'Formal feeds': The Victorian dinner party
Wiener, Martin J.
Master of Arts
The Victorian dinner party mirrors the era's middle- and upper-class societies. Against a backdrop of rapid change, the firmly structured ritual brought new opportunities for social advancement, especially for the nouveaux riches. A myriad of advice manuals responded to the newcomers' need to match financial prosperity with social achievement. However, a group of critics that lamented the ritual's de-humanization, excess, and pomposity opposed these writers, public and private, who celebrated the splendor and refinement of the dinner party. The reformers' antidote was simplicity, sincerity, and enjoyment. Critics and advocates continued this debate throughout the period 1830-1885. Writers of fiction joined in the debate as they created pivotal dinner party performances. By 1885, those who argued for simplicity had been routed by champions of more relaxed but still elaborately ritualized "formal feeds."
European history; Modern history; English literature