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We hear of Gorgias, who, when he was 108 years old, being asked how he could support the burden of life so long, replied, that "he regretted nothing that he had done, and felt nothing of which he could reasonably complain. “My youth,” said he,
“ cannot accuse me, nor can I accuse my old age”—Of Isocrates, who published a book at 94—Of Xenophilus, the Pythagorean, who taught a numerous train of students till he was 104_Of Leonicanus, who read his lectures at 96—(Fuseli is little short of this)—and others. Among these is the celebrated Marshal and Duke de Schomberg, of whom our author gives the following pleasant account.
" Frederick Armand de Schomberg, one of the greatest officers in the last century, and who, by his personal merit, raised himself higher than any man of his time, for he was marshal of France, generalissimo of the troops of the elector of Brandenburgh, duke and grandee of Portugal, duke and peer both in England and Ireland, and knight of the garter, at the time of his decease. Every body knows that he was killed at the battle of the Boyne, after passing that river on horseback, and bringing up a regiment that had fallen into some confusion, with all the vigour and spirit of a young man.
He was then fourscore and two, and yet very hearty, active, and capable of fatigue, nor was he more remarkable for his military accomplishments than for his polite and easy behaviour; he was wont to say, that when he was young he conversed with old inen to gain experience, and when he was old he delighted in the company of young men to keep up his spirits. This is the reason that I mention him, for he was in nothing more distinguished than by this disposition. His person was agreeable, he made a fine figure on horseback, he danced and walked well, and was so far from feeling any of the incommodities of age, either in body or mind, that in point of dress, exercise, and sprightly humour, he came nothing short of the company he kept. The winter before he was killed in Ireland, he was walking in the park with abundance of young officers about him, and being met by a grave English nobleman, he could not help telling the marshal, that he was surprized to see him in such company; . Why so, my lord,' replied Schomberg, don't you know that a good general always makes his retreat as late as he can?'”
Several instances are mentioned (more particularly one of a French nobleman, p. 53), in which the advice of Hermippus seems to have been resorted to. We will, at present, quote only one, which rather favours our author's theory.
“ All the world hath heard of Mr. Calverley, who kept a board ing-school for young ladies in Queen-square. He maintained his health, his vigour, his cheerfulness, his good sense, and his good humour, to upwards of a hundred, and would say merrily when he heard men forty years younger than himself coughing, groaning, and complaining; What a troublesome thing it is to be plagued with old
folks l' This gentleman, after he parted with his school, did not survive long, and it is said he was himself of opinion, that he might not only have lived, but have enjoyed life, some years longer, if he had not quitted business."
The following is a short account of two persons celebrated amongst ourselves, viz. Old Parre, and the Countess of Desmond.
“ This Parre was born at Winnington, in the county of Salop, in 1483, passed his youth there, in very hard labour, and which is as remarkable, in sobriety and chastity. At fourscore, he married his first wife Jane, by whom he had two children, neither of which were long lived, or showed any extraordinary signs of strength; the first died at the age of a
h, and the second lived but a few years. At an. 102 he became enamoured of Katherine Milton, whom he got with child, and did penance in the church' for it. Some months before he
died, the Earl of Arundel brought him up to London, and presented / him to King Charles I., but through the change of air, and in his man
ner of living, he died soon after; though it was believed he might have survived many years, if he had remained in his own country, and led the same life he was wont to do. This man was overgrown with hair, and during the latter part of his life, slept very much. In the same country lived the famous Countess of Desmond, whose age was unknown to herself, but extremely well supported by the authority of others; since from deeds, settlements, and other indisputable testimonies, it appeared clearly, that she was upwards of an hundred and forty, according to the computation of the great Lord Bacon, who knew her personally, and remarks this particularity about her, that she thrice changed her teeth. We have it on the credit of Alexander Benedictus, that there was a lady of his acquaintance, who at the age
of fourscore had a complete new set of teeth, and though her hair had all fallen off before, yet, at the same time she cut'her teeth, it
grew again, of like colour and strength as at first."
