Imágenes de páginas

day—the combination of extreme fatigue, and moral indolence; depraved alike in body and mind, they are draughted off to the hospitals, to live or die—no one caring for them. A man can always make his way somehow or another, they are in all cases better off than women. Female servants are dreadfully to be pitied—their fate is fearful. As a body they are as bad as they can be-hard, foolish, and demoralised; but they have become so in consequence of the cold blooded, false, even cruel kind of relationship that has arisen between them and their masters—it is their greatest misery that they are bad. There are certain points in the actual working of our present social system, which are far worse than any which exist under any systems we stigmatize as barbarous and unchristian. We have no slaves,ếour servants are free ; but the actual freedom consists in having nobody bound to care for them,—no one moved to do so by interest, and no humanity to supply the place of it. In the East, a female slave who bears a child to her master, becomes at once a free woman, and he is bound to provide for her. Amongst us there is a feeling of reprobation against a man who should abuse his position to seduce his servant, but there is no help for it if he does ; he is bound to no reparation, the woman must endure the consequences, and get along as well as she can.

In point of fact, whatever may be the value of female chastity, it is a virtue nobody thinks of insisting upon in a servant : it is well known that it rarely, almost never, exists :—therefore no questions are ever asked about it. If a woman be discovered in a lapse, whilst in a service, she is, as a matter of course, discharged at once, with much virtuous indignation ;—but if she be a good servant in other respects, it is no practical disability to her, as it entails no inconvenience on her next mistress, who would have to wait a long time if she were rigidly to inquire into such matters.

This is a frightful state of things to contemplate existing in the bosom of a Christian country, in the home of almost every

individual of the educated and higher classes ;—it is an evil that comes close home to us all,—and goes on generating and increasing day after day. The generality of servants as they now exist are not fit inmates for a decent family, and “ Chubb locks” and "patent detectors,” placed on our sideboards and cupboards, speak very distinctly to that point. Common locks and keys lady said to us the other day—“ are no longer any safeguard." Masters and mistresses have themselves to thank ;—they have

as a



behavoul as though they were little gods, and the distance between themselves and their domestirs infinite ; as if there were no sort of 11:1tion between them but the work they wanted done.

Iluman beings ('n not live together on such terms——the conse91641cni-, - mant- league together and make common cause against Their na-tres to defraul them in every way—and do nothing they are not obliged to do; evils generate evil. There is no specific for remedying the mischiet, no definite line of conduct can be laid down—th change required must begin in the SPIRIT in which come-tics are hired and trmteil.

Thon wiu Win the form will, we are aware, have much to enlure; "a forlorn hope must always be served either by heroes or martyrs, and they who ittempt, in their own example, to reform the present item of treating servants must expect to be disappointed and imposed upooli, and very possibly see very little fruit of their labours. The evil has been too long growing to yield to the first affort:. Servants, as they now stand, are, as å body, enough to disgust the most philanthropic; they are so ignorant anil prejudiced that they seem hardly to have any human feelings to work upon, and it will require a long course of good treatment before they will be able to understand it, or to believe that it does not conceal xorie snare'. They possess, in general, no one quality that can be depended upon. hence the complaint of their ingratitule, and the bitter disappointments in those that have for a while seemed exceptions to the ordinary run of servants ; their moral sense is very torpid at the best, and the common inconsistencies and short-comings of human nature seem exaggerated in them. Much patience and forbearance, and charitable construction of words and deeds, is neciled with the best of them, and it must be recollected that servants have no laws of “gool breeding”

-no education to restrain the expression of what they feel tempted to do: great allowance needs to be made on this score. If a feeling of conscientiousness can be developed, all practical workings of good qualities will follow-for what seem to be good qualities in them now, are too often mere appearances induced by the restraint and necessity of their position. A Quaker lady—a most estimable woman—who was matron of a Servants' Home, on a limited scale, instituted by a few friends to afford an asylum to respectable female servants out of place, told us she was obliged to give it up, on account of the conduct of those who became inmates. They were all servants coming out of decent places, who could

have good characters, and who hoped to get into good families again. Their licentious and disgusting conversation, the brutal and stupid pleasure they seemed to take in the destruction of furniture, linen, and so forth, for which they were not responsible ; their impudent and disobliging manner, and above all the awful (lies, we would hope,) in which they indulged concerning the families they had left, made her tremble at the idea of their being received amongst decent people ; and yet on application their “ characters” would be found satisfactory ; because the restraint of their position, and the distance at which their mistresses had held themselves, had prevented any insight into their true nature.

All this frightful evil must be grappled with. We must not expect to get hold of the best in our attempts at reform—nor must we be discouraged if some turn out devils incarnate on our hands. We must examine into them more closely, and of course naturally will not be surprised to find latent evil which might escape detection in the superficial bond which commonly exists between mistress and servant.

