Study Guide

Jellaby in Arcadia

By Tom Stoppard


Jellaby is butler to the nineteenth-century Croom household, and most of what he does is deliver notes, look disapproving – and, with the rest of the servants, spread gossip about the upper-class inhabitants of the house. His big moment is when he tells Septimus what went down in the "night of reckoning" (2.6) when Byron and the Chaters get banished from Sidley Park. He's also part of the gossip chain that sets the whole play in motion by getting news of Mrs. Chater's gazebo sessions to Mr. Chater's ears. Despite the fact that Jellaby's a key part of the information exchange in the nineteenth century, he's invisible to the researchers of the twentieth. The character of Jellaby makes us think about what does and doesn't get preserved in writing: nothing done by Jellaby, or any other of the army of servants that keeps Sidley Park running, makes it into the raft of paper that washes up on the shores of the twentieth century.

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