Butler's journal (extract, copyright Triangle 2007)


1. John and Peter Forster, the Butlers: 1853/ Patrick Campbell, the Actor: 2007

31st July 1853,
My first day at the house and all is very strange. Where are the other servants? Valerie, one of the guides, is selling raffle tickets in the kitchen – THIS WILL NEVER DO! Gambling is a sin. I have just met a Maharajah and Sir Connor in the scullery – what is the fascination with downstairs? Perhaps they are looking to catch one of the scullery maids unaware! And to top it all off, the sugar snips have disintegrated. What am I to do?

31st July 2007,
My first day at the house and John, my character, is trying to find his feet. The true environment of Charlecote is very different from the comfort and protection of the training period. He plays, enticing and confronting the guests and guides. Mr Forster is rather boisterous!

TASKS: Taking inventories; asking visiting cooks for recipes; interviewing potential servants.

3rd August 1853,
It has been a terrible day. Sir George has died and I have been given my marching orders by the architect. I must turn the tables! There have been many kind words of support and thoughtful condolences from assorted Lords and Ladies. I must retain my job come hell or high water!

Ways to get rid of the architect:
• Arsenic in his tea
• Reniseed on the seals of his letters
• Croquet mallet to the head
• Slip whilst shaving him and cut his jugular

3rd August 2007,
John is becoming more confident, and loves entertaining the plebs and society dames alike. It was hard work having to save his post in the house, but he has come out trumps. Deep down, he feels that he’s in the wrong part of Stratford and should really be treading the boards at the RSC. But perhaps “The Wizard of Oz” would be more up his street…

TASKS: Fix servant report cards so that I only get positive responses; ask Lords and Ladies to sign condolence book for Sir George; undermine architect and denigrate his image; ask guests for ways to dispose of the architect.

4th August 1853,

It was a quieter day today. I met Lord and Lady Grubbel from Finland and they were perfectly charming, and I was also introduced to a wonderful couple from Wales who helped me to compile a bilingual dictionary of words related to cooking and butlery. The only blight on the day was a young couple shamelessly fornicating on the lawn – I chastised them on three different occasions and was finally obliged to read them a passage from the Bible on spilling one’s seed on fallow earth. Really! But all in all a pleasant time was had by all.

4th August 2007
John is exhausting. I feel tense, panicked. He plays too much to the crowd. “Take it down, find the opposite”. He won’t let me. He feels the need to constantly invent in order to fill up the lack of concrete tasks he’s found for himself in the house. How can he be a butler with all of these PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH signs everywhere…?

TASKS: Compile bilingual culinary dictionary; interview servants; preach the word of God; try and get bookings as a comedy butler for local weddings and bar mitzvahs

(Following on from his successful stint as the gay love interest on Hollyoaks., John the butler left Charlecote Park in search of fame and fortune on Coronation Street. He was replaced by his brother, Peter, a quieter, more retiring man whose one desire is to serve).

7th August 1853,
Today is my first day in the house after having taken over from my erratic brother John. I met Sir Hodgkins, a charming nonagenarian who is the inventor of a flying machine. I spent the day sewing and many of the Lords and Ladies passing through the house wanted me to darn their socks for them. After lunch I was assailed by a woman crawling around on all fours in the kitchen speaking in Latin. I ended the day being serenaded in the scullery by a little girl named Jenny, who sang with the voice of an angel.

7th August 2007,
I had to get rid of John to be able to adopt a more tempered manner in the house. Peter acts in a very different way to his brother. If I had to sum up John in one word, it would be “pride”, whilst Peter is “humility”. It was wonderful to discover the concrete task of sewing, and by relating to people in a calmer, more genuine way, Peter has had some really special encounters with guests around the house, drawing people out of themselves and gaining their trust.

TASKS: sewing; taking inventories; noting down recipes; hiring staff; taking calling cards from visitors at the gatehouse and the main doors
10th August 1853,
Today I hired a young scullery maid named Jane Hunt. She left me waiting 10 minutes and arrived at the main door rather than the scullery, which I was not very impressed by. Nevertheless, she seemed a decent enough sort, perhaps a tad too curious for my liking, but industrious nevertheless. Her process was satisfactory, at best. I caught her in the afternoon gossiping about her wages with the peasants, and there was a very embarrassing moment where one gentleman compared Jane’s wages to Mr Smith’s. I was forced to call Jane up on this point, and she was very bold. Then in the afternoon, I caught her wandering over to the stables, although I had expressly forbid her to speak to the stable hands. I am off to London tomorrow and fear leaving the house in her less than capable hands. But what can one do, given the chronic shortage of staff…?

10th August 2007,
Wonderful to see the house full of more characters. Situations come to life and Peter is free to explore more facets of his personality and his position in the house. The key to being a butler seems to be delegating tasks to other servants.

TASKS: Greeting Lords and ladies at main house; greeting scullery maid; setting her tasks and training her up; hiring more staff; providing lunch and water for the architect

27th August – 4th September 1853,

My staff is growing everyday. In fact, it is positively enormous, swollen and bulging. It stands to attention on a moment’s notice. I have servants polishing, scrubbing potatoes, washing the laundry, serving lunch and performing variety shows at the end of the day. I have discovered that Charlecote is teeming with servants, young and old; the trick is to win them over by finding a position for them within the house. There is even singing in the scullery! What merry work!

27th August – 4th September 2007,

Peter has changed tack, and instead of trying to do everything himself, he delegates tasks to others. This has proved successful, giving visitors a greater chance to enter the world he and the architect inhabit and offering them a taste of Victorian life.

TASKS: Polishing boots; scrubbing and dicing potatoes; tallying; sewing; doing the laundry; greeting guests and asking for calling cards; hiring servants; running drilling sessions; training up potential servants; serving food and drink to the architect; performing as a horse; investigating missing potatoes; organizing a freak show.

As an actor, I have gone from brash ostentation to minimalist drudgery and then on to delegation and greater audience participation. Through Peter I have found a more authentic way of reaching the public, inviting them to join in and play rather than just stand back and be entertained. There is still much more to be learned, but thanks to Peter’s quiet perseverance, progress has been made.

Copyright, Triangle 2007