What the Butler Saw: Two Hundred and Fifty Years of the Servant Problem

  • Publish Date: 2005-05-16
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Author: E. S. Turner

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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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