Book recommendations for Victorian/Edwardian era servants?

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Book recommendations for Victorian/Edwardian era servants?

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1Oryphany
Jan 15, 2013, 5:46 am

So with my recent addiction to Downton Abbey I've been interested in finding some first hand accounts and memoirs of people who were in service. I've found a handful that look interesting on Amazon but mostly I've found Downton Abbey tie-ins or those cheap bodice ripper romances.

Anyone out there found something good in this vein?

2Booksloth
Editado: Jan 15, 2013, 7:51 am

I'm sorry I can't help much with memoirs. I know there are a few around but the problem with these is that a large proportion of Victorian/Edwardian servants were illiterate and, anyway, simply didn't have the time to write memoirs or keep diaries. One second-hand account I have heard of but not yet read (though I plan to, 'cos it looks great) is The Cook's Tale: Life Below Stairs as it Really Was, as told to Tom Quinn*.

There are, however, lots of excellent books on the subject written by some very good historians that make fascinating reading. I hope something in this list of my favourites will appeal:

Not specifically about the Victorians/Edwardians but a general history of life within the home, and well worth reading are Bill Bryson's At Home and Lucy Worsley's If Walls Could Talk.

More specific are The Victorian Home from the Shire Library collection; Up and Down Stairs: the History of the Country House Servant by Jeremy Musson; Female Occupations: Women's Employment From 1840 - 1950 by Margaret Ward; The Edwardian Country House by Juliet Gardiner; They Worked All Their Lives by Carl Chinn; Victorian Women by Joan Perkin; The Victorian House by Judith Flanders; A Victorian Household: based on the diaries of Marion Sambourne. The Impossible Life of Mary Benson is one I haven't read yet but it looks wonderful, as is Mrs Woolf and the Servants.

Please report back if you find anything good!

ETA - *While checking out details on Amazon, I notice that Tom Quinn (The Cook's Tale) has also written The Maid's Tale and They Also Serve, about life as a butler. His books seem to concentrate on the Edwardian, rather than Victorian era and a little beyond (as does Downton Abbey, of course) but they do look very informative and entertaining.

3Marissa_Doyle
Jan 15, 2013, 12:34 pm

Okay, a trip through my shelves yielded:

Memoirs:
Rose: my life in Service by Rosina Harrison--lady's maid to Lady Astor
What the Butler Saw by E.S. Turner
What the Butler Winked At by Eric Horne
Below Stairs by Margaret Powell

related non-fiction:
Not in Front of the Servants by Frank Dawes
The Rise and Fall of the Victorian Servant by Pamela Horn
The Country House Servant by Pamela Sambrook
The Servants' Hall by Merlin Waterson
Not in Front of the Servants! by Derek Nimmo
The Duties of Servants

4CurrerBell
Jan 15, 2013, 2:15 pm

Though it's not "servants" but "governesses," you might find some interest in Governess: The Lives and Times of the Real Jane Eyres, but I've only skimmed through it and do have to give it a full reading one of these days.

5Booksloth
Jan 15, 2013, 3:56 pm

# Another excellent book on governesses is Other People's Daughters by Ruth Brandon.