To celebrate the arrival of Christmas party season, we round up some of literature’s most exciting, scandalous and iconic knees-ups.
1. Jay Gatsby’s parties from The Great Gatsby
No list of literary parties would be complete without the lavish, decadent soirées thrown at Gatsby’s mansion. Although Gatsby is an elusive host, the unlimited champagne and extravagant entertainment make it the 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.
2. Bilbo Baggins' eleventy-first birthday in The Lord of the Rings
By JRR Tolkien
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 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.
3. The Mad Hatter's tea party from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
A party that sounds like it would be fun before you think too much about it. 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.
4. Satan’s spring ball from The Master and Margarita
In this Russian satire, the devil takes the human form of Professor Woland and 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.
5. The Meryton ball in Pride and Prejudice
By Jane Austen
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.’
6. Mrs Dalloway's party in Mrs Dalloway
This novel follows a day in the life of London socialite Clarissa Dalloway as she makes final preparations for a party 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.
7. Fezziwig’s Christmas party from A Christmas Carol
Fezziwig was written as miserly Ebenezer Scrooge’s opposite; kind and generous, he’s the man who trained Scrooge. The Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge to Fezziwig’s joyful Christmas party – one of Scrooge’s only happy memories – showing him how Fezziwig manages to be both a businessman and a good person.
8. The Duchess of Richmond’s ball from Vanity Fair
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.
9. Finnegan’s wake from Finnegans Wake
The eponymous Finnegan in Joyce’s 1939 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.