Saturday, July 16, 2011

More than tea and fashion--the first "Coffee House Salon"

One of the criticisms of the 18th century rp in SL is that the intellectual discourse is mostly fashion chit chat and gossip over tea. That is of course about as unfair and incorrect as saying that SL is nothing more than griefers and cyber-sex.

The entrance to the coffee house near the harbor

As an example I would like to present to you an edited transcript of this morning's first in a series of discussions at our informal "Coffee House Salon" near the harbor in Melioria.

The following is presented with the permission of those who participated:

[08:26] Aldo Stern: at any rate, , the topic, is servants and masters...and how those tradtional relationships are perhaps changing

[08:27] Aldo Stern: recently, in another venue for discussion...

[08:27] Aldo Stern: a fellow asked the question of how people treated their servants...

[08:27] Aldo Stern: which struck me as interesting, the fact that he was even asking the question

[08:28] Aldo Stern: in the past....not so long ago, I do not think anyone would have bothered asking such a question

[08:28] Belladonna OHare: indeed

[08:29] Aldo Stern: have any of you read Castiglione's “Book of the Courtier?”

[08:29] Aria Vyper: no :-(

[08:29] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): ja, but it was many years ago

[08:30] Belladonna OHare: no

[08:30] Belladonna OHare: I have not

[08:30] Aldo Stern: Frau Kuhr, would you describe it for the others?

[08:30] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): ah, it is the grandfather, so to speak , of the conduct books

[08:30] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): telling people how they should behave

[08:30] Belladonna OHare: ahhh indeed

[08:31] Belladonna OHare: I must get it

[08:31] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): back in the 1500s I think it was written

[08:31] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): telling how the good nobleman should act, and dress and all that

[08:31] Aria Vyper: wow - long time ago

[08:31] Aldo Stern: exactly

[08:31] Aldo Stern: all the books of manners today are arguably descended from Castiglione's

[08:32] Aldo Stern: do you recall Frau Kuhr, did he say anything about how a proper nobleman should treat his servants?

[08:32] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): ah

[08:32] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): hmmm

[08:32] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): no

[08:32] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): I think it said the good courtier is gracious to everyone

[08:33] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): I said... it was a long time ago I read it

[08:33] Aldo Stern: that's my his day, social rank and position was set...everyone had a place

[08:34] Aldo Stern: and yes the good courtier was gracious and proper with everyone...but all Castiglione said about servants was that they should be as polite and well mannered as their lord

[08:34] Aldo Stern: well dressed, clean

[08:34] Aldo Stern: he put a lot of emphasis on being clean for some reason

[08:34] Aldo Stern: but back then...I suspect how people were to treat servants was understood

[08:34] Aldo Stern: no one would have asked the question, “how do you treat your servant?”

[08:34] Aldo Stern: ...but now they times, are changing, yes?

[08:34] Belladonna OHare: now those lines are being blurred

[08:35] Aldo Stern: ah Donna Bella has already answered question

[08:35] Aldo Stern: yes lines are blurred

[08:36] Aldo Stern: I know of a novelist and philosopher in germany...both of his parents were domestic servants

[08:37] Aldo Stern: two hundred years ago, could you have imagined such a thing happening?

[08:38] Aldo Stern: in your observations, ladies, may I ask, what do you observe? how do your friends and acquaintances treat their servants?

[08:39] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): you mean when they aren't slapping them?

[08:40] Aldo Stern: oh come now, they aren't all slapping them, all the time

[08:41] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): well, no not all the time...sometimes they are asleep

[08:41] Belladonna OHare: I observed an incident recently of one noble lady

[08:41] Belladonna OHare: abusing a small boy, the servant of the king's mistress

[08:42] Belladonna OHare: many ladies of the court where appalled at the treatment and comforted the child

[08:42] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): I am glad to hear that Fraulein Bella...but I wonder if the abuse had been of an adult, would any sympathy have been offered?

[08:42] Vanessa Montpenier: well I think the majority of people still thinks a servant is born with his "title" and dies with his "title" but on the other hand, I believe this attitude for the servants differs in every culture

[08:42] Aldo Stern: ah that is an interesting point Donna is different in different situations and cultures?

[08:43] Vanessa Montpenier: indeed

[08:43] Belladonna OHare: I believe basic humanity is the same from culture to culture

[08:43] Belladonna OHare: some are kind...some are not

[08:44] Aldo Stern: ah very true...

[08:44] Belladonna OHare: I have observed that the woman who was cruel to the servant is cruel in all her dealings

[08:45] Aldo Stern: not just to servants, but to her equals as well?

