The Servant Situation

Looking into that always fascinating topic of servants (no doubt so intriguing because most of us will never have any!) I came upon one of the most comprehensive sites on the topic I could hope to find. It details the late Victorian through WWI period, when servanthood was in flower, and features many charming photographs of various household domestics. I particularly enjoyed Mrs. Gould with her lady's maid, circa 1908. I also learned the second footman was invariably called James or John, even though he might be otherwise christened. Mrs. Astor caused quite a Newport stir when she put her footmen in livery, then to be aped by Mrs. Vanderbilt. Also amusing was the custom of taller footmen receiving higher wages than their shorter brethern, and French ladies'maids being the preferred nationality due to their fashion sense and sewing ability. The Allison's Alice Cleaver, as nursery maid, would have been higher up on the female staff pecking order, just under lady's maid and housekeeper, the last who only answered to the butler! Amazing site- and to think, I felt grateful to receive a paper napkin with my tea this morning at Dunking Donuts- it's enough to make one yearn for gentler times. Don't miss this -

A Butler's Life, Scenes from the other side of the Silver Salver, by Chris Allen, Behind the Scenes by Christina Hardyment, and recently a friend sent me the book from the PBS hit series Manor House which is fabulous and available on the pbs site along with the videos. For more on servant's clothing go to


Ellen's site on Edwardiana is also good at

although I may have to disagree with her assessment that the Master's valet outranks the butler in the male servant pecking order. The thread on Gilded Age Goes to the Movies has some great film offerings-Darlington Hall with Chris Reeves and Gosford Park- although a little later in history than Edwardiana, gives a great Upstairs Downstairs ambience, and is "spot on". Upstairs Downstairs books -and there are many, are also excellent. For some "snob appeal" fun- take the Snob Quiz- I scored only 89% Snob- thank goodness- and am so relieved not to have made the real Upper Crust Snob Award!

I scored 35% snob. To quote the site; "Nice one, Michael. At only 35% snob, you're a happy-go-lucky social chemeleon, comfortable in any echelon. Even though you enjoy the odd swipe at the neighbor's taste in wives, you're still a well rounded human being who'd never dream of judging his fellow man on the colour of his shoes."
I only managed 57% and, for a Brit, I accept that this simply isn't good enough. Must try harder, as indeed the site told me. Suggested I go out to buy some fruit knives and start lying about my education....
70%! "It's allright, Jonathan, being 70% snob gives you some hope of becoming a decent human being in the near future. Just keep working on that attitude: don't forget that the sick, the poor, and the uneducated are people too. What's more, at the next turn of the Karmic wheel, they're going to live like kings while you clean the poo from their shoes."


Inger Sheil

Lol! Not even going to disclose my score! There's nothing wrong with saying 'cheers' before partaking of a drink - my 2 year old nephew now does it in imitation of me (should have seen his father's eyebrows shoot up when Lachlan insisted on clinking glasses and burbling 'cheers!' as he hoisted up his juice). And I do like good food. And not voting in pop idol. But at least I've never judged anyone by their shoes, and don't care what others think...
I've just wasted 20 minutes trying to get 100% and I simply can't figure out what the appropriate answers are. I don't know whether snobs buy quilted toilet paper or not. I'd have thought not ... dunno, I always buy recycled. This is ridiculous, must pull myself together.
ps Tracy - which way were you surprised, do tell...
I got 54% which surprised the hell out of me. I was told that I would soon have 2.4 kids, a Volvo and a Labrador and although I was a long way off from joining the champagne-swigging, double-barrelled name world I was no champion of the Proliteriat either! You wouldn't have thought that had you seen me walking around BTS 2003 Gala Evening with toothpaste all down my dark blue shirt. It wasn't until I got back to my room last thing at night and looked in the mirror that I realised what an absolute gyppo I had become....
Oh dear,dear,dear. Letting the side down a Brit you should do better, like me. Three % points above you! A 4 x 4 won't cut the mustard, not in the real world of the aristocracy. Not that I know much about it ... it's all rather mystifying, isn't it? Actually, my great great Uncle was a Lord -wrong side of the blanket, I'm afraid, or at any rate his lady-friend.... doh!
Not sure whether to be proud or ashamed of my 80% score. They tell me that I am to snobs what Fergie is to the Royals (!) If I ever hope to improve, I suppose I'd better start looking down on others and paying more attention to shoes. Now if I can only find a valet who's willing to work for three dollars a week, and won't steal the leftover pizza.....

Inger Sheil

The problem with some of those questions is that there's no option three...for example, on the Camilla Parker-Bowles question, I would have gone for (C) Don't Give a Toss if given the chance.
Oddly enough, there existed a certain snobbery amongst the servants as well from their placement at table in the servants' hall to the rank and title of one's master. The pbs site has so much great info, especially this sad commentary on how servants had to "disappear" through the green baize door, or if they could not evaporate into thin air, they were to turn their back to the "Quality" or avert their gaze, so as to not require acknowledging.