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Servants' hall : more stories from my life…

Servants' hall : more stories from my life in service to the great houses… (1979)

by Margaret Powell

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From a vantage point of half a century, Margaret, a former kitchenmaid and cook, recalls her time below stairs, especially the shocking marriage of Rose, a lovely but empty-headed parlourmaid, to Gerald, the grown son of the house. While the author has a light touch and some of the details of life “below stairs” are entertainment, the so-called “romance” is really the tale of two people ruining each other’s lives, not so much because they come from different stations in life as because they are simply not suited to each other. Margaret’s own marriage, after some years in domestic service, isn’t given much detail and it happened much later than Rose’s; it would have been interesting to compare Margaret’s happiness in comparative poverty (stated, but not shown in detail) with Rose’s misery in comparative luxury.

I picked this up because Below Stairs was checked out. I don’t recommend doing the same. There’s nothing “wrong” with this book, but it has that sort of leftover feeling of a follow-up memoir. I’d still like to read Below Stairs as the author seems skilled enough and presumably her most interesting stories went into the first book. ( )
  jholcomb | Jul 4, 2014 |
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To my long-ago, but not forgotten, friends, the servants who helped to banish 'basement blues'
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In 1922, when at the age of fifteen I entered domestic service--after two years as a 'daily'--servants were considered less than dusty by those who employed them; and ignorant, even positively 'not all there' by that section of the working class, male and female alike, who wouldn't have been seen, alive, or dead, as a servant 'below stairs'.
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Margaret Powell's Below Stairs became a sensation among readers reveling in the luxury and subtle class warfare of Masterpiece Theatre's hit television series Downton Abbey. Now in the sequel Servants' Hall, Powell tells the true story of Rose, the under-parlourmaid to the Wardham Family at Redlands, who took a shocking step: She eloped with the family's only son, Mr. Gerald.

Going from rags to riches, Rose finds herself caught up in a maelstrom of gossip, incredulity and envy among her fellow servants. The reaction from upstairs was no better: Mr. Wardham, the master of the house, disdained the match so completely that he refused ever to have contact with the young couple again. Gerald and Rose marry, leave Redlands and Powell looks on with envy, even as the marriage hits on bumpy times: "To us in the servants' hall, it was just like a fairy tale . . . How I wished I was in her shoes."

Once again bringing that lost world to life, Margaret Powell trains her pen and her gimlet eye on her "betters" in this next chapter from a life spent in service. Servants' Hall is Margaret Powell at her best—a warm, funny and sometimes hilarious memoir of life at a time when wealthy families like ruled England.
[from Amazon.com 1/11/2014]
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A collection of accounts about life in the servants' halls of England's great houses shares the true story of under-parlourmaid Rose, who after eloping with her employer's only son was swept up in a maelstrom of gossip.

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