Beeton wrote, As with the commander of an army, or the leader of any enterprise, so is it with the mistress of a house.” Running an extravagant household was a monumental task and a responsibility not to be taken lightly. It meant supervising every employee, from the butler to the laundry-maid to the footman and the wet nurse. It meant managing the safety, happiness, comfort, and well-being of the family.
In addition to offering advice on a wide range of domestic topics, this abridged edition of Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management contains hundreds of original recipes. A compendium of practical information about everything from animal husbandry to child care, this Victorian classic is both fascinating and still useful.
Sarah A. Chrisman, author of Victorian Secrets and This Victorian Life provides the foreword, reflecting on how she uses Mrs. Beeton’s advice on a daily basis.
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About the Author
Sarah A. Chrisman is the author of Victorian Secrets and This Victorian Life, as well as the editor of True Ladies&Proper Gentlemen. Alongside her husband, Gabriel, she gives presentations on nineteenth-century fashion and culture. She resides in Port Townsend, Washington.
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"Strength, and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household; and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her." — Proverbs, xxxi. 25-28.
AS WITH THE COMMANDER OF AN ARMY, or the leader of any enterprise, so is it with the mistress of a 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 those acquirements, which more particularly belong to the feminine character, there are none which take a higher rank, in our estimation, than such as enter into a knowledge of household duties; for on these are perpetually dependent the happiness, comfort, and well-being of a family. In this opinion we are borne out by the author of "The Vicar of Wakefield," who says: "The modest virgin, the prudent wife, and the careful matron, are much more serviceable in life than petticoated philosophers, blustering heroines, or virago queens. She who makes her husband and her children happy, who reclaims the one from vice and trains up the other to virtue, is a much greater character than ladies described in romances, whose whole occupation is to murder mankind with shafts from their quiver, or their eyes."
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 from this fault than the heads of houses. The great Lord Chatham thus gave his advice in reference to this subject: —"I would have inscribed on the curtains of your bed, and the walls of your chamber, 'If you do not rise early, you can make progress in nothing.'"
CLEANLINESS IS ALSO INDISPENSABLE TO HEALTH, and must be studied both in regard to the person and the house, and all that it contains. Cold or tepid baths should be employed every morning, unless, on account of illness or other circumstances, they should be deemed objectionable.
FRUGALITY AND ECONOMY ARE HOME VIRTUES, without which no household can prosper. Dr. Johnson says: "Frugality may be termed the daughter of Prudence, the sister of Temperance, and the parent of Liberty. He that is extravagant will quickly become poor, and poverty will enforce dependence and invite corruption." The necessity of practising economy should be evident to every one, whether in the possession of an income no more than sufficient for a family's requirements, or of a large fortune, which puts financial adversity out of the question. We must always remember that it is a great merit in housekeeping to manage a little well. "He is a good waggoner," says Bishop Hall, "that can turn in a little room. To live well in abundance is the praise of the estate, not of the person. I will study more how to give a good account of my little, than how to make it more." In this there is true wisdom, and it may be added, that those who can manage a little well, are most likely to succeed in their management of larger matters. Economy and frugality must never, however, be allowed to degenerate into parsimony and meanness.
FRIENDSHIPS SHOULD NOT BE HASTILY FORMED, nor the heart given, at once, to every new-comer. There are ladies who uniformly smile at, and approve everything and everybody, and who possess neither the courage to reprehend vice, nor the generous warmth to defend virtue. The friendship of such persons is without attachment, and their love without affection or even preference. They imagine that every one who has any penetration is ill-natured, and look coldly on a discriminating judgment. It should be remembered, however, that this discernment does not always proceed from an uncharitable temper, but that those who possess a long experience and thorough knowledge of the world, scrutinize the conduct and dispositions of people before they trust themselves to the first fair appearances. Addison, who was not deficient in a knowledge of mankind, observes that "a friendship, which makes the least noise, is very often the most useful; for which reason, I should prefer a prudent friend to a zealous one." And Joanna Baillie tells us that
"Friendship is no plant of hasty growth,
Though planted in esteem's deep-fixed soil,
The gradual culture of kind intercourse Must bring it to perfection."
