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,


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