Chapter

Neurasthenia, Decadence, and Nineteenth-Century Manhood

in Impotence

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print April 2007 | ISBN: 9780226500768
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226500935 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226500935.003.0005
Neurasthenia, Decadence, and Nineteenth-Century Manhood

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When John Ruskin and Effie Gray married in 1848, the nervous Ruskin suggested on religious and practical grounds that they wait five years before having sex; he was twenty-nine and she was twenty. His trepidation later led to the rumor that this art historian who rhapsodized over the beauties of marble nymphs was shocked at the sight of a real woman's pubic hair. His bride would only say that he found her “different” from what he imagined women to be. The union was not consummated. Effie had doctors certify her virginity and the marriage was annulled in 1854. John Ruskin's inability to consummate his marriage with Effie Gray was perhaps the nineteenth century's most famous case of marital impotence, but Ruskin was far from being the only Victorian male who had difficulties in dealing with women. This chapter examines neurasthenia, decadence, and manhood in the nineteenth century.

Keywords: John Ruskin; Effie Gray; marriage; impotence; manhood; nineteenth century; neurasthenia; decadence

Chapter.  11178 words. 

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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