Adam Street, Adelphi, 14th September 1852.
Six—The cry is, "The cholera is coming !" Why do we fear it ? Only from the consciousness that we have left undone that which we ought to have done. We have not " put our houses in order." But we must. With the cholera on one side and emigration on the other, man is getting at a pre- mium, and will cease to be hireable save for pleasant labour. The question
then arises, how may we best put away from us all kinds of unpleasant labour ? Let us enumerate the varieties. First come the dirty employments—nightmen, scavengers, chimney-sweeps —usually better paid than agricultural labourers, as a compensation for the dirt, like the employment of spies and similar people engaged in mental dirt. Then come the risky employments—as mining, and poisonous processes in the arts : these also are found at a premium. Tben follow the more hard- working employments, the drudgery-muscle-machinery—railway navvies, best described by the contractor who said, "If you don't put a lot of stuff into a navvy you can't get nothing out of him "—in short, beef engines. The locomotive is valuable in proportion to the greatest amount of coke it can usefully consume for its size, and the value of the navvy is measured by the amount of beef he can consume in his stomach-furnace. A given quan- tity of coal raises so much water per hour, and a given quantity of beef raises so much earth per hour. Not this, but quite otherwise, shall be his ultimate destination ; useful in his day and generation, and breathing fresh air withal, he shall yet pass away, and assume another type in the more developed purposes of life. Then comes the skilled labour, the work of handicraft—the still needful work of the tailor, the shoemaker, the hatter, and others, all unpleasant enough ; weavers and other hands employed in textile factories. Then the carpenters, and joiners, and engineers, and similar workmen, with strong muscular exercise, but not very unpleasant, paid highly for skill, but the work each day cleaving more and more to automatic machines. Then follow a whole host of people born to exercise the vocation of making vegetable and mineral frivolities, at every fresh bidding of wealthy idleness and its thou- sand changing fancies. Above these are the race of artists, and the originators and inventors, the anti-Chinese of society, the men of material progress, who win for humanity and the higher intellect its vantage-ground. And these, too, find that much of the labour is not "labour of love." But through all these processes there is one cheering sensation—there are in- tervals in which they are their own masters. But there is a race, the plague-spot of English life, who never know the joy of being their own masters, save when they are out of work—the domes- tic servants. Farm-labourers may be scarce, but domestic servants will be scarcer. The reason is, that domestic service is to the greater number of servants the most unpleasant of all employments. "I have left my own key in missus's tea-caddy,' was the quiet satire put by Hood in the mouth of a White she slave, gone to the Cape to be emancipated. Examples we have, few and far between, of generous relations between employers and their do- mestic labourers ; but there is no disputing the fact, that the generality of the employers regard servants as a rebellious tribe of ungrateful hirelings— necessary evils ; and the servants regard the employers as a race of heartless oppressors. Whence came the proverb, "Service is no inheritance." Whence came the doggerel rhymes,
"May God above
Send down his dove, With knives as sharp as sickles, To cut the throats Of those rich folks
That grudge their servants' victuals."
There must have been much disturbance of justice between humanity on both sides ere this came to pass. The truth is, humanity increased in numbers, and dear food induced much humility for the sake of bread-winning. Hard natures, with surplus hu- manity at their beck, trampled on it; and it hid its wrongs, but avenged them by the vices of the slave. Wronged domesticity became thief and liar. Dull beaten-down intellects could not distinguish good from bad, in employers. Frequent change of place begot a feeling of mere caste ; the domestic White Negro became a field Negro, and regarded all employers as alike. The re- tainer feeling was gone for ever on the one side, and personal knowledge was gone on the other,—personal character, given by members of the higher caste from one to another, being the only passport to employment amidst in- tense competition. So distinctly opposite have been the two classes, so well known was the fact, that a writer (if I recollect, Miss Martineau) was at the pains to trace its origin to the ancient tyranny of the Normans over the Saxons,—as though all employers were Normans and all serfs or servants were Saxons,—as though it were not notorious that the vulgar rich man rising from the herd is ever a greater tyrant than the hereditary one. Evil nature in the lady of "rank " may be tyrannous, but in the lady of the "ranks " it is much more coarsely domineering. The toe of the peasant may gall the kibe of the courtier, but the courtier is in no fear of being mistaken for a peasant ; whereas the new-made rich man dresses his former companion, grown to be his servant, in parti-coloured clothing