for writers and readers….
DEAR MRS AINSLEY
I am in love with two men and I know not what to do.
The first lives in the village where I was born. We played together as children and have always had a fondness for one another. He works for the local landowner and is known to be good with horses, but also works in the fields especially at harvest time. I see him every time I visit Mother and, although he has not declared his intentions, I know if I gave him the least encouragement he would propose.
The other is in the same house as I am (I have worked my way up from scullery maid to parlour maid) and is the under footman. He is striking looking and pays me many pretty compliments which makes me feel quite giddy. Last week he said he wished we could walk out together and hinted that a proposal would be forthcoming if I showed any inclination.
Who should I marry?
Uncertain of Brighton
MRS AINSLEY REPLIES
The labourer you’ve known all your life can offer a future of hard work in the countryside. All three things you know well: the work, the man and the location.
The under footman is a more exciting proposition because he is new. But there is a question mark over the life you would have together. Could you both stay in service? That is not common and a footman of my acquaintance has kept his marriage secret from his employers this long while. His wife and child live in rented rooms nearby and he visits on his day off. Having said that, many couples who meet in service make a good living together using the skills they have acquired by running a shop or public house or boarding house.
There is a third alternative.
Do not marry at all.
I am testimony to the fact that a life in service provides for spinsters. Mrs is a title I use, not a definition of my martial status. As you have already discovered, progression for single women in our occupation is possible. Remember the benefits: a home over your head, food on the table, candles to light your way, a degree of warmth in winter. And if you should eventually rise to be a housekeeper why then you could enjoy a room of your own, the respect of your mistress and local tradesmen and a full £80 per year.
But if you must marry, choose the man who can see further than the end of his own nose. Judge his character by what he does and not what he says. Mark well the way he treats his inferiors because that will reveal his true nature.
And choose the one with whom you are willing to share a straw mattress for the next 20 years.
Mrs Ainsley is housekeeper at The Regency Town House and is available for advice on household management and affairs of the heart.
You can join her at the correspondence circle called TWITTER and she esteems the acquaintance of interested parties.
This is a regular feature created and written with Paul Couchman, The Regency Cook