Dr Neil Stanley Independent Sleep Expert
BACK Ekirch claims that “The intervening period of consciousness....bore no name other than the generic term "watch" or "watching"”. This however begs the question, given the fact that Ekirch states that “Such was its importance that sleep inspired a typology more nuanced than that routinely employed today”, why would such a phenomenon, part of the “predominant pattern of sleep” no have a name. If it is true that “Until the modern era, up to an hour or more of quiet wakefulness midway through the night interrupted the rest of most Western Europeans” it is scarcely credible that it has not been accorded a name in any language, and  particularly one as as rich as English, the language of Shakespeare, Bacon, Milton. The O.E.D lists over 600,000 words and yet the best that Ekirch can suggest is that  “the generic term "watch" or "watching"” was used to describe this period of awake. However this is completely  erroneous as although it is true that they “indicate a period of wakefulness that stemmed” according to the Oxford English Dictionary, "from disinclination or incapacity for sleep."” the OED definitions for ‘watch’ and ‘watching’, and the examples given, describe an actual state of being awake not an interval of time between two periods of sleep e.g. watch The state of being awake; voluntary or involuntary going without sleep; wakefulness. watching “The state or condition of being awake, wakefulness; often, wakefulness from disinclination or incapacity for sleep.” Ekirch writes “Two contrasting texts refer to the time of "first waking." Sir William Killigrew, Mid-night Thoughts, Writ, as Some Think, by a London-Whigg, or a Westminster Tory . . . (London, 1682), A 2, 17-8 “The Divine Lover, who is accustomed to converse with God at midnight, will then, at first waking, find his heart so full of fervent zeal, so glowing hot, that no sleepiness can suppress those devout flames from soaring up towards Heaven” However it is clear that ‘first waking’ is at some unspecified time after midnight in this passage and given the context probably is referring to waking in the morning  Private Prayers, Put Forth by Authority during the Reign of Queen Elizabeth, Rev. William Keatinge Clay, ed. (1851; rpt. edn., London, 1968), 440–41 here “A Prayer to be said at our first waking . O God, and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom no man knoweth but by thy special gift, grant, that unto the rest of thine exceeding great benefits towards me this, which is the greatest that can be bestowed upon mankind, may be added also, namely, that as thou hast raised up my body from fast and sound sleep, so also thou wilt deliver my mind from the sleep of sin and from the darkness of this world, and after death restore the same body to life, as well as thou hast called it again from sleep: for that, which is death to us, is but sleep unto thee. I pray and beseech thee, that through thy goodness this body of mine may be a fellow and furtherer of all godliness to my soul in this life, so as it may also be partner with it of the endless felicity in the life to come : through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, for whose sake, and by whom, thou givest us all good and wholesome things to our welfare. Amen.” This passage seems merely to refer to the first time we wake in the night. It has nothing to do per se with any specific point such as after the ‘first sleep’ or at midnight as conceptualised by Ekirch. This is also true of numerous other examples of prayers for first waking see for example:- Richard Day, A booke of Christian prayers, collected out of the auncie[n]t writers, and best  learned in our tyme, worthy to be read with an earnest mynde of all Christians,  in these daungerous and troublesome dayes, that God for Christes sake will yet  still be mercyfull vnto vs  London 1578 Joseph Hall, Contemplations, the sixth volume.  London 1622 Elizabeth Jocelin The mothers legacie, to her vnborne childe.  London, 1624 Robert Bolton, Some generall directions for a comfortable walking with God London 1626 Daniel Cawdrey, Sabbatum redivivum: or The Christian sabbath vindicated London, 1645 Arthur Jackson , Annotations upon the remaining historicall part of the Old Testament. Cambridge 1646 Samuel Petto, The voice of the Spirit. Or, An essay towards a discoverie of the witnessings of  the spirit. London 1654, Sir William Lower, The enchanted lovers Hage  1658 David Stokes, Verus Christianus, or, Directions for private devotions and retirements Oxford 1668 Juan Eusebio Nieremberg, Of adoration in spirit and truth St. Omer 1673 Isaac Ambrose, Redeeming the time London 1674 Thomas Jones, Of the heart and its right soveraign, and Rome no mother-church to England, or,  An historical account of the title of our British Church, and by what ministry  the Gospel was first planted in every country  London 1678 John Hall, Select observations on English bodies of eminent persons in desperate diseases London 167 M. Le Vayer de Boutigny, The famous romance of Tarsis and Zelie. London, 1685 Edward Howard, Caroloiades, or, The rebellion of forty one  London  1689 John Dunton, The Young-students-library London :  1692  Lewis Bayly, The practice of piety London 1695 Sir John Floyer, A treatise of the asthma London 1698. BACK
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