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Advice from the sickbed of the 1830s BRIGHTON HOUSEKEEPER AND AGONY AUNT

Mrs Finnegan, the Celebrated Authority in affairs of the HEART and HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT, is feeling much better thank you very much and is now able to answer all letters IN FULL. She hopes to undertake light duties at The Regency Town House in the BY AND BY.

I’ve been touched by the flurry, no! by the FLOOD of kind messages and remedies sent by well-wishers. Here are just a few picked from the torrent.

SUE P wrote with GREAT kindness
Oh such a to-do…..what a horrible experience….poor Finnegan. I trust your cold and chilblains will soon be better…and that the servants are allowed back very soon!
JEAN M had MUCH good advice
I am horrified to hear of your recent predicament with the sea and the outcome. I trust you have made yourself a mustard bath to soak your feet, wrapped goose fat about your chest and have your head bent over a bowl if hot water and balsom. I hope you will be recovered at your earliest. 
EILEEN F rather got the WRONG END of the poker
Warm baths may help, dear Mrs Finnegan. A doctor friend says they bring blood to the surface and recommends them three times a week for nervous diseases, hysteria and hypochondria.
JAMES U insists that leeches are the ONLY remedy for most complaints
Madam, I have some fine Hungarian leeches eager to do their duty which I can supply on the most reasonable terms

ROSHNI B had words of consolation
Sorry to hear you’re failing…At least you have a view of the sea to soothe you.
JENNY only wrote on a scrap of paper
Mutton Fat
I shall have words with that young lady when I am feeling stronger.
ANON (she gave her name but I can’t make it out)
….Misses, you are beyond compare!…
THANK YOU ONE AND ALL (apart from Jenny).


Here are this week’s letters from troubled souls seeking advice. Did I mention that I am replying from my sick bed? My sheets are stained…with ink.

Life should be a constant struggle for betterment, don’t you agree? I eat frugally, wash in cold water, have my clothes mended and mortify the flesh by kneeling for at least half hour a day. On Tuesday afternoons I read improving works to the children of the poor.
What do you do Mrs Finnegan, to improve the spiritual side of your nature?
Mrs Pious, (from the better part of) East Brighton

Your regime of self-sacrifice is an example to us all. I wonder though if perhaps you are doing too much?
I suggest you forego your Tuesday activities and rest at home. The children will not feel neglected if you send a frugal meal instead.
What do I do?
Why, I carry out random acts of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for me.
I frequently surprise neighbours with my pickles.


We are of a like age, I think, Mrs Finnegan, old enough to have known a time when men were polite, women modest and children dutiful. It sends me into an utter rage to see the way people behave today. We were not brought up like that, were we?
Mrs Disgusted, Tunbridge Wells

Indeed not! (Although I think I may be younger than your good self).
The current generation is a disgrace!
I blame the parents.
And the grandparents.

Pray forgive any shakiness in my handwriting.
Yours with the greatest respect.

Mrs Finnegan

PS I spent a good part of this morning GAZING at the servant bells in the basement hallway, each BLESSED one silent. No one ringing from the dining room wanting another lump of coal on the fire, no one ringing from the drawing room needing their shawl fetched or a glass of Madeira poured. No one ringing from the bedroom, oh no. Miss Martha is MAKING her own bed!
It’s a strange feeling knowing that there’s one of the gentry in the house and the bells will remain silent. It comes over me in soft, grey waves like a mist over the gentle curves of the Downs. I try to put a name to it, but it’s hard to pin down. I think it might be a kind of happiness. A messy kind, because it comes with a cough, a feverish, sleepless night and chilblains.
PPS Another letter arrives. Someone seeking advice about love, life and leeches? Someone offering to visit with a soothing bowl of chicken broth?

No! It’s from the Mistress. I open it with trepidation.

Dear Mrs Finnegan,
I was taken aback to receive a letter from Martha saying you were feeling unwell and were therefore NOT at her disposal.  I find this all extremely unsatisfactory.
Whilst I understand that sometimes overwork might produce an aching of the limbs, surely, with only one other person in the house, this cannot be your complaint. Since there are so many remedies for small medical inconveniences advertised in the newspapers, even if your complaint is caused by nerves or a cough or cold I am sure you could find something suitable.    
This might possibly sound harsh, but I well recollect that you were recommended to me as a person who not only worked hard but who NEVER claimed illness as an excuse not to do her work.   You surely must understand that the reputation of my daughter, her prospects and therefore, by association, my own good standing in the prestigious neighbourhood of Brunswick Town, rests to a very large degree on your availability.
I would therefore urge you to leave your sick bed and to accompany my daughter wherever she wishes to go.
A letter from you by return of post would be appreciated.
Yours etc
Mrs Hankey

There’s a knot in my stomach. It gets tighter with each line I read. I think I may be sick.

Follow @_Mrs_Finnegan on twitter and join 1,169 followers.
This week on twitter. One single feverish tweet from Mrs Finnegan’s sickbed about the presidential election in America resulted in numerous votes pledged, a running mate nominated and talks about US annexation of Brighton and Hove to facilitate her path to the Washington. When her health improved Mrs F. tried to let her supporters down lightly. She pointed out she was not a US citizen, did not reside in the US and was living 190 years earlier and not allowed to vote or stand for office in her own country. Some followers, however, are still arguing that these minor obstacles can be overcome.
This is a regular feature created and written with Paul Couchman, The Regency Cook

2 comments on “Advice from the sickbed of the 1830s BRIGHTON HOUSEKEEPER AND AGONY AUNT

  1. Chris Bourne
    July 10, 2020

    Very good. Really enjoyed reading that. Bravo!

  2. Pingback: *Press it* Advice from the sickbed of the 1830s BRIGHTON HOUSEKEEPER AND AGONY AUNT #141 | Its good to be crazy Sometimes

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