Monday, September 26, 2011

Monday Morning, And how to get through it.

Ever suffer from “Monday-itis”?  When I found a book, published in 1863, with the title of Monday Morning, And how to get through it, I thought perhaps some of the advice might still be helpful today. I should have read the subtitle more thoroughly. The target readership for the manual is a class that is severely depleted nowadays. The second half of the title reads: A Collection Of Useful Practical Hints On Housekeeping And Household Matters, For Gentlewomen.

Just in case there are any gentlewomen amongst you  - especially gentlewomen new to the marital state, and very especially those who are having trouble keeping their husbands happy, and their servants at their tasks – I give you a short extract from the Preface of the book, in the hope that it will assist you.

"Monday Mornings!" said a bride once to me; "how I wish the week always began on a Tuesday!"
I said nothing in reply, but I thought to myself, "And perhaps your poor husband does the same."
My little pamphlet is intended to give ladies whose experience is yet to be learnt by habit a few hints how to get through that keystone to the week, both quickly and well. I do not profess to teach them anything new, but to put old things simply in their way, so that they may make fewer blunders when first beginning as housekeepers, and correct those already contracted. Monday, after Sunday, finds "nothing in the house”, the tradesmen call for orders, and bring their books to be paid. "Monday morning" is followed by "Monday evening," when "Edward, dear," or "Charles, love," require of us an account as to how their cheques, given us the preceding week, have been spent. Suppose we have let the morning slip away without casting up our accounts, and balancing "cash received" with "cash spent," "Edward" will get irascible, and "Charles" irritable, and scold us for being bad housekeepers. We shall in vain plead inexperience, and that having been only married a few weeks, we "don't know how to manage." Husbands are all alike; and, if you would retain your influence over them, keep your position - by not disdaining a better acquaintance with homely things, and arrange your duties in simple routine on "Monday morning."
A Woman who respects herself, and her position, as a gentlewoman, will come down to breakfast neatly and appropriately dressed. Her attire will be quiet and perfectly clean, avoiding a soiled silk gown, and choosing a material suitable to the occasion. In her hand she will carry a small, light basket, containing her keys. Suppose she is head only of a small establishment, let us say, consisting of a man-servant, cook, housemaid, and lady's maid.
As she enters the breakfast room, before her husband or brother is there, she gives a glance at the table-cloth, and is very glad to see that it is snowy and clean.
Each person's plate should have a fine damask napkin on it; for, as gentlemen seldom eat luncheon, breakfast ought to be a substantial repast, and hot dishes require napkins in these days of moustaches.
There should be either cold meat, cold chicken, or game on the sideboard; besides which, one small hot dish is a sine qua non on the breakfast-table in England. .... ... Prepare your tea or coffee before your husband is down, so that when he enters the room he may find all ready and comfortable, and then have in your servants for prayers. ...
Breakfast being finished, a lady's male relations, in the country as well as in London, generally leave her alone, more or less, till dinner time; and it is then on "Monday morning" that the business of the day should begin.
We will divide the morning (of course leaving our readers to vary the arrangement, according to the habits of their different families) into different stages. Breakfast from nine to ten, and luncheon at half-past one, and, if in London, seven o'clock is the usual hour for dinner.
From ten to half-past one comprises, then, a lady's morning, and you have on "Monday morning" more to do in that three hours and a half than on any other morning of the week.
Ten to half-past ten may be spent in your drawing-room, as it is better to allow the servants time to clear away the breakfast things before you go down stairs to order dinner.
In the drawing-room your duties appear light, but they will occupy you fully half an hour.
The fire is burning brightly, in a clean and bright grate, and the room is nicely arranged, if your housemaid is a good servant and "knows your ways,” yet still a lady's taste and hand is often required to give that air of elegance and comfort to the gentlewoman's drawing-room that a servant's arrangement never gives; and it is wonderful the difference that bringing this chair or couch forwarder, or pushing them a little backwarder, makes in the appearance of a room.
While on the subject, let me suggest to young mistresses the advantage of keeping a clean duster in some closet in the drawing-room, for a servant to wipe up water, or remove dust, in a hurry.
The housemaid should always dust the drawing-room,
Many young wives find this one of the most irksome of their duties; but it is one that cannot be shirked by any mistress of a household, except in establishments where a housekeeper is kept.
I do not, however, advise ladies to be always in the kitchen; and the morning's visit, once paid, need not be repeated, unless something unusual occurs. First, go into the larder and see what remains from Sunday's dinner, and give your orders accordingly.
It is an excellent rule to write down daily for the cook the dinner and luncheon that you wish sent up, and it prevents mistakes. For this purpose, provide your cook with a good-sized slate and pencil, and write down all you wish.

1st.  For your luncheon.
2nd  For the servants' dinner.
3rd  For your own dinner.
4th The different orders for the tradesmen.

.... A good, considerate mistress, generally speaking, can command the services of faithful servants. It may assist young housekeepers to mention here the allowances generally made to servants, per week; though under the head of "engaging servants," you will find more about this in detail. (See Index.)
Men-servants are each allowed at the rate of one pint of beer at dinner, and one at supper; a pound of meat each meal, and a quartern and half of bread, and three quarters of butter, per week, is the fair average that they may be considered to consume. Female servants ought to have half a pint of beer each. ....

Phew!  So many responsibilities and it is still only mid-morning in the home of the bride-gentlewoman.
The recipe for the day is from the same book, chosen because I couldn’t help wondering if the bride ever wished she had chosen life in the convent. And because the dish sounds very adaptable and versatile for the over-burdened wife.

"Convent Eggs," For Breakfast Or Second Course.
Take three eggs, which boil very hard, five or six minutes. When cold, shell and halve them. Take three potatoes, as near as possible of the same size; boil and halve them. Place the eggs and potatoes alternately on a flat dish, and pour over them a thick, hot, white sauce, made with cream and flavoured with peppercorns; then serve up very hot. The eggs and potatoes should be prepared in good time, but be kept hot, and only placed on the dish when the same is quite ready, so that the whole may be eaten soon after it is prepared.

Quotation for the Day.

I haven't trusted polls since I read that 62% of women had affairs during their lunch hour. I've never met a woman in my life who would give up lunch for sex.
Erma Bombeck.

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