"the old tradition of the criminality of those caretakers of the young who minister to superstitions and fears"

Creative Commons AttributionSuperstition - Credit: Peter Heilmann
The practice of hiring nannies and governesses from lower social echelons brought with it the perceived danger that these less sophisticated women would impress their folk beliefs on their young charges. Such worries surfaced in 17th century literature and were still very much on employers' minds during the 19th century. The governess's reference to this issue highlights her anxiety about her class and social status: for her, a young woman from a rural parish, it is imperative that she should not be aligned with these degraded figures. Her fears also have a practical aspect, as any guardian of the young found to be raising the subject of ghosts or goblins was usually summarily dismissed.