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Mix too much curry powder with a letter from the Mistress… Mrs Finnegan, the 1830s housekeeper extraordinaire isn’t feeling well

As we enter the month of May let us rejoice in everything it can give us. Even if the merry-making has to be rather solitary we can still look forward to green currants, chilly days and inconsistent skies.


I haven’t opened the letter from the mistress yet. It came last Monday and still sits on the hall table. Baleful. Malevolent.

Mrs Finnegan is housekeeper at The Regency Town House  in the delightful coastal town of Brighton and Hove and is currently self-isolating .
She sends out regular household advice. Would you like it be sent to your home? At no cost?

However, a world with honey in it cannot be entirely without hope. I have been perusing the more interesting books in the Master’s library while he is away and discovered that the Ancient Greeks called bees “birds of the muses”. I am not sure if honey can help with poetry, but do know it eases both frostbite and burns.

The book says Pliny the Elder advised rubbing a mix of goat dung and honey on painful areas of the male anatomy.
It also says for insomnia you should take two teaspoon in a glass of hot milk at bedtime.
For renewed vitality when tired take two teaspoons in water or tea.
To prevent colds take two or three teaspoons daily.
If I had the time I would re-write that book and save a lot of paper.

Everyone all the time: take two teaspoons or rub it in.

Omit goat dung.


In her last letter the Mistress said I ought clean the house from top to bottom and me without so much as a scullery maid at my disposal. She’ll be asking about the silver and the stairs, the state of the wainscoting and the carpets. I’m not going anywhere near that letter.


I didn’t want to wake up, this morning. I was having a much better time asleep. I will console myself with Devilled Biscuits. I found this enticing recipe at the back of the dresser, written in the cook’s own hand.
Spread hot biscuits with anchovy paste, which has been mixed with cayenne pepper, curry powder, nutmeg & a little made English mustard, heat them. Serve in a folded napkin.
We have all the ingredients bar the napkin. (No laundry maid no laundry…)


I have a stomach ache (how much curry powder is too much?) and opened the wretched letter, thinking I could not suffer worst.

I am somewhat surprised to have had no acknowledgement of my previous letter. Please do reply Mrs Finnegan, it sets my mind at rest and when you read on you will see why I need that most particularly.

The fact is that my darling Martha has left us and I rather think she has it in mind to return to Brunswick Square.  She has complained of ennui in the countryside ever since we moved here. Moreover last night, before I found her bed empty this morning, she had been most defiant when reprimanded by her father and ran out of the dining room, crying.  (She so reminds me of myself at that age, I am afraid we share not only a name but our temperaments).   She is convinced, despite our assertions to the contrary, that even under these present terrible circumstances, she will find more amusement in Brighton.  I am depending upon you to inform me by messenger, the minute she arrives.

Martha Hankey
PS. This of course is more important than anything else, but if you do come across my pearl earring whilst cleaning the house, naturally please save it.

A missing daughter and a missing earring! If I was a cook I’d throw my apron over my head and weep.

I have thrown all the curry powder out, however, and retired to my chamber.

You can join Mrs Finnegan in the TWITTER correspondence circle and she esteems the acquaintance of interested parties. @_Mrs_Finnegan
This is a regular feature created and written with Paul Couchman, The Regency Cook

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This entry was posted on May 1, 2020 by in Mrs Finnegen ADVICE from the 1830 and tagged , , , , , , .


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