Working hours

I don’t know about your summers, but here in The Netherlands we are experiencing a stifling heat wave. July is set to become the hottest month in the history of Dutch metereology. I just took a short break from editing my dissertation after lunch, lingering in the small shaded courtyard of our university building with Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan. John Aubrey’s description of a typical Hobbesian day’s work caught my eye. His schedule seems very attractive, especially the power nap after lunch:

He rose about seven, had his breakfast of bread and butter; and took his walk, meditating till ten; then he put down the minute of his thoughts, which he penned in the afternoon. […] He was never idle; his thoughts were always working […] His dinner was provided for him exactly by eleven. […] After dinner he took a pipe of tobacco, and then threw himself immediately on his bed […] and took a nap of about half an hour. In the afternoon he penned his morning thoughts. [Introduction by J. C. A. Gaskin, Oxford World Classics, 1996]

Sounds good, doesn’t it?


6 thoughts on “Working hours

  1. Wonderful news! Did you know Descartes used to spend the mornings in bed, engaged in ‘systematic meditations’? Yeah right, an American would say. Four hours a day is apparently enough to produce some memorable works…

  2. I know that your blog is of a different nature than mine. Yet as we will both occupy the same land very soon -i’ll be in Amsterdam shortly- I think you will find my blog to be of interest.

    I will intertwine academia, awe, the unsuspected and life into one insane blog.


    The Nuss

  3. Re: Hobbes he also found time to play tennis (presumably real tennis, nothing as Joan Hunter-Dunn-ish as lawn tennis) and yet he managed to translate Homer and Thucydides, write a history of the Civil war (Behemoth) and leave a few permanent marks on political thought. Of Descartes something similar can be said.

    Perhaps they had such enviable working hours because they wasted no time watching tv.

  4. Ah now, there’s a thing: wasting time watching TV. I ‘ve decided to do away with the thing so often I cannot remember. I once managed to keep it locked in a closet for a couple of weeks, until my longing for images got the upper hand. Terrible thing, TV.

  5. Yes it is, isn’t it? At first I thought that without a tv-guide I wouldn’t watch it so often, but actually not knowing what’s on involves one in endless channel-swimming.
    Now I’ve found that if I just watch the programmes I want to see, such as University Challenge, and leave it switched off the rest of the time I save time to do other things.
    Still there is a point to what you say; we’ve gotten so used to background noise (in a broad sense of noise) that reading silently or just listening to music (say Handel, to keep it early modern) demands a kind of concentration that is unusual, don’t you think?

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