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Re: [pepysdiary] Catching Some Z's in Days of Yore -- C17th. Sleep

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  • Susan Thomas
    Thanks from me too, Michael! Reminds us what a very different world view from us Sam held. A.S.
    Message 1 of 3 , Mar 28, 2009
      Thanks from me too, Michael! Reminds us what a very different world view
      from us Sam held.


      Terry Foreman wrote:
      > Michael,
      > 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
      > >
      > >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
      > for
      > >"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
      > are
      > >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
      > (not
      > >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
      > beds
      > >(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
      > bed,
      > >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
      > she
      > >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
      > out,
      > >"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
      > because,
      > >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
      > Dream
      > >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.
      > The
      > >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
      > >ambiguous.
      > >
      > >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
      > (the
      > >same James who commissioned the stunning Bible translation that bears
      > his
      > >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
      > beames
      > >of day. In sleepe, wee have the naked and naturall thoughts of our
      > soules."
      > >
      > >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
      > both
      > >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
      > are
      > >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.
      > >http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/28/arts/design/28libr.html?th=&emc=th&pagewanted=all
      > <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/28/arts/design/28libr.html?th=&emc=th&pagewanted=all>
      > >
      > >
      > >
      > >------------------------------------
      > >
      > >Yahoo! Groups Links
      > >
      > >
      > >
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