Mrs Bunthorpe’s Respects by Ursula Bloom

I bought this book fairly recently, a signed copy in fact. I knew that I had heard of Ursula Bloom before. I thought I had read some of her books back in the year dot but I now think I was wrong about that.

This is an autobiographical account of all the servants which the author had in her life, starting just after she got married when she had to get her first lady’s maid. Apparently married ladies of her class weren’t able to get dressed on their own. It wasn’t something that she wanted, she was appalled at the thought of having to undress in front of a stranger, but Ursula’s rather superior and snooty mother-in-law was aghast at the thought of her not having a maid, what would people say about it?! – so she had to have one.

The author seems to have got into the swing of things quite quickly though and as it was 1916 when she married for the first time there wasn’t much of a servant problem but she could see that the times would change, and of course there was then the perennial moaning about servants. It’s amusing although I’m not sure that the author would have expected me to be amused at some bits of it. At one point she explains to a servant that she couldn’t possibly employ her if she expected wages of £30 a year. In the next sentence she swans out and drives off in her Lagonda!!

The blurb on the bookcover says:

Ursula Bloom blames Mrs. Pankhurst entirely –

‘When she got the vote for my sex she got it for all of us: parlourmaids, housemaids, cooks and nannies, chars and village idiots (provided they could write). The lot! Opening the door on careers for every one of us, she may have set free the servants, but heavens! how successfully she imprisoned the housewife!’

This book was published in 1963, when you think about it the changes that someone like Bloom experienced in her domestic life would have been enormous, but she wrote over 500 books under various names. Could we all do that if we had servants?!