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Charles Darwin Descent Of Man Chapter 20


Descent of Man [ 1871 ]

Charles Darwin [ 1809 – 1882 ]


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."*

* "Schopenhauer and Darwinism," in Journal of Anthropology, Jan.,
1871, p. 323.

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."* 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,*(2) 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.

* 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.
*(2) "Anthropologie," Revue des Cours Scientifiques, Oct., 1868,
p. 721.

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 shewn*
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.

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

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,* 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.

* 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.

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,* 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

* Address to British Association On the Social and Religious
Condition of the Lower Races of Man, 1870, p. 20.
*(2) 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.

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 probable* 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.*(2) 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.

* 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.
*(2) 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.

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."* 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.

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

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,* "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.

* Prehistoric Times, 1869, p. 424.

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.* 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 infanticide*(2) 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.

* Mr. M'Lennan, Primitive Marriage, 1865. See especially on
exogamy and infanticide, pp. 130, 138, 165.
*(2) 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.

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.* 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.*(2) 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.

* Primitive Marriage, p. 208; Sir J. Lubbock, Origin of
Civilisation, p. 100. See also Mr. Morgan, loc. cit., on the former
prevalence of polyandry.
*(2) Azara, Voyages, &c., tom. ii., pp. 92-95; Colonel Marshall,
Amongst the Todas, p. 212.

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,* and generally marry
whilst young. Consequently they must be subjected to occasional hard
struggles for existence, and the favoured individuals will alone

* 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.

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,* "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.

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

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.* 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.

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

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;* 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.

* 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.

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."* 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.

* 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.

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.* 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.

* 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."

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
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.*

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

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,* 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.*(2)

* 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.
*(2) 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.

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 Eschricht* 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.

* "Uber die Richtung der Haare am Menschlichen Korper," in
Muller's Archiv. fur Anat. und Phys., 1837, s. 40.

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. Salvin* 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.*(2)
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.

* On the tail-feathers of Motmots, Proceedings of the Zoological
Society, 1873, p. 429.
*(2) 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.

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.
Eschricht* 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.

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

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

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