Dr Neil Stanley Independent Sleep Expert
BACK ‘Scrapiana: Sheridan and his Early Rising’, New York Mirror, 19 Feb. 1842, 63; here  Sheridan and his early rising. — On one occasion Sheridan was asked how it was that he was so fond of his bed in a morning, when he gave the following laconic answer: " I am no worshipper of the sun, and willingly confess that I don't belong to the rising generation. There is no doubt but that sleep, the great restorative, like other restoratives, (champagne for instance,) may be taken to excess. Some constitutions require more, some less; but every individual should find out his own measure, and if your advocates for ' early rising ' would make that the foundation of their arguments, and, moreover, use early rising as a relative term, to be dated from the hour of sleep, their labor would be more rational and beneficial than it is at present. All theories upon the subject are whimsical. You say we must rise early because the sun and the lark does; for the matter of that, the lark is not a respectable character — he is sometimes up all night; and as for the sun, he gets up when he pleases, and not always at the same hour. Nevertheless the rising sun is a very magnificent object. I once had the pleasure of seeing him break upon the morning. To be sure it is many years ago now." Ekirch misrepresents this passage for it states that Sheridan says that “I don't belong to the rising generation.” i.e. not one who practices ‘early rising, somehow interprets this as implying that there is a “‘rising generation’  of enthusiasts” ‘Early Rising’, The Nonconformist; Early Rising It will hardly be necessary, we suppose, to caution such of our readers as have fairly established themselves in the habit of early rising against giving heed to the witticisms which have been put in circulation of late in disparagement of it. The loungers at the West-end clubs, by whom, in all probability, these jokes were coined, are not, perhaps the most reliable guide in the science of social economics, and their humorous flings at early risers are nothing more than ingenious apologies for their own late hours and morning slumbers.  Experience if it can boast of any tolerable standing, bears far too decided testimony to the advantages of early rising to admit of it being thrust aside by the merriest jest by which it can be assailed. Men may be almost as soon bantered out of their appetites as out of their habits, and these latter must be very superficial indeed if they can be whiffled away by the pleasantry of the world’s idlers. Our heroes of matutinal activity are fully competent to hold their own against all comers, whether in play or in earnest, without any literary backing, and will probably comfort themselves with the assurance that the best proof of the pudding is in the eating. There is, however, some fibre of reality in the sarcasms which have been let fly at early risers. It is true that novitiates are apt to assume an air of marvellous self-complacency as though by leaving their dreams and their beds two to three hours before the generality of people are stirring they had placed themselves above all human weakness. You may see imprinted upon their countenances, and visible even beneath the gravity of perpetually overhanging sleepiness, the unmistakable traces of self-satisfaction -the half-checked simper which is a hesitating tell-tale of the sense excited within of having achieved a feat. “I rise at five o’clock” is the boost which gleams in every expression of the face throughout the day, and which confidingly appeals to you for your compassionate consideration from beneath drooping eyelids before night has decidedly closed in. But then, you do not detect this suffused consciousness of virtue in old stagers. The great majority of the poor are of necessity early risers – quite as much so in manufacturing towns as in agricultural districts. The are accustomed to the practise from childhood. They scarcely know that it involves any self-denying exertion of the will. They would stare in bank amazement, or smile in utter incredulity, at a suggestion that the habit is a virtue, and would as soon think of taking pride in themselves for going to bed several hours before midnight. No! it is only among novices and probationers that self-gratulation waits upon early rising, and it may be pardoned in them for before custom has made the practice as familiar and as much a matter of course as washing one’s face. It has a dash of virtue in it, and may very naturally be regarded as a sort of domestic exploit. We are not about to suggest exculpatory pleas for the somnolent, but to conquer the natural disposition to indulge in morning sleep does give one, at first, a pleasant sense of the supremacy of the will. It is not to be denied that there is a special witchery in the abandonment of oneself to a snooze beyond the daylight side of the limits of legitimate repose. The influence which seals up your senses after the morning call has summoned you from dreamland, descends upon you with such delicious and seemingly irresistible power, that whilst the spell works, nothing can persuade you that it is your duty to throw it off. The moral sense is not merely torpid but confused throughout the renewed and protracted doze. There is a painful consciousness of being wronged by any decided disturbance – a nebulous conviction that the disturber cannot be fully aware of the good reasons you have for continuing your lumbers -  a kind of innate feeling that every effort made to rouse you is cruelly breaking off some course of thought or action which you have the strongest claims, in justice, to