Cache-Control: public, max-age=1024000 Present for a Servant Girl

A Present for a Servant-Maid; or, the Sure Means of Gaining Love and Esteem

In 1743, Eliza Haywood published handy little volume called A Present for a servant-maid: or, the sure means of gaining love and esteem. as a guide for servants because, as always, it was terribly hard to get good domestic help.

The volume is somewhat sanctimonious (see the Preface, below) and tends to blame servants for any problems, regardless of circumstances. She does, however, provide good advice to young maid-servants on how to avoid being cornered and raped by visiting gentleman, albeit expressed in terms of the servant-maid not 'causing' it. Apparently, married gentleman are among the worst offenders and she recommends avoiding them completely if at all possible. Also, never believe anything the son of the house tells you.

It is available on google books as a pdf but there is no plain text version that I can find. The text from the pdf is rather poor but I have extracted and cleaned up the practical advice on shopping, cooking and washing.

What these sections give us a wonderful insight into the lives of the middling well-to-do - people who could afford servants, a kitchen and good food from the markets. There is information on what to look for when shopping when, for example, the meat is old or the butter rancid but where the vendor attempts to conceal the fact. It then tells you how the food should be cooked - this is the good, honest food that would have been eaten most days, neither the masterpieces of a French chef nor fast food from itinerant pie sellers.

If you want to know the skills required and practiced by common servants, this is an excellent guide. Click on the headings for links to the information.


It is not to be wondered at, that in an Age abounding with Luxury, and over-run with Pride, Servants should be in general so bad, that it is become on of our Calamities not to be able to live without them: Corruption, tho' it begins at the Head, ceases not its Progress till it reaches the most inferior Parts, and it is high Time to endeavour a Cure of so growing an Evil. I am certain no Undertaking whatever can be more useful to the Publick, and I flatter myself will meet with greater Encouragement. A due Observance of the Rules contained in this little Treatise, cannot fail of making every Mistress of a Family perfectly contented, and every Servant-Maid both happy and beloved; and I hope whoever of the latter shall read what I have set down, will find it so much her Interest, as well as her Duty, to behave in a contrary Manner from what too many for some Years have done; that she will make it her whole Study to avoid the Errors she may see in others, and reform such as she has been guilty of herself. This is the sole End proposed by the Publication of these Sheets, and if the Attempt succeeds, I shall think my Labour well bestowed.

DIRECTIONS FOR A YOUNG WOMAN - to qualify herself for any common Service.

IF you truly design to make a good Servant, and to gain the Affection and Esteem of those you live with, it is absolutely necessary you should endeavour, before you venture out into the World, to have some little Skill in those Things you must expect to be employed in, and which Practice afterward will make easy to you. To this End I have annex'd some few Rules which, if you carefully observe, will make you fit for any common Services

First, For going to MARKET

Now, that you may not disgrace your Marketing, and spoil by bad dressing what you have well catered, take the following Rules, which, without being ordered to the contrary, by those who love their Victuals over much or over little done, you ought not to trangress in. more...

Preparing Food

Next to being expert in buying and Dressing of Victuals, there is nothing so commendable in a Servant as the well and quick washing and getting up of Linen. That you may not therefore be wanting in so valuable a Qalification, I have taken the the Pains to give you some Instructions, which I doubt not but will be readily followed by as many of you as are ambitious of acquiring the Reputation of being good House-wives, or wish to give Satisfaction to those you serve. more ...

Directions how to manage Linnen for the Wash

Having now (with great Care and Pains) completed what I at first intended, Ihave nothing more to add, than, once more, strongly to recommend to you, a strict Observance of the several Particulars contained in this small Treatise, which will be the only Means of entitling you to the Blessing of GOD, the Love and Esteem of the Families in which you live, and procuring to yourselves a never-failing Source of Comfort and Satisfaction. more...