No. 88. Monday, June 11, 1711. Steele.

Quid Domini facient, audent cum tulia Fures?'

May 30, 1711.


I have no small Value for your Endeavours to lay before the World what may escape their Observation, and yet highly conduces to their Service. You have, I think, succeeded very well on many Subjects; and seem to have been conversant in very different Scenes of Life. But in the Considerations of Mankind, as a SPECTATOR, you should not omit Circumstances which relate to the inferior Part of the World, any more than those which concern the greater. There is one thing in particular which I wonder you have not touched upon, and that is the general Corruption of Manners in the Servants of Great Britain. I am a Man that have travelled and seen many Nations, but have for seven Years last past resided constantly in London, or within twenty Miles of it: In this Time I have contracted a numerous Acquaintance among the best Sort of People, and have hardly found one of them happy in their Servants. This is matter of great Astonishment to Foreigners, and all such as have visited Foreign Countries; especially since we cannot but observe, That there is no Part of the World where Servants have those Privileges and Advantages as in England: They have no where else such plentiful Diet, large Wages, or indulgent Liberty: There is no Place wherein they labour less, and yet where they are so little respectful, more wasteful, more negligent, or where they so frequently change their Masters. To this I attribute, in a great measure, the frequent Robberies and Losses which we suffer on the high Road and in our own Houses. That indeed which gives me the present Thought of this kind, is, that a careless Groom of mine has spoiled me the prettiest Pad in the World with only riding him ten Miles, and I assure you, if I were to make a Register of all the Horses I have known thus abused by Negligence of Servants, the Number would mount a Regiment. I wish you would give us your Observations, that we may know how to treat these Rogues, or that we Masters may enter into Measures to reform them. Pray give us a Speculation in general about Servants, and you make me

Pray do not omit the Mention of Grooms in particular.



This honest Gentleman, who is so desirous that I should write a Satyr upon Grooms, has a great deal of Reason for his Resentment; and I know no Evil which touches all Mankind so much as this of the Misbehaviour of Servants.

The Complaint of this Letter runs wholly upon Men-Servants; and I can attribute the Licentiousness which has at present prevailed among them, to nothing but what an hundred before me have ascribed it to, The Custom of giving Board-Wages: This one Instance of false Oeconomy is sufficient to debauch the whole Nation of Servants, and makes them as it were but for some part of their Time in that Quality. They are either attending in Places where they meet and run into Clubs, or else, if they wait at Taverns, they eat after their Masters, and reserve their Wages for other Occasions. From hence it arises, that they are but in a lower Degree what their Masters themselves are; and usually affect an Imitation of their Manners: And you have in Liveries, Beaux, Fops, and Coxcombs, in as high Perfection as among People that keep Equipages. It is a common Humour among the Retinue of People of Quality, when they are in their Revels, that is when they are out of their Masters Sight, to assume in a humourous Way the Names and Titles of those whose Liveries they wear. By which means Characters and Distinctions become so familiar to them, that it is to this, among other Causes, one may impute a certain Insolence among our Servants, that they take no Notice of any Gentleman though they know him ever so well, except he is an Acquaintance of their Master's.

My Obscurity and Taciturnity leave me at Liberty, without Scandal, to dine, if I think fit, at a common Ordinary, in the meanest as well as the most sumptuous House of Entertainment. Falling in the other Day at a Victualling-House near the House of Peers, I heard the Maid come down and tell the Landlady at the Bar, That my Lord Bishop swore he would throw her out [at [1]] Window, if she did not bring up more Mild Beer, and that my Lord Duke would have a double Mug of Purle. My Surprize was encreased, in hearing loud and rustick Voices speak and answer to each other upon the publick Affairs, by the Names of the most Illustrious of our Nobility; till of a sudden one came running in, and cry'd the House was rising. Down came all the Company together, and away! The Alehouse was immediately filled with Clamour, and scoring one Mug to the Marquis of such a Place, Oyl and Vinegar to such an Earl, three Quarts to my new Lord for wetting his Title, and so forth. It is a Thing too notorious to mention the Crowds of Servants, and their Insolence, near the Courts of Justice, and the Stairs towards the Supreme Assembly, where there is an universal Mockery of all Order, such riotous Clamour and licentious Confusion, that one would think the whole Nation lived in Jest, and there were no such thing as Rule and Distinction among us.

The next Place of Resort, wherein the servile World are let loose, is at the Entrance of Hide-Park, while the Gentry are at the Ring. Hither People bring their Lacqueys out of State, and here it is that all they say at their Tables, and act in their Houses, is communicated to the whole Town. There are Men of Wit in all Conditions of Life; and mixing with these People at their Diversions, I have heard Coquets and Prudes as well rallied, and Insolence and Pride exposed, (allowing for their want of Education) with as much Humour and good Sense, as in the politest Companies. It is a general Observation, That all Dependants run in some measure into the Manners and Behaviour of those whom they serve: You shall frequently meet with Lovers and Men of Intrigue among the Lacqueys, as well as at White's [2] or in the Side-Boxes. I remember some Years ago an Instance of this Kind. A Footman to a Captain of the Guard used frequently, when his Master was out of the Way, to carry on Amours and make Assignations in his Master's Cloaths. The Fellow had a very good Person, and there are very many Women that think no further than the Outside of a Gentleman: besides which, he was almost as learned a Man as the Colonel himself: I say, thus qualified, the Fellow could scrawl Billets-doux so well, and furnish a Conversation on the common Topicks, that he had, as they call it, a great deal of good Business on his Hands. It happened one Day, that coming down a Tavern-Stairs in his Master's fine Guard-Coat, with a well-dress'd Woman masked, he met the Colonel coming up with other Company; but with a ready Assurance he quitted his Lady, came up to him, and said, Sir, I know you have too much Respect for yourself to cane me in this honourable Habit: But you see there is a Lady in the Case, and I hope on that Score also you will put off your Anger till I have told you all another time. After a little Pause the Colonel cleared up his Countenance, and with an Air of Familiarity whispered his Man apart, Sirrah, bring the Lady with you to ask Pardon for you; then aloud, Look to it, Will, I'll never forgive you else. The Fellow went back to his Mistress, and telling her with a loud Voice and an Oath, That was the honestest Fellow in the World, convey'd her to an Hackney-Coach.

But the many Irregularities committed by Servants in the Places above-mentioned, as well as in the Theatres, of which Masters are generally the Occasions, are too various not to need being resumed on another Occasion.


[Footnote 1: of the]

[Footnote 2: 'White's', established as a chocolate-house in 1698, had a polite character for gambling, and was a haunt of sharpers and gay noblemen before it became a Club.]

Translation of motto:
VIRG. Ecl. iii. 16.
'What will not masters do, when servants thus presume?'