16. PSYCHIC IMPOTENCE
This book would be incomplete were I to make no mention of that sudden and mysterious loss of erectile power which sometimes befalls men. Perhaps there are few men who do not know the secret dread of some day becoming impotent.
I remember a champion athlete - a magnificent man physically - confessing to me that he was afraid to marry, fearing that he would not be able to satisfy his wife. And perhaps the earliest sexual story that I remember was that of a soldier, in the time of the Civil War, who by a sudden and natural motion lost his power, which no effort of himself or his mistress could restore. All my life such tales have come to me. Tragic tales, some of them, as where a spiteful woman overwhelmed her helpless lover with shame and reproach; where divorce was demanded for this cause; where a marriage between two devoted lovers remained unconsummated to the end, the husband dying in a few years, perhaps of a broken heart. These and many others. Who has not heard of the pitiful case of Carlyle and his Jane Welsh, as told by Froude? And it has been hinted that the same cause lay back of Ruskin's beautiful surrender of his wife to the artist Millais, and of the relation of Swift to his Stella and Vanessa.