as a bad likeness of a parrot, in order to prevent being mistaken for him, and deeming that he thereby imitates hereditary manners. Why has all this come to pass ? Not from Normans, nor Romans, nor Greeks, nor any other manner of men, but simply because the world was born into drudgery from the time of Adam ; and, wrongly reading the primal curse, sweat of the brow, instead of sweat of the brain within the brow, the race of men strove with each other physically, the strong oppressing the weak, to com- pe1 them to perform their drudgery, in addition to their own. Even thus White slaves ground at the mill in elder Greece; even thus, women—the weaker, if not the "lesser men "—ground at the mill in Palestine and else- where. Even thus the conquered world worked for Rome, till the slaves, grown wiser, threw off the yoke to work for themselves. Even thus the poor have worked for the rich, in all times ; and no otherwise could it be. It was the law of nature to win a firm platform for the thinkers to stand on, and plan the escape of humanity from the hell of oppression. The steam-engine came and took on itself man's drudgery : process after process was turned over to it—the eman- cipated slaves, time-amalgamated with their drudgery, dumbly striving with it, as a blind man with his friend whom he mistakes for a foe—but still went on the strife ; drudgers disappearing and losing themselves in humanity,— a struggle that will go on till drudgery be no more. The remains are fast going. What then ? there are less weavers, but not fewer men. "Chippers and filers" have disappeared behind self-acting machine tools, but other men in greater numbers do more delicate kind of work. Cotton-mills start up with many floors, and working men are lifted up to them by machines, to save the labour of ascending the stairs. Ever is the engine on the watch, as though to say, "What can I do for you next ? " All this has been done in factories and workshops and mines—in all places where materials have been converted to human uses for purposes of profit. Yet the engine is still but in its infancy for the uses of food-producing. It has scarcely been applied at all for the purposes of diminishing domestic drudgery, even in the houses of the rich. Why is this ? Simply that people did not seek to economize expenditure by the same processes that increased production—because serfage was ineurplus. If the same processes be applied to our dwellings that have been applied
to our workshops, drudgery will be at an end there also. It is true that there are some persons who measure their comfort in the satisfaction of os- tentation by the number of their retainers, as they write their wealth on their persons by the quantity rather than the quality of their jewellery ; but they are few in number, and we need not take them into account. Let us ascertain what is the actual drudging performed at present in dwellings, and what drudgery may be either dispensed with or performed by steam.
What are the separate items for which servants are required ? 1. Carry- Mg hot and cold water up and down stairs by hand. 2. Carrying coals and duet up and down stairs by hand, and sifting cinders. 3. Making beds. 4. Cleaning shoes. 6. Preparing and cooking food. 6. Ascending the stairs to answer bells and supply lights. 7. Answering street-door bells. 8. Dust- ing and sweeping. 9. Waiting at table. 10. Washing floors. 11. Warm- ing and ventilating.
Carrying water up-stairs, both hot and cold, may be performed by engine power as well in a dwelling as in a factory, and with far greater neatness than by the present mode. Every apartment and stair-head might have these by a proper system of concealed pipes. Waste water may also pass down pipes with a run of hot water to cleanse the sinks. Carrying coals up-stairs should be dispensed with by a machine hoist to every floor, worked by the engine. The dust should be lowered in the same mode. A minimum of servants' labour once a day would suffice for this. Gas in many cases may supply the place of fuel ; but it would be ab- surd to dictate to all persons that they should use a fire which did not please their sensations. The truth is, that an open fire is agreeable in many ways : it produces ventilation ; it gives radiant heat to the feet, and thus acts as a force-pump to cause the blood to circulate when impeded by pressure on veins and arteries in a sitting posture. And although the Ore doubtless produces dust, there is one sensation it gives, pleasant to all : the flickering flame is like running water—it is life' and the changing form of the fuel is analogous to the pebbles in running brooks. Whether time will enable us closely to imitate this with gas and a coke fire mixed, is still a problem. Sifting cinders is a process that should not be performed in the house. It will scarcely pay, if servants become scarcer and their wages rise. Smoke- consuming has been the object of much tinkering legislation. It is strange that it does not occur to the good folks, that properly-prepared fuel, with the right proportions of the combustible gases, will not smoke, but will burn clearly without waste. When our chemists prepare our fuel, and we cease to use crude coals for our fires, as we have ceased to use crude food for our stomachs, London and other towns will again attain a pellucid atmo- sphere.
