Others there are whom poverty precludes from silver, and the narrow estate of home from daily sustenance on the Times. Some study diuturnity upon two meals a day, or pursue old age by means of “unfired food,” Others devour roots by moonlight, or savagely dine upon a pocket of raw beans. These are intemperate on water, or bewail the touch of salt as sacrilege against the sacrifice of eggs. These grovel for nuts like the Hampshire hog, or impiously celebrate the fruitage by which man fell. Some cast away their coats, some their hosen, some their hats. They go barefoot but for sandals. They wander about in sheepskins and goatskins, eschewing flesh for their food, and vegetables for their clothing. They plunge distracted into boiling water. Shudderingly, they break the frosty Serpentine. They absorb the sun’s rays like pigeons upon the housetops, or shiver naked in suburban chambers that they may recover the barbaric tang. They walk through rivers fully clothed, and shake their vesture as a dog his coat; or are hydrophobic for their skins, fearing to wash lest they disturb essential oils. They shave their heads as a cure for baldness, or in gentle gardens emulate the raging lion’s mane. One dreads to miss his curdled milk by the fraction of a minute; another, at the semblance of a cold, puts off his supper for three weeks and a day. One calculates upon longevity by means of bare knees, another apprehends the approach of death through the orifice in the palm of a leather glove.
Of course, it is all right. Life is of inestimable value, and nothing can compensate a corpse for the loss of it. Falstaff knew that, and, like the Magpie Moth, wisely counterfeited death to avoid the irretrievable step of dying. Our prudent livers display an equal wisdom, not exactly counterfeiting death, but living gingerly—living, as it were, at half-cock, lest life should go off suddenly with a flash and bang, leaving them nowhere. Of course, they are quite right. Life being pleasurable, it is well to spread it out as far as it will go. As to honour, the hoary head in itself is a crown of glory, and when a man reaches ninety, people will call him wonderful, though for ninety years he has been a fool. The objects of living are, for the most part, obscure and variable, and prudent livers may well ask why for the obscure and variable objects of life they should lose life itself—“Propter causas vivendi perdere vitam,” if we may reverse the old quotation.
So they are quite justified in eating the bread of carefulness, and no one who has known danger will condemn their solicitude for safely. But yet, in hearing of those devices, or perusing the Sour Milk Gazette and the Valetudinarian’s Handbook, somehow there come to my mind the words, “Insanitas Sanitutum, omnia Insanitas!” And suddenly the picture of those woeful islanders whom Gulliver discovered rises before me. For, as we remember, in the realm of Laputa, he found a