Everybody’s Friend; or, Hilda Danvers’ Influence (book #56)

Evelyn Everett-Green, 1893.

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Everett-Green is interesting partly because of the huge number of books she wrote. This short biography from an abstract of an article by Hilary Skelding (scroll about a third of the way down the page) says she wrote “in excess of 200 novels”. There are 360 books by her listed in the Bodleian catalogue, though some may be different editions of the same books.

There’s also a less informative Wikipedia article.

I haven’t read her historical novels and not many of her books for younger children, which seem less well-written.

Here’s Hilda being her apparently irresistible self: ” … what I mean is, that work of some sort is so much more really interesting than play. Indoors, if you studied your music, read some foreign language regularly and perhaps got lessons in it too, you would find how interesting it was; and then, you know, out of doors there cannot be any lack of things to do – and for people who have time and money – oh, the things they can do are more than can be counted!”

There’s an interesting view – bearing in mind Everett-Green is of the servant-keeping class – of the advantages for women of domestic service over marriage:

“As for Patience, she grew such a pretty, bright-looking girl that she began to have lovers in the servant hall, and the offer of an independent home of her own; but she always shook her head and steadily refused to be tempted by such proposals …

‘I know what life as a poor man’s wife is,’ she said, ‘and now that I know what good service is, I don’t think I shall be tempted to exchange the one for the other. They talk about independence – I wonder what sort of independence a woman has who has a husband, a cottage, and perhaps half-a-dozen children to look after, and about eighteen shillings a week to do it on – even if her husband brings all of his wages home, which hardly any of them do. In service a girl has some hard work, and perhaps some dirty work to do; but she sets to in a morning and gets it out of hand, and by the afternoon she can put on a tidy dress and often sit down to a bit of needlework or a book, or get a walk if she wants to. A poor man’s wife is slaving from morning to night, always in a muddle – always in a mess. How can she help it, with a tribe of children at her heels, and the whole work of the house to do – washing, cooking, cleaning up – everything – and nobody to help her? And then in the future, what is there to look forward to? Do the children of working people make such comfortable homes for their old parets when they are past work? I don’t think so. I have seen old folks there, and I cannot think they are happy or comfortable in the same kind of muddling homes as they had themselves when they were in like case. A girl in service can, if she keeps her place and studies to improve herself, earn gradually increasing wages, so that if she makes a principle of saving steadily, by the time she is old she will have enough to keep herself in comfort, or buy the good will of a little business – to say nothing of what she may get from her employers if she has grown old in ther service. What can a poor man’s wife save? … If a poor home is neat and tidy and comfortable, it is one long battle to keep it so, whereas a gentleman’s house is orderly and properly regulated as a matter of course, and there is power to keep it so without taxing anybody. Of course there are plenty of bad places, and plenty where girls are over-worked, and where they learn bad, dirty ways; but now that there is a scarcity of good servants, I do think that any girl can make herself one by patience and thought, and so work her way up into a good house. … Think of the miserable wages given for work or lots of the things girls do now, and the comfortable home they might have as servants under good mistresses. I can’t understand why they are all so taking against service. I’m sure, now that I have tried both, I will never he anything but a servant again … ‘”

Patience’s mother agrees, especially as servants’ “evenings are spent at home in a comfortable house, instead of being passed at low places of amusement, or in the streets”.

I do like the “x; or, y” type of title. There are some good ones listed in the book catalogues at the back of this book: Without a Thought; or, Dora’s Discpline, by Jennie Chappell; Edith Oswald; or, Living for Others, by Jane M Kippen; Uncle Joshua’s Heiress; or, Which shall it be?, by Lillias Campbell Davidson.

I’d like to know why Everett-Green wrote so much – financial necessity, morality, obsession, or possibly some of all three of course. She had £6,000 at her death, which suggests at least that she could have stopped writing earlier if she were only doing so for money.

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