BRIDGET WHELAN writer

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Mrs Finnegan is BADLY misunderstood – the Chronicles of Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper

While Mrs Finnegan is a CELEBRATED authority she CANNOT be held responsible if her advice is misinterpreted, but she can get cross about it. She is also housekeeper at THE REGENCY TOWN HOUSE and can be found in her room writing to readers when her many onerous duties allow.

My neighbour means well and that’s the worst part of it. She “helps” with weekly gifts of dry cakes, burnt stews and soups so bland they are closer to blotting paper than broth. She constantly wants to know how I am and asks after my family, remembering the name of my cousin, a woman I can scarce recall myself. On my birthday her children sing underneath my balcony in an annoying screech that exhibits scant elements of either harmony or timing.

I have accepted it all with grace and poise while hiding my true feelings. You, however, have shown me another way is possible. As a subscriber to your chronicles I have followed your flighty frolics in your chemise, how you guzzle you mistress’s wine, flaunt in her clothes and bash out tunes on the piano forte no matter how terrible you look or sound. I have lived vicariously through all your servant misdemeanours.


Madam, you have emboldened me. It is as if you had turned up yourself, at my home, while I was sleeping, and hit me hard around the face with a wet kipper.

At last I can DROP MY MASK.

But before I set forth, my flintlocks blazing, what is the best way of letting my neighbour know how I feel? Should I deliver vitriol by letter or is a doorstep diatribe better?

Hard-Hearted of Haywards Heath

Mrs Finnegan replies

You MAY have read my words, but you have not UNDERSTOOD my meaning. The BITTER philosophy you have concocted is entirely your own work.

You may CUT the innocent with your tongue and BRING TEARS to the eyes of the well-meaning. You may wound with RIPE insults and take the ART OF SNUBBING to heights that would make hangers-on at the King’s court cringe, but you MAY NOT lay it at my door.

True, some have called me bold but MY KIND of boldness is the singing in a storm variety. It’s saying yes to the tune that begs you to dance.

If I am BOLD it is the boldness of the survivor. THINK OF ME as the daisy growing between the pavement slabs. Or perhaps the whipping wind that dries the WASHING and makes you feel truly alive at the same time.

My boldness has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with misanthropy and plain, ugly ingratitude.

Keep your MASK on. PRETEND that you are nicer and better mannered that you are. That is how SOCIETY works.

If I had a wet kipper or some other fish about my person I might well be tempted to pay you a visit. Be grateful that I NEVER waste good food.

PS. I may flaunt, but I never guzzle. AND as for looking terrible. The idea!

Our lives are very different as I live far away in another country, but I often try to imagine you going about your day to day chores. I hope your room is comfortable.
Mrs Curious of Connecticut, the Constitution State.



It is MOST PLEASANT as you can see. It might help your imaginings if I describe my living quarters.

The square is very new, you know. The oldest houses were only built about five or six years ago so there is hardly any wear anywhere, although Number 59 somehow manages to look like something the dog has dragged in and intends to bury later on, when it has time.

My room looks out onto the area. It has been designed by a neat mind. There is, for instance, a vast amount of storage built under the pavements, the doors of which I can see from my window. Most of it is used for coal as there are 20 fireplaces in the house.

One is reserved for beer which reminds me stocks are getting low. There may be only two servants at present (myself and Susan, the ladies maid) but it cannot be denied that hard work is hot work and it creates a powerful thirst.
The other storage area is for dust, but don’t go away with the idea it is unwanted rubbish. The fields need the nourishment it provides which is why I am able to sell it for fertiliser.

Really, I don’t think a housekeeper could have done a better job of arranging this small space.

This is where I sit when I pen my chronicles. My room is painted in house brown with a rather good GRAINED WOOD wood effect. Rather a nice touch, don’t you think? And expensive too, but then it is the HOUSEKEEPER’S room.

I must say, dear Mrs Curious, that it thrills me that so MANY from our former colonies SUBSCRIBE to my chronicle. I wonder if it indicates that one day we may forget all that unfortunate business…

PS

Mrs Hankey’s diary is back in it’s usual place which is a relief. And not only to me….

…At first I was sure I had lost it and with it came the dreadful thought that Mrs Finnegan might have found it. I was SO relieved to discover it in my reticule…

All’s well then (I write that with a slight raise of an eyebrow)

I had tea with dear Lizzie and asked her about the colours for a new gown. To my surprise, she persuaded me that gold and pink were not a good combination for “a lady of some maturity and obvious sense”.

That’s a well-crafted diplomatic delineation. I shall write it down for somehow they always escape me when a situation arises and I have need of a nice turn of phrase….

I have to confess that I am disappointed that she does not see me as a beauty, albeit of mature years.

Ah, Mrs H that ship has sailed. That lily has faded. That hen has been coated in sage and onion and is sitting in the roasting tray.

I certainly have been arresting in my time, and am somewhat put out that my lustre no longer shines.

A lesson we all have to learn if we are fortunate to live long enough. Lustre doesn’t last.

My new gown will no doubt emphasise my good points, of which I admit my slight embonpoint is not one. So how to take the eye away from my bosom, whilst allowing myself the glory of displaying my still elegant neck and shoulders? I have decided on deep purple.

Something like this perhaps? It covers a lot.

It will have a plunging V neck with an undergarment of white taffeta. The purple shall extend to the upper sleeves which are to be vast and my lower arms will be covered by the white taffeta. I shall crown this with a magnificent turban made of the purple dress material interwoven with the white taffeta.

Oh, I WASN’T expecting this.

I have just re-read my last entry. It is all very well to get excited by the prospect of ordering a new gown, but the aim of the dinner party campaign is to arrange a good match for Martha. I must become known as a convivial and civilized hostess who entertains only the top echelons of society. Lizzie gave me the name of a cook who seems to have no fixed employment at the moment, but has excellent references. Her name is Mrs Pole and I have determined to ask her to prepare meals for us for a week whilst we sample her efforts.

So, a cook to try out. I must remember to look surprised when Mrs H informs me.

The passage from my room at the front to the kitchen at the back is 140 feet long. I wonder if I will be far enough away or not near enough.

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 Catherine Page.
Would you like to follow the example of Hard-Hearted of Haywards Heath and subscribe to Mrs Finnegan’s weekly chronicle? It is as simple as clicking HERE

2 comments on “Mrs Finnegan is BADLY misunderstood – the Chronicles of Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper

  1. beth
    July 20, 2021

    You had me at ‘closer to blotting paper than broth’

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This entry was posted on July 20, 2021 by in Mrs Finnegen ADVICE from the 1830.
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