Queen Victoria died on 22 January 1901. It is four, five or six generations ago ~ according to how young your family went about it. This is relatively recent in our history and it is worth asking grandparents and great-grandparents about their recollections. Many of them may have worked “in service” – in service to the rich who had it much easier.
The Victorian era saw chiden as young as five engaged in industry. This is when children were sent up chimneys to clean them and actally far more dangerous jobs. The concept of childhood ~ individuals excused from working was a later concept.
Then – as now – you were born rich or poor. Then – as now – you were born very rich or very poor. This has largely continued into the current era except that the industrial revolution has had an effect. There continue to be those born into riduculously rich families and then there are the rest of us.
In the Victorian era – that many of the rich shits want to recreate (and actually in many way persists) – there was service. Poor people would be “in service”. They would be the servants in a rich household. There were benefits to being “in service” – you would get fed and have shelter. There were also disadvantages since you were ‘servicing’ the rich on demand.
It is in this historical context – the Upstairs-Downstairs society – that I bring you my short story.
Squire Cligg’s butler Surf suddenly became ill. Surf was only in his twenties and surely had another twenty year’s service to bestow on his master Cligg. Surf was so ill that he couldn’t perform his duties. Surf had a fever, lethargy and didn’t have any energy to organise the household staff.
Cligg, summoned a temporary, contract butler while Surf recuperated. It was very lucky for Cligg that his household cook Scullion – as well as being an excellent cook was also wise in the arts of nursing. She cared for Surf and nursed him back to health. She wasn’t so skilled to determine actaully what was wrong with Surf but knew how to look after sick people and get them well.
Surf recovered after a few weeks and returned to duty and the household returned to normal. That is it returned to normal except that Squire Lonsley had heard about the household cook Scullion’s nursing qualities and had acquired her according to the rules of the market. Cligg instructed Surf to get another cook. “The market will provide”, he said.
Surf went to the market and managed to find a cook. The new cook Marcuse was a pretty good cook, although a bit continental, but didn’t have any nursing or curing abilities. Surf suggested to his master Cligg “Should we get a nurse too?”. “No bollocks, the market will provide” was his answer.
The following week Cligg got Surf’s illness and died.