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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Mrs Beeton lite



A new compilation of Mrs Beeton has been published. This one edited by Kay Fairfax focuses mainly on the advice given for the management of the Victorian household and as such gives a fascinating glimpse into late Victorian life. Mrs Beeton was first published in 1861.


I have long enjoyed rereading Mrs Beeton in the original for the wonderful tips on how to manage a Victorian house and servants. One of the joys of going to the Lit and Phil in Newcastle is to look at their copy of the Edwardian version of Mrs Beeton. I loved reading about what the servants should be doing. As it was an aspirational book, it gives detailed instructions.


However, it is a huge tome with lots of recipes and hints on how to host a dinner party, so for the writer of the Victorian period, this new book is probably of more use. Fairfax has taken a room by room approach.


I see from the papers, Judith Flanders Consuming Passions is now out in paperback. Again, this is an excellent book for anyone interested in the growth of consumerism in the 18th and 19th centuries.


Flanders' earlier book The Victorian House covers much of the same territory as Mrs Beeton's but it takes a wide view and uses a range of sources. Among other things, it has a detailed description of minutiae of mourning.


Personally I find the detail about how people lived and how society rules affected homes etc far more useful (and fascinating) than political history. My dh would disagree as he loves the cut and thrust of battles.

1 comment:

Kate Hardy said...

Dear old Mrs Beeton. My copy is from the 1980s and I dip into it occasionally.

I have a Pears Cyclopaedia from the 1930s (was my grandmother's who died a good 20 years before I was born) and that's also fascinating reading.

I have Consuming Passions in hardback (thanks to you).

One I think you'd enjoy (so would your DH) - Iain Sinclair's 'London: City of Disappearances'. Am dipping into it at present and it's fascinating.