Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/239

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
227
WHY GROW OLD?

ful manuring and proper attention in its early existence, as to whether it becomes a strong plant or dies in its infancy. If it is planted in congenial soil, and is properly watered and cared for, it will live and grow luxuriantly; but if in improper soil, and left to take care of itself, it will possibly soon die. It is the same with a human being, and however weakly it may be as an infant, if it is properly nursed and taken care of, the foundation is often laid of a mature and sound constitution.

The law of the survival of the fittest may, in some instances, be a cruel one; but it is a beneficent one, for it does not seem right that those entering the world should be handicapped with the weaknesses of their ancestors, and those who have the well-being of the race at heart hold the opinion that constitutions that inherit any strongly marked hereditary weakness should not be allowed to contract obligations that may and will entail suffering upon a future generation.

We do not attempt to rear plants and flowers from imperfect specimens, nor does the agriculturist breed his stock from any but the best and healthiest in any class that he may wish to propagate, and surely the same amount of care and selection should be used with regard to our own species. In the higher ranks of life we see better specimens of the English race than in the lower ones, for more care is exercised in this respect. Something more, of course, must be allowed for this greater care and attention bestowed up to adolescence. Whereas it is estimated that out of every million people born, only ninety thousand reach the age of eighty, eleven thousand that of ninety, and two thousand the age of ninety-five—really, treble that number should reach these respective ages; in fact, if all the surroundings of life in every way were as they should be, there is no reason why six times the number should not reach these ages.

Much of the comfort of middle and old age depends upon early training and early feeding, and I refer here more particularly to school life. Neither mind nor body should be forced. While the intellectual faculties are being trained, the bodily requirements should be attended to. The constitution is being built up during the years that a boy is being educated for his pursuits in after life. I can remember my own life at a well-known school in a fashionable town five-and-thirty years ago, and I often wonder I survived it when I recall many circumstances. No proper care was taken of us; hunger, thirst, badly cooked meat and vegetables, sanitary defects, were the rule. Many a time, hungry as a schoolboy should be, have I had put before me for dinner meat that was scarcely warmed outside, and this or nothing had to be my meal. Had it not been for an old man who used to come to the playground selling buns and cakes, I do not know how at