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DA Season 6 has come to an end. Tonight we watched the opening sequence live for the last time. Isis’s tail, the approach to the Abbey, the tingling of the bells will soon fade into memory, unless we watch the repeats. Viewers hope that sequels are in the works. What will happen to Tom? What of the Crawley’s next generation of children? What of the new romances that developed just this past year? And what will happen to Downton Abbey after World War II? I am getting too far ahead!

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As Episode 9 opens, the viewers are treated to a bucolic scene of the Crawley family walking along the grounds of the Abbey as children play and Robert’s pup gambols. Edith, looking mature, mentions moving to London and taking Marigold with her. She’s single and will live alone, like the spinster she is. Since the magazine is going well (Mr. Spratt as an agony aunt is a surprise hit with viewers and Edith offers him a full page spread), her life has purpose. The viewers are cheering her on. Yes, Edith might have been an awful sister to Mary six long years ago, but Edith has grown up and learned from her heartaches. She still spars with Mary, but she’s abandoned her mean-spirited pranks. There’s simply too much on her plate these days and she’s moved on.

The Idle Husband

Meanwhile, Henry broods. He can no longer race, partly because of Mary’s concerns about possible accidents and partly because of Charlie’s death, which has taken all the fun out of driving, but he must find some way to make a good living. An idle life is just not his cup of tea. We can feel his restlessness and begin to wonder how long he can be happy living as Mary’s “kept” man.

The Ambush

Edith moves to London and meets her aunt Rosamund for dinner. At the restaurant Rosamund lead her straight to Bertie’s table and abandons her. It’s obvious he awaits her with some trepidation.

“Is this a set up?” Edith asks, looking both anxious and hopeful.

Mary tipped me off, he explains, which surprises Edith. Both are still hopelessly in love. Regardless of her feelings, nothing’s changed and Bertie broke Edith’s heart, which she won’t soon forget.

“I want you back,” he says simply. “I’ve changed.”

“What’s different?” she says without much hope. ” I still have Marigold.”

“I can’t live without you.”

Edith is still skeptical. “What are you asking?

” I want you to marry me.”

” If I agreed, would we tell your mother the truth. There are people who know the truth, are you ready for gossip?”

“The only thing I’m not ready for is a life without you.”

And just like that Edith and Bertie are an item again. She calls her father, who is ecstatic but still cautious. “Mrs. Pelham doesn’t know about Marigold.”

Cora dismisses his worry. “Edith is going to be happy, just think about that.”

The Crawleys Meet a Dragon Lady

Plans for the wedding proceed at motor car speed. The Crawleys arrive at Brancaster Castle, a sprawling building in Northumberland designed for pomp and circumstance. Along with the castle comes Mrs. Pehlam, an upright battleax who expects her son, Bertie, to LEAD BY EXAMPLE. Cousin Peter’s morality in Tangiers, of all places, was not reassuring, which means that Bertie’s conduct shall, nay, MUST be beyond reproach. It is imperative that his wife be as pure as the driven snow and as innocent …”

“Golly,” says the earl, beginning to understand that Edith’s mama-in-law-to-be might not take too kindly to a bastard step-granddaughter or the thought that Bertie’s fiancee has STRAYED outside her “pale.” Worse, the mama-in-law-to-be intends to live in a mama-in-law flat inside the castle, but, mind you, she reassures Edith, you won’t hear a peep out of me.

Edith starts to worry about Marigold and the SECRET and the fact that almost everyone at Downton knows it.

“Take a chance with a good man,” says the earl when she shares her concerns.
But Edith can’t leave well enough alone, having learned to squeeze juicy drama out of a turnip. Plus she loves and respects Bertie too much to continue the lie. And so, wishing to start her new life with a clean slate, she tells Mrs. Pelham that Marigold is her daughter, who she bore without the blessing of a husband.
The thought of a despoiled PERSON marrying her son nearly gives Mrs. Pelham an apoplectic fit. She marches over to Bertie and demands that he’ll put an end to his engagement. “She’s damaged goods. You need a wife with moral character!!!!!!!!”

Bertie’s love for Edith is too great. “I would have kept you in the dark, but Edith had the decency to tell you.” He lets his mother know in no uncertain terms that he intends to marry Edith, whether she supports his decision or not. Way to get out from under your mama’s apron strings, Bertie! Well done.

Mrs. Pelhams clamps her mouth and at dinner refuses to acknowledge Edith or the engagement. Just before Bertie takes the bull by the horns to make the announcement himself (a social faux pas), the earl reminds Mrs. Pelham that she will lose her son forever if she remains quiet. So the battleax stands up to toast her son and Edith, a tad churlishly, mind you, but the move has the whiff of morality behind it.

bertie and dragon mother
Poor Edith. God spare us all such a mama-in-law. Here she is about to wed the man of her dreams, but who has a dragon lady for a mother. The following day, however, after some reflection, Mrs. Pelham admits to one and all that by being honest, Edith was prepared to deny herself a great position. That in itself was admirable. Then everything’s settled, says Bertie, which, because this is the last episode of Downton Abbey ever, is true. From that day forward Mrs. Pelham is a changed person, and like the Grinch, her heart grew two sizes that day. One even sees her gamboling with Marigold in some future scenes.

Two Men, A Car, and No Job

Back at the Abbey, Henry Talbot is still brooding about having nothing to do. He must find a job. He’s fit. He’s handsome. He has a wonderful wife, but now it’s time for him to decide how he will spend the rest of his life. Certainly not idly. He wants to be worthy of his wife and not put her in a position of having to explain him, yet that position must be nearby.

Knowing Henry loves cars as much as he does, Tom approaches him about starting a local business. The two men talk about transportation and their mutual passion. Both are interested in taking care of their own futures without the help of the Crawleys, but what will that future look like?

Whole Lot of Shaking Going On

Meanwhile it’s become evident to Charlie and Elsie that his clumsiness and tremors are getting worse. His father and grandfather had the same condition, or the palsy, as it was known back then. Their shaky hands finished their careers. “I’m done for,” he tells Elsie, who is fully supportive and empathetic.

Charlie asks the footmen take on his duties under pretense of falling sick, but he knows it won’t be long before the earl and Mary notice. When they do, they are as concerned as Elsie and promise Carson can keep his job for as long as he is able to perform his duties. “If there are changes to be made, we must not be afraid to face them,” Mary tells him more coolly than she feels. (When it comes to Carson and her son, George, she is a fully realized human being.)

As the wedding approaches, Carson’s obviously not being himself. After he has Andrew pour the claret, the earl and Lady Mary checks up on him. Carson feels he has no option but to tender his resignation when the wedding is over.

The earl won’t hear of it. “You’ll stay on the estate, help manage the grand events!”

” I doubt that the new butler would accept the job on such terms. I know I wouldn’t.”

And that seems to be that.

Moving On Down

Thomas’s time at the Abbey is coming to an end, for he has found a job nearby. He thanks Anna, Baxter, and Andy for rescuing him and giving him some breathing space during his recovery. When he announces that he must start a day sooner than anticipated, Bates tells Thomas he wants to part as friends, instead of as enemies. Thomas’s goodbye speech to the earl is weep worthy. “I begin my new position with a new spirit. I arrived her as a boy, I leave as a man.”

“We will always be grateful to you for saving Lady Edith from the fire,” says Cora.

As usual, Carson has a gruff word, “No reason why you shouldn’t get on.”

In short order, Thomas arrives at his new employment. The contrast between the Abbey and this new home is stark – one is full of bustle, the other is as silent as a tomb with two elderly, seemingly lifeless owners. The only servants are himself, Mrs. Jenkins, and Elsie. Seeing his new situation, and knowing how much he thrives on drama, the viewers weep for our favorite under butler.

