We’re likely all familiar with the story of Cinderella, especially the animated Disney version with its helpful animals and horse-faced stepsisters. My favorite adaptation is Ever After, the 1998 movie starring Drew Barrymore and Dougray Scott, likely because the story is treated as historical fiction (and I ignore the fact that despite its French setting, the French accents appear few and far between). Fun Fact: Did you know that Riff Raff (Richard O’Brien) from the OG Rocky Horror Picture Show plays the despicable Pierre le Pieu? The More You Know.
But I digress.
Cinderella – from the French Cendrillon, meaning little ashes – gave me my first glimpse of the life of an historical housemaid. And if relatives treated their poor cinder girl so awfully, just imagine the treatment meted out to a simple hireling.
Cinder Garbler (noun)
A servant maid, from her business of sifting the ashes from the cinders.
Author Angelyn Schmid has a wonderful blog on all things historical, and her posts include contemporaneous sources that really make the history come alive. Her two latest posts address the various realities for a Regency maid-servant … and they unfortunately never involved pursuit by a Prince.
A sketch of the female domestic servant during the Regency period is summed up thus:
“..her own character and condition overcome all sophistications…her shape, fortified by the mop and scrubbing-brush, will make its way; and exercise keeps her healthy and cheerful. Through the same cause her temper is good..”
La Belle Assemblée; or, Bell’s court and fashionable … N.S. 15-16 (1817)
Angelyn also reveals the maid-servant’s position in the downstairs hierarchy is decidedly middling, and she has little recourse but to “keep calm and carry on,” to purloin a popular phrase from today.
“..she gets into little heats when a stranger is over saucy, or when she is told not to go down stairs so heavily, or when some unthinking person goes up her stairs with dirty shoes..”
— La Belle Assemblée; or, Bell’s court and fashionable … N.S. 15-16 (1817).
Please follow these links to read all of Angelyn’s insightful peek into the life of a Cinder Garbler:
- Slang term taken from the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.
- When you visit Angleyn’s blog, don’t forget to give her a follow!
And because it’s Monday and I mentioned Rocky Horror, it’s time for the Time Warp!