Sloane St, 18th April 1811: “We drank tea again yesterday with the Tilsons, and met the Smiths. I find all these little parties very pleasant.” (Jane Austen’s letters)
Chawton, 31st May 1811: “She [Anna] had a delightful evening with the Miss Middletons — syllabub, tea, coffee, singing, dancing, a hot supper, eleven o’clock, everything that can be imagined agreeable.” (Jane Austen’s letters)
What could be more agreeable than an afternoon spent with good company in a lovely setting with tea, conversation, music and dancing! And this is precisely what I was privy to enjoy yesterday at an event sponsored jointly by the Columbia County and Clermont Historical Societies.
“Formally Invited: An Early 19th Century Tea Party” was held at the Vanderpoel House of History in Kinderhook, NY – and what a pleasant time was had by all. As I climbed into the car with two friends for the two-plus hour drive north to Kinderhook, I may have paused to wonder if it was worth going for only a two hour event and another two hour drive back; but I can state emphatically that it was well worth it.
As our trio walked up the path to the house, the door was flung open and we were met with a giddy welcome from Kristin, a young friend we had met the previous summer at another Austen-related event. So nice to be reconnected with amiable people! As others arrived, we acquainted ourselves with the lovely restored rooms of the main floor before repairing to one of the parlours for tea – a glorious spread (syllabub and all), beautifully presented and delicious too!
I had the good fortune to find a strawberry sticker on the underside of my teacup — I had won the door prize! A gift bag containing a Columbia county historical magazine; a DVD (Becoming Jane, at which I laughed as it is my least favourite period film… ever…; two canisters of tea (Clermont and Vanderpoel blends, yum); and a little zip bag printed with Pride and Prejudice dialogue – perfectly sized for a travel makeup bag.
No sooner had I exclaimed over my good fortune than the band struck up for some dancing and we moved into the second parlour. As the house, built in 1810, is still in renovation, there was no carpet in want of rolling up; all was in ready. Four musicians played dulcimers, guitars, mandolins, recorders and such as dances were called for a dozen pairs. Despite my still-rehabbing knee I joined in—I am paying for it today but how often is one afforded the opportunity for a country house impromptu dance?—it was worth it.
My thanks to the volunteers from the Columbia Country Historic Society and the Clermont Historic Society for introducing us to this lovely house and 19th century hospitality. I cannot commend you highly enough for the perfect organization and execution of this event and the warm welcome all of your guests received.
We may not have stayed until eleven o’clock for a hot supper… but in all respects, our experience was indeed “everything that can be imagined agreeable.”