“As with the commander of an army, or the leader of any enterprise, so is it with the mistress of a house. Her spirit will be seen through the whole establishment, and just in proportion as she performs her duties intelligently and thoroughly, so will her domestics follow in her path.”
I have the good fortune to own a facsimile of Beeton’s Book of Household Management that was published in 1861 by Isabella and Samuel Beeton. It is a fascinating book, reflecting the daily lives of middle-class citizens in mid-Victorian England.
A large portion of the book is devoted to recipes, with many side notes about where different foods originated, how they were historically used, when things were seasonable, how much the recipe would cost and so on.
Many of the recipes were plagiarized from previous cook books, or copied from those sent in to her husband’s monthly publication, The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, but are considered a reasonably accurate representation of what was actually being cooked in middle-class homes at that time.
Although the recipes and their side notes make for good reading, what I find enthralling are the notes on how to run a household. There are detailed descriptions of what would be the responsibility of each particular servant, how a mistress should conduct herself, tips on how to raise healthy children, and different fashion hints.
A comprehensive section on first aid shows what it was like before the advent of our modern drugs. It includes the use of such amazing compounds as ‘precipitated sulphuret of antimony,’ cakes of opium, ‘sweet spirits of nitre,’ and ‘antimonial wine,’ as well as the more usual items such as calomel, Epsom salts, castor oil, and whiskey.
By Maull & Polyblank - National Portrait Gallery, Public Domain,
Isabella herself had an interesting life, even though she died at the young age of 29 after the birth of her fourth child. Wikipedia provides a comprehensive biography about her (see here).
Our weather continues to be sunny and warm and I have been finding the evenings especially pleasant 😊
The Book of Household Management
By Mrs Isabella Beeton
Published originally by S.O. Beeton in 24 monthly parts, 1959-61
First published in a bound edition, 1861
And reproduced in facsimile by Jonathan Cape Ltd, 1968
This edition published in Australia by Thomas Nelson (Australia) Ltd, 1977