Moving on Up

Moseley’s star continues to rise and his relationship with Baxter flourishes (though they have yet to run to a darkened hallway to share a kiss – he’s too much of a gentleman, she’s too much a lady.) The schoolmaster , Mr. Dawes, would like to employ him full time. In short order he has found a cottage and announces his decision to move within the week to Charlie and Elsie. He’s not ready to cut the cord entirely, though, and offers to keep helping at Downton on the occasional time. A sullen Carson announces, “Your livery stays here.” Her hubby’s churlishness prompts Elsie to jump in and say, “That’s kind Mr. Moseley, Mr. Carson will be extremely grateful.” One suspects that the shakes are not the main reason for Carson’s foul moods these days. Change is afoot, and Charlie Carson hates change.

Dickie and Izzie

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The entire Dickie Gray saga has taken on a comic quality, with a tussle developing between Larry and Amelia Gray and Isobel Crawley over Dickie’s dying carcas. The unfortunate man has been diagnosed with pernicious anemia, a deadly disease. Before this diagnosis, the Grays couldn’t get rid of Dickie fast enough, encouraging Isobel to become nursemaid to an ailing man. Now that his demise promises to be speedy, this unsavory couple does everything within their power to keep Dickie isolated from Isobel. The brouhaha began with a letter, breaking an invitation to tea that Larry Gray had originally sent to Isobel. Matthew’s momma shares this missive with an astonished Violet. ‘Dear Mrs Crawley, Events have overtaken us and we are not now free to keep our engagement. Yours, Amelia Gray.’

“How peculiar,” says Violet, who is not against a bit of snooping to find out what’s going on.

Violet knows Isobel is in love with him, which Isobel acknowledges.

“I can’t think I turned him down. I must be mad.”

Isobel takes charge and accompanies Dickie to meet with Dr. Clarkson for a second opinion. As they leave the office, they encounter the badger Amelia standing in front of her car. She orders her chauffeur to help his lordship into the car, and rounds on Isobel, all claws out. “Leave us alone, Mrs. Crawley. Now that he will die soon, the family want to take care of Dickie.”

Knowing what she’s up against, she decides to visit Dickie to learn his opinion, but Amelia keeps Isobel waiting outside, then practically slams the door in Isobel’s face.

“Did Mrs. Gray actually throw you out?” asks Violet after Isobel relates her experience.

“He is their captive. It is all about the claims to the estate.”

” If reason fails, try force,” recommends Violet, who accompanies Isobel to confront the Grays.

As Amelia demands that they leave, Dickie spies them from the second floor. He learns that his darling Isobel has been denied entrance. His opinion of his son and daughter-in-law is withering. While he loves his son, he fails to like him.

“Take this home. May you have joy of it.”

Isobel tells him that she’ll marry him, to which her Dickie replies, “How perfectly marvelous.”

“And who can argue with that,” says Violet, pleased as punch that she finally got these two lovebirds together.

But the story of Dickie and Izzie does not stop here. At Edith’s wedding they learn from Dr. Clarkson that he has been misdiagnosed. Dickie has plain old ordinary iron deficient anemia, not the pernicious variety (as if viewers know the difference). Ah, how perfectly wonderful. Now the two old lovebirds can get on with their lives and eat iron-rich diets.

An Unlikely Pair

Some married couples spat all the time. Some unmarried couples seem like married couples because of their constangt bickering. Take Sprat and Denker, who delight in upping each other and making each others’ lives miserable. Denker is the worst culprit, but somehow the viewer sense that her challenges enliven Sprat’s days.
He is always writing and burning the candle at both ends at night, which Denker resents. By spying on him she learns his secret . He’s a butler by day and a writer by night, spilling the beans on everyone he knows.

Denker approaches Lady Violet with her knowledge, knowing that THIS TIME she will get him fired.

“Which publication employs him?” asks Violet.

“Lady Edith’s magazine, ma’am.” In a flash, Denker hands her mistress the offending article.

“All opened to the right page, I see,” says Violet.

“I suppose truth will out.” Denker is feeling triumphant and itching to see the back side of Sprat.

But Lady Violet loves Sprat’s column. She giggles and titters and laughs, and practically whoops and hollers. “Why would I dismiss him?” When Violet next sees Sprat, she tells him that she will come to him in the future for advice about her clothes and more.

Her reaction is enough to make Denker scream. (But will she ever give up trying to make trouble for him? Not likely.)

A Sisterly Love Chat

The wedding plans are proceeding rapidly. The young pair will be married at Christmas, maybe New Year’s Eve. When Edith encounters Mary for the first time since her engagement, she says, “I know you made it all happen. Why did you do it?”

” It was something Granny said.”

“You gave me my life back.”

” We’re blood, were stuck with it, so let’s try to do a little better in the future,” Mary says coolly.

This is about as warm and fuzzy as it gets between the two sisters, readers. We’ll just have to come to terms that it will never get better.

Oh, Grow Up, Already, Daisy

Daisy, if we think about it, hasn’t really changed for 6 years, except that she’s learned to cook and study, all admirable study skills that most of us acquire in our teens. This season she’s been a big pain, and so poor Daisy has been given only 90 minutes in which to change into a more mature person. Physically, she even acknowledges that she looks the same as she did 10 years ago. She keeps rebuffing Andy, feeling that she could do a lot better. “You despise anyone who thinks well of you,” says Mrs. Patmore, reminding her of her first mistaken crush, Thomas, who didn’t pan out too well. “You could do worse.”

Andy’s no fool. He asks Mrs. Patmore if he even stands a chance with Daisy. He’s tried to compliment her, but he’s at the point of giving up and leaving her alone.
When Daisy visits Mr. Mason at Yew Tree Farm, Andy is on the roof, helping the farmer with the harder tasks. “He’s a cracking lad,” says Mr. Mason. “Got him to count on.” As Daisy leaves, she looks up at Andy and his bulging biceps on the roof, with a considering look on her face. Slowly but surely, she starts to come around thinking more highly of the young footman, but he’s been burnt once too often. For now.

Daisy, aware that she’s stuck in Edwardian era land, wants to look smart for the wedding. Having seen Anna with Lady Mary’s spanking new hair dryer, she sneaks upstairs to look for it… cuts her hair…badly.

Later, in the kitchen, Mrs. Patmore grows suspicious.

“Why is your cap all pulled over your ears?” Daisy reveals her awful cut and says she is not going to the wedding.

Andy laughs. “What have you done?”

“You can laugh,” says Mr. Patmore, “but she’s made a fool of herself to please you.”
Andy looks contrite but feels all Sally Field happy inside – ‘she likes me, she really likes me!’

Anna takes pity on Daisy and cuts and styles her hair. “You look like Clara Bow,” she says. And, indeed, Daisy looks modern and fresh and mature.

Andy tells her, “Daisy, I think we have been out of step with each other. Let’s not be out of step any more.” He picks up a lock of her hair. (Cue violin music in the background, please.)

This story arc was a bit quick, but satisfying none the less. As we near the end of the last episode, almost all story threads are accounted for!

The Abbey Resplendent at Christmas

It is December 29, 1925. As the wedding approaches, Lady Rose and Mr. Atticus Aldrige arrive without their 3-month old baby daughter. And then Rose’s father, Shrimpie, arrives, sans his ex-wife, who is the actual genetic family connection. But no one likes her and no one misses her.

Moseley, true to his word, helps out the staff by working at the Abbey for the holidays. Anna is very pregnant, with her baby due in 10 days. She’s not ready for bed rest just yet and keeps plugging away at her duties. Carson mutters that in his day, ladies maids did not get pregnant, to which his bride replies that in his day maids were not allowed to get married. Get with the program, Carson! The times they are a’ changing.

