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cannot be verified. Lord Bacon, in his
" History of Life and Death," quotes
fix)m Pliny the following lively statistics:
"The year of our Lord seventy-six is
memorable; for, in that year there was a
taxing of the people by Vespasian; from
which it appears that in the part of Italy
lying between the Appenines and the River
Po, there were found fifty-four persons 100
years old; fifty-seven, no years; two, 120
years; four, 130 years; four, 135 years;
and three, 140 years each." Now leave
sunny Italy and go to inclement Norway.
Travelers have there remarked the great
temperance, industry, and morality of the
people, and their common food is found
to be milk, cheese, dried or salt fish, no
meat, and oat bread baked in cakes. An
enumeration of the inhabitants of Aggerhus,
in Norway, in 1763, showed that one hun-
dred and fifty couples had been married
over 80 years: consequently the greater
number were aged 100 or more; seventy
couples had been married over 90 years,
which would place their ages at about no;
twelve couples had been married fix)m 100
to 105 years, and another couple no years,

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so that this last pair were doubtless 130
years old. The opinion has generally ob-
tained that extreme age is to be looked for
in the wide open country, where the rich,


warm sunlight shines without restraint, rath-
er than in the narrow, foul, and turbulent
cities. Yet mark the two following cases.
Mary Burke, aged 105, living in Drury Lane,
London, and Anne Brestow, aged 102, liv-
ing in Culbeck, in the North of England,
died in 1789. A great contrast is here
shown, for both attained great age, but
one lived in squalid poverty in one of the
vilest haunts of London, while the other
belonged to the Society of Friends, and
abode in the healthy region of the Cum-
berland Lakes. The trutih is that no law of
sickness is so very distinctly pronounced as
to justify any discrimination on the ground
of sojourning in city, town, or country. We
are told that a moist is preferable to a dry
atmosphere, and that a region in the neigh-
borhood of a small stream, which runs over
a rocky or pebbly bottom, is the best. But,
after all, may not the changing of the sea-
sons be the chief cause of the difference
foimd among men? The inhabitants of
countries possessing too equable a tempera-
ture are naturally disposed to indolence, and
are easily led away by the attractions of
pleasure. Excessive heat enervates the body,
and extreme cold renders it torpid. At-
mospheric commotions, by stimulating both
mind and body, make a person energetic
and enterprising. It is those countries where
frequent variations of the seasons are experi-

enced, that first enter upon the path of civil-
ization — ^blessed boon of Heaven. " While
the earth remaineth, seed time and harvest,
and cold and heat, and summer and winter,
and day and night, shall
not cease."

The high longevity of
females, as compared with
males in civilized commu-
nities, is well established,
notwithstanding many of
them are of the poorer class,
exposed through the early
and middle portions of
their lives to all the sorrows
and dangers of maternity.
This has been accounted
for by their temperate liv-
ing and more active habit
of life. Hufeland, a Prus-
sian authority, remarks :
" Not only do women live
longer than men, but mar-
ried women longer than
single, in the proportion of
two to one." But, though
the pliability of the female
body gives it for a time more durability, yet,
as strength is essential to very great length
of days, few women attain the highest age.
More women than men reach 115 years, but
beyond that age, more men are found. A
remarkable case of longevity is that of Mary
Prescott, of Sussex, England, who died in
1768, aged 105, aflerhavingbeen the mother
of thirty-seven children.

We have fi:«quendy remarked that among
the extremely aged, the senses experience
renewed vitality. It is placed on record
that, after many years of blindness, the sight
of some men has almost miraculously re-
tiuned, that the hearing of others is often
very acute, that new teeth have been cut
after the one hundredth birthday, that nails
have been shed and replaced by new, and
gray locks supplanted by the fine nat-
ural hair of youth. Sometimes the memory
of the aged wiU be acute when carried
back to the days of childhood, and yet not
retentive when applied to events occurring
in the advanced periods of life. As bearing
on this point, notice the case of Francis
Hongo, a native of Smyrna, and Consul for
the Venetians in that ancient and renowned
city, who died 1702, aged 113. He lived
toward the end of his life chiefly on broth,
or some tender animal food, and drank no
wine or other fermented liquid. He was
never sick, walked eight miles as a regular

