Beautiful For Ever
MADAME RACHEL OF BOND STREET,
COSMETICIAN, CON-ARTIST AND BLACKMAILER
UK: Long Barn Books hardback 2010 Vintage paperback May 2011
Madame Rachel had everything a Mayfair address, the title of ‘purveyor to Her Majesty the Queen’, and a catalogue of exotic creams and potions. Her clientele were aristocratic, rich, and most importantly, gullible.
They came in their droves to her shop in New Bond Street, lured by the promise of eternal beauty, but what they found there was something far darker – a con-woman and fraudster who made a career out of lies, treachery,
and the false hopes of her victims.
Beautiful for Ever is the true story of a woman who found both fame and infamy peddling products which claimed almost magical powers of ‘restoration and preservation’.
From the mysterious origins of the woman known as Madame Rachel, through the teeming markets, filthy prisons and high society drawing rooms of Victorian London, it has all the elements of a thrillingly scandalous tale - blackmail, fraud, and high-profile trials; stolen names and false promises; love affairs, suicide and bankruptcy. And at the centre of it all, the domineering figure of Madame Rachel herself.
In its description of the growth of the Victorian cosmetics industry, the book presents fascinating parallels with the modern-day beauty business in this story of reinvention, transformation and the eternal quest of women to
be Beautiful for Ever.
Susan Hill, who has signed the book for her own imprint Long Barn Books says: ‘This is the most amazing story, a mystery, a psychological study, an insight into a fascinating aspect of Victorian high society, full of intrigue and a riveting portrait of the rise and fall of an extraordinary con-woman. Helen Rappaport is a wonderful writer with the rare ability to bring social history vividly and excitingly alive.’
As Helen Rappaport’s admirable book makes clear, the desire to be ‘beautiful for ever’ is eternal in women.… Madame Rachel’s story, which has been superbly researched by Rappaport, is intriguing in itself [and] sheds a fascinating light on the ladies of Victorian society.
A remarkable story...Rappaport handles her scandalous Victorian melodrama with energy and aplomb, and produces a richly entertaining portrait of the seamy side of 19th century society.
For my illustrated article on Beautiful For Ever in
You Magazine of the Mail on Sunday go to
To hear a podcast of my talk on
Beautiful For Ever at the
National Archives, Kew,
[Beautiful For Ever] is, blissfully, proof that there is still simply nothing quite like a good Victorian scandal. Rappaport excels again in this thoroughly researched account of Madame Rachel. … this is a well-paced read that tells us something about the modern obsession with appearance while remaining deliciously Victorian at its core.’
Waterstones’ Books Quarterly
A cracking book … immaculately researched and immensely entertaining too. .. A genuine pleasure to read.
British Beauty Blogger
An excellent biography … Rappaport has brought together a variety of resources detailing Madame Rachel’s extraordinary career .. The story is told compellingly, with clear but unobtrusive historical context.
Victorian Geek blog
Rappaport’s fabulous new book has all the hallmarks of a Victorian novel …and should ensure that Madame Rachel finally receives the immortality she deserves. .. This is definitely the best history book you will read all year.
Writing Women’s History blog
Well researched, historic, and a gripping account of Madame Rachel of Bond Street. This book has been very well written, with very vivid details of the Victorian era. Sherlock Holmes crossed with modern Botox of today.
Book of the Month, Sheer Luxe blog
A perfect companion work to [The Suspicions of Mr] Whicher, and of particular interest to lovers of Victorian crime. … There is clearly an impressive amount of research behind this book - records have been unearthed that have remained hidden or buried for decades. The sheer quantity of references … pay homage to the work done by Helen Rappaport. It's a real page turner.
At Night My Little Lamp and Book blog
A fascinating biography of a forgotten Victorian woman who caused quite the scandal in her day. Seek this out if you like to read your history off the beaten track.
Beautiful For Ever is one of those un-put-downable surprises that makes reading worthwhile. Helen Rappaport has dug into Victorian court reporting and unearthed a great anti-hero in Madame Rachel, aka Sarah Rachel Levison
The Big Issue
'A simply fascinating story, I would say a Rattling Good Yarn, except that it is true. … Helen Rappaport's research is impeccable and there is an integrity about her writing which I find admirable, her style is impeccable and she takes the reader along on a journey with her, fascinated and interested until we reach the end.
Random Jottings of a Book Lover
WRITER HISTORIAN RUSSIANIST
A wickedly dramatic read.
Speaks volumes about vanity and Victorian attitudes to women.
Beautiful For Ever
Selected as one of the Independent's 50
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