BRIDGET WHELAN writer

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Mrs Finnegan might be looking for a new job…The Chronicles of Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper

CELEBRATED Authority on almost everything, Mrs Finnegan is CURRENTLY housekeeper at THE REGENCY TOWN HOUSE in the mostly pleasant town of Brighton & Hove, but is OPEN to offers…

WHOEVER said you should never search for your own name in other people’s diaries was RIGHT, so right.

I’ve been worn out thinking about what the mistress wrote. I went from saint to sinner in a few twists of a sentence and a scattering of commas. FRIENDS! She wanted us to be. Can you imagine? And then I was the lowest of the low – for the slightest of reasons. No, not a reason at all. It was a flim-flam of a whim.

It has occurred to me that perhaps I ought to be looking around for a new position. One that better suits my skills and allows me to sit down more often. I am considering….poetess.

What do you think, gentle reader? I’ve been working on a little something and would value your thoughts.

Ode to a Mistress
She struts in dignity, like a judge
    draped in muslin and fancy silk
Mrs Finnegan her only drudge
    the house the colour of sour milk


That’s iambic tetrameter that is. I think. Or it might be, if the last line behaved itself. It’s harder than it looks, you know. Here’s something I started this morning.

I wandered lonely as a cow
that hath got into Brunswick Square somehow


But now I must turn to my BULGING postbag. IT cannot be neglected as SO MANY depend on my advice.

Dearest Mrs Finnegan

Master copies everything Beau Brummel does. Now he’s asked me for quail’s eggs. Never heard of them so I go to the egg man’s shop and he’s never heard of them neither.

So later that day a man who was in the shop knocks on the door with a tray of pale green eggs speckled with brown, about the size of a hen’s egg.

He said he had overheard me and these were what I was looking for. Seeing as they were hard to find they would have to be very expensive, he said.

So I bought them and boiled them. They turned the water a murky greenish brown and the shell went white(ish).
Did I do wrong?

I served them to the master and he said the taste was passably good, but was surprised by how they looked.

The master now wants something called steak tartare. He writes all the names down for me.
Where can I buy it?
How should I cook it?

Mrs Duffer of Dunstable (nearby)

Mrs Finnegan replies

Oh dear. Oh dear.
Where to START? Perhaps the steak.

On NO ACCOUNT attempt it. Tell your master that steak tartare is now as out of fashion as a man in a wig. (If it was ever in vogue outside of Mongolia which I very much doubt). If he says he ate it at Mrs So-and-So’s house say yes, but everyone is laughing behind her back, poor thing.

AS he liked the “quail” eggs you could cook steak as normal, chop it fine, add raw onion and put a raw egg on top, but my advice is leave well alone.

What you should know is that Mister Brummell is…How shall I put it? He is NO LONGER a man of influence. He is NO LONGER well. He is NO LONGER rich. He is NO LONGER out of the debtor’s prison. He is NO LONGER in this country and, quite probably, NO LONGER in his right mind.

I do not know whether you should tell any of this to your Master. I will leave it to you to judge, but steer him toward that which is plain AND which you have ALREADY heard of.

TRUST the egg shop man. I like the sound of that fellow. I DON’T KNOW. Three simple words that are as hard to get out of a man as I LOVE YOU.

Have no more dealings with the man who knocked on your door. He wronged you in all kinds of ways that I will not go into. He may TURN UP again. Shut the door on him.

Yours with the UTMOST respect
Mrs Finnegan

PS

Do not write complaining. The mistress’ bedroom must be cleaned and tidied every day. We are agreed on that, are we not? And we are living through strange times which is why I do not have an army of maids I can send up. It has to be done and there is only myself to do it. So, I will not entertain letters on that subject.

And yes, I did find Mrs Hankey’s diary. In a very prominent position. Think on that for a moment.

Why would she leave it under the base of her bed covered only with a shawl lest she wanted me to read it?

This could be our new way of communicating. I would be remiss in my duties if I did not obey that unspoken request. If you have any lingering doubts on the matter remember I have no way of replying. I am silenced – there! Isn’t that exactly what the mistress would want?

….As it is, she serves me well enough, but she had begun to conduct herself independently. This is not surprising for she is Irish and they can be an unruly, unpredictable, stubborn race who labour under the misapprehension that with their ‘charm’ they may wheedle themselves out of any mistakes they may make….in my absence from this house she sometimes seems to have acted with a counterfeit authority, yet I am sure that her heart is good.  It is just her race that betrays her. 

Mother of God!

What business is it of hers what side of the Irish Sea I was born (actually on it, but that’s another story). SO she is sure that my heart is good, is she? A compliment from a woman who wanted to kick a beggar is no compliment at all!

I’ve read your diary Mrs H. I have your measure.

One of her acts of independence was to invite this girl Susan to live here…I remain most perturbed by her arrival… she does seem pleasing enough but I told her that she could not, under any circumstances, have other people’s children here. Our illustrious neighbours would think badly of me and I cannot countenance that. I offered her the position of my maid. In that way I can keep my eye on her in order to try to discover what really motivates her and in the meantime she can be of use to me…

Aha! This changes things. The whole governess foolery done away with AND there’s a maid in the house. A maid doesn’t need to have drinks made for her like a governess does, or her meals cooked.

I have no idea what kind of fist Susan will make of this change in career. She doesn’t have maid’s hands. I doubt she has a maid’s soul, but I know one thing for sure if she doesn’t do the washing up tonight my name’s not Mrs Finnegan.

I run down the stairs singing. Almost.
There’s a maid in the house. There’s a maid in the house.

Don’t think me foolish. This long, long while I have been in lonely isolation running this house on my own. Me! Who is used to commanding a full staff. True, most of the time I was the only one living here, but windows get dirty no matter how few people look out of them. Soot falls on the made bed and the unmade bed. Silver tarnishes even if there is no one to see it.

I like the girl well enough. We will rub along together very nicely until such time…

Wait! Does this mean she has nothing to do with Mrs Hankey’s son? Is she not carrying his child? Is she not carrying any child?

I am surrounded by a forest of questions and no one I can throw them at.

Did I really engage a complete stranger off the street? Without references for a job that did not exist? On £75 a year!

I need to sit down.

There’s another question floating over my head like a dark storm cloud. Am I getting Old?

And then another thought occurs to me.

Miss Martha is still missing

Follow @_Mrs_Finnegan on twitter. 

She writes daily and is VERY EAGER to make new friends of good character and amiable disposition, especially those offering a residential position for a POETESS (light housework undertaken, babysitting extra).

She now has 1872 FOLLOWERS and wonders if any other Brighton housekeeper of the 1830s can make the same boast.


This is a regular feature created and written with Paul Couchman, The Regency Cook. Mrs Finnegan has been in residence for over a year and feels EVERY day of it.

3 comments on “Mrs Finnegan might be looking for a new job…The Chronicles of Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper

  1. beth
    April 27, 2021

    I’d definitely say to keep her options open….)

  2. Pingback: Need help making decisions? Follow the instructions of Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper for a simple life | BRIDGET WHELAN writer

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This entry was posted on April 27, 2021 by in Mrs Finnegen ADVICE from the 1830 and tagged , , , , .
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