The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in
the traditional novel format, Mrs Dalloway captures the ebb and flow of the protagonist’s thoughts as she goes about her errands for a party she’s hosting the same evening. Set in early 20th-century London, Clarissa’s party symbolises the lifestyle of the rich and powerful and the dominant English class structure, taking place in a grand mansion full of silverware and chintz, starring splendid dresses, and comprising a guest list of nobility and the prime minister – not to mention the stressed, apprehensive hostess, who measures the success of her event based on how much her guests interact. As the protagonist says, what is a party but an excuse to mingle?
The Duchess of Richmond’s ball in
William Thackeray’s cutting satire on early 19th-century Britain is part-fiction and partly based on reality. This literary ball sees him borrow freely from a real one hosted by the Duchess of Richmond on June 15, 1815 in Brussels. The actual event has garnered legendary status after guests abandoned the party at the height of its revelry when Napoleon Bonaparte’s army invaded the city.
Thackeray deftly weaves in social commentary under the veil of the ball, exposing guests’ hypocrisy and ulterior motives. The protagonist, Becky Sharpe, has all eyes on her, but doesn’t mask her cruelty when she criticises her best friend Amelia. When the men leave for war, characters like George Osborne change for the better almost immediately, emphasising the atmosphere of recklessness and false bravado a party can create. The propriety of formal tea parties is turned on its head as Alice sits down to tea, butter and bread with a dormouse, a March hare and a mad, mad hatter inWonderland, where it’s always tea-time.
What ensues is the most ridiculous tea party in literature. Lewis Carroll’s genius as a writer and satirist is evident in how he takes conventional tea-party conversation and spins it into fabulous nonsense, revealing the ultimate absurdity of traditional society formalities.
The second Mrs De Winter’s Costume Ball in
After all the guests have arrived the protagonist only known as the second Mrs De Winter makes her grand entrance down the staircase in a ‘surprise’ costume, which the housekeeper (also the villain) Mrs Danvers helped her to select. But in the vein of gothic novels, there is disaster ahead in Daphne Du Maurier’s 1938 classic.
Mrs De Winter’s dress turns out to be an exact replica of what the late Mrs De Winters, Rebecca, wore the previous year. The costume is a catastrophe and upsets Maxim De Winter at the memory of his late wife – all part of Mrs Danvers’ cruel plan to torture the new Mrs De Winter psychologically into leaving Manderley.
The lesson? Choose your own fancy dress costume and it should all be fine.
by The Swingle Singers 5. Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast
by André Previn 6. Haydn’s Heiligmesse by
Richard Hickox 7. Handel’s Dixit Dominus by
John Eliot Gardiner 8. Harris’ Faire is the Heaven
by St George’s Chapel Choir 9. Tallis’ Spem in alium by
Jeremy Summerly 10. Vaughan Williams: Dona Nobis
Pacem by Brian Rayner Cook What’s your favourite kind of music? I love music from the late Baroque era for its elegance, lively rhythm and complex harmony within the confines of the fairly rigid structures of the day. Which singers do you admire? English tenor Ian Bostridge. He is very intelligent and has a beautiful, light tone. He has made some definitive recordings of Britten and Schubert songs. What’s your all-time favourite song? Gloria from Bach’s Mass in B minor. I defy anyone listening to this to feel anything but exuberant and optimistic. If you are feeling low, it is guaranteed to lift your spirits.