I must frankly own, that if I had known, beforehand, that this book would have cost me the labour which it has, I should never have been courageous enough to commence it.
-From the Preface, Beeton's Book of Household Management
I think it's the dream of every American post-English major to drop her life in the States completely and take up residence in England; the country from which words filled our Norton's Anthologies and term papers. Indeed, I have known many, including myself, who have romanticised Great Britain to the point of fictionalizing it. But I attest it's realness...because here I am, freshly married, typing this blog entry in a flat which is about the size of a public toilet, above a keymaker/shoe repair man who hammers away most of the day.
I am here for six months with no real expectations to speak of. I have no Visa; therefore I can't work or even volunteer. I am strictly a visitor. My husband, we will refer to as Mr. Samuel Redux, does work, and does so all day. Leaving me quite alone in this small shopping town. What's a new wife to do? I barely can sort the coin money and sometimes I can't even understand the locals even though I know they are speaking English. I can only read so many tabloids a day (which I must say provide the most thorough education on British life and customs).
So I have brought someone with me, in the form of a tremendously compacted volume of literature. Beeton's Book of Household Management, published in 1859 in serialized form and considered a bible for the English Victorian household. I chose Mrs. Beeton's tome because I needed an anchor. And the sight of all those recipes and stringent guidelines is comforting, in a way. Like staying with your grandmother (mine happens to be British also - did she or her mother ever rely on Beeton?)
My flat is tiny. I have no domestics. I am a vegetarian, making many of the 900 pages of recipes invalid. I am lazy and American and quite boorish. But I am here, alone for most of the day, a young bride in a strange land. But Mrs. Beeton would have me to do something, right away. So it is just her and I, then.