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And this is the more remarkahle as being the proverb of a nation whose hours are the latest of any.
It is reported of some judge, that whenever a witness came before him of extraordinary age (as is often the case when evidence is required relative to some remote period) he always inquired into the man's habits of life; and it is said that he found the greatest differences between them (some temperate, and others free-livers; some active, and some sedentary), except in the one point that they were all early risers.
On the connexion between early hours and longevity, the late Mr. Davison wittily remarked that this may be the meaning of the fabled marriage of Tithonus and Aurora. 'Longa Tithonum minuit senectus.' Some have said, that this matter admits of easy explanation. 'As men grow old they find themselves tired early in the evening, and accordingly retire to rest; and hence, in the morning they find themselves wakeful, and rise.' Now, if it be stated as an ultimate fact, not to be accounted for, that those who have kept late hours in their youth, adopt, from inclination, early hours as they grow old, then, this statement, whether true or false (and it is one which would not be generally admitted), is at least intelligible. But if it be offered as an explanation, it seems like saying that the earth stands on an elephant, and the elephant on a tortoise, and the tortoise again, on the earth. An old man rises early because he had gone to bed early: and he goes to bed early, because he had risen early!
Some, when dissuading you from going to bed late, will urge that it is bad to have too little sleep; and when advising you not to lie a-bed late, will urge that it is bad to have too much sleep; not considering that early or late hours, if they do but correspond with themselves, as to the times of retiring and rising, have nothing to do with the quantity of sleep. For if one man goes to bed at ten, and rises at six, and another goes to bed at two in the morning, and rises at ten, each has the same number of hours in bed. If the one of these is (as is generally believed) more healthful than the other, it must be from some different cause.
If the prevailing belief be correct, it would seem that there must be some mysterious connexion between the human frame, and the earth's rotation. And this is further indicated by that instinctive perception which most people have, in certain cases, of the rest-time. It is well known that any one who has been long accustomed to rise at a certain hour, will usually wake at that hour, whatever may have been the time of his going to bed. It might have been expected that one who had been used to a certain number of hours' sleep, would, if on some occasion he retired to rest an hour or two earlier, or later, than usual, wake so much the earlier, or the later, when he had had the accustomed time of sleep. But the fact is generally otherwise. He will be likely to wake neither before nor after the accustomed hour.
This, again, may be relied on as a fact: a student at one of the universities, finding that his health was suffering from hard study and late hours, took to rising at five and going to bed at ten, all the year round; and found his health—though he read as hard as ever—manifestly improved. But he found himself unable to compose anything in the morning, though he could take in the sense of an author equally well. And having to write for a prize, he could not get his thoughts to flow till just about his usual bedtime. Thinking that this might have something to do with the digestion, he took to dining two hours earlier, in the hopes that then eight o'clock would be to him the same as ten. But it made no difference. And after persevering in vain attempts for some time, he altered his hours, and for one week, till he had finished his essay, sat up and wrote at night, and lay a-bed in the morning. He could revise and correct in the day-time what he had written; but could not compose except at night. When his essay was finished, he returned to his early habits.
Now this is a decisive answer to those who say 'it is all custom,; you write better at night, because that is the time you have been accustomed to employ for study;' for here the custom was just the reverse. And equally vain is the explanation, that 'the night hours are quiet, and you are sure of having no interruption.' For this student was sure of being quite free from interruption from five o'clock till chapel-time at eight. And the streets were much more still then than at midnight. And again: any explanation connected with daylight breaks down equally. For, as far as that is concerned, in the winter-time it makes no difference whether you have three hours more candle-light in the earlier part of the night, or before sunrise.
There is a something that remains to be explained, and it is better to confess ignorance than to oner an explanation that explains nothing.
One other circumstance connected with hours has not been hitherto accounted for—namely, the sudden cold which comes on just at the first peep of dawn. Some say the earth is gradually cooling after the sun has set, and consequently the cold must have reached its height just before the return of the sun. This theory sounds plausible to those who have had little or no personal experience of daybreak; but it does not agree with the fact. The cold does not gradually increase during the night; but the temperature grows alternately warmer and colder, according as the sky is clouded or clear. And all who have been accustomed to night-travelling must have often experienced many such alternations in a single night. And they also find that the cold at day-break comes on very suddenly: so much so, that in spring and autumn it often happens that it catches the earth-worms, which on mild nights lie out of their holes: and you may often see a whole grass-plat strewed with their frozen bodies in a frosty morning. If the cold had not come on very suddenly, they would have had time to withdraw into their holes.
And any one who is accustomed to go out before daylight will often, in the winter, find the roads full of liquid mud halfan-hour before dawn, and by sunrise as hard as a rock. Then those who had been in bed will often observe that 'it was a hard frost last night, ' when in truth there had been no frost at all till day-break.
Who can explain all these phenomena? The subject is so curious, that the digression into which it has led, will, I trust, be pardoned.
'As for the passions and studies of the mind, avoid . . . .'
Of persons who have led a temperate life, those will have the best chance of longevity who have done hardly anything else but live;—what may be called the neuter verbs—not active or passive, but only being: who have had little to do, little to suffer; but have led a life of quiet retirement, without exertion of body or mind,—avoiding all troublesome enterprise, and seeking only a comfortable obscurity. Such men, if of a pretty strong constitution, and if they escape any remarkable calamities, are likely to live long. But much affliction, or much exertion, and, still more, both combined, will be sure to tell upon the constitution—if not at once, yet at least, as years advance. One who is of the character of an active or passive verb, or, still more, both combined, though he may be said to have lived long in everything but years, will rarely reach the age of the neuters.
ESSAY XXXI. OF SUSPICION.
SUSPICIONS amongst thoughts are like bats amongst birds, —they ever fly by twilight; certainly they are to be repressed, or, at the least, well guarded, for they cloud the mind, they lose friends, and they check with1 business, whereby business cannot go on currently3 and constantly; they dispose kings to tyranny, husbands to jealousy, wise men to irresolution and melancholy; they are defects, not in the heart, but in the brain, for they take place in the stoutest natures, as in the example of Henry VII. of England. There was not a more suspicious man nor a more stout; and in such a composition3 they do small hurt, for commonly they are not admitted but with examination whether they be likely or no; but in fearful natures they gain ground too fast. There is nothing makes a man suspect much, more than to know little; and, therefore, men should remedy suspicion by procuring to know more, and not to keep their suspicions in smother/ What would men have?—do they think those they employ and deal with are saints? do they not think they will have their own ends, and be truer to themselves than to them? therefore there is no better way to moderate suspicions, than to account upon such suspicions as true, and yet to bridle them as false; for so far a man ought to make use of suspicions, as to provide, as if that should be true that he suspects, yet it may do him no hurt. Suspicions that the mind of itself gathers, are but buzzes; but suspicions that are artificially nourished, and put into men's heads by the tales and whisperings of others, have stings. Certainly, the best mean4 to clear the way in this same wood of suspicion, is frankly to communicate them with6 the party that
1 Check with. Interfere with. Seepage 102.
2 Currently. With continued progression. 'Time, as it currently goes on, establishes a custom.'—Jlayward.
3 Composition. Temperament. 'A very proud or a very suspicious temper, falseness, or sensuality .... these are the ingredients in the composition of that man whom we call a scomer.'—Afterbury.
'Smother. A slate of being stifled. See page 286.
s Mean. Means. See page 202.
6 Communicate with. Imparl to. See page 285.