DOMESTIC BLISS - Time, half-past 3; Thermometer 30 deg.
William. "WHAT A VIOLENT RINGING THERE IS AT THE
Maria. "OH! I KNOW WHAT IT IS, DEAR. IT'S THE SWEEPS; AND I DARE SAY THE GIRLS DON'T HEAR. JUST RUN UP, AND KNOCK AT THEIR ROOM DOOR."
Punch, Jul.-Dec. 1847
Victorian London - Publications - Humour - Punch - cartoon 73 - Servant and Mistress
Mrs. Smith. "IS MRS. BROWN IN?"
Jane. "MEM, SHE'S NOT AT HOME."
Little Girl."OH! WHAT A HORRID STORY, JANE! MAR'S IN THE KITCHEN, HELPING COOK!"
Punch, Jan.-Jun. 1852
see also Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management - click here
Young Mistress. "JANE, I'M SURPRISED THAT NONE OF
YOU STOOD UP WHEN I WENT INTO THE KITCHEN UST NOW!"
Jane. "INDEED, MUM! WHICH WE WAS SU'PRISED OURSELVES AT YOUR A COMIN' INTO THE KITCHEN WHILE WE WAS A 'AVIN OUR LUNCHEONG!!"
Punch, April 11, 1868
Cook. "YES, SUSAN, I'M A WRITIN' TO MARY HANN
MIGGS. SHE'VE APPLIED TO ME FOR THE CHARACTER OF MY LAST MISSUS, WHICH SHE'S
THINKIN' OF TAKIN' THE SITIWATION -"
Susan. "WILL YOU GIVE HER ONE?"
Cook. "WELL, I'VE SAID THIS. (Reads) 'MRS. PERKSITS PRESENTS HER COMPLIMINKS TO MISS MIGGS, AND BEGS TO INFORM HER THAT I CONSIDER MRS. BROWN A RESPEK'ABLE YOUNG PERSON, AND ONE AS KNOWS HER DOOTIES; BUT SHE CAN'T CONSHENSLY RECOMMEND HER TEMPER, WHICH I HAD TO PART WITH HER ON THAT ACCOUNT.' IT'S ALLUS BEST TO BE CANDIED, YOU KNOW, SUSAN!"
Punch, May 14, 1870
[more satire from Punch reflecting employers ideas of servants inadequacies, ed.]
HINTS TO MAKE HOUSES WHOLESOME
(By a Pupil of the late Dr. Swift.)
ALWAYS keep the windows shut; for thus you not only prevent unwholesome
draughts but stop the smuts from flying in and dirtying the furniture.
Never sweep under the beds or the sofas, or the sideboards, but allow the dust to remain there undisturbed, for otherwise its particles might float into the air, and injure respiration.
For the same reason, suffer the "flue" to settle on the tops of wardrobes, pictures, bookcases, and cabinets, and refrain from injuring your health by attempting to remove it.
When visitors are expected, and you are honoured with instructions to clear out a bed room closet, (or perhaps a chest of drawers for them, do so in as gentle a manner as you can, and spread clean paper on the shelves without disturbing the dust which there has peacefully accumulated.
Always put away your wine-glasses and decanters without washing them; and when a flower-vase is sent down from the drawing-room, let the water remain in it to be ready for next time. You thus may save yourself much trouble, and avoid the risk of breakage.
When you are directed to light a bedroom fire for an unexpected visitor, never look to ascertain if the register be closed. Should the room be filled with smoke, recollect that fumigation is prescribed as a means to stop infection.
Take it for granted that all the household linen. has been well aired at the wash, and do not disturb your mind by any doubts upon the subject.
If damp sheets are the consequences, and illness should ensue from them, you will have the consolation of reflecting that your carelessnees has been the means of bringing profit to an honourable member of the medical profession, and that your master, and not you, will have to pay the charges.
It is convenient to keep a dirty cloth or two underneath the sofa cushions, in order to be handy to wipe up any mess which you unluckily may make, in case you should upset the milk-jug while you are handing round the tea-tray.
If you are bidden to poke the fire (particular1y in the library, where you find your master, intensely busy at his writing desk) do so with all the violence and vehemence that you can muster, in order that the dust may fly into the room, instead of falling in the ashpan, whence you would have to undergo the labour of removing it.
When you go to light the gas always turn it fully on before you strike your match, which you will take care to keep damp and probably incombustible. A slight escape of gas not merely imparts a piquant perfume to a room but serves to turn the observation from detecting even more offensive odours.
Never shake the rugs and doormats or so much as even stir them, if you possibly can help it A goodly quantity of dirt may thus be snugly stored beneath them and need not be dislodged until the yearly cleaning.
If your mistress be attached to pug-dogs, cats or parrots, encourage her to let them have their meals at the same table as herself and retrain from sweeping up the scraps which they may leave, lest they afterwards may wish for them.
If canaries be her pets, do not clean their cages oftener than once in every month or so, and fill up their baths and drinking fountains without previously emptying them.
Above all things bear in mind that scrubbing is a painful and degrading operation, and abstain therefore as much as possible from practising it.
Punch, February 15, 1873
"CHACUN POUR SOI"
Lady's Maid. "I BEG PARDON, MA'AM, BUT YOUR DRESS
IS TRAILING - HADN'T I BETTER LOOP IT UP BEFORE YOU GO OUT?"
Lady. "NO, THANKS, PARKER, I PREFER LETTING IT TRAIL, AS IT'S THE FASHION JUST NOW -"
Lady's Maid."YES, MA'AM - BUT AS THE DRESS IS TO BE MINE SOME DAY, I THINK I OUGHT TO HAVE SOME SAY IN THE MATTER!"
Punch, November 4, 1876
Victorian London - Publications - Etiquette and Household Advice Manuals - Cassells Household Guide, New and Revised Edition (4 Vol.) c.1880s [no date] - Household Law (1) - Law of Master (or Mistress) and Servant - (2) Parent and Child - (3) The Law of Will-Making - (4) Husband and Wife
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LAW OF MASTER (OR MISTRESS) AND SERVANT.
THE relation of master and servant arises out of the necessity under which a
man labours to call in the assistance of others, where his own skill and
capacity are insufficient to answer the cares incumbent on him. In the following
remarks, what may be said of master and man will be equally applicable to
mistress and maid.
Domestic Servants.-These are also called menial servants, from the Saxon word "meni" or "maenig," or the Norman "meing," which means a train, retinue, or family. Some authorities, however, derive the word from "moenia," the walls. They may be of several kinds, as butler, footman, nurse, cook, housemaid, &c.; and the nature of their service, its limits and its obligations, may vary according to the terms agreed upon at the time of the hiring. But there are certain duties which are generally required of such servants, and in the absence of any express agreement it will be understood that it was for such general and customary service that the hiring took place. Whenever anything unusual or special is to be required of a servant, it should form the subject of an express stipulation previously to engagement. Otherwise, after the trouble taken to get character, and trouble caused to the servant by coming in, the master or mistress will be liable to be told, "I was not engaged to do this." So that if the coachman is intended to wait at table, in addition to his duties in the stable; the nurse to do part of the house-work; the cook to assist the housemaid in doing what is commonly understood to be "housemaid's work," the intention should be made clear at the time of hiring; and though it is not absolutely necessary, it will be found for every purpose most convenient if the conditions of the service, that is to say, the work to be done and the wages to be paid, be reduced into a memorandum and signed or "marked" by the servant. What is the regular duty commonly required of servants with whom no express contract has been made is matter of common fame to which any one can testify in the event of a dispute. This, however, often forms the subject of a quarrel.
Duration of the Service.-It is customary in this country to hire domestic servants by the year, in which case the wages are paid quarterly. Unless any express agreement be made on the subject, the law understands that either party may determine the service at will, upon giving a month's warning, or upon payment or forfeiture of a month's wages. With clerks, governesses, or others holding posts not menial, it is otherwise -a quarter's notice or a quarter's salary is the condition of leaving. There may be sometimes a weekly hiring - i.e., determinable at the end of a current week from commencement.