complete. Your experience is like that of one hurried away by dire necessity from an unfinished work which, if possible, you feel justified in going off to sleep again for the purpose of carrying to a conclusion. Of course, all such fancies appear absurd enough to one thoroughly roused – but, shadowy as they are, they seem to be quite solid to a judgement overpowered with drowsiness. It is this which give to the first victories of early risers such a semblance of virtuous resolution – because the moral sense and the will have to fight their first battles with the forces of Morpheus before the spell which has paralysed them is more than half removed. A triumph won over such odds is regarded as a triumph of no inconsiderable worth, and the well waked-up man gets conceited over the powers exerted by his half-sleeping self. This notion of there being a virtue in early rising for its own sake, although it is soon obliterated by persistence in the practise, is mischievous whilst it lasts. It spurs many a one into quitting his bed before he has any other convenient place in which he can stow himself away, and when he knows not what on earth to do with himself. It is held to redeem from censure sundry small naps taken at odd and uncertain hours of the day. It is commonly used as a reserve of supererogatory self-denial upon which one is at liberty to draw during the whole of his waking hours. Now, early rising is to be valued only as a means, not as an end. To those who have no plan in life and duty which two or three morning hours may help to forward, it is all but useless. It is, on the whole, safer to sleep than to dawdle away time that hangs heavy on the hands. Idleness is more open to temptation than actual slumber, and is far less conducive to evenness of temper. Mere restlessness without an object, if not a sin, borders close upon it -  at any rate, furnishes a soil in which sin readily germinates. We venture to suggest, therefore, as a desirable preliminary to early rising, a settled purpose of action to the furtherance of which it may be made to contribute. A walk or a ride, a little gardening or carpentering, reading or writing -  any pursuit, in short, which constitutes part of your established aim in life will give positive worth to an hour or two stolen from morning sleep. It cannot be gainsaid by any who have had experience in the matter that, after a reasonable term of apprenticeship has been served, the cost exacted in the shape of self-denial by early rising, is more than adequately repaid in freshness and elasticity of spirits. There are exceptions, of course – from history and personal observation bring under our noses some cases in which morning sleep seems to have been indispensable to the ordinary exertions of the day – and it is a great mistake to lay down an inflexible rule for all constitutions, or for any individual constitutions at all times. Bur, in general, Nature is in her loveliest and purest dress soon after sunrise, and her influence upon body and soul is then most penetrating and quickening. Accordingly, life is more exuberant during that portion of the day, and is pervaded by a simpler and a sounder tone. Thought is more free and unconventional - emotions less feverish. The time is favourable for activity -it is favourable also for wholesome enjoyment. Nobody who has trained himself for intellectual work, or even accustomed himself to physical recreation, in the early morning, would willingly exchange it for any other part of the four-and-twenty hours, whether for the one purpose or for the other. Early rising imparts a natural but special brightness to both. The inner man breaths more freely, and is more emphatically himself, that during, or after, the heat and burden of the day. “The dew of youth” is upon all his faculties and braces them up to the highest point of unstrained vigour. He is the more like a child in simplicity of taste, and feels more disposed to sing at his work. His views of life and duty are more cheerful and confiding, and the moral atmosphere which surrounds him is clearer and more exhilarating. It is pardonable to laugh at early risers – not so, at early rising. The practice is beyond the reach of sarcasm, though the weaknesses which are sometimes associated with it are not. And, after all, no rational man seriously means to disparage it, even when he uses it as a target for is best jokes. We doubt whether the laughers do half the harm in this case as the intemperate preachers. In this respect, it greatly resembles total abstinence - it is often injures by a zeal which is “not according to knowledge”. When it is exulted into a virtue, it well nigh ceases to be desirable. Our forefathers out the case correctly in the well known couplet. Early to bed, and early to rise, Is the way to be healthy, and wealthy, and wise It is only, or, at any rate, mainly, as the way to something beyond itself that it possesses and recommendation, or is deserving of being pursued at some cost to indulgence. It is like exercise - a good thing when the object of it is good, not else. Early rising is a servant and should be subordinate; when it becomes a master it loses its claim to respect. With the majority, however, in middle-class life, there is little fear of abuse in this direction – the tendency in the present day seems to be to make a merit of getting up late. Nevertheless, in this as in all other instances, “Wisdom is justified of her children” This passage is far more nuanced the Ekirch’s partial quotes would imply as it is only the “that novitiates are apt to assume an air of marvellous self-complacency as though by leaving their dreams and their beds two to three hours before the generality of people are stirring they had placed themselves above all human weakness.” but you do not detect this “suffused consciousness of virtue in old stagers.”  