During all these festivities, the writers turn to Thomas, whose job is so boring, that for entertainment he watches paint dry and spiders spin webs. He likes nothing, absolutely nothing about his position, but he has no choice. He needs to work. Thomas reminds his new employers that he will be taking a day off to attend Lady Edith’s wedding, one bright spot in his dreary existence and something to look forward to.

In fact, the writers are speeding things up, trying to tie up all loose ends.
Dickie has given his house to Larry and Amelia Gray. He is happy having done so and good riddance to the pair of them.

Henry and Tom have reinvented themselves. Eager as pups, they show Mary a surprise in town, although it takes her a moment to see a sign across the street, “Talbot and Branson Motors” , a real life business and going concern that will sell Daimlers. Henry will be at the business full time to set up a dealership for new cars. But first they have to sell the first car, which is his car, to get some capital.

mary and henry christmas

“Have I miscalculated; are you ashamed?” he asks his silent wife.

” Are you mad? I’m as proud as anyone living.” She whispers something in Henry’s ear, and he is overcome with joy.

The viewers aren’t fooled. Good old Mary is preggers. How sweet.

The couple decide not to tell the assembled guests, not wanting to take the spotlight off Edith.

All through this episode Robert has been grousing whenever Lady Cora is called away to perform her duty for the hospital. Rose, who has been at the Abbey for all of two seconds, convinces Robert to come with her to observe Cora at work. He finally sees Cora addressing the community’s concerns. Her talent for public speaking and knowledge about the hospital remind him of how ably she ran the house as a convalescent ward during the war. Finally he acquiesces and tells her how proud he is of her.

The wedding day has arrived.

Anna feels hot in the pews. Tom talks to Miss Edmonds, Edith’s editor, and the woman who attracted him at the motor car races. Daisy sits with Mr. Mason, still trying to decide whether to move in with him or not. Dickie and Shrimpie are in attendance to watch Bertie get married.

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Edith walks down the Abbey’s impressive stair towards her papa. Her gown is very pretty. She is glowing and beautiful.

“Papa, did you ever think we’d get to this day?”

Papa just can’t get over his daughter’s brilliant match. In fact, the scenes between Robert and Edith this episode have been lovely and wonderful to watch.
“I adore him,” she says simply as they walk towards the awaiting car.

This time there is no wedding interruptus for Edith. She is finally getting her happy ending.

After the service, Anna feels an upset stomach. Daisy’s finally decided to move to the farm. A happy Mr. Mason sees Beryl Patmore and tells her he wants to see more of her at the farm. She blushes. And Daisy looks on smiling. (Finally.)

Two final dramas unfold.

At the reception, Carson is unable to pour the champagne. Thomas happens to be on hand, and pours the champagne instead. The earl seizes an opportunity and offers Barrow a position as butler. Would Thomas mind if Carson stayed on as an elder statesman? Heck no. Thomas learned all he knows about butlering from Carson! Robert offers Thomas the job, which he accepts. “I don’t want to force your hand, Mr. Barrow, ” says Carson. “And I don’t want to twist your arm, Mr. Carson,” answers Thomas. Situation resolved. Everyone is happy.

When Anna returns the hair dryer to Lady Mary’s room, her water breaks. “No need to panic!” says Mary, who tends to her. Henry calls for Bates. Dr. Clarkson, wedding guest, arrives quickly, and before you know it, the Bates’s have a little Batesy boy.

The situation prompts one more outburst from Carson, “But she can’t have it now! In Lady Mary’s bedroom. Surely not!”

After the reception, as Edith and Bertie leave the Abbey, he tells her, “What a wonderful life were going to have.”

“I’ll try not to disappoint you,” she says to her new mama-in-law.

“Just love him,” is Mrs. Pelham’s answer. Talk about a complete turn of mind!

Edith throws the bouquet, which is caught by Miss Laura Edmonds, who has caught Tom’s eye. (Might there be a sequel in the future?)

The earl and Carson shake hands, grateful for their association. The guests ring in 1926 to the tune of Auld Lang Syne, and the camera pans away from Downton Abbey, bathed in snow.

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Goodbye Crawleys. Goodbye Abbey and six wonderful years of story lines. Goodbye downstairs staff. This episode, while saccharine, is so satisfying I give it 5 stars.

indianapolis operaIndianapolis Opera invites us to join them for the American Premiere of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, March 18-20, 2016. The performances will be at the Schrott Center for the Arts on the campus of Butler University. Information about tickets, showtimes and a special Jane Austen event along with accommodation information are available at this link: Mansfield Park

All the World’s A Page honors exceptional authors and their works by turning their masterpieces into posters. That’s right. An entire novel is translated onto one poster. Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is included in the collection. On the occasion of Jane Austen’s 240th birthday on December 16th, All the World’s a Page has organized a world-wide give-away to celebrate the big event. Poster Giveaway Contest Closed. Congratulations Tresha, Florence, Jill, and Angela!

jane poster

Have you ever thought of pinning “Pride and Prejudice” on the wall instead of putting it on a shelve? All the World’s A Page, a project which British designer Ian Warner brought to life, proves that it not only is possible to fit the whole world of Elizabeth Bennett onto a poster, but that the typographic setting opens up unexpected fields to grasp the literary oeuvre.

All the World is a Page invites you to experience the tentative courtship of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy in a unique way: by presenting the story in a new perspective.

All 121,932 words are reproduced as a poster on a high-quality, two-color offset print, using 150g Munken ‚Pure Rough’ paper. The result is a single-paged book, which, from a distance, appears as a homogenous grey mass, but up-close reveals its intricate structure, fibrous structure; a river of words punctuated by tiny, colored paragraph marks.

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All the World’s a Page will give away four posters to readers world wide. All you are asked to do is to answer five simple questions from the novel. The 4 winners will be drawn on March 10th, 2016. Here are the questions:

  1. How old is Elizabeth Bennet?
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Price not including packaging and shipping
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Not included in the giveaway is a Magnifying Glass (10×) for €8.50, which will aid you in reading the novel on the poster.

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Let’s cut to the chase, shall we, and not be blindsided by the numerous side trips in Episode 8 of Season 6. After this week, the creators of Downton Abbey will have one meager episode left to tie a multitude of plotlines into one neat strand. Will Episode 9 leave viewers satisfied? Is it possible? We’ll see soon. Warning: Plot spoilers. Do not proceed if you have not watched this episode.

The episode opens with the camera panning to the constable interrogating a hapless Beryl Patmore.

“Mrs. Patmore, you are the owner of a cottage on #3 on orchard lane. Among your guests was a certain Dr. Fletcher and his wife…?”

“Yes, they were my first and respectable customers.”

“Not as respectable as you think. The doctor is a mister. The wife is a missus, alright, but she’s a Mr. Dorrit’s missus.”

‘Oooooh,’ thinks Beryl, ‘that’s not good.’

“You may be called upon to testify on their ADULTERY. There is some concern that your B&B will be in the news as a house of ill repute.”

Beryl nearly faints at the thought of being known as a bawdy house madam.

In short order, a photographer stalks her at every turn to take a picture. Bookings are cancelled and business dries up. She wrings her hands with worry. What’s an honest cook to do?

Color Mary Green with Envy

At breakfast Tom and Mary discover from reading the paper that Bertie’s cousin, the 6th Marquess of Hexum, has died in Tangiers.

“Does this mean Bertie’s out of a job?” asks Mary, pretending sympathy. “Poor Edith.”

“Actually, no, it means he’s the heir,” says Tom.

Mary’s stiff upper lip drops to the carpet and her complexion turns Wicked-Witch-of-the-East green. ‘Crikey,’ she thinks. ‘Edith will outrank us all!!!! PLUS ME!!’

The news prompts the earl and his Cora to dance a little dance of joy. Their Edith is coming into her own!

