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plenty of tea and coffee for breakfast; at
dinner he consumed a variety of dishes ; at
supper, wine and hot roast meat were spread
before him.

But this subject has a fascination not read-
ily shaken off when one reads the strange
coincidences, marvelous experiences, and
quaint idiosyncrasies which seem to spring
up on every hand. At the risk perhaps of
being tedious let reference be made to some
few cases. Mrs. Mills died in the West
Indies in 1805, aged 1 18. She was followed
to her grave by two hundred and ninety-five
of her descendants, sixty of whom named
Ebanks belonged to a regiment of local
militia. Agnes Milboume died in the poor-
house, aged 106. One husband brought
her twenty-nine sons and one daughter, all
of whom she survived. Twenty of these



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40



THE CURIOSITIES OF LONGEVITY.



boys frequently walked after her in procession
to the viUage church. William Farr, of
Birmingham, died 1770, aged 121. He
survived a posterity of one hundred and
forty-four persons, and, finding himself with-
out an heir, bequeathed his fortune of
;^io,ooo to charitable uses. James Hatfield
died 1770, aged 105. One night, while on
duty as a sentinel at Windsor, he heard St
Paul's dock in London, twenty-three miles
distant, strike thirteen instead of twelve,
and, not being relieved as he expected, he
fell asleep. TTie tardy relief soon arrived
and found him in this condition. He was
tried by a court-martial; he denied the



TKB LATE COUWT JBAH FRBDRRICK DE WALDECK, OF
AGED XO9 YRAKS.

charge of sleeping at his post before mid-
night, and in defense related the story of
St. Paul's dock, a circumstance never known
before. His life was thus saved. Mrs.
Penny, of Worcestershire, died, aged 99.
This lady had a niece living at the time aged
loi. Miss Elizabeth Gray died 1856, aged
108. She survived her father one hundred
years, and was buried beside a half-brother,
who had been dead 128 years. During the
last century, a Frenchman, at the age of 21-,
was sentenced to the galleys at Toulon for



the term of his natural life. By the French
laws this term is considered to have expired
after one hundred years have elapsed. Hav-
ing served that period, our venerable pris-
oner of state, at the age of 122, was released
and went back to his native village; but of
course, like Rip Van Winkle, he was un-
known. Yet he had triumphed over laws,
bondage, man, time, everything. He re-
turned heart-broken to his galley and died
The reader will naturally ask for informa-
tion regarding the aged of the present day.
This curiosity it is difficult to satisfy, for
statistics are only collected after death, and
then they are the product of uncertain gales,
floating m to the historian from
books of travel, local records, obit-
uary notices, magazines, annual re-
gisters, and fix>m the uncertain
memories of the living. A large
number of such cases are now to be
found in the charitable institutions
of our land. The United States
Census of i860 mentions the de-
cease of 466 centenarians, of whom
137 were white, 39 firee colored,
and 290 slaves. One slave died in
Alabama aged 130, one in Georgia
aged 137, and one Mexican aged
120. Jean Frederick de Waldeck
died in Paris, April 29, 1875, aged
109 years, i month, and 14 days.
This man has been before Ae
world in some capacity for over
ninety years, and it is not so easy
to ignore him. He was originally
a page of Marie Antoinette. At
the age of 19 he was with Levaillant
exploring in South Afiica. In 1788
he was studying art under David
and Prud*hon in Paris. He fought
under Napoleon in 1794-8 in I^y
and in Egypt. In 18 19 he was en-
gaged in archaeological expeditions
in North and South America. In
PARIS, 1837 ^^ published " Voyage Arch-
^ologique et Pittoresque dans le Yu-
catan," and his drawings of the ruins of Pal-
enque were published in 1863; he made
the lithographs when aged 100. In the
Salon of 1869 he exhibited two pictures and
entitled them " Loisir du Centenaire." This
man could not foil to attract attention, and
he became member and honorary member
of the principal learned societies of London
and Paris. It is difficult to say how Sir G.
Comewall Lewis, were he alive, would treat
this case of longevity. We have yet to learn
how the incredulous Mr. Thorns, F. S. A.,



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THE CURIOSITIES OF LONGEVITY,



41



will meet it Eighteen centuries ago

(with reverence be it remarked) ** doubting

Thomas " said : *' Except I shall see in his

hands the print of the nails, and put my

finger into the print of the nails, and thrust

my hand into his side, I will not believe."

