Friday, November 25, 2011

The Utterly Brilliant Career and Unbelievably Brief Life of Mrs. Beeton, Domestic High Priestess of the Victorian Age

Isabella Beeton (c. 1860)

Isabella Beeton was to the middle of nineteenth century England, what Martha Stewart is to late twentieth century America- and even more! For Mrs. Beeton was not just the author of the famous "bible of housewives" "Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management", she was also a journalist and fashion writer.  In her lifetime very few people new the details of her upbringing, marriage or death- Mrs. Beeton was what we would now call "a brand".

"Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management", 1861

The public was unaware that a woman in her early 20's was their go-to for all things domestic, from what to make for the perfect wedding supper if your daughter was marrying up the social ladder to how to hire and fire a parlor maid. In her short life Isabella Beeton went from comfort to poverty to comfort and wealth and back to poverty again- she died a few days after giving birth to her fourth child. She was only 28. The BBC documentary on her life, narrated by Sophie Dahl is a gem. Get to know this extraordinary woman- who almost singlehandedly created the world of Anglo-American middle-class domesticity- which remains the psychological bedrock of how millions still interpret the concept of HOME.