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Tur worll is very wirked, and has been so this long while ; indlevel noboule can recollect the time when it was good ; but the wickelness cloes not seem equally divided, for, by all that is said, it woului cel as if servants had monopolised more than their share of original sin and acquired wickedness. To hear the talk that goes on abont them amongst respectable masters and mistresses, they seem to be a race of wickel Brownies, endowed with a special malignity against those whose household work they perform. Everybody who keeps a servant complains of their intense badne..., with an emphasis j:roportioneel to the number their illfurtune obliges them to employ. It is a topic that “comes home to every one's business and boom. If two men meet together, the chances are they will mention the weather ; but if two women begin to talk, “sarrons" are the topic on which all their sympathies are warmel. To hear their comparisons of plagues, and their cataloglie of evil deel-, is like looking through some great social oxyhydrogen microscope, and seeing the monsters which, unknown to us, have been besetting our parlour, kitchen, and hall, with the additional comfort of knowing that they are not safely imprisoned in a drop of water which we can swallow, and so make an end of, but are actually rampant and at liberty, most of us having one or more going tame about our house, and no visible mode of delivering ourselves! It is really an awful look-out, if only half that is said of them bo true, and there is our own private experience to corroborate it in the sufferings we ourselves have cndured at tlıcir lands, and it becomes directly a most indisputable fact, that servants are a very bad set indeed ; could not, as a body, be much worse, on this side of the gallows. But then, as nothing is self-created, nor can continue in the world self-existent, there must be some cause whereby they come to this pass, and some tap root whence they are nourished, which keeps them going on at such a bad rate. Dean Swift warned his friend not to expect all the virtues under the sun for twenty pounds a year ; but since his time it would seem as if the virtues had altogether declined “going
out to service.” It sounds very grand in a sermon to hold vice in subjection ; yet when it takes the shape of a domestic servant, it is a very bad handful indeed. When a man is very ill, he feels as if no human speech could give utterance to his portentous sufferings; but when the doctor comes and puts all the complaint in a few technical phrases, the dignity of the disease is departed ; the patient, who fancied his sufferings a special infliction of Providence, finds them written in the “ Chronicles of the Wise Men of Gotham, and the remedy, flourishing in the prosaic pages of the “ Pharmacopoeia!” When an evil can be reduced to words, it is wonderful how manageable it looks. We do not profess to be very wise, but nevertheless that does not prevent our feeling tempted to say a few words on the present-condition-of-servants-question.
It does seem a solecism in the working of our Christianity, a barbarism in the heart of our civilisation, that two classes of human beings, masters and servants, subsisting in such intimate relation, so mutually dependent on each other, having such daily and hourly intercourse, should be entirely destitute of mutual regard ; should be, in fact, in a state of mutual enmity. The masters putting no trust in the servants, and the servants looking on the master or mistress as their natural enemies, ready to take crery advantage of them. All this apparent incorporation into one family is a mere matter of temporary convenience, and symbolical of no sort of friendly union. It is altogether a monstrous and unnatural state of things; no wonder it works so ill and produces such bitter complainings on both sides; for, to use a servant's own phrase,
" there is no love lost between them ! ” It is the total absence of everything like the love that ought to bind one human being to another, which lies at the root of the evil ;-10 amount of wages or of mutual-convenience principle will supply the place of that fellowfeeling which alone can make any sort of social contract or relationship between two parties work well. Certain virtues may be found very convenient in persons who have mutual dealings with each other ; but the instant they are considered as nothing more than convenient qualities, and made marketable, they lose their worth, and become mere mechanical facilities for transacting business ; they lose their vitality, and become mere petrifactions of what was once heavenly in its growth—a desecration of the most precious things, which works its own avenging,
In the present relation between masters and servants, the master has this great advantage, that his staff of virtues are
entertained entirely for his personal good, the saving of his own soul, and the beautifying of his own reputation. With servants it is not so; their virtues and good qualities are regarded only as so many conveniences and advantages to the party who engages them; they are examined, inquired into, and tested, as if they were so many “points,” on which human cattle must be warranted " so unil,” to be fit for domestic service. A servant is hired in exactly the same spirit as a horse or a dog is bought; no sort of responsibility is felt at receiving a fellow-creature under our charge ; no sort of accountability is recognised for the way in which servants are to be directed and governed whilst under our control. We do not go to a bazaar and buy slaves, as they do in the East, but we trade in all the higher moral and spiritual qualities, hiring them for ten or twenty pounds a year, and considering them merely as so many convenient qualifications in a set of beings into whose power we and our possessions are in some degree placed. We require a servant to be honest, because without that our most earnest watchfulness cannot defend ourselves and our teacaddies from depredations ; they must be sober, because otherwise our wine cellars will not be sacred, and a drunken servant, besides other practical disabilities, may chance to set the house on fire ; and so on through the whole catalogue, we look at all their qualities as they affect us, and our own interests in their practical working ; but as far as concerns the servants themselves, the human beings from whose soul these qualities are emanating, we take as little account of them, and feel as little interest about their individual history, their hopes, schemes, and prospects in life, and know as little of them as we do about the dogs and cats which walk in and out of our rooms, or the poultry in the court-yard. When we discharge a servant we ask no more questions of what becomes of him, than when we sell a horse to some one who can
pay for it,
Servants live in closer intimacy with those with whom they dwell than the nearest relations,—they dwell under the same roof for months and years—they see closely, and know the character of each individual, as neither lover nor friend can pretend to do ; yet, with all this, there is no fellowship, no identification of interests,the connection is liable to be dissolved any instant ; they receire their wages, and go forth, none knows whither, and, most likely, servants and masters never behold cach other's face again ; for it is held a principle of good housekeeping“ not to allow old servants
to come about the place.” What can be more frightful than this state of things, when we think of it?
