Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Footman’s Guide

From Geri Walton:
When announcing visitor’s names, it was to be done in an audible voice. Proper pronunciation was also important. Footmen were told that “if you do not rightly understand it [the name], ask a second time rather than make a blunder in giving … a wrong one.”

When the master or mistress rang the bell to escort a visitor out, the footman was to let the visitor out by opening the street door wide. The footman was not to shut the door until the visitor had completely withdrawn from the door because to “shut the door whilst they are still in the front of it, is disrespectful and a breach of good manners.”

If a double knock occurred at night and the family was not expecting company, the footman was never to open the door wide. Rather he was advised to use the safety chain and open the door only wide enough to see who was knocking. This was because thieves, known as rushers, sometimes knocked on the doors of London’s great houses when families were out of town, and when the door was opened by the staff, rushers rushed in and robbed the house and its occupants by force. However, if company was expected, whether it was day or night, the door was to opened as wide as possible so that visitors had plenty of room to enter without being hindered.

Footmen were also advised to always have paper and pencil or pen on hand in case a visitor wanted to leave a written message. Moreover, footmen were warned:
“[N]ever suffer any lady or gentleman (who may come with a double knock), if you do not know them, to be left alone, or to go into any of the rooms under any pretence whatever, unless you stop the whole time with them.”
Another warning given footmen involved visitors who gave a double knock and pretended to know the family or a single lady. This was because single ladies, and even families, were sometimes robbed or ill-treated by people pretending to know them. Such a situation sometimes occurred when a single lady’s relatives were abroad and someone learned of their absence and pretended to know the family’s situation. The warning given was this:
“If it is a person you do not know, and your lady is at home, you can do no less than show him into the room where she sees her company: if she is in the room when you announce his name, you can judge whether she knows him or not, by her manner of receiving him; if you cannot, wait at the outside of the door till you hear whether they begin to converse together as if they were acquainted; if they do, of course you will go away directly; but if not, wait at the door till the stranger departs. You can let your lady know that you are near the door by coughing, if she has not given you directions how to act on such occasions.”
(Read more.)

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