Re: [pepysdiary] Catching Some Z's in Days of Yore -- C17th. Sleep
- View SourceThanks from me too, Michael! Reminds us what a very different world view
from us Sam held.
Terry Foreman wrote:
> That's a great story and apropos. Thanks for the link to it.
> Terry Foreman
> At 11:49 AM 3/28/2009 +0000, you wrote:
> >NY Times Exhibition Review | Folger Shakespeare Library
> >Catching Some Z's in Days of Yore
> >By EDWARD ROTHSTEIN
> >WASHINGTON — In one of the displays at the Folger Shakespeare Library a
> >17th-century manuscript interrupts its historical chronicle of
> >bloodthirsty battles, hewn carcasses and sundered heads with a recipe
> >"a dormant drink": a knockout potion. Perhaps the tale's morbidity had
> >been affecting the anonymous author, or maybe this potion, guaranteed to
> >instill sleep for "2-daies," just came to his mind as a perfect weapon
> >against future enemies: you just slip 'em a Mickey.
> >But when this document is seen as part of the entrancing exhibition "To
> >Sleep, Perchance to Dream," the recipe takes on broader resonance. It
> >requires unusual ingredients like "ecittel" and "yppop," and even more
> >exotically, "Ecim-rod doolb" and "Niarb of Senarc." The show's
> curators —
> >Carole Levin, a professor of history at the University of Nebraska,
> >Lincoln, and Garrett Sullivan, a professor of English at Pennsylvania
> >State University — easily dispose of part of the mystery: these words
> >written backward.
> >Thus lettuce is being called for and, not surprisingly, poppies. Glass
> >vials adjacent to the manuscript contain some ingredients, including,
> >creepily, the dormouse blood specified, while omitting, thankfully, the
> >brains of cranes.
> >The simple code might have been used more to create an aura of esoteric
> >revelation than for any real secrecy, but the recipe reflects a way of
> >thinking evident in many of the 17th-century volumes on display here.
> >Sleep should not be thought of casually: it is mysterious, powerful,
> >central, inextricably linked to the world.
> >Throughout the exhibition there are recipes and counsel: how to sleep
> >on the "backe" for it "hurteth the braine and memorie"), when to sleep
> >("sleeping at noone is very dangerous"), how to ensure sleep ("take a
> >little Camphire, and mingle it with some womans milke"), how to make
> >(feathers "hath a near affinity with the Nature of Bugs") and how to
> >control dreams (rub your temples with lapwing's blood).
> >If you read the open pages here, it's enough to give you insomnia. There
> >is so much more to worry about than we moderns acknowledge, not just the
> >incubuses and succubi who might bring on nightmares. Even the graciously
> >helpful prescriptions can be a bit chilling. One, derived from a 1615
> >manual, "The Secrets of Alexis," provides a method "to see wild
> beasts in
> >a dreame":
> >"Take the heart of an Ape, and lay it under your head when you go to
> >so that it touch your head, and you shalle see marvelous things."
> >Thank you, I want to respond, but I'll just read for a while.
> >That, though, may have been the lure that Richard Braithwaite
> >self-mockingly invoked by calling his 1640 book on display here "a
> >boulster lecture." It was something to be read with the head on the
> >pillow, where its moralizing solemnity could be listened to the way the
> >husband in the book's main illustration listens to his wife.
> >"This wife a wondrous racket meanes to keepe," Braithwaite writes, as
> >hectors her spouse in bed. "While th' Husband seemes to sleepe but does
> >not sleepe."
> >"But she might full as well her Lecture smother," Braithwaite points
> >"For ent'ring one Eare, it goes out at t'other."
> >Such dissemblance, at any rate, is not a temptation at this exhibition.
> >There is something quite powerful here. Seventeenth-century explanations
> >of sleep and dreams may now seem thoroughly fanciful, since they see the
> >body's health as the result of interacting "humors," like melancholy and
> >phlegm. But a relentless logic is at work.
> >On which side, for example, should a person sleep? In the handsomely
> >designed companion sourcebook for the show, William Vaughan is cited (in
> >1612) explaining that after eating meat, a person should sleep on his
> >right side until the food "be descended from the mouth of the stomack
> >(which is on the left side)," and that then the left side is preferable
> >"that the meate may be more easily sodden and digested in a more hot and
> >fleshly place."
> >The point is that nothing is inconsequential or irrelevant. Sleep
> isn't an
> >escape from the world but an extension of it (which is why it would have
> >been helpful to have some more exploration of the sleepwear and
> >"bedchamber" objects shown here).
> >As for the potions and concoctions, none are randomly composed. They
> >attain their supposed power because their ingredients are thought to
> >resemble in appearance, nature or quality the function they were to
> >influence. Lettuce (ecittel), we learn, might help bring on sleep
> >like sleep, it is considered both cool and moist.
> >In the frontispiece to Thomas Walkington's "Optick Glass of Humors"
> >(perhaps 1631), a chart even shows how the body's humors are
> connected to
> >cosmological conditions. Choler, we are told, is associated with a
> time of
> >life (youth), a season (summer), an element (fire) and a heavenly body
> >(Mars). Too much choler, which is marked by heat, is "antithetical to
> >sleep," which is why cool, phlegmatic persons sleep more than
> choleric ones.
> >We might come to a similar conclusion about these contrasting
> >temperaments, but we would miss the metaphysical implications that also
> >help explain why the bedside Bible and bedtime prayer became associated
> >with sleep rituals. Sleep was not morally inconsequential: night terrors
> >and "Mares" (as they were called) had solemn and unsettling implications.
> >So dream interpretation was not a frivolous exercise. The ancestors of
> >today's popular-psychology dream dictionaries are on display,
> including a
> >contemporary variation: a touch-screen computer program called "The
> >Machine." Choose among 12 themes like Food, Nature, Animals and
> Money, and
> >you are led through a directory of 17th-century dream interpretations.
> >Do you dream that you have kissed a dead person? A 1669 source tells us
> >that this "signifies long life" — at least for you. Unfortunately, the
> >playful program is only sleepily responsive.
> >Over all, the exhibition is compelling. Politics, too, is implicated.
> >era's battles between Royalists and Parliamentarians, or between
> >Protestants and Roman Catholics, were often treated in books as
> taking the
> >form of dreams, which could leave some issues of allegiance helpfully
> >You can also see here the latent sources of modernity. When a preacher,
> >Richard Haydock, became celebrated for being able to deliver brilliant
> >sermons while asleep, it took the rational skepticism of King James I
> >same James who commissioned the stunning Bible translation that bears
> >name) to unmask him as a fraud in 1605.
> >And in a 1634 publication, putting aside metaphysics for hints of
> >psychology, Owen Felltham argued that "Dreames are notable meanes of
> >discovering our owne inclinations." The wise man, he wrote, "learnes to
> >know himselfe as well by the nights blacke mantle, as the searching
> >of day. In sleepe, wee have the naked and naturall thoughts of our
> >The only frustration is that the one figure of this era who could have
> >fully connected the night's black mantle and the searching beams of day,
> >the mysticism of potions and the rationalism of psychology, who could
> >fear the dreams that may come in the sleep of death yet welcome the way
> >sleep knits up the ravell'd sleave of care, who well knew what dreams
> >made on and how our little life is rounded with a sleep — that figure
> >appears here only incidentally, though he has given both the library and
> >the exhibition their names.
> >"To Sleep, Perchance to Dream" is on view through May 30 at the Folger
> >Shakespeare Library, 201 East Capitol Street SE, Washington; (202)
> >544-4600; folger.edu.
> >Yahoo! Groups Links