Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Slaves of the Cuff: Victorian Manners and Hypocrisy

Miguel Lorenzo

Victims of sexual and labor exploitation and child abuse. Frank Victor Dawes confirmed this in Never before Cervants, a classic that retrieves the peripheral seal and reveals the harsh reality of household chores based on the testimony of its protagonist. Harriet Brown began serving at the age of 10. In 1879 she wrote to her mother that she woke up at half past five in the morning and fell asleep at midnight “so exhausted that I have no choice but to cry bitterly.”

His daughter, Ellen, would also be ten years old, who would be the eighth servant in another aristocratic household. Every night she fell asleep crying after brushing hardwood floors with liquid soap and silica dust. It is one of the stories collected by Dawes in an essay advertised as “the book that tells Downton Abbey is silent”. Its author delves into the dark side of slavery that is close to slavery, which has been addressed in recent films and series such as Libertad (Clara Roquette, 2021) or La Auxiliary (Molly Smith Metzler, 2021), as in The Holy Innocents. (Mario Camus) did. , , 1984) or ceremony (Claude Chabrol, 1995).

On the contrary are those who idealize the complex Victorian world. Chains like Downton Abbey or the legendary Up & Down “which established in our imagination the idea of ​​a calm and orderly universe based on efficiency, unconditional dedication and gentlemanly integrity.” “Nothing is further from reality,” says Das, the son of a maid, who began serving at the age of thirteen. When the up and down were all the rage on British television, Dawes thought of the decline in the number of servants in Britain, counted from about a million and a half to less than a million by World War I. In 1972, he published an advertisement in the Daily Telegraph asking those working as servants to tell him about their experiences. He received more than 700 letters that form the basis of the enigmatic essay characterizing a century’s worth of domestic work. It was published in the United Kingdom half a century ago, but was not translated into Spanish.

Maids, butlers, governesses, cooks, bastards and some employers also recall sad, comic, tender, funny and sometimes cruel memories that “confirm the idea that they should always be labored and even were also considered second-class human beings”. Many of these slaves were forced to serve out of necessity. The guarantee of shelter and food was a laborious and important solution to the needy. But soon rancor attacked him with the double standards and hypocrisy that would mark his life. While the lords above ate the succulent food cooked below, they could only eat the leftovers. The gentlemen enjoyed the opulent rooms, at opposite ends of the servants’ austere and uncomfortable attic.

Leonine norms regarding work uniforms or street clothes ordered the highly codified lives of some servants, who were required to remain silent and invisible when serving in the great dining halls. They endured endless days with constant ringing of bells. With no leisure, no social or family life, many young women were sex toys for the clear-minded owner. “O servants, obey your masters in the world, and do the will of God with your heart, in fear and trembling”, he reads in the Bible (Ephesians VI:5-8).

In My Secret Life, the memoir of an anonymous Victorian gentleman, it is written that servants and submissive women “committed adultery in secret and were proud to have a gentleman to cover them up. It was my lifestyle and the opinion of men my age.” The slaves say that in view of the servants’ repeated pregnancies, “the blame lay entirely on her, and not on the family member who impregnated her.” As such, could be fired without any reference and without any reference.

Nation World News Desk
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