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Full text of "Discourses on the sober life (Discorsi della vita sobria) Being the personal narrative of Luigi Cornaro (1467-1566, A. D.)"

UC-NRLF 



*^ =" "i;,. JES ON TllE 




LUIGI CORNARO 



1 




DISCOURSES ON THE SOBER LIFE 

(DISCORSI BELLA VITA SOBRIA) 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 

in 2007 with funding from 

IVIicrosoft Corporation 



http://www.archive.org/details/discoursesonsobeOOcornrich 



DISCOURSES ON THE 
SOBER LIFE 

(DISCORSI DELLA VITA SOBRIA) 



Being the Personal Narrative of Luigi Cornaro 
(1467-1566, A.D.) 



NEW YORK 

THOMAS Y. CROWELL COMPANY 

PUBLISHERS 



^.^ '■ c •< 



HEALTH 
UBHAHy 



The most remarkable instance of the efficacy of temper- 
ance toward the procuring of long life, is what we meet with 
in a little book published by Luigi Cornaro, the Venetian; 
which I the rather mention, because it is of undoubted 
credit, as the late Venetian ambassador, who was of the 
same family, attested more than once in conversation, when 
he resided in England. Cornaro, who was the author of the 
little "Treatise" I am mentioning, was of an infirm consti- 
tution, till about forty, when, by obstinately persisting in an 
exact course of temperance, he recovered a perfect state of 
health; insomuch that at fourscore he published his book, 
which has been translated into English under the title "A 
Sure and Certain Method of Attaining a Long and Healthy 
Life." He lived to give a third or fourth edition of it; and, 
after having passed his hundredth year, died without pain or 
agony, and like one who falls asleep. The "Treatise" I men- 
tion haa been taken notice of by several eminent authors, and 
is written with such a spirit of cheerfulness, religion and good 
sense, as are fhe ni^tural. cx)ncoaiitants of temperance and 
sobriety. The mixture of 'tte 'old man in it is rather a recom- 
mendation fha\i> diaercdit to .it.r-JosEPH Addison, in "The 
Spectator." ' -* ' '* ' \' ; . ; ' . • 



I 

CONTENTS 



PAOB 

BIOGRAPHICAL INTRODUCTION ... 7 
FIRST DISCOURSE 

ON A TEMPERATE AND HEALTHFUL LIFE . .15 



SECOND DISCOURSE 

SHOWING THE SUREST METHOD OF CORRECTING AN 
INFIRM CONSTITUTION . . . . .38 



THIRD DISCOURSE 

THE METHOD OF ENJOYING COMPLETE HAPPINESS IN 
OLD AGE ....... 49 

FOURTH DISCOURSE 

AN EXHORTATION TO A SOBER AND REGULAR LIFE, 

IN ORDER TO ATTAIN OLD AGE . . . .55 



345214 



INTRODUCTION 

THE COENARO FAMILY 

The family to which Luigi Cornaro belonged 
flourished from the fifteenth to the eighteenth cen- 
turies, and was held in high honor in the great days 
of the Venetian Republic, several members being 
elected to the Chief Magistracy. Perhaps the most 
celebrated was a female — Caterina Cornaro, who was 
born in 1454, and who^ while yet in her teens, became 
the wife of the King of Cyprus, the island having 
passed under the dominion of Venice after the fall of 
the Latin Emperors of Byzantium. 

In 1473 Caterina lost her husband. Although only 
in her twentieth year she seized the reins of govern- 
ment, and ruled the kingdom for sixteen years, when 
a revolution forced her. to abdicate in favor of a 
Republic. 

The ex-Queen returned to Italy, retiring to Asolo, 
near Treviso, where, until her death in 1516, she held 
a brilliant Court, which became the resort of the 
most renowned savants, artists and wits of her time. 

Many portraits of Queen Caterina are in existence, 
the most celebrated being that painted by Paolo 
Veronese, which is now in Vienna. 

Caterina was not the only famous female member 
7 



8 THE SOBER LIFE 

of the Cornaro family ; Lucrezia Cornaro, who flour- 
ished from 1646 to 1684, was a prodigy of learn- 
ing, her writings — eulogies, poems, essays — are well 
known even at the present day; she was a member 
of nearly every learned society in Europe, and in 
1678 the University of Padua conferred on her the 
degree of Doctor, an honor so rarely bestowed on a 
female as to be almost unique. 

liinGI COBNABO, 

Thirteen years after the birth of Queen Caterina, 
Luigi first saw the light In the city of Padua. 
Throughout early youth and manhood he lived freely, 
indulging himself without stint, especially in the mat- 
ters of eating and drinking. Becoming involved in 
the consequences of some malpractices on the part 
of his relatives, he was deprived of his family digni- 
ties, and although not banished from Venice, he was 
excluded from all share in public appointments, which 
ill-treatment he took so much to heart that he retired 
to Padua. 

He had already married Veronica, of the family 
of Spiltemberg; but it was only after several years 
that the only child of this union, a daughter named 
Clara, was born. This lady eventually married John 
Cornaro, a member of the Cypriote branch of the 
Comaros. 



INTRODUCTION 9 

Having reached the age of thirty-five, the effects 
of his hitherto intemperate life began to show them- 
selves. As Cornaro himself wrote : "My stomach 
became disordered, and I suffered pain from colic 
and gout, attended by that which was yet worse — an 
almost continual slow fever, a stomach generally out 
of order, and a perpetual thirst. From these mis- 
eries the only delivery I had to hope lor was Death." 

HIS REFORMATION 

Not for the first time, so he tells us, he sought 
medical relief, and, luckily for himself, he found men 
of sense who insisted that his only remedy lay in 
renouncing his old ways of life. 

He was urged to restrict his diet, both solid and 
liquid, to that usually prescribed to sick people ; and 
to use even that as sparingly as possible. On for- 
mer occasions, when offered this sensible advice, he 
had rejected it with impatience; but now his phy- 
sicians added thiat if he did not at once adopt this 
course of strict living there was no help for him, and 
he must resign himself to an early death. 

This was the turning point. Cornaro gradually 
reduced his diet to a daily allowance of twelve ounces 
of solid food and fourteen ounces of wine. In a few 
days' time he began to perceive that his shattered 
health was on the road to restoration; and con- 



10 THE SOBER LIFE 

tinuing this course, in less than one year he found 
himself entirely freed from all his complaints. 

The change wrought was not only physical, but 
also psychical : Cornaro avowed that in his youth he 
had been of a hasty and passionate temper; but by 
his life of strict sobriety he secured so complete a 
mastery over himself that he won the esteem of all 
who knew him. 

Cornaro became so habituated to this meagre fare 
that an increase of two ounces of food and two 
ounces of wine per day proved nearly fatal to him. 
He was then about eighty years, of age, and had been 
urged by his friends and relatives that it was neces- 
sary that one so advanced in years should eat more 
to support his declining powers. Cornaro's rational 
argument that as a man advanced in years his stom- 
ach grew weaker, and that, therefore, the tendency 
should be to decrease rather than increase the sup- 
ply of food, did not deter his friends from continuing 
to pester him ; to please them, therefore, and by way 
of experiment, he increased his daily allowance. 
"This increase," he writes, "had in eight day's time 
such an effect upon me that, from being cheerful and 
brisk, I began to be peevish and melancholy, so that 
nothing could please me. On the twelfth day I was 
attacked with a violent pain in my side, which lasted 
twenty-two hours, and was followed by a fever which 



INTRODUCTION 11 

lasted thirty-five days without any respite ; insomuch 
that all looked upon me as a dead man. But, God 
be praised, I recovered, and I am positive that it 
was only the great regularity I have observed for so 
many years, and that only, which rescued me from 
the jaws of death.'* 

Later on, Cornaro yet further reduced his diet, 
until he found that he could support life and vigor 
on as little meat-food as one egg per diem. There is 
much remarkable testimony as to the wonderful vi- 
tality displayed by Cornaro, even when he had passed 
the age allotted to man by the Psalmist. He related 
how he was thrown from a carriage and dragged 
along for some distance before the horses could be 
stopped. He was severely battered and bruised, and 
his leg and arm were dislocated. The physicians were 
of opinion that there was no hope for him, and gave 
him but three more days to live, but wished to try 
what bleeding and purging would do to prevent 
inflammation and fever. 

But Cornaro stoutly refused to submit to these 
remedial measures. He allowed his arm and leg to 
be set, and himself to be rubbed with oils, and shortly 
afterward was completely restored, much to the 
amazement of the physicians. 

