My boss brought me this book back from one of his trips to England. I’m not sure where he found it since he traveled, the pandemic happened, and I didn’t see him for two years. But he plopped it on my desk a few weeks ago along with some fancy tea. My boss is the best.
M’lady’s Book of Household Secrets was written by the Hon. Sarah MacPherson, and is a collection of handwritten recipes, notes, and diary entries from the household books of Lady Talbot of Lacock Abbey and Lady Lousia Connolly of Castletown House that MacPherson found and transcribed. The entries inspired her to put together a book of these interesting historical tidbits, as well as explanations of all the ‘downstairs’ staff that ran the big houses of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
While small, this book is a brilliant snapshot of every day wealthy life in 18th and 19th century Britain. From recipes for hair oil and hand cream to face powder and moth balls, this book has a little of everything. MacPherson has updated most of the language for modern readers, but gives some photographed examples of the original writings, as well as a few stand-out recipes in the original language and spelling. Broken into medicines, cosmetics, and actual food recipes, the book is easy to follow and can be read in short increments.
What I found most fascinating were both the recipes for things like floor wax and marble cleaner; things we’d never think about as being a necessity, and the amount of recipes and suggestions for anti-aging solutions. There were suggestions for eye cream to get rid of crows-feet, body brushing to keep the skin supple, face exercises to keep wrinkles away, and solutions to rub on the hands and body to get rid of sunspots and varicose veins. The fact that in the 18th century when one needed to make their own floor wax and create medicines to get rid of their kids’ worms, one of their paramount concerns were face wrinkles made me both laugh, and realize that humans haven’t really changed. We’ve always been obsessed with our appearances, and this books was an excellent little showcase of how little has changed.
Bingo Square: Self Care