Dr Neil Stanley Independent Sleep Expert
BACK [Richard Steele], December 14, 1710, The Tatler, George Aitken, ed., 4 vols. (1899; rpt. edn., New York, 1970), 4: 337, 339 “Of late night entertainments, Richard Steele observed in 1710, "Our grandmothers, though they were wont to sit up the last in the family, were all of them fast asleep at the same hours that their daughters are busy at crimp and basset [a card game].” here  This passage is making a comparison about the past when the night was longer and bedtime was 8pm with now so not exactly ‘late night’ . Who would not wonder at this perverted relish of those who are reckoned the most polite part of mankind, that prefer sea-coals and candles to the sun, and exchange so many cheerful morning hours for the pleasures of midnight revels and debauches?" The full passage is below here  An old friend of mine being lately come to town, I went to see him on Tuesday last about eight o'clock in the evening, with a design to sit with him an hour or two and talk over old stories ; but upon inquiring after him, his servant told me he was just gone to bed. The next morning, as soon as I was up and dressed, and had despatched a little business, I came again to my friend's house about eleven o'clock, with a design to renew my visit ; but upon asking for him, his servant told me he was just sat down to dinner. In short, I found that my old- fashioned friend religiously adhered to the example of his forefathers, and observed the same hours that had been kept in the family ever since the Conquest. It is very plain that the night was much longer formerly in this island than it is at present. By the night I mean that portion of time which nature has thrown into darkness, and which the wisdom of mankind had formerly dedicated to rest and silence. This used to begin at eight o'clock in the evening, and conclude at six in the morning. The curfew, or eight o'clock bell, was the signal throughout the nation for putting out their candles and going to bed. Our grandmothers, though they were wont to sit up the last in the family, were all of them fast asleep at the same hours that their daughters are busy at crimp and basset. Modern statesmen are concerting schemes, and engaged in the depth of politics, at the time when their forefathers were laid down quietly to rest, and had nothing in their heads but dreams. As we have thus thrown business and pleasure into the hours of rest, and by that means made the natural night but half as long as it should be, we are forced to piece it out with a great part of the morning; so that near two-thirds of the nation lie fast asleep for several hours in broad daylight. This irregularity is grown so very fashionable at present, that there is scarce a lady of quality in Great Britain that ever saw the sun rise. And if the humour increases in proportion to what it has done of late years, it is not impossible but our children may hear the bellman going about the streets at nine o'clock in the morning, and the watch making their rounds till eleven. This unaccountable disposition in mankind to continue awake in the night, and sleep in sunshine, has made me inquire, whether the same change of inclination has happened to any other animals .? For this reason I desired a friend of mine in the country to let me know, whether the lark rises as early as he did formerly? and whether the cock begins to crow at his usual hour ? My friend has answered me, that his poultry are as regular as ever, and that all the birds and the beasts of his neighbourhood keep the same hours that they have observed in the memory of man; and the same which, in all probability, they have kept for these five thousand years. If you would see the innovations that have been made among us in this particular, you may only look into the hours of colleges, where they still dine at eleven, and sup at six, which were doubtless the hours of the whole nation at the time when those places were founded. But at present the courts of justice are scarce opened in Westminster Hall at the time when William Rufus used to go to dinner in it. All business is driven forward : the landmarks of our fathers (if I may so call them) are removed, and planted further up into the day; insomuch that I am afraid our clergy will be obliged (if they expect full congregations) not to look any more upon ten o'clock in the morning as a canonical hour. Who would not wonder at this perverted relish of those who are reckoned the most polite part of mankind, that prefer sea-coals and candles to the sun, and exchange so many cheerful morning hours for the pleasures of midnight revels and debauches? If a man was only to consult his health, he would choose to live his whole time (if possible) in daylight, and to retire out of the world into silence and sleep, while the raw damps and unwholesome vapours fly abroad without a sun to disperse, moderate, or control them. For my own part, I value an hour in the morning as much as common libertines do an hour at midnight. When I find myself awakened into being, and perceive my life renewed within me, and at the same time see the whole face of nature recovered out of the dark uncomfortable state in which it lay for several hours, my heart overflows with such secret sentiments of joy and gratitude as are a kind of implicit praise to the great Author of Nature. The mind in these early seasons of the day is so refreshed in all its faculties, and borne up with such new supplies of animal spirits, that she finds herself in a state of youth, especially when she is entertained with the breath of flowers, the melody of birds, the dews that hang upon the plants, and all those other sweets of nature that are peculiar to the morning. It is impossible for a man to have this relish of being, this exquisite taste of life, who does not come into the world before it is in all its noise and hurry; who loses the rising of the sun, the still hours of the day, and immediately upon his first getting up plunges himself into the ordinary cares or follies of the world.  