Harriet Anne de Salis

Harriet Anne de Salis

Harriet Anne de Salis
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© Project Gutenberg


Very little has been written about the personal, or professional, life of Harriet Anne de Salis (23 January 1829 - 18 April 1908), who often published under the name of Mrs de Salis.

She was a very well-selling English cookbook and household management author at the end of the Victorian age -- the "Gilded Age", as some call it. She had clearly received some education, being comfortable in her writing with French and Latin.

Harriet Anne de Salis was born in 1829 Marylebone to Henry Bainbridge (1801- 1880 ) and Harriet Ann Burnett (1807 - 1886). At the time of her birth, her parents lived at 42 Devonshire Street, London. In the census of June 1841, when she was 12 years old, the family is shown living in Westminster at 54 Grosvenor Street. As the addresses indicate, she had a comfortable upbringing. [1]

On 11 April 1872, aged 43, she married William John Salis (aged 38, born 1834) at St George in Hanover Square. He was a Civil Service Clerk for the War Office in Pall Mall. By 1881, the couple were living at 73 Warwick Road in Kensington. The couple do not appear to have had any children. [1]

At one point, Harriet had a regular column in the monthly magazine "Ladies' Realm."

She appears to have been a woman of some enterprise. In November 1886, she applied for a patent for an invention: "Folding Watertight Commode.— H. A. de Salis, 73, Warwick Road, Earl's Court, London. Application # 14839." [2]

In 1886, she published what appears to be the first book in what would become her "a la mode" series of cookery books": Savouries a la mode, which also began her relationship with her publishers, Longman's.

Her "a la mode" cookbooks were small in physical dimensions, thin, focussed on specific topics -- and priced to sell at "1/6d" (i.e. "one and six", 1 shilling and sixpence.) [3] They were a hit.

By the next year, 1887, "Savouries a la mode" was in its 6th edition, and her follow-up cookbook, Entrées a la mode, was already in its third edition. [4]

Over the next ten years, she had a continuing string of successful publications with favourable newspaper reviews. She even ventured off the topic of food to cover how to arrange flowers, and how to care for dogs.

The British census on 5 April 1891 showed the couple as having moved from London to the country: a house named Hampton Lea on Langley Park Road, Sutton, Surrey. In her 1895 book, Gardening a la mode, she talks in its preface about this move: "When we came to live in the country we were such Cockneys, we knew absolutely nothing of gardening; and, as we had to make our garden, which was only a field, and could not afford an experienced gardener, we set to work to learn the art. We bought various books, and took in weekly periodicals on the subject, and experimented on the advice therein contained until we found out for ourselves what succeeded best; and I am proud to say our experiments have been crowned with success."

In 1897, she switched publishers, to Hutchinson, for the publication of her book "The Art of Cookery Past and Present." Her survey of Greek, Roman, and golden age French gourmands may have provided much-needed intellectual relief for her after years of catering to the practical, but it received bad reviews in some quarters for doing just that -- moving beyond the applied and practical.

The last book by her that CooksInfo.com is aware of was published in 1899, "Cakes & confections a la mode." She was 70 years old at the time.

In 1903, she possibly sojourned at the military and naval base of Gun Wharf, Chatham, Kent, where correspondence was directed to her. [5]

William Salis died in the second quarter of 1904 in Epsom, Surrey. Harriet died of carcinoma of the stomach and cerebral thrombosis on 18 April 1908, also in Epsom, Surrey. [Ed: the home address for both was listed as Hampton Lea, Sutton -- for a while, Sutton was grouped in with the more famous Epsom to the west of it.] [1] Present at her death was Grace Sherson (born 1857), whose brother, Erroll, wrote "London's lost theatres of the nineteenth century" in 1925.


Books by Harriet Anne de Salis

  • 1873. Kissing; its origin and species. By A Disciple.
  • 1886. Savouries a la mode
  • 1887. Entrées a la mode
  • 1888. Dressed Game and Poultry A La Mode (available on Project Gutenberg here.)
  • 1888. Soups and dressed fish a la mode
  • 1888. Oysters a la mode
  • 1888. Dressed vegetables a la mode
  • 1888. Sweets & supper dishes a la mode
  • 1890. Tempting Dishes for Small Incomes
  • 1890. Wrinkles and Notations for Every Household
  • 1891. Floral Decoration a la Mode
  • 1891. Drinks a la mode
  • 1892. New-laid eggs; hints for amateur poultry-rearers
  • 1893. Puddings & Pastry a la mode
  • 1893. Dogs: A Manual for Amateurs
  • 1895. National viands a la mode
  • 1895. Gardening a la mode.
  • 1897. The Art of Cookery Past and Present
  • 1898. The housewife's referee: A treatise on culinary and household subjects
  • 1899. Cakes & confections a la mode

Literature & Lore

"Literary Items: Mrs. De Salis has recently produced three more of her useful little "A la Mode" cookery books:— "Dressed Vegetables a la Mode," "Oysters a la Mode," and "Soups and Dressed Fish a la Mode." Each Is. 6d., published by Longmans and Co. They are excellent and practical little works. Her "Savouries a La Mode" has reached the ninth edition." -- The Nonconformist And Independent. London. 26 July 1888. Page 701.



