BRIDGET WHELAN writer

for writers and readers….

A Guilt-ridden Maid and a Timid Mistress seek the advice of Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper

Mrs Finnegan is an authority on nearly everything. It’s hard to know how she finds the time when she is also housekeeper at THE REGENCY TOWN HOUSE,  

The butcher terrifies me. I never know what to ask for and I suspect we are paying the highest prices for the worst meat. We are a small household, only my husband and I and our nine children, plus two staff and a woman who comes to do the rough work
My husband has started to eat away from home whenever he can and to be truthful I wish I could as well.
Mrs Tremble-Timid of Telscombe

Mrs Finnegan replies

Do not be COWED by your bully of a butcher. Go into his shop with your head held high FORTIFIED with my SHORT and eminently practical guide to meat buying. I’ll start you off with BEEF.
The first question you MUST PUT to the butcher is where did the meat come from.
Why?
Because how an animal lives matters. Those confined to filthy places and fattened on OIL cakes or rotten vegetables are unfit for use. Oxen and cows should be pastured on open situations, on high lands, EXTENSIVE downs and heaths where the air is pure and the grass short and SWEET. Hence the SUPERIORITY of Welsh and South Down mutton, Scotch and Welsh beef etc.
BEEF
Is NEVER out of season but is best November, December and January.
Ox beef should be BRIGHT red (think of a carnation. Yes, as red as that!)

Cow meat tends to be a tad darker.
The fat should be cream coloured. Too yellow and it indicates an old (tough) animal, too white and you can be sure it young and tasteless.

Your butcher will BAMBOOZLE with diverse cuts. Stick to the London style and insist he does likewise.

The Best Cuts

  • Sirloin
  • Rump
  • Edge-bone
  • Buttock
  • Fore ribs (five or six in number)

The Worst Cuts

  • Thin flank
  • the sticking-piece
  • the leg
  • the shin
  • the cheek

Middling (from the hind quarters)

  • Mouse-buttock
  • Veiny-piece
  • Thick flank

Middling (from the fore quarters)

  • Chuck ribs
  • Brisket or breast-cut
  • Clod

There you are now equipped to enter the butcher’s shop with confidence. Write again & I will send instructions for other meats. Perhaps pork next…

Do NOT be afraid of ASKING the price before buying. Butchers will avoid giving a proper answer by replying “Not bad at all”, “You can afford it” or “Don’t worry, sweet cheeks.”

Stand your ground, look him in the eye and demand to know in shillings and pence.

I have a confession to make because I am doing a very bad thing. I can hardly bring  myself to tell you but I suppose I will have to otherwise how can you assist in my hour of need?
Sneakily, I’ve been helping myself to my mistresses bon bons!
She has a big fancy bowl of them in her drawing room for the delight of the many guests who pass through the house. My thought is she won’t miss one or two, but they are so delicious I find myself taking more and more.
I can’t sleep at night. How can I stop now I have tasted such delights? 
Awfully Guilty of Guildford

Mrs Finnegan replies

You have, of course, a duty to test tempting delicacies offered to guests. It is a well known fact that bon bons can go OFF remarkably quickly and CONSTANT vigilance is necessary.

Mistresses are not aware of these mundane housekeeping details. Nor do they do NEED to know. They want the results of our work, not a description of the work itself. I do not burden my own mistress with how I blacken a grate or boil an egg. All she needs to know is that the fire surrounds are always presentable and her breakfast is ready.

The important question is how many bon bons are you eating and how many guests visit?

The TWO NUMBERS should correspond exactly. Five guests in the drawing room and you’re allowed five bon bons, seven guests and you can take seven and so on until you get to 20. It would be injurious to your health to consume more than that in a single day. You can, however, put some aside for the days when visitors are thin on the ground…

Carry on the good work. You are keeping your Mistress safe…

PS

Two things have been worrying me this week.
The first is Mrs Hankey’s diary.

I can’t find it.
I settled down to have a cup of tea and a good read yesterday afternoon (Mrs Hankey was out. Against nature, her social life seems to be improving. She is the kind of woman who can go anywhere twice – the second time to apologise.) I searched on her bed, in her bed, underneath it. I scoured her wardrobe, wash stand, commode and chest of drawers, but not so much as an ink blot.
Has she lost it?
Or – terrible thought – is she hiding it from me? And why?

The other matter of concern is Susan – ladies maid to both Mrs H and her daughter Martha. She has been much in my thoughts ever since she dropped a coral teething ring when she rushed to enjoy her half day off (which she has EVERY WEEK). Of course, I gave it back when she returned, but she shook her head, turned on her heel and ran up the stairs. TEARS may have formed, I cannot be sure.
O gentle readers, O dear!
Many of you will remember the circumstances that brought her to this house. I won’t go into the details now when it’s no trouble for you to click HERE and bring yourself up to date, but it has to do with the YOUNG Mr Hankey, a dalliance (romantic), a scandal (hushed), a baby (possibly) and…and…could it be Susan DISGRACED (dreadfully)? If that is so, what is she SEEKING?
Marriage or revenge?

What to do?
TELL Mrs Hankey about the teething ring (which now I come to think of it cost a GOOD DEAL more than a ladies maid can afford.)
But what would Mrs H do?
It isn’t often that she lets her ANGRY passions ERUPT, but when she does, strong men quake and the NIMBLE climb trees and pull them up after them. How would a defenceless ladies maid fare?
I will bide my time. And perhaps seek the wise counsel of Master Peregrine now he is going out and about (while still take precautions against the contagion).
I tell Miss Martha that I am TRIPPING ACROSS Brunswick Square to knock on the door of Number 61. She draws me aside and whispers a warning. The tearful, mild-mannered housekeeper will do me a mischief, she is sure of it.
“No!” says I. “I have ABSOLVED the woman. I have acquiesced to her retaining her job. I have been SWEETNESS AND LIGHT despite the great wrong she has done me. I nod when we meet. Why only yesterday my mouth curled up at the ends when our paths crossed. In a month or so I expect to manage a smile. I do not even mention in passing her brazen attempt to blackmail me. I have given her a Finnegan Pardon with a GOOD HEART!”
Precisely, says Miss Martha. “How will she ever forgive you.”

She has a point. That makes three things to worry about.
I go anyway.

MRS FINNEGAN is a regular feature created and written by Bridget Whelan with Paul Couchman, The Regency Cook and a host of volunteers at The Regency Town House, readers and subscribers. This week a big thank you to Jill Vigus

WOULD you like to have every episode of Mrs Finnegan’s adventures delivered directly to your mail box FREE OF FEES, TAXES AND GRATUTITIES? It will arrive bright and early on Tuesday morning without disturbing your household in the slightest.
Just click HERE

(If the coach can’t get through – see above – we may have to use some other means…)

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This entry was posted on July 13, 2021 by in Mrs Finnegen ADVICE from the 1830 and tagged , , , , .
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