WOW ~ Word of the Week ~ Cinder Garbler

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.

Cinderella illustration by J. Macfarlane.

Cinderella illustration by J. Macfarlane.

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.

Her First Place by George Dunlop Leslie, date unknown, Christopher Wood Gallery.

Her First Place by George Dunlop Leslie, date unknown, Christopher Wood Gallery.

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:

The Regency Maid-Servant – Part One
The Regency Maid-Servant – Part two

And because it’s Monday and I mentioned Rocky Horror, it’s time for the Time Warp!