The editor of this book, Liz Stanley, doesn't give much thoughts to that fact, and she also seems to want to tone down some parts of the submissive messages of the text, painting Hannah as just a very strong woman, albeit in a rather weird relationship. And you could read the texts as that, but almost denying the sexual tension and themes from both sides is taking it too far, when we actually look at the texts.
This was, well, a revelation. I had heard mostly the smutty stuff about Hannah Cullwick, and read this kind of on a lark and kind of hoping to round out my sense of the Victorians as they lived. After reading this, it was a lot less smutty than I'd expected, but was instead a really rich and complex portrait of a life as lived-- I don't have a lot of experience reading diaries, but they require a certain kind of reading rhythm to get into, and a kind of imaginative sympathy to make sense out of This was, well, a revelation.
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After reading this, it was a lot less smutty than I'd expected, but was instead a really rich and complex portrait of a life as lived-- I don't have a lot of experience reading diaries, but they require a certain kind of reading rhythm to get into, and a kind of imaginative sympathy to make sense out of what is told and what is left out, even in a diary. For whatever reason, I was more than ready to supply HC with the depths she otherwise withholds from reader s here.
The writing is pretty wonderful throughout, and Stanley has done a really nice job formatting the diaries to make them readable. One scene in particular, of Hannah cleaning the chimney, will likely stick with me for a long time, and many other sections will lurk in my memory, creating a sense of a kind of proud self-abasement, a level of control in a life that deinied HC many opportunitues to exercise control or to determine her sense of self-worth. The apparatus of this book, in the form of Stanley's introductions, especially, is almost half the book here.
I didn't find it intrusive, as such, and as I commented above, I felt her paragraphing, etc, made the diaries themselves very much more readable. I did feel, sometimes, that Stanley pushed her framing a little hard; I'm glad to have a frame, and I'm glad Stanley acknowledges what she's doing, but it still felt a little violent at times, like she was supplying too many of the individual puzzle pieces, instead of merely giving us a sense of the big picture.
But having read her introductions, it's hard to imagine how I would've done without them. I just mean to say that there's a lot of Stanley in this edition, and for me, that was on balance a good thing. At times, and especially in the post-married sections, it felt like Stanley was counting on my familiarity with texts I don't know, that she wanted to dispute with.
That was a little odd, and in a perfect world, there'd be an edition that was more multi-vocal, with present critics who disputed her analysis of the final state of HC and AM's relationship in place of Stanley's summary of same , and maybe something similar about her intros to different diaries. It might be a peculiar feature of this diary, or all diaries read out of the life that wrote them, but I wanted more different guides to understanding HC, without ever questioning what Stanley was telling me. Jan 12, Melissa rated it it was amazing. It was so surprising and interesting!
Apr 12, The Wee Hen rated it did not like it Shelves: abandoned. I have become a most terrible crank in my old age.
The maid slaves: how wealthy visitors to Britain trap servants in their homes
When a book makes me too angry I just won't make myself read it. And unfortunately this book really peeved me. He met her, thoroughly encouraged a totally servile attitude and practice in her and did it a little too well because he made her into his life-long slave. Then later he wondered why she couldn't back off it a little bit and do his will enough to become his Lad I have become a most terrible crank in my old age.
Then later he wondered why she couldn't back off it a little bit and do his will enough to become his Lady Wife instead of a housemaid. Munby's creation displeased him by taking it to heart in a most stubborn and tenacious way and when he wanted that creation to change and she wouldn't he was most displeased.
Ah, The Victorian Male, what a singularly selfish creature he was, what a real rotten old cove.
The Diaries of Hannah Cullwick, Victorian Maidservant
And the editor addresses all of it in the introduction. But for all the apologetics, the relationship between "The Drudge" and "Massa" was a little too much for me to take. I like to think of myself as this terribly sophisticated, post-modern thinker and it's not that I'm ignorant of the politics of all of this sort of thing - it's complicated and often those in subservient positions are actually the ones who hold all the cards - yes, I know a bit about Foucault and all that.
Taking into account as well the delicious freedom Hannah found in most certainly not being a lady, the woman does seem to make a lot of sense in her desires to remain as "low" as possible. I wanted to find the nearest time machine, get in it, find Munby and slap the living daylights out of him for creating this in Hannah. So yeah, leaving it unread. One has enough aggro in one's life just trying to get by.
