Kipling, Kmac, and the profession of butlers

I started reading Kmac’s Individualism and the Western Liberal Tradition this morning.

Based on the material in Chapter 2 on the Indo-Europeans, it would be expected that Indo-European migrations would be highly sex-biased toward males, for several reasons. Most importantly, a basic unit of Indo-European culture was the Mannerbund, an all-male war band that set out to achieve fame and fortune by conquering other territories. Also, there is no evidence that these Indo-European cultures eradicated the peoples whom they dominated; they used their position to extract services from them via servitude or some more mitigated status comparable to medieval European serfdom. Females would have been taken as mates and males would have been useful for labor. In the long run, upward mobility would be possible for males of the conquered group (e.g., those with military talent), and barriers to intermarriage would gradually ease, resulting in a mixed population.

-Kevin MacDonald, “Individualism and the Western Liberal Tradition” (Ch. 1)

This reminded me of an exchange from Kipling. De Aquila is a local conquering Norman king, Richard is a Norman warrior-turned-landlord, and Hugh is a smart Saxon who saw the game was up and saw Richard was an honorable Norman, so he took the “can’t beat ’em, join ’em” route.

‘ “Look you, boys,” said [De Aquila], “I am born out of my due time. Five hundred years ago I would have made all England such an England as neither Dane, Saxon, nor Norman should have conquered. Five hundred years hence I should have been such a counsellor to Kings as the world hath never dreamed of. ‘Tis all here,” said he, tapping his big head, “but it hath no play in this black age. Now Hugh here is a better man than thou art, Richard.” He had made his voice harsh and croaking, like a raven’s.

‘”Truth,” said I. “But for Hugh, his help and patience and long-suffering, I could never have kept the Manor.”

‘”Nor thy life either,” said De Aquila. “Hugh has saved thee not once, but a hundred times. Be still, Hugh!” he said. “Dost thou know, Richard, why Hugh slept, and why he still sleeps, among thy Norman men-at-arms?”

‘”To be near me,” said I, for I thought this was truth.

‘”Fool!” said De Aquila. “It is because his Saxons have begged him to rise against thee, and to sweep every Norman out of the valley. No matter how I know. It is truth. Therefore Hugh hath made himself an hostage for thy life, well knowing that if any harm befell thee from his Saxons thy Normans would slay him without remedy. And this his Saxons know. Is it true, Hugh?”

‘”In some sort,” said Hugh shamefacedly; “at least, it was true half a year ago. My Saxons would not harm Richard now. I think they know him–but I judged it best to make sure.”

‘Look, children, what that man had done–and I had never guessed it! Night after night had he lain down among my men-at-arms, knowing that if one Saxon had lifted knife against me, his life would have answered for mine.

‘”Yes,” said De Aquila. “And he is a swordless man.” He pointed to Hugh’s belt, for Hugh had put away his sword–did I tell you?–the day after it flew from his hand at Santlache. He carried only the short knife and the long-bow. “Swordless and landless art thou, Hugh; and they call thee kin to Earl Godwin.” (Hugh was indeed of Godwin’s blood.) “The Manor that was thine is given to this boy and to his children for ever. Sit up and beg, for he can turn thee out like a dog, Hugh.”

‘Hugh said nothing, but I heard his teeth grind, and I bade De Aquila, my own overlord, hold his peace, or I would stuff his words down his throat. Then De Aquila laughed till the tears ran down his face.

‘”I warned the King,” said he, “what would come of giving England to us Norman thieves. Here art thou, Richard, less than two days confirmed in thy Manor, and already thou hast risen against thy overlord. What shall we do to him, Sir Hugh?”

‘”I am a swordless man,” said Hugh. “Do not jest with me,” and he laid his head on his knees and groaned.

‘”The greater fool thou,” said De Aquila, and all his voice changed; “for I have given thee the Manor of Dallington up the hill this half-hour since,” and he yerked at Hugh with his scabbard across the straw.

‘”To me?” said Hugh. “I am a Saxon, and, except that I love Richard here, I have not sworn fealty to any Norman.”

‘”In God’s good time, which because of my sins I shall not live to see, there will be neither Saxon nor Norman in England,” said De Aquila. “If I know men, thou art more faithful unsworn than a score of Normans I could name. Take Dallington, and join Sir Richard to fight me tomorrow, if it please thee!”

‘”Nay,” said Hugh. “I am no child. Where I take a gift, there I render service”; and he put his hands between De Aquila’s, and swore to be faithful, and, as I remember, I kissed him, and De Aquila kissed us both.

-Rudyard Kipling, Puck of Pook’s Hill

Because I mentioned recently that I’ve always (back before I was a genius) conceived of myself as filling a natural butler/vizier type of social role, I wonder if this sort of dynamic is where the profession comes from. The primary job of a butler is to instruct the nobility in etiquette, the essence of which is to make people of different social ranks comfortable in each other’s company (which keeps communication open and therefore allows peaceful negotiation toward mutual interests). But when you conquer a foreign people, it’s impossible to have a perfect understanding of their culture the way their natural aristocrats do. In that situation it certainly pays to have a guy like Hugh around reminding you what sorts of small indiscretions would require the locals to honor kill you or one of your more productive serfs.

Hmm…this post is way too classy. Did you know Twilight Sparkle has a butler?

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Twilight Sparkle and Spike by Tralomine on DeviantArt

About Aeoli Pera

Maybe do this later?
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1 Response to Kipling, Kmac, and the profession of butlers

  1. > The primary job of a butler is to instruct the nobility in etiquette

    After reading all the Wooster and Jeeves stories, we came to the same conclusion. It was the servant class, not the aristocracy, that kept the aristocratic etiquette alive. One is reminded, in fact, of Bertie’s early insistence he wasn’t going to be one of those men that falls under the sway of his valet. Then hilarity ensued.

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