Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 59.djvu/219

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
209
A STUDY OF BRITISH GENIUS.
A STUDY OF BRITISH GENIUS.
By HAVELOCK ELLIS.
VI. MARRIAGE AND FAMILY.

THE tendency to celibacy among men of preeminent intellectual ability has frequently been emphasized by Lombroso and others. It is well illustrated by British men of genius. We may probably assume that by the age of fifty scarcely more than 10 per cent, of the male population remain bachelors, if we take the whole population into consideration. (This is the case in Hungary, and it can not be very far from the truth, so far as Great Britain is concerned.) It is true that, as Kórösi and others have shown, among the well-to-do classes men marry both later and seldomer, and that the subjects under consideration largely belong to those classes. We can, however, well afford to leave a margin on this account. We have information concerning the status as regards marriage of 819 of the preeminent men in our list; of these, seventy-two, being Catholic priests or monks (ten of them since the Reformation), were vowed celibates, and 160 others never married. We thus find that 28 per cent, never married, and even if we exclude the vowed celibates, 21 per cent. It must, of course, be remembered that a certain, though not considerable, proportion of the unmarried were under fifty at death, and some of these would certainly have married had they survived. It may be added that about two-thirds of the women were married, though several of those (especially actresses) belonging to the unmarried third formed liaisons of a more or less public character, and in a few cases had several children.

It must not be supposed that all these eminent men who lived long lives in celibacy were always so absorbed in intellectual pursuits that the idea of matrimony never occurred to them. This was not always the case. Thus we are told of Dalton, that the idea had crossed his mind, but he put it aside because, he said, he 'never had time.' In several cases, as in that of Cowley, the eminent man appears really to have been in love, but was too shy to avow this fact to the object of his affections. Reynolds is supposed only once to have been in love, with Angelica Kauffmann; the lady waited long and patiently for a declaration, but none arrived, and she finally married another; Reynolds does not appear to have been overmuch distressed, and they remained good friends. These cases seem to be fairly typical of a certain group of the celibates in our list; a passionate devotion to intellectual pursuits seems often to be associated with a lack of passion