So with the doubting Thoms

of our day. Unless he can

search in person the register

of birth, marriage and death,

and, poring over at every

point the records of vital

statistics, can meet his man

properly indexed, he would

state the case not proven.

In the city of New York at
the present day resides Cap-
tain Frederick Lahrbush,
formerly of the British army,
said to be aged 109 years,
and enjoying good health.
A gentleman of the most
engaging manners and nat-
ural refinement, he receives
a large number of visitors,
and relates a history of ro-
mantic interest He resides
in Third Avenue, and almost
every Sabbath, at the Church
of the Ascension on Fifth
Avenue, the childish treble
of his worn out voice may
be heard above the worship
of the congregation. He
rises before five in the morn-
ing, and retires shortly after
seven in the evening. He
is abstemious in his habits,
though in the daily practice
of eating opium, to which
drug, it is believed, he attrib-
utes his long life. Captain Lahrbush claims
to have fought under Wellington in the Pen-
insula, and to have witnessed the signing of
the famous Treaty of Tilsit, which took place
in 1807 (on a raft moored in the River Nie-
men) between Napoleon, Alexander of Rus-
sia, and the King of Prussia. It is but fair
10 add in regard to this case of longevity
that Mr. Thoms has written across its record
with an unrelenting hand, and with a pen of
iron, and those curious about such matters
are referred to his work, " Longevity of Man."

Another interesting character is thus de-
scribed : ** The Irish Countess of Desmond fell
from a fiuit tree, broke her thigh and died in
1609 — *8^ ^45 years. She danced at
Court with the Duke of Gloucester, after-
ward Richard the Third. Indeed she con-



tinued gay and lively in her tastes, dancing
even beyond her hundredth birthday. She
cut three new sets of teeth. Her family be-
ing ruined by rebellion, she made the long
journey to London to seek relief fix)m the
Court of James the First"



CAPT. PSBDERICK LAHRBUSH, AGED Z09 YEARS.

We may ask, in closing, is it desirable that
all men and women should become cente-
narians ? Manifestly not. These shnmken,
shriveled relics of a past age, in the knotted
and tangled line of whose life personal iden-
tity has barely been preserved, would, if
familiar to our eyes, produce a depressing
effect on the living. Useftil lives are to be
desired rather than mere length of days.

*'yEvum impUt actis, mm segnibus annis."

A quarter or half a century of sleeping ex-
istence, feeble superannuation, an exception
to the soimd laws of health and the rule of
accidents, these childish, antiquated people,
have long ceased to be a pleasure to them-
selves or to the world. Their own testimony
shows an anxious waiting for their time of



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42



GLASS SPONGES.



THE COUNTESS OP DESMOND, AGED Z45.

release. " Not an hour longer," sajrs one,
and another with wearied complaint ex-
claims : ** God, in letting me remain so long
upon the earth, seems actually to have for-
gotten me."

But we have returned to the starting-point
of our investigations. Can great age be
secured by human endeavor? Probably



not. The European and the negro, tfie
Chinese and the American, the civilized
man and the savage, the rich and the poor,
the dweller in cities and he that lives in die
country, diffenng so much from one another
in some respects, all resemble one another
in having the same allotment of time to pass
from birth to death ; and the variations of
climate, food and conveniences, seem to
have but little to do with the prolongation
of life. Abnormal instances of longevity are
doubdess the result of a certain bodily and
mental predisposition to great age. The man
that lives long probably possesses strong nat-
ural powers of restoration and healing. These
depend more or less for their fulfillment upon
a tranquil life^ an absence of irritabUify^ and a
contented disposition. And let there be added
to these a firm reliance on the mercy and wis-
dom of that Divine Power " in whose hands
our breath is, and whose are all our ways."
For the original portraits from which the
illustrations of this paper are taken we are
indebted to the following sources: — Old
Parr, "The World of Wonders;" Pair's
Cottage in Shropshire, and Countess of
Desmond, " Chambers's Book of Days ; "
Henry Jenkins, " Bailey's Records of Lon-
gevity ; " Peter Garden, the " New Wonder-
ful Magazine ; " John Rovin and wife, and
Peter Zartan," Kirby's Wonderful Museum ;•*
Count Waldeck, the " London Illustrated
News." The portrait of Frederick Lahrbush
is from a photograph taken in 1875.



GLASS SPONGES.



