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CONCERNING OLD AGE.
BY C. T. CAMPBELL, M. D.
I Tided whether hength of dagsly is a hesitation
. Even the strongest religious faith,
thing to be desired or not. If “the first though it may have a confident assurance of commandment with blessing” would seem a happier home “over the river,” will often to indicate an affirmative answer to the hesitate on the bank, loath to say farewell question, the inconveniences and discom- to life. The evidence of things not seen may forts so often attendant on old age would as be strong, but it cannot altogether destroy clearly point to a negative. Differences of the influence of the things that are seen. opinion, however, will depend on the vary Just how long a man might live or ought ing circumstances and conditions of the in- to live is another of the disputed questions dividual. In times of mental depression, involved in the consideration of old age. bodily illness, or personal poverty, desire Moses (was it not he?) set down the limit may fail and life become a burden. But at three score and ten; yet he himself, rewith favourable surroundings few people gardless of consistency, lived out full six score, will discuss, even theoretically, the advisa- and even then “his eye was not dim, nor bility of praying for shortness of life. Not his natural strength abated.” Hufeland, many are like the quaint old physician, Sir who wrote pleasantly on “The Art of ProThomas Browne, who seemed scarcely to longing Life," thought people might reach approve of any one who should desire “
“to 200 years, if they only took care of themsurpass the days of our Saviour, or wish to selves. But he died at 74; presumably, he outlive that age wherein He thought fittest did not take care of himself. Buffon, calto die;" and for this reason, among others, culating from the ratio which the life of an that “if (as divinity affirms) there shall be animal bears to the years of its growth, held no grey hairs in heaven, but all shall rise in that the man who did not die of accithe perfect state of men, we do but outlive dental causes, reached everywhere the age these perfections in this world to be recalled of ninety or one hundred.” Others who to them by a greater miracle in the next, and have written and talked on this subject run on here but to retrograde hereafter." adopt various opinions as to the duration of Yet we never heard that Sir Thomas la- life. Individually, they have generally tried mented greatly the prolongation of his own to live as long as possible. life to the age of seventy-seven.
That people do at times reach an age far Despite any theorising, life certainly seems beyond the ordinary limit is evidenced by to the general mind something worthy to be the records of history. It is often difficult, clung to with a most tenacious grasp. He though, to decide how far romance enters was no unwise observer of men and things into the composition of some of the marwho gave it as his opinion that though in vellous stories of longevity we hear. In the philosophic moments Hamlet might gravely case of a sheik of Snyrna still living at the soliloquize “To be or not to be !" yet should advanced age of 600, or in that of one some one suddenly point a pistol at his head | Astephius, who claimed for himself not less
than 1,025 years, there need be no question. chemical experiments,
experiments, rejuvenated her But in the multitude of cases credited with father-in-law, Æson, and, we presume, provarying ages from 100 to 200, there is more longed his life by a very free venesection, room for doubt. Yet the evidence is some followed by the injection of certain vegetimes very clear. Take the Countess of table juices into his veins. Very probably Desmond for an example, among those this was the origin of the regimen favoured generally accepted as true. Born in 1465 by some medical men-not yet dead—who she is said to have danced with Richard the used to recommend a bleeding every spring, Third while yet Duke of Gloucester, and to followed by a course of bitters to purify the have outlived all the English sovereigns of system. the Houses of York and Tudor, dying dur The alchemists were all earnest seekers ing the reign of James I., at the age of 140. after some elixir vitæ—some magic potion A lively old lady she must have been, if the which should preserve youth and vigour tradition be true, which attributes her death for ever. None succeeded, judging from to a fall from a cherry tree! Then there is the fact that they all died themselves ; but Henry Jenkins, of whom it was said, that in some of them imagined they had discovered his youth he was present at the battle of what would prolong if not perpetuate life. Flodden. He died in 1670, and could not, Friar Bacon compounded a nostrum of gold, therefore, have been less than 170. But the coral, vipers, rosemary, aloes, the bone of a evidence is not so satisfactory in his case as stag's heart, and certain other mysterious in that of Thomas Parr, who was born in ingredients. Arnoldus de Villâ, a French 1483. We are told that he married his first physician, proposed to feed the seeker after wife at the age of 80, and his second at 120. long life on pullets fattened on vipers, Gay young bridegroom ! worse than the which, after being whipped to death, were perhaps mythical John Weeks who married to have their heads and tails cut off, and be his tenth wife when he was 106, she being stewed in a mixture of rosemary and fennel. then only “sweet sixteen.” Parr survived This formed the pièce de resistance of the his second and last matrimonial effort 32 feast ; the entremets. were composed of years, dying at the age of 152. There are emeralds, rubies and other precious stones several other cases on record of whose truth- dissolved. There would not be much obfulness we can have little doubt, where jection to the latter articles ; but most persons have passed the century mile-post people would prefer them raw rather than of life's journey, and got some distance cooked. beyond ; but we shall not occupy space Commend us, however, to the prescripwith their names.
