Sunday, 20 December 2020

Isabella Beeton


“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


  1. Sounds like a fascinating book! Such a different time back then.

  2. It. Is more than interesting to look back at these old texts, and to realize that the practice of medicine was not far removed from alchemy.

  3. I would love to see this book...I wonder if the library has copies. I am sure it would make some interesting reading.

  4. What a prized possession!!!! What fun it must be, to read it.

    She was a pretty lady. Seems I have seen that photograph before... And probably have, since this is a famous book. Or a compilation, is probably a better term, for it.

    Your weather looks lovely... A beautiful Summer evening....

    Ours is the opposite of course. -smile-

    Greetings from the "North Pole"!!!

  5. Enjoy your warm weather! We are cold here:( I love reading those old books:)

  6. I knew very little about Isabella Beeton before reading the Wikipedia bio. She didn't have much of a life, did she. Poor dear. Your copy of her (their) book must be interesting reading.

  7. Ohhh. I like your new banner!
    But your post made me "shudder" (kidding, a bit).
    Household Management? Please announce and give me time if you want to visit! Fried Oysters, ew.
    An Aunt used to make Miesmuschaeln, some mussels, the smell made me gag. I know healthy stuff!!!
    Wish I had fingernails like you have. Mine break all the time (winter? Loss of job? I think I do live healthy, I even re-adapted your cider-routine!).
    Castor oil??? Help!
    29 and four babies. Oh, what a tragic ending then on top.
    Thank you for the link, too. A "further thirteen children"?! Wow. Hard times. But what I don´t get... how can her Husband have been a believer in equality between men and women and she comes up with this book?
    Oh, OK. If the son died like that equality was a man´s thing after all.

    Beautiful last pic! Have a great Sunday.

  8. I would love that book!! What a fascinating read.

  9. Very interesting. I love old books like that - such an insight into life back then

  10. Hello,
    What an interesting book, I would like to see the recipes. She died as such a young age.
    Have a happy day and week ahead! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  11. Those clouds look lime a signature in the sky. Not sure whether to admire or pity Isabella Beeton - or some of both. I see wiki says she dued of purpureal fever - the name given to the sepsis that took many women because the attendants on their birthing had hands unclean from other medical attendances (including doing autopsies). Death by filth for a woman 'advocating' for good household management.

  12. That's something to treasure, Margaret. My great grandmother died from purpureal fever in 1885. I found the coroner's report online - such a horrid way to die. Thank heavens times have changed.

  13. Those are exactly the kind of books I think are so interesting! I had to go read about her on wikipedia - fascinating! I like those clouds in the sky of your sunset, looks like someone's signature! Very pretty!


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