Summary Dismissal.- This power is reserved to a master or mistress, in order to prevent them from being saddled with what might be an intolerable nuisance. It must, however, be exercised, if at all, under such circumstances only as the law would approve, else servants would be liable to be cast forth suddenly upon the world at the caprice of their employers, who might do injustice in a moment of passion, or under the influence of mistaken judgment. When a domestic servant is guilty of immoral conduct, wilfully refuses to obey orders, gets intoxicated, stays out all night without being able to give a satisfactory reason for so doing, or habitually neglects to carry out his or her master's (or mistress's) lawful commands, such domestic servant may be summarily dismissed, without any more wages being paid than are actually due. Of course in cases of detected theft, summary dismissal is allowed; and dismissal is generally accompanied by delivery into the hands of the police. A master or mistress has the right, in the case of loss through theft, to cause the servants' rooms and boxes to be examined. The act of giving into custody on mere suspicion, however, is attended with the responsibilities which attach to the act when done towards anyone whatever. In the event of any mistake, or failure to show reasonable ground for suspicion, the employer will be liable to an action for false imprisonment, and possibly also for defamation of character.
Warning.- A clear month's warning is all that is required. So that this be given, it does not matter whether it be a month from the last pay-day, or, indeed, from any other particular date. It generally is a month from the date of the act committed, or omitted, which induced the employer to give warning. This is true also of warning given by the servant.
Duties of Employers to Servants.-It is the duty of an employer to pay his servant the wages agreed upon, and to house and to feed him in a suitable manner. What is a "suitable manner" must depend upon the class of servant, the nature of his service, and the means of the employer; but it may be understood to be required by law, that the lodging must be such as would be approved for size, cleanliness, ventilation, and power of shelter from the weather, by the health officer of the district As to diet, that is very much a matter of agreement; and it is well, in all cases, to settle it at the time of hiring, when the allowance of beer (if any), of tea, the number of meat meals per diem, and other matters, can be arranged. The law would simply require that sufficiency of good and wholesome food for a man or woman of the servant's age should be supplied. Custom has much control in the matter, however, the law seldom being invoked except in cases of brutality, malicious ill-feeding, or stinting on starvation allowance. A servant who is at all dissatisfied with his meat, has the remedy in his own hands by leaving it. A recent statute (1875) has imposed a penalty of £20 or under, or imprisonment not exceeding three months, on any master who, being legally liable to provide for his servant food, clothing, medical aid, or lodging, wilfully, and without lawful excuse, refuses or neglects to provide the same, whereby the health of his servant or apprentice is or is likely to be seriously or permanently injured.
An employer is not bound to provide a servant with medicine or medical attendance, but if he sends for a doctor he is liable, and cannot deduct the doctor's bill from his servant's wages, and in the event of the disablement of the servant by sickness or accident, he cannot discharge him or her without a month's warning or wages. [-14-] He cannot refuse admittance to a medical attendant called in by the servant at his own expense, during the time the servant is in the house. If he be annoyed by the visits of such medical man, or suspect him of misconduct, he can give his servant warning, and so get rid of the invalid and doctor together.
Giving "Characters." - The law does not oblige anyone to give a "character" to a servant. It is perfectly competent to a master or mistress to refuse one without assigning any reason for the refusal. If however, a character be given, the law prescribes the circumstances under which it shall be given. The conversation or letter in which the character is given is a privileged communication, and is exempt from the operation of the law of libel and slander, if the information be given in good faith, and without a malicious intent to injure the character of the servant. Proof of malice does away with the privilege, and lays the injurious character given open to an action for defamation. Short of covering malice, the law protects those who give characters honestly, that is to say, in accordance with what they know, and in accordance, also, with what they suspect; and even if what they say be untrue in fact, but yet honestly said, the law holds them excused. It may often happen that a mistress has good reason to suspect that her late servant was not in some particular what she should have been, though she may not have been able to bring an accusation home to her. Under such circumstances the character giver is warranted in disclosing to the character seeker what she really thinks.
A statute of George III. provides that if any person shall personate a master and give a false character to a servant, or assert in writing that a servant has been hired for a period of time or in a station, or was discharged at any time, or had not been hired in any previous service, contrary to truth; or if any one shall offer himself as a servant, pretending to have served where he has not served, or with a false certificate of character, or shall alter a certificate, or shall pretend not to have been in any previous service, contrary to truth, the offenders in such cases are liable, on conviction before two justices of the peace, to be fined twenty pounds, or in default, to be imprisoned, with hard labour, for from one to three months.
Liability of Master (or Mistress) for a Servant.- A master may justify an assault committed in defence of his servant, as a servant may justify an assault committed in defence of his master. If any one cause or procure a servant to quit his master's service, or hire him at the time he is in that service, so that he leave it before he be legally entitled to do so, the master can bring an action for damages against the new master and the servant.
Formerly a master was not liable to his servant for any injury happening in the course of his employment, nor even for exposing him to extraordinary risk; but by an Act passed in 1880 the employer is made liable if the injury arises through any orders to which the servant was bound to conform.
For all acts of a servant done by command of the master, that master is responsible, as he is also for certain acts not done by his command, but done under circumstances that seem to warrant the idea that the master has consented to be responsible. If a servant, in pursuance of direct orders, shoots a neighbour's dog, the master of the servant will be clearly responsible to the owner of the dog; and if a man has a coachman who drives badly and runs into a carriage, that man, by trusting such a driver with the reins, is assumed to have undertaken the responsibility of his acts. Some one must suffer loss; who so worthy as the man who caused it, by employing an unskilful servant? If a blacksmith's servant lame a horse in shoeing him, the blacksmith must make good the damage caused to the owner. It is at the same time no excuse to the servant who does an unlawful act, such as shooting the dog, that he did it by order of his; master. He is not bound to obey any unlawful command.
If a servant commit an injury without the authority of his master, the master is not liable. So that if the laundry-maid at Mrs. A's, having a quarrel with the laundry-maid at Mrs. B's, destroys Mrs. B's clothes-lines. or throws lighted lucifer matches among the clothes hanging out to dry, so that the clothes are burned, Mrs. A is not liable. If the cook at Mrs. A's come into Mrs. B's - house and says that her mistress is in need of change for a five-pound note, and that if Mrs. B will give the cook the change, she will herself presently bring the note, in I such a case, if the cook, unauthorised to say what she did, goes off with the money, her mistress is not liable to make good the loss to the deceived person..
If a servant procure articles on credit from a trades- man with whom her mistress has been in the habit of dealing for cash payments, it is the tradesman's loss if the servant prove a cheat. If, however, the mistress has had articles sometimes for cash, sometimes on credit, it is her loss; for the tradesman cannot know whether she has really ordered the goods or not. But by far the most preferable system is that now adopted by most respectable tradesmen-namely, to have every order entered in a book, the tradesman undertaking not to supply anything without a written order from the customer.
In the case of bankruptcy, servants are entitled to be paid in full all wages due at the date of the order of adjudication, for any time not exceeding four months, and for any sum not exceeding £50.
HOUSEHOLD LAW - II.
PARENT AND CHILD.
IT might, perhaps, be thought that if any law were required to regulate the
relations between parent and child, it would be found innate in the human
breast. But human nature has so many weaknesses, to say nothing of positive evil
impulses, that we cannot allow ourselves to trust to it alone, and experience
has shown that a public law is necessary, in order to define the relation in
which parents and children stand towards each other, and towards those who are
The law of Rome gave to a father the most absolute power over his children, at one period allowing him even the power of life and death; but always giving him ownership in all that his sons or daughters had, with power of disposing of it during his own lifetime. Only upon the father's death did the children become free, unless he had emancipated them previously, and in that case the children of the free were in their turn in legal bondage to their father. These principles never found favour in the West, and were not adopted even by those nations which engrafted the greater portion of the Roman law upon their own stocks. In this country the Roman law never had any footing, in spite of many strenuous efforts to import it; and the English law of parent and child is therefore not founded upon it, but upon those principles of general convenience and utility which suggested themselves as the demand for them came.
