A Farmer to his Rooster, 1609

But let me counter with this: bawk.

Dear Rooster,

Thank you as always for your promptness in crowing at the sun. As usual, you’ve done an excellent job getting everyone up on time for the workday. However, as I’m sure you’re aware (or not. Do roosters have days?), it is a late start for me today owing to the fact that the entire farm is covered in snow. Therefore, I humbly request that you temporarily cease crowing at this time. Please begin crowing again in the future, let’s say after 9 minutes or so. I will let you know at that time whether I will require another 9 minutes of sleep.

In fact, going forward, please commence your crowing 30 minutes later than you do now. I may still be sending you letters requesting my 9 minutes. Also, if it’s possible, instead of crowing, could you instead sing, like something soothing? A babbling brook, perhaps? This would make the mornings a little cheerier.


John Douglas, Farmer


Before the discovery of this letter, sociologists had long wondered about the origins of the concept of snooze. That is, when they were not too busy figuring out why men and women have their buttons on different sides of their shirts. Though they’re still trying to sort out the latter, they now credit John Douglas of Bath, England with the invention of snoozing.

Of course, it would be centuries before someone developed a button to replace Douglas’s complex system of handwritten letters. It took him more than 9 minutes to fetch paper and ink, compose the letter, copy it neatly, fold it, address it to the rooster and then have the errand boy deliver it. By that time he was often wide awake, which was really annoying, because he knew he would get tired later, but then if he napped he wouldn’t be able to fall asleep and he’d be caught in a vicious cycle.

Douglas’s use of letter as snooze button falls into the History of the Letter top ten least efficient uses of letters, including decrying a tax increase in the face of certain death by volcano and as a way of notifying someone their apartment is on fire.


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