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daily practice, and retained his sight, hear-
ing, and memory to the last He was five
times married, and had forty-nine children
bom to him. When about one hundred
years old his white hair fell ofif, and was suc-
ceeded by a crop of its original color, and
at one hundred and twelve years of age he
cut two teeth. As a mariced contrast to this
healthy old patriarch, witness the following
instance which is certified to by the parish
register. Margaret Krasiowna, a Polish
woman, died in 1763, aged 108. When
94, she married for her third husband
Gaspard Raykolt, who was then 105. His
fiither had previously died, aged 119.
During the fourteen years they lived to-
gether, she brought him two boys and a
girl; and these three children, from their
very birth, bore evident marks of the old
age of their parents, their hair being gray,
and a vacuity appearing in their gums like
that which is occa^oned by the loss of teeth,
though they never had any. They had not
strength enough, even as they grew up, to
chew solid food, but hved on bread and
vegetables. They were of proper size for
their age, but their backs were bent, their
complexion sallow, and they had all the
other external symptoms of decrepitude.

We have already noticed the astonishing
tenacity with which these worthies hold on
to life. Often the silver cord is loosened
jmd the golden bowl broken by the in-
terposition of some accident An old
woman in a tree gathering apples falls
to her death ; others on horseback, or en-
gaged in some other active exertion, quite
unseemly in persons of great age, suddenly
die. One of the most remarkable instances
dl the stubborn fight between Old Age
and Death is found in John Tice, who died
1774, aged 125. While he was felling a
tree, at the age of 80, his legs were broken,
but he speedy recovered, and at the age
of 100, fell in a fainting fit upon some live
coals and was shockingly burned. He sur-
vived this scorching and retained the firee
use of all his faculties till his death, which
took place on his hearing of the loss of a
friend and patron.

We shall now advert to one of the most
difficult features of this curious study, viz. :
the lack of reliable evidence in the cases of
abnormal longevity. Perhaps this paragraph
^K>uld have preceded what has already been
sakly for, if we cannot believe what has been
written, any story of the romancer might
prove far more interesting. But, though a
very large degree of &ith must be exercised

in these matters, we cannot agree with Sir
G. Comewall Lewis, that no person ever lived
one himdred years. Nor do we sympathize
Avith a late writer, Mr. William J. Thoms,
who will credit no centenarian, unless his
story is supported by the evidence of sta-
dstics. Mr. Thoms, in reviewing the sub-
ject of longevity, claims that there have
existed in latter days but four cases which
have been satisfactorily proved : Mrs. Wil-
liams, of Bridehead, died 1841, aged 102;
age proved by parish statistics and family
records ; Wiluam Plank, of Harrow, died
1867, aged 100; age proved by being in
school with late Lord Lyndhurst, in 1780;
bound apprentice in 1782, and received in-
dentures of freedom in the Salters Company
in 1789; Jacob William Luning, died
1870, aged 103; age proved by statistics
of birth, baptism, and testimony of disinter-
ested friends, while his identity (the most
difficult of all things to prove) has been es-
tablished by statistics from the Equitable
Assurance Society in London, where, at the
age of 36, in 1803, he was insured for ;;^2oo.
This is the only case on record of an insured
life extending to 100 years. The fourth was
Catherine Duncombe Shafto, who died in
1872, agedroi ; age proved by parish statis-
tics, and identity established by the fact that,
in 1790, she (bemg then 19 years of age) was
selected as one of the Government nominees
in the tontine of that year. Her husband
and many of her sons were representatives in
Parliament. Thus, the greatest skeptic with
whom we meet, in the discussion of our sub-
ject, admits the fact of centenarianism. Some
cases are proved. Records are not always
kept of birth, or baptism, or marriage, nor
do all men insure their lives. The eariy
companions of the extremely aged are all
dead, and their testimony cannot be pro-
cured Shall we therefore say, that none
pass the hundredth nor the hundred and
tenth birthday, but the select four referred
to by Mr. Thoms ?