"In a little book by Mrs. Harriet De Salis entitled "Oysters a la Mode," one finds some English and French recipes for cooking oysters, many of which are so very different from our American ways that they may be acceptable to our housekeepers as novelties." -- Kincaid, Jean. the Ostrea Edulis in Season Again. Boston Daily Globe. 1 September 1889. Page 22.


Tempting Dishes for Small Incomes. By Mrs. DE SALIS (London: Longmans, Green & Co.) ABOUT a dozen books of a similar description to this have been written by Mrs. de Salis. They are uniformly sensible and direct in teaching doctrines of economy and taste in household management. The little volume under notice should be heartily welcomed by many a housewife, young and old, experienced and inexperienced. The descriptions of tempting dishes are concise and expressive." -- Colonies and India. London. 20 August 1890. Page 27.


"Talking of materialistic, let us," quoth the Baron, "be grateful to Mrs. DE SALIS for a bookful of 'Tempting Dishes for Small Incomes,' published by LONGMANS & Co." First of all get your small income, then purchase this book, for eighteenpence, or less with discount; or (a shorter and a cheaper way) borrow it from a friend. Let the Small Incomer cast his watery eye over Lobster cutlets, p. 19, and Lobster pancakes: let him reduce his small income to something still smaller in order to treat himself and family to a Rumpsteak à la bonne bouche, a Sausage pudding, and a Tomato curry. The sign over a Small-Income House is the picture of a Sheep's Head, usually despised as sheepish: but go to p. 28, and have a tête-à-tête (de mouton) with Mrs. DE SALIS about Sheep's head au Gratin.

Rabbit batter pudding, eh? with shalot à discrétion. How's that for high? Let the Small Incomer get some dariole tins, mushrooms, chives, rabbits, tripe, onions, oil, ducks, eggs, and with egg kromeskies he'll dine like a millionnaire, and be able to appreciate a real epigram of Lamb (not CHARLES) and Peas. Don't let the Man with a Small Income be afraid of trying Un Fritot de Cervelle de Veau, simply because of the name, which might do honour to the menu of a LUCULLUS. "Blanch the Brains" for this dish—delicious!—"and fry till a nice golden colour." Beautiful! Nice golden colour like dear BLANCHE's hair: only often that's a BLANCHE without brains. And now your attention, my Small Incomer, to Eggs à la Bonne Femme. This work ought to be arranged as a catechism: in fact all cookery books, all receipt books, should be in the form of Question and Answer.

Question.—Now, Sir, how would you do Eggs à la Bonne Femme?

Perhaps this query might be preceded by general information as to who the particular "bonne femme" (for she must have been a very particular bonne femme) was to whom so many dishes are dedicated. [In the Scotch McCookery books, Broth o' the gude-wife would be a national name.]

Answer.—To make Eggs à la Bonne Femme, Mrs. DE SALIS says, "Get as many eggs as there are guests (they should all be the same size)—" Now this is a difficulty. It is not an easy matter to assemble round your table a party of guests "all the same size:" Still more difficult is it to get together a lot of eggs all the same size as the guests. But, when this has been got over, read the remainder at p. 55, and then, as Squeers's pupils used to have to do, go and reduce the teaching to practice.

The receipt for Potatoes à la Lyonnaise begins with, "Mince an onion, and fry it in hot butter"—O rare! Why do more? Who wants potatoes after this? And, when you've had quite enough of it, smoke a pipe, drink a glass of whiskey-and-water, go to an evening party, and then, if you won't be one of the most remarkable advertisements for cette bonne femme Madame DE SALIS, why I don't live in Baronion Halls, and my name's no longer THE BARON DE BOOK-WORMS. -- Punch, 6 September 1890.


"Tempting Dishes for Small Incomes, by Mrs DE SALIS (Longmans), is a useful and cheap little cookery book, giving briefly a few relishing inexpensive recipes within the scope of a plain cook or general servant. Mrs. De Salis is well known for her numerous books on cookery, and one more suited to middle class families, will specially be welcomed." -- Nonconformist And Independent. London. 18 September 1890. Page 8.


