Sunday, November 15, 2009

A Camberwell Servant Learns the Mandolin

A nice story from South London Observer regarding a Camberwell servant getting ideas above her station by learning to play the mandolin.

‘The Servant’s Mandolin’ (South London Observer, 6.5.1899) tells of a court case in 1899 where the father of Agnes Reid, aged 18 and ‘in service at Camberwell’ was sued by Miss Rosina Love, a Peckham music teacher. The cause was Agnes’ failing to pay for her mandolin lessons, but the fact of her learning to play the instrument was seemingly cause for comment.

The Judge asked her father 'what induced your daughter to learn the mandoline' to which he replied ‘One of the other servants put her up to it. I know no other reason’. Judge Emden of Lambeth County Court concluded: 'I do not say that a servant should not play the mandoline if she does not annoy the people in her mistress’s house by so doing. But she must pay her music teacher'.

(a bit more context at History is Made at Night)

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