The Duties imposed upon Parents by the English law are the maintenance and protection of their children. It has been considered an unwarrantable thing that those through whose instrumentality children have been called into being, should be allowed to neglect those children, or to throw them as a burden upon others. This is a common-sense view of the matter, and one that would be approved even by persons devoid of that natural affection which is a law of itself to those who have it. It is required, then, of parents that they shall feed, clothe, and house their children; but it does not follow legally from this that they must do so in a manner according with the style in which they themselves are living. So long as they arrange in such a way that the children are not chargeable to the parish, they may bring them up in what station of life they please. It might, no doubt, be matter for comment, if an unnatural father should deny to his children a share in the comforts he is able to procure; but the law would only compel him to provide them with actual necessaries. "The policy of our laws," says Blackstone, "which are ever watchful to promote industry, did not mean to compel a father to maintain his idle and lazy children in ease and indolence; but thought it unjust to oblige the parent against his will to provide them with superfluities and other indulgences of fortune, imagining they might trust to the impulse of nature, if the children were deserving of such favours." Supposing, however, that the child be living away from home, and there is not any intimation given by the father of his own peculiarities, it will be understood that he intends his child to live in a manner consonant to that in which he himself lives; and tradesmen supplying goods to such child will be able to recover from the father not only the price of such goods as were actually necessary to sustain life, but also of such other goods as were not incompatible with the father's position in the world. What goods were necessary for the child's existence, it is not difficult to determine ; what other goods were, under the circumstances, allowable, is a question which is left to a jury to answer. Some of the decisions have been sufficiently remarkable, in one case was held that a gold latch-key was "necessary" to an officer in the Life Guards, evidence having been given to show that it was the custom for the officers of that regiment to use gold keys. But in the same case it was held by the jury, with the full approval of the court, that gold lockets, bracelets, and earrings, could not be "necessary" to an officer, and the items were struck out of the account. A diamond ring was allowed to stand in a jeweller's bill, for which an action was brought against a nobleman - the goods having been supplied to his son, an undergraduate at Oxford - on the ground that such an ornament was a common one among gentlemen in the young man's position, and might therefore be considered in the light of a "necessary," for which the father was chargeable. Instances might be multiplied indefinitely: but the rule is, that where a father allows his child to be in that position, from which it might reasonably be supposed he intended him to be treated as his son, he will be liable for supplies made to him, in accordance with the appearance he allowed him to keep up. It is at all times competent, however, to a father to limit his liability, by giving notice that he will not be liable for any debts his child may incur; and if he does this, by advertising for a reasonable time in such papers as are generally read, or by special notice to tradesmen and others in the places where his son may be, he will not be liable except for bare necessaries, and even for these it is a question whether he will be made to pay, if he causes it to be known that he is paying his son a sufficient necessary allowance. So firmly, however, does the law hold to its rule that a parent shall maintain his children, that it requires the father to repay to a parish, on the rates of which the son has become chargeable, the value of the supplies made to him. By virtue of his office of guardian to his child a father may bring an action against any person injuring the child, and he may recover damages not only for the child, but for himself also, because the child is supposed to have been a help to his father, and damages are awarded to compensate for the loss of service. The Roman law carried the principle of parental maintenance so far that it would not allow a man to disinherit his children, that is to say, it would not allow him to leave more than three-fourths of his property away from his children. If he did so, his will was set aside as insane, and a fourth of the property was taken for the children's benefit. At one time our law recognised the children's right to "a reasonable part" of the father's estate; but at the present day, the utmost freedom is given to testators in disposing of their property, and a man possessed of a million of money may, for all the law will interfere, leave the whole of his wealth away from his family.
Education. Up to a recent period parents were not under any legal obligation to educate their children, and were free to follow their own instincts on the subject; but by the "Elementary Education Act, 1870," a compulsory scheme of education is now enforceable where efficient instruction is not otherwise given, or where sickness or other unavoidable cause does not prevent attendance at the schools thereby instituted.
Power of Parents over Children- A father has a right to the custody of his children until they attain twenty-one years, and he may recover them, if detained from him, by the writ of habeas corpus. He is, however, sometimes deprived by his own misconduct of such custody; sometimes it is modified, so that the child is free at the age of fourteen ; but he must himself express his desire to leave the protection of his parents, and must do so in open court, or he will be given up to his father. Under the age of fourteen the child is absolutely within the power of his father, and any person enticing, stealing, or detaining a child under ten years of age, with intent to deprive its father or proper guardian of the charge of it, incurs the penalty of felony. A father has legal right to correct or chastise his child, so the punishment be not [-36-] immoderate; his consent must be obtained to a marriage, if the child be a minor; and his dissent, on publication of banns, will be sufficient to stop the marriage. A licence for a minor to be married will not as a rule be granted, and should not be granted, except on oath that the father's consent has been obtained. Where a minor has property, independently of his parents, his father is the guardian and administrator of it during the minority; but he will be liable to be called upon for an account of his guardianship on the infant attaining his majority. A father has power by his will to appoint guardians for his children under age, and such guardians are invested, by the law, with the same rights and powers and responsibilities as the father.
Mother and Child.- A mother has not any power over her children during her husband's lifetime, except in one case which is created by statute. If the children are under sixteen years of age, the Lord Chancellor may order, on the mother's petition, that they be given over to her - the mother being considered a better and more natural guardian for children of tender years. On the death of her husband, she steps into his place as guardian, having a right to the custody of her children till they are of age. She cannot, however, appoint a guardian by her will, as she is not mentioned in the statute which gave the father that privilege.
Duties of Children to Parents.- These are not defined by the municipal law, being supposed to be contained in the law of nature; but the poor law which compels parents, who are able to do so, to pay for the maintenance of their children, of whatever age, who may become chargeable to the parish, also makes it incumbent on children having ability to pay to provide for their poor and impotent parents, at such a rate as the justices in quarter sessions may order.
Rights, Liabilities of Infants.- As to the liability of minors on contracts entered into with them, such contracts were, until recently, capable of confirmation on their attaining full age; but contracts with minors are now absolutely void, and this even in cases where a new consideration has been given after full age has been attained.
Infancy being a personal privilege, no one can take advantage of it but the infant himself; and therefore, though his contract be voidable, as far as he himself is concerned, yet it binds the person of full age.
It is almost superfluous to remark that an infant cannot become bankrupt. He may be made joint executor with another of any age; but if appointed sole executor, administration must be granted to his guardians during minority. A gift by an infant is voidable.
THE LAW OF WILL-MAKING.
What is a Will? - A will or testament is the
legal expression of a man's wishes in respect of matters that he desires to have
attended to after his death. If the dispositions to be made by a will are very
complicated or numerous, the wisest plan is to have the will drawn by a lawyer,
whose charges it is far better to incur than to run the chance of the will being
disputed or set aside after the testator's death. But in cases of simple
bequest, whether of land or movable goods, and even in difficult cases if the
testator is quite sure he can express his meaning simply and clearly, there is
not any need for the intervention of a lawyer. Sudden necessity, remoteness from
professional help, desire to keep within one's breast the particulars as to
property and to bequests - these and other causes might render it desirable that
one should know how to make a will for oneself.
How to Make a Will - There is not any prescribed form in which a will must necessarily be made, and when an unprofessional person is going to make a will he must carefully get rid of the idea that any form is possible. Let him write his wishes down as simply and easily as if he were writing a note, a voiding the use of all technical expressions, and aiming only at making himself intelligible. Many persons have frustrated their own intentions by introducing into wills made by themselves technical terms of the exact meaning of which they were ignorant, and which had to be construed according to the technical signification. Formerly it was of the highest importance that wills should be so worded that no other meaning than that intended should by any possibility be placed upon them. Then it was almost indispensable that the services of a lawyer should be retained. Now, however, a will is construed according to the evident intention of the testator, however badly he may have expressed himself, so that the simpler the wording of the document the better. The whole law of wills was remodelled on this principle in the first year of the reign of her present Majesty. The only conditions imposed upon testators are conditions which are meant solely to guard them against the mischief of fraud, and to prevent their being subjected to undue influence in the making of wills. They are:-
1. The testator must be of sound mind, and not less than twenty-one years of age.
2. His will must be written, the only exceptions to this rule being soldiers and sailors, who may, in consideration of the service in which they are engaged, make verbal assignments of their property.
3. The will must be properly executed.
Who may Make a Will - Any man or unmarried woman of sound mind, and of the age of twenty-one years and upwards, may make a will. Ordinarily, married women cannot make wills, because they have not anything to bequeath, their property, by a rule of law, becoming the property of the husband on marriage. But a married woman may, if of full age, make a will bequeathing property settled upon her for her separate use and benefit or over which she has a general power of appointment, or of goods vested in her as executrix. She may also make a will if her husband is banished for life, or has obtained a protecting order, or had a judicial separation under the Divorce Act. By the Married Woman's Property Act, 1870, the earnings of a married woman, her deposits in savings banks, stock, shares, and interests in friendly societies, &c., are her separate property, and consequently can be left by her by will.
