for writers and readers….

Need help making decisions? Follow the instructions of Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper for a simple life

Mrs Finnegan, the outstanding housekeeper of her generation, is employed at THE REGENCY TOWN HOUSE She GIVES advice and occasionally takes it.

Please help me.
I have a complete inability to make a decision. Cook presented me with this picture of puddings and asked me to choose which ones I wanted at the banquet my husband and I are planning for some very important guests. I have always had a problem deciding which it the best choice whether it be for hats, houses or even husbands (dear papa was was rather instrumental in that one )
Indecision is ruining my life. 

Mrs Will-I? from Wivelsfield

Mrs Finnegan replies

Vacillate and you lose respect, miss opportunities and live a life of SLOW regret.

You must be quick. You must BE firm and when presented with a list you must ALWAYS CHOOSE the third option. When given a collection of objects (as pictured above) choose those on the right hand side. It’s a gamble, but so is trusting your judgement.

Only defer from this pattern when the result is obviously outlandish in which case WITHOUT HESITATION choose the 4th on the list or jump to the left hand side.

The only OTHER exception is when talking to your Cook.

Do not think for a moment she is asking you to SELECT one of the delightful dishes.
Look, she is saying, I have the SKILLS to create all of these. Aren’t I clever?

There is only one response she wants from her mistress and that is be told she can decide.
She will choose the dishes she can make (to a more or less satisfactory standard) and that way you WILL BOTH be happy.

You see, Mrs W, life can be simple.

Oh, dear, Mrs Finnegan,
You who are such an EXEMPLARY distributor of SOUND wisdom; it appears you might need some advice yourself.
Firstly, do not be a poetess. It is difficult work, as you are discovering. It makes your brain hurt. And you are often ever so HUNGRY… not to mention COLD, and UNFASHIONABLE.

There is a fine line between gentile poverty and PENURY, and that line happens to lie on a very slippery slope. Trust me; I KNOW.

You are so very CLEVER; perhaps you could put your literary skills to use in your… SITUATION… with Mrs Hankey. If you was to leave an occasional letter to ‘a dear friend’ lying about somewhere that Mrs Hankey couldn’t HELP but read it, you might have a vehicle for REBUTTAL, as it were.

Since Mrs Hankey could not ACCUSE you of reading her diary without admitting that she had read your letters… well, it might just work.

BUT you must be very careful to read and edit your letter SEVERAL times and make sure that it is carefully crafted and unlikely to give GROUNDS for DISMISSAL before you leave it lying in a CONVENIENTLY ACCESSIBLE spot.

Signature undecipherable (or deliberately disguised)

Mrs Finnegan replies

Thank you for YOUR advice.

I trust that the VERY FACT I publish your letter will quieten those who say I can deliver guidance but am UNABLE to receive it myself.


You offer a new and intriguing method of communicating with my mistress. It has a number of advantages, but one insurmountable flaw.

I cannot reveal confidential matters to outsiders. It goes against the SOLEMN CODE of housekeeping that has been in existence ever since Mrs Abel offered to do a bit dusting for Master Cain. In other words, what goes on at The Regency Town House, STAYS at The Regency Town House.

A letter to a “a friend” such as you describe would be a sackable OFFENCE. With a forfeit of wages and NO character reference given. The result? Shame followed rapidly by destitution, admission to the workhouse, an EARLY death and an unmarked grave.

So, ON BALANCE, I think not.

On the question of poetry…

You join a number of critics who kindly offered their unsolicited OPINION in the twitter correspondence circle and elsewhere. Several were EVEN moved to re-write my own small efforts (forgotten what they were? You can read them here). Such generous instruction has persuaded me to re-think PROSPECTIVE employment plans.

Poetry is CLEARLY not for those of a sensitive nature. I am convinced you need a thickly calloused skin in order to RHYME.

In any case, I could never abandon my true vocation: to bring order and organisation to store cupboards and ordinary lives

Yours respectfully
Mrs Finnegan

Mrs Hankey has gone hunting for her daughter. WHERE I do not know. She got a letter this morning from WHOM I do not know

Worse still! She’s taken her diary with her.

I know the mistress is convinced that Miss Martha is alone and lonely in Tunbridge Wells, pining for her mother, but I am not so sure for several compelling reasons.

  • It is a TEDIOUS town
  • Miss Martha said nothing to me about Tunbridge Wells
  • I doubt VERY MUCH that anyone has pined for Mrs Hankey’s company.

Also Susan – the new lady’s maid who not so long ago was residing with the D’Arthurs at number 60 – told me that while there she overheard mother and son discuss:

  • a promising opportunity which was NEARLY in their grasp
  • the need to be very careful
  • the need for Madam D’Arthur to CURB her tongue (praise be!)
  • the need for Monsieur D’Arthur toFORGET about l’amour

What to think, dear reader?

I know for a copper-bottomed, cast-iron fact that last autumn Monsieur D’Arthur and Miss Martha were in secret correspondence. (Well, no one told me. I had to find out by myself.)

I suspect good, kind, brave Miss Martha has fallen victim to CUPID’S ARROW and is now in London contemplating the future, free from the distractions of her interfering family.

For two farthings, I’d take the next coach to London myself and help her decide. It would be bad enough if Monsieur Étienne D’Arthur was actually in LOVE, but it is as I have LONG suspected, he is nothing but a dowry-hunting dancing master, a VAGABOND preying on virtue, a curly-haired pup whose highest ambition is to live off a wealthy wife.

I stamp my feet in anger at the thought of it.

I would go to London. I would. But it’s an awfully big place…and I have no idea where she might be.

I long for Mrs Hankey’s speedy return. (And that’s not a sentence you see very often.)

Mrs Finnegan is VERY EAGER to make new friends (especially if they are not poets, never attempt to write poetry and have no interest in making comments about someone else’s poetry).

A SPECIAL MESSENGER SERVICE will deliver EVERY episode of The Finnegan Chronicles to you ENTIRELY FREE OF CHARGES, TAXES and TIPS.
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On TWITTER? So is Mrs Finnegan. She now has 1863 FOLLOWERS and wonders if any other Brighton housekeeper of the 1830s can make the same boast. Follow @_Mrs_Finnegan on twitter. 

This is a regular feature created and written by Bridget Whelan with Paul Couchman, The Regency Cook and a host of volunteers at The Regency Towns, readers and subscribers. This week a special thank you to Jill Vigus and Jennifer Newbold.  

2 comments on “Need help making decisions? Follow the instructions of Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper for a simple life

  1. beth
    May 11, 2021

    wow, so much advice flying all around! )

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This entry was posted on May 11, 2021 by in Mrs Finnegen ADVICE from the 1830 and tagged , , , .


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