No. 184 [from The Spectator] by Joseph Addison

Story type: Essay

Monday, October 1, 1711.

‘… Opere in longo fas est obrepere somnum …’

Hor.

When a Man has discovered a new Vein of Humour, it often carries him much further than he expected from it. My Correspondents take the Hint I give them, and pursue it into Speculations which I never thought of at my first starting it. This has been the Fate of my Paper on the Match of Grinning, which has already produced a second Paper on parallel Subjects, and brought me the following Letter by the last Post. I shall not premise any thing to it further than that it is built on Matter of Fact, and is as follows.

SIR,

‘You have already obliged the World with a Discourse upon Grinning, and have since proceeded to Whistling, from whence you [at length came [1]] to Yawning; from this, I think, you may make a very natural Transition to Sleeping. I therefore recommend to you for the Subject of a Paper the following Advertisement, which about two Months ago was given into every Body’s Hands, and may be seen with some Additions in the Daily Courant of August the Ninth.

‘Nicholas Hart, [2] who slept last Year in St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, intends to sleep this Year at the Cock and Bottle in Little-Britain.’

Having since inquired into the Matter of Fact, I find that the above-mentioned Nicholas Hart is every Year seized with a periodical Fit of Sleeping, which begins upon the Fifth of August, and ends on the Eleventh of the same Month: That

On the First of that Month he grew dull;
On the Second, appeared drowsy;
On the Third, fell a yawning;
On the Fourth, began to nod;
On the Fifth, dropped asleep;
On the Sixth, was heard to snore;
On the Seventh, turned himself in his Bed;
On the Eighth, recovered his former Posture;
On the Ninth fell a stretching;
On the Tenth about Midnight, awaked;
On the Eleventh in the Morning called for a little Small-Beer.

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This Account I have extracted out of the Journal of this sleeping Worthy, as it has been faithfully kept by a Gentleman of Lincoln’s-Inn, who has undertaken to be his Historiographer. I have sent it to you, not only as it represents the Actions of Nicholas Hart, but as it seems a very natural Picture of the Life of many an honest English Gentleman, whose whole History very often consists of Yawning, Nodding, Stretching, Turning, Sleeping, Drinking, and the like extraordinary Particulars. I do not question, Sir, that, if you pleased, you could put out an Advertisement not unlike [the [3]] above-mentioned, of several Men of Figure; that Mr. John such-a-one, Gentleman, or Thomas such-a-one, Esquire, who slept in the Country last Summer, intends to sleep in Town this Winter. The worst of it is, that the drowsy Part of our Species is chiefly made up of very honest Gentlemen, who live quietly among their Neighbours, without ever disturbing the publick Peace: They are Drones without Stings. I could heartily wish, that several turbulent, restless, ambitious Spirits, would for a while change Places with these good Men, and enter themselves into Nicholas Hart’s Fraternity. Could one but lay asleep a few busy Heads which I could name, from the First of November next to the First of May ensuing, [4] I question not but it would very much redound to the Quiet of particular Persons, as well as to the Benefit of the Publick.

But to return to Nicholas Hart: I believe, Sir, you will think it a very extraordinary Circumstance for a Man to gain his Livelihood by Sleeping, and that Rest should procure a Man Sustenance as well as Industry; yet so it is that Nicholas got last Year enough to support himself for a Twelvemonth. I am likewise informed that he has this Year had a very comfortable Nap. The Poets value themselves very much for sleeping on Parnassus, but I never heard they got a Groat by it: On the contrary, our Friend Nicholas gets more by Sleeping than he could by Working, and may be more properly said, than ever Homer was, to have had Golden Dreams. Fuvenal indeed mentions a drowsy Husband who raised an Estate by Snoring, but then he is represented to have slept what the common People call a Dog’s Sleep; or if his Sleep was real, his Wife was awake, and about her Business. Your Pen, [which [5]] loves to moralize upon all Subjects, may raise something, methinks, on this Circumstance also, and point out to us those Sets of Men, who instead of growing rich by an honest Industry, recommend themselves to the Favours of the Great, by making themselves agreeable Companions in the Participations of Luxury and Pleasure.

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I must further acquaint you, Sir, that one of the most eminent Pens in Grub-street is now employed in Writing the Dream of this miraculous Sleeper, which I hear will be of a more than ordinary Length, as it must contain all the Particulars that are supposed to have passed in his Imagination during so long a Sleep. He is said to have gone already through three Days and [three] Nights of it, and to have comprised in them the most remarkable Passages of the four first Empires of the World. If he can keep free from Party-Strokes, his Work may be of Use; but this I much doubt, having been informed by one of his Friends and Confidents, that he has spoken some things of Nimrod with too great Freedom.

I am ever, Sir, etc.

L.

[Footnote 1: are at length come]

[Footnote 2: Nicholas Hart, born at Leyden, was at this time 22 years old, one of ten children of a learned mathematician who for two years had been a tutor to King William. Nicholas was a sailor from the age of twelve, and no scholar, although he spoke French, Dutch, and English. He was a patient at St. Bartholomew’s for stone and gravel some weeks before, and on the 3rd of August, 1711, set his mark to an account of himself, when he expected to fall asleep on the fifth of August, two days later. His account was also signed by ‘William Hill, Sen. No. I. Lincoln’s Inn,’ the ‘Gentleman of ‘Lincoln’s Inn,’ presently alluded to.]

[Footnote 3: that]

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[Footnote 4: That is, when Parliament is sitting.]

[Footnote 5: that]

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