In London Holiday, Darcy spends some time *gasp* in disguise as a footman. While the circumstance is terribly uncomfortable for him, it does afford him some freedoms he would not have had otherwise. However, life as a Regency era footman was no cake walk. If your name did not happen to be Fitzwilliam Darcy, and if you did not get to replace your livery with a custom-tailored set of clothing the next day, what would your life have been like?
First of all, footmen were typically fit, young, handsome, and tall. Darcy would have looked rather fetching in livery, and it is not so surprising that there might have been a set somewhere that would fit him. The footman was almost a functional piece of furniture in a wealthy household, for his appearance was one of the first considerations upon hiring him. His job, as Elizabeth says in the book, is to be handsome, and a well-turned calf which showed well in silk stockings was considered a job qualification.
Being attractive in livery is not his only job, as we will see. He was called a footman because of all the time he spent on his feet! From opening doors to waiting at table, running errands to polishing the silver, the footman was always on the go. His duties included escorting ladies on their outings about town, ushering in guests, directing the coachman to his master’s destination when out on calls, announcing his master’s arrival, and presenting calling cards on his master’s behalf.
His duties did not end when the “quality” were not looking. He carried coal buckets more often than he carried letters. He would also participate in the nightly security of the household, making sure all the windows and doors were properly in order. He did a deal of work in the pantry, trimming lamps and cleaning dishes. Often, a footman would sleep in front of the silver cabinet to prevent theft. If they were traveling, he would assist the coachman with the horse, then must make himself clean and presentable in a trice to assist the master once more. Oh, he did not get to ride inside the coach with the master. There was a special place on the back of the carriage for him. Usually standing.
If you were starting to think that this might be a little more work than wearing a fancy uniform and waiting to open a door, you are correct. Footmen were expected to be working from dawn until halfway through the night… every day. In the early days, as one historian records, such men often grew old before their time because the long days, combined with the heavy physical labor of running everywhere (sometimes racing other footmen to win a bet for their master, and sometimes even racing the horse pulling his master’s carriage!) tended to make them old before their time.
For all his pains, the footman’s compensation was not all that dazzling. Two sets of livery cost twenty pounds per year, which was about the same as his wages. Now, when we consider that a modest family might twenty pounds per year in rent, you can see that this is hardly a wage which would support a family. No matter, for the footman was given food and a place to sleep (protecting the master’s possessions) and was expected to remain unmarried anyway. What footman would have time for a wife? Even if she also worked for the same house, he certainly could not… visit her in the maids’ quarters… at least, not without causing something of a stir.
Of course, a footman did not stay a footman forever. This was a job for the young and handsome, and when he was no longer either of those things (or simply did not look it anymore because he had been worked to the bone) he might one day aspire to a higher position. It was possible to work up through the ranks in the household servants, but to be quite truthful, only a handful of footmen would ever become a butler or a valet. Our imaginations must supply the destinies of the rest.
Fortunately for our dear Darcy, he enjoyed the advantages of masquerading as a footman for the day with none of the drudgery or grief that would have gone with the position. I can only imagine that he would have become a more sympathetic master for his experiences.
Copeland, Edward (editor): The Cambridge Edition of Sense and Sensibility, Cambridge University Press (2006)
Craig, Sheryl: Contribution to Jane Austen’s Regency World Magazine
Horn, Pamela: Flunkeys and Scullions, Life Below Stairs in Georgian England Sutton Publishing (2004)
Kelly, Pauline E.: Jane Austen Dictionary Ink Well Publishing (2009)
Martin, Joanna: Wives and Daughters Hambledon Continuum (2004)
Roberts, Robert: Roberts’ Guide for Butlers & other Household Staff Applewood Books reprint of 1827 original (1993)
“Economics in the Regency Era.” Jane Austen's World, janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/tag/economics-in-the-regency-era/.
Vic. “Footmen: Male Servants in The Regency Era.” Jane Austen's World, 22 Nov. 2008, janeaustensworld.wordpress.com/2008/01/24/footmen-male-servants-in-the-regency-era/.
