Read CHAPTER XI - A BACHELOR'S SERVANTS of The Complete Bachelor Manners for Men , free online book, by Walter Germain, on

As soon as a bachelor begins to branch out a little and to have an apartment or a house or a country establishment, though the latter be only a fishing or a hunting box, he must hire servants. The general servant is perhaps the one most universally employed. Many bachelors hire some middle-aged woman who not only does the cooking, but takes care of the apartment, valets him, and waits at table when he has guests to dinner. Others employ a man to look after them, who is valet and general factotum, and others again, with larger establishments, a man and wife. The former does the valeting, the waiting, and is steward and butler, while the woman attends to the cooking and laundry. There are quite a number of bachelor households of this description in our large cities, the occupants being several in number and clubbing together. One is appointed treasurer, and the butler and cook are hired at a stated price and receive a certain sum for catering. When good servants of this kind are found they are treasures.

All menservants should be clean shaven. A short bit of side whiskers a la mutton chop is allowed; but under no circumstances should they have bearded faces or wear a mustache. Their linen and attire should be faultless. In the treatment of servants a man must exercise an iron will. He can be kind and considerate, but he must never descend to dispute with one, and certainly not swear at him. To be on familiar terms with one’s servants shows the cloven foot of vulgarity. Discharge a servant at once when he is disrespectful or when he is careless in his duties or in his conduct. When asking for anything there is no necessity of forgetting the elements of true politeness, nor is it a blot on your deportment to utter a civil “thank you” for a service performed. All servants should address you as “Sir,” and when called should reply “Yes, sir,” and certainly not “All right.” Your menservants touch their hats to you on receiving orders in the open, on being addressed, and upon your appearance. Encourage your servants now and then by a kind word, and see that they have good and wholesome food, clean and comfortable quarters. Once in a while give them a holiday, or an evening off, a cash remembrance at Christmas, and from time to time some part of your wardrobe or cast-off clothing. They are just like children, and must be treated with the rigor and mild discipline which a schoolmaster uses toward his pupils. In all their movements they should be noiseless and as automatic as possible in their actions.

And now for particular servants hired by a bachelor:

The groom is, with the exception of the general servant, the first domestic likely to be in the employ of an unmarried man of moderate means. When a bachelor becomes a horse owner he can never be too particular about his turnouts and his liveries. The groom in the city or at a fashionable watering place should have two liveries one for dress occasions and the other for what is known as a “stable suit.” The latter, which is a simple English tweed or whipcord, made with a cutaway coat of the same material, will answer perfectly well for the country, where it is ridiculous to have elaborate liveries. A square brown Derby is worn with this suit, brown English driving gloves, and a white plastron or coachman’s scarf. This flat scarf is the badge of distinction between the house and stable servant. No tie pin nor trinkets of any description should be allowed servants. The best dress livery is a frock coat, single-breasted, of kersey, the color of your livery; white buckskin riding breeches, top boots, top hat, white plastron, standing collar, and brown driving gloves. One distinctive color should be used, not only for your liveries but also for your traps, as well as one kind of harness. The cockade on the hat is the privilege abroad of ambassadors; it is bad form. Besides the care of your horse or horses, your groom must be a species of outside general servant, ready to go on errands or attend to the numerous duties of a manservant about a country place. By no means can he be substituted for a valet, a butler, or an indoor servant. When he brings your trap to the door he holds the animals’ heads until you are seated, when he touches his hat and lets go the reins. If he is to sit behind in the trap he must hold himself upright with folded arms. He alights immediately the trap is stopped, running all errands, and holding the horses until the drive is resumed. He sometimes accompanies his master when the latter rides. He brings his horse to the door and holds it until the mount. He follows, occasionally, on another horse at a respectful distance. Should you be wealthy enough to have also a coachman, your groom can act as second man on the box. A coachman’s dress livery consists of a double-breasted long coachman’s coat, top boots, and buckskin breeches, white flat plastron, high collar and top hat, and brown driving gloves. When both servants are employed the groom is under the orders of the coachman as regards the stable work.

The Valet. Of course a valet is a luxury. A man can valet himself very easily, and if the instructions given in the chapters on the Care of Clothes and The Toilet are followed carefully, I hardly think that you would need such a personage. A woman can be perfectly trained to valet a man. Your general servant can also, and is required to fill this position. If you live at a club the club valet will attend to your clothes, and perform the duties of a private servant. There are “valeting companies” organized in many large cities, which take entire charge of your wardrobe, and again there are valets who are hired by several men clubbing together, and who are very capable servants. The individual valet, however, is a very valuable aid to a young bachelor of wealth, especially if he is a man of leisure, or if he goes out a great deal in society. A valet’s duties are first and principally the entire charge of his master’s wardrobe and toilet, the details of which have been given in previous chapters. They begin an hour or so before the master rises, when clothes are to be pressed and put in order, boots and shoes to be polished and placed on their trees, and the costume of the day to be made ready. If possible, a small room is provided for him as his workshop.

At the hour for rising, the valet enters his master’s room very quietly, and, if he is awake, pulls up the shades and lets in the daylight. The bath is then prepared, and while that is being taken the newspapers, mail, and breakfast tray are brought in, and the valet waits for orders. Some men require their valets to shave them, but the majority simply intrust the care of their razors to them, preferring to perform that operation themselves. The valet assists his master in dressing, and, when the toilet is finished, ties or buttons the boots, arranges the spats, and gives a final brush to the clothes. He then fetches the stick, gloves, and hat. During the day he may be employed on errands, in answering tradespeople, in paying bills, or in any minor occupations of that kind. A first-class servant of this character should not only be steward but secretary. When writing letters for his master he should write them in the third person, and also sign them “Respectfully yours, JOHN SMITH, valet.”

A valet is told of the engagements of the day, and has the clothes arranged accordingly, and he must be at his post. In the evening the dress suit is laid out, with choice of ties and two coats, the formal and informal, or Tuxedo. A valet must be at the rooms when his master retires. In traveling he takes care of the luggage, tickets, and all the little annoying details. He travels second class abroad, and in this country he should never be allowed to be a passenger in a drawing-room car with his master. The valet wears no livery. He dresses quietly in a plain sack suit of dark material, and wears a Derby hat. Should he be required to wait on table, he dresses in semi-livery if the affair is a luncheon, and in evening dress if it is a dinner.

The butler is a very rare functionary in a bachelor’s establishment, only the wealthiest being able to afford him. The valet or general servant acts as butler, and when in this position he should always have a black coat on when answering the bell.

I have used the terms throughout this chapter of “master” and “servant.” Employer and employee are correct only when the relations between the two persons are not of a domestic character.

The most fashionable and efficient menservants are of English, Scotch, or Irish birth or descent. Japanese make excellent valets. Colored coachmen and grooms are not the vogue in New York or vicinity, but they are seen in the South. Very wealthy bachelors have introduced a fad for East Indian servants, but at present only a few of these have been employed, and those at Newport.