The distinction which our present knowl-
edge enables us to make between the hum-
blest forms of animal and vegetable life is a
functional, rather than a chemical or a sensi-
ble one. It lies in what they do, rather than
in what they are. The lowest representa-
tives of both kingdoms are included under
the same general term. Protozoon and pro-
tophyte are alike called protoplasm, and ap-
pear to possess the same intrinsic qualities.

The practical difference between animal
and vegetable life consists in their respective
powers of assimilation. Plants take in as nu-
triment the inorganic elements of earth and
air ; by the subde chemistry of nature, in her
dark and silent laboratory underground, the



lifeless minerals of the earth are wrought
into living tissues, endowed with the capac-
ity for growth and reproduction. Except in
the Fungi, this transmutation,of inorganic into
organic matter is believed to be accomplish-
ed, only imder the controlling influence of
light Animal vitality is sustained only by
the material thus transmuted ; all the solid
nutriment necessary for the maintenance of
animal life must have been converted into
vegetable, or reconverted into animal tissue
before it can fulfill its purpose. Man, sur-
rounded by all the wealth of inofganic na-
ture, would perish if there were not every-
where about him millions of busy litde al-
chemists unceasingly at work day and night.



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GLASS SFONGES.



43



transmuting the dead and useless elements
of land and water into the life-sustaining
principle. Not oidy do the lowly grasses
and tenderly creeping mosses clothe the
earth with beauty as with a garment, but
they also supply the conditions of all higher
life. Without the unconscious ministry of
this lowly vegetable existence, all the high
hopes, the spiritual longmgs, the heroic en-
deavor of humanity, would have been im-
possible.

The lowest forms of life he in the shadowy
boundary land between the two great king-
doms of organic nature. Even in the physi-
cal world the mysterious lore of border land
possesses a cluum which is wanting to the
wide fields of knowledge that have been
traversed again and again by human feet.
The most curious page in the record of this
lowly existence has just been opened to us.
The latest investigations into deep-sea life
show that the vast area lying beneath the
ocean is covered with a simple animal life,
boundless in extent and infinite in variety.
Under conditions too rigid and severe to
permit the growth of the humblest sea-
weed, these creatures live, and multi-
ply, and die. Far beyond the reach
of light, in a glacial temperature and
under enormous pressure, exists this
wonderful fauna. As we strip the
mystery of vitality of garment after gar-
ment, as its conditions become fewer
and its mode of existence less complex,
the wonder, instead of becoming less,
constantly grows upon the mind. The
human intellect longs to find a com-
mensurate physical cause for the effect
which we call life. When, as in the
higher organic beings, the conditions
are many and the processes compli-
cated, the phenomenon of vitality does
not seem so puzzling ; antecedent ap-
pears to bear some sort of proportion to
consequent. The mind rarely troubles
itself to make nice distinctions between
comphcated machinery and motive
power. A liberal display of wheel- work
is adequate to account for results with-
out any reference to the initial force.
But as we contemplate the life of the
protozoa, which reign supreme in the
ocean's depths, we see the awful and
mysterious problem presented in its
simplest terms; forms of eixistence
which are fonnless, organisms posses-
sing no organs, life contradicting the very
definitions of life and yet performing all
its essential functions. The conditions,



complex and multitudinous, under which
we live are here reduced to two or three;
the elements, many and bewildering, which
enter into the ordinary statement of the
problem, are here eliminated, and yet we
are forced to recognize the same vital prin-
ciple giving functional activity to a mass of
structureless jelly which animates the highest
organic beings.

When we see this formless life governed
by laws, each in itself as inexorable as that
which guides the rolling planets, and all in
their various combinations as flexile as those
which control our human existence, we feel
the sense of awe which a whisper fix)m the
unseen world might send thrilling through
our nerves. We are standing face to face
with life stripped of its familiar conditions.
It looks us in the eyes as the disembodied
ghost of the life now so familiar to us.

Until within the last five years our knowl-
edge of deep-sea life was Umited to the in-
formation given by stray organisms brought
up on some fisherman's net, or to speciSa-
tions suggested by those found in the shal-




PLATB Z. SnCULKS OP CLASS SPONCBS — MAGNIFIED.



