I’ve recommended The Butler’s Guide before, but I thought it might be beneficial for my followers if I did a full review of this wonderful book. Join me as I go over why The Butler’s Guide is one of my favorite housekeeping books, and why I like to recommend it.
In the spirit of full disclosure, I have not been asked to write this review, and I am not receiving any compensation for doing so. Everything within this post is my own opinion. This post does contain an affiliate link to purchase the book however, and as an Amazon affiliate I earn a commission on qualifying purchases.
The Butler’s Guide, previous published under the title Ager’s Way to Easy Elegance, begins with Stanley Ager’s life story. Or at least with the story of his career. Reading about the etiquette and protocol involved in housekeeping prior to World War II is deeply interesting. Ager’s writing is conversational as he explains the different positions within the household and details the daily responsibilities. You get a clear idea of which tasks he enjoyed, and which he was glad to move on from. He also tells you enough about his life that you’re excited to hear about the dance halls he and the other house staff would visit, and even enjoy a fond laugh when he tells you how he met his wife.
The light, friendly tone of the writing continues throughout the book, so that by the time you finish reading, not only have you gained valuable knowledge on how to run and manage a household, but you feel like you know dear Stanley Ager. When I finished the book and put it down, I felt like I had a new friend in Ager. The tone alone is enough to keep you engaged, even if you aren’t very interested in learning the proper way to dust a book or how to scrub a wooden table top.
Some of the information offered up in this book is very straight forward, practical information, such as keeping a grocery list and actually taking it with you to the store. Other information, like making your own wood wax, or learning how to care for the binding on leather bound books, is stuff you’re not likely to already know. Each section is handled with the same straight forward approach though, where you are given clear, precise instructions, that don’t use jargon, and don’t expect you to have previous knowledge on the topic. At the same time, reading through this doesn’t leave you feeling like you’re uneducated or should already know these things. Ager’s years of experience working as a butler and training staff shows clearly in his writing, as he gently, politely, and clearly teaches you the methods he would use to maintain your household.
Ager suggests time tables for cleaning projects throughout the home, and covers even unusual stuff like dusting a lampshade and maintaining a clock. One unusual tip I found particularly endearing was the suggestion to add salt to your fire if you have a fireplace. It helps to keep the chimney clean, and can reduce the amount of smoke being put off from smoky fires. A great deal of care and detail is put into the section on caring for silver, much of it I never had read or heard anywhere else before.
The section on clothing care and packaging starts with a description of ways that a person can make sure they look fresh, presentable, and polished at any time throughout the day. Tips like caring a makeup bag seem common place, but ideas like caring an extra handkerchief so that you have a fresh one if you’re going out after work are things I’d never thought of. The information on caring for everything from velvet, to tweed suits, skirts, pants, and even hats is involved, but simple to understand. The book even covers cleaning buttons and proper ironing technique, a sadly dying art, as well as basic information on mending clothing. The section on shoe care is important for anyone who, like me, has an extensive shoe collection and hates to see their favorite pair wear out.
For anyone out there who enjoys hosting, and likes to make sure their parties are flawless, the chapter on managing the table is a delight! If you’ve ever wanted to look like you know what you’re doing with cocktails and wine, then I recommend looking at this chapter. Did you know that port needs to breathe? You do now. It’s also apparently an old superstition that port needs to be passed clockwise or it’s bad luck.
The information on arranging and setting a table is insightful and useful to anyone who hosts social gathering. Keeping candlesticks looking new, where to place condiments, and how to set a place are particularly useful for people with no idea where to start (this was me if I’m being honest). The info on removing tea and coffee stains from china is to this day one of my favorite tricks when I’m washing dishes, as I’m a big tea drinker and used to have ceramic mugs stained from the tea.
With all of the information and the wellspring of stories in these pages, my favorite is the last section of the last chapter: a romantic picnic for two. I’m a sucker for a good old picnic, and the close to this book addresses just how to take a picnic, and make it into a special, romantic occasion.
There’s something for everyone in this book, and I believe that the lessons held in these pages are worth learning. If you get the opportunity, I fully recommend picking up a copy for yourself. The first read is a sheer delight, and it’s a useful book to keep around, which I reference frequently in my housekeeping. If you’ve read The Butler’s Guide let me know what you thought about it? What was your favorite part?