“Anatol Revisited: The Devious Ways of a Man With a Maid, in the Present Servant Market” (E15)

  • Originally Published: Vanity Fair, November 1919
  • First Reprinted: Never reprinted
  • Original Byline: Robert C. Benchley, with a slight nod to Mr. Schnitzler


A spoof of Arthur Schnitzler’s Anatol, transplanting the Viennese play’s vexed quest for perfectly reciprocated love under patriarchy into the more prosaic (but equally impossible, by definition) task of attracting unalientated help around the kitchen. In the original, Schnitzler’s callow lothario heads off his own hedonism at every turn by faint-heartedly fixating on questions that he does not really want answered – i.e. do the objects of his feeble flirtations feel an all-consuming passion for him?

Frustrated by an unprecedentedly tight New York servant market, Benchley’s Anatol doesn’t even get that far in his financialized philandering, failing to get a single domestic conquest across the threshhold of his country estate. Unaccustomed to the short end of the negotiating stick, the would-be employer finds himself unable to satisfy any of his prospective pick-ups, despite eventually going so far as to suggest that he will explore the possibility of rearranging the solar system as part of the benefits package.

Brilliant in conception, the piece doesn’t quite live up to its potential on the page, but thought-provoking stuff, nevertheless.

Favourite Moment:
“Why should you face the east? And even if it [the servant’s room] did, we could easily change it… I mean the sun doesn’t have to rise in the east, does it? … I know it always has, – but, my God, Agnes, I can’t lose you now!… Something can be done… Something must be done!”