Friday, January 12, 2018

Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management

“As with the commander of an army, or the leader of any enterprise, so is it with the mistress of a house.” Mrs. Beeton doesn’t beat around the bush with her opinions in her Book of Household Management. This tome, published in 24 monthly parts from 1859 to 1861, and later as a bound edition in 1861, offered advice on everything from running the household to caring for infants. She included many recipes, of course, from soup to fish, but also included chapters on “The Natural History of Fishes” and “General Observations on Quadropeds.” There are even special recipes for the invalid.

In this first look at “Mrs. Beeton’s,” as most folk called the book, we’ll focus on the mistress of the house. Your heroine, should she be running a house during this time or even later (Mrs Beeton was still quoted decades after the book was published), would have been well acquainted with this book, and might even have her own copy given as a wedding or house-warming gift.

Mrs. Beeton, as I have said, was not a woman to beat around the bush. “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.” The mistress of the house is cautioned that if she “remain in bed till a late hour,” the domestic help will pick up her bad habits and become sluggardly as well.

Cleanliness, she advised, was also indispensible to health, and “cold or tepid baths should be employed every morning.” Frugality and economy were considered “home virtues,” however they should never be allowed to degenerate into parsimony and meanness.

A mistress must choose her acquaintances carefully, advised Mrs. Beeton. “Friendships should not hastily be formed, nor the heart given, at once, to every new-comer.” In conversation, trifling occurrences such as petty annoyances and every0day incidents should never be mentioned to your friends. Hospitality, she wrote, was a most excellent virtue, “but care must be taken that the love of company, for its own sake, does not become a prevailing passion.”

Mrs. Beeton even goes so far as to touch upon temperament, stating that “Good temper should be cultivated by every mistress” and “Charity and benevolence are duties.” The young mistress of the house is also advised on dress and fashion, purchasing wearing apparel, and general marketing tips. What I especially like is the table showing average yearly wages of domestic help.

J.E.S. Hays


  1. Alas...I fear Mrs. Beeton's advice comes too late to save me. Thanks for featuring this lovely book.

  2. Sounds like a fine book to give to a newly married woman.