Few of us have the luxury of a household staff like the one on Downton Abbey to attend to our every need.
But we can take some pointers from someone who ran a household and use them to run our own a little more efficiently.
Longtime English butler Stanley Ager shares a wealth of tips in The Butler’s Guide to Running the Home and Other Graces, a classic handbook he wrote in 1980 with Fiona St. Aubyn. The book has just been re-released by Clarkson Potter.
Some of the advice is outdated now. (Manufacturers of front-loading washers would undoubtedly balk at Ager’s pronouncement that “you need to maintain a good lather when machine washing clothes.”) And some of the advice deals with situations few of us will ever have to worry about. (“The cardinal rule is never to tell your staff that you’re entertaining royalty until just before the event.”)
Still, we can all benefit from Ager’s tips for setting a table, caring for shoes and packing clothes so they won’t wrinkle. And he’ll even teach you how to iron a newspaper, should a journalist ever come round to tea.
The Butler’s Guide sells for $21.99 in hardcover.
— Mary Beth Breckenridge