"What moved me, in the first instance, to attempt a work like this, was the discomfort and suffering which I had seen brought upon men and women by household mismanagement."
Isabella Beeton wrote this in 1861, when Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management was first published. The book, a weighty volume of more than 600 pages, (1021 if you want the Oxford Press version!) told Victorian housewives how to pluck grouse and boil fowl, and how to polish grates and clean carpets by sprinkling them with tea-leaves. It sold more than two million copies when it was first published and it’s still in print today, more than 150 years later.
The book is something of a bible to Anne Morgan, the narrator of my novel, The Housekeeper. She and Mrs Beeton have a lot in common. Anne finds domestic order and discipline soothing. A place for everything and everything in its place is one of Mrs Beeton’s most famous sayings. Anne couldn’t put it better herself. But making it work in her new job is another matter altogether.