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Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper Reflects on Friendship and What it Means to have a Footman in the House

Mrs Finnegan – the housekeeper at The Regency Town House – INVITES ALL TO WRITE TO HER FOR ADVICE
Relies are grammatically correct (but spelling is not guaranteed) and written in well-crafted copperplate, except when they are not.

Dear Mrs Finnegan
I have been accused of vulgar ostentation by a friend who, by the way she dresses, would pass for a seamstress on eighteen pence a day.

She is all hair-pins and second-hand shawls, and when she wears a ring it looks as though it has been taken off a curtain pole.

Myself? If I were to wear all the rings I own I would need extra fingers.

How would you get my poor jealous friend to accuse less and approve more?
Resplendent Rita from Reigate

Mrs Finnegan replies

Are you sure you’re friends?

Perhaps you first knew each other when you were young and on the same SOCIAL level. Since then she has gone DOWN in the world. I’m not sure what HAS happened to you but it seems a lot of jewellery is involved

I suspect the emotion curdling in your friend’s heart is not jealousy but RESENTMENT.

You may recognise it for I believe you also nurse a bitter indignation in your bosom, finding it hard to accept that someone so POOR can still address you by your first name and put her arm through yours. You want extravagant displays of gratitude in return and you’re not going to get them.

The only answer is to go your separate ways

By the way, my dear, the flowers are too big for your hat and your hat is too big for your head.


I have been so taken up with Master Peregrine’s STRANGE behaviour and Owen Talbot’s even stranger activities (to think I should know a dog-napper!) that I have hardly mentioned Mrs Hankey and the other members of the household. You must be anxious for news.

And there is NEWS because the talk above stairs is of CHANGE. Beneath the stairs all we can do is worry and try to pick up nuggets of information

It makes me melancholic to THINK that the Mistress CANNOT confide in me. There could so easily be an AMENDABLE meeting of minds.

I would be the galvanising force, she the ENABLING power; I the inspiration and she the plotter and planner. Alas, Mrs H is too HIGH in the instep to enter into such a relationship and I am left to GUESS what is going on.

I do know IT involves a lot of lawyers.

….and I suppose it might even end up in Court depending on the exact nature of IT

Of course, a married couple are considered as ONE in the eyes of the law and that one is the husband.

It therefore goes WITHOUT saying THAT Mrs Hankey can’t enter into any contract or legal agreement but I gather that letters are being sent up to London daily to Mr Hankey so perhaps everything is being done LONG distance. The days we live in!

I did wonder if – shall I say the word? Shall I? Well, friends, come closer and I’ll tell you.

It occurred to me that perhaps IT was divorce and another kind of Court was being applied to: I read in the newspaper that as many five cases go before the House of Commons in a year. The days we live in!

But there has been a MARKED absence of hair pulling and feet stomping. True, there has been a few shouting sessions but this is Mrs Hankey we are talking about and the lack of truly traumatic tension makes me dismiss the possibility of marital dissolution.

In any case, only the HUSBAND can apply for a divorce and the infamous Mr Hankey surely cannot wish to bring more DISGRACE upon the family after the revelations about Miss Susan, his daughter out of wedlock.

Read all about it HERE if your memory is weak and your brains on the addled side of sixpence.

So what can IT be?

Yesterday I heard the words new staff come from behind closed doors. I was in such a TREMBLE I don’t know how I got off my knees and unglued my eye from the keyhole

There was more this morning.

While I was checking the brass door knobs for signs of woodworm I HAPPENED to overhear Mrs Hankey announce that it was about time she had a footman.

A footman!

You can’t have a footman on his own. If you have a footman (whose livery costs more than his yearly salary) you have to have a houseful of staff, a full canteen of parlour maids and ladies’ maids, cooks and laundry maids.

(Oh dear lord, yes to having a laundry maid in the HOUSE)

If you have a footman, you absolutely MUST have a butler.

And I thought of Owen Merryweather Talbot who has been hoping for such an opportunity this long while.

Should I tell him?

I decide to wait until I know for sure if I have a PLACE in this newly expanded household and that gives me time to decide if I want to work alongside Merry given ALL the faults I know about, and imagining the ones I don’t.

I’m not sure. Perhaps I don’t.

Perhaps I do.

But the recruitment of new staff doesn’t require a bevy of lawyers. Something else is going on.

I am summoned to see Mrs Hankey in the parlour at the very same time as a young boy delivers a message from Master Peregrine. I haven’t read it yet. I expect it’s an invitation to discus the merits of mops while walking across the downs in the rain.

Although of course, it could be a job offer.

It strikes me that I might be in need of one of those, depending on what Mrs Hankey has to say.

The days we LIVE in!

A SPECIAL MESSENGER will let you know when the ink is dry on next week’s “thrilling” instalment
The service is entirely free of taxes, tips and bribes.
Click HERE and make sure you NEVER miss Mrs Finnegan again…

MRS FINNEGAN is a regular feature created and written by Bridget Whelan with the support of a host of volunteers at The Regency Town House, readers and subscribers. This week a big thank you to Paul Couchman

4 comments on “Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper Reflects on Friendship and What it Means to have a Footman in the House

  1. beth
    November 15, 2022

    I imagine her guess about the nature of ‘it’ is close to the mark

  2. bridget whelan
    November 15, 2022

    Maybe not

  3. The Regency Cook
    November 15, 2022

    I’m very taken with Mrs Finnegan’s mis-spelling at the top of this entry. She is SUCH a wit, isn’t she? ‘Relies are grammatically correct’, oh Mrs Finnegan, you are spoiling us.

    • bridget whelan
      November 15, 2022

      Mrs Finnegan is glad someone noticed. She does worry that the standard of her readers is declining…

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This entry was posted on November 15, 2022 by in Mrs Finnegen ADVICE from the 1830 and tagged , , , .


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