Upstairs Downstairs Romance | History Forum

Upstairs Downstairs Romance

Oct 2020
4
California
So, this is not an entirely new concept but I am working on a novel set during 1912-1914. How and where would a young master/heir meet with a housemaid if they were in love? I understand that historically speaking it was highly unlikely. From my understanding housemaids were strictly forbidden from having 'followers' and risked losing their jobs if they were caught. I also understand that a powerful gentleman could get away with sleeping with whomever he wished, and normally in the case of the housemaid would be left turning to prostitution and losing her job if she got pregnant. However, let's say the two were genuinely in love, how would they be able to meet in order to spend time alone?
 

Tammuz

Ad Honorem
Nov 2016
3,584
Munich
I also understand that a powerful gentleman could get away with sleeping with whomever he wished, and normally in the case of the housemaid would be left turning to prostitution and losing her job if she got pregnant. However, let's say the two were genuinely in love, how would they be able to meet in order to spend time alone?
It all depends on the individual circumstances. In the following I will deal more with a situation that implies the topic of marriage. I understand your concept in a way that the "young master" still lives in his father's house and is dependent on his father and can be put under pressure by possible disinheritance. Whether or not the father will tolerate a love affair between his son and the maid is a decision you have to make as an author. In historical reality, it was certainly most often the case that the father did not tolerate a socially "improper" relationship, but there were certainly exceptions. In any case, it would be a literary cliché to portray the father as unchangeably stubborn. On the other hand, it is part of the author's duty to offer the reader conflict, so the father should in any case first put his foot down and then in some way be convinced that his son has made the right choice, that is, the choice of a girl he really loves. It would be more dramatic, of course, if the son ran away with the girl and renounced his inheritance, but later reconciles with the father, under any circumstances that are conducive to this, e.g. when he or the girl helps the father with a problem. In the event that the girl becomes pregnant and the son is in need to explain himself to the father because he already suspects him, the story could be developed in the way that the son convinces the father of the priority of love over a "proper" relationship. It would also make sense to involve the girl herself in this argumentation, so that she does not just appear as a dependent and passive object, but as an active subject, because one must not forget that the 1910s were also a time of feminist struggle for equality, which of course also applies to the mother of the son, who should also play a role in the conflict, preferably as an advocate of a love marriage.

The most famous example in literary history of an unruly love marriage is the novel "Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded" (1740) by Samuel Richardson, which I translated into German in 2019. There, a young nobleman, who is however independent, marries a 16 year old maid (Pamela), with whom he is undyingly in love, but only after very dramatic developments, which seem to rule out such a happy end at first.
 
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Oct 2020
24
Nigeria
First of all, where is the said Romance taking place, this I guess is in the Titanic era, so are we looking at a 1912 England, Italy, USA, France, there would be variations in the ways different regions will visualise these things, even within a particular region, there could be a different perception of Romance, for example, Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and His other Work like the tempest could all paint a picture of Romance but in similar times giving different results, factors could impact the relationship, from the character of the maid to her beauties and composure, it will be hard to decide the whole scent of the Romance, but you are the writer and you hold the beam, we go where you lead every other thing being equal love and Romance can happen anywhere especially when the culprits are young, fair and in obvious attraction, it could happen but looking at a 1912 England for instance, a young Master will be more in the pursuit of his studies, so such love could happen under the apple the apple tree, it could happen anytime young Master's parent takes another trip to Manchester. It could happen in the late Night when the made is smuggled into the young masters room or the other way round, once the two are truly in love, romance will seize any opportunity to happen
 
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Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
6,994
Dispargum
The maid has the perfect excuse/opportunity to enter the young man's bedroom - her duties as maid require it. Everyday she makes his bed, dusts his furniture, removes or returns his clothing for laundering, etc.
 
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Tammuz

Ad Honorem
Nov 2016
3,584
Munich
If this was really the only question under which circumstances the young man and the maid could have sex with each other, instead of how they could realize their love, if given, then the problem would be very trivial. Of course they can have sex secretly somewhere in the family home or in the garden shed or anywhere else, every child knows that. The rich son could also rent a hotel room where he meets the girl secretly. There are many possibilities.

However, to open a whole thread only to solve this trivial "problem" would seem to be over the top. An author who lacks ideas for this has no good chance of producing an interesting novel.
 
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Angelica

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
2,967
Angel City
The maid has the perfect excuse/opportunity to enter the young man's bedroom - her duties as maid require it. Everyday she makes his bed, dusts his furniture, removes or returns his clothing for laundering, etc.
A good opportunity to get naked together there is no rule (s) for passion. Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings weren't concerned about their occupational hazard.
 
