Who was Mrs. Beeton?
Born Isabella Mayson on 12 March 1836 in the City of London, England, Mrs Beeton was to become the eldest of 21 children, the result of her father dying and her mother re-marrying Henry Dorling who had four children of his own. Dorling was a successful printer who specialized in race-cards – the family actually lived at Epsom race course in Surrey – and through his generosity, Isabella was sent to Heidelberg, Germany where she received a good education for girls in those days.
In 1856, she married childhood friend Samuel Beeton who had become a wealthy publisher. Isabella began her career as a writer through her husband’s successful periodical The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine. She initially penned articles on running a household and cookery; a task she was very knowledgeable on after having to look after her 20 siblings.
In 1861 her articles were collectively published in a book called ‘The Book of Household Management’. With the modern world upon the nation, the book was designed for women who were either deprived of family support and advice due to moving to another part of the country or settling abroad, or just new to the running of a household because of a rise in social circumstances. It contained advice regarding household management including the duties of the mistress and various servants, etiquette, childcare, fashion, entertaining and over 2,000 recipes.
Not only was it illustrated with coloured pictures on most of the pages, but more importantly, it was the first book to give exact quantities in the recipes – the format which we are now all used to. The book also included recipes from other cultures and made use of commercial branded items such as Worcestershire Sauce and available convenience foods such as mushroom ketchup and baking powder. Everything the modern woman needed to run a successful home and family.
With most Victorian middle-class households owning a copy of this wonderful book, Samuel Beeton saw its potential and requested his wife to rework each successive edition. All this in-depth information made for a hefty book with over 1000 pages so when the printing and binding costs made it relatively expensive, Isabella Beeton produced a smaller and cheaper book called The Shilling Cookery Book which could be afforded by even more people and was particularly useful for everyday use.
Mrs. Beeton wrote another book called A History of the Origin, Properties, and Uses of all things connected with Home Life and Comfort and also started another magazine in 1861 called The Queen, the Ladies’ Newspaper which is of the longest running English female magazines, the successor to which is still published today – Harpers & Queen Magazine.
In 1865 Isabella Beeton died at the age of 28 of puerperal fever 2 weeks after giving birth to her fourth child. Me Beeton spent the rest of his life reprinting and Household Management, which remained in print for more than 50 years and is still available to buy today.
From Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management….
INGREDIENTS – 1 lb. of flour, 1/2 lb. of butter, 1/2 lb. of pounded loaf sugar, 3 eggs, 1 teacupful of cream, 1/2 lb. of currants, 1 teaspoonful of carbonate of soda, essence of lemon, or almonds to taste.
Mode.—Work the butter to a cream; dredge in the flour, add the sugar and currants, and mix the ingredients well together. Whisk the eggs, mix them with the cream and flavouring, and stir these to the flour; add the carbonate of soda, beat the paste well for 10 minutes, put it into small buttered pans, and bake the cake from 1/4 to 1/2 hour.
Grated lemon-rind may be substituted for the lemon and almond flavouring, which will make the cakes equally nice.
Time. 1/4 to 1/2 hour.
Average cost, 1s. 9d.
Seasonable at any time.