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Quotations about Reading in Bed

Welcome to my page of quotations about reading in bed, reading at bedtime, and staying up too late reading — bibliomaniacal insomnia. Lifelong sufferer of said disorder. Depending on my level of tired, reading at bedtime either knocks me right out or keeps me up half the night. Either way, it's delightful, most especially snuggling into bed early with a book on cold winter nights.  –ღTerri

Give me a bed and a book and I'm happy. ~Logan Pearsall Smith

In the attic Christie was discovered lying dressed upon her bed, asleep or suffocated by the smoke that filled the room. A book had slipped from her hand, and in falling had upset the candle on a chair beside her... "I forbade her to keep the gas lighted so late, and see what the deceitful creature has done with her private candle!" cried Mrs. Stuart... "Look at her!... She has been at the wine, or lost her wits... She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain." ~Louisa May Alcott, "Servant," Work: A Story of Experience, 1873

The increasing pressure of modern life leaves some of us only the bed-time hour for uninterrupted reading of any sort. ~"As To Reading In Bed," in The Literary Digest, 1904

We read in bed because reading is halfway between life and dreaming, our own consciousness in someone else's mind. ~Anna Quindlen, How Reading Changed My Life, 1998

[A]ll good and true book-lovers practise the pleasing and improving avocation of reading in bed. Indeed, I fully believe with Judge Methuen that no book can be appreciated until it has been slept with and dreamed over. ~Eugene Field, "The Luxury of Reading in Bed," The Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac, 1895

The habit of reading in bed is one which everybody condemns and everybody practices. It began with most of us at school, when it had the charm of the forbidden. When I was younger, I took "Treasure Island" to bed. About 4 o'clock I got up shaking all over with nervous excitement and went to rummage in my scout's hole for a candle to replace the one that was guttering in the socket. I never was rash enough again to begin a new Stevenson after midnight, but my strongest allegiance in literature dates from that night. ~Stephen Gwynn, "Among My Books: Books That Put Me To Sleep," 1899  [a little altered —tg]

There are three possible objects in reading in bed:  to send yourself to sleep at the earliest possible moment; to read a little but not deprive yourself of what grandmother would call beauty sleep; or, to read until dawn. Of these species of nocturnal reading, I shamelessly confess to favouring the last. However tired I might be, I should always, even were the whole contents of the British Museum at call from my bed, ask for a shocker. Let sleep go. Let the morrow's duties go. Let health, prudence, and honour go. The bedside book for me is the book that will longest keep me awake. ~John Collings Squire, "Reading in Bed," 1921  [a little altered —tg]

To many men, sleep comes with a blessed naturalness and swiftness. To others, for many hours during a troubled night, the words spoken and the thoughts unexpressed during the day run in wearily multiplied circles through a humming brain. Those who have found the need to read in bed chiefly try to calm an active mind into quietude. So why is a sane man to be forbidden a mild white light on print — that companionship which pleases him — till he recognizes at last the magical touch of sleep? ~"Reading in Bed," in The Spectator (London), 1903  [a little altered —tg]

My two room-mates required sleep after eleven p.m. so I adopted the habit of putting up an umbrella to protect them from the light over my bed and reading until I was afraid to learn how late it was. ~Althea Warren (1886–1958)

Oh, dear, I am so sleepy. I was awake until one last night, reading a harrowing ghost story. I read it in bed, and after I had finished it do you suppose I could get out of bed to put the light out? No!... If I had got out... to do it I knew something would grab me by the feet when I was getting in again. ~L. M. Montgomery, Anne of the Island, 1915

"If he might classify it," said Lord Rosebery of Cockburn's letters, "he would put it among that rare collection of books which people could enjoy by their bedside, not as literary opiates, but because they were pleasant and healthy to read, which they could break off at any minute when they felt drowsy, and which left a pleasant impression on them when they laid them down." Of such books every man to whom sleep comes but uneasily knows the friendship and the worth. ~"Reading in Bed," in The Spectator (London), 1903