[08:45] Belladonna OHare: Yes, Professore

[08:45] Vanessa Montpenier: well in the oriental world, they collect small boys from the vilages and take them to the palace and some of them are chosen to have the education with the future "sultan" and the rest are chosen to be servants

[08:46] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): so that is just by chance? that you become a vizier or a servant?

[08:46] Belladonna OHare: The luck of the dice determines your future?

[08:47] Belladonna OHare: How interesting those Easterners are.

[08:47] Vanessa Montpenier: you quite misunderstand madame.. when they collect the kids from the villages, they are taken to a place like a dormitory

[08:47] Aldo Stern: I suspect there is more to it--that they see which child may be best suited for a certain future...

[08:47] Aldo Stern: so it is a bit more of a judgement

[08:47] Vanessa Montpenier: yes, they how to say... exams... physical and intellectual

[08:47] Belladonna OHare: I see

[08:47] Aldo Stern: but perhaps at the heart of it, they look on them all as servants

[08:48] Aldo Stern: it is simply that the educated vizier is still a servant of his sultan in matters of diplomacy and administration...

[08:48] Belladonna OHare: I quite agree, as there is no choice for the children in the matter

[08:48] Aldo Stern: while his less educable brother serves as the cup bearer

[08:48] Belladonna OHare: so in the end they are all servants

[08:49] Vanessa Montpenier: but the point is, the sultan always keeps his servants close to him and he trusts them more than anyone in the palace

[08:50] Vanessa Montpenier: what I am tryin to say is, in the oriental world, servants are collected and raised from the early ages

[08:50] Belladonna OHare: Indeed, there has always been a vast difference between East and West!

[08:50] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): ahhhh... I think Donna Vanessa's point about different cultures is very important...Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): not just different places, but different circumstances

[08:50] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): for the great palace of a king, the hundreds of servants will have a different relationship than in a country house, where the family has one steward, and a cook

[08:50] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): in those country houses...well, like mine...the servants were part of the family

[08:51] Belladonna OHare: Indeed Frau Kuhr

[08:51] Aldo Stern: and I assume you as the lady of the household had obligations to those servants, as they were, more or less, "part of the family"?

[08:52] Belladonna OHare: In the country the servants are not separated physically by vast distances, such as in a large chateau

[08:52] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): yes of course

[08:52] Vanessa Montpenier: but unfortunately no matter how they are different from us, the gold coins talk nowadays *smiles*

[08:52] Aldo Stern: how do you mean Donna Vanessa?

[08:53] Vanessa Montpenier: I mean financially Don Aldo

[08:54] Aldo Stern: can you elaborate on what you mean?

[08:55] Vanessa Montpenier: Europe has a deep history and modern culture, although how the majority of people still treat their servants, is in the old ways...but what I am trying to say is that East has the chance to adopt this civilization but their culture, I think, will not let them do so...

[08:56] Aldo Stern: hmmm

[08:56] Aldo Stern: so our relationships between different people of different stations are set by traditions..,.even religion, perhaps?

[08:57] Vanessa Montpenier: well.. what I personally believe, no matter how people try to enlighten themselves, their traditions can haunt them..

[08:58] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): ahhhh

[08:59] Aldo Stern: which is why, even in modern Europe of 1780, there is so much tension and inconsistency as our relationships change?

[08:59] Belladonna OHare: those traditions may be in the back of our mind Madame, but I believe the truly the enlightened can learn and change and better themselves.

[08:59] Belladonna OHare: that is my hope for our future

[09:00] Vanessa Montpenier: despite your correct remarks madame, enlightenment needs certain amount of time and philosophy

[09:00] Aldo Stern: that is a very enlightened viewpoint Donna Bella, it brings to mind the excerpt from Daniel Defoe's Family Instructor that I included on the notecard

[09:00] Aldo Stern: did any of you have a chance to read it?

[09:02] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): ja...once I got used to his style, I thought it was interesting...Herr Defoe, he wrote about this very religious servant, who "taught" things to not just the children of the family she worked for, but to her Mistress as well!

[09:03] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): it was the ideal, not so much the reality, I think

[09:03] Aldo Stern: yes...probably

[09:04] Aldo Stern: it is in some ways a conduct book

[09:04] Aldo Stern: like the Book of the Courtier, but it is so very very different...written as a fictional story, almost like a play

[09:05] Aldo Stern: it is also important to note that it is about families that are not of high rank, but in the middle somewhere

[09:05] Aldo Stern: and at the end, the sea captain, who is wealthy but not of noble rank, marries the good servant girl

[09:06] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): ja, that would not happen with the servant of a noble...they might have the carnal relations, but never the getting married

[09:06] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): where I come from, in places like Prussia, if a noble marries outside of their class, they lose the noble status, by law

[09:07] Aldo Stern: hmmm good point

[09:07] Aldo Stern: but still..even if it is not a realistic story...more like a is encouraging something: that servants should do more than just dress the children and teach them nursery rhymes...