Tom thinks, ‘well done, Edith. This chap is getting better by the minute.’

“So we’ll all bow and curtsy to Edith,” he says, pouring more salt into Mary’s wound.

Mary’s eyes narrow. “Well, Lord Hexam won’t want to marry her now.”

“Careful now, people might think you’re jealous, dear, and we don’t want that,” cautions her fond momma.

“If Henry was the Marques of Hexam, he’d have to beat the women off!”

“And Bertie?” asks Tom.

Mary sniffs in answer.

“Shame on you,” says Tom.

“Oh, stop lecturing me,” she says, her mind in turmoil. How has Edith managed to best her in the husband-hunting department? She clicks her pointy shoes three times, wishing Edith a speedy one-way ticket with Toto to Kansas.

Meanwhile, Edith confides to Aunt Rosamund that she’s worried Bertie will break up with her now that he’s one of the grandest men in all of England. “The engagement isn’t for sure.”

Rosamund isn’t as concerned as Edith, but she worries that her niece has yet to tell the truth about Marigold and that this secret might harm her prospects. (Cue ominous music.)

Meanwhile an ecstatic earl bounds around the Abbey like a flower girl in a field of daisies. “A genuine copper-bottomed marquess,” he sings gleefully. Who’d have thought his Edith could have pulled off such a magnificent coup!!

Mary Mopes

Mary is tres unhappy. She’s unhappy that Edith is happy while she’s unhappy. Tom, knowing her problem is her break-up with Henry, urges her to talk to the motor race driver, but she nixes the idea.

“We need to marry sensibly. Especially if were going to inherit the family show,” she sniffs.

Learning from Tom that Edith is Marigold’s mama, she wonders why he’s remained silent.

“It was not my secret to tell,” he says, unconcerned that Mary now knows the truth.

The Truth Revealed

A grieving Bertie stops by the Abbey before he travels to Tangiers for the funeral. He truly loved his cousin, who was just in his thirties and about to marry. Never in his wildest dreams did he expect to inherit the title.

“Are you here to settle things with Edith before you leave? Mary inquires.

“I think so, but I must not jump the gun,” he answers. “I have MOTHER to think of. It’s just the two of us now.”

But he has thought about his future with Edith and he confides in her that as a marquess he does not want to be disappointing. The rank carries responsibilities and he needs her help for courage.

Edith loves Bertie, but her mind is in turmoil. “Yes, no, yes,” she says, worrying about Marigold but still keeping the secret. “I think I live in a fools paradise.”

Bertie is ecstatic. “I’ll take it as a yes!”

And so Edith and Bertie have an UNDERSTANDING. (Ah, don’t you just love British stiff upper lip passion?)

Mary’s Raging Inner Bitch Unleashed

Henry Talbot, refusing to give up on Mary, drops by the Abbey unannounced.

“This is so precisely not the way to win me over,” Mary says by way of greeting.

Their remeeting has not started off well. Then, when Henry overhears Tom and Mary argue over him, he leaves, realizing the futility of winning her over, and promising himself never to darken her door again.

His departure leaves Mary in as foul a mood as she’s ever been and completely unreceptive to the happy news Bertie and Edith wish to share at breakfast. Seeing her stormy face, Edith hesitates.

“Perhaps this is not a good time?”

“Edith, if the news is good, then we are very happy for you both,” says Tom. “Aren’t we Mary?

Mary remains stone cold silent.

“See. I told you,” says Edith. “The one thing that Mary can’t bear is when things are going better for me than for her.”

“Surely, that’s not true,” says an unsuspecting Bertie.

“You don’t know her,” Edith says to Bertie and stares at her sister. “I’m getting married and you’ve lost your man and you can’t stand it.”

Mary seizes the moment to extract revenge. “You’re wrong, I’m very happy for you. And I admire you Bertie, Not every man will accept Edith’s past.”

“Mary don’t,” warns Tom.

“Well, you’ve told him,” she says looking at Edith. “You couldn’t accept him without telling him.”

“What…?” says Bertie.

“About Marigold. Who she really is,” says Mary.

Bertie stares at Edith, who sees her world tumble around her.

“Marigold is my daughter.”

“Will you excuse me?” says Bertie, leaving the table. He heads up the stairs to pack and then summon a taxi.

As he waits for his ride, he and Edith have a final conversation. It is obvious that they are madly in love with each other, but he cannot get beyond the fact that she tried to trick him. He needs trust and she didn’t trust him.

Edith watches him depart, feeling that she’s thrown all happiness away forever.

Mary’s Comeuppance

Mary receives a blistering tongue lashing from Tom. She pretends that she didn’t know Edith had not told Bertie, but he doesn’t believe her.

“Don’t lie. You got what you wanted. You can’t stop ruining things!”

“Henry was high handed and bullying when he was here. Am I expected to lower myself to his level and be grateful?” she says in defense.

“Listen to yourself. You ruined Edith’s life today. How many lives are you going to wreck just to smother you own misery?”

“I refuse to listen.”

“You’re a coward, Mary, like all bullies, you’re a coward.”

A little later, Mary visits Edith and sees that she’s packing a suitcase. “Going away?”

“Do you care?”

“Look ,I wasn’t to know you hadn’t told him. It never occurred to me.”

“Just shut up! I don’t know what’s happened. Tom has made you feel bad, or Papa, or maybe it’s the same old Mary – she wants her cake and hate me too. I know you. I know you to be a nasty, jealous, scheming bitch.”

“Listen, you pathetic…”

Edith rounds on Mary. “You’re a bitch. And not content with ruining your own life but you’re determined to ruin mine.”

“I have not ruined my life. And if Bertie is put off by that then…”

“Don’t demean yourself by trying to justify your venom. Just go!” Edith takes her luggage in hand and turns to her sister. “And you’re wrong, you know, as you so often are. Henry is perfect for you. You’re just too stupid and stuck up to see it. Still, he’s lucky enough to get away from you, which is something to give thanks about.” Having gotten her anger and frustration out, Edith leaves for London.

When, oh, when, gentle readers, shall we see our Edith happy? Like our repetantThomas, she deserves a positive turn in her life.

The Plan to Save Beryl

Beryl Patmore, needing to bury a big story with an even bigger story, is happy when the earl and Cora invite themselves over for tea to lend the place their respectability. Carson DISAPPROVES, feeling she’ll be dragging the family into the muck.

His negative attitude affects Beryl, who asks to speak to the earl and Cora.

“I know you’re planning to come over for tea, but should you? It’s my mess, why should you be caught up in it?”

“Indeed,” mutters Carson, having taken quite a few lessons in churlishness from Daisy. He tells the family that he doesn’t want to see them dragged into a local tawdry brouhaha.

“I think we have to show a little more backbone than that,” replies Robert. “Mrs. Patmore has been loyal to this house and now this house must be loyal to her. She has made a large investment in her future. We can’t let it fall away to nothing.”

Beryl is overcome with gratitude.

“Well see you on Friday,” the earl says pointedly.

Carson raises his substantial eyebrows, but says nothing until he and his Elsie are alone.

“You think I’m a curmudgeon.”

“Yes, but MY curmudgeon,” Elsie says and kisses her husband.

Premonition

Belowstairs, Thomas wanders around the halls like one of the walking dead, his face pasty and expressionless, his movements slow and automatic. He’s received a letter saying he is overqualified for a position, and he sees no way out of his predicament.

Baxter is the only one who notices his distress, but she’s about to accompany Moseley to the schoolhouse. Thinking of his first frustrating day teaching class, Moseley shares his concerns about being a teacher, telling her he feels like a fraud.

“What if they found out I was a servant in the big house?”

“Why don’t you tell them?” says Baxter sensibly.

