for writers and readers….
As the SAGE OF the serving classes and GUIDE to the gentry, Mrs Finnegan brings comfort to the care-worn and solace to the sorrowing.(Mrs Finnegan carries out her advisory duties in ADDITION to the many hours of service she gives to THE REGENCY TOWN HOUSE on a daily basis. She wants to be VERY clear on that point and there to be no MISUNDERSTANDING.)
As a life-long pursuer of culture, I am currently working on a dictionary with the express purpose of uplifting the human spirit. The Bishop of Hollingdean Heights has been especially helpful in suggesting appropriate adjectives for inclusion.
My labours have already taken several years, but as I near the end it occurred to me that I should make room for a few examples of vocabulary from the lower orders, hence this letter.
Would you care to suggest a word that represents BEAUTY?
It can be a very simple word, one perhaps you use in your ordinary life.
It can be a very short word. I assure you that it has value no matter how humble.
Please do not worry about spelling. I am confident that I will be able make out your intent.
Come now, dear lady, will you spare me just one word?
Leopold Craddock Esq Lexicographer
Will my sweetheart ever return?
Ten years ago I got engaged to the most wonderful handsome young man. His name is Billy Bones. He said before we could be wed he would go away and make his fortune. I didn’t mind, although his passage did cost my entire savings.
He spoke of seeking gold in America (is that near Surrey?) and said he would write and send back gifts. Each day I await the postman.
I am beginning to wonder if I wait in vain and yet when I think of him my heart sings and I know it will be worth it.
I do so long to be Mrs Bones.
Red-eyed Rosie from Rye
I am going to say two HARD things to you and one soft thing which will IMPROVE your life by an immeasurable amount.
First the hard things (because medicine ALWAYS goes before a scraping of sugar.)
Billy Bones is not COMING back.
Ten years is a LONG time not to have WORD or sign of his existence. Had you married the LAW would have considered him dead BY NOW.
Now the soft thing.
You can hold your head up HIGH even though your heart is BREAKING. Why? Because you were once loved by Billy BONES.
Only SAVAGE disaster could have prevented him from returning to you. Weep for him. Why? Because you ONCE loved BILLY Bones.
You have been FAITHFUL all these long YEARS but now the time has come to make a new life. Why? Because it’s what BILLY BONES would have wanted.
Call yourself WIDOW Bones in memory of poor lost Billy. Why? Because the world is not kind to SPINSTERS.
Move away from your present PARISH. Why? Because a new life may be easier in a place where people have NEVER heard of Billy Bones.
ARE you agog?
Have you BEEN counting the days until I can reveal (via Master Peregrine, retired Riding Master at Number 61) the truth behind dear Miss Martha’s low spirits? In other words, am I now in a position to TELL you what happened last summer between that dear sweet girl and Monsieur D’Arthur?
Well, you never wrote to say so.
I have had the usual requests for copies of his portrait. They arrive as regular as the London Brighton mail coach every time I am FOOLISH enough to show his face in this column. Here it is again. (There will only be more complaints if I don’t.)
Dear Miss A mc K you will have to survive your disappointment, BECAUSE I am NOT going to knock at Number 60 and ask for his signature. The VERY idea!
To GB I do not KNOW what colour of socks he prefers. Put your knitting needles away.
Mrs JF your letter MADE me blush and you a married woman! I do not know his BIRTHDAY.
CP very neat embroidery. The row of ruby-coloured hearts are particularly well-executed, but HARDLY suitable for a gentleman’s handkerchief. I am retuning it to you.
I am always glad to hear from readers but at least one of you might have shown some concern for Miss Martha. I shall tell you by and by what Master Peregrine told ME in the strictest confidence. This is not idle TITTLE TATTLE to be spread around town. It is a HARROWING tale of how love’s young dream can GO awry.
More of that anon.
First, dinner party news (from the pages of the mistress’ diary, conveniently left OPEN on the wash stand this morning.)
You may remember my SURPRISE that there appeared to be no eligible young men on the guest list so far. Remember, Mrs Hankey is in pursuit of a husband for Miss Martha, although that IDEA seems to have been OVERTAKEN by the desire to become:
Hove’s most engaging hostess,
and HAVE everyone know this…
I was therefore intrigued to DISCOVER THAT Viscount Pride-Pliers has accepted an invitation. Lately widowed with 12 children, he is apparently in need of a wife.
Somehow Mrs H had acquired a portrait.
I reserve judgement.
I GATHER his mother is coming too.
THERE being some remarkably CLEMENT weather this past week Master Peregrine and I were able to meet in Brunswick Square.
It is as I suspected.
The wily and unscrupulous dancing master, he of the FANCY French accent and well-turned ankle, has intrigued his way into THE HEART of that gem of a woman, that Egyptian emerald among freshwater pearls, Miss Martha. And then BROKE it.
Here she is in a new winter coat which I THINK rather fetching, although her mother COMPLAINS it is TOO green. I have to be honest and say she doesn’t WEAR this smile as often as she did last year when she laughed, and joked, and teased.
Now there’s a wistful expression in HER EYES I do not like to see.
Master Peregrine wanted to know WHY I had taken against Monsieur D’Arthur. What grievance did I hold?
Only one said I, as I suppose I couldn’t VERY WELL count his mother as a personal failing.
He is a man who greets the world with Gallic good humour, bursting with bonjours and spreading phrases like ‘ello belle dame! and C’est magnifique around Brunswick Square like duck pate on Ash Wednesday. BUT I have heard him mouth off like a Cheapside barrow boy when he didn’t know I could hear.
In other words he is counterfeit and I believe him capable of the DARKEST chicanery. Has he EVEN been to France? I wanted to know.
Master Peregrine has the FULL STORY: the baby born in Paris, the father KILLED, the impoverished mother fleeing to England. He is what HE IS: fluent in both French and Cockney.
I concede I misjudged the young man, but what happened between him and Miss Martha I WANTED to know.
Love happened, said Master Peregrine.
It was a moment of SUCH emotional intensity AND high tension, dear reader, that he FORGOT himself and took my hand in his…for a moment only, I did not take offence.
I was confused. I admit it.
Was Monsieur D’Arthur not a DOWRY hunter? A beau on the make? Why was HE the one to leave , when it was Miss Martha who should have been the one to see SENSE.
And then I was told about the INSURMOUNTABLE barrier that came between them.
He already has a wife.
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.
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