A Cecil Beaton Book Cover for a 1928 Book, "When The Cook is Away"

A very rare example of a 1928 book just arrived. It was written by my grandmother and is complete with an intriguing piece of cover art by Cecil Beaton, the first copy of the book with this cover I have come across.

Doris Ives Smith (1888-1951) was a writer, using the name Catherine Ives. In addition to many magazine articles she wrote two well-known cookery books, of which this one, "When The Cook Is Away," was the first.

Cecil Beaton cover of the 1928 first edition of "When The Cook Is Away"

"When The Cook Is Away," published in 1928, was ".. intended to come to the rescue of people whose kitchens have been deprived of their cooks and who know nothing about cooking themselves." The original design for the book cover, by Cecil Beaton, was auctioned in 2006. After my own heart, wine features as an ingredient in many of the recipes.

"Good Meals For Hard Times" was published in 1940, with an emphasis on economy and cheerfulness. She wrote, "Some of the dishes which are still favourites in my own household made their first appearance there during the last war." Rationing had just begun and, she wrote, "no one knows yet how many foodstuffs may have to be rationed or what the amount of those rations may be."

Doris took inspiration for her future books from reading "Home cookery in Wartime" by E. Oldmeadows (1915). In Jan Gordon's diary for 1917 (copy shared with W.D.A. Smith by K Bryant), written during a visit by the Gordons to the Smiths' Itchenor cottage, is the following: “Jo has been for several days immersed in a book called Home cookery in Wartime, by a man named Oldmeadows. He is a queer character and keeps a wine shop opposite the Rendez-Vous. Ashley knows him quite well. The book is excellently written and most amusing. He is greatly satirical about English cooking, and makes this book (so Jo says) as interesting as a novel, he makes cooking seem exciting."

Jan and Cora Gordon had become friends with Doris and Ashley Smith in the years during and following the First World War and Jan Gordon's book "Modern French Painters" was dedicated to Doris and Ashley. Their children (Pamela and William, later Denis) and home appear in a number of works of art.

I do not know how Cecil Beaton came to be the designer of the book cover. He was a 24 year old budding photographer at the time. Beaton designed a number of other book covers, often for his own books.

Doris came from a famous line of mining engineers, including the Westgarth Forster (1772-1835) who wrote "A Treatise on a Section of the Strata from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to the Mountain of Cross Fell in Cumberland." Her father, Thomas Forster Brown, and brothers Westgarth and Edward Otto were also mining engineers. Her father was born in Garrigill in Cumbria and died at Richmond, Yorkshire, on October 23, 1907, at the age of seventy-three, a year before his daughter met her future husband Ashley Smith (my grandfather). According to Ashley, Doris told him that “had we met we should have had one blazing row and then become the best of friends. I think she was right from all that I have heard about him.”

All in all, a very satisfying object, a connection to the world of my grandparents in that interwar period with its changes in the social fabric, and also a fine connection to the art of Cecil Beaton.


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