for writers and readers….
Mrs Finnegan, housekeeper at The Regency Town House and authority on life, love and lapdogs finds that she is the subject of PRAISE this week.
Master Tiny Tickletums has to go for a walk every day and it’s my job to take him. He is a pampered wretch who spends most of the time on my Mistress’ lap eating softly boiled chicken breast. In the morning he sups a bowl of chocolate whilst sitting on Madam’s bed .
The one thing he hates more than walking is me. He sank his teeth into my arm yesterday so hard it gave the cook a fright and left me a trembling. The cook told the Mistress that the nasty bad-tempered thing might do real damage one day. But the mistress says it’s my fault.
What shall I do? I get a mauling every day!
Dog-fearing Parlour Maid
In a war between servants and lapdogs you need MILITARY TACTICS. Launch a two-pronged attack with the aim of
1) making your life a little safer AND
2) making the mistress fall out of love with Master TT.
The cook is your greatest ally. Ask for SCRAPS from the dessert course. The dog has a SWEET tooth – indulge it. Hopefully, bon-bons and left over cake will taste better than your arm. (*Dog-loving readers see the note BELOW before sending letters of complaint)
When the dog has done what a dog should do on its walk you may find it appropriate to take a small sample back with you.
If you are NOT CAREFUL that small sample may adhere to something PRECIOUS such as the sole of the Mistress’ best DANCING pumps. There, I have said enough. I am sure you and the cook can fill in the details and add some permutations of your own. (Ground senna pods. Morning chocolate. I say NO MORE)
* Dog lovers, you will think me HEARTLESS but this animal is NOT GOOD for the parlour maid and the mistress is not good for the dog. Surely, the best solution is for Master TT to be BANISHED to a proper home where he will be treated PROPERLY, that is to say like a dog.
Dearest Mrs Finnegan,
I am, as you may imagine, VERY GREATLY HONOURED, to have been INCULPATED into your famous LETTER WRITING CIRCLE.
(See the bottom of the column for details of my “FAMOUS” service)
Of course I would in no way INSPIRE to EMOLIATE your exceptionally gracious style of EPESIOTOMY, but I may claim your acquaintance from a previous existence.
(The fine CURSIVE hand does seem familiar…)
Your EDUCATIONARY PROCLIVITIES moved me to great efforts and after some ten years’ ARBITUOUS WORK I am now a fully quantified LONDON HOUSEKEEPER. You will be delighted to hear that of the five DISCIPLES who SURVIVED your STIPULATING course of instruction, four have also reached the heights of our profession.
(Ah, it’s coming BACK to me now. All of these delightful young ladies were UNDERLINGS when I knew them. It is so good to know they have benefited from the experience)
Janice is now the head of a considerable establishment (miner European royalty)
Jennifer keeps house for an imminent Member of Parliament
Maureen is maître d’ at a bishop’s palace
While I preside over my mistress’ LITERACY SALON whenever she is INDESPENCED (and she is often). The Poet Laureate graced us with a visit and REMARKED on my sibilance
You may remember LK? Sadly, she is a SLIPSLIDING SCALLYWAG who has slip-sidled off. Yes, her new home may have 42 bedrooms and yes, she may own it, but DEAR Mrs Finnegan it is an outlandish place CALLED San Francisco (and I think it may be an hotel!)
However, we are all SENSIBLE of the fact that we were DIVINELY GUIDED by your GRACIOUSLY MODEST STYLE, avoid of FLOUNCES, which we seek at all times to EMULSIFY.
I am OVERWEENED to be back in your circulation and remain always,
Your devoted PUPIL and ADMIRER etc etc
Such appreciation is so WELCOME and so rare when NOT ACTIVELY solicitated. I return your admiration Deborah for your writing style has my whole-hearted approval (a few mistakes may have crept in along the way, but my red pencil lies SILENT by my hand).
TO THINK what a parlour maid, an under parlour maid, a kitchen maid and two laundry skivvies can achieve in one short lifetime…
My spirits SOARED so far beyond the ORDINARY I resolved to bestow similar MARKS of appreciation on others. I began yesterday afternoon with the crossing sweeper in Western Road.
He was NOT PERHAPS the best candidate for such an endeavour.