In 1548, at the age of eighty, Cornaro published 
his celebrated treatise, "Discorsi della vita sobria," 



12 THE SOBER LIFE 

which he supplemented with three others on the same 
subject. As Addison wrote, "this treatise is written 
with such a spirit of cheerfulness, religion, and good 
sense, as are the natural concomitants of temperance 
and sobriety." Besides these treatises he is said to 
have written a comedy which was received with great 
applause. 

HIS DEATH 

Luigi Comaro died in 1566, being then in his 
ninety-ninth year, though some writers have main- 
tained that he survived until he attained the ripe age 
of 103. 

Almost to the very last he was as vigorously active 
as ever, taking pedestrian or riding exercise. His 
eyesight and hearing were sound and good, and as 
one of his contemporaries has related, "he preserved 
his voice so clear and harmonious that at the end of 
his life he sung with as much strength and delight 
as he did at the age of twenty-five.'* In his treatise 
Comaro stated liis firm belief that he would not die 
except hy mere dissolution. He felt convinced that 
by his regular course of life he had, to use his own 
words : "shut out all other avenues of death.'* More 
than once he expresses his conviction that pain and 
agony would not accompany his end as they do tliat 
of most other human beings. And tliis belief was jus- 
tified by fact. 



INTRODUCTION 13 

According to the most widely accepted evidence 
Cornaro died in his place of retreat at Padua on 
April 26th5 1566, and 'Was buried in accordance with 
his own desire, with simple ceremony in St. Anthony's 
Church, on May 8th. From the same source we have 
it that he himself felt that his last hour was drawing 
nigh, and he disposed himself, patiently, with the 
purity of a Christian and the courage of a philoso- 
pher, to depart this life. He drew up his will, and 
set all his affairs in order, after which he received 
the last sacrament, and awaited death in his chair. 
He fell into a slight stupor, feeling no manner of 
pain, and thus breathed his last breath. 

His wife survived him some years, and it is said 
that "death came to her as mercifully as to her hus- 
band." She passed away without any convulsive 
movements, and with so perfect a tranquillity that it 
was not perceived at what moment she died. 



The First Discourse 
ON A TEMPERATE AND HEALTHFUL LIFE 

It is universally agreed, that custom, in time, be- 
comes a second nature, forcing men to use that, 
whether good or bad, to which they have been habit- 
uated ; in fact, we see habit, in many instances, gain 
the ascendancy over reason. This is so undeniably 
true, that virtuous men, by keeping company with 
wicked, often fall into the same vicious course of life. 
Seeing and considering all this, I have decided to 
write on the vice of intemperance in eating and 
drinking. 

Now, though all are agreed that intemperance is 
the parent of gluttony, and sober living the offspring 
of absteminousness ; yet, owing to the power of cus- 
tom, the former is considered a virtue, and the latter 
as mean and avaricious ; and so many men are blinded 
and besotted to such a degree, that they come to the 
age of forty or fifty, burdened with strange and pain- 
ful infirmities, which render them decrepit and use- 
less ; whereas, had they lived temperately and soberly, 
they would in all probability have been sound and 
hearty, to the age of eighty and upward. To remedy 

15 



16 THE SOBER LIFE 

this state of things, it is requisite that men should 
live up to the simplicity dictated by nature, which 
teaches us to be content with little, and accustom 
ourselves to eat no more than is absolutely neces- 
sary to support life, remembering that all excess 
causes disease and leads to death. How many friends 
of mine, men of the finest understanding and most 
amiable disposition, have I seen carried off in the 
flower of their manhood by reason of excess and over- 
feeding, who, had they been temperate, would now be 
living, and ornaments to society, and whose company 
I should enjoy with as much pleasure as I am now 
(deprived of it with concern. 

In order, therefore, to put a stop to so great an 
evil, I have resolved, in this short discourse, to demon- 
strate that intemperance is an abuse which may be 
removed, and that the good old sober living may be 
substituted in its stead; and this I undertake the 
more readily, as many young men of the best under- 
standing have urged upon me its necessity because 
of many of their parents having died in middle life, 
while I remain so sound and hearty at the age of 
eighty-one. These young men express a desire to 
reach the same term, nature not forbidding us to wish 
for longevity ; and old age, being, in fact, that time 
of life in which prudence can be best exercised, and 
the fruits of all the other virtues enjoyed with the 



TEMPERATE AND HEALTHFUL LIFE 17 

least opposition, the senses then being so subdued, 
that man gives himself up entirely to reason. They 
besought me to let them know the method pursued 
by me to attain it ; and then, finding them intent on 
so laudable a pursuit, I resolved to treat of that 
method, in order to be of service, not only to them, 
but to all those who may be willing to peruse this 
discourse, 

I shall therefore give my reasons for renouncing 
intemperance and betaking myself to a sober course 
of life, and declare freely the method pursued by me 
for that purpose, and then show the good effect upon 
me ; from whence it will be seen how easy it is to re- 
move the abuse of free living. I shall conclude, by 
showing the many conveniences and blessings of tem- 
perate life. 

I say, then, that the heavy train of infirmities 
which had made great inroads on my constitution, 
were my motives for renouncing intemperance, in the 
matter of too freely eating and drinking, to which I 
had been addicted, so that, in consequence of it, my 
stomach became disordered, and I suffered much pain 
from colic and gout, attended by that which was still 
worse, an almost continual slow fever, a stomach gen- 
erally out of order, and a perpetual thirst. From 
these disorders, the best delivery I had to hope was 
death. 



18 THE SOBER LIFE 

Finding myself, therefore, between my thirty-fifth 
and fortieth year in such unhappy circumstances, 
and having tried everything that could be thought of 
to relieve me, but to no purpose, the physicians gave 
me to understand that there was one method left to 
get the better of my complaints, provided I would 
resolve to use it, and patiently persevere. This was 
to live a strictly sober and regular life, which would 
be of the greatest efficacy; and that of this I might 
convince myself, since, by my disorders I was become 
infirm, though not reduced so low but that a regular 
life might still recover me. They further added, that, 
if I did not at once adopt this method of strict liv- 
ing, I should in a few months receive no benefit from 
it, and that in a few more I must resign myself to 
death* 

These arguments made such an impression on me, 
that, mortified as I was, besides, by the thought of 
dying in the prime of life, though at the same time 
perpetually tormented by various diseases, I imme- 
diately resolved, in order to avoid at once both dis- 
ease and death, to betake myself to a regular course 
of life. Having upon this inquired of them what 
rules I should follow, they told mQ that I must only 
use food, solid or liquid, such as is generally pre- 
scribed to sick persons ; and both sparingly. These 
directions, to say the truth, they had before given 



TEMPERATE AND HEALTHFUL LIFE 19 

me, but I had been impatient of such restraint, and 
had eaten and drank freely of those things I had de- 
sired. But, xwhen I had once resolved to live soberly, 
and according to the dictates of reason, feeling it 
was my duty as a man so to do, I entered with so 
much resolution upon this new course of life, that 
nothing since has been able to divert me from it. 
The consequence was, that in a few days I began to 
perceive that such a course agreed well with me; 
and, by pursuing it, I found myself in less than a 
year (some people, perhaps, will not believe it) en- 
tirely freed from all my complaints. 

Having thus recovered my health, I began seri- 
ously to consider the power of temperance: if it had 
efficacy enough to subdue such grievous disorders as 
mine it must also have power to preserve me in health 
and strengthen my bad constitution. I therefore ap- 
plied myself diligently to discover what kinds of food 
suited me best. 

But, first, I resolved to try whether those which 
pleased my palate were agreeable to my stomach, so 
that I might judge of the truth of the proverb, which 
is so universally held, namely: — That, whatever 
pleases the palate, must agree with the stomach, or, 
that whatever is palatable must be wholesome and 
nourishing. The issue was, that I found it to be 
false, for I soon found that many things which pleased 



20 THE SOBER LIFE 

my palate, disagreed with my stomach. Having thus 
convinced myself that the proverb in question was 
false, I gave over the use of such meats and wines as 
did not suit me, and chose those which by experience 
I found agreed well with me, taking onli/ as much as 
I could easily digest, having strict regard to quantity 
as well as quality ; and contrived matters so as never 
to cloy my stomach with eating or drinking, and 
always rose from the table with a disposition to eat 
and drink more. In this I conformed to the proverb, 
which says, that a 'man to consult his health must 
chiBck his appetite. Having in this manner conquered 
intemperance I betook myself entirely to a temper- 
ate and regular life, and this it was which eifected in 
me that alteration already mentioned, that is, in less 
than a year, it rid me of all those disorders which 
had taken such hold on me, and which appeared at the 
time incurable. It had likewise this other good effect, 
that I no longer experienced those annual fits of sick- 
ness, with wliich I used to be afflicted while I followed 
my ordinary free manner of eating and drinking. I 
also became exceedingly healthy, as I have continued 
from that tim'e to this day ; and for no other reason 
than that I never transgressed against regularity and 
strict moderation. 

