18 October 2023

The evils of overpaying your servants

The Times - Friday,  Dec. 25, 1795

To the CONDUCTOR of the TIMES.

London, Nov. 23.


Various are the receipts for cheap puddings, and many long and useful letters have appeared in your very excellent paper, towards alleviating (as much as is in the power of every Housekeeper) the scarcity and dearness of bread; by substituting rice and potatoes in the room of pies or flour puddings; but there still exists an evil which I have not seen spoken against, and which certainly occasions a very great consumption of starch; 

I mean the general fashion which has prevailed for some years, and does still, from the highest to the lowest, of wearing white dresses, which, upon a moderate computation, for every individual, must consume at least double the soap and starch than when coloured callicoes, silks, and stuffs were in fashion; added to this, that every maid servant (who, though she is perhaps not worth a second pair of shoes) will wear her muslin handkerchiefs. 

I think it is the duty of every good master and mistress, to stop, as much as possible, the present ridiculous and extravagant mode of dress in their domestics. 

View on a Sunday a tradesman’s family coming from church, and you would be puzzled to distinguish the porter from his master, or the maid from her mistress. Formerly a plaited cap and a white handkerchief served a young woman three or four Sundays. 

Now a mistress is required to give up, by agreement, the latter end of the week for her maids to prepare their caps, tuckers, gowns, &c. for Sunday, and I am told there are houses open on purpose, where those servants who do not chuse their mistresses should see them, carry their dresses in a bundle, and put them on, meet again in the evening for the purpose of disrobing; and where I doubt many a poor, deluded creature has been disrobed of her virtue. They certainly call aloud for some restraint, both as to their dress as well as insolent manner. 

Tell a servant, now, in the mildest manner, they have not done their work to please you, you are told to provide for yourself, and should you offer to speak again, they are gone. 

Surely no set of people are more capable of rendering our families comfortable, or the reverse, than domestic servants, nor any set of people who feel the present dearness of provisions so little.

I look upon their exorbitant increase of wages as chiefly conducive to their impertinence; for when they had five or six pounds a year, a month being out of place, was severely felt; but now their wages are doubled, they have, in a great measure, lost their dependance; and what is this increase of wages for, not in order to lay by a little in case of sickness, but to squander in dress. No young woman now can bear a strong pair of leather shoes, but they must wear Spanish leather, and so on in every article of dress. 

No wonder then that there should be so many prostitutes and so few good wives.

By inserting these hints as soon as you conveniently can, you will much oblige,


23 July 2023

An exchange of emails with George Logan (Dr Evadne Hinge)

The Background

In July 2002 I came across an account of the funeral of Patrick Fyffe, better known by his stage name - Dame Hilda Bracket.

Since the BBC repeated the radio plays Henry Reed's "composeress" Dame Hilda Tablet in the 1980s I'd wondered if the two Dame Hildas were connected in some way. So I emailed George Logan to ask him.

Email is evanescent so I'm publishing lightly-edited versions George's replies here to give them a degree of permanence.

3 Jul 2002, 22:46

Dear Chris

Your eMail was forwarded to me by Nigel Ellacott. What a surprise!

You see, I have been trying to get information on the Hilda Tablet broadcasts for some time.  I remember hearing a couple of them (Emily Butter, certainly, and I think, Musique Discrete - was that the one where someone recited Enobarbus's "The barge she sat in" to a 'musique concrete' commentary?  And where Hilda's lady friend Elsa sang a song which quoted the Austrian National Anthem at some length?) I was about twelve or thirteen at the time and found them uproariously funny.  As I was training as a musician I found the humour of the pieces very much to the point.

To answer your question. Or try to.  Patrick had never heard the Hilda Tablet plays, and the name was made up quite independently.  I don't think I mentioned them to him until some years into our partnership.  However, there's no question that the whole atmosphere of the pieces had a very considerable effect on how saw the Hinge and Bracket ambiance and setting, and the character of Doctor Hinge I'm quite sure inherited some characteristics from the programs.