Then Moseley shares with her something that Thomas said earlier. “He told me ‘I hope you make something more of your life than I have.’ ”

Baxter has a sudden premonition and runs back to the house. As she searches for Thomas, she enlists Andy to help her find him. Andy kicks down the locked door to the bathroom and they discover Thomas in the bathtub with both his wrists cut.

Baxter goes into crisis control to keep the incident a secret except for the most trusted servants.

Edith’s broken engagement has cast a pall on the family in the drawing room.

“Anna says Edith’s gone to London,” says Cora.

“Do we really have to go over this now?” Mary says, still stinging from Tom’s and Edith’s angry words.

Rosamund gives her an angry glare. “Yes!”

Carson enters the room with the tea tray.

“Where are the footmen?” asks the earl. Carson quietly tells him of Barrow’s suicide. “Not many know. I shall say he is ill with influenza.”

“How sad,” says Robert, truly affected by the news.

Mary comes over to pour the tea. “Do you still think dismissing Barrow was a useful saving, Papa?”

“That’s below the belt, even for you.”

For once Mary takes all the negative comments to heart and seems remorseful. “What a day. I ruined Lady Edith’s life and Barrow tried to end his.”

Yes We Have No Bananas

Meanwhile in London, Edith is preoccupied with overseeing the magazine’s operations. Miss Cassandra Jones is expected to arrive in person to discuss an increase in salary for her delightful Agony Aunt column, which has proven to be a huge success. Edith’s editor, Laura Edmunds, has asked the writer to show up in person for the salary negotiations. Laura and Edith speculate who the writer might be. What if she sends a proxy? The two women agree beforehand to use a verbal signal should the real Miss Jones show up to reveal her true writer’s colors, and settle on “bananas.”

As it turns out, to much of the viewers’ delight, an anxious Sprat shows up as Miss Jones.

Laura and Edith look at each other with gleeful expressions – “Bananas!” they cry out in unison, leaving Sprat somewhat baffled.

Corrective Action Dowager Style

The dowager returns from her travels after Tom informs her about the situation with Edith and Mary.

Granny wastes no time confronting Mary. “Why did you do it?” she asks her oldest granddaughter without accusation.

“I’m sorry now, she says coolly. “With Edith I just say things and then they can’t be unsaid.”

“You’re unhappy. That’s why you lash out.”

“Henry is well born, but he has no money, no position He’s not even a country man! He grew up in London.”

“He shoots.”

“Like every social climbing banker shoots.”

“Tom thinks you’re in love with him.”

Mary’s hackles are raised. “You of all people to talk as if his qualifications don’t matter!”

“Tony Gillingham had birth, money, looks, but he didn’t suit you. He wasn’t clever enough, wasn’t strong enough. Henry Talbot is both.”

“I can’t be a car crash widow again. I can’t have him give up his profession. He’d resent me!”

“Believe in love.”

“Oh, granny, you do surprise me.”

“First make peace with your sister, then, make peace with yourself.”

Mary is at sixes and sevens. She tells Tom she ought to be angry with him for summoning granny. He’s amazed the dowager came at all.

Mary and Henry

Mary capitulates to pressure and summons Henry Talbot, mistaking him for a whack-a-mole who keeps popping up.

“You’ve whistled and I’m here. Now what?”

She goes for a Hail Mary Pass, Mary Crawley style. “I’ve stopped fighting it. A couple should be equal in both strength and passion,” she says as cool and collected as an accountant tallying up a column of simple figures.

“Are you always so calm and rational? I do hope so. I’m blowing hot and cold, east and west, plus seltzer water bubbles, and can’t think straight for the trembling in my upper and lower extremities.”

“I tremble at the touch of your hands,” she says, her face not betraying a whit of emotion.

He touches her hand.

“Oh darling,” she says with an unvarying expression. “Now what? Elope?”

“The fact is I happen to have a marriage license in my pocket. It’s good for another few hours. Wanna get hitched?”

“What about finding a bishop?”

“My uncle’s a bishop.”

“Good old merry reliable England. What about the caterers?”

“My aunt’s a caterer.”

“Well, then, let’s get married post haste.”

“Mmm. Why not? Saturday, then?”

And so Mary and Henry plan their wedding in five easy minutes, with a bishop thrown in and all of Downton Abbey their stage.

We see Mary at her most vulnerable when she visits Matthew’s grave to talk to him.

“I love him. I believe we are right together. I so much want to feel that you’d be happy for me. Remember, no matter how much I love him, I will always love you.”

There’s not a dry eye in the PBS audience.

Edith’s Surprise

Edith arrives unexpectedly for Mary’s wedding, looking raw and sad.

“You know I’m sorry,” Mary says matter of factly. “Why are you here?”

“Because you were unhappy, so you wanted me to be unhappy too Now, you’ll be nicer—for a while.”

“Why are you here?”

“Because, one day only we will remember Sybil or Mama or Papa, or Mathew or Michael, and any of the people of our youth. Our shared memories will mean more than our mutual dislike. Matthew wanted you to be happy – he would be very pleased…You look nice, by the way.”

Hearing Edith’s words, Mary’s shriveled heart begins to grow two sizes and glow, although most of us would take bets on how long this reconciliation will last.

The viewers are next treated to one of the speediest weddings in PBS history. We get no glimpse of the wedding breakfast. Was it a sit down? Or a stand up with nibbly bits passed around?

Curious minds want to know

Crisis Averted

Having seen the honeymooning couple off for a few days of uninterrupted bliss, the earl, Cora and Rosamund set off for Beryl’s cottage to save her business. After a fancy tea with Beryl’s special scones, they emerge, looking rich and sated. The villagers gaze starstruck as if this were a red carpet event. The photographer from the Echo takes a picture, thereby saving Beryl’s reputation from notoriety.

Feeling magnanimous (and somewhat shamed), the earl and Carson agree that Thomas can stay at the Abbey for the time being until he is recovered. Carson comes as close to apologizing as he can.

“I didn’t credit him as a man with any feelings. Turns out he has a heart.”

Indeed.

Thankfully, gentle readers, this is not the last episode of the last season. If it were, we would all be up in arms. Care to guess what the future holds for the Crawleys, Talbots, Pelhams, Carsons, and Bateses? And what of Moseley and Baxter, Isobel and Dickie, Beryl and Mr. Mason, and Daisy and Andy? Will love survive? AND WHAT OF TOM? Will love come his way again?

Stay tuned.

 

Some interesting side trips

  • Moseley is coming into his own. He is giving teaching a try out for a few hours a day. The going is rough at first, with the children paying him no mind, but he takes Baxter’s advice and shares with them that he spent his life in service. His openness wins the class over, with the children becoming more receptive to his thoughts and knowledge.
  • Daisy’s churlishness has thankfully been curtailed this week. She’s passed her exams and gives Moseley a compliment about his ability as a teacher, calling him a natural.
  • Amelia Cruikshank, Larry Gray’s fiancée, has called on Isobel to urge her to attend the wedding. Isobel is wary, knowing how much Dickie’s son hates her. She resists Amelia’s advances, saying, “The ball is in Larry’s court. Only he can play it.” Viewers are beginning to wonder what Amelia’s motives are. Is she a conniver or is she sincere?

 

Caution: Spoiler Alert. Do not proceed if you have not seen this episode. The earl feels better but he is bored. He wants to visit London and see Henry Talbot in a motor race, having been invited along with the family to Brooklands.

Racing is part of who Henry is, Mary realizes. She will have to go, despite her misgivings. Could she live happily ever after with someone of such low stature?

The two elder Crawleys wonder about that too. Cora does not think that a professional driver would make her oldest daughter happy. The earl wonder at her attraction to him. “Isn’t Mary too sensible?” he asks, forgetting that he’s had the hots for is common born (albeit filthy rich) wife these 30 years.