As we have some regard for our readers, (and the subject,) we refrain from quotations in which we are somewhat inclined to indulge ourselves. We pass over the Abbess of Monviedro; and by the Indian, who lived to the age of 370 years! who changed his hair and teeth four times !! and had, in the course of his life, 700 wives !!!—We forbear to speak of the Indian (American) chief, who was the father of five generations, or of his father, who was, asmay be supposed, still older:-We avoid all particulars of the astrologers, La Brosse, Antiochus, Tiburtus, and the rest; and come at once to our friends, the hermetic philosophers.
In order to give our readers some idea of these people, we shall, in the first place, quote what is said of some of the most famous. Our first extract is well known; it having been
VOL. VII. PART I.
the foundation of Mr. Godwin's celebrated fiction of Saint Leon.
“ There happened, in the year 1687, an odd accident at Venice, that made a very great stir then, and which I think deserves to be secured from oblivion. The great freedom and ease with which all persons, who make a good appearance, live in that city, is known sufficiently to all who are acquainted with it; such will not therefore be surprised, that a stranger, who went by the name of Signor Gualdi, and who made a considerable figure there, was admitted into the best company, though nobody knew who, or what he was. He remained at Venice some months, and three things were remarked in his conduct. The first was, that he had a small collection of fine pictures, which he readily showed to any body that desired it; the next, that he was perfectly versed in all arts and sciences, and spoke on every subject with such readiness and sagacity, as astonished all who heard him; and it was in the third place observed, that he never wrote or received any letter ; never desired any credit, or made use of bills of exchange, but paid for every thing in ready money, and lived decently, though not in splendor. This gentleman met one day at the coffee-house with a Venetian nobleman, who was an extraordinary good judge of pictures : he had heard of Signor Gualdi's collection, and in a very polite manner desired to see them, to which the other very readily consented. After the Venetian had viewed Signor Gualdi's collection, and expressed his satisfaction, by telling him, that he had never seen a finer, con. sidering the number of pieces of which it consisted; he cast his eye by chance over the chamber-door, where hung a picture of this stranger. The Venetian looked upon it, and then upon him. This picture was drawn for you, sir, says he to Signor Gualdi, to which the other made no answer, but by a low bow. You look, continued the Venetian, like a man of fifty, and yet I know this picture to be of the hand of Titian, who has been dead one hundred and thirty years; how is this possible? It is not easy, said Signor Gualdi, gravely, to know all things that are possible; but there is certainly no crime in my being like a picture drawn by Titian. The Venetian easily perceived by his manner of speaking, that he had given the stranger offence, and therefore took his leave. He could not forbear speaking of this in the evening to some of his friends, who resolved to satisfy themselves by looking upon the picture the next day. In order to have an opportunity of doing so, they went to the coffee-house about the time that Signor Gualdi was wont to come thither, and not meeting with him, one of them, who had often conversed with him, went to his lodgings to enquire after him, where he heard, that he set out an hour before for Vienna. This affair made a great noise, and found a place in all the newspapers of that time.”
The reader may now take his account of Flamel, a famous man in his time, unless, indeed, he be not (like Shakespeare) “a man for all time."
Amongst the hermetic philosophers, who are allowed to have attained the highest secrets of science, Nicholas Flamel, of Paris, has been always reckoned one of the most considerable, and his right to
this reputation, the least to be contested. The history of this Flamel, who flourished in the fourteenth century, is very curious : he was a person of a good family, though much reduced in point of fortune ; had quick parts; a lively wit; and, with the advantage of no more than an ordinary education, was sent to Paris to get a living as he could. Flamel wrote an extraordinary good hand, had some notion of poetry, and painted very prettily; yet all these accomplishments raised him no higher than a hackney clerk, in which condition he worked very hard, and had much ado to pick up a subsistence. Ja 1337, chance threw in his way a book of hermetic philosophy, written by one Abraham, a Jew, or rather engraven on leaves made of the bark of trees, and illustrated with very curious pictures, in which the whole secret was laid down in the clearest manner possible, to such as were acquainted with hermetic philosophy, This treasure cost Flamel no more than two florins, for the person who sold him the book knew nothing of what it contained, and Flamel himself, though he made it his whole study for twenty years, and though he took the precaution of copying the pictures, and hanging them up in his house, and asking the learned their opinion about them, was able to make very little of them.
