Downtown Downer

Are you suffering from a lack of sleep this morning? Do you have a bad case of Downton-itis? And just think, the cure (which would be another season of Downton Abbey) is months and months away. Sigh.
So here are some book suggestions to keep you from suffering too much withdrawal from the Crawleys and their staff:

Life Below Stairs: True Lives of Edwardian Servants

by Alison Maloney
This quick read is not a novel, be forewarned. This is more a primer about how exactly those below-stairs characters lived. Each chapter details daily life, like the way households were structured, what exactly each post paid, techniques used in cleaning and caring for the family, how holidays were handled, and how one could be hired or fired. Quick fact: You really could make more money as a footman if you were taller than the others.

Rose: My Life in Service to Lady Astor

by Rosina Harris
Beginning in 1928 and for 35 years after, Rosina Harris served as the personal lady's maid for Lady Nancy Astor. She was by her side through huge political and historical events, through quiet personal moments, through joy and tragedy. On call to the Lady at every moment, seven days a week, Rose became closer to Lady Astor than anyone, particularly since that Lady was not exactly an easy person to know (think Lady Violet on steroids). Rose tells her story with pluck and pride, with enough detail to keep the biggest Downton fan happy.

Up and Down Stairs: The History of
the Country House Servant

by Jeremy Musson
Believe it or not, Downton Abbey (and Highclere Castle, which is Downton's true location) were meant to be country houses. But they required armies of servants to run whenever families were in residence. Musson tells the story of these grand homes from their earliest days through Downton days and beyond, by using letters, newspaper articles, and stories of the servants who worked in them. The duties and rules for servants changed dramatically over the years, including the "not seen, not heard" rule that we often think of.

Servants' Hall

By Margaret Powell
Margaret Powell served as a kitchen maid right after World War I in Redlands, a Downton-worthy home owned by the Wardham family. She chronicles her life in the house in Below Stairs. In this short volume, she tells a very Lady Sybil-like (and true) story of what happened when parlourmaid Rose eloped with the family's only son Mr. Gerald. While the servants thought it sounded like a "fairy tale," let's just say it didn't turn out quite the way Tom's experience did on Downton.


by Julian Fellowes
If you don't know who Julian Fellowes is, shame on you. He's only the writer of the amazing series you've been enjoying for three years. And he is quite prolific at his craft. To enjoy more of his fly-on-the-wall eye at the way the English live, be sure to watch the movie Gosford Park, or curl up with this delicious novel. The only fiction book I've listed here, it's a terrific take on what happens when a social-climbing girl marries an aristocratic boy and their two very different lives collide.

1 comment:

  1. I just finished "Below Stairs" by Margaret Powell a few days ago. It was insightful and funny in parts, but it kind of makes you hate most of the people who live above stairs. As I was reading, I heard the whole thing in my head as if it were narrated by O'Brien. Will check out some of the others next!