Dr Neil Stanley Independent Sleep Expert
BACK The physician Guglielmo Gratarolo pointedly distinguished slumber of eight hours' duration according to "common custome" from prolonged sleep in "ancient time," as Hippocrates had advised. A Direction for the Health of Magistrates and Studentes (London, 1574). See also Giovanni Torriano, Piazza universale di proverbi italiani: or, A Common Place of Italian Proverbs (London, 1666), 194; Gosta Langenfelt, The Historic Origin of the Eight Hours Day: Studies in English Traditionalism (1954; rpt. edn., Westport, Conn., 1974), 78, 80. Wright, Warm and Snug, 194,  “Opinions as have been offered as to how long to sleep, and at what time to rise - not quite the same thing Six for a man, Seven for a woman, Eight for a fool. Nature requires five Custom takes seven Laziness nine And wickedness eleven” Note that for some unexplained reason Ekirch italicises the line ‘Custom takes seven’. Interestingly the oldest reference I can find for this is ‘The nursery rhymes of England, ed. by J.O. Halliwell 1846’ which gives a slightly different version Nature requires five, Custom gives seven!  Laziness takes nine, And Wickedness eleven here  With regards to the first rhyme given by Wright this has been ascribed to numerous people, especially for some reason Napoleon, however the earliest version of the origin seems to be His late majesty, George the Third, (1760-1820) once ordered Mr. S., a tradesman of some eminence in London, to wait upon him at Windsor Castle, at eight o'clock in the morning of a day appointed. Mr. S. was half an hour behind the time ; and upon being announced, his majesty said, " Desire him to come at eight o'clock to - morrow morning." Mr. S. appeared the next day after the time, and received the same command. On the third morning he contrived to be punctual. Upon his entrance the king said, "Oh! the great Mr. S. ! What sleep do you take, Mr. S. ?" '' Why, please your majesty, I am a man of regular habits ; I usually take eight hours." " Eight hours !" said the king, " that's too much, too much — six hours' sleep is enough for a man, seven for a woman, and eight for a fool, Mr. S., eight for a fool." 1826 The Percy Anecdotes: Original and Select [by] Sholto and Reuben Percy, Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery, Mont Benger, Volume 18 here The Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs (5 ed.) 2008 gives the following examples here 1623 J. Wodroephe Spared Hours of Soldier 310 The Student sleepes six Howres, the Traueller seuen; the Workeman eight, and all Laizie Bodies sleepe nine houres and more. 1864 J. H. Friswell Gentle Life 259 John Wesley considered that five hours' sleep was enough for him or any man. The old English proverb, so often in the mouth of George III, was ‘six hours for a man, seven for a woman, and eight for a fool’. 1908 Spectator 19 Dec. 1047 Is there not a proverb that a man requires six hours' sleep, a woman seven, a child eight and only a fool more? If this be true, thousands of great men were, and are, fools.   Direction for the Health of Magistrates and Studentes (London, 1574). Ekirch writes that “The physician Guglielmo Gratarolo pointedly distinguished slumber of eight hours' duration according to "common custome" from prolonged sleep in "ancient time," as Hippocrates had advised. The full passage is here  But some will stande in doubte concerninge the measure and time of sléepe whether it ought to be so great and so longe as Hippocrates appointeth it. For he sayeth, that that Sleepe is laudable and naturall whiche lacketh no parte of the night, neither hindreth anye parte of the daye. Whiche séemeth to be the custome and maner of men in the auncient time (if we beléeue Homere) who hath diligently described the maners, rytes and studies of men. For assoone as the Sunne is downe, he wryteth and describeth that men surceassed from their la∣bours and betooke themselues to rest: and when the Sunne was risen and vp, he alwayes lightlie séemeth to stirre vp and cal men to their busines and vocatiō. Whereby he signified and ment, that all the night we ought to sléepe, and all the daye to watche. Neither is it without good respecte and consideracion that the same Hippocrates in an other place wryteth, that ventres in winter and Springe are very hoate and sleepe verye longe. As concerninge what howers of the daye time are fittest to sléepe in, he in his booke entituled De praesagiis affirmeth * the morninge to be lest hurtefull vntill the thirde houre of the day whiche is nine of the clocke. But because common custome may not be forgotten and neglected as he the same Hippocrates also noteth, therefore I thinke, that wée ought not to sléepe the whole night longe in winter. For eight houres for the age and common custome of them for whose sake