Execution of a Will - The testator's signature must be placed at the foot or end of the will ; and should the will be contained in more than one sheet, each of such sheets should be signed by the testator, and the signature attested by the witnesses. The signature will not give effect to any bequests underneath or following it or inserted after the signature is made. Any one capable of understanding what he is about, and able to write his name, may witness the signature of a testator; but it must be remembered that a witness cannot receive any benefit under the will. Should a bequest have been made to him it is taken away by the mere fact of his being a witness, and the portion he would have taken goes to the residuary legatee. If, therefore, it be intended to give anything, let it not be to him who is to witness the signature An executor or trustee may be a witness, subject to the above rule about bequests. There must be two witnesses They must both, and at the same time, see the testator sign the will; and they must sign a memorandum to that effect in the presence of the testator and of each other. There is not any precise clause of attestation, but the following form contains all the essential conditions:- "Signed by the testator, John Hopkins, as and for his last will, in the presence of us present at the same time, who in his presence at his request and in the presence of each other have hereunto subscribed our names as witnesses." Should any alteration have been made in the will prior to its execution, upon which any doubt might subsequently arise as to whether it had been made before or after execution, the fact of such alteration should be set out in the attestation clause thus :-" Signed by the testator, John Hopkins, as and for his last will and testament, the alteration in line 9, page 3, having been previously made in the presence of us, &c."
Unwritten Wills.- The only persons who are allowed to make wills orally are soldiers actually engaged on some expedition, or sailors actually at sea. To them it is permitted to make wills orally in consideration of their being, by the nature of their calling, constantly in the face of death, which may surprise them at any moment. So far as sailors, however, are concerned, there is a rule of the Admiralty that any will disposing of pay, prize-money, or anything else which would have to pass through the Admiralty Office, shall be reduced to writing, either by the testator, or some one writing at his request.
[-91-] What may be Bequeathed by Will- Anything and everything that a man possesses or is entitled to may be bequeathed by will. Formerly this was not so. It was a rule of law, founded on the Roman code, that a man could not leave the whole of his property away from his family. The Roman law obliged him to leave a fourth, at least, to those who were naturally dependent upon him, and the English law gave to the children of a testator their "reasonable part," which was calculated with reference to the man's position in the world. Now, however, a man may do just what he likes with land or money, but he may not bequeath land, or money to be spent in buying land, to any religious or charitable institution. If he do, the dead hand (or rnortmain) shall recover the bequest for his family. A gift of land to a charity must be by deed executed in the presence of two witnesses twelve calendar months before the death of the donor, and enrolled in the Court of Chancery six months after its execution. Money, however, may be left to a charity or a religious institution so long as it is not directed to be spent in the purchase of land. Gifts of money may also now be made by will for the purpose of parks, schools, or museums, but the will must be executed twelve calendar months before the donor's death, and enrolled within six months after death.
Codicils, or "little writings," are the expressions of a man's wishes conceived after his will is complete. By their means he can revoke the whole or part of his will, make fresh dispositions, or re-arrange the dispositions already made. They are made in exactly the same way, and under the same conditions, as wills, but instead of being described as "the last will and testament," they are called "codicil" or "codicils " to "the last will and testament."
Revocation and Nullification of a Will.-A will is considered to be revoked by another subsequently dated, and is of course so by any codicil, memorandum, or writing made as and for a fresh will, in which the former will is expressly declared to be revoked. The only act by which, ipso facto, a will is nullified, except as above, is by the marriage of the testator. Formerly a number of events, as the birth of a child, an alteration in the condition of a man's estate, nullified a will; marriage is now the only revoker.
Probate of a Will - When the will-maker is dead his executors, if they mean to act, should prove the will; to do this, they must make an inventory of all the property of the deceased, and have it valued. Knowing the total amount of the property, they will have to swear what is termed an oath for probate, a statement verifying the will; this may be done either before the registrar of the Probate Court (local registries exist all over the kingdom), or before any commissioner authorised to administer oaths. This oath, together with the will, is then carried into the Probate Court. If the will be not disputed this is sufficient proof, the will is given up to the Court of Probate, and an official copy is made of it, which is delivered to the executors, and is called the probate copy. This is the warrant for the executors to act in the administration of the estate. Probate duty, which varies according to the amount of the property, is charged and paid before the delivery of the probate copy. If the will be disputed it must be proved in solemn form; the witnesses to the will, and any other witnesses whom it may be thought necessary to summon, are examined and cross-examined in the Court of Probate, and the will is admitted to proof or not, according to what may appear. A will once proved in solemn form cannot be disputed afterwards; the executors to a will proved only in common form are liable to be called upon afterwards to prove it in solemn form. All solicitors of the Supreme Court of Judicature can act in the obtaining of probates, just as formerly proctors alone could.
Executors and Trustees.- The persons appointed by a testator to be his executors, or to be trustees in any trust provided for in his will, may, if they choose, renounce the office, either at the time of their appointment becoming known, or afterwards. In such cases the Court of Probate will grant administration to a legatee or creditor. If the executors accept office, they are to all purposes the representatives of the deceased testator. They may even before receiving probate do all necessary offices for the deceased; thus they may incur charges for burying him, and for supplying the immediate wants of his family ; they may seal up his papers and take possession of all his goods, for the purpose of protecting them. Having received probate, they may do all things that their testator might himself have done; they may bring actions to recover debts due to him, and they are the proper defendants in actions for debts, &c., due from him. It is their duty, within a reasonable time, to get in the whole of his estate, and to pay, 1st, the reasonable funeral expenses, and the cost of proving the will; 2nd, debts due to the Crown for taxes, &c.; 3rd, debts due on judgments obtained at law, or on decrees made by the Court of Chancery, and debts due on recognisances ; 4th, debts on bonds, covenants, and the like, not under seal, and debts for rent of any kind ; 5th, simple contract debts, that is to say, debts on contracts written but not sealed, and debts incurred without any writing to prove them, as tradesmen's bills, or wages ; 6th, the legacies ; 7th, the residuary legatee. An executor is bound to pay away the estate in the order mentioned. If there should not be enough to pay all, he must pay the higher classes of claimants as far as the money will go, leaving the rest ; and he is personally responsible to a higher class creditor if he has paid, through neglect or inadvertence, a creditor of the lower class, and have not money left to pay the higher claim. If he have complied with these conditions in administering the estate, he is protected against all the world on proving his plea of plene administravit. It is competent for an executor to renounce after he has begun to administer. In that case he must account for what he has done so far to the Chancery Court, which will then take over the charge for him.
Intestacy - Administration.- A man dying without a will is said to be intestate. In such case, and in the case of a will being set aside as having been made when the testator was insane, or under undue influence, the Court of Probate will grant power to the widow, or the next of kin, to administer the estate, according to certain known rules of law. The court must be satisfied as to who is next of kin, and also as to the amount of the intestate's property, then it will on application grant letters of administration. Landed property will go to the heir-at-law, and personal property will be divided according to directions laid down in an Act of Parliament called the Statute of Distributions. Where a widow and children are left, one-third of the personal property goes to the widow, and two-thirds go to the children where there is a widow and no children, half goes to the former, and half to the next of kin; where neither widow nor children, the whole goes to the heirs of the intestate's father, who divide it equally, females as well as males. In dividing personal property the law makes no distinction of sex, but gives to all equal shares. Where a man dies intestate, and no claimant at all appears, the Crown, as the ideal owner of everything in the kingdom, or belonging to any subject of the same, puts in its claim, and takes the whole of the property. Where a person dies under circumstances that cause his property to be forfeited, as when he dies by the hand of the law, for treason or murder, any will he may have made is void, and the Crown takes his goods. On petition, however, the family of such a man are allowed the property.
HUSBAND AND WIFE.
OF private relations subsisting between human beings, the first in importance
is that of master and servant; the second, that of marriage, which, in the words
of a great lawyer, includes the reciprocal rights and duties of husband and
wife. What these rights and duties are, it will be in this paper our task to
discuss. In the first place, however, it will be necessary to state how and by
whom marriage may be contracted.
The English law looks upon marriage in no other light than as a civil contract; and the law applies to it generally the ordinary principles which attach to other contracts, allowing it to be good and valid in all cases in which the parties, at the time of making it, were, in the first place, willing to contract ; secondly, able to contract; and lastly, did contract in the proper forms required by law.
The first proviso we need not discuss.
As to the second, all persons are able to contract marriage, unless they labour under some particular disabilities and incapacities.
