Many attach no importance to the valet's duties, but place them even below those of the footman. We diflfer widely in opinion from such writers; and were we to choose a valet, it would be from the Melton Mowbray school, one who had served an apprenticeship in valeting the sporting gentleman; one to whom the art of ably using the English blacking and the French polish was perfectly familiar. And though some of these men may be deficient in the knowledge of dressing hair, still they fully make up for it in the thorough knowledge and pride they take in the toilet of the plain but well-dressed English gentleman, their master; for nothing sooner and more effectually tells the qualifications of such servant, than the appearance of the gentleman's dress upon the hunting-day.
Although it is fashionable that the red or scarlet coat should show the wear and tear of the hunt, still it should bear the degree of simple cleanliness and neatness which shows it has passed through skilful hands, however extremely it may have previously been saturated with wet and dirt. And so with the leather breeches, the gloves, and the top-boots — they should all be without spot.
Easy as some may think the cleaning of these kind of things, yet it would prove as difficult to the inexperienced to remove the stains from the top-boots, when saturated on the preceding day, as for a landsman to take a seaman's duty.
A valet thus qualified is well adapted for the military officer, wherein he is required to have a thorough knowledge of the cleaning of military accoutrements, feathers, swords, steel helmets, and lace of gold and silver.
With the naval officer he must be a tolerably good sailor, able to wait at dinner on board of ship, and take charge of his master's wardrobe— keeping it in proper order. He is expected to be at all times generally useful when under his master's conmiand.
When on shore, he usually has the management of his master's domestic concerns, and must always hold himself in readiness for short notice of departure.
With the military officer, either infantry or cavalry, he must be scrupulously clean, punctual, and exact, and most particular in having his employer's uniform always ready in perfect order; and if with a cavalry officer, he must be strictly particular to have the leathers for riding, gloves, swords, helmet, and all the accoutrements kept in an extreme state of cleanliness.
Whether in or out of barracks, the valet is, where there is no footman kept, his master's only servant, and required to make himself useful at all times.
With the gentleman on his travels the valet should be, in the first place, the master of two or three languages, as he may be expected to act as demi-courier, and pay post-horses on the road, and the different bills at the inns— be a kind of managing servant; and when he arrives in towns he will be sure to have plenty to do.
The groom and valet is amongst stablemen the servant most familiar with the duties of the household, and is a useful servant, particularly when cleanly, neat, active, and possessing acuteness and tact. He is usually found in the service of the nobleman and the gentleman during his state of bachelorship. Many gentlemen have chambers, and some of them numerous apartments, giving in them at times entertainments of such character as call for the servant to provide in the diflferent departments of the cook, confectioner, butler, and the footman, what may be necessary for the occasion; and sometimes he is his master's only servant. In some cases he is assisted when required, and is at all times considered his master's lever-power, forming in himself the tout ensemble of the domestic establishment of his employer. Hence, the master is found, when changing his state of life to housekeeping, to promote this man according to his merit, — in some cases to increase his comforts by a pension: for excellent masters well know how to reward their faithful servants; and amongst those fortunate servants who receive equivalents for the value of their services, the groom and valet takes a prominent position.
He usually undertakes the care of one or more horses, and the attending to the duties of valet. In giving satisfaction to his employer, he often works both late and early, and in many cases is allowed one or more helpers.
Such servant is compelled to be an early riser, since he completes most of his stable duties by his breakfast hour, which is generally eight o'clock. Afterwards, it is usual for him to devote two hours to the arranging and attending to his duties in the house, as the brushing and placing of his master's clothes, delivering notes, etc.
Afterwards, he may have to return to his stables, and complete the remainder of the work he has there.
He usually dresses, and is prepared by the middle of the day to execute such orders as regard, the stables, be they the preparing of the gig, saddle-horse, or whatever he may have charge of; and he brings to the door what may be required, and accompanies his master, or otherwise, as the case may be.
His horses, on their return, he leads to the stables, and there cleans them, together with such saddles and bridles as have been used, so lessening his employ for the following day, and keeping his duties always in advance of his work. He will have to return to his stables about seven or eight o'clock, or the usual time for what is termed "doing-up" and then, should his master not require the use of his horse, or horse and cab, at night, his duty for the day may be considered as nearly done.
Such are the duties of this very useful servant, that he may be considered among servants as a man who is looked upon to make himself generally useful, and by the master who requires this kind of servant, a sober and honest one is generally much valued.
The cab-boy, or, as he is now often called, "the tiger," is usually chosen for being a smart, cleanly youth; but as his qualifications belong solely to those under whose orders he is placed, there is no more to say of him than that he should be at all times attentive in the faithfully following out those orders, so that in time he will be in training for a higher servant
Extreme neatness in dress, activity, and willingness, generally render these boys favourites with their masters and their fellow-servants.