BRIDGET WHELAN writer

for writers and readers….

Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper walks through the Valley of Humiliation

Mrs Finnegan, currently still housekeeper at The Regency Town House, has had a difficult few days and is not ENTIRELY recovered. She thanks you for your understanding and begs you to read on as she doesn’t think she would be able to repeat it at a later date, the trauma still affecting her digestive system as well as her writing hand.

O woe is me!

I promised TODAY to reveal my decision: would I leave the Hankey establishment to become the wife of Master Peregrine or stay to command over a FULL complement of staff in the larger and grander abode at Number 10.

I thought long and hard. I woke at night to stare at the stars, but I could not see my future in their TWINKLING abundance.

On account of it being a cloudy night.

It must have been cold out on the Channel. My stockingless toes were NUMB in Brunswick Square.

I stewed in a casserole of doubt.
I was scorched by indecision.
At night strange dreams stole my sleep….

Until I realised one startling fact.

One day I will be old.

Who then will remember me as I am now? Who would recall the flitting smile that plays GENTLY on my lips, the straightness of my back or my ABILITY to climb stairs.

And if I am not old, I will be dead.

Will there be black flumed horses to carry my coffin? No, not if Mrs Hankey or The Workhouse have anything to do with it.

I’m not saying Master Peregrine would arrange it either. But he might think about it.

If I were to become the housekeeper of the new, IMPROVED establishment I could lose my position within a year (SOONER when you consider Mrs Hankey’s temperament) and have nothing. Of course, I could be unhappy five minutes after the wedding ceremony (I have known such cases) but at least I would still be a MISSUS.

I’ve waited SO long to get ONE proposal; I think I should hold onto it with BOTH hands. And so I made Master P the happiest man in the world. At least that is how I interpretated his manly handshake and the moisture in his eye.

But woe is me!

Master P insisted on a WHIRLWIND courtship and a prompt wedding. While I was thinking of spring, Master P was dreaming of Christmas Day.

(Her at Number 58 went around telling everyone it was because the vicar reduces his rates for Christmas Day as he has to spend so much time in Church anyway. Bile and spite are etched INTO that woman’s HEART)

Everything had to be done at a gallop. Mrs Hankey was NOT pleased when TOLD she will have to look for a new housekeeper. I enjoyed that moment perhaps a LITTLE too much.

Miss Martha kissed me, called me an Old Silly and held my hands as we danced around the room.

Sissy cried and asked if I would be going FAR away. I dried her tears by telling her that I would be only across the Square and she would be coming with me.

The only difference is that as Master P only rented four and a half rooms she would have to go home to Mama every night. Did she mind that? Of course she didn’t. The dear child was laughing and crying at the same time and we had such fun imagining our news live at Number 61.

Master Owen Merryweather Talbot heard the news when he came to be interviewed for the post of butler. He looked very fine with his coat now out of the pawn shop.

He stopped me on the stairs. “Are we never to work together? Think of the things we could have done the pair of us, housekeeper and butler.”

“Trouble,” I said briskly. “That’s all that could have come out of it. And you’re counting your chickens. You haven’t seen the mistress yet.”

His smile was so confident, so very certain that flowers were blooming, his words golden and the job already in his pocket I felt very strongly that he needed a good shaking.

He was right though. Mrs Hankey gave it to him at £79 a year. I happen to know that was £2.5s.0d more than she intended.

The banns were to be read last Sunday just gone at St Andrew’s in Waterloo Street. As you know, they have to be read for THREE Sundays running before the wedding can go ahead.

I think the entire Square were there to hear them. Mrs Hankey and daughter Martha were in the first row, myself and Master P in the middle section – the FIRST TIME we went anywhere as a betrothed couple. Indeed, it was the first time we had GONE anywhere together.

At the back were the Brunswick Square servants. Sissy and her mother were there UNABLE to stop smiling. Her from 59 couldn’t stop grimacing.

I do not exaggerate when I say all eyes were on Master P and myself AND could feel the BREEZE of whispered comments.

