for writers and readers….
Mrs Finnegan – purveyor of wisdom and SAGE of the serving classes – is housekeeper at The Regency Town House in Brunswick Square, Brighton.
My neighbours moved into Brunswick Terrace four years ago.
In all that time they have snubbed me. They look to the heavens when I pass. Not a good morning or a wave or anything. They even tried to put their carriage in front of my steps to stop me getting past.
I sent my visiting card but it was returned.
They do HAVE visitors. There is an endless stream of friends and the relatives. So they enjoy society but they just do not want to have anything to do with their next-door neighbour.
Why Mrs Finnegan, why?
Mr Very Bewildered
ABSOLUTELY no idea.
After a frightful run of servant bad luck I need your guidance
My first died in service which I took as a blessing in disguise, despite the inconvenience, as at something over 60 years in age she was no longer quick on the stairs. The next upped and left after a bare seven months and the one who followed wasn’t here six weeks.
My last girl-of-all-works, although promising at first, turned out very unreliable. I wasn’t unsympathetic to her bad back, although she mentioned it with annoying frequency, and I took her off table service the moment she developed a hacking cough. In the end I felt I was being taken for a carriage ride after she failed to get up three days in a row.
So, off she went back home to the country, although I thought I caught sight of her at the market the other day, least ways I recognised the basket she carried as of the type I provide my girls.
I received a recommendation for a new girl, and now she has not turned up. I have not met her yet, only exchanged a few letters, so I can hardly be blamed
If the foolish girls do not want to do a honest day’s work I wish they would say so.
Horribly Harassed of Hassocks
Even the most assiduous of employers often forget a VERY IMPORTANT fact about servants: they TALK.
I believe you are THE VICTIM of this nefarious activity. Alas, no LAW can prevent it, no JUDGE can rule against it or vicar preach it out of existence.
We must ACCEPT that words passed from one mouth to another is as natural a part of the human condition as hunger when without food, thirst when without water and back pain when overworked and underpaid. Try to stamp it out and it will thrive more fiercely. Ignore it and you will suffer the consequences.
However, dear lady, I have a sovereign REMEDY that will cure your servant problem OVERNIGHT. An added boon is that you can implement it IMMEDIATELY.
Advertise for two girls.
Dear readers (DARE I call you MY dear friends?)
I look upon you as a SAFE HARBOUR from my storm-tossed basement of desolation, but must report that ANOTHER LETTER has arrived.
T’was a short one this time, but it contained three words that delivered a knife point to the heart.
An hand without couth or elegance I think you will agree and the underlining is quite savage. These are clues to the identity of the writer PERHAPS.
More than that I heard the rattle of the letter flap and leapt to the window of my basement room which is my porthole to the world.
What did I see?
No, LESS than that – more a hem in a hurry, the material coarse and the colour sea-sick green.
This much I do know, Madam D’Arthur at Number 60 is the mistress of fur and pearls (TOGETHER even in summer) and would never wear so mean a dress. Nor would she be so brief! Therefore she can be eliminated which LEAVES I suppose the housekeeper at 59.
While she is CAPABLE of committing such a heinous hurt – I’d call her a poker of a woman, but she lacks any occasional warmth – yet something tells me to wait and see before a confrontation.
Meanwhile there is more than enough to occupy me indoors with Susan, the new ladies maid; Mrs Hankey, the mistress, and poor dear Miss Martha who is not in good spirits.
Again, I must refer to Mrs H’s diary to find out what is happening. This entry is from last week.
Very gratified indeed because last Sunday after Church, Lady Wadley invited me for tea. This is the first invitation I have received since returning from the country. I will make it my business to enquire of the ladies present if they know a good cook. Money of course is no object, but he must be ready to turn his hand to all kinds of treats. I am so pleased that I have brought my tea cabinet with me and I wonder if, in the interim, Mrs Finnegan is able to make some cakes? I will ask her.
Lady Wadley – I believe her eyesight is defective and these days she’s FORCED to use an ear trumpet. The tea party will go well…
YOUR fancy new chef can make your new fancy cakes, is what I don’t say to Mrs H.
Indeed I conjured up some very respectable chocolate tarts and I was mightily pleased with the artichoke pie I turned out. It was nice being in the pastry room on a hot afternoon, but perhaps I shouldn’t have served them up for the same meal.
“No pastry for a sennight and then two portions for supper!” complained Mrs Hankey who has a HIGHLY developed complaint reflex. You may have noticed that already.
Miss Martha ate very little. I worry about her. Her mother is little use as you can see from this entry she wrote only last night…
I must confess that I am finding Martha quite troublesome. She does not seem to want to listen to me, and instead of taking my good advice, sits endlessly staring out of the window perpetually sulking. I have so much to teach her – why does she not understand? I am frustrated on every front.
Miss Martha is not a sulk. I have no time or CUPBOARD SPACE for a woman with that kind of temperament. No, Miss Martha is a SWEET girl sinking into melancholy and the mother has all the sensitivity of bramble bush in November.
But wait, this is rather good and offers a new INSIGHT into Mrs H.
Why does she not realise that in marrying above my station – with the aide of a few feminine wiles – I was able to break with the conventions of our society. I am determined that this family will not slide backwards. It is my business to marry our children as best I can. If in no other way, I have been clever in this and I WILL NOT ALLOW Martha to pull us backward into the swamp from which I have escaped.
What wiles? What swamp?
I have already had the idea of enlisting Susan to help me win Martha round, and I rather think that that is the path that must be followed.
Susan is quite the favourite, isn’t she? Not that I notice such things.
I asked Susan to visit me whilst I was attending to my toilette. I appealed to her charity, I asked her to persuade Martha to listen to me since I am wise, certainly in the ways of capturing a man. Which surely Martha wants??? She must – AT ALL COSTS – be prevailed upon to attend the tea party that I will host.
It’s all Susan, Susan these days.
I was watching Susan in the mirror whilst talking to her and observed that she may be a calculating little minx. Sometimes when she thought I was not observing her, she had the most sly expression. I do wonder what her story is? I am sure in time that I will find out.
Say what you like about Mrs H but she is constant in her fickleness…a couple of months ago she was calling me a treasure, now she only calls me to complain.
I’d like to know more about Susan too (and that SWAMP!)
While one of the joys of my life (one of the very few) is to receive short messages of thanks and appreciation from readers, I have been PERTURBED by some.
LC If you laughed until you cried, you weren’t reading it right.
JV It is not a compliment to be told reading my words is your third favourite activity of the week when you go onto to describe your delight in de-flea-ing the dog and scooping the fat off last night’s stew.
JT There’s nothing funny about THAT
But I can reassure PB that he is not the only one. I am fortunate to count many serious-minded gentlemen among my subscribers.
Mrs Finnegan is the creation of Bridget Whelan and Paul Couchman, The Regency Cook