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Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell – Domestic Goddess

Mrs Ketelby Rundell

Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell – The First Domestic Goddess

As the following directions were intended for the conduct of the families of the authoress’s own daughters, and for the arrangement of their table, so as to unite a good figure with proper economy, she has avoided all excessive luxury, such as essence of ham, and that wasteful expenditure of large quantities of meat for gravy, which so greatly contributes to keep up the price, and is no less injurious to those who eat than to those whose penury obliges them to abstain. Many receipts are given for things, which being in daily toe, the mode of preparing them may be supposed too well known to require a place in a cookery-book; yet how rarefy .do we meet with fine melted butter, good toast and water, or well-made coffee! She makes no apology for minuteness in some articles, or for leaving others unnoticed, because she does not write for professed cooks. This little work would have been a treasure to herself when she first set out in life, and she therefore hopes it may prove useful to others. In that expectation it is given to the Public; and as she will receive from it no emolument, so she trusts it will escape without censure.
-A New System of Domestic Cookery by Maria Ketelby Rundell

The following biography of Maria Eliza Ketelby Rundell (or Mrs. Rundell, as she was known) appeared in the Gentleman’s Magazine* in 1829, just a year after her death. Mrs. Rundell was famous for her runaway best seller, A New System of Domestic Cookery: Founded upon the principles of Economy, and Adapted to the Use of Private Families, which was first published in 1806 by John Murray. (Murray also published Jane Austen’s second edition of Mansfield Park, along with Emma, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey. )

Now regarded as the first “Domestic Goddess“, predating the perennial favorite, Isobella Beeton, by nearly a century, Mrs. Rundell modestly claimed that her book was not only essential to the “modern” middleclass housewife (rather than “professed cooks”– note, the difference that a generation makes here between this Hannah Glasse’s 1747 work, which was directed at servants: “…few servants there are, that know how to roast and boil to perfection.  I do not pretend to teach professed cooks, but my design is to instruct the ignorant and unlearned (which will likewise be of great use in all private families) and in so plain and. full a manner, that the most illiterate and ignorant person, who can but read, will know how to do every thing in cookery well.”) but a gift to the public. She filled it’s pages with recipes for everything from “Good” Coffee to Bubble and Squeak, along with copious notes about servants, ‘There is a great deal of time, precious to their families, wasted by well meaning and virtuous women in running after charitable institutions, whilst their children are suffering from neglect, or abandoned to neglectful servants…’ to healthy eating, ‘We all of us, and at all times, consume more food than health or prudence would warrant. What gives trouble to one man to digest would maintain three in comfort’, to maintaining linens and setting your table.


Mrs. Maria Eliza Rundell (1745–1828), writer on cookery, born in 1745, was only child of Abel Johnstone Ketelby of Ludlow, Shropshire. She married Thomas Rundell, partner of the eminent firm of Rundell & Bridges, silversmiths and jewellers, which was long established on Ludgate Hill, London. The firm supplied snuff-boxes to the value of 8,205l. 15s. to foreign ministers at the coronation of George IV (Gent. Mag. 1823, ii. 77).

While living at Swansea in 1806 Mrs. Rundell collected various recipes for cookery and suggestions for household management for the use of her married daughters. She sent the manuscript to the publisher, John Murray (1778–1843) [q. v.], of whose family she was an old friend. He suggested the title ‘Domestic Cookery,’ had the work carefully revised by competent editors, among whom was Dr. Charles Taylor, of the Society of Arts, and added engravings. It was published as ‘A New System of Domestic Cookery’ in 1808, and had an immense success. From five to ten thousand copies were long printed yearly. It became one of Murray’s most valuable properties, and in 1812, when he bought the lease of the house in Albemarle Street, part of the surety consisted of the copyright of the ‘Domestic Cookery.’ As the earliest manual of household management with any pretensions to completeness, it called forth many imitations.

In 1808 Murray presented Mrs. Rundell with 150l. She replied, ‘I never had the smallest idea of any return for what I considered a free gift to one whom I had long regarded as my friend.’ In acknowledging a copy of the second edition, Mrs. Rundell begged Murray not to think of remunerating her further, and in the preface to the edition of 1810 she expressly stated that she would receive no emolument. But in 1814 Mrs. Rundell accused Murray of neglecting the book and of hindering its sale. After obtaining an injunction in the vice-chancellor’s court to restrain Murray from republishing the book, she in 1821 placed an improved version of it in the hands of Messrs. Longman for publication. Murray retaliated by obtaining an injunction from the lord chancellor to prevent Mrs. Rundell from publishing the book with any of his additions and embellishments. On 3 Nov. the lord chancellor dissolved the injunction against Murray, but gave right to neither party, declaring that a court of law and not a court of equity must decide between them (Gent. Mag. 1821, ii. 465). After long delay, Mrs. Rundell accepted Murray’s offer of 1,000l. in full discharge of all claims, together with a similar sum to defray her costs and expenses (cf. Moore, Memoirs, v. 118, 119). The book was translated into German in 1841; the sixty-fifth English edition appeared in the same year.

