Guides for masters and mistresses

19th Century Domestic Advice Manuals

Advice manuals in this category may on the surface appear paradoxical.

The works provide ready reference on the varied duties of male and female domestic service roles. However, they were written for masters and mistresses – explaining the specific services to expect from staff. Authors tended to come from the upper-classes. They employed Christian principles of equality, while disseminating accepted beliefs on class difference and the predetermined suitability of servants to their roles. Many writers also included advice on the ‘proper’ treatment of servants and the mistakes to be avoided for ‘smooth working of domestic machinery’. Chapters generally covered topics such as training, social relations, household scale, equipment, engagement and dismissal of servants, wages, dress, meals, &etc.

How to Manage House and Servants

Mrs Isabella Beeton, How to manage house and servants, London: Ward, Lock, and Tyler, [1866].

How to manage house and servants is the first in a series of nine volumes from Beeton’s house and home books. The books were priced at one shilling and included titles such as How to manage children in health and sickness (1873), How to dine, dinners and dining, with bills of fare for all the year (1866), and six volumes on food preparation including Meats, how to select, how to cook, and how to carve, and what to do with them when cold (1870).

The series was written for an upper-middle-class readership, with the means to employ a number of domestic servants. How to manage house and servants dispenses advice on the appropriate behaviour and dress of the mistress and instruction on how to manage household expenses and personnel. The book includes a table of average yearly wages for domestic servants and details both the duties involved in individual roles and the equipment required to perform them. Instruction is also given on how to organise, delegate, instruct and supervise servants.

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AS IT IS WITH THE COMMANDER OF AND ARMY, or the leader of an enterprise, so it is with the mistress of the house.


Author Isabella Beeton (nee Mayson 1836-1865) married publisher Samuel Orchart Beeton (1830-1877) and started contributing articles on cookery and household tips in Samuel’s publications. Now best known for her cookbooks, in 1859, Isabella started writing a monthly supplement to The Englishwoman’s domestic magazine, then combined these supplements to create the highly successful Mrs Beeton’s book of household management.

The CSL&RC also holds volumes I-IX of The Englishwoman’s domestic magazine.

The Servants Practical Guide

The servants practical guide: a handbook of duties and rules, London: Frederick Warne & Co., [1880].

The servant’s practical guide details the duties of servants and gives advice on how to instruct servants who may be inexperienced or ‘indifferently’ trained and explains the method, manner and style in which things should be done. The work also alerts the reader to possible pitfalls such as ‘extortionate servants’ – when moneys are allocated to servants to pay tradespeople for services and supplies.

… this work is expressly written for Masters and Mistresses, for reference in every particular connected with domestic service …


Chapters include information on areas such as different household scales and the servants and costs required to meet their needs, the duties performed by different servants, engagement and dismissal of servants, servant’s meals, and ‘tariff of wages’.

Publisher Frederick Warne had been in partnership with brother-in-law George Routledge and his son as Routledge, Warne, Routledge. He formed Frederick Warne & Co in 1865 and the firm became known for illustrated children's books, particularly those of Beatrix Potter. The company released numerous books by well-known authors and artists, including Edward Lear, Kate Greenaway and Walter Crane. On retirement, Warne passed management to his sons, Harold, William Fruing and Norman. In 1983, the business was acquired by Penguin Books.

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Servants and Service

Ruth Lamb, Servants and service, London: The Religious Tract Society, [1888].

This volume is a re-issue of chapters titled Servants and service from the 1883- 1885 instalments of the British series The Girl's Own Paper (1880 to 1956). Author Ruth Lamb (nee Buck, 1829–1916) presents advice to the middle-class house-wife on the hiring and management of domestic servants. Lamb employs Christian doctrine, along with personal anecdotes, to provide guidance and instruction on both the differing roles of servants and the skills and training they require to perform them – skills the mistress requires to successfully engage, retain and manage both staff and household.

The Girl's Own Paper started in January 1880 as a sister publication to The Boy's Own Paper. Priced at one penny, the weekly story paper targeted servant girls and young ladies of the middle class. It comprised a mix of fictional stories and educational and improving articles, fashion advice, illustrations, poetry and music. Started by the Religious Tract Society and edited by Charles Peters, the paper provided a platform for female contributors such as Ruth Lamb.

The Religious Tract Society of London was founded in 1799 by Rev. George Burder, Rowland Hill, Matthew Wilks, Joseph Hughes and others. Membership came at an annual subscription fee of half a guinea and included men from numerous Christian denominations, categorised as ‘broad catholicity’. Initially, the Society objective was evangelical, with publication of ‘… grand doctrinal and practical truths which have in every age been mighty through God in converting, sanctifying, and comforting souls…’ Production expanded to books and periodicals, with dissemination of material via free distribution or at minimal prices. Funding was initially from member subscriptions and later supplemented with congregational collections, auxiliary societies, legacies and other donations. By the 1860s, the Society had grown into a major British publisher of tracts of Christian literature aimed at women, children and the poor. The Religious Tract Society eventually became Lutterworth Press.

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The Duties of Servants

The duties of servants: a practical guide to the routine of domestic service, by a member of the aristocracy, London: Frederick Warne & Co, 1894.

The duties of servants is a reference and instruction book on the varied duties of male and female domestic servants. The guide details the specifics of what should be allowed and expected with regard to different servant roles - ‘… their lawful perquisite …’

It is an understood thing that the cook has certain perquisites connected with her place, amongst others the dripping from the roast joints, of which, in large establishments, there is considerable quantity.

This manual appears to be a later edition or reissue of The servants practical guide, written by the same author and published by Frederick Warne & Co. The preface indicates a companion work titled Waiting at table (1894), as also released. The duties of servants also includes the same chapters as The servants practical guide.

A butler is usually allowed to go out in the morning from twelve to one, and again from half past nine to eleven, in town establishments.


Publisher Frederick Warne (formerly of Routledge, Warne, Routledge), formed Frederick Warne & Co in 1865. On Warne’s retirement, management of the business was passed to his sons, Harold, William Fruing and Norman and continued until acquired by Penguin Books in 1983.

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