Rundell, Maria Eliza (DNB00)

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RUNDELL, Mrs. MARIA ELIZA (1745–1828), writer on cookery, born in 1745, was only child of Abel Johnstone Ketelby of Ludlow, Shropshire. She married Thomas Rundell, partner of the eminent firm of Rundell & Bridges, silversmiths and jewellers, which was long established on Ludgate Hill, London. The firm supplied snuff-boxes to the value of 8,205l. 15s. to foreign ministers at the coronation of George IV (Gent. Mag. 1823, ii. 77).

While living at Swansea in 1806 Mrs. Rundell collected various recipes for cookery and suggestions for household management for the use of her married daughters. She sent the manuscript to the publisher, John Murray (1778–1843) [q. v.], of whose family she was an old friend. He suggested the title ‘Domestic Cookery,’ had the work carefully revised by competent editors, among whom was Dr. Charles Taylor, of the Society of Arts, and added engravings. It was published as ‘A New System of Domestic Cookery’ in 1808, and had an immense success. From five to ten thousand copies were long printed yearly. It became one of Murray's most valuable properties, and in 1812, when he bought the lease of the house in Albemarle Street, part of the surety consisted of the copyright of the ‘Domestic Cookery.’ As the earliest manual of household management with any pretensions to completeness, it called forth many imitations.

In 1808 Murray presented Mrs. Rundell with 150l. She replied, ‘I never had the smallest idea of any return for what I considered a free gift to one whom I had long regarded as my friend.’ In acknowledging a copy of the second edition, Mrs. Rundell begged Murray not to think of remunerating her further, and in the preface to the edition of 1810 she expressly stated that she would receive no emolument. But in 1814 Mrs. Rundell accused Murray of neglecting the book and of hindering its sale. After obtaining an injunction in the vice-chancellor's court to restrain Murray from republishing the book, she in 1821 placed an improved version of it in the hands of Messrs. Longman for publication. Murray retaliated by obtaining an injunction from the lord chancellor to prevent Mrs. Rundell from publishing the book with any of his additions and embellishments. On 3 Nov. the lord chancellor dissolved the injunction against Murray, but gave right to neither party, declaring that a court of law and not a court of equity must decide between them (Gent. Mag. 1821, ii. 465). After long delay, Mrs. Rundell accepted Murray's offer of 1,000l. in full discharge of all claims, together with a similar sum to defray her costs and expenses (cf. Moore, Memoirs, v. 118, 119). The book was translated into German in 1841; the sixty-fifth English edition appeared in the same year.

Mrs. Rundell died, aged 83, at Lausanne on 16 Dec. 1828. Her husband predeceased her. Other books by Mrs. Rundell are: 1. ‘Domestic Happiness,’ 1806. 2. ‘Letters addressed to Two Absent Daughters,’ 1814.

[Gent. Mag. 1829, i. 94; Allibone's Dict. ii. 1890; Smiles's Memoirs of John Murray, i. 90 et passim, ii. 120–5.]

E. L.