Magazine article The Spectator

Jane Ridley

Magazine article The Spectator

Jane Ridley

Article excerpt

Kathryn Hughes's The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs Beeton (Fourth Estate, £20) turns all our preconceptions about Mrs Beeton and her cookery book upside down. Isabella Beeton wasn't interested in cooking at all, nor was she a middleaged matron. She was a 21-year-old journalist, who filched her recipes from the great cooks of the day, and in the process succeeded in compiling a manual which exactly fitted the needs of the Victorian middle-class housewife, elevating domesticity into a profession. Poor Isabella died tragically young at 28, and Hughes expertly sleuths her journalistic career and marriage ruined by syphilis. A marvellous and original book.

A. N. Wilson's After the Victorians (Hutchinson, £25) is a brilliant examination of the first half of the last century.

Written with verve and wit, this book is utterly compelling -- erudite, intelligent and wise. …

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