[09:09] Aldo Stern: but teach them their a good christian influence on those you work for

[09:09] Aldo Stern: this I think is a pretty remarkable idea...that a servant could have a good influence on their "betters"

[09:10] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): this Defoe fellow, he is the writer of the Robinson Crusoe story, ja?

[09:10] Aldo Stern: yes, indeed he is

[09:11] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): I think he writes about how he thinks things should be like, more than how they are

[09:12] Aldo Stern: yes...he actually got placed in the pillory for three days for his writing

[09:12] Aldo Stern: but that was early in this century

[09:12] Aldo Stern: things are different now...

[09:12] Aldo Stern: I hope...

[09:13] Aldo Stern: for example...Signore Pierre Beaumarchais, who has written the humorous play the “Barber of Seville”....

[09:14] Aldo Stern: the French King and his government, would not let them show the play at first...but at least he did not have Beaumarchais thrown in prison or put in the pillory

[09:14] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): and now they have even let him put onthe play, yes?

[09:15] Aldo Stern: yes..did any of you have the chance to see the play, or perhaps read the little excerpts inthe notecard?

[09:16] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): very funny I thought they were

[09:18] Vanessa Montpenier: I am afraid I have not had the chance yet

[09:18] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): surprised I am that he didn't get in more trouble for that...making fun of nobles

[09:19] Aldo Stern: I particularly found these lines from the play to be striking:


I do not believe thou tellest all the Truth; I remember thou had’st but a dubious Character when in my Service.


My God! my Lord, you rich Folks always would have us poor ones be entirely without faults.


Idle, debauch’d,


According to the Perfections you fine Gentleman expect in your Servants, does your Excellency think many of your Acquaintance worthy the Office of Valet-de-Chambre?

[09:20] Aldo Stern: Figaro is saying that if the Count held his noble friends to the same standards he tried to apply to his servants, none of his noble friends would qualify as even a valet

[09:21] Vanessa Montpenier: *laughs

[09:21] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): well , it is the truth, ja?

[09:21] Belladonna OHare laughs

[09:21] Belladonna OHare: I would agree to that, based on some of the conduct I have seen at the various courts I have visited

[09:22] Aldo Stern: there is also, a lively give and take between the Count, and Figaro, who was his servant

[09:22] Aldo Stern: there is no deference given to the Count by fact, if you read the whole play, you realize he helps the Count partly out of fear....

[09:23] Aldo Stern: and partly out of self interest

[09:23] Aldo Stern: to gain an advantage

[09:23] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): it was very funny...someone should make an opera out of that play

[09:24] Aldo Stern: I understand Beaumarchais originally wanted it done as a comedic opera...but it just didn't seem to work out. *shrugs* oh well, maybe someday

[09:26] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): is it true the queen of France wanted it shown on stage, but her husband was the one that felt it was too hard on the nobles?

[09:27] Aldo Stern: I have heard something to that effect, but I do not know if it is true or not

[09:27] Aldo Stern: we are almost at our allotted time to end

[09:28] Aldo Stern: and I think we have well established that yes, regarding the relationships between masters and fact between all Donna Bella said, the lines are becoming blurred...

[09:28] Aldo Stern: we all agree that it is changing yes?

[09:29] Belladonna OHare: indeed they are

[09:29] Aria Vyper: yes

[09:29] Vanessa Montpenier: I completely agree

[09:29] Belladonna OHare: and I for one am thrilled, I feel it heralds a new age

[09:29] Aldo Stern: haha, you Donna Bella, unless I am very mistaken...are a nonconformist at heart?

[09:30] Belladonna OHare: In my heart and soul Don Aldo

[09:30] Aldo Stern: but then the last question is why....

[09:31] Aldo Stern: Donna Vanessa mentioned gold...are economics changing our relationships?

