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Getting Up on Cold Mornings, by Leigh Hunt

"Some people say it is a very easy thing to get up of a cold morning"


Getting Up on Cold Mornings, by Leigh Hunt

Leigh Hunt (1784-1859)

Described by a contemporary as "a fresh and airy essayist," (James Henry) Leigh Hunt was also a poet, critic, and editor of the British literary journal the Examiner (1808-1821), which published early works by poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley.

In the first part of the following essay, Hunt offers examples of the various ways in which "an ingenious lier in bed" might resist invitations to get up on a cold morning. In the rest of the essay, he offers strategies for persuading others to abandon the "enormous bliss" of a warm bed.

Getting Up on Cold Mornings

by Leigh Hunt (1784-1859)

1 An Italian author--Giulio Cordara, a Jesuit--has written a poem upon insects, which he begins by insisting, that those troublesome and abominable little animals were created for our annoyance, and that they were certainly not inhabitants of Paradise. We of the north may dispute this piece of theology; but on the other hand, it is as clear as the snow on the housetops, that Adam was not under the necessity of shaving; and that when Eve walked out of her delicious bower, she did not step upon ice three inches thick.

2 Some people say it is a very easy thing to get up of a cold morning. You have only, they tell you, to take the resolution; and the thing is done. This may be very true; just as a boy at school has only to take a flogging, and the thing is over. But we have not at all made up our minds upon it; and we find it a very pleasant exercise to discuss the matter, candidly, before we get up. This, at least, is not idling, though it may be lying. It affords an excellent answer to those who ask how lying in bed can be indulged in by a reasoning being,--a rational creature. How? Why, with the argument calmly at work in one's head, and the clothes over one's shoulder. Oh--it is a fine way of spending a sensible, impartial half-hour.

3 If these people would be more charitable they would get on with their argument better. But they are apt to reason so ill, and to assert so dogmatically, that one could wish to have them stand round one's bed of a bitter morning, and lie before their faces. They ought to hear both sides of the bed, the inside and out. If they cannot entertain themselves with their own thoughts for half an hour or so, it is not the fault of those who can. If their will is never pulled aside by the enticing arms of imagination, so much the luckier for the stage-coachman.

4 Candid inquiries into one's decumbency, besides the greater or less privileges to be allowed a man in proportion to his ability of keeping early hours, the work given his faculties, etc., will at least concede their due merits to such representations as the following. In the first place, says the injured but calm appealer, I have been warm all night, and find my system in a state perfectly suitable to a warm-blooded animal. To get out of this state into the cold, besides the inharmonious and uncritical abruptness of the transition, is so unnatural to such a creature, that the poets, refining upon the tortures of the damned, make one of their greatest agonies consist in being suddenly transported from heat to cold,--from fire to ice. They are "haled" out of their "beds," says Milton, by "harpy-footed furies,"--fellows who come to call them. On my first movement towards the anticipation of getting up, I find that such parts of the sheets and bolster, as are exposed to the air of the room, are stone-cold. On opening my eyes, the first thing that meets them is my own breath rolling forth, as if in the open air, like smoke out of a cottage chimney. Think of this symptom. Then I turn my eyes sideways and see the window all frozen over. Think of that. Then the servant comes in. "It is very cold this morning, is it not!"--"Very cold, Sir."--"Very cold indeed, isn't it!"--" Very cold indeed, Sir."--"More than usually so, isn't it, even for this weather?" (Here the servant's wit and good-nature are put to a considerable test, and the inquirer lies on thorns for the answer.) "Why, Sir I think it it." (Good creature! There is not a better, or more truth-telling servant going.) "I must rise, however--get me some warm water."--Here comes a fine interval between the departure of the servant and the arrival of the hot water; during which, of course, it is of "no use!" to get up. The hot water comes. "Is it quite hot?"--"Yes, Sir."--"Perhaps too hot for shaving: I must wait a little?"--"No Sir; it will just do." (There is an over-nice propriety sometimes, an officious zeal of virtue, a little troublesome.) "Oh--the shirt--you must air my clean shirt;--linen gets very damp this weather."--"Yes, Sir." Here another delicious five minutes. A knock at the door. "Oh, the shirt--very well. My stockings--I think the stockings had better be aired too."--"Very well, Sir."--Here another interval. At length everything is ready, except myself. I now, continues our incumbent (a happy word, by the bye, for a country vicar)--I now cannot help thinking a good deal--who can?--upon the unnecessary and villainous custom of shaving: it is a thing so unmanly (here I nestle closer)--so effeminate (here I recoil from an unlucky step into the colder part of the bed).--No wonder that the Queen of France took part with the rebels against the degenerate King, her husband, who first affronted her smooth visage with a face like her own.

Concluded on page two

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