Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports: A Sourcebook compiled by Rictor Norton

Old Age

NOTE: Although the average age to which people lived was much lower than today, this was due to the high mortality rate among children, and amongst the poor. But once someone reached the age of 40, they were quite likely to live nearly as long as we do today. Excessive old age was of course newsworthy, and was often reported in the newspapers. Nearly every issue of the Grub-street Journal has a report about someone living to the age of 105 or so, still in their senses.

Sunday, 8 February 1729   On Sunday night was buried at St. Gilesís Cripplegate, the corpse of one John White, from Paulís Alley, Red-Cross-street, aged 104 years; the whole charge of the interment was born by a certain gentleman, who procured eight men of 100 years old and upwards. Two of them to proceed the corpse, and the other six to hold up the pall; and gave to each of them a compleat suit of clothes, of grey cloth trimíd with black, and 3s. in money; he had a limner to take a sketch of each of their faces, and they are to have 5s. a-piece more to sit again to compleat their pictures. (London Journal)

27 January 1739   On Saturday last died in Popping's Court in Fleet-street, the seventh wife of Mr. Ashburnham, a wealthy publican. He is now ninety years old, healthy and strong, and declares his intention to marryi again, and not to ramble in his old age. (Read's Weekly Journal)

24 December 1730   Wednesday, Dec. 23. One Margaret Coe, of the Parish of St. Saviour, Southwark, died a few days since, in the 104th year of her age. She was 21 years old when King Charles the First was beheaded, and was a servant at Whitehall; she saw the Executioner hold up the head after he had cut it off, and rememberíd the dismal groan that was made by the vast multitude of spectators when the fatal blow was given; her husband was afterwards waterman to King Charles the Second, and kept his fish-ponds in Southwark, which have since been fillíd up. She livíd upon milk-diet for about twenty years past, not eating any flesh all the time. (Grub-street Journal

(Texts have been modernized with regard to capitalization, italicization, and punctuation, but original spelling has been retained. This edition copyright Rictor Norton. All rights reserved. Reproduction for sale or profit prohibited. These extracts may not be archived, republished or redistributed without the permission of the compiler.)

CITATION: Rictor Norton, Early Eighteenth-Century Newspaper Reports: A Sourcebook, "Old Age", 4 March 2005, enlarged 30 December 2005 <http://grubstreet.rictornorton.co.uk/oldage1.htm>


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