The American Pictorial Home Book
or Housekeeper's Encyclopedia - online book

A reference manual of household management in Victorian times.

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34                                    THE .MISTRESS.
isfaction of knowing whether her efforts to manage her department economically have been successful. It is one of the mistress' duties to exercise her judgment and discrimination in engaging servants. It is best for her to know something of the servant she engages; and when engaging a servant it is best to make her understand before­hand what is expected of her and committing it to writing, giving the servant a copy of the agreement and keeping one herself, every­thing being plainly stated and understood by both. By pursuing this course there will not be so much contention in domestic matters, which should be deprecated, as well as a constant change of ser­vants. Among the great masses of society, there being exceptional cases, it is best not to choose a servant from the lower class.
In obtaining a servant's character, it is best to have an interview with her former mistress, and then you will be assisted in your decis­ions of the faithfulness of the servant, whether she is honest and her moral character good. The proper observance of courtesy being character, in order to prevent any unreasonable intrusion on the part of a stranger, your inquiries should be very minute, so that you may avoid disappointments and trouble by knowing the weak points of your domestics. This is no unreasonable requisition, for in traveling it is expected that persons will carry letters of introduc­tion or commendation. In all kinds of business it is expected; and no one will for a moment employ a person that is the least light-fingered, tardy, or unfit for business; and he must bring letters from business places in which he has been engaged, or from competent and reliable persons, setting forth what they are, etc. How much more important in a domestic, who is in your bed-rooms, among your children, in your kitchen, etc. When this is done there will be less domestic discontent, both on the part of the employer and em­ployed.
The treatment of servants is of the highest possible moment, as well to the mistress as to the domestics themselves. On the head of the house the servants will naturally fix their attention, and if they perceive that the mistress' conduct is regulated by high and correct principles, they will not fail to respect her. If, also, a benevolent desire is shown to promote their comfort, at the same time that a steady performance of their duty is exacted, then their respect will not be unmingled with affection, and they will still be more solicitous to continue to deserve their favor.
The mistress should think of the late hours, and often of those of incessant toil, that her domestics are required to keep, and never withhold from them their full wages a single day, for they may be needed by their dependent family, or a sick mother and father. Even the perquisites they may get from visitors and others will be poor