Any one received into our family in the capacity of a household servant ought to be treated as a fellow being, not as an inferior ; the discipline may be as strict as it will, the work may be as severe as it will, it is not on such points we would interfere ; but the party hired to fill that position ought to be received as a member of the family, as having for the time a unity of interest with it, as an object of care and regard to the head of the family who has hired her, bound by a tie of fellowship, not of mere work

This may sound Utopian, but there is no other secret whereby good and faithful servants are to be made. They are placed in a subordinate situation, and have a right to a paternal interest and governance at the hands of those they serve. They cannot be kept subordinate, and left to shift for themselves at the same time. If the masters and mistresses, from a coldblooded indolence, a disgust to the manner and language of servants as they now exist, shrink from all communication with their domestics, wrap themselves up in indifference to all that concerns them, keeping aloof at an impassable distance, looking only to the regularity

with which their household work is performed, they can expect nothing better than what they now meet with. Servants are not so trained that they may with safety be thrown on their own self-governance. It is not mere bodily consideration that they require. The kindness of a superior to an inferior, of a bene

and wages.

factor to a beggar, —that is not the sort of thing that is required at all ; it is horribly grating, and will not produce the desired result of an attached and faithful servant. The grand thing required in our social relation with our servants is, that they shall not feel themselves isolated—with no interest in the family, and no affection or human feeling expected from them, and none felt towards them ; nothing required from them, except their work. Nobody can conceive the desolate effect of such a position unless they have tried it: the better part of human nature cannot flourish under such circumstances, and clue's not !

This state of things works its own avenging, as all evil does. Vitore are the victims to the vices of their servants when they chance to be bad, and the slaves to them when they possess a medicum of yvonl qualities. When they do nothing outrageously bad, they are humoured and their caprices studied, to keep up a mercenary sort of good humour ; lest, knowing their own value, they should take pet, and leave their offending mas rs to the mercy of the fraternity. servants know quite well that there is no heart-kindness in all this, and value the indulgence at its true worth. One half the trouble expended in scheming and humiliating expedients for keeping a useful servant in good humour, would, if done with a different spirit, suffice to attach them for life and death. If we were to treat with servants, not as beings far down at a telescopic distance in the social scale, but as fellow beings associated with us by the accidents of life, with their interests combined with ours, “ ('hubb locks and patent detectors would become superfluities. The servants in England are, as a body, the very worst in the whole world ; and why? Because they are treated as inferior, until they are made inferior. The servants on the Continent look at their master's family with a very different feeling to what they do in England : they feel bound up and identified with them : they feel members of the family: their manners are more pleasing, and their tone is altogether superior. They are naturally no better, but they are considered and spoken to as fellow creatures-not as “ menials” and “inferiors.” No substituto can be found for fellow feeling, no patent German silver benevolence can supply the place of the genuinc human heart. It behoves cach and all of us to put our hand to this needful work. We may meet with stupidity and ingratitude, and seem to labour in vain ; but patience will work wonders, and, if we persevere, we shall have less complaint of the

which we may

depravity and worthlessness of servants. We must be tolerant of short-comings—very

like our own ; and whether we see fruits of our labour or not, we must recollect that it is not an optional duty,


up and lay down as we will, but one wide and deep as Humanity itself, and entailed on all who are in a position to keep domestics, from the one maid-of-all-work up to a ducal establishment. “ Mais c'est qu'on veut que


pauvre soit sans défaut ;” and it is not in nature that masters are to be allowed to monopolise " les défauts" with impunity.

G. E. J.

New Books.

WIT AND HUMOUR, selected from the English Poets, with an Illustrative

Essay and Critical Comments. By LEIGH HUNT. Post 8vo. London : SMITH, ELDER & Co.

The title of this book is exceedingly carefully drawn out, and requires an accurate appreciation in the reader. Wit and Humour, selected from the English Poets, with an Illustrative Essay.” Wé think some injustice has been done to the author by not properly considering what he has promised in his title-page, and what were his intentions. To comprise within three hundred and fifty, by no means very closely printed, pages, anything like a full specimen of English wits and humourists, together with a commentary on the infinite variety of modes in which they have manifested their genius, was beyond even the condensing powers of this accomplished and practised critic. After a life devoted to the elegant literature of all ages and countries, and with remarkable powers of appreciation and talent, Mr. Hunt, very fortunately for the rising generation, determined to give the fruits of his contemplations and experience in a series of illustrated essays on the chief modes in which the literary genius manifests itself.

It is part of the destiny of mankind that they shall be wrought upon by action and reaction. By the action of facts and sensations, and by the reaction of the effects of these potentialities as reverberated (if we may use the expression) in the brains and bosoms of their more perfectly formed fellow-creatures. From the idiot to Newton, from Bernardine to Shakespeare, range an infinite gradation of capacities to understand and to feel. Yet we know not how much of the powerful ratiocination of the one, and the infinitesimal delicacy of apprehension of the other, was owing to original formation, and how much to some happy circumstance, which woke their faculties and their sympathetic powers. The progress of civilisation shows us how much is done by the contact of sharp intellects, and every man knows that his appre

« AnteriorContinuar »