I was glad Miss Martha had persuaded me to borrow one of her fine bonnets. She is trying to get the Mistress to lend me one of her old dresses for the actual wedding. I am well acquainted with her wardrobe, and I am hoping it will be something like this. (I wonder if we can run to a page boy. I am sure I can scrub up one of the stable lads nicely.)

We sat through all the TEDIOUS stuff, a sermon about the price of anchovies (I may have dropped off at this point and got confused with a shopping list I was composing in my head), a gospel about The Son of Man coming when least expected (a terribly annoying trait in visitors) and THEN the banns were read for those getting married on Christmas Day.

There was an Able Seaman Jones and someone; a Mr Pole and Miss Pike, a Mr Thingy-a-bob and Mrs Thingy-something-else We sat and waited for our names to be called. And waited. The vicar mumbled and moved on to something else. We were left stranded, BANN-less.

I could hear her from Number 59 crowing like a cockerel.

My face blazed scarlet.

O The shame of it!

Master P kept touching my arm, saying he couldn’t understand it, that there must be some mistake. He would talk to the vicar. He would talk to the bishop. He would talk to King William as he was in town.

After the service we walked out together with our heads held as high as could be managed, which was a little above the tops of our boots. A blanket of unkind looks, innuendoes and smothered laughter greeted us. It was broken by Mrs Hankey’s trombone of a voice:

“Changed your mind Hidlerbrace? I’m not surprised.” She looked me up and down. “I’ll take you back at a reduction of £5 per year for unreliability.”

Master P put his hand in his pocket and found the papers that should have been delivered to the church days ago. He had forgotten. There was nothing to be said.

I did not see Master Peregrine the rest of Sunday. There was no word from him yesterday.

This morning early there was a knock at the door. I had no curiosity to see what the world wanted from me, but somehow I found the strength to turn the handle and there stood Master Peregrine waving yet more papers.

At ENORMOUS expense – he said that several times – he had applied for a special marriage licence and this morning it had been granted.

Dear reader, I AM GETTING MARRIED

And on Christmas Day.

It is all settled.

I think.

You can’t afford to MISS the next THRILLING episode!

Click HERE and Mrs Finnegan will let you know when the ink is dry and her chronicle is ready to be read. 
It’s no TROUBLE at all and this service is provided ENTIRELY FREE of charges, taxes and tips. 

She will SEND it to the gentry if desired (she counts titled benefactors among her MANY readers); tradespeople of all descriptions, but draws the line at costermongers who make too many jokes at other people’s expense; servants of every type and class are also WELCOME to apply as are the learned and those who have yet to acquire full mastery of the alphabet.

7 comments on “Brighton’s Regency Housekeeper walks through the Valley of Humiliation

  1. Sarah Waldock
    December 6, 2022

    I wish Mrs. Finnegan every happiness.

    • bridget whelan
      December 12, 2022

      She thanks you and apologises for the delay in replying due to circumstances relating to coughing and the general weather

      • Sarah Waldock
        December 12, 2022

        I sincerely hope Mrs. Finnegan does not have the same viral bronchitis my husband and I have been fighting. The weather calls for coals as well as wood on the stove to keep warm, and a kettle on the go for hot drinks and hot water bottles. Stay warm, Mrs. Finnegan, and keep your feet and head warm and heal fully.

  2. beth
    December 6, 2022

    woah! I have high hopes for them, and easier years ahead.

    • bridget whelan
      December 12, 2022

      Mrs Finnegan is gratified. The phrase easier years ahead has a pleasing ring. She is sorry it has taken so long to response. The ink froze in the inkwell this morning (that has nothing to do with being late but she thought you would want to know).

  3. Maria Gardiner
    December 6, 2022

    I wish you every happiness – goodness knows you have earned it- but I hope that doesn’t mean that you’ll stop sharing your life with your dear readers.

    • bridget whelan
      December 12, 2022

      Maria! Maria! Mrs Finnegan hasn’t even thought of that possibility but it is something she might need to discuss with Master P. Will he want a wife working?

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This entry was posted on December 6, 2022 by in Mrs Finnegen ADVICE from the 1830 and tagged , .

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