He retired to his bibliomaniacal bed... ~Thomas Frognall Dibdin, "The Drawing Room," Bibliomania; or, Book Madness: A Bibliographical Romance, 1811 edition

      On reading in bed many eulogies have been spoken and written. Robert Louis Stevenson and other men have enjoyed the reading of a good book in a good bed at a scandalously late hour of the night (or morning), and to all such partakers in this lazy luxury the words of a current medical journal will be welcome:
      "Certain people find that their worries accumulate in their brains after bedtime; their nerves are at high tension and their minds are actively at work trying to solve problems that should have been left behind in the city. Going to bed with the brain in such a state means that with nothing to distract the thoughts, hearing nothing and seeing nothing in the darkness, imagination has full sway, and hours of wakefulness may be the result. Such a man, we think, will find half an hour's reading in bed a great help. With a quality light, the much maligned habit of reading in bed has sometimes a very beneficial effect on a tired and overwakeful brain."
      So far so good; but your true bed-reader, your impassioned lector in lectulo, will never consent to close his book at the end of half an hour; he has just got well started and begun thoroughly to enjoy himself, the world forgetting, by the world forgot, in that brief space of time. ~The Dial, 1908  [a little altered —tg]

She... put her book under the pillow, and had it out as soon as she was awake in the morning. ~Mabel Collins, In the Flower of Her Youth, 1883

One thing especially pleases me about this room. There is a light beside the bed, and it can be turned on without arising. This and a shelf of books nearby and the bedside table make it ideal. There is something so pleasant, so seductive about reading in bed. It seems to lift sleep out of the ordinary category of the day's routine and make a ceremony out of it. In the hour when the house is still and the night sounds begin to be heard through the open window, the mind seems strangely alive to imaginative impressions... With luxurious ease one prepares the pageant of one's dreams, selects from a book the pictures and images for visions. ~"The Guest Room," in House & Garden, 1912

Last night, I bethought me to renew my acquaintance with fairy tales which so often have delighted and solaced me. So I piled at least twenty chosen volumes on the table at the head of my bed, and I daresay it was nigh daylight when I fell asleep. ~Eugene Field, "The Luxury of Reading in Bed," The Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac, 1895

"Sleep is good," he said. "And books are better." ~George R.R. Martin, A Clash of Kings, 1999  [Tyrion Lannister –tg]

reading in my cozy bed, ridiculously late
words begin to slur and rhymes, to blear
my eyelids fight me — like a heavyweight
goodnight, sweet sleepy zzzzzhakespeare
~Terri Guillemets, "Zzzzzhakespeare," 2023

Before I began to read, I glanced around the room. How comfortable it was, with the pictures, and the books on the bookshelf, and the tall warm lamp beside me! Even the ticking of the alarm clock was pleasant. And as I listened to it, it stopped. I remembered I had forgotten to wind it, but it made no difference. I was quite pleased. For time does not exist if there is nothing to mark its passing, and one does not want time to exist when one is reading in bed; one would like to go on and on in a night without ending. ~Theodore Spencer, "On Reading in Bed," 1923

There are occasions when one feels like reading in bed in order to send oneself to sleep at the earliest possible moment. I myself for many years kept beside my pallet Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason." I have never got through it. I always begin again at the same place, to wit, the first line. The result is that I probably know the first three pages as well as any man alive, and that I am totally ignorant as to what comes after; but there it is. ~John Collings Squire, "Reading in Bed," 1921  [a little altered —tg]

Describe yourself in 3 words:  Reads in bed. ~Terri Guillemets, "The interview in my mind," 1998

