Happy Birthday Charles Dickens – 200 Today!

It seems like bumper season for big British events at the moment. Following Accession Day yesterday, it’s the 200th anniversary of one of Blighty’s greatest ever writers, Charles Dickens.

Dear old Mr. Dickens... Happy 200th!

The author of many fine novels (Tale of Two Cities is our favorite), Dickens had a larger impact on London’s image than Paul Auster, Martin Scorcese, Mark Rothko, or even Candice Busnhell did on that of New York. Think of spires, sooty streets, smoke, steam and the banks of the River Thames, and Dickens’ masterful words will have shaped those images.

Grey, grey, grey... The weather is definitely one thing we don't miss...

But let’s not get too cerebral about the old man. While you’re having a celebratory cup of birthday cake (Historically speaking, Victoria Sponge would be perfect, as would anything from Mrs. Beeton), here’s a trailer from the BBC’s Christmas version of ‘Great Expectation’. Beautifully shot and styled, it still had its critics. There were accusations of dumbing down, complaints that Gillian Anderson was too young to play Miss Havisham while some even said that ex-Burberry model Douglas Booth was just too damn hot to play Pip. We’ll let you decide that one for yourself….

Next up, the Diamond Jubilee & the London Olypmics… Bring on summer!

Mrs Beeton: the godmother of British cookery… and the original Martha Stewart!

Isabella Beeton, 1836-1865

Born in 1836 in Cheapside, East London, Isabella Beeton is remembered to this day as one of the most influential cookery writers of all time.Her seminal book Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management gave advice on all important aspects of running a household, from fashion, childcare, animal husbandry and the management of servants to notes on science, religion and industrialism. At over 1,112 pages long, the book contained 900 recipes and Mrs Beeton was a keen advocate of the use of local and seasonal produce; ideas which we at Tea & Sympathy hold dear.

Original cover of Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management, first published in 1851.

Pretty much every cookery great since – see Elizabeth David, Julia Child, Delia Smith and Martha Stewart – owe something to this amazing woman. The book is also remarkable for its beautiful illustrations. We thought we’d treat you today with a few our favourites, which define vintage chic as well as make our mouths water!

And that all British classic: the Christmas plum pudding. Beautiful – to the taste buds and the eyes!