Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/108

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
98
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

considerable degree to amount of labor, to irregularity, or in any degree whatever to care—supposed to be so deadly in its effect—or to want of nourishing food.

I doubt also if any well-informed person will claim that sanitary conditions have any influence, certainly not if he knows as much as I do of the conditions under which the bulk of these people whom we are considering live.

Very few instances are given where occupations were changed except in the cases of the mariners, who have mostly become farmers in a small way. The life of nearly all these people has been what is usually considered a monotonous one, with regular hours of steady labor and moderately sure returns. Few appear to have taken many risks in life, and while most of them have carried more than the average New-Englander's share of mental and physical burdens, these burdens have been so evenly distributed throughout life that the strain has not been jerky. Surely the housewife has more cares than the woman who works in a shop or as a house-servant, and yet her cares are so similar day after day and year after year that they become easy to bear. So also with the farmer compared with the clerk or mill-hand. Few in all the list have been either more or less than moderately successful—successful above the average, to be sure, but they have achieved neither notoriety nor wealth. They have, in fact, been placed above the wasting worry of want, and have, on the other hand, escaped the softening of the tissues and aimlessness of purpose that generally accompany wealth easily and rapidly obtained.

I have alluded to the fact that in the subjects of the census the complexion in most instances is light. While this may be due to the northern origin of the majority of New England people, and have no special bearing upon the subject of longevity, it may possibly be very important as showing the effect of temperament upon the length of life. That the sanguine temperament predominates in these people is undoubtedly a fact, and it appears that the sanguine-nervous (judged from complexion, color of the eyes, and general build) is most common. In theory, certainly, this temperament is that which would most conduce to longevity. Other facts, of the nature of these gathered in New England, from some other locality, might offset these and disprove the theory; but, until these other facts are gathered, I think the theory that people with nervous-sanguine temperaments, and the two nicely blended, are liable to live longer than those who possess a nervous-bilious or a bilious-lymphatic temperament, with either predominating, is strong enough to work with; and, while it does not directly teach us how to live longer, it points to something in the future that means a great deal to the human race.