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The Wit and Wisdom of Mrs Finnegan, the 1830s housekeeper extraordinaire

My housekeeper’s room is a fortress that would suit an ancillary pope. In an ordinary week you can find me here most evenings sipping a glass of red wine slowly, dripping tears onto my accounts. But ordinary weeks are no more. They are gone! Fled like a retreating French army! VANISHED like an impudent maid when the chamber pots need scouring.

I am trapped in the house ever since the family left for the country. It has been four weeks. How do I pass my time? As well as my usual duties, I have given the bed linen very close inspection and counted the sherry bottles thoroughly. With that work done, I got up this morning between 5 and 7, breakfasted in my room upon Cocoa, and mused about the possibility of getting into a Bath Machine. Instead I have penned these jottings which I thought, gentle reader, might amuse and instruct you.


To cement broken china if you have been CARELESS. Beat lime into a powder, sift, put on the edges of the broken China some white of egg then dust some lime quickly on the same, and unite them EXACTLY. I have used this recipe many times & found it to be good.


When you WEARY of mending, darning and making an old summer dress do yet another year, remember that the Good Lord puts little value on fine clothes – we know that by taking a look at the people he gives them to…


The first object that meets the stranger’s eye is the door-plate. If it is highly polished, it is concluded that we are highly polished also. If, however, it be dirty, shall we not be deprived of our fair name? I must make sure that my brass is rubbed up regularly every morning.


Are you planning to eat outside this forthcoming weekend?  Tea on the terrace perhaps or lunch on the lawn? Choose nothing fussy, that will grow waxy or dry in the heat & nothing that will sit heavily on the digestion. Cheese and meat can grow a patina of rancid sweatiness. Do test your food before introducing it into polite society.
I’m self-isolating inside.


I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the housekeeper as she sees her maids unfolding to success… such emotions make a woman forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.


For a cow that makes black water. One pound of salt in a pint of spring water and when it is dissolved give it to the cow.


For a cow that has caught cold after calving. Aniseed, coriander, sweet fennel seed. Of each an oz pounded together, give a heaped meat spoonful in a pint of warm ale with two spoonful of treacle.
I am full of useful advice, am I not?


Guard against gossiping tongues. They are as black as sin itself. They carry SLANDER & defame the character of others. Always be careful in your conversation not to dwell on what you heard somebody say about somebody else. And DO NOT RUSH to judgement or be quick to CRITICSE. The butler at Number 43 is a fine example. First at the altar rail on Sunday, he lectures his staff on the Christian virtues, but by the colour of his nose I would say he has become good friends with the wine cellar.


There were all manner of entertainments on the chain pier but to my mind watching the ships from France gave the greatest pleasure. It was the most excellent place to perambulate. But now I am trapped inside this house and can only dream of better times. There are MOMENTS when the afternoon melts into the evening SHADOWS and outside is unnaturally quiet as if the birds have stopped chirping in Brunswick Square and the waves are falling silently on the shingle. It is then that I wonder if I am entirely alone…


Mrs Finnegan is housekeeper at The Regency Town House  in the delightful coastal town of Brighton and Hove and is available for advice on household management and affairs of the heart.
You can join her at the TWITTER correspondence circle and she esteems the acquaintance of interested parties.

This is a regular feature created and written with Paul Couchman, The Regency Cook

2 comments on “The Wit and Wisdom of Mrs Finnegan, the 1830s housekeeper extraordinaire

  1. beth
    April 17, 2020

    ooh, busy is as busy does

  2. bridget whelan
    April 17, 2020

    Most certainly Miss Beth. I trust you are keeping well in the Colonies? Pardon! I mean our former colonies…Mrs F.

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This entry was posted on April 17, 2020 by in Mrs Finnegen ADVICE from the 1830 and tagged , , , , , .
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