Butler standards Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, December 2021, The Wisdom of Butlers Past

Steven FerryThe Wisdom of Butlers Past, part 55

by Steven Ferry

Proper Behaviour

Proper etiquette at the kitchen table for staff meals was covered in the last issue, and the book then swings into 22 pages of how staff should behave toward each other, as well as with family and guests. The advice begins with sentiments that we would find most acceptable today, and which are most timely as we enter the holiday season of good cheer:

“The more you endeavour to promote the happiness of those around you, the more you will secure your own. Consider that you must live with fellow servants like yourself, made up of imperfections, which will give you an opportunity of exercising your patience and forbearance towards them, as they will have to do towards you.

“Be not hasty in passing judgment on any one, as we are called on to act with Christian charity towards each other; that is, to do unto others as we would they should do unto us, were we in their situation and they in ours: if this were to be attended to, our lives would pass more pleasantly with us than they do; but how different is the practice in general to this I have no need to say, as observation and wo[e]ful experience will soon teach us what domestic quarrels families are too often the scenes of.

“There you will see envy, malice, duplicity, dishonesty, misrepresentation, and every other evil, to the tormenting of each other, instead of dwelling together in affection and unity, and living in peace and happiness, and making their home a little heaven, as they might if they were so inclined; instead of which they make it a hell on earth, by their wicked ways and disagreeable tempers, and wishing to tyrannize over each other: this seems to be the great bane in families, as I have known places where the servants have had every necessary good to make them comfortable provided by their employers, yet are miserable and wretched through not agreeing one with the other; thinking, I suppose, that happiness and respectability consist in having rule and authority over our fellow servants; but this is quite a mistake, as it consists in performing the duty which is allotted us, and doing unto others as we would wish they should do unto us: herein lies our true happiness.”

Extracted from the 1823 book, The Footman’s Directory and Butler’s Remembrancer, re-published in hardback by Pryor Publications. You may obtain your discounted copy (with free s&h) by emailing the publisher: Mr. Pryor (alan AT

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