The Waste of Daylight

Scheme to Rescue 210 Hours of our WakingLife From the Gloom of Man’s Puny Efforts at Illumination, and Substitute for it Sunbeams —The Advantages of Mr. Willet’s Plan and how Former Attempts to Reform the Calendar Met With Stern Opposition.

Sir Algernon West in the Contemporary Review. July 1 1908

The Waste of Daylight

Scheme to Rescue 210 Hours of our WakingLife From the Gloom of Man’s Puny Efforts at Illumination, and Substitute for it Sunbeams —The Advantages of Mr. Willet’s Plan and how Former Attempts to Reform the Calendar Met With Stern Opposition.

Sir Algernon West in the Contemporary Review. July 1 1908

The Waste of Daylight

Scheme to Rescue 210 Hours of our WakingLife From the Gloom of Man’s Puny Efforts at Illumination, and Substitute for it Sunbeams —The Advantages of Mr. Willet’s Plan and how Former Attempts to Reform the Calendar Met With Stern Opposition.

Sir Algernon West in the Contemporary Review.

MR. GLADSTONE, in one of his finest flights of oratory, during the debate on the Reform Bill of 1867, repeated

the passionate cry of Ajax, and implored his opponents to “destroy him in the daylight”; and ever since the day when God said, “Let there be Light, and there was Light,” men have prayed that their darkness might be changed into light. More light and fuller has been their prayer, and twice, and twice only, has it been heard. The ratification of the promise of lengthened days was given to Hezekiah by bringing “again the shadow of the degrees which is gone down in the sun-dial of Ahaz,” when “the sun returned ten degrees, by which degrees it was gone down,” and again the sun stood still and the moon stayed until Joshua avenged himself upon his enemies in the Valley of Ajalon.

These are not the days of visible miracles, though the whole world and all that it contains is one vast miracle; so in a practical age we must endeavor to attain our ends in a practical way. That later hours from sunrise and sunset, from April to September, would yield more sleep to millions and greatly increase for many more millions their opportunities of outdoor recreation there can be no doubt. To attain these beneficent ends, with a concurrent yearly saving in our expenditure on artificial light of £2,500,000, a plan is put forward by Mr. William Willett, whose proposal is that the hour between two o’clock and three o’clock in the morning of each of the first four Sundays in April of each year, shall be a short hour, consisting of forty minutes only, and that between two o’clock and three o’clock in the morning of

each of the first four Sundays in September shall be a long hour, consisting of eighty minutes.

Alterations in the calendar have already been effected in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and parts of India; and at the Cape standard time has twice recently been advanced—in 1892 by fifteen minutes, and in 1903 by a further thirty minutes, and no disadvantages are known to have arisen in consequence of these changes.

A resident in the Malay States says “that three years ago we adopted Singapore mean-time as a standard, the effect being that we “secured some twenty minutes extra daylight throughout the greater part of the year. The change was immediately appreciated by all.”

The plan now proposed will not even cause any alteration in our ordinary railway time tables, for the station clocks would be regulated between 2 a.111. and 3 a.m. on Sundays in April at a time of infinitesimal traffic.

It would be difficult to exaggerate the boon that prolonged hours of available daylight would confer on the many thousands of toiling men and women who have passed their days in shops and factories, and only get back to their homes in the twilight of departing day. I suppose it would he impossible to ascertain how many thousand clerks spend their spare time in the cricketfield or on the golf course, or in cycling or on the river; and it would be still more impossible to count the number of those who delight in watching these manly contests. And even to those more advanced in years, who are satisfied to spend their even-

ings in their gardens, or playing with their children, an additional two hours of daylight would be welcome.

Scientists, men of business, employers of labor, doctors and astronomers of the highest rank have already expressed their approval. Sir Robert Ball, the Professor of Astronome and Geometry, from his Observatory at Cambridge, says in reference to this proposal: "Which is the better for

our waking hours, glorious sunshine, which costs us nothing, or expensive and incomparably less efficient artificial light?" Only perverted habits could make us hesitate as to the afiswer to this question. The admirable “scheme of Mr. Willett will rescue 2io hours of our waking life from the gloom of man's puny efforts at illumination, and substitute for it—sunbeams. There are no difficulties connected with the scheme which could weigh for a moment against the advantages of its adoption.”

Simple as Mr. Willett's plan is, he must anticipate many years of opposition, and it may be interesting to show how former attempts to reform the calendar, to which we are now all accustomed, were met.

As early as 44 B.C., the inaccurate computations of the year were so great that Julius Caesar, “the foremost man in all the world,” instructed Sosigenes, the astronomer, to re-arrange the calendar and regulate the civil year entirely by the sun. Without attempting to describe the details of his plan, it is enough to say that the Julian Calendar, so called after its originator, lasted without alteration till 1582, when the Equinox had retrograded from its proper position.

