The Advantage That Is to Be Gained by Arising Fifteen Minutes Earlier in the Morning

This is the first article in March of the School for Housewives 1902 series published on Mar 2, 1902, and is a short article on the benefits of getting up earlier in the morning.

School for Housewives – The Advantage That Is to Be Gained by Arising Fifteen Minutes Earlier in the Morning

Up in the morning’s early light.
Up in the morning early!

This was the strain of the old-fashioned ditty-maker. There are still writers of “goody” books and works on hygiene who extol the morning mood. According to them, the whole human machine is then at its best. The head is clear, the stomach is vigorous, the spirits are buoyant, life is a joy.

In reality – the reality of the everyday life of respectable people who have not ??? long as the wine or anything else ever night – the hard pull of the day is at the beginning.

A young man of education and breeding who lives in bachelor chambers with three other “good fellows” confesses that, while the 7 o’clock dinner hour is always full of cheer and good-will, the four friends seldom exchange a syllable at the breakfast table beyond a brief salutation at entering the room, and a curt “good-day” in separating to their various places of business.

“Thanks to this sensible silence, we have lived together three years without quarrelling.” He wound up the story by saying “Every man is a brute until he has had his morning coffee.”

A celebrated Judge left upon record the saying that “No man should be hanged for a murder committed before breakfast.”

A brilliant woman summed up the popular judgment on the subject, in an after luncheon speech before other literary women, in the assertion that “the human machine needs to be wound up and lubricated and regulated by bath and breakfast before it is fit to work with other machines, or, indeed, to go at all. Breakfast, partaken of in the company of one’s nearest and dearest, is a blunder of modern civilization. It is an ordeal over which each should mourn apart.”

Much of this is talk, and some of it is temper. It is not easy for one to get full command of oneself before the relaxed nerves are braced by tea or coffee and the long empty stomach is brought up to concert pitch by food. If we have slept too heavily we are stupid; if too little, irritable.

Nor is it easy to return a smooth answer to a capricious customer, or to smile attentively upon a social bore, or to refrain from snubbing the lounger in your office or drawing room who thinks your time no more valuable than his own, r to return blessing for railing in a business alteration.

We do daily each, if not all, of these things, because it is polite and politic and Christian to do them. Where principle or interest is involved we tread personal prejudice under foot. The man who gulps down his coffee in grim silence and says never a word between his downsitting and his uprising to and from the penitential feast, nods jovially to his neighbors in the street car, throws a cheerful “Hello!” to the boy who sells him his morning paper, and lifts his hat with a bright smile to the woman he meets at the corner. He would act in like manner if these encounters took place before, instead of after, his breakfast. It would be a part of the decent and orderly behavior befitting every gentleman.

I admit that the American’s first meal of the crude day, with the accompaniment of the rush for car, or boat, or train, that turns out – or in – dyspeptics by the hundred thousand yearly, is not conducive to domestic happiness or the preservation of table etiquette. The householder, devouring porridge, two cups of scalding coffee, rolls, steak ad fried potatoes, at discretion, with one eye on the clock and both feet braced to jump for the station he knows is imminent, is in the first or fortieth stage of what a witty essayist diagnoses as “Americanitis.” His children’s railroad speed of deglutition and their scurry for school are along the same lines of discomfort and disease.

Upon the mother’s hands and head rests the responsibility of “Getting them off for the day,” a battle renewed with each morning, until she “fairly loathes the name and thought of breakfast.”

The remedy for the domestic disgrace – for it is nothing if not that – is simple that I have little hope it will be respected, much less accepted.

It is “Get up fifteen minutes earlier in the morning.”

If you rise usually at 7, have the hot water and cleaned boots brought to the chamber door at a quarter before 7, and get up when you are called. A brisk bath and a smart rubbing with a crash towel, preceded by fifty gymnastic strokes, such as arm-swinging and general flexing of the muscles, twenty-five deep breaths that pump the morning air down to the bottomest well of your lungs and clear the respiratory passages of effete matter lodged there during the night, will set your body in good working order.

Force yourself to speak pleasantly if you cannot at once bring your spirits up to the right level. Study to be a man, or a woman, although breakfastless. To be thrown in the first round of the day by the sluggish flesh and the devil of ill-humor, before the world has a chance to grapple with you, is cowardly and sinful.

It is my persuasion that seven-tenths of the twaddle over the horrors of the family breakfast are affectation and indolence. Breakfasting in bed is an imported fashion, and, to my notion, is not a clean practice. The tray brought to an unaired room, a tumbled bed and an unwashed body looks well in French engravings, but is a solecism in an age of hygienic principles, much ventilation and matutional bath. The inability to be in charity with one’s fellow mortals, to smile genially and to speak gently before the world is well started upon its diurnal swing and the complainant’s physical system is toned and tuned and oiled by eating is degrading in itself. The confession of it is puerile.

Marion Harland

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