Posted by Jessamyn on September 18, 1997 at 00:00:04:
In response to May I bother you for more clarification?, written by ElaineL on September 17, 1997 at 22:39:22
] In the mean time, do I understand correctly, at Pemberley, in descending order:
] Steward, Mrs. Reynolds (since the book doesn't mention a male house steward/keeper), valet, clerk of stables, butler and gardener.
] So far (under an improper name, aargh!) I have the butler as the one informing the Darcy's of meals, checking on final needs of the day, etc. Is this correct for the butler or would that have been Mrs. R?
] Also, I'm curious, about the mention of the "lad's maid." Is that the son of the master? And it's a woman rather than a man servant?
First of all, OOPS! That's just a silly typo for "lady's maid"--nothing exciting.
I'm having trouble finding the answer to the butler/Mrs. R question. This book covers domestic service from the 18th through the 20th centuries, and concentrates most on the Victorians. The main point about butlers is that throughout the 19th century they mysteriously apotheosed from a fairly lowly being to the lord of below-stairs. The question, I suppose, is where in this transition is the butler of your story?
I think the thing to keep in mind is that menservants were decorative. So anything that required a servant to be exposing himself to guests you'd prefer to have a man for, while much of the practical behind-the-scenes stuff was done by women. I think (but please don't rely on this) that this means that the butler would be more likely to announce dinner, while the housekeeper would come around and make sure Lord Whatsit didn't want the maid to bring up a hot brick for his bed. I keep thinking about the housekeeper in Jane Eyre, who, while she knows her place, is certainly the queen bee from a servant standpoint.
I hope that helps at least a little. Let us know if you find anything else out!
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