In consequence, therefore, of my taking such meth- 
ods, I have always enjoyed, and, God be praised, still 



TEMPERATE AND HEALTHFUL LIFE 21 

enjoy, the best of health. It is true, that, besides 
the two most important rules rela/tive: to eating and 
drinking, which I have ever been very scrupulous to 
observe (that is, not tor take of either, more than my 
stomach could easily digest, 'and to use- only those 
things which agree with me.) , I have oarefully avoided, 
as far as possible, all extreme heat, cold, extraordi- 
nary fatigue, interruption of my usual hours of rest, 
or staying long in bad air. I likewise did all that lay 
in my power, to avoid those evils, which we do not 
find it so easy to remove: melancholy, hatred, aaid 
other violent passions, which appear to have the 
greatest influence on our bodies. I have not, how- 
ever, been able to guard so well against these dis- 
orders, as not to- suffer myself now and then to be 
hurried away by them. But I have discovered this 
fact, that these passions., have, in the main, no great 
influence over bodies governed by the two foregoing 
rules of eating^ and drinking. Galen, who was an 
eminent physician, has said., that, so long as he fol- 
lowed these two rules, he suffered but little from such 
disorders, so little, that they never gave him above 
a day's uneasiness. That what he says is true, I am 
a living witness, and so are many others who know 
me, and have seen me, how often I have been exposed 
to heats and colds, and disagreeable changes of 
weather, without taking harm, and have likewise seen 



22 THE SOBER LIFE 

me (owing to various misfortunes which have more 
than once befallen me) greatly disturbed in mind; 
these things, however, did me but little harm, whereas, 
other members of my family, w^lo followed not my 
way of living, were greatly disturbed; such in a 
word, was their grief and dejection at seeing me in- 
volved in expensive law suits, commenced against me 
by great and powerful men, that, fearing I should be 
ruined, they were seized with great melancholy hu- 
mor, with which intemperate bodies always abound, 
and such influence had it over their bodies, that they 
were carried off before their time; whereas, I suf- 
fered nothing on the occasion, as I h^d in me no 
superfluous humors of th^t kind; nay, in order to 
keep up my spirits, I brought myself to think that 
God had permitted these suits against me, in order to 
make me more sensible of my strength of body and 
mind ; and that I should get the better of them With 
honor and advantage^ as it, in fact, came to pass; 
for, at last, I obtained a decree exceedingly favorajble 
to my fortune an.d character. 

But I may go a step farther, and show how fa- 
vorable to recovery is a temperate life, in case of 
accident. At the age of seventy years, I happened, 
as is often the case, to be in a coach, which, going 
at a smart rate, was upset, and in that condition 
drawn a considerable way before the horses could 



TEMPERATE AND HEALTHFUL LIFE 23 

be stopped. I received so many shocks and bruises, 
that I was taken out with my head and body terribly 
battered, and a dislocated leg and arm. When the 
physicians saw me in so bad a plight, they concluded 
that in three days I should die, but thought they 
would try what bleeding and purging would do, in 
order to prevent inflammation and fever. But I, on 
the contrary, knowing that, by reason of the sober 
life I had lived for so many years, my blood was in 
good and pure condition, refused to be either purged 
or bled. I just caused my arm and leg to be set, 
and suffered myself to be rubbed with some oils, which 
they said were proper on the occasion. Thus, with- 
out using any other kind of remedy, I recovered, as 
I thought I should, without feeling the least altera- 
tion in myself, or any bad effects from the accident ; 
a thing which appeared no less than miraculous in 
the eyes of the physicians. Hence, we may infer, 
that he who leads a sober and regular life, and com- 
mits no excess in his diet, can suffer but little from 
mental disorders or external accidents. On the con- 
trary, I conclude, especially from the late trial I have 
had, that excesses in eating and drinking are often 
fatal. Four years ago, I consented to increase the 
quantity of my food by two ounces, my friends and 
relations having, for some time past, urged upon me 
the necessity of such increase, that the quantity I 



24 THE SOBER LIFE 

took was too little for one so advanced in years; 
against this, I urged that nature was content with 
little, and that with this small quantity I had pre- 
served myself for many years in health and activity, 
that I believed as a man advanced in years, his stom- 
ach grew Weaker, and therefore the tendency should 
be to lessen the amount of food rather than to in- 
crease. I further reminded them of the two proverbs, 
which say: he who has a. mind to eat a great deal, 
must eat but little; eating little makes life long, and, 
living long, he must eat much ; and the other proverb 
was : that, what we leave after making a hearty meal, 
does us more good than what we have eaten. But my 
arguments and proverbs were not able to prevent 
them teasing me upon the subject; therefore, not to 
appear obstinate, or affecting to know more than the 
physicians themselves, but above all, to please my 
family, I consented to the increase before mentioned ; 
so that, whereas previous, what with bread, meat, the 
yolk of an egg^ and soup, I ate as much as twelve 
ounces, neither more nor less, I now increased it to 
fourteen; and whereas before I drank but fourteen 
ounces of wine, I now increased it to sixteen. This 
increase, had, in eight days' time, such an effect upon 
me, that, from being cheerful and brisk, I began to 
be peevish and melancholy, so that nothing could 
please me. On the twelfth day, I was attacked with a 



TEMPERATE AND HEALTHFUL LIFE 25 

violent pain in my side, which lasted twenty-two 
hours and was followed by a fever, which continued 
thirty-five days without any respite, insomuch that 
all looked upon me as a dead man; but, God be 
praised, I recovered, and I am positive that it was 
the great regularity I had observed for so many 
years, and that only, which rescued me from the jaws 
of death. 

Orderly living is, doubtless, a most certain cause 
and foundation of health and long life ; nay, I say it 
is the only true medicine, and whoever weighs the mat- 
ter well, will come to this conclusion. Hence it is, 
that when the physician comes to visit a patient, the 
first thing he prescribes is regular living, and cer- 
tainly to avoid excess. Now, if the patient after re- 
covery should continue so to live, he could not be 
sick again, and if a very small quantity of food is 
sufficient to re-store his health, then but a slight addi- 
tion is necessary for the continuance of the same ; 
and so, for the future, he would want neither phy- 
sician nor physic. Nay, by attending to what I have 
said, he would become his own physician, and in- 
deed, the best he could have, since, in fact, no man 
should be a perfect physician to any but, himself. 
The reason is, that any man, by repeated trials, may 
acquire a perfect knowledge of his own constitution, 
the kinds of food and drink which agree with him 



26 THE SOBER LIFE 

best. These repeated trials are necessary, as there 
is a great variety in the nature and stomachs of per- 
sons. I found that old wine did not suit me, but that 
the new wines did; and, after long practice, I dis- 
covered that many things, which might not be in- 
jurious to others, were not good for me. Now, where 
is the physician who could have informed me which to 
take, and which to avoid, since I by long observation, 
could scarce discover these things. 

It follows, therefore, that it is impossible to be a 
perfect physician to another. A man cannot have a 
better guide than himself, nor any physic better than 
a regular life. I do not, however, mean that for the 
knowledge and cure of such disorders as befall those 
who live an irregular life there is no occasion for a 
physician and that his assistance ought to be slighted ; 
such persons should at once call in medical aid, in 
case of sickness. But, for the bare purpose of keep- 
ing ourselves in good health, I am of opinion, that 
we should consider this regular life as our physician, 
since it preserves men, even those of a weak constitu- 
tion, in health ; makes them live sound and hearty, to 
the age of one hundred and upward, and prevents 
their dying of sickness, or through the corruption of 
their humors, but merely by the natural decay, which 
at the last must come to all. These things, however, 
are discovered but by few, for men, for the most part, 



TEMPERATE AND H \:.T IFUL LIFE 27 

are sensual and intemperate, and lOve to satisfy their 
appetites, and to commit every excess ; and, by way 
of apology, say that they prefer a short and self- 
indulgent life, to a long and self-denying one, not 
knowing that those men are most truly happy who 
keep their appetites in subjection. Thus have I 
found it, and I prefer to live temperately, so that I 
may live long and be useful. Had I not been tem- 
perate, I should never have written these tracts, which 
I have the pleasure of thinking will be serviceable to 
others. Sensual men affirm that no man can live a 
regular life. To this I answer, that Galen, who was 
a great physician, led such a life, and chose it as the 
best physic. The same did Plato, Cicero, Isocrates, 
and many other great men of former times, whom 
not to tire the reader I forbear naming; and, in our 
days. Pope Paul Farnese and Cardinal Bembo ; and 
it was for that reason they lived so long. There- 
fore, since many have led this life, and many are 
actually leading it, surely all might conform to it, 
and the more so, as no great difficulty attends it. 
Cicero affirms that nothing is needed, but to- be in 
good earnest. Plato, you say, though he himself 
lived thus regularly, affirms that, in republics, men 
often cannot do so, being obliged to expose them- 
selves to various hardships and changes, which are 
incompatible with a regular life. I answer, that men 



28 THE SOBER LIFE 

who have to undergo these things, would be the better 
able to bear such hardships by being strictly temper- 
ate in matters of eating and drinking. 