The first of these disabilities is a prior marriage, of which marriage the husband or wife is still alive. The second is want of age. The latter proviso holds good in all other contracts on account of the imbecility of judgment in the parties contracting. The age fixed by law for consent to matrimony, is fourteen in males and twelve in females, and supposing a marriage contracted by persons under these ages respectively, either of them upon coming to the age of consent aforesaid, may disagree and declare the marriage void, but if at the age of consent they continue to agree together, they need not be married again.
What is above stated must be understood as applying solely to the actual marriage contract ; but a promise to marry - which, like other contracts, will give a right of action for damages in case of its breach - is not binding unless the party who makes it be of full age, viz., twenty-one. And when two persons, one of full age and the other under, enter into a contract of this kind, the former is liable to an action for damages if it be broken whilst against the minor under similar circumstances no action will lie.
Another incapacity arises from want of reason, without which the matrimonial contract is not valid; this wilt not, however, be cause for divorce if the insanity arises after marriage ; so that, as the law stands, the marriage of [-131-] a lunatic, unless in a lucid interval, is absolutely void. As, however, it was found difficult to prove the exact state of the party's mind at the actual celebration of the nuptials, a statute was passed by which the marriages of all lunatics or persons under frenzies - if found so by a commission appointed for that purpose, or committed to the care of trustees, by an Act of Parliament - were declared void.
A fourth incapacity is in respect of proximity of relationship ; that is, the fact of the parties being within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity. These degrees, however, are too well known to require more than the mere mention of them. Any two persons, therefore, not labouring under any of these disabilities, may contract themselves in marriage, provided that they do so in conformity with the law. We will now inquire what the law on this head is.
The different modes by which the marriage contract may be entered into, are by banns, by special licence, by the ordinary's or surrogate's licence, by the superintendent registrar's certificate with licence, or by his certificate without licence. These we will explain in turn.
An Act passed in the reign of George IV.,* (4 Geo IV., c.76) prescribes previous to a marriage, the publication of the banns upon three successive Sundays in the church or chapel where the ceremony is to be solemnised, or instead of this, a licence from the ecclesiastical authority to marry without banns - that is, either a "special" licence from the Archbishop of Canterbury, or a "common licence" from the ordinary of the place or his surrogate ; at the same time it ordains that no licence shall be granted to marry in any church or chapel, unless one of the parties has had his or her usual place of abode in the parish to which the church or chapel belongs for fifteen days immediately preceding ; that all ministers are forbidden to solemnise marriages more than three months after the complete publication of the banns, or grant of licence; that the marriage, whether by banns or licence, shall be in a church or public chapel where banns may be lawfully published, and shall take place between eight and twelve in the forenoon (except in the case of a special licence), and shall be solemnised by a person in holy orders, and before not less than two credible witnesses. Moreover, as it is deemed expedient that no facilities shall be given to persons under the age of twenty-one to intermarry without the consent of parents or guardians, the Act also orders that, in the case of the publication of banns of a person under the age of twenty-one not being a widow or widower, if the parent or guardian openly express his dissent at the time they are published, the publication shall be void. It also enacts that no licence to marry without banns shall be granted, unless oath shall be first made by one of the parties, that he or she believes there is no impediment of kindred or alliance, or of any other lawful cause; and, moreover, that one of the parties to the contract has, for the space of fifteen days immediately preceding, had his or her usual place of abode within the parish in which the marriage is to take place; and that when one of the parties is under twenty-one, that the consent of the person whose consent is required has been obtained, or that there is no person living who has authority to give such consent. The consent required by the Act must be given by the father, or if he be dead, by the appointed guardian. If there be no guardian, then by the mother if she is unmarried, and if there be no mother unmarried, then by any guardian appointed by the Court of Chancery.
Although these formalities are prescribed by the law, and in case of their neglect penal consequences may ensue, the marriage is not necessarily void which is not concluded precisely according to the provisions above related. In the following cases, however, the marriage will be void:- If any person shall intermarry without due publication of banns in any other place than a church or chapel where banns may be lawfully published, unless by special licence ; or shall intermarry without due publication of banns, or without a licence from a person who has authority to publish or grant such banns or licence; or shall consent or acquiesce in the solemnisation of marriage by any person who is not in holy orders. The statute, however, applies only to those who commit such errors wilfully, and with full knowledge that what they do is against the law.
By Special Licence, it must be understood, a marriage may take place at any hour and at any place.
We have now to consider how a marriage may be contracted by means of the Superintendent Registrar's Certificate without Licence.
Notice must be given by the person intending to be married by this means to the superintending registrar of the district within which both the persons about to marry have dwelt for not less than seven days; or if they have lived in different districts for that time, then to the superintendent registrar of each district. This notice wil1 be entered in a book called the "Marriage Notice Book" (which may be seen by any one), particularising the church or other building in which the marriage is to be solemnised. The person giving the notice must add that he or she believes that there is no lawful impediment; that both parties have lived in the district for seven days previously; and that consent to the marriage from the person (if any) required by law has been obtained. This notice is placed in the registrar's office for twenty-one days after it has been entered in the notice-book, during which time any one who has authority, may forbid the issue of a certificate that the marriage has been duly entered, by writing the word "forbidden" opposite the entry in the notice-book. If, however, no such impediment has been made after the expiration of twenty-one days, the registrar may issue his certificate, which expresses that notice of the intending marriage in such a church or building has been duly entered, and that it has not been forbidden by any authorised person; for which certificate the registrar receives the fee of one shilling. Then the marriage may take place at any time within three months from the entry of the notice, in the church or registered building specified. The parties to the contract may, however, if they choose, be married at the office of the superintendent registrar, when the ceremony must take place in his presence and in that of some registrar of the district, and before two other witnesses, with open doors, and between eight and twelve in the forenoon, in which ceremony no religious service may be read.
A person desirous of being married by the superintendent registrar's certificate with licence, is to give notice and obtain a certificate as in the former case, with these distinctions:-
If both persons do not dwell in the same district, notice need not be given to the superintendent registrar of each district,, but only to the superintendent registrar of the district in which one of them resides. The notice must state that the person making it has lived for fifteen, not seven, days in the district in which the notice is given.
The notice is not hung up in the office, and the certificate may be granted at the expiration of one day, instead of twenty-one days, after the entry of the notice.
Such are the various methods by which marriage may be contracted. We will now discuss the rights of husband and wife with respect to property.
Unless the property which a wife may possess at the time of her marriage be settled on her, the husband becomes the absolute owner of her personal property; i.e., her property other than freehold estates, and this personal property he may dispose of as he wills, amid after his death his wife will have no claim to it. The wife may, however, claim as her own, her necessary clothing, and all gifts of [-132-] jewels and trinkets presented to her by relations and friends upon or after her marriage, and these she may dispose of as if she were unmarried, and they cannot be touched by her husband or his creditors, unless her husband survives her, and they are otherwise undisposed of. She may also claim her paraphernalia - that is, her wearing apparel and jewels suitable to her station in life but gifts of jewellery from her husband made before or after marriage she cannot claim until his death. During his life he may sell, pawn, or otherwise dispose of such articles, and although he cannot leave them to any one by will, they are liable to his debts both before and after his death.
The husband is absolute owner during his wife's life of her leasehold property, although he cannot dispose of it by will ; so if he dies before her it will revert to her, whilst if he survives her it will become his absolutely.
If the wife is possessed of freehold property at the time of her marriage which has not been settled distinctly upon her, the husband has what is called a freehold interest in it during their joint lives ; that is, he is sole tenant, and can lease, mortgage, or otherwise dispose of it to the extent of his interest in it. In such cases if he survive his wife, and has had issue by her capable of inheriting the property, he is tenant for the rest of his life in all her freehold estates. Such cases, however, occur rarely, as it is usual for a settlement to be drawn up on behalf of the lady before her marriage.
Now all settlements must be in writing, as well as all agreements for a settlement. Settlements may be made before marriage or after marriage. A settlement made before marriage in consideration of (i.e. with a view to) marriage, holds good against every claim; it cannot be impeached (unless it can be proved to have been drawn up in a fraudulent manner), even by creditors of the husband or wife. The same law applies to a settlement made after marriage, if drawn up in pursuance of an agreement for a settlement entered into before marriage.
A settlement made after marriage, unless in pursuance of an agreement beforehand, cannot bar the claims of existing creditors, nor those of subsequent ones, if it is made with the intention of defeating their future claims if, however, it be made without fraudulent intention by a husband not indebted at the time, the settlement will bar the claims of subsequent creditors, unless the husband becomes bankrupt within the space of two years afterwards. Such a settlement is also binding on the settler when once completed, and he cannot undo it.
