—— Miserum parvâ stipe focilat, ut pudibundos
Exercere sales inter convivia possit. ——
——————- Tu mitis, & acri
Asperitate carens, positoque per omnia fastu,
Inter ut aequales unus numeraris amicos,
Obsequiumque doces, & amorem quaeris amando.
Lucan, Carmen ad Pisonem, ll. 114–15, 117–20.
Unlike the ribald whose licentious jest,
Pollutes his banquet and insults his guest;
From wealth and grandeur easy to descend,
Thou joy’st to lose the master in the friend:
We round thy board the cheerful menials see,
Gay with the smile of bland equality;
No social care the gracious lord disdains;
Love prompts to love, and rev’rence rev’rence gains.
TO THE RAMBLER.
As you seem to have devoted your labours to virtue, I cannot forbear to inform you of one species of cruelty, with which the life of a man of letters perhaps does not often make him acquainted; and which, as it seems to produce no other advantage to those that practise it than a short gratification of thoughtless vanity, may become less common when it has been once exposed in its various forms, and its full magnitude.
I am the daughter of a country gentleman, whose family is numerous, and whose estate, not at first sufficient to supply us with affluence, has been lately so much impaired by an unsuccessful lawsuit, that all the younger children are obliged to try such means as their education affords them, for procuring the necessaries of life. Distress and curiosity concurred to bring me to London, where I was received by a relation with the coldness which misfortune generally finds. A week, a long week, I lived with my cousin, before the most vigilant enquiry could procure us the least hopes of a place, in which time I was much better qualified to bear all the vexations of servitude. The first two days she was content to pity me, and only wish’d I had not been quite so well bred, but people must comply with their circumstances. This lenity, however, was soon at an end; and, for the remaining part of the week, I heard every hour of the pride of my family, the obstinacy of my father, and of people better born than myself that were common servants.
At last, on Saturday noon, she told me, with very visible satisfaction, that Mrs. Bombasine, the great silk-mercer’s lady, wanted a maid, and a fine place it would be, for there would be nothing to do but to clean my mistress’s room, get up her linen, dress the young ladies, wait at tea in the morning, take care of a little miss just come from nurse, and then sit down to my needle. But madam was a woman of great spirit, and would not be contradicted, and therefore I should take care, for good places were not easily to be got.
With these cautions, I waited on madam Bombasine, of whom the first sight gave me no ravishing ideas. She was two yards round the waist, her voice was at once loud and squeaking, and her face brought to my mind the picture of the fullmoon. Are you the young woman, says she, that are come to offer yourself? It is strange when people of substance want a servant, how soon it is the town-talk. But they know they shall have a belly-full that live with me. Not like people at the other end of the town, we dine at one o’clock. But I never take any body without a character; what friends do you come of? I then told her that my father was a gentleman, and that we had been unfortunate. — A great misfortune, indeed, to come to me and have three meals a-day! — So your father was a gentleman, and you are a gentlewoman I suppose-such gentlewomen! Madam, I did not mean to claim any exemptions, I only answered your enquiry — Such gentlewomen! people should set their children to good trades, and keep them off the parish. Pray go to the other end of the town, there are gentlewomen, if they would pay their debts: I am sure we have lost enough by gentlewomen. Upon this, her broad face grew broader with triumph, and I was afraid she would have taken me for the pleasure of continuing her insult; but happily the next word was, Pray, Mrs. gentlewoman, troop down stairs. You may believe I obeyed her.
I returned and met with a better reception from my cousin than I expected; for while I was out, she had heard that Mrs. Standish, whose husband had lately been raised from a clerk in an office, to be commissioner of the excise, had taken a fine house, and wanted a maid.
To Mrs. Standish I went, and, after having waited six hours, was at last admitted to the top of the stairs, when she came out of her room, with two of her company. There was a smell of punch. So young woman, you want a place, whence do you come? — From the country, madam. — Yes, they all come out of the country. And what brought you to town, a bastard? Where do you lodge? At the Seven-Dials? What, you never heard of the foundling house? Upon this, they all laughed so obstreperously, that I took the opportunity of sneaking off in the tumult.
I then heard of a place at an elderly lady’s. She was at cards; but in two hours, I was told, she would speak to me. She asked me if I could keep an account, and ordered me to write. I wrote two lines out of some book that lay by her. She wonder’d what people meant, to breed up poor girls to write at that rate. I suppose, Mrs. Flirt, if I was to see your work, it would be fine stuff! — You may walk. I will not have love-letters written from my house to every young fellow in the street.
Two days after, I went on the same persuit to Lady Lofty, dressed, as I was directed, in what little ornaments I had, because she had lately got a place at court. Upon the first sight of me, she turns to the woman that showed me in, Is this the lady that wants a place? Pray what place wou’d you have, miss? a maid of honour’s place? Servants now a-days! — Madam, I heard you wanted — Wanted what? Somebody finer than myself! A pretty servant indeed — I should be afraid to speak to her — I suppose, Mrs. Minx, these fine hands cannot bear wetting — A servant indeed! Pray move off — I am resolved to be the head person in this house — You are ready dress’d, the taverns will be open.
