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A young wife newly elevated to her husband’s status in the middle class might not have the accumulated knowledge of an old-established household.
Here was a huge market for Advice Books, such as Isabella Beeton’s Its usefulness in a middle class home was not so much in teaching the servants themselves, many of whom would be illiterate, but in enabling the mistress, after a quick look at the relevant pages, to pretend to an encyclopedic and impressive knowledge herself.
Their suburban cottage could be furnished for less than £20.Having set the maid to clean all the silver, and the cook to prepare for that night’s dinner party, and kissed her husband as he left for the City, the prosperous housewife had the day before her.She might briefly interview her children before returning them to their governess or nursery maid.Servants, of course, could be worrying (just as labour-saving machines can go wrong, in our day).
A man earning the very good income of, say, £1,000 paid just under £30 income tax.She, or her dressmaker, might use one of the paper patterns distributed free by fashion magazines such as The World of Fashion, from 1850.