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A Necessary Luxury: Tea in Victorian England

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Tea drinking in Victorian England was a pervasive activity that, when seen through the lens of a century’s perspective, presents a unique overview of Victorian culture. Tea was a necessity and a luxury; it was seen as masculine as well as feminine; it symbolized the exotic and the domestic; and it represented both moderation and excess. Tea was flexible enough to accommoda Tea drinking in Victorian England was a pervasive activity that, when seen through the lens of a century’s perspective, presents a unique overview of Victorian culture. Tea was a necessity and a luxury; it was seen as masculine as well as feminine; it symbolized the exotic and the domestic; and it represented both moderation and excess. Tea was flexible enough to accommodate and to mark subtle differences in social status, to mediate these differences between individuals, and to serve as a shared cultural symbol within England. In A Necessary Luxury: Tea in Victorian England, Julie E. Fromer analyzes tea histories, advertisements, and nine Victorian novels, including Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Wuthering Heights, and Portrait of a Lady. Fromer demonstrates how tea functions within the literature as an arbiter of taste and middle-class respectability, aiding in the determination of class status and moral position. She reveals the way in which social identity and character are inextricably connected in Victorian ideology as seen through the ritual of tea. Drawing from the fields of literary studies, cultural studies, history, and anthropology, A Necessary Luxury offers in-depth analysis of both visual and textual representations of the commodity and the ritual that was tea in nineteenth-century England.


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Tea drinking in Victorian England was a pervasive activity that, when seen through the lens of a century’s perspective, presents a unique overview of Victorian culture. Tea was a necessity and a luxury; it was seen as masculine as well as feminine; it symbolized the exotic and the domestic; and it represented both moderation and excess. Tea was flexible enough to accommoda Tea drinking in Victorian England was a pervasive activity that, when seen through the lens of a century’s perspective, presents a unique overview of Victorian culture. Tea was a necessity and a luxury; it was seen as masculine as well as feminine; it symbolized the exotic and the domestic; and it represented both moderation and excess. Tea was flexible enough to accommodate and to mark subtle differences in social status, to mediate these differences between individuals, and to serve as a shared cultural symbol within England. In A Necessary Luxury: Tea in Victorian England, Julie E. Fromer analyzes tea histories, advertisements, and nine Victorian novels, including Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Wuthering Heights, and Portrait of a Lady. Fromer demonstrates how tea functions within the literature as an arbiter of taste and middle-class respectability, aiding in the determination of class status and moral position. She reveals the way in which social identity and character are inextricably connected in Victorian ideology as seen through the ritual of tea. Drawing from the fields of literary studies, cultural studies, history, and anthropology, A Necessary Luxury offers in-depth analysis of both visual and textual representations of the commodity and the ritual that was tea in nineteenth-century England.

31 review for A Necessary Luxury: Tea in Victorian England

  1. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    Far too repetitive: yet managed to leave out many key socioeconomic class aspects of tea drinking of the period; left out Ireland completely from the history, and did not pay enough attention to differences in how tea was actually used in the period. Nevertheless a few gems of history and literary analysis to be had. It was frustrating in what it lacked, unfortunately.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    What a wonderful story of tea in Victorian British literature. It gives history and then refers to 9 novels and how tea drinking expresses the mores of society during that time.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Julia Verbanic

  4. 4 out of 5

    Pascale

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Jay Ray

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kathrine

  8. 5 out of 5

    Liz

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sally Boyington

  10. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn

  11. 4 out of 5

    Alix

  12. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

  13. 4 out of 5

    Anjali Malhotra

  14. 4 out of 5

    Madeline

  15. 5 out of 5

    Julie

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mattias

  17. 4 out of 5

    Oisín

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ann

  19. 5 out of 5

    MadameNovelist

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jbondandrews

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jacqueline White

  22. 4 out of 5

    Deemstering

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kate

  24. 5 out of 5

    Gaurav Sarma

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

  26. 4 out of 5

    Telamonides

  27. 5 out of 5

    Navi

  28. 4 out of 5

    Prema Arasu

  29. 5 out of 5

    sha

  30. 4 out of 5

    Courteney

  31. 5 out of 5

    Liz

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