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Class Levels for Servants

Necessity of Servants on All Class Levels

Servants were a necessity for the middle and upper-class families during this time-frame. Without them, the home simply could not be maintained the way it ought to be. The job security and the ability to live in a luxurious estate kept the servants happy, most of the time. Rarely did they complain, as they knew the alternative to this job was in an industrial field where layoffs and poor living conditions led to unsatisfactory lifestyles.

Women also continued their relaxed and leisurely lifestyles with the presence of the servants. Without them, they probably would not have the time to gallivant around town, attending social events and balls. The highest class families had their 'army' of servants, as they were oftentimes referred to, match in their attire and perform individual duties specialized to match their best performance. For the lower class families (who still needed servants to keep up the home), all-purpose maids were employed to assistant in all aspects, be it cooking, cleaning, or taking care of the children.

Servants and Ranking System

(In order of highest rank to lowest)

1.      Steward

Head butlers, known as stewards, carried managerial responsibilities over the other servants of the household. Given this ranking, it’s no surprise Betteredge felt a sort of power over the rest of the servants in the house and felt the need to narrate his side of the tale himself.

2.      Valet

Valets were essentially personal assistants to the man of the estate. They shaved, groomed, dressed and assisted him in any way possible. Similarly, lady maids helped dress the women of the house, as the countless hooks and buttons kept the valet women busy with this tedious chore. For women, dressing oneself was thought of as taboo and un-ladylike. Their status essentially would disintegrate if they had to actually clothe themselves.

3.      Footmen and Housemaids

The lowest on the totem pole, this sector of servants would clean, scrub, polish silver and keep to the laundry duties. Earlier in the 19th century, it was common for households to employ a woman whose only duty consisted of washing and drying the clothes, as washing these many garments took a considerable amount of time. However, after professional laundries became more and more popular towards the end of the century, these laundry servants became less and less useful. Also, if the family owned a stable, servants like coachmen, grooms, and stables boys were employed to run the stable; likewise, game-keepers and huntsmen were also needed at times to hunt and supply food for the family.

The number of footmen and housemaids varied based on the size of the house, but their daily routines nearly always matched: their jobs were their lives. Housemaids would usually begin their day at 6 in the morning and could finish as late as midnight, depending on the activities of the lady. Until the last decade of the century, servants could only request one day off per month. By the 20th century, servants were free to take half a day off per week.

The Importance of Servants to Class System, Birth Rate

Servants essentially fortified the social foundation of the middle and upper classes in Victorian England. This society valued nothing more than a strict class structure. Regardless of their abilities to give the ladies and men of the house time to flaunt their status, they were also vital in influencing high birth rates. Women with a healthy supply of servants heightened their chances of surviving childbirth, as they were able to stay in bed during their pregnancy. Lower class pregnant women had no choice but to take on the menial tasks on their own, which could inevitably kill their babies, depending on the hardship of the duties.

Historical Context

British conquest over India- 70 years before The Moonstone published

Following the defeat of India’s ruler Tipu Sultan in 1799, a rapid expansion of British dominance spread throughout the country in the early 1800s. Only fifty years later, the British had complete control over almost all of India. This new British-India became known as “the jewel of the British crown” as it possessed the most populated and lush provinces of the British Empire.

East India Company and the The Sepoy Revolt in 1857

With complete control over all of India, in 1857, local rebels fought the British for six months with heavy casualties on both sides. This was known as the Sepoy Revolt.  Britain’s attempts to Westernize India did not settle well with the local Indians, igniting this Rebellion. From this, the East India Company joint-stock company formed for pursuing trade between Britain and the East Indies crumbled in 1858.

The Koh-i-Noor Diamond and The Moonstone

Rewinding eight years, Queen Elizabeth was presented a legendary Koh-i-Noor diamond, won as treasure for the Anglo-Sikh wars of 1848-49, marking of the 250th anniversary of the peaceful trade agreements between India and Britain. A year later, the diamond was displayed at the Crystal Palace.

What’s interesting, is that in the novel’s Preface, Collins acknowledges these moments in history and their ties to the plot itself: “With reference to the story of the Diamond, as here set forth, I have to acknowledge that it is founded, in some important particulars, on the stories of two of the royal diamonds of Europe. The magnificent stone which adorns the top of the Russian Imperial Sceptre, was once the eye of an Indian idol. The famous Koh-i-Noor is also supposed to have been the subject of a prediction, which prophesied certain misfortune to the persons who should divert it from its ancient uses.”