Here it may be objected, that he who leads this 
strict and regular life, having constantly when well 
made use only of simple food fit for the sick, and in 
small quantities, has when himself in sickness, no re- 
course left in matters of diet. To which I reply, 
that, whoever leads a regular life, cannot be sick or 
at least but seldom. By a regular life I mean, that 
a man shall ascertain for himself, how small a quan- 
tity of food and drink is sufficient to supply the daily 
wants of his nature and then having done this, and 
found out the kinds of food and drink best suited for 
his constitution, he shall, having formed his plans, 
strictly adhere to his resolutions and principles, not 
being careful at one time, and self-indulgent at others, 
for by so doing, he would gain but little benefit ; but 
taking care always to avoid excess, which any man 
can certainly do at all times, and under all circum- 
stances, if he is determined. I say then, that he who 
thus lives cannot be sick, or but seldom, and for a 
short time, because, by regular living, he destroys 
every seed of sickness, and thus, by removing the 
cause, prevents the effect; so that he who pursues a 
regular and strictly moderate life, need not fear 
illness, for his blood having become pure, and free 



TEMPERATE AND HEALTHFUL LIFE 29 

from all bad humors, it is not possible that he can 
fall sick. 

Since, therefore, it appears that a regular life is 
so profitable and virtuous, it ought to be universally 
followed ; and more so, as it does not clash with du- 
ties of any kind, but is easy to all. Neither is it nec^ 
essary that all should eat as little as I do — twelve 
ounces — or not to eat of many things from which I, 
because of the natural weakness of my stomach, ab- 
stain. Those with whom all kinds of food agree, 
may eat of such, only they are forbidden to eat a 
greater quantity, even of that which agrees with them 
best, than their stomachs can with ease digest. The 
same is to be understood of drink. The only rule 
for such to observe in eating, and drinking, is the 
quantity rather than the quality ; but for those who, 
like myself, are weak of constitution, these must not 
only be careful as to quantity, but also to quality, 
partaking only of such things as are simple, and easy 
to digest. 

Let no one tell me that there are numbers, who, 
though they live most irregularly, attain in health 
and spirits to a great age. This argument is 
grounded on uncertainty and hazard, and such cases 
are rare. Men should not, therefore, because of these 
exceptional cases, be persuaded to irregularity or 
indulgence. Whoever, trusting to the strength of 



80 THE SOBER LIFE 

his constitution, slights these observations, may ex- 
pect to suffer by so doing, and to live in constant 
danger of disease and death. I therefore affirm, that 
a man, even of a bad constitution, who leads a strictly 
regular and sober life, is surer of a long one, than he 
of the best constitution who lives carelessly and ir- 
regularly. If men have a mind to live long and 
healthy, and die without sickness of body or mind, 
but by mere dissolution, they must submit to a regu- 
lar and abstemious life, for such a life keeps the blood 
clean and pure. It suffers no vapors to ascend from 
the stomach to the head; hence, the brain of him 
who thus lives enjoys constant serenity; he can soar 
above the low and groveling concerns of this life to 
the exalted and beautiful contemplation of heavenly 
things to his exceeding comfort and satisfaction. He 
then truly discerns the brutality of those excesses 
into which men fall, and which bring them misery 
here and hereafter; while he may with comfort look 
forward to a long life, conscious that, through the 
mercy of God, he has relinquished the paths of vice 
and intemperance, never again to enter them; and, 
through the merits of our Saviour Jesus Christ, to 
idie in His favor. He therefore does not suffer him- 
self to be cast down with the thoughts of death, know- 
ing that it will not attack him violently, or by sur- 
prise, or with sharp pains and feverish sensations, 



TEMPERATE AND HEALTHFUL LIFE 31 

but will come upon him with ease and gentleness ; like 
a lamp, the oil of which is exhausted, he will pass 
gently, and without any sickness, from this terres- 
trial and mortal, to a celestial and eternal life. 

Some sensual unthinking persons affirm, that a 
long life is no great blessing, and that the state of a 
man, who has passed his seventy-fifth year, cannot 
really be called life ; but this is wrong, as I shall fully 
prove; and it is my sincere wish, that all men would 
endeavor to attain my age, that they might enjoy 
that period of life, which of all others is most de- 
sirable. 

I will therefore give an account of my recreations, 
and the relish which I find at this stage of life. There 
are many who can give testimony as to the happiness 
of my life. In the first place, they see with astonish- 
ment the good state of my health and spirits ; how I 
mount my horse without assistance, how I not only 
ascend a flight of stairs, but can climb a hill with 
greatest ease. Then, how gay and good-humored I 
am ; my mind ever undisturbed, in fact, joy and peace 
having fixed their abode in my breast. Moreover, 
they know in what manner I spend my time, so as 
never to find life weary: I pass my hours in great 
delight and pleasure, in converse with men of good 
sense and intellectual culture; then, when I cannot 
enjoy their company, I betake myself to the reading 



82 THE SOBER LIFE 

of some good book. When I have read as much as I 
like, I write ; endeavoring in this, as in other things 
to be of service to others ; and these things I do with 
the greatest ease to myself, living in a pleasant house 
in the most beautiful quarter of this noble city of 
Padua. Besides this house, I have my gardens, sup- 
plied with pleasant streams in which I always find 
something to do which amuses me. Nor are my rec- 
reations rendered less agreeable by the failing of any 
of my senses, for they are all, thank God, perfect, 
particularly my palate, which now relishes better the 
simple fare I have, than it formerly did the most 
delicate dishes, when I led an irregular life. Nor 
does the change of beds give me any uneasiness: I 
can sleep everywhere soundly and quietly, and my 
dreams are pleasant and delightful. It is likewise 
with the greatest pleasure I behold the success of an 
undertaking so important to this state; I mean that 
of draining and improving so many uncultivated 
pieces of ground, an undertaking begun within my 
memory, but which I thought I should never see com- 
pleted; nevertheless I have, and was even in person 
assisting in the work for two months together, in 
those marshy places during the heats in summer, 
without ever finding myself worse for the fatigues or 
inconveniences I suffered ; of so much efficacy is that 
orderly life, which I everywhere constantly lead. 



TEMPERATE AND HEALTHFUL LIFE 33 

Such are some of the recreations and diversions of 
my old age, which is so much the more to be valued 
than the old age, or even the youth of other men ; as, 
being freed by God's grace from the perturbations 
of the mind and the infirmities of the body, I no 
longer experience any of those contrary emotions 
which rack such a number of young men and as many 
old ones, who, by reason of their careless living 
and intemperate habits, are destitute of health and 
strength, and consequently of all true enjoyment. 

And if it be lawful to compare little matters to 
aifairs of importance, I will further venture to say, 
that such are the effects of this sober life, that, at my 
present age of eighty-three, I have been able to write 
an entertaining comedy, abounding with innocent 
mirth and pleasant jests. 

I have yet another comfort which I will mention; 
that of seeing a kind of immortality in a succession 
of descendants; for, as often as I return home, I 
find before me, not one or two, but eleven grandchil- 
dren, the oldest of them eighteen, all the offspring of 
one father and mother, and all blessed with good 
health. Some of the youngest I play with; those 
older, I make companions of; and, as nature has be- 
stowed good voices upon them, I amuse myself by 
hearing them sing, and play on different instruments. 
Nay, I sing myself, as I have a better voice now, 



84 THE SOBER LIFE 

clearer and louder, than at any period of my life. 
Such are the recreations of my old age. 

Whence it appears, that the life I lead is not 
gloomy, but cheerful, and I would not exchange my 
manner of living and my gray hairs, with that of 
even a young man, having the best constitution, who 
gave way to his appetites; knowing, as I do, that 
such are daily subject to a thousand kinds of ail- 
ments and death. I remember my own conduct in 
early life, and I know how foolhardy are young men ; 
how apt they are to presume on their strength in all 
their actions, and by reason of their little experience, 
are oversanguine in their expectations. Hence, they 
often expose themselves rashly to every kind of dan- 
ger, and, banishing reason, bow their necks to the 
yoke of concupiscence, and endeavor to gratify all 
their appetites, not minding, fools as they are, that 
they thereby hasten the approach of what they would 
most willingly avoid, sickness and death. 

