The mad hatters tea party is one of the best known tea parties of all time. It is fun and silly and follows absolutely no rules.
This hap-hazard approach to dining would have been particularly shocking in the Victorian era, when the book was published, as Victorians had very strict rules around eating and manners. Children generally ate separately from the adults and had to be on their best behaviour at all times.
The Mad Hatter's tea party from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland breaks almost all of these strict Victorian dining rules. Alice sits down without being invited and the Mad Hatter sits with his elbows on top of the sleeping dormouse, both elbows on the table and sleeping at the table were considered very rude.
This image is from a book called Nursery Alice, a shortened version published in 1890 for younger children under the age of 5. The book contained 20 original illustrations from Sir John Tenniel who illustrated the original book as well. The images were beautifully coloured like this one and would have been very enchanting for young Victorian Children, much like they are for children today.
- You can learn all all about the ideas of food and drink in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland with this article from the British Library. Here you can also flick through some other illustrations from Nursery Alice and learn more about Victorian dining etiquette.
- Eating and drinking in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland From the very beginning of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, food and drink play an important role. Alice follows a white rabbit into his rabbit hole and finds herself falling down a well. Yet she still manages to snatch a jar marked ORANGE MARMALADE and is clearly disappointed when she discovers it’s empty. Wondering how long she’ll fall for, her main concern is whether the others will remember to give Dinah the cat her ‘saucer of milk at tea-time’. By far the most famous meal of Alice’s adventures, though, is the Mad Hatter’s tea party. To the modern reader, the tea party comes across as madcap chaos, with everyone arguing and changing places, a dozing dormouse, meaningless riddles, stories of three sisters living at the bottom of a treacle well and much, much silliness. In just over 2,200 words, Carroll has created a set-piece of the absurd, that’s been reinvented and recreated in everything from films to strip cartoons for each new generation
- The mad hatters tea party is one of the best known tea parties of all time. It is fun and silly and follows absolutely no rules.