BRIDGET WHELAN writer

for writers and readers….

Is this the Snuff of Good Health? The Brighton Regency Housekeeper ponders…

Mrs Finnegan IS AN ACKNOWLEDGED expert on affairs of the HEART and HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT in addition to being housekeeper of The Regency Town House. However, she FREELY ADMITS that there are some areas of human experience outside her realm about which she has NO DESIRE to learn…

Mrs F! This is ridiculous TOGGERY for a woman of my quality to wear. What say you? Me, I’m a well-known Knuckles that is to say a superior kind of pickpocket and when I say well-known I don’t mean to the Justices of the Piece or their nasty runabouts I mean to my confraternity of jack in the boxes, pad and scamps. The Dimber Damber Upright Man of our crew says I can stash my well-gotten gains amongst the voluptuous folds as no-one will dare to search me, a mere woman with a pert face and mushroom lips.
He’s rubbing his hands together at the thought of how much I can carry per elbow. But I say that I’ll attract so many lookers and meddlesome bodies that my nimble squirreling fingers will not go unnoticed.
What think you? Should I say yes to such a monstrosity? Should I say no?
From Mistress Cove of never-you-mind (but not as far away as you’d like to think)

No.
Yes.
I have no idea.
How did you get my address?

The letter I published last week about sneezing and head colds excited some correspondence. Here is but a brief selection.

Sneezing, Madam is a blessing and a boon and I should know as I’ve been doing it this quarter of a century. I refer, of course, to snuff taking so beloved by the present King’s own mother, good Queen Charlotte, or snuffy as she was called. Your reader might like to know that few snuff-takers ever suffer from colds! And it is so very, very good for ladies.
Miss Snuff-Happy of Sunningdale

As it happens my dear dead mother was ADDICTED to snuff so I associate the smell with INNOCENT CHILDHOOD…I lost her at a tender age, but I still recall how she most always had a TRAIL OF BROWN running in a line from her nose to her chin. Sometimes – IF IT WAS CROOKED – it almost looked as though she was smiling.
I don’t wish to cause offence, but she used to say – and she was a 30‐pinches‐a‐day woman – that sneezing was a sure sign of the NOVICE stuff taker.

My heart is over-flowing with PITY for the runny-nosed-man. May I make a suggestion?
Mix a few drops of the following oils together in a small, dark glass bottle with a small amount of coconut oil (if it’s not too expensive. If it is, use water.)
 3-5 drops of peppermint oil,
5 drops of lavender oil
5 drops of clove oil.
He should keep it by his bed to use when feeling congested. Also, it helps if a drop or two are placed on a handkerchief or on a pillow case. 
Thoughtful Tiffany, a colonial from Canada

Many thanks for this recipe, dear THOUGHTFUL. I shall PASS it on.

As a merchant in snuff, I wish to inform your readers that headache, drowsiness, dullness of hearing and humours in the eye are amongst the list of afflictions readily cured by developing a regular snuff taking habit. Also of use in Gouty and Rhewmatick pains and for asswaging swellings. It has also been used in treating hysteric and paralytic complaints as well as the pounding head that Painters are subject to. I am sure it also good for head colds.
I can offer advantageous terms Mrs Finnegan if you’d like to partake of a couple dozen cases.
I.M.Pedalling Esq of Rottingdean

Thank you, but I do not INDULGE myself.

Snuff takers comes from all sections of society but mostly from the upper parts

The very best people take snuff like the Duke of Wellington, Napoleon and several lively popes. Yes, it does leave some staining but a damp cloth soon takes it away. I don’t mind being part of the ‘toffee-nosed’ brigade. It’s the best reason for having a nose. 

A Society Lady

QUITE so.

Your reader last week is nothing more than a Ninny, worrying about a few sniffles but I’ve had word that the Snuff-taking brigade intend to write to you extolling the virtues of that abomination so I have taken to the pen myself.
It is the dirtiest habit known to man. And woman!

A Gentleman of Discernment

Quite SO.

Yours with the utmost respect,
Mrs Finnegan

PS
I wrote to Mrs Hankey asking permission to go on a very short holiday. (My dear, dear sister in law has INVITED ME to her Mattress Shop in Mitcham.) The reply arrived today.

Rather than returning to Brighton for Christmas, Thomson, Martha and I have decided to stay here since James and Euphemia have begged us to do so.   We will be replete with food and I know for a fact that a roast goose, a rib of beef as well as a ham are planned and we shall have potatoes, and pies, and plum puddings.  My brother is a farmer (as indeed are all his neighbours).  They never travel anywhere and Thomson and I will be be presented as the cosmopolitan elite. Needless to say, the neighbours will be most flattered by our presence. 

I have little interest in food which I don’t have to shop for, arrange to be cooked or (eventually) eat but the Hankeys won’t be here for Christmas. They won’t won’t be here
Does my heart beat A LITTLE FASTER, my spirits soar?
They won’t be here.
This is something – even if the rest of the letter is bad news. But as I turn the page, I wonder in truth if I am perhaps now a little scared of a CROWDED, BUSTLING household…while a day or two in a mattress shop appeals mightily. I read on to learn my fate.

 …And our absence will allow you time to go around the house and make a list of all the things that need doing, and then having cleared the items with me, see that they are done in the new year ready for our return.   You will, after all, need something to do.    I notice of course that you have failed to find my earing and to be perfectly honest, I would have expected to you to have done so by now.   

I do not like the tone. I do not like it at all. I must WATCH my step.
Master Peregrine, the riding master across the square suggested I do not ask for permission as I plan to be away for such a short period. He said he and his staff would be DELIGHTED to oversee the house in my absence and Mrs Hankey need never know. It is a generous thought, but he does not understand that I DARE NOT take the risk.

Like all of my kind, I am just one bad reference away from poverty.

We shall return at the beginning of January and I will immediately give a large dinner party to mark the end of the Christmas season in Brighton. Draw up a list of suitable people staying in the square so I can issue invitations.

So, I’m not going to have to wait very long before discovering if I can still COPE with a full household again. What am I saying?
Of course, I can: I’m Mrs Finnegan.

I want to hire a good cook. The cuisine must be exceptional as invitations to my dinner parties should be the most sought-after events in the square.  Therefore you need to be most particular about the cooks’ credentials. I will to choose from the list of suitable applicants you have drawn up. 
A menu must devised immediately. 
Send it to me for approval at once. 
Oh yes, and you also need to hire servants. 

Happy Christmas Mrs Finnegan

What!? No answer to my own request crouched in the HUMBLEST language and written with EXQUISITE servility. (I’m not showing you that, oh no. It was for Mrs Hankey’s eyes only.) But wait there’s a Post Script SQUEEZED into the very last lines…

Your being away seems most unfortunate since it will leave the house unattended. However, if you can do so with the complete assurance that you are able to travel to your destination and return without a problem you may do so over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.   

I must say, I had no idea that you were on such good terms with your relations!   You have always appeared quite brusque with me! 

Brusque! Me?
But she has said yes. She has, hasn’t she? I read it again. Mrs Hankey has said yes….YES!

I think this afternoon I shall start looking for…
…a pearl earring.

From memory, they are little like these. Only smaller. And a different shape. And not such a fine pearl. And this is NOT Mrs Hankey’s face.

Wish me luck, dear reader.

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This entry was posted on December 15, 2020 by in Mrs Finnegen ADVICE from the 1830 and tagged , , , , .
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