Early to bed and early to rise makes and man healthy, wealthy and wise

The meaning and origin of the expression: Early to bed and early to rise makes and man healthy, wealthy and wise

Early to bed and early to rise makes and man healthy, wealthy and wise

Whats the meaning of the phrase Early to bed and early to rise makes and man healthy, wealthy and wise?

The length and precision of this proverb leave little room for interpretation as to its meaning. Like many improving mottos, for examplea rolling stone gathers no mossanda stitch in time saves nine, it was an encouragement to hard, diligent work. The earliest record of a proverb that approximates to our current version that I can find in print is inThe Book of St. Albans, printed in 1486:

As the olde englysshe prouerbe sayth in this wyse. Who soo woll ryse erly shall be holy helthy & zely.

Note: the Middle English word zely comes down to us now as silly. This has numerous meanings, commonly foolish. The 1486 meaning was auspicious; fortunate. So holy helthy & zely meant wise, healthy and fortunate, which isnt so far from healthy, wealthy and wise.

The description of it as old English in 1486 does place this expression as one of the oldest phrases still in use in everyday English. The earliest version that I know of of the current form of the proverb was printed in John ClarkesParoemiologia Anglo-Latinain 1639:

Earely to bed and earely to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.

The person most associated with the phrase and who brought it into common usage in the USA was Benjamin Franklin., which was an annual journal published by Benjamin Franklin under the pseudonym of Poor Richard between 1732 and 1758. It included the usual almanac fare of maxims, poetry, weather predictions and astrological ravings.

Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy wealthy and wiseis found in the 1735 edition. Theres good reason to believe that Franklin endorsed the proverbs uplifting message; it is certainly in keeping with the numerous proverbs of earnest intent that were published in Poor Richard before they were seen elsewhere.

Given the social conventions of the day, Franklin wasnt especially bothered when women got to work. The typographic conventions of the day also involved the use of the long s, which appears similar to a lowercase f. Present day transcriptions lead us to believe that getting a good nights sleep will make ushealthy, wealthy and wife. At least Franklin avoidedwhere the bee sucks, there suck I.

Later American commentators have had some fun at Franklins expense. In 1928, Carl Sandburg suggested that Early to bed and early to rise and you never meet any prominent people. In theNew Yorker, February 1939, James Thurber turned it round with:

Early to rise and early to bed makes a male healthy and wealthy and dead.

See also: theList of Proverbsandthe early bird catches the worm.