And these are two great evils to all men who live 
a free life; the one is troublesome and painful, the 
other, dreadful and insupportable, especially when 
they reflect on the errors to which this mortal life is 
subject, and on the vengeance which the justice of 
God is wont to take on sinners. Whereas, I, in my 
old age, praise to the Almighty, am exempt from 
these torments ; from the first, because I cannot fall 



TEMPERATE AND HEALTHFUL LIFE 35 

sick, having removed all the cause of illness by my 
regularity and moderation; from the other, that of 
death, because from so many years' experience, I 
have learned to obey reason ; whereas, I not only think 
it a great folly to fear that which cannot be avoided, 
but likewise firmly expect some consolation, from the 
grace of Jesus Christ, when I arrive at that period. 

But though I know I must, like others, reach that 
term, it is yet at so great a distance that I cannot 
discern it, because / kno'm I shall not die except hy 
mere dissolwtion, having already, by my regular 
course of life, shut up all other avenues of death, 
and thus prevented the humors of my body making 
any other war upon me, than that which I must ex- 
pect from the elements employed in the composition 
of this mortal frame. I am not so simple as not to 
know that, as I was born, so I must die; but the 
natural death that I speak of does not overtake one, 
until after a long course of years ; and even then, I 
do not expect the pain and agony which most men 
suffer when they die. But I, by God's blessing, 
reckon that I have still a long time to live in health 
and spirits, and enjoy this beautiful world, which is, 
indeed, beautiful to those who know how to make it 
so, but its beauty can only be realized by those who, 
by reason of temperance and virtue, enjoy sound 
health of body and mind. 



36 THE SOBER LIFE 

Now, if this sober and moderate manner of living 
brings so much happiness ; if the blessings that attend 
it are so stable and permanent, then I beseech every 
man of sound judgment to embrace this valuable 
treasure, that of a long and healthful life, a treasure 
which exceeds all other worldly blessings, and, there- 
fore, should be sought after ; for what is wealth and 
abundance to a man who is possessed with a feeble 
and sickly body? This is that divine sobriety, agree- 
able to God, the friend of nature, the daughter of 
reason, the sister of all the virtues, the companion of 
temperate living, modest, courteous, content with lit- 
tle, regular, and perfectly mistress of all her opera- 
tions. From her, as from their proper root, spring 
life, health, cheerfulness, industry, learning and all 
those actions and employments worthy of noble and 
generous minds. The laws of God are all in her favor. 
Repletion, excess, intemperance, superfluous humors, 
diseases, fevers, pains, and the dangers of death, van- 
ish in her presence, as mists before the sun. Her 
comeliness ravishes every well-disposed mind. Her 
influence is so sure, as to promise to all a long and 
agreeable life. And, lastly, she promises to be a mild 
and pleasant guardian of life, teaching how to ward 
off the attacks of death. Strict sobriety, in eating 
and drinking, renders the senses and understanding 
clear, the memory tenacious, the body lively and 



TEMPERATE AND HEALTHFUL LIFE 37 

strong, the movements regular and easy; and the 
soul, feeling so little of her earthly burden, experi- 
ences much of her natural liberty. The man thus 
enjoys a pleasing and agreeable harmony, there be- 
ing nothing in his system to disturb ; for his blood is 
pure, and runs freely through his veins, and the heat 
of his body is mild and temperate. 



The Second Discourse 

SHOWING THE SUREST METHOD OF COR- 
RECTING AN INFIRM CONSTITUTION 

My treatise on a sober life has begun to answer 
my desire, in being of service to many persons bom 
of a weak constitution, or who, by reason of free liv- 
ing, have become infirm, who, when they commit the 
least excess, find themselves greatly indisposed. I 
should also be glad to be of service to those, who, 
bom with a good constitution, yet, by reason of a 
disorderly life, find themselves at the age of fifty or 
sixty attacked with various pains and diseases, such 
as gout, sciatica, liver and stomach complaints, to 
which they would not be subject, were they to live a 
strictly temperate life, and by so doing would more- 
over greatly increase the term of their existence, and 
live with much greater comfort; they would find 
themselves less irritable, and less disposed to be upset 
by inconvenience and annoyance. I was myself of a 
most irritable disposition, insomuch that at times 
there was no living with me. Now, for a very long 
time it has been otherwise, and I can see that a per- 
son swayed by his passions is little or no better than 
a madman at such times. 

88 



AN INFIRM CONSTITUTION 39 

The man, also, who is of a bad constitution, may, 
by dint of reason, and a regular and sober life, live 
to a great age and in good health, as I have done, 
who had naturally one of the worst, so that it ap- 
peared impossible I should live above forty years, 
whereas, I now find myself sound and hearty at the 
age of eighty-six ; forty-six years beyond the time I 
had expected; and during this long respite all my 
senses have continued perfect ; and even my teeth, my 
voice, my memory, and my heart. But what is still 
more, my brain is clearer now than it ever was. Nor 
do any of my powers abate as I advance in life ; and 
this because, as I grow older, I lessen the quantity of 
my solid food. This retrenchment is necessary, since 
it is impossible for man to live for ever; and, as he 
draws near his end, he is brought so low as to be 
able to take but little nourishment, and at such times, 
the yolk of an egg, and a few spoonfuls of milk with 
bread, is quite sufficient during the twenty-four 
hours; a greater quantity would most likely cause 
pain, and shorten life. In my own case, I expect to 
die without any pain or sickness, and this is a bless- 
ing of great importance; yet may be expected by 
those who shall lead a sober life, whether they be 
rich or poor. And, since a long and healthy life 
ought to be greatly coveted by every man, then I 
conclude that all men are in duty bound to exert 



40 THE SOBER LIFE 

themselves to that effect ; nevertheless such a blessing 
cannot be obtained without strict temperance and 
sobriety. But some allege that many, without lead- 
ing such a life, have lived to a hundred, and that in 
good health, though they ate a great deal, and used 
indiscriminately eVery kind of viands and wine, and 
therefore they flatter themselves that they shall be 
equally fortunate. But in this they are guilty of two 
mistakes : the first is, that it is not one in fifty thou- 
sand that eVer attains that happiness ; the other mis- 
take is, that such, in the end, most certainly contract 
some illness, which carries them off: nor can they be 
sure of ending their days otherwise ; so that the safest 
way to attain a long and healthful life, is to embrace 
sobriety, and to diet oneself strictly as to quantity. 
And this is no very difficult affair. History informs 
us of many who lived in the greatest temperance; 
and this present age furnishes us with many such, 
reckoning myself one of the number: we are all hu- 
man beings, endowed with reason, and consequently 
we ought to be master of all our actions. 

This sobriety is reduced to two things, quality and 
quantity. Ths first consists in avoiding food or 
drinks, which are found to disagree with the stomach. 
The second, to avoid taking more than the stomach 
can easily digest; and every man at the age of forty 
ought to be a perfect judge in these matters; and 



AN INFIRM CONSTITUTION 41 

whoever observes these two rules, may be said to live 
a regular and sober life. And the virtue and efficacy 
of this life is such, that the humors in a man's blood 
become harmonious and perfect, and are no longer 
liable to be disturbed or corrupted by any disorders, 
such as suffering from excessive heat or cold, too 
much fatigue, or want of rest, and the like. A man 
who lives as I have described, may pass through all 
these changes without harm. Wherefore, since the 
humors of persons who observe these two rules rela- 
tive to eating and drinking, cannot possibly be cor- 
rupted and engender acute diseases (the cause of un- 
timely death), every man is bound to comply with 
them, for whoever acts otherwise, living a disorderly 
life, instead of a regular one, is constantly exposed 
to disease and death. 

It is, indeed, true that even those who observe the 
two rules relating to diet, the observance of which 
constitutes a regular life, may, by committing any 
one of the other irregularities, such as excessive heat, 
cold, fatigue, etc., find himself slightly indisposed for 
a day or two, but he need fear nothing worse. 

