalence of almost promiscuous intercourse; and he thinks that the classificatory system of relationship can be otherwise explained.

9 Brehm (Illustriertes Thierleben, B. i., p. 77) says Cynocephalus hamadryas lives in great troops containing twice as many adult females as adult males. See Rengger on American polygamous species, and Owen (Anatomy of Vertebrates, vol. iii., p. 746) on American monogamous species. Other references might be added.

10 Dr. Savage, in Boston Journal of Natural History, vol. v., 1845-47, p. 423.

11 Prehistoric Times, 1869, p. 424.

12 Mr. M’Lennan, Primitive Marriage, 1865. See especially on exogamy and infanticide, pp. 130, 138, 165.

13 Dr. Gerland (Uber das Aussterben der Naturvolker, 1868) has collected much information on infanticide, see especially ss. 27, 51, 54. Azara (Voyages, &c., tom. ii., pp. 94, 116) enters in detail on the motives. See also M’Lennan (ibid. p. 139) for cases in India. In the former reprints of the 2nd edition of this book an incorrect quotation from Sir G. Grey was unfortunately given in the above passage and has now been removed from the text.

14 Primitive Marriage, p. 208; Sir J. Lubbock, Origin of Civilisation, p. 100. See also Mr. Morgan, loc. cit., on the former prevalence of polyandry.

15 Azara, Voyages, &c., tom. ii., pp. 92-95; Colonel Marshall, Amongst the Todas, p. 212.

16 Burchell says (Travels in S. Africa, vol. ii., 1824, p. 58), that among the wild nations of southern Africa, neither men nor women ever pass their lives in a state of celibacy. Azara (Voyages dans l’Amerique Merid., tom. ii., 1809, p. 21) makes precisely the same remark in regard to the wild Indians of South America.

17 Anthropological Review, Jan., 1870, p. xvi.

18 The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, vol. ii., pp. 210-217.

19 An ingenious writer argues, from a comparison of the pictures of Raphael, Rubens, and modern French artists, that the idea of beauty is not absolutely the same even throughout Europe: see the Lives of Haydn and Mozart, by Bombet (otherwise M. Beyle), English translation, p. 278.

20 Azara, Voyages, &c., tom. ii., p. 23. Dobrizhoffer, An Account of the Abipones, vol. ii., 1822, p. 207. Capt. Musters, in Proc. R. Geograph. Soc., vol. xv., p. 47. Williams on the Fiji Islanders, as quoted by Lubbock, Origin of Civilisation, 1870, p. 79. On the Fuegians, King and Fitzroy, Voyages of the “Adventure” and “Beagle,” vol. ii., 1839, p. 182. On the Kalmucks, quoted by M’Lennan, Primitive Marriage, 1865, p. 32 On the Malays, Lubbock, ibid., p. 76. The Rev. J. Shooter, On the Kafirs of Natal, 1857, pp. 52-60. Mr. D. Leslie, Kafir Character and Customs, 1871, p. 4. On the bushmen, Burchell, Travels in S. Africa, ii., 1824, p. 59. On the Koraks by McKennan, as quoted by Mr. Wake, in Anthropologia, Oct., 1873, p. 75.

21 Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection, 1870, p. 346. Mr. Wallace believes (p. 350) “that some intelligent power has guided or determined the development of man”; and he considers the hairless condition of the skin as coming under this head. The Rev. T. R. Stebbing, in commenting on this view (Transactions of Devonshire Association for Science, 1870) remarks, that had Mr. Wallace “employed his usual ingenuity on the question of man’s hairless skin, he might have seen the possibility of its selection through its superior beauty or the health attaching to superior cleanliness.”

22 The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, vol. ii., 1868, p. 237.

23 Investigations into Military and Anthropological Statistics of American Soldiers, by B. A. Gould, 1869, p. 568:— Observations were carefully made on the hairiness of 2,129 black and coloured soldiers, whilst they were bathing; and by looking to the published table, “it is manifest at a glance that there is but little, if any, difference between the white and the black races in this respect.” It is, however, certain that negroes in their native and much hotter land of Africa, have remarkably smooth bodies. It should be particularly observed, that both pure blacks and mulattoes were included in the above enumeration; and this is an unfortunate circumstance, as in accordance with a principle, the truth of which I have elsewhere proved, crossed races of man would be eminently liable to revert to the primordial hairy character of their early ape-like progenitors.

24 Hardly any view advanced in this work has met with so much disfavour (see for instance, Spengel, Die Fortschritte des Darwinismus, 1874, p. 80) as the above explanation of the loss of hair in mankind through sexual selection; but none of the opposed arguments seem to me of much weight, in comparison with the facts shewing that the nudity of the skin is to a certain extent a secondary sexual character in man and in some of the Quadrumana.

25 “Uber die Richtung der Haare am Menschlichen Korper,” in Muller’s Archiv. fur Anat. und Phys., 1837, s. 40.

26 On the tail-feathers of Motmots, Proceedings of the Zoological Society, 1873, p. 429.

27 Mr. Sproat has suggested (Scenes and Studies of Savage Life, 1868, p. 25) this same view. Some distinguished ethnologists, amongst others M. Gosse of Geneva, believe that artificial modifications of the skull tend to be inherited.

28 Uber die Richtung, &c., s. 40.

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