London: Macmillan, 1864. First edition. Original publisher's cloth binding with gilt to spine and boards. Corners gently bumped; small split to cloth at top of rear joint. Blue coated endpapers. Hinges strengthened. Internally a tight, clean, copy without the typical spatter or signs of use associated with kitchen texts. Collates viii, 306, [6, adverts]: complete, including the two front plates. A scarce example of a cookery text designed for an emerging class of elegant middle class women, the present is listed at only 5 institutions on OCLC, none of these in the U.S. It is currently the only copy on the market.
"After reading several books on French Cookery, it struck me that none of them were appropriate to the class which most wanted them -- I mean the class rich enough to have good dinners, and still which cannot afford to keep a chef...My intention is to write for ladies who wish either to be able to point out to their cooks the defects they find in their ways of cooking or for ladies who would undertake occasionally to prepare some dishes requiring either more care or more intelligence than a common cook could give." In opening her cookery thus, the anonymous French Lady points to an emerging and expanding class of women in England -- a middle class, with enough education and taste to want access to the kind of Continental dishes served at the tables of their "social betters." The author gestures to her cookery as a guide both for achieving culinary success (the creation of complex and pleasing dishes) as well as effective household management (establishing and maintaining authority over employees). And she acknowledges that the class of women she addresses are also caught in the middle of social expectation, needing to balance in a way that the higher and the lower classes don't. "Ladies don't like to cook, thinking that it might spoil the beauty of their hands," she writes, "but this may be easily avoided." Indeed, for the middle class woman, there is the expectation of appearing ladylike and keeping her appearance devoid of signs of work that might mark her as less than elite. Yet she also needs to be involved in the work of the household and must diminish the risk that these tasks will mar her in some visible way. Ultimately, Cookery for English Households does more than assist women in the kitchen; it reveals how much the kitchen is tied to social success in the wider world, and it assists a new class of women in navigating the middle ground in which they exist. Near Fine (Item #3247)