Country Life’s top ten parties in literature

Jane Austen wasn’t a great one for festivities. ‘We are to have a tiny party here tonight,’ she wrote wearily to her elder sister, Cassandra, in May 1801. ‘I hate tiny parties, they force one into a constant state of exertion.’ But the heroes and heroines she created seem to spend the vast majority of their time eating, drinking and making merry- think of Emma Woodhouse holding court on Box Hill or Fanny Price tripping giddily upstairs to bed at 3am after her first ball in Mansfield Park.

It seems ironic that writers, generally reclusive creatures, are so often at their best when depicting noisy gatherings. From Mrs Hunter’s lavish fancy-dress breakfast in The Pickwick Papers to Macbeth’s ill-fated feast, parties make for some of the most memorable moments in literature. Earlier this year, A Curious Invitation, a compendium of them, was published. In response, this week Country Life picks 10 of our favourites, thrown by characters ranging from Mr Bingley to the mad March Hare. We hope they will act as an inspiration-or a gentle warning-for hosts at this sociable time of year.

‘A Curious Invitation: The Forty Greatest Parties in Literature’ by Suzette Field is published by Picador (£14.99)

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