Sunday, November 28, 2010

Literature to a Tea

The New Yorker's Book Bench takes a little tour of tea.

From the piece...

Wainwright is being cheeky, but you don’t have to share Rudyard Kipling’s imperialist zeal to realize that without the tea plantations in India and Sri Lanka, Romantic and Victorian literature as we know it would all but cease to exist. Do you have favorite tea scenes in the novels by Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, or the Brontë sisters? We started to make a list, only to find that tea is everywhere. Which important plot twists don’t involve tea? At teatime, would-be lovers exchange longing glances; mothers choose suitors for their daughters; and rivals trade veiled insults in polite, singsong tones.

In fact, there’s so much tea in Austen’s fiction, for instance, that Kim Wilson thought to write a book on the subject, complete with nineteenth-century recipes, quotes from the novels, and anecdotes from Austen’s life. Wilson writes:

At the center of almost every social situation in her novels one finds—tea. In “Emma,” does Miss Bates drink coffee? Of course not: “No coffee, I thank you, for me—never take coffee—a little tea if you please.” In “Sense and Sensibility,” what is everyone drinking when Elinor notices Edward’s mysterious ring set with a lock of hair? Tea, of course. And in “Pride and Prejudice,” what is one of the supreme honors Mr. Collins can envision Lady Catherine bestowing on Elizabeth Bennet and her friends? Why, drinking tea with her, naturally.

Wilson also gleans from Austen’s letters that the author herself frequented the Twinings warehouse to replenish her own supply of tea.

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