Dr Neil Stanley Independent Sleep Expert
BACK The Waiting City: Paris 1782–88; Being an Abridgement of Louis-Sebastian Mercier's "Le tableau de Paris," Helen Simpson, ed. and trans. (Philadelphia, 1933), 76; This quote is not a joke as Ekirch implies although the next line “More than one young Parisian must owe his existence to this sudden passing rattle of wheels” may be considered somewhat humorous. And the fact that “The tradesman wakes out of his first sleep at the sound of them” challenges Ekirch’s assertions that “Typically, descriptions recounted how an aroused individual had "had," "taken," or "gotten" his or her "first sleep." and that  “the vast weight of surviving evidence indicates that awakening naturally was routine, not the consequence of disturbed or fitful slumber”. Laurent Joubert, Popular Errors, Gregory David de Rocher, trans. (Tuscaloosa, Ala., 1989), 112–13;  Chapter VII That one must not know the woman before going to sleep, and that because workers do not they are less gouty and have more children I have two things to point out: why it is that workers (such as plowmen and artisans) usually have more children than people who sit or people of means, and why it is that they are less gouty. I am passing over  the other cause of gout for the moment, here, where I am discussing generation, it is enough to note that gout very often comes from the impotunate and untimely venereal act. That is, when one gives oneself to it before the stomach has finished digesting, after having drunk, as do naturally those who are too much subject and given over to carnal, licentious, and lecherous voluptuousness. For the people, any time is a good one, that is, they do not observe any special hours, but rather, full of idleness (used for a “good time”), overnourished bodily, underfed mentally, they go looking for such business, and force themselves, nay, push and lay hard into nature with this folly, for which, in the end, they pay dearly. The foreshorten their lives considerably, just as do lavacious and wanton lechers, who do not live very long but fall quickly subject, pray, and victim to gout, colic, nephritis, apoplexy, paralysis, convulsions and other diseases of indigestion (the cause of phlegm, father of all diseases). Because the lecher loses large amounts of spirits and natural heat by using up a lot of blood ( a substance very close to sperm,  and one from which it is produced ) the parts responsible for the body’s nourishment are made cold and weak and, consequently, cannot allow for proper digestion. And now for frequency, or excessive duration of the venereal act, indulged in by people who live a life of ease and spend more time on their pleasures that the poor workers( who must think more about what they are going to live on that day than about making love, even if work toughens them and makes them stronger, rendering them less fragile and less subject to disease). The other consideration is one of time, and on this matter we say that the impotunate and untimely venereal act is a cause if indigestion and a bad stomach as when one goes at it right after a meal and as soon as one is in bed, as is naturally the case with people who are idle and who sit. The poor workers, on the contrary, are very tired after a day’s work, no sooner in bed than they are asleep, and if they have anything to ask of their wives, it is after they have rested, slept and digested supper. At this time they have more enjoyment, do it better, at their ease, lustily, and get the good one should out of this natural act: namely, they get up more nimble and lively  because the natural heat is increased by it, not dissipated or weakened, And they are more certain of impregnating their wives, if there be cause. This brings us to the other point: the large number of children one notices among workers (more than among the rich and well off). The reason for this can be found it what was shown in the preceding chapters five and six ; the longer sperm remains in the vesicles and is not spilled or spread about prodigally, the more it is fecund and prolific. This is what one observes most often and for the most part among the poor, chaste, and continent workers, both with respect to the work, which occupies them , and the poverty, which makes them happy with their ordinary lot. Because the build up a better stock of sperm and use it in a better way, they rarely miss the mark (if the wife is properly disposed) This is how they fill their homes with children, because of whom they are till poorer, but not in that grace and blessing that the royal psalmist David promises those who fear God, who provides everything in His bounty and generosity. This is also how they are less gouty from  any venereal cause and, at the same time, father healthier and more robust children. Now, on the necessity of not knowing the woman before sleeping, and following the example of these good people beyond the very successful experience i have just discussed and for the reasons given, I wish to demonstrate and prove it still further. Wakefulness, and activity of the animal virtues or faculties, causes considerable dissipation of spirits, even in the most idle person in the world, just as the exercise of the external senses (and especially of sight) consumes a lot of spirits. Like wise with speech, and with all movement, calculating, speaking, thinking along with the emotions, whether joy or laughing, hope or fear, and similar actions or feelings, all of which cause a notable dissipation of spirits and of the fine blood, as long as one is awake. Because of this, one is finally forced to sleep, during which the animal functions stop and rest so that during these cessations one might reconstitute one’s spirits and amass them so as to provide for another period of wakefulness. Otherwise, lessened and impaired, the body dissolves and decays, because all its food (or most of it) is used up in replenishing spirits to animate wakefulness If, the wakefulness causes dissipation of spirits,which in turn requires and calls for the necessity of sleep ( a saving and withdrawing from considerable expenditure), and if on another account the venereal act also cause a notable consumption or use of spirits, it is certain that such an act is inappropriate or (as Celsus says) worse during the day and more sure at night. But this is on one condition that, as the same author prescribes, right afterwards one does not attempt to stay awake and to work beside. For after this act it is necessary to rest and even to sleep a little, if possible, so as to not suffer loss upon loss of spirits. Thus, the most appropriate time is after the first sleep, when one has satisfied nature, when one has replenished a good amount of dissipated and spent spirits of the