for writers and readers….

Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper Dispenses Advice and Finds a Diary Where Her Name is often Written LARGE

Mrs Finnegan is putting the tribulations of the last few weeks behind HER and throws herself into her work as Housekeeper at The Regency Town House only there appears to be a new trouble surfacing…

I LOVE TO READ. I am particularly fond of romantic novels and imagine myself whisked away by a handsome beau to an exotic island.
Unfortunately, I now need – I can barely say it – eye assistance or, more specifically, a monocle. My husband says I look like a demented owl.
Will others taunt me? Am I destined to be the object of other’s cruel wit?
I cannot give up reading.
A Burdened Bibliophile from Birmingham

Mrs Finnegan replies

Nor should you!
Those who don’t or can’t read are doomed to lead only ONE life while you can flit from exotic isle to courtly palace WHILST still sitting in your own parlour. Those who dismiss tales of ROMANCE as mere frippery have never been married to a husband (I suspect it’s mainly HUSBANDS who make that complaint) or KNOW the need to escape domestic drudgery
FAR from looking like a bird in mental distress, your portrait SUGGESTS a cultured woman of benign demeanour WITH cerebral interests, rather like myself.

Ignore your husband as he ignores you (I don’t believe he has ever truly SEEN you). Wear your monocle WITH pride. Or consider SWAPING it for the latest FASHION in spectacles which suit all AGES and add a CERTAIN restrained elegance to any dress.

Yours sincerely and with the greatest respect
from the book-reading, spectacles-wearing Mrs Finnegan


The calendar says SPRING but have you looked out the window? You have to scrape the frost off first….It’s still winter indoors with draughts DARTING around every corner and the flagstones sucking the heat from the fire. The weather puts me in mind of a sweet treat that as a rule is more COMMONLY made in the months leading up to Christmas. However, I maintain that rules are an INSTRUCTION for the meek and foolish, but ONLY a suggestion for WISE women.
Dear little Sissy doesn’t know how to make Taffy so I set her learning.

TAFFY Ingredients

12oz sugar from Demerara
That’s sugar named after a Dutch Colony that is ours now or nearly so (I am very FOND of reading newspapers and like to KEEP up)

4oz butter
I like the milk from Thomas Wentworth’s cows but you will know the best farm or dairy in your town. (I know this is a bull but I couldn’t find any pictures of cows. It’s always the same story with men…)

2 level tablespoons of golden syrup
1 level tablespoon of black treacle

I get both from St Andrew’s in Hove. If you GO round the back and ask for the sexton when the VICAR is not there you will be SURPRISED at what you can buy as long as you don’t mind a bit of sea water damage and not paying taxes.
4 tablespoons of water

Let it warm up a bit. Ours is icey when it’s drawn straight from the well.

TAFFY the method

Put all the ingredients into a pan and heat slow until the butter is melted and the sugar is liquid.
Not a stage to be rushed.
Bring to the boil. Cover the pan. It now requires a GENTLE boil for about two minutes.
Make sure you know the difference between a gentle boil where the bubbles grace the surface and a hard, fierce angry boil. SOME may think it the difference between MYSELF and Mrs Hankey
Take the lid off the pan and continue to boil for a good time.
Keep an eye on it. This is not the time to hang out the washing. 

Stir occasionally.
Test by dropping a little of the mixture into a cup of cold water. If it is ready hard little threads should form. 

Put into a well-buttered tin. Leave to set.

It is best eaten when there is a nip in the air. Also when you are young and STILL have a sound set of teeth in your head. Sissy loves it and Miss Susan came into the kitchen wanting to know what the wonderful smell was.

She is thrilled when we present her with a tin for her own dear poppet (which we have to say is her niece but we all know is much closer than that). Ah, I cherish the memories of Christmas when she and Sissy played peek-a-boo together.

The cooking session has left me in a GOOD mood (and left Sissy’s hair a sticky mess). I help her clean up and tell her to SIT by the fire in the kitchen while I attend my duties UPSTAIRS. I air Mrs Hankey’s room and turn her mattresses (three made of CHEAP chaff and four of the finest feathers) and change the linen. I do not know what she does with her pillows.