Excerpt from Chapter 13
“No. I will not do it.”
Elizabeth rolled her eyes. Again. “The footman rides on the back of the coach! It is always so!”
“I am perfectly aware of this, but I will not do it.”
“Well, you certainly cannot ride inside the coach. What will passers-by think?”
“If I am inside, they cannot see me.”
“They can see me, mounting and dismounting the box with you. I will tell you what they will think! We will be presumed to be entering an assignation—a lady and a lover dressed as a servant to evade prying eyes at home! You wish to avoid drawing attention? That would certainly do the opposite.”
“We must simply wait for a coach that is better suited.”
“You have dismissed two already. We will never make half a mile at these odds.” Elizabeth blew a huff of frustration. “How can you have lived so long in the world and yet remained so innocent to its realities?”
“I am not a simpleton. I know very well the realities of the world, I thank you, but bouncing on the rumble seat of a hired coach through the busy streets of London, knowing that at any moment the horseflesh I stare backwards at could very well seat itself in my lap, is not an appealing way to travel. Even worse to cling by the straps, standing on a step no larger than a stirrup iron. Have you ever examined the hand grips on the rear of coaches? I have no wish to meet my death today.”
“I suppose you must own some manner of carriage? After all, you have confessed to fewer details of yourself than have I, but if you are not some manner of a gentleman, you would be the most worthless manservant in the house. I pray you truly are a man of means, for your own sake.”
His eyes darkened, and even his nostrils flickered in annoyance. Elizabeth tried not to smile. He was so easy to goad.
“I do have a carriage, madam, if I must confess so much. More than one. What has that to do with the issue at hand?”
“If you object so strongly to the usual accommodations for a footman on the back, I presume you have suited your own carriages with better provisions?”
She watched his jaw tighten. His lips were twitching into a frown, and he glared at the pavement for half an instant. Elizabeth tilted her head and waited.
He turned then, without a word to the contrary, and lifted his hand to the next hackney as it approached. It drew to the curb, and her dark stranger shot her a look that demanded she appreciate his efforts. He opened the door, appeared to sniff the upholstery, then nodded curtly to her. As she approached, he put down the foot block and held the door for her to mount the box. Elizabeth dipped her head in a scant approximation of a full curtsy and raised her foot, then found that he had caught her hand to help her in.
She met his eye in surprise, but his expression was grave, yielding nothing. She drew a sharp little breath and stepped up, feeling his strong arm assisting her more than she was accustomed to. Even through the gloves they both wore, there was something reassuring about the firmness of his grip as he steadied her. She seated herself and looked back as he put up the step and closed the door. She heard his voice outside, giving the driver the direction, and then there was a creaking just behind her as his weight settled into the rumble seat on the back.
There was a small, darkly soiled window between them; evidence that this particular coach had been rather fine in its youth. Elizabeth turned to peer through it, finding it completely obscured by his broad shoulders as they rocked through the busy streets. He was forced to press his back directly against the thin panel which separated them, and she could hear through the glass the soft scraping of his clothing against the wood.
It was slow going, traversing the busy streets at any time of day. Elizabeth began to wonder if they would not have done better to walk, but the few places where the horse jerked into a faster gait more than made up for any stoppage. She had ridden in her uncle’s carriage often enough, which could boast a clever driver, but this master of the ribbons did not seem to hold with finesse over practicality. Quite often she was forced to grip the seat for balance as the frantic driver dashed his jaded vehicle through holes in the way which were far too small. She gritted her teeth, resettling her bonnet after one particularly rough lurch. The chaise had skidded to a sudden halt, forced to wait on traffic. There was a grunt from behind her, but the shoulders still darkened the window, so he had not fallen off.
Unable to resist, she knocked on the glass. “Is there a horse in your lap?”
“Two,” was the dry retort.
“Perhaps you should step onto one of their backs.”