A Curious Wedding Invitation

Meanwhile, at the dowager cottage, Violet and Isobel discuss an invitation that Isobel received to Larry Gray’s wedding.

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Violet. Photo: Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2016 for Masterpiece

“Why would you want to be there and subject you to more insults?” asks Violet.

“But who would invite me…?” asks a perplexed Isobel.

“I’d say this is the work of Miss Cruikshank. Why don’t I pay a call to her and wink out the truth!”

When Violet talks to that young lady, she sees through her in a trice. Miss Cruikshank, it turns out, wants to fob Dickie off on Isobel, who would act as an adult day care provider for an ailing man.

Lady Violet, tired of losing her battles over the hospital, has a trip planned to the south of France, unbeknownst to her family. She gives Isobel a letter to give to her son after she is gone. “How will he know to get in touch with you?” asks her bewildered friend.

“Through Tom. He is sensible,” says Violet, confident that Sybil’s very capable husband can find her in case of an emergency.

Elsie and Charlie Prepare a Nice meal

Charlie has asked Elsie to make dinner for him on their free day when the Crawleys are all in London, and so she enlists Mrs. Patmore for help.

“Does he appreciate all you do?” Daisy says, listening in.

“Does any man?” Elsie says testily.

Mrs. Patmore, wise sage that she is, has come up with a brilliant idea and schools Elsie on how to teach Charlie a lesson.

When meal preparation time approaches, Elsie has seemingly injured her hand. A thick bandage prevents her from performing normal kitchen duties, or so she says.

Charlie is not at all pleased. “How did you come to do it?” he asks, carrying a large basket laden with food.

“I must have stumbled,” she lies. “I can’t cook! Not like this. You will have to help me.”

Since Charlie’s blood sugar drops precipitously when he’s had nothing to eat, he willingly takes on the cook’s role, as well as the role of scullery maid, footman, and butler.

Elsie guides her man though the process of making a meal, step by painful step.

“Fetch the stove wood. Prep the stove. Get the chicken in the oven, wash your hands, peel the potatoes, wash your hands, prepare the apple crumble, set the table, churn the butter, wash your hands, make the sauce, check the chicken, stir the sauce, boil the potatoes, bake the crumble, thicken the sauce, heat the plates, open the wine, pour the wine, throw out the burnt sauce and make new sauce, get more wood for the stove. Oooooooooooh! Watch the chicken! Watch the potatoes!”

Three hours later, Charlie serves burnt potatoes, forgets the apple crumble, and burns his fingers. He feels a tingling in his left arm, then falls asleep at the table with nary a bite to eat. When he wakes from his stupor, Elsie asks him to soak the dishes for the time being.

“You don’t have to wash up until the morning,” she says magnanimously.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. How many of us, gentle readers, have wondered if upper level management ever truly understood the pressures their honey bee workers are under? I believe that with Mrs. P’s sage advice, Elsie has helped Charlie to discover a new respect for cook, maid, and bottle washer. I doubt he’ll give her much trouble in the future regarding nitpicky details after requesting a quiet meal in his cottage for two.

A Day at the Races

The Crawleys arrive in London for the motor races. Edith visits the staff at her magazine. Her new co-editor, Laura, a pretty woman Edith’s age, is excited about a new column submitted by a Miss Cassandra Jones. “It’s quite amusing,” she says. “We should give her a try.” Edith invites Laura to join them at Brooklands the following day.

Dinner at Aunt Rosamund’s house is not boring, especially when Henry Talbot drops in on dinner uninvited. Lady Mary finds his moves a bit obvious – which does not deter her attraction to him a bit.

downton-abbey-6x07-mary-talbot-470

Image: Nick Briggs/Carnival Films, 2016 for Masterpiece

At Brooklands, the Crawleys are enjoying the races and refreshments immensely. Laura, Edith’s co-editor, has caught Tom’s eye, and even Lady Mary is caught up with the excitement of watching a group of cars race past them in a blur. But the race seems endless.

“When will it be over?” she asks, as do the viewers, who are accustomed to better music and faster speeds.

TV-Recap-Downton-Abbey-6x07-The-Crew-at-the-race-470

Image, Nick Briggs/Carnival Film, 2016 for Masterpiece

Round and round the cars go. Round and round. And then…..a CRASH. A plume of oily smoke rises up. And then, horror.

Henry and all the bystanders rush to the accident at the opposite side of the track. Mary fights her terror, until she discovers that Charlie Rogers has died, not Henry. She feels relief, anger, and fear at the same time. While she wants to support Henry, she is unable to. Her emotions are too raw and the accident reminds her too much of the loss and grief she experienced over Mathew’s death.

During dinner at Aunt Rosamund’s, the earl, Cora, — everyone — is deathly quiet and agree that it was a bloody awful business. A short while later, Henry rings up Mary, who breaks up with him when he is at his most vulnerable. She gives him the awful news over the phone, which is akin to breaking up via text message these days.

“I need you,” he tells her.

She realizes they are not meant to be together. “Give me up,” she tells him. “I wish you nothing but good.”

Mary is sure of her decision. Tom, after learning what she has done, reminds her that being hurt is part of being alive.

A Fine Romance

Meanwhile, Edith snuggles with Bertie’s on the sofa, discussing the sad events. She has never felt so comfortable with someone, and he feels strangely happy, even on a day like this.

Edith-Bertie-2

Edith and Bertie. Nick Briggs/Carnival Film, 2016 for Masterpiece

“Is it wrong?” he asks.

“No. Today has been sad and wretched and having you here has helped me, that’s all.”

“I want to marry you,” he says, unexpectedly.

“Oh.” Edith is thrilled and delighted, and rather surprised about his proposal. “I’m not the sort of girl that men are mad about.”

“I don’t have much to offer … a penniless land agent,” he counters.

“Would you like me to bring marigold with me?” Edith ventures.

“Marigold? Your family’s ward?”

“You see, I’m much fonder of her than anyone else and I’d hate to leave her behind”.

“Of course. We’ll have children of our own.”

She tells him that she will have to think about his proposal.

“Kiss me and I promise I won’t keep you waiting too long,” she says.

And so Edith has skirted the topic of Marigold’s being her daughter once again. (Cue ominous music, please.)

Bed and Breakfast, Beryl Patmore Style

Mrs. Patmore’s bed and breakfast is coming along nicely. She has attracted her first customers, a doctor and his wife. Along with a lovely breakfast and two guest rooms, her cottage offers an indoor privy.

While Mrs. P. works at the main house, her niece, Lucy, will see to the guest house. Beryl’s goal is to have a reputation for good service and good food. In her mind, she could not have started out better as an innkeeper, even if she tried.

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Mrs. Patmore ambushed. Image by Nick Briggs/Carnival Films 2014 for Masterpiece

But the paying customers turn out to be a pair of skanks having an affair. The doctor is a mere mister and his so-called missus is another man’s missus. A photographer catches them out and the resulting publicity creates a local scandal.

In no time, Beryl’s pretty little rose covered cottage is regarded as a house of ill repute and she is gaining a reputation as the inn keeper of a tawdry bawdy house. Poor Beryl. In this instance, she can’t win for trying.

The Egyptian Connection

The Crawleys return from London downcast. They are greeted by Isobel, who hands over a letter to the earl from Violet, which tells him that his momma needed a change of air and that she’ll be traveling all over the Mediterranean. As a gesture of love, she has arranged a present for him, which Mr. Sprat has delivered.

His lordship must go below stairs, which all seems very rum to him.

“Her ladyship was most particular, my lord,” says Sprat, undeterred. “She chose the present herself.”

earl sees his dog

Robert sees the puppy

 

The moment Robert sets eyes on the yellow lab puppy, his demeanor changes.