But as there are some persons who, though well 
stricken in years, are, nevertheless, very free in their 
living, and allege that neither the quantity nor the 
quality of theii* diet makes any impression upon 
them, and therefore eat a great deal of everything 



42 THE SOBER LIFE 

without distinction, and indulge themselves equally 
in point of drinking; such men are ignorant of the 
requirements of their nature, or they are gluttonous ; 
and I do affirm, that such do not enjoy good health, 
but as a rule are infirm, irritable, and full of maladies. 
There are others, who say that it is necessary that 
they should eat and drink freely to keep up their 
natural heat, which is constantly diminishing, as they 
advance in years ; and that it is therefore their duty 
to eat heartily of such things as please their palate, 
and that strict moderation, in their casef. Would tend 
to* shorten life. Now, this is the reason, or excuse, of 
thousands. But to all this, I answer, that all such 
are deceiving themselves, and I speak from experi- 
ence, as well as observation. The fact is, large quan- 
tities of food cannot be digested by old stomachs ; as 
man gets weaker as he grows older, and the waste in 
his system is slower*, the natural heat certainly is 
less. Nor will all the food in the world increase it, 
except to bring on fever and distressing disorders; 
therefore, let none be afraid of shortening their days 
by eating too little. I am strong and hearty, and full 
of good spirits, neither have I ache or pain, and yet 
I am very old, and subsist upon very little; and, in 
this respect, that which would suit one man, is good 
for another. When men are taken ill they discoiv- 
tinue, or nearly so, their food. Now, if by reducing 



AN INFIRM CONSTITUTION 43 

themselves to a small quantity, they recover from the 
jaws of death, how can they doubt, but that, with a 
slight increase of diet consistent with reason, they 
will be able to support nature, when in health. Let 
a fair, honest trial of some few weeks be given, and 
the result would, in all cases, be most pleasing. 

Others say, that it is better for a man to suffer 
three or four times every year, from gout, sciatica, 
or whatever disorder to which he may be subject, 
than be tormented the whole year by not indulging 
his appetite, and eating and drinking just as he 
pleases, since he can always by a few days of self- 
denial recover from all such attacks. To this I an- 
swer, that, our natural heat growing less and less as 
we advance in years, no abstinence for a short time 
can have virtue sufficient to conquer the malady to 
which the man is subject, and which is generally 
brought on by repletion, so that he must die at last of 
one of these periodical disorders; for they abridge 
life in the same proportion as temperance and health 
prolong it. 

Others pretend that it is better to live a short and 
self-indulgent life, than a long and self-denying one ; 
but surely, longevity ought to be valued, and is, by 
men of good understanding; and those who do not 
truly prize this great gift of God, are surely a dis- 
grace to mankind, and their death is a service to the 



U THE SOBER LIFE 

public rather than not. And again, there are some, 
who, though they are conscious that they become 
weaker as they advance in years, yet cannot be 
brought to retrench the quantity of their food, but 
rather increase it, and, because they find themselves 
unable to digest the great quantity of food, with 
which they load their stomachs twice or thrice a day, 
they resolve to eat but once, heartily, in the twenty- 
four hours. But this course is useless ; for the stom- 
ach is still overburdened, and the food is not digested, 
but turns into bad humors, by which the blood be- 
comes poisoned, and thus a man kills himself long 
before his time. I never met with an aged person who 
enjoyed health, and lived that manner of life. Now, 
all these men whose manner of life I have named, 
would live long and happily, if, as they advanced in 
years, they lessened the quantity/ of their food, and 
ate oftener, and but little at a time, for old stomachs 
cannot digest large quantities, men at this age be- 
coming children again, who eat little and often during 
the twenty-four hours. 

O thrice holy sobriety, so useful to man, by rea- 
son of the service thou dost render him ! Thou pro- 
longest his days, by which means he greatly improves 
his understanding and, by such knowledge, he can 
avoid the bitter fruits of sensuality, which is an enemy 
to man's reason. Thou, moreover, freest him from 



AN INFIRM CONSTITUTION 45 

the dreadful thoughts of death. How greatly ought 
we to be indebted to thee, since by thee we en- 
joy this beautiful world, which is really beautiful to 
all whose sensibilities have not been deadened by re- 
pletion, and whose minds have not been blighted by 
sensuality! I really never knew till I grew old, that 
the world was so beautiful ; for, in my younger years 
I was debauched by irregularities, and therefore 
could not perceive and enjoy, as I do now, its beau- 
ties. O truly happy life, which, over and above all 
these favors conferred on me, hast so improved and 
perfected my body, that now I have a better relish 
for plain bread, than formerly I had for the most ex- 
quisite dainties! in fact I find such sweetness in it, 
because of the good appetite I always have, that I 
should be afraid of sinning against temperance, were 
I not convinced of the absolute necessity for it, and 
knowing that pure bread is, above all things, man's 
best food, and while he leads a sober life, he may be 
sure of never wanting that natural sauce, — a good 
appetite — and moreover, I find that, whereas I used 
to eat twice a day, now that I am much older, it is 
better for me to eat four times, and still to lessen the 
quantity as the years increase. And this is what I 
do, guided by my experience; therefore, my spirits 
being never oppressed by too much food, are always 
brisk; especially after eating, so that I enjoy much 



46 THE SOBER LIFE 

the singing of a song, before I sit down to my writing. 

Nor do I ever find myself the worse for writing 
(directly after meals; my understanding is never 
clearer ; and I am never drowsy ; the food I take being 
too small a quantity to send up any fumes to the 
brain, O, how advantageous it is to an old man to 
eat but little; therefore I take but just enough to 
keep body and soul together, and the things I eat are 
as follows: bread, panado, eggs (the yolk), and 
soups. Of flesh meat, I eat kid and mutton. I eat 
poultry of every kind; also of sea and river fish. 
Some men are too poor to allow themselves food of 
this kind, but they may do well on bread (made from 
wheat meal, which contains far more nutriment than 
bread made from fine flour), panado, eggs, milk, and 
vegetables. But though a man should eat nothing 
but these, he may not eat more than his stomach can 
with ease digest, never forgetting that it is the over- 
quantity which injures, even more than the eating of 
unsuitable food. And again I say, that whoever does 
not transgress, in point of either quantity or quality, 
cannot die, but by mere dissolution, except in cases 
where there is some inherited disease to combat; but 
such case^ are comparatively rare, and even here a 
strict and sober diet will be of the greatest service. 

O, what a diflFerence between a regular and tem- 
perate life, and an irregular and intemperate life! 



AN INFIRM CONSTITUTION 47 

One gives health and longevity, the other produces 
disease and untimely death. How many of my dear- 
est relations and friends have I lost by their free 
living, whereas, had they listened to me, they might 
have been full of life and health. I am thus more 
than ever determined to use my utmost endeavors to 
make known the benefit of my kind of life. Here I 
am, an old man, yet full of life and joy, happier than 
at any previous period of my life, surrounded by 
many comforts; not the least to mention are my 
eleven grand-children, all of fine understanding and 
amiable disposition, beautiful in their persons, and 
well disposed to learning; and these, I hope so to 
teach, that they shall take pattern after me, and 
follow my kind of life. 

Now, I am often at a loss to understand why men 
of fine parts and understanding, who have attained 
middle age, do not, when they find themselves attacked 
by disorders and sickness, betake themselves to a 
regular life, and that constantly. Is it because thiey 
are in ignorance as to the importance of this sub- 
ject? Surely, it cannot be that they afe enslaved 
by their appetites to such an extent that they find 
themselves unable to adopt a strict and regular diet? 
As to young men, I am in no way surprised at their 
refusal to live such a life, for their passions are 
strong and usually their guide. Neither have they 



48 THE SOBER LIFE 

much experience; but, when a man has arrived at 
the age of forty or fifty, surely he should in all 
things be governed by reason. And this would teach 
men that gratifying the appetite and palate, is not, 
as many affirm, natural and right, but is the cause 
of disease and premature death. Were this pleasure 
of the palate lasting, it would be some excuse ; but it 
is momentary, compared with the duration of the dis- 
ease which its excess engenders. But it is a great 
comfort to a man of sober life to reflect, that what he 
eats will keep him in good health, and be productive 
of no disease or infirmity. 



The Third Discourse 

THE METHOD OF ENJOYING COMPLETE 
HAPPINESS IN OLD AGE 

My Lord, 

In writing to your Lordship, it is true I shall 
speak of few things, but such as I have already men- 
tioned in my essays, but I am sure your Lordship 
will not tire of the repetition. 

Now, my Lord, to begin, I must tell you, that 
being now at the age of ninety-one, I am more sound 
and hearty than ever, much to the amazement of 
those who know me. I, who can account for it, am 
bound to show that a man can enjoy a terrestrial 
paradise after eighty; but it is not to be obtained, 
except by strict temperance in food and drink, vir- 
tues acceptable to God and friends to reason. I 
must, however, go on to tell you, that, during the 
past few days I have been visited by many of the 
learned doctors of this university, as well as physi- 
cians and philosophers who were well acquainted with 
my age, life, and manners, also, that I was stout, 
hearty, and lively, my senses perfect, also my voice 
and teeth, likewise my memory and judgment. They 

49 



60 THE SOBER LIFE 

knew, besides, that I constantly employed eight hours 
every day in writing treatises, with my own hand, on 
subjects useful to mankind, and spent many more 
in walking and singing. O, my Lord, how melodious 
my voice is grown! Were you to hear me chant 
my prayers, and that to my lyre, after the example 
of David, I am certain it would give you great pleas- 
ure, my voice is so musical. 

