Tuesday, January 8, 2019

From the Top Shelf - A Governess Speaks

I originally published this story over two years ago, but I think it's worth a second look. It was originally published on the Late Alex Birch's blog, so I will let him introduce it.

"Today's entry is a treatise on the efficacy of corporal punishment which may strike a chord with some of our readers. It's by Miss Marianne and taken from the magazine The Governess. Miss Marianne is Miss Marianne Martindale who is a practising governess in an 'adult' school. She dresses in the chic manner of the 1930's, lives in London, and who [sic] actually does employ servants who happily accept beatings as part and parcel of their terms of employment. The letters within were written by her adult pupils after visits to her establishment."

A Governess Speaks

I am a traditional governess. I expect you have seen this claim before, and if you are seriously interested, as so many girls and boys are, in receiving corporal punishment in a straightforward, no-nonsense manner then doubtless you will have been disappointed. Unless of course you have already succeeded in discovering my establishment.

You may wonder how I can be so confident that you will not be disappointed if you come for a lesson with me. I am confident because I am unique. I live and rule in a world set apart from this time, this era, a time which I utterly despise. My world is a world of mistresses and maidservants, of schoolmarms and schoolgirls, of rules and regulations, order, hierarchy and harmony, and hard work and best behaviour are expected from everyone at all times. Within our world, carelessness, laziness, insubordination and slackness are offences punishable by the strap or the cane. It is a world where discipline is regularly administered and considered normal. So, if you are accepted as a pupil you enter not merely a classroom, but a whole world where decency and fairness, kind attention and strictness are the order of the day.

In the words on one girl pupil: "May I congratulate you most heartily for maintaining an institution organised on traditional Victorian values and principles. How sad it is that respect for authority, good manners, common courtesy and a sense of duty are hardly even in existence in modern times. You are greatly to be admired for maintaining strict discipline amongst your staff, servants and pupils and I am certain that you are respected by all those for whose training you are responsible."

And from another pupil: "When I first made an appointment to see the Governess I was half-expecting a poor performance, and an indifferent attitude. How wrong I was! After a short talk to break the ice I was led to a schoolroom where desk, blackboard and cane are kept. Lessons are conducted in a very professional way and could well have been really in the 1920s. My first visit resulted in one or two moderate canings, a switching and a strapping. It was a good first visit."

So what do I personally believe about discipline? First and foremost I believe that corporal punishment is good for you, that to know that you need punishment and to prefer such punishment to a complete lack of supervision is a normal, healthy reaction. A few good, hard strokes of the cane clears the mind of cloudiness, the body of tension, cleanses the soul and leaves the offender conscious of a tingling posterior and the desire to try harder next time.

Canings are properly administered. Once in the time-honoured position, bent well over the school desk, the cane is rapped several times across the bottom. This gives rise to tension and the contraction of the buttocks in anticipation of the first, stinging stroke. The cane hisses like a snake and thwacks hard against the upturned rump. Breath is forced out of the body as the first burning sensation sweeps through the body and down the legs.

Discipline, both in the general sense of rules and codes of behaviour and actual corporal punishment, provides boundaries and gives a sense of security. As one girl wrote, "The classroom was furnished in a business-like fashion and somehow gave me a feeling of confinement and sanctuary at the same time."

Many of the girls who come to me were brought up at a time when one was expected to be a good girl and conform to certain patterns of behaviour. Present-day children, and adults, have no one to say, "Don't do that" or "You must try harder. You are not doing your best", or even just a plain "No!". The result is an inner sense of drifting and emptiness, and a decreasing sense of self-respect as one continually does less well than one might because there is no-one to keep one up to the mark.

"From the time I was at school until now, I have had no real sanctions on my personal behaviour. We all need sanctions, I certainly am far less capable of controlling my temper and my speech in daily life, for lack of them! That is really what I come to you for; the imposition of sanctions that demand total control and for which the price of failure is the infliction of punishment that really hurts."

Ten minutes after you enter my classroom a sense of security returns. You soon realise; here is someone who will keep a very close eye on me, make sure I do my best and punish me if I don't. You find yourself sitting up straight, concentrating and enjoying the peacefulness that comes when someone else is absolutely in charge and all you have to do is be obedient and do your best.

