The Serving Classe

Cat_243_dover_21  By Mary Jo

One day last week, my mail included flyers for three different maid services.  Another one arrived yesterday.  While such solicitations are not unknown, I don’t recall ever receiving so many in a short period.  My guess is cleaning services have decided that the hassle and overwork of the holiday season will persuade desperate housewives that they need help.

Naturally, my thoughts turned to life in the Good Old Days.  (Isn’t that true for everyone when they toss junk mail?  <G>)

Romances set in the ever popular Regency period are stuffed with lords and ladies—there are enough fictional dukes to fill Yankee Stadium and then some.  Servantslady_and_maidSince

America

doesn’t have hereditary titles, we can happily romanticize the rich and privileged class structure of old

Europe

.  Oh, our books occasionally have distressed ladies whose family fortunes have failed so they need to marry rich, but they pretty much always succeed.  The Cinderella myth is alive and well and living in

London

, circa 1812.

But the reality is that if we go back two hundred years, most of us woule be agricultural laborers, prostitutes, or servants.  My ancestors certainly weren’t elevated.  (Actually, they were stubborn dissenters who came to

America

way early to avoid immigration laws. <G>)  I certainly wouldn’t have been enjoying the whirl of the London season!

Servants_brooding The life of an agricultural laborer was backbreaking and involved long, long hours in all weather. Chilblains, lung fever, and the rheumatics were likely.  Being a servant was also backbreaking and involved long hours, but at least most servants worked inside and were supplied with room, board, and clothing. With luck, the servant would get a half day off a week.

Great houses had masses of servants—Blenheim, home of the Dukes of Marlborough, had eighty indoor servants and a hundred outdoors. In such large establishments, the servants had a hierarchy of their own, with senior staff such as housekeepers, land stewards, house stewards, the mistress’s lady’s maid and the master’s valet. These superior individuals might even have servants of their own, and they often had “perks” that could Servantslaundry_maid increase their income.  Lady’s maids and valets were often given worn clothing from their masters, which could be sold or kept for their own use.  Cooks could sell fat and dripping, butlers got the candle ends.  (And sometimes these servants ran fiddles that increased their incomes at their masters’ expense.)

The wonderful British TV series Upstairs, Downstairs, portrayed this dual social structure in the Edwardian period, but most servants did not work in such prosperous establishments. More modest households would have one or two servants, usually female.  At least three servants were considered necessary to cover all the bases—a cook, a housemaid, and a male servant to do outside work, deliver messages, and perhaps act as a groom. 

Servantsrunning_footman Male servants were more expensive and more prestigious, and the more men you had working for you, the prosperous you would appear. Some more pretentious households would resort to dressing outdoor servants as footmen on grand occasions so that it would appear that the family had more footmen.

The hardest position of all—and the most common—was the maid of all work. She was responsible for just about everything: housecleaning (this in the days before one could buy cleaning polish or stain remover), kitchen work, laundry work, helping the mistress with dressing—anything that needed doing.

Servants were expected to be “moral” (in other words, they couldn’t mess around like their betters).  For this they might receive five or six guineas a year. They generally had to be Protestant, preferably Church of England.  Some employers would ask "church or chapel?" at interviews.  If you said "chapel"–that is, you were a disserter who attended a chapel to worship with the Baptists or some other small group, you might not get the job. 

A fine reference book for Regency servants is The Complete Servant: Regency life below stairs, by Samuel & Sarah Adams,

Butler

and Housekeeper. The couple spent over fifty years in service, working their way up from the lowest level to the highest. Their jointly published book was published in 1825. The Southover Press edition I have was published in 1993, with a modern introduction to put things in context.

The Complete Servant covers the duties of all classes of servants and includes recipes for food and cleaning materials, among other things. A scullery maid, Servantsscullery_maid for example, had to rise before dawn to start the kitchen fires, and was responsible for scrubbing all the kitchen utensils, all day long. She also must assist the kitchen maid in preparing food (peeling potatoes, chopping vegetables, etc.), clean the rooms of higher servants, scrub the front steps, make the beds of the stable men. In return for non-stop work and plenty of heavy lifting, she made the munificent sum of five to ten guineas a year. 

Of course, not all servants were as meek and biddable as their masters would have liked. (“The servant problem!”)  Men were particularly likely to be stroppy, and since they had more employment choices and were more Cat_profile_124_doverprestigious, they could command higher wages. The satirist Jonathan Swift worked as a footman in his youth, and he later wrote a book about being in service. I can’t find my copy of his book, but one suspects his tongue was firmly in his cheek when he said that it wasn’t good to lock the cat in the china pantry so it would break the mistress’ s plates.