Everybody would lay claim to “common humanity," as it is called ; and yet domestic servants have, we fear, a terribly short allowance meted to them. We are not speaking of any
individual acts of cruelty tangible enough for the law to provide for in a way more or less clumsy, but of the intense want of fe feeling exhibited with regard to servants. Ladies who would be indignant at any imputation on their humanity, make no scruple of declaring that is
so long as a servant does her work, they never interfere with her ; and that, for their part, they seldom speak to a servant." Others declare 56 they never allow laughing or loud talking in the kitchen.” The dress of servants is under strict surveillance. А lady of our acquaintance once parted with an excellent servant because she refused to part with a band of black velvet, which she had a fancy for wearing round her neck. Few mistresses allow “ followers” to their servants, although flirtation and lovers may be their own staple amusement. When spoken hardly to, with or without reason, servants are apt to be dismissed at a moment's warning, if their frail nature takes fire, and prompts them to answer again,—for the most angelic mistress will declare, can stand anything but insolence in a servant.” They are taken into a family to do their work, like so many animated dusters and brooms, or kitchen ranges ; no kindness or interest is expected from them; and, indeed, any manifestation of feeling on their part is regarded with suspicion; they are not treated with as possessing any human feelings ; and the indignant remonstrance of servants, in seasons of great provocation, that they have feelings like others," is not uncalled for. Some mistresses dislike good-looking servants-others think it sets off their house to have handsome ones ; but it is quite a quality to be liked or disliked, never considered a human personality. The horror servants have «of falling ill ” is painful to see ; for if the disorder be fever, or anything contagious, they are sent to the hospital or fever ward ; if they have an accident that incapacitates them from work, they are discharged, if possible, before actually laid up, to keep clear of the charge of positive inhumanity. And what becomes of sick servants ? Nothing can be conceived more homeless, helpless, and forlorn, than their condition ; far worse than that of ordinary poor people, for they have, generally speaking, been well fed, and kept in a state of bodily comfort and accommodation, till they are, like
NO. XXIII. - VOL. IV.
canary birds, unable to help themselves, and feeling doubly the hardtslips to which they are exposed when turned adrift. Servants have seldom any home to go to when out of places, and what bonds of relationship they may liave, are generally of the slightest kind ; their lodying houses are, generally speaking, nothing better than houses of ill fame. Vo class of persons hang so loosely on society as domestic servants. They have no one to care for them--they are become strangers to the houses where they once dwelt for months, or, it may be, years—they belong to nothing and nobody; therefore, is it any wonder they shoull become hardened, neutralized, and thoroughly demoraliseil, by the habit of changing from place to place, till all idea of a permanent home is lost, come to seein an impossibility ? ('onsider, moreover, the frightful hardships to which they are exposed, if, on leaving one place, they are not provided with another ; for, as we have said, they have no homes, and tlicir lodgings are not better than brothels. If we think of the close contact in which this class of people come with ourselves, with our children, (for, try as we may, it is impossible to prevent all communication) we may well shudder at the frightful evil lying within our very doors, and to which the supine indifference and selfish indolence of those who stand towards them in the responsible position of masters and mistresses has conduced ; and Not any remarkable depravity in the unhappy beings themselves. The present generation of servants is thoroughly demoralized, and the evil will go on increasing, unless some change in the relation between master and servant takes place. The improvement must begin from above. It is the masters and mistresses who must reform their whole system of treating their domestics, before any improvement can be looked for in the servants themselves ; they are the victims to a vicious and selfish system. The present mode of treating them is unchristian in the highest degree. The relation between master and servant is not a bond of mutual convenience, but a sacred responsibility ; and no man or woman has a right to take human beings into their service, and throw them off, without taking some sort of care what becomes of themwithout seeing them safe in some sort of haven. We have confined our remarks principally to the case of female servants, and have said nothing of the thousands of footmen thrown out of place at the end of every London season, permanently influenced in their health from late hours, and exposure to all kinds of weather. The intense bodily exhaustion caused by standing so many hours each