Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/799

This page has been validated.

that at the end of the septennial period, 1881-’87, 400,000 persons were alive in England and Wales whose death would have taken place had the mortality been in the same proportion as during the previous decade. It may be reasonably expected that as time goes on there will be an increase in the proportion of centenarians to the population as a whole.

The question whether long life is, after all, desirable does not admit of any general answer. Much depends upon the previous history of the individual, and his bodily and mental condition. The last stages of a well-spent life may be the happiest, and while sources of enjoyment exist, and pain is absent, the shuffling-off of the mortal coil, though calmly expected, need not be wished for. The picture afforded by cheerful and mellow old age is a lesson to younger generations. Elderly people may, if they choose, become centers of improving and refining influence. On the other hand, old age can not be regarded as a blessing when it is accompanied by profound decrepitude and disorder of mind and body. Senile dementia, or second childishness, is, of all conditions, perhaps the most miserable, though not so painful to the sufferer as to those who surround him. Its advent may be accelerated by ignorance and neglect, and almost assuredly retarded or prevented by such simple measures as have been suggested. No one who has had opportunities of studying old people can shut his eyes to the fact that many of the incapabilities of age may be prevented by attention to a few simple rules, the observance of which will not only prolong life and make it happier and more comfortable, but will reduce to a minimum the period of decrepitude. Old age may be an incurable disease, admitting of but one termination, but the manner of that end, and the condition which precedes it, are, though not altogether, certainly to a very great extent, within our own power.—Fortnightly Review.

Note.—Since the above was sent to press, the civilized world has lost its most noted centenarian in the person of M. Chevreul, the famous French chemist, who died on the 9th of April, aged one hundred and two years and seven months. Only a few days before his death he went in his carriage to see the Eiffel Tower, in which he took a lively interest. Throughout his long life he had worked hard, sparing neither mind nor body, and it would seem that his faculties were preserved with but slight impairment up to the time of his death.


It is observed by Mr. Stanley, in one of his recent letters from Central Africa, that Nejambi Rapids, about two hundred and fifty miles above the junction of the Aruwinii and Congo Rivers, marks the division between two different kinds of architecture and language. Below, the cone-huts are to be found; above the rapids we have villages, long and straight, of detached square huts surrounded by tall logs, which form separate courts, and add materially to the strength of the village.