BRIDGET WHELAN writer

for writers and readers….

Tears and Temper and Dear Old Ladies ADVICE FROM THE 1830s BRIGHTON HOUSEKEEPER AND AGONY AUNT

Mrs Finnegan’s Chronicles: the Celebrated Authority in affairs of the HEART and HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT At present she is meeting with six people from one household, or visiting six households, or an amalgam of the two which she has momentarily forgotten, while also managing  The Regency Town House in the town of Brighton and Hove, which sits on the south coast under a big Sussex sky

June comes in with the scent of roses. BUT all too often it has an OLD SHAWL on her shoulders, A BAD COLD in her head and CORNS on her toes. Be warned, dear friends, be warned!

ooOOOoo

My own sweetheart whom I will wed next year is in DANGER of being dismissed and it is not his fault. He is a footman, well-respected on account of his high height, who has fallen OUT OF FAVOUR with his Mistress because his breath smells foul. He is often required to sample all manner of food – his employers have a French chef – and thinks this is where the BLAME lies. I bought a tin of cachous which cost me dear, but he says they are just sweets tasting of flowers. What shall we do?  

Dry your tears, dear girl

Your young man needs more robust help than tablets made from such stuff as the essence of violet and tincture of rose which is just as well because your pocket cannot keep him supplied with dainties designed for society ladies.

My answer is both economical AND EFFICACIOUS.
He must:
DRINK a glass of milk during or after a meal containing garlic and onion.
EAT a raw apple after such a meal
CHEW on parsley often
When I say often I mean Parsley in the morning upon WAKING. Parsley after breakfast. Parsley after dinner, GARLIC FESTOONED or not. Parsley after supper. Parsley when he has a drink. Parsley when he has no drink. Parsley LAST THING at night.

Grow a pot on your window sill. No longer think of yourself as a bride-to-be, but as a parsley farmer and you will keep this courtship sweet.   

Am I the only one who thinks halitosis a rather beautiful word? I have always thought that Herr Handel could have written a chorus on the subject to match the other one.  

ooOOOoo

Susie, the parlour maid at number 28 Brunswick Square, has taken great interest in my advice-giving services from the start and has now volunteered the following hair care information. Indeed, she was most insistent I pass it on to you, dear readers, and went so far as to urge me to call it Mrs Finnegan’s Gloss which kind suggestion I have declined, never being one to push myself forward.

Susie’s advice for the dull-headed

Rub mutton fat into your
hair to make it shine  

I am not a suspicious person, but I did wonder if this could be an attack upon my reputation designed to drive a chariot of magnificent proportions between my followers and myself. Therefore, in confidence, I asked my many, many friends in the twitter correspondence circle for their thoughts.  Five replies flooded in: a highly-regarded dog lover suggested that as mutton contains an abundance of vitamin B12 Susie may be telling the truth; a fun-loving poet felt that rendering the fat with rosemary might improve the smell. But so many more (three in all) considered it a low-down trick that would result in a stink.  
I can only leave it to your own good judgement as I am unable to test it myself, having hair that glows with its own natural polish.

ooOOOoo

Following on from my post last week about appropriate picnic food (do read it if you are thinking of dining outside – it’s very good) an avid follower (her own words) has sent me this anonymous article written in Chambers’s Journal of 6th June 1857 (a mis-print, of course. I presume the actual date was 1827)

Much needed…a dear old lady

A picnic should be composed principally of young men and young women; but two or three old male folks may be admitted, if very good-humoured; a few pleasant children; and one only one, dear old lady: to her let the whole commissariat department be intrusted by the entire assembly beforehand; and give her the utmost powers of a dictatress, for so shall nothing we want be left at home.

mint sauce

It is not ‘fun’ to find one’s self without mint-sauce to his cold lamb; no one who is properly constituted, enjoys lobster without fresh butter, and when you are fond of salad, it is not cheerful to find the bottle of dressing, which was intrusted to young Master Brown, has broken in his filthy pocket: these things all occur, unless we have our (one) dear old lady.
Who else would have seen to that hamper of glass being packed with such consummate judgement? Who else would have brought the plate – I confess I dislike steel forks — in her own private bag?

cayenne pepper

Who else could have so piled tart upon tart without a crack or cranny for the rich red juice to well through? Who else has the art of preserving Devonshire cream in a can?
Observe her little bottle of cayenne pepper!
Mark each individual cruet as it gleams forth from its separate receptacle! Look at the salt box! Look at the corkscrew! Bless her dear old heart! She has forgotten nothing. However humble the meal, let it be complete: and it can’t be complete without its (one) dear old lady.

….and another one!

What do I say? my avid follower wants to know
I see myself as a general allow-er, someone who allows things to happen, allows people to eat well and allows their houses to function – yes! – very like the dear old lady at this imaginary picnic.
BUT only one of her when we should be clamouring for more and in every sphere of life? Dear old ladies at peace treaty negotiations, in the Treasury and at the Bank of England, dear old ladies at the head of industry and commerce, in the pulpit, in the barracks, in the universities!

A little tidying up and the dear old man can come too…

I am working my way towards being a dear old lady myself and in MY IMAGINARY picnic they would outnumber everyone else.
I would allow a FEW OLD MEN too, the ones who still remember to comb whatever hair they have left, and a lot of children, because there is NO GREATER MUSIC than the sound of children playing (but we must also have a quiet nook for the children who want to read, write stories in their head, or sit and think). I would also invite any number of women for their talk, and COLOUR, and interest in life. And some men between the ages of 20 to 50 could come too – to carry the heavier items and work the corkscrew.
What fun we would have! And there would be dressing for the salad and salt for the cold meats and a lot of very good RED WINE.

Yours with the utmost respect

Mrs Finnegan

PS The Mistress said her daughter would write with details of her arrival. No letter has come. BUT two heavy trunks have turned up instead. There was a note of sorts attached to one. It was a messy scribble written in haste with a poor nib.
No salutations.
No Dear Mrs Finnegan, how are you?
Just a date two weeks hence when she proposes to resume residence in Brunswick Square followed by what must surely be the TWO most wretched words that eyes have ever glanced upon.
Or sooner.
How much sooner? Tomorrow? Next week?
I expect a dear old lady would take the news calmly and smile sweetly while making all necessary arrangements. But I am not one yet: I only aspire to be one. Right now, I’m a woman in a THOROUGHLY BAD MOOD.

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Information

This entry was posted on June 9, 2020 by in Mrs Finnegen ADVICE from the 1830 and tagged , , , , , .
%d bloggers like this: