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History of Mrs Beeton

 

 

Go to:   Mrs Beeton's Recipes  |  Main History Index Page  |  History of World Cuisines  
 

Born Isabella Mayson on 12 March 1836 in Milk Street 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 also hailed from Milk Street where she was born and who had become a wealthy publisher. It was through his successful periodical, The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, that Isabella Beeton began her career as a writer, initially penning articles on running a household and cookery - a task she was well placed to do having looked after her 20 siblings at times.

In 1861 the articles were collated and collectively published in a book called 'The Book of Household Management'. With the modern world upon the nation and mobility, not only in distance but in class, firmly entrenched in society, 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. Furthermore, the book 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. As can be imagined, 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.

 


Although Mrs. Beeton didn’t create all the recipes in her book, she is said to have tested them all, rejecting any recipes which were too extravagant or inappropriate for the new middle-classes.

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.

 

For lots of original Mrs Beeton Recipes click the link at the top of the page.

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