Tales of walking, eating, watching and playing. Vintage treasures and simple pleasures ... the things that make her happy.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Mrs Beeton and a Feathery Find

 Came home with several finds at the weekend but there were two favourites.  
The first was this …
A box spied from afar.  Hardly daring to hope that its contents were still in place and intact.
A muff box with little carry handle …
Inside, the most beautiful white feather handmuff in amazing condition.  The photos most definitely do not do it justice. 
The second ...
Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management from the late 1800s, containing a mammoth 2040 pages of sage advice for the Mistress of the house.  Not in terribly good condition but hardly surprising given its age.  Some of the cookery books we were given for Christmas last year look pretty well thumbed and stained already!  
Perceived as a matronly cook, Isabella Beeton was actually a young woman who lived a short life.  Born in London in 1836.  Eldest of four children born to Benjamin Mayson and Elizabeth Jerram.  Her father died when she was young and her mother remarried a widower with four children of his own.  They went on to have another thirteen children, Isabella being the eldest of the twenty one children.  Educated in Germany, she became an accomplished pianist.

At the age of 20 Isabella married Samuel Beeton, a rich and handsome publisher of books and magazines and moved to a large Italianate property in Hatch End.  Their first child, Samuel was born the following year but died of croup at just 3 months.  Just over a year later their second son, also called Samuel was born.  Several stillbirths and miscarriages followed.
Isabella began to write articles and supplements on cooking and household management for her husband’s magazines.  At the end of 1861 the supplements were published as a single volume, a bible for the aspiring middle classes and the most famous English domestic manual ever published – the official and complete title was: The Book of Household Management Comprising information for the Mistress, Housekeeper, Cook, Kitchen-Maid, Butler, Footman, Coachman, Valet, Upper and Under House-Maids, Lady's-Maid, Maid-of-all-Work, Laundry-Maid, Nurse and Nurse-Maid, Monthly Wet and Sick Nurses, etc. etc.—also Sanitary, Medical, & Legal Memoranda: With a History of the Origin, Properties, and Uses of all Things Connected with Home Life and Comfort, edited by Mrs. Isabella Beeton.

In the preface, Isabella wrote:

What moved me in the first instance, to attempt a work like this, was the discomfort and suffering which I had seen brought upon men and women by household mismanagement.  I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than a housewife’s badly cooked dinners and untidy ways.  Men are now so well served out of doors – at their clubs, well ordered taverns and dining houses – that, in order to compete with the attraction of these places, a mistress must be thoroughly acquainted with the theory and practice of cookery, as well as be perfectly coversant with all the other arts of making and keeping a comfortable home.
Over 900 recipes, many with coloured engravings.  Much of the content taken from previous writers, but Isabella never claimed its contents to be original, more a collection of works compiled and edited by her.  Cooking was not her great strength, compiling data was.
It sold more than 60,000 copies in its first year and almost 2 million by 1868.
In December of 1861, whilst on holiday in Brighton her young son Samuel was taken ill with Scarlet Fever and died on New Years Eve.  She did, however, go on to have two more sons.  Strangely, Orchart was born two years to the day that Samuel died and Mayson followed two years later. 
Tragically, the day after the birth of her fourth son, Isabella contracted Puerperal fever (a bacterial infection contracted during childbirth often due to poor hygiene on the doctor’s part).  She died a week later, aged just 28.  Her widower outlived her by 12 years and died of TB at the age of 46.
Man may live without love - what is passion but pining?
But where is the man who can live without dining?
We may live without friends, we may live without books,
But civilized men cannot live without cooks.

Extract from 'Lucille' by Owen Meredith at the beginning of chapter headed 'The Cook' in Mrs Beeton's.

 A couple of tins came home too
 A few pretty bits of china - the cup will be turned into a candle.
 Colourful hand painted sandwich plate and fab 50s specs!


Melanie said...

Those spectacles are gorgeous!

YeamieWaffles said...

I love all these photos Jane, congratulations on your awesome findings.

Isobel said...

Love the Specs and the handmuff is just amazing!! Very sweet.
Lovely finds, Jane.

Anonymous said...

Gosh, it must have been soooo exciting open the hat box and finding that gorgeous muff. What a beauty. Cannot believe how enormous the book is....and how much household wisdom she had to impart! Lovely illustrations too.

Jen said...

The household management book is a keeper. What an amazing woman she must have been, and so sad that she died young.

Liz said...

What fabulous finds, well done. The illustrations in the book are amazing and as for the tins ... my favourite!

June said...

What a short life and filled with tragedy. Amazing finds - love the specs!

blackenpot said...

Hi there, some beautiful things you have found. I loved the muff and the Mrs Beeton book, what lovely illustrations.

Thank you for stopping by and becoming a follower! Things are moving a little slowly with me at the present, but I'll soom get cracking. It is the start of the flea market season her at the weekend. That will get me flying.

Thank you for sharing, your newest follower.

Anonymous said...

I cannot believe that any women could have 17 children and lived through it back then! WOW. People didn't live to be very old back then and many women died in childbirth as well.

It seemed Isabella had a very nice life but sad that she lost several sons in childbirth. And then to have passed away due to infection at such a young age is also sad. Her book may have helped many on Household Management but didn't do much to help the doctor who delivered her last child.

Nice finds! I love that cup. How will you make a candle out of it?

Miss Simmonds Says said...

Love the specs!! I've seen a copy of Mrs Beaton in the never ending cottage bookshop near me for £8, I just want it for the illustration!

Country Girl said...

How lucky you were to find such lovely things. I saw a documentary about Mrs B recently, she was a very interesting lady.

Fading Grace said...

that feather handmuff is amazing! love the book too. I'll see you on the 10th, take care
Love sophie x

greenthumb said...

What a great find that handmuff is wonderful.

Rose H (UK) said...

What a brilliant feather muff, such a treasure :o)
Now I have an admission, I had a really tatty copy of Mrs Beaton some years ago, and I was so fed up of the pages falling out I threw it away - yes, I know I was STUPID :o( I have never seen one I could afford since...
I can see you will treasure your copy :o)
Rose H

Alix said...

The feather muff looks amazing - I never knew they were made of feathers! I have the same Mrs Beeton, thanks for all the information. I knew she'd died young, but not that young and after so much tragedy. Sweet glasses too!

demie said...

lovely, interesting, cool finds!

A Treasured Past said...

To think that the muff has been stored all those years and is such good condition is incredible (the name means something quite different here if I was to tell the Mr he would raise an eyebrow! haha)

We are quite familiar with Mrs Beetons book here too, but I didn't realise that she was so young when she died or the fascinating life she led. Thank you for the background. The book is fantastic, love the time worn cover.

The little pink vic cup is totally gorgeous!!!!

Enjoy your week, Tam x

In My Wild Eden said...

What a wonderful book! I love the engravings in it. Such a sad story.

VintageVampalicious said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE that box - How much missus?

Menopausalmusing said...

Adding my voice to all the other comment: WHAT FINDS! The Beeton book is just wonderful.

I wouldn't have known what a muff box looks like - but now I do!

*Maristella* said...

Hi Marina...che meraviglia queste cose!
La tazza Victorian, la lattiera con rose e la saliera sono splendide!! Come vorrei essere lì....sigh!
Hughs and kisses, *Maristella*.

Lizzie - The Vintage Traveler said...

The illustrations in the Mrs. Beeton's are incredible! There was a bio pic made about her, The Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton, that tells the story of her short life.