Newsletter Steven Ferry

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

Steven FerryThe Wisdom of Butlers Past

by Steven Ferry


When serving, the butler would remain in the dining room all the time, positioning himself in front of the sideboard, a yard behind and slightly to the left of the person at the bottom of the table, so he had a clean view of the entire table and when a guest might need servicing. He did not wait to be asked for something but anticipated needs. «Be deaf to all the conversations of the company, and attentive only to their wants.»

Here are some 1823 body language basics for butlers and footmen while serving:

«While waiting at dinner, never be picking your nose, or scratching your head or any other part of your body, neither blow your nose in the room; if you have a cold and cannot help doing it, do it on the outside of the door; but do not sound your nose like a trumpet, that all the house may hear when you blow it; still, it is better to blow your nose when it requires, than to be picking it and snuffing up the mucus etc., which is a filthy trick. Do not yawn or gape [stare in amazement at something with mouth open wide], or even sneeze, if you can avoid it; and as to hawking and spitting, the name of such a thing is enough to forbid it without a command.»

Footmen were required to stand behind a guest, ready to change plates, etc. when needed. Hands were to hang to their sides or in front, without being crossed—and certainly not resting on the back of the guest’s chair—and absolutely not doing so while «beating a kind of tune upon it with their fingers.»

Various personal grooming admonishments were given, including remembering to button their lapels to stop them flying about; and not having [metal] buttons under the sleeve of the coat, as they could snag on items and knock them over, or make sounds as they hit the glasses.

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

The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.

Por Amer A. Vargas

Amer A. Vargas graduated with a Tourism Degree specializing in hotel management from CETT (Center for Tourism Studies) in Barcelona and spent the following decade in the service industry. Beginning as a waiter and then supervisor in high-end restaurants, he was next made responsible for raising service standards through staff training programs. After receiving further training as a butler, he worked as a butler and valet in private service as well as hotels in England and Europe.

During this time period, he translated the best-selling industry texts Butlers & Household Managers, 21st Century Professionals and Hotel Butlers, The Great Service Differentiators into Spanish and is currently creating butler training materials in the Spanish language.

As the Director of Spanish-speaking Markets, Amer is responsible for making the technology of butling available in private residences and hotels in the Spanish-speaking countries of the world. He provides consultation, placement, and training services in these countries.