The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs. Beeton

Front Cover

In Victorian England there was only one fail-safe authority on matters ranging from fashion to puddings to scullery maids: Beeton’s Book of Household Management. In this delightful, superbly researched biography, award-winning historian Kathryn Hughes pulls back the lace curtains to reveal the woman behind the book--Mrs. Beeton, the first domestic diva of the modern age--and explores the life of the book itself.

Isabella Beeton was a twenty-one-year-old newlywed with only six months’ experience running her own home when--coaxed by her husband, a struggling publisher--she began to compile her book of recipes and domestic advice. The aspiring mother hardly suspected that her name would become synonymous with housewifery for generations.  Nor would the women who turned to the book for guidance ever have guessed that its author lived in a simple house in the suburbs with a single maid-of-all-work instead of presiding over a well-run estate. Isabella would die at twenty-eight, shortly after the book's publication, never knowing the extent of her legacy.

As her survivors faced bankruptcy, sexual scandal and a bitter family feud that lasted more than a century, Mrs. Beeton’s book became an institution. For an exploding population of the newly affluent, it prescribed not only how to cook and clean but ways to cope with the social flux of the emerging consumer culture: how to plan a party for ten, whip up a hair pomade or calculate how much money was needed to permit the hiring of a footman. In the twentieth century, Mrs. Beeton would be accused of plagiarism, blamed for the dire state of British cookery and used to market everything from biscuits to meat pies.

This elegant, revelatory portrait of a lady journalist, as she lived and as she existed in the minds of her readers, is also a vivid picture of Victorian home life and its attendant anxieties, nostalgia, and aspirations--not so different from those felt in America today.

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - DeltaQueen50 - LibraryThing

I really struggled through The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs Beeton by Kathryn Hughes. That the author was hamstrung by the simple fact that there just isn’t a lot of information available about ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - cat-ballou - LibraryThing

Again, a very good candidate for a half-star review. I would like to have given this one-and-a-half stars, because it was so easy to put down. And leave. For a long time. It wasn't bad, per se, it ... Read full review

Contents

Heavy Cold and Wet Soil
21
Chablis to Oysters
43
Paper without End
74
Copyright

13 other sections not shown

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2005)

Kathryn Hughes is the author of George Eliot: The Last Victorian, which won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Biography, and The Victorian Governess, which remains the standard text on the subject. Educated at Oxford University, she holds a Ph.D. in Victorian studies and now teaches biographical studies at the University of East Anglia. She is a Guardian book critic.

Bibliographic information