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after puberty, they retain these evidences of masculine character. The eunuch, likewise, who becomes such after the appearance of the beard, preserves it, although to a less extent than usual.
The development of the larynx is arrested by castration, so that the voice retains, with more or less change, the treble of the period prior to puberty; and hence this revolting operation has been had recourse to for the sake of gratifying the lovers of music.
In the progress of age, we find that, during the progressive evolution of the organs, one set will be liable to morbid affections at one period, and another set at another. In the early ages, the mucous membranes and the head are peculiarly liable to disease; and at the period we are now considering, affections of the respiratory organs become more prevalent. It is, indeed, the great age for pulmonary consumption,—that fatal malady, which, it was supposed by Sydenham, destroys two-ninths of mankind. In the female, whose proper feminine functions do not appear at the due time or are irregularly exercised, the commencement,--and indeed the whole of this period,—is apt to be passed in more or less sickness and suffering.
Sect. IV. Virility or Manhood.
Hallé has divided this age into three periods,—crescent, confirmed and decrescent virility. The first of these extends from the age of twenty-five to that of thirty-five in the male, and from twenty-one to thirty in the female; the second from thirty-five to forty-five in the male, and from thirty to forty in the female. Neither of these will require remark, the whole of the functions throughout this work,—when not otherwise specified,—being described as they are accomplished in manhood. Owing to the particular evolution of organs, however, the tendency is not now so great to morbid affections of the respiratory function. It is more especially the age for cephalic and abdominal hemorrhage; accordingly, apoplexy and hemorrhoidal affections are more frequent than at any previous period.
In decrescent virility, in which Hallé comprises the period of life between forty and fifty in the female, and between fortyfive and sixty in the male,—signs of decline are manifest. The skin becomes shrivelled and wrinkled; the hair is gray, or white and scanty; the teeth are worn at the top, chipped, loose, and many, perhaps, lost. The external senses, especially the sight, are more obtuse, partly owing to a change in the physical portions of the organ, so that powerful spectacles become necessary, and partly owing to blunted nervous sensibility. Owing to the same cause the intellectual faculties are exerted with less energy and effect, and the moral manifestations are more feeble and less excitable.
Locomotion is less active, owing to diminution in the nervous power, as well as probably to physical changes in the muscles, so that the individual begins to stoop,—the tendency of the body to
bear forwards being too great for the extensor muscles of the back to counteract. The expressions participate in the condition of the intellectual and moral -acts, and are consequently less exerted than in former periods.
The nutritive functions do not exhibit any very remarkable change, and will even remain active until a good old age.
The functions of reproduction show the greatest declension, especially in the female. The male may preserve his procreative capabilities much longer than this period, but in the female the power is, usually, entirely lost, the loss being indicated by the cessation of menstruation. After this, the ovaries shrivel, the uterus diminishes in size, the breasts wither, the skin becomes brown and thick, long hairs appear on the upper lip and chin, and all those feminine points are lost which were previously so attractive. The period of the cessation of the menses is liable to many different disorders, which are the source of much annoyance, and are frequently attended with fatal consequences. Prior to their total disappearance, they become extremely irregular in their recurrence, sometimes returning every fortnight, debilitating by their frequency, and by the quantity of the fluid lost, and laying the foundation, in many cases, for uterine or other diseases of a serious character. Cancerous affections of the mammæ or labia, which had been previously dormant or not in existence, now arise or become developed, and at times with extreme rapidity. In consequence of the great liability to such affections, this has been called the critical age, critical period, or critical time of life.
Sect. V. Of Old Age.
This is the age when every thing retrogrades. It is the prelude to the total cessation of the functions, where the individual expires,—which is but rarely the case,—from pure old age.
This period, again, has been divided into three stages:—incipient or green old age, reaching to seventy years; confirmed old age or caducity, to eighty-five years; and decrepitude, from eighty-five years upwards.
In incipient or green old age, the declension, which had occurred in the period of decrescent virility, is now more marked. The intellectual and moral manifestations exhibit more manifest signs of feebleness; the muscular powers totter, and require the aid of a support,--as well to convey a part of the weight of the body to the ground as to enlarge the base of sustentation. The muscles of the larynx participate in this general vacillation; the
“ Big manly voice Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound," and is broken and tremulous. VOL. II.