As the 19th century wore on, the number of male servants dropped even as the population grew. The industrial revolution created more jobs for both men and women, but it was WWI that really changed domestic service. Men and women who left service to do war work seldom went back.

Which is why I’m now getting flyers from cleaning services. <g>  A good cleaning lady is a blessing, and a smart householder knows to be grateful!

Mary Jo, who thinks washing machines and vacuum cleaners are great inventions.

60 thoughts on “The Serving Classe”

  1. Mary Jo,
    What a fantastic and thought provoking post. As long as I’ve been reading historicals, I have been waiting, waiting for someone to focus on the lives of the servants ala Upstairs,Downstairs. I absolutely was captivated with the series, and I’ve been wanting to purchase the CD set for some time now. It’s a little pricey for me right now, but after holiday bills are paid……
    What do you think, Mary Jo and any of the Word Wenches, would any of you or your publishers, for that matter, be interested in undertaking a “servant classe” novel or series of novels?
    Thanks again, Mary Jo. This was great!

    Reply
  2. Mary Jo,
    What a fantastic and thought provoking post. As long as I’ve been reading historicals, I have been waiting, waiting for someone to focus on the lives of the servants ala Upstairs,Downstairs. I absolutely was captivated with the series, and I’ve been wanting to purchase the CD set for some time now. It’s a little pricey for me right now, but after holiday bills are paid……
    What do you think, Mary Jo and any of the Word Wenches, would any of you or your publishers, for that matter, be interested in undertaking a “servant classe” novel or series of novels?
    Thanks again, Mary Jo. This was great!

    Reply
  3. Mary Jo,
    What a fantastic and thought provoking post. As long as I’ve been reading historicals, I have been waiting, waiting for someone to focus on the lives of the servants ala Upstairs,Downstairs. I absolutely was captivated with the series, and I’ve been wanting to purchase the CD set for some time now. It’s a little pricey for me right now, but after holiday bills are paid……
    What do you think, Mary Jo and any of the Word Wenches, would any of you or your publishers, for that matter, be interested in undertaking a “servant classe” novel or series of novels?
    Thanks again, Mary Jo. This was great!

    Reply
  4. Mary Jo,
    What a fantastic and thought provoking post. As long as I’ve been reading historicals, I have been waiting, waiting for someone to focus on the lives of the servants ala Upstairs,Downstairs. I absolutely was captivated with the series, and I’ve been wanting to purchase the CD set for some time now. It’s a little pricey for me right now, but after holiday bills are paid……
    What do you think, Mary Jo and any of the Word Wenches, would any of you or your publishers, for that matter, be interested in undertaking a “servant classe” novel or series of novels?
    Thanks again, Mary Jo. This was great!

