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Times Past – A look at old fashioned manners – The Isabella Beeton Story

Isabella Beeton

Isabella Beeton

Isabella Mary Beeton was born on the 12th of March 1836, in London. Her father died when she was young and her mother remarried a man who had four daughters of his own. Isabella became the eldest of a family of twenty one children, this included these four girls. She spent two years at school in Heidelberg, Germany, she could speak French and was an accomplished pianist. Her time spent helping out in such a large household gave experience in cookery, caring for children and general domestic tasks.

She married Samuel Beeton, a publisher of books and magazines, on the 10th of July 1856, when she was only 20 years old. Her first baby, a son, was born in May 1857 but only lived three months. In 1859, a second son, also named Samuel, was born. It was the custom in olden times that if a baby died, the next baby would be named after him or her. Unfortunately, this son lived only two years and died of scarlet fever. Scarlet fever was a killer in an age before the discovery of antibiotics. To distract her from all this tragedy, her husband encouraged her to write articles for a magazine, which he had founded, called The Englishwoman’s Domestic magazine. The first copy of this magazine was released in September 1859 and cost six pence, which was very expensive for the time. Mrs. Beeton’s articles consisted of cookery recipes, household management and fashion.  Her experience in early life of helping care for a large family gave her a good knowledge of domestic matters. Her knowledge of the French language helped her to translate French Fashion magazines and bring the latest in French fashion to her magazine. She, eventually, became editor of the magazine, working from her husband’s office, which was a rare occurrence at that time.

Mrs. Beeton’s greatest achievement was her book called ” Mrs. Beeton’s Book  of Household Management”. This book was over 1,100 pages long and covered every subject from cookery, child care, fashion, animal welfare, management of servants etc. The book was first published in 1861 and by 1868 had sold nearly 2 million copies, making her the Domestic Goddess of her time. However, she did not live long enough to bask in her glory, dying on the 6th February 1865, one week after the birth of her fourth son, aged only 28 years old.

We hope to include extracts from her famous book in future Fountain Resource wire news. These will give an insight into the social manners and social history of the time.


The Mistress of the House


” As with the commander of an army, or the leader of any enterprise, so it is with the Mistress of the house. Her spirit will be seen through the whole establishment; and just in proportion as she performs her duties intelligently and thoroughly, so will her domestics follow in her path. Of all these acquirements, which more particularly belong to the feminine character there are none which take higher rank, in our estimation than such as enter into a knowledge of household duties; for on these perpetually dependent the happiness, comfort and well-being of a family.

Early Rising


Early rising is one of the most essential qualities which enter into good Household Management, as it is not only the parent of health, but of innumerable other advantages. Indeed, when a Mistress is an early riser, it is almost certain that her house will be orderly and well-managed. On the contrary if she remain in bed till a late hour, then the domestics, who as we have before observed, invariably partake somewhat of their Mistress’s character, will surely become sluggards. To self-indulgence all are more or less disposed and it is not to be expected that servants are freer than heads of houses.

Good Temper


Good temper should be cultivated by every mistress, as upon it the welfare of the household may be said to turn; indeed it’s influence can hardly be over-estimated; as it has the effect of moulding the characters of those around her, and of acting beneficially on the happiness of the domestic circle. Every head of a household should strive to be cheerful, and should never fail to show a deep interest in all that appertains to the well-being of those who claim  the protection of her roof. Gentleness, not partial and temporary, but universal and regular, should pervade her conduct;  for where such a spirit is habitually manifested, it not only delights her children, but makes her domestics attentive and respectful; her visitors are also pleased by it, and their happiness is increased.”

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