Sunday, January 13, 2013

Words of Wisdom from Downton Abbey

     I know a lot of people about my age (if not my gender) are fans of Downton Abbey, which premiered season 3 last Sunday night with a two-hour special.

     I've heard some people say the show is, "Rubbish." But I disagree. It's really very good ... very good soap opera. After all, it poses lots of crucial, life-or-death questions. Will Matthew and Mary finally find happiness as husband and wife? Will Lord Grantham really lose his fortune and have to sell his estate? Could Mr. Bates possibly be his wife's killer? Does Mrs. Hughes really have cancer?

     Aside from all that, it's B's favorite TV program (well, rivaled by "Say Yes to the Dress" but we can't go there, because I promised I would never tell on her).

     But what I noticed from this latest episode is how many words of wisdom can be gleaned from a show about an old English family. And as anybody knows who read my previous post, Speaking of Cliches, I'm constantly in search of more catch phrases and old sayings.

     For example, when Anna visits the jail to see her husband, Mr. Bates, she tells him: "Just remember what my mother used to say: 'Never make an enemy by accident'."

     Later, when Mrs. Isobel Crawley contemplates living a simpler life in reduced circumstances, she reminds everyone that it takes a lot of work to keep an estate going, summarizing:  "Much cattle, much care."

     Tom Branson, the former chauffeur who's now Lady Sybil Crawley's husband, goes downstairs to say hello to the servants. He tells them: "I wouldn't want you to think I've gotten too big for my britches."

     And when maid Daisy goes into the kitchen and formally announces her protest, an outraged Mrs. Patmore responds by asking her:  "Have you swallowed a dictionary?"

     Later on Mrs. Patmore scolds Daisy, telling her, "A bad worker always blames his tools."

     The Lady Dowager Violet Crowley (played brilliantly by veteran English actress Maggie Smith), upon seeing her lavish dining room all decked out for a party, comments, "Nothing succeeds like excess." But later she warns us:  "No guest should be admitted before the date of their departure is settled."

     And as the future of the family hangs in the balance, she cautions: "Never mistake a wish for a certainty."

     One piece of advice I found particularly practical is Mrs. Patmore's reply to Mrs. Hughes, worried about the cost of medical treatment: "If you must pay money, better to a doctor than an undertaker."

     Meanwhile, it was Sir Anthony who "saved the day," while Cora advised the family not to "cast a pall over the proceedings." And -- not as any advice, but just as an amusing turn of phrase, the older Sir Anthony asks the dressed-to-impress Edith Crowley, "Have you done something jolly with your hair?"

     But as a man with two strong-willed sisters, who's had occasion to sometimes enlist the support of my brothers-in-law, I found Matthew's advice to Tom particularly relevant. Matthew turns to Tom, who's having a hard time with the family, and says: "We're brothers-in-law with high-minded wives. We'd better stick together."

     Anyway, Downton Abbey is on TV again tonight, with the second episode. I wonder how many new bits of advice I'll be showered with tonight?


rosaria williams said...

I'm enjoying the well dressed soap opera!

#1Nana said...

I haven't watched it yet. Decided I should start with the first season and I haven't gotten around to watching on Netflix yet.

Arkansas Patti said...

I have heard the raves, become intrigued and now have been recording the show. Perhaps tonight I will start my Downton journey.
Love those sayings. I am half English and was raised on most of them.

Stephen Hayes said...

Mrs. Chatterbox and I wouldn't think of missing an episode of Downton Abbey. We laughed heartily at many of the lines you've recounted. Really a great show, particularly if you have an interest in history of human nature.

Janette said...

My husband bought ME the boxed set for Christmas. Of course HE was the one who had to catch up!
We have watched all episodes in the last three days, ready, finally, for tonight's adventure.
As a history nut the series gives me pause. To think we are the ones with the corner on the market of change. Considering that what we have seen so far only covers about ten years or less. Look at the changes they lived with: rank in household service, Spanish flu, war, liberation of women--going from bustled dresses to shorter skirts, women being "forward" with men, people marrying outside of their class (and religion),automobiles, telephones. We wring our hands over the changes .
The same group went on to see man walk on the moon, women burn their bras and both jiggle to music that included words they would have never said in public. Amazing.
I have new respect for my Nana and step grandmother.

Olga said...

Who calls it rubbish?? I'll fight them!

schmidleysscribblins, said...

Downton bothers me because it glamorizes the set who brought you WWI and the deaths of millions (which led to WWII).

Virginia Woolfe and other members of the Bloomsbury Group had some pretty scathing things to say about them.

Our professor for History of England in Twentieth Century had us read poetry and books written by WWI suvivors from the upper crust (Downton types) who, like Rupert Brooks (The Soldier), and Robert Graves ('Goodbye to All That'...his leave-taking of England) were totally disillusioned with the farce of British society.

Washed up, finished. End of Empire and good riddance.

Kay Dennison said...

I don't watch much television but this sounds great!!!

Donna said...

If you are enjoying Downton Abbey, you might enjoy the book The Chronicles of Downton Abbey. It has chapters on the characters and gives background information. Also beautiful pictures. My library had it.

Tom Sightings said...

Donna -- Thanks for the tip. Dianne, I have no love of the English upper classes. But I liked The Sopranos and The Godfather, and I have no love of the Mafia either. I don't think we have to approve of a group of people and their mores and morals in order to enjoy a work of fiction about them. . . even if it glamorizes them. Agree?

Tom Sightings said...

Btw, two more gems from the Lady Dowager last night:

Regarding the wedding: "At my age, one must ration one's excitement."

And later, advice we could all do well to remember: "Vulgarity is no substitute for wit."

Barbara Torris said...

Yes, the show is like a return to a simpler time and the costuming is beautiful. WOW!


schmidleysscribblins, said...

Tom, life is too short to let some people rent space in my head. (I watched neither the Sopranos nor the Godfather, although I have gone back and watched bits of the latter in recent years...mostly to pick up a performance or two.)

Whenever I hear about the "trials and tribulations" of the gentry, I keept thinking about the working class during this period who fought and died in places like the Soamme and Gallipoli...foolish projects led by the upper class.

The Bourgeoisie in Germany brought the world the Nazis. Plenty of upscale people in England supported Hitler. I suppose you have heard of them?.

The twentieth century was awful.
As David's Dad (who fought with the White Russians during WWI) said,"The good old days weren't that good."

Living in the present moment is best.

And you know I am a historian.