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How to Ease a Broken Heart and Other Important ADVICE from MRS FINNEGAN the celebrated Brighton housekeeper from the 1830s

While Mrs Finnegan treats all advice seekers with the utmost sensitivity, she CANNOT guarantee that offence will not be taken by persons who really ought to know better. As usual, she is also extremely busy at THE REGENCY TOWN HOUSE

You wouldn’t think a harmless visit to the theatre would cause a family rift, but I’m afraid my sister is being very silly. I am a great fan of Kidd’s Pocket Companions and can recommend the volume on Brighton without reservation. Because of Mr Kidd I organised a party to The Theatre Royal with three cousins and an old school friend.

It wasn’t very ‘Royal’ on our afternoon

We were so excited as there was was a rumour that Princess Augusta was going to attend the performance. (Sadly she came the day after.) My sister is now in high dudgeon. According to her I am a horrible person for not saying I was coming to Brighton or including her in our outing.
She is very serious and probably wouldn’t have enjoyed the comedy anyway. Also she lives in the dreadfully dull village of Hove and her conversation never sparkles. If she had more friends of her own she wouldn’t get so upset when she learns of my tiny excursions.
MELISSIA GADABOUT OF GUILDFORD (in the rather fetching silver grey)

Your sister is right: you are a horrible person. You are also FORTUNATE that she still wants to spends time with you even though she must know your TRUE NATURE only too well by now.

If you’re SHOCKED by my answer, you obviously haven’t been paying attention to this advice column.

You are right about Hove, though.

Can you ease a broken-heart, Mrs Finnegan? Do you know of anything that will make the pain go away?


Devote yourself to good works and looking after those who are less fortunate.
Perfect your satin stitch: master split stitch and DABBLE with bullion knots.
Eat cake as often as you can get away with it.
(Also do not ignore the RESTORATIVE powers of honey. Stir two spoonfuls into a glass of warm rum. Drink last thing at night. EVERY night)

In my latest correspondence from Master Chef Paul Couchman, he told me of your good offices of advice for housekeepers and your good nature.
I have a very small household to manage but am never too shy to ask advice for improvements.  With the current plague that is ravaging our countries it is very difficult to find time to do everything that must be done with everyone under your feet!  But we manage and do our best, praise be.  I have learned to cook better and hope to improve my setting aside of foods for winter. 
Your humble servant,
Miss Angela Grimes via email

I have learned to cook better
How many of us can look DEEP into our own larders and truthfully say the same? How many when counting the stock of currant buns and beef and carrot pies baked over these last WORRISOME months would not find ourselves wanting?
Angela, my sister housekeeper, you are an example to us all.

Yours Respectfully
Mrs Finnegan

PS On a walk through Brunswick Square I feel my lungs INFLATE with the onrush of scenery – air, houses, trees, people. I feel like SHOUTING OUT: ‘This is what it is to be happy.’ I do nothing of the sort, of course, but it is one of those days when I take joy in seeing my NEIGHBOURS about their business after so many weeks of isolation.

Miss Martha and I have brought our drawing implements and are daring each other to make lightening sketches of anything that catches our attention. I must say for a member of the gentry she is most EXCELLENT COMPANY, but I worry that she has taken a liking to the “French” dancing master at number 60. His “mother” Madam D’Albert is out for her daily walk. I hope we can avoid her.
(Dear Reader, I have just discovered the REMARKABLE usefulness of quotation marks. They are the RAISED eyebrow of the written word! I shall “endeavour” to use them more often.)
Here is Miss Martha’s most pleasing rendering.

She captures the moustache coming out of the D’Albert establishment very well. Miss Martha wonders if he was there for French, art or dancing lessons. I suspect he is collecting a debt…

Mr Peregrine Hilderbrace, retired riding master, waves at us from the drawing room of number 61 and rushes out to inspect our work. He declares Miss Martha has a very fine hand and asks to see my little effort.
I refuse.
He insists.
Miss Martha implores me to share.
So I do.

‘Oh No!’ I can’t tell if Miss Martha is APPALLED or delighted. ‘It is HER. Truly her!’
It is indeed the housekeeper from 59 who poked her nose out a few minutes ago to tell the SUN off for shining.
Mr Peregrine looks at my sketch, remarks that it was drawn with a VERY SHARP pencil and squints up at the sky. ‘A bright day. You have caught the GLARE remarkably well.’
Miss Martha falls off her stool laughing which wouldn’t matter except I do the same.
Mr Peregrine has to help us both up.

Madam D’Albert minces over to find out what has caused such merriment…

….and adds “sweetness” to the day.

Mr Peregrine declares that he is now in the presence of THREE great lady artists. Madam D’Albert SNIFFS loudly and I ask if she has a cold for I have a sovereign remedy involving a little vinegar, brown paper and brimstone.
Mr Peregrine wonders if I intend to take up drawing classes alongside Miss Martha. He is merely being pleasant and polite, but Miss Martha takes up the suggestion with UNQUENCHABLE enthusiasm. It would probably please her mother and it would give me a chance to to keep an eye on the “son”…
Madam D’Albert cuts through any such reflection.
‘I do NOT teach ‘ousekeepers. I do not zink so low.’
Her voice is as dry as gravel and has the same cutting edge: Mr Peregrine’s cheeks are now the colour of turkey wattle. I pick up our things. It is time to go home.
Miss Martha stands tall in the September sunlight and turns her graceful head toward Madam D’Albert. She can be heard clear across Brunswick Square. The gulls catch her words and hurl them across the shingle.
‘Two students of art or none. The choice is yours Madam.’

Don’t miss next week’s “thrilling” installment.
Will Mrs F study art? Will Mr Peregrine acquire a new joke book? What is going on at the “French” house? Will Mrs F get “tired” of quotation marks?
Mrs Finnegan is the creation of Bridget Whelan  and Paul Couchman, The Regency Cook 



ON Sunday September 20th at 12.30 (that’s the one in the afternoon not in the middle of the night)

ENTIRELY FREE OF CHARGE. Any attempt to offer financial remuneration – no matter how high THE SUM – will be greeted with tears of gratitude and UTTER IMMOVABLE REJECTION.  

Book your FREE ticket on eventbrite 

I am told by Mister Paul that tickets are going “nicely”. Her at Number 59 said any housekeeper worth her salt should think herself hard done with an audience of less than….I forget the figure. It might have been 100, it might have been 10. Ah said I, we attract QUALITY not mere quantity which is why I want YOU to come. Yes, you with the bookcase behind you…(Have you read all those books? Even that thick one on the top shelf?)

3 comments on “How to Ease a Broken Heart and Other Important ADVICE from MRS FINNEGAN the celebrated Brighton housekeeper from the 1830s

  1. Daniel Kemp
    September 1, 2020

    Beautifully written in an exquisitely engaging manner. Personally I love the old remedies to combat the everyday ills one suffers and the honey in rum sounded as if it needed experimenting with.

    • bridget whelan
      September 1, 2020

      To be absolutely honest Danny, when it came to cake, rum and honey when miserable I was perhaps influenced more by personal taste than forensic historical accuracy…but the emphasis on the health-giving properties of honey is in keeping with the character of Mrs F who likes to preserve a professional demeanour even when her main interest is in the glass of rum…Are you up for a Zoom meeting on the 20th? We’ve known each other for years online but have never actually spoken!

  2. robertawrites235681907
    September 13, 2020

    This is very entertaining, Bridget.

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This entry was posted on September 1, 2020 by in Mrs Finnegen ADVICE from the 1830 and tagged , , .


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