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Health, or, How to Live

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    THE OLD AGE OF A TEMPERATE MAN

    LEWIS CARNARO, a Venetian nobleman, memorable for having lived to an extreme old age, he being 105 years old at the time of his death, wrote a treatise on “the advantages of a temperate life.” He was induced, it appears, to compose this at the request, and for the instruction of some ingenious young men, for whom he had a regard; who, seeing him, then eighty-one years old, in a fine state of health, were extremely desirous to be made acquainted with the means by which he had been enabled to preserve the vigor of his mind and body to so advanced an age. He describes to them, accordingly, his whole manner of living, and the regimen he invariably pursued. He states, that when he was young he was very intemperate — that his intemperance had brought upon him many and grievous disorders; that from his thirty-fifth to his fortieth year, he spent his days and nights in the utmost anxiety and pain — and that, in short his life had become a burden to him. His physicians, after many fruitless attempts to restore him to health, told him, that there was but one medicine remaining, which had not yet been tried; but which, if he could but prevail upon himself to use with perseverance, would free him from all his complaints — and that was, a regular and temperate plan of life. Upon this, he immediately prepared himself for his new regimen, and confined himself to a very moderate portion of plain and wholesome food. This diet was at first very disagreeable to him, and he longed to return again to his former mode of living. Occasionally, indeed, without the knowledge of his physicians, he did indulge himself in a greater freedom of diet; but, as he informs us, much to his own uneasiness and detriment. Compelled by necessity, and exerting resolutely all the powers of his mind, he became, at length, confirmed in a settled and uninterrupted course of the strictest temperance; by virtue of which, as he states, all his disorders had left him in less than a year, and he enjoyed, subsequently, perfect and uninterrupted health. Some sensualists, it appears, had objected to his mode of living — insisting that it was useless to mortify one’s appetites as he did, for the sake of becoming old, since all that remained of life after the age of sixty-five, could not properly be called vita, viva, sed vita mortua — not a living, but a dead life. “Now,” he says, “to show these gentlemen how much they are mistaken, I will briefly run over the satisfactions and pleasures which I now enjoy in this eighty-third year of my age. In the first place, I am always well, and so active withal, that I can with ease mount a horse upon a flat, and walk to the top of very high mountains. In the next place, I am always cheerful, pleasant, perfectly contented, and free from all perturbation, and every unpleasant thought. Joy and peace have so firmly fixed their residence in my bosom, as never to depart from it. I have none of that satiety of life so often to be met with in persons of my age, for I am enabled to spend every hour of my time with the greatest delight and pleasure. I frequently converse with men of talent and learning, and spend much of my time in reading and writing. I have another way of diverting myself — by going every spring and autumn to enjoy, for some days an eminence which I possess in the most beautiful part of the Euganian hills, adorned with fountains and gardens; and above all, a convenient and handsome lodge, in which place I also, now and then, make one in some hunting party, suitable to my taste and age. At the same seasons of every year, I revisit some of the neighboring cities, and enjoy the company of such of my friends as live there, and through them the conversation of men of other parts, who reside in those places — such as architects, painters, sculptors, musicians, and husbandmen. I visit their new works; I revisit their former ones, and always learn something which gives me satisfaction. I see the palaces, gardens, antiquities; and with these the squares and other public places, the churches, the fortifications — leaving nothing unobserved from which I may reap either entertainment or instruction. But what delights me most is, in my journeys backward and forward, to contemplate the situation and other beauties of the places I pass through — some in the plain, others on hills, adjoining to rivers or fountains — with numerous beautiful houses and gardens. Nor are my recreations rendered less agreeable and entertaining by my not seeing well, or not hearing readily everything that is said to me — or by any other of my senses not being perfect; for they are all, thank God, in the highest perfection, particularly my palate, which now relishes better the simple fare I meet with wherever I happen to be, than it did formerly the most delicate dishes, when I led an irregular life. I sleep, too, everywhere soundly and quietly — and all my dreams are pleasant and delightful.HHTL 384.1

    “These are the delights and comforts of my old age, from which I presume, that the life I spend is not a dead, morose, and melancholy one; but a living, active, and pleasant existence, which I would not change with the most robust of those youths who indulge and riot in all the luxury of the senses; because I know them to be exposed to a thousand diseases, a thousand unavoidable sources of unhappiness, and a thousand kinds of death. I, on the contrary, am free from all such apprehensions — from the apprehension of disease, because I have nothing for disease to feed upon — from the apprehensions of death, because I have lived a life of reason. Besides I am persuaded, death is not yet near me. I know that barring accidents, no violent disease can touch me. I must be dissolved by a gentle and gradual decay, when the radical moisture is consumed, like oil in a lamp, which affords no longer life to the dying taper.”HHTL 386.1

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