    Reply
  5. From MJP:
    Firstly, I want to apologize for the formatting and typo problems. I write my posts in Word and they have to be run through Notepad to strip off the formatting before pasting in Typepad. But I forgot the Notepad step, and didn’t realize until I’d uploaded and the lines went all weird. I tried to redo it, and ended up in some strange html hell, so I decided it was better to let it stand than make it worse!
    Joy, as to whether publishers would be interested in doing novels focusing on servants, the answer is “No, NO, A THOUSAND TIMES NO!!!” 🙂
    Historical romance, even the gritty ones, tend to have a broad streak of fantasy in them, and in British historicals, that means lords and ladies. I believe at one point (not sure if it’s still true), Avon insisted that in a British set historical romance, the hero had to have a title.
    In Britain, there is a whole category of “clogs and shawls” historical novels inspired by Catherine Cookson’s work. They generally feature underprivileged Northern girls from the working classes, and sometimes they’re in service.
    These books can be very gritty, too. I remember one Cookson where the heroine was raped by a drunken young man of the gentry class, and when her daughter was born, it was taken away from her and given to a middle class family that was childless. (And years later, that daughter ended up unknowingly marrying her half brother.) There are some fine books of this saga type–it’s a subcategory of women’s fictio–but they’ve never sold well in the U.S.
    It is possible, though, to make servants significant and rounded secondary characters. In THE RAKE, I gave Reggie’s long-suffering valet a street-wise backstory and a romance of his own. But this is pretty rare, since the focus of the book has to be on the developing romance, which means fewer words for subplots and history.
    I love Upstairs, Downstairs, but the servant characters were pretty romanticized. Though rounded and flawed, they all tended to be nice people, and how often is that true in any workplace? 🙂
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  6. From MJP:
    Firstly, I want to apologize for the formatting and typo problems. I write my posts in Word and they have to be run through Notepad to strip off the formatting before pasting in Typepad. But I forgot the Notepad step, and didn’t realize until I’d uploaded and the lines went all weird. I tried to redo it, and ended up in some strange html hell, so I decided it was better to let it stand than make it worse!
    Joy, as to whether publishers would be interested in doing novels focusing on servants, the answer is “No, NO, A THOUSAND TIMES NO!!!” 🙂
    Historical romance, even the gritty ones, tend to have a broad streak of fantasy in them, and in British historicals, that means lords and ladies. I believe at one point (not sure if it’s still true), Avon insisted that in a British set historical romance, the hero had to have a title.
    In Britain, there is a whole category of “clogs and shawls” historical novels inspired by Catherine Cookson’s work. They generally feature underprivileged Northern girls from the working classes, and sometimes they’re in service.
    These books can be very gritty, too. I remember one Cookson where the heroine was raped by a drunken young man of the gentry class, and when her daughter was born, it was taken away from her and given to a middle class family that was childless. (And years later, that daughter ended up unknowingly marrying her half brother.) There are some fine books of this saga type–it’s a subcategory of women’s fictio–but they’ve never sold well in the U.S.
    It is possible, though, to make servants significant and rounded secondary characters. In THE RAKE, I gave Reggie’s long-suffering valet a street-wise backstory and a romance of his own. But this is pretty rare, since the focus of the book has to be on the developing romance, which means fewer words for subplots and history.
    I love Upstairs, Downstairs, but the servant characters were pretty romanticized. Though rounded and flawed, they all tended to be nice people, and how often is that true in any workplace? 🙂
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  7. From MJP:
    Firstly, I want to apologize for the formatting and typo problems. I write my posts in Word and they have to be run through Notepad to strip off the formatting before pasting in Typepad. But I forgot the Notepad step, and didn’t realize until I’d uploaded and the lines went all weird. I tried to redo it, and ended up in some strange html hell, so I decided it was better to let it stand than make it worse!
    Joy, as to whether publishers would be interested in doing novels focusing on servants, the answer is “No, NO, A THOUSAND TIMES NO!!!” 🙂
    Historical romance, even the gritty ones, tend to have a broad streak of fantasy in them, and in British historicals, that means lords and ladies. I believe at one point (not sure if it’s still true), Avon insisted that in a British set historical romance, the hero had to have a title.
    In Britain, there is a whole category of “clogs and shawls” historical novels inspired by Catherine Cookson’s work. They generally feature underprivileged Northern girls from the working classes, and sometimes they’re in service.
    These books can be very gritty, too. I remember one Cookson where the heroine was raped by a drunken young man of the gentry class, and when her daughter was born, it was taken away from her and given to a middle class family that was childless. (And years later, that daughter ended up unknowingly marrying her half brother.) There are some fine books of this saga type–it’s a subcategory of women’s fictio–but they’ve never sold well in the U.S.
    It is possible, though, to make servants significant and rounded secondary characters. In THE RAKE, I gave Reggie’s long-suffering valet a street-wise backstory and a romance of his own. But this is pretty rare, since the focus of the book has to be on the developing romance, which means fewer words for subplots and history.
    I love Upstairs, Downstairs, but the servant characters were pretty romanticized. Though rounded and flawed, they all tended to be nice people, and how often is that true in any workplace? 🙂
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  8. From MJP:
    Firstly, I want to apologize for the formatting and typo problems. I write my posts in Word and they have to be run through Notepad to strip off the formatting before pasting in Typepad. But I forgot the Notepad step, and didn’t realize until I’d uploaded and the lines went all weird. I tried to redo it, and ended up in some strange html hell, so I decided it was better to let it stand than make it worse!
    Joy, as to whether publishers would be interested in doing novels focusing on servants, the answer is “No, NO, A THOUSAND TIMES NO!!!” 🙂
    Historical romance, even the gritty ones, tend to have a broad streak of fantasy in them, and in British historicals, that means lords and ladies. I believe at one point (not sure if it’s still true), Avon insisted that in a British set historical romance, the hero had to have a title.
    In Britain, there is a whole category of “clogs and shawls” historical novels inspired by Catherine Cookson’s work. They generally feature underprivileged Northern girls from the working classes, and sometimes they’re in service.
    These books can be very gritty, too. I remember one Cookson where the heroine was raped by a drunken young man of the gentry class, and when her daughter was born, it was taken away from her and given to a middle class family that was childless. (And years later, that daughter ended up unknowingly marrying her half brother.) There are some fine books of this saga type–it’s a subcategory of women’s fictio–but they’ve never sold well in the U.S.
    It is possible, though, to make servants significant and rounded secondary characters. In THE RAKE, I gave Reggie’s long-suffering valet a street-wise backstory and a romance of his own. But this is pretty rare, since the focus of the book has to be on the developing romance, which means fewer words for subplots and history.
    I love Upstairs, Downstairs, but the servant characters were pretty romanticized. Though rounded and flawed, they all tended to be nice people, and how often is that true in any workplace? 🙂
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  9. “…at least most servants worked inside and were supplied with room, board, and clothing.”
    The descendent of an agricultural laborer here–at least that’s what the census says.
    My great-grandmother and her father migrated from the Isle of Skye. She was placed in a “nice” home in North England to work as some sort of laundress. Her father hoped she’d have a better life there. Female servants were not allowed to lock their doors apparently, and if the gentleman of the house wasn’t inclined to visit the maids’ rooms (and he was) then any number of the footmen were. And I’ve heard that men and women didn’t sleep on the same floor. They knew how to climb the steps, though.
    Great-grandmother Agnes left the “nice” home and went to work in a boarding house where her father was staying in Yorkshire (coal mining or some such thing). She felt safer there, as the matron was didn’t tolerate such behavior from the men, and would beat them with a poker if they bothered the skullery maid. Good thing since GG Agnes was only 14.
    They moved back to Skye to break their backs in agricultural labor and then eventually immigrated to America.
    I can romanticize only so far…obviously.

