Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Observations

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The Observations

by Jane Harris

The Observations
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2006, 416 pages
    Jul 2007, 416 pages

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According to The Victorian Web if a Victorian household could afford only one servant it would likely be a 'general' maid-of-all-work (usually a girl of 13 or 14) similar to the role Bessy takes on. Next would come a house-maid or nurse-maid, followed by a cook. Only once this female trio was in place would the first manservant be employed, usually with indoor and outdoor responsibilities, such as waiting and valeting and care of the horse and carriage. To maintain a household staff at this level would have taken about £500 in 1857. If more servants could be afforded the roles of the household would become increasingly more specialized - such as a dedicated ladies-maid, kitchen-maid, nursemaid, butler, coachman etc.

In the list of source material for The Observations, Harris cites The Diaries of Hannah Cullwick, Victorian Maidservant. For a time Cullwick was maid-of-all-work for solicitor Arthur Munby and for 40-years they...

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