The first edition of Mrs Beeton’s 'Book of Household Management' appeared in 1861 when Isabella Beeton was only 25. It was a huge success, and has remained in print ever since. It not only contains over 2000 recipes, but is also a complete guide to running a household.
Mrs Beeton's instructions are easy to understand and are full of plain commonsense. Her recipes are simple, do not require intricate techniques, and do not contain complex sets of ingredients. Indeed, many of Isabella's critics believe her book to be the essence of Victorian blandness. For instance, she is notorious for advising the reader to turn vegetables into grey mulch - one recipe recommends boiling carrots for 1 3/4 to 2 1/4 hours!
'The Book of Household Management' was catering for the increasingly frenetic lifestyle of an expanding middle class. Many of Mrs Beeton's readers will have been entering into a new way of life, having recently stepped up the social scale, and the book offers all sorts of essential advice: how to choose friends and acquaintances; how to dress; how to receive morning calls, or to seat guests at the dinner table. However, Isabella made it plain that the mistress of the house was not expected to dirty her hands - the majority of Isabella's instructions are designed to be carried out by servants. The book contains meticulously detailed advice on the duties of a wide variety of staff - cooks, dairy maids, nurse maids, valets, lady's-maids, footmen and the like - all of whom would have been expected to operate under the watchful command of their employer.
Mrs Beeton's language
Here Isabella Beeton compares the mistress of a house to the commander of an army: just as a commmander governs his troops, a mistress must take command of her domestic staff, directing them with militaristic efficiency and precision. Of all the characteristics of womanhood, none rank higher, in Mrs Beeton's estimation, than the ability to run a successful household.