Now, these doctors and philosophers told me that 
it was next to a miracle, that at my age, I should be 
able to write upon subjects which required both judg- 
ment and spirit, and added that I ought not to be 
looked upon as a person advanced in years, since all 
my occupations were those of a young man, and that 
I was altogether unlike aged people of seventy and 
eighty, who are subject to various ailments and dis- 
eases, which render life a weariness; or, if even any 
by chance escape these things, yet their senses are 
impaired, sight, or hearing, or memory is defective, 
and all their faculties much decayed; they are not 
strong, nor cheerful, as I am. And they moreover 
said, that they looked upon me as having special 
grace conferred upon me, and said a great many 
eloquent and fine things, in endeavoring to prove 
this, which, however, they could not do, for their 
arguments were not grounded on good and sufGcient 
reasons, but merely on their opinions. I therefore 



HAPPINESS IN OLD AGE 51 

endeavored to undeceive and set them right, and 
convince them that the happiness I enjoyed was not 
confined to me, but might be common to all mankind, 
since I was but a mere mortal, and different in no 
respect from other men, save in this, that I was born 
more weakly than some, and had not what is called 
a strong constitution. Man, however, in his youthful 
days, is more prone to be led by sensuality than rea- 
son; yet, when he arrives at the age of forty, or 
earlier, he should remember that he has about reached 
the summit of the hill, and must now think of going 
down, carrying the weight of years with him; and 
that old age is the reverse of youth, as much as order 
is the reverse of disorder; hence, it is requisite that 
he should alter his mode of life, in regard to the 
quality and quantity of his food and drink. For it 
is impossible in the nature of things, that the man 
who is bent on indulging his appetite, should be 
healthy and free from ailments. Hence it was. to 
avoid this vice and its evil effects, I embraced a 
regular and sober life. It is no doubt true, that I 
at first found some difficulty in accomplishing this, 
but in order to conquer the difficulty I besought the 
Almighty to grant the virtue of sobriety in all things, 
well knowing that He would graciously hear my 
prayer. Then, considering that when a man is about 
to undertake a thing of importance, which he knows 



62 THE SOBER LIFE 

he can compass, though not without difficulty, he may 
make it much easier to himself by being steady in 
his purpose, I pursued this course: I endeavored 
gradually to relinquish a disorderly life, and to suit 
myself to strict temperate rules; and thus it came 
to pass, that a sober and moderate life no longer 
became disagreeable, though, on account of the weak- 
ness of my constitution, I tied myself down to very 
strict rules in regard to the quantity and quality 
of what I ate and drank. 

Others, who happen to be blessed with a strong 
constitution, may eat a greater variety of food, and 
in somewhat larger quantity, each man being a guide 
to himself, consulting always his judgment and rea- 
son, rather than his fancy or appetite, and further 
let him always strictly abide by his rules, for he 
will receive little benefit if he occasionally indulges 
in excess. 

Now, on hearing these arguments, and examining 
the reasons on which they were founded, the doctors 
and philosophers agreed that I had advanced nothing 
but what was true. One of the younger of them 
said that I appeared to enjoy the special grace of 
being able to relinquish, with ease, one kind of life, 
and embrace another, a thing which he knew from 
theory to be feasible, but in practice to be difficult, 
for it had proved as hard to him, as easy to me. 



HAPPINESS IN OLD AGE 53 

To this I replied, that, being human like himself, 
I likewise had found it no easy task, but it did not 
become a man to shrink from a glorious and prac- 
tical task, on account of its difficulties; the greater 
the obstacles to overcome, the greater the honor 
and benefit. Our beneficent Creator is desirous, that, 
as He originally favored human nature with longev- 
ity, we should all enjoy the full advantage of His 
intentions, knowing that when a man has passed sev- 
enty, he may be exempt from the sensual strivings, 
and govern himself entirely by the dictates of reason. 
Vice and immorality then leave him, and God is will- 
ing that he should live to the full maturity of his 
years, and has ordained that all who reach their natu- 
ral term should end their days without sickness, but 
by mere dissolution, the natural way; the wheels of 
life quietly stopping, and man peacefully leaving this 
world, to enter upon immortality, as will be my case ; 
for I am sure to die thus, perhaps while chanting 
my prayers. Nor do the thoughts of death give me 
the least concern; nor does any other thought con- 
nected with death, namely, the fear of the punish- 
ment to which wicked men are liable, because I am 
bound to believe, that being a Christian, I shall be 
saved by the virtue of the most sacred blood of Jesus 
Christ, which He freely shed in order to save those 
who trust in Him. Thus, how beautiful my life! 



54 THE SOBER LIFE 

how happy my end ! To this, the young doctor had 
nothing to reply, but that he would follow my ex- 
ample. 

The great desire I had, my Lord, to converse with 
you at this distance, has forced me to be prolix, and 
still obliges me to proceed, though not much farther. 
There are some sensualists, my Lord, who say that I 
have thrown away my time and trouble, in writing 
a treatise upon temperance, and other discourses on 
the same subject; alleging, that it is impossible to 
conform to it, so that my treatise must answer as 
little purpose as that of Plato on Government, who 
took a great deal of pains to recommend a thing 
impracticable. Now, this much surprises me, as 
they may see that I lived a sober life many years 
before I wrote my treatise, and I should never have 
composed it, had I not been convinced, that it was 
such a life as any man might lead; and being a vir- 
tuous life, would be of great service to him ; so that I 
felt myself under an obligation to present it in its 
true light. Again, I have the satisfaction to hear 
that numbers, on reading my treatise, have embraced 
such a life. So that the objection concerning Plato 
on Government is of no force against my case. But 
a sensualist is an enemy to reason, and a slave to 
his passions. 



The Fourth Discourse 

AN EXHORTATION TO A SOBER AND 
REGULAR LIFE, IN ORDER TO ATTAIN 
OLD AGE 

Not to be wanting in my duty, and not to lose 
at the same time the satisfaction I feel in being 
useful to others, I again take up my pen to inform 
those, who, for want of conversing with me, are 
strangers to what those with whom I am acquainted, 
know and see. But as some things may appear to 
certain persons scarcely credible, though actually 
true, I shall not fail to relate for the benefit of the 
public. Wherefore, I say, being arrived at my ninety- 
fifth year, God be praised, and still finding myself 
sound and hearty, content and cheerful, I never cease 
to thank the Divine Majesty for so great a blessing, 
considering the usual condition of old men. These 
scarcely ever attain the age of seventy, without los- 
ing health and spirits, and growing melancholy and 
peevish. Moreover, when I remember how weak and 
sickly I was between the ages of thirty and forty, 
and how from the first, I never had what is called a 
strong constitution; I say, when I remember these 
things, I have surely abundant cause for gratitude, 

55 



66 THE SOBER LIFE 

and though I know I cannot live many years longer, 
the thought of death gives me no uneasiness ; I, more- 
over, firmly believe that I shall attain to the age of 
one hundred years. But, to render this dissertation 
more methodical, I shall begin by considering man 
at his birth ; and from thence accompany him through 
every stage of life, to his grave. 

I therefore say, that some come into the world 
with the stamina of life so weak, that they live but 
a few days, or months, or years, and it is not always 
easy to show, to what the shortness of life is owing. 
Others are bom sound and lively, but still, with a 
poor, weakly constitution; and of these, some live 
to the age of ten, twenty, others to thirty or forty, 
but seldom live to be old men. Others, again, bring 
into the world a perfect constitution, and live to an 
old age; but it is generally, as I have said, an old 
age of sickness and sorrow, for which usually they 
have to thank themselves, because they unreasonably 
presumed on the goodness of their constitution ; and 
cannot, by any means, be brought to alter when 
grown old, from the mode of life they pursued in 
their younger days, but live as irregularly when past 
the meridian of life, as they did in the time of their 
youth. They do not consider, that the stomach has 
lost much of its natural heat and vigor, and that, 
therefore, they should pay great attention to the 



A SOBER AND REGULAR LIFE 57 

quality and quantity of what they eat and drink; 
but, rather than decrease, many of them are for 
increasing the quantity, saying, that, as health and 
vigor grow less, they should endeavor to repair the 
loss by a great abundance of food, since it is by sus- 
tenance we are to preserve ourselves. 

