BRIDGET WHELAN writer

for writers and readers….

Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper reminds readers why they have lips…

There is very little for Mrs Finnegan, celebrated authority AND housekeeper at THE REGENCY TOWN HOUSE, to laugh about this week.
(And she is too well mannered to do so, even if she could.)

Can you tell me if it acceptable to laugh?
My father says yes, in private. My mama says no, not anywhere.
People can be very funny and it is so very hard not to laugh sometimes.
Miss Merry of Murrayfield

Mrs Finnegan replies

My dear, laughter belongs exclusively to the lower orders and the inebriated.

Dr Johnson (of dictionary fame) says he only laughed TWICE in his life (and I’m sure he regretted both occasions) and the poet Alexander Pope says he never EVER did and I for one believe him.

The rules of Christian Decorum and Civility (1703) are quite clear and, although well over 100 years old, they still hold TRUE…

There are some people who raise their upper lip so high… that their teeth are almost entirely visible. This is entirely contradictory to decorum, which forbids you to allow your teeth to be uncovered, since nature gave us lips to conceal them.

What is allowed is the OCCASSIONAL silent and transient simper, as recommended by Robert Southey, the current poet laureate himself.

Personally, I see no great harm in gentle TITTERING, but remember at all times the golden rule: NO TEETH.

My father is very keen for me to marry.
Yet I am still a young man of only 28! The lady he has suggested is a rather dour creature and does little to amuse me. Frankly, I’d rather not marry at all. I much prefer being with my friend Michael holding hands and dreaming of the Orient.
How can I persuade my father to leave me alone to dream without cutting off my allowance.
Reluctant Rupert of Redbridge

Mrs Finnegan replies

Sir, I fear you MUST get used to such pressure. You are an ELIGIBLE bachelor now and will remain so for at least another 30 years.
There are four POSSIBLE solutions:

  • Buy yourself time by making EXCUSES about each prospective bride your father suggests. A very temporary solution as your allowance will be in extreme DANGER by the time he presents the third young lady.
  • Find a spinster who is agreeable to/or prepared to accept an excessively LONG engagement
  • OUTLIVE your father.
  • Marry. Make your wife UNHAPPY and your children miserable.
  • Find a WEALTHY spinster who also doesn’t wish to marry. Get married. Buy a substantial house with TWO WINGS. I suggest you choose the west wing as your RESIDENCE – sunsets are better than dawns.

(Don’t discount the lady your father suggested. Many YARDS OF VELVET went into those sleeves so there’s money in the family. She may only appear dour because she doesn’t want to be on the marriage MARKET either – so she might rather like the idea of life in the east wing as long as you understand each other and enjoy the SAME privileges. Or, of course, she may be dour out of excessive good breeding – see my reply above. )

READERS WITH EYE PROBLEMS may be interested to know that bathing their eyes with rainwater collected before dawn in June can be beneficial.

I have a few empty bottles in the kitchen, I wonder if it’s worth getting up early. Would it sell as well as pickles?

PS

Readers, friends, confidants! It has been a wretched week.
You may recall the last entry in the diary of my mistress

As for Mrs Finnegan, I do not know.

Eight little words that are as SHARP as a NEEDLE darning my heart

I have been excogigating about it ever since, going to EXTRAORDINARY lengths to ensure Mrs Hankey’s comfort. Alas, I don’t think she’s noticed how assiduous I’ve been in adding ox gall to the last rinse of her summer calicos to keep the colours fresh. (I ordered extra from the butcher who made a fuss about everyone wanting some now the sun is out and didn’t I realise that one ox = just one gall bladder. Such an annoying man, but he does have the best meat in Hove so I must persevere with him.)

I’ve also been starching anything that can be starched so well it could march up the stairs by itself. (I find the water that potatoes have been boiled in better than rice water, and wonder if you agree.)

I THOUGHT it a good idea to serve hare twice this week, it being in season and knowing it is one of Mrs Hankey’s favourites, but I heard her complain that my menu was becoming very dull. (And me with all the laundry to do and the house to run without a full company of servants!) The boiled calf’s head on Tuesday didn’t go down well either.

The only pleasant occurrence in the last seven days is a BRIEF note from Master Peregrine at number 60, saying that he may venture OUT OF DOORS in the coming weeks, but he wasn’t going to RUSH at it. I don’t think think his feet have touched the pavements these last six months, but here’s a nice silhouette  of him and you can refresh your memory here which is also a good place for new readers and those EASILY confused..

