– PEOPLE WORTH REMEMBERING –

In 1852, British publisher Samuel Beeton purchased the British rights to the book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” directly from the author, Harriot Beecher Stowe. The American version of the book became the first book in the U.S. to sell more than 1 million copies. In Britain, the book also sold extremely well. This gave Samuel Beeton enough capital to expand his publishing business. He began two different periodicals, both of which were very successful. One was “Boys Own Magazine” and the other was “The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine.”

• Samuel Beeton married Isabella Mayson in 1856 when she was 21. She had helped raise 13 younger siblings and had a good grasp on what it took to run a household. Samuel believed in women’s equality, and put her in charge of his ladies magazine. She began by printing recipes that she swiped from other cookbooks or that readers sent in. She innovated by printing the list of ingredients before the cooking instructions, an improvement which is now standard. She breathed life into the fashion column, and printed dress patterns inside the magazine.

• The monthly magazine became very popular under Isabella’s editorial control. In 1861, they condensed two years’ worth of magazine articles into a book. Called “Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management” the sub-title was very impressive:    “Comprising information for the Mistress, Housekeeper, Cook, Kitchen-Maid, Butler, Footman, Coachman, Valet, Upper and Under House-Maids, Lady’s-Maid, Maid-of-all-Work, Laundry-Maid, Nurse and Nurse-Maid, Monthly Wet and Sick Nurses, etc. etc.—also Sanitary, Medical, & Legal Memoranda: with a History of the Origin, Properties, and Uses of all Things Connected with Home Life and Comfort.”

Nearly two million copies of “Mrs. Beeton’s Household Management” were sold by 1868, becoming one of England’s top-selling books.

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• Isabella Beeton actually had very little experience as a cook, and it showed in her editing. She recommended boiling pasta for an hour and forty-five minutes; declared that mangoes tasted like turpentine; pronounced lobsters to be indigestible, garlic offensive, and potatoes suspicious; said that cheese should only be eaten by sedentary people; and insisted that tomatoes should be avoided.

• New editions were put out at intervals, and new guides were added as well, giving instructions on cooking, sewing, livestock care, natural history, and birdwatching.   

• Isabella had four children, two of which died in infancy. Isabella herself died of childbed fever shortly after her 4th child was born in 1865. She was 28 years old.

• But “Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management” carried on after her death. Most of the readers did not know of her death, and she became an iconic figure, similar to “Hints from Heloise.” They assumed she was a middle-aged wealthy matron presiding over a high-class estate, and not a young woman from a lower-middle class background who died not long after the book became popular.

• Samuel Beeton’s fortunes faltered after the death of Isabella. He sold the copyright to the Beeton’s franchise to a larger publishing firm and went to work for them as a salaried employee. He died of tuberculosis in 1877 at the age of 47 and was buried next to his wife.

• “Beeton’s Book of Household Management,” now many times updated, revised, and edited, is still in print. A Kindle version is available on Amazon for only $12.99.