Getting Up On Cold Mornings
by Leigh Hunt
An Italian author–Giulio Cordara, a Jesuit–has written a poem upon insects, which he begins by insisting, that those troublesome and abominable little animals were created for our annoyance, and that they were certainly not inhabitants of Paradise. We of the north may dispute this piece of theology; but on the other hand, it is clear as the snow on the house-tops, that Adam was not under the necessity of shaving; and that when Eve walked out of her delicious bower, she did not step upon ice three inches thick.
Some people say it is a very easy thing to get up of a cold morning. You have only, they tell you, to take the resolution; and the thing is done. This may be very true; just as a boy at school has only to take a flogging, and the thing is over. But we have not at all made up our minds upon it; and we find it a very pleasant exercise to discuss the matter, candidly, before we get up. This at least is not idling, though it may be lying. It affords an excellent answer to those, who ask how lying in bed can be indulged in by a reasoning being,–a rational creature. How? Why with the argument calmly at work in one’s head, and the clothes over one’s shoulder. Oh–it is a fine way of spending a sensible, impartial half-hour.
If these people would be more charitable, they would get on with their argument better. But they are apt to reason so ill, and to assert so dogmatically, that one could wish to have them stand round one’s bed of a bitter morning, and lie before their faces. They ought to hear both sides of the bed, the inside and out. If they cannot entertain themselves with their own thoughts for half an hour or so, it is not the fault of those who can. If their will is never pulled aside by the enticing arms of imagination, so much the luckier for the stage-coachman.
Candid inquiries into one’s decumbency, besides the greater or less privileges to be allowed a man in proportion to his ability of keeping early hours, the work given his faculties, etc., will at least concede their due merits to such representations as the following. In the first place, says the injured but calm appealer, I have been warm all night, and find my system in a state perfectly suitable to a warm-blooded animal. To get out of this state into the cold, besides the inharmonious and uncritical abruptness of the transition, is so unnatural to such a creature, that the poets, refining upon the tortures of the damned, make one of their greatest agonies consist in being suddenly transported from heat to cold,–from fire to ice. They are “haled” out of their “beds,” says Milton, by “harpy-footed furies,”–fellows who come to call them. On my first movement towards the anticipation of getting up, I find that such parts of the sheets and bolster, as are exposed to the air of the room, are stone-cold. On opening my eyes, the first thing that meets them is my own breath rolling forth, as if in the open air, like smoke out of a cottage chimney. Think of this symptom. Then I turn my eyes sideways and see the window all frozen over. Think of that. Then the servant comes in. “It is very cold this morning, is it not?”–“Very cold, Sir.”–“Very cold indeed, isn’t it?”–“Very cold indeed, Sir.”–“More than usually so, isn’t it, even for this weather?” (Here the servant’s wit and good-nature are put to a considerable test, and the inquirer lies on thorns for the answer.) “Why, Sir … I think it is.” (Good creature! There is not a better, or more truth-telling servant going.) “I must rise, however–get me some warm water.”–Here comes a fine interval between the departure of the servant and the arrival of the hot water; during which, of course, it is of “no use” to get up. The hot water comes. “Is it quite hot?”–“Yes, Sir.”–“Perhaps too hot for shaving: I must wait a little?”–“No, Sir; it will just do.” (There is an over-nice propriety sometimes, an officious zeal of virtue, a little troublesome.) “Oh–the shirt–you must air my clean shirt;–linen gets very damp this weather.”–“Yes, Sir.” Here another delicious five minutes. A knock at the door. “Oh, the shirt–very well. My stockings–I think the stockings had better be aired too.”–“Very well, Sir.”–Here another interval. At length everything is ready, except myself. I now, continues our incumbent (a happy word, by the bye, for a country vicar)–I now cannot help thinking a good deal–who can?–upon the unnecessary and villainous custom of shaving: it is a thing so unmanly (here I nestle closer)–so effeminate (here I recoil from an unlucky step into the colder part of the bed.)–No wonder that the Queen of France took part with the rebels against the degenerate King, her husband, who first affronted her smooth visage with a face like her own. The Emperor Julian never showed the luxuriancy of his genius to better advantage than in reviving the flowing beard. Look at Cardinal Bembo’s picture–at Michael Angelo’s–at Titian’s–at Shakespeare’s–at Fletcher’s–at Spenser’s–at Chaucer’s–at Alfred’s–at Plato’s–I could name a great man for every tick of my watch.–Look at the Turks, a grave and otiose people.–Think of Haroun Al Raschid and Bed-ridden Hassan.–Think of Wortley Montagu, the worthy son of his mother, a man above the prejudice of his time.–Look at the Persian gentlemen, whom one is ashamed of meeting about the suburbs, their dress and appearance are so much finer than our own.–Lastly, think of the razor itself–how totally opposed to every sensation of bed–how cold, how edgy, how hard! how utterly different from anything like the warm and circling amplitude, which
Sweetly recommends itself
Unto our gentle senses.