I don't need any more. Very, very engaging.
The best epistolary I had read so far. Andrew rated it it was amazing Aug 26, Sam rated it really liked it May 21, Janishi Hightower rated it it was ok Dec 18, Flora rated it it was amazing Feb 19, Pat rated it it was amazing May 12, Molly Stewardson rated it it was amazing May 12, Orla rated it it was amazing Sep 21, Lisa Billinton rated it it was ok May 31, Hannah rated it liked it Mar 29, David rated it it was amazing Dec 02, Rogue rated it really liked it Jan 23, Molly Yurchak rated it liked it Oct 20, Trine rated it it was ok Dec 08, Jenna Guitar rated it it was amazing Feb 10, Sally rated it liked it Feb 10, Donna rated it really liked it Sep 30, My second mistress and master were Catholics, and I lived with them five years.
Sunday afternoon and evening were devoted to parties and card-playing. The work was very hard. The family number nine, and two servants had to do the work, including dinner-parties. There should not have been less than four. Wages were very low, especially considering the work we had to do. My only reason for leaving was that the work injured my health.
I have been in my present place three years. The work is not so hard as in my last place, but it is bad enough. What is worse than the work is the whims of my mistress. I am a Dissenter, but am supposed to go to the Established Church as they do. I can scarcely ever get out for myself, but I must go whenever they choose to send me; if I am busy or ill it makes no difference.
She is neither willing for me to go to see  my friends nor for them to come to see me. Many pounds are spent on parties, but if the servants have more butter than is thought proper there is a great fuss. All this comes of living beyond means, and trying to keep up appearances as if they were as well off as their neighbours. Servants are treated more as slaves than free persons. If my mistress knew I wrote this I should be discharged at once, so, madam, I trust you will keep my name secret. My mistress makes me turn off the gas after seven o'clock, and I sit shivering till prayer-time, when I go to bed with cold feet, and I cry sometimes becos I can't well help myself.
There is no hot water, becos my mistress has a coal fire in the parlour what she boils a kettle on for the hot water when she goes to bed. Them gas- stoves is handy in the morning, but my mistress turns the gas off herself if I forget to do it after I've washed up, and them is the cruellest things for us poor servants. DEAR MADAM,-I have been in my present place five years, and before then I was in another hotel three years, so I can speak for public service, which is very different to private service, and much better to my mind.
I don't know how she did it, for she is in the back wing, but she is a bit flighty. I know chambermaids that make more than that, but our hotel is very select, and since I've been here only one girl has been turned away for being flighty. Well, we are fifteen chambermaids, and we do the rooms between us. All our work is done by three in the afternoon, and then we dress, and we have tea at five, after which we light up, and then we've nothing to do but to mind our bells till we do the rooms at eight o'clock.
We go to bed at ten, all but two of us, who is up till twelve. Our food is beautiful, because we have the leavings from the table- dote-lobster salad and all. We have great fun among us servants, and we bet on the steeple-races; that is, we did it once, but the manager got wind of it, and now we ye no betting among us women servants.
I know the public service has a bad name, but that is because some hotels keep fast girls to bring gentlemen about the place, and in a select hotel like ours the housekeeper would send us away if we were flighty. The housekeeper is very strict, but she don't interfere when us leave work at three o'clock, and she gives us our days out as it comes convenient.
I say, " Give a dog a bad name and hang him, and so it is with the public service. MADAM,-My opinion is ladies have not enough work themselves, and that is why they like to call us servants lazy. My mistress does fancy needlework, and yet she can't let me have time to mend my own stockings.
If I sit down a minute she rings the bell or calls out above the kitchen steps, and last week I caught her at a mean trick, for I was watching her over the banisters, and I saw her upset the visiting-cards on the hall-table on purpose.
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Then she rang the bell, and told me to go and put the cards straight. And again, she was angry with me because I opened the door to a visitor before she had time to settle herself on the drawing-room soffer, and she said the lady would think she didn't sit there, only in the parlour. I've no patience to write more. Now I believe in all proper houses the servants have that time, but I know in small places the mistress hurries the servants up and down as if she was slave- driving.