OK. So some of you won’t have bothered to click through on my link to “Scouting for Boys” a post or so back. Shame on you! But never mind. There’s enough material there worth reproducing for me to do so here, in order to give you’s all a flavour of what scouting was (once) about.
Sadly, it doesn’t quite measure up to the daffiness of a later scouting manual i once possessed, which inveighed mightily against the evils of “beastliness”.
It never quite explained what “beastliness was. However, it did warn individuals that prolonged indulgence in this vice could cause all manner of health defects and advised victims to take cold showers or, if all else failed, to have a word with their friendly scout master.
No doubt, he would have lent a helping hand…
Enough! After weighing in heavily against the vices of smoking and drinking, the manual wags a finger sternly in the direction of what it refers to as “Continence”:
“Smoking and drinking are things that tempt some fellows and not others, but there is one temptation that is pretty sure to come to you at one time or another, and I want just to warn you against it.
“You would probably be surprised how many boys have written to me thanking me for what I have written on this subject, so I expect there are more who will be glad of a word of advice against the secret vice which gets hold of so many fellows. Smoking and drinking and gambling are men’s vices and therefore attract some boys, but this secret vice is not a mans vice-men have nothing but contempt for a fellow who gives way to it.
“Some boys, like those who start smoking, think it is a very fine and manly thing to tell or listen to dirty stories, but it only shows them to be little fools.
“Yet such talk and the reading of trashy books or looking at lewd pictures is very apt to lead a thoughtless boy into the temptation of self-abuse. This is a most dangerous thing for him, for should it become a habit, it tends to lower both health and spirits.
“But if you have any manliness in you, you will throw off such temptation at once. You will stop looking at the books and listening to the stories, and will give yourself something else to think about.
“Sometimes the desire is brought on by indigestion or from eating too rich food or from constipation or from sleeping in too warm a bed with too many blankets. It can therfore be cured by correcting these and by bathing at once in cold water or by exercising the upper part of the body by arm exercises, boxing, etc.
“It may seem difficult to overcome the temptation the first time, but when you have done so once it will be easier afterwards.
“If you still have trouble about it, do not make a secret of it, but go to your father, or your Scoutmaster, and talk it over with him, and all will come right.”
“But if you have any manliness in you, you will throw off such temptation at once. give yourself something else to think about. It may seem difficult to overcome the temptation the first time, but when you have done so once it will be easier after-wards.
“If you still have trouble about it, do not make a secret of it, but go to your scoutmaster and talk it over with him and all will come right.”