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A Plain Boiled Man with Unruly Daughters needs the Help of Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper

Mrs Finnegan is a Celebrated Authority on FAMILY matters as well as affairs of the HEART and is DELIGHTED to offer advice when not busy with her DUTIES as Housekeeper at  The Regency Town House

CAN YOU HELP a widower with two daughters to rear? I am a modest man, used to a plain  boiled and roasted way of life. My daughters, alas, are of a different persuasion.

We live very close to a tavern that serves as a staging post for carriages arriving from London, an occasion which causes much ribaldry  and muckshuckling  from the locals who gather underneath our window to greet the coaches.

My daughters are prone to disporting  themselves at the window waving their kerchiefs and calling out to the young male passengers in a most unseemly manner.

When I remonstrate with them they accuse me of being old fashioned. Such profanity sends me rushing to my study and the Presbyterian Weekly. 

What can I do to to persuade them to return to quilling and piano forte lessons before it is too late ?

Frantic father, Preston Village

Mrs Finnegan replies

It is a universal truth that young girls get weary of an UNVARYING round of routine tasks.

However, they NEED the guiding hand of their father on their shoulder when they seek a modicum of excitement to relieve the monotony of their existence.

Sir, put DOWN your newspaper and get out of your study. You have work to do.

Temporary measures to Remedy Matters.
See to it that the sash cord on the window is broken.
Make SURE it stays broken.
Keep the coach timetable by your SIDE. It cannot be relied upon but at least is a guide to when TROUBLE may break out.
Arrange for activities away from home at the time the COACH is due.
Visiting the DESERVING poor with nourishing bowls of soup is always a useful standby.
ALLOW the girls to dress for the occasion and make sure that their walk to the hovels it is a very PUBLIC perambulation.
If YOU have noticed their unruly behaviour, you can be SURE that your neighbours have as well. Their reputation may need a little polishing.

More Permanent Solutions
Announce at the breakfast table that you INTEND to take a wife for your daughters’ sake.
You don’t actually have to re-marry, it is ENOUGH that the girls will be kept busy for some time selecting and rejecting candidates.
Seek the advice of an older married lady and ARRANGE social occasions in your own home (this cannot be avoided) to ensure that your girls are invited to similar occasions OUTSIDE the home.

If that fails
bribery is very effective.

New ribbons if they refrain from waving from the window, TRIPS to town et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
Do not BEGRUDGE the expense.

Had they been sons you would have had to pay for a PROPER education, been forced to purchase a couple of horses to allow them to travel at will and be woken LATE at night when they returned home inebriated.

Yours with THE utmost hope in the future of womankind
Mrs Finnegan


Last week I left you with Mr Owen Merryweather Talbot on my doorstep uttering the DREAD words “Mrs Finnegan, you are in danger.”

I was calm, my face serene and my VOICE devoid of a trace of a tremble when I bade him to enter and explain himself.
You KNOW how much I dislike boasting, but I have to say that Lord Nelson couldn’t have been more devoid of EMOTION when facing the French guns as I was at that moment.
I sent Sissy to bed and ordered her to go to sleep straight away. Then I settled down to hear what TORRID plot was being fashioned to do me DOWN.

Merry (as his friends call him) gulped down a mouthful of wine – I had a bottle of COOKING RED already open – and began his tale.
“You remember your late unlamented cook who plotted to steal the entire contents of the house and have you blamed for her misdeeds?” He asked.

I agreed that I had not ENTIRELY forgotten the events of nine months ago. (Weak-minded readers who have should click HERE) I last saw the woman being carted away by the police. It was NOT a pretty sight, especially as it was so VERY NEARLY me in her place.

“You recall too that she was sentenced to be transported.”
I nodded.
“And she escaped and was hiding out on the South Downs?”
I shrugged. All this was VERY familiar to me.
“Half starved over the winter she was, a wretched creature mad from the cold and the hunger, but she has regained her strength if not her mind. And she is seeking vengeance!”
I remained silent.
Merry clutched my arm. “I’m told she has recruited a gang of footpads and cut throats.” He stood up.

“Madam! You need protection and I am the man to give it to you!”
I poured ANOTHER glass of wine. For myself.
“But I read in the newspaper that she was recaptured after Christmas,” I murmured
Merry shook his head. “A fabrication.”
“And went on trial in the spring.”
He took a sip of wine. “I think you will find that report was submitted by a drunken junior reporter.”
I told him that the housekeeper at Number 59 attended the court proceedings. (There’s nothing she likes better, especially if there’s a chance of a hanging.)

That gave Merry a moment to pause. “How is her eyesight? And her hearing? And here?” He tapped his temple. “I’ve always thought that woman is a bonnet short of a Sunday outfit.”

“The cook set sail for Van Diemen’s Land last week,” I told him. “The Brighton Gazette ran several columns on it.”
“An honest mistake I’m sure.”
“It made big news because she was spared the noose on account of being a woman which are in great shortage down there.” I pointed to the FLOOR.
Merry drained his glass. “Now you mention it, I may have heard something about that. It must have slipped my mind.”
I stood up to see my old friend out. He hesitated at the door. “But I wasn’t wrong. You do need protection, now more so than ever since you have lost a member of staff.”

He held both my hands in his. “What this house needs is a butler. What you need, dear Mrs Finnegan, is Merry Talbot at your side.”

MRS FINNEGAN is a regular feature created and written by Bridget Whelan working with a host of volunteers at The Regency Town House, readers and subscribers.
This week a big thank you to JENNY FRASER
Have you GOT a problem Mrs Finnegan could answer?

4 comments on “A Plain Boiled Man with Unruly Daughters needs the Help of Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper

  1. Sarah Waldock
    July 12, 2022

    keen to get his feet under the table. or is that under the sheets?

  2. beth
    July 12, 2022

    ‘a bonnet short of a Sunday outfit.’ perfect. I’ve known a few of those

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


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