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Someone Tries to Teach Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper a Lesson…but She Intends to Deliver One Herself

As always Mrs Finnegan throws herself into her work as Housekeeper at The Regency Town House, never becoming involved in gossip or busying herself with the business of others. Let that be a lesson to you all and speaking of which…

YOU NEED MY HELP Mrs Finnegan, my dear. And I am supremely qualified to assist you. 

While I’m sure your limited education has served you well, with recipes and the like, I feel that you can do better.

Your circulars, while enjoyable, lack depth and your turn of phrase, though serviceable, is sadly unrefined. You are in need of the kind of improvement only I, as an esteemed educator, can provide.

Not that everything is wrong with your writing. I was surprised one week to find no mistakes. Well done for that, Mrs Finnegan, but I’m afraid to say it was a one-off. The week after your circulars were a litany of errors. 

You may feel I am criticising your writing. Calm down, my dear. I operate a small school where I teach not only the humble servant classes, such as yourself,  but also duchesses, marchionesses, even ladies from France.

When can I expect you at my establishment? I believe my rates to be fair.

I remain, your servant and teacher to be.
Eliza Tosh (of the Hampshire Toshes)

Mrs Finnegan replies

Madam, if you have ever taught a Duchess my head is MADE of marzipan, the moon has turned to BLOOD and Wednesdays have been abolished for lack of interest.

(But I INTEND to take up teaching myself. If Eliza Tosh can do it, I’m sure it can’t be too difficult.
You can find out for yourself for I have TWO classes at The Regency Town House.
They call them WORKSHOPS. I no have idea why. That smacks of dirty hands and copious AMOUNTS of sweat.
I insist on clean hands in MY classes and ONLY the merest suggestion of a slight glow in the temple region is allowed. Apart from that ALL are welcome. You can find out more if you click HERE, dear friends. Will I see you there?
If you are still in the MOOD for clicking you can find out about my other “workshop” HERE )


Now to the DRAMA in the House.
I think I left off last week when Thompson Senior started calling our Susan, the lady’s maid, his OWN sweet true love or some such nonsense and confused her with a woman called Sonia.

I thought that Susan might do something DANGEROUS when she came up the stairs from the kitchen, but when she returned her back was straight, her face expression-less and her hands empty (which was a relief because I had IMAGINED carving knives raised in anger).

“Who is Sonia?” The Mistress wanted to know. No one was paying her much mind which was a RARE thing in itself. Susan kept her eyes steady on Mr T Senior.

“Why don’t you tell your wife?” She said it bold and brave and not a BIT like a servant which I always felt she had never REALLY got a handle on.

The master swallowed but kept silent, his eyes never LEAVING her face. Susan turned to look at me and and then the mistress. “Sonia was a slave on the plantation. A house slave I believe, you might remember her Madam. You would have been a young bride back then.” Outside the sun shone and I could hear CARTS making deliveries and hooves on COBBLES. Inside it was cold.

Mrs Hankey shook her head.
“She would have made your bed and perhaps served you iced tea in the afternoon,” Susan continued. “Perhaps she styled your hair the same way I do.”

Mrs Hankey shook her head vigorously. “I don’t remember any girl…”

“You didn’t notice a slave girl.” It was a SOFTLY spoken correction. The quieter Susan got the more nervous I became.

Mr T suddenly seem to see what was going on around him and ATTEMPTED to hold Susan by the elbow. “No need to rake up the past, my dear.” That was a FINE thing coming from him. It was he who started it. She shook him off like a horse RIDDING itself of flies. “Sonia was my mother. Her father was white. I’m told she was so pale she could pass as white herself.” She looked at Mr Thompson. “And you are my father.”

He leant on the wall and groaned like a man wounded.
Mrs Hankey groaned longer and louder. They were almost in harmony.
“I didn’t know she was with child.” He shook his head. “I would have taken care of her. I looked for her when she went away.”
“She didn’t go. She ran. And of course you looked for her. It was what any slave owner would do when their property goes missing. Men with dogs hunted her.”
“I loved her.” It was a pityful whine. He had SHRUNK in a matter of minutes and was not the same man who had demanded dinner half an hour earlier. The veins in his scalp, visible beneath a FUZZ of hardly-there-white-hair began to throb.

Susan was still calm. “My mother was a clever woman as well as a brave one and threw herself on the mercies of a visiting Yankee couple, staunch abolitionists both of them. They smuggled her back to their home in New York.”
“Is that where she is now?”
“She died in childbirth. I never knew her.” For the first time I saw emotion on Susan’s face. “But I was born in New York just as she planned. You know what that means, don’t you?” All three of us shook our heads. “Never mind, my mother knew what it meant. The law of the womb prevailed. For the last 30 years or so the state of New York has said that all children, even those of a runaway slave, are born free.”

“I’m a child of an outrage, half sister to Miss Martha and Mr Thompson junior,” Mrs Hankey paled at the mention of her children. “But I was never a slave. My mother freed me.”

MRS FINNEGAN is a regular feature created and written by Bridget Whelan and a host of volunteers at The Regency Town House, readers and subscribers. This week a big thank you to PAUL COUCHMAN and CATHERINE PAGE
Find out about The Regency Festival of Art, Craft & History HERE

Would you like every episode of Mrs Finnegan’s adventures delivered directly to your mail box?
There’s no fees, taxes or tips involved, but a coach and four might pull up outside your house (as quietly as possible).
Just click HERE

7 comments on “Someone Tries to Teach Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper a Lesson…but She Intends to Deliver One Herself

  1. Sarah Waldock
    May 24, 2022

    what does Susan hope for in taking a job in her father’s household? justice? I fear it unlikely. the best I suspect she will get will be a pay-off, probably a derisory sum, and her congé. I can’t see her being welcomed as the master’s daughter…

    • bridget whelan
      May 24, 2022

      I’m not sure she wants to be brought into the family circle, but she wants something that is certain…

  2. beth
    May 24, 2022

    hmmm…..perhaps some sort of revenge plan on Susan’s part ?

    • bridget whelan
      May 24, 2022

      What’s the best revenge she could extract? (Serious question!)

      • beth
        May 24, 2022

        write her story and have it published publicly, live openly as his daughter, inherit what is due her

  3. bridget whelan
    May 24, 2022

    One flaw in the scheme – as she is illegitimate she would not have been able to inherit, but she could do all the rest.

  4. bridget whelan
    May 24, 2022

    Maybe she will do all the rest…(sound of clogs turning)

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This entry was posted on May 24, 2022 by in Mrs Finnegen ADVICE from the 1830 and tagged , , .


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