Servility; from the usage of footman referring to servants whose duty it was to open carriage doors for their employers.

I stumbled across a passage from Moby-Dick which tickled my fancy today. In there was a word I can generally discern from context, but of which I was unfamiliar. Footmanism itself isn’t found in my Shorter Oxford or Chambers Dictionaries, but footman refers generally to one who goes on foot but more specifically to one whose occupation it is to run next to a coach or horse in order to attend to the needs of the passenger or rider. Such a person’s job would be to open the door or help the employer down from the horse. SOED lists footmanship as «the occupation or office of a footman» and is listed as now rare or obsolete.

Footmanism therefore would seem not to refer to the duties of the office of a footman, but rather to the aspect of subservience in that role.

As an aside, how is it that a word which appears in as prominent a work as Moby-Dick didn’t make it into the Oxford English Dictionary?