If a husband dies without having previously made a will, and in absence of a settlement, the wife is entitled to .a life interest in the freehold lands and houses which he possessed; if he dies without a will and without issue, she is entitled to one half of his personal property; that is, property in money, goods, &c.; if, however, he dies without a will, but leaves issue, she is entitled only to a third part.
Such is a brief synopsis of the law as regards property; the next step to be discussed is, how far a husband is liable for debts contracted by his wife.
Formerly a husband upon his marriage took upon himself all his wife's debts and liabilities, but an important statute, known as the Married Women's Property Act, passed in the year 1870, expressly absolves the husband from these - the wife remaining liable to be sued for them, and any separate estate of hers being applicable to their liquidation.
So long as the married couple live together, the wife is presumed to have her husband's authority to make contracts for the supply of articles, &c., suitable to her and his station in life. If however, he is in the habit of supplying such articles, &c., to his wife, and this fact is known to their tradespeople, either by notice from him otherwise, the husband is not bound to pay debts contracted for such articles.
A married woman is now liable to maintain her children out of her separate property, just as a widow would be; but the husband is thereby not relieved from his pecuniary liability.
If a wife leaves her home with her husband's consent, or by reason of his ill-usage, and without misconduct on her part, and he makes her no allowance, he is liable for necessaries supplied to her even by those tradesmen whom he has warned against her. When a husband and wife are living apart, it is the business of the tradespeople to inquire into the circumstances of the case before trusting the wife, as a husband is by no means bound to give notice to them of the separation. A husband may give authority to his wife to act as his agent, as he may to any other person, and in this capacity she may collect rents, pay money, sign cheques, draw bills, &c., for which he will be answerable until he revokes the authority.
By the before-mentioned statute the earnings of a married woman are to be deemed her own property, personal property coming to her, not exceeding £200 in value, and deposits in savings banks, &c., also the rents of freehold property descending to her are deemed to be her separate estate, and a married woman is empowered in her own name to bring an action therefor, or for wages due to her.
[--grey numbers in brackets indicate page number,
see also Toilers in London Chpts. 9 and 10 - click here
[ It will be seen that the following remarks and suggestions apply most strongly to the ordinary middle-class household, where there are about two to five servants in the kitchen. Also, they are most applicable to female servants, the male servants, in obedience to the working of economic law, commanding not only much higher wages, but claiming also a position of comparative freedom and independence]
In the sixteenth century, those who took an
interest in education were apologetic. If they were not drawn to the profession
by necessity, they felt it incumbent on them to explain and defend their
interest in a subject then considered so trivial. Nowadays, explanations and
apologies would be considered superfluous on the part of those who state their
views on education. But they would, perhaps, not be considered superfluous in an
introduction to a treatise on Domestic Service. In any case, surprise, and
possibly derision, would be excited if it were stated that domestic service is a
problem as momentous as that of Capital and Labour, and as complicated as that
of Individualism and Socialism. Social theorists and philanthropists are dealing
energetically with the state of the working classes, and with the relations of
one class to another. But they are silent on this-a most important and
significant side of human life, where the individuals of the two great classes,
commonly known as Capital and Labour, come into the closest and most direct
With this problem women have dealt single-handed and alone. In all civilised ages they must have given thought, or at least time, to it. The management of the household was, and probably will continue to the end of time to be, their business. In the times of slavery and feudalism, though difficulties may have arisen their task must have been easier than it is now. The principles by which to settle their difficulties were plain. But slavery and feudalism have passed away. Faint echoes of them are heard occasionally in the speech of some British matron roused on the subject of domestic grievances; and perhaps there still hangs about the idea of domestic relations an odour of stale and ineffectual feudalism. However it may be, domestic relations have lagged behind in the course of progress, and do not seem to have adjusted themselves to the modern spirit of human relations.~ The consequence is, that the domestic machinery is continually jarring. Most women who are mistresses of households must have felt at times that it was strangely hard to work: many servants must have felt that it can be turned into a yoke of tyranny and injustice. But most women have been taught -and with many it is an instinct -that the household (and of the household the management of servants is the principal part) must take up a great deal of time, and probably give a good deal of worry. There is by no means a plentiful supply of employment for women, and women who are poor, and not particularly well-educated, must earn their livelihood and work as servants. Thus urged by a sense of duty on the one side and necessity on the other, the domestic machinery goes round, but with many more, I think, of those "various entanglements, weights, blows, clashings, motions by which things severally go on, than occur in the workings of other human relations. Over this friction a silence reigns. Its causes have never been fundamentally inquired into: one side is silent through necessity, and the other through a certain callousness and reserve.
Of course there are exceptions-cases where things work in harmony, because on both sides there are people of character who, in spite of great obstacles thrown in their way, have succeeded in understanding each other. These instances I cannot help regarding as exceptions. The obstacles are increasing, and slowly, but surely, domestic service as a profession is going downhill.
I see a vista of irritable mistresses and irritated servants; there is the desperate cry for lady-helps, and the growth of flats, where the difficulties of housekeeping can be avoided. The voice of servants, as a class, is never heard. But there remains one great and significant fact: it is well known that in manufacturing districts, where there is ample employment for women, servants belonging to that part of the country are rarely to be found, showing that the women of those parts prefer the hard work and the long hours of factory-life to the comparative ease and comfort, but, at the same time, dependence, of domestic service. Does this not show emphatically that, as employment for women increases, domestic service will be avoided more and more by women of capacity, of character, and independence-the very women who are wanted in the profession which offers, more than any other, positions of trust and responsibility? As at present constituted, it not only discourages people of the highest type of character from entering it, but its tendency is to have a deteriorating effect on many of those who do so, and this because it denies them many of the essentials of a healthy, independent, and natural life.
The relation between employer and servant is infinitely complicated by the fact that it is by no means a purely business one. Wages are, indeed, settled roughly by the laws of supply and demand, though until there are trade-unions among servants none can tell how exactly. For a certain amount of money and board and lodging they undertake to do a certain amount of badly defined work. But here the business relation ends, and the human relation, tremendous in its scope and importance, begins, it is with this latter that I am concerned. The profession is, on the whole, well paid, compared to the other branches of female industry; and I think that most servants would allow that wages are of small importance, in comparison with the other factors of their position. For their life, so to speak-for comfort, happiness, freedom, and development-they are dependent on the character of their master and mistress, especially on that of the mistress, who gives the tone to the house, and by her choice and treatment of servants ultimately decides the tone of the kitchen, and its possibilities of being a place in which it is tolerable to live. It is, practically speaking, a servant's life which is governed in this vague and uncertain way.
It cannot be argued for one minute that the dependence of servant and employer is mutual. The master and mistress depend on having good servants for a certain amount of their material wellbeing, and some mistresses who are sensitive to personal relations are uncomfortable when these personal relations go wrong. But it is mainly for material comfort that the mistress depends on the servant. There, beyond a vague feeling of responsibility, which generally takes the form of filling up what leisure the servant may have with work designed to keep her out of mischief, her necessary connection with her servant ends. She has her independent life- her husband, her children, her interests, her social duties, her friends and acquaintances.
The servant is cut off from both her family and her class. She sees, perhaps, her family for a fortnight in the year, possibly not for so long. The severing of family ties is, indeed, a penalty which domestic service shares in common with many other of the professions of the poor. Yet it none the less remains a stern and cruel fact. In addition to this, a servant's intercourse with the outside world must be fitted into two or three hours on the Sunday; and, perhaps, if she is in an easy situation, she may have an hour or two during the week. But, on the whole, a servant's society is that of the three or four other servants in the kitchen, with whom she is very lucky if she can form a friendship of circumstances. I think I may say, without exaggeration, that this is the only form of society which mistresses encourage. Whatever advantages it may be supposed are opened to her by being continually in contact with the wealthier and leisured classes, it cannot be denied that it is thoroughly unhealthy to separate a human being from her people. I mean, by "her people", not only her family, but the class in which she was born, and whose interests and hopes and struggles she inherits understanding of, and sympathy with. For servants are not a class in themselves, though the tendency of domestic service is to make them so. They are part of the great working class, which has its distinctive social life, different from that of the leisured classes, but not necessarily inferior.
