The Feasibility of a Cup of Tea at an Unusual Hour

Morning tea on the dock at Lake Crescent

“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 on 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 overnight. 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 in 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 life may depend upon the feasibility of a cup of tea at an unusual hour.”

From Arnold Bennett’s excellent How to Live on 24 Hours a Day (1910). If you have not discovered Arnold Bennett yet, and you like Somerset Maugham’s type of writing, check out Arnold Bennett’s work. (They were contemporaries.) In addition to novels and stories, he also wrote self-help books, filled with good ideas and no-nonsense strategies to improve one’s interior self.