A male sweetheart who follows the object of his affections. A word very common among servants. Mistresses say to female servants, “I allow no followers” —i.e. I do not allow men to come into my house to see you. Also a disciple, a partisan.
“The pretty neat servant-maids had their choice of desirable followers.” —E. O. Gaskell: Cranford, chap. iii. p.53.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894