YA Story – Life as a Servant in Victorian England | Young Adult Mag


                                 

I’m a housemaid, a girl of only thirteen.

I wake up at dawn to make the house glean.

I polish the silver, I scrub the floor.

With a number of others, I form the maid corps.

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I work to clean and serve until almost midnight.

I stoke all the fires and make sure they give light.

I even provide tea for the Lady’s maid and housekeeper.

Did you know that there was a rank given to every sweeper?

 

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I am the footman, I polish silver and copper.

I accompany the mistress when she is a shopper.

I make all the ladies and gents’ boots shine.

I even walk the dog when he does whine.

 

I keep the cutlery clean, I bring out the breakfast tray.

I use the lord’s money to pay tolls when we’re out and away.

I make sure the mistress’ hem stays dirt-free each time

She visits her friends, so she doesn’t show grime.

 

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I am a laundry maid, just a step above housemaids.

I spend all day cleaning clothes with my aides.

The family that employs us wears layers of clothes.

It’s up to me to make sure their class always shows.

 

I scrub undergarments, dresses and suits from dawn ‘til dusk.

I make sure they smell sweet without a trace of musk.

I spend all day in the washing house and I iron and dry

With the aid of a clothes horse that airs under the sky.

 

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I am the groom, and he the coachman, he the stable boy.

We tend to the horses who bring our lords joy.

We make sure they’re well fed and groomed and ready to go

At the drop of a hat, when our masters head fro.

 

The coachman, he drives them throughout the town.

He tends to the horses while the masters walk around.

When the horses return, we return them to the stable.

We make sure they’re exercised whenever they’re able.

 

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I am a kitchen maid, one of many women in charge

Of lighting kitchen fires and making meals large

Enough to feed the whole household because we bake

For our fellow servants, to a separate dining room meals we take.

 

We don’t clean, that’s the housemaids, but we prepare food

For the cook to make for the master’s brood.

The cook, she works hard especially after dark,

When the masters, their biggest daily meal do mark.

 

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I am the butler and I dress in high fashion.

I oversee the male servants and their wages ration.

I lock up and protect the master’s fine plates.

Some servants might steal them, they sell for good rates.

 

I arrange the master’s dining table and I serve meals too

Along with the footmen, but I carve the meat, put the food in view.

I serve the tea in the evening to the family rests about.

My final task is locking up, making sure fires are out.

 

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I’m the Lady’s maid and I rank pretty highly

Among all the servants, other maids act shyly

When they serve me my tea before I begin work.

My task is to dress the lady, at her side I do lurk.

 

My lady dresses in many layers each day and night.

Sometimes she changes clothes, to show off her social height.

Although not the highest ranked female servant in the house,

I’m set apart from the rest; I’m as close to the lady as a spouse.

 

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I am the housekeeper, all the others do as I say.

I’m always called “Mrs.” by those below me in pay.

I run the household when it comes to female servant activity.

When I bark an order, my audience is in captivity.

 

I keep the inventory of things like candles, sugar and soap.

I also keep charge of the linens; I order all the masters hope

To have in the household. The china I oversee

And the furniture I make sure shines as much as can be.

 

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We’re proud of our work, though we live differently

Than the masters with whom we live and treat so gently.

But we’ll have you know that there are others in the city

Whose hard work and toil we really do pity.

 

Life as a servant may seem a bit hard to you,

But we can count on job security and earning our due.

Other work is even more laborious and often leads

To illness or early death and not enough money to meet needs.

 

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We have our own rituals, and though our masters come first,

The butler, the housekeeper, they never accept our worst.

We eat as a group for the most part, hidden from sight.

Only the high-ranking among us can speak during the rite.

 

When the butler, the housekeeper and the others high up

Leave the meal, then the rest of properly sup.

We’re free to talk to one another for just a short while

And we’re off to bed late at night, down the stairs we file.

 

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Once a month, we get a day off, all to ourselves.

We can head into town or dust off our personal shelves.

We can take a walk or just get some fresh air.

Some of us can read, but not all of us have the flair.

 

We can work on our own clothing or buy a sweet treat.

We can get out—new people we do sometimes meet.

We can get married and move, we’re not slaves, you know,

But we have it so good, we’re going to take our time and go slow.

 

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There is one event that might upset the routine

We all have in place, of serving and making things clean.

It happens less often than you might think from books,

But when a governess comes, she earns a few looks.

 

A governess is an odd class of servant who’s not quite us.

She was born into aristocracy and was raised thus.

She does not clean or serve, she spent time at school.

She teaches the master’s children how to follow each rule.

 

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But what do we do when a governess arrives?

She’s not one of us, she’ll never polish any knives.

She gets a salary, perhaps a bit more than we,

But a lot more free time the governess has, does she.

 

We bring her tea and meals as well.

She’ll not eat with us, down in our cell.

She may eat with our masters as their peer

Or she may eat on her own, or with the kids near.

 

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She calls us by our first names, except perhaps Mrs. Cox.

She ranks over the housekeeper, but they have equal talks.

She can ring for a maid or a footman if she has need

And the lord and the lady are free, since they take lead.

 

She does not speak to the lord and lady unless spoken to

Her family was likely short on cash and may had bills due.

Because to send a daughter into servitude

When born of high class; she might be one of a large brood.

 

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If you are a reader, you may have heard

Stories of a governess set apart from the herd.

She woos her lord’s heart with inexplicable allure.

The lord’s a bachelor, of course, or a widower pure.

 

But this doesn’t really happen, I’m telling you now.

Most often, the lord has his lady and would never bow

Before the governess, even if she’s of higher rank

Than most servants; she’s still lowly, to be frank.

 

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Take for example, the master’s dinner party.

The servants are in a flurry to make sure it’s hearty.

The housekeeper plans for weeks in advance.

We servants have our own form of dance.

 

The housemaids are cleaning  each room extra hard

The cook is preparing dinner for many, meat extra charred.

The footmen are polishing, the groomers preparing

For guests’ horses when they arrive dash and daring.

 

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During the party, the butler and footmen are serving

Food and drink, the evening can be unnerving.

The housekeeper has made sure everything was bought

And now she barks out orders, she overlooks naught.

 

We’ll be up late tonight, I tell you, because it’s our job

To clean up after the guests; to polish each door knob.

If guests spend the night, we’ve got extra attending

To do for the guests before the event’s really ending.

 

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Now if the stories of fancy were actually true,

The governess would attend the party, looking pretty in blue.

But in truth, if she makes an appearance at all,

It will be early on with the children, before any large ball.

 

The governess’ job is to watch the children, although

They might have a personal maid to clean and sew.

Still, the governess presents the kids to other people of class.

She teaches society, learning and avoiding crass.

 

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We servants make each party, each day proceed

Without a hitch; we do each task, each deed

With careful precision and we are content.

Just don’t believe that we’d ever fall in love with a gent.

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