She - Dr. Hinge - was always the more musically literate of the two, and the style of her compositions - I don't know if you have heard her 'Liste des Vins', her unfinished 7-act opera The Golden Twinset  - a duet from which was sung by the ladies on the occasion of the 90th birthday celebrations, held at the Royal Opera House, of that other great soprano, Dame Eva Turner - or her operetta The Fondant Hussar... well, the names alone make the influence very clear.

Incidentally, I'm pretty sure that the redoubtable Dame Eva also contributed something to the whole Hilda Tablet thing. I got to know both she and her companion of many years, Anne Rudyard, quite well during the last few years of Dame Eva's life.

I would be fascinated to find out if it is possible to obtain anywhere recordings or scripts of these wonderful pieces.  Please let me know of any information you may have - I'd much appreciate it.

As a footnote, I was interested to see in your notes on the pieces that Marjorie Westbury played Elsa.  In the last few years, Patrick and I were in the habit of doing a section in our stage show based on radio signature tunes, asking the audience to identify this or that melody.  One of these was Paul Temple, and one of the questions Dame Hilda would ask was 'Who played Paul Temple's wife, Steve'?  It was, of course, Marjorie Westbury...

Best wishes, and thank you for any information you may be able to supply regarding recordings or scripts of these marvellous programs.

George Logan

I replied, offering George copies of all the plays on CD

4 Jul 2002, 19:14

Dear Chris

How kind of you!  Yes, I would be delighted to have a copy of the Hilda Tablet plays on CD - and as you are good enough to offer them to me free of charge, I hope you'll allow me to reciprocate in some small measure.  I have a large number of tapes of various things Patrick and I did over the years, and it would be a pleasure to put together a Mini disc or CD of some of the things that never made it to
disc commercially, including excerpts from Dr. Hinge's own oeuvre, the 'Liste des Vins', both the original version with string quartet and her 'revised and augmented' version with full orchestra, the Grand Scene and Duet from Act 6 of The Golden Twinset, concert excerpts from Act 1 of The Fondant
Hussar and her unforgettable but largely forgotten arrangement for piano and orchestra of Liszt's arrangement for solo piano of the sextet from Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor!

My address:

George Logan
SG14 3AY

Thank you so much.

I hadn't realised it was Donald Swann who wrote the music for the Hilda Tablet pieces.  I remember he used to come and see Hinge and Bracket regularly in the very early days when we appeared at such legendary venues as the Union Tavern, Camberwell, and the Black Cap, Camden Town.

Best wishes

George Logan

21 Jul 2002, 12:25

Dear Chris

I've been away for a few days, and was delighted to return home on Friday to find my Hilda Tablet CDs waiting for me! :)

So far I've listened to Emily Butter and Musique Discrete - both of which I think I mentioned I had heard before - marvellous!  I've just started the series in chronological order, and plan to settle down this afternoon with the first two plays in the series, neither of which, I think, I heard in the past.

What marvellous actors these were, and how evocative and absorbing a well-written and well-produced radio play can be.

I had no trouble figuring out which bits of the various plays went where, so to speak.

Thank you so much for the time and trouble you have taken over this for me.

I plan to get down to sorting out the large number of tapes of H and B I presently have in order to pick out some of the best bits for you.  After Patrick's recent death, I and a close friend of his have been sorting through his personal stuff, and of course it turns out that he had a large number of things I don't have.

I will be in touch in the near future to let you know I have dispatched something to you.

Best wishes

George Logan

10 May 2023

George Hought - killed by lightning

The burial register of the East Riding of Yorkshire parish of Hutton Cranswick records the burial of George Hought of Hutton on 16 August 1851, aged 25.

The vicar, Rev. Joseph Rigby, added a note to the final page of the register to explain the circumstances:

George Hought of Hutton Cranswick was killed by lightning August 4th 1851. He was working in a field at Gowdy Hole, and a storm coming on, he had gone under an elm tree for shelter; he being in his shirt sleeves at the time. He was found soon after by his master Mr. Coates, his clothes were torn, and his body very much blackened: he left a widow and two children to mourn over their sudden bereavement.

 Caelo tonantem credidimus Deum regnare

The Latin quotation is from Horace's Odes, Book 3, Poem 5. 

Translated literally into English it means "we believed that Jupiter reigned in heaven when we heard him thunder".