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a Long and healthful Life ;
THE MEANS OF CORRECTING A BAD
Happiness in Old Age. Introduction.
A Letter from a Nun of Padua, Grand: Of a Temperate and Regular Life. daughter of Lewis Cornaro.
A Compendium of a Sober Life, show. Authorities concerning Comaro's Mes ing the Surest Method of Correcting an thod of Prolonging Life and Preserving Infirm Constitution.
Health. Of the Birth and Death of Man.
Maxims to be observed for the ProThe Method of enjoying a Complete longation of Life.
By LEWIS CORNARO.
TRANSLATED FROM THE ITALIAN
[Concluded from No. XXXVI. p. 522.]
A SOBER LIFE,
SHOWING THE SUREST METHOD OF CORRECTING AN
M, Treatise on a sober life has begun to answer my desire, in being of service to many persons born with a weak constitution, who, every time they commit the least excess, find themselves greatly indisposed, a thing which, it must be allowed, does not happen to robust people. Several of these persons of weak constitutions, on seeing the foregoing Treatise, have betaken themselves to a regular course of life, convinced by experience of its utility. In like manner, I should be glad to be of service to those who are born with a good constitution, and presuming upon it lead a disorderly life; whence it comes to pass, that on their attaining the age of sixty, or thereabouts, they are attacked with various pains and diseases ; some with the gout, some with the sciatica, and others with pains in the stomach, and the like, to which they would not be subject were they to embrace a sober life ; and as most of them die before they attain their eightieth year, they would live to a hundred, the term allowed to man by God and nature. And it is but reasonable to believe, that the intention of this our mother is, that we should all attain that term, in order that we might all taste the sweets of every state of life. But as our birth is subject to the revolution of the heavens, these have great influenceover it, especially in rendering our constitutions robust or infirm; a thing which nature cannot ward against ; for if she could, we should all bring a good constitution with us into the world. But then she hopes, that a man, as endowed with reason and understanding, may of himself compensate, by dint of art, the want of that which the heavens have denied him; and by means of
a sober life, contrive to mend his infirm constitution, live to a great age, and always enjoy good health,
For man, it is not to be doubted, may by art exempt himself in part from the influence of the heavens; it being the common opinion that the heavens give an inclination, but do not impel us; for which reason the learned say, that a wise man rules the stars. I was born with a very choleric disposition, insomuch, that there was no living with me; but I took notice of it, and considered, that a person swayed by his passion, must, at certain times, be no better than a madman; I mean' at those times when he suffers his passions to predominate, because he then renounces his reason and understanding. I therefore resolved to make my choleric disposition give way to reason; so that now, though born choleric, I never suffer anger entirely to subdue me.
The man who is naturally of a bad constitution may, in like manner, by dint of reason and a sober life, live to a great age and in good health, as I have done, who had naturally the worst, so that it was impossible I should live above forty years; whereas I now find myself sound and hearty at the age of eighty-six; and were it not for the long and violent fits of illness which I experienced in my youth, to such a degree that the physicians gave me over, and which robbed me of my radical moisture, a loss absolutely irreparable, I might expect to attain the above-mentioned term of one hundred. But I know, for good reasons, that it is impossible ; and therefore do not think of it. It is enough for me that I have lived forty-six years beyond the term I had a right to expect; and that, during this long respite, all my senses have continued perfect; and even my teeth, my voice, my memory, and my heart. But what is still more, my brain is more itself now than ever it was; nor do any of these powers abate as I advance in years; and this because, as I grow older, I lessen the quantity of my solid food.
This retrenchment is necessary, nor can it be avoided, since it is impossible for a man to live for ever ; and as he draws near his end, he is reduced so low as to be no longer able to take any nourishment, unless it be to swallow, and that with difficulty, the yolk of an
egg in the four-and-twenty hours, and thus end by mere dissolution, without any pain or sickness, as I expect will be my
This is a blessing of great importance; yet may be expected by all those who shall lead a sober life, of whatever degree or condition, whether high, or middling, or low; for we are all of the same species, and composed of the same four elements. And since a long and healthy life ought to be greatly coveted by every man, as I shall presently show, I conclude, that every man is bound in duty to exert himself to attain longevity, and that he cannot promise himself such a blessing without temperance and sobriety.
