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in the character or way of life of the persons whom he mentions to which their long life may be ascribed, he often sums up with singular felicity whatever is most remarkable about them. Still it cannot be said that the theory on which he relies for the prolongation of life has much connexion with the facts which he has collected, and in truth no general inference can seemingly be derived from them, except perhaps that for the most part those men live longest in whom the spirit of life is the most vigorous. For the theory itself, which is based upon that of the animal spirits, not much can now be said; but the way in which it is set forth and the remarks by which it is accompanied have been much commended by one of the greatest of medical writers. Haller, in his edition of Boerhaave's Methodus Stud. Medicin.', speaks thus of the Historia Vita et Mortis : “ Causam equidem mortis falsam adlegat, non satis cautus a præjudicatâ opinione, spiritum nempe vitalem exhalantem. Multum historiarum confert ad longævitates plantarum, animalium, hominum. Sapientia denique consilia dat, quibus longævitas obtineri queat, nitro, opio, purgationibus subinde repetitis, validis, omnium mediocritate, rejectis nugacibus opinionibus quæ eo tempore dominabantur.” He gives a fuller account of it in the Bibliotheca Medica.
Spiritum vitalem aëre puriorem, igne mitiorem, habitare in corpore animali et viscidioribus particulis irretiri, ea vero vincula paulatim evadere, denique exhalare, eam esse mortis naturalis causam. Spem longævitatis esse in retardandâ hujus spiritus evolutione dum inviscatur, pori per quos exhalat obstruuntur, calor diminuitur. Ad longævitatem ergo pertinere vitam minus actuosam, opium, nitrum, somnum longiorem, purgationem alvi, diætam debilitantem. Homines qui salivationem passi sunt, aut alioquin ad summam macilentiam redacti, postquam convaluerunt, iidem ad longam ætatem perveniunt. Ad longævitatem spem facere periodos vitæ majores, ingenium non fervidissimum, incrementum lentius, corpus siccius, succorum subinde renovationem, vitam etiam parcissimam, contemplationi deditam. Aurum, margaritas, lapides pretiosos parvi facit. Aëris exclusionem, vitam in speluncis laudat, alimenta firma, carnes duriores, stomachum
* I. 56. In the passage to which Haller's remark is a note, Boerhaave speaks in the highest terms of Bacon, and concludes by saying : “Quidquid Cartesius habet, si quid boni habet, hoc unice isti debet, neque melior autor haberi potuit, licet ejus nomen ab imperitis adeo supprimatur."
per vina styptica confirmatum, frictionem, inunctionem, corporis exercitationem modicam, balnea.
“ Denique mortis historia. Perire animal quando spiritus motus supprimitur, quando denegatur refrigerium, quo strangulatio pertinet, quando reparatio inhibetur per inediam, aut depletionem vasorum. Atriola mortis, s. symptomata quæ vitæ finem præcedunt, quo etiam pulsus subpressus et vacillans. Restitutio submersorum. Quæ cuique ætati propria sint, juventuti, senio. Multiplex ubique eruditio et ingenii vis." |
The idea on which Bacon's theory of longevity is founded, namely that the principle of life resides in a subtle fluid or spirit which permeates the tangible parts of the organisation of plants and animals, seems to be coeval with the first origin of speculative physiology. Bacon was one of those by whom this idea was extended from organised to inorganic bodies: in all substances, according to him, resides a portion of spirit which manifests itself only in its operations, being altogether intangible and without weight. This doctrine appeared to him to be of most certain truth, but he has nowhere stated the grounds of his conviction, nor even indicated the kind of evidence by which the existence of the spiritus is to be established. In living bodies he conceived that two kinds of spirits exist: a crude or mortuary spirit, such as is present in other substances; and the animal or vital spirit, to which the phenomena of life are to be referred. To keep this vital spirit, the wine of life, from oozing away, ought to be the aim of the physician who attempts to increase the number of our few and evil days.
With respect to the instances of long life which Bacon has collected, it would be well to ascertain the sources from which his information was derived. But it is hardly possible to do this, at least in all cases, and in some I have even failed in obtaining any information as to the age at which the persons in question died. I am inclined to believe that Bacon was in the habit of noting down instances of longevity as they occurred to him in the course of his reading. Thus he mentions the age of Ovid's father, which is only known from a passage in the Tristia. He has made use of all the instances of longevity mentioned by Pliny and by Valerius Maximus, and seems to have consulted some of the works composed in imitation of the latter by modern writers. The earliest of these is perhaps the Res Memorande of Petrarch; the most often quoted is Fulgosius's Facta dictaque memorabilia. Egnatius's collection, entitled De Exemplis illustrium virorum Venetæ civitatis et aliarum gentium, is the one which there is the most reason to believe that Bacon made use of. Three remarkable instances of longevity are mentioned by Egnatius and by Bacon in the same order. All these works (there are probably others of the same class) resemble that of Valerius Maximus, or rather the collection commonly ascribed to him, in consisting of anecdotes arranged under various heads, and subdivided by a general principle of classification. Thus in the case of Valerius Maximus, we have a chapter on valour, on piety, and so on, each containing two sections, of which the first contains Roman and the other foreign instances of the subject of the chapter. Each chapter of Petrarch's collection is divided into three heads: Roman, foreign, and recent examples being placed together. Fulgosius divides each chapter into two sections, of which the second contains “Recentiora.” Egnatius's collection having especial reference to Venice, he classes Venetian instances in a division of their own, and the remainder of each chapter consists of all others. In all these works there is a chapter entitled “ Senectus,” and Bacon may perhaps have referred to them all. The great age which was attained by Gartius Aretinus is first mentioned by his great-grandson Petrarch. But though Bacon repeats Petrarch's statement, it by no means follows that he had found it in Petrarch's book. The story is told also by Fulgosius and probably by many other writers, among whom I may particularly mention Theodore Zwinger. For there seems reason to believe that Bacon was acquainted with Zwinger's Theatrum Vita Humane, the greatest collection that was ever made of miscellaneous anecdotes. We find in the Historia Vitæ et Mortis that the grandfather of Apollonius of Tyana attained the age of one hundred and twenty years. Now in the life of Apollonius by Philostratus, which is the source from which we derive almost all that is related of him and of his kindred, nothing of the kind is mentioned. But in the first of Zwinger's folios we find the same statement as in Bacon. Zwinger refers to Raphael Volaterrensis, from whom those who depreciate the Theatrum Vitæ Humane affirm that a great deal of it is taken. Under the head of Apollonius we find in the
illaller, Bibl. Med. ii. 512.