HOSPITALITY IS A MOST EXCELLENT VIRTUE; but care must be taken that the love of company, for its own sake, does not become a prevailing passion; for then the habit is no longer hospitality, but dissipation. Reality and truthfulness in this, as in all other duties of life, are the points to be studied; for, as Washington Irving well says, "There is an emanation from the heart in genuine hospitality, which cannot be described, but is immediately felt, and puts the stranger at once at his ease." With respect to the continuance of friendships, however, it may be found necessary, in some cases, for a mistress to relinquish, on assuming the responsibility of a household, many of those commenced in the earlier part of her life. This will be the more requisite, if the number still retained be quite equal to her means and opportunities.
IN CONVERSATION, TRIFLING OCCURRENCES, such as small disappointments, petty annoyances, and other every-day incidents, should never be mentioned to your friends. The extreme injudiciousness of repeating these will be at once apparent, when we reflect on the unsatisfactory discussions which they too frequently occasion, and on the load of advice which they are the cause of being tendered, and which is, too often, of a kind neither to be useful nor agreeable. Greater events, whether of joy or sorrow, should be communicated to friends; and, on such occasions, their sympathy gratifies and comforts. If the mistress be a wife, never let an account of her husband's failings pass her lips; and in cultivating the power of conversation, she should keep the versified advice of Cowper continually in her memory, that it
"Should flow like water after summer showers,
Not as if raised by mere mechanic powers."
GOOD TEMPER SHOULD BE CULTIVATED by every mistress, as upon it the welfare of the household may be said to turn; indeed, its influence can hardly be over-estimated, as it has the effect of moulding the characters of those around her, and of acting most 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.
ON THE IMPORTANT SUBJECT OF DRESS AND FASHION we cannot do better than quote an opinion from the eighth volume of the "Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine." The writer there says, "Let people write, talk, lecture, satirize, as they may, it cannot be denied that, whatever is the prevailing mode in attire, let it intrinsically be ever so absurd, it will never look as ridiculous as another, or as any other, which, however convenient, comfortable, or even becoming, is totally opposite in style to that generally worn."
IN PURCHASING ARTICLES OF WEARING APPAREL, whether it be a silk dress, a bonnet, shawl, or riband, it is well for the buyer to consider three things: I. That it be not too expensive for her purse. II. That its colour harmonize with her complexion, and its size and pattern with her figure. III. That its tint allow of its being worn with the other garments she possesses. The quaint Fuller observes, that the good wife is none of our dainty dames, who love to appear in a variety of suits every day new, as if a gown, like a stratagem in war, were to be used but once. But our good wife sets up a sail according to the keel of her husband's estate; and, if of high parentage, she doth not so remember what she was by birth, that she forgets what she is by match.
THE DRESS OF THE MISTRESS should always be adapted to her circumstances, and be varied with different occasions. Thus, at breakfast she should be attired in a very neat and simple manner, wearing no ornaments. If this dress should decidedly pertain only to the breakfast-hour, and be specially suited for such domestic occupations as usually follow that meal, then it would be well to exchange it before the time for receiving visitors, if the mistress be in the habit of doing so. It is still to be remembered, however, that, in changing the dress, jewellery and ornaments are not to be worn until the full dress for dinner is assumed.
The advice of Polonius to his son Laertes, in Shakspeare's tragedy of "Hamlet," is most excellent; and although given to one of the male sex, will equally apply to a "fayre ladye:" —
"Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man."
CHARITY AND BENEVOLENCE ARE DUTIES which a mistress owes to herself as well as to her fellow-creatures; and there is scarcely any income so small, but something may be spared from it, even if it be but "the widow's mite." It is to be always remembered, however, that it is the spirit of charity which imparts to the gift a value far beyond its actual amount, and is by far its better part.
True Charity, a plant divinely nursed,
Fed by the love from which it rose at first,
Thrives against hope, and, in the rudest scene,
Storms but enliven its unfading green;
Exub'rant is the shadow it supplies,
Its fruit on earth, its growth above the skies.
Visiting the houses of the poor is the only practical way really to understand the actual state of each family; and although there may be difficulties in following out this plan in the metropolis and other large cities, yet in country towns and rural districts these objections do not obtain. Great advantages may result from visits paid to the poor; for there being, unfortunately, much ignorance, generally, amongst them with respect to all household knowledge, there will be opportunities for advising and instructing them, in a pleasant and unobtrusive manner, in cleanliness, industry, cookery, and good management.
