Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. IV. Eighteenth Century
Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. IV. Eighteenth Century
Early Rising
By William Cobbett (1763–1835)
From Advice to Young Men

WHAT need had we of schools? What need of teachers? What need of scolding and force, to induce children to read, write, and love books? What need of cards, dice, or of any games, to “kill time”; but, in fact, to implant in the infant heart a love of gaming, one of the most destructive of all human vices? We did not want to “kill time”; we were always busy, wet weather or dry weather, winter or summer. There was no force, in any case; no command; no authority; none of these was ever wanted. To teach the children the habit of early rising was a great object; and every one knows how young people cling to their beds, and how loath they are to go to those beds. This was a capital matter; because here were industry and health both at stake. Yet I avoided command even here; and merely offered a reward. The child that was downstairs first, was called the lark for that day; and, further, sat at my right hand at dinner. They soon discovered that to rise early they must go to bed early, and thus was this most important object secured, with regard to girls as well as boys. Nothing is more inconvenient and, indeed, more disgusting, than to have to do with girls or young women who lounge in bed: “A little more sleep, a little more slumber, a little more folding of the hands to sleep.” Solomon knew them well: he had, I dare say, seen the breakfast cooling, carriages and horses and servants waiting, the sun burning on, the day wasting, the night growing dark too early, appointments broken, and the objects of journeys defeated; and all this from the lolloping in bed of persons who ought to have risen with the sun. No beauty, no modesty, no accomplishments, are a compensation for the effects of laziness in women; and, of all the proofs of laziness, none is so unequivocal as that of lying late in bed. Love makes men overlook this vice (for it is a vice), for awhile; but this does not last for life. Besides, health demands early rising; the management of a house imperiously demands it: but health, that most precious possession, without which there is nothing else worth possessing, demands it too. The morning air is the most wholesome and strengthening: even in crowded cities, men might do pretty well with the aid of the morning air; but, how are they to rise early, if they go to bed late?

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