this small Treatise is purposelye written, is ynoughe or rather too muche vnlesse it be in them whose stomackes are very weake and of slow digestion. In Sommer let sléepe be equall with the night in length because then ye nightes are shorte: and it will not be very ill, to recompence the dissolution and drinesse of the Spirites with longer sléepe and to take a little nappe in the morninge or at noone daies (if néede be) Albeit it is much better not to sléepe at all at noone, vnlesse common custome be to the contrarie, or else that thou feelest yt it doth thée good, and guardeth thee from further & worse inconueniences. This passage is far more nuanced than Ekirchs’s simplistic interpretation based on a single, out of context, fragment. The phrase “auncient time” is actuially ascribed to “Homere” in the passage not Hippocrates as Ekirch’s for some reason states. Giovanni Torriano, Piazza universale di proverbi italiani: or, A Common Place of Italian Proverbs (London, 1666), 194; The reference for this is seemingly incorrect as page 194 contains enties for ‘PA’ and therefore there is nothing relevant on that page. Page 263 contains the entries ‘SO’ and here we find  here   *Somno.] 22 Chi fi cava il sonno, non fi cava la fame *Sleep.] 22 Such as can cure themfelves of fleeping, cannot cure themfelves of ftarving 23 Chi vulo far cofa buona, non bifogna 23 who means to do anything that is good chi dorma ogni fuo sonno moft not take all his sleep 24 Sonno partente delle morte 24 Sleep, a kinsman of death 25 Un sonno truova ‘l’altro 25 One fleep find out another I am uncertain how any of these are relevant to Ekirch’s argument. Gosta Langenfelt, The Historic Origin of the Eight Hours Day: Studies in English Traditionalism (1954; rpt. edn., Westport, Conn., 1974), 78, 80. Page 78 “Speaking of schools it may be of interest to note what a Swedish scholar, Samuel Columbus, scribbled down in verse in his diary when in Paris in 1677, about the day of a university student: “Seven hours to sleep, / One hour to Praise God, / Seven hours to read (sc. study), / one hour to refresh one’s nose, / two hours for meals, / two hours to forget all sorrow, / the other four you take as they come, / With gossip and drinking, but careful and pious, though”” This is hardly a description of a “common aphorism” Page 80 Sir Edward Coke, the famous lawyer (1552-1634) has a Latin distich, the translation of which runs: “Six hours in sleep, in Law’s grave study six, /four spend in prayer, the rest on Nature fix.” In \John Wilson Croker’s edition of Boswell’s Life of Dr. Johnson (V 253) Croker drags in a modified version of this by Sir William Jones, the Oriental scholar, and points out the discrepancy that Jones apparently counted only twenty-three hours of a natural day. This edition of  Johnson’ Life met with a severe criticism by Lord Macaulay; inter alia he also touches on Croker’s inability to understand the passage.     “All our readers have doubtless seen the two distichs of Sir William Jones, respecting the division of the time of a lawyer. One of the distichs is translated from some old Latin lines: the other is original. The former runs thus :- ‘Six hours to sleep, to law’s grave study six. Four spend in prayer, the rest on nature fix.’ ‘Rather’ says Sir William Jones, ‘Six hours to law, to soothing slumbers seven. ten to the world allot, and all to heaven.’ The second couplet puzzles Mr. Croker strangely. ‘Sir William’ says he ‘has shortened his day to twenty-three  hours, and general advice of ‘all to heaven’ destroys the peculiar appropriation of a certain period to religious exercises.’ ‘Now, we did not think that it was in human dullness to miss the meaning of the lines so completely. Sir William distributes twenty-there hours among various employments. One hour is thus left for devotion. The reader expects that the verse will end with ‘and one to heaven’. The whole point of the lines consists in the unexpected substitution of ‘all’ for ‘one’. The conceit is retched enough, but it is perfectly intelligible, and never, will we venture to say, perplexed man, woman or child before.” (Critical and Historical Essays. ed. 1886, I 172.) Lord Macaulay, it seems, must have been in a very scathing mood when he criticised poor Croker on this very point; the counting is weak and Macaulay’s explanation is not much better. A correspondence in the English Press elicited the following variants of Jones’s couplet a) Eight hour to work b) Eight hours for sleep To pleasing slumbers seven; Eight hours to prayer, Nine to the world allot, Eight hours for work And all to Heaven And all to the Glory of God Other then to establish that such aphorisms exist I am not sure what relevance this passage has to Ekirch’s argument. BACK
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