Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management/Abridged Preface to the First Edition


I must frankly own that, if I had known beforehand the labour which this book has entailed, I should never have been courageous enough to commence it. What moved me, in the first instance, to attempt a work like this, was the discomfort and suffering which I had seen brought about by household mis-management. I have always thought that there is no more fruitful source of family discontent than badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways. Men are now so well served out of doors—at clubs, hotels and restaurants—that, to compete with the attractions of these places, a mistress must be thoroughly acquainted with the theory and practice of cookery, as well as all the other arts of making and keeping a comfortable home.

In this book I have attempted to give, in the chapters devoted to cookery, an intelligible arrangement to every recipe, a list of the ingredients, a plain statement of the method of preparing each dish, and a careful estimate of its cost, the number of people for whom sufficient, and the time when seasonable. Friends in England, Scotland, Ireland, France and Germany have very materially aided me. A diligent comparison with the works of the best modern writers on cookery has also been necessary to the faithful fulfilment of my task. But in the department belonging to the Cook I have striven to make my work something more than a Cookery-Book, and have, therefore, given a short account of the natural history of the animals and vegetables which we use as food. I have followed the animals from their birth to their appearance on the table; have described their management; the position of the various joints; and the methods of carving Meat, Poultry and Game. Skilful artists have designed the numerous drawings which illustrate many important and interesting items. The coloured plates are a novelty not without value.

Towards the end of the work will be found valuable chapters on the "Management of Children," "The Doctor," "Legal Memoranda," which have been contributed by a great physician and an eminent solicitor. I wish here to acknowledge the kind letters and congratulations I have received during the progress of this work, and have only further to add, that I trust the result of the four years' incessant labour which I have expended will not be altogether unacceptable to some of my countrymen and countrywomen.

248, Strand, 1861.