Sexing the Servants, Part 3

I found the following stories in E.S. Turner’s What the Butler Saw.

We’ve discussed the pitfalls of sexual relations between employers and servants a couple of times on this blog, but it seems the stories are endless.

“A gentleman setting up a mistress clandestinely (many, of course, were set up openly) could not simply instal [sic] her in an apartment and leave her to do her own cooking and cleaning; it was necessary to provide her with a footman, a personal maid and a coachman at the least. All three had to be paid highly enough to overcome their moral scruples, if any, and to discourage them from talking about their master and his affairs. The philanderer not only had to worry whether his mistress was faithful but whether her servants were faithful too. It was impossible for anyone, man or women [sic], to carry on an illicit liaison without being exposed to the risks of tale-telling and blackmail by servants, either in his own house or in those of other people. At every turn of the affair mouths had to be stopped with money. Even money bought no assurance of loyalty if the servants took a dislike to the man who paid them.

“William Hickey became visibly interested in Charlotte Barry, mistress of the eccentric, vile-tempered Captain Henry Mordaunt. One night, in Mordaunt’s absence, his staff delicately suggested to Hickey, who was a guest in the house, that if he had any enterprise in mind they would give him ample warning of their master’s return, and delay him as much as possible. ‘Thus secured against accident,’ says Hickey, ‘I with confidence usurped the tyrant’s place'” (45).


If a master sought a catamite for a valet, it was not difficult to recruit one. Notorious among dubious households was that of William Beckford who, behind the twelve-foot barrier encircling his Gothic abbey at Fonthill, surrounded himself with comely menservants with names like Madame Bion (his valet), the Doll and the Calf. What really went on in the Abbey the county never new, but they ostracised Beckford for what they suspected” (45).

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One Response to Sexing the Servants, Part 3

  1. Pingback: BizarreVictoria: Celebrating 3 Years | BizarreVictoria

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