Butlers, Paragons of Perfection

I think the perfect addition to my life would be a butler.  Someone to anticipate my every need, to meet me at the door with a reviving tonic, to serve (and prepare) my meals, organize my life and give me a big dose of CLASS.

Apparently I am not alone, for butlering as a profession seems to be more and more popular. I ran across an interesting article from Bloomberg (here) telling about how many butlers, preferably British-trained, will be needed for the growing numbers of billionaires in the world. 

Jim Carter as Mr. Carson, Downton Abbey’s Butler
At the present moment, considering butlers,  probably most people think of Carson, the butler in Downton Abbey. I agree that he is generally a most able fellow, and usually holds his profession to a high standard. However, I cannot think he is quite as good as his renowned predecessor in English tv series, the commendable Mr. Hudson of Upstairs, Downstairs.  I do not recall that Hudson ever passed out while serving dinner to guests, however efficiently the staff recovered and carried on.

Gordon Jackson as Mr. Hudson

I also think that being a Scot adds immensely to a butler’s character.  The team of Mr. Hudson and Mrs. Bridges has a much warmer spot in my heart than Carson and Mrs. Patmore or Mrs. Hughes.  Mrs. H. should definitely keep a closer watch on O’Brien, and Carson should have long ago disciplined Thomas, the cheeky footman.

l-r, Jim Carter, Phyllis Logan as Mrs. Hughes, Siobhan Finneran as O’Brien
Call me old fashioned, but I think my two favorite butlers in all of literature and from television are Bunter and Jeeves.  Does anyone  disagree with me?  They are two very different men, but perhaps equally worthy.

Lord Peter Wimsey and Bunter
Perhaps Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957) was not dreaming of perfection when she created Mervyn Bunter as Lord Peter Wimsey’s man, but she achieved it.  According to some sources, she modeled her gentleman’s gentleman on P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves. Unlike Bertie Wooster, however, Lord Peter is mostly a serious solver of crimes.  Bunter is an able asistant whether it comes to clues, sartorial issues, or any kind of general information.

P.G. Wodehouse (Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse, 1881-1975) wrote many plays and novels, and is probably best known for his stories about Bertie Wooster, an eccentric young aristocrat often rescued by his man, and Jeeves, who performs every task he undertakes with faultless skill one can only pine for.  Oh, to have him for just a few hours.  Every week. 52 a year. 
Back to the idea of training for professional careers as butlers, personal assistants, and so forth.  At the time of the Royal Wedding last April, the Telegraph interviewed a former footman to the Queen about some of the intricacies of arranging such a great event. The article (here) tells about Christopher Ely, who provides courses to train candidates for service positions.  He runs a school in New York City now, after his career in England.
And if you google butler training, you will find many more such programs.  So I know where I can hire that butler, if I just could win the lottery — but wouldn’t that mean I had to buy a ticket?  Odds of winning are rotten, sad to say. If I just had Jeeves to choose the power ball number…

5 thoughts on “Butlers, Paragons of Perfection”

  1. I recently read a biography of Patrick Dennis/Edward Tanner, who wrote Auntie Mame, and found that he became a butler at the end of his life. Who was his last client? Ray and Joan Kroc of Mickey D fame! Tusth is stranger than fiction….

  2. It is said that butlers are trained to be ANTICIPATORY. So he could engage in a little gossip with the lady of the house but maybe not the governess — though if the truth be told, I imagine they engaged in many conversations about their employers, quite privately.

    And I love envisioning the Krocs being served their Big Macs by a butler!!

  3. I have a cool butler (if I say so myself 🙂 in Seducing Mr Heywood.

    Vicky, this is a wonderful article and it brought back such good memories of butlers in literature! Thank you.

    I agree with you about the DA butler…he is not very good at all. Should have sat that cheeky butler down for a chin-wag and his female counterpart has let the Countess's maid get away with much too much too much.

    Read an article YEARS ago (don't ask me where!) about a school for butlers in the UK. An honorable profession.

    Oh, the butler in The Remains of the Day! Anthony Hopkins played him…methinks a follow-up article is in order, milady!

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