The wonderful John Gielgud as the butler, Hobson, in ARTHUR.(1981)
I was reading a post by Les Blatt over at his blog, CLASSIC MYSTERIES in which he mentions a character in Michael Innes' book, A NIGHT OF ERRORS. The character is a butler named Swindle.
How perfect is that name for a butler? Purely perfect, I'd say. Then I thought about how some authors seem able to come up with just the right name for servants in their books, the butler being the most important one since he is usually head of staff. I can't tell you how many books have been saved by the butler's having exactly the right name.
(Well, not really, but it's certainly something I look forward to, especially when I'm reading an English country house murder mystery.)
Being able to name a butler correctly is a talent in and of itself. Not everyone is successful at it. If done just right it shows cleverness and imagination on the part of the author. Done wrong, as in a boring or banal name, it shows an abysmal lack thereof.
Before I post my list of terrific butler names (and one cook and a valet), I will reveal my favorite butler name of all time: Guppy. He is the butler to the Earl of Ravenwood in one of Amanda Quick's Regency books, SEDUCTION. I'd thought Guppy had been originated by Catherine Coulter, so I'm glad I double-checked.
Of course the most perfect butler name of all time (next to Guppy) is P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves. I mean, it can't be topped. Somehow the very name 'Jeeves' has become iconic.
A few other butler names I am very fond of:
Lord Peter Wimsey's butler and all around fixer-upper: Bunter.
In Amanda Quick's book, RAVISHED, Gideon Wesbrook's butler is named: Owl.
In Catherine Coulter's book, THE NIGHTINGALE LEGACY, the butler is: Coombe.
In Stella Gibbons, COLD COMFORT FARM, Mrs. Smiling's butler is named: Sneller.
In Agatha Christie's MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, the butler is named: Beddoes.
John Gielgud as the butler, Beddoes.
In Amanada Quick's book, DANGEROUS, the Earl of Anglestone's butler is named: Flowers.
In James Anderson's book, THE AFFAIR OF THE MUTILATED MINK (and two other titles), the butler is: Merryweather.
In the Agatha Christie books, Hercule Poirot's butler is named: Georges.
In Agatha Christie's THE SECRET OF CHIMNEYS, the butler is named: Tredwell.
In Agatha Christie's POIROT INVESTIGATES, The Adventure of the Italian Nobleman, the butler is named: Graves.
In Agatha Christie's THE ADVENTURE OF THE CHRISTMAS PUDDING, The Dream, the butler is named: Holmes.
In Agatha Christie's WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION, the butler is named Mr. Digby.
In Agatha Christie's A POCKET FULL OF RYE, the butler is named: Crump.
In Agatha Christie's N OR M, the butler is named: Appledore.
In Catherine Coulter's THE WYNDHAM LEGACY, the butler is named: Sampson, the valet is named: Spears and the cook is named: Badger.
Is this making any sense to you? It does to me. But then I've been known to jump the rails in my literary thinking now and again. Ha!
The Singing Butler by Jack Vetriano