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Could you Deal with a Mistress who is a Barometer in a Bonnet? Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper Can

Mrs Finnegan WELCOMES letters from all, no matter HOW grand or LOWLY. She does ALL this while performing her daily duties as Housekeeper at The Regency Town House with a diligence that leaves others in AWE

WHAT TO DO about our mistress?

She is weather-struck in all her actions. If the day is fine, she has a sunny disposition; if cloudy, she is dull and despondent and if a storm rages outside you can be sure one will rage inside.

When it rains it’s hard to get a yes or no out of her and in the evening you can be sure she will turn peevish with the damp.

She is a barometer in a bonnet.
We servants know the state of the atmosphere before opening the door or putting our heads out of the window. All we have to do is say good morning, Ma’am

This latest spell of thunder storms has made our lives a misery. 

Mrs Finnegan, how do we cope with our weather vane mistress?

Milly, Maisie and Mary Ann,
Ladies Maid, Parlour Maid and Under Parlour Maid at XXXXX House

Mrs Finnegan replies

Girls, girls, girls!

You are not SEEING the wood for the trees. You can’t relish a pudding by dwelling on one sub-standard raisin or appreciate the attributes of a suitor by staring at the black heads on the back of his neck.

Look at YOUR situation through my eyes and you will see that you are the MOST fortunate of servants. What we all CRAVE – and are so often denied – is a mistress who is reliable.

True, yours is only as consistent as an ENGLISH summer which is to say not very.

And yes, you may experience all the seasons and EVERY mood in a single day, but at least you KNOW to avoid mentioning a broken tureen when grey clouds are overhead and to only ask for an afternoon off when the sun is shining.

Your lives will be incrementally easier if you become adept at the predicting the weather. The following may help.

When the dew is on the GRASS,
Rain will NEVER come to pass.
When grass is dry at MORNING light.
Look for rain before the night

And my personal favourite (because it offers such hope)

Smile if it should rain before SEVEN
It's a SURE sign that it will be DRY by eleven

Yours faithfully
Mrs Finnegan


No doubt you’re expecting to find HOW Master Peregrine became the saviour of dear, dear Brutus after being kidnapped by person or persons unknown.

Like me, I suspect you were not ENTIRELY convinced by the explanation that he discovered the dog on his rambles in the fields on the other side of Hove village.

Master Peregrine does NOT ramble. He has a boy who does that for him.

Master Peregrine sits, occasionally he paces. I’m sure that if the occasion demanded it he would be PREPARED to strut. Rambling, however, is a peregrination outside his range of movements.

I took Sissy with me when I accepted Master’s P’s invitation to tea. Now he has no resident housekeeper I could not be seen to visit the home of a batchelor on MY OWN.

As soon as we entered it was all TOO obvious that he was without staff.

Efforts had been made and Master P brushes his clothes beautifully. He ALSO knows how to polish his boots. They have a shine that puts me in mind of the reflection of a harvest MOON’s in a water butt, but oh, dear the wainscoting! It was in a sad state. A film of dust and soot hung to every angle.

I do believe men have an EYE defect which stops them from seeing wainscoting. It is only visable to women and paid staff.

Sissy and I sat WAITING for our tea. Master Peregrine was at his agreeable best smiling, making polite conversation and chuckling Sissy under her chin which no CHILD has liked ever.

Sissy has been well brought up (and benefitted from nearly a year of my instruction) and sat as DEMURE as a peach in a basket of apples.

Papers littered every surface and clearly were causing Master P a good deal of trouble. I could tell by the WAY his eyes flittered towards them and then away again, and then back, and then away. It was MOST unsatisfactory especially as there was no sign of tea making.

I coughed and made an INNOCENT remark about having a dry throat. Master P nodded and asked if he could get away with not having a housekeeper. Perhaps a general servant of a superior sort WOULD suit him better.

I elbowed Sissy in the RIBS and she coughed obediently.

Master P then started talking about a gentleman being EXPECTED to have a housekeeper. What to do?

I could see there was going to be no tea unless I got up and made it.
So I did.

I think so much better with a decent cup of tea by my side (and Master P always keeps a well-stocked CADDY of Darjeeling). I found a plate of Queen cakes in the scullery which he must have sent out for…so he is not ENTIRELY a hopeless host.

Tea was drunk, cakes consumed (the baker had been generous with the rose water but miserly with the almonds) and there was STILL no mention of the dog, the reward and Merryweather Talbot being seen in his regular green frock coat once more. The latter event SMACKS of a visit to a pawnbroker.

Sissy and I bade farewell no nearer to finding out anything INTERESTING than a parrot in a privvy when Master Peregrine said something rather odd.

“I do not know how I could carry on without you, dear lady.”

All I did was was make a pot of tea.

MRS FINNEGAN is a regular feature created and written by Bridget Whelan with the support of a WONDERFUL team of volunteers at The Regency Town House, along with the MOST charming of readers and subscribers. Today a special THANK YOU to Paul Couchman

Don’t miss next Tuesday’s thrilling episode. Just click HERE and you’ll get a gentle nudge on Tuesday morning.
(Not too early. We don’t go out until the streets are well-aired.)

4 comments on “Could you Deal with a Mistress who is a Barometer in a Bonnet? Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper Can

  1. beth
    October 25, 2022

    i love the ‘barometer in a bonnet’ descriptor and am going to use it in my life )

    • bridget whelan
      October 25, 2022

      Mrs Finnegan fully endorses your use of the phrase at every opportunity.

  2. Sarah Waldock
    October 25, 2022

    The maids whos mistress is a barometer in a bonnet need to find a way of maintaining a more sunny aspect indoors by using Mrs Finnegan’s excellent weather lore [to which I might add if they will but take time to observe the moon, and see how far the glow, or borough aroung it may be; far borough, near rain. Near borough, far rain. the moisture in the atmosphere spreads the glow further, of course!] and when anticipating poor weather, they should ply their mistress the moment it is apparent that her spirits have slipped with her favourite culinary treats. It is hard to mind as much about aching bones in the wet when plied with buttered London crumpets, or preserved strawberries with cream.

    As to Mr Peregrine! was that a backhanded marriage proposal or merely a job offer?

    • bridget whelan
      October 25, 2022

      Excellent weather advice. Proposal or job offer? That is the question…Or he might just want another cup of tea,

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This entry was posted on October 25, 2022 by in Mrs Finnegen ADVICE from the 1830 and tagged , , .


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