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Everybody's Business is Nobody's Business Daniel Defoe

Everybody's Business Is Nobody's Business

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And now we have mentioned washing, I would ask some good housewifely gentlewoman, if servant-maids wearing printed linens, cottons, and other things of that nature, which require frequent washing, do not, by enhancing the article of soap, add more to housekeeping than the generality of people would imagine? And yet these wretches cry out against great washes, when their own unnecessary dabs are very often the occasion.

But the greatest abuse of all is, that these creatures are become their own lawgivers; nay, I think they are ours too, though nobody would imagine that such a set of slatterns should bamboozle a whole nation; but it is neither better nor worse, they hire themselves to you by their own rule.

That is, a month's wages, or a month's warning; if they don't like you they will go away the next day, help yourself how you can; if you don't like them, you must give them a month's wages to get rid of them.

This custom of warning, as practised by our maid-servants, is now become a great inconvenience to masters and mistresses. You must carry your dish very upright, or miss, forsooth, gives you warning, and you are either left destitute, or to seek for a servant; so that, generally speaking, you are seldom or never fixed, but always at the mercy of every new comer to divulge your family affairs, to inspect your private life, and treasure up the sayings of yourself and friends. A very great confinement, and much complained of in most families.

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Thus have these wenches, by their continual plotting and cabals, united themselves into a formidable body, and got the whip hand of their betters; they make their own terms with us; and two servants now, will scarce undertake the work which one might perform with ease; notwithstanding which, they have raised their wages to a most exorbitant pitch; and, I doubt not, if there be not a stop put to their career, but they will bring wages up to 201. per annum in time, for they are much about half way already.

It is by these means they run away with a great part of our money, which might be better employed in trade, and what is worse, by their insolent behaviour, their pride in dress, and their exorbitant wages, they give birth to the following inconveniences.

First, They set an ill example to our children, our apprentices, our covenant servants, and other dependants, by their saucy and insolent behaviour, their pert, and sometimes abusive answers, their daring defiance of correction, and many other insolences which youth are but too apt to imitate.

Secondly, By their extravagance in dress, they put our wives and daughters upon yet greater excesses, because they will, as indeed they ought, go finer than the maid; thus the maid striving to outdo the mistress, the tradesman's wife to outdo the gentleman's wife, the gentleman's wife emulating the lady, and the ladies one another; it seems as if the whole business of the female sex were nothing but an excess of pride, and extravagance in dress.

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Everybody's Business is Nobody's Business
Daniel Defoe

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