In the middle of the 19th century there was a regular army of them: butlers, cooks, parlour-maids, grooms, coachmen, gardners, footmen, stewards, pageboys, ""tweenies,"" nursery maids, porters and skivvies. All with an exact rank and place in the great servants' hierarchy; some more status-conscious than their masters, like Crichton, the butler invented by James Battle, who found his master ""not sufficiently contemptuous of his inferiors."" Dawes recreates the lives of this once vast sector of the working class with sympathy and animation using the letters, accounts and reminiscences of scores of men and women who often went ""into service"" at age twelve or fourteen. Yet the remembrances are not always harsh. Deference and noblesse oblige made their lot often better than that of factory workers, and some at least had the consolation of ""seeing the grand life at second-hand."" A forgotten past evoked in all its starched and fussy particulars -- the popularity of the TV show should give it an extra push.