"I, therefore, place before you the following recipes from the inventive and tasteful mind of Mrs. De Salis :—

Gaspacho (Salad).—Peel and slice a few tomatoes, two onions, and a cucumber, add red pepper, a little parsley, and chervil cut small. Prepare some fine breadcrumbs, about double in quantity to the other ingredients, and mix with it a couple of cloves of garlic chopped fine, or breadcrumbs rubbed with garlic instead. Season to taste as for an ordinary salad with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, adding as much cold water as made required to make a thick soup.

Fried Celery,—Take two heads of celery, a seasoning of salt and pepper, a dessert-spoonful of lemon juice, a breakfast-cupful of light, rich, frying butter, plenty of good beef dripping and some sprigs of crisp, fried parley; clean, trim, and, boil the celery till tender, drain, and when quite cold, cut the sticks into 3 in. lengths ; season those with the salt, pepper, and lemon juice, dip in the batter and fry a light golden brown in the boiling fat. Drain very carefully for a minute or two, then when crisp, hot and dry, pile up tastefully, garnish with the parsley, and serve at once.

Mushroom Soup.—Cut some leg of veal in rather large pieces, and break the bones; allow to each pound a little less than a quart of milk. Season with pepper, silt, and a pinch of cruetteen [Ed: sic.] Boil until the meat falls to pieces, then strain into the soup-pot. Have ready a quart of mushrooms, peeled, and the stems removed, and put them into the soup, adding 1/4 lb of butter in bits, and each bit rolled into flour; boil until the mushrooms are tender, and keep closely covered. Have some fried croutons the size of very small dice, put them in the tureen, and pour the soup over them.

Mushrooms de la Gourmet.—-Chop up some small mushrooms with about half the quantity of lean ham and some bacon, fat, chopped fine; season with pepper, salt, and chopped thyme. Fry them lightly for a few minutes, then mix in the yolks of two or three eggs according to the quantity. Choose large mushrooms, cut off the stalks, skin and trim the edges, and fill each one with the above preparation; shake over some raspings of bread, and spread a fire-proof flat dish with butter, lay the mushrooms in it, put in a very hot oven for a quarter of an hour and serve quickly." -- About Cooking and Catering. Temperance Caterer. London. 11 April 1891. Page 7.


"Mrs. de Salis, who has previously published all her works through Messrs. Longmans, announces a new volume to be issued by Messrs. Hutchinson, under the title of "The Art of Cookery, Past and Present."-- "Booksellers Review. London. 2 December 1897. Page 3."


"Two new cookery books have suddenly been thrust at the booksellers, and we naturally question ourselves as to the necessity of their being published. We did not desire them, and neither do the public, so far as we know their taste. There is a class who will always take kindly to a cookery book if it contains a few novel recipes; but the "Household Oracle," by Mr. A. H. Miles, does not profess to tell us anything new either on cookery or household management. Mrs. De Salis' book on "The Art of Cookery" is all about antediluvian cookery, which is not in the least degree helpful to Sarah Jane, our cook downstairs." -- News from the Book World column. In "Booksellers Review". London. 23 December 1897. Page 476.


"The Art. of Cookery, by Mrs. de Salis (Hutchinson), appears to be intended as a sort of anecdotic survey of the subject in past/and present times, and to have been printed from rough proofs. We read that "the cook in Plautus is called ' Homenum Servatorum,' or "the preserver of mankind," and that among "celebrated ancient cooks" were Lamprins, Aphlhonelus, and Ealhunus, "who are often named by ancient authors." We read, too, of Fabius Milo Apecius, of Lucallus, and of the reign of Trojan. Turning to modern times we make acquaintance with Tallyrand and Hadyn the composer. As to the matter of the book, many will doubtless be interested to learn that the Queen of Italy is fond of cakes fried in oil, and that "our own dear Queen loves porridge;" and such and other equally valuable lore it offers in abundance." -- Guardian. 13 April 1898. Page 562.


"THE HOUSEWIFE'S REFEREE." Housewife's Referee,'' by Mrs. De Salis is a treatise on culinary and household subjects " (Hutchinson). As an instance of the ignorance of so many gentlewomen of the cuisine, Mrs. De Salis says : "I was present at a lecture a short time since at one of the recent cookery exhibitions where Miss Young was teaching pastry-making, when a lady among the audience asked, "Must we put our bare hands into the dough ? " Certainly," replied the teacher, "you cannot make it otherwise." "Oh, then," remarked the questioner, "perhaps that is the reason why I failed when I made my last tart; my gloves did seem in the way.'' The work contains a great many useful household hints, as well as a large number of recipes." -- Westminster Budget. London. 30 September 1898. Page 22.

Acknowlegements