It is my pleasure to introduce you to Mrs. Simpson, cook at the Regency Town House in Hove, who has kindly consented to write us a letter regarding herself and her seaside slice of England.
Dear Mesdames. January 16 1830.
Having but lately come to the art of reading and writing, I have not had cause as yet to write a letter. Even if I had though, ‘twould not have been a letter to a group of Ladies, I’m sure! I feel that honoured to be asked to write this, though I know not what a Cook in Sussex might say to interest Ladies from the New World. By rights, methinks, ’tis you honoured Ladies who should be writing to me, to instruct me in how life is lived in the Colonies.
Later: I have just been speaking with Mary-Ann. She be Ladies Maid to our Mistress and so, – especially in The Season – meets lots of maids from other countries. She has just informed me that people Over There cannot abide to be referred to as from “The Colonies”. So please excuse any other mistakes I may make: ’tis from pure ignorance and not malice, I do assure you.
Well then: – the town I live in be called Brighton and be in the County of Sussex. ‘Twas an old fishing village until the time of my Great-Grandam.
But then came here an Indian gentleman. Mary-Ann says there be Indian people Over There too, but they be not of the same make as this Gentleman who came from the large country which gave us cotton. But there! Now she says too there is cotton grown where you live as well, so I know not how this difference between our Indian Gentleman and your Indian people comes about. No doubt ’tis some distinction from the world of Men which doth not interest me much: – the world of Women be far less complicated, it seems to me.
Howsomever, what does this Indian Gentleman do when he arrives in our ancient village (for that ’twas all it was before-times) but to tell the Gentry that there be properties in the water and the air here which do bring about good health and that only he knows the way of it, which is through natural spring waters and sea-bathing!
Now this be not a tarry-diddle I am certain-sure; for all who live in coastal towns and hamlets do indeed fare well and so any Woman with The Knowledge can say. (In case not many of our sort hath ventured to your shores, I should explain that The Knowledge is that which is passed down from certain women to woman through the ages as to healing, and easing pain, and all Women’s Matters – of which these God-rotted Barber-Surgeons and Men-midwives are surpassingly ignorant!)
Well, once he hath hung his shingle and claimed to have the Healers knowledge did a very stampede of the sickly gentry whip up their horses and have themselves carried to Brighton. Ho! The old folk say there was a veritable procession of gouty Land-Owners, and syphillictic Young Bloods, and addle-pated Old Ladies,all of whom needed victualling,some and accommodation and a BathHouse, and the fortunes of the ordinary folk began to prosper.
But what changed the fortunes of all was when our putridly plump Princeling and his accompanying Mistresses and cronies and Macaroni Boys did come to visit. Which they did because Gorgeous George – as folk did name him locally – was a veritable treasure trove of ailments such as gout and pox and liver complaints; and the flux and the sweats and lethargy.
Now, this pallid Prince hath many a castle and home to his name, but nothing would do for it than that he build the most whimsical, fairy-like palace in all Christiandom, methinks, right in the middle of our town!
And from then on there were no way of keeping out all the gentry, and their attendants, and their friends, and the Soldiers, and the hangers on, and the miliners and mantua makers, and cobblers and hosiers (and Uncle Tom Cobly and all, I shouldn’t wonder) and Brighton be now a real city!
In fact it be whispered abroad that this new-made invention of the Steam Train will be put on a service from London to Brighton – so people could take that long, rumbly journey here and back again in ONE day!! I scarse believe it, myself.
Mary-Ann hath also told us that in the Col…excuse me…”Over There” you have no Royalty or Gentry at all, but that a families station in life depends singly on the money they have? Oh how we did laugh, the two of us!! For ours do depend on Breeding: for all the world as though they was prime bloodstock horses or hounds! And as for money? Half the Gentry in England sit in their crumbling manors, eating of bread and cheese and trying to marry off their chinless progeny to the highest bidder simply in order to make the roof sound again!
But there! I know not what more to say and have taken up much of your time, I’m sure, that you could be putting to better cause. Howsomever, do any of you gentle women have a query or a quiz for me to address, I should consider it a right honour to respond as best I can.
With humble felicitations,
Mrs. Simpson, Humble Cook of Brighton, England.
Here I be, a-making of my curtsy, with our two scullions and our Housekeeper, Mrs. Ainslie.
We’ll be meeting Mrs. Simpson in person on Number One London’s 2020 Regency Tour, when we visit the Regency Town House in Hove – complete itinerary here.