Sunday morning at 2 am, 2nd April, marks the beginning of Daylight Saving Time.
This morning, in the course of my usual internet perambulations, I came across an article penned by Benjamin Franklin and addressed to the authors of The Journal of Paris wherein he espoused a change in the observation of waking hours so as to make better utility of the sun's abundant, and free, illumination. This stemmed from having been inadvertently awakened by the sun's rays at an unwonted hour.
An accidental sudden noise waked me about six in the morning, when I was surprised to find my room filled with light; and I imagined at first, that a number of those lamps had been brought into it; but, rubbing my eyes, I perceived the light came in at the windows. I got up and looked out to see what might be the occasion of it, when I saw the sun just rising above the horizon, from whence he poured his rays plentifully into my chamber, my domestic having negligently omitted, the preceding evening, to close the shutters.
I was struck by a couple of things in the article:
First, the lucidity and grandiloquence of his writing laid bare the marked differences, from his time to now, inherent in communication. Then, the ability to read and write resided still more in the realm of the educated and a sign of some social stature. Now, the ubiquity of the written word has given rise to such anomalies as 1337 speak and txt msg abvns. One of the reasons I write in this space is because I consider well crafted prose a form of art and refuse to adopt a blasé attitude as concerns my own writing. Even something as quotidian as a journal article focused on the conservation of tallow, calculating the savings to the city of Paris over the course of a summer in the amount of over ninety six million livres tournois, can be engaging in its construction:
An immense sum! that the city of Paris might save every year, by the economy of using sunshine instead of candles. If it should be said, that people are apt to be obstinately attached to old customs, and that it will be difficult to induce them to rise before noon, consequently my discovery can be of little use; I answer, Nil desperandum. I believe all who have common sense, as soon as they have learnt from this paper that it is daylight when the sun rises, will contrive to rise with him; and, to compel the rest, I would propose the following regulations; First. Let a tax be laid of a louis per window, on every window that is provided with shutters to keep out the light of the sun.
Second, also a marked difference between Franklin's time and ours, was the apparent dearth of basic scientific knowledge, even going so far as to say that irrefutable physical observations were reviled in favour of unsubstantiated yet long held assumptions. That which can be observed as being so must indeed not be so since it is common knowledge that it is not so. Ergo, it ain't so!
[A learned natural philosopher]... has assured me that I must certainly be mistaken as to the circumstance of the light coming into my room; for it being well known, as he says, that there could be no light abroad at that hour, it follows that none could enter from without; and that of consequence, my windows being accidentally left open, instead of letting in the light, had only served to let out the darkness; and he used many ingenious arguments to show me how I might, by that means, have been deceived. I owned that he puzzled me a little, but he did not satisfy me; and the subsequent observations I made, as above mentioned, confirmed me in my first opinion.
I truly fail to see how an entire society can be ignorant of the fact that the sun disperses its light immediately upon rising and, moreover, that the occasion of its rising varies predictably over the course of a year. That Franklin stumbled upon this observation at his 'domestic' negligently omitting to close his shutters of an evening leads me to assume that, since the servants of such as Franklin would be both up before and abed after him, the rising of the sun and its beneficent dispersal of illumination was a closely guarded secret of the servile class.
But of course, since I reside now in such a more scientifically enlightened era, I would be loathe to make such an erroneous assumption, completely unsubstantiated by any verifiable observation.
Very good article. I recommend it.
And too, remember to set your clocks one hour ahead as you go to bed Saturday night.