    Reply
  10. “…at least most servants worked inside and were supplied with room, board, and clothing.”
    The descendent of an agricultural laborer here–at least that’s what the census says.
    My great-grandmother and her father migrated from the Isle of Skye. She was placed in a “nice” home in North England to work as some sort of laundress. Her father hoped she’d have a better life there. Female servants were not allowed to lock their doors apparently, and if the gentleman of the house wasn’t inclined to visit the maids’ rooms (and he was) then any number of the footmen were. And I’ve heard that men and women didn’t sleep on the same floor. They knew how to climb the steps, though.
    Great-grandmother Agnes left the “nice” home and went to work in a boarding house where her father was staying in Yorkshire (coal mining or some such thing). She felt safer there, as the matron was didn’t tolerate such behavior from the men, and would beat them with a poker if they bothered the skullery maid. Good thing since GG Agnes was only 14.
    They moved back to Skye to break their backs in agricultural labor and then eventually immigrated to America.
    I can romanticize only so far…obviously.

    Reply
  11. “…at least most servants worked inside and were supplied with room, board, and clothing.”
    The descendent of an agricultural laborer here–at least that’s what the census says.
    My great-grandmother and her father migrated from the Isle of Skye. She was placed in a “nice” home in North England to work as some sort of laundress. Her father hoped she’d have a better life there. Female servants were not allowed to lock their doors apparently, and if the gentleman of the house wasn’t inclined to visit the maids’ rooms (and he was) then any number of the footmen were. And I’ve heard that men and women didn’t sleep on the same floor. They knew how to climb the steps, though.
    Great-grandmother Agnes left the “nice” home and went to work in a boarding house where her father was staying in Yorkshire (coal mining or some such thing). She felt safer there, as the matron was didn’t tolerate such behavior from the men, and would beat them with a poker if they bothered the skullery maid. Good thing since GG Agnes was only 14.
    They moved back to Skye to break their backs in agricultural labor and then eventually immigrated to America.
    I can romanticize only so far…obviously.

