Beeton, Isabella

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

Beeton, Isabella (1836–65) author of the most famous cookery book in the English language. Mrs Beeton does not correspond at all to the general impression which people have of her. The sheer size and scope and authoritative air of this book, Beeton’s Book of Household Management, have caused people to imagine a matronly figure, in middle age, if not older, perhaps looking somewhat like the standard image of Queen Victoria, during whose reign Mrs Beeton lived.

In fact, she was a beautiful young woman, married to a bright and enterprising young publisher, who started at the age of 21 to produce material for her husband’s English Woman’s Domestic Magazine, including the collection of vast numbers of recipes and information about how to run a household. She was only 25 years old when her work appeared in book form, and only 28 when she died (of puerperal fever, contracted after giving birth to her fourth child—and having lost the first two in infancy).