“Ohhhhh, hello little one!” he exclaims, hugging the puppy.

He calls her Tiaa, in the grand tradition of naming all his dogs after famous Egyptians – Pharaoh, Isis, and now Tiaa (pronounced Teo.) Or, as the confusing matter stands, Tio or Tiy, another wife of Amenhotep III.

What a sweet ending to a rather sad episode. What say you, gentle readers? Can you believe we have only 2 episodes to go?

horizontal blog tour

Inquiring readers:

Jane Austen’s World blog is participating in a tour of Stephanie Barron’s new book, Jane and the Waterloo Map, wherein our favorite author turns sleuth in this Regency-era mystery. I have interviewed Stephanie Barron, author of this delightful mystery, and wished I had asked more questions!

book coverIt is November, 1815. The Battle of Waterloo has come and gone, leaving the British economy in shreds; Henry Austen, high-flying banker, is about to declare bankruptcy—dragging several of his brothers down with him. The crisis destroys Henry’s health, and Jane flies to his London bedside, believing him to be dying. While she’s there, the chaplain to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent invites Jane to tour Carlton House, the Prince’s fabulous London home. The chaplain is a fan of Jane’s books, and during the tour he suggests she dedicate her next novel—Emma—to HRH, whom she despises.

However, before she can speak to HRH, Jane stumbles upon a body—sprawled on the carpet in the Regent’s library. The dying man, Colonel MacFarland, was a cavalry hero and a friend of Wellington’s. He utters a single failing phrase: “Waterloo map” . . . and Jane is on the hunt for a treasure of incalculable value and a killer of considerable cunning…

1. Vic: Hi Stephanie, Thank you for allowing me to interview you! I have so many questions, but a limited time to talk to you. Please describe your book and tell us why readers will be intrigued with your latest mystery.

Stephanie: The thirteenth Jane Austen mystery combines a well-documented period in her life—the autumn of 1815, when she was staying with her ailing brother Henry in London and preparing Emma for publication—with the aftermath of the Battle of Waterloo in English politics and society. That November, Jane was invited to the Prince Regent’s London home, Carlton House, and asked (ordered) to dedicate Emma to the Prince. I have her stumbling over the body of a Waterloo veteran in the Carlton House library, so I think the story gets off to a great start.

2. Vic: My Janeite group loves your novels and have read your books since JANE AUSTEN AND THE UNPLEASANTNESS AT SCARGRAVE MANOR.  How did you originally come up with the idea of a Jane Austen mystery series?

Stephanie: I had studied the Napoleonic/Regency period in college, and was a lifelong reader of Austen—I began with Pride and Prejudice at age 12—but I had never thought of writing what is now called “Austenesque” fiction. At the time I wrote the first Jane mystery, I was also writing a contemporary police procedural series set on Nantucket Island under my married name, Francine Mathews. This was twenty-two years ago, during the winter of 1994. I was rereading Austen’s novels and reflecting on the richness of her language, and how difficult it was to persuade some readers to wrestle with the complexity of that language in order to experience the story. I thought it would be challenging and fun to attempt to use Austen’s distinct voice in a novel, and encourage contemporary readers to engage its complexity—by giving them a murder to solve. From that moment, I had to decide for myself if I wanted to go whole-Austen-hog and use her actual characters. But I personally think that each of us has an inner sense of her characters that we may not always like to see violated by another person’s version. So I decided instead to use Jane herself as my detective. I went to her letters, first and foremost, for a detailed record of her days—and was delighted to find that there were gaps in that record I could fill with fiction.

3. Were you surprised at how receptive readers were with the idea of Jane Austen as sleuth?

Stephanie: Yes. I was honestly afraid that the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor would be dismissed or ridiculed as either a travesty of her style or an attempt at exploitation. It was a relief when the book was generally embraced. Although I should say that I did receive a few incensed and irate letters. There will always be folks who lack a sense of humor.

4. Vic: What did you enjoy most in doing research for JANE AND THE WATERLOO MAP?

I have a deep and abiding interest in the Napoleonic Wars, dating from my first exposure to War and Peace when I was ten years old. To be able to wallow in accounts of the battle of Waterloo was quite self-indulgent. I also loved studying the old prints of Carlton House, which appears to have been an elegant and beautifully-designed place, sadly demolished only a few years after Jane saw it.

5. Vic: Tell us a little about your writing day. Are you a disciplined author or do you need to be inspired, by a deadline, for example, or a great idea?

Stephanie: I am a highly disciplined writer. It’s impossible to draft, complete, and promote twenty-six novels over twenty-three years without being disciplined, particularly if one is also raising children and dogs. I alternate work on the Jane Austen series with standalone historical espionage novels that require a totally different degree of research and construction. I frankly tell aspiring writers, however, that it is much easier to be disciplined when you have a contract from a publisher—because then the work is no longer a wistful dream, but your job, with expectations you must meet and editors you regard as your employers. I know that I have been profoundly fortunate to be able to work at home for the past two decades, on my own schedule, pursuing my cherished impulses and ideas, and yet be paid for my work.

6. Vic: Which Jane Austen novel is your favorite and why?

PersuasionStephanie: Persuasion. I regard it as the apogee of her work. Anne Elliott is the most perceptive and profound of her heroines. It’s one of the first novels in the English cannon in which a period of depression is portrayed, as well the emergence from depression and into full engagement with life—which occurs in parallel to Anne’s reviving romance with Wentworth, not as a direct result of it. It is also the most perfectly edited of Austen’s works, probably because she had grown in technique as a writer by the time she embarked on it—she was self-editing as she wrote, and the finished work is tightly plotted and beautifully honed, not a word wasted.

7. Vic: Would you like to add anything else for my readers?

Stephanie: Only that I’d love to hear from them. I can be found on the web, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

8. Vic: It’s a pleasure to chat with you, Stephanie.  I must admit that PERSUASION is also my favorite Jane Austen novel (a preference I discovered in my, ahem, mature years). My sentimental favorite shall always be PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. You were twelve when you first read the book; I was fourteen. Sigh. Good luck with JANE AND THE WATERLOO MAP, and thank you so much for these illuminating answers.
Stephanie: The pleasure was all mine!

Inquiring readers:

Click on this link to follow the blog tour from February 2, 2016 – February 22, 2016.

barronAbout the Author:

Stephanie Barron was born in Binghamton, New York, the last of six girls. She attended Princeton and Stanford Universities, where she studied history, before going on to work as an intelligence analyst at the CIA. She wrote her first book in 1992 and left the Agency a year later. Since then, she has written fifteen books. She lives and works in Denver, Colorado. Learn more about Stephanie and her books at her website, visit her on Facebook and Goodreads.

Stephanie’s Twitter handles are: @SBarronAuthor; @Soho_Press.  Her Twitter hashtags are: #WaterlooBlogTour, #JaneAusten, #HistoricalMystery, #RegencyMystery, #Reading, #AustenesqueMystery #Austenesque #Giveaway

Grand Giveaway Contest

prizes

Win One of Three Fabulous Prizes:

In celebration of the release of Jane and the Waterloo Map, Stephanie is offering a chance to win one of three prize packages filled with an amazing selection of Jane Austen-inspired gifts and books!

To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on Jane and the Waterloo Map Blog Tour starting February 02, 2016 through 11:59 pm PT, February 29, 2016. Winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments and announced on Stephanie’s website on March 3, 2016. Winners have until March 10, 2016 to claim their prize. Shipment is to US addresses. Good luck to all!

 

Spoiler Alert: Do not proceed if you have not watched this episode.