April 9, 1664, Pepys Diary, 5: 118; here  The last night, whether it was from cold I got to-day upon the water I know not, or whether it was from my mind being over concerned with Stanes’s business of the platery of the navy, for my minds was mighty troubled with the business all night long, I did wake about one o’clock in the morning, a thing I most rarely do, and pissed a little with great pain, continued sleepy, but in a high fever all night, fiery hot, and in some pain. Towards morning I slept a little and waking found myself better, but …with some pain, and rose I confess with my clothes sweating, and it was somewhat cold too, which I believe might do me more hurt, for I continued cold and apt to shake all the morning, but that some trouble with Sir J. Minnes and Sir W. Batten kept me warm. At noon home to dinner upon tripes, and so though not well abroad with my wife by coach to her Tailor’s and the New Exchange, and thence to my father’s and spoke one word with him, and thence home, where I found myself sick in my stomach and vomited, which I do not use to do. Then I drank a glass or two of Hypocras, and to the office to dispatch some business, necessary, and so home and to bed, and by the help of Mithrydate  slept very well. I admit I am at a loss to what in this passage constitutes “late night entertainments. Note that Pepys “did wake about one o’clock in the morning, a thing I most rarely do” suggesting that for Pepys at least would not have  “on most evenings experienced two major intervals of sleep bridged by up to an hour or more of quiet wakefulness.” as Ekirch contends. March 19, 1776, Boswell: The Ominous Years, 1774–1776, Charles Ryskamp and Frederick A. Pottle, eds. (New York, 1963), 276. here There are two separate relevant passages for this date In my journal of yesterday I strangely omitted to mention that between ten and eleven at night I called on Mr. Garrick, found him sitting with Mrs. Garrick and Miss More, the poetess, and stayed with him till near twelve, drinking port and water and eating bread and a Hampton nonpareil.* Nothing in this passage necessarily implies that the Garrick’s house was “amply lit in all likelihood by candlelight” as Ekirch contends, such an evening could just have easily taken place by the light of a fire (it is March in the UK after all) or a few candles.  Either this night or the one after he spoke to me of the melancholy to which I am subject, said that I had a very ticklish mind, and that I must divert distressing thoughts, and not combat with them. "Remember always," said he, “_____” I said I sometimes tried to think them down. He said I was wrong. He bid me have a lamp burning in my bedchamber, and take a book and read and so compose myself to rest. This I supposed was his own method. But I told him I seldom waked in the night. When I do at home, my excellent spouse consoles me with easy, sensible talk. He said to have the management of one's mind was a great art, and that it might be attained in a considerable degree by experience and ha-bitual exercise. His sage counsel I treasured up. He commended Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy and said there was great spirit and great power in what Burton said when he wrote from his own mind. I fancied tonight that I was prepared by my revered friend for conducting myself through any future gloom. Ekirch writes that “It may be more than coincidental that ……. James Boswell ……. by their own admission, seldom woke in the middle of the night.” however the phrase used by Boswell is merely “I told him I seldom waked in the night” with no reference to the middle of the night. O'Dea, Social History of Lighting, 114–15. Of the Navy Board, where Pepys, when not socializing, frequently labored at night in a series of official capacities, it was said in 1700, "There are very few nights, even in summer, that we do not burn candles at this office"—according to one estimate, well over one hundred per night during the preceding decade.  As Industrial pressure began to rise towards the middle of the 18th century the demand for satisfactory lights became urgent, but unsatisfied. Candles, tallow dips and simple oil lights had to serve the factory and office as well as the home. The number of candles used was one of eh accusations of extravagance against the office of teh Navy Board, made by a dismissed clerk named Gilbert Wardlaw in 1699. The charges were refuted by Sir Cloudesley Shovel, for whom one of Pepys’s trainees provided the answers. One charge was that the purchase of 6,070 dozen candles in eleven years, at a cost of £1,628, was excessive. The number of working days when candles would be requires was reckoned at 2,441 but the defence pointed out that ‘there are very few nights, even in summer, that we do not burn candles at this office’ and ‘we have frequently wrought on Sundays during the late war’. There follows a detailed account of how the candles varied from 25 per night in the Treasurer’s ticket office to 18 for the Comptroller, 4 for the housekeeper and only 1 each for the messengers and purveyors. The total for seventy-five persons employed cane to 137 per night at 4 to the lb. This makes the cost 1s.10d per lb. The wicks of the candles supplied to the Navy in those times were specified as of ‘best cotton’. From 1669 to 1692 the records refer only to good English tallow, London melted, at prices ranging from 4s.2d. to 5s. 8d. a dozen. Some of these in 1688 were recorded as ‘delivered at ye Navy Office’. The Navy Board won the day. In the course of their defence they pointed out with some satisfaction that they burned less candles per head than some other offices, including their opponents at the Admiralty. They claimed that no office was ‘shut up till nine or ten o’clock at night, and some continually staying till twelve, and past that hour sometimes’. Under 2 candles per head per night was deemed not unreasonable in the circumstances but the cost of tallow was near enough to that of wax to raise doubts, in retrospect, as to whether longer-burning wax candles might not have cost less per night per person that the contemporary daily wages of two shipwrights It is not exactly clear to me what point Ekirch it trying to infer from this passage for it does not seem as though the Navy Board were especially profligate in theoir use of candles. Unless Ekirch is trying to disingenuously suggest that it was solely because of Pepys that they they were burning so many candles. April 2, 1775, Boswell: The Ominous Years, 118.  here  “I sat awhile with Sir John after his company were gone, and got home quietly a little after twelve, which was extraordinary for me. My landlord always gets up and lets me in. It vexes me somewhat to disturb him so much; and it has come into my mind that such violent exercise, agitation of spirits, and want of sleep might bring on a fever. But my avidity to put as much as possible into a day makes me fill it till it is like to burst”. However it appears that Boswell is actually speaking about this actual day rather than days in general. He is also concerned that disturbing his landlord at during the night will cause a fever which would further seem to imply that it is not something that he does on a regular basis Thomas  Burke, English Night-Life 23–70, an excellent and interesting book but this reference is relatively unspecific and 47 pages (23–70) too long to quote in full.   BACK
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