Victorian London - Professions and Trades - Service Industry - Servants - Footmen


a Footman
taken from George Cruikshank's London Characters (1829)

Victorian London - Publications - Humour - Punch - 'a prize footman'

Punch, Jan.-Jun. 1844

The footman, in the present age of false appearances, should be like one of those patent articles that serve several purposes at once; such as a chair that pulls out and forms a bed, or shuts up and looks like a chest of drawers, or lets down and makes an ottoman, or sinks in and constitutes a packing-ease, or falls down at the sides and serves for a sofa, or opens with a hinge and acts as a pair of library-steps, or tumbles to pieces-as it often will-and comes to nothing.
    In our present Guide we do not address ourselves to the pure footman, but to the general flunky practitioner. We have not the gold. headed cane in our eye, nor shall we tie ourselves down to the shoulder-knot; but we shall address ourselves to that admirable domestic CRICHTON, the man-servant who is "willing to make himself generally useful."
    The footman of this class is a sort of man of all work, who must have been accustomed to boot-cleaning, plate-polishing, waiting at table, cow- milking, the care of a horse, mat-beating, driving one or a pair, the management of bees, French-polishing furniture, making bread, cleaning windows, looking after poultry, brewing, gardening, rearing, feeding, and killing pigs, pickling pork, trimming lamps, and cutting bread-and-butter. If he has been used to all these things a little, and to some of them a good deal - if he is willing to try his hand at anything that does not immediately lie within the scope of these accomplishments - if he has a good temper and a respectable calf - if he will find himself in white Berlin gloves, tea and sugar, and overalls, - he may stand a chance of getting a place as footman in a genteel, and perhaps even in a serious family.
    But it is not everything to know how to get through the duties of which we have given a catalogue; for there are numerous other accomplishments necessary, without which all the rest would go for nothing. The things we have enumerated must not only be done, but they must be done with so much tact and discretion, that visitors to the house should not be aware that there is but one male servant on the establishment. A general footman in a family should recollect that "all the world's a stage," and that "each man in his time plays many parts," the difference between the footman and other people being, that while they play only one part at a time, he has to play his all at once; so that, in fact, he is engaged constantly in a species of monopolylogue, in which he sustains at the same time about half-a-dozen different characters. He will also be required to tarry out the parallel of a monopolylogue, by frequently changing his dress with great rapidity, and a little knowledge of ventriloquism would be of use, to enable him to vary his voice, making it sound as if it came from two or three different rooms, and thus keeping up an illusion in the minds of visitors that there are several male domestics in the establishment. When acting as groom, it would be as well to adopt the voce di petto, or chest voice, as being best adapted to the stable; while in the drawing-room the voce di tesla, or mild falsetto, should be resorted to. A powerful command of the features and a collection of wigs, are also very desirable adjuncts to a young man going into service as a general footman; for if he is quick at changing his dress, be may appear one minute as a gardener, going round the garden with his master and his guests, while the next moment he may be standing at the door of the dining-room as an in-door servant in a suit of pepper-and-salt, worn, of course, under his fustians and blue apron, which are slipped off with the rapidity of the change of costume in a pantomime. This is pleasing to the employer, for it gratifies his vanity by inducing, his visitors to believe that he has an efficient staff of male domestics, while in fact he is at the expense of only one.
    It is difficult to give particular rules for the guidance of a general footman, as he must regulate his work according to circumstances. After beating the mats, cleaning the boots, and rubbing down the horse, he should slip off his fustians, end slip on a white apron with a clean striped jacket, to appear in the breakfast-room. If he has to drive his master to town, he should contrive to put the horse to while breakfast is going on; and by having his livery-coat and hat outside the door, he may manage to announce the carriage as a butler, and be on the box as coachman, in a complete change of costume, within an incredibly short period. On his return be should put up his horse, and commence his duties as a gardener; but he should be able to slip on his jacket and apron, with a pair of Berlin gloves, to bring in the tray for luncheon; when he should ask if there are any orders for the coachman, which he will receive in his character of footman, and execute in his capacity of out-door servant. He will probably have to fetch his master home; so that he should wear his pepper and-salt trousers carefully concealed, by wrapping the box-coat over his knees; and when he comes home, he has only to put on his in-door coat to be at once a ready-made servant for waiting at dinner. He must put up his horse before taking tea into the drawing-room; and when the family have retired to rest, he can wash his carriage, clean his harness, thoroughly groom his horse, and do any other little odd jobs, in accordance with his engagement to make himself generally useful He must be up at daylights to clean his boots, his knives, and his plate, to beat his mats and brush his clothes, when he will have the satisfaction of feeling that he is forward with his work, so that if he has any spare time it will be at his own disposal.

Punch, Jul.-Dec. 1845

see also London at Dinner, 1858 - click here