Indeed there is a remarkable concurrence
of all testimony in assigning 130 to 150 years
to the most aged of various races and times.
Dr. Van Oven, an authority of great ability,
has given seventeen examples of age exceed-
ing 1 50 years. So have written and believed
Hufeland and Haller, the latter asserting
that the vital forces of man are capable of
reaching, in some cases, 200 years. There-
fore, those kindly disposed toward history,
and not anxious to examine the records too
minutely, may, by an extraordinary effort of
faith, believe the assertion that Thomas Parr

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lived to be 152, and that Henry Jenkins died
at the age of 169. But it will take a good
many grains of salt to confirm the world in
the belief that Peter Zartan, the Hungarian
peasant, lived to be 185, or that Thomas
Cam (notwithstanding the parish register of


St. Leonardos, Shoreditch) died January 28,
1588, aged 207 years. Indeed the great
age of Uie latter resulted fix)m the trick of
some wag, who, with venerable intent, fash-
ioned the figure *' i " on his tombstone into
a " 2," thus jumping a century in a few min-
utes. The friends of Thomas Damme, who
died 1 648, aged 1 54, provided against similar
trickery, and had his age cut on the tomb-
stone in words at length. It might be sup-
posed that statistics would furnish very valu-
able evidence on this subject. But, in the
first place, it is only within certain European
areas and a part of America that tables re-
lating to age are prepared, and the qualifi-
cations to which these are subject from the
shifting of population are of a very complex
character. These records show that ex-
treme age is almost uniformly found among
the poor and the degraded. And although
one might suppose that the possession of
wealth, education and intelligence, would
contribute to long life, the evidence seems
to point the other way. The cases that are

handed down to us fi'om the earlier centu-
ries of the Christian era are often but tradi-
tion. In later days more positive evidence
exists; and yet the dusty parish registers
are not above question, and the family re-
cords and familiar obituary notices fi^quently
come to us unverified. It is also a strange
feature that miraculous length of days
occurs in obscure villages, where no evi-
dence exists but the mere ipse dixit of Old
Mortality, and that as soon as we draw
near the cities, where science can handle
the case, the wonderful story flies the light.
The fact is, aged people have their full
share of the marvelous appetite; they
have too frequently lost their memories,
and so, from ignorance or deceit, do not
tell the truth. And then a vanity which
never grows old affects equally the state-
ments of old and young. The register,
to which we are often referred, is a record,
not of birth or baptism, but of death, and
merely contains a statement of the age
as derived from the friends of the de-
ceased, and which will soon be found
carved and unquestioned on the tomb-
stone. This is valueless in proof of
longevity. Then in villages, where many
of the same name are found, a confusion
in identity has often taken place, and,
where nobody will rise up to prove the
contrary, some octogenarian has doubt-
less felt himself called upon to assume
the years of both his father and his
grandfather. If we bear these things in
mind, it wiU not appear very marvelous that
negroes live long. Louisa Truxo, at the
age of 175, was living in Cordova in South
America in 1780, and another negress, aged
120, was called in evidence to prove the
case. Of coiu^ to ignorant folk and inno-
cent statisticians this was satisfectory. Let
us mention a few cases where the evidence
has been considered satisfactory. Sir Henry
Holland, a few years ago, when in Canada,
met an officer whose commission proved him
to be 104 years old. Henry Jenkins, who
died 1670, aged 169, remembered the great
battle of Flodden Field, fought between the
English and the Scotch in 15 13. When 157
years old he was produced as witness to prove
the right of way over another man's ground.
Being cautioned by the Judge to speak
tnithfiiUy in regard to his great age, he re-
ferred the magistrate to two other witnesses
in court, each over 80 years, who testified
that when they were small boys Jenkins was
a very old, gray-haired man. James Sands^
of Staffordshire, is mentioned in Fuller's

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"Book of Worthies" as having lived 140
years, and his wife, 120 years. As a very
convincing proof of the above, it was
stated in court that he outlived five leases
of twentjr-one years each, made to him after
his mamage. Thomas Gangheen died 18 14,
aged 112. He was called at the age of 108
to prove the validity of a survey made in the
year 1725, and his testimony contributed
chiefly to the termination of an important
lawsuit Jane Forrester died 1766, aged
138. When she was 132 years of age, her
intellect was so clear that ^e made oath in
a Chancery suit to have known an estate, the
title to which was then in dispute, to have
been enjoyed by the ancestors of the present
heir one hundred and one years. " Peter
Garden died near Edinburgh in 1775, aged
131 years. He lived during eight reigns.
He was of gigantic stature, and retained his
health and entire faculties to the last hour."

