What the Butler Saw

What the Butler Saw : 250 Years of the Servant Problem

3.84 (38 ratings by Goodreads)
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In the 18th century, a gentleman who employed less than a dozen servants was seen to be betraying his class, and a lady could go to her grave without ever having picked up her nightdress or made a cup of tea. "What the Butler Saw" is social history from an unusual angle. Drawing on literature, contemporary accounts and household manuals, it tells in fascinating detail the story of servants and their masters. Did you know, for example, that the unwritten duties of a footman might include holding down his master for the surgeon, or that a lady's maid was responsible for removing her mistress's pimples? Then there was the vexed question of what to do with servants with too much time on their hands. A problem not encountered by Victorian nurse-maids who sometimes drugged their charges in order to gain leisure time. Along with the drudgery, servants also had to put up with blows from their masters and tantrums from their mistresses. While, even in the most respectable homes, pretty servant girls found their virtue in danger.
From the upper echelons of the 18th-century butler to the downtrodden housemaid of the 19th century, from the elegant footman to the liberated "au pair", "What the Butler Saw" is an eye-opening examination of the upstairs/downstairs relationship over 300 years.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 304 pages
  • 132.1 x 210.8 x 25.4mm | 362.88g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Revised
  • Revised edition
  • 30 b&w illustrations, index
  • 0141390832
  • 9780141390833

Review quote

"A book which goes on a special shelf in my library."
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About E. S. Turner

E S Turner is the author of several light-hearted yet scholarly social histories, including THE SHOCKING HISTORY OF ADVERTISING and BOYS WILL BE BOYS.
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Table of contents

Insubordination; a man's job?; the open palm; virtue in danger; conditions of service; black boys for sale; brave new world; the widening gulf; the duty to employ; the female branch -the housekeeper, the lady's maid, the cook, the nurse, the housemaid; the male branch - the house steward, the man cook, the butler, the footman, the coachman; no servants, only helps; the divine aspect of drudgery; vanity fair; virtue still in danger; the ruling topic; spectre of change; "the finest spectacle"; American calls for butlers; "stop their dole!"; home helps - and foreign.
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Rating details

38 ratings
3.84 out of 5 stars
5 29% (11)
4 34% (13)
3 32% (12)
2 3% (1)
1 3% (1)
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