Thursday, March 27, 2008

Tea with Oscar Wilde

This is Week 2 of the Gracious Hospital-i-Tea Blog-a-Thon. The theme is Litera-Tea. Briefly, our mandate is to “Share tea from the perspective of literature.”

I’ve chosen Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest as my literary offering as his comic criticism is superb.

The Importance of Being Earnest and Other Plays (Penguin Classics)

The play is a spoof on the notion of status and class—of much import during the Victorian era. Each character pretends to be something he or she is not which adds another witty element.

How does this relate to tea? Tea was a social more during the late 1800s in England and widely available to everyone, regardless of societal position. Tea was a featured subject in numerous articles and how-to guides at the time. And within Wilde’s play are three brilliant tea scenes which provide wonderful fodder for parody.

Source: Mary Cassatt, Afternoon Tea Party, 1890–1891, National Gallery of Art, Chester Dale Collection. The History Project, University of California, Davis

For example, in the first tea scene, you are what you eat with your tea. Cucumber sandwiches or cake are considered elitist. But maybe you’d rather have simple bread-and-butter sandwiches, demonstrating a more middle-class mindset. Choosing is fraught with peril. Choose wrong and your slip is showing below your hem line, dearie.

This is an exquisitely humorous play. I do hope you read it. If you’ve read P.G. Wodehouse, this will be somewhat a familiar delight—although Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster is upper-class while Wilde makes fun of everyone.

As my own bit of comedic criticism, here is my tea vessel for today.

And I’ve made a simple bread-and-butter sandwich—but I cut off the crust.


a pink-bee said...

What fun and full of so much meaning ~ thanks :) The bread and butter looks yummy :)
Have a happy day :)

calamitykim said...

delightful post! I think I will look for it- Is it written as a play- like in acts? Last night we went to Barnes & Noble, as I was searching for a new patchwork book and I tried to find Pride & prejudice in large type because the tiny words were hurting my brain...ack!!!! I know, I'm retarded! love you, junie moon! xxxooo kim

ellen b said...

This is a wonderful post. We've just recently become Wodehouse fans. Love your bread and butter sandwich at the end...

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

I love "The Importance of Being Earnest." What a great idea to feature that play!

Rosemary said...

Very nice Junie!!

Grace Yaskovic said...

that was a fun read and I love your mug!!

The Knitting Blog by Mr Puffy the Dog said...

Very enjoyable post. I have a BBC tape of some of PG Wodehouse comic stories - too funny. Your purses are so feminine and pretty.

hunnybunny said...

I love the rebellion of cutting off the crust. For some reason it's making me really want to go to a wonderful tea house I went to in the UP. I need to find one locally and bring my girls. Lemon curd, mmm...

What a wonderful post. I'll have to add that to my future reads list. The one I hold on to for when my kids leave me alone long enough to read something larger than a Country Living or Romantic Homes Article.

Gumbo Lily said...

What if you like bread & butter sandwiches AND cucumber?

Have you seen the movie, The Importance of Being Ernest? It's really great!


Scrabblequeen said...

I need your mug!! Fun post.

Storybook Woods said...

Oh fascinating read, thank you sweetie xoxoxo Clarice

Life According to Me! said...

I just stumbled across your blog and read this post and it made me smile because I love The Importance of Being Earnest and Jeeves and Wooster, although I've only seen the movie and shows. They're fun!

La Tea Dah said...

Awww, June --- a fantastic post! Your selection of Oscar Wilde as related to tea and literature is perfect! It was meaningful, socially thought provoking, and fun as well. And you topped it all off with that delightful tea mug (Queen!) --- and a simply perfect crustless cucumber sandwich. You are a true tea lady, my dear! You've got the essence down to a "T" (pun intended! LOL!).

Thanks for sharing!

albertapostcards said...

June, I so love the diversity of your creativity.

I'll curtsy to that,

Pat said...

I love Oscar Wilde and this play was his very best satire.

I love scones with my tea --it must be the Irish in me ;-)

Hugs, pat