S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
I know a little of governess-life. We complain in England that so few employments are open to women;which is partly the fault of the women themselves, or rather of the friends who have influence over them. All female employment must be so excessively genteel! There is no rule without exceptions; but this I say deliberately: if I had twenty daughters whom I could not maintain (as would be probable in such a hypothesis), but whom I must send forth to earn their living, I would rather see them ladies-maids, cooks, waitresses at inns, milliners, assistants in shops, clerks and bookkeepers, where they would be accepted as such, confectioners, haberdashers,I would rather marry them to some honest hard-working emigrant, kissing them, as they went on board ship, with the prospect of never more beholding them in this world,than sentence them to the ambiguous, the solitary, the pitied and pitiable, the precarious, the dependent position of a governess.
I had time to make these reflections before I was bid to Look over with that lady in a curt impatient tone; I sat down, all obedience, and read the entries of page after page, selecting here and there a curiosity. One lady demanded a first-rate governess for thirty pounds; another, wished for a widow; a third, for a good-tempered person who did not wear spectacles; a fourth, offered a situation to any lady who, possessing large acquirements, would be satisfied with a small salary and the consciousness that she was doing good; and a fifthconcluding the list of accomplishmentsdesired in the following remarkable manner: No one need apply who has not confidence in her own good temper. The salaries, generally speaking, were lowvery low; sixteen, twenty, and from that to forty pounds being the average; a few were fifty and sixty. One family offered eighty, and one a hundred; but all demanded much more than the value of their money.
Altogether, my study of that Register for Governesses did not please me; it made me a convert to Miss Greens opinions of the hardships of her class. A governess at twenty pounds a year gets thirteen pence per day; reckoning her to work only six hours a daywhich is almost the lowest averageshe gets a fraction more than twopence an hour. Twopence for an hour at the piano, twopence for an hour at chalk-drawing, twopence for an hour of English lessons, twopence for an hour of French, twopence for an hour of German, twopence for an hour of singing songs and doing Italian lessons, and the odd penny for the natural philosophy and physical geography thrown in as make-weights.
The reflection was forced upon my mind that many ladies who want governesses must be profoundly foolish to imagine that women like themselves can be proficients in half a dozen arts and sciences which, separately and singly, form the whole life-study of able men. The cheap system prevails to a ruinous extent amongst governesses; it has lowered them as they never ought to have been lowered; they are compelled to seem to know what it is impossible that they should know.