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Mrs Beeton and Mrs Marshall (Hardback)

A Tale of Two Victorian Cooks

P&S History > British History > Victorian History P&S History > By Century > 19th Century P&S History > Food & Drink Women of History > Struggle & Suffrage

By Emma Kay
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 216
Illustrations: 80 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399009003
Published: 4th December 2023

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The name Mrs Beeton has endured for well over a century, synonymous with all things reassuringly culinary, while her contemporary Agnes Bertha Marshall remains somewhat of an enigma.

Both Isabella Beeton and Agnes Bertha Marshall lived within a short distance of each other in Pinner, worked in London, wrote about, and shared a passion for food, all just a couple of decades apart.

While Isabella Beeton compiled one successful book of collected recipes, Agnes built a cookery empire, including a training school, the development of innovative kitchen equipment, a range of cooking ingredients, an employment agency and a successful weekly journal, as well as writing three incredibly popular recipe books.

Mrs Beeton and Mrs Marshall: A Tale Of Two Victorian Cooks intrudes on the private lives of both these women, whose careers eclipsed two very different halves of the Victorian era. While there are similarities between the two, their narratives explore class and background, highlight the social and economic contrasts of the nineteenth century, the ascension of the cookery industry in general and the burgeoning power of suffragism.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

What a delightful read. I love cooking, love recipes, cookbooks and learning about people who love food especially those from the past. This is such a wonderful and interesting read and one I will read again and again. It is an enjoyable read, is entertaining yet informative, interesting and fun.

Both women in this book are highly regarded foodies (if I can use that term) and lead very interesting lives. The author has done her research and has written a well set out book that is easy to read and is a book any Foodie, like myself, would love to read.

NetGalley, Donna Robinson

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This grabbed my attention at the mention of Mrs Beeton. I had a copy of her household book and was curious to learn more about her and Mrs Marshall. This book was entertaining, well researched.
I would highly recommended it for history nerds like myself.

NetGalley, Melissa Makarewicz

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is an interesting deep-dive into the history of both titular persons and the ancillary figures in their lives. Although Mrs. Beeton is still a (relative) household name, Mrs. Marshall, at her time was equally well known, and the author does a very good job of rendering the minutiae both accessible and interesting.

The book's layout is straightforward. The first half covers the life and work of Agnes Marshall, the second half Isabella Beeton. They were very different people and from different backgrounds but lived and worked in the same general areas, separated by some decades.

The book is written in a layman accessible style and non-historians will find it easy to understand. The author has included copious notes and references throughout. It's also enhanced by the inclusion of numerous archival photos of antique kitchenalia and salient places to the story.

Five stars. It would be a superlative choice for public or school library acquisition, gift giving to fans of domestic history, kitchenalia, foodies, and biography lovers. Admittedly a niche book, but a very well written and readable one.

NetGalley, Annie Buchanan

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I found a reference to Mrs Beeton in a mystery I was reading and this book came to my mind.
I like women and social history and this is the story of two women who played a relevant role in everyday life but are not well known as they should be.
Entertaining, well researched.
Highly recommended.

NetGalley, Anna Maria Giacomasso

Emma Kay brings two fascinating culinary experts from the nineteenth century to life in this biography of Isabella Beeton and Agnes Bertha Marshall. Both women shared an interest in cooking and the teaching of cooking, but they expressed their interests in different ways, one through a cookbook and the other through a culinary school and a diverse culinary empire. By bringing these two women in conversation with each other, Kay demonstrates the scope of the professionalization of women’s cooking beyond the domestic sphere and the complexities of working during the Victorian era. Kay’s use of recipes throughout the book reflects some of the larger diversities of the evolution of the culinary world and gives readers a window into Beeton and Marshall’s kitchens and work during the Victorian era. The mix of biography and recipe book is clever and engages the readers with the primary source material, giving them a glimpse into Beeton’s book and Marshall’s cooking empire. Kay’s biography is a fascinating study of women’s work, the culinary world, and businesswomen from the Victorian era, and placing Beeton and Marshall in dialogue with each other really adds to the depth of analysis of this interesting historical biography of two interesting women.