Making beds is a process needed by the existence of feather and down beds. They are not wholesome ; but existing customs cannot easily be set aside. The spring mattresses are not yet perfect, but by better construction, yet to be attained, they will probably be nearly universal. The thumping of feathers may then be dispensed with, and the making the bed will be little more than putting a cloak on or off. We may suppose also more im- provements in the bedstead.
Cleaning shoes. In numerous businesses requiring polishing processes, circular brushes are made fast on a shaft revolving at speed like a lathe. If the various brushes used by the Ragged School boys were thus formed and fixed, the shoes or boots would simply be held against them in succession, and the operation would be performed without labour. But there is another question—Have we obtained absolute perfection in our boots and shoes Is it necessary that Day and Martin should go on for ever with their lustre of water-gum, utterly unfitted for a moist atmosphere, but yet infinitely prefer- able to the water-proof varnish, that condenses mischievous damp on the feet ? At Margate and other Cockney places of resort, people wear brown leather boots. In most parts of Spain the same thing is done. It would be doubtless unpopular to advise the disuse of so ancient an institution as blackingtthe more especially as the ragged boys get their living b' it ; but it certainly is not impossible to use " prunella " as well as " leather"; and if the numbers of those anxious to dispense with personal service proved considerable, invent- ors might go to work to supply a new public want. Preparing and cooking food is one of the most important processes that occur in the daily operations of man's life. It is a daily chemistry, on the good or bad performance of which depend health, and peace, and progress. But cooks are rarely chemists. They, for the most part, understand empiri- cally how to stimulate the palate, but there their knowledge ends. Man is at the mercy of his meat-preparer. Yet it does not seem a difficult thing to surmount this evil. Preparing food is not a drudgery, and it might be pre- pared without being an unpleasant labour, were kitchens constructed as carefully as laboratories. Coffee, tea, and similar things, might be prepared by gas jets alone, with little trouble, and without the aid of servants. Madame Roland could "skim the pot" for her husband's dinner, while she prepared his speeches for the tribune or his reports for the state.
Ascending the stairs to answer bells might be dispensed with by in- ternal telegraphs. But increased facilities for people to have all things near them would much diminish this labour; and moreover, using lifts such as are used for workmen in mills would remove the toil altogether. Gas- lights are independent of servants, and not noxious if rightly used.
The answering the street-door bell is best done by a porter ; but present arrangements preclude porters, save to the very rich. It is a matter re- quiring constant attendance. Dusting and sweeping do not involve any unpleasant labour. Waiting at table is an irksome process, both to those who wait and those who are waited on. It is the absence of privacy ; and numerous contrivances of various kinds, known and unknown, may effectually obviate this. Washing floors on hands and knees is an unwholesome labour that must disappear. It is a process that in properly-constructed houses would be per- formed in other modes ; and, moreover, it is a process that might be per- formed by journeymen as carpets are dusted, and it is not necessarily a pro- cess for domestic servants.
Warming the dwelling and ventilating is not necessarily a process re- quiring the lighting of fires and opening windows incessantly, and running up and down stairs to prevent the fires going out. It is essential to main- tain a summer warmth in dwellings in addition to open fires. This can be done by supplying pure warmed air from an air-warming establishment, as easily as is supply of gas. It is absurd that every house should manu- facture its own warmth, and in most cases do it badly. I have gone through the list ; and shall be told for my pains, that such arrangements are impossible in our present dwellings, and that it is only making servants discontented to hold such things up to them. Some of them are impossible, doubtless ; but sooner or later the impossibilities willcauso the abandonment of many existing dwellings. As to the question of servants, there will be no servants in a future time, willing to perform what existing servants do, when emigration and reduced numbers make the means of living easy. Let not people lay the unction to their souls that what has been will be for ever. In a few years domestic service in England will be as difficult as domestic service in the American Union or Australia. It will be as at the encamping previous to the battle of Otterbourne, when
"He that had a bonny boy Sent out his horse to grass, And he that had na a bonny boy His ain servant he was."
How these things may best be reconciled—how domestic drudgery may be extinguished, and all the comforts of life continued, nay, immeasurably in- creased, amongst the great masses of the middle classes of society, without trenching upon any of their habitual refinements, and at the same time re- moving from them innumerable sources of their present disagreeable asso- ciations—in short, how to "put our houses in order "—must be the subject of a future communication.