Page images


the skins, that one cannot suppose them to be drier in hard weather than at other times. I incline to believe

upon whole, that the bones cannot be affected by any severity of weather less than what would cause death. I am, Sir, yours, &c.

T. Row 1769, Jan.

1768, Nov.

XXXV. Whether Oily Substances are hurtful to the Bones?

MR. URBAN, THERE is a passage in the Book of Psalms which carries with it some difficulty, in respect of me at least. The Commentators, those I have seen, touch it very lightly, and the naturalists do not perfectly agree, or, it rather may be said, disugree. The words are, As he clothed himself with cursing like as with his garment: so let it come into his bowels like water, and like oil into his bones.' Ps. cix. 18. Some think the allusion is to the oil sticking close to the bones, others to the penetrating nature of it. But neither of these interpretations seems to be sufficient, as one substance may stick close to, and even penetrate another, without doing any harm; whereas the context and sum of the passage seems to imply something that is hurtful and pernicious to the bones. And indeed it is asserted by some great names, that oil is really prejudicial to them. Thus Dr. Nieuwentyt says, "There is nothing more pernicious'to a naked bone, than to put oil, or any other moisture upon it, which will cause a miserable corruption therein: on which account it is, that the most skilful surgeons, in treating about the diseases of the bones, do most carefully warn the readers against the same. And then he cites the authority of Hildanus and Parcus, observing, there was no further occasion for any other evidence in this behalf, since these two gentlemen may be justly ranked ainongst the most famous and skilful men in the art of medicine. He concludes, whoever has seen this caries ossium- in


considerable degree in a living person, and has been informed that the same may be produced, or at least augmented, by any liquid or oleaginous matters, must needs confess, that the wrath and curse of God cannot be described by more lively comparisons, than in these words of the Psalmist, since water and VOL. II.

K k

oil, that are mentioned in this text, are both of them the most pernicious things imaginable to the bones.'* It is certain, that in the eastern countries, they used much oil about the human body, for the purpose of suppling, purifying, and brightning the skin, and so far it was useful in those adust olimes; but it should seem from this passage in the Psalms, they were aware at the same time, that oil, how beneficial soever it might be to the skin, was hurtful to the bones. So far, so good.

But now, Sir, others do not apprehend that oil has any such noxious quality, in respect of bones, and they adduce an experiment to shew it has not, but on the contrary is rather serviceable to them. Thus Alex. Blackrie speaking of oil, the third, and by much the largest ingredient in the composition of soap, says, it is so far from having any share in its lithionthriptic properties, that, on the contrary, he thinks it rather tends to hinder the other ingredients from exerting their active powers for this purpose, by becoming, in some degree, a cement to connect the calcareous particles of our food, &c. That this is the case will evidently appear,' he says, " by the easy experiment of calcining a bone till it is reduced to an inert inactive earth; which, if not disturbed, will, nevertheless, retain its foriner shape. The bone thus robbed of its agglutinating principles, will become so friable as to crumble into dust and ashes upon a gentle touch; but afterwards, snow please to observe, Mr. Urban,] by the affusion of a sufficient quantity of oil, such a degree of tenacity may be restored to it, as will allow it to be taken up and handled freely without breaking. That oil contributes much to the stability of the bones, by preventing them from growing too brittle, the learned and accurate anatomist, Dr. Alexander Monro, when he enumerates the uses of the marrow, has evidently shewnt.' Here, a great anatomist asserts, that oil contributes to the stability of the bones, and an acute disquisitor shews by experiment, that it will even restore the lost tenacity of them. What then is to be done in this case? How are we to determine, when there are such cogent authorities on both sides the question, whether oil be hurtful or beneficial to the bones? For my part, I cannot but wish some further inquiries might be made upon this subject. As to the Psalmist, he will be clear either way, as it is a sufficient justification for him, that in his day it was understood, that oleaginous substances were prejudicial to the human stamina, though upon after researches it should prove otherwise; for I suppose it is an allowed maxim now, that the Scriptures were not intended to teach us philosophy.

* Nieuwentyt, Relig. Philosonier, I. p. 208.

4. Blackrie's Disquisition on Medicines that dissolve the Stone, p. 81. Seq. where he cites Monro's Anatomy of the Bones, Edit. IV. p. 20. Seq.

I am, Sir, Yours; &c. 1769, Feb.

T. Row.

XXXVI. Curious Account of the Dissection of Old Parr, from a

Manuscript of Dr. Harvey.

THOMAS PARR was a poor countryman of Shropshire, whence he was brought up to London, by the Right Hon. Thomas Earl of Arundel and Surrey, and died after he had outlived nine princes, in the tenth year of the tenth of them, at the age of 152 years and 9 months.