Add to this, benumbed fingers, which may help you to cut yourself, a quivering body, a frozen towel, and a ewer full of ice; and he that says there is nothing to oppose in all this, only shows, at any rate, that he has no merit in opposing it.
Thomson the poet, who exclaims in his Seasons–
Falsely luxurious! Will not man awake?
used to lie in bed till noon, because he said he had no motive in getting up. He could imagine the good of rising; but then he could also imagine the good of lying still; and his exclamation, it must be allowed, was made upon summer-time, not winter. We must proportion the argument to the individual character. A money-getter may be drawn out of his bed by three and four pence; but this will not suffice for a student. A proud man may say, “What shall I think of myself, if I don’t get up?” but the more humble one will be content to waive this prodigious notion of himself, out of respect to his kindly bed. The mechanical man shall get up without any ado at all; and so shall the barometer. An ingenious lier in bed will find hard matter of discussion even on the score of health and longevity. He will ask us for our proofs and precedents of the ill effects of lying later in cold weather; and sophisticate much on the advantages of an even temperature of body; of the natural propensity (pretty universal) to have one’s way; and of the animals that roll themselves up, and sleep all the winter. As to longevity, he will ask whether the longest life is of necessity the best; and whether Holborn is the handsomest street in London.
We only know of one confounding, not to say confounded argument, fit to overturn the huge luxury, the “enormous bliss”–of the vice in question. A lier in bed may be allowed to profess a disinterested indifference for his health or longevity; but while he is showing the reasonableness of consulting his own or one person’s comfort, he must admit the proportionate claim of more than one; and the best way to deal with him is this, especially for a lady; for we earnestly recommend the use of that sex on such occasions, if not somewhat over-persuasive; since extremes have an awkward knack of meeting. First then, admit all the ingeniousness of what he says, telling him that the bar has been deprived of an excellent lawyer. Then look at him in the most good-natured manner in the world, with a mixture of assent and appeal in your countenance, and tell him that you are waiting breakfast for him; that you never like to breakfast without him; that you really want it too; that the servants want theirs; that you shall not know how to get the house into order, unless he rises; and that you are sure he would do things twenty times worse, even than getting out of his warm bed, to put them all into good humour and a state of comfort. Then, after having said this, throw in the comparatively indifferent matter, to him, about his health; but tell him that it is no indifferent matter to you; that the sight of his illness makes more people suffer than one; but that if, nevertheless, he really does feel so very sleepy and so very much refreshed by—- Yet stay; we hardly know whether the frailty of a—- Yes, yes; say that too, especially if you say it with sincerity; for if the weakness of human nature on the one hand and the vis inertiae on the other, should lead him to take advantage of it once or twice, good-humour and sincerity form an irresistible junction at last; and are still better and warmer things than pillows and blankets.
Other little helps of appeal may be thrown in, as occasion requires. You may tell a lover, for instance, that lying in bed makes people corpulent; a father, that you wish him to complete the fine manly example he sets his children; a lady, that she will injure her bloom or her shape, which M. or W. admires so much; and a student or artist, that he is always so glad to have done a good day’s work, in his best manner.
Reader. And pray, Mr. Indicator, how do you behave yourself in this respect?
Indic. Oh, Madam, perfectly, of course; like all advisers.
Reader. Nay, I allow that your mode of argument does not look quite so suspicious as the old way of sermonising and severity, but I have my doubts, especially from that laugh of yours. If I should look in to-morrow morning–
Indic. Ah, Madam, the look in of a face like yours does anything with me. It shall fetch me up at nine, if you please–six, I meant to say.