Luigi Cornaro

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 ascendancy 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 upward. To remedy this state of things, it is requisite that men should live up to the simplicity dictated by nature, which teaches us to be content with little, and accustom ourselves to eat no more than is absolutely necessary to support life, remembering that all excess causes disease and leads to death. How many friends of mine, men of the finest understanding and most amiable disposition, have I seen carried off in the flower of their manhood by reason of excess and over- feeding, who, had they been temperate, would now be living, and ornaments to society, and whose company I should enjoy with as much pleasure as I am now deprived of it with concern.

In order, therefore, to put a stop to so great an evil, I have resolved, in this short discourse, to demonstrate that intemperance is an abuse which may be removed, and that the good old sober living may be substituted in its stead; and this I undertake the more readily, as many young men of the best understanding have urged upon me its necessity because of many of their parents having died in middle life, while I remain so sound and hearty at the age of eighty-one. These young men express a desire to reach the same term, nature not forbidding us to wish for longevity; and old age, being, in fact, that time of life in which prudence can be best exercised, and the fruits of all the other virtues enjoyed with the least opposition, the senses then being so subdued, that man gives himself up entirely to reason. They besought me to let them know the method pursued by me to attain it; and then, finding them intent on so laudable a pursuit, I resolved to treat of that method, in order to be of service, not only to them, but to all those who may be willing to peruse this discourse.

I shall therefore give my reasons for renouncing intemperance and betaking myself to a sober course of life, and declare freely the method pursued by me for that purpose, and then show the good effect upon me; from whence it will be seen how easy it is to remove the abuse of free living. I shall conclude, by showing the many conveniences and blessings of temperate life.

I say, then, that the heavy train of infirmities which had made great inroads on my constitution, were my motives for renouncing intemperance, in the matter of too freely eating and drinking, to which I had been addicted, so that, in consequence of it, my stomach became disordered, and I suffered much pain from colic and gout, attended by that which was still worse, an almost continual slow fever, a stomach generally out of order, and a perpetual thirst. From these disorders, the best delivery I had to hope was death.

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