“I’d rather have a penny,” HE SAID following me down the road. I went out with the SOLE INTENTION of telling him that he WIELDED his broom with utter brilliance and the DEDICATED vigour of a Trojan warrior. ALAS I was at that moment in time without my PURSE. While I did not require his essential service right now, I explained that I would PATRONISE his stretch of the road in the future. .
“I can’t eat praise,’ he said and I CONCEDED his point. I told him I’d give tuppence the next time our paths crossed.
‘I’m hungry now,’ he said. Quite so, I murmured and he stopped following.
I gave you short extracts from Mrs Hankey’s letter last week. Here are longer segments. I have to suffer so I thought why not share with you, dear friends (in confidence).
…a severe case of ennui was responsible for my silence. It is only now that I can admit that on some days in February I found it difficult to rise from my bed…I confess my reaction to Spring has been somewhat contrary to the common one, in that whilst for many this may be the season to be in the country, it is as if I have recovered from a torpor and I suddenly see the countryside as my prison and Brighton as my liberation….
A drum has been beating in my head all week…BrighTON is my lib-er-RATION. BrighTON is my lib-er-RATION.
It’s not a pretty tune.
You will of course be delighted because my presence will give you something to do Mrs Finnegan, and I reflect that you surely must have been extraordinarily bored in my absence.
… I have not seen Martha for many weeks and I am intrigued to discover her news. She continues to write to me but suddenly there is no talk of the ‘dancing master’ and no explanation of why not. Has she replaced him with a yet more unsuitable person?
A daughter lost?!
Whilst the horror of the girl from the West Indies has somewhat receded…
She’s in the next room! As I write I can hear her singing. Rather well.
Thomson Jr is another person who gives me distress. Other tales have reached my ears of a very unsuitable set with whom he mixes. Whilst those appalling and louche times of the Prince Regent and the Bon Ton are long gone, I am afraid to say that there is still a very unappealing underbelly of society and my son is frequenting it.
A son gone to the bad!
Mrs Finnegan, I feel as though I have a gained a new lease of life. I mentioned a dinner party before. I will need to plan it meticulously with you and my new chef. Have you have engaged a new chef? If not, it must be done with all speed. I also wish to explore afternoon tea parties with ladies of the square, especially those who could be of use…My house will become renowned for the quality and delight of its hospitality amongst the most refined in Brighton.
Dinner Parties. Tea parties. Hospitality and a new chef. I’m weak at the knees. Mrs Hankey hasn’t arrived yet. For seven days I have been expecting her. Perhaps she has changed her mind.
And what of Susan the governess-who-is-not-a-governess? I hear you ask. Is she the spurned lover of Mrs Hankey’s wayward son? Is she with Child? Is she out to cause trouble for the Hankey family? Will she eat boiled turnip for the third day running? Sorry, I was thinking about dinner.
This much I can tell you. She has accepted the delay in having a student without demur and has busied herself setting up a school room in one of the bedrooms. She has told me about her Mama (kind) and her father (absent) and her happy childhood in the West Indies until…we never get past the until.
As well as singing prettily, she can embroider neatly and her conversation is most times pleasant, but there are moments when a shadow crosses her face and she must walk along the sea front, no matter what the wind is doing, no matter how grey the sea and the sky. She is not a happy woman. And I don’t know if she expects to be happy again.
I have asked straight out if she knows the Hankey family. She said no, at first. Then looked away and said, not well. I think we are lying to each other. I forgive her and hope she will forgive me.
We have only known each other a week and yet I am already getting to like her little ways. She laughs at some of the things I say and I do not take offence. This house needs more laughter. It hasn’t heard any since Miss Martha was here and I don’t think Mrs Hankey will bring any with her.
Miss Martha! The poor dear lady. Where is she and why does her mother think she has been living here, at Number 10, all this time? I have quizzed Miss Susan about the dancing master and his mother. It is as I suspect…
What! A crash outside. Hooves on cobbles. A holla, a thump.
I look out my window and see a grand carriage has drawn up. It can mean only one thing. I run up the stairs from the basement. Miss Susan runs down the stairs from the “school room”. We meet in the hallway as the front door opens.
Red in the face. Puce and mustard in her dress. She glances at me. Not a word. She looks at Miss Susan and points with a gloved hand.
Who is that? She bellows. Who is that woman?
Mrs Finnegan is the creation of Bridget Whelan and Paul Couchman, The Regency Cook
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