" Tired at length with so vain and so laborious a study, he, in 1378, took a resolution to travel into Spain, in hopes of meeting there some learned Jew, who might give him the key to the grand secret; that this journey might not appear to be undertaken on quite so chimerical a motive, he made a vow, to go in pilgrimage to St. James of Compostella, a practice frequent in those times. After much search to little purpose, he met at last with a Jew physician at Leon, who had been lately converted to the Christian religion, and who was well versed in this kind of science; this man, at the persuasion of Flamel, consented to go with him to Paris ; but when they were got as far as Orleans, the physician, who was far in years, and little accustomed to the fatigue of travel, fell sick of a fever, which carried him off in a few days. Flamel having rendered the last kind offices to his dying friend, returned. very disconsolate to Paris, where he studied three years more, according to the instructions he had received from the physician, with such success, that on the 17th of January, 1382, he made projection on a large quantity of mercury, which he changed into fine silver, and on the 25th of April following, he transmuted a vast quantity of mercury into gold. He afterwards repeated frequently the experiment, and acquired thereby immense wealth. He and his wife Perenella, in the midst of all these riches, lived still in their old sober way, and eat and drank as usual, out of eartben vessels. They maintained however a vast number of poor, fouuded fourteen hospitals, built three chapels, and repaired and endowed seven churches. In short, the acts of charity they did were so astonishing, that Charles the VI., who was then upon the throne, resolved to inquire how they came by their wealth, and sent for that purpose M. de Cramoisi, master of requests, and a magistrate of the highest reputation for probity and honour, to examine into their circumstances; to whom Flamel gave so satisfactory an answer, that no further inquiry was made
about them; but the honest old people were left in possession of the only privilege they desired, which was no greater, than that of doing all the good that lay in their power.
“ The circumstances of this story, the immense wealth of Flamel and his wife, their many foundations, their vast endowments, and the prodigious estate they left behind them, are all facts, so well attested, that no dispute can be raised about them; or if there were, the last will of Nicholas Flamel, which, with forty authentic acts, of as many charitable foundations, that are laid up in the archives of the parish church of St. James, in the butchery at Paris, are proofs capable of convincing the greatest infidel. This Flamel wrote several treatises on the art of chemistry; but they are extremely obscure, because they are all delivered in an allegorical way, and consequently one may hit upon various interpretations, without coming at the true one; which it is said he gave to a nephew of his, and that the secret remained long in the family; nay, it is owing to indiscretion, if it does not so still. I must not, however, conceal an attempt that has been made to overturn the whole of this history, not by denying the facts, for that would have been ridiculous, since there are hundreds of poor that yet subsist on Flamel's and his wife's foundations, and are consequently so many living witnesses of the veracity of that part of the relation.
“ But the thing attempted is, to give another account of Flamel's acquiring his wealth, and in order to this they tell you, that he was a notary public, at the time the Jews were expelled France, that they deposited with him, in trust, a great part of their wealth, and that he kept it for his own use."
But we think, (to use Dr. Cohausen's speech,) we “hear some captious reader cry out--what, did Flamel and Perenella die ? to what end then all this tedious story? Peace a little.” A quotation from the voyage of the Sieur Paul Lucas will help us. He informs us, that being at Broussa, in Natolia, he met a person dressed like one of the Tartarian Dervises.
“On the 10th, the Dervise, whom I took for an Usbec, came to pay me a visit. I received him in the best manner possible, and as he appeared to me a very learned, as well as curious man, I showed him all the manuscripts I had bought, and he assured ine, they were very valuable, and written by great authors: I must say, in favour of this Dervise, that he was a person every way extraordinary, even to his outward appearance. He showed me abundance of curious things in physic, and promised me more; but at the same time he could not help saying, that it was necessary, that I should make some extraordinary preparations on my side, in order to put myself into a condition of profiting by the lights he was able to give me. To judge according to his appearance, he should have been a man about thirty, but by his discourse, he seemed to have lived at least a century, and of this I was the more persuaded from the accounts he gave me of some long voyages he had made.