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"Like Master Like Man"
by [?]

A frequent and naive complaint one hears, is of the unsatisfactoriness of servants generally, and their ingratitude and astonishing lack of affection for their masters, in particular. “After all I have done for them,” is pretty sure to sum up the long tale of a housewife’s griefs. Of all the delightful inconsistencies that grace the female mind, this latter point of view always strikes me as being the most complete. I artfully lead my fair friend on to tell me all about her woes, and she is sure to be exquisitely one-sided and quite unconscious of her position. “They are so extravagant, take so little interest in my things, and leave me at a moment’s notice, if they get an idea I am going to break up. Horrid things! I wish I could do without them! They cause me endless worry and annoyance.” My friend is very nearly right,–but with whom lies the fault?

The conditions were bad enough years ago, when servants were kept for decades in the same family, descending like heirlooms from father to son, often (abroad) being the foster sisters or brothers of their masters, and bound to the household by an hundred ties of sympathy and tradition. But in our day, and in America, where there is rarely even a common language or nationality to form a bond, and where households are broken up with such facility, the relation between master and servant is often so strained and so unpleasant that we risk becoming (what foreigners reproach us with being), a nation of hotel-dwellers. Nor is this class- feeling greatly to be wondered at. The contrary would be astonishing. From the primitive household, where a poor neighbor comes in as “help,” to the “great” establishment where the butler and housekeeper eat apart, and a group of plush-clad flunkies imported from England adorn the entrance-hall, nothing could be better contrived to set one class against another than domestic service.

Proverbs have grown out of it in every language. “No man is a hero to his valet,” and “familiarity breeds contempt,” are clear enough. Our comic papers are full of the misunderstandings and absurdities of the situation, while one rarely sees a joke made about the other ways that the poor earn their living. Think of it for a moment! To be obliged to attend people at the times of day when they are least attractive, when from fatigue or temper they drop the mask that society glues to their faces so many hours in the twenty-four; to see always the seamy side of life, the small expedients, the aids to nature; to stand behind a chair and hear an acquaintance of your master’s ridiculed, who has just been warmly praised to his face; to see a hostess who has been graciously urging her guests “not to go so soon,” blurt out all her boredom and thankfulness “that those tiresome So-and-So’s” are “paid off at last,” as soon as the door is closed behind them, must needs give a curious bent to a servant’s mind. They see their employers insincere, and copy them. Many a mistress who has been smilingly assured by her maid how much her dress becomes her, and how young she is looking, would be thunderstruck to hear herself laughed at and criticised (none too delicately) five minutes later in that servant’s talk.

Servants are trained from their youth up to conceal their true feelings. A domestic who said what she thought would quickly lose her place. Frankly, is it not asking a good deal to expect a maid to be very fond of a lady who makes her sit up night after night until the small hours to unlace her bodice or take down her hair; or imagine a valet can be devoted to a master he has to get into bed as best he can because he is too tipsy to get there unaided? Immortal “Figaro” is the type! Supple, liar, corrupt, intelligent,–he aids his master and laughs at him, feathering his own nest the while. There is a saying that “horses corrupt whoever lives with them.” It would be more correct to say that domestic service demoralizes alike both master and man.