BRIDGET WHELAN writer

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Dreaming of an elopement and arguing over an address – Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper gives out advice whether it is wanted or not

Mrs Finnegan, the celebrated advice giver and outstanding housekeeper at  The Regency Town House, is asked her opinion on TWO THORNY issues. Read on, dear reader, to discover the answers and learn new secrets at Number 13 (which are, of course, for your eyes only)

Have you ever met anyone who eloped, Mrs Finnegan? Surely it is the most perfectly romantic start to married bliss. Don’t be mean and tell me the bride was miserable the moment the ring went on her finger. That’s the sort of thing Mama says to put me off the idea. I have no one in mind at the moment being thirteen and a half, but I long to be swept off my feet.


Do you have to go to Gretna Green? I’m nervous around horses and I’d rather not do it in a blacksmiths.
Day Dream Believer from DITCHLING

I WAS ONCE employed by a lady who eloped when she was 20. The marriage was happy enough, and few cross words passed between husband and wife, partly because they had two houses and partly because she never listened and he never heard. The TROUBLE STARTED a quarter of a century after the elopement when the husband died.
BECAUSE they eloped there was no dowry
BECAUSE there was no dowry there was no JOINTURE.
If you are old enough to dream about a handsome GALLANT persuading you to climb out of your bedroom window and gallop through the night to Scotland (horses would be involved ) you are old enough to know that a married woman OWNS NOTHING in her own right.
Indeed a husband cannot give his wife anything because marriage makes them one (and THAT ONE is the husband) and you cannot legally give yourself money.
A JOINTURE however is a way of the wife getting her dowry back when she she is widowed. It is paid yearly by the heir at the rate of one tenth of the money she brought to the marriage per year. (It is assumed that a widow will OUTLIVE HER HUSBAND by 10 years as that is the right and proper difference in ages – bear that in mind when your turn comes.)
There is a lot more to be considered. Ask MAMA.

In my employer’s case, she went from being a wife of CONSIDERABLE MEANS to a widow with no income. AND NO STAFF. I lost my position which is WHY I am against elopements. (A black-hearted THIRD cousin inherited the estate.) But if you want to marry under the age of 21 without your parents’ permission (and without dowry and WITHOUT PRESENTS) than to Scotland you must go. You do not need a clergyman just two witnesses. Gretna is just over the border and the blacksmith will do the honours. But other ENTERPRISING individuals will provide a similar service. I believe that the Toll keeper on the Scottish side of the Coldstream Bridge will oblige.
Think of the horse ride in the COLD DARK night (no alternative if you’re in a hurry). It will probably rain. Think too of the lovely new dress you won’t have and the friends who won’t be THERE. Consider also the POOR UNFORTUNATE housekeeper you may have to lay off one day through NO FAULT of her own when you fall from riches to penury.

So bored with newcomers like yourself who insist that Brunswick Square is in Brighton. It is NOT. I know builders seeking investment and landlords hoping to rent out their property have to impress the gullible, but really Madam, enough is enough!
Anyone who knows this Town also knows that this crop of new-builds with your fancy street lighting (which is naught but a dangerous passing fad that will not catch on) is firmly located in the ditch-water dull, irredeemably dreary parish of Hove.
Get over it!
Bothered of BRIGHTON proper

YOU’RE RIGHT. I am new to the town – it is not yet a full year since I first set foot in these streets – but now think of it as home. I am not ashamed to say I do not know why my employers and EVERY SINGLE neighbour calls the area WEST Brighton. Indeed I feel debates and discussions would all be vastly improved by the constant use of those four little words: I do not know.

However, now I’ve seen the map above – so recently printed I’m scared the ink will SMUDGE – I can understand their thinking. You can see on the left – on the WEST SIDE – Brunswick Square and NO MENTION of Hove anywhere.

And the brick yards are STILL BUSY, and the powdery smell of drying plaster HANGS in the air, and the town PUSHES OUT like a gentleman in a pump house making room FOR HIS TANKARD with his elbows…SEE, this charming watercolour depicts Queen Adelaide Terrace, EVEN FURTHER to the west than Brunswick Square and so new it doesn’t appear on the map.

However, if you are correct, Hove CANNOT be the mean little place you describe for it is ALREADY graced with some of the FINEST BUILDINGS and squares in the land!
SO THERE.

PS

I’ve had COMPANY this last week with the new general maid of all work I took on because well, you know why, dear reader. (Oh come, you can hardly have FORGOTTEN all the bally-hoo the mistress’ letter caused with news that the CHERISHED rising star of a son has abandoned a pregnant girl in the West Indies. They fear she has come to England to kick up a scandal. Mrs Hankey thought she might come KNOCKING here and I was under strict orders to take her in and not let on I knew who she was. The only problem was Mrs H forgot to give me a name or description. Now you remember? Good. Do try to keep up.)

The new girl is pleasant enough, and makes a VERY DECENT pot of tea. There are few better sounds than the tinkling music of a teaspoon delicately knocking against the walls of a china cup, but if she’s the SPURNED lover I’m a hot cross bun covered in custard.

The girl’s not been OUTSIDE SUSSEX never mind to the West Indies and was startled to tears by the sudden arrival of next door’s tom cat so I don’t see her as the type to attempt to take on the might of the Hankey family. She will be going home to own family soon. It is all sorted to everyone’s satisfaction, especially as I will send her off with a CHARACTER REFERENCE that will help her find another position, although I think she’d rather stay in her own village.

My letter to Mrs Hankey has crossed with one from her to me. I have another mission to perform.

Martha is resigned to stay with us for the moment but I suspect she still receives letters from the Continental dancing master.
I really do require you to make some enquiries about him. He may not be teaching the quadrille at the moment, but he could be active in other less salubrious ways.
I am rather hoping that this is the case, because I could thus present Martha with the evidence and that would be the end of that! It all depends on you and what you find out about him

Ah, Miss Martha! I do MISS her but, for once, her mother and I agree on the UNDESIRABILITY of the dancing master. How are the D’Arthurs – mother and son – making a living right now? The miserable Madam D’Arthur has no art students and all DANCING CLASSES have stopped in FEAR OF CONTAGION.

I make discrete enquiries and Master Peregrine’s housekeeper has INTERESTING NEWS (I call her a housekeeper because Master Peregrine does, but I doubt he can afford the £80 a year that a RELIABE housekeeper – such as myself – commands and she, dear thing, would be more likely lose a house than keep it.) It appears that the French couple have been reduced to taking in lodgers.

Or rather one lodger. A young lady who KEEPS TO HER ROOM much of the time, a room that overlooks the square and is almost directly opposite Number 13. A good looking young lady, says Master Peregrine’s housekeeper – but her sight is poor so I wouldn’t TRUST HER on that – who was most pressing about renting that particular room .

I spend so much time looking out of the window I wonder how I missed her arrival. I must be SLIPPING…

The housekeeper also mentions that Master Peregrine has been OUT OF SORTS lately. I expect he is missing the company of good society as we all are, I say. Oh yes, he has MANY FRIENDS and misses them sorely, but will not risk his health or theirs, she replies. But it is you he really misses, she adds. He is always asking after you, and SIGHS when there is no news of your activities.

Dear reader, will you think me horribly cruel to be quite pleased at that report?

Mrs Finnegan is the creation of Bridget Whelan  and Paul Couchman, The Regency Cook 
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This entry was posted on February 2, 2021 by in Mrs Finnegen ADVICE from the 1830 and tagged , , , .
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