    Reply
  12. “…at least most servants worked inside and were supplied with room, board, and clothing.”
    The descendent of an agricultural laborer here–at least that’s what the census says.
    My great-grandmother and her father migrated from the Isle of Skye. She was placed in a “nice” home in North England to work as some sort of laundress. Her father hoped she’d have a better life there. Female servants were not allowed to lock their doors apparently, and if the gentleman of the house wasn’t inclined to visit the maids’ rooms (and he was) then any number of the footmen were. And I’ve heard that men and women didn’t sleep on the same floor. They knew how to climb the steps, though.
    Great-grandmother Agnes left the “nice” home and went to work in a boarding house where her father was staying in Yorkshire (coal mining or some such thing). She felt safer there, as the matron was didn’t tolerate such behavior from the men, and would beat them with a poker if they bothered the skullery maid. Good thing since GG Agnes was only 14.
    They moved back to Skye to break their backs in agricultural labor and then eventually immigrated to America.
    I can romanticize only so far…obviously.

    Reply
  13. Marion Chesney did a series about the servants of a house in London that was leased to different people ever season. (Many houses were leased rather than owned, as people only wanted them for a few weeks.)
    The stories were partly about the upper class people, and that was a romance, but as much was about the servants.
    I have to say that I found them a bit dreary, but Chesney’s later books were, IMO. I think she burned out on romance. She’s gone on to great success as MC Beaton, writing mysteries.
    I’ve already confessed many times to being shallow. I’m not interested in books forcussed on the lives of the servants or even on the middle classes. Catherine Cookson reads way too much like my own North of England family’s stories without the brushes with the rich. I don’t read fiction to read about my own reality. I have it. Why read it? Probably why I prefer historical and I’m very fond of fantasy and SF.
    I remember being at a talk at an RT conference where a panelist was talking about making romances more grounded in reality. A delightful old lady near me stood up and said, “You won’t get my money. I’ve lived a long life and had more reality than I need already.”
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  14. Marion Chesney did a series about the servants of a house in London that was leased to different people ever season. (Many houses were leased rather than owned, as people only wanted them for a few weeks.)
    The stories were partly about the upper class people, and that was a romance, but as much was about the servants.
    I have to say that I found them a bit dreary, but Chesney’s later books were, IMO. I think she burned out on romance. She’s gone on to great success as MC Beaton, writing mysteries.
    I’ve already confessed many times to being shallow. I’m not interested in books forcussed on the lives of the servants or even on the middle classes. Catherine Cookson reads way too much like my own North of England family’s stories without the brushes with the rich. I don’t read fiction to read about my own reality. I have it. Why read it? Probably why I prefer historical and I’m very fond of fantasy and SF.
    I remember being at a talk at an RT conference where a panelist was talking about making romances more grounded in reality. A delightful old lady near me stood up and said, “You won’t get my money. I’ve lived a long life and had more reality than I need already.”
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  15. Marion Chesney did a series about the servants of a house in London that was leased to different people ever season. (Many houses were leased rather than owned, as people only wanted them for a few weeks.)
    The stories were partly about the upper class people, and that was a romance, but as much was about the servants.
    I have to say that I found them a bit dreary, but Chesney’s later books were, IMO. I think she burned out on romance. She’s gone on to great success as MC Beaton, writing mysteries.
    I’ve already confessed many times to being shallow. I’m not interested in books forcussed on the lives of the servants or even on the middle classes. Catherine Cookson reads way too much like my own North of England family’s stories without the brushes with the rich. I don’t read fiction to read about my own reality. I have it. Why read it? Probably why I prefer historical and I’m very fond of fantasy and SF.
    I remember being at a talk at an RT conference where a panelist was talking about making romances more grounded in reality. A delightful old lady near me stood up and said, “You won’t get my money. I’ve lived a long life and had more reality than I need already.”
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  16. Marion Chesney did a series about the servants of a house in London that was leased to different people ever season. (Many houses were leased rather than owned, as people only wanted them for a few weeks.)
    The stories were partly about the upper class people, and that was a romance, but as much was about the servants.
    I have to say that I found them a bit dreary, but Chesney’s later books were, IMO. I think she burned out on romance. She’s gone on to great success as MC Beaton, writing mysteries.
    I’ve already confessed many times to being shallow. I’m not interested in books forcussed on the lives of the servants or even on the middle classes. Catherine Cookson reads way too much like my own North of England family’s stories without the brushes with the rich. I don’t read fiction to read about my own reality. I have it. Why read it? Probably why I prefer historical and I’m very fond of fantasy and SF.
    I remember being at a talk at an RT conference where a panelist was talking about making romances more grounded in reality. A delightful old lady near me stood up and said, “You won’t get my money. I’ve lived a long life and had more reality than I need already.”
    Jo 🙂

    Reply
  17. Oh man, there was a series of Regency romances years ago that all took place in a rented house . . . so the hero and heroine were new each book, but you came to know (and love) the staff. I wish I could remember more about it (author, title, something!).
    Does anyone else remember these?