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Mar 2015
1,134
Europe
It all depends on the individual circumstances. In the following I will deal more with a situation that implies the topic of marriage. I understand your concept in a way that the "young master" still lives in his father's house and is dependent on his father and can be put under pressure by possible disinheritance. Whether or not the father will tolerate a love affair between his son and the maid is a decision you have to make as an author. In historical reality, it was certainly most often the case that the father did not tolerate a socially "improper" relationship, but there were certainly exceptions. In any case, it would be a literary cliché to portray the father as unchangeably stubborn. On the other hand, it is part of the author's duty to offer the reader conflict, so the father should in any case first put his foot down and then in some way be convinced that his son has made the right choice, that is, the choice of a girl he really loves. It would be more dramatic, of course, if the son ran away with the girl and renounced his inheritance, but later reconciles with the father, under any circumstances that are conducive to this, e.g. when he or the girl helps the father with a problem. In the event that the girl becomes pregnant and the son is in need to explain himself to the father because he already suspects him, the story could be developed in the way that the son convinces the father of the priority of love over a "proper" relationship. It would also make sense to involve the girl herself in this argumentation, so that she does not just appear as a dependent and passive object, but as an active subject, because one must not forget that the 1910s were also a time of feminist struggle for equality, which of course also applies to the mother of the son, who should also play a role in the conflict, preferably as an advocate of a love marriage.
Why do you prefer the mother to side with love marriage?

The most famous example in literary history of an unruly love marriage is the novel "Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded" (1740) by Samuel Richardson, which I translated into German in 2019. There, a young nobleman, who is however independent, marries a 16 year old maid (Pamela), with whom he is undyingly in love, but only after very dramatic developments, which seem to rule out such a happy end at first.
YOU translated it - in 2019.
It was famous... in English. At least into first half of 1800s - Charlotte Bronte´s Jane Eyre refers to Pamela by name and by references that betray familiarity with text of a specific edition.
That you needed to translate it suggests that there was no contemporary German translation?
Were there any German books about master/maidservant affairs, as in, popular books, which masters and servants would have read?
Henry Fielding said:
That every Maid Servant from what low stock soever she sprung, if she is pretty and modest, &c. has an undoubted Right to attempt to entice her Master to Marriage.
Henry Fielding said:
The Instruction which it conveys to Servant-Maids, is, I think, very plainly this, To look out for their Masters as sharp as they can.
Henry Fielding said:
If the Master is not a Fool, they will be debauched by him; and if he is a Fool, they will marry him. Neither of which, I apprehend, my good Friend, we desire should be the Case of our Sons.
coralray said:
I also understand that a powerful gentleman could get away with sleeping with whomever he wished,
Not quite. After all, a powerful gentleman cannot get away with violating another powerful gentleman´s wife or daughter.
And a heir is a gentleman, but not really powerful - because it is the master who is powerful.

There were several options which may happen if a servant was compromised with a master - or master´s family member. From worst to better:
1) As you suggest, fired with no assistance
2) Sent away but paid off to avoid a scandal
3) Upgraded from servant to kept mistress
4) Upgraded from servant to wife.

A master who was his own master could marry a servant. "Get away with"? Marrying below his rank meant giving up social connections that an equal wife would have brought, and might have affected career prospects, but after Napoleon generally did not affect already inherited wealth.

A master could do worse than marry a maidservant - 18th century Englishmen used Pamela as reference for abuse, but they acknowledged and pointed out that Fanny Hill was worse. If you do not get the reference, Fanny Hill was a literary character who before marrying a gentleman was a prostitute.

Now about parents... If they were concerned about their son debauching a maid, there would be questions. A young adult bachelor might get involved with other women below his rank - prostitutes, or actresses/courtesans. At least some upper class parents were reported to prefer a servant to a courtesan - a courtesan living outside the household and free access to competing admirers would have been harder to discipline and potentially more expensive as a kept mistress!
And there would be issues as to who exactly to blame. If son was involved with a maid, was it a case of an entitled brat abusing a vulnerable girl? Or would the parents see the maid as somehow seducing/manipulating the boy?

As for getting naked together, would they need to? In 1912...1914, were maids wearing underpants, or was it just a matter of lifting her dress?
 

