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Lying Awake
'MY uncle lay with his eyes half closed, and his nightcap drawn almost down to his
nose. His fancy was already wandering, and began to mingle up the present scene with
the crater of Vesuvius, the French Opera, the Coliseum at Rome, Dolly's Chop-house in
London, and all the farrago of noted places with which the brain of a traveller is
crammed; in a word, he was just falling asleep.'
Thus, that delightful writer, WASHINGTON IRVING, in his Tales of a Traveller. But, it
happened to me the other night to be lying: not with my eyes half closed, but with my
eyes wide open; not with my nightcap drawn almost down to my nose, for on sanitary
principles I never wear a nightcap: but with my hair pitchforked and touzled all over the
pillow; not just falling asleep by any means, but glaringly, persistently, and obstinately,
broad awake. Perhaps, with no scientific intention or invention, I was illustrating the
theory of the Duality of the Brain; perhaps one part of my brain, being wakeful, sat up to
watch the other part which was sleepy. Be that as it may, something in me was as
desirous to go to sleep as it possibly could be, but something else in me WOULD NOT
go to sleep, and was as obstinate as George the Third.
Thinking of George the Third - for I devote this paper to my train of thoughts as I lay
awake: most people lying awake sometimes, and having some interest in the subject -
put me in mind of BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, and so Benjamin Franklin's paper on the art
of procuring pleasant dreams, which would seem necessarily to include the art of going
to sleep, came into my head. Now, as I often used to read that paper when I was a very
small boy, and as I recollect everything I read then as perfectly as I forget everything I
read now, I quoted 'Get out of bed, beat up and turn your pillow, shake the bed-clothes
well with at least twenty shakes, then throw the bed open and leave it to cool; in the
meanwhile, continuing undrest, walk about your chamber. When you begin to feel the
cold air unpleasant, then return to your bed, and you will soon fall asleep, and your
sleep will be sweet and pleasant.' Not a bit of it! I performed the whole ceremony, and if
it were possible for me to be more saucer-eyed than I was before, that was the only
result that came of it.
Except Niagara. The two quotations from Washington Irving and Benjamin Franklin may
have put it in my head by an American association of ideas; but there I was, and the
Horse-shoe Fall was thundering and tumbling in my eyes and ears, and the very
rainbows that I left upon the spray when I really did last look upon it, were beautiful to
see. The night-light being quite as plain, however, and sleep seeming to be many
thousand miles further off than Niagara, I made up my mind to think a little about Sleep;
which I no sooner did than I whirled off in spite of myself to Drury Lane Theatre, and