for writers and readers….

Mrs Finnegan gives everyone the Napoleon Hello! and suggests you do the same. Advice from the Brighton housekeeper from the 1830s

Mrs Finnegan dispenses advice and uses her YEARS of experience to answer queries whilst also engaged in ONEROUS housekeeping duties at THE REGENCY TOWN HOUSE

Wretched at remembering names, I often find myself in embarrassing social situations with people I have met a few times before. Does this ever happen to you Mrs Finnegan? I write in the hope that you have found a solution.
Mr Forgetful of Fittleworth

Three good things have come out of France: garlic, claret and the Napoleon hello* and it is the last I RECOMMEND to you.

Legend has it that when Napoleon was inspecting troops he would pick on a lowly private and ask the man his name.

We can picture the scene: a merciless sun beating down on the parade ground, the soldier’s throat dry with terror as his Emperor addresses him directly, an awkward silence as the poor trembling fellow collects his wits and then Croaks out his name: Dubois (or whatever).

Napoleon bends down (or looks up. He was quite short, wasn’t he?) and pats the soldier on the shoulder in a bluff, manly way and says: I knew that! It was your first name I couldn’t remember.

I have added a few flourishes and perfected the Finnegan hello. If you follow it closely you will no longer be embarrassed by your failing memory.

This is an interesting alternative tactic: shake hands while pretending not to see the person whose name you have forgotten. Alas it only works if you’re wearing a big enough bonnet. On all other occasions I recommend a version of the Napoleon Hello.

Imagine the situation. I am walking along a BRIGHTON THOROUGHFARE with my bonnet on and my spirits high when I see a lady of my acquaintance approach. Her face is already breaking into a SMILE. I cannot escape: I cannot pretend I have not seen her so I step forward with WORDS OF WELCOME on my lips.
What a treat to have your company even if it is only for a few moments, I say.
Then I look aghast!
Something terrible has happened. Her name has completely gone from my head. Maybe it is a consequence of the fall I took the day before, I say. Or the heat from the sun, or the effects of the damp air. (You must improvise here.)

She will immediately respond with I’m Mrs Wilmott or similar, at which point I look into her eyes with great sincerity and tell her that I would never in my life forget that she was a Wilmott. It was her first name that had momentarily escaped my mind.

If instead she should reply My name is Amy or whatever, I will grab both her hands as if she is teasing me. Amy! Amy! How could I ever forget my own precious Amy, but it is your last name etc etc.

Warning: You will find this strategy works very well the first time, but is less successful on subsequent occasions as I have discovered to my cost.
*Four good things have come out of France because there is Burgundy. Well, five because you can’t leave Merlot out and who could live without cassoulet once tasted, or Coquilles Saint-Jacques or Sole meunière for that matter. I swear I could not survive a Sussex winter without a bowl of Pot-au-feu and then there is French fashion…

Master/Mistress Finnegan I am writing with news of an exciting opportunity! Utilising the many and various skills you have acquired through your illustrious career and for a very small outlay you could become part of a national training scheme for would-be housekeepers/butlers.

Support chamber maids when dreams of marital bliss disappear as their waist thickens. What happens to footmen once their good looks fade and their shoulders droop? With your help they can learn the ancient craft of butlering. Think of it: the next generation can follow in your footsteps while you watch your investment grow.

Your savings are not only safe in our hands, they will allow the tender flowers of servitude to blossom.

Hurry! This offer is open for a limited time at such favourable terms. If I do not hear from you within two days I will be forced to conclude that you are turning your back on your bothers and sisters and missing the opportunity of a lifetime.

If you want to pass up this chance, I may have to contact another senior servant in your neighbourhood. Can you imagine standing by and watching them prosper while they become a force for good in your town?


I can live with it. (Her at Number 59 might be interested though.)

Yours Respectfully
Mrs Finnegan

PS My first ever art class! It’s a shame it is with Madam D’Albert at Number 60. She makes it very clear that she resents the presence of a lowly housekeeper in her studio. (That is her name for the dining room – I have no idea where they actually eat.) She sniffs loudly whenever she comes close to my drawing pad

This is not me: I’m not pretending it is. It’s not even me 30 years ago…

The “son” holds his dancing classes in the drawing room above our heads. Not that he can have many students as he spent most of our art class leading on the door frame and commenting on Mademoiselle Martha’s delicate hand.


Madam D’Albert isn’t the only one who can sniff. I can do it louder and longer.

A few weeks ago when Monsieur Étienne D’Albert didn’t know I was in ear shot, I heard him mouth off like a Cheapside barrow boy. He wears a French accent as easily as a cravat – he can put it on and take it off.
Is he really Madam D’Albert’s son? She is as French as onion soup while he is more a good-looking bowl of whelks. What is the dancing master’s game?

I am beginning to think Mrs Hanky better hurry up and return home because Miss Martha’s cheeks flush a becoming shade of rose whenever Monsieur Étienne pays a compliment which he does at the rate of 15 to the hour.

I don’t think this is Miss Martha’s best work. She was distracted.

Don’t miss next week’s “blood-tingling” installment.
Miss Martha and Mrs Finnegan are having tea with the riding master.
Will there be mild (and mature) flirting as they discover the secret of the master’s strange collection? (It doesn’t involve joke books.)
Will Mrs Hanky return? And if she does who will come back with her?
Mrs Finnegan is the creation of Bridget Whelan  and Paul Couchman, The Regency Cook 



Sunday September 20th at 12.30pm That is just six days a way and I advise you to book your place now. It would be dreadful if you had to stand! 


FIND OUT MORE AND Book your FREE ticket  HERE 

I am not in the least bit nervous. I am looking forward to my FIRST APPEARANCE on the zoom stage and have complete and UTTER confidence in the technology, in my own ability to say what I think I want to say…and faith in your attendance. You are coming, aren’t you?

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This entry was posted on September 15, 2020 by in Mrs Ainsley and tagged , , , , , .


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