A. spicuks of diflerent varieties of Euplectella : a, anchoring filament
of E. A^tergillum ; b, 6, b, spiculesof the sarcode : c and d, bexradiale
spicules in earliest fonn; #, the read sixe of the spicule marked / is
1-300 of an inch in diameter. B, spicules of Tethya. C, varieties of
riyalonema: a, anchoring filament, H. S. ; b, b, b, spicules of sarcode,
D, spicules of Hyalonema in situ.

lower water. The tribe of sponges, espe-
cially, have, in this way, become &miliar to
us. The hints given of their beauty and



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44



GLASS SJPONGES.



delicacy have surprised us, but they were,
after all, the merest hints. Explorations
into the still cold water of the ocean's pro-
founder depths reveal the fact that what we
already knew was but the *' margin and
renmant of a wonderfully diversified sponge
faima, which appears to extend in endless
variety over the whole
bottom of the sea."

The family of sponges
has only of late basn >
able to establish itself '
satisfactorily in life. It
had been bandied back
and forth between the
two great kingdoms of
organic nature, figuring
now as one of the algae,
and again as a proto-
zoon^ but its title to
admission into the ani- i
mal kingdom has at
last been made out by
aid of the microscope.

This family is di-
vided into three great
orders: the silicious, or
glass sponges, the cal-
careous, and the kera-
tose, named from the
several minerals of
which its skeleton is
composed. Our com-
mon sponge is rather
an insignificant mem^
ber of the great tribe
whose name it bears.
It is a sort of poor rela-
tion of the sponge
family, who goes out
to service in foreign
parts, but who, like the
little maid of the Syrian
captain, cannot forbear
giving a hint of the
wonders of its native
land.

Most of the sponges
secrete a skeleton form-
^ of some mineral ap-
propriated from the sea
water; in the great ^ , ^
majority this skeleton ^^^^ „ hyalonkma lusi-
is of a homy texture, takicum. half natural
with needles or spic-
ules of silicious or calcareous matter set
upon it at various angles, as the spines
of the pine are set upon the stem. The
frame-work and spicules, which together



form the skeleton of the animal, are in its
living state clothed with a soft gelatinous
flesh technically called sarcode. This is a
semi-transparent, jelly-like substance, which
dries readily, but whose original conditioQ
can be restored by submersion in water.
The sarcode was for a long time considered
to be a granular jelly; but closer scrutiny
has determined the granules to be tiny ani-
mal cells, each possessed of a single lash or
cilium, which is forever in motion. These
amoeba-like creatures are inmiersed in a jeUy
even more structureless than themselves.
Through the mass of the sponge streams of
sea water are forever flowing, impelled by
the constant and perfectly timed motion of
the cilia. The canals through which the
water flows are not permanent, though the
general direction of the current is always
the same, and the main exhalent orifice or
osculum remains unchanged. The gases
necessary to life are suppUed by a gentle
perpetusd current, which passes through
every portion .of the sarcode; the organic
matter for the maintenance of vitahty is
supplied by a more vigorous and intermit-
tent flow. Respiration in these formless
creatures, as in higher organisms, appears
to be the result of mvoluntary action, while
feeding is voluntary.

The sarcode possesses the power of appro-
priating from the incurrent streams of water
not only the air and food it requires, but
also the mineral matter which it needs for
the rearing of its frame- work. The amount
of sarcode, as well as its consistency, varies
with the difierent q)ecies, but in all other
respects the sponge-animal seems identical.
The secretion and deposit of the mineral
skeleton by which the three orders are
characterized depend wholly upon some
subtle and mysterious principle lying back
of the region to which chemistry and micro-
scopic investigation can penetrate. If there
be a physical cause behind the phenomena,
the deeper we investigate the subject the
more hopeless seems the search. As chem-
ical tests become more refined, and micro-
scopic investigations more accurate, the
facts which are brought to light tend to
prove identity in the living aiumal of the
various sponges rather than difference. And
yet every reasonable mind must admit some
difference in causes which produce results
so diverse. If it is not chemical or purely
physical, what is it ? What right have we
to assume a chemical action which is beyond
the reach of chemical tests, or a physical
peculiarity which baffles the most patient



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GLASS SPONGES.



45



microscopic observation? Are we not
driven by the scientists themselves into a
belief in some vital principle which is not
mere chemical action ?

These creatures perform all the essential
functions of life without a single organ.
The mass of animal jelly takes in food with-
out a mouth, digests it without a stomach,
and rejects such portions as it cannot assim-
ilate without an alimentary canal. It in-
hales the sea water, extracts from it the life-
sustaining oxygen, and exhales it loaded
with carbonic acid, the product of animal
combustion, without lungs, blood-vessels, or
pectoral muscles. It possesses the power
of motion, sensation, and reproduction with-
out muscles, nerves, or generative organs.
Where, then, does the vital principle reside ?

