I have time machines in my library. They work like magical one-way windows for when I gaze into them I can see and listen to people from times past yet they cannot see or hear me. Some, I think, suspect that people from the future might occasionally look in on them and so they are on what they feel to be their \”best\” behaviour. It is interesting and informative to see what they consider \”best\” behaviour.\” Other people from the past seem either to be totally unaware or totally unconcerned that people from the future might pass through every once and a while.
The other day I pulled out one of these time machines  only to find myself gazing at the life of two middle-aged men in London, England in the early 1920s. How different was their life than would be the lives of two similar men today.
First, they (Mr. Beaumont and Mr. Bradley) do no work and yet they are neither poverty stricken nor immensely wealthy. Apparently at that time there was a goodly number of people similarly situated. They may have worked for some time \”in the City\” but many of them had never worked, would never work and had lived their entire life on the income of investments bequeathed to them by aunts and uncles. 
Second, they have servants. At least one of whom \’lives in.\’ As the story opens they are faced with the disastrous news that their housekeeper, Mrs. Nicholson, is leaving them to get married. Mrs. Nicholson has been the mainstay of their comfort but in addition to her they also employ a gardener and \”a girl\” who comes in every day.
Third, not only do they do no cooking or cleaning or working they also do no shopping for the gardener grows and picks the vegetables and Mrs. Nicholson orders in the rest of their food as well as their wine and other household supplies.
Fourth, there is no suggestion that the relationship of the two men is sexual or even homosocial. They are just friends who find it convenient to pool their resources in order to have a well-ordered and comfortable home.
Fifth, it is considered not unusual that absent a women (wife or housekeeper) two men are unable to adequately see to the supervision of the servants.
Sixth, that when Mrs. Glover (Mr. Beaumont\’s sister) arrives she brings her maid with her and the two of them naturally take over the care of the household.
Seventh, the original readers of the story find it amusing but not beyond belief that Mr. Bradley would propose to the widowed Mrs. Glover in order to have a permanent replacement for Mrs. Nicholson.
Finally, two well off men living in the London of that time did not already have electricity in their home. Of course as the story begins they have no need of it since they had human beings to do all the work. Mrs. Nicholson got up before them, lit the fires, warmed the house, shopped almost daily, mended their clothes, supervised the washing of their clothes, planned their meals and cooked their meals. Someone (housekeeper, girl or gardener) weeded for them, dusted for them, made their beds, lit their candles, swept their floors and heated their water. When the men finally decide to get their house \”electrified\” it is not to make life easier for their servants but rather to save money and increase their comfort by replacing servants with the electrical equipment.
[T]hey had completely made up their minds, and having ascertained that every labour-saving device in stock could be installed in their house in three weeks, they dismissed the entire household with a month\’s wages instead of a month\’s warning, and moved across to the admirable hotel, where in comfort, they could superintend the refitting of their home. (68)
The devices were not \”labour-saving\” in the sense that they made the labour of the servants easier for the servants. The devices were \”labour-saving\” in the sense that the bachelors would no longer have to hire someone to do the labour.
What the one-way glass showed me was a world in which it was somewhat less \”suspect\” for men to live together in order to pool their financial aspects than it is today. It also showed me a world in which men value women (be they wives or housekeepers) more for their ability to ensure the men\’s physical comfort than for anything else. And it showed me a world in which \”labour-saving\” meant a way to replace someone who worked for a living with a machine.
In other words, less had changed than one might have thought.
 \”The Hapless Bachelors\” in Benson, E. Desirable residences and other stories. Oxford England New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. Originally published March 1921 in Pearson\’s Magazine ↩
 I want to wave at them and warn them–this way of life will soon end. Taxation, inflation and the desire of servants to be paid wages large enough to allow them to house and feed a family will soon eat away your comfortable incomes.↩