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Have You Ever Waltzed? Would You? Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper answers the Controversial Question for Herself if Not for all Womankind

Another week, another bulging mail bag for Mrs Finnegan, housekeeper at The Regency Town House. ALL enquiries, observations and ANGUISHED APPEALS for help get an answer. It may not be the answer you want, it may not be the RIGHT answer, but it is an answer…

I AM FREQUENTLY invited to dinner. It is a bore. Pompous servants insist on wafting plates of disgusting concoctions under my nose while the hostess expects me to gasp with delight. Well no, I’ve had enough. All I want to do in the evenings is put my feet up and read the paper. How can I politely or maybe not so politely duck out of these tedious social engagements.
Col. Tacit of Tunbridge Wells

Mrs Finnegan replies

My dear Sir, nothing could be simpler.
You have two choices:
A) Ignore all invitations. Do not reply. Do not explain. Do not attend.
B) Write to the hostess:
Dear _____
I am an unrepentant curmudgeon. I do not enjoy socialising and will have no more of it. You cannot persuade me otherwise.
Yours etc etc

Do A and within a month dinner invitations will dwindle to almost NOTHING and within a year you will have forgotten what it is like to have a friend.
Do B and the invitations will increase. You will be talked ABOUT at the dinner parties you miss and hostesses will go to GREAT lengths to make you change your mind: perhaps arrange for a favourite opera singer to SING in between courses or organise a post-supper snowball FIGHT on the lawn in July.
I recommend B becuase it makes life SO interesting, but only for men. it is one of life’s CRUEL ironies that termagants (the lady version of a curmudgeon) are not welcome anywhere.
I can’t account for this unfairness. It is certainly NOT because curmudgeons are rare

To the Esteemed Mrs Finnegan,

IN MY QUEST to help ladies who lift their feet high from the ground or stamp noisily I have written a book entitled Exercises for Ladies: Calculated to Preserve and Improve their Beauty

It is my contention that the gentle sex do not know how to stand, sit, walk, lie, or get up.

For your sake, Mrs Finnegan, and for the sake of your followers, I will give a soupçon of the hints in my book which may prevent you from embarrassing yourself in polite company.

  • For those ladies that are round-shouldered, it is advisable to walk every day for an hour with a square book on their heads; thus they will appear as elegant as Women of the Nile.
  • Short ladies, such as yourself, may hold their arms a little higher than tall ones.
  • Do not forget your countenance. It should be animated and an agreeable smile which should play gently around your mouth. No laughing, I beseech you.
  • And finally, do not indulge in the waltz, it causes vertigo, spasms and other accidents in those, and I feel you may be one of them, with an irritable constitution.

I trust you will guide your followers to purchase my reasonably priced book

Mrs Finnegan replies

I have published your letter I can do no more for I have an IRON rule only to recommend those PRODUCTS or services which I have personally benefitted from.

I will not be buying your book because:

  • I do not have round shoulders
  • I have SOMEHOW manged to acquire the ability to walk, sit up, stand up and lie down again without your instruction. I can also carry heavy trays, climb five flights of stairs, churn butter, roll pastry and beat cakes into existence. On VERY good days I can turn water into wine.
  • My face is always agreeable. Those that say otherwise are not to be TRUSTED.
  • I DO NOT have an irritable constitution. Mine has a happy disposition and a good sense of humour.
  • I am unlikely to be invited to WALTZ in the near future. However, if such an invitation WERE to be issued I would likely say yes for the SHEER novelty of the occasion.

As for BEING short! Show me a country where FIVE FOOT is considered diminutive and I will SHOW you a figment of an overactive imagination.

Yours sincerely
the well-exercised Mrs Finnegan


Before I move onto events in Brunswick Square, I would like to share two letters I have received. The first is from a MOST GRACIOUS lady and FAITHFUL reader of my modest chronicles.

Do you get a day off? An afternoon off? What do you do on such occasions?

We are to endure one more large snowfall these next two days and the spring birds are starting to arrive.

I hope that this letter finds you well your mind at ease and life as it should be. Please say hello to Sissy and regards to the two gentlemen who stand with you in friendship. 

Your friend, Tiffany

Yes, my dear, I do get time off. One afternoon per week and one full day (starting after the house is served with breakfast) per month. The days having to be arranged to suit the needs of the household.
What do I do?
Mostly, I sit down. If I have one REGRET in life it is that I have not sat down often enough.