These same attributes of misfortune and cursory embody the fictionalized diamond in The Moonstone.

India as a British Asset

George Curzon, a British Viceroy of India, stated that ‘While we hold on to India we are a first-rate power. If we lose India, we will decline to a third-rate power'.

Indians in Britain

Once Indians settled into Great Britain, most were nannies or domestic servants to wealthy British families. The East India Company also shipped thousands of Indians to Britain, most of them as scholars and workers. Some were also lascars, known as militia men or sailors. These men, with barely any Indian women on the continent, married British women. By 1850, over 40,000 scholars, soldiers, tourists, businessmen, students, and seamen inhabited Britain.

To Murthwaite, Indians’ Religion Above Caste System
In the text, explorer Mr Murthwaite implies that, to the Indians, religion “fanatically devoted…to the ancient worship of Bramah and Vishnu is more important than a structured caste system" (Collins 412). The Brahmins “had forfeited their caste in the service of the god." Before and after wandering through Central Asia, Murthwaite claims the Indians are not “a set of murdering thieves” but “a wonderful people” (Collins 109). His communal identity in the Indian empire allows him to commend the Hindu practices. He later adds, “This sort of thing caste system didn’t at all square with my English ideas” (Collins 108).

Collins’s Imperialist Message

Given Murthwaite's expressed emotions towards Indians and their religion, it seems Collins could ultimately be supporting them. In essence, with a newly adopted perspective of the Indians, the readers can conceivably feel sympathy for them and support their eventual claim of the Moonstone itself. Yes, he may just be offering another perspective, different from other characters, like Cuff and his captain, but it seems that he may be approaching an anti-imperialist message in the way Murthwaite examines these good-hearted people. One might feel more profound messages on the other scale, as the majority of the cast obviously supports imperialism and carries a certain British swagger about them; yet, it is ultimately the reader's take on who Collins may be favoring in the battle between the Indians and the British.

The Moonstone: English Failure of Indian Success?

The Moonstone ends up in the hands of Indians, its rightful hands. The diamond is not lost, but returned to its sacred origins. Indians become a positive force. Their mastery in returning the diamond back to India may not be looked on as a wrongful capture, but as a tactical elusive strategy against a seemingly more formidable opponent. Or was it the naive Englishmen who let them get away with the theft?

English Failure

The Captain of the ship Bewley Castle wrote to Cuff detailing the theft of the diamond. He admitted that he struggled with “personally noticing” the three Indians berthed in the front part of the vessel. He also claims that because of the long calm, the boat became “relaxed…Certain gentlemen among the passengers got some of the smaller boats lowered, and amused themselves by rowing about” (Collins 411). He blames the heat and “vexation of the weather” as to why officers were not in the “heart for their duty while the calm lasted” (Collins 411). Then, three days later, the rowing boats were missing, along with the three Indians. Yet, he mockingly praises the Indians’ shady efforts in recovering the diamond on his regretful watch: “I have no doubt the Indians got ashore, in that calm weather (making all due allowance for fatigue and clumsy rowing), before daybreak" (Collins 411).

Indian Success---Moonstone is Home

Sure, the Moonstone is not restored to its inherited locale in the Victorian country house, as an ominous Indian gang gets away with 'robbery' and 'murder.'
Regardless of the characters’ interpretations of Indians, the English failure to recover the Moonstone could mirror an Indian success. The Moonstone is not lost but restored to its sacred origins: “There, raised high on a throne seated on his typical antelope, with his four arms stretching towards the four corners of the earth there, soared above us, dark and awful in the mystic light of heaven, the god of the Moon. And there, in the forehead of the deity, gleamed the yellow Diamond, whose splendor had last shone on me in England, from the bosom of a woman’s dress!” (Collins 414).
He later adds, “Yes! after the lapse of eight centuries, the Moonstone looks forth once more, over the walls of the sacred city in which its story first began. How it has found its way back to its wild native land by what accident, or by what crime, the Indians regained possession of their sacred gem” (Collins 414-415).

Hyperlink to Article: Ian Duncan’s Take on How Romance Represents a Metaphor for Historical and Cultural Formation in The Moonstone (>)

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