travelling with troublesome servants

Francis Galton encouraged young men of means to take up the art of travel. He even published a book of handy hints on the subject, paying particular attention to obtaining the right servant.


“Great allowances should be made for the reluctant co-operation of servants. It will, perhaps, surprise a leader who, having ascertained to what frugal habits a bush servant is inured, learns on trial, how desperately he clings to those few luxuries which he has always had. Thus, speaking generally, a Cape servant is happy on meat, coffee, and biscuit; but, if the coffee or biscuit has to be stopped for a few days, he is ready for mutiny.


bacon coffee cup found here

The best size for a party depends on many considerations. It should admit of being divided into two parts, each strong enough to take care of itself, and in each of which is one person at least able to write a letter,–which bush servants, excellent in every other particular, are too often unable to do.  


The general duties that a servant should be bound to are (under penalty of his pay being stopped) to maintain discipline and to do all in his power to promote the success of the expedition. 


On engaging natives, the people with whom they have lived, and to whom they have become attached and learnt to fear, should impress on them that, unless they bring you back in safety, they must never show their faces again, nor expect the balance of their pay.


If some of the natives take their wives, it gives great life to the party. They are of very great service, and cause no delay. 


They are invaluable in picking up and retailing information and gossip. Women were made for labour: one of them can carry or haul as much as two men can do. They also pitch our tents, make and mend our clothing, keep us warm at night. The very licking of their fingers, in scarce times, is sufficient for their subsistence. It always seems to me that a hard-worked woman is better and happier for her work and it is in the nature of women to be fond of carrying weights…..”



Published in: on April 25, 2009 at 9:00 am  Comments (31)  

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  1. These days you usually only hear about these things from the servants’ viewpoint. I am glad that you have redressed this imbalance, and even gladder that grand tours and expeditions have gone out of fashion. The stress of being expected to go on one, not to mention actually going, would have been unimaginable.

    • hey Inkspot – great to see you here again

  2. The biggest and best weights I would carry on an expedition would be their wallets and credit cards. I’ll happily take those.

  3. This guy sounds like he should be traveling alone, and sucking his own fingers, possibly his thumb.

  4. Marilyn Monroe was a weakling…that weight isn’t giving her any kind of workout.

    • They look like about ten pounders, and unless she’s doing pullovers I agree. But she could be finishing up a drop set that she started with thirties.

  5. So this is why people are so keen on travel. Obviously I’ve missed out, because most of my travel is for business.

  6. i prefer to travel alone. i can lick my own fingers, carry my own bags and keep myself warm at night. and that shot of marilyn is hot. it’s the jeans…

    • I’d like to lick her ribs 😉

      • oh, we’re a terrible couple of grannies, aren’t we? 😉

  7. Many a woman in Glasgow carries more than her fair share of weight. I blame it on chocolate and their fondness for the red grape of the vine.

    I’m a firm believer that woman on reaching the age of 30 should be shipped off to an island somewhere far far away.

    Obviously for the sake of mankind their replacements must be of the blonde persuassion and no more than a size 8.

    • over the age of 30?

      where does that leave me and your lovely wife?

    • 8 what? Are we talking about the 8 Olympic plates I occasionally put on either side of the sled-press and bust up when I feel like I need to blow off some serious steam?

      At fifty-four, I challenge your 30-year-olds to an arm wrestle AND a pose-down in a patent-leather corset.

  8. How totally racist and sexist. All hail Rudyard Kipling.

  9. I’m with the servants. If my coffee and biscuit is stopped for a few days, I’m ready for mutiny too – at which point, licking my fingers would not be a wise move, buster.

  10. love the shot of marilyn…

  11. So the goddesses are the bush servants then …… I’ve got that right have I?

  12. So that’s why I haven’t traveled anywhere. I don’t have a servant or a bondage riverboat.

    Daisy’s right. It’s definitely the jeans.

  13. where does that leave me and your lovely wife?

    …oh the very visions indeed. Like an apple and the asp. But so worth it.

  14. Interesting. I love me a good bush servant, but I had a totally different purpose for them.

    • do elaborate Casey…..

      • To serve me with bush.

  15. I wonder how the women kept them warm at night? And how many children the great Bwana left behind? Of course when I travel I like to bring my own sherpa, AKA The Boyo, but he’s usually well paid and well rewarded for his service.

  16. Oh dear, any comment I make is only going to reveal my anglo-centric, male chauvinistic swinishness! Kipling rules! So did J Ryder Haggard 😉

    • H. (for Henry) Rider, with an i.

      Sorry to be pernickety but he is one of my favorite writers. Bayate!

  17. Kipling rocks!:) wsa the star of my childhood

  18. I have no travelling companions, servant or otherwise. 😦

  19. There I was thinking I had no food in the fridge! All I have to do is lick my fingers. Wow. This should save me heaps of Rudd Dollars.

  20. welcome to the gimcrack Cle. I think I’ve seen your comments on other blogs before. Do you have one of your own?

  21. Thanks for welcome NM.We both visit Anita at Irregular Bones. You can find me here…

  22. Well nurse if you ever hear about me getting in trouble for licking a woman’s fingers it’s because I was low on cash and couldn’t score food.

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