I went to enquire for the next place in a clean linen gown, and heard the servant tell his lady, there was a young woman, but he saw she would not do. I was brought up however. Are you the trollop that has the impudence to come for my place? What, you have hired that nasty gown, and are come to steal a better. — Madam, I have another, but being obliged to walk — Then these are your manners, with your blushes and your courtesies,to come to me in your worst gown. Madam, give me leave to wait uponyou in my other. Wait on me, you saucy slut! Then you are sure of coming — could not let such a drab come near me — Here, you girl that came up with her, have you touch’d her? If you have, wash your hands before you dress me. — Such trollops! Get you down. What, whimpering? Pray walk.
I went away with tears; for my cousin had lost all patience. However she told me, that having a respect for my relations, she was willing to keep me out of the street, and would let me have another week.
The first day of this week I saw two places. At one I was asked where I had lived? And upon my answer, was told by the lady, that people should qualify themselves in ordinary places, for she should never have done if she was to follow girls about. At the other house, I was a smirking hussy, and that sweet face I might make money of — For her part, it was a rule with her, never to take any creature that thought herself handsome.
The three next days were spent in Lady Bluff’s entry, where I waited six hours every day for the pleasure of seeing the servants peep at me, and go away laughing — Madam will stretch her small shanks in the entry; she will know the house again — At sun-set the two first days I was told, that my lady would see me to-morrow; and on the third, that her woman staid.
My week was now near its end, and I had no hopes of a place. My relation, who always laid upon me the blame of every miscarriage, told me that I must learn to humble myself, and that all great ladies had particular ways; that if I went on in that manner, she could not tell who would keep me; she had known many that had refused places, sell their cloaths, and beg in the streets.
It was to no purpose that the refusal was declared by me to be never on my side; I was reasoning against interest, and against stupidity; and therefore I comforted myself with the hope of succeeding better in my next attempt, and went to Mrs. Courtly, a very fine lady, who had routs at her house, and saw the best company in town.
I had not waited two hours before I was called up, and found Mr. Courtly and his lady at piquet, in the height of good humour. This I looked on as a favourable sign, and stood at the lower end of the room in expectation of the common questions. At last Mr. Courtly call’d out, after a whisper, Stand facing the light, that one may see you. I chang’d my place, and blush’d. They frequently turn’d their eyes upon me, and seem’d to discover many subjects of merriment; for at every look they whisper’d, and laugh’d with the most violent agitations of delight. At last Mr. Courtly cried out, Is that colour your own, child? Yes, says the lady, if she has not robb’d the kitchen hearth. This was so happy a conceit, that it renew’d the storm of laughter, and they threw down their cards in hopes of better sport. The lady then called me to her, and began with an affected gravity to enquire what I could do? But first turn about, and let us see your fine shape; Well, what are you fit for, Mrs. Mum? You would find your tongue, I suppose, in the kitchen. No, no, says Mr. Courtly, the girl’s a good girl yet, but I am afraid a brisk young fellow, with fine tags on his shoulder — Come, child, hold up your head; what? you have stole nothing —— Not yet, says the lady, but she hopes to steal your heart quickly. —— Here was a laugh of happiness and triumph, prolonged by the confusion which I could no longer repress. At last the lady recollected herself: Stole? no — but if I had her, I should watch her; for that downcast eye — Why cannot you look people in the face? Steal? says her husband, she would steal nothing but, perhaps, a few ribbands before they were left off by her lady. Sir, answer’d I, why should you, by supposing me a thief, insult one from whom you had received no injury? Insult, says the lady; are you come here to be a servant, you saucy baggage, and talk of insulting? What will this world come to, if a gentleman may not jest with a servant? Well, such servants! pray be gone, and see when you will have the honour to be so insulted again. Servants insulted — a fine time. — Insulted! Get down stairs, you slut, or the footman shall insult you.
The last day of the last week was now coming, and my kind cousin talked of sending me down in the waggon to preserve me from bad courses. But in the morning she came and told me that she had one trial more for me; Euphemia wanted a maid, and perhaps I might do for her; for, like me, she must fall her crest, being forced to lay down her chariot upon the loss of half her fortune by bad securities, and with her way of giving her money to every body that pretended to want it, she could have little beforehand; therefore I might serve her; for, with all her fine sense, she must not pretend to be nice.
I went immediately, and met at the door a young gentlewoman, who told me she had herself been hired that morning, but that she was order’d to bring any that offered up stairs. I was accordingly introduced to Euphemia, who, when I came in, laid down her book, and told me, that she sent for me not to gratify an idle curiosity, but lest my disappointment might be made still more grating by incivility; that she was in pain to deny any thing, much more what was no favour; that she saw nothing in my appearance which did not make her wish for my company; but that another, whose claims might perhaps be equal, had come before me. The thought of being so near to such a place, and missing it, brought tears into my eyes, and my sobs hinder’d me from returning my acknowledgments. She rose up confused, and supposing by my concern that I was distressed, placed me by her, and made me tell her my story: which when she had heard, she put two guineas in my hand, ordering me to lodge near her, and make use of her table till she could provide for me. I am now under her protection, and know not how to shew my gratitude better than by giving this account to the Rambler.