Some there are, who have turned their back on their own class- i.e., on the wealthy and leisured and cultivated - who say that only in the class that works day by day for its livelihood, that faces daily the struggle for life, is solid character, simplicity, honesty, strength, resolution, and real heroism to be found. In literature, the labouring class has many champions, Carlyle not amongst the least. Still, putting aside what genius, enthusiasts, poets, and, above all, revolutionists have said, common sense must recognise that, if the struggle for life is not so severe as to sap all energy and hope, it brings out and intensifies those qualities of resolution, strength, and independence which we look upon as the basis of character. For on the weaknesses and vices of the poorer classes retribution is swift ruin and misery follow quickly on helplessness, incompetency, laziness, and dishonesty. We have, with some inconsistency, put the fate of our country into the hands of the labouring class; but when we come to deal with them personally, we are slow to recognise in them an equality, much less a superiority, in those solid virtues which are called out by the honest, and therefore successful, struggle with the sternest realities of life, and which are apt to languish in easy circumstances. I do not wish to contrast the working and the leisured classes, or to try and answer that question, as old as our civilisation, and yet every day pathetically fresh, why one human being should work all day, and barely get enough to eat, and another should sit at ease, and yet have more than is good for him in every respect. I only wish to emphasise strongly, that those whose circumstances are so entirely different from ours must, their common human nature being taken into account, possess, not only a distinctive individuality, but naturally, also, a distinctive social life, and that this distinctive social life is healthy, vigorous, independent, and not wanting in high standards and in stirring interests and hopes. Also, that the intercourse in this life is close and intimate, and perhaps more necessary and stimulating, in proportion as it is founded more on mutual wants and mutual sympathies, and less (as with the richer classes) on the idea of enjoy ment.
From this life in which they were brought up, to which their fathers, mothers, brothers, and probable husbands belong, servants are cut off, owing, to a certain extent, to the necessities of their. position, but far more to custom and habit, which, it seems to me, are grounded on prejudice-on a certain unfounded distrust of the class to which they belong.
No amount of kindness, or even of genial companionship, on the part of master and mistress, can compensate to them for being cut off from this independent social life. And what is offered to them instead? They are connected with the wealthier classes principally as ministering to their material well-being. They have a clear and complete view of their luxury. With their attention to their own comfort, with the ugly, squalid corners of their lives, with their bad tempers, with their efforts to keep up the appearance that convention demands, they are intimate. No people contemplate so frequently and so strikingly the unequal distribution of wealth: they fold up dresses whose price contains double the amount of their year's wages; they pour out at dinner wine whose cost would have kept a poor family for weeks. And of the amusements and occupations, of the higher interests and of the higher life of the leisured classes, of which comfort and ease and luxury is only supposed to be the basis, they have no share, and, probably, very little understanding. Cut off from their own general life, they remain spectators from the outside of that of others; and it cannot be said that its appearance is always elevating, or even intelligible, except from the standard of self-indulgence. What they gain by - constant association with the wealthier classes are, principally, external qualities - politeness, a certain amount of outward refinement, a high standard of cleanliness for themselves and of comfort for others; sometimes they find a patron, but rarely a friend.
The limits of the tolerableness, or the intolerableness, of such a life, vary as human nature varies. Mistresses are of all sorts-the fussy, the fidgety, the callous, the indifferent, the kind and protecting, the competent, the incompetent, the just, the unjust, and, lastly, the bullying. It cannot be denied that many opportunities in dealing with servants are open to those who are born with this instinct in their nature. Happily, one knows that these opportunities are limited by the endurance of the servant: the young and sanguine soon rebelling and leaving; the older, more experienced, and less sanguine, bearing much, knowing that change in the comparative dark is not always for the better. In Ecclesiasticus it is written: Be not as a lion in thy house, nor frantic among thy servants. I have always wished that a way could have been found to· put this among the Ten Commandments.
But though the Ten Commandments are silent on the subject, there must be some maxims of public opinion, some generalisations from the common experience of mankind, or, rather, of woman- kind, to which to appeal. There ought to be some guide to an inexperienced mistress as to how she is to treat the servant, and some guide to the servant as to how she is to be treated. There is, indeed, a strong public opinion with regard to servants which, unfortunately, seems to have been generalised from unfortunate facts. "You inquire into the stuffing of your couch when anything galls you there, whereas eider-down and perfect French springs excite no attention". When things go smoothly (to the enormous credit of the servants in most cases), it is, perhaps, natural that the domestic arrangements should excite no attention. But when things go wrong, and the comfort of the house suffers, then occurs vast disturbance, and the incompetency, the untrustworthiness, the obstinacy, the laziness of servants is insisted on. It is, as a rule, only when servants take advantage of their situation and responsibilities that attention is aroused; it is then that vague generalisations are made, and vague principles formed for future guidance. Thus there comes to be a very low idea of the capacity of servants for performing their duties, though there is a very high ideal of the duties themselves. Tradition teaches that mistresses must continually guard against being taken advantage of-no little carelessness, no little omission, must be passed over; the ideal mistress must superintend and watch, and her attitude of mind, if it cannot be said to be exactly suspicious, must be apprehensive. The leisure of servants is called idleness, and jealously watched, and it is feared that, if the mistress does not fill it up, Satan must. This atmosphere if apprehension, even if we do not allow it to be called one of mistrust, is certainly not genial or encouraging to live in. In theory it surrounds the whole class, though in practice it may be frequently tempered by the personal discrimination of a master or mistress. If it is necessary, then it is obvious that the worst of the working class choose the profession. If it is not so, it is irksome, cruel, and harmful.
It is, indeed, true that it is easy for a servant to take advantage of her position: there are infinite opportunities of doing work badly -of neglecting it, of scamping it -and for carelessness and deceit; many opportunities of concealing for a long time, from the strictest of mistresses, bad work and bad conduct. It is for this very reason that a servant's post is one of trust and responsibility. The position of cook-the task of being economical with the resources of others-is a position of great responsibility. To care for the furniture, the linen, the china, the plate, as if it were your own, demands a great amount of character. To be steady; to be satisfied with the smallest enjoyment possible; to be always polite; to control your temper under all circumstances; to get on well with your fellow- servants, with whom you are in the closest contact, and whom you may dislike, or, indeed, detest, demands a high sense of duty, strength, and resolution. But shall we encourage people of character and self-respect to enter a profession where so much is demanded of them when they know (for no pains are taken to conceal it) that they have to assert themselves against a spirit which, a priori, does not consider them worthy of much respect or capable of much independence? Many who do so may have their characters wrecked in the struggle; others may emerge, still with a high sense of duty, but embittered and permanently irritated.
And here I must make a digression. In speaking of servants, so far I have meant the average trained servant and the mature human being. The quite young girl, whose character is still unformed, and who has been trained to no domestic work, must, of course, go through the mill, and learn her work and the duties incumbent on her profession. And here comes in the office and the talents which are in themselves "magnificently useful", but exceptional, and which are wrongly supposed to belong to every mistress of a house. The training of girls, especially of young servants, requires capacity and genius, and it is only given to a few to possess these qualities. Those who do and who happen to be at the head of a household, may be said to have found their vocation. As a rule, I should think, unless the mistress possesses this exceptional genius, the training of young and inexperienced servants is best done by an older and trained servant (who should, of course, be paid for the additional responsibility and the trouble of teaching). Experienced servants will understand, better than an ordinary mistress, how to teach the work that has to be learned; and they will, perhaps, administer better the discipline that has to be submitted to. Those who have never gone through it themselves will either be too lenient or too harsh; whereas the older servant may, from having more fellow-feeling, teach better, and more quickly and intelligibly, the hard lesson, that life to them-the children of the labouring class-will have few outlooks, few pleasures, and small leisure, but is mainly made up of hard work, responsibilities, and duties.
This is by no means a callous age, indifferent to the hardships and sufferings of the poor: philanthropy flourishes exceedingly, and to the rather wicked and to the very poor we are entirely kind. But philanthropy rather spoils manners to the individual: it is apt to make people think that, in their relations with others, they must constantly be on the watch to do good or improve. This is not, by any means, the spirit to introduce into domestic relations. We need, rather, that behaviour which is the basis of all true ties between human beings, and which lies at the bottom of all courtesy. I mean, a certain respect and belief, which every human being has the right to claim of another, whatever his station may be, till he has definitely proved that he is unworthy of it. Especially is this tone necessary in domestic service, where the business relation and the human relation are so inextricably mixed up with each other, and both so close and personal, and where it seems to me important to make the employed feel that her subordination in work to her mistress does not extend to her character and her life. If the wealthier classes feel they owe more to their less fortunate brethren, let them cultivate a certain tolerance and forbearance, and faith in human nature. Faith is thought to be an excellent thing till it comes to be applied to human character. It is then that it is thought to be dangerous. But whatever the danger be-and, as a rule, it is most blindly and gratuitously exaggerated-it seems to me that it is better to be taken advantage of a thousand times than to suspect once unjustly.
