Education Around 1800, Between Accomplishment And Expenditure

In 1803, Maria Barbatescu entrusts her son to the care of ceaush (bailiff) Mihalache Barbatescu and that of stolnic (High Steward) Ghitza Palada. The will, written in the spring of that year, stipulates that the two should supervise the "accomplishment" of the child and the administration of the estate, as well as the tools and the Gypsy slaves thereof, until the former's marriage and only then were they to "hand them over to our son to have them in full possession." As the two trustees, the uncles of the child, are held accountable to His Holiness the Metropolitan Bishop, under whose patronage the entire process is placed, they scrupulously write down, every year, all the revenues and expenditure of their nephew's estate, a rare and fortunate testimony as to how a household was administered at that time. Between 1803 and 1809, young Mihalache's education follows a long way and is achieved with the help of various tutors, depending on the preferences of his guardians. We don't know exactly what the young man learned, but the detailed account kept by his uncles helps us guess what that education might have consisted in and gives us a clear image of the expenditure required by training and particularly raising a child. The "accomplishment" begins in May 1803 on the estate of Barbatesti, in the house of the young pupil that stood by the mansion of his paternal uncle, ceaush Mihalache Barbatescu. His tutor Stan is not an exigent man, but neither is he a very learned man, so that he gets a thaler a month to "teach" the child reading and writing. He doesn't write too much, anyway, since only once a year do they buy paper and ink, to the value of 4 pence. The clothes and food for the child are much more expensive. Depending on the season, he is bought leather shoes or boots, raw silk shirts and a surplice, scarves and long, loose Turkish trousers, a high cylindrical fur hat or a fez. As a boyar's son, Mihalache is attended by many servants; for instance, Pauna the Gypsy washes him and helps him get dressed. Being a slave, Pauna gets no wages, but she is bought a dress and a pelisse, the latter getting a fur lining when the cold season starts in autumn. Then money is spent for "shaving, soap and the washing of clothes" which amounts to no less than 56 thalers and 10 pence in eight months. On November 23rd 1803, the uncle decides that Stan the tutor has almost nothing else to teach his pupil and negotiates with another tutor, Negoitza of Targovishte, to take over the education of his nephew. New expenses are required: 2 thalers for the tutor per month (we can then infer that the child's staying in a town makes his education more expensive), 4 pence for the paper, 3 thalers and 10 pence for "a pair of inkwells" and, to make sure that the youngster is safe, his uncles place him in the house of his tutor as a tenant, the rent they pay being 12 thalers and 20 pence per year. Much bigger are the other sums that are spent for the servants, as Iena the Gypsy needs a skirt and boots, Manolache, the footman, charges 4 thalers per months for his services, the boots have to be "mended," the leather shoes are torn and a new pair must be bought, the overcoat is worn out here and there and must be replaced, the shaving and the soap constantly add to the expenses, money must be paid every day. Now comes the third stage: in May 1805, the child's maternal uncle, Ghitza Palada, agrees to his nephew's coming to Bucharest to study. Leaving for the capital is in itself an adventure, an unavowed competition starts between the two tutors, barely dissimulated by their mutual, cold and generous politeness. Thus, ceaush Mihalache Barbatescu carefully prepares his nephew for the trip and spares no financial effort to show his interest in the child's welfare; after all, the money was not his own, it actually belonged to the estate of the child, who was still under age. No less than 549 thalers and 36 pence is "the amount of the expenses I had with my nephew Mihalache in the month of May, the year of our Lord 1805, when I took him to His Lordship, High Steward Palada, in Bucharest." Every penny is mentioned in the account: the clothes chest, the slippers and the cloak, the trip to Bucharest, the "money for renting the horse when I took Mihalache to Bucharest," "the expenses I had on my way to Bucharest," the scarves and the pelisse for Pauna the Gypsy, the wages of "the footman that attends Mihalache." Here he is in Bucharest, where the education he gets is much superior: the amount of paper that is needed is bigger (14 pence for a paper pad), the books, too, are more diverse, beside the old prayer book he gets a new book of hymns in Greek, his tutors are now specialized, they teach him different subjects: a Greek tutor from Saint Parascheva Church (his wages amount to 50 thalers per year), tutor Costandin (2 thalers per month), then tutor Dumitru from the Metropolitan Church (5 thalers per month). From a distance, ceaush Mihalache continues to keep an eye on the child and look after him, spending 215 thalers and 31 pence for his Easter clothes, of which only the English cloth for the large Turkish overcoat costs 56 thalers, sending him twice two barrels of grapes, and taking care of Pauna, Stana, Manolache, the youngster's servants. Dissatisfied with the fact that Ghitza Palada fails to fulfill his responsibilities of an uncle and a guardian, the ceaush takes him back from Bucharest and sends him to Targovishte again, to the house of his old tutor Negoitza, "in July, the year of our Lord 1808," with "a new prayer book of the richly decorated ones," bought "for 8 thalers and 30 pence from the honorable Gheorghe Prahoveanu of Targovishte." In order to avoid any other complication, the wife of tutor Negoitza, who looks after the child and washes his clothes," is hired to do this job for 30 pence a month. Again, new expenses are added on clothing and shaving, on food and on washing the clothes. Everything ends in August 1809 when Mihalache marries the daughter of His Lordship Steward Manolache Topliceanu, becomes the master of his fortune, capable of taking care of himself, and therefore gives up studying. Around 1800, as nowadays, the education of a young man is very expensive and the money goes not so much on tuition – paying the teachers and getting the materials necessary for studying – but on adjacent, daily expenditure: rent, clothing, food, servants; a real burden on the fortune of the parents, in this case of the guardians, which costs much more than the education itself. Dilema veche, 11-17 august 2006

by Constanţa Vintilă-Ghiţulescu (b. 1969)