Friday, September 6, 2013

Situations Wanted

"To work is to live, without dying" -- well, Rilke's context for this phrase is very different, but there is an essential truth. To live we must work, and it has always been so.

The Regency era was no different from our own. There were thousands of people looking for work. There were myriad ways of finding the jobs available. There were register offices--pay a fee, be placed on their books, get a call if a position that fits comes up. There was word of mouth--someone knows someone who needs a seamstress, or a butler, or an apprentice. There were want ads--wanted, a cook; wanted, a clerk; wanted, a land agent.

And then there were advertisements placed by individuals looking for employment. They are among the most poignant items placed in newspapers and journals of the period. They tell stories, and hint at lives lived, private desperation, secret hopes. 

There were the highly skilled people looking for work, as this governess advertising in the Morning Chronicle of January 1815. The daily governess was a teacher who did not 'live-in' but arrived each day to teach her classes.
There were those looking to finish their education--their knowledge of their craft. From the same Morning Chronicle of 1815, an apprentice shoemaker looks to finish 'his time'.
And twenty years earlier, in the Daily Advertiser of 1796, a young man wishes to article in hair-dressing, and he is particular--his new master must have experience in both male and female hairdressing.

La Belle Assemblee in 1807 brought two advertisements, in imitation of each other. I wonder what these young women thought of their future as a drudge in a lady's household. Would they be fortunate enough to find a pleasant position, a kind mistress?

In the Hampshire Telegraph of August 1806, an ambitious young man is willing to start small. I wondered if he dreamed of a future as butler in one of the great homes of Britain.
And the Morning Chronicle of March 1810 has a list of people from the country  looking to better their position in life. I hope they found all they hoped for in the great city of London. 

Looking for work is never easy. These advertisements remind us that our stories are little different from their stories, though two hundred years separate these people from us.

'Til next time,


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