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ImpotenceA Cultural History$
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Angus McLaren

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780226500768

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226500935.001.0001

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Neurasthenia, Decadence, and Nineteenth-Century Manhood

Neurasthenia, Decadence, and Nineteenth-Century Manhood

(p.101) [5] Neurasthenia, Decadence, and Nineteenth-Century Manhood
University of Chicago Press

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

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