Women’s History Month, Part 14: Eliza Leslie (1787-1858)

This week, we’re looking at the life and books of Eliza Leslie (1787-1858). Eliza Leslie was born in Philadelphia and most of her books were published there (or in New England). She spent the first 12 years of her life living abroad in England. After the family returned to the United States, for financial reasons, her mother opened a boarding house (and we can speculate about what influence that may have had on her future written works). She eventually began publishing stories in children’s and women’s magazines. It wasn’t until around the age of 40, however, that she published her first cookbook: Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats (1828). She did not publish under her own name. Rather, the title page of Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats reads “By a Lady.” Later editions and at least one publication would use this moniker. Another variation was “By a Lady of Philadelphia.” Eventually, though, she used her own name, often branding her books (as we’ve seen with other authors) by including her name in the title, as with Miss Leslie’s new Cookery Book (1857), Miss Leslie’s Behaviour Book: A Guide and Manual for Ladies (1859), and Miss Leslie’s Lady’s New Receipt Book (1850). She died in 1858, and she was writing and publishing right up until then (Miss Leslie’s Behaviour Book: A Guide and Manual for Ladies appears to be a posthumous guide).

There is a brief, but good, biography of her (to which I am indebted) from the Library Company of Philadelphia that includes a portrait of Eliza. Many editions of her books (culinary, household, gift books, and novels) are available online through projects like the Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg, HathiTrust Digital Library, and many other sources. I’ve also scanned some pages from a few items in our collection (two are a bit too fragile for the scanners).

Bibliography of Eliza Leslie Publications at the University Libraries (items in bold are in Special Collections; items underlined are in Newman Library):

  • Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats. Boston : Munroe & Francis, [1829?].
  • Pencil Sketches, or, Outlines of Characters and Manners. Philadelphia : Carey, Lea & Blanchard, 1833.
  • Laura Lovel: A Sketch, for Ladies Only. Lowell: Franklin Bookstore, 1834.
  • Pencil Sketches, or, Outlines of Characters and Manners. Philadelphia : Carey, Lea & Blanchard, 1835.
  • Pencil Sketches, or, Outlines of Characters and Manners. Philadelphia : Carey, Lea & Blanchard, 1837.
  • Althea Vernon, or, the Embroidered Handkerchief: To Which is added, Henrietta Harrison, or, The Blue Cotton Umbrella. Philadelphia : Lea & Blanchard, 1838.
  • The Violet: A Christmas and New Year’s Gift, or Birth-day Present. Philadelphia: E.L. Carey & A. Hart, 1838.
  • The House Book: or, A Manual of Domestic Economy for Town and Country. Philadelphia : Carey & Hart, 1841.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Woodbridge: with other Tales, Representing Life as It Is and Intended to Show What It Should Be. Providence : Isaac H. Cady, 1841.
  • Mrs. Washington Potts, and Mr. Smith: Tales. Philadelphia : Lea and Blanchard, 1843.
  • Leonilla Lynmore and Mr. and Mrs. Woodbridge, or, A Lesson for Young Wives: Also, Dudley Villiers. Philadelphia : Carey and Hart, 1847.
  • Kitty’s Relations: and Other Pencil Sketches. Philadelphia : Carey and Hart, 1848.
  • Amelia, or, A Young Lady’s Vicissitudes: A Novel. Philadelphia : Carey and Hart, 1848.
  • Directory for Cookery, in Its Various Branches. Philadelphia : Henry Carey Baird, 1851. 40th edition.
  • New Receipts for Cooking: Comprising All the New and Approved Methods for Preparing All Kinds of Soups, Fish, Oysters…with Lists of Articles in Season Suited to Go Together for Breakfasts, Dinners, and Suppers…and Much Useful and Valuable Information on All Subjects Whatever Connected with General Housewifery. Philadelphia : T.B. Peterson, [c1854].
  • The American Family Cook Book: Containing Receipts for Cooking Every Kind of Meat, Fist, and Fowl, and Making Soups, Gravies, and Pastry, Preserves and Essences; with a Complete System of Confectionery, and Rules for Carving; and also Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats. Boston : Higgins, Bradley & Dayton, 1858.
  • Directory for Cookery, in Its Various Branches. New York, Arno Press, 1973. (reprint of 1848 edition)
  • Corn Meal Cookery: A Collection of Heirloom Corn Meal Recipes Dating from 1846. Hamilton, Ohio : Lawrence D. Burns, Simon Pure Enterprises, c1998.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a single good bibliography of all of Leslie’s works that I was able to locate (there is a partial one on Wikipedia). [Perhaps one of these days I’ll finally get around to doing some Wikipedia edits and tackle the challenge!] But we do know that she wrote a great deal in culinary/household management, in what we might consider children’s literature for girls and young women (in so much as some of her stories were filled with lessons and instruction) and she wrote and edited for a variety of gift books. In other words, she had plenty of good advice to share. Next week, we’ll look at another women who wrote for the home and for children (so, Eliza makes a great transition)–Lydia Maria Childs. See you then!

 

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