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knowing not what you did, you read a bad book. Do you not remember it
altogether? Yes! and perhaps you will never get over it. However strong
and exalted your character, never read a bad book. By the time you get
through the first chapter you will see the drift. If you find the marks
of the hoofs of the devil in the pictures, or in the style, or in the
plot, away with it.
"But there is more danger, I think, from many of the family papers,
published once a week, in those stories of vice and shame, full of
infamous suggestions, going as far as they can without exposing
themselves to the clutch of the law. I name none of them; but say that
on some fashionable tables there lie 'family newspapers' that are the
very vomit of the pit.
"The way to ruin is cheap. It costs three dollars to go to Philadelphia;
six dollars to Boston; thirty-three dollars to Savannah; but, by the
purchase of a bad paper for ten cents you may get a through ticket to
hell, by express, with few stopping places, and the final halting like
the tumbling of the lightning train down the draw-bridge at
Norwalk--sudden, terrific, deathful, never to rise."
[Footnote 43: T. De Witt Talmage.]
Poverty.--The pressing influence of poverty has been urged as one cause
of prostitution. It cannot be denied that in many cases, in large cities,
this may be the immediate occasion of the entrance of a young girl upon
a life of shame; but it may still be insisted that there must have been,
in such cases, a deficiency in previous training; for a young woman,
educated with a proper regard for purity, would sooner sacrifice life
itself than virtue. Again, poverty can be no excuse, for in every city
there are made provisions for the relief of the needy poor, and none
who are really worthy need suffer.
Ignorance.--Perhaps nothing fosters vice more than ignorance.
Prostitutes come almost entirely from the more ignorant classes, though
there are, of course, many exceptions. Among the lowest classes, vice
is seen in its grossest forms, and is carried to the greatest lengths.
Intellectual culture is antagonistic to sensuality. As a general rule,
in proportion as the intellect is developed, the animal passions are
brought into subjection. It is true that very intellectual men have
been great libertines, and that the licentious Borgias and Medicis of
Italy encouraged art and literature; but these are only apparent
exceptions, for who knows to what greater depths of vice these
individuals might have sunk had it not been for the restraining
influence of mental culture?
Says Deslandes, "In proportion as the intellect becomes enfeebled, the
generative sensibility is augmented." The animal passions seem to
survive when all higher intelligence is lost. We once saw an
illustration of this fact in an idiot who was brought before a medical
class in a clinic at Bellevue Hospital, New York. The patient had been
an idiot from birth, and presented the most revolting appearance,
seemingly possessing scarcely the intelligence of the average dog; but
his animal propensities were so great as to be almost uncontrollable.
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