Judith stood before her little library in the dark November dawn, with a candle in her hand, scanning the familiar titles with weary eyes... These last few days she had taken to waking at dawn, to lying for hours wide-eyed in her little white bed, while the slow day grew. But to‑day it was intolerable, she could bear it no longer... She would try a book; not a very hopeful remedy in her own opinion, but one which [those] who were troubled by sleeplessness, regarded, she knew, as the best thing under the circumstances. ~Amy Levy (1861–1889), Reuben Sachs: A Sketch, 1888

Classics are books that every one praises and no one reads, and usually they are well productive of sleep. ~James J. Walsh, M.D., "Insomnia," 1914

      A friend of mine not long ago published a book which he declared, in his Preface, should be read in bed. He insisted that this book could not otherwise be properly enjoyed. Now, there are plenty of other people who have this ridiculous reading-in-bed idea. Richard Le Gallienne does most of his reading in bed. Meredith Nicholson goes to bed and reads until the cock crows. Michael Monahan has written an essay about the pleasure of reading in bed, of the delights of being tucked in and the satisfaction of getting the light just right, and all that. Why! maybe someone could dig up Lamb, Hazlitt, Mark Twain, Coleridge, Leigh Hunt, Cowper (perhaps all of them, and more) to the effect that it is pleasant to read in bed. Didn't Thackeray have some nonsense about "bedside books"?
      Well, it is time to put an end to this bed-reading heresy. There is much babble of slippers and dressing-gowns, easy chairs and "soft lights" in connection with reading. However, you should read as you should die — with your boots on. You take an armless wooden chair with a good, hard seat, sit upright, and cross and recross your legs as they tire. Use a good, strong light, one with a tonic effect of keeping your eyes wide open, and sit facing a dull, blank wall. No beds, no porches, no hammocks, parks, woods, or boats. You must give your author your full heart and read with supreme abandon, with your mind focused and sandwiched withindoors. ~Murray Hill, "With Malice Toward None," in The Bookman, 1920  [a little altered —tg]

Naturally, those who can appreciate the pleasure of reading in bed will be to some extent limited in number. They will not, for instance, include many married people; for whatever may be the advantages of the connubial state, it has the grave disadvantage that it puts an end, as a rule, to reading in bed. ~Simon Leatherhead, "Bedside Books," 1920

Up late with books, reading in bed —
Up early with coffee, extra lead.
~Terri Guillemets, "Mocha & book eyes," 2000

This book is intended to be read in bed. Please do not attempt to read it anywhere else. In order to obtain the best results for all concerned do not read a borrowed copy, but buy one. If the bed is a double bed, buy two. ~Christopher Morley, "Instructions," Mince Pie: Adventures on the Sunny Side of Grub Street, 1919

When I used to seek my comfort with a book upon my bed,
Then my wife would come a’ tellin’ me of what the doctor said,
How that lying there and reading was the worst thing I could do,
There are so many worse things that you can’t tell which are true.
For tobacco is the worst thing and so is Bourbon booze,
Just like a’ lying in my bed to read a line and snooze.
She told me of the eye-strain that was sure to make blind,
She told me of the posture that too close my lungs confined,
She told me of the gas fumes that in my lungs would creep
If I should get to dozing and the gas burn when asleep,
And she showed me lines of figures the doctor had made out
To hedge me by statistics if I had the nerve to doubt.
And I got to sort of thinking, and I guess it’s pretty true,
That it’s always worst to do the thing you want the worst to do.
But I let them do their talking and I wouldn’t move my head
From the pile of feather pillows I had heaped upon the bed.
And one night I got to reading in the paper of the day
And then I struck this passage, and since then I’ve had my way,
For the scientific gentry most certainly have said
That it’s mighty beneficial just to read awhile in bed.
And I never would have known it or have heard of it at all,
If I hadn’t done my reading in my bed beyond the hall.
~George Thomas Palmer, M.D., “A’ Readin’ in My Bed,” 1902

Reading in bed is a disease; the habit is as bad as taking drugs. ~Anonymous physician, quoted in the London Daily Mail, c.1903