The appetite is great, and the powers of digestion considerable,
but mastication is largeFig. 167.
ly deteriorated. In the
first place, the teeth fall e out, in consequence of
the constant deposition of fresh layers in the dental cavities which ultimately close them, and obliterate the vessels that pass to the internal papillæ for their nutrition. As soon as the teeth have fallen out, the alveolar processes, which support
ed them, waste away by absorption, and the depth of the jaw is thus greatly lessened. On these accounts, the jaws only approach each other at the forepart; the chin projects, and the angle of the jaw is thrown more forward. As the teeth and the sockets disappear, the alveolar margins become thin and sharp, and the gum hardens over them; the chinand nose necessarily approach; (Fig. 168.) the lips fall in, and the
speech is inarticuFig. 168.
We can thus understand the peculiarities of the mastication of the aged. They are compelled to bite with the anterior portions of the jaws; for this reason, as well as owing to the greater obliquity of the insertion of the levator muscles of the lower jaw, but little force can be exerted; and, owing to the too great size of the lips, the saliva cannot be retained. Respiration is not as
readily accomplished, partly owing to the complete ossification of the cartilages of the ribs, but chiefly to diminished muscular powers. The valves of the heart, and many of the blood vessels, especially of the extremities, become more or less ossified, and the pulse is slow and inter
mittent. Nutrition is effected to such a degree only as to keep the machine in feeble action; and animal heat is formed to an inadequate extent, so that the individual requires the aid of greater extraneous warmth. In many cases the powers of reproduction in the male are now completely lost.
In confirmed old age, the debility of the various functions goes on augmenting. The mental and corporeal powers almost totter to their fall, and often a complete state of dementia or dotage exists. Frequently, however, we are gratified to find full intellectual and moral enjoyment prevailing even after this period, with the possession of considerable corporeal energy. The author has had the honour to enjoy the friendship of two illustrious individuals of this country, who have filled the highest office in the gift of a free people, one of whom is now no more, but the other he trusts destined to live for many years to come: both enjoyed, after the lapse of eighty-two summers, the same commanding intellectual powers and the same benevolence that ever distinguished them.
In this stage, locomotion becomes more difficult; the appetite is considerable, and the quantity eaten at times prodigious, the digestive powers being incapable of separating the due amount of chyle from the quantity of aliment which was sufficient in the previous ages. Difficulty, however, sometimes arises in defecation, the muscular powers being insufficient to expel the excrement. From this cause accumulations occasionally take place in the rectum, which may require the use of mechanical means, as injections, the introduction of an instrument to break them down, &c.
Generation is, usually, entirely impracticable, erection being impossible; and during the whole of this and the next stage, the urinary organs are liable to disorder,—irritability about the neck of the bladder, and incontinence of urine, being frequent sources of annoyance.
Finally, to this stage succeeds that of decrepitude, so well described by Shakspeare:
"Last scene of all,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans every thing." The loss of power, mental and corporeal, becomes progressively greater; and in addition to the abolition of most of the external senses,—especially those of sight and audition--the intellectual faculties are, perhaps, entirely gone; all muscular motion is lost, and paralysis requires constant confinement to the bed, or to the easy chair; the excretions are passed involuntarily; sensibility becomes gradually extinct, and life finally fits away as imperceptibly as the twilight merges in the shades of night.
Such is a brief description of the chief changes that befal the body in the different ages. To depict them more at length would be inconsistent with the object and limits of this elementary work. It is clear, that, although the divisions we have adopted from Hallé, are entirely arbitrary, must run into each other, and be liable to numerous exceptions;—certain wellmarked changes occur about the commencement or termination of many of them, and singular diversity takes place in the successive evolutions of organs: whilst some are predominant at one time, they fall behind others at a previous or subsequent period; and such changes may lay the foundation for morbid affections, at one age in certain organs, which do not prevail at another. The ancients, who believed that great mutations occur at particular intervals,—every three, seven, or nine years, for example, as the particular number might be at the moment in favour,—compared these periods to knots uniting the different stages of life, and giving the economy a new direction. These knots they called the climateric or climacteric years, and they conceived the body to be especially liable to disease at the periods of their occurrence. The majority assigned them to the number seven and its multiples; and the fourteenth and twenty-first years especially, were conceived to be replete with danger. Others applied the term climacteric to years resulting from the multiplication of seven with an odd number, and especially with nine: the sixty-third year being by almost all regarded as the grand climacteric. The error, with the ancients, lay, in considering that the numbers exerted any agency. Every one admits the influence of particular evolutions on health; and at the present day, the word climacteric is generally restricted to certain periods of life, at which great changes supervene, independently of any numerical estimate of years;—such as the period of puberty in both sexes; that of the cessation of the menses, or the critical time of life in the female, &c.
Lastly, it need hardly be remarked, that the different ages we have described, instead of extending through the protracted period of eighty-five years and upwards, may be varied by original constitution, climate, habits of life, &c. so that the stages may be shorter than usual, and all the signs of decrepitude occur many years earlier.