Lucy Lethbridge

Upstairs, Downstairs

Markham Thorpe

By

Headline Review 280pp £17.99 order from our bookshop

Victorian maids were instructed to turn their faces to the wall if they happened to encounter their employers. In fact, it would have made little difference if a parlourmaid did raise her eyes for a brief, subversive moment: most employers barely noticed the toilers in their own households, the thirteen-year-old girls who woke at 6am in freezing bedrooms to lay fires, hump coal and wash dishes until their hands were red and raw. Of course there were benevolent employers who took a kindly or paternalistic interest in the welfare of their staff, but even they would never have dreamed of questioning the hierarchy of the upper-class household, the essential, even divinely ordained, rightness of there being in one house two societies, divided by a chasm of inequality.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • A piece of Literary Review history from way back in 1983: John Haffenden talks to the great Iris Murdoch. ,
    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,
    • 'The heroic male nude could not, I think, be used today to signify civic pride and glory', as Michelangelo’s 'David… ,
    • 'Munch’s later works show us a man liberated from the torments that gave rise to some of the best-known early works… ,
    • 'We read from left to right and from start to finish. Or do we?' Stuart Hannabus considers the merits of reading i… ,