Reading in bed is a gateway drug to writing in bed. ~Terri Guillemets

I am in bed now — not reading, but writing, which is the father of reading... ~Theodore Spencer, "On Reading in Bed," 1923

      Cotton Mather says of our famous John Cotton, that "being asked why in his Latter Days he indulged Nocturnal Studies more than formerly, he pleasantly replied, Because I love to sweeten my mouth with a piece of Calvin before I go to sleep."
      Among the means for insuring peaceful slumber at the right time, and enough of it, the frame of mind we take to bed with us is of the highest importance. Just as the body must have its ligatures all loosened, its close-fitting garments removed, and bathe itself, as it were, in flowing folds of linen, the mind should undress itself of its daily cares and thoughts as nearly as its natural obstinacy will permit it to do, and wrap itself in the lightest mental night-robes.
      Now there are books that make one feel as if he were in his dressing-gown and slippers, if not as if in his nightgown. I have found a few such, and I have often finished my day with one of them. From a quarter to half an hour's reading in a book of this kind just before leaving my library for the bed-room has quieted my mind and brought in easy-going, placid trains of thought, which were all ready to pass into the state of dreamy forgetfulness. One of these books is Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes, "Pillow-Smoothing Authors, with a Prelude on Night-Caps, and Comments on an Old Writer," in The Atlantic Monthly, April 1883  [a little altered —tg]

she has books in her lap
and ideas in her head
she has colorful dreams
when she reads in bed
~Terri Guillemets

A new habit ailment has recently been described which affects those addicted to reading in bed. The affection closely resembles inflammation about the shoulder joint; the disability is of the same character. It is called bed-reader's shoulder. When a reader renounces his habit the pain ceases, but many will not give up reading and content themselves with attempts to relive the pain. Relief may follow dry, hot applications, frictions with wintergreen oil, and massage. The reader-in-bed has always been scolded by the ophthalmologist and now has to face the neurologist. ~"The Painful Shoulder of Readers in Bed," in The Trained Nurse and Hospital Review, 1917  [a little altered —tg]

And as I closed the book, I realized how much I owe to this pleasant habit of reading in bed... Now I have only to open the window, put out the light, turn over, and completely self-satisfied, go to sleep. ~Theodore Spencer, "On Reading in Bed," 1923

I am a bookworm, old and crusty,
Thro’ midnight hours my pen I ply.
Be there an ancient parchment dusty,
The man to wipe that dust, is I.
~Gilbert à Beckett (1837–1891), Three Tenants  [Quoted character: Mr. Grope, a Gentleman in search of quiet. Three Tenants is a petite musical comedy. This wording is from the 1897 script. –tg]

Sometimes when reading in bed we struggle desperately to gum our failing attention to the acute analysis and safe deductions of our author. Our eyes squint and swim. Our head dizzies. We feel drunk, and, dropping the book aside from lax hands, just manage to get the light out before falling back into a dense and miry slumber. We all know those fights against inevitable sleep, those resolves to reach the inaccessible end of the chapter, those swimmings in the head, those relapses into the gulf of slumber. We have all turned the light out just in time; and we have all turned it out from boredom, or in an access of determined common-sense, and then turned it on again to resume the dreary reading where we left the piece of paper or the pencil in the page. ~John Collings Squire, "Reading in Bed," 1921  [a little altered —tg]

So I took to Breakfasting in Bed at any hour I chose, and reading in bed, and day-dreaming in bed, and talking to myself in bed, and sometimes groaning in bed, and occasionally, as foreign life-insurances were no concern of mine, smoking in bed. ~George Augustus Sala, Breakfast in Bed; or, Philosophy Between the Sheets: A Series of Indigestible Discourses, 1863

Reading in bed jumpstarts dreams. ~Terri Guillemets

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published 2015 Jul 9
revised Jan 2018, Apr 2021
last saved 2024 Apr 15