Monday, June 11, 1711.
‘Quid Domini facient, audent cum tulia Fures?’
May 30, 1711.
I have no small Value for your Endeavours to lay before the World what may escape their Observation, and yet highly conduces to their Service. You have, I think, succeeded very well on many Subjects; and seem to have been conversant in very different Scenes of Life. But in the Considerations of Mankind, as a SPECTATOR, you should not omit Circumstances which relate to the inferior Part of the World, any more than those which concern the greater. There is one thing in particular which I wonder you have not touched upon, and that is the general Corruption of Manners in the Servants of Great Britain. I am a Man that have travelled and seen many Nations, but have for seven Years last past resided constantly in London, or within twenty Miles of it: In this Time I have contracted a numerous Acquaintance among the best Sort of People, and have hardly found one of them happy in their Servants. This is matter of great Astonishment to Foreigners, and all such as have visited Foreign Countries; especially since we cannot but observe, That there is no Part of the World where Servants have those Privileges and Advantages as in England: They have no where else such plentiful Diet, large Wages, or indulgent Liberty: There is no Place wherein they labour less, and yet where they are so little respectful, more wasteful, more negligent, or where they so frequently change their Masters. To this I attribute, in a great measure, the frequent Robberies and Losses which we suffer on the high Road and in our own Houses. That indeed which gives me the present Thought of this kind, is, that a careless Groom of mine has spoiled me the prettiest Pad in the World with only riding him ten Miles, and I assure you, if I were to make a Register of all the Horses I have known thus abused by Negligence of Servants, the Number would mount a Regiment. I wish you would give us your Observations, that we may know how to treat these Rogues, or that we Masters may enter into Measures to reform them. Pray give us a Speculation in general about Servants, and you make me
Pray do not omit the Mention
of Grooms in particular.
This honest Gentleman, who is so desirous that I should write a Satyr upon Grooms, has a great deal of Reason for his Resentment; and I know no Evil which touches all Mankind so much as this of the Misbehaviour of Servants.
The Complaint of this Letter runs wholly upon Men-Servants; and I can attribute the Licentiousness which has at present prevailed among them, to nothing but what an hundred before me have ascribed it to, The Custom of giving Board-Wages: This one Instance of false Oeconomy is sufficient to debauch the whole Nation of Servants, and makes them as it were but for some part of their Time in that Quality. They are either attending in Places where they meet and run into Clubs, or else, if they wait at Taverns, they eat after their Masters, and reserve their Wages for other Occasions. From hence it arises, that they are but in a lower Degree what their Masters themselves are; and usually affect an Imitation of their Manners: And you have in Liveries, Beaux, Fops, and Coxcombs, in as high Perfection as among People that keep Equipages. It is a common Humour among the Retinue of People of Quality, when they are in their Revels, that is when they are out of their Masters Sight, to assume in a humourous Way the Names and Titles of those whose Liveries they wear. By which means Characters and Distinctions become so familiar to them, that it is to this, among other Causes, one may impute a certain Insolence among our Servants, that they take no Notice of any Gentleman though they know him ever so well, except he is an Acquaintance of their Master’s.