The butler has entire charge of the dining room and of the under menservants or footmen. Both he and his men should be at work by seven in the morning. The butler puts the dining room in order, sets the table, and then has his own breakfast at seven-thirty in the servants' hall. When three or more men are kept, he serves his master's breakfast and takes his orders for the day. He sees to setting of trays for any break- to call his attention to his work and himself. In houses where no housekeeper is employed he has the table linen in his care, takes out daily what he requires, and counts it before sending to the laundry.

A butler wears at breakfast, and also at luncheon, a high double-breasted black waistcoat (not a low-cut evening one), trousers of any mixed pepper-and-salt description, never black, a black tie, and a black dress coat. In the evening he wears all black, with a low cut waistcoat that may be white if he chooses, and a white tie. At dinner he always stands behind his master's chair, and the footman behind his mistress.

Valeting, especially of guests, is sometimes done by the butler. He valets the master if required.

A single-handed butler takes charge of dining room and silver, and valets the gentlemen of the house. He also helps more or less with the cleaning of the parlor floor. The parlor maid assists him at night with the washing of the dinner dishes, and also answers the bell while he is cleaning the silver.

The domestic duties of the butler are to bring in the eatables at breakfast, and wait upon the family at that meal, assisted by the footman, and see to the cleanliness of everything at table. On taking away, he removes the tray with the china and plate, for which he is responsible. At luncheon, he arranges the meal, and waits unassisted, the footman being now engaged in other duties. At dinner, he places the silver and plated articles on the table, sees that everything is in its place, and rectifies what is wrong. He carries in the first dish, and announces in the drawing-room that dinner is on the table, and respectfully stands by the door until the company are seated, when he takes his place behind his master's chair on the left, to remove the covers, handing them to the other attendants to carry out. After the first course of plates is supplied, his place is at the sideboard to serve the wines, but only when called on.

The first course ended, he rings the cook's bell, and hands the dishes from the table to the other servants to carry away, receiving from them the second course, which he places on the table, removing the covers as before, and again taking his place at the sideboard.

At dessert, the slips being removed, the butler receives the dessert from the other servants, and arranges it on the table, with plates and glasses, and then takes his place behind his master's chair to hand the wines and ices, while the footman stands behind his mistress for the same purpose, the other attendants leaving the room. Where the old-fashioned practice of having the dessert on the polished table, without any cloth, is still adhered to, the butler should rub off any marks made by the hot dishes before arranging the dessert.

Before dinner, he has satisfied himself that the lamps, candles, or gas-burners are in perfect order, if not lighted, which will usually be the case. Having served every one with their share of the dessert, put the fires in order (when these are used), and seen the lights are all right, at a signal from his master, he and the footman leave the room.

He now proceeds to the drawing-room, arranges the fireplace, and sees to the lights; he then returns to his pantry, prepared to answer the bell, and attend to the company, while the footman is clearing away and cleaning the plate and glasses.

At tea he again attends. At bedtime he appears with the candles; he locks up the plate, secures doors and windows, and sees that all the fires are safe.


In addition to these duties, the butler, where only one footman is kept, will be required to perform some of the duties of the valet, to pay bills, and superintend the other servants. But the real duties of the butler are in the wine-cellar; there he should be competent to advise his master as to the price and quality of the wine to be laid in; "fine," bottle, cork, and seal it, and place it in the binns. Brewing, racking, and bottling malt liquors, belong to his office, as well as their distribution. These and other drinkables are brought from the cellar every day by his own hands, except where an under-butler is kept; and a careful entry of every bottle used, entered in the cellar-book; so that the book should always show the contents of the cellar.

The office of butler is thus one of very great trust in a household. Here, as elsewhere, honesty is the best policy: the butler should make it his business to understand the proper treatment of the different wines under his charge, which he can easily do from the wine-merchant, and faithfully attend to it; his own reputation will soon compensate for the absence of bribes from unprincipled wine-merchants, if he serves a generous and hospitable master. Nothing spreads more rapidly in society than the reputation of a good wine-cellar, and all that is required is wines well chosen and well cared for; and this a little knowledge, carefully applied, will soon supply.

The butler, we have said, has charge of the contents of the cellars, and it is his duty to keep them in a proper condition, to fine down wine in wood, bottle it off, and store it away in places suited to the sorts. Where wine comes into the cellar ready bottled, it is usual to return the same number of empty bottles; the butler has not, in this case, the same inducements to keep the bottles of the different sorts separated; but where the wine is bottled in the house, he will find his account, not only in keeping them separate, but in rinsing them well, and even washing them with clean water as soon as they are empty.
Mrs. Beeton's Household Management, 1861




There are various modes of fining wine: isinglass, gelatine, and gum Arabic are all used for the purpose. Whichever of these articles is used, the process is always the same. Supposing eggs (the cheapest) to be used, draw a gallon or so of the wine, and mix one quart of it with the whites of four eggs, by stirring it with a whisk; afterwards, when thoroughly mixed, pour it back into the cask through the bunghole, and stir up the whole cask, in a rotatory direction, with a clean split stick inserted through the bunghole. Having stirred it sufficiently, pour in the remainder of the wine drawn off, until the cask is full; then stir again, skimming off the bubbles that rise to the surface. When thoroughly mixed by stirring, close the bunghole, and leave it to stand for three or four days. This quantity of clarified wine will fine thirteen dozen of port or sherry. The other clearing ingredients are applied in the same manner, the material being cut into small pieces, and dissolved in the quart of wine, and the cask stirred in the same manner.

