Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/109

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THE DURATION OF HUMAN LIFE.

and thirty and one hundred and thirty-five, and three between one hundred and thirty-five and one hundred and forty. It is questionable whether these old persons may not have had some interest in claiming such great ages.

In modern times, we have for France documents relatively worthy of faith only from the beginning of the eighteenth century. Except in a small number of cases, where the ages have been authenticated by extracts from baptismal registers, these ages have no other guarantee of exactitude than the declarations of the interested parties and contemporaries.

Documents which we have before us—necessarily very incomplete—attribute to France, during the eighteenth century, a few more than a hundred centenarians. The majority of these were men, but women appear to have reached the most advanced ages. Agriculturists figure largely in the number, while industrial workers and inhabitants of cities are few among them. A certain degree of probability is given to the statements by the fact that the number of extraordinary ages claimed is very small. Instances of fecundity at advanced ages are not rare. Contemporaneous writers mention examples of rejuvenation which must be regarded as probably legendary, although they have been recorded without protestation in grave scientific works. A much more serious fact, and one that may be more reasonably admitted, is that of hereditary longevities, of which there are numerous examples. Most of these centenarians appear to have been temperate, only two instances of drunkards being known among them. Many of them were indefatigable walkers, traversing every day considerable distances to go to their work; and, according to the custom of the day, they all went to bed and rose early.

Among the most distinguished of them were the following, whose cases are given in the order of their dates: The diplomat De Vignancourt died at one hundred and three, in the exercise of his functions; the Marchioness of Luxemburg and the Maréchal d'Estrées died at one hundred; the three advocates, Larroque, of Agen; Coster, of Bordeaux; and William Grévin, of Pont l'Eveque, the first two at a hundred and eleven, and the last at a hundred and seven. The master-saddler Philip Herbelot died in 1714, at the verified age of one hundred and fourteen years. M. Lefébre de Lezeau still attended the councils of the king when a hundred years old, and died in 1715. Charles Colbert, brother of the great Minister, died at a hundred and four. Jacques Poncy, dean of the surgeons of Paris, performed operations in his hundredth year, and died at a hundred and two. The Count de Bethune, an old superior officer, died in Paris, at a hundred and five. Fontenelle died at a hundred, on the 9th of January, 1757. Dom Jean Mabillon, of the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres, died in Paris at a hundred and six, in 1778. Anne Marie Brideau died at a hundred, in the enjoyment of a tontine fund that brought her 55,625