    Reply
  18. Oh man, there was a series of Regency romances years ago that all took place in a rented house . . . so the hero and heroine were new each book, but you came to know (and love) the staff. I wish I could remember more about it (author, title, something!).
    Does anyone else remember these?

    Reply
  19. Oh man, there was a series of Regency romances years ago that all took place in a rented house . . . so the hero and heroine were new each book, but you came to know (and love) the staff. I wish I could remember more about it (author, title, something!).
    Does anyone else remember these?

    Reply
  20. Oh man, there was a series of Regency romances years ago that all took place in a rented house . . . so the hero and heroine were new each book, but you came to know (and love) the staff. I wish I could remember more about it (author, title, something!).
    Does anyone else remember these?

    Reply
  21. From MJP
    Kalen–
    The series was by Marion Chesney and I think it was called something like A House for the Season. I believe they were Walker hardcover Regencies, so they should be still in some libraries. As you say, the staff was a continuing and well developed presence. One of the stories–the last, perhaps?–a young lady fallen on hard times working as the cook, and the snobbish duke ending up not caring. Fun story!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  22. From MJP
    Kalen–
    The series was by Marion Chesney and I think it was called something like A House for the Season. I believe they were Walker hardcover Regencies, so they should be still in some libraries. As you say, the staff was a continuing and well developed presence. One of the stories–the last, perhaps?–a young lady fallen on hard times working as the cook, and the snobbish duke ending up not caring. Fun story!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  23. From MJP
    Kalen–
    The series was by Marion Chesney and I think it was called something like A House for the Season. I believe they were Walker hardcover Regencies, so they should be still in some libraries. As you say, the staff was a continuing and well developed presence. One of the stories–the last, perhaps?–a young lady fallen on hard times working as the cook, and the snobbish duke ending up not caring. Fun story!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  24. From MJP
    Kalen–
    The series was by Marion Chesney and I think it was called something like A House for the Season. I believe they were Walker hardcover Regencies, so they should be still in some libraries. As you say, the staff was a continuing and well developed presence. One of the stories–the last, perhaps?–a young lady fallen on hard times working as the cook, and the snobbish duke ending up not caring. Fun story!
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  25. A couple of years ago the BBC aired a costume drama set in the 1850’s that concentrated on the servants of a country house. It was called Servants and apparently has not crossed the ocean the way most costume dramas do. The upper class inhabitants of the house were merely walkon parts.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/drama/servants.shtml
    I liked it better than Upstairs, downstairs, which seems a bit dated now, and rather romanticised.
    An then recently there was also Gosford Park, which was set in the 1920’s and concentrated on the servants, who were a lot nicer people than the masters. I enjoyed that film very much. So I think it might well be done in books without descending into Catherine Cookson doom and gloom territory. A laundry maid and a gardener might well live happily ever after in a cottage on the estate after overcoming some problems. And we could have some fascinating descriptions of how things were done in country houses along the way, like Loretta’s story about the dairy.

    Reply
  26. A couple of years ago the BBC aired a costume drama set in the 1850’s that concentrated on the servants of a country house. It was called Servants and apparently has not crossed the ocean the way most costume dramas do. The upper class inhabitants of the house were merely walkon parts.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/drama/servants.shtml
    I liked it better than Upstairs, downstairs, which seems a bit dated now, and rather romanticised.
    An then recently there was also Gosford Park, which was set in the 1920’s and concentrated on the servants, who were a lot nicer people than the masters. I enjoyed that film very much. So I think it might well be done in books without descending into Catherine Cookson doom and gloom territory. A laundry maid and a gardener might well live happily ever after in a cottage on the estate after overcoming some problems. And we could have some fascinating descriptions of how things were done in country houses along the way, like Loretta’s story about the dairy.

    Reply
  27. A couple of years ago the BBC aired a costume drama set in the 1850’s that concentrated on the servants of a country house. It was called Servants and apparently has not crossed the ocean the way most costume dramas do. The upper class inhabitants of the house were merely walkon parts.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/drama/servants.shtml
    I liked it better than Upstairs, downstairs, which seems a bit dated now, and rather romanticised.
    An then recently there was also Gosford Park, which was set in the 1920’s and concentrated on the servants, who were a lot nicer people than the masters. I enjoyed that film very much. So I think it might well be done in books without descending into Catherine Cookson doom and gloom territory. A laundry maid and a gardener might well live happily ever after in a cottage on the estate after overcoming some problems. And we could have some fascinating descriptions of how things were done in country houses along the way, like Loretta’s story about the dairy.

