SERVANTS OUT OF PLACE

Experience shows us, that it generally happens, the first thing a servant should do on leaving his situation, is almost always deferred to the last -- since he first takes his holiday, and afterwards seeks a situation.

It is only natural that, after a lengthened period of service, after much confinement, and continual everyday business, a servant, when at liberty, should desire the pleasure of relaxation -- that of the holiday; but in his position in life, in this self-indulgence there is much danger. True it is, he knows the day when he leaves his situation; but certainly cannot fix for himself the time when he shall obtain another.

The servant, previously to leaving a family which is going upon the Continent or elsewhere, will, as a point of prudence, in a becoming manner represent to his master the peculiar condition to which he may be exposed in such case if depending solely upon a written character, and thereon solicit his permission and interest, to be allowed in his absence to refer to some lady or gentleman of his circle, to strengthen his character by kindly certifying as to the authenticity of the document and his qualifications.

To those who have pecuniary means or friends to support them the foregoing remarks are not addressed, but to such alone as have others depending upon their exertions for support, or whose means are straitened. Therefore no servant should be too sanguine at the period he leaves a situation, of the power of a good character, or the state of his purse, for both, the moment he leaves, decline in value; money soon passes away, clothes quickly fade, and character without funds to support appearance, loses much in estimation, if it be not soon taken up after the last employ.

The servant should also remember, that it is not when in place he needs his friends, but when out of employ; then it is he feels the value of them; or when reverses meet him, or illness falls upon him — and who is exempt? — he will then look back on the period of his service with satisfaction, and rejoice within himself that he can do so.

He must also consider of the necessity of saving his earnings, and not think that, because he is in a good situation, that it is to last for ever; circumstances happen every day, which show us how uncertain it is. And perhaps there is no class of persons so unmindful of the morrow as the domestic servant. How often do we find them, when in place, enjoying all the luxuries which a well-regulated establishment afford, attaching little importance to them, and giving little thought of how they would enjoy such when out of situation.

If, when in situation, servants would well consider what they might have to undergo when out, many no doubt would gladly avail themselves of the opportunity their employ gives them to contribute to the funds of an institution which would provide for them, and so take the responsibility from their hands.

From the foregoing it is evident that it is the interest of servants of all classes, to strongly come forward and prevent the decay of their truly well-intentioned old institutions; and regret must surely press heavily upon the mind of every good servant, so soon as he reflects that such institutions do, time after time, solicit servants, one and all, to contribute to them whilst in employ; and even the bare remembrance of the changeability of his condition should at once urge him to do so, not waiting for their general meetings to deliver to the public the statements of their sad and unavailing exertions in endeavouring to keep the servant in the respectability of his class.

To the servant it became a subject of rising hope to see any of the noble house of Westminster come forward on his behalf, readily perceiving that, through so highly-distinguished a channel as Lord Robert Grosvenor, favour would go far and wide in the servants' cause, and that the nobles and gentry of wealthy England would feel a pride in forwarding institutional endeavour, both by patronage and donation.

In the affairs of the institution just alluded to, over which Lord Robert Grosvenor graciously deigned to preside, the generous clergy and subscribers had endeavoured to carry the objects of the institution on, but at length, on finding themselves liable to the serious extent of 600£., they then took this opportunity of making their appeal to the friends and supporters of the servants' institutions, to relieve them from their heavy responsibility.

From the generous nature of servants of all grades, it is felt that they only require to be instructed how properly they could contribute to and become members of such an institution, though many of them individually might not fall into the condition to require its aid; yet what domestic can say the time may not arrive when he may need it? Still, while contributing to this fund, though the individual servant might not afterwards, as was said, need any portion of its application, yet his generous feelings would receive the greatest delight on knowing he was contributing to the alleviation of the necessities of the meritorious of his class, who stood in the helpless condition of being unable to assist themselves.

The domestics at the head of the establishments of our nobility and gentry might do much to forward the institutions by collections amongst themselves; and what they thus did would soon cause laudable imitation by those under their orders, and in the end it would be found that this systematic and combined collection would become so immense, that the servant would be thereby placed beyond the need of parochial or other aid in his declining days.

