Click to enlargeAbout Beeton's Book of Household Management

"USQUE AD FINEM (Forever At Rest).
Her hand has lost its cunning, the firm, true hand that wrote these formulae and penned the information contained in this little book...exquisite palate, unerring judgment, sound common sense, refined tastes, all these had the dear Lady, who has gone, ere her youth had scarcely come...her duty no woman has ever better accomplished than the late Isabella Mary Beeton."

Grief-stricken by her death, publisher Samuel Orchart Beeton worshipfully eulogized his beloved wife Bella in this postscript to Beeton's Dictionary of Cookery, an abridged version of Beeton's Book of Household Management. Isabella had completed her editorial work on the Dictionary of Cookery shortly before the birth of her fourth child, Mayson. She died one week later, on 6th February 1865, after contracting puerperal fever during Mayson's birth. She was 28.

Isabella accomplished an amazing amount during her short life. The early deaths of her first- and second-born children must have been devastating, yet she quickly resumed work at her usual furious pace. In an era when middle class females were expected to have no interests beyond "womanly matters", Isabella came to excel at a man's job in the manly profession of journalism. She could not have done so without the encouragement of her husband Sam, a London publisher of books and magazines for the newly prosperous middle class.

Isabella and Sam complimented one another superbly on both a personal and professional level. Sam was emotional and creative, a genius at marketing his publications. Isabella was reserved and level-headed, a meticulous researcher. Both were tireless workers, Sam in spite of the tuberculosis that eventually caused his death 12 years after Isabella's. Soon after their 1856 marriage Isabella began writing cookery articles for Sam's Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine (EDM), and in time became editor. Later came editorial responsibilities for the Beetons' newly created magazine The Queen, but not before she had completed her research for the magnificent work for which she is still known today.

Household Management evolved from the cookery columns Isabella wrote for EDM. Her first few articles were written somewhat tentatively, for she had no previous culinary experience except pastry-making lessons at a boarding school in Germany. In spite of this she soon perfected her research methods and smooth confident style of writing. By the end of their first year of marriage Sam and Isabella had made plans to publish Beeton's Book of Household Management.

Household Management debuted in EDM beginning in September 1859, appearing in 24 monthly installments; Isabella had started testing recipes in 1857. With the exception of a few submissions from completely trustworthy sources, each recipe in the completed work had passed testing by Isabella, her cook or her kitchen maid. Recipes found too difficult or expensive for the middle class households for which Isabella was writing (with the exception of an extravagant Louis Eustache Ude recipe for Turtle Soup), or lacking acceptable results, were discarded. Many of the final selections came from Eliza Acton's Modern Cookery for Private Families, and a handful from Alexis Soyer's Modern Housewife. A few more were submissions from EDM's readers, and some had come from the Beetons' friends and acquaintances.

Isabella's skill was editing, not cookery, and she made no claim of composing any of the recipes herself except a "Soup for Benevolent Purposes". She cited sources for very well known recipes such as those by Soyer, while generally avoiding credit to Eliza Acton and others. Her editing skills were such that many of the uncredited recipes can be traced to the original versions only upon close inspection.

A number of classic phrases and sayings first appeared in Household Management: "Dine we must and we may as well dine elegantly as well as wholesomely", "A place for everything and everything in its place", and "In cooking, clear as you go." Isabella's attention to detail was a large part of the reason for the book's popularity. She included an index at the front for easy reference, and numbered the recipes as well as organizing them alphabetically within chapters; provided a detailed ingredients list at the beginning of each recipe; estimated cost, preparation time, and the number each recipe served. The colored illustrations were an innovation for such a moderately priced book, and there were also many black and white illustrations.

Household Management is mainly a cookbook, but there is also a chapter with instructions to the mistress of the house regarding responsibilities and duties, plus a detailed chapter on managing servants, including recipes for various household preparations. Three of the book's chapters, two medical and one legal, were not written by Isabella, but the inclusion of the legal chapter is noteworthy given the poor legal status of women during the Victorian era.

Household Management sold steadily in part form, and in 1861 was issued in book form by S. O. Beeton Publishing, 161 Bouverie Street, London. By 1863 Sam Beeton was beginning publication of a revised edition issued in installments. In 1866, a year after Isabella's death, Sam was forced to give up the copyright on all his publications due to the collapse of Overend and Gurney, a London discount house to which he was in debt. To save himself from bankruptcy he allowed the publisher Ward, Lock and Tyler to take over his business, and he was employed to run it. Ward, Lock's revisions to Household Management have continued to present day and kept the Beeton name in the public eye for over 125 years, although current editions are far removed from Isabella's original work.

A facsimile of the 1861 Bouverie Street 1st edition of Beeton's Book of Household Management. Hardcover, 1112 pages. Includes wonderful reproductions of all the original color plates. Import. CURRENTLY OUT OF STOCK, BEING REPRINTED.

#BEHMRetail: $50.00Our price: $46.00
Click to enlargeSample Recipe from Beeton's Book of Household Management
Mrs. Beeton's Christmas Plum Pudding, 1861.

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