Sir Richard Steele

Donald F. Bond (ed.), The Spectator, Vol. 1

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pg 443No. 107Tuesday, July 3, 17111


  • Æsopo ingentem statuam posuere Attici,
  • Servumque collocârunt Æterna in Basi,
  • Patere honoris scirent ut Cuncti viam.
  • Phæd.

1THE Reception, manner of Attendance, undisturb'd Freedom 2and Quiet which I meet with here in the Country, has con-3firmed me in the Opinion I always had, that the general Corruption 4of Manners in Servants2 is owing to the Conduct of Masters. The 5Aspect of every one in the Family carries so much Satisfaction, that 6it appears he knows the happy Lot which has befallen him in being 7a Member of it. There is one Particular which I have seldom seen 8but at Sir Roger's; it is usual in all other Places, that Servants fly 9from the parts of the House through which their Master is passing; 10on the contrary, here they industriously place themselves in his 11way, and it is on both sides, as it were, understood as a Visit when 12the Servants appear without calling. This proceeds from the Human 13and equal Temper of the Man of the House, who also perfectly well knows how to enjoy a great Estate, with such Oeconomy as ever to 14be much before Hand. This makes his own Mind untroubled, and 15consequently unapt to vent peevish Expressions, or give passionate 16or inconsistent Orders to those about him. Thus Respect and Love 17go together, and a certain Chearfulness in Performance of their Duty 18is the particular Distinction of the lower part of this Family. When 19a Servant is called before his Master, he does not come with an Expectation to hear himself rated for some trivial Fault, threatned 20to be stripp'd,3 or used with any other unbecoming Language, 21which mean Masters often give to worthy Servants. But it is often 22to know, what Road he took that he came so readily back according 23to Order; whether he passed by such a Ground; if the old Man who 24rents it is in good Health; or whether he gave Sir Roger's Love to 25him, or the like.

pg 4441A Man who preserves a Respect, founded on his Benevolence to 2his Dependants, lives rather like a Prince than a Master in his 3Family; his Orders are received as Favours, rather than Duties, and 4the Distinction of approaching him, is part of the Reward for execut-5ing what is commanded by him.

6There is another Circumstance in which my Friend excells in his 7Management, which is the manner of rewarding his Servants: He 8has ever been of Opinion, that giving his cast Cloaths to be worn 9by Valets has a very ill Effect upon little Minds, and creates a silly 10Sense of Equality between the Parties, in Persons affected only with 11outward things. I have heard him often pleasant on this Occasion, 12and describe a young Gentleman abusing his Man in that Coat, 13which a Month or two before was the most pleasing Distinction he 14was conscious of in himself. He would turn his Discourse still more 15pleasantly upon the Ladies Bounties of this kind; and I have heard 16him say he knew a fine Woman, who distributed Rewards and Punish-17ments in giving becoming or unbecoming Dresses to her Maids.

18But my good Friend is above these little Instances of Good-will, 19in bestowing only Trifles on his Servants; a good Servant to him is 20sure of having it in his Choice very soon of being no Servant at all. 21As I before observed, he is so good an Husband,1 and knows so 22thoroughly that the Skill of the Purse is the Cardinal Virtue of this 23Life; I say, he knows so well that Frugality is the Support of 24Generosity, that he can often spare a large Fine when a Tenement 25falls, and give that Settlement to a good Servant who has a mind to 26go into the World, or make a Stranger pay the Fine to that Servant, 27for his more comfortable Maintenance, if he stays in his Service.

28A Man of Honour and Generosity considers, it would be miser-29able to himself to have no Will but that of another, tho' it were of 30the best Person breathing, and for that Reason goes on as fast as he 31is able to put his Servants into independent Livelihoods. The greatest 32part of Sir Roger's Estate is tenanted by Persons who have served 33himself or his Ancestors. It was to me extreamly pleasant to observe 34the Visitants from several parts to Welcome his Arrival into the 35Country, and all the Difference that I could take notice of, between 36the late Servants who came to see him, and those who staid in the 37Family, was, that these latter were looked upon as finer Gentlemen 38and better Courtiers.

39This Manumission and placing them in a way of Livelihood, I pg 4451look upon as only what is due to a good Servant, which Encourage-2ment will make his Successor be as diligent, as humble, and as 3ready as he was. There is something wonderful in the Narrowness 4of those Minds which can be pleased, and be barren of Bounty to 5those who please them.

6One might, on this occasion, recount the Sense that Great Per-7sons in all Ages have had of the Merit of their Dependants, and the 8Heroick Services which Men have done their Masters in the Ex-9tremity of their Fortunes; and shown, to their undone Patrons, that 10Fortune was all the Difference between them. But as I design this 11my Speculation only asa a gentle Admonition to thankless Masters, 12I shall not go out of the Occurrences of common Life, but assert it 13as a general Observation, that I never saw, but in Sir Roger's Family, 14and one or two more, good Servants treated as they ought to be. 15Sir Roger's Kindness extends to their Children's Children, and this 16very Morning he sent his Coachman's Grandson to Prentice. I shall 17conclude this Paper with an Account of a Picture in his Gallery, 18where there are many which will deserve my future Observation.

19At the very upper End of this handsome Structure I saw the 20Portraiture of two Young Men standing in a River, the one naked 21the other in a Livery. The Person supported seemed half Dead, but 22still so much alive as to show in his Face exquisite Joy and Love 23towards the other. I thought the fainting Figure resembled my 24Friend Sir Roger; and looking at the Butler, who stood by me, for 25an Account of it, he informed me that the Person in the Livery was 26a Servant of Sir Roger's, who stood on the Shore while his Master 27was Swimming, and observing him taken with some sudden Illness, 28and sink under Water, jumped in and saved him. He told me Sir 29Roger took off the Dress he was in as soon as he came home, and by 30a Great Bounty at that time, follow'd by his Favour ever since, had 31made him Master of that pretty Seat which we saw at a distance as 32we came to this House. I remember'd indeed Sir Roger said there 33lived a very worthy Gentleman, to whom he was highly obliged, 34without mentioning any thing further. Upon my looking a little 35dissatisfyed at some part of the Picture, my Attendant informed me, 36that it was against Sir Roger's Will, and at the earnest Request of the 37Gentleman himself, that he was Drawn in the Habit in which he had 38saved his Master.                                             R1

Notes Settings


Editor’s Note
1 Motto. Phaedrus, Fables, 2. Epilogue 1–3:
The Athenians raised a noble statue to the memory of Æsop, and placed a slave on the pedestal, that all might know the way to honour was open to all.
Editor’s Note
2 In this paper Steele continues the discussion started in Nos. 88 and 96 and shows what the ideal master-servant relationship can be.
Editor’s Note
3 To strip, in the obsolete sense of discharging a liveried servant. The only example in OED is dated 1756.
Editor’s Note
1 In the sense only of thrifty person.
Critical Apparatus
a only as a] only a Fol.
Editor’s Note
1 In No. 125 'the Quarterly Contribution for the Benefit of faithful Servants' is advertised 'at the Office in Ironmonger-lane'.

Which Method has hitherto had very good Effects; for the Benefits arising thereby not being to be received without a dutiful Behaviour in the Servants, and a good Character from their Masters, has frequently occasioned a stricter Observance of the Servant's Duty, and incited them to a more earnest Endeavour to deserve that Character on which they have such Dependance. N.B. One whole Year's faithful Service in one Place, gives a Title to a Claim.

In the first announcement of this plan, in No. 88, it is called a 'Mutual Contribution, … according to the Liberty given by a Clause in the late Lottery-Act'.
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