for writers and readers….
Mrs Finnegan’s Chronicles: the Celebrated Authority in affairs of the HEART and HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT is staying alert at The Regency Town House in Brighton and Hove, a town patronised by Royalty and all who appreciate art, architecture and salt water.
What makes a good housekeeper, Mrs Finnegan? I think this may well be the right occupation for me, but I want to be assured that I have the right qualities. You seem to be the best person to ask.
Ambitious of Donkey Row, Hove
A HOUSEKEEPER is many things. The house is lit because of her, it is clean because of her, the cook is able to feed family and servants because of the provisions she arranges to arrive on the doorstep.
She must be as wily as a politician in negotiating deals with tradespeople, as honest as a vicar in a poor parish, as upright as a vestal virgin, as cunning as a fox in seeing through dissembling servants, as artistic as Mr Reynolds when laying a table, and as good a mathematician as Mr Newton when paying bills.
She must master pickle-making and be proficient in the art of preserves. She should have a fair hand for writing and be a tolerable reader of newspapers to be aware of the world outside her own domain.
In short she is general of her little army, the captain of the ship. She is the locum tenens of Lady Bountiful and allows the Mistress of the family to be the mistress of the house….
Have I said enough?
I am fair of skin and colour alarmingly whenever the sun does appear. Whatever can I do?
A Fragile Beauty from the South Coast
There are people who turn the colour of sludge when exposed to the sun as if they were made of tanned leather. You and I are more fortunate in being blessed with a delicate skin which flushes to a GENTLE ROSE when the temperature (or the emotions) rise but we can burn – yes, burn! as if exposed to flames – when the sun is fierce. Protect your skin at every opportunity. SHADE is your friend. Find it and sit in it. Seek out trees and TALL ACQUAINTANCES. Walk in the shadows. Better still, stay indoors.
But if the sun does scorch your pale translucence, wash face and hands in this liquid.
To each pound of ox-gall add:
roche alum, I drachm
Rock salt, 1 oz.
sugar candy, 1 oz
borax, 2 drachms
camphor, 1 drachm
Mix and shake well for 15 minutes, then often daily, for 15 days, or till the gall is transparent; filter through muslin.
Always wash off before sleep.
Yours with the utmost respect
The good news is that the Mistress has not written again. The bad news, the most terrible news, is that a footman delivered a scrawled note yesterday afternoon.
Have you sufficient food for 12?
I may arrive with friends next week or the week after.
Make sure there are a goodly amount of fine French wines to serve.
(How much is goodly? And would wine from Corsica do I wonder. If decanted and watered down for the stomach’s sake.)
Are the stables up to standard? Put the best linen on the beds.
(Do I look like a stable boy? The stables are still standing at the back of the house last time I looked. How many beds? Oh lord, the laundry! At least she didn’t mention silk sheets. I have perhaps been sleeping on them a tad too often. On the Mistress’ bed which needed to be tested for comfort. In the Mistress’ room which needed to be aired by living in it.)
It is from Miss Martha, the daughter, last heard of in Bath. I have not replied. Instead I wrote the following to the Mistress.
Dear Mrs Hankey
In my never-stopping search for your lost pearl earring I am pulling up the floor boards one by one. As no carpenter is available, I am doing it by myself very carefully so that each board is put back in place as if it were never touched. It does mean that the bedrooms are unavailable for sleeping guests at the moment, the work needing much time and patience.
I hope Miss Martha is well. Do you know her plans? Perhaps you could mention the floorboards to her.
I have sent it off. I live in dread.
Follow @_Mrs_Finnegan on twitter. She writes daily and is VERY EAGER to make new friends of good character and amiable disposition.
This is a regular feature created and written with Paul Couchman, The Regency Cook