Jay Gatsby’s house parties

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)

No list of literary parties would be complete without the lavish, decadent soirées thrown at Gatsby’s mansion. Although the host is a tad elusive, unlimited champagne and extravagant entertainment make it the only place to be in Long Island in 1922. Literary criticism would tell us his bashes are all to do with regret and lost love, but there’s no denying how much fun it would be to attend one. 

Bilbo Baggins' eleventy-first birthday

The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien (1937)

This is the party that kicks everything off in Tolkien's epic fantasy trilogy. Bilbo throws a huge celebration to mark his eleventy-first birthday (and Frodo’s thirty-third, which falls on the same day), with three official meals and fireworks provided by the guest of honour, Gandalf. But the revelries come to an abrupt end when Bilbo puts on the One Ring during his speech and disappears in front of all his guests. Still, at least it wasn't a karaoke machine.

The Mad Hatter's tea party 

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865)

A party that sounds like it would be fun, until you arrive and realise that there are no sandwiches or cake, only tea – and you might not even get any of that. You’d also need to have a high tolerance for narcoleptic animals and the other guests’ tendency to speak in riddles, but you’d definitely leave with a good story or two.

Satan’s spring ball

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (1967)

In this Russian satire, the devil takes the human form of a man called Professor Woland who visits 1930s Moscow to wreak havoc. He organises a lavish springtime ball to welcome partygoers to hell, where the guests – all murderers in their former lives – arrive in coffins through the chimney to find champagne fountains and a jazz band with apes for musicians. On second thought we're not sure we want an invite to this one.

The Meryton ball

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)

It’s difficult to choose a favourite ball from the array featured in Austen’s novels, but the ball in Meryton, where Mr Darcy first snubs Elizabeth Bennet, is a frontrunner. When Mr Bingley chastises Darcy for not dancing, suggesting Lizzy as a potential partner, Darcy utters the immortal line: ‘She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me.’ Thankfully for both Darcy and Lizzie, there are plenty of other parties to form - let's say - a more rounded opinion of each other. 

Mrs Dalloway's evening soiree

Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf (1925)

This novel follows a day in the life of London socialite Clarissa Dalloway as she makes final preparations for a sophisticated do she is hosting that evening. Woven through her own story is that of Septimus Smith, a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. The book climaxes in the gentle success of Mrs Dalloway’s party, where characters from her past and present collide and learn of Septimus’s suicide. 

The Fezziwig work's Christmas bash

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (1843)

Full of life and joyality, Mr Fezziwig was written as the antithesis of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge. Kind and generous, he’s the man who trained the young Ebenezer before his greed took hold. On Christmas Eve the Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge back in time to Fezziwig's Christmas party, reminding Scrooge of one of his few happy memories and showing him how his old boss managed to be a successful businessman and a good person. 

The Duchess of Richmond’s ball

Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray (1848)

The Duchess of Richmond’s Ball is unique on this list in being a real-life event. Held in 1815 as a celebration for the Duke of Wellington’s officers in Brussels, it was made famous by the fact that it was where Wellington got the news that Napoleon’s forces were on the march. As a result, many of the guests ended up fighting in their evening dress. 

Finnegan’s wake

Finnegans Wake By James Joyce (1939)

The eponymous Finnegan in Joyce’s experimental novel is Dublin builder Tim Finnegan, who dies after falling off his ladder while drunk. His friends and family gather for his wake, at which Finnegan’s body is laid out with a barrel of Guinness at his head, and a bottle of whiskey at his feet. One to remember - despite the hangover. 

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