'Love's Coming of Age' - by Vigilant , Westralian Worker, 2 March 1917, page 2

In his review of Edward Carpenter’s Love’s Coming of Age Vigilant advocated sex education for adolescents, economic independence of women, and quotes Havelock Ellis with approval.

There is at present no country in the world, certainly no civilised country, in which a woman may safely state openly her wishes and desires, and proceed openly to seek their satisfaction. [1]


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Love's Coming of Age by Vigilant

Notable Book Review

The present time, with its efforts to grasp firmly the nettle of social evils, and particularly the immediate moment with its surfeit of sex-problem picture shows, would appear to be an opportune occasion to direct public attention to some really serious works upon the subject. Numerous good publications giving detailed and necessary sex information are available, and at this time of day it should hardly be necessary to urge parents to place one of the many volumes of this sort in the hands of their adolescent children. But it is the desire of the writer to bring into greater prominence than it has hitherto enjoyed, at least in this State, Edward Carpenter’s remarkable work, “Love’s Coming of Age.” Carpenter is a writer of our own day. His older works include “Towards Democracy,” a marvellous storehouse of aspirations, and ideals, and “Civilisation; Its Cause and Cure.” He has recently made a valuable contribution to war and peace controversy entitled “Healing of the Nations.”

“Love’s Coming of Age” deals with the sex problem in its every aspect. Delving deep into pre-historic ages, he traces the serfdom of woman to the rise of private ownership (by, of course, the muscular sex). He emphasises a point that many present day feminists are blind to, namely, that the only ultimate complete solution of the sex-problem, bound up as it is with the economic dependence of woman, lies in the emancipation of society. This idea comes naturally to Socialists, who understand the nature of the economic serfdom of to-day and who cleave to the classic statement: “Never shall this problem be solved until there lives upon this earth a race of youths and maidens who have never been obliged, nor even tempted, to enter a loveless match, nor deterred from entering a love match, through material motives – considerations of social prestige on the one hand, or the necessity for a ‘home’ on the other.”

Although the author regards the present movement in the direction of women entering industry as a hopeful sign, he sees clearly that it can never solve the problem, for it is in the years of motherhood, when woman is unable to earn that support is most needed.

His attitude is not one of laissez faire until the revolution comes. Far from it. Apart altogether from legislative reforms (to which he attaches relatively little importance) and educative work, he earnestly appeals to each individual to make the matter one of moral reform in his own soul. Two great curses must be removed, namely, the exercise of physical or economic advantage by the man, and the historic defence, by process of finesse and the exploitation of sex-charm on the part of the woman.

In the course of four keenly logical chapters the author traces the origin of these curses, and points the path that may be trod, even, to some extent, in individual marriages, in order to eliminate their influence.



It may seem rather in the nature of a platitude to state that the basis of marriage must be mutual respect but such respect is impossible under the sway of the two counter-curses enumerated above.

They spell life-long deceit, on both sides. Many of us may imagine that we are entirely free from them, but so ingrained have they become in law, custom, phases of language, in our flesh itself, that we fall under their ban quite unconsciously. If any think not, they would do well to read Carpenter. He will convince them.

For example, ponder this statement of Havelock Ellis’s. “There is at present no country in the world, certainly no civilised country, in which a woman may safely state openly her wishes and desires, and proceed openly to seek their satisfaction. Should this be? How much is each individual, man or woman, in this civilised country, responsible for the continued truth of the indictment? The volume is by no means a more feminist tract. It is a study of sex problems, and is feminist only in so far as the solution of the problems demands the economic independence of woman. In the section devoted to proving that the cause of woman is the cause of the oppressed laborer throughout the planet, it far surpasses the average feminist’s position.

There are some daring tentative suggestions, such as one of the novitiate for marriage which, with many, will no doubt prove a barrier in the way of placing the volume in the hands of adolescents. This writer does not share that view, but apart from such debatable ground, the book is one that should be learned practically by heart by every parent, with a view to imparting the greater portion of its sweet ideals to their children, that when their turn comes, they may approach the enchanted lands of love and marriage with fuller knowledge of themselves, keener appreciation of the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs and limitations of their partners, than it was even possible that the older generation could possess. The mission of the book may be summarised as an attempt to remove the altar of love from present “dens of stuffy upholstery” to the high canopy of the starts. It ranks with Olive Schriner’s work as one of the finest most clean, and idealistic contributions, one might say, prophecies, on the subject. It stands at the opposite extreme to the gloomy, forbidding treatment (no doubt necessary enough) of which Brieux, author of “Damaged Goods,” is a leading exponent.

It is hoped that this review will introduce the volume (now obtainable at 1/6 from Perth booksellers) to the notice of many to whose lot it falls to serve the cause of Labor, and particularly to such whose proud mission it is to bring up young recruits for the movement.



1. John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library. Records of Tom Fitzgerald. Curtin: Book discussions (largely from Our Bookshelf), 1917 - 1988. JCPML00653/36