I am about to leave when some INSPIRED impulse makes me tidy her fichu drawer and there, among the lace, the flimsy cotton, the heavily embroidered linen I FIND her diary. A quick flick reveals that I have a LOT to catch up on.

Just after Christmas Mrs H began to write about her ELDEST son Thomson.

He was coming to visit…No, he was coming to stay. It was certain that he was about to sail from the West Indies…it was uncertain and he might be needed on the plantation for another year…

There are pages of this stuff. You might think Mrs Hankey WOULD swoon with excitement, as there can be LITTLE doubt he is her favourite child. (I hope Miss Martha does not realise.) However, once it becomes clear he is determined to make the long SEA voyage a new tone CREEPS into her writing. Judge for yourself.

I am in such a fluster. Thomson has sent a message saying that I must expect him next week or maybe the one after. He is aboard a ship. Oh, what shall I do?   

See what I mean? And there is MORE.

When I received the message I was already dressed and breakfasted but on reading it I felt immediately sick to my stomach and wanted nothing more than to go back to bed, to pull the covers over my head and to pretend I did not exist. 

Doesn’t sound as though she will be STANDING on the doorstep with arms wide open. (Yes, I know that kind of behaviour is ONLY for the lower orders, but you get my point.)

Oh, I should have listened to that old proverb Do not put off ‘til tomorrow what you can do today, but I am afraid that I have never believed in it. The whole success of my life may be attributed to putting off uncomfortable confrontations and indeed I am very skilled at doing so. 

This way one never has to face any unpleasantness and on the few occasions where one has to, one simply blames others. However, in this case there seems to be no sliding away. 

An Interesting INSIGHT into Mrs Hankey’s nature, I THINK. At that moment I hear a carriage draw up outside. The mistress has RETURNED early from her round of visiting. I SKIM through the next pages and a few phrases stand out.

I am at a great loss as to know what to do. Oh, what a horror! Should I wait until Thomson comes to Brighton and risk a terrible coup de théâtre

What is THAT when it’s at home?

I am finding it very difficult to fully know her and to trust her….

Who is HER?  

…should I ask about the father? But in order to do that I would have to be extraordinarily subtle, and even I can see that subtlety is not my strongest suite…and it would expose my hand…

Susan! OF course, there has always been a suspicion that Thompson is the father of her child. Did he abandon her? Pay her off?
Refuse to recognise the child as his?
I SHOULD be downstairs opening the front door, but my NAME jumps off the NEXT page and I must just see…

Mrs Finnegan could find out… 

Oh dear!

but that would mean being frank with Mrs Finnegan, not something I relish…and Mrs Finnegan may refuse…Mrs Finnegan probably will…but

But what?
The door handle TURNS and I push the diary back into the fichu drawer.

The Chronicles of Mrs Finnegan are a regular feature written by Bridget Whelan working with a host of volunteers at The Regency Town House. This week a SPECIAL THANK YOU to Catherine Page and Jill Vigus

Click HERE for the next THRILLING episode!

And if you click HERE Mrs Finnegan will send you a note every TUESDAY to let you know when the ink is dry and her chronicle is ready to be read. 

That’s one less thing to worry about…

This service is provided ENTIRELY FREE of charges, taxes and tips.

3 comments on “Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper Dispenses Advice and Finds a Diary Where Her Name is often Written LARGE

  1. Sarah Waldock
    March 8, 2022

    Alas, the reading of a private diary is a bit like eavesdropping, and we all know how eavesdroppers never hear good of themselves. On the other hand, it is an opportunity to work towards a better relationship…

    • bridget whelan
      March 8, 2022

      Mrs Finnegan’s thoughts EXACTLY. She has no other motive…

      • Sarah Waldock
        March 8, 2022

        and very commendable it is to try to understand one’s employer better, to better effect an air of harmony within the household, and mend any dispute.

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This entry was posted on March 8, 2022 by in Mrs Finnegen ADVICE from the 1830 and tagged , .


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