14 September 2014

Serviam (‘I will serve’)

Further to the previous post, the following is another extract from The Lost Prince by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

This episode occurs soon after The Rat starts to live with Stefan Loristan (the exiled king), his son Marco and his servant Lazarus. The Rat goes to Lazarus’s room to talk to him, and to ask what he can do to serve Loristan.
“I want to find out everything he [Loristan] likes and everything he doesn’t like,” The Rat said. “I want—isn’t there anything—anything you’d let me do for him? It wouldn’t matter what it was. And he needn’t know you are not doing it. I know you wouldn’t be willing to give up anything particular. But you wait on him night and day. Couldn’t you give up something to me?”
Lazarus pierced him with keen eyes. He did not answer for several seconds.
“Now and then,” he said gruffly at last, “I'll let you brush his boots. But not every day—perhaps once a week.”
“When will you let me have my first turn?” The Rat asked.
Lazarus reflected. His shaggy eyebrows drew themselves down over his eyes as if this were a question of state.
“Next Saturday,” he conceded. “Not before. I’ll tell him when you brush them.”
“You needn’t,” said The Rat. “It’s not that I want him to know. I want to know myself that I’m doing something for him. I’ll find out things that I can do without interfering with you. I’ll think them out.”
“Anything any one else did for him would be interfering with me,” said Lazarus.
The attitude of wanting to serve an admired person by doing useful things for them is very much at variance with the attitude of employees nowadays. The richest and most famous are left to eat cold food alone on Christmas Day, or after a late-night performance, so that their assistants, however highly paid, can give priority to their own interests.

Frances Hodgson Burnett
Frances Hodgson Burnett had spent decades of her life in social environments where attitudes like that of The Rat and Lazarus were much easier to observe and imagine. The attitudes ascribed to Loristan’s associates seem to go beyond what might arise from wishing to curry favour with someone who could confer advantages upon you.

The average modern employee seems to reject considerations, such as currying favour with his employer, or doing something for idealistic reasons, as being beneath him or her.

* Serviam is the motto of the Ursuline convent schools, one of which I attended for four years after coming top of the Essex Grammar School Scholarship exam.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position. I need people to provide moral support both for fundraising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.