The girl we have just heard from wrote: "I felt great relief caused by the brief relinquishment of authority and respite from the requirements of making decisions that is almost incessantly demanded of me; as your pupil for that brief hour, I have no decision to make, all I have to do is exactly what I am told."

She also wrote rather poetically of what it feels like to receive a punishment; "The sickness in one's stomach on the award of a punishment, the agony of anticipation at the prospect of the scorching sting of the tawse and searing bite of the cane; the knowledge that it is well deserved, totally inescapable and absolutely necessary; the ensuing battle of mind over body during the punishment itself, in forcing oneself to accept the pain, in total obedience, without complaint and, above all, the overwhelmingly cleansing effect of severe corporal punishment, that leaves you feeling that the debt is paid, the slate is wiped clean."

I should make it clear that moderation and leniency are shown when necessary. if a pupil has not received corporal punishment since schooldays long ago, or if, as often happens, she is someone who has never been punished but is drawn to the idea of punishment, then care is taken to ensure that the discipline is fair and appropriate. On the other hand, for those pupils who are able to receive the cane, and deserve and need firm handling, strict, hard punishment is freely given. Read the testament below:

"I have over the past two years experienced many punishments from this remarkable governess for many transgressions in her classroom at Oxford, not the least of which was a good spanking. This baby or small-child punishment was given with her delicate though firmly-soled rubber slipper, bent across the desk, her hand firmly pressing my back down, as her other hand brought the slipper down from high above her shoulder in a steady rhythm across my petticoat. Although categorised as a minor punishment the governess had decided it was going to be a severe one where each stroke was a Victorian stroke - great full-blooded slaps from high above her shoulder making me tingle with the sting. An impression remains with me of the accumulation of stinging, the loud slap of each blow striking home in a regular cadence over the whole area of my buttocks and thighs, the vitality and energy the governess seemed to have - where after at least forty smacks there was no diminishing of force - indeed they seemed to increase in sting almost more than I could bear. I began to sob with the thought that this spanking could go on and on. Her hand pressed ever more firmly into my back, "Be still, girl!"

Another girl wrote thus: "Now the first punishment was about to begin and I bent over the desk and placed my hands on the chair as instructed. Ma'am lifted up my skirt and tucked my petticoat tight between my legs. It was at this point that something quite strange occurred which I find difficult to explain. The governess laid her free hand on my back. Now physically I am quite a strong woman. Were someone to lay a heavy load on my back for instance, I imagine I could shrug it off with very little effort. What now rested on my back was the delicate hand of the governess. However I could no more rebel against that hand than I could fly to the moon."

No one is ever punished for ignorance in my classroom, only for laziness in the matter of learning corrections or forgetting the rules. This fairness is especially necessary with those girls who were born after the end of the 1950s and who have had slack and casual schooling rather than an effective formal education. I once had to teach a girl the alphabet because she had received so little formal education!

I should mention that I am, in the main, a governess for girls of all ages, but I do take selected gentlemen if I think they are genuine. The majority of pupils attend because they experienced corporal punishment as children and miss its benefits. Among the younger pupils I see (Post-1960) children, a few come specifically because they have never received corporal punishment and yet feel it would be good for them. A lot of pupils are in positions of responsibility and authority, with no real superior to turn to in times of difficulty.

When I conduct a lesson, the pupil is relieved of all responsibility and can bask in the feeling of being looked after, both in the matter of strict supervision and helpful advice where requested. You can attend simply because know a good, hard smack is good for you, and find as well someone on whom you can rely for kindness and help.

If you will not think me immodest, I should like here to give you some of my pupils' first impressions of meeting me. All the extracts you are reading are taken from letters of appreciation or classroom essays; but all are authentic comments.

"The door was opened by a tall striking woman in her middle to late thirties. She was dressed in a neat crisp white blouse and a plain black skirt. I noticed she wore high heels and the sheerest of silk stockings. She had the most beautiful waist-length light brown hair. I discovered later that when in a particularly severe mood she wore it swept up in a knot away from her finely sculptured cheekbones.Her most outstanding feature was her wide generous mouth which, despite her seemingly severe manner, was outlined in bright red lipstick. Her clear blue eyes were skilfully outlined in mascara and were keen and sparkling. She was absolutely breathtaking and in appearance was every schoolchild's dream of the ideal governess."

