for writers and readers….

How Do I find a Husband? and other important questions answered by MRS FINNEGAN the celebrated Brighton housekeeper from the 1830s

Mrs Finnegan, an Authority in affairs of the HEART and HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT is pleased to dispense advice to the lovelorn, heart-heavy and world weary. She also answers queries on fashion, cleaning and pickles whilst engaged in housekeeping duties at THE REGENCY TOWN HOUSE

A FULL 28 SUMMERS am I and yet to find a husband! I fear that love will never knock on my door. I will never know the delight of a home of my own, the comfort of a manly embrace, the sweet joy of a child calling Mama! Mama! O say it will not be so, Mrs Finnegan! Show me the path to marital bliss.


Follow my 10 rules and you may yet have your heart’s desire (whether you will like it when you get it is ANOTHER MATTER entirely).

  1. Talk like an adult not like a heroine in  one of those magazines people read WHILE RIDING the London to Brighton coach. Never replace the word years with summers again.
  2. Be nice to everyone – they may have an eligible brother or son you haven’t met yet.
  3. Be nice to ugly men – NEEDS MUST.
  4. Be nice to UGLY WOMEN in the hope the contrast will work in your favour
  5. Be nice to attractive women. There’s nothing wrong with LEFTOVERS.
  6. Learn to paint En plein air. Men may notice you at your easel.
  7. Learn the RULES of cricket
  8. Watch a cricket MATCH.
  9. Tell married women you are searching for a husband. Matchmaking is a NATIONAL SPORT.
  10. Become EXCEEDINGLY wealthy.


PLEASE DO NOT THINK me impertinent to claim a bond when I am a mere follower of your wise words, but I am in sore need of advice and feel you will understand. I will speak plainly. Can an old woman wear make up?

We have just purchased a new mirror at considerable expense and I was mightily pleased until it was put up. Now I much prefer the ancient, cracked one. It did not reveal so many wrinkles or the sallowness of my skin. What to do when I stare at the harsh reflection staring back at me?


The problem is that we are too young
to be this old.

Your mirror is not unkind, merely truthful and that can be a CRUELTY to women of a certain age.
You and I GREW UP in an epoch of porcelain skin, dramatic brows, dark eyes and rosy red cheeks. And the beauty spots! Do you remember those FIDDLY BITS of silk and velvet that would come off at the MOST inconvenient time? (I heard of women using mouse skins, but never met one who did.)

I do not ENVY young women today, denied all artifice (except the merest dab of rouge). IN OUR DAY we knew how to hide what nature had BESTOWED and I do not believe that MATURE WOMEN should be such slavish followers of fashion as to deprive themselves of a LITTLE COVERAGE.

I am NOT suggesting the white lead paint of our youth, NOR the dusting of WHEAT FLOUR we applied in the days when we had to count every penny twice, but the discreet use of talcum powder (with or without zinc oxide added to the mix. Experiment, dear lady, experiment!).

You should see a pleasing result in your new mirror and once you have a suitably pale face that old faithful, the pot of rouge cream, can come out.
But you may need more than a dab.

Yours Respectfully
Mrs Finnegan

PS I am worried. I have heard Miss Martha speaking to herself in her bedroom. In French, I think. Just walking up and down talking and looking out of her window across the Square. And now and then sighing.

I happened to see the D’Alberts walking in the Square yesterday: the Professor of Dance and the Instructor in Language and the Arts (pastel drawing a speciality) I happened to be behind the pair of them: mother and son. They didn’t see me.

Madam looked her usual cheerful self.

Peter Un Plum she kept saying, shaking her head. Or it could have been Peter A plomb. And you could tell whoever this Peter was she didn’t like him much, for all his aplomb. In fact, she was working herself up into a rage.
The son responded with a very curt Stop it! in the strongest London accent I’ve heard in a long time. And I know the speech of Londoners – my own dear mother was born on Hackney Marshes. On the basis of those two words I would place him somewhere between Cheapside and Bow. He turned at that moment and saw me.

His chocolate brown eyes were melting into a sea of nougat when his gaze met mine…

He bowed low and showered me in a flurry of French I didn’t understand, although I caught Mademoiselle Finnegan more than once. Then he took Madam D’Albert’s arm – Mere pardonne-moi – as if he was the most dutiful of sons that ever walked by the side of the Seine.

He can Mademoiselle all he likes and his chocolate eyes can melt, but SOMETHING’S GOING ON. I don’t know what, but something.

I asked Miss Martha for a translation of Peter A Plumb or Plum or whatever, thinking it might be wise to find out how this Peter fitted into the strange household at Number 60. I didn’t tell her how I came to hear it. The tea stewed in the teapot before Miss M finally figured it out.

Crazy! she announced. I’m going crazy. Péter un plomb. I was disappointed. I had been so sure that a villainous Peter was about to appear on the scene some time soon. Un plomb means a bullet, she explained. And Péter? I asked because it was getting interesting again…

It’s an expression she said, and blushed. The kind of expression a lady would use? I asked. Your mother, would she say it? Miss Martha shook her head, the blush deepening into a rich puce.

“Finnegan, I don’t think even you would say it.”

So. We know something more about Madam D’Albert. I looked down at Miss Martha’s elegant day dress. There were smudges of coloured chalk down the front. Not chalk, pastels. She followed my gaze: “Didn’t I tell you?I’ve decided to broaden my arts education…Mama will be pleased.”

She changed the subject to Peregrine Ludlow Hilderbrace, Riding Master (retired), the current occupant of number 61 Brunswick Square, West Brighton. She bumped into him (after leaving the premises of the D’Alberts at Number 60 no doubt) and he sent his good wishes with a joke.

What’s the difference between a mouse and Mrs Finnegan?

One wishes to harm the cheese, the other to charm the he’s

Readers, that is NOT FUNNY, is it?
If I’m wrong tell me. If I’m right make even more effort to let me know.

Readers, my head is in my hands. If that is supposed to make me laugh than truly Péter un plomb!


We can get to know each other MUCH better at a special SUNDAY interactive Zoom EVENT for Heritage Open Days.

WHEN is this Sunday Treat?  September 20th THE TIME 12.30 ISN’T THAT PERFECT? After church and before dinner. Go on, what were you going to do instead: darn socks? Pump water out of the well? Copy out favourite sermons?

THE FEE Absolutely nothing! Not a GUINEA! Not a florin! Not a penny!
Book your FREE TICKET on eventbrite 

See you there!

Mrs Finnegan is the creation of Bridget Whelan  and Paul Couchman, The Regency Cook but Mrs F wishes it to be known that WHILE there may be some questions she can’t answer, she very much DOUBTS it…

4 comments on “How Do I find a Husband? and other important questions answered by MRS FINNEGAN the celebrated Brighton housekeeper from the 1830s

  1. Jennie
    August 27, 2020

    This was one of the best. I love this series.

    • bridget whelan
      August 27, 2020

      Thank you so much! Have you seen that we are going to be on zoom? I say ‘we’ because I will be joined by Paul, the Regency Cook who in real life cooks up a storm in the kitchen of The Regency Town House (or rather he did in the past & will do again).Do come – tickets are free. Part of Heritage Open Days in September

      • Jennie
        August 27, 2020


  2. Pingback: Is it Cricket to go Husband-Hunting at The County Ground? Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper investigates | BRIDGET WHELAN writer

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