COBDEN, RICHARD (1804-1865, statesman and reformer, founder of the Anti-Corn Law League)
COBDEN ON HUMAN RESOURCES. This letter stands almost as an archetypal account of Victorian difficulties with recalcitrant employees, perhaps especially when so liberal and easy-going a family as the Cobdens were involved. Richard Ford (1796-1858), art connoisseur and author, married as his second wife Mary (1816-1910), the sister of Sir William Molesworth.
'...we pique ourselves on not being disagreeable to those about us, & the very first thing we should aim at, even on selfish principles, would be to make a governess at ease in her mind, & as happy as possible...We gradually discovered that she was a person of odd & oldmaidenish ways. - Her mode of eating was very 'unEnglish', & her appetite 'picksome', to use a Sussex phrase. - She required a fire in her bed-room before she could rise, but must have a person between her & the grate, when up, to hide the fire...She devoted herself to the study of English, & for that purpose sat up till 1 or 2 in the morning; her practising at the piano especially on Sundays we were obliged to restrict to a certain time or we should have been stunned; she gave up gradually all but the most necessary attentions to the purely technical studies of her pupil, leaving her on our hands on Sundays, & play hours. - If the ground was damp, she pleaded delicate health as an excuse for not walking out...Simultaneously, she dropped all sociability with us; we could not draw her into any conversation; I never was so dead beaten in my efforts to provoke a talk.- At length her manner appearance & dress assumed an ensemble of such neglect...that we were really ashamed of her presence at the table in company with any friends, for they must have thought we were treating her unkindly, or she would not wear so subdued an aspect...the suspicion has crossed my mind that probably she was not pleased with the situation, & therefore put on a disagreeable manner to provoke us to part with her. - She certainly succeeded admirably, for my wife & I are agreed that we would not live under the same roof with her, if she behaved as she did...for a thousand a year...'