It is worthy of remark, that the most
of those who have become very old were
married more than once, and often at a
very late period of life. There is rarely
an instance of a bachelor or spinster having
attained great age. Once left alone, the
centenarian seeks a new spouse. His lone-
liness becomes oppressive. All familiar faces
are gone ; the playmates of youth, the com-
panions of early manhood, the friends of
middle life, the associates of declining years
long ago passed away to sure and rapid
death. But let him marry again, and then
he and his consort will walk down the hill
of life to the grave in joy and peace, and
probably die within a few hours of each

Some of our venerable friends married
four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven,
and thirteen times; but James Gay, of
Bordeaux, in France, eclipsed them all in
connubial pertinacity. He died in 1772,
aged only one hundred and one; but he
found it convenient and agreeable to marry
sixteen wives, yet died childless. Mar-
garet McDowal, a Scotchwoman, who
died in 1768, aged one hundred and six
years, has found a unique place in his
tory because she married and survived thir-
teen husbands. It seems to us that a meet-
ing of these wives or these husbands beyond
the " Shining Shore " would have suggested
itself to these marriageable old folk, and have
caused them to hesitate somewhere among
the last half dozen. How much more beau-
tiful the example of Mrs. Agnes Skuner, an
Englishwoman, who died 1499, aged one
hundred and nineteen. She chose to rever-

ence the memory of her husband through
a widowhood of ninety-two years. We
receive a new and touching view of the sol-
emn vow taken at marriage, " I promise to
love, cherish, protect, etc., until death us do
part," in the case oif John Rovin and his
wife, who died at Temeswar, Hungary, in
1 74 1, he aged one himdred and seventy-
two, and she, one hundred and sixty-four.
They lived as husband and wife during the
long period of one hundred and forty-eight
years, and their youngest son at the time of
their decease was aged one hundred and
sixteen. If the fiftieth anniversary of a wed-
ding day is worthy of a golden celebration,
what shall be the fitting entertainment for
that happy pair who, during nearly one hun-
dred and fifty years, have borne each other's
joys and sorrows? Terentia, the wife of
Cicero, lived to see one hundred and seven-
teen years. Cicero secured a divorce fix)m
her because he wanted to marry a rich young
woman. After the divorce Terentia married
Sallust, the historian. He dying, she was mar-
ried the third time to Messala Corvinus,and
yet again a fourth time to Vibius Rufiis. As
an exception to this matrimonial rule may
be mentioned the case of Marie Mallet,
a Frenchwoman and a spinster, who died
aged one hundred and fifteen. She con-


tinued the business of dressmaking and
millinery until her one hundred and tenth
year. At her death forty-five women, who
had formerly been her apprentices and were
now far advanced in age, went before her
body to the tomb.

The study of this subject reveals the fact

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that longevity seems to run in families, and
sometimes appears to be almost hereditary.
The transmission of the elixir of long life
seems as reasonable as the inheritance of
unpleasant tempers or a weakly constitution;
and allowing a providential exemption from
the fatal accidents strewn in the path of
man, why may not the child of one hundred
and ten years reach the age of its parents
who perished at one hundred and twenty-
five? Thus Mrs. Kiethe, of Gloucester-
shire, died 1772, aged one hundred and


thirty-three. She left three daughters — the
eldest aged one hundred and eleven, the
second one hundred and ten, and the young-
est one hundred and nine. Perhaps the
most striking instance of hereditary longevity
may be found in the case of the often quoted
Thomas Parr, whodied in London 1635, ^^^
one hundred and fifty-two, and was buried in
Westminster Abbey. Shropshire, in England,
whence he came, is distinguished for its long-
lived people. Old Parr, as he has been fa-
miliarly called for nearly three centuries,
was a farmer, worked at the age of one hun-
dred and thirty, and married his second wife
when one hundred and twenty-two. Robert
Parr died in Shropshire, 1757, aged one

hundred and twenty-four. He has been
called the great-grandson of Old Parr.
Robert's father died aged one hundred and
nine, and his grandfather aged one hundred
and thirteen. The total years of these four
persons, in regular descent, extend to four
hundred and ninety-eight, more than one-
quarter of the whole period since the com-
mencement of the Christian era. John
Newell, who died 1761, aged one hundred
and twenty-seven, and John Michaelstone,
who died 1763, aged one hundred and
twenty-seven, were both grandsons of
Old Parr.