Mrs. Rundell died, aged 83, at Lausanne on 16 Dec. 1828. Her husband predeceased her. Other books by Mrs. Rundell are: 1. ‘Domestic Happiness,’ 1806. 2. ‘Letters addressed to Two Absent Daughters,’ 1814.



A more detailed account of Ketelby Rundell’s life can be found at The Historic American Cookbook Project. Additional information can be found at the Cambridge Library Collection Blog.

* i. 94; Allibone’s Dict. ii. 1890; Smiles’s Memoirs of John Murray, i. 90 et passim, ii. 120–5.]


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Georgian Cosmentics: The Face of Beauty

A simple contrast of these two royal portraits, painted a generation apart will give a good idea of the changes suffered by fashion as it evolved from Georgian excess to Regency “simplicity”. Full gowns and panniers gave way to Grecian silhouettes and high, powdered hairstyles were tamed to a more natural color and form. Where cosmetics and painting were the rule of the day for Royalty such as Marie Antoinette, such artifice was frowned on during the Regency. Only actresses and a “certain type of woman” would be seen visibly rouged. A clean, wholesome appearance was desired, though one could always benefit from a little “help”. The following period recipes will give you an idea idea of the effort expended in attaining a perfect complexion by any means possible, often with poisonous or lethal consequences!

Talc White and other skin whiteners:
“Pick out the best and whitest pieces ofthe talc, which is a kind of soapstone, and grind them in a warmed brass mortar, and passed through a silken sieve or let it dust through dense linen fabric. Hereafter, you pour distilled vinegar over the powder in a stoppered bottle, shake it well, and let it stand for some weeks, shaking it well a few times each day. Then you let the powder settle and decant the vinegar. Then you pour clear water over the powder, shake it well, let it settle and decant the water – rinse it thus 6-8 times. When it is all white, let it dry, and pwder it in an agate mortar and store it. Should the powdered talc be too shiny, anneal it in a crucible.” “All white paints must be powdered very finely, and then mixed with traganth, for which one must use the whitest and best kind of traganth one can find. To that end, you take an arbitrary amount of the white white paint, put it into a clean porcelain cup, and pour traganth water over it. The traganth water is prepared by letting the bruised traganth soak in water overnight and let it clear by letting it settle.”

“When the white powder is covered with traganth water, stir them well through and through with a glass spoon until it has become a thick paste, and spread it onto a piece of white paper which has been strewn with the white paint before. Separate small amounts of the size of a pea from it, then dry them in a place that is protected from dust and keep them in a box. In oder to use them, do as follows. Firstly, prepare a good pomad. Now take the dried pellets of whize paint, put somein a small porcelain bowl, pulverize them with a glass spoon and add of the pomad, and mix it well. When you need it, spead some of it evenly on the face, and wipe any surplus away woth blotting-paper. This will make the face shiny and enables it to receive the red paint.”

Spanish Red:
“Fill a pound of the best Turkish safflower into a linen bag, soak it overnight in river water, sqeeze it out, and rinse it in fresh river water until no colour comes out of it anymore. Now put a new pot onto the fire with some pounds of water, let it boil, and add a quarter pound cleaned potash. Now take the pot off the fire, stir in the safflower, and let it stand for a while. Hereafter you squeeze the liquid out and strain it through a cloth and out it in a sugar glass. Now add strong wine vinegar untill everything has taken on a red colour and let it stand for a few days. After that time, a dark red powder settles down, which you dry and store.I can not recommend this red, however, because firstly it rarely turns out a beautiful colour, secondly its resinous nature makes it difficult to spread, thirdly it loses the colour easily, and lastly it is as expensive as many another excellent red.”


Carmine Red
“The most beautiful and excellent red is the real carmine which must be prepared with great care it if is to turn out well. Take two ounces of powdered cochenille and boil for 5 minutes it in a pure tin pot with 4 maaß distilled water, or simply rain water. The water must be brought to the boil before you add the cochenille. Now add a drachme of powdered Roman alum, take the pot off the fire, and strain the liquid through a cloth into a clean porcelain bowl. Put it in a cool place and cover it with blotting-paper. Now add 2 drops of tin solution every two hours, so that all in all 16 drops of tin solution go into it, and let it rest for some days. After such time, the carmine will have settled on the bottom and the sides of the vessel. Carefully decant the clear liquid, let the carmine dry in the vessel, and brush it onto smooth paper with a clean feather. Zwo ounces of cochenille usually give two drachmen carmine.”


Red Lip Gloss
“Into a clean copper pan put half a pound of fresh, unsalted butter, and two ounces of beeswax, let it melt over mild heat, add some ounces of rinsed, dried and squashed raisins, and one to three loth alkanna root, and let everything simmer gently for 10 minutes. Then pour it on a mounted piece of dense linen and let the liquid run off, and when it begins to cool, add a spoon of strong bitter orange flower water. Stir until it has completely cooled and keep it in a well-covered pot.”


Recipe Source: Source: Johann Bartholomäus Trommdorff. Kallopistria, oder die Kunst der Toilette für die elegante Welt. Erfurt 1805. Further information about period cosmetics and modern equivalents can be found on A. Bender’s page,

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