for writers and readers….

Will an Onion Come Between a Lady and her Gentleman? Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper Hopes Not…

Mrs Finnegan, housekeeper at The Regency Town House and CELEBRATED authority on MOST things, has reaSons to be cheerful today.

I AM IN CONSTANT constination.
I am so dreadfully torn between making your delicious onion receipt or refraining (see last week). I am a lady of a cetain age who lives alone, on very limited means and I so adore onions, BUt I am being WooDed by a gentleman and I feel I cAN hold out nO longer in either way as both these forceful desires are strong.
Please reply and give me you knowlegeable advice.
Rueful Ruth of Portslade

Mrs Finnegan replies

Onions are a wonder. They bring flavour to any dish, make strong men cry and – according to Signor Pliny of Rome – cure any number of complaints from mouth sores (painful) to the bloody flux (very painful).

Why, in ancient Egypt they were treasured as a sign of eternal life (all those circles) and were buried with Mummies. Solemn oaths were also sworn on them, as they didn’t have a Bible. I suppose needs must.

I know I do not need to convert you to the VIRTUES of this most estimable of vegetables for it seems that an ONION has the potential to come between you and a GENTLEMAN.

I was a little confused at first, thinking that he was a carpenter wanting to CARVE your likeness in timber, but now I see my mistake. He is wooing you. How charming! What a delight!

But O! dear the dangers of ONION breath are ever present.

My recipe cannot COME between you. An onion can be had from any barrow BOY, potential husbands are not so easy had.

It is marriage you are referring to when you write of forceful desires, is it not? (Although I realise that word may NOT have actually been spoken ALOUD.)

Refain from ANY onion before you come to an understanding. But hasten that DAY by inviting him to dinner.
Make a BOWL of MY pickled onions.
Count the onions before and afterwards. Restrain YOURSELF and do not have so much as a nibble – this is most important.

The number remaining will ENABLE you to make a PRECISE assessment.
0 missing. He is no onion-eater. Forget him.
1 to 3. Possible. Needs gentle easing. Start with onion gravy (winter), Salamongundy, (summer)
4 to 6. Promising. Requires more active encouragement. If he should visit in the morning dish up fried onion with hard boiled eggs and for luncheon I would recommend Onion Pye. It seems to me you can please almost ANY man if you PUT something between a bit of pastry

Dear Ruth I have taken the liberty of depicting you and your Beau as I imagine how you might have looked a few years ago (perhaps)

Dinner: brown onion soup, onion chutney served with whatever you will. Late supper is a light meal so forget the onions and serve calf’s foot jelly with spiced wine to settle the digestion.
7 or more Marry him.

The only other nugget of advice I OFFER is that you should abstain from capital letters. They are best left to THE experts, my dear.

Yours sincerely
Mrs Finnegan


I have news.
I have the BEST news.
Mrs Hankey has decided to UNSUBSCRIBE to my chronicle. She’s not reading these words. I can WRITE what I like, kick my heels in the air and shout How-Diddly-Hi-HO!
She’s not reading me anymore.
Because she SAYS it is too tedious.
And the CapiTal letteRs maKe her squint.

I feel as free as a goose wing flicking cobwebs from the cornices. (Just in case there’s any confusion, I’m not referring to a wing still attached to a goose.)
Now, to tell you all the things I couldn’t write about before.
News from the Square.
There must be some. I’m sure things have been happening. It rained. A bit. And her at Number 51 has been looking a little pale and cross-eyed recently.

News from The Town House.
Sissy broke an egg cup and cried. I told her it was an ugly thing that was ancient when Queen Anne was on the throne and made her laugh.
A spindle on the back stairs splintered and will have to be mended.
Mrs Hankey was in a bad mood last Wednesday. She’s still in it.

I bought some darning wool.

Oh wait! Of course there’s been a new arrival in the Square. Everyone was agog and you’ll never guess who TOOK the most notice (and tried not to show it).

Mrs Hankey has rung a bell.
For the SECOND time.
I must see what she wants.
Until next week, dear friends. And I’ve JUST remembered something else…a rather surprising something…I don’t know how it could have slipped my mind…

MRS FINNEGAN is a regular feature created and written by Bridget Whelan supported by a host of volunteers at The Regency Town House, readers and subscribers. This week a big thank you to Mistress Ruth Tansey

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5 comments on “Will an Onion Come Between a Lady and her Gentleman? Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper Hopes Not…

  1. beth
    August 23, 2022

    I love the brilliant onion scale

  2. Sarah Waldock
    August 23, 2022

    My son had to regretfully end his association with one of his girlfriends because she would not eat onions. He decided he could not associate with such culinary heresy.

  3. Maria Gardiner
    August 23, 2022

    A wise woman once said, ‘If your friends don’t like garlic, change your friends.’ I suspect that advice applies equally to onions.

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This entry was posted on August 23, 2022 by in Mrs Finnegen ADVICE from the 1830 and tagged , , .


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