There are, also, some definite changes to be made in order to put the profession on a higher and more attractive level. They involve a practical extension of the theory of belief and trust in servants. First, every servant should have, at least, every day, two hours' definite leisure, during which she is her own mistress, and not bound to answer the calls of the bell. This might call for a little more expense, but I should think, on the whole, would only involve a little trouble in arrangement. This leisure they must employ exactly as they wish; and an endeavour must be made to break down the prejudice that even the best mistresses and the best servants have, and which is so injurious, as tending to make them a class to themselves -viz., that it is not desirable that servants should form friendships outside their own class. The maxim of a superior servant, encouraged by mistresses, is that "she should keep herself to herself". If this meant only a proper reserve, there would be little objection to it; but it means, unfortunately, that she should eschew friendship and acquaintances. "It is a mere and miserable solitude to want true friends", says Bacon in his essay on Friendship, "without which the world is but a wilderness". And to me it seems that the only way to keep a servant's life healthy and wholesome and stirring, and, indeed, the life of any one cut off from their family, and family interests and family affections, is to give them every chance of making friends and acquaintances. To feel yourself part of a larger life, to be occasionally taken out of yourself by interests other than those that concern your immediate surroundings, to have a call on your sympathies, to hear of the happiness and calamities of your friends and your neighbours, is necessary to any healthy-minded individual, especially to those who do not feed their sympathies and emotions through books. To live in very close contact with three or four people who have, none of them, much change, or chance of impersonal interests, whose faces may be "a gallery of pictures, and their talk but a tinkling cymbal, because there is no love is, to generate discontent, bad temper, and that disposition to quarrel and take offence which is characteristic, not only of servants, but of every one who lives a starved and limited life. But here the distrust which I have mentioned as making part of the atmosphere in which servants live comes out very strikingly. We are, perhaps, the most backward of all nations to recognise how necessary is that freedom of spirit which happiness and a little enjoyment and change give, to preserve the mind healthy and wholesome. Here, perhaps, the philanthropists have done harm. Kind and sympathetic and energetic people are urged on by love of their kind, and the desire to make the world a better place for the less fortunate, to give what help they can. But they are brought into communication, not with the real working class, from which servants should be drawn, but with those who have fallen out of the ranks, either through misfortune, or helplessness, or immorality. Philanthropic work brings people into contact with the fringe that surrounds every class: but we should no more judge the working class by the fringe that surrounds it, than the wealthier and leisured class should be judged by the fringe that surrounds it. If this fringe seem larger in proportion, it is because in the poorer class nothing can be concealed. In the wealthier classes a decent reserve (except from servants) can be thrown over immorality and drunkenness and deviations from honesty; a foolish mistake is not followed instantly by ruin. It is cases where human nature has sinned and fallen which are mostly before the eyes of those engaged in good works, who thus become to have the same desponding view of the poorer and hard-working class that a lawyer in the Divorce Court will probably have of marriage in general.
The temptations of the poorer class seem many and strong; but, in proportion as their work and success depends on their resistance to them, so they are strong. Public opinion and the traditions of respectability are, perhaps, stronger in their class than in ours; and what is more frequently observable among the best of the working class, than that they have a sense of reputation carried to the degree of hardness? Of course, I do not mean that there ought to be no check or guard against the dangers of intercourse, especially when beauty and high spirits and impulsiveness seem to aggravate these dangers. For this reason, if for no other, it is necessary that a servant be kept as much as possible in connection with her family. No mistress, if she feels the moral responsibility of having servants under her roof, would hesitate to throw, if it were possible, some of the responsibility on the shoulders naturally fitted to bear it- that of the parents and family. This is only one reason among the many for encouraging communication with relations. A great majority~ of servants of the highest character forfeit a life of independent employment which, perhaps, would be less lucrative, in order to support parents and relations. The feeling that leads them to do this, and to give up very often the chance of saving for their own old age, must make separation for long a hardship.
There is one peculiar relic of feudalism-one might almost say barbarism-in the custom of engaging servants, which needs reform. It is strange, to say the least of it, that the mistress should be entitled to have a written and formal character of the servant, and that the servant, to whom the situation is everything that is most important in life, should have no formal opportunity given her of judging of the situation, of hearing of the character of the household. This, which common justice demands, could be easily remedied without any extra machinery by the following plan: every mistress should choose a referee, or two referees, among her servants past or present, who have been with her not less than two years; she should give the names and addresses of these two referees to the servant whom she is inclined to engage, before she writes for her character from her last mistress. I cannot imagine any reason- able objection to this plan. If carried largely into practice, it could become the test of any theory about domestic service. Mistresses could then gather statistics and make generalisations as to the situations which were most highly recommended and most sought after by the best and most competent of servants. It might also put spirit into the custom of character-giving, which is said by some to be so formal. Personally, I have never found it so. It puts a vast amount of irresponsible power into the hands of one fallible human being; and though I think it may rarely be abused, it adds tremendously to the unnecessary and injurious dependence of servants.
In what I have said, my aim has been to show the great importance of putting Domestic services on a higher level, in order to secure and preserve that high average of character and ability which is absolutely necessary for the sort of work and behaviour required of them. The profession can never be made superior to any other independent one that offers itself to women. There is a -~ certain dependence in it which, even under the best of circumstances, can never be done away with. The case of the governess profession is an analogous one. Since the birth of high schools,' - though the work is infinitely harder, and the pay less, governesses to private families are comparatively hard to find; the independent life of the high schools absorbs them. This fact, and the general progress of civilisation, has brought about a considerable change in the position of the private governess. The post is extremely well paid, and care is taken to make it attractive. Things have improved since the time when the Brontės* lived and suffered as private governesses; and though independence and freedom is vitally necessary to genius, yet it is equally necessary to the average mind. Why cannot we make the same change with regard to servants before we are driven to it by the rapidly increasing growth of independent employment for women, or before we reach that stage through which America is passing at present, where, we are told by American ladies, servants have it all their own way. What mistress would not rejoice in a high average among servants of good temper, ability, and character, to whom she need only teach the "little ways of her household, and not the fundamental duties and responsibilities of work and life: so many women's lives are usurped by duties they are incompetent to perform, by attempting to teach work of which they know nothing, and inculculating virtues which they cannot practise.
There is also another consideration which forces itself strongly on some. In Stevenson's lnland Voyage, the "Cigarette" and the "Arethusa" feel that their superior, though tough, beefsteak is not improved, but rather spoilt, by the plate of bread-berry which the working man eats sitting side by side with them at the inn-table. "You may have a head knowledge that people live more poorly than yourself, but it is not agreeable-I was going to say it was against the etiquette of the universe-to sit at the same table and pick your own superior diet from among their crusts". In the same way, one has a head knowledge that thousands of lives, by no fault of their own, are limited, and dulled, and spiritually starved compared to ours. This we bear with equanimity: indeed, if we did not, it would be like hearing the grass grow, and we should perish under the burden of our sensibilities. But this fact stares one in the face, and meets one at every turn, in one's relations with the servants with whom one lives side by side. Custom may dull any sensibility: and it very properly dulls a good many, else life would not be possible; but it seems to me that with some it had better not interfere.
* [ "She (Charlotte Brontė) said that none but those who had been in the position of a governess could ever realise the dark side of respectable' human nature: under no great temptation to crime, but daily giving way to selfishness and ill-temper, till its conduct towards those dependent on it sometimes amounts to a tyranny of which one would rather be the victim than the inflicter." (Life of Charlotte Brontė, Mrs. Gaskell)]
Ellen W. Darwin on "Domestic
The Nineteenth Century 39 (August 1890), pp. 286-296.
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Mond. Oct. 10. ... In coming to live in the house, which I have furnished with special view to E.'s wishes and vanities, I made it my one request that she would keep out of the kitchen, and not quarrel with the servant. After the servant's arrival (and she is very hard-working) I hear tumult from the kitchen. There stands E. cleaning a pair of boots, and railing at the servant in her wonted way. - I had to put a stop to that by an outbreak of fury; nothing else would have availed; and this will only be effectual for a week.
George Gissing, Diary, 1894