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201 SLEEP AND SOhE LATE VICTORIAN AND EDWARDIAN MEN OF LETTERS By Joseph 0. Baylen (History Department, Georgia State College) In 1908, The Review of Reviews published a short survey of sleep as a factor in the lives of leading British politicians, generals, scientists, artists, and literary figures.1 The objectives of the study were ostensibly to determine whether "well-known men, who [had] . . . attained their position by the unsparing use of their intellectual activities . . . [deemed] mankind . . . too gluttonous of sleep, . . . [or if] the human machine can run safely and well with one-third the amount of sleep which ordinary people believe to be necessary. . . ." The results, while not startling, are especially interesting not onlv because some prominent literary figures agreed to participate in the study but also because this forgotten survey provides information for biographers and students of such late Victorian and Edwardian men of letters and artists as William Michael Rossetti, Israel Zangwill, Walter Crane, W. L. Courtney, Edmund Gosse, Frederic Harrison, Sir Sidney Lee, Robertson Nicoll, George Bernard Shaw, G. R. Sims, St. Loe Strachey, Alfred Sutro, Edward Tyas Cook, Silas K. Hocking, Anthony Hope, H. W. Nassingham, William Archer, Jerome K. Jerome, Sir Theodore Martin, and Hall Caine. The questionnaire, circulated among two hundred persons, asked for information as to "the amount of sleep . . . necessary to maintain . . . mental powers at the highest pitch of working efficiency. ..." More specifically, the individuals contacted were requested to give the following information: 1) the number of hours of sleep required per day, "consecutive or otherwise"; 2) the usual hour of retirement; and 3) the remedy used for combatting insomnia. Only one-third of those queried replied to the questionnaire. Some refused to cooperate on the grounds that the survey was an invasion of their privacy, that it was "a kind of trading on the brains and time of busy men," or that their opinion would be "misleading." Bernard Shaw, although consenting to participate in the study, prefaced his response with the statement: "Are you not satisfied with my mental powers as they are? Do you want MORE?" This prompted the editor to comment: "The suggestion that we might get a super-Shaw if we were able to discover the exact quantity of sleep necessary to maintain his mental powers at the highest pitch of working efficiency opens out a fascinating prospect, for . . . there are underdeveloped mines of treasure still lurking in the mind of Bernard Shaw, and as we cannot have too much of a good thing, like . . . Oliver Twist, [we] do want more." The replies to the survey were arranged In categories and in order of decreasing hours of sleep required. As it pertained to literary figures, the list included the following: 202 Name Night Sleep: How Long Profession William Michael Rossetti Walter Crane Israel Zangwlll W. L. Courtney Edmund Gosse Frederic Harrison Sidney Lee Robertson Nlcoll G. Bernard Shaw J. St. Loe Strachey Alfred Sutro E. T. Cook Silas K. Hocking Anthony Hope H. W. MassIngham Ernest Parke William Archer Jerome K. Jerome J. A. Spender Theodore Martin G. R. Sims Hall Caine Author Artist Author Writer Author Author Author Author Playwright Author Playwright Journalist Author Author Editor Journalist Author Author Journalist Author Journalist Author ÃSÊ. 78 [63] 43 57 58 76 48 56 51 47 ^5 [51] 57 ^5 [48] 48 51 48 45 91 60 54 No. of Hours 9-9£ 8 8-9 8-7 7-8 7-8 7 7 7 7 7 6-7 6-7 6 or 7 6 4 or 5 Irregular The comments on sleep habits ranged from Silas Hocking's, Rossetti's, and Harrison's emphasis on the absolute necessity for afternoon naps to function well In their craft to the statement of the Radical Journalist, H. W. Masà lngham, that he always found an afternoon in the House of Commons a refreshing time for "occasional slumber" in mid-day. As for the usual hour of retirement In the evening, the survey demonstrated that the majority retired between 11:00 and 12:00 p.m. Hall Calne was very emphatic In explaining that since he was always at work soon after 4:00 a.m., the "quality" of his...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 201-203
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
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