For historians, the occupation of “servant” in the eighteenth century has provided an important site to understand evolving concepts of work, class relations, social mobility, family and identity. Servants in Bloomfield’s poetry may be seen as part of a depiction of the realities of rural life, since service was a major sector of the labor market in rural and urban areas. The circumstances of Bloomfield’s servants, however, may strike modern readers as less realistic. From Rural Tales to May Day with the Muses, we see repeated a plot that mirrors the narrative of “virtue rewarded” made famous by Pamela, with its exceptionalism for deserving poor. On the one hand, they nostalgically affirm a regressive paternalist and patriarchal social order. On the other, they affirm the inherent dignity and value of all individuals, regardless of rank. This essay argues that Bloomfield’s servants are rewarded with situations as independent artisans, able to have control over their own work lives. This control over their own work and work time stands as a powerful critique of both old (service) and new (factory) systems for controlling and surveilling laborers’ time. Bloomfield’s social commentary, as always, is subtle but powerful.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Cultural Studies
- Literature and Literary Theory