Tammuz

Ad Honorem
Nov 2016
3,584
Munich
Why do you prefer the mother to side with love marriage?
Firstly, to construct a conflict also between the parents in the event that the father (at least initially) opposes the marriage. The more conflicts in a story, the better. A script-writer's premise is: Story is conflict. Secondly, to use the story for feminist issues, especially with regard to self-determination in the choice of marriage partners, from whose lack, as is well known, women in particular had suffered in history. In this case, the mother would indeed support the free choice of partner for a man (her son), but this would also benefit the feminist cause in principle.

YOU translated it - in 2019.
It was famous... in English. At least into first half of 1800s - Charlotte Bronte´s Jane Eyre refers to Pamela by name and by references that betray familiarity with text of a specific edition.
Yes, "Pamela" was a magical book success in the 1740s, which triggered an international enthusiasm (the "Pamela craze"), as no other book before or since has ever done until today. In the USA, Benjamin Franklin wanted to profit from this and sold "Pamela" as the first novel printed in the USA (in his own print shop) in a small print run (2000, I think), but had trouble selling them all. So the Pamela craze remained a European phenomenon.

That you needed to translate it suggests that there was no contemporary German translation?
I had the idea even before I found out that there is no modern German "Pamela" translation, but only two from the 18th century in facsimile print. So my project is innovative and was presented 2 times in extracts on the radio. I also translated 3 other English classics (Fielding´s Shamela, Haywood´s Love in Excess & Fantomina) that have never been translated into German.

Were there any German books about master/maidservant affairs, as in, popular books, which masters and servants would have read?
I only know Thomas Mann's novel "Die Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull" (Confessions of Felix Krull) on this topic in German literature, which is from the 20th century. The 16-year-old son of a factory owner, Felix, has an affair with a blond maid.
 
Last edited:
Mar 2015
1,134
Europe
Yes, "Pamela" was a magical book success in the 1740s, which triggered an international enthusiasm (the "Pamela craze"), as no other book before or since has ever done until today. In the USA, Benjamin Franklin wanted to profit from this and sold "Pamela" as the first novel printed in the USA (in his own print shop) in a small print run (2000, I think), but had trouble selling them all. So the Pamela craze remained a European phenomenon.



I had the idea even before I found out that there is no modern German "Pamela" translation, but only two from the 18th century in facsimile print. So my project is innovative and was presented 2 times in extracts on the radio. I also translated 3 other English classics (Fielding´s Shamela, Haywood´s Love in Excess & Fantomina) that have never been translated into German.
So no German Pamela reprints or retranslations from early 20th or late 19th century?
What were Germn masters and servants actually reading in 1912-1914?
A classic of relatively recent period then was a Theodor Fontane. Another was one Ernst von Wildenbruch. But who really were the popular writers then?
Note that both "Pamela" and "Jane Eyre" were about servants who - honestly or hypocritically - held out for marriage and refused offers to become a kept mistress. Both novels also hint at warnings against accepting such.
"Fanny Hill" features a prostitute with a happy ending... and was not legal till 1960s.
In real life, there were quite many kept mistresses who fared resonably well. And were often not much written about by contemporaries - or with disapproval.
How about Christiane Vulpius?
A maid debauched age 23 by her then 39 year old master.
18 years and 5 children later (only 1 of whom survived infancy), he finally married her.
Also, what DOES it mean to be a "good writer"?
The same Christiane Vulpius´ brother Christian Vulpius wrote a bunch of historical romances... about 60 in total. Of which "Rinaldo Rinaldini" (1797) is the most notorious. Widely critizised... but yet more widely bought.
In my area, first translation of "Rinaldo Rinaldini" was printed in 1875.
First translation of first part of "Faust" only in 1920, and "Sorrows of Young Werther" only in 1926.
Who was the better writer after all - Goethe or Vulpius?
About master-servant affairs, a fairly recent one from Scandinavia was Strindberg´s "Miss Julie". About affair between a manservant and a miss.
But wht would have been popular/vulgar fiction in actual circulation in 1912-1914, concerning maidservant/master affairs?
I only know Thomas Mann's novel "Die Bekenntnisse des Hochstaplers Felix Krull" (Confessions of Felix Krull) on this topic in German literature, which is from the 20th century. The 16-year-old son of a factory owner, Felix, has an affair with a blond maid.
 
Jan 2013
1,752
Toronto, Canada
The maid has the perfect excuse/opportunity to enter the young man's bedroom - her duties as maid require it. Everyday she makes his bed, dusts his furniture, removes or returns his clothing for laundering, etc.
In this scenario, she would remove his and her clothing, though not for laundering.
 
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