This one goes out to the mistresses.
Chapter One of Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management spoke to them directly. (And Mrs. B wasn’t foolin’.) “As with the commander of an army,” she penned, “or the leader of any enterprise, so is it with the mistress of a house.”
Author Isabella Beeton understood marriage meant to have and to household.
That made one Victorian bride.
Any Tabitha, Dot, and Harriet of the day (1861) managed to select the right fork during courses and. . . Well, lessons in etiquette and music shaped romantics, not domestics. What more is there to say?
Turns out, plenty. Isabella wrote articles—popular how-tos. And her husband Samuel, publisher that he was, packaged those installments into a bestseller. Lucky us.
Begin the day before the day begins.
Prioritize duties, appointments, etc. This time of preparation may reduce your sleep, but will ultimately give far more rest.
A point of clarification? When Isabella addressed it herself, she emphasized good hygiene as “both in regard to the person and the house, and all that it contains.”
Live within your means.
Let’s talk mistress to mistress for a moment.
Budget. Or else.
You can quote me on that. Isabella actually quoted Judge Haliburton. His take? “No man is rich whose expenditure exceeds his means, and no one is poor whose incomings exceed his outgoings.”
Exercising discipline over finances is a pillar of stability for a home.
No, ifs, ands, or whispers about it.
Choose friends wisely.
Let time authenticate character.
Personal attachments will influence opinions and your manners. Can’t be helped. Should be held, though, with appropriate discretion. It’s a thing.
Recognize you are managing a home, not a theater. Drama is only welcome in one.
Open your door.
In the words of Isabella, “Hospitality is a most excellent virtue; but care must be taken that the love of company, for it’s own sake, does not become a prevailing passion; for then the habit is no longer hospitality, but dissipation.”
Keep family matters within the family.
Say it with me, “Privacy is loyalty. Loyalty is priceless.”
What happens inside the walls of a home and what happens under the sheets inside the walls of a home are for your home alone. Walls are boundaries. Boundaries are not made to be broken.
Imparting disappointments and incidents are no-nos.
Revealing husband failings is a never-never. Never.
The exception would be occasions of great sorrow or joy. Buddy up. Seek close ties for shoulders to cry on or the highest of fives.
Give the widow’s mite.
Essentially, substance over style.
Mrs. B references the offerings as told in Luke 21:1-4. In the story, Richie Riches gave treasures. However, this one widow gave more when she offered all she had, two copper coins (mites).
Home-keeping is heart work.
Exhibit A. Happy wife, happy life.
Exhibit B. If momma ain’t happy. . . (ain’t nobody’s happy).
The mistress of the house sets the tone. Those in her graces can’t help but copycat her mood. In pursuing joys, it is advised she indulge in hobbies of her taste.
After all, “a good housewife does not necessarily imply an abandonment of proper pleasures or amusing recreation; and we think it the more necessary to express this, as the performance of the duties of a mistress may, to some minds, perhaps seem to be incompatible with the enjoyment of life.”
What home-keeping truth would you add to the list?
Proverbs 31:27 (ESV)
She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Beeton. Mrs. Beetons Book of Household Management: a Guide to Cookery in All Branches . London: Ward, Locke & Co., 1915.