To correct this, Pope Gregory XIII. issued an edict at that time, that in future every year divisible by four should contain 366 days, and be called Leap Year, whereas all other years consisted of only 365 days; and the error, which under the Julian code had accumulated to the extent of ten days, was disposed of bv enacting that the fifth day of October should be reckoned the 15th of the same month, and every year was, for the future, to commence on the ist January. This was the introduction of what still goes by the name of the New Style (N.S.), which is now, I believe, adopted by all Christian countries except Greece and Russia. When it was first promulgated, England, from a truly Protestant

jealousy and distrust of everything emanat-

ing from the Pope, refused for a time to adopt it ; but when, after much opposition, it was adopted, it lasted until the year 1721, when it was found that the Gregorian system was imperfect, for no note in the calculation had been taken of odd hours, and those hours had grown to weeks and weeks to months, by the middle of the 18th century.

In 1752, Philip Dormer Stanhope, fourth Earl of Chesterfield, had retired from the cares of political strife, and, like a wise man, sought for some occupation. To be cut off from all share in the active progress of the world was to him intolerable, and he hit upon a task not only of interest to himself, but of incalculable benefit to the public. With Lord Macclesfield, the astronomer, one of the greatest mathematicians in Europe, he set to work to again reform the calendar. England, at heart a conservative country, with true conservative instincts, was opposed to any change, even though an improvement ; but Lord Chesterfield applied himself to this unpopular task. He broached his intention to the Duke of Newcastle, who besought him to abandon his idea, as being a new-fangled plan, which he abhorred. “It was not,” Lord Chesterfield wrote to his son, “very honorable for England to remain in a gross and avowed error, the inconvenience of which was likewise felt by all those who had foreign correspondence, whether political or mercantile. I determined, therefore, to attempt the reformation, and consulted the best lawyers and the most skilful astronomers, and we cooked up a bill for that purpose.”

The bill was accordingly prepared, and introduced into the House of Lords on the 25th February, 1751. Chesterfield, with a certain cynicism, tells his son : “It was absolutely necessary to make the House of Lords think that I knew something of the matter, and also to make them believe that they knew something of it themselves, which they do not. For my own part, I could just as soon have talked Celtic or Sclavonian to them as astronomy, and they would have understood them just as well; so I resolved to do better than speak to the purpose, and to please instead of informing them. I gave them, therefore, only an historical account of calendars, from the Egyptian down to the Gregorian, amusing them now and then with little episodes;

but I was particularly attentive to the choice of my words, to the roundness and harmony of my periods, to my elocution and to my action. This succeeded, and ever will succeed. They thought 1 was informed because I pleased them, and many of them said that I had made the whole matter very clear to them—whereas, God knows, 1 had not attempted it. Lord Macclesfield, who had the greatest share in forming the bill, and is one of the greatest mathematicians in Europe, spoke afterwards with infinite knowledge and all the clearness which so intricate a matter would admit of ; but as his words, his periods, and his utterance were not near so good as mine, the preference was most unanimously, but most unjustly, given to me. Flis speech was worth a thousand of mine.”

The bill was sent by the House of Lords to the House of Commons, and after sundry amendments was read a third time on 17th May, and received the Royal assent on 22nd May, 1751. The new Act ordained that the year should begin on January ist, and that the eleven intermediate days, between 2nd and 14th September, 1752, should be suppressed, so that the day succeeding the 2nd should be reckoned the 14th of that month.

“Give us back the eleven days we have been robbed of," was the cry of the populace. The death of the Astronomer Royal, who died so painfully in 1762, was attributed to the share he had taken in this “robbery.” Lord Macclesfield fared even worse, and the sins of the father were visited on his son ; for when he stood for Parliament in Oxfordshire he was taunted with

this “robbery,” and one of the ballads of the election commenced:

“In seventeen hundred and seventy-three The style it was changed to Popery.”

Simple and beneficial to all classes as this proposal of Mr. Willett’s appears to be, we may be sure it will be met with opposition from the thoughtless conventionalists of all shades; from the luxury-loving and selfish people who only consider what will affect them individually. The Vis inertioe will help to withstand any change, however good it is in itself, because it is a change; and are we sure that there do not exist people as uneducated and foolish as they were in Lord Chesterfield's time, who loaded him with abuse for the alteration he effected?

The only change in the calendar since that date was Romme’s new calendar in the Republican year of 1793, which was speedily adopted by a French municipality, but only lasted till 1808, when Napoleon abolished it ; but Romme, one of the Ultimi Romanorum, as Carlyle calls him, drew a knife and stabbed himself, in order to save himself from a worse fate. We hope that such an end will not await Mr. Willett, and that he may live to see many bright hours wrested from the Prince of Darkness, and follow Thomas Moore’s advice, though not exactly in the sense he intended, when he wrote—-

“That the best of all ways

To lengthen our days,

Is to steal a few hours from the night.”

If I were told that for my sins I must marry one of six women who had nothing but their good looks to recommend them, or a woman with only a keen sense of humour to recommend her, I should choose the woman with the sense of humour.

A dead husband is always a subject for praise, whereas a live husband—but the less said about live husbands the better.

Some men think no more of getting married than they do of going into their club and ordering a bottle of wine. Probably some think less about it, for they will examine the cork of the bottle, whereas they won’t even trouble to ascertain the brand of the girl they are going to marry.—From “ The Irony of Marriage” by Basil Tozer.