« ForrigeFortsæt »
ULPIAN'S BILLS OF MORTALITY.
By Ulpian's Bills of Mortality it appears, that we might with great justness compare Rome to London, in respect to the probability of the duration of life. Consequently, we have every reasonable ground to conclude, that the duration of life in the time of Moses, the Greeks, and the Romans, was the same as at present; and that the age of the world has no kind of influence on the longevity of its inhabitants, excepting only the difference arising from the cultivation of its surface, and the change of climate. Thus, for example, it is evident, neither so many nor so old people are to be found as in the time of Vespasian ; and the reason is, that the climate then, owing to the forests, was colder, and rendered the men more robust. Perhaps, also, the natural warmth of the earth may alter, and be increased sometimes in one region, and diminished in another. The result of this research will be, that man can still attain to the same age as formerly.
DIFFERENT STATES AND CONDITIONS OF
Let us now take a view of the different states and conditions of men, and in this respect turn our attention to modern days.
As regards emperors and kings, it does not appear that nature has granted them in general a long duration of life. In ancient history we meet with but few crowned heads who attained the age of 80, and this is just the case in the modern. In the whole catalogue of Roman and German emperors, reckoning from Augustus to the present time, which includes above 2000 years, we only find five who arrived at the age of 80, among whom we include our late beloved and venerable monarch George III.
Aurengzebe, that celebrated conqueror, lived to be 100; but he is rather to be reckoned as a wandering chief than as a king. The ecclesiastical princes have not been more for
Of three hundred popes only five attained age of 80. But an extraordinary number of instances may be found among the monks and hermits, who, from their strict regimen, retired, and placid life, had all the means of longevity. The Apostle John lived to be 93; Paul, the hermit, died at the age of 113; and St. Anthony that of 105. Athanasius and
Jerome lived both beyond 80. But since the clergy have mingled more with the world, and partaken of its cares and its pleasures, instances of this kind are less frequent.
Philosophers have at all times been distinguished by their great age, especially those of a more ancient date, when the primary part of their profession was an abstraction from the vanities and luxuries of life. The oldest instances are to be found among the stoics and Pythagoreans. In modern times, however, philosophers have obtained a pre-eminence in this respect over others. Kepler and Bacon both lived to be very old; and Newton, whose mind was of the happiest temperature, and whose manners were strictly becoming a philosopher, attained the age of 90. Euler, a mathematician of deserved celebrity, lived to be nearly the same age.
Numerous instances of long life are found among schoolmasters, whence it might almost be believed that continual intercourse with youth may contribute something towards our renovation and support.
But poets and artists-in short, all those fortunate mortals whose principal occupation leads them to be conversant with the sports of fancy and self-created worlds, and whose whole life, in the properest sense, is an agreeable dream, have a particular claim in the history of longevity. We have already seen to what a great age Anacreon, Sophocles, and Pindar attained. Young, Voltaire, Bodmer, Haller, and Metastasio, all lived to be very old.
The most extraordinary histories of longevity, however, are to be found only among those classes of mankind who, amidst bodily labour, and in the open air, lead a simple life, such as farmers, gardeners, hunters, soldiers, and sailors. In these situations man still attains the age of 140 and even 150. We cannot here deny ourselves the pleasure of giving a more particular account of some of these instances; for, in cases of this kind, the most trifling circumstance is often interesting, and may be important.
In the year 1670, died Henry Jenkins, of Yorkshire. He remembered the battle of Flodden-field in 1513; and at that time he was twelve years of age. It was proved, from the registry of the chancery and other courts, that he had appeared 140 years before his death as an evidence, and had an oath administered to him. The truth of this account cannot be controverted. At the time of his death he was therefore 169 years old. His last occupation was fishing; and when above the age of 100, he was able to swim across rapid rivers.
Next to Henry Jenkins, in point of age, is another Englishman, Thomas Parr, of Shropshire. He was a poor labourer's servant, and obliged to maintain himself by his daily toil. When above 120 years of age, he married a widow for his second wife, who lived with him twelve years, and who asserted that, during that time, he never betrayed any symptoms of infirmity or age. Till his 130th year, he performed all his usual work, and was accustomed even to thrash. Some years before his death his eyes and memory began to fail; but his hearing and senses continued sound to the last. In his 152nd year his fame had reached London ; and as the king was desirous of seeing so great a rarity, he was induced to undertake a journey thither. This, in all probability, shortened his existence, which he otherwise might have preserved some years longer; for he was treated at Court in so royal a manner, and his mode of living was so totally changed, that he died soon after, at London, in 1635. He was 152 years and nine months old, and had lived under nine kings of England.
What was most remarkable in regard to old Parr is, that when his body was opened by Dr. Harvey, his bowels were found to be in the most perfect state, nor were the least symptoms of decay to be discovered in them. His cartilages were not even ossified, as is the case in all old people. The smallest cause of death had not yet settled in his body; and he died merely of a plethora, because he had been too hospitably entertained. Thus Parr is a proof that, in many families, a constitution so favourable to longevity may transmit a remarkably good stamen vitæ. His great grandson died at Cork, some thirty or forty years ago, at the age of 103.
The history of Drakenburg, the Dane, is nearly an instance of the same kind. This individual was born in 1626, served as a seaman in the royal navy till the 91st year of his age, and spent fifveen years of his life as a slave in Turkey, and in the greatest misery. When he was 111, and had settled, to enjoy tranquil