"Your obvious beauty, general appearance, authoritative manner, attention to detail and your every little movement had me spellbound and reduced me mentally to the ignorant little schoolboy you must have perceived before you."

"From the first moment I saw you, I felt immediately submissive, as you were both so superior and dominant; yet you were so neatly dressed and attractive, and did not attempt to raise your voice. Your vocabulary and manners were impeccable. When you returned to the interview room, wearing your cap and gown, I felt even more under your total domination, hence my hands shook in anticipation of what lay ahead of me."

Let me summarise what happens when a pupil comes for a lesson. You arrive and are given a short interview. You are then taken to the schoolroom and the rules of the classroom are explained. These you are expected to repeat to me. The lesson begins. Work such as a spelling test and mental arithmetic are given in the first lesson. You will not be punished for initial mistakes, but you are expected to remember the rules and show respect and to learn any corrections before you are tested. The punishments are given at a level which I believe to be appropriate for the girl concerned and may vary from person to person in severity.

See thus: "The English lesson you gave was very polished,and put me on my toes. It was well thought out and the classroom discipline was strict. The corporal punishment given was administered with accuracy and sensible strength. I liked the way you announced the strokes you were awarding and why they were to be given. The actual caning was accurate and each cut with the cane laid on with skill."

"Your lesson was most interesting, well thought out and excellently delivered. I confess I did not pay sufficient heed to your classroom rules, and too often broke them. May I again plead nervousness and the fact that this was one of the most emotional experiences I have ever encountered. I thought your punishments were fair, and although those of the corporal variety were certainly painful, they were nevertheless stimulating in the knowledge that they were deserved."

To me, being a governess is a vocation and a pleasant duty. The important thing is that I look after the pupil, look after her mental, emotional and spiritual welfare much as a mother should,and too seldom does these days, look after her child.

I certainly believe that kindness and strictness are necessary to the healthy life of each one of us, be he young or old, male or female. I look forward to the day when the world recovers its senses and reinstates a disciplined attitude along with corporal punishment in the home and in the school. In the meantime those who seek proper and decent punishment are welcome to attend my school.

I shall end with the concluding comments from one of the endorsements quoted earlier:-

"I had been told that at the end of a punishment I was to express my gratitude by saying, "Thank you, Ma'am." In fact this instruction was redundant for at the completion of this punishment I felt such genuine feeling of gratitude towards the Governess that I was anxious to thank her anyway. All too soon the lesson came to an end and I was excused. I cannot easily describe all the things that I felt but will try by saying the following; I feel that I have been travelling for a long time in many aimless directions and have now arrived at a place which is good. In spite of this I feel that I am now starting a new journey, not one that is aimless but a journey with order and discipline."

Alex Birch wrote at the conclusion of the original post: "Maybe some of my readers have attended similar academies. What do you feel about the effects of corporal punishment 'cleansing ' and 'wiping the slate' clean. Does this ring any bells with you. Does this kind of 'academy' serve a useful therapeutic purpose? Or is it just a bit of fun to you with no real benefits?" What do you think?

From Hermione's Heart


Anonymous said...


I love the idea of a Governess and, in fact, my wife Irene often plays that role with a great accent, a sharp tongue and a few fashion accessories.

But what really struck me was that the pupil would be "relieved of responsibility". That is the best part of being submissive - don't think, just do what you are told - it is a wonderful and relaxing world.



"When I conduct a lesson, the pupil is relieved of all responsibility and can bask in the feeling of being looked after, both in the matter of strict supervision and helpful advice where requested. You can attend simply because know a good, hard smack is good for you, and find as well someone on whom you can rely for kindness and help."

Roz said...

Interesting story Hermione, society's norms have definitely changed a lot!


Katie said...

Hi Hermione, :) I enjoyed the read here! The description of the governess was written so well! I could definitely picture the scene!

There sure is something to the giving up of all control, and just being. It is very freeing. As for clean slates, a spanking works like a charm in that respect! Thanks for this interesting read. Many hugs,

❤️Katie xoxo

ronnie said...

Hermione, thank you or sharing this story. I enjoyed the read and loved how it was written. As for wiping the slate clean, a spanking definitely works.


Michael M said...

I should love to have paid her a visit when I was in London in the 80's but I did not know she existed. The internet has given younger spankos a panopoly of choice in disciplinarians.