The personal appearance of those
greatly advanced in years is generally far
firom winning. Some, with a complexion
of mahogany, seem only to dry up and
wither, yet are withal so wiry and tough
that they hang on to life decade after de-
cade, and make a very successful fight
with the Great Destroyer. Then there are
others-— women more often than men —
who in the advanced years become
pursy and corpulent, pale and flabby, or
perhaps quite fat; their skin hangs not in
wrinkles, but in rolls ; and their voice,
instead of rising, becomes gruff and
husky. We have noticed that centen-
arians are apt to be small of stature.
Large men and women are more liable
to the accidents of life, and their organ-
izations are less likely to be compactiy
knit. • Dwarfs have firequentiy passed
the five score years, and among others
may be mentioned one Elspeth Watson,
who died aged one hundred and fifteen.
She was two feet nine inches high and
rather bulky, if one of that stature can
be called bulky. Two remarkable ex-
ceptions to the foregoing rule are re-
corded. James McDonald, a giant seven
feet six inches in height, died 1760,
aged one hundred and seventeen. Charles
Blizard, a farmer, and the most corpulent
man in his county, died 1785, aged one
hundred and seven. While referring to
these monstrosities, whose acquaintance is
generally made in public, we are reminded
of two actors who are en tided to mention.
Charles Macklin, a celebrated comedian of
Covent Garden Theater, died 1797, aged
one hundred and seven. And history has
recorded that eighteen hundred years ago
Galeria Capiola, a player and dancer, nine-
ty-nine years after her first appearance
as a novice, assisted at the dedication of
a theater by Pompey the Great. Later
still, when long past the century, she was

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exhibited as a

marvel of lon-


Our old folks become greatly attached to
home and its memoiies. One John Burnet
died 1 734, aged 109. He married six wives,
three of them alter he became 100 years
old, and died in the same house in which
he was bom. Mr. Wrench died 1783, aged
10 1. His two wives bore him thirty-
two children, and he died in the same
room in which he was bom. Rev. Mr.
Braithwaite, of CarUsle, England, died
i7S4> aged no. He had been employ-
ed in the Cathedra] one hundred and
two years, having commenced in 1652
as a chorister eight years of age. Among
the short and simple annals of the poor
our venerable friends frequently find
honorable mention, and in the matter
of faithful service their hves might be
profitably studied at the present day.
Among a host of such appears the name
of Mr. Robertson of Edinburgh, who
died i793>aged 137. He served a
noble family in the capacity of inspector
of lead works for one hundred and
twenty years. Margaret Woods died
^797> ag^ loo- She and her ancestors
had lived in the service of one family
in Essex during the long period oi four
hundred years.

It has been mentioned in previous
pages that temperance, industry, exer-
cise, and a due regulation of the pas-
sions, are the principal promoters of
longevity. Yet there are exceptions to
these mles, and in such cases one may
well believe, with some authors of vital
statistics, that they are predisposed to
great age ; they inherit length of days in
spite of theinselves. If a man r2o years of
age is considered a repulsive and curious
monstrosity, living out of his proper time,
how much more remarkable does the case
become when he hangs on to life in defiance
of the usually accepted ' laws of health?
John Weeks, aged r r4, married his tenth wife,
a girl of r6, when at the age of 106. He
had a voracious appetite, eating indiscrim-
inately, and only a few hours before death
he ate three pounds of pork, two pounds of
bread, and drank a pint of wine. This case
reminds us of the opinion entertained by
some, that longevity may be cultivated by
living when young with older persons, and
when old by cultivating the society of the
young. It will be remembered that it was
recommended to King David, three thou-
sand years ago, when well stricken in years,

that he take to himself the yoimg Shunamite
virgin. So John Weeks, with his lass of
sixteen. Another singular case is found in
Rev. Mr. Davies, the Vicar of Staunton«on-
Wye, who died aged 105. During the last
thirty years of his Ufe he never took any
exercise but that of slipping his feet one
before the other from room to room. Yet


he ate of hot rolls, well buttered, and drank

Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 7 of 163)