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Alvise Cornaro, often Italianised Luigi (1467 or 1464 – 8 May 1566), was a Venetian nobleman and patron of arts, also remembered for his four books of Discorsi (published 1583–95) about the secrets to living long and well with measure and sobriety.
Discourses on the Sober Life
- Also known as How to Live a Hundred Years: By One Who Has Done It. Translated by Lewis Cornaro. London: Simpkin Marshall & Company, 1879 (full text online at the Internet Archive).
- It is universally agreed, that custom, in time, becomes a second nature, forcing men to use that, whether good or bad, to which they have been habituated; in fact, we see habit, in many instances, gain the ascendency over reason. This is so undeniably true, that, virtuous men, by keeping company with wicked, often fall into the same vicious course of life. Seeing and considering all this, I have decided to write on the vice of intemperance, in eating and drinking. Now, though all are agreed, that intemperance is the parent of gluttony, and sober living the offspring of abstemiousness, yet, owing to the power of custom, the former is considered a virtue, and the latter as mean and avaricious, and so many men are blinded and besotted to such a degree, that they come to the age of forty or fifty, burdened with strange and painful infirmities, which render them decrepit and useless, whereas, had they lived temperately and soberly, they would in all probability, have been sound and hearty, to the age of eighty and upwards.
- My friends and relations … urged … that the quantity [of food] I took was too little for one so advanced in years; against this, I urged that nature was content with little, and that with this small quantity, I had preserved myself for many years in health and activity, that I believed as a man advanced in years, his stomach grew weaker, and therefore the tendency should be to lessen the amount of food rather than to increase. I further reminded them of the two proverbs, which say; he who has a mind to eat a great deal, must eat but little; eating little makes life long, and, living long, he must eat much; and the other proverb was: that, what we leave after making a hearty meal, does us more good than what we have eaten.
- No man should be a perfect physician to any but himself.
- A man cannot have a better guide than himself, nor any physic better than a regular life.
- Some sensual unthinking persons affirm, that a long life is no great blessing, and that the state of a man, who has passed his seventy-fifth year, cannot really be called life; but this is wrong, as I shall fully prove; and it is my sincere wish, that all men would endeavour to attain my age [of eighty-three], that they might enjoy that period of life, which, of all others is most desirable.
- It is true, and cannot be denied, that man must at last die, however careful with himself he may have been; but yet, I maintain, without sickness and great pain, for in my case I expect to pass away quietly and peacefully, and my present condition ensures this to me, for, though at this great age, I am hearty and content, eating with a good appetite, and sleeping soundly. Moreover, all my senses are as good as ever, and in the highest perfection; my understanding clear and bright, my judgment sound, my memory tenacious, my spirits good, and my voice (one of the first things which is apt to fail us) has grown so strong and sonorous, that I cannot help chanting aloud my prayers, morning and night.
- A man can enjoy a terrestrial paradise after eighty, but it is not to be obtained, except by strict temperance in food and drink, virtues acceptable to God, and friends to reason.
- Our beneficent Creator is desirous, that, as he originally favoured human nature with longevity, we should all enjoy the full advantage of his intentions, knowing, that when a man has passed seventy, he may be exempt from the sensual strivings, and govern himself entirely by the dictates of reason.