for writers and readers….
Warning from Mrs Finnegan, housekeeper at The Regency Town House
Readers of a HIGHLY moral and nervous disposition might find some of the scenes in this week’s chronicle distressing. Avert your eyes if your sympathies are tender, or your age decrepit.
What can I do with my hair? I am much admired for my long golden tresses but the wind and rain play havoc and I end up looking like a drowned rat.
I am reluctant to wear sensible hats when my hair is my crowning glory. I have spoken to my mother and she suggested that I don’t go out when the weather is bad.
The very idea! I have my eye on a young man who lives very nearby and want to do my utmost to attract his attention. Competition for young men in my neighbourhood is fierce. I can’t afford to let him get away.
Winnie from Windsor
You CANNOT afford to carry on as you have been!
The only excuse for YOUR behaviour is if:
Women of quality do not wear SENSIBLE hats. They wear fashionable hats or dainty hats or DOWNRIGHT ridiculous hats, but hats they do wear and so must you…
By all means KEEP your hair long.
I know many women who have NEVER had a single hair cut. IT remains on their head from the first baby curls to the ASHEN locks of old age, only occasionally singeing the ends when it all gets a bit raggedly. (It produces the most HORRIBLE smell and best avoided!)
But the hair is UP during the day and down for – how I shall I put this – romantic domestic situations.
I’ve said too much and beg your PARDON, gentle readers, if I have offended, but I am compelled by the UTTER seriousness of this young lady’s situation to be FRANK.
Trust me, Winnie, you do not want TO attract attention with wind-lashed golden tresses that OUGHT to be tidied away in civilised curls, an elegant Coiffure à la chinoise, scalp-tugging Apollo KNOTS or painfully tight ringlets.
And, of course, you shouldn’t go out in bad weather. Who on earth would do THAT if they didn’t have to…? (Although, yes, I remember what it feels like to be young…)
I beg you, Winnie, listen to your mother and invest in a bonnet.
And a pair of curling tongs.
Imagine if you could wave a magic wand, Mrs Finnegan. Is there anyone famous you would like to resemble?
My own choice would be dear Queen Adelaide. She is such a modest lady, pious and forbearing. I was delighted to read in the better newspapers that she refuses to allow ladies who are immodestly attired attend her parties.
Mrs That-Willdo from Thanet
I’ve always RATHER liked the Ex Crown Princess of Prussia, Elisabeth of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, especially the way she MANAGES to enjoy herself in exile. I heard that last summer she created a WHITE hill for local children to sled down. It was made entirely from salt…
Really, I am quite satisfied knowing that there is ONLY one Mrs Finnegan and that there will never be another.
I would use MY magic wand for other purposes…
If you read last week’s missive you will know THAT Master Peregrine dropped this cannon ball into my lap (If you haven’t yet had a chance to study the chronicle or you are slow in making out the letters you can CATCH up HERE)
DASHING Monsieur Étienne D’Arthur, resident at No. 60 Brunswick Square and (apparently) genuinely French, is married.
This is the reason his friendship with Miss Martha did not BLOSSOM in the way both desired last summer. Two young people in love had to WALK AWAY from each other. I think in truth Miss Martha ran and that must say SOMETHING about the strength of the feeling between them.
Where is this wife?
That was the question on my lips and I am sure on YOUR own. Master Peregrine answered with two WORDS that revealed the depths of FOLLY and despair.
She has BECOME an actress.
Wed when Étienne was a BOY of 17 and she a woman of 22, they stayed together for a few years, until she was LURED away by the magic of the stage.
She sings apparently and DANCES as well, sometimes in trousers it is said. (She need only have worn them once for them to talked about EVERY time her name is mentioned.)
Other rumours circulate. She could be a daily church-goer leading a blameless life. It is enough that she is an actress for her to be associated with all that is UNBECOMING to womanhood.
So, he is a husband in NAME only, but that is enough for the law and enough to keep him and Miss Martha apart.
What do I feel about this?
Conflicted. Confused. Rubbed up the WRONG way. Sorry and not sorry…and YET sad all the same.
I returned to The Regency Town House and Master Peregrine, in a generous gesture of GOOD feeling, sent his housekeeper over with a bowl of soup to LIFT my spirits. A kind thought, but this was the same housekeeper who had been blackmailing me earlier this year in a fit OF jealousy. (If you – like Master Peregrine – have forgotten this incident, you can refresh your failing memory HERE )
It tasted AS IF it had been poured straight from the umbrella stand. I watered the onions with it. They didn’t like it either.
Mrs Hankey’s diary is missing. I spent all yesterday morning scouring her bedroom for it. I SUSPECT she is carrying it about her person. How am I supposed to run this establishment if I am not INFORMED of what is going on?
I was therefore not in the BEST frame of mind yesterday afternoon when I heard a knock on my door. It was Mrs Pole the cook who is now in such command over the kitchen that even the flies have to ask permission to enter. She had a tray of very passable sweetmeats in her hand and begged me to give my opinion of them. Good manners prevented me from refusing and I was finishing off the last one – it is best to be thorough in such matters – when she dropped her own nugget of news.
The new butler is arriving soon.
Although he is only to be engaged for a limited period to oversee the smooth running of Mrs Hankey’s dinner party, he intends to INSPECT the premises and the staff within the next few days. Mrs Pole couldn’t say when precisely because he is in GREAT DEMAND in London and we are VERY LUCKY to get him. He may need to STUDY the accounts, she added before whipping out the room as quickly as if she could smell a cake burning four doors away.
A trifle discombobulated, I did not sleep well last night and woke as tired as when I SNUFFED out the candle. As a result I was unusually slow in fulfilling my usual morning duties, and had not completed my toilette when there was another knock on my door. I opened it – forgetting that I did not have my day cap on – expecting to see Mrs Pole. I was right, but behind her was a large impressive figure. THE BUTLER
I did what any self-respecting housekeeper in my position would have done. I threw my apron over my head and slammed the door shut…to EMERGE five minutes later composed and decently attired. I don’t think they noticed anything.
Before me stood a man of good bearing and substantial height – he must be six foot in his socks. I don’t know why I say that when he kept his shoes on throughout our brief meeting.
Mrs Pole introduced us and departed, leaving me with Mister Owen Talbot, formerly butler at so many prestigious addresses that I forget them all. He will commence his contracted service with us next week, but as he happened to be in town he wanted to seize the opportunity of meeting me in person.
Your reputation goes before you as perhaps mine goes before me
Oh yes, I said, anxious to be polite for in truth I have never heard the name Owen Talbot in all my live-long days. I wondered what he had heard about me and whether I should deny it.
I believe you’ve already been told that is my practice to look at the accounts when entering a new establishment so no mis-understanding occurs.
He paused for a heartbeat.
But I don’t want to bother with all that formality here. Not in Mrs Finnegan’s house! Your name is as good as legal tender. Your honesty a by-word. There will be a perfect understanding between us because Madam I am entirely at YOUR service.
He’s back next Tuesday. At five past one O’ Clock I believe.
Mister Owen Talbot.
Or Owen as he has requested I call him.
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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