BRIDGET WHELAN writer

for writers and readers….

Sneezes loud enough to waken the dead – all in a day’s work for Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper

Mrs Finnegan IS AN ACKNOWLEDGED expert on affairs of the HEART, MINOR HEALTH CONCERNS and HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT in addition to being housekeeper of The Regency Town House.

Wretched I am and wretched I will remain, if you are unable to offer solace and a speedy remedy. From the browning of leaves in the autumn to the bleat of lambs in the spring, I am the victim of one head cold after another.
I cough, I splutter, I sneeze. O Lord how I sneeze! Loud enough to wake the residents of the church yard, says my wife who sympathises little and complains a lot. Her chief grievances being that sometimes in company I blow my nose into my elbow as my father used to do and his father before him. Also that I keep her awake most nights.
Offer me some release from winter’s torments, I beg you!
Woozy of Woking

I am of the BELIEF that handkerchiefs are the sign of a CIVILISED SOCIETY and you will not shake me on that point. But perhaps the real problem here is that you do not have SUFFICIENT QUANTITY easily available about your person. Your wife has UNDERESTIMATED your daily need. Ask her to run up a couple of dozen more And SPARE THE STARCH!

THE ANCIENTS thought that THE SOUL jumped out of the body when someone sneezed which is why sufferers were urged to cover NOSE AND MOUTH. In our enlightened times this belief is in abeyance, but I say why take a chance?

If your cold persists sipping spoonfuls of the following mixture every hour or so should reduce the HARSHNESS and bring it to a more speedy end than otherwise would have been the case.

Take two oz of sheep fat taken from around the kidneys and grate it very fine. Put it into a pint of Milk and suffer it to boil a good while, but keep a watch on it all the time lest it boil over and all the goodness lost. It now needs to be strained through the finest muslin you can find. Leave to cool.

I would also RECOMMEND sir, that you Desert the MATRIMONIAL BED for the duration for your OWN COMFORT and to ensure that your wife is sufficiently refreshed in the morning to allow her to meet your medicinal needs.

The mistress and the family have been away in the country and are due back next week. I have been all alone and in charge of keeping the house clean and in order. I am mindful of the responsibility that has been entrusted to me, but to entertain myself in the evenings I have been trying on my mistress’ gowns and pretending that I am a grand lady of leisure.
I ashamed of what I have done and fear she will find me out. It would be a calamity of terrible proportions if I were dismissed.
Guilt-ridden of Gillingham

NO NEED for a SHAME FACE! You’ve done no more than any FORWARD-THINKING HOUSEKEEPER would do and AIRED your mistress’ clothes in the most efficient way possible. Moving them about in this fashion has prevented any creature of the FLYING OR FURRY KIND making a home among the folds of silk and velvet.

In addition it is WELL-KNOWN that the best way of THOROUGHLY INSPECTING a garment for stains and tears is by wearing it and observing from all angles.

When I say well-known I mean it is COMMON KNOWLEDGE with housekeepers – so common that it is rarely discussed even amongst ourselves. Mistresses, however, tend to be behind the times on such matters. There is no need to bring this matter to her attention as the LADY OF THE HOUSE is often reluctant to admit her own IGNORANCE. (I would, however, suggest you add plenty of sweet smelling lavender bags to the wardrobes before her return.)

Yours Respectfully
Mrs Finnegan

PS
I have been perusing more guides written to IMPROVE a lady’s inner NATURE and outer appearance and general SWEETEN her countenance. In truth, they are written to make money and BLOAT the author’s purse. Take this pearl of wisdom, this RUBY of reason, this very diamond of DISCOURSE.

That calamity which does not terminate in your demise
Will most assuredly increase your vigour.

Tell that to the wounded of Waterloo!
Murmur into the ears of diligent HOUSEKEEPERS cheated in the marketplace; the footman who loses his position because of reduced NIMBLENESS, the cook whose sauce spoils because of a moment’s distraction!
Console the broken-hearted maiden, the lonely widow and BANKRUPT businessman with those words.

I sometimes find that reading self-improvement guides hurts my eyes

Here’s another gem:

When one door shuts, another opens

Or you could go back and open the shut door. That’s how they work – it’s very clever design.
My mood is not lifted by a communication from the Mistress. Mrs Hankey writes:

I do not as yet know our Christmas arrangements. It is quite possible that we will come back to Brighton and bring my relatives with us… 

What a surprise! I presumed I was going to be sent detailed instructions in good time about the exact number of guests with the date of their arrival and departure. Carved in stone. Backed up by an Act of Parliament.

This will mean a little extra work engaging cook and chambermaids, making up bedrooms, and buying provisions, also seasonally decorating the house, but you are very capable Mrs Finnegan and therefore it will all be a matter of a moment. 

The only problem is that I can’t decide whether to write a three volume novel before or re-negotiate The Anglo-Dutch treaty afterwards. Or perhaps I’ll leave both for the afternoon.

In the meantime, since you will be so dull with just your own company, please have another look for my precious earing.   It could be anywhere…

I thought she had forgotten all about the pearl earring, lost in spring. I wish she had asked about her diary. I know where that is (beside my bed for safe-keeping and in case I can’t sleep at night.)  

Another letter arrives. I assume it is penned by another lost soul in dire difficulties but no, it’s from Mary Ann Finnegan, my late husband’s spinster sister. She now runs a mattress shop in Mitcham and would I ever consider…could I contemplate…might it be possible…

A short holiday. Staying with her.

O, dear reader. My heart is full. I can write no more.

Mrs Finnegan is the creation of Bridget Whelan  and Paul Couchman, The Regency Cook 
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2 comments on “Sneezes loud enough to waken the dead – all in a day’s work for Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper

  1. beth
    December 8, 2020

    you’re just looking out for the missus by trying on her dresses, consider it quality control!

  2. bridget whelan
    December 9, 2020

    A very good point (one I am sure Mrs F will use in future)

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