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It Is A Truth Universally Acknowledged That Jane Austen Pairs Well With Tea

Pinkies up, Janeites! We mark the bicentennial of Austen's death with a look at her relationship with a beloved cuppa.
Pinkies up, Janeites! We mark the bicentennial of Austen's death with a look at her relationship with a beloved cuppa. Source: Shelby Knowles/NPR

In an essay on Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf observed, "Of all great writers she is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness."

To that double-edged and astute assessment, one can add, she is also the most difficult to catch in the act of tea-time.

This observation might seem irksomely contrarian to the legions of Janeites in hats and bonnets gathered around tea and scones to pay fealty to the novelist on the bicentenary of her death, which falls today.

'Jane Austen and tea' is after all, a comely capitalist hustle that has spawned a cottage industry of crockery, tea towels, tea bags, tea rooms and boutique brews named Dashing Willoughby, and, in a nice comic touch,. Austen would have been especially amused by the latter – her mother, a vigorous hypochondriac who lived to the ripe age of 88, was constantly sipping on dandelion tea to soothe her mysterious "bilious complaint."

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