Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures, first published in the Punch; or, The London Charivari number for13 September 1845 instalment, "Lecture Thirty-one, "Mrs. Caudle discourses of Maids of All-work and Maids in general. Mr. Caudle's 'infamous behaviour' ten years so," p. 165. Wood-engraving 8.8 high x 9.5 cm wide, vignetted; fifty-second illustration in the third edition. As Job and Margaret Caudle shake hands with Miss. Prettyman on the Margate steamer wharf, in the background, other middle-aged couples are preparing to embark for France with their steamer-trunks (right). The heavy-faced gentleman to the left with his pencil-thin moustache looks French rather than English, as Keene implies that the tourist traffic is mutual rather than just Saxons' visiting Gallic shores.— half-page wood-engraving for "The Thirty-second Lecture" in
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL.]
I suppose you think I forget that Rebecca? I know it's ten years ago that she lived with us — but what's that to do with it? Things aren't the less true for being old, I suppose. No; and your conduct, Mr. Caudle, at that time — if it was a hundred years ago — I should never forget. What? I shall always be the same silly woman? I hope I shall — I trust I shall always have my eyes about me in my own house. Now, don't think of going to sleep, Caudle; because, as you've brought this up about that Rebecca, you shall hear me out. Well, I do wonder that you can name her! Eh? You didn't name her? That's nothing at all to do with it; for I know just as well what you think, as if you did. I suppose you'll say that you didn't drink a glass of wine to her? Never? So you said at the time, but I've thought of it for ten long years, and the more I've thought the surer I am of it. And at that very time — if you please to recollect — at that very time little Jack was a baby. I shouldn't have so much cared but for that; but he was hardly running alone, when you nodded and drank a glass of wine to that creature. No; I'm not mad, and I'm not dreaming. I saw how you did it, — and the hypocrisy made it worse and worse. I saw you when the creature was just behind my chair; you took up a glass of wine, and saying to me, 'Margaret,' and then lifting up your eyes at the bold minx, and saying 'my dear,' as if you wanted me to believe that you spoke only to me, when I could see you laugh at her behind me. And at that time little Jack wasn't on his feet. What do you say? Heaven forgive me? Ha! Mr. Caudle, it's you that ought to ask for that: I'm safe enough, I am: it's you who should ask to be forgiven.
"No, I wouldn't slander a saint — and I didn't take away the girl's character for nothing. I know she brought an action for what I said; and I know you had to pay damages for what you call my tongue — I well remember all that. And serve you right; if you hadn't laughed at her, it wouldn't have happened. But if you will make free with such people, of course you're sure to suffer for it. 'Twould have served you right if the lawyer's bill had been double. Damages, indeed! Not that anybody's tongue could have damaged her! [Lecture Thirty-one, "Mrs. Caudle discourses of Maids of All-work and Maids in general. Mr. Caudle's 'infamous behaviour' ten years so," pp. 164-166]
Commentary: "Servant Problems" among the Middle Classes
Not all servants proved efficient and discrete. Moreover, as Jerrold points out, sometimes the jealousy of the female employer would create as much friction as the male employer Mr. B.'s romantic pursuit of the virtuous maid Pamela in Samuel Richardson's 1740 epistolary novel. Cruikshank satirized some of the problems with domestic servants in The Cat Did It and "It's my cousin, ma'am" in the Mayhew Brothers' The Greatest Plague of Life: or, The Adventures of a Lady in Search of a Good Servant (1847). Undoubtedly, some female employers resented having to be not only mother to a nursery full of children, but also an an educator within the home of young domestic servants. Petty thievery, disclosure of confidences, and "men friends" complicated the employer's relationship with domestic help. Mrs. Caudle's class-consciousness results in petty and vindictive treatment of Rebecca, who won substantial damages for not receiving "a good character" (a glowing reference).
Keene seems to conflated the present (with an re-pubescent Jack seated beside his middle-aged father at the dinner table) and the past, when Jack was but an infant. The picture may therefore reflect Margaret Caudle's current anxieties about her servant problems.
Related Material: The "Servant Problem" among the Middle Classes
- Chapter III. The Woman as Educator within the Home — The Education of Servants and Sisters-in-Law: Ursula
- The Impact of the Industrial Revolution on Servant-Master Relationships
- Domestic Service, The "Mute and Forgotten" Occupation
- Eliza Lynne Linton's "On the Side of the Maids"
- Eliza Lynne Linton's "On the Side of the Mistresses"
- The Times, Jane Eyre, and the Governess
Jerrold, Douglas. Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures, as Suffered by the late Job Caudle.Edited from the Original MSS. by Douglas Jerrold. With a frontispiece by Leech, and as motto on the title-page, "Then, Pistol, lay thy head in Fury's lap. — Shakespeare." London: Punch Office; Bradbury and Evans, 1846.
Jerrold, Douglas. Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures. Illustrated by John Leach and Richard Doyle. London: Bradbury and Evans, 1856.
Jerrold, Douglas. Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures. Illustrated by Charles Keene. London: Bradbury and Evans, 1866.
Last modified 25 December 2017