Meet Cora Millet-Robinet, France's Mrs Beeton

Tom Jaine assesses the impact and legacy of France’s original domestic goddess

One of the blockbusters of late 19th-century France was a book of instruction for young women who were urged to abandon their ambitions of marrying a rich lawyer, industrialist, or man of letters and throw in their lots with a farmer, embracing the healthy, rewarding and beneficent life of the fields.

Whatever you think of that suggestion, its success depended on much learning and a great deal of explanation: hence the two fat volumes of Maison rustique des dames (The Ladies’ Country House) by Cora Millet-Robinet, first published in 1845, with its 21st – and last – edition appearing in about 1925.

Advice is offered for almost everything: childcare, education, reading matter, musical taste, entertaining, hiring and keeping staff, cookery, interior design, architecture, heating, lighting, laundry and cleaning – and that’s before the farmer’s new wife has stepped outside the house to learn all there is to know about the garden, the poultry-run or the farm. It is a wonderful guidebook for self-sufficient living. Along with all this good counsel, the author was an advocate of women’s proper status and self-reliance – a refreshing tendency in 1845.

Elizabeth David once remarked that ‘judging from ...

To read the remaining 85% of this article, you need to either

Subscribe now to The Connexion and benefit from access to our archived articles since 2006

Print + Digital 3 month subscription

Pay every three months. Our most flexible subscription.

Automatic renewal, cancel anytime

Print + Digital 1 year subscription

1 year of great reading in print and online

Automatic renewal, cancel anytime

Digital 1 year subscription (Our best value offer)

1 year of great reading online *no paper*

Automatic renewal, cancel anytime

Digital 3 month subscription

3 months of great reading online *no paper*

Automatic renewal, cancel anytime

More articles from Profiles
More articles from Connexion France
Other articles that may interest you