Work Done in Sleep
Authors, Inventors, and Musicians.
From his early childhood Robert Louis Stevenson was a dreamer, and his dreams were horrible. Later in life he began to dream of journeys wherein he would see strange towns. In the next phase he could read in his sleep, and such wonderful books that never afterward was he content with ordinary literature. Lastly, he began to dream in sequence, and he would continue the dream from the place where he left off the previous night.
It is admitted that Stevenson dreamed the window scene in "Jekyll and Hyde," and some of his friends are sure that the central themes of the strange book came to the author while he was asleep. "His Brownies showed it to him in the night." A pupil of Von Swinden in Amsterdam solved a difficult problem in his sleep, after the professor and ten of the brightest students in the class had worked for days in the effort to find the answer. Marquis de Condorcet, the famous French mathematician, solved a problem in integral calculus while he was asleep, although the matter had puzzled him for days. He did not write the answer and process down as Von Swinden's pupil had done, but he remembered the solution that came in his dream and put it on paper as soon as he woke.
Cabanis, the eminent French physician, says that Franklin told him, during one of his political missions in Paris, that over and over again he had gone to bed puzzled by political events, which became quite clear to him during his sleep.
Dante is said to have dreamed "The Divine Comedy," or at least the plot and characters, and some part of the details. This vision appeared to him when he was only nine years old, according to some of the stories, while others tell it, the dreams, came to another child during a trance which came with a long illness. Voltaire composed the first canto of the "henriade" while he was asleep. "Ideas occurred to me," he says, "in spite of myself, and in which I had no part whatever."
The making of shot resulted from an idea that came to a Bristol mechanic in his sleep. The man was employed cutting up strips of lead, out of which his fellow-workmen made shot. The process was slow and expensive. One night this workman had been drinking, and after he went to bed dreamed that it was raining. As he watched the rain it turned to lead, and the earth was covered in shot. He awoke and, filled with his dream, went up into the tower of St. Mary Redcliffe, in Bristol, and melting some lead, poured it out from the top of the tower. When he went to look for the lead he found it had taken the form of shot. Thus the shot tower became a fact, and the workman made a fortune out of his dream.
- The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson on Project Gutenberg
- The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri on Project Gutenberg
- Voltaire's Henriade (translated into English) on The Internet Archive
- St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol
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