Be the servant at the head of his class, or in its lowest grade, still he will on reflection find himself irresistibly called upon by his duty to himself and to the society to which he belongs, to give some institution his determined consideration, and not to restrict his efforts to pecuniary assistance, but to use his utmost help in every available quarter, to carry the object triumphantly through with untiring vigour; and this subject forms the bounden duty of every servant, and merits his incessant, well-directed thought.

Great praise may be bestowed on that well-meaning Institution which was held in St. Marylebone, but now is united to the one in Great Marlborough street. Many of its members (and none less than the lately-lamented and worthy Mr. Maidment, the missionary to Terra del Fuego, whom we had the pleasure of well knowing) have been, to our knowledge, for years back assiduous in their exertions to keep their institution together; and it was only by perseverance of more than ordinary kind that they were enabled to do so; and we have endeavoured, by frequent conversations and correspondence with others, to trace the cause of this want of success in the institutions.

Servants could, were they determined to unite as a body, form the direction of their class from the first step in the career of the servant, to providing him against any future exigency. There is no portion of the community bo destitute of self-protection as servants. Their condition clearly proves — by their position, their usefulness and their numbers — that even in this day there is still something wanting for their government and their ultimate protection.

If it be this society or great central institution, which has now become essentially necessary to carry their interests fully through, the means for its establishment be perfectly within their command, and have just been named. This institution would then become the central seat of their government, and all the old ones of every kind and character could then be rendered perfect in their beneficent intentions, and consequently flourishing, by uniting their interests therewith, so that the spirit of good-will and happiness would move over these hearty endeavours of all for the common good; for unity, all know, grows to strength. And by whom should unity be more strongly valued than by faithful, industrious, intelligent, and worthy servants?— of whom we may say, in the beautiful and soul-stirring words of one of their greatest and most illustrious defenders, the Prince Consort of our Most Gracious Queen, Victoria, who, on 16th May, 1849, while presiding at one of the meetings in aid of the servants' cause, expressed himself in the following touching and eloquent manner: -- "The domestic servants of this country -- who does not feel the deepest interest in the welfare of domestic servants? Whose heart does not feel sympathy for those who minister to us in all the wants of daily life — who attend us in sickness — who receive us on our first appearance in this world, and who extend their care even to our mortal remains -- who live under our roofs -- who form our household, and a part of our family.

SERVANTS' CHARACTERS

Following the preceding remarks, a few words will suffice on the preservation of those documents designated the servant's characters by his employers, of his trustworthiness, his civility, his cleanliness, and his capabilities.

These papers, forming the most valuable record which the servant can possess of his past and present usefulness, deserve proper care and attention to be paid to their preservation; but, unfortunately, many persons, for want of using a little reflection, make the practice of continually carrying their testimonials of character about them, and so have them torn and otherwise injured, as frequently is the case with the passport during continental travelling; since by the continual opening of it, its folds become broken, which occurs with such papers as are often folded and refolded.

To avoid these accidents, the servant should provide himself with a book, and inscribe it as his "Book of Testimonials.'' In this he could have each new character written by the nobleman or gentleman whom he was leaving, and have his former characters bound up therewith, by which means he coold protect them for life. This book would consequently become by each additional character more and more endeared to him, since, by its strengthened collected recommendations, he would acquire value in the estimation of those wishing to employ him.

The above remarks as to the safe keeping of the said documents are made owing to the often serious importance of preserving them whole, ready of access, and all together at the instant when required, whilst, at the same time, they are fittingly clean for the inspection and use of any lady or gentleman when either hiring or giving the last new character to their servant

The following extracts from the public prints as to servants may be interesting. First, giving characters to servants: —
''As much misapprehension prevails, and some annoyance has been experienced by parties on the subject of giving characters to servants, it may not be without its use to state, in accordance with our best legal authorities, that the character to be given of a servant must accord with strict truth, for if falsely a good character be given, and the servant afterwards rob her new master or mistress, the person who gave such false character is liable to an action, and to compensate for the entire loss; and is also liable to punishment in certain cases of false character, under the statute 32 Geo. III., cap. 56.

"For the protection of masters and mistresses, it has been legally decided that they are not obliged to give a discharged servant any character; and no action is sustainable for refusing to do so. Where a servant has proved unfaithful, the safest and best course to adopt is for the master or mistress to decline answering inquiries on the subject".
The Household Manager, By Charles Pierce, 1857
Third Edition, Revised and Enlarged, 1863