Throughout the animal kingdom there is
an infinite variety of forms ; but, whether
the organism be high or low, sarcode is in-
variably present As we descend die scald
of being, the organs and systems apparently
essential to life become simpler and fewer.
The organs of perception and sense are ob-
literated; the systems — ^nervous, muscular,
sanguineous, osseous — one after another
disappear, till, in the lowest forms of exist-
ence, the monera, the amoeba, and the
sponge animal, they are all wanting. But,
firom the highest to the lowest, sarcode is
invariably associated with animal vitality.
It lines the mouth, stomach, and alimentary
canal of the highest forms of life ; it com-
poses the entire entity of the lowest Under
high microscopic powers, the mucous Uning
of the human digestive S)rstem presents an
appearance similar to the sarcode of the
protozoa. The only function essential to
life is the power to convert nutriment into
animal tissue ; it is more than possible that
this transmuting power resides in the mu-
cous substance existing in every organic
creature, and that in this substance the
wondrous alchemy of life is wrought. How-
ever this may be (and it is only an hy-
pothesis as yet), these animals possess this
transmuting power, and they are simply
masses of mucous matter without a single
permanent organ.

A spoonful of the sarcode may be dipped
from the living animal and deposited in a
spot favorable to its ^wth. It is appar-
entiy unconscious of its involuntary seces-
sion, and certainly indifferent to it; soon it
begins secreting a skeleton of its own, im-
provising a mouth wherever the food hap-
pens to be presented ; in fact, showing that
It is quite equal to supporting an establish-



ment of its own. One very curious fact is,
that while the whole sponge-mass shows a
sensitiveness to disturbing causes, the living
substance in which its iSe resides appears
quite indifferent to any rending, or dissec-
tion, to which it may be subjected. Its life
is social rather than individual. An in-
stance is mentioned in which a parasite of
the spongilla was observed passmg rapidly
over the surface of the sarcode, biting out
pieces, here and there, without seeming in
any way to incommode the sponge, or to
interfere with the general action of its in-
ternal organs.

The possibility of life in the deep sea had
not only been questioned by naturalists ; it



ROSSBLLA VBLATA. (W. TROMSON.)



had been utterly denied. The only explo-
rations into the sea depths, previous to 1868,
were made by Edward Forbes in the i£gean
Sea. The absence of life, which he remarked



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46



GLASS SPONGES.



there, and which is due to purely local causes,
was inferred to be equally characteristic of
all great oceanic depths. A theoretical
difficulty, which seemed insuperable, also
opposed itself to the idea: down in the
abyssal depths of the ocean there is neither
wannth, light, nor vegetation. Where, then.



PLATB nr. BUFLBCTELLA ASrSRCaLUM. (KICHAXD OWBN.)

could any creature find the organic food
necessary for the sustenance of animal life ?
This unanswered question was supposed to
()m«iH#> t^A matter; and the 140,000,000



square miles of sea bottom was forthwith
consigned to desolation and death. When,
however, it was found by direct investiga-
tion that life did exist there, the question
became — ^owf

It is a noticeable fact, that, in the pro-
foimder depdis of the ocean, live only those
creatures which possess the power of taking
in their food, by absorption through the ex-
posed surfaces of their bodies. The car-
bonate of lime, silica, and keratose, out of
which the sponges erect their skeletons, are
known to exist, in solution, in the waters of
the sea ; organic matter has also been dis-
covered in every sample submitted to chem-
ical analysis. The suggestion, made in 1869
by Dr. WyviUe Thomson, has been fully
confirmed by experiment, and the water
exhaled by the sponges is found to be de-
prived of the organic matter with which it
was charged before being inhaled.
* One peculiarity of the glass sponges is the
wondeiiul variety and exquisite beauty of
the spicules, or needles of silica, which pen-
etrate the sarcode and bind it together. The
usual type is hexradiate, which may be
roughly described as three glass spines
crossing each other at right angles; thus,
there are six rays springing from one cen-
tral point, each ray at right angles to all
those adjacent to it Sometimes one of the
six is rudimentary, and sometknes they do
not mutually bisect ; there is a variety, al-
most infinite, without departure from the
characteristic type. One of these rays,



Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 8 of 163)