tion of Claudius Hermippus, who taught a The best evidence that people think it school of girls in Rome, and died at the desirable to live long, is to be found in the age of 115, having thus prolonged his life, exertions that have been made in all ages in his own opinion, by "exposing himself, to accomplish this end. The Egyptians daily, to the breath of innocent young maids.” supposed life could be lengthened by the The remedy might not be unpleasant, even free use of sudorifics and emetics. They if it should not succeed as well in this ninetried to “keep the pores open,” as the old teenth century as in the days of the Roman women-professional and non-professional dominie. If, however, a deeper meaning is -say. Two emetics per month were con to be placed upon it than appears on the sidered the proper thing in Egypt. If surface, it will not be so ridiculous as it classic poets are to be credited, Medea, a looks. Read the prescription in the words philosophic young lady, much given to of old Marshal de Schomberg, who was
killed at the Battle of the Boyne, hale and average duration of life ; though there are vigorous, though 83, who used to say that more instances of extreme longevity among “ when he was young he conversed with old the latter than the former. It is said, but men to gain experience, and when old de- we really are not sure about it, that matrilighted in the company of the young to mony is conducive to long life. Hufeland keep up his spirits.”
gives a solemn warning to bachelors. He Hippocrates, the leading physician of his says : “ There is not one instance of a day, long ago-died at 109, tradition says bachelor having attained a great age.” Now, -advised pure air, cleanliness, moderation while it may be that, by a wise dispensain all things, exercise, and a daily friction of tion of Providence, these comparatively usethe clay. It does not appear that modern less members of the social world die off doctors are able to improve on his prescrip- sooner than their brethren who have contion, and they generally content themselves jugated, yet the assertion of the Prussian with following the divine old man of Cos. authority is altogether too sweeping. Kant Cases are found, however, which show long lived to 80, Swedenborg to 84, Alexander life to be quite compatible with the absence von Humboldt to go, Hobbes to 91; beof these conditions. There was the Rev. sides many other single gentlemen who W. Davis, an English clergyman, who reached a most venerable age. But Hufelived to the age of 105; for the last 35 land was evidently prejudiced in favour of years of his life he took no out-door exer- matrimony ; for he says further : “All peocise ; daily had his hot buttered rolls for ple who have been very old were married breakfast, and roast beef for supper, with more than once;" and he instances the case abundance of wine to wash it down. In of one De Longueville, who attained the age the year 1806, there died in London a noted of 110, and had ten wives, the last in his character of her day, Mrs. Lewson, aged 99th year! Poor man! to be thus untimely 106 ; she never washed herself, very seldom cut off in the midst of a career of usefulas much as swept her rooms; her labours at ness! But perhaps if he had not been so the toilet were confined to smearing her matrimonially inclined he might have lived face and neck with hog's lard, with an occa much longer. sional touch of rouge. We can quite believe Even though we take into consideration the report that her chief companions were the occupation and surrounding circumcats and dogs.
stances of the individual, we do not arrive While these cases and many others show at any satisfactory conclusion as to what is that old age is possible in defiance of all most conducive to longevity. Among clergycommonly-received rules of hygiene, so also men, we find cases like those of Cardinal de the evidences are clear that neither climate, Solis, who live to be 110 ; Dr. Totty, an Engoccupation nor condition of life can be lish rector, of Hastings, 101 ; Bishop Morspecially depended upon ; more particularly ton of Litchfield, 95. Lawyers have genein regard to extreme longevity. According rally been long-lived, as witness Lords Lyndto Finlaison's Tables, "Rural districts have hurst, Brougham, Mansfield, Stowell and the advantage of about one in two hundred Eldon, all of whom died in the neighbourdeaths above city districts, and one in five hood of 90. Physicians shew few examples hundred above the town districts.” Country, of longevity; more are to be found among therefore, is not so much better than city; literary men, like Samuel Rogers, living to and hot climates differ but little from cold. 93, and Fontenelle who completed his cen
The female sex seems to have some- tury. In the arts, we read of Michael what the advantage of the male in the Angelo, who wore the four crowns of archi
tecture, sculpture, painting and poetry to the preserved him from all personal cares; he age of 90 ; Sir Christopher Wren finding had an abundant supply of self-conceit, rest after a life of 91 years ; Titian dying of which his friends doubtless pampered till he the plague at 99. Kings and princes who began to look on himself as “monarch of have lived active lives, provide us with few all he surveyed;" he had nothing to do, cases of extreme age. So, too, with soldiers, and he did nothing, except to exercise on though one case comes up before us—one himself his favourite hygienic hobby-the who was both soldier and king-blind old only marked feature of his life. From the Dandolo, chosen Doge of Venice at 84, age of thirty-six till his death, at over one storming Constantinople at the head of his hundred, he kept steadily to a diet of troops when 94, refusing to accept the twelve ounces of solid food and fourteen of offered throne of the Eastern Empire, to liquid daily. But what had more effect in which he was elected, at 96, and dying Doge prolonging his life than his regular diet was
