Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 21.djvu/607

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591
LONGEVITY.

cally as well as biologically. As a rule, highlanders outlive their lowland neighbors, country people the city folks, and among the cities of the Caucasian nations sea-port towns without swamps are the most salubrious. New York is the healthiest large city in America; St. Petersburg, in spite of her high latitude, the unhealthiest of all cities whatever, taking the longevity of the natives as a criterion, for the inclusion of foreign residents would give the highest death-rate to Singapore or Vera Cruz. The Neva swamps breed fever and rheumatism, diphtheria and consumption, turn about, and in co-operation with the marasmus of bureaucracy and political espionage. But what makes Munich such a peculiarly unhealthy place? It must be lager-beer, or else the tedium of Bavarian orthodoxy and Wagner's operas the mania of the past combined with the "music of the future"—for under the same latitude merry Paris reconciles fast-living with long living enough to yield to no first-class city except New York. The burghers of Vienna shorten their lives with greasy made-dishes, and the Berliners with fell schnapps and a still fiercer struggle for existence—twelve hundred thousand eupeptic bipeds, surrounded by sand hills, and living on their wits and on each other.

London holds about the medium between New York and St. Petersburg, but should not be mentioned in the same class with other towns, since her populace has expanded into a nation, distributed over fifteen or sixteen towns and half a hundred villages. The business part of the great brick wilderness, divested of its oases and outlying garden regions, would probably prove to be the richest harvest-field of Death, for coal-smoke and red-hot competition are unfavorable to longevity, and the mens æqua in arduis has ceased to be an Anglo-Saxon characteristic.

The cities of Italy, Spain, and Portugal have become parasites upon the starving country population; strongholds of pampered priests and titled sinecurists; but, with all his freedom from worldly cares, the gordo sanducho, the clerical glutton, is outlived by the rustic pariah, as a proof that the favor of Nature is better than the favor of princes:

"How small the part that laws can cause or cure,
Of all the ills that human hearts endure!"

—and human bodies, too; the tax-collector, with his thumb-screws, calls around once a year, but the gout every week, and dyspepsia once or twice a day. Turks and Italians inhabit the same latitude, and nearly the same kind of mountains and semitropical plains, and the remarkable physical inferiority of the Trinitarians must be ascribed to their stimulating diet and greater sensuality, for somehow or other the rustic Mussulman is a truer monogamist than his Western neighbor. In the time of Strabo the Island of Cos was noted for the general health of its inhabitants and their longevity, which some Grecian physicians attributed to the excellence of the drinking-water, and others