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21. Abnormal Longevity in Man. A few words remain to be said on this subject from a general point of view. It has been often treated of under the head of Longevity by able writers and curious speculators. An article in the ‘Quarterly Review' of January, 1868, and one in the
marry sooner and live longer than the unhealthy offspring, so that a very minimum of injury is done to the race by warding off the selective destructiveness of disease: inferiority must produce its legitimate results in spite of man's interference. Moreover, the mixing of stocks, with a tendency only to certain diseases, may be a source of strength, implying as it does mixture of varied constitutions. The tendency to particular diseases under given conditions is not a proof that under all conditions which may arise there will be that tendency. If the conditions are changed, as they are rapidly changed in the progress of civilization, what was weakness may become strength, a constitutional tendency to one kind of disease being associated with immunity from other kinds. Little is known on this matter; but compare the ravages of small-pox among Africans, of syphilis among Europeans, and the immunity of the Maoris from any severity under these diseases ('Fenton's Report, loc. cit.). The effect of sanatory action in preventing the natural elimination of fermentable' matters from the blood (Paget) of generations is a curious subject for speculation. Zymotic diseases, if allowed to run their course unchecked in a community, kill off those individuals most imbued with this supposed fermentable matter, or remove it from those who recover from their attacks. If zymotic diseases are kept off, will not the ‘fermentable matters' increase from generation to generation? It seems as though such elimination as vaccination should be adopted, together with sanatory measures, or we may accumulate a nidus in the veins of posterity. Possibly, if exempt for great length of time from a disease, a species may become no longer subject to it, just as two closely allied species of animal, e. g. the sheep and ox, are not subject to the same diseases, though presumably descended from a not remote common ancestor.
* Fortnightly Review' of April, 1869, contain details on this matter which it would be, on that account, superfluous to introduce here, and which, moreover, have a very restricted interest. 1 Abnormal longevity must not be confused with normal potential, longevity, nor even with absolute potential longevity (see antea). There is a normal potential heightfor various groups and classes of men, namely, that which they may be expected to reach, accidents of death, &c. being avoided. There is an absolute potential height, the greatest height which any one man of such a group, under the most favourable conditions, could be expected to attain ; and there is the abnormal height of the giant, extending even to nine feet, and recognized as monstrous. Just so with longevity, there are three such terms possible, and there appears to be no à priori reason for excluding the last or abnormal longevity from recognition. Sir George Cornewall Lewis and others have endeavoured to throw doubt on the possibility of man's longevity exceeding 100 years. Though it has been clearly shewn that the cases of Jenkins, Parr and others, rest on no proper evidence, and are quite inadmissible as proofs of excessive longevity, yet Sir George appears to have rushed into a fanciful conclusion in arbitrarily limiting man to 100 years: the fascination of numbers has had some share in this. There are well-authenticated cases of persons who have exceeded the age of 100 years attested by the registration at baptism, which is what the opponents of man's possibly exceeding 36,500 and odd days of existence have always demanded. There is the case of Miss Baillie, sister of Dr. Baillie, of Mr. Shuldham of Marlesford Hall, who took the chair at a dinner given to his tenants on his rooth birthday, and lived two years subsequently. Of this case my friend, Mr. Cordy Jeaffreson, has been good enough to give me the following sketch
1 I must again here draw the reader's attention to an admirable Essay by Sir Henry Holland, Bart., M D., in the · Edinburgh Review,' 1857. The whole question of human longevity is there discussed in a masterly way, with reference to many authorities and records not here noted. The article was brought to my notice while these pages were in the press, and I can only point out that Sir Henry, by comparison of abnormal human height and weight, is led to adopt the conclusion arrived at above—that many men have exceeded 100 years of age. He also points to the concurrence of all testimony in assigning 130 to 150 years to the most aged of various races and times. This concurrence, he considers, gives credibility to the statements. One of the last letters which Sir G. C. Lewis wrote was to Sir Henry Holland, in which he acceded to Sir Henry's view of human life sometimes exceeding 100 years.
2 The average height, corresponding to average longevity, would be the average height of all burn, whenever they might die.
"The old man lived at Marlesford—not at Martlesham-famous in history for its Red Lion; and he certainly was not more than 102 years at the time of his death.
Baptized at Beccles, in Suffolk, in July 1743, William Shuldham died in May, 1845. The exact date of his birth I do not know, but I presume that it preceded his baptism long enough to entitle him to be credited with having lived into his 103rd year, the age which he is represented in obituary notices to have attained. That the above-mentioned were the dates of his baptism and death you may be confident. The celebration of the completion of his rooth year took place on July 22, 1843, when a great gathering of the gentry and humble folk of the neighbourhood feasted at Marlesford Hall, and had sports in the park. If that celebration took place on the actual anniversary day of his birth, he was some two months under 102 at his death. So that
statement may be unassailable, you had better speak only of the dates of his baptism and death, unless you make enquiries at Beccles.
William Shuldham's circumstances and habits of life were favourable to health. An energetic but not overworked man, he drove a capital business, as a country attorney, at Wickham Market and Saxmundham. A lover of country sports, he had for the greater part of his life a house in the country, first at Carlton Cross, a mile out of Saxmundham ; and secondly, at Marlesford, where he built a handsome hall which, together with its small but picturesque park, may be commended as one of the best county places in the neighbourhood of Wickham Market. He retained his faculties up to his last illness, which did not cover more than a week or so, writing letters with a firm, clear hand, and managing his affairs until the last days of existence. Every
successive decade of his career saw him a wealthier man. He never knew serious care: was active, and of what in his day of universal drunkenness was deemed temperate habits ; but he was a steady portwine drinker. His son and heir composed a song that was sung at the centenary celebration, one verse of which fairly describes his general mode of living thus:
“Some take pills and physic, for gout or for phthisis,
Try every new nostrum for malady sore;
And yet kick the bucket the same as before;
Will make a man healthy and wealthy and bold,
And make him, like Shuldham, a hundred years old.”
By referring to Davy's “Suffolk Collections,” pedigree “Shuldham” (British Museum), you may ascertain that the Shuldhams were, upon the whole, given to longevity. The centenarian's grandfather completed his eighty-sixth year. The said centenarian married early in life my father's first-cousin, Mary Barber, of Boyton, who survived her husband and died considerably more than ninety years old: and the vigorous constitution and tenacity of life of these long-lived parents were transmitted in some degree to two of their offspring. The centenarian had by Mary Barber four children, William Abraham Shuldham, who lived to see his seventy-fourth year, though he suffered from epilepsy more violently than any