Furthermore far from as Ekirch claims that early rising  “resonated deeply with urban middle class families” this passage actually says the exact opposite “With the majority, however, in middle-class life, there is little fear of abuse in this direction – the tendency in the present day seems to be to make a merit of getting up late. ‘Early Rising’ The Young Reaper, 1 May 1848, 18; ‘Early Rising’,  Lowell Daily Citizen and News, 9 July 1859. The Nonconformist further noted, ‘The great majority of the poor are of necessity early risers’— quite as much so in manufacturing towns as in agricultural districts [i.e. for being forced to rise early, not, instead, for having to  forgo  their  ‘‘morning  sleep’’].  They  are  accustomed  to the practice from childhood. They scarcely know that it involves any self-denying exertion of the will. They would stare in blank amazement, or smile in utter incredulity, at a suggestion that the habit is a virtue’. The passage does not talk about anyone being “forced to rise early”, Ekirch’s addition is merely poetic licence.  E. S.,‘Early Rising’, American Agriculturist, 1 Aug. 1845, 256; here  Volumes have been written upon the advantages of early rising—its influence in preserving beauty, and improving health. Many physicians recommend walking before breakfast, to young ladies whose healths suffer for want of exercise. In my humble opinion, the end would be obtained more effectually, by shaking their beds, with the chamber window open, or, in fine weather, working for an hour in the garden. Many a young lady makes the experiment, walks the prescribed time or distance, and returns languid and disappointed, with aching head, wet feet, and snowy stockings dabbled alternately in dew and dust, until their original hue is more than doubtful. Many a youthful bard has sung the delights of wandering in the “grey dawn of morning,” to stroll with his “ladye love” “through the dewy mead,” to “shake the glittering dew-drop from the thorn.” All very well in their way, no doubt! though, not being a poet, I am so simple as to prefer letting the sun dry the grass, while I eat my breakfast, and agree cordially with the very sensible old gentleman, the only one of the rhyming fraternity, I believe, who has even alluded to the discomforts of such excursions. “I love not early morning walks; I love not To get my feet wet , and the bard who wrote The silly trash of brushing dew away To see the sun rise, hardly knew. I fancy,What the dew was made of, or the vile effect That frequent soaking hath on shoe leather.” Poetry, feeling, and good taste, have but one voice in regard to the benefits of early rising; but few of their votaries have dwelt as they might have done, upon the economy of time, that first, best gift of God to man; and fewer still have noticed the effects produced upon the mind, which becomes invigorated, and capable of greater exertion, and a more healthful tone of feeling, in exact proportion to the strength gained by the body. All know the truth of the vulgar adage, “An hour lost in the morning is looked for in vain all day and many mourn the neglect of these “fair occasions gone for ever by;” yet none, except those who from long experience have reaped the advantages of early rising, are capable of appreciating them. The first hours of the day are unquestionably the best for study, and by those who live at ease should be devoted to serious reading, and the acquisition of useful knowledge. I know a lady, who, between the hours of five and seven, A. M., made herself mistress of the French language, and read the works of all the best historians, from Josephus to those of the present day. This was the employment of the long dark mornings in winter; in summer she worked during the same hours in the greenhouse and garden, where every vine was trained, and every shrub was trimmed by her tasteful hand, until the whole smiled, a perfect paradise of sweets. The remainder of the day was devoted to domestic occupations, in which she excelled, and to society of which she was an ornament. Another lady who, during a long life, rose at four o’clock, throughout the year, with whom I was on terms of intimacy and friendship, has often showed me the many large volumes which she had filled with copies of original documents of our early colonial history. The letters from which she drew them have almost crumbled to dust by the ravages of time and early neglect; the hand that copied them is mouldering in the grave; but the volumes will long be consulted as books of authentic reference, by the antiquary and the historian. After breakfast she had no time for literary pursuits, for then her husband, her children, and her family concerns demanded and received her assiduous attention. She directed and assisted her servants; showing by example how labor could be saved by timely thought and system. No dairy produced finer butter and cheese—no house was kept in more exquisite order—yet no one had more leisure for exercising the rights of hospitality; and over the whole she presided with so much dignity and grace, and her conversation was so varied and instructive, that her society was sought not only by the first in rank in our own country, but by nobles from other lands. An amusing instance of her habitual neatness, I will record for the benefit of some who may think daily sweeping unnecessary. A French gentleman while on a visit to her husband, cut his face