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Everybody's Business is Nobody's Business Daniel Defoe

Everybody's Business Is Nobody's Business

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If you send them with ready money, they turn factors, and take threepence or fourpence in the shilling brokerage. And here let me take notice of one very heinous abuse, not to say petty felony, which is practised in most of the great families about town, which is, when the tradesman gives the house-keeper or other commanding servant a penny or twopence in the shilling, or so much in the pound, for everything they send in, and which, from thence, is called poundage.

This, in my opinion, is the greatest of villanies, and ought to incur some punishment, yet nothing is more common, and our topping tradesmen, who seem otherwise to stand mightily on their credit, make this but a matter of course and custom. If I do not, says one, another will (for the servant is sure to pick a hole in the person's coat who shall not pay contribution). Thus this wicked practice is carried on and winked at, while receiving of stolen goods, and confederating with felons, which is not a jot worse, is so openly cried out against, and severely punished, witness Jonathan Wild.

And yet if a master or mistress inquire after anything missing, they must be sure to place their words in due form, or madam huffs and flings about at a strange rate, What, would you make a thief of her? Who would live with such mistrustful folks? Thus you are obliged to hold your tongue, and sit down quietly by your loss, for fear of offending your maid, forsooth!

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Again, if your maid shall maintain one, two, or more persons from your table, whether they are her poor relations, countryfolk, servants out of place, shoe-cleaners, charwomen, porters, or any other of her menial servants, who do her ladyship's drudgery and go of her errands, you must not complain at your expense, or ask what has become of such a thing, or such a thing; although it might never so reasonably be supposed that it was altogether impossible to have so much expended in your family; but hold your tongue for peace sake, or madam will say, You grudge her victuals; and expose you to the last degree all over the neighbourhood.

Thus have they a salve for every sore, cheat you to your face, and insult you into the bargain; nor can you help yourself without exposing yourself, or putting yourself into a passion.

Another great abuse crept in among us, is the giving of veils to servants; this was intended originally as an encouragement to such as were willing and handy, but by custom and corruption it is now grown to be a thorn in our sides, and, like other good things, abused, does more harm than good; for now they make it a perquisite, a material part of their wages, nor must their master give a supper, but the maid expects the guests should pay for it, nay, sometimes through the nose. Thus have they spirited people up to this unnecessary and burthensome piece of generosity unknown to our forefathers, who only gave gifts to servants at Christmas-tide, which custom is yet kept into the bargain; insomuch that a maid shall have eight pounds per annum in a gentleman's or merchant's family. And if her master is a man of free spirit, who receives much company, she very often doubles her wages by her veils; thus having meat, drink, washing, and lodging for her labour, she throws her whole income upon her back, and by this means looks more like the mistress of the family than the servant-wench.

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Everybody's Business is Nobody's Business
Daniel Defoe

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