There was a pause, and Elizabeth tried to imagine what expression would be crossing his face. Alas, she did not know him well enough to predict his response. More was the pity, for the facial reaction was always the most entertaining part of any exchange.
“I doubt the two together could hold me,” came his muffled reply. “The pair of nags can barely pull their own cab.”
Their vehicle jerked again, and the rattling of the wheels made further attempts at conversation impossible. Elizabeth turned to face forward, giggling as she did so. Oh, he was the most haughty, insufferable man, and she would be well rid of him soon, but he was not without his abilities. Few apart from her father could truly banter with her, giving rise to this bounding sense of playfulness she felt when speaking to him. Uncomfortable he clearly was, for a variety of reasons, she could imagine, but he was intelligent. Such a shame that more gentlemen were not so well read and spared so little time for serious thought. And such a shame that this particular man’s good looks and fine figure belonged to a personality so brooding and prideful!
In due time, they had reached their destination. Elizabeth settled her bonnet once more, just as the door was opening. He was frowning down at some bit of mud sprayed upon his shoes but straightened as she bent toward the door. Once again, that strong hand took hers. She stared at him curiously as she lowered herself to the pavement, and he gazed back, dark brown eyes unflinching. He remained so, ensuring that she was safely upon her own two feet, for an uncomfortable second longer until the driver coughed.
Elizabeth shook herself. She drew out her reticule to pay the man, but as she extended the coin for her “footman” to pass to the driver, his hand touched hers again, staying it. He turned to pay the driver himself, then came back to her with a slight bow. “At your service, madam.”
About the Book
When the truth is harder to believe than disguise.
Drugged and betrayed in his own household, Fitzwilliam Darcy makes his escape from a forged compromise that would see him unhappily wed. Dressed as a footman, he is welcomed into one of London’s unknown neighbourhoods by a young lady who is running out of time and running for her life.
Deciding to hide in plain sight, Miss Elizabeth Bennet dodges the expectation to marry the man of her mother’s dreams. When the insolent footman she “found” refuses to leave her side until they can uncover a solution to their respective dilemmas, the two new acquaintances treat themselves to a holiday, experiencing the best of what Regency England has to offer.
Based on Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, can two hard-headed characters with kind hearts discover the truth behind the disguise? Enjoy the banter, humour, and growing affection as Mr Darcy and Miss Elizabeth have the best day of their lives, and discover that they just might find love and romance while on a London Holiday. This book is appropriate for all ages.
About the Author
Nicole Clarkston is a book lover and a happily married mom of three. Originally from Idaho, she now lives in Oregon with her own romantic hero, several horses, and one very fat dog. She has loved crafting alternate stories and sequels since she was a child watching Disney’s Robin Hood, and she is never found sitting quietly without a book of some sort.
Nicole discovered Jane Austen rather by guilt in her early thirties―how does any book worm really live that long without a little P&P? She has never looked back. A year or so later, during a major house renovation project, she discovered Elizabeth Gaskell and fell completely in love. Her need for more time with these characters led her to simultaneously write Rumours & Recklessness, a P&P inspired novel, and No Such Thing as Luck, a N&S inspired novel. The success she had with her first attempt at writing led her to write four other novels that are her pitiful homage to two authors who have so deeply inspired her.
Nicole contributes to Austenvariations.com, a group of talented authors in the Jane Austen Fiction genre. In addition to her work with the Austen Variations blog, Nicole can be reached through Facebook at http://fb.me/NicoleClarkstonAuthor, Twitter @N_Clarkston, her blog at Goodreads.com, or her personal blog and website, NicoleClarkson.com.
Buy Links eBook
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Blog Tour Schedule
June 7 So little time…
June 8 Diary of an Eccentric
June 9 Just Jane 1813
June 10 My life journey
June 11 From Pemberley to Milton
June 12 My Jane Austen Book Club
June 13 Half Agony, Half Hope
June 15 Austenesque Reviews
June 18 Obsessed with Mr. Darcy
June 19 My Vices and Weaknesses