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From: How to Live on 24 Hours a Day

This preface, though placed at the beginning, as a preface must be,
should be read at the end of the book.

I have received a large amount of correspondence concerning this
small work, and many reviews of it--some of them nearly as long
as the book itself--have been printed. But scarcely any of the
comment has been adverse. Some people have objected to a
frivolity of tone; but as the tone is not, in my opinion, at all
frivolous, this objection did not impress me; and had no weightier
reproach been put forward I might almost have been persuaded that
the volume was flawless! A more serious stricture has, however,
been offered--not in the press, but by sundry obviously sincere
correspondents--and I must deal with it. A reference to page 43
will show that I anticipated and feared this disapprobation. The
sentence against which protests have been made is as follows:--
"In the majority of instances he [the typical man] does not
precisely feel a passion for his business; at best he does not
dislike it. He begins his business functions with some reluctance,
as late as he can, and he ends them with joy, as early as he can.
And his engines, while he is engaged in his business, are seldom at
their full 'h.p.'"

I am assured, in accents of unmistakable sincerity, that there are
many business men--not merely those in high positions or with fine
prospects, but modest subordinates with no hope of ever being
much better off--who do enjoy their business functions, who do not
shirk them, who do not arrive at the office as late as possible and
depart as early as possible, who, in a word, put the whole of their
force into their day's work and are genuinely fatigued at the end

I am ready to believe it. I do believe it. I know it. I always
knew it. Both in London and in the provinces it has been my lot to
spend long years in subordinate situations of business; and the fact
did not escape me that a certain proportion of my peers showed what
amounted to an honest passion for their duties, and that while
engaged in those duties they were really *living* to the fullest
extent of which they were capable. But I remain convinced that
these fortunate and happy individuals (happier perhaps than they
guessed) did not and do not constitute a majority, or anything like
a majority. I remain convinced that the majority of decent average
conscientious men of business (men with aspirations and ideals) do
not as a rule go home of a night genuinely tired. I remain
convinced that they put not as much but as little of themselves as
they conscientiously can into the earning of a livelihood, and that
their vocation bores rather than interests them.

Nevertheless, I admit that the minority is of sufficient importance
to merit attention, and that I ought not to have ignored it so
completely as I did do. The whole difficulty of the hard-working
minority was put in a single colloquial sentence by one of my
correspondents. He wrote: "I am just as keen as anyone on doing
something to 'exceed my programme,' but allow me to tell you that
when I get home at six thirty p.m. I am not anything like so fresh
as you seem to imagine."

Now I must point out that the case of the minority, who throw
themselves with passion and gusto into their daily business task, is
infinitely less deplorable than the case of the majority, who go
half-heartedly and feebly through their official day. The former
are less in need of advice "how to live." At any rate during their
official day of, say, eight hours they are really alive; their
engines are giving the full indicated "h.p." The other eight
working hours of their day may be badly organised, or even frittered
away; but it is less disastrous to waste eight hours a day than
sixteen hours a day; it is better to have lived a bit than never to
have lived at all. The real tragedy is the tragedy of the man who is
braced to effort neither in the office nor out of it, and to this
man this book is primarily addressed. "But," says the other and
more fortunate man, "although my ordinary programme is bigger than
his, I want to exceed my programme too! I am living a bit; I want
to live more. But I really can't do another day's work on the top of
my official day."

The fact is, I, the author, ought to have foreseen that I should
appeal most strongly to those who already had an interest in
existence. It is always the man who has tasted life who demands
more of it. And it is always the man who never gets out of bed
who is the most difficult to rouse.

Well, you of the minority, let us assume that the intensity of your
daily money-getting will not allow you to carry out quite all the
suggestions in the following pages. Some of the suggestions may
yet stand. I admit that you may not be able to use the time spent
on the journey home at night; but the suggestion for the journey to
the office in the morning is as practicable for you as for anybody.
And that weekly interval of forty hours, from Saturday to Monday, is
yours just as much as the other man's, though a slight accumulation
of fatigue may prevent you from employing the whole of your "h.p."
upon it. There remains, then, the important portion of the three or
more evenings a week. You tell me flatly that you are too tired to
do anything outside your programme at night. In reply to which I
tell you flatly that if your ordinary day's work is thus exhausting,
then the balance of your life is wrong and must be adjusted. A
man's powers ought not to be monopolised by his ordinary day's work.
What, then, is to be done?

The obvious thing to do is to circumvent your ardour for your
ordinary day's work by a ruse. Employ your engines in something
beyond the programme before, and not after, you employ them on the
programme itself. Briefly, get up earlier in the morning. You say
you cannot. You say it is impossible for you to go earlier to bed
of a night--to do so would upset the entire household. I do not
think it is quite impossible to go to bed earlier at night. I think
that if you persist in rising earlier, and the consequence is
insufficiency of sleep, you will soon find a way of going to bed
earlier. But my impression is that the consequences of rising
earlier will not be an insufficiency of sleep. My impression,
growing stronger every year, is that sleep is partly a matter of
habit--and of slackness. I am convinced that most people sleep as
long as they do because they are at a loss for any other diversion.
How much sleep do you think is daily obtained by the powerful
healthy man who daily rattles up your street in charge of Carter
Patterson's van? I have consulted a doctor on this point. He is a
doctor who for twenty-four years has had a large general practice in
a large flourishing suburb of London, inhabited by exactly such
people as you and me. He is a curt man, and his answer was curt:

"Most people sleep themselves stupid."

He went on to give his opinion that nine men out of ten would have
better health and more fun out of life if they spent less time in

Other doctors have confirmed this judgment, which, of course, does
not apply to growing youths.

Rise an hour, an hour and a half, or even two hours earlier; and--if
you must--retire earlier when you can. In the matter of exceeding
programmes, you will accomplish as much in one morning hour as
in two evening hours. "But," you say, "I couldn't begin without
some food, and servants." Surely, my dear sir, in an age when an
excellent spirit-lamp (including a saucepan) can be bought for less
than a shilling, you are not going to allow your highest welfare to
depend upon the precarious immediate co-operation of a fellow
creature! Instruct the fellow creature, whoever she may be, at
night. Tell her to put a tray in a suitable position over night.
On that tray two biscuits, a cup and saucer, a box of matches and a
spirit-lamp; on the lamp, the saucepan; on the saucepan, the lid--
but turned the wrong way up; on the reversed lid, the small teapot,
containing a minute quantity of tea leaves. You will then have to
strike a match--that is all. In three minutes the water boils, and
you pour it into the teapot (which is already warm). In three more
minutes the tea is infused. You can begin your day while drinking
it. These details may seem trivial to the foolish, but to the
thoughtful they will not seem trivial. The proper, wise balancing
of one's whole life may depend upon the feasibility of a cup of tea
at an unusual hour.

A. B.


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