proceeding wakefulness, and when the body has enjoyed the profits of the food taken during the day. This is when one must turn to one’s wife, if one is invited by the stirrings of the flesh, and must immediately thereafter get back to sleep again, if possible or if not, at least to remain in bed and relax while talking together joyfully. Note that Ekirch has selectively extracted unrelated phrases to construct a narrative that fits his story. The actual passage that contains the phrase ‘first sleep” is “Thus, the most appropriate time is after the first sleep, when one has satisfied nature, when one has replenished a good amount of dissipated and spent spirits of the proceeding wakefulness, and when the body has enjoyed the profits of the food taken during the day.” The other phase used occurs much earlier in the passage “The poor workers, on the contrary, are very tired after a day’s work, no sooner in bed than they are asleep, and if they have anything to ask of their wives, it is after they have rested, slept and digested supper. At this time they have more enjoyment, do it better, at their ease, lustily, and get the good one should out of this natural act: namely, they get up more nimble and lively  because the natural heat is increased by it, not dissipated or weakened, And they are more certain of impregnating their wives, if there be cause.” This is not necessarily a description of ‘first sleep’ and could just as well be a description of an after supper nap. Cogan, Haven of Health, 252. This passage does not appear in the original 1584 edition only appearing from the 1589 edition onwards similarly advised that intercourse occur not  "before sleepe, but after the meate is digested, a little before morning, and afterwarde to sleepe a while." although “a little before morning” is difficult to reconcile with the idea after ‘first sleep’ which Ekirch posits as occurring “sometime after midnight”. If second sleep was normal why is there an injunction to “afterwarde to sleepe a while?” John Makluire, The Buckler of bodilie health whereby health may bee defended, and sickesse repelled: consecrate by the au[thor] the vse of his cou[...] [...]shing from his heart (though it were to his hurt) to see the fruites of his labour on the constant wellfare of all his countrie-men. 1630 here “As also a convenient tyme of copulation, the which is, after the three concoctions are ended, and this tyme is about the latter end of the second sleepe, so that thereafter the body be refreshed by a little slumber, and that for the reparation of the spirits dissipate” This passage actual talks about “the latter end of the second sleepe” but interestingly then states that there should be a further period of sleep so that “the body be refreshed by a little slumber”. Therefore it provides little support for Ekirch’s conception of segmented sleep. Boorde, Compendyous Regyment here  “Beware of Veneryous actes before the fyrste slepe, and specyally beware of such thynges after dyner, or after a full stomacke” This passage describes when not to have “Veneryous actes” but gives no indication as to the actually preferred time.  The English Rogue Continued, In the Life of Meriton Latroon . . . , 4 parts (London, 1671), 2: There is nothing relevant on page 367, the only possible passage that Ekirch may be alluding to is this on page 352 here “My yonker (who I suppose had never tasted woman, but with his Mothers Chamber-Maids, or some such Creatures, knew not what belonged to Women of my profession) being now awakened, as it were, out of a dead sleep ; quickly drew 5 pieces of Gold out of his Pocket, and made a present of them : You may be sure I was not coy, nor cautious in receiving them ; but quickly put them up ; and, for the present, thanks was all I returned, delaying him in his desires, till we came to our Madonds quarters ; where we had a plentiful Supper : And I having now acquainted her how I had dealt with my Young man ; it was thought reasonable that he should have a nights lodging for his Money; neither did I refuse it, but agreed to all he asked me, and I so well pleased him, that I perswaded him out of a Diamond Ring worth 5l. more.” Statement of Mary Pearce, Old Bailey Sessions Papers, April 20, 1737; has nothing whatsoever to do with the best time for copulation:- “I had left my Place, and could go no where else to lodge, but in his Apartment; so they made me up a sort of a Bed upon the Floor, in the same Room where he and his Wife lay. He went that Night to bed about 10, and never went out 'till between 6 and 7 next Morning. I was awake between whiles in the Night and talked to him. On my Oath I am sure of this.” here  "A Woman's Work Is Never Done," in The Roxburghe Ballads, William Chappell and J. W. Ebsworth, eds., 9 vols. (1871–99; rpt. edn., New York, 1966), 3: pt. 1, 305. here This quote has nothing to do with an ideal time for intercourse or how to conceive   “And if at any time asleep I be, Perchance my husband wakes, and then wakes me; Then he does that to me which cannot shun, Yet I could wish that work were oftener done.” It makes no mention of ‘first sleep’ and by stating  ‘Perchance my husband awakes’ implies that such awakenings are not a normal, regular occurrence as would be implied by Ekirch’s conception 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” De Medicina (On Medicine) by A. Cornelius Celsus here  “Concubitus indeed is neither to be desired overmuch, nor overmuch to be feared; seldom used it braces the body, used frequently it relaxes. Since, however, nature and not number should be the standard of frequency, regard being had to age and constitution, concubitusº can be recognized as harmless when followed neither by languor nor by pain. The use is worse in the day-time, and safer by night; but care should be taken that by day it be not immediately followed by a meal, and at night not immediately followed by work and watching. Such are the precautions to be observed by the strong, and they should take care that whilst in health their defences against ill-health are not used up.” Note that this passage does not mention either ‘first’  or ‘second’ sleep contrary what is asserted by Ekirch Naturall and artificial directions for health deriued from the best philosophers, as well moderne, as auncient. By William Vaughan, Master of Artes, and student in the ciuill law. 1600 here “It is best to vse carnall copulation in winter and in spring time, when nature is desirous, and at night when the stomack is full, and the body somewhat warme, that sleepe immediatly after it may lenifie the lassitude caused through the action thereof.” Note that this passage does not mention either ‘first’  or ‘second’ sleep contrary what is asserted by Ekirch. BACK
© Dr. Neil Stanley 2013-2018