BRIDGET WHELAN writer

for writers and readers….

What are Workers to Do with a Mistress like this? Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper is asked for advice

Mrs Finnegan’s advice is FREELY GIVEN to all manner of people, being both a celebrated authority on nearly everything AND the housekeeper at THE REGENCY TOWN HOUSE However, to PREVENT any misunderstanding your attention is DRAWN to the VERY IMPORTANT statement at the end of this column…

Never writ to someone such as yourself befour and my writing is not the best as my skooling lasted jus a year so I hope you will xcuse but please can you tell me and my mates wot to do about the lady of the house.
All day she is watching through a crack in the door. She tinks we don’t know wot is going on but we here her gasp and sometimes she do giggle as well.
We are trying to get the job done.
It’s hot work and dirty work and we needs must take our shirts off and we are not used to dealing with posh ladies.
I dare not tell my Missus wot is happening.
She’d be round like a shot from a muskett to tell her wot four.
An Honest Working Man

Mrs Finnegan replies

It is DEEPLY unpleasant to be viewed like a leg of lamb in a butcher’s window.
Pause for a minute Dear Sir, to consider how often YOUNG maids must suffer the same treatment and RESOLVE never to be guilty of the offence yourself.
What can you do about the Mistress’s UNBECOMING conduct?
Why exactly the same as young maids and that is ABSOLUTELY nothing. (Not if you want to put FOOD on the table and KEEP your reputation as a STEADY worker.)
What YOU and your workmates are experiencing is a MISUSE of power just as much as if her husband came home and docked your wages by 4d an hour because THE FANCY took him.
The only CONSOLATION I can offer is that your wife is clearly a LADY and the mistress is not.

My family assured me it was a great match and that Gerald was the finest husband a girl could wish for, but I’m so bored.
Bored. Bored. Bored.
Life is an endless round of meaningless conversations with the boring wives of his boring friends and visits to his boring family in Chelsea.
He insists that the best occupation for us both is to spend our evenings entertaining ourselves with boring  books.
Please help. The tedium is driving me quite mad.
Don’t suggest needlepoint as an alternative. It is too boring for words!!
Lady Boring of Goring

Mrs Finnegan replies

You are a woman of spirit.
I understand your need for adventure and the good news is that you can have it. All you need do is actually read the books in your husband’s library instead of pretending.
People who don’t read only get to live one life: if you read you can lead a THOUSAND lives.


Do romantic castles, duels at dawn and near death escapes appeal?
I recommend the novels of Sir Walter Scott AND I am quite ENVIOUS. You have so many TRULY wonderful stories ahead of you.

PS

Kind Readers have written to enquire about my health after last week’s revelations.
I am quite well thank you.
I was a little shaky for a while but I have discovered that you CANNOT administer smelling salts to yourself. Swooning is VERY MUCH a public activity. Sitting down ‘for a bit’ has to suffice for the solitary.
And as for the £10 a year that Susan the lady’s maid is paid more than me – why I hardly think about it now.

Mrs Pole the temporary cook is VERY BUSY filling the house with the most delicious AROMAS.

I have a very GOOD NOSE. It is often remarked upon. Yesterday I swore I detected:-
marjoram
rosemary
thyme
FENNEL
oregano
tarragon
SORREL and
chervil 
and I had a happy half hour conjuring up what recipe Mrs Pole was working on BUT what I was served for dinner?
Two day OLD pigeon pie with more pastry than pigeon and MORE ONION than both (with no sign of the steak or bacon that was ample in the original).
It was served with a watery green sauce that MIGHT have had some acquaintance with parsley stalks but not LONG ENOUGH to call it a friendship.
Mrs Pole is getting very secretive about the kitchen budget. She is working on her menu for the grand dinner so I must make some allowance.

Meanwhile Mrs Hankey is working on the guest list.
I see the evidence in her bedroom with discarded sheets of paper and much SPLUTTERING of her quill (her penmanship is not of the best). She STUDIES the arrivals announced in The Brighton Gazette as if she were a Doctor of Divinity looking for a loophole in the TEN Commandments.
There is much tutting and lip-sucking when a likely PROSPECT (that is an unmarried gentleman under the age of 50) leaves town.
The evidence can also be seen in her scant diary entries, but I was PERTURBED to read this yesterday..

I am so annoyed. This rash has lasted three weeks now. I thought the cause was inflamed emotions. How like me to put the blame on myself when it has nothing to do with my inner turmoil. I believe I have discovered the true cause. Flees! FLEES! In my bed! 

Is that the French spelling, dear reader? I must make a note.
Of course the whole household knew when she made her “discovery”.
Mrs Hankey is unfamiliar with the phrase suffering in silence. She suffers in chaos. The wash stand was overturned and her shout for MISS-us FINN-e-GAN!! must surely have disturbed the fishwives on the Steine a mile away.
I found no evidence of fleas – however you spell them – but took away her mattresses as instructed. (There are four on her bed).
Until reading this entry I had no idea she held me responsible…

That she has not noticed, and therefore not done anything, has really distressed me. I thought that she at least, would understand that in order to concentrate on matters that are really important like finding Martha a husband, cultivation of the nobility and establishing a proper household down here, I would need peace and security at home. It seems that she does not.

No, I did not SEE the non-existent fleas. How CARELESS of me!

…if she does not show me unwavering loyalty soon, she may find her position less secure than she had previously thought it to be.

I am not a WOMAN easily roused to anger, but I feel it grow inside me as vast as empires at the INJUSTICE.

If I were NOT Mrs Finnegan, I would be scared of Mrs Finnegan right NOW.

But wait!
A thought has suddenly occurred to me. It is an ICE COLD trickle down my spine. It IS a hot FLUSH on a summer day.
It is a HOST of insects performing double somersaults in my stomach.

Could this talk of fleas have anything to do with LIGHT-HEARTED and frivolous remarks made in last week’s chronicles?
It was a throwaway not-to-be-mentioned-again joke about BORROWING the mistress’ silk sheets in her absence and it coinciding with a flea infestation.
Could Mrs Hankey have read it?

O Lordy! Is Mrs Hankey a SECRET subscriber??

Mrs Finnegan WISHES TO MAKE IT VERY CLEAR that EVERY word of her weekly chronicle is ENTIRELY fictitious and is written about made-up people living an an imaginary town in a country far, far away.
Any resemblance to a PERSON living or DEAD is not true, could not be true and only EXISTS in your mind and REALLY you should know better.


FURTHERMORE

Mrs Finnegan is very HAPPY in her current occupation and HOW could she be otherwise when her PRESENT employer is an ENLIGHTENED example of womanly wisdom. And VERY good-looking to boot.
That’s all Mrs Finnegan WISHES to say on the subject.

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 Jill Vigus and Catherine Page.

HAVING TROUBLE REMEMBERING WHEN IT’S TUESDAY?
A SPECIAL MESSENGER SERVICE can deliver the latest Finnegan Chronicles to you EVERY WEEK.
ENTIRELY FREE OF CHARGES, TAXES and TIPS.
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(PLEASE NOTE: This service is not currently available to the Hankey family, their friends or relatives)

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This entry was posted on September 7, 2021 by in Mrs Finnegen ADVICE from the 1830 and tagged , , , .
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