History of Mrs Beeton
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.