Insult of the Week: Deftly chosen expressions of contempt, the maid edition

From our corpus it seems that even maids were subject to snarky comments about their appearance, often made by their employers.

In chapter 1 of H. G Wells’ The Invisible Man, the narrator describes Mrs. Halls’ servant Millie as “her lymphatic maid”:

“Mrs. Hall lit the fire and left him there while she went to prepare him a meal with her own hands. A guest to stop at Iping in the wintertime was an unheard-of piece of luck, let alone a guest who was no “haggler,” and she was resolved to show herself worthy of her good fortune. As soon as the bacon was well under way, and Millie, her lymphatic maid, had been brisked up a bit by a few deftly chosen expressions of contempt, she carried the cloth, plates, and glasses into the parlour and began to lay them with the utmost  eclat.”

Austen gives us “a trollopy-looking maidservant” in Mansfield Park:

“The moment they stopped, a trollopy-looking maidservant, seemingly in waiting for them at the door, stepped forward, and more intent on telling the news than giving them any help.”

Bleak House has plenty of servants and plenty of insults, but one particular maid was on the receiving end of this description by Dickens:

“A slatternly full-blown girl who seemed to be bursting out at the rents in her gown and the cracks in her shoes like an over-ripe berry”


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