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Written by JulieW
(2/12/2004 6:18 a.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Vails, penned by Linden
Servants vails, were expected to be given in the early part of the 18th century ( and certainly a houekeeper showing tourists around a house like Mrs Reyonlds would expect to be paid),but for household guests,by the end of the centruy this was becoming a practice that was rare.By the mid 19th century it was a custom that lingered in only a few households, and the evidence is that the type of houehold wher it still ingered was not one of Dacry'sstatus.
The problem was that the giving of vials placed financial stress on guests,whatever their own income,
Also, not all servants were as downtrodden and meek as sometimes has been suggested. Some quests found servants attitude toawrds recieving vials quite threatning.
In his excellent work The Domestic Sservant Class in the 18th Cnetury,J.Jean Hecht has some intersting things to say about it all;
"a survival of an ancient form of largess,these fees( vails) collected from the guests of a house consituted a regular part of the servants income.Before being engaged he was usually apprised of the amount of vails he could expect.Advertisments frequently included, along with other particulars of the place to be filled,a statment as to their approximate size....
The distribution of vails generally took place just before a guest was to depart.The servants ranged themselvs in two files flanking the door,and as the guest walked past them he gave each of them an appropriate donation.The nominal rank of the servant was taken into account : a stweard received more than a butler and a bulter more than a footman or groom.The social status of the master was also a determining factor.......
Lastly the actual service rendered influenced the amounts bestowed by the quests.In some hosues ...the servants even adopted a fixed schedule of rates: so much to be paid by the guest for having taken breakfast,so much for having drunk tea......"
You can imagine that this prqctice was unpopular .Foreign guests to England were very critical and, indeed, horrified by the whole system.Baron de Pollinitz in his Menoirs(1738) wrote;
"if a Duke gives me a dinner four Times A Week , his footmen would pocket as much of my money a it would serve my expenses at the tavern for a week".
Even Queen Carloline was concerend about the expense occasined by vails.She told Lord hervy that becasue of the high vails demanded;
"She had found it a pretty large expense to visit her friends even in town...."
If guests did not pay thes vails they had to face the conesquences ,which could be quite extreme.
."...it is no uncommon language among servants when visitors pay not according to their wishes,Hang him scubby rascal:but I'll take care to throw a plate of soup or boat of gravy upon his clothes, next time he comes."( London Chronicle 1767).
A movement against the giving of vails began.The first steps to abolish the practice were taken in Scotland.In 1759 the freeholders in Aberdeen had resloved to do all in their power to discourage vails.A month later the Company of Scots Hunters in Edingburh had followed suit.
The movement gradually spread,and by 1767 Hanway in his "Letters on the Rising Genration" announced that the giving of vails had been nerly abolished.
The Rev. John Tusler in his book "Modern Times"( 1785) stated taht ;
"Though vails are abolished among the first class of People they are not so among the second."
The resistance to aboliton of the custom in England by servants was not at all meek- it included death threats to masters such as Sir Francis Dashwood, riots by footmen at Ranelagh gardens and spiteful actions towards guests property.By the end of the 18th century though this had graually ceased, and so had the vail giving custom.Hannah Moore in her work "Thoughts on the Importance of the manners of the Great! (1788) wrote that the disappearance of vials was evidence of what could be effected by the example set by the elite class.
So ,though Mrs Reynolds would expect her "tip" from tourists.I think it would be very unilkely that the servants at Darcy's home would expect vials .
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