P200: Not in Front of the Servants! by Diana Birchall — 25 Comments

  1. Oh how servants do gossip. It is a shame that they will keep their mouths shut. This information will certainly be important later to the story line. Anne would surely appreciate knowing this. Maybe the servants will speak to her later.

    • Oh, I think the servants will keep mum about this little tidbit, Patty! They value their jobs – imagine if they told Elizabeth! She’d fire them on the spot. Of course, the truth comes out in the end anyway.

  2. Thrilled you enjoyed the story, Monica, and thanks for tweeting it! Yes, Sally is an observant girl, isn’t she? Not much innocence below stairs, with all they couldn’t help seeing!

  3. I loved this piece, Diana- especially the ‘what the butler saw’ or in this case, ‘what Sally saw! Beautifully done!

  4. I do love how everyone Downstairs always knows what is going on Uostairs, even when the Upstairs people have no clue. This was an excellent example of that, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This was so well done and clever, and just like the servants, we want to know more!

    • Thanks, Mari – there’s a big tradition of that in master/servant stories, and why not here? Sir Walter would certainly be one clueless employer, I’m thinking. And I’ve been thinking of doing another “Sir Walter through the eyes of his valet” piece. Once is not enough…

  5. OOOH, yes!! Another story from the downstairs folks would be most welcome! It is a most interesting perspective on Persuasion and the Elliots! Love your writing!

    • Thank you, Susan! Do tell what picture it brought to your mind – it might make another story! On the other hand…maybe we’d better not mention it on a family website…

  6. Loved this! I imagine Elizabeth and her father would be shocked to find the servants gossiping about them – as though that never happens below stairs. Just loved the information Sally gave to all. I suspect when Anne marries Frederick things will get very difficult for the servants for some time. I am imagining how angry Elizabeth becomes when Anne gets to marry the rich captain….

    • That would make a wonderful story in itself, Lynn – Elizabeth’s anger at Anne’s marriage! What a great idea. I’m so glad you enjoyed this, thanks for commenting!

  7. In Sir Walter’s mind and Miss Elizabeth’s, the servants have no thoughts! Thank you Diana for this perspective of the servants lot in life with the Elliot’s! What extremely long days….

  8. Carole, yes, and I’m afraid Sir Walter and Elizabeth are so selfish, they never think of what hard work the servants have to do. I think they’d be about the worst employers in all of Jane Austen, don’t you? Very exacting and demanding, but without the money to pay well for it!

  9. I loved this. Mrs. Clay and young Mr. Elliott being seen by a servant. Not surprising since they run a way together. What a peacock Elliott is. He is not only “So Vain” he is also one of the most inconsiderate person one could ever serve. Ugghh. Love the gossip of the servsnts. I wouldn’t like working for them either, but it’s a position and roof over the head. Better than nothing I guess. Thank you Diana for this missing scene.

    • Thank you, Deborah! Yes, Mr. Elliot is one of Jane Austen’s villains, and Mrs. Clay is another piece of work. It’s true the servants aren’t starving, but the Elliots are not the best employers…

  10. The “Downstairs” folk really have their work cut out for them, trying to do their jobs well, without gossiping, but with so little gratitude and satisfaction from their selfish employers. So it is very satisfying hearing the servants really tell it like it is! I hope they get a good rebellion scene at the end of all of this!

  11. Yes, you wrote what we all, I think, imagined was going on between these two, both having their own agenda. And I love hearing what the servants think and what was seen. They bring such honesty in their views, even in their gossip. Pity the poor soul having to stay up late getting out a chicken grease spot. Thank you for this peek into Downstairs.

    • Thanks for commenting, Sheila. There are plenty of shows (Downton Abbey, Upstairs Downstairs) and books that tell of the servants’ lives and point of view – Jo Baker did it brilliantly in Longbourn. But it struck me that out of all these dramatizations and portrayals, Sir Walter Elliot, His Vanity, would be one of the hardest to work for – and the funniest to write about!

      • Yes, I watch Downton Abbey and have Upstairs, Downstairs on DVD so I am in tune with your viewpoints. Have not read the book by Jo Baker. Will have to check it out. Just so many good books out there, impossible to keep up.

        • I was prepared to dislike Jo Baker’s book, because so much fuss has been made about it and I thought it excessive and unfair to other good books. But it’s really something special (in my opinion). She knows the English countryside and country life so well and conveys it vividly, and her servants’ story is so well done. Anyway, I liked it!

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