[09:31] Vanessa Montpenier: Economics is changing the world itself Don Aldo, not only the relationships *smiles*

[09:31] Belladonna OHare: I believe it was the invention of the printing press that started the change--but it has taken time

[09:32] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): ah that is an interesting idea

[09:32] Belladonna OHare: but people have begun to receive knowledge and information

[09:32] Belladonna OHare: which is the key in my opinion to change

[09:32] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): maybe the nobles who don't want things to change they should try to keep the poor and the servants ignorant and illiterate

[09:33] Belladonna OHare: yes but now even servants can read and have access to large numbers of books...some even own a book, at least a bible

[09:33] Aldo Stern: yes, Donna Bella...I am sorry none of the apprentices are here today...they are remarkable boys. They not only read and write but they are well read and fluent in different languages

[09:34] Belladonna OHare: yes

[09:34] Aldo Stern: Rico the printer’s apprentice can read and write in Hebrew

[09:34] Aldo Stern: and the boy Fiorino can read and write in ancient greek and latin

[09:34] Belladonna OHare: and I believe it all started with the printing printing press, I believe it will be the greatest invention of the last 1000 yrs

[09:34] Aldo Stern: they will not be content to gondoliers and printers helpers

[09:35] Aldo Stern: they will want to be more

[09:35] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): well that is the other thing that makes the change, ja? That the people in lower stations like servants, they have more choices now

[09:35] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): they can go into a city and work in a factory or workshop of some kind

[09:36] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): the men they can become soldiers...

[09:36] Belladonna OHare: the women open shops

[09:36] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): you mentioned the man whose parents were servants and he is now a novelist...

[09:36] Belladonna OHare: my wig makers and dressmakers are talented women

[09:37] Belladonna OHare: I am sorrry

[09:37] Belladonna OHare: I must leave

[09:37] Belladonna OHare: thank you for a wonderful time

[09:37] Aldo Stern: thank you for coming Donna Bella, you added a great deal to the discussion

[09:37] Belladonna OHare curtsies respectfully

[09:38] Aldo Stern: we thank you for your insights and contribution

[09:38] Aldo Stern: but still people need the servants for their households, whether they are large or here is the last thing I will share...also I put this in the notecard

[09:38] Aldo Stern: but let me repeat it

[09:39] Aldo Stern: this is from Signora Hester Chapones book which is a guide to how a young lady should behave and run her household:

“Those who continually change their servants, and complain of perpetual ill-usage, have good reason to believe that the fault is in themselves, and that they do not know how to govern. Few indeed possess the skill to unite authority with kindness, or are capable of that steady and uniformly reasonable conduct, which alone can maintain true dignity, and command a willing and attentive obedience.“

[09:39] Aldo Stern: you notice how she mentions "kindness"?

[09:40] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): ja,

[09:40] Vanessa Montpenier: well. all starts with kindness Don Aldo...*smiles*

[09:41] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): you know I bet you the reason why she thinks the mistress has to mix the kindness and authority is because with the choices servants have, they are going to walk out if you just slap them around anymore

[09:41] Aria Vyper: everyone - I must go meet a friend, I hope you don't mind me taking my leave

[09:41] Aldo Stern: or course Donna Ariella, thank you for joining us

[09:41] Aldo Stern: well I think you are both right...

[09:42] Aldo Stern: the Baronessa from a very practical standpoint

[09:42] Aldo Stern: and Donna Vanessa, from the idealistic, moral standpoint

[09:42] Vanessa Montpenier: on the other hand Don Aldo,

[09:43] Vanessa Montpenier: being idealistic does not always work nowadays in these circumstances

[09:44] Aldo Stern: oh? how so?

[09:45] Vanessa Montpenier: well..

[09:46] Vanessa Montpenier: when a country is ruled by a king who says " l'etat , c'est moi", it can be a mistake to be so idealistic

[09:47] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): but even if he is the state, cannot the state be based on the ideals of some kind?

[09:48] Aldo Stern: do ideals make him somehow weaker?

[09:49] Vanessa Montpenier: everything that grows against him makes him weaker

[09:51] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): hmmm I am thinking i would argue that it is not the ideals that make for is the resistance to change

[09:51] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): we all agree things are changing, ja?

[09:51] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): maybe it becomes like the avalanche rolling down the hillside, you stand in front of it and say "stop" and it will just be rolling right over you

[09:52] Vanessa Montpenier: good remark

[09:52] Aldo Stern: but if you get behind it...

[09:52] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): or maybe you climb up a tree *pictures Louis of France clinging at the top of a pine tree*

[09:53] Aldo Stern: well, this has been an enjoyable discussion

[09:54] Aldo Stern: I hope you found it interesting, Donna Vanessa

[09:55] Vanessa Montpenier: it was a pleasant discussion for my side

[09:55] Vanessa Montpenier: thank you for the invite

[09:56] Diogeneia (diogenes.kuhr): very good it was, Herr Professor, danke for leading it