To Bottle Wine. Having thoroughly washed and dried the bottles, supposing they have been before used for the same kind of wine, provide corks, which will be improved by being slightly boiled, or at least steeped in hot water, a wooden hammer or mallet, a bottling-boot, and a squeezer for the corks. Bore a hole in the lower part of the cask with a gimlet, receiving the liquid stream which follows in the bottle and filterer, which is placed in a tub or basin. This operation is best performed by two persons, one to draw the wine, the other to cork the bottles. The drawer is to see that the bottles are up to the mark, but not too full, the bottle being placed in a clean tub to prevent waste. The corking-boot is buckled by a strap to the knee, the bottle placed in it, and the cork, after being squeezed in the press, driven in by a flat wooden mallet.

As the wine draws near to the bottom of the cask, a thick piece of muslin is placed in the strainer, to prevent the viscous grounds from passing into the bottle.

Having carefully counted the bottles, they are stored away in their respective binns, a layer of sand or sawdust being placed under the first tier, and another over it; a second tier is laid over this, protected by a lath, the head of the second being laid to the bottom of the first; over this another bed of sawdust is laid, not too thick, another lath; and so on till the binn is filled.

Wine so laid in will be ready for use according to its quality and age. Port wine, old in the wood, will be ready to drink in five or six months; but if it is a fruity wine, it will improve every year. Sherry, if of good quality, will be fit to drink as soon as the "sickness" (as its first condition after bottling is called) ceases, and will also improve; but the cellar must be kept at a perfectly steady temperature, neither too hot nor too cold, but about 55° or 60°, and absolutely free from draughts of cold air.


The Book of Household Management by Mrs. Isabella Beeton, 1861

The Butler

The butler's duties include superintending the cleaning, setting in order, and general care of the whole drawing-room floor, though his special province is the dining-room. A parlor maid should assist him in his care of all the living-rooms, sweeping, dusting, and washing windows on this floor, while he sees in winter that the open fires are kept bright, and in summer that flowers are fresh and well arranged, and always that general order is maintained. In his dining-room he is responsible for the table and all its appointments. He keeps the silver bright, his pantry immaculate, and serves the three meals. He arranges the tea-tray and places it for his mistress; answers the door bell and sees to the closing and locking of the drawing-room floor at night. When a butler is efficiently assisted by a waitress, who does his rough pantry work, he can be expected to serve in a measure as the valet for the master of the house; lay out that gentleman's evening clothes, and brush and press the garments worn by him in the morning. In a house where a second man as well as a butler is employed, the latter serves alone at breakfast and luncheon, but is assisted by the second man at dinner. If a butler is assisted in the heavy pantry work by a second man, he should be able to keep his hands in excellent condition and be in readiness to answer the bell through the morning hours. When his assistant is a maid servant he answers the bell throughout the day or in the afternoon only, A butler carries the keys of the wine closet or cellar. He should be clean-shaven and freshly shaven every day. A bearded or moustached man servant in the house is not desirable. A tiny bit of very close-clipped whisker, extending for an inch at the edge of either cheek, is permissible. The butler must keep his hair closely cut, and his hands and finger nails, however roughened by his work, exquisitely clean when he answers the bell, brings the tea-tray, and serves at the table. White cotton gloves are not worn by the men servants in well-managed private bouses. They are the insignia of the untidy waiter had in from a second-rate caterer's or a restaurant dining-room.

In the morning, the butler wears white linen, dark gray or black, trousers, a high-buttoned black waistcoat, and a black swallow-tail coat, or a black round-tailed coat shaped like a gentleman's short dinner coat. After luncheon or at three o'clock, he assumes his evening livery : black trousers and swallow-tail coat, with a black waistcoat cut like that worn by gentlemen in the evening. Immaculate white linen, with plain white studs in the shirt front, a standing collar, white tie, cuffs fastened with link buttons, and shoes of lustreless leather that emit no creaking sounds, are the other items in his toilet. A butler is not permitted to wear a boutonniere, a white waistcoat, a satin-faced coat, patent leather shoes, or perfume. He must not flourish a colored handkerchief, nor wear rings or a watch chain. His watch he can slip, without fob or chain, into his waist-coat pocket; and the tie worn with his morning livery should be black or of a very subdued color and innocent of a pin. When guests are entertained at luncheon the butler does not serve in his morning livery but dresses in the livery appointed for the afternoon. Should a butler be required, as is not infrequently the case, to appear on the box seat of his mistress' carriage in the afternoon, he wears the livery described for a second man, with a high hat, gloves, and, in cold weather, a long coat, all matching in shape and color those worn by the coachman.
A Book of Manners for Everyday Use, by Emily Holt