for writers and readers….
Mrs Finnegan is the Celebrated Authority on affairs of the HEART and HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT in addition to being housekeeper of The Regency Town House. This week she writes about the SPECIAL MOMENTS that changes one’s life. She has one when she receives SHOCKING NEWS from the Mistress.
It has taken all of my tiny amount of courage to write to you. To say I suffer is an under statement of the highest magnitude. Yes, I’m sure you’ve guessed my problem. I am shy.
There I’ve said it. Other people particularly young men make me quaver and quake. I can’t look at them for fear that they might see me. I blush at the slightest glance and make excuses to go and attend to my cat.
Please, please help.
Terribly Timid of THAKEHAM
MY DEAR CHILD, you have come to the right person. I once felt as you do now! I know that’s hard to believe, but I SWEAR on everything I hold precious – my embroidered bed linen, the quill pen that BELONGED to the Duke of Wellington etc etc – that I too once suffered THE AGONIES that you now endure.
Although I have no MAGIC WAND to wave, I am proof that shyness need not dampen your ambition or destroy your dreams of a meritorious future. Heed my advice, hold fast to it:
Madam, the lady who is soon to be my wife is, unfortunately, an avid reader of your so-called advice column. It’s come to my attention that she has written to you twice in the last few months hiding behind the anonymity of a foolish pen name. I ask you to cease publishing her letters, otherwise I will have to take steps. My mind is made up. I shall not brook a refusal.
Theobald Thoroughgood Esq
SIR, I AM COMPLETELY IGNORANT of the epistolary communication of which you speak. I have not received a letter from your fiancé, although I see that several gentleman in your town have sought advice about the best way of dealing with TT, a bumptious, conceited acquaintance with bad breath. Do you happen to know him?
DEAR READERS I was in somewhat low spirits last week. Thank you for having the tact not to write. I prefer to draw a veil over the matter and would have been mortified to be inundated with good wishes, but a letter from a faithful reader in Upper Canada did cheer me.
We have just had quite the storm here (she writes.) The roads were so blocked with snow drifts. The kind that were 4 feet high in some areas. (My goodness! The snow would have come up to my chin.) I had an idea regarding the found pearl earring. (You may remember that I discovered the earring lost by the Mistress nearly a year ago.) So that the pressure is off you (in case you’re blamed for not finding it sooner) perhaps leave it in the bottom of a not very popular shoe or drawer that she should happen across it when she returns? It is an idea with some merit. I shall ponder it anon.
Meanwhile the Mistress herself has written and it is not the letter I thought it would be. Judge for yourself
Dear Mrs Finnegan,
I hope you were able to refresh yourself adequately over Christmas. I cannot say that ours was an unmitigated joy since too much alcohol was taken, too much food was eaten with the result that I felt bilious for many days, am just now over it, and my dresses are no longer comfortable.
Oh dear, what a shame.
Very sadly the ball I had envisaged on our return to Brighton and all things entertaining, will have to be postponed. I realise how disappointed you will be, but there is nothing to be done for we are all in this dreadful situation together and must suffer accordingly.
While we’re all in the same storm, I don’t think we’re all in the same boat…but then, dear reader, the tone changes.
One very serious matter has arisen and I am telling you this in the strictest confidence. You must on no account breath a word of this to anyone, for were it to get out our reputation would be in tatters.
I sit here in the housekeeper’s room looking out at the world (or rather up, as my room is in the basement as you know) and I wonder if this is the moment life changes. I’ve had a few such moments in my time as I expect you have TOO: moments where nothing is EVER QUITE THE SAME again.
Do I WANT to know the secrets of the Hankey family. Well, of course I do, but will it do me harm?
Oh, the Mistress may NEED to confide in me now, but in the future will she look so kindly on the HOUSEKEEPER who is privy to things she would rather no one knew.
But what can I do but read on…
You will remember my son Thomson. He was in the West Indies with his father and returned with him and I know that he wants to become a Member of Parliament. I have been used to thinking of him as a good boy and intelligent and someone who may well make us all proud. However, he has done something very, very stupid and ill thought-out and so cruel to me, his mother, that it nearly makes me weep.
I don’t know the son. Never met him. Never met the father either. I have NOT YET served a full year with The Hankeys and most of that time has been apart from the family, in isolation. But hey ho! I’m a member of the household so details like that are unimportant…All I know about the FATHER is that he is a plantation owner with all that means. The West Indies business was a bad business, the worst the human mind can conjure. I read a pamphlet by Elizabeth Heyrick once and I don’t care who knows it. It was one of those moments if you get my meaning…but that’s by the by. I have an AWFUL FEELING that I know what’s coming regarding the son.
Thomson had a meaningless dalliance in Grenada with one of the servants in the house. And she is pregnant. Can you imagine the horror? That fact alone would not be so bad had it stayed in Grenada, but it would seem that she has followed him to London and is threatening to tell a Grub Street journalist unless she is given money.
Although not receiving any satisfaction, I am grateful to report that she has not told the Press so far, but she has gone missing. I fear dreadfully that she may arrive in Brighton, and yet I rather hope she does for if she were to go to the Poorhouse, she might well brag.
Mrs Hankey is right to be worried. If she throws herself on the MISERABLE MERCIES of the parish she may well have to mention the Hankeys – otherwise why would they help an UNMARRIED MOTHER late of the West Indies with no local connection?
If she should come to Brunswick Square Mrs Finnegan, I instruct you to deal with this in the most sensitive manner using all your wits and the greatest delicacy. I want you to engage the girl as a servant without admitting to her by the slightest gesture that you know anything about her history.
O, there we have it. If it all goes wrong it will be because I have not been delicate enough – nor SUFFICIENTLY SENSITIVE. And how far gone is the girl? What pregnant woman goes looking for a JOB? What housekeeper would give her one? I know nothing about travel to the West Indies but the voyage must be long and take time to arrange. Maybe the babe is born ALREADY?
We will talk further about this I am sure, but in the meantime I await your reply anxiously. Indeed my anxiety has helped reduce some of that embonpoint I was complaining about earlier.
With, may I say, my sincerest gratitude in anticipation of a very wearisome time,
I had to look embonpoint up in a dictionary in Mr Thompson’s library. I was CURIOUS as the late Mr Finnegan’s employer (a French escapee from the Revolution, though if he was a Count I’m A WARDROBE) once used the word when looking at me.
Noun: the plump or fleshy part of a person’s body, in particular a woman’s bosom.
I’m not ENTIRELY CERTAIN that was what Mrs Hankey was referring too…(although I’m quite sure it was exactly what the “Count” meant).
I am a loss to know what to do. The doorbell rings and rouses me from my thoughts. Looking up I can see the LOWER HALF of the person waiting at the front door: shoes, ankles, skirt tell me that a young woman requires my attention.
Could it be the YOUNG WOMAN that Mrs Hankey has written about?
And I realise that Mrs H has omitted her name.
Mrs Finnegan is the creation of Bridget Whelan and Paul Couchman, The Regency Cook
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