Some allege that many, without leading such a life; have lived to a hundred, and that in constant health, though they ate a great deal, and used indiscriminately every kind of viands and wine; and therefore flatter themselves that they shall be equally fortunate. But in this they are guilty of two mistakes; the first is, that it is not one in a hundred thousand that ever attains that happiness; the other mistake is, that such, in the end, most assuredly contract some illness, which carries them off; nor can they ever be sure of ending their days otherwise, so that the safest way to attain a long and healthy life is, at least after forty, to embrace sobriety. This is no such difficult affair, since history informs us of so many who, in former times, lived with the greatest temperance; and I know that the present age furnishes us with many such instances, reckoning myself one of the number: we are all human beings, and endowed with reason, consequently we are masters of all our actions.
This sobriety is reduced to two things, quality and quantity. The first, namely quality, consists in nothing but not eating food, 1 or drinking wines, prejudicial to the stomach. The second, which is quantity, consists in not eating or drinking more than the stomach can easily digest; which quantity and quality every man should be a perfect judge of, by the time he is forty, or fifty, or sixty; and whoever observes these two rules, may be said to live a regular and sober life. This is of so much virtue and efficacy, that the humors of such a man's body become most homogeneous, harmonious, and perfect; and when thus improved, are no longer liable to be corrupted or disturbed by any other disorders whatsoever, such as suffering excessive heat or cold, too much fatigue, want of natural rest, and the like, unless in the last degree of excess. Wherefore, since the humors of persons, who observe these two rules relative to eating and drinking, cannot possibly be corrupted, and engender acute diseases, the sources of an untimely death, every man is bound to comply with them; for whoever acts otherwise, living a disorderly instead of a regular life, is constantly exposed to disease and mortality, as well in consequence of such disorders, as of others without number, each of which is capable of producing the same destructive effect.
It is indeed true, that even those who observe the two rules relating to diet, the observance of which constitutes a sober life, may, by committing any one of the other irregularities, find himself the worse for it a day or two; but not so as to breed a fever. He may likewise be affected by the revolutions of the heavens; but neither the heavens nor those irregularities are capable of corrupting the humors of a temperate person ; and it is but reasonable and natural it should be so, as the two irregularities of diet are interior, and the others exterior.
But as there are some persons, stricken in years, who are, notwithstanding, very sensual, and allege, that neither the quantity nor quality of their diet makes any impression upon them, and therefore eat a great deal of every thing, without distinction, and indulge themselves equally in point of drinking, because they are insensible in what part of their bodies their stomachs are situate; such, no doubt, are beyond measure sensual, and slaves to gluttony. To these I answer, that what they say is impossible in the nature of things, because it is impossible that every man who comes into the world should not bring with him a hot, a cold, or a temperate constitution, and that hot foods should agree with hot constitutions, cold with cold ones, and things that are not of a temperate nature with temperate ones, is likewise impossible in nature. After all, these epicures must allow that they are now and then out of order, and that they cure themselves by taking evacuating medicines and observing a strict diet. Whence it appears, that their being out of order is owing to their eating too much, and of things disagreeing with their stomach. · There are other old gluttons, who say that it is necessary they should eat and drink a great deal, to keep up their natural heat, which is constantly diminishing as they advance in years; and that it is, therefore, their duty to eat heartily, and of such things as please their palate, be they hot, cold, or temperate; and that were they to lead a sober life, it would be a short one. To this I answers that our kind mother, Nature, in order that old men may live still to a greater age, has contrived matters so that they should be able to subsist on little, as I do; for large quantities of food cannot be digested by old and feeble stomachs. Nor should such persons be afraid of shortening their days by eating too little, since, when they happen to be indisposed, they recover by eating a mere trifle; for it is a trifle they eat when confined to a regimen, by observing which they get rid of their disorder. Now, if by reducing themselves to a very small quantity of food, they recover from the jaws of death, how can they doubt but that, with an increase of diet, still consistent however with sobriety, they will be able to support nature, when in perfect health? Others
three or four returns of his usual disorders, such as the gout, sciatica, and the like, than be tormented the whole year by not indulging his appetite, and eating every thing his palate likes best, since, by a good regimen alone, he is sure to get the better of such attacks. To this I answer, that our natural heat growing less and less as we advance in years, no regimen can retain virtue sufficient to conquer the malignity with which disorders of repletion are ever attended; so that he must die at last of these periodical disorders, because they abridge life in the same proportion as health prolongs it.