17 September 2010

The Not-So-Secret Vital Records of Mrs. Beeton

I re-watched the BBC drama "The Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton" last night (on Masterpiece Theater). The movie is about the original Martha Stewart who published "Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management" in 1861, a book that became a manifesto to a burgeoning middle class and the women who ran their households. The BBC drama is an oddly-mixed humor and tragedy story about the Beetons, and the supposed syphilitic condition of her husband which resulted in the sad deaths of three children in the early years of their marriage. Isabella (Mayson) Beeton died shortly after childbirth from puerperal fever, when she was 28.

I decided to take to the intertubes to see what I could find of the Beetons in vital records, since the story was an interesting one, and hey--who needs an excuse to do some people hunting? My search was particularly fruitful!

Young Isabella
Isabella was baptised 20 April 1836 at Saint Mary, Bryanston Square, in Westminster; she was the daughter of Benjamin and Elizabeth Mayson. From the baptismal book:

Isabella's father, Benjamin, passed away on the 28th of July, 1840 (from the Register of Burials for Guildhall, St Botolph Bishopsgate):

As of the 1841 census, Isabella is living with her grandfather, John Mayson, in Orton, Cumberland:

On 27th March, 1843, Elizabeth Mayson remarried, this time wedding Henry Dorling, a prosperous widowed businessman (from the Saint Mary, Islington, Register of Marriages):

In 1851, Isabella is residing in Surrey with her mother and step-father, Elizabeth and Henry Dorling:

Introducing Samuel Beeton
According to the drama, Samuel Orchart Beeton was a swaggering young man, known for gambling and the enjoyment of women; the photo to the left shows the young man in 1854. A braggart entrepreneur, he was brash and a risk-taker. Apparently, Isabella's father-in-law initially forbade the marriage; even when the nuptials did finally take place in 1856, he refused to attend the ceremony. The marriage was registered in the 3rd quarter of 1856.

By the time of the 1861 England census, Samuel and Isabella were residing in Harrow, Middlesex, along with their household help and their young son, Samuel (the second Samuel; the first had died at 3 months old in 1857). It was at the time of this census that Samuel and Isabella were working on the Beeton Housekeeping Book:

The second Samuel Orchart Beeton's death was recorded in the 1st quarter of 1863; according to Wikipedia, he died from scarlet fever on New Year's Eve, 1862, while the family was on vacation in Brighton:

After Isabella's Death
Isabella died shortly after giving birth to her fourth son, Mayson; she was buried 11 February 1865, in Norwood Cemetery, Lambeth, Surrey:

In 1871, the widowed Samuel Beeton, along with sons Orchart and Mayson, resided in Swanscombe, Kent, in the home of Charles and Matilda Brown. Matilda, who had begun writing for the Ladies' magazine published by the Beetons prior to Isabella's death, became an editor of the magazine after Isabella passed away. (I love that in 1861, Isabella, who wrote a huge portion of the book bearing her name, was just the wife of a publisher, but by 1871, Matilda Brown is clearly an editor unto her own!):

Samuel Orchart Beeton died 06 June 1877 (from the National Probate Calendar):

A photo of the couple's headstone at Norwood Cemetery can be seen on Findagrave.

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