25 APRIL 1992, Page 10

One hundred years ago

Sir James Fergusson, the Postmaster- General, has found it necessary to warn the young women employed in post- offices that they really must be decently civil. He has issued a circular enjoining civility upon employes of both sexes; but it is obvious that he has the young ladies in his eye, for he says there are "some, if not many, whom it is impossible to acquit of inattention and levity in the discharge of their official duties. Often they will keep a member of the public waiting while they, perhaps, finish some idle conversation or complete a row of knitting." The complaint is perfectly just; but Sir James will find that a good many circulars are required, for the evil springs, not from idleness, or even rude- ness, but from caste feeling. The girls are uncivil, just as bank-clerks are unciv- il, in order to show that they are not "shoppies," bound to attend to the orders of their customers. They make the public wait just as a sign that they are official persons, and not girls hired to sell stamps and money-orders.

The Spectator 23 April 1892