I bought this LARGE publication about 10 years ago, and it’s one of those books you can dip into now and again for a bit of interesting information. It was published in 1861, as a complete work from the author’s previous magazine instalments. It comprises mainly of the workings of a Victorian home, the treatment of servants and the conventional and respectable ways the mistress of the house should conduct themselves; according to that period of time.
Isabella Beeton was a working journalist by the age of 21, yet it’s quite surprising how much she knew at such a young age. It covers chapters, among countless others, on the proper etiquette required when making morning calls and visits, along with the correct seating arrangements of dinner guests. Additional chapters cover every recipe you can think of, from pease pudding to dressing a sheep’s head (that doesn’t mean with wigs and hair clips…lipstick will do.)
I particularly enjoyed reading the descriptions listing the wages of servants. For example, the housekeeper could earn between £18 to £40 per year, with the added bonus which involved an allowance of tea, sugar and beer!! Then on the other end of the scale, the most demeaning and hardest job within the house was the girl employed as the scullery maid, who could expect a wage of only £4 to £8 per year, with beer also. The book certainly highlights the class system within England during this time.
There are sections detailing first aid, with some bizarre remedies and procedures. For cuts or burns, it was advised to cover the wound with flour. There are also detailed drawings of the correct table settings and dinner suggestions for 6 persons consisting of 5 to 6 courses, or more. People ate vast amounts of food then. Well, the rich did!
This is obviously an out-dated reference book, but that is not intended as a slight. If you enjoy your history, then this is a great work to immerse yourself into, to gain an in-depth understanding of the Victorian age, and the ways in which people lived and worked.