Being opened after his death (Ann. 1635, Nov. 16) his body was found very fleshy, his breast hairy, his genitals unimpaired, serving not a little to confirm the report of his having undergone public censures for his incontinency; especially seeing that after that time, viz. at the age of 120 years, he married a widow, who owned, Eum cum ipsa rem habuisse, ut alii mariti solent; et usque ad 12 annos retroacios solitum cum ea congressum frequentasse. Further, that he had a large breast, lungs not fungous, but sticking to his ribs, and distended with much blood; a lividness in his face, as he had a difficulty of breathing a little before his death, and a long-lasting warmth in his arm-pits and breast after it, (which sign, together with others, were so evident, in his body, as they used to be on those that die by suifocation.) His heart was great, thick, fibrous, and fat. The blood in the heart blackish and diluted. The eartilages of the sternum not more bony than in others, but flexile and soft. His viscera were sound and strong, especially the stomach; and it was observed of him, that he used to eat often by night and day, though contented with old cheese, milk, coarse bread, small beer, and whey; and, which is more remarkable, that he did eat at midnight, a little before he died. His kidneys covered with fat and pretty sound; only on the interior surface of them were found some aqueous or serous abscesses, whereof one was near the bigness of a hen's-egg, with a yellowish water in it, having made a roundish cavity, impressed on that kidney: whence some thought it came,

that a little before his death a suppression of urine had befallen him: though others were of opinion, that his urine was suppressed upon the regurgitation of all the serosity into his lungs. Not the least appearance was there of any stony matter, either in the kidneys or bladder. His bowels were also sound, a little whitish without. His spleen very little, hardly equalling the bigniess of one kidney." In short, all his inward parts appeared so healthy, that if he had not changed his diet and air, he might perhaps have lived a good while longer.

The cause of his death was imputed chiefly to the change of food and air; for as much as coining out of a clear, thin, and free air, he came into the thick air of London; and after a constant, plain, and homely country diet, he was taken into a splendid family, where he fed high, and drank plentifully of the best wines, whereupon the natural functions of the parts of his body were overcharged, his lungs obstructed, and the habit of the whole body quite disordered; upon which there could not but ensue a dissolution.

His brain was sound, entire, and firm; and though he had not the use of his eyes, nor much of his memory, several years before he died, yet he had his hearing and apprehension very well, and was able, even to the hundred and thirtieth year of his age to do any husbandman's work, even threshing of corn.

1769, Jan.

XXXVII. Description of a Stone Eater.


years ago we had an account of a Scotch gentleman, whose appetite and digestion became gradually so weak that he could, take no other sustenance than the whey of goat's milk; and at length even this becoming too strong for his stoniach, he derived his whole nourishment from water only. The truth of this report was generally disbelieved, till the gentleman himself, accompanied by some of his friends, aitended a meeting of the Royal Society, and there put the fact so entirely out of question, that a full account thereof was afterwards published in the Philosophical Transactions. What then must your readers think of the following much more extraordinary account inserted in the learned

father Paulian's Dictionnaire Physique, under the article DIGESTION:

Yours, &c.

The beginning of May, 1760, was brought to Avignon, a true lithophagus or stone-eater. be not only swallowed flints of an inch and a half long, a full inch broad, and half an inch thick; but such stones as he could reduce to powder, such as marble, pebbles, &c, he made up into paste, which was to him a most agreeable and wholesome food. I examined this man with all the attention I possibly could. I found his gullet very large, his teeth exceedingly strong, his saliva very corrosive, and his stomach lower than ordinary, which I imputed to the vast number of flints he had swallowed, being about five and twenty one day with another. Upon interrogating his keeper, he told me the following particulars. " This stone-eater,” says he, “ was found three years ago in a northern inhabited island, by some of the crew of a Dutch ship, on Good Friday. Since I have had him, I make him eat raw flesh with his stones; I could never get him to swallow bread. He will drink water, wine, and brandy; which last liquor gives himn infinite pleasure. He sleeps at least twelve hours in a day, sitting on the ground with one knee over the other, and his chin resting on his right knee. He smokes almost all the time he is not asleep, or is not eating. The flints he has swallowed he voids somewhat corroded and diminished in weight, the rest of his excrements resembles mortar." The keeper also tells me, that some physicians at Paris got him blooded; that the blood had little or no serum, and in two hours time became as fragile as coral. If this fact be true, it is manifest that the most diluted part of the stony juice must be converted into chyle. This stone-eater, hitherto is unable to pronounce more than a few words, Oui, non, caillou, bon. I shewed him a fiy through a microscope: he was astonished at the size of the animal, and could not be induced to examine it. He has been taught to make the sign of the cross, and was baptized some months ago in the church of St. Côme at Paris. The respect he shews to ecclesiastics, and his ready disposition to please them, afforded me the opportunity of satisfying myself as to all these par. ticulars; and I am fully convinced that he is no cheat,

1769, June

« PreviousContinue »