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A saint, a sinner and a chemise…advice from the 1830s Agony Aunt

Mrs Finnegan’s Chronicles: the Celebrated Authority in affairs of the HEART and HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT is not leaving The Regency Town House in Brighton and Hove, a town rich in art and entertainment of multitudinous variety

Today is my 9th week of isolation. No weak crying for me. Brisk walks around the house. I have not touched cake, cheese or wine. The house has never been cleaner. I am feeling very good within myself.

I have no idea who wrote this letter, but I share it, as I am proud of them. I could not do it…I have not done it….


The youngest son of the family often wants to engage in talk when I am about my duties and stands too close. I can feel his onion-y breath on the back of neck. On three occasions I have also found him loitering on the back stairs. He always claims our meetings are accidental, but the way he pats my arm makes me uneasy.

Worried Parlour Maid from Kensington Gardens

I shall speak plainly: this man only has one aim and that is seduction. He is powerful: you are vulnerable. He is a hunter and you – and any other young maid – are his prey.

The back stairs exist to transport staff around the house without being seen and there is no reason for the young master to use them. Protect yourself : become familiar with his daily routine so you know when he is most likely to prowl. Avoid being alone with him if you can, and if you can’t make sure you always have a weapon at hand, not to wound him, but as a way of engineering an escape.

I’m thinking an aspidistra in a pot can make a satisfyingly big noise when thrown down. It should bring others running. As you have the element of surprise, shout loudly before he has a chance to speak, making it clear that he is the one responsible for the sad demise of the evergreen. (Otherwise the breakage may be deducted from your wages.)

Oh dear, Sir! Your elbow must have caught the edge of the table. Oh Sir, what a calamity!

In my experience a lie said loud enough and often enough can be most effective. And in this instance I feel sure the good Lord will smile on your endeavour as it has a double purpose: to protect yourself and to turn a man away from sin.

On the back stairs you have an even better weapon – a chamber pot, especially as a numerous quantity are moved, emptied and replaced every day. Don’t be afraid to use it in whatever way seems appropriate.

Perhaps most important of all, CONFIDE in those members of staff you can trust. Sadly, it will not be everyone, but I am hopeful most will be your ally.

The greatest of good luck, my dear. The friendship of others and your own quick wits will save you. He has nothing to lose – you have everything.

Yours with the utmost respect

Mrs Finnegan

PS No word from my mistress Mrs Hankey or her daughter Martha. And no sign of Mrs H’s missing pearl earring, although I have been exceedingly busy this week and perhaps have not given the matter my entire attention
Is silence from mother and daughter a good sign? Have they been reunited or is Martha, even as we speak, wending her way here with the sole aim of destroying the peace and tranquility of my little realm?

PPS In this hot weather there are few pleasures greater than wandering round an empty house in your chemise. And few greater disasters than a knock on the front door. Has this happened to you? What did you do, dear friend?

Follow @_Mrs_Finnegan on twitter. She writes daily and is VERY EAGER to make new friends of good character and amiable disposition. She is delighted to report that she has now more than 1000 FOLLOWERS and wonders if any other Brighton housekeeper in the 1830s can make the same boast.
This is a regular feature created and written with Paul Couchman, The Regency Cook

2 comments on “A saint, a sinner and a chemise…advice from the 1830s Agony Aunt

  1. beth
    May 26, 2020

    great idea with the pot tossing!

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This entry was posted on May 26, 2020 by in Mrs Finnegen ADVICE from the 1830 and tagged , , , , , .


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