Where no steward is kept, the butler is the principal domestic of the household; and therefore much is expected from him, and justly so. Such a man should, by practice and theory, be well acquainted with his duty in its several branches, and consequently be perfect master of the department he has undertaken, and ought by principle faithfully to perform it; avoiding slothfulness and procrastination, he must be active, keeping his mind upon his business, and considering no portion of it to be beneath his care, as being too trifling, and therefore not worth his well doing. His diligence must be untiring, and what he has to do must be done before it is wanted, thus proving his business to be his pleasure. His temperance in all its bearings, and his fidelity in the keeping such secrets of his family as may reach him during his attendance in his duty, ought never to be impeached. He must possess a thorough acquaintance with the routine of waiting at dinner, and the management of attendance on small or large parties; knowing also the names of the various dishes composing a dinner, and be familiar with the knowledge of all the duties of the servants under him, to enable him to give his orders with precision, and have them carried out with effect.
One of his most important duties is the management of the wine and beer cellars — refining, racking, bottling, and binning come under his attention.
The cellars should always be kept in high condition —cleanly, well arranged, and of proper temperature; he is conversant with each department, knowing the vintage, age in wood, and date in bottle, of all wines in the cellar.
The under-butler generally has the management of the service of plate, his duties being to keep it clean, and be at all times responsible for its safe custody; and, indeed, the cleanly and brilliant appearance of tbe gold and silver plate under this man's charge, best tells his capability in this post of trust.
All gilt and plated articles, and bronzes, ormolu, assiettes for pieces montees, and other objects appertaining to the service of the table, come under his care, as do also the costly glass, china, porcelain, Sevres, and the like, for table ornaments, all of which require careful handling while in use, and call for great skill and judgment and much patient labour, to preserve them from time to time in their brilliancy and perfection.
The under-butler's condition may be considered a degree above the footman's, but at the same time, it is a more laborious one, and one of more confidence. He also at times may have to attend the carriage.
He usually has a room appropriated to himself, and in which he keeps and cleans his plate and other things under his charge; and this room is thence called the under-butler's pantry.
It is his duty to lay the cloth for dinner, to decorate the sideboards, etc.; but as regards the wine he has no responsibility, as that wholly belongs to the butler or steward's charge.
He has to see to the arrangement of the dishes, that they be put in the steward's hands in their order for placing on the table, so that scarcely any delay takes place. To him altogether belongs the duty of seeing that there be a sufficient change of plates, of knives, of glass, and things of the like description in the dining-room. Those who have this management cannot be too particular in seeing to it. Nothing shows the want of management so much as not having everything at hand likely to be asked for during the dinner.
The under-butler well knows that his steward's orders to have all things likely to be called for ready in the dining-room, are to him imperative; therefore, he faithfully completes them. So that thus, with the rest of the domestics-in-waiting, he assists in effecting that great triumph of their united efforts — that a dinner has been produced whereat the guest found himself at ease in the attendance, and in the possession of uninterrupted enjoyment of pleasure, in having no requirement or wish ungratified.
No large parties can eflfectually be attended to without the aid of the under-butler, and it is quite as requisite that he should have his orders in the morning as it is for the steward or the cook to have theirs at that time of the day, — particularly on days when parties are given, so that he may be instructed by the steward as to what service of glass, epergnes, plateaus, and table-ornaments will be required, all of which are regulated by the number to dine; and also that he be informed from the kitchen what dishes of every kind will be required for serving up the dinner.
Where these men take a pride in the appearance of their gold and silver plate, and other objects under their charge, they generally find their time fully employed.
The under-butler's pantry should contain, independent of a strong closet or iron safe, a press or cupboard lined with green baize, and furnished with curtains between the diflferent shelves and the doors, so that when the doors are closed, the baize hanging between the shelves and doors protects the silver and gold from tarnishing, by excluding the air as much as possible. The press should also, in its lower part, be furnished with drawers lined with baize, to hold the small plate, and silver knives, forks, etc.
The above cupboard or press is used for keeping the silver of daily use, and should be situated in a very warm and dry position, so as to check tarnishing.
There must be roomy cupboards for the keeping of glass, and a rack to drain decanters placed over the sink.
There must be a good-sized sink, for washing-up, and places must be fitted up for the trays, according to their different sizes.
The pantry door should be of a very strong construction, for security, and it would be as well that it be furnished with a spring or secret latch, and that its mode of shutting and opening be known by only the domestics connected with the pantry.
There should be a napkin-press, with drawers to hold tablecloths.
There should also be a long dresser in the pantry, fitted with drawers, for keeping the liquids, brushes, leathers, powders, etc., to clean the plate and the like.
As the under-butler should sleep in this apartment, for the security of the plate, a bedstead is required to be fitted up for him in some convenient portion of the room, and a chest of drawers to contain his wardrobe.
The iron safe, to contain the gold and silver plate, should be furnished with a key, and duplicate key, in case of any accident occurring to the original one.
Among the things he requires for use are the following, — viz., a knife-cleaner, wooden bowls, sink-brush, sponge, plate-brushes, called dish-brushes, crevice-brushes, and other brushes of different shapes and kinds; several plate-leathers, leather-apron, a set of shoe-brushes, clothes-brush, hat-brush, broom, powder-box and pufF, good-sized table in middle of pantry.
There should also be a glass or china-closet in the pantry.
There is a very respectable body of men called occasional waiters, most of whom have originally been servants. Many of them have, through the interest of their respective employers, obtained Government or other public situations, such situations giving them leisure time, of which many, having large families, have availed themselves, by going out in the evening to wait upon parties They are all men of trust, and have most of them their appointed houses to wait at, and generally are ready to attend on short notice.
But there is another class, who are specially called waiters, and whose sole business is waiting. They are mostly patronized by the principal confectioners, as the Gunters, etc.
Their very frequent attendance at public breakfasts, dinners, balls, and routs, renders them as familiar with tbe names of the nobles and gentry as even the compilers of the "Court Guide".
Most families giving parties have generally their particular waiters appointed, who then form, as it were, a portion of the establishment, and evince the like interest with the rest of the domestics in endeavouring to render the waiting and attendance faultless.
In the height of the season it is quite necessary to give them notice of the day on which you will require their services; and they generally keep a book to note down their engagements, and these they keep with the most scrupulous punctuality.