But it is here that the great mistake is made ; since, 
as the natural force and heat lessen as a man grows 
in years, he should diminish the quantity of his food 
and drink, as nature at that period is content with 
little; and moreover, if increasing the amount of 
nourishment was the proper thing, then, surely the 
majority of men would live to a great age in the 
best of health. But do we see it so? On the con- 
trary, such a case is a rare exception; whilst my 
course of life is proved to be right, by reason of 
its results. But, though some have every reason 
to believe this to be the case, they nevertheless, be- 
cause of their want of strength of character, and 
their love of repletion, still continue their usual man- 
ner of living. But were they, in due time, to form 
strict temperate habits, they would not grow infirm 
in their old age, but would continue as I am, strong 
and hearty, and might live to the age of one hun- 
dred, or one hundred and twenty. This has been 
the case with others of whom we read, men who were 
born with a. good constitution, and lived sober and 



68 THE SOBER LIFE 

abstemious lives; and had it been my lot to have 
enjoyed a strong constitution, I should make no 
doubt of attaining to that age. But as I was bom 
feeble, and with an infirm constitution, I am afraid 
I shall not outlive an hundred years ; and were others, 
bom weakly as myself, to betake them to a life like 
mine, they would, like me, live to the age of a hun- 
dred, as shall be my case. 

And this certainty of being able to live to a great 
age is, in my opinion, a great advantage (of course 
I do not include accidents, to which all are liable, 
and which must specially be left to our Maker) , and 
highly to be valued ; none being sure of this blessing, 
except such as adhere to the rules of temperance. 
This security of life is built on good and truly natu- 
ral reasons, which can never fail ; it being impossible 
thai he who leads a perfectly sober and temperate 
life, should breed any sickness, or die before his 
time. Sooner, he cannot through ill-health die, as 
his sober life has the virtue to remove the cause of 
sickness, and sickness cannot happen without a cause ; 
which cause being removed, sickness is also removed, 
and untimely and painful death prevented. 

And there is no doubt, that temperance in food 
and drink, taking only as much as nature really 
requires, and thus being guided by reason, instead of 
appetite, has efficacy to remove all cause of disease; 



A SOBER AND REGULAR LIFE 59 

for since health and sickness, life and death, depend 
on the good or bad condition of a man's blood, and 
the quality of his humors, such a life as I speak of 
purifies the blood, and corrects all vicious humors, 
rendering all perfect and harmonious. It is true, 
and cannot be denied, that man must at last die, 
however careful with himself he may have been ; but 
yet, I maintain, without sickness and great pain; 
for in my case I expect to pass away quietly and 
peacefully, and my present condition insures this 
to me, for, though at this great age-, I am hearty 
and content, eating with a good appetite, and sleep- 
ing soundly. Moreover, all my senses are as good 
as ever, and in the highest perfection; my under- 
standing clear and bright, my judgment sound, my 
memory tenacious, my spirits good, and my voice 
(one of the first things which is apt to fail us) has 
grown so strong and sonorous, that I cannot help 
chanting aloud my prayers, morning and night, in- 
stead of whispering and muttering them to myself 
as was formerly my custom. 

O, how glorious is this life of mine, replete with 
all the felicities which man can enjoy on this side 
of the grave! It is entirely exempt from that sen- 
sual brutality, which age has enabled my reason to 
banish; thus I am not troubled with passions, and 
my mind is calm, and free from all perturbations, 



60 THE SOBER LIFE 

and doubtful apprehensions. Nor can the thought 
of death find room in my mind, at least, not in any 
way to disturb me. And all this has been brought 
about, by God's mercy, through my careful habit of 
living. How different from the life of most old men, 
full of aches and pains, and forebodings, whilst mine 
is a life of real pleasure, and I seem to spend my 
days in a perpetual round of amusements, as I shall 
presently show. 

And first, I am of service to my country, and what 
a joy is this. I find infinite delight in being en- 
gaged in various improvements, in connection with 
the important estuary or harbor of this city, and 
fortifications; and although this Venice, this Queen 
of the Sea, is very beautiful, yet I have devised means 
by which it may be made still more beautiful, and 
more wealthy, for I have shown in what way she may 
abound with provisions, by improving large tracts of 
land, and bringing marshes and barren sand under 
cultivation. Then again, I have another great joy 
always present before me. Some time since, I lost a 
great part of my income, by which my grandchildren 
would be great losers. But I, by mere force of 
thought, have found a true and infallible method of 
repairing such loss more than double, by a judicious 
use of that most commendable of arts, agriculture. 
Another great comfort to me is to think that my 



A SOBER AND REGULAR LIFE 61 

treatise on temperance is really useful, as many as- 
sure me by word of mouth, and others by letter, 
where they say, that, under God they are indebted 
to me for their life. I have also much joy in being 
able to write, and am thus of service to myself and 
others ; and the satisfaction I have in conversing withi 
men of ability and superior understanding is very 
great, from whom I learn something fresh. Now, 
what a comfort is this, that old as I am, I am able, 
without fatigue of mind or body thus to be fully 
engaged, and to study the most important, difficult, 
and sublime subjects. 

I must further add, that at this age, I appear to 
fen joy two lives: one terrestrial, which in fact I pos- 
sess, the other celestial, which I posses* in thought ; 
and this thought is actual enjoyment, when founded 
upon things we are sure to attain, and I, through 
the infinite mercy and goodness of God, am sure of 
eternal life. Thus, I enjoy the terrestrial life in 
consequence of my sobriety and temperance, virtues 
so agreeable to the Deity, and I enjoy, by the grace 
of God, the celestial, which He makes me anticipate 
in thought ; a thought so lively, as to fix me entirely 
on this subject, the fruition of which I hold to be 
of the utmost certainty. And I further maintain, 
that, dying in the manner I expect, is not really 
(death, but a passage of the soul from this earthly 



62 THE SOBER LIFE 

life to a celestial, immortal, and infinitely perfect 
existence. Neither can it be otherwise; and this 
thought is so pleasing, so superlatively sublime, that 
it can no longer stoop to low and worldly objects, 
such as the death of this body, being entirely taken 
up with the happiness of living a celestial and divine 
life. Whence it is, that I enjoy two lives; and the 
thought of terminating this earthly life gives me no 
concern, for I know that I have a glorious and im- 
mortal life before me. 

Now, is it possible, that any one should grow tired 
of so great a comfort and blessing as this which I 
enjoy, and which the majority of persons might 
attain, by leading the life I have led, an example 
which every one has it in his power to follow? for I 
am no saint, but a mere man, a servant of God, to 
whom so regular a life is extremely agreeable. 

Now, there are men who embrace a spiritual and 
contemplative life, and this is holy and commendable, 
their chief employment being to celebrate the praises 
of God, and to teach men how to serve Him. Now, 
if while these men set themselves apart for this life, 
they would also betake themselves to sober and tem- 
perate living, how much more agreeable would they 
render themselves in the sight of God and men. What 
a much greater honor and ornament would they be 
to the world. They would likewise enjoy constant 



A SOBER AND RE;G.t;io^Jt LIFfi i i 63 

health and happiness, would attain a great age, and 
thus become eminently wise and useful ; whereas, now, 
they are mostly infirm, irritable, and dissatisfied, and 
think that their various trials and ailments are sent 
them by Almighty God, with a view of promoting 
their salvation ; that they may do penance in this life 
for their past errors. Now, I cannot help saying, 
that in my opinion, they are greatly mistaken; for 
I cannot believe that the Deity desires that man, his 
favorite creature, should be infirm and melancholy, 
but rather, that he should enjoy good health and be 
happy. Man, however, brings sickness and disease 
upon himself, by reason, either of his ignorance or 
wilful self-indulgence. Now, if those who profess 
to be our teachers in divine matters would also set 
the example, and thus teach men how to preserve 
their bodies in health, they would do much to make 
the road to heaven easier: men need to be taught 
that self-denial and strict temperance is the path 
to health of body and health of mind, and those who 
thus live see more clearly than others what their duty 
is toward our Saviour Jesus Christ, who came down 
upon earth to shed His precious blood, in order to 
deliver us from the tyranny of the devil, such was 
His immense goodness and lovingkindness to man. 

Now, to make an end of this discourse, I say, that 
since length of days abounds with so many favors 



64 TJiE SOBER LIFE 

and blessings, and I, not by theory, but by blessed 
experience can testify to it — indeed, I solemnly assure 
all mankind that I really enjoy a great deal more 
than I can mention, and that I have no other reason 
for writing, but that of demonstrating the great 
advantages, which arise from longevity, and such a 
life as I have lived — I desire to convince men, that 
they may be induced to observe these excellent rules 
of constant temperance in eating and drinking, and 
therefore, I never cease to raise my voice, crying out 
to you, my friends, that your lives may be even as 
mine. 



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