Griset’s INDUSTRY AND SLOTH*

Posted by jlubans on March 08, 2022

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An indolent young man being asked why he lay in bed so long, jocosely and carelessly answered, "Every morning of my life I am hearing causes.
I have two fine damsels, their names are Industry and Sloth, at my bedside, as soon as ever I awake, pressing their different suits.
One entreats me to get up, the other persuades me to lie still; and then they alternately give me various reasons why I should rise, and why I should not.
This detains me so long, as it is the duty of an impartial judge to hear all that can be said on both sides, that before the pleadings are over it is time to go to dinner."

Many men waste the prime of their days in deliberating what they shall do, and bring them to a period without coming to any determination.

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From well before the 1890s to the 1920s it was not unusual for a British gentleman, often classically educated, to not work.
Yet, he was hardly homeless.
If rusticated (kicked out) from Oxford or Cambridge, there were still those life-long friends from public school (like Eton or Dulwich College) to rely on.
He could be a dabbler at writing or painting, but nothing regimented or 9-5.
What permitted this life style?
A surplus of poor people looking for work and willing to work for little above room and board.
However, an enterprising valet or butler could do well, building a nest egg with tips from the young master's guests and graft from butchers, bakers and candlestick makers, and fish mongers and green grocers not to mention vintners.
It is said that a yearly allowance of 200 pounds sterling from the Governor – Dear Old Dad – could sustain in style the indolent youngster.
That 200 pounds is today the equivalent of well over 10,000 pounds .
The 200 pounds per year bought a pleasant apartment, a gentleman’s gentleman (think Jeeves) and membership in a men’s club.
Some gambled promiscuously and spent long, free, weekends at friends’ country estates, wearing bespoke clothing.
And, when so motivated, Reggie, Bertie, Ronnie or Alfie (or all four) could be found salivating at stage doors for the girls of the chorus to invite to dinner.
When in serious “trouble” Dad could be relied to fetch him out.
Paying one’s bills was another matter and much leeway was given by beleaguered tailors and restauranteurs.
With a little help from his friends the indolent could borrow money – a mutually reciprocating activity - until the next allowance installment.
As for the chorus girls, well, a quiet settlement for breach of promise could be had for a few hundred pounds from Dad.
Not infrequently, Dad could not stop the marriage and it was probably the best thing that ever happened to Reggie or Ronald or Bertie or Artie.
The ex-chorus girl took the poor sap in hand and guided him toward responsible behavior and on into the paths of righteousness.
Alas, this did result in un-employing the Jeeves.
But, as happens, the newly marrieds employed a butler and a few maids along with a cook.
Not long after World War I this type of living – apart from the Royalty – began to diminish.
All said and done, Griset's indolent young man did know enough to get up for dinner.

*Source: Aesop's fables by Aesop; Griset, Ernest Henry, 1844-1907
London ; New York : Cassell, Petter, and Galpin 1874

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And, don’t forget Lubans' book on democratic workplaces, Leading from the Middle

© Copyright text by John Lubans 2022

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