My job in the Regency

The housekeeper came; a respectable-looking elderly woman, much less fine, and more civil, than she had any notion of finding her.

After Amanda’s exotic and glamorous plans to open a vampire bar, I thought I’d like to describe my ideal Regency job as a housekeeper.

Just imagine it. All that power! Solely in charge of the nutmeg and other spices and maybe even the tea, gliding silently around the corridors of the great house and coming upon servant hanky-panky, unless the slight jangling from your chatelaine betrayed your presence. This lovely example is from early eighteenth century Holland (I think. An ebay find which I couldn’t afford) with a St. Christopher motif.

Just the position if you were a gentlewoman widowed and down on her luck, like Mrs. Fairfax in Jane Eyre (and then I’d be Judi Dench too!).

Or even the unmarried and troublesome member of the family who needs to be shuffled off somewhere to learn the folly of her ways and spend some time brewing stuff in the stillroom.

Housekeepers got nice, fat salaries, too, augmented with tips from tourists if they worked in a great house. When Darcy’s housekeeper (the one described in my opening quote) finished showing Elizabeth and her aunt and uncle around, you may be absolutely sure she had her hand held out. It was quite a cottage industry.

What’s your ideal Regency job?

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11 Responses to My job in the Regency

  1. Jane George says:

    Nice chatelaine!

    I’ve long fantasized about making my own lotions and scents with home-grown herbs and a still. Now that’s what I call a hobby.

  2. Rachel says:

    Well I think I would like to be a cook. I’m not sure though because I think and I could be wrong that most main cooks or at least to important families were male (but I could be wrong in that assumption). I adore creating amazing dishes with sauces and everything else. And I’m a great baker….the more complex the more I love it. Here is one of my favorite cookbooks:
    http://www.amazon.com/Festive-Favorites-Entertaining-California-Culinary/dp/091233312X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1299791549&sr=8-1

    I actually made the cover item. I think that would look great at a Duke’s table.

  3. Diane Gaston says:

    Well, I’ve said often that I’m convinced I was a scullery maid.

    I would have liked to be a successful novelist in the Regency!!!

  4. @Rachel–you cooked THAT?! Wow. I’d hire you in a heartbeat.

    @Jane, I like the idea of that too.

    @Diane, maybe you would have been a scullery maid who pulled herself up by her own bootstraps and included scathing indictments of the aristocracy in her novels.

  5. Rachel says:

    Janet, my mom taught home ec for years before she moved to sex education. I have all sorts of skills in the kitchen. I’d be happy to be your chef!

  6. I wouldn’t mind being a housekeeper if I could wear a beautiful chatelaine like that! Plus I would get to terrorize housemaids. That would be fun. 🙂

  7. I would want to be the lady’s companion.

  8. I think I should like to have been the cook. The cook was the queen of her domain, a domain large enough to be of importance and small enough to be controlled with a bit of bluff and bluster. And a good cook could ingratiate herself to every member of the household, especially if she was a dab hand at desserts. And I love desserts and cake decorating. Sounds like the perfect job for me.

    I wouldn’t mind being a Regency era opera singer IF I made enough money to be able to choose my own protector and to be able to choose not to have a protector if I so desired and was still able to live in style.

  9. Louisa, a cook could also set aside a tidy sum by selling surplus butter and fat. Sometimes she also ordered the butter and fat. Many possibilities there

  10. librarypat says:

    If I were going to have a job, being in charge would be a plus. Actually, being the housekeeper appeals. I know what has to be done, I would just prefer that someone else do it 🙂

  11. See, I KNEW I would love being a cook !!

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