    Reply
  28. A couple of years ago the BBC aired a costume drama set in the 1850’s that concentrated on the servants of a country house. It was called Servants and apparently has not crossed the ocean the way most costume dramas do. The upper class inhabitants of the house were merely walkon parts.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/drama/servants.shtml
    I liked it better than Upstairs, downstairs, which seems a bit dated now, and rather romanticised.
    An then recently there was also Gosford Park, which was set in the 1920’s and concentrated on the servants, who were a lot nicer people than the masters. I enjoyed that film very much. So I think it might well be done in books without descending into Catherine Cookson doom and gloom territory. A laundry maid and a gardener might well live happily ever after in a cottage on the estate after overcoming some problems. And we could have some fascinating descriptions of how things were done in country houses along the way, like Loretta’s story about the dairy.

    Reply
  29. Ingrid–
    You’re absolute correct that satisfying romances could be written about the working classes without being ultra melodramatic, but from a marketing point of view, it wouldn’t fit into historical romance, where the fantasy factor is high. I’ve sometimes wondered if one reason Western romances have fallen out of style is because they tend to be grittier and have harsher living conditions that the British set historicals.
    Mary Jo, speculating

    Reply
  30. Ingrid–
    You’re absolute correct that satisfying romances could be written about the working classes without being ultra melodramatic, but from a marketing point of view, it wouldn’t fit into historical romance, where the fantasy factor is high. I’ve sometimes wondered if one reason Western romances have fallen out of style is because they tend to be grittier and have harsher living conditions that the British set historicals.
    Mary Jo, speculating

    Reply
  31. Ingrid–
    You’re absolute correct that satisfying romances could be written about the working classes without being ultra melodramatic, but from a marketing point of view, it wouldn’t fit into historical romance, where the fantasy factor is high. I’ve sometimes wondered if one reason Western romances have fallen out of style is because they tend to be grittier and have harsher living conditions that the British set historicals.
    Mary Jo, speculating

    Reply
  32. Ingrid–
    You’re absolute correct that satisfying romances could be written about the working classes without being ultra melodramatic, but from a marketing point of view, it wouldn’t fit into historical romance, where the fantasy factor is high. I’ve sometimes wondered if one reason Western romances have fallen out of style is because they tend to be grittier and have harsher living conditions that the British set historicals.
    Mary Jo, speculating

    Reply
  33. For novels about English lives somewhat below the pinnacle of society in the Victorian period, I recommend the works of Elizabeth Gaskell. A writer considered in her time on par with Dickens and Thackery, her books were instrumental in fanning the flames of social reform in England.

    Reply
  34. For novels about English lives somewhat below the pinnacle of society in the Victorian period, I recommend the works of Elizabeth Gaskell. A writer considered in her time on par with Dickens and Thackery, her books were instrumental in fanning the flames of social reform in England.

    Reply
  35. For novels about English lives somewhat below the pinnacle of society in the Victorian period, I recommend the works of Elizabeth Gaskell. A writer considered in her time on par with Dickens and Thackery, her books were instrumental in fanning the flames of social reform in England.

    Reply
  36. For novels about English lives somewhat below the pinnacle of society in the Victorian period, I recommend the works of Elizabeth Gaskell. A writer considered in her time on par with Dickens and Thackery, her books were instrumental in fanning the flames of social reform in England.

    Reply
  37. Pending my purchase of the suggested books about Regency Serving Classes, I’m wondering if anyone can answer a question about serving class marriages:
    If a housekeeper was married, would she most likely have been married when she applied for the post, or would her marriage take place while she’s employed? That is, would a head housekeeper be more likely to have married young, while she was on her way up to the highest position, or more likely to marry afterwards, to another high-ranking servant, such as the butler in the household where she is employed? I would think it unlikely that a housekeeper would marry below her house station, so it would mean that she would have to marry either a butler or someone in another trade altogether.
    But I’m just speculating — really, I have no idea whatsoever. And this thread is pretty old, so maybe I’ve missed the chance to ask this anyway! That said, any response would be greatly appreciated!
    Gil

