Servants on Top

minnow at minnow at
Tue Jun 14 08:03:44 EDT 2005

Jennifer mentioned:

>The Old Retainer syndrome...

"The dear old Butler thought --
But there!  I really neither know nor care
For what the dear old Butler thought!
In my opinion, butlers ought
To know their place, and not to play
The Old Retainer night and day"

Belloc, in a sudden moment of anti-cliche, in the Cautionary Tales,
possibly misquoted because I don't have that splendid book, just chunks of
it from learning-by-heart as a child.

You mentioned Heyer, Jennifer: remember *The Foundling*, where the poor
young Duke has so many Faithful Old Retainers that he has to run away from
home to escape from them?

I am now caught in the List from the Cautionary Tale that starts "When
George's Grandmama was told that George had been as good as gold" and
involves a balloon which "got  into the candle-flame and being of a
dangerous sort exploded with a loud report" bringing the whole house down.

"When help arrived, among the dead
Were cousin Mary, little Fred,
The footmen (both of them), the groom,
The man who cleans the billiard room,
The butler and the still-room maid"...

I always wondered whether there really was a special position called "the
man who cleans the billiard room", but somehow now I feel that Belloc made
him up.  Shame, it's a splendid title.


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