Dr Neil Stanley Independent Sleep Expert
BACK Venner, Via recta, 272; For some reason Ekirch omits the word ‘sometimes’ from his version of the quote from Venner which significantly changes the meaning of the quote (one can hope the omission was inadvertent and Ekirch was not trying to deliberately bolster his case). The actual quote is “Wherefore I advise Students that must of necessity sometimes watch and study by night, that they doe it not till after their first sleepe: for in that space the concoctions of the stomack and liver are most commonly effected, and the wearied parts in some measure refreshed”. However Venner is completely against the idea of working at night as can been seen from this passage that immediately proceeds the above quote “They therefore that against nature vitiously use the night for the day, and the day for the night, tanquam noctuae, are here justly to be reproved: and so are also students, to whom untimely watchings are most pernicious, that with night studies macerate themselves, exhaust their spirits, and acquire a poore weake melancholicke state of body For all parts of the body, especially the chiefest being wearied and weakned with labour in the day, the night approching, desire rest; and therefore then if by study and untimely watching they are deprived of their refreshing, and the spirits retracted from the stomacke and principall parts, weaknesse must needs follow, and a bad concoction, and the body consequently repleted with crude, putride, and vaporous humours”.  Thus he only gives his advice to his students to work after first sleep only if they “must of necessity” and only ‘sometimes’ i.e. he does not consider it a natural or normal thing to do. Donald Woodward, ed., The Farming and Memorandum Books of Henry Best of Elmswell, 1642 (London, 1984), 124; The full quote from Henry Best says that that he would ‘rise before day bee light’ and only ‘sometimes att midnight’. “Aboute St. Hellenmasse, when our townesfolkes beginne to teather theire cattle alroade, our cheife care is to save our come, our owne lande-endes, and our fresh pitts ; and if wee doubt eyther theire teatheringe, or theire tuminge loose on nights,' but to rise before day bee light, and sometimes att midnight, otherwise one shall neaver meete with them; the course which wee take to prevent them from puttinge theire cattle into the Spellowe on nights, is, to gette it well fenced a little before May day, and then cuttinge a longe thicke stake, wee knocke it downe soe close to the gate, and leave it soe high above grownd, that the gate cannot possibly bee lifted over ; and this is not stirred till such time as wee sende our waines to fetch away the hey”.  Rural economy 118 It should be noted that he was getting up for a reason i.e. to protect his ‘lande’, and not naturally waking after ‘first sleep’ as is perhaps being implied by Ekirch. Also it should be noted that there is actually no mention of ‘first sleep’ in the quote. Stephen Duck, The Thresher's Labour  [1736] here Think what a painful Life we daily lead; Each Morning early rise, go late to Bed: Nor, when asleep, are we secure from Pain; We then perform our Labours o'er again: This appears to clearly be a descriptions of consolidated, not segmented, sleep. Mary Collier, The Woman's Labour [1739] (rpt. edn., Los Angeles, 1985), 16. here  Ekirch writes “"Often at Midnight, from our Bed we rise," bewailed Mary Collier in The Woman's Labour” (here). Ekirch is seemingly trying to imply that this is behaviour following waking up at midnight after ‘first sleep’. However in context the quote does not support this argument, Mary Collier was writing about how much work a woman had in summer working in the fields with her husband who could then come home eat and sleep where as she had her domestic duties, in winter she would wash clothes for her mistress, and sometimes be asked to clean the pewter and less frequently be asked to help in the brewing of beer to which the quote above refers, however she goes on to say that “At other Times, ev'n that will not suffice”. There is nothing natural or routine about waking up at midnight, she only get up at this time  because ‘our Miſtreſs ſends to let us know, She wants our Help’ Once more our Miſtreſs ſends to let us know She wants our Help, becauſe the Beer runs low : Then in much haſte for Brewing we prepare, The Veſſels clean, and ſcald with greateſt Care ; Often at Midnight, from our Bed we riſe At other Times, ev'n that will not ſuffice ; Our Work at Ev'ning oft we do begin, And 'ere we've done, the Night comes on again. Water we pump, the Copper we muſt fill, Or tend the Fire ; for if we e'er ſtand ſtill, Like you, when threſhing, we a Watch muſt keep, Our Wort Boils over if we dare to ſleep.  Page 16 Ekirch contends that “Until the close of the early modern era, Western Europeans on most evenings experienced two major intervals of sleep bridged by up to an hour or more of quiet wakefulness“ and that this mode of sleeping was “the predominant pattern of sleep before the Industrial Revolution”. However writing in 1739 i.e. before the Industrial Revolution, Mary Collier when discussing the work of man says:- “You sup, and go to Bed without delay, And rest yourselves till the ensuing Day” ; page 10 “While you on easy Beds may lie and sleep, Till Light does thro' your Chamber-windows peep”. Page 12 Both of which appear to clearly be a descriptions of consolidated, not segmented, sleep.   "The Peasant's Life, according to William Langland" [c. 1376], in English Historical Documents, 1327–1485, A. R. Myers, ed. (London, 1969), 1190;l The Peasnet’s cares (C text x 71-97) The most needy are our neighbours, if we notice right well, As prisoners in pits and poor folk in cottages, Charged with their children, and chief lord’s rent What by spinning they save, they spend it in house-hire, Both in milk and in meal to make a mess of porridge, to cheer their children who chafe for their food, And they themselves suffer much hunger And woe in winter, with waking at nights And rising to rock oft restless cradle, Both to card and to comb, to clout and to wash, To rub and to reel yarn, rushes to peel, So ‘tis pity to proclaim or in poverty show The woe of these women who work in such cottages:  The Pinder of Wakefield (London, 1632) here  “and the poore old man also hastned home, being shrewd agast, looking so pale as ashes, his haire stood an end, and in this pitifull plight, away he came home, and put them all in a maze to see him in that case. What is the matter good husband, quoth Mistris Cooke, in the name of God tell me? poore woman, she ran to and fro for things to comfort her husband” There is no indication as to what time this happened and no suggestion that she had left her bed”. This passage also describes a woman trying to comfort her husband who was in “a pitiful plight” so not really a description of a woman doing her chores. BACK
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