with a razor, and wished to apply the well known remedy of cobwebs to staunch the blood. The lady was sadly at a loss—she did not like to say there were none in the house; so she permitted a search to be made in every nook and cranny, from the garret to cellar and sheds of her large and stately mansion; but not a spider had been allowed to spin in peace and comfort. With all his French politeness, the guest could scarcely conceal his vexation, when at last, one of the boys rushed into the hall, crying out in great glee, “Papa, I have found a cobweb in the stable!” His mother’s jurisdiction did not extend to that. I could mention many other instances of the wonders wrought by stealing an hour or two from sleep in the morning; but I must hasten to tell my young friends what country girls may effect, who have the active concerns of the homestead to attend to. The first step, they must fix the good habit of going to rest by ten o’clock. Country visitors have all taken their leave long before that hour. This they will find to be the best preparation for the labors of the next day; and after seven hours’ sleep, they will be ready to rise at Jive o’clock. In addition to the usually neatly arranged wash-table, every chamber should be provided with a tub at least 18 inches in diameter, and 9 inches deep. In this, nearly full of fresh cold water, each should wash from head to foot, and rub well with a coarse towel, every morning in the year, be¬ fore they dress. The advantages are, perfect cleanliness, brightness of complexion, good health, and a complete cure for the lazy fever. There must of necessity be a wash-bench in every kitchen or shed; but the use of it, as the only daily means of purifying, is much to be blamed, as the head and hands only can be properly cleansed, without undue exposure, and injury to the dress. The windows of the chambers should be thrown wide open, even in stormy weather, while the bed is well shaken, and the room put in accurate order before it is left. With the generality of our farmers" daughters, the morning brings nothing but the cheerful bustle of active employment, in which reading to advantage would be as impossible as it would be out of time; yet early rising is not the Jess necessary for the girls who like to enjoy leisure for intellectual pursuits in the after part of the day. The beds can be made as well before as after daylight—the bread set to rise—the pies made ready for the oven—and the comfortable, social breakfast prepared and eaten— the younger children bathed and dressed—and a thousand little odd jobs done which will wonderfully help on the more laborious work of the day. Wilson, the Ornithologist, a poet of nature’s own forming, while dwelling with delight upon a scene in a Pennsylvania farmer’s kitchen, where every body was busy by candle-light, one cold morning, says: “Even little Mary in the corner sits, And while she nurses pussey, nicely knits.” Who has not felt the real comfort of being before¬ hand with time, after an unusually early start in the morning? how the day seemed to lengthen, and give ample time for everything to be done quietly! What a pleasant spur was given to exertion, and with what satisfaction such a day has been looked back upon! Where the work is systematically arranged, there is a certain portion only to be done each day; for instance, washing and churning never come at once, nor baking and ironing. Each -day has its appropriate labor, and where the family is large, the girls should take regular turns, so that one should always be released from active employment, and take the work-basket or spinning-wheel, which would prevent any unpleasant bustle, if unexpected visitors arrived. But I here declare determined war against the plan, too often pursued, of giving all the sedentary employment to the sister or aunt, who happens to be in delicate health, or is less robust than the others—this is cruel kindness! If she be really sick or disabled, nurse her tenderly, until returning strength allows her again to be useful; but beware of prescribing for symptoms instead of curing disease. Never let her indulge the languor which debility naturally produces, and which increases if not judiciously checked; but tempt her to exert herself in dry, light work, if it be only gathering and arranging flowers in the parlors, until she is actually tired; and then, after giving a little nourishment make her lie down while she rests; but never permit her to sit down to sew or read until both mind and body are refreshed. After dinner in summer, and after supper in winter, there are always some unappropriated hours—I mean for those who have earned leisure by rising early— and this is the time when a course of reading can be gone through with. If there is no important sewing, several might be engaged in study; but even when the needle must be plied most earnestly, one could be spared to read aloud some well known chosen book. I do not like to anathematize all novels—but I will say that works of fiction never made great, good, or valuable characters; and the fewer read the better. No one can complain at the present day, of the want of books that combine utility with amusement. There is a wide range of history, travels, biography, and works on natural history and natural science, written in so attractive a way, that the only difficulty is to choose between them, or lay the book down when begun. Literature is cheap now, and the book of Knowledge is no longer sealed up from farmers, even in sections of country remote from cities. If the young people are early allowed to acquire a love for serious and valuable information, and these