for writers and readers….

Acting and Aprons…the Brighton Housekeeper from the 1830s can tackle any question thrown* at her

Mrs Finnegan is the Celebrated Authority on affairs of the HEART and HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT in addition to being housekeeper of The Regency Town HouseTODAY her expertise is required by a thespian and someone with an unusual interest in aprons

* This is a figure of speech. I much prefer letters being posted through my letterbox or hand delivered by your driver

It is always useful when enquirers send an image of themselves but these cannot be returned unless the cost of the carriage is pre-paid

An actor of some standing, I have trod (or is it trodden?) the boards the length and breath of this wonderful land of ours. However my destiny has been to play only the mad, the murderer and  the miserable. Oh! How I long to play a romantic lead, to dilly dally with a graceful wench to soft music and the gentle cooing of doves. Please, I implore you, give me some of your legendary advice so that I can achieve my dream. 

I am Madam, your most grateful – nay! devoted – follower
Horatio Montgomery Billingsgate-Jones (stage name)

To persuade Theatre impresarios to cast you in the role of love’s YOUNG DREAM, I recommend a three-pronged strategy. Be aware it will take effort, persistence and INVESTMENT

I Change your appearance. Find a good barber. Visit often. Shave. Wash. Do it again. And again. And again. Buy new clothes. Avoid brown. VELVET is good for almost every occasion (not so good for your your pocket).

II Change your voice. I suspect Sir, you SHOUT rather than project. The former employs your vocal chords which become COARSE with over use. The latter uses the DOME-LIKE muscle underneath your lungs to force out the sound.

Also consume vast quantities of HONEY TO SWEETEN your speech. Honey is good for nearly everything (not so good for your waistline).

I can project PERFECTLY and am able to instruct a maid dallying on the other side of Brunswick Square from the steps of Number 13. I have sometimes been asked to disrupt FLOCKS OF SEAGULLS in the same manner. (I draw the line at crows in corn fields.)

III Change your name. It takes up far too much printer’s ink. You want something that suggests charm, COURAGE and passion. Note that Alliteration STICKS A NAME to the memory.
Choosing your favourite sword as a last name might produce RUPERT RAPIER or SIMON SABRE
Or if you were to choose your favourite tree you might become EDWARD ELM or ANDREW ASPEN
Or for something a little different you might want to combine your favourite pet’s name with your mother’s maiden name. Mine would be Fluffy Legge. (It’s good for most people but I’m not entirely sure IT WORKS in every instance…)

Sir, it may prove in the end that you have a better face for light comedy. Add to your skills. Learn how to titter (and fall without injury).


What is the prescribed length for a kitchen maid’s apron. Down to the ground? Just skimming the tops of her shoes? I would be forever indebted if you could advise me.

Curious from Cuckfield

You, dear reader, are the only person I know who has shown the SLIGHTEST INTEREST in what a kitchen maid wears.

A kitchen maid is not on PUBLIC VIEW. She will never greet guests or serve at table. Indeed, it is entirely likely that she will go through her entire working life without coming into the view of the Master, Mistress or any of the family upstairs.

Her job is to SCRUB floors, scrub steps, scrub pots, scrub pans, scrub tables. She must peel vegetables and blacken ranges, make up fires before anyone else is awake, be up to her ELBOWS IN COLD WATER for hours at a time and fetch whatever the cook wants fetching, and be quick about it.

What she wears is what she can get. For your benefit, I have done a brief survey of Brunswick Square kitchen maids.
Ten aprons are dun coloured (somewhere between clay and mucus);
Eight are grey (were once blue);
Seven are brown;
Three are greenish (a generous description)
One girl is wearing pink (I suspect it was a charming cherry in the last century).
Some have bibs: most do not. All are decorated with multiple stains and have been made out of cloth that has been cut down from OLD DRESSES. When it is no longer fit to be an apron, it will be turned into dusters and WIPES. The material will be TRANSFORMED at the end of its life into pennies when it is sold as rags.

And the length? It ranges from mid calf to the hem of the underneath dress.
(The girls were PLEASED you showed such interest and several were keen to know if a position was open in YOUR HOUSEHOLD as one you run must SURELY be very fine indeed.)

Yours Respectfully

Mrs Finnegan

The days are quiet now the house is empty. I attempt to AMUSE MYSELF with Mrs Hankey’s diary, but there is MUCH dreary stuff in it. You would think her life would be MORE INTERESTING than mine, what with being Mistress of a wealthy estate, but no, she fills the pages with the kind of detail I never bother with.

It took three yards of FINE COTTON to make a dress in 1826, instead of the EXPECTED eight feet. But what colour was it? What parties did that dress attend? What gossip did it OVERHEAR? Or (given Mrs H’s nature) what rumours did it start?

If it was MY DIARY and my dress I would have included a swatch of that material, dried a flower between the pages from the garden the first summer I wore it…. but what’s the point of going on?

I make a rope out of words and lift myself up from the darkness. The same words are mean little things in Mrs Hankey’s fingers. She measures life in inches and doles it out in tea spoons.

Ah, but this is better. It is an extract from earlier in the year. (Thompson is the Master. )

…. Thomson was sure that he had gout, but it transpired that he had a pain in his feet caused by small shoes. Men, really! Not that he will not get gout in good time for he eats and drinks terribly…

I have not met Mr Thompson Hankey, but I have met men like him.

This is more like it. The section that follows was written just a few days before Mrs Hankey and Martha departed in such a rush..

...I must admit that Mrs F has kept the house nicely and young Martha is in a suspiciously good mood.  I am constantly suspicious about what can they have been doing together….

Oh, fie and fiddlesticks. Blubbering catfish! Her name isn’t Mrs Hankey at all. It’s Miss Trust!
I need a large cup of strong tea….and an adventure!

Mrs Finnegan is the creation of Bridget Whelan  and Paul Couchman, The Regency Cook 

ARE YOU AWARE THAT A SPECIAL MESSENGER SERVICE  can deliver every episode of The Finnegan Chronicles your ebox?
The cost?
All that is required is that you click HERE Now doesn’t that put a smile on the day?

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This entry was posted on November 17, 2020 by in Mrs Finnegen ADVICE from the 1830.


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