? This notion is prominent in the writings of Paracelsus,
Commentationes Urbanæ a summary of his life. During his travels in the East Apollonius sojourned for a while with a college of Indian priests, one of whom, in a conversation recorded at much length by Philostratus, informed him of many things touching their discipline and way of life. In this conversation he is incidentally led to tell him that his grandfather, also a member of the sacerdotal college, lived to be a hundred and twenty. Raphael Volaterrensis repeats this story in a way by which a careless reader might be led to suppose that Apollonius's grandfather, and not the priest's, is the person spoken of. We have here the origin of Zwinger's mistake; and as it is not probable that two persons should have made it, we may conclude that Bacon's information was taken from the
Theatrum Vite. I have thought the history of this error worth noticing, because (excepting Paracelsus) there is scarcely any obvious trace in Bacon's writings of his being acquainted with any Swiss or German author. This story is in itself somewhat instructive, especially as Bacon draws an inference from the crror which he has adopted. Apollonius, he observes, lived to a great age, which is not wholly to be ascribed to his way of life, seeing that his grandfather did so too, so that he probably came of a long-lived stock. Thus history is often written,—the longevity of the family of Apollonius resting on no better foundation than that a compiler mistook the meaning of a statement which his predecessor had copied from an author of no good credit. There is another not wholly dissimilar mistake in the Historia Vitæ et Mortis. Bacon gives a short character of Asinius Pollio in connexion with a statement that he lived more than a hundred years. Now, though Asinius Pollio died an old man', he is clearly introduced here because he was confounded with Pollio Romilius, of whom Pliny relates that when he was past a hundred he had an interview with Augustus, a circumstance reproduced in Bacon's transformation of the story in the phrase “ Asinius Pollio Augusti familiaris.”
Bacon on the other hand deserves credit for having perceived that the story of Seneca's great age was incredible: he was not, however, aware of the origin of the mistake, which according to Antonius was first explained by Raphael Volaterrensis, and which I find mentioned, not long afterwards, in Cardan's Paralipomena,
1 About eighty or eighty-two,
Bacon's description of Postellus seems to show that while he was in France he had met with that singular and unhappy man. What is said of his great age rests probably on no better authority than his own: there seems no good reason to believe that he was much more than seventy when he died, though Bacon affirms that he was nearly a hundred and twenty. It would be quite in accordance with what we know of Postellus to suppose that he made himself much older than he really was in order to increase the wonder with which he was regarded. This kind of deception is not unfrequent, and it will, generally speaking, be more or less successful. The love of marvels and the sweetness of life incline men to believe in stories of extreme longevity, and when a man has grown old he meets but few who know when he was born.
Bacon's remark that out of all the popes four only had reached eighty is certainly incorrect. At least five others ought to be added to the list, of whom one, Benedict XIII.', was the first by whom the ominous by-word, “Non videbis annos Petri,” was shown to be not necessarily true. Why the popes live so short a time after their elevation question. Alexander II. proposed it to Peter Damiani, who answered it by saying that providence meant to show us how transitory a thing is human greatness.
Peter Ravennas, some centuries later, sought to explain the fact by natural causes. He gives a list of all the popes, enumerating the number of years during which each reigned, a thing in all cases, or in almost all, well ascertained, whereas the age at which a pope has died cannot always be discovered.
The Historia Vitæ et Mortis is the only work of its author in which I have been able to find distinct evidence of his acquaintance with any of the writings of Roger Bacon. It has often been said that the four idola of Francis Bacon are derived from the four hindrances to knowledge mentioned in the Opus Majus, and no doubt it is possible that this is true. But except the sameness of the number, there is not much analogy between them; and the number four presents itself to the mind in so many combinations that it is not remarkable that it should enter into two independent classifications."
as an old
Pedro de Luna, who ought in strictness to be accounted an antipope. 2 Moreover, the number of F. Bacon's Ilols was originally three. See Vol. I. pp. 90. and 114.-J. S. VOL. II.