Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, June 2020, The Wisdom of Butlers Past

Steven FerryThe Wisdom of Butlers Past

by Steven Ferry


The side-table has its own particular function, where the plates, food, and sharper silverware are placed; … the items to be used first being placed at the front.

Mis-en-place included having d’Oyleys [Doilies], and dessert knives, forks and spoons placed on the dessert plates, rather than having the silverware placed already on the table, as is done by butlers these days. Various options are given that might not apply today, but the following basic words of advice apply just as much then as now:

“Whether you have a few or many at any time to dinner, make it a matter of thought how you can manage and arrange your things to the comfort of those you serve and your own convenience, not forgetting the appearance as I am sure, my young friends, that you may unite the three together.”

The question of where to place the sideboard and the side table is determined by the size and shape of the room. If long and narrow, then one goes at one end and the other at the other end, although this seems like it might require much walking to and fro, and the author counsels against such because it can lead to confusion and accidents.

Finally, “Do not bring the cheese into the room till wanted, as the smell of it may be disagreeable to some of the company.”  Reminds me of a time when my father took me to my first fine-dining restaurant at the ripe age of seven, and I whispered loudly with great concern, “Daddy, someone has been sick!”

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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