Mrs Beeton's recipe for happiness sold for pounds 8,600

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She was known for her down-to-earth recipes and practical household tips, but letters written by Mrs Beeton reveal her simple ingredient for happiness: love.

Throughout her letters, which fetched pounds 8,625 at a Sotheby's auction yesterday, the celebrated Victorian cook expresses her impatience to be with her future husband, Samuel Beeton.

On 1 June 1856, weeks before her wedding, the bride-to-be, Isabella Mayson, aged 20, had her head in the clouds. "You cannot imagine how I have missed you," she wrote, "and have been wishing all day that I were a bird that might fly away and be at rest with you, my precious one."

Despite Samuel's replies, she was still yearning to be with him. "It seems such an age since I have spoken with you and I can assure you I quite long for a quiet little chat with my old man, my dear darling venerable."

There is a hint of the no-nonsense side which prevailed in what became a culinary bible for the middle class housewife, The Book of Household Management, published between 1859 and 1861. "In a very short time you have the entire management of me and I can assure you you will find in me a most docile and willing pupil," she said.

Mrs Beeton died at the age of 29. Shortly after her death, in February 1865, her husband wrote to a friend of the " dreadful grief that well nigh overpowers me, and renders me unable to move or stir."

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