for writers and readers….

How to wash a Handkerchief and other important questions – ANSWERS from MRS FINNEGAN the celebrated Brighton housekeeper from the 1830s

An email flooded in this week from a London “milkman” and Mrs Finnegan, the Celebrated Authority in affairs of the HEART and HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT, isn’t entirely sure what to make of it.   Mrs Finnegan is ENTIRELY certain how to answer other enquiries, however, as well as keeping herself VERY busy at  The Regency Town House  

A milkman is what I am, arrayed in grief, who humbly begs and implores your help cos, Mrs F., I have heard that you is something of a church bell

A milkman! Is that a fancy London term? You are a cowkeeper, sir, which is a respectable city trade that does not need dressing up in new clothes. And I trust that being a church bell is an exceedingly good thing otherwise you and I will fall out.

Now I work for Messrs Hoskins & Sons, Purveyors of Milk, Butter & Cream to the gentry of Paddington Green, in our great capital city. Bear with me whilst I explain…

Readers, neither you or I need this explanation so we move on several pages…

…Anyway one of Mr Roget’s maids is lovely. I’m telling you she’s the jammiest bit of jam you’ve ever seen…So I plucked up me courage and asked her if she would do me the honour of accompanying me on a day out to Brighton…

Moving on again (his sentences are like brambles. They need cutting back.)

…So at the appointed time on the Sunday morning I turned up at Victoria Station wearing me clean shirt and a brand new pair of gas pipes and waited. And waited, and waited but no Polly, cos that was her name, Mrs F.: Polly Perkins. Polly Perkins of Paddington Green…

Give me strength

…so I thought I might as well go down to Brighton on me own….I’d been to see the new West Pier and then I thought I’d go and watch a bit of cricket up at the Level. So I was walking up the Steine when, gorblimey, I saw her. It was Polly. She was on the other side of the Steine and she weren’t on her own. She was all filly and foal with some young gent…

What! We have no “west” pier. We have The Chain Pier for cargo and passenger boats from France (below is irrefutable evidence if you doubt me). The coach must have dropped you off at some inferior seaside town.

…Well all this week I’ve had the morbs cos I didn’t know what to do. I’m not really a church person but I went to see the vicar…

Dear reader, I shall do you the service of drawing a veil over the next two pages.

…yesterday I saw Polly for the first time… She was all cheerful, like nothing had happened. So I said, “I saw you, I saw you with that feller”. Bold as brass she replied, “Oh you mean my brother. We had a very pressing family matter to attend to. So I had to go and see my brother, Frederick Perkins down in Brighton. Frederick’s a footman at 13 Brunswick Square you know…

And still the pages fall out of the envelope, onto my desk and from there to the floor (from whence they will be collected & become useful fire lighters).

…despite everything I’m still really crushed on her and I know she aint some totty-all-colours who’d go of with any old toff. But can I trust her?

Your obedient servant,
Samuel J Cartwright

I suspect, Sir, you bought a pad of paper and decided to write until it came to an end.
I believe, Sir, that you cannot trust your own senses let alone this girl. I entreat you, Sir, to consider other towns if you decide on travelling from Paddington Green again. You have seen all Brighton has to often (more than actually exists) and it cannot hold any other attraction for you.
And finally, Sir, if you should need further advice there are a number of housekeepers in London who can assist. I am otherwise engaged for the next several years.

Madam, I am your most devoted follower and live for Tuesdays. It has become the most precious day of the week and I exist in a state of nervous trepidation until I have read your words.
“In Awe” from Onger

That is good to hear and yet I don’t see your name among the numerous subscribers to my special messenger service that will drive a coach & four to your front door (or use some other means) to deliver you the WEEKLY episode of my chronicles at NO TROUBLE to yourself. Do join up at it will allay your fears and may prevent the need for a nerve tonic. This service is entirely free with no STRINGS attached of any kind. (Tell me, did you make the bonnet yourself? And choose those colours too?)

I work hard doing the washing and take great pride in it but I am constantly disappointed in the appearance of my handkerchiefs. They never look quite as neat and nice as other people’s. Where am I going wrong?
Laundry Lil of Lancing

Wash Cambric handkerchiefs by SQUEEZING them in hot soap and water rather than by rubbing them. Blue them slightly, then rinse again in cold water and IRON THEM WITH A BOX HEATER.

By the way, tumbled muslin or thin dresses should be pressed out WITH AN IRON, but I expect you already know that.

Yours Respectfully
Mrs Finnegan

P.S.It is one of those mornings when it is hot and cold, wet and dry, bright and lowering, sad and cheerful, withering and genial, in the compass of one short hour. Not unlike my thoughts. I am deeply troubled, I cannot hide it. But sometimes my mood changes and I am AS BOLD and OPTIMISTIC as a lamb playing on the south downs.*

Miss Martha is of the SAME SLANT of mind, although we do not speak of it. Our different stations in life are an INSURMOUNTABLE barrier to confidences, although at times we exchange a nod that is so slight I doubt if an onlooker would notice. YET it speaks volumes.

Ah me! I rise early both to get business over well AND as an example to the other servants. Since I am the only servant you may ask if I bother. I may not answer your question…but I can tell you dear reader that it looks almost certain that I will NOT BE ALONE MUCH LONGER.

The world is returning to a NEW NORMAL and Mrs Hankey and the household are due back.
Daughter reunited with mother.
Housekeeper with mistress.

Mr Peregrine Hilderbrace at Number 61 lightened the mood with an invitation to tea. It was for both of us. And Miss Martha and I are supposed to be starting art lessons at D’Albert establishment at Number 60. (They have been very quiet all week.)
Would Mrs Hankey approve of either arrangement, I wonder.
Mr Peregrine included a joke with his invitation.

A lady wrote the following letters at the bottom of her flour barrel: O I C U R M T.

It is a little more droll than some of his recent efforts, but it reminded me of all the provisions I must order and the many, many tasks I must complete before Mrs H arrives.

I know they say hard work never killed anyone, but why take the chance?
And I have a feeling that it’s wounded a few…

* I’ve just remembered what happens to bold, optimistic South Down lambs. I’m roasting one on Sunday…


Will you come to a special SUNDAY interactive Zoom soirée-thingymajig?

No tea, sandwiches or little cakes, I’m afraid But a large dollop of me and Mister Paul, the chef.

WHEN September 20th THE TIME 12.30

THE FEE  Not a guinea, not a half crown, not a florin, not a shilling, not a tanner, not a penny! Free, dear readers! Free as the wind blows.

Find out more  HERE 

Don’t miss next week’s “thrilling” installment.
Will Mrs Hankey return? Will Miss Martha and Mrs Finnegan take tea with the riding master? Will he stop laughing at his own jokes? WHAT IS GOING ON AT NUMBER 60?
Mrs Finnegan is the creation of Bridget Whelan  and Paul Couchman, The Regency Cook 

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This entry was posted on September 8, 2020 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , .


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