IN MARKETING, THAT THE BEST ARTICLES ARE THE CHEAPEST, may be laid down as a rule; and it is desirable, unless an experienced and confidential housekeeper be kept, that the mistress should herself purchase all provisions and stores needed for the house. If the mistress be a young wife, and not accustomed to order "things for the house," a little practice and experience will soon teach her who are the best tradespeople to deal with, and what are the best provisions to buy. Under each particular head of FISH, MEAT, POULTRY, GAME, &c., will be described the proper means of ascertaining the quality of these comestibles.
A HOUSEKEEPING ACCOUNT-BOOK should invariably be kept, and kept punctually and precisely. The plan for keeping household accounts, which we should recommend, would be to make an entry, that is, write down into a daily diary every amount paid on that particular day, be it ever so small; then, at the end of the month, let these various payments be ranged under their specific heads of Butcher, Baker, &c.; and thus will be seen the proportions paid to each tradesman, and any one month's expenses may be contrasted with another. The housekeeping accounts should be balanced not less than once a month; so that you may see that the money you have in hand tallies with your account of it in your diary. Judge Haliburton never wrote truer words than when he said, "No man is rich whose expenditure exceeds his means, and no one is poor whose incomings exceed his outgoings."
When, in a large establishment, a housekeeper is kept, it will be advisable for the mistress to examine her accounts regularly. Then any increase of expenditure which may be apparent, can easily be explained, and the housekeeper will have the satisfaction of knowing whether her efforts to manage her department well and economically, have been successful.
ENGAGING DOMESTICS is one of those duties in which the judgment of the mistress must be keenly exercised. There are some respectable registry-offices, where good servants may sometimes be hired; but the plan rather to be recommended is, for the mistress to make inquiry amongst her circle of friends and acquaintances, and her tradespeople. The latter generally know those in their neighbourhood, who are wanting situations, and will communicate with them, when a personal interview with some of them will enable the mistress to form some idea of the characters of the applicants, and to suit herself accordingly.
We would here point out an error — and a grave one it is — into which some mistresses fall. They do not, when engaging a servant, expressly tell her all the duties which she will be expected to perform. This is an act of omission severely to be reprehended. Every portion of work which the maid will have to do, should be plainly stated by the mistress, and understood by the servant. If this plan is not carefully adhered to, domestic contention is almost certain to ensue, and this may not be easily settled; so that a change of servants, which is so much to be deprecated, is continually occurring.
THE FOLLOWING TABLE OF THE AVERAGE YEARLY WAGES paid to domestics, with the various members of the household placed in the order in which they are usually ranked, will serve as a guide to regulate the expenditure of an establishment: —
When not found in When found in Livery. Livery.
The House Steward From £10 to £80 —
The Valet "25 to 50 From £20 to £30
The Butler "25 to 50 —
The Cook "20 to 40 —
The Gardener "20 to 40 —
The Footman "20 to 40 "15 to 25
The Under Butler "15 to 30 "15 to 25
The Coachman — "20 to 35
The Groom "15 to 30 "12 to 20
The Under Footman — "12 to 20
The Page or Footboy "8 to 18 "6 to 14
The Stableboy "6 to 12 —
When no extra When an extra allowance is made for allowance is made for Tea, Sugar, and Beer. Tea, Sugar, and Beer.
The Housekeeper From £20 to £15 From £18 to £40
The Lady's-maid "12 to 25 "10 to 20
The Head Nurse "15 to 30 "13 to 26
The Cook "11 to 30 "12 to 26
The Upper Housemaid "12 to 20 "10 to 17
The Upper Laundry-maid "12 to 18 "10 to 15
The Maid-of-all-work "9 to 14 "7-1/2 to 11
The Under Housemaid "8 to 12 "6-1/2 to 10
The Still-room Maid "9 to 14 "8 to 13
The Nursemaid "8 to 12 "5 to 10
The Under Laundry-maid "9 to 11 "8 to 12
The Kitchen-maid "9 to 14 "8 to 12
The Scullery-maid "5 to 9 "4 to 8
These quotations of wages are those usually given in or near the metropolis; but, of course, there are many circumstances connected with locality, and also having reference to the long service on the one hand, or the inexperience on the other, of domestics, which may render the wages still higher or lower than those named above. All the domestics mentioned in the above table would enter into the establishment of a wealthy nobleman. The number of servants, of course, would become smaller in proportion to the lesser size of the establishment; and we may here enumerate a scale of servants suited to various incomes, commencing with —
About £1,000 a year — A cook, upper housemaid, nursemaid, under housemaid, and a man servant.