NetGalley, Lily Amidon

Very thorough book on Mrs Marshall and Mrs Beeton. It talks about their families, lives, and recipes. I have read Mrs Beeton's book. It was interesting to learn about their backstories.

NetGalley, Rebecca Smith

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Emma Kay does a great job in writing this type of book, I enjoyed getting to meet these two cooks.

NetGalley, Kathryn McLeer

A detailed history of these two women. I knew a bit about Mrs Beeton, but hadn't heard of Mrs Marshall, so it was interesting to find out about her and about the context that the two women lived in.

NetGalley, Melanie Knight

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


An absolutely fascinating, well-written and deeply-researched look into the lives and work of Isabella Beeton and Agnes Bertha Marshall, Victorian women who made names for themselves by writing about cookery and household management for an emerging middle class. I was familiar with (and own a cheap copy of) Mrs Beeton’s works, and was aware that she has been accused of plagiarism — turns out, that was more or less the norm back then, and seen much as we see “amplification” on social media today. Mrs. Marshall and her family were more entrepreneurial (and several decades after Mrs. Beeton, taking advantage of a freer society), establishing a cookery school and promoting their own kitchen equipment and ingredients.

Emma Kay’s book explores the Victorian era through the stories of these two women, highlighting how quickly society changed over the thirty years that separated them, the emergence of the suffragist movement — and how cooking and housekeeping themselves changed over that time.

NetGalley, Mo B

Such an interesting book about two (2) passionate women, ahead of their time in my humble opinion, whom probably most of us novice type cooks never heard of. This book tells of their lives, their families and even shares some terrific recipes. I have to say Agnes was my favorite of the two (2). I also enjoyed the authors writing style - was like she was just telling me their stories directly. The book even contains pictures which is always an added bonus for me!

NetGalley, Christine Cazeneuve

Besides the fact that this book made me hungry, I had fun reading about two women-- Isabella Beeton and Agnes Marshall--who both attributed major contributions to the field of cookbooks, recipes and overall hospitality/cuisine.

NetGalley, Samantha Armstrong

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

It was great to be able read the bio of Mrs Beeton and Mrs Marshall and to see the recipes that they used.

NetGalley, Abi Davies

About Emma Kay

Emma is a post-graduate historian and former senior museum worker. Now a food historian, author, and prolific collector of Kitchenalia, she is a member of The Guild of Food Writers. Her articles have appeared in publications including BBC History Magazine, The Daily Express, Daily Mail, Times Literary Supplement and The Victorian Review. She has featured on numerous national and international radio programmes and podcasts and contributed historic food research for several TV production companies.
During 2021 Emma cooked and presented a selection of historic dishes from the Regency era to accompany a new CTVC series for Channel 4 and was interviewed and filmed demonstrating Medieval cooking techniques for a documentary series on KBS-TV in South Korea.
In 2020 Emma created a Roman banquet and presented the origins and influences of Roman cooking for Channel 5 series Walking Britain’s Roman Roads.
At the end of 2019 Emma appeared as an expert contributor across several episodes of Channel 5 series, Britain’s Lost Battlefields.
In 2018 she appeared in a ten-part series for the BBC and Hungry Gap Productions, The Best Christmas Food Ever and on BBC Countryfile, co-presenting a feature exploring the heritage of the black pear with Anita Rani.
Published titles
Dining with the Georgians (Amberley Publishing, 2014), Dining with the Victorians (Amberley Publishing,2015), Cooking up History: Chefs of the Past (Prospect Books, 2017), Vintage Kitchenalia (Amberley Publishing,2017), More than a Sauce: A Culinary History of Worcestershire (Amberley Publishing,2018), Stinking Bishops and Spotty Pigs: A History of Gloucestershire's Food and Drink (Amberley Publishing, 2019).
A History of British Baking (Pen & Sword Books, 2020)
A Dark History of Chocolate (Pen & Sword Books, 2021)

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