1866: Clergyman blames the French for masturbation in England

Edward Bouverie Pusey (1800-1882) was an Anglican theologian and Oxford professor, known for his austerity and social conservatism. In mid-1866 Pusey launched a letter-writing campaign, penning missives to several English newspapers and journals to warn of the deadly peril of teenage masturbation. Just 50 years before, Pusey argued, the “despicable sin” was hardly known in England, and was:

“..unknown at most of our public schools. Now, alas, it is the besetting trial of our boys; it is sapping the constitutions and injuring in many the fineness of intellect.”

Pusey offered a cause for this alarming increase in masturbation – the restoration of diplomatic relations, trade and travel with France since the Napoleonic Wars. Pusey suggested that self-pollution had crossed the Channel from the schools, barrack-houses and tenements of France, where:

“..it has for centuries been practised with a contemptible openness, often in groups.”

Source: Dr E. B. Pusey, letters to The Times and the Medical Times and Gazette, June 1866. Content on this page is © Alpha History 2019-23. Content may not be republished without our express permission. For more information please refer to our Terms of Use or contact Alpha History.