Old Parr

The  extreme limit of human life, and the art of attaining it, has attracted the attention of mankind in ancient as well as modern times. Cornaro, an Italian, who died at the age of one hundred and four years, in 1566, wrote several treatises on this subject, the purpose of which was to prove that sobriety of life is the great secret of longevity. He shows that in his own case he restored a constitution prostrated by indulgence, to health and vigor. One of his papers was written at the age of ninety-five, and is commended by Addison in the 195th paper of the Spectator.

Sir George Baker gives us the history of a remarkable restoration of a constitution broken down by indulgence, in the case of Thomas Wood, a miller of Essex, England. He had been long addicted to high living and the free use of fermented liquors, but, at the age of forty-five, finding himself overwhelmed with a complication of painful disorders, he set about changing his mode of life. He gradually became abstemious in his diet, and in 1765 he began to drink nothing but water. Finding himself one day better without taking any liquid, he at last took leave of drinking altogether, and from October, 1765, to the time when Sir George Baker's account was drawn up, in August, 1771, he had not tasted a drop of water, or any other liquid, except in one instance. During all this period his health seemed to improve, under the strict regimen he had adopted.

The oldest man of whom we have any account in modern times, was Henry Jenkins, who resided in Bolton, Yorkshire. The only history we have of him was given by Mrs. Saville, who conversed with him, and made inquiries respecting him of several aged persons in the vicinity. He was twelve years old at the time the battle of Flodden Field was fought, in 1513, and he died, December 8th, 1670. He was, therefore, 169 years old when he died.

Of the celebrated Thomas Parr, we have a more particular account, furnished by Taylor, the Waterman, or Water-poet, as he is usually called. This is entitled "The Olde, Olde, very Olde Man; or the Age and Long Life of Thomas Parr, &c." It appears that the Earl of Arundel, being in Thropshire, heard of Parr, who was then, 1635, one hundred and fifty-two years old. Being interested in this extraordinary case of longevity, the earl caused Parr to be brought to London, upon a litter borne by two horses. His daughter-in-law, named Lucy, attended him, and, "to cheer up the olde man, and make him merry, there was an antique-faced fellow, called Jacke, or John the Foole," of the party. Parr was taken to court, and presented to Charles I. He died in London soon after his arrival, and was buried in Westminster Abbey, 1635.

Whether Parr's long life was greatly lengthened beyond that of ordinary men by a peculiar mode of living, we have not the means of telling. It is probable that there was something peculiar in his constitution. His body was dissected after death, and all the organs were found in a perfect state. We are also informed by an eye-witness, that

"From head to heel, his body had all over
A quick-set, thick-set, nat'ral hairy cover."

We may here mention an instance of longevity attained by an individual who spent his whole life in London. This was Thomas Laugher, who was born in 1700. His father died at the age of 97, and his mother at the age of 108. Though he was a liquor dealer during the early part of his life, yet he drank only milk, water, coffee, and tea. After a severe fit of illness at the age of eighty, he had a fresh head of hair, and new nails, both on his fingers and toes. He had a son who died at the age of eighty, some years before him, whom he called "Poor Tommy," and who appeared much older than his father. Laugher was greatly respected for his gentle manners and uninterrupted cheerfulness. He died at the age of 107. We have placed a sketch of him at the head of this article.