Click here to download or read “Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management”, courtesy of The Internet Archive.
“The Campaign for Domestic Happiness” (only 108 pages long) is an excerpt from the encyclopaedic “Mrs. Beeton’s Book on Household Management” (1861), the latter is presented as “a complete cookery book” however it includes sections on household work, etiquette, decoration, and nursery amongst many other topics and of course, several hundred recipes.
One of the most recognizable household names and champion of domestic efficiency, Mrs. Beeton (1836-1865) is a quintessential Victorian figure who promoted the traditional roles of a woman as head of her domestic realm, but at the same time she herself was an iconoclast, a prolific writer with a driven entrepreneurial spirit.
Her writing career was short yet very intense, she began writing for the “The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine: an Illustrated Journal combing Practical Information, Instruction & Amusement” between 1859 and 1861 three years after she married the publisher Samuel Orchart Beeton at the age of20.
A common misconception is to assume that she is the author of the recipes provided in her books, however she never claimed to be the intellectual author of all them, she is however the creator of some. But hers is the effort of making an exhaustive compilation of recipes and advice that cover: home remedies for common illnesses, husbandry, management, traditions and domestic economy. Beeton was very much inspired by Eliza Acton (1799 -1859) a pioneer in food and recipe writing. Beeton presented her recipes in a much practical and almost emotionless way, thus sacrificing further explanations and anecdotes which are a distinctive feature in Acton’s style.
Beeton’s style innovated the way in which an author engages with her/his readership; she understood the rapid changes in society and the avid interest of the middle classes in acquiring refinement and sophistication… if only in appearances.
Her style is mechanic and descriptive, there’s eloquence but not necessarily elegance, however the relevance of her work resides not in her recipes, guidance on how to address the servants or how to cure measles, she indeed produced a domestic gospel to both inspire and respond to the social changes of her times.
Isabella was born in Cheapside, London in 1836, she had a total of 20 siblings and
step-siblings (from her mother’s second husband) and as a young girl she studied in Heidelberg, Germany for two years.