I was in a good mood for the rest of the morning until this MISSIVE landed on the doormat. AT first I thought it a GENUINE request for guidance. Here, dear friend, is an extract.

A friend in Brunswick Square is blessed with hawk-like vision and an insatiable curiosity and enlightens me with a regular annotated and illustrated account of the comings-and-goings of a housekeeper who lives across the square from her.

My friend believes that she BEHAVES in a manner UNBECOMING to a servant.

Indeed, I do not have ink enough to list ALL of this housekeeper’s misdemeanours but here are her major crimes against probity

SHE drinks heartily from her mistress’ wine cellar. 
SHE parades the house in her mistress’ clothes and tinkles (badly) on her forte piano. 
SHE even uses the mistress’ horses to send a TAWDRY newsletter, distributed to all-and-sundry on a Tuesday morning.

SHE even includes snippets from her employer’s PRIVATE personal diary.

MY FRIEND is thinking of reporting the housekeeper to her employer. Dear Mrs Finnegan what is your advice?

My first thought (and I’m sure it was yours too) was What a coincidence!
Someone else from Brunswick Square is sending out a weekly chronicle on Tuesday mornings and I wonder if she has as MANY discerning readers as I do….

And then the AWFUL TRUTH dawned.

This letter – written in BILE and dripping with SPITE – can only have been penned by a regular reader of my chronicle. Dear reader, she (or he) is ONE OF US.
They write as if “the friend” is none other than my old nemesis, the housekeeper at Number 59.

BUT I laugh at such a notion (or I would do if were not bad manners). That woman’s literary skills are sorely tested by an order to the costermonger for a dozen oranges. Oh, she is capable of spreading tittle-tattle, lies and MAGNIFIED exaggerations and may have even given the author of the letter some stray bullets of ammunition to fire at me, but she is not the EVIL GENIUS behind this UNWARRANTED and callous attack.

AM I the victim of a treacherous BLACKMAIL ATTEMPT? I wonder if the next post will bring a demand for…I know not what. Money? My Recipe Book? My (unpublished) poetry collection? Or perhaps my DOWNFALL is what they are seeking.

I have no way of communicating with this wretch except through my chronicle. So, this is a direct appeal to my persecutor.

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
If I should lose my position and my reputation at your hand know that I will NOT go quietly. I will cling on (with grace and dignity) by my finger nails, by the skin of my fingers. Nay! by the very bony tips.
I do not know what has EXERCISED your wrath. If I have offended forgive me. If I have ignored you, forgive me twice over and let me know so I can bestow my FULL ATTENTION.

But if envy or greed is the engine of your IRE know that Mrs Finnegan is not a PALE flimsy-flamsy damsel in DISTRESS waiting for a knight to rescue her. I am my own Joan of Arce (in her winning battles phase, not the later burning-at-the-stake bit) and you will not LIKE ME as an enemy.

Thoroughly despondent, I hardly BOTHERED to glance at Mrs Hankey’s diary when I was dusting her room, but it did HAPPEN to fall open at yesterday’s entry

There seems to be an inexplicable amount of whispering in corners, and although I do not pay great heed to this since now that I am here no person in the house may act recklessly without me knowing it, I retain the impression that something is being kept from me,  
Still, I must drive on with my mission to re-establish dear Martha, and no allow myself to be distracted by conspiracies.

Whispering in corners?
Could she be referring to my occasional chats with Miss Susan – am I to be denied that now when we are the only two servants in the HOUSE?!

I am RETIRING to my room to contemplate the fickle nature of employers and dream about blackmailers swimming in lakes of tar in the 5th circle of Hell, along with speculators, extortionists and unscrupulous businessmen. It’s the only way I can raise a smile…or sleep easy

PPS
If you know the identity of the writer of THE ABOVE letter, I would take it as a great KINDNESS if you could let me know. You can be CERTAIN SURE that I will be discrete….

MRS FINNEGAN is a regular feature created and written by Bridget Whelan with Paul Couchman, The Regency Cook working with a host of volunteers at The Regency Town House, readers and subscribers. This week a special thank you to Miss Merry and Jill Vigus and NO THANKS at all to ANON.

HAVING TROUBLE REMEMBERING WHEN IT’S TUESDAY?
SOLVE the problem with a SPECIAL MESSENGER SERVICE that will deliver EVERY episode of The Finnegan Chronicles to you EVERY Tuesday.
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2 comments on “Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper reminds readers why they have lips…

  1. beth
    June 1, 2021

    • bridget whelan
      June 1, 2021

      Mrs Finnegan thanks you for your sympathy at this trying time.

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