An extraordinary marriage

John Sidgwik at Culturekiosque:

Book review:

The Short Life & Long Times of Mrs.Beeton. Kathryn Hughes, Knopf.

Beeton It was only after World War 2 that there began the large-scale publication of cookery books. A small brook at first, this output has become a relentless river and few are the households today which do not contain a large assortment of recipe books containing instructions for the preparation of dishes from all over the world. Prior to the war, housewives depended almost entirely on the recipes included by Mrs. Isabella Beeton in her celebrated Beeton’s Book of Household Management .

As its title suggests, the book is not confined to the preparation of food. Mrs. Beeton looked upon the housewife as the general administrator of the family enterprise. The husband earned, his wife made sure that his income was put to the best possible use for the good of family, children, servants, friends and the deserving public. Meals formed only a part of this. Isabella turned her attention to almost every aspect of the household, including the need to supervise the building’s drainage systems. 

The future Mrs. Beeton was born Isabella Mayson in 1836 and was brought up first in the north of England and subsequently at Epsom, the home of horse-racing. She enjoyed the education of a conventional Victorian young woman and acquired linguistic skills at home and in Germany. She also became an accomplished pianist, well above the average of the conventional daughter of the house. At the age of twenty, she married a successful publisher, Sam Beeton, some five years her senior. Beeton had made his fortune by securing the rights in England of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The pair prospered and the Book of Household Management which they conjured up together appeared first in serial form. Isabella Beeton died at the age of twenty-eight, a few days after giving birth to her one viable child. All the others died in infancy or were still-born.

More here.

About the BBC TV drama: “The Secret Life of Mrs.Beeton” here.