The Victorian Butler

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The Victorian Butler

Colonel Mustard: “Are you the host?”

Wadsworth: “Me, sir? No, I'm just the humble butler.”

Colonel Mustard: “And what exactly is it you do here?”

Wadsworth: “I buttle, sir.”

In Victorian times having a house full of servants at the owner's command was quite common for upper and middle class families. Some job titles included footman, cooks, maids, butlers, coachman, and cooks. Among these servants, the highest ranked and paid was the butler. While we all may have a stereotype of a tall, skinny man that opens the door and says, “You rang?” the actual list of duties and responsibilities of a butler express he is a man of high demand.

The Butler of a home was expected to be present during breakfast, lunch, and dinner. He was to serve the meals and drinks to each member of the family and to wait on them for any requests. He also had the responsibility to oversee the kitchen and make sure it was in order. This included choosing fine wine, managing the wine cellar and the inventory of liquors. The Butler worked closely with the cook and not only assisted with preparing a menu for everyday meals but also for upcoming events and parties the master may present. He was expected to set the table and the decorations for all parties. During these events the butler was always present awaiting any requests from the guests and served them drinks and their meals. The Butler also was responsible for other servants in the home and acted as a manager for the property.

The average pay for a Victorian butler was between 40 to 100 pounds per year, which converts to about 2600 to 6500 today. Charles Dickens, Jr. gave this advice in 1879: “Give good wages, and let it be clearly understood before hiring that no perquisites are allowed. A serious mistake, and one too often made, is to lay down the hard-and-fast rule 'no followers allowed'. Servants always have had and always will have followers, whether their masters and mistresses like it or not” (n.pag.). In Vanity Fair, we read that Miss Horrocks also serves in the house because she is the daughter of the butler.

Miss Horrocks acted as a maid in the Crawley's home. Housemaids during the Victorian times were responsible for keeping the home clean and tidy. They did the “cleaning, scrubbing and dusting” (Roberts 206). The number of housemaids was determined by the size of the home.

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