About £750 a year — A cook, housemaid, nursemaid, and footboy.
About £500 a year — A cook, housemaid, and nursemaid.
About £300 a year — A maid-of-all-work and nursemaid.
About £200 or £150 a year — A maid-of-all-work (and girl occasionally).
HAVING THUS INDICATED some of the more general duties of the mistress, relative to the moral government of her household, we will now give a few specific instructions on matters having a more practical relation to the position which she is supposed to occupy in the eye of the world. To do this the more clearly, we will begin with her earliest duties, and take her completely through the occupations of a day.
HAVING RISEN EARLY, as we have already advised, and having given due attention to the bath, and made a careful toilet, it will be well at once to see that the children have received their proper ablutions, and are in every way clean and comfortable. The first meal of the day, breakfast, will then be served, at which all the family should be punctually present, unless illness, or other circumstances, prevent.
AFTER BREAKFAST IS OVER, it will be well for the mistress to make a round of the kitchen and other offices, to see that all are in order, and that the morning's work has been properly performed by the various domestics. The orders for the day should then be given, and any questions which the domestics desire to ask, respecting their several departments, should be answered, and any special articles they may require, handed to them from the store-closet.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management"
Copyright © 2015 Sarah A. Chrisman.
Excerpted by permission of Skyhorse Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter I: THE MISTRESS,
Chapter II: THE HOUSEKEEPER,
Chapter III: ARRANGEMENT AND ECONOMY OF THE KITCHEN,
Chapter IV: INTRODUCTION TO COOKERY,
Chapter V: GENERAL DIRECTIONS FOR MAKING SOUPS,
Chapter VI: RECIPES: FRUIT AND VEGETABLE SOUPS,
Chapter VII: THE NATURAL HISTORY OF FISHES,
Chapter VIII: RECIPES: FISH,
Chapter IX: GENERAL REMARKS,
Chapter X: RECIPES: SAUCES, PICKLES, GRAVIES, AND FORCEMEATS,
Chapter XI: GENERAL REMARKS,
Chapter XII: RECIPES,
Chapter XIII: GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON THE COMMON HOG,
Chapter XIV: RECIPES: PORK AND HAM,
Chapter XV: GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON THE CALF,
Chapter XVI: RECIPES: VEAL,
Chapter XVII: GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON BIRDS,
Chapter XVIII: RECIPES: POULTRY AND RABBIT,
Chapter XIX: GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON GAME,
Chapter XX: RECIPES: GAME,
Chapter XXI: GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON VEGETABLES,
Chapter XXII: RECIPES: VEGETABLES,
Chapter XXIII: GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON PUDDINGS AND PASTRY,
Chapter XXIV: RECIPES: PUDDINGS AND PASTRY,
Chapter XXV: GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON CREAMS, JELLIES, SOUFFLÃ?S, OMELETS, & SWEET DISHES,
Chapter XXVI: RECIPES: VARIOUS SWEETS,
Chapter XVII: GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON PRESERVES, CONFECTIONARY, DESSERT DISHES, AND ICES,
Chapter XXVIII: RECIPES: SWEET SAUCES AND JAMS,
Chapter XXIX: GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON MILK, BUTTER, CHEESE, AND EGGS,
Chapter XXX: RECIPES: CHEESE AND EGGS,
Chapter XXXI: GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON BREAD AND CAKES,
Chapter XXXII: RECIPES: BREADS AND CAKES,
Chapter XXXIII: GENERAL OBSERVATIONS ON BEVERAGES,
Chapter XXXIV: RECIPES: BEVERAGES,
Chapter XXXV: DINNERS AND DINING,
Chapter XXXVI: THE REARING, MANAGEMENT, AND DISEASES OF INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD,
Chapter XXXVII: THE DOCTOR,
Chapter XXXVIII: LEGAL MEMORANDA,