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Chambers, Robert, 1802-1871 / Chambers's book of days, a miscellany of popular antiquities in connection with the calendar, including anecdote, biography & history, curiosities of literature and oddities of human life and character
Vol. I (1879)

April,   pp. 452-564 PDF (74.3 MB)

Page 464

respectively. She had, however, survived her
father upwards of a hundred years, for he died
in 1755; nay, a more remarkable thing than even
this was to be told of Betty Gray-a brother of
hers (strictly a half-brother) had died so long ago
as 1728. A faded marble slab in the wall of
Dolphington Kirk, which records the decease of
this child-for such he was-must have been
viewed with strange feelings, when, a hundred
and twenty-eight years later, the age-worn sister
was laid in the same spot.
Little more than two years after the death of
Miss Gray, there died in Scotland another cen-
tenarian lady, about whose age there could be no
ground for doubt, as she had lived in the eye of
intelligent society all her days. This person was
the Hon. Mrs Hay Mackenzie, of Cromartie.
She died in October 1858, at the age of 103;
she was grandmother to the present Duchess of
Sutherland; her father was the sixth Lord
Elibank, brother and successor of Lord Patrick,
who entertained Johnson in Edinburgh; her
maternal grandfather was that unfortunate Earl
of Cromartie who so narrowly escaped accom-
panying Kilmarnock and Balmerino to the scaffold
in 1746. She was a most benevolent woman-a
large giver -and enjoyed universal esteem. Her
conversation made the events of the first half of
the eighteenth century pass as vividly before the
mind as those of the present day. It was
remarked as a curious circumstance, that of
Dunrobin Castle, the place where her grandfather
was taken prisoner as a rebel, her granddaughter
became mistress.
It is well known that female life is considerably
more enduring than male; so that, although boys
are born in the proportion of 105 to 100 of girls
-a fact that holds good all over Europe-there
are always more women in existence than men. It
really is surprising how enduring women some-
times become, and how healthily enduring too,
after passing the more trying crises of female ex-
istence. Mrs Piozzi, who herself thought it a
person's own fault if they got old, gives us in
one of her letters a remarkable case of vigorous
'I must tell you,' says she, 'a story of a
Cornish gentlewoman hard by here [Penzance],
Zenobia Stevens, who held a lease under the
Duke of Bolton by her own life only ninety-nine
years-and going at the term's end ten miles to
give it up, she obtained permission to continue
in the house as long as she lived, and was asked
of coui se to drink a glass of wine. She did take
one, but declined the second, saying she had to
ride home in the twilight upon a young colt, and
was afraid to make herself giddy-headed.'*
The well known Countess Dowager of Cork,
who died in May 1840, had not reached a hundred
-she had but just completed her ninety-fourth
year-but she realized the typical character of
a veteran lady who, to appearance, was little
affected by age. Till within a few days of her
death she was healthy and cheerful as in those
youthful days when she charmed Johnson and
Boswell, the latter of whom was only six years
her senior. She was in the custom to the last of
dining out every day when she had not company
* Mrs Piozzi's Remains, sub anno 1821.
at home. As to death, she always said she was
ready for him, come when he might; but she did
not like to see him coming. Lady Cork was
daughter of the first Lord Galway, and she lived
to see the sixth, her great grand-nephew.
Mr Francis Brokesby, who writes a letter on
antiquities and natural curiosities from Shottes-
brooke in 1711. (published by Hearne in connec-
tion with Leland's Itinerary, vi. 104), mentions
several instances of extremely protracted female
life. He tells of a woman then living near the
Tower in London, aged about 130, and who
remembered Queen Elizabeth. Hearne himself
subsequently states that this woman was Jane
Scrimshaw, who had lived for four score years in
the Merchant Tailors' alms-houses, near Little
Tower-hill. She was, he says, born in the parish
of Mary-le-Bow, London, on the 3rd of April
1584, so that she was then in the 127th year ot
her age, ' and likely to live much longer.' She,
however, died on the 26th of December 1711.
It is stated that even at the last there was
scarcely a grey hair on her head, and she never
lost memory or judgment. Mr Brokesby re-
ported another venerable person as having died
about sixty years before-that is, about 1650-
who attained the age of a hundred and forty.
She had been the wife of a labouring man
named Humphry Broadhurst, who resided at
Hedgerow, in Cheshire, on the property of the
Leighs of Lyme. The familiar name she bore,
The Cricket in the hedge, bore witness to her
cheerful character; a peculiarity to which. along
with great temperance and plainness of living.
her great age was chiefly to be attributed. A
hardly credible circumstance was alleged of this
woman, that she had borne her youngest child at
four score. Latterly, having been reduced by
gradual decay to great bodily weakness, she used
to be carried in the arms of this daughter, who
was herself sixty. She was buried in the parish
church of Prestbury. It was said of this woman
that she remembered Bosworth Field; but here
there must be some error, for to do so in 1650,
she would have needed to be considerably more
than 140 years old, the battle being fought in
1485.  It is not unlikely, however, that her
death took place earlier than 1650, as the time
was only stated from memory.
April 2, 1661, Pepys enters in his Diary, 'To
St James's Park, where I saw the Duke of York
playing at Pelemele, the first time that I ever saw
the sport.'
The Duke's brother, King Charles II., had
recently formed what is called the Mall in St
James's-park for the playing of this game, which,
however, was not new in England, as there had
previously existed a walk for the purpose (lined
with trees) on the ground now occupied by the
street called Pall Mall. It was introduced from
France, probably about the beginning of the
seventeenth century ; but the derivation of the
name appears to be from the Italian, Palamaqlio,
i. e., pal/a, a ball, and maglio, a mallet; though
we derived the term directly from the French
Palenzaille. The game answers to this name, the

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