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Everybody's Business is Nobody's Business Daniel Defoe

Everybody's Business Is Nobody's Business

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I was pleased at the wit, and astonished at the impudence of the girl, so dismissed her with thanks for her instructions, assuring her that when I kept four maids she should be housemaid if she pleased.

Were a servant to do my business with cheerfulness, I should not grudge at five or six pounds per annum; nor would I be so unchristian to put more upon any one than they can bear; but to pray and pay too is the devil. It is very hard, that I must keep four servants or none.

In great families, indeed, where many servants are required, those distinctions of chambermaid, housemaid, cookmaid, laundrymaid, nurserymaid, &c., are requisite, to the end that each may take her particular business, and many hands may make the work light; but for a private gentleman, of a small fortune, to be obliged to keep so many idle jades, when one might do the business, is intolerable, and matter of great grievance.

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I cannot close this discourse without a gentle admonition and reproof to some of my own sex, I mean those gentlemen who give themselves unnecessary airs, and cannot go to see a friend, but they must kiss and slop the maid; and all this is done with an air of gallantry, and must not be resented. Nay, some gentlemen are so silly, that they shall carry on an underhand affair with their friend's servant-maid, to their own disgrace, and the ruin of many a young creature. Nothing is more base and ungenerous, yet nothing more common, and withal so little taken notice of. D-n me, Jack, says one friend to another, this maid of yours is a pretty girl, you do so and so to her, by G-d. This makes the creature pert, vain, and impudent, and spoils many a good servant.

What gentleman will descend to this low way of intrigue, when he shall consider that he has a footboy or an apprentice for his rival, and that he is seldom or never admitted, but when they have been his tasters; and the fool of fortune, though he comes at the latter end of the feast, yet pays the whole reckoning; and so indeed would I have all such silly cullies served.

If I must have an intrigue, let it be with a woman that shall not shame me. I would never go into the kitchen, when the parlour door was open. We are forbidden at Highgate, to kiss the maid when we may kiss the mistress; why then will gentlemen descend so low, by too much familiarity with these creatures, to bring themselves into contempt?

I have been at places where the maid has been so dizzied with these idle compliments that she has mistook one thing for another, and not regarded her mistress in the least; but put on all the flirting airs imaginable. This behaviour is nowhere so much complained of as in taverns, coffeehouses, and places of public resort, where there are handsome bar-keepers, &c. These creatures being puffed up with the fulsome flattery of a set of flesh-flies, which are continually buzzing about them, carry themselves with the utmost insolence imaginable; insomuch, that you must speak to them with a great deal of deference, or you are sure to be affronted. Being at a coffeehouse the other day, where one of these ladies kept the bar, I had bespoke a dish of rice tea; but madam was so taken up with her sparks, she had quite forgot it. I spake for it again, and with some temper, but was answered after a most taunting manner, not without a toss of the head, a contraction of the nostrils, and other impertinences, too many to enumerate. Seeing myself thus publicly insulted by such an animal, I could not choose but show my resentment. Woman, said I, sternly, I want a dish of rice tea, and not what your vanity and impudence may imagine; therefore treat me as a gentleman and a customer, and serve me with what I call for: keep your impertinent repartees and impudent behaviour for the coxcombs that swarm round your bar, and make you so vain of your blown carcase. And indeed I believe the insolence of this creature will ruin her master at last, by driving away men of sobriety and business, and making the place a den of vagabonds and rakehells.

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Everybody's Business is Nobody's Business
Daniel Defoe

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