Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management/Preface




For nearly half a century Mrs. Beeton has been the guide, philosopher and friend of countless happy homes. In every English-speaking country her "Household Management" has appeared amongst the wedding presents of a bride as surely as the proverbial salt cellars, and thousands of grateful letters testify that it has often proved the most useful gift of all. Many competitors have paid Mrs. Beeton the compliment of imitation and adaptation up to, and sometimes beyond, the utmost limits the law allows, but her work stands to-day, as of old, without a rival. Press and public have alike proclaimed its merits. Every writer dealing with the reality or romance of domestic life has recorded its constant rescue of young housekeepers from perplexity and woe. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in his great study of married life, entitled "A Duet, with an occasional Chorus," makes his heroine say—"Mrs. Beeton must have been the finest housekeeper in the world. Therefore, Mr. Beeton must have been the happiest and most comfortable man"; and his hero concludes, that "this book has more wisdom to the square inch than any work of man"—a wonderful testimonial when one remembers that the last edition thus praised contains more than 80,000 square inches of closely packed information.

The book of Household Management has not, however, maintained its great reputation solely by the merits of its first issue. It is true that Mrs. Beeton brought to its origin such ability, method, and conscientious care, that with the exception of corrections demanded by changing prices, processes and materials, her work stands practically unaltered to the present day. But if nothing has been taken away, very much has been added. Eight years after the first appearance of the book, an enlarged and revised edition was found necessary. Since then the changing years have brought extra information, new features, and increased size, till we find the new edition we are now introducing to public notice has twice the number of pages and is four times the size of its modest ancestor.

It may seem strange that a book, originally considered most comprehensive and complete, should have needed such transformation. The world, however, has travelled of late at electric speed, and the far-reaching changes of time have touched household affairs from standpoints apparently far remote.

In cookery, for example, where the growth of our pages is most noticeable, many causes have contributed to change. We have relinquished almost entirely the old British prejudices against things foreign, and adopted, in great measure, those French methods which established a bond of union among good cooks all the world over, long before l'entente cordiale became a recognized newspaper phrase. Increased habits of travel have taught us the favourite dishes of other countries, while improved means of transport have brought to our doors fresh food supplies from all quarters of the earth. Cookery schools and classes have also educated many mistresses to the possibilities of the art, and encouraged them to insist on more variety and delicacy in their daily fare than the plain cook of old was wont to furnish. In short, every tendency of modern life, with greater wealth possibly—greater luxury certainly—is towards a tremendous enlargement of everyday cookery. In the present issue is given all information necessary to meet present–day demands in this respect.

Amongst the principal features of our new issue are—

Appearance.—The book has been re-composed throughout from a special fount of new type, of size and clearness to suit modern requirements, and printed on the best English paper, and strongly and artistically bound in half leather.

Illustrations.—The book has been copiously illustrated in the most useful manner. Hundreds of photographic reproductions of actual dishes, processes, and materials have been included. No expense, however great, has been spared in obtaining the best possible results. The numerous coloured plates have been faithfully reproduced from nature, and printed in fourteen colours in the highest style of lithographic art.

Cookery.—All the old cookery recipes have been carefully re-tested and prices and details altered wherever necessary. More than two thousand new recipes are given, contributed by Mr. C. Herman Senn, assisted by some of the most famous chefs and teachers of the art that the world contains.

Prices.—The cost of the recipes and the prices of articles mentioned in this book have been most carefully, minutely, and diligently averaged from lists compiled from the most reliable authorities all over the kingdom. The task of estimating these prices has been among the most difficult and perplexing problems encountered in revising this work. Some provisions fluctuate greatly in price from day to day, whilst a very great difference indeed exists between the cost of purchases made in town or country, for cash or for credit, by mistress or by maid, selected personally or as allotted to you to suit the convenience of a tradesman. After a most minute consideration of the factors involved, we believe the costs given in our recipes should hardly ever be exceeded; whilst the housewife who gives the trouble needed to buy in the most advantageous manner, will often be able to effect a very considerable saving on the prices quoted.

Trussing.—This, a frequent difficulty in small households, has been carefully explained and illustrated by numerous photographs, showing the methods of the best professionals.

Carving.—Our ancestors held a practical knowledge of this art indispensable to the education of every gentleman. We moderns also realize how much a really good carver can do towards diminishing waste, distributing choice portions equally, and maintaining the sightly appearance of a joint. The art has been thoroughly dealt with and very fully illustrated by a unique series of photographs of the methods of the best professional carvers.

Serviettes.—The most recent and popular designs are illustrated, and diagrams given showing clearly how every fold is made in producing these patterns.

Colonial and Foreign Cookery.—This section has been enormously increased. Australian, American, Canadian, South African, German, Italian, and all foreign cookeries, have been comprehensively dealt with, so that Britons living under other skies may learn how to combine the dishes of their adopted country with those of the Motherland. We at home may also gain variety in our own menus, and learn how to give a complimentary and characteristic repast when welcoming guests from abroad.

Vegetarian Cookery, which is so strongly believed in and practised by many thousands, has been carefully dealt with.

Chafing Dish and Casserole Cookery, now so popular with cooks, and indispensable in Flat life and for all amateur cookery and impromptu meals, is dealt with in a new chapter.

The Medical and Nursing Chapters have been contributed by two of our most eminent physicians.

The Legal Memoranda has been contributed by a well-known barrister, author of several standard law books.

We take this opportunity of expressing our gratitude to many eminent authorities and great firms for the courtesy, thoroughness, and disinterested zeal with which they have given time, information, facilities, and assistance to us, whilst engaged in our long, laborious, but engrossing task of compressing all information of practical value to our readers into the new "Mrs. Beeton."

It would be out of place in a preface to allude to all the many features of our new issue. Many are there, and all the old Mrs. Beeton as well. For details, and also because it is easy in a book of this size to look for information in the wrong place, we would ask our readers to make use of the very comprehensive index and tables of contents furnished herewith.

All these new features have had one disastrous effect from the publishers' point of view. The book as it now stands is half as large again as the previous edition, and is offered at the same price. We believe this to be by far the greatest value for money ever given in book production. We can only trust that this new and enlarged edition of MRS. BEETON'S HOUSEHOLD MANAGEMENT will meet with the same hearty welcome its old and well-tried predecessors have always enjoyed.

Warwick House
Salisbury Square, E.C.