Generally am I at ease?
No! More on that in a moment, first I want tell you about the second missive posted through my letter box this very morning.

It was unsigned and contained just one line in graceful copperplate.

Find a housekeeper who admires her Mistress and you will have found two good women.

I’m going to put it among Mrs Hankey’s mail.

Now what has been happening in Brunswick Square? I believe this week is the quiet before the storm. Mrs Hankey was intending to write to her son Thompson newly arrived from the Hankey plantations in the West Indies and currently residing in London. She was going to describe Susan, our lady’s maid. If he recognised her and admitted to the POSSIBILITY of being the father of her child he would be warned off coming to visit in case there was a scandal.

Try as I might I could not catch sight of that letter before it was posted. With the use a looking glass I inspected her blotting paper but could only make out one or two phrases: my dear boy and dark hair...

If I were describing Susan….

I would refer to her fine grey eyes and remarkably GOOD eyebrows, her deft hands and her speaking voice, which is ever soft and low. I would also add that she is a QUICK learner because – and this an important point – it my belief that in her FORMER life in the West Indies she was served upon, not a servant. Everything she does in the house was taught (by yours truly) and she STILL hasn’t acquired the servant’s instict to FLINCH whenever a bell rings.
I would also say there’s only ONE THING that woman cares about and that is her daughter, little Theodora. You may remember how the sturdy little tot played peek-a-boo at Christmas with dear Sissy (who is doing very well indeed by the way. I know that many of you are eager for news)

I sense a great sadness within Susan and I wonder if Mr Thompson is the cause of it. Mrs Hankey suspects that her husband rather than her son COULD be the culprit. I know nothing about him and there are no portraits of his likeness hanging in the house. I’ve discovered that the housekeeper at Number 59 was employed by his family when she first entered service. We avoid each other as a rule but I was determined to find out more and strode across the Square.

She attempted to shut the door in my face. My foot got in the way. After some debate, we were eventually sitting at opposite ends of the kitchen table where she graciously agreed to answer all my questions. These are my notes from the conversation:
Mr Hankey Senior was:-
Not as bad as some but a lot worse than others
Liked running after servant girls
Liked catching them better.
He never did her no harm…and so on and so forth.

We wait, dear friend, we wait. And I am NEVER allowed to forget that at any moment Mrs Hankey could accuse me being a thief UNLESS I do exactly what she says.


The residents of Brunswick Square receive the Chronicle an hour before anyone else. I have just this moment answered the door to Master Peregrine (retired riding master from Number 61) who was out of breath from running across the square.

He said not a word (I don’t think he could) but held out his arms and HIS right hand grabbed mine and his left RESTED on the small of my back. We began to move together in circles around the kitchen. To balance myself I had NO CHOICE but to rest my left hand on his shoulder.
Sissy watched and clapped and laughed she was so delighted with our performance.
It ended abruptly as it begun. Master Peregrine bowed, lifted his hat to the pair of us and ambled back home to his breakfast.

Dear readers, I think I have just been WALTZED

Mrs Finnegan is written by Bridget Whelan with the support of volunteers at The Regency Town House.

A special THANK YOU this week to PAUL COUCHMAN

A SPECIAL MESSENGER SERVICE can remind you so you are alway first with news and never miss an episode. This service is proved ENTIRELY FREE OF CHARGES, TAXES and TIPS.
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6 comments on “Have You Ever Waltzed? Would You? Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper answers the Controversial Question for Herself if Not for all Womankind

  1. Sarah Waldock
    April 12, 2022

    Mr Peregrine is definitely a keeper. A man who will put himself out and risk being a figure of ridicule to the other servants is a man in a million.

    • bridget whelan
      April 13, 2022

      You and I may think so…but does Mrs Finnegan share your opinion?

  2. beth
    April 12, 2022

    I admire mr. p’s self confidence

    • bridget whelan
      April 13, 2022

      A self-confidence born from a) being male and b) a few threads above Mrs F on the social ladder. Mr Peregrine employs servants: Mrs Finnegan serves…

      • beth
        April 14, 2022

        yes, that would certainly impact one’s perspective

  3. bridget whelan
    April 14, 2022


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This entry was posted on April 12, 2022 by in Mrs Finnegen ADVICE from the 1830 and tagged .


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