for writers and readers….

Be Afraid, Urges Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper

Mrs Finnegan, housekeeper at The Regency Town House and acknowledged AUTHORITY on heart ache, back ache and MORAL philosophy, is DELIGHTED to proffer advice to discerning readers.

I WORK FOR the largest chandler’s in our town. We sell cheese, bacon, mousetraps and all the things a body would ever need including candles, of course.

There’s another boy working here, older than me, and he is the source of my worry and woe.

I’d seen him have the odd bit of cheese or the fatty end off the bacon and never paid no mind to it. But he has taken me into his confidence and shown me all the fiddles he has going: weighting his thumb as well as the slab of meat and pocketing the difference, nearly always a farthing short when giving change and the lies he tells the master! A delivery was short half a bushel when it weren’t, a tub of butter “ruined” but good enough to be sold to a neighbour.

That’s not half the story! No, not even a quarter of it. And now he wants me to join the game.

When I refused he laughed and shouted: Never say your mother reared a jibber!
Gentle Jim

Mrs Finnegan replies

There are several GOOD ways of protecting yourself against temptation, but the surest is cowardice. Keep on jibbing, Jim.

Never stop being afraid of your master finding out. Tremble at the thought of the parish beadle’s heavy hand on your shoulder.

Picture yourself laying on the hard stone floors of a prison cell, a bundle of straw your only comfort, although it is damp from the sweat of a dozen men and reeks of rats.

I could go on but I think I have said enough.

Thievery can start small and seem harmless.

But it only ends one way.

And that is true even if the thief escapes discovery (which is highly unlikey and IMPOSSIBLE in the situation you describe) for his mind will be trapped in a PRISON of deceit, guilt and lies.

Save yourself and your example might even HELP your fellow worker back to the moral path of self-respect and fear.


Last week I promised to tell you about the new arrivals in the Square.
The “French Academy” at Number 60 is no more. That is to say the most miserable Mere I EVER had the misfortune to meet has gone. She’s no LOSS. With a face like a bag of spanners on her good days, she could TURN water sour on her bad ones.

Her dancing master fils (remember him? It always caused a stir whenever I produced his picture. I have no idea why) has gone with her. There was dalliance of sorts between him and Miss Martha, but we shall say no more about it. A curtain is drawn upon that episode.

Only he had a cheek, him with his frigthened owl haircut, tuppence three farthing in his pocket and a wife on the stage that no one was supposed to know about. And Miss Martha is such a poppet, so unlike her mother, so underserving of such ill-treatment. But I say no more.

She is quite OVER him at any rate.

When I asked if she knew where mother and son had gone (fled is the word on the Square and it’s whispered with rent unpaid) she could HARDLY recall his name. And was very firm about having NO interest in his affairs.

I was hoping for a nice family to move in.

Only with a daughter the SAME age as Miss Martha so they could be friends.

And THEMSELVES in need of a reliable housekeeper capable of commanding every aspect of the Household…I can dream…double salary, of course, with a full day off EVERY week. I become so indispensable the FAMILY insist I join them in Italy every spring.

Our new neighbour turns out to be someone very different.

I don’t know his name but I have it on GOOD authority (Master Peregrine at 61) that he paid three months rent in GOLD COIN, has a fine wardrobe, an even better horse, hires a coach when needed and employs a butler and stable boy , but no female servants. As yet.

Miss Martha left her card on only the SECOND day of his residence. Her mother was NOT best pleased .

I have a terrible feeling that he could be more dangerous than the last one.

MRS FINNEGAN is a regular feature created and written by Bridget Whelan and supported by fellow volunteers at The Regency Town House, readers and subscribers.

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8 comments on “Be Afraid, Urges Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper

  1. Sarah Waldock
    August 30, 2022

    Miss Martha should beware. Young men who have no trouble producing that sulky, dyspeptic sort of look which is supposed to be Byronesque and brooding, are either sulky as a natural matter, or suffer from persistent costive habits and likely have haemorrhoids.

    • bridget whelan
      August 30, 2022

      Mrs Finnegan is grateful for your opinion and intends to pass it on – in small, palatable doses – to Miss Martha. She is especially taken with your estimate of the physical ailments that produce such brooding looks and approves of your use of the word costive, which is not heard often enough in polite circles.

  2. beth
    August 30, 2022

    early version of ‘scared strait’ program in the u.s. )

  3. bridget whelan
    August 30, 2022

    Mrs Finnegan is an inspiration to many…
    (I wonder if it available on Netflix)

  4. Glen Available
    August 30, 2022

    The ‘Frightened Owl’ haircut is an essential element of the sulky look, I reckon.

  5. Cathy Cade
    August 30, 2022

    What do you suppose your new neighbour uses on his lips? (Just wondering…)

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This entry was posted on August 30, 2022 by in Mrs Finnegen ADVICE from the 1830 and tagged , , , .


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