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What the Butler Winked At: Being the Life and Adventures of Eric Horne, Butler Paperback – May 20, 2011

20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Eric Horne served various members of the nobility and gentry for fifty-seven years before retiring after World War I with a small pension from a former employer.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Westholme Publishing; 2 edition (May 20, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594161372
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594161377
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #993,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Malli22 on June 24, 2011
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A couple months ago I read "The Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before the Storm" by Juliet Nicholson. It was interesting period piece. She quoted several passages from Eric Horne's memoir, even included a picture he took. The premise of a butler writing about his encounters was an intriguing premise to me. I enjoyed reading this book, but it was quite different from what I was expecting. The language is much different, rougher. It took me a couple of chapters to get into its rhythm. I suppose its a mixture of British grammar and spelling, era it was written, and the author's level of education. I did appreciate that the modern editor left it as it was, misspellings and all. The book didn't delve as thoroughly into his butler experience as I was expecting. The first bit was about his childhood years and early service. He also detoured into other antidotes while telling his recollections. Sometimes that was a bit difficult to follow, but usually humorous. Several of his experiences caused me to think "oh my goodness." The sheer audacity of people never fails to surprise me. Recommended read if you're interested in the era/society but not for the casual reader.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By D. Burke on March 17, 2012
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This is an extraordinary book! I was up until 3 am this morning because I could not put it down--I was absolutely rapt.

Fortunately, I purchased it in spite of the opinions of some of the previous reviewers.

One of the charms of the book is the lack of modern editing which would have only served to detract from the immediacy of the reading experience and the authentic voice of the author. There are some spelling errors. The language is true to its times and, I expect, to its place. Yes, the writer rambles at times, and tells some jokes and "funny stories" that to the modern ear are not all that funny. But the point is: they probably were then and, at any rate, were to him. I admit I had some difficulty understanding the point of a couple of his stories--just like you might if you found yourself transported back to 1923 and listening to a 70-some year old man tell you about his life in the second half of the century before that. He was not a professional writer and he obviously was not using a ghost writer to make up for that fact.

This book is a treasure and I hope to find out, if I can, how it happened to be currently republished. I'm so glad it was. It's like finding an old diary tucked away at the bottom of a trunk in your great grandfather's attic--complete with the spelling errors and full of personal observations, judgments, some gentle boasting and some regrets.

The book gives a very clear and unique glimpse into the world and the mind of a person working "in service" in the great houses before, during and after their decline. The author also shares some interesting conflicts regarding his feelings about the families and individuals who lived in them.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Capri on December 1, 2013
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I loved this book. After being a fan of Downton Abby on PBS, I looked for a book with an inside look at the workings within the huge country homes. This book definitely does that and it is an autobiography. Really gives a not-so-nice look at the heads of those homes in their dealings with their staff. A sad look back at the only opportunities some young people had to enter the working life. Within that life, lots of turnover and occasionally elevation to a higher position. Even then, the staff had to maintain a pleasant disposition while the head of household could rant and demean him/her. To leave usually meant to be denied a letter of reference needed for finding a new position as there was a unison among the landowners. I have a couple friends in line to read it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Barbara C. on January 5, 2014
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For me this was a fascinating voice from another place and time that serves as a valuable autobiographical document of the Victorian era. I appreciated the original text without modern editing to give the full flavor of how this man saw his world and expressed himself. There were many small anecdotes that could only have come from someone who had been there and done that, and we are enriched for experiencing it firsthand. Well worth your time and money!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Joanna McKenna on December 31, 2014
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As another reviewer pointed out, Eric Horne's writing style and speech patterns take a bit of getting used to, but once you do, you'll be sad when the book ends. Unlike Carson, Horne served in many homes, some great and some that were nightmares he couldn't wait to leave. He tried to avoid the latter, but more than once he found himself out of a position when the Master died and the Heir brought in his own staff, or the widow decided to sell up and move away to smaller digs. At such times, he had to take whatever position he could find, because also unlike Carson, Horne had married and had a child. Throughout the book he laments not being able to spend as much time with the wife and son as he should have, or would've liked.

One forgets that the book was written in the 1920s, after Horne had retired from service, so most of his experiences as a butler took place when great houses were lit by candles, bath water had to be carried upstairs in pails, and horse-drawn carriages were the main mode of transportation. (Watch the first season of Downton Abbey as a reminder of what that was like...)

If the book has one fault other than Horne's mostly-abominable grammar, it's that he could have written a much longer book. Whether it was a butler's natural reticence to reveal the secrets of his employers, or not knowing how much time he had left and he chose to only hint at what were probably some quite juicy tales both upstairs and down, the book left me wanting more!
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What the Butler Winked At: Being the Life and Adventures of Eric Horne, Butler
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