I get some of my best work done at night and sometimes work until the wee hours of the morning. I “burn the midnight oil”, as it were. What do my bleary, screen bloodshot eyes have anything to do with burning oil?
Before the invention of electricity, people worked at night by candlelight or oil lamp. Although this might have made it difficult to get a lot of work done, it was peoples’ only way to see once the sun went down. This sentiment was noted when English author Francis Quarles wrote in 1635:
Wee spend our mid-day sweat, or mid-night oyle;
Wee tyre the night in thought; the day in toyle.
Another indication of working late by candlelight was defined by Henry Cockeram in 1623 where he uses the word elucubrate, which means to produce by long, intense effort, to describe late night toiling:
“Elucubrate, to doe a thing by candlelight.”
We may not use a lantern or candles to get our work done; but the sentiment remains the same.