family reading parties are looked forward to as a recreation, not a task, we shall soon hear no more complaints of the insipid conversation of country girls. It would be a good plan for neighbors who are most congenial in spirit, to form little associations, and meet once a week or fortnight, at each other’s houses, to read, and improve themselves and each other by conversing on such subjects as are of real interest. If they love botany or mineralogy, they should bring specimens to compare and analyze. These intellectual pursuits need not preclude an amicable rivalry as to who shall rear the finest flowers and fruit, make the best butter, or the prettiest patch- work bed-cover; for they should always carry some neat sewing to these meetings. The fingers need not be idle because the mind is exercising its powers. Knitting stockings and gloves and braiding straw are graceful and pleasant works, which can be done al¬ most as well without the use of the eyes, as with it, and therefore particularly well adapted for social meetings. The first mentioned I earnestly recommend to my young friends; for while amusing them¬ selves, they can make firm, strong hats for their fathers and brothers, which will outlast half a dozen bought ones—and for themselves, pretty, fine straw cottage bonnets, which, as they will cost nothing but the pleasant labor of making, may, after being worn for one season as best, be taken into daily use in place of the shapeless, tasteless, inconvenient sun- bonnets now worn, by which so many pretty faces are disfigured. E. S. ‘An Essay on Early Rising’, Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine (Aug. 1851); ‘Early Rising’, Saturday Evening Post, 6 Oct. 1849. ‘An Essay on Early Rising’, Tait’s Edinburgh Magazine (Aug. 1851);here   AN ESSAY ON EARLY RISING. Nature has by this time rubbed her eyes, and is perfectly wide awake, and stands your gaze without winking. She does not look so shy, demure, or cobweb bed-countenanced as she did at day-break. Morning does not like to be stared at in dishabille. The pretty flowers love not to be caught napping, with their newly-washed and undried faces. Let Morning dry up her tears, and put herself to rights before you intrude upon her. I never knew a man who was an inveterate early riser in my life whom I could properly respect. Some may think this a prejudice; with me it is an innate sentiment, confirmed by experience. An early riser can never look a man straight in the face. There is a skulking, side- long, lurking, mysterious, sneaking, forbidding something about him. I verily believe that all such have dark thoughts to cogitate that won't bear the light of day, or other motives equally discreditable, that compel them to get up. They may pretend that it is to watch the sun rise, to enjoy the early breath of morn, or to gather health and strength, or some such trumpery evasion, but it is all pretence. The probability is, that they get up to see if they cannot find something lost by some unfortunate belated passenger. Not unlikely they have bad consciences, and are troubled and cannot rest in bed, and are forced to wander about like Noah's dove, seeking rest and finding none. It may be that they are only wishing, hypocritically wishing, to establish their names for industry, knowing that there is a popular prejudice running in favour of, and connecting early rising with, activity and perseverance. Sometimes the early man is a gormandiser, a belly-worshipper, a lover of fat things, and rises betimes that he may the better glorify his peptic organ—the worship of his god. He will, in the face of nature, make his gastronomic machinery run over-time, and do double work. If Nature will not give him an appetite he will walk miles for it, and thus rob himself of the pleasures of bed for the sensual gratification of a double quantity of coffee, ham, and eggs. Thank my stars, My stomach is not ruled by other men's, And, grumbling for a reason, quaintly begs, Wherefore I should rise before the hens Hare laid their eggs? Artizans and field-labourers are early risers through necessity, not through choice. Upon such the primeval curse has heavily fallen; and their great consolation is, that on the coming Sunday they can enjoy, as the Scotch phrase has it, "a lang lye and a tea breakfast." Ask any of them if they have any pleasure in getting up soon, and you will receive an answer—an answer in keeping with the absurdity of the question asked. "Oh, but the early bird catches the worm;" aye, and "serve the worm right for being up so soon!" as a juvenile genius remarked to his father. Ask John Smith, the vegetarian, respecting the morals of a bird guilty of such crime, and you will find that it, like other early risers, is no better than it ought to be.- The philosophy of early rising is a wormy philosophy. Truth will out! Get up early and catch worms! This is the quintessence of the whole philosophy of early rising; get up, catch something, catch everything,, but, with all your catching, be sure you catch worms. The idea is worthy of Daniel Dancer. Get up before your neighbours, run with your nose to the ground, and, if any worms be stirring, nibble them. So it is; early risers are of the earth earthy, and low and grovelling are their pursuits. They dare not meet other men on equal terms, but must have an advantage. Under the vapour and clouds of night they endeavour to steal a march on their happy, comfortable neighbours. Early risers are social spies, and perfect nuisances. All such incarnate break-of-day ghosts ought to be laid by the magic of a horsewhip, or the conjuration of a cudgel. BACK
© Dr. Neil Stanley 2013-2018