the complete control under which he had If, then, extreme old age be possible brought his emotions, so that, to use his under so many and so varying conditions, own confession, “the death of relatives and we may well ask the question, upon what friends could make no impression on him does longevity depend ? “Chiefly,” replies but for a moment or two, and then it was Sir John Sinclair (Code of Health and Lon- over.” gevity), "upon a certain bodily and mental Judging from Cornaro's case, as well as predisposition to longevity.” An indefinite from others, we may safely conclude that answer, amounting in effect to little more while temperate and regular habits are conthan this, that certain people live long ducive to long life, the most important because they do not die sooner. And yet elements of all are easy circumstances, a it may be as good as we can give. For as philosophic self-complacency, and that very some people are born with a predisposition moderate exercise of bodily and mental to grow tall, while others for no better powers which is oftener found connected reason remain short, so this unexplainable with mediocrity than with genius of a higher "predisposition" may increase or diminish order. All experience teaches that there is by many years the length of a man's life. close relationship between the intensity
Another element of longevity is also to a and extensity of life. By intensity we mean great extent beyond the control of the indi- the rate of living ; by extensity, its duravidual ; and that is a complacent, self-satis- tion. The faster we live the sooner we die. fied disposition, an even temper, not easily All over-work, whether mental or physical, ruffled by the excitement of life, a calm whether valuable labour or reckless dissipaindifference to adverse circumstances; in tion, is a draft on the future; and the draft other words, that peculiar temperament will have to be paid with heavy interest. In possessed by some people which leads them this very rapid age the mass of mankind is to “take things easy.” A marked example over-worked, rather than under-worked. And of this is found in the history of Lodowick instead of trying to ease the strain on the Cornaro, a Venetian gentleman, whose the machinery, most of us are doing our “ Treatise on Temperance” was translated utmost to crowd on more steam. Theoretiinto English as far back as 1678. Signor cally we may acknowledge the risk we run Cornaro had no public cares, for his family but it makes little difference in our practices. had a taint of treason which shut them out Life is short, we say, let us work while we from public life; he had no domestic cares ; he possessed an ample competence which And, after all the grave lectures of health
reformers, there is some sense in this idea. haps more cast-iron still, we are apt to say In itself old age is not a desirable thing with the old satirist, “ Longa dies igitur quid There are accessory circumstances which contulit ?” What pleasure even in anticimay render it enviable ; but these do not pating a comparatively vigorous senility, if always exist. The tendency is to esteem we outlive our generation and outlive and honour those over whose heads many our usefulness? The grand-children beyears have passed, because we suppose that come the men and women who govern the with the passing of years wisdom has come. world; and they seldom work harmoniously “Intellect is the essence of age,” says Emer- with the grand-fathers. “Old age for coun
The superficial observer sees the sel !" But the busy workers have little snowy locks and wrinkled brow, and takes time to consult old age, and little inclinathese as the evidences of that ripened intel- tion to follow its advice when adverse. lect which he is prepared to venerate. But Will the mere fact of having lived many the age of the wise man is to be computed years console Old Age for his physical in. from his studies, not from his wrinkles. The conveniences, for his failing powers, for the intensity of a life of two-score years may neglect of his juniors, for the loss of all his have had richer results than the even tenor friends and companions ? Where will the of four-score. This is the idea of the old happiness be for the lonely centenarianVeda : “He that can discriminate is the
“When the mossy marbles rest father of his father.” And is not the man
On the lips that he has pressed, who has worked with every nerve and mus
In their bloom ; cle till fifty, of as much value to society as he
And the names he loved to hear, who has dawdled out a century? Has he
Have been carved for many a year
On the tomb ?! not done more ? Does he not know more? And can he not then step aside from a busy As he looks on life's busy whirl, so changelife to a deserved rest, leaving his memory less in its activity, its energy, and its vigour, enshrined in the affection and esteem of the yet ever changing in its forms and modes, circle where he moved-leaving a name
so different from what it was when he was more honourable far than he whose chief young, will he not cry with him of old : notoriety is from his many years—years “Yet hold me not forever in thine East; which we begin to count, as some one has How can my nature longer mix with thine? said, when there is nothing else to count?
Coldly thy rosy shadows bathe me, cold The legend of Tithonus does not exag
Are all thy lights, and cold my wrinkled feet
Upon thy glimmering thresholds, when the steam gerate the evils of a physical immortality;
Floats up from those dim fields about the homes and when statistics assure us positively that Of happy men that have the power to die, more than half the people over eighty years And grassy barrows of the happier dead. are totally infirm in mind and body, we Release me, and restore me to the ground.” scarcely feel tempted to desire a longevity Better far to work while there is strength to that shall take us into the regions of disa- work and when strength fails to cease from bility. When the prophets of hygiene point labour, and enter into rest there, us to our blunders, and lay down rules for “ Where beyond these voices there is peace." our guidance like those of Cornaro, or per