    Reply
  38. Pending my purchase of the suggested books about Regency Serving Classes, I’m wondering if anyone can answer a question about serving class marriages:
    If a housekeeper was married, would she most likely have been married when she applied for the post, or would her marriage take place while she’s employed? That is, would a head housekeeper be more likely to have married young, while she was on her way up to the highest position, or more likely to marry afterwards, to another high-ranking servant, such as the butler in the household where she is employed? I would think it unlikely that a housekeeper would marry below her house station, so it would mean that she would have to marry either a butler or someone in another trade altogether.
    But I’m just speculating — really, I have no idea whatsoever. And this thread is pretty old, so maybe I’ve missed the chance to ask this anyway! That said, any response would be greatly appreciated!
    Gil

    Reply
  39. Pending my purchase of the suggested books about Regency Serving Classes, I’m wondering if anyone can answer a question about serving class marriages:
    If a housekeeper was married, would she most likely have been married when she applied for the post, or would her marriage take place while she’s employed? That is, would a head housekeeper be more likely to have married young, while she was on her way up to the highest position, or more likely to marry afterwards, to another high-ranking servant, such as the butler in the household where she is employed? I would think it unlikely that a housekeeper would marry below her house station, so it would mean that she would have to marry either a butler or someone in another trade altogether.
    But I’m just speculating — really, I have no idea whatsoever. And this thread is pretty old, so maybe I’ve missed the chance to ask this anyway! That said, any response would be greatly appreciated!
    Gil

    Reply
  40. Pending my purchase of the suggested books about Regency Serving Classes, I’m wondering if anyone can answer a question about serving class marriages:
    If a housekeeper was married, would she most likely have been married when she applied for the post, or would her marriage take place while she’s employed? That is, would a head housekeeper be more likely to have married young, while she was on her way up to the highest position, or more likely to marry afterwards, to another high-ranking servant, such as the butler in the household where she is employed? I would think it unlikely that a housekeeper would marry below her house station, so it would mean that she would have to marry either a butler or someone in another trade altogether.
    But I’m just speculating — really, I have no idea whatsoever. And this thread is pretty old, so maybe I’ve missed the chance to ask this anyway! That said, any response would be greatly appreciated!
    Gil

    Reply
  41. From MJP:
    Gil, the world is an inconsistent place, so almost any arrangement is possible, but generally females were discouraged from marrying and haviing children. Most maids did manage to find a lad to marry, and when they did, they often less service.
    A housekeeper often was given the honorary designation of “Mrs.” even if she was never married. She might also be a widow. A small establishment might be willing to employ a married couple.
    But as I say, there aren’t absolute rules, and things changed over time as well.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  42. From MJP:
    Gil, the world is an inconsistent place, so almost any arrangement is possible, but generally females were discouraged from marrying and haviing children. Most maids did manage to find a lad to marry, and when they did, they often less service.
    A housekeeper often was given the honorary designation of “Mrs.” even if she was never married. She might also be a widow. A small establishment might be willing to employ a married couple.
    But as I say, there aren’t absolute rules, and things changed over time as well.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  43. From MJP:
    Gil, the world is an inconsistent place, so almost any arrangement is possible, but generally females were discouraged from marrying and haviing children. Most maids did manage to find a lad to marry, and when they did, they often less service.
    A housekeeper often was given the honorary designation of “Mrs.” even if she was never married. She might also be a widow. A small establishment might be willing to employ a married couple.
    But as I say, there aren’t absolute rules, and things changed over time as well.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  44. From MJP:
    Gil, the world is an inconsistent place, so almost any arrangement is possible, but generally females were discouraged from marrying and haviing children. Most maids did manage to find a lad to marry, and when they did, they often less service.
    A housekeeper often was given the honorary designation of “Mrs.” even if she was never married. She might also be a widow. A small establishment might be willing to employ a married couple.
    But as I say, there aren’t absolute rules, and things changed over time as well.
    Mary Jo

    Reply
  45. I don’t know what I’d do without my cleaning maid. My house would probably be in shambles right now and I wouldn’t be able to find anything.

    Reply
  46. I don’t know what I’d do without my cleaning maid. My house would probably be in shambles right now and I wouldn’t be able to find anything.

    Reply
  47. I don’t know what I’d do without my cleaning maid. My house would probably be in shambles right now and I wouldn’t be able to find anything.

    Reply
  48. I don’t know what I’d do without my cleaning maid. My house would probably be in shambles right now and I wouldn’t be able to find anything.

    Reply

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