As episode six opens, Moseley is handing out tickets for a tour of the Abbey in aid of the Downton Hospital Trust. BRING ALL THE FAMILY IN A RARE OPPORTUNITY TO VIEW THE STATEROOMS OF THIS GRAND MANSION! shouts a poster affixed to the Church’s outdoor bulletin board.

Mary and Tom have come up with a brilliant idea that neither the earl nor his fond mama find appealing.

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Downton Abbey | Photographer: Nick Briggs/Carnival Films for Masterpiece

We’ve nothing to show them,” complains a grumpy earl, still abed after his vomitous projectile episode and sick of being sick. “Some dusty old portraits of relatives no one remembers … We sleep in a bed, eat at the table … What do we have to show them, except Lady Grantham knitting? They’ll do better taking the train to London and visiting the Tate.”

“People want to see a different sort of home, not the things in it. They want to see how the other half lives, where supreme calm, dignity, and propriety always reign,” says Lady Mary with a straight face.

“The Abbey is to be opened for one day for charity, nothing more,” adds Cora in a reassuring tone.

Tom says very little. He’s too busy calculating the amount the Abbey can rake in by multiplying the potential visitors, times the operating hours, times 6 d. admission per head, times the number of downstairs rooms that can be traipsed through, times the number of physically fit family members who can escort the hoi polloi at speeds calculated to make even a motor car driver like Henry Talbot dizzy. Since no member of the Crawley family has anything of historic interest to say about the Abbey, each paying customer should take no longer than 10 minutes to complete a 3-hour tour (complete with complimentary luggage and clothing for 3 years, courtesy of Madame Ginger of The Minnow Booking Agency). When Tom realizes what a treasure trove the Abbey represents, British pound signs begin to replace the pupils in his eyes.

But I digress. Let’s return to the earl’s bedroom, gentle readers, where Tom comes to himself long enough to say, “They have a curiosity about our way of life.”

Mary and Tom have made the decision,” says Cora with a finality that brooks no debate.

“I know well enough that when Mary has spoken, my opinion has little bearing on the matter. I still think it’s crackers,” Robert says peevishly.

Since his BLOODY episode at dinner, the earl’s been on a strict 500 calorie a day diet of broth and flavored gelatin. He’s hungry AND craving crackers, no doubt about it.

Two Friends Discuss Jane Austen

As an aside, conversations about visitors paying their hard-earned lucre to see an aristocratic pile of stone and its gardens are rather confusing for Jane Austen fans. It has been a grand tradition for housekeepers and butlers for centuries to show visitors around in great country estates for a moderate tip when the owners are away or at play. How else could Jane have contrived to place Elizabeth Bennet at Mr. Darcy’s great estate, Pemberley, and to have her meet him in the most embarrassing circumstances, only to discover that he’s a splendid fellow after all and that his house, reputation, and income aren’t all that shabby either? This well-known point was confirmed by Isobel, who sensibly reminds the unhappy Violet of this fact.

But why should they pay?” asks Lady Violet peevishly, “just to see an ordinary house?”

Ordinary, indeed. One wonders how our favorite dowager duchess would describe Chatsworth House or Castle Howard. She must regard her cozy dowager cottage as a mere hovel.

 

The Merge

The two hospitals will merge, as expected, and the post of president will be offered to Cora, Lady Grantham. Lady Violet will be “allowed” to step down after many years of service. Her demotion smacks of age discrimination, since, in the words of Dr. Clarkson, her once loyal ally, “She is not as young as she once was.”

Cora is gob smacked. She’s to step into her mama-in-law’s shoes and be given more responsibility! “Who will tell her?” she asks, with some trepidation, knowing it would be wiser to provoke a rabid dog than to inflame her mama-in-law.

Let’s have the hospital write her a nice letter of termination after we leave for America. We will be well out of the way by then,” Isobel says sensibly.

Cora is almost tempted. Instead, she invites her mama-in-law to a discussion in the earl’s bedchamber. Before they can inform the dowager of her reduced status, Lady Violet announces, “The patients are my priority. I shall be MAGNANIMOUS in victory.” She exits the room, not having learned of her firing.

I am woman hear me roar

I suppose you will want to accept the position,” Robert says peevishly. “I worry that this will be too much for you. You’re not like Isobel. You need your rest.”

“What do you mean?” Cora asks in too soft a voice. “I’m not old, Robert.”

“I didn’t say you were!”

“Didn’t you?”

The earl spends the next few minutes prying his foot from his mouth.

 

A Fond Sisterly Exchange, Part Two

Bertie Pelham wants to meet up here,” announces Edith.

“Is he worth it?” asks Mary.

“As opposed to your car mechanic?” asks Edith.

“Hey,” says Tom. “I’m one.”

 

Opening the Abbey’s Doors to Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves

Meanwhile, downstairs, Carson hates the idea of strangers poking and prying around the house. “What are the odds of them slipping a valuable bauble or two, or a first edition, in their back pockets?” he asks, which causes Bates to worry that he or Anna could be charged with theft should an unscrupulous visitor lift a few priceless items, what with their bad luck and all. The constable’s always breathing down their necks when anything of a CRIMINAL nature occurs and he’s tired of the man’s harassment.

tom and bertie

Tom and Bertie. Photographer: Nick Briggs/Carnival Films for Masterpiece

The day of the tours nears. Bertie Pelham, who has come for a visit with Edith’s family, asks sensibly, “Who knows about the history of the house?”

Only our librarian, Mr. Pattinson,” answers Edith. “But he won’t be here.”

“You’ll have to fake it,” says Bertie, less sure of their success.

“Do we need anyone knowledgeable?” asks Tom. “Can’t they just have a quick look before we push them out like cattle?”

“Not if you don’t want them to go out happy and leave what’s not theirs,” says a sensible Bertie. “We’ll have the servants sit in an inconspicuous corner to keep an eye on things.”

In due course it is decided that the public will be taken through the small library, then the big library, then through the painted room, the withdrawing room and smoking room, the great hall, in and out of the dining room, and back outside.

What about the back staircases and the gardens?” asks Bertie, who worries that the visit might be a tad rushed. And then he comes to the important question. “Who are the guides?”

“Lady Mary, Lady Edith, and Lady Grantham. I’ll sell tickets,” says Tom.

“Well, then, Lady Grantham, you and your daughters will take parties of 10 each with no more than 30 people in the house at a time,” says Bertie decisively.

“Crikey!” says Edith.

“Heavens,” says Cora.

‘Hell!’ thinks Mary.

long line

A line forms. Image by Nick Briggs/Carnival Films for Masterpiece

The day of the house tour arrives, the ticket table is placed at the front door, a long line is forming, and our aristocratic trio of ladies are ready as they will ever be. They fail miserably as docents, of course, their knowledge of the priceless paintings and artifacts in the house being a smidgen above zero. How could they have known that people of humble origins would ask such impossibly intelligent questions?

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Cora smiling instead of informing. Image by Nick Briggs/Carnival Films for Masterpiece

As a group tours through the house with Lady Cora, she quickly reveals how little she knows about the saloon.

This room was medieval,” she ventures.

“Is that why it’s called Downton Abbey?”

“I guess so.”

A visitor points to a portrait. “Who painted that?”

“I’m not sure, but…” Cora gestures vaguely around the room… “This painting and that painting, and, oh, that one over there, well, they’re quite worth looking at. Don’t you think?”

“What are those blank shields on the mantelpiece?”

Cora peers closely. “I haven’t a clue.”

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Edith reveals her ignorance. Image by Nick Briggs/Carnival Films for Masterpiece

Lady Edith is not faring much better than her momma.

Tell us about that painting,” asks one visitor.

“They’re all rather marvelous, don’t you think? Truth be told, I haven’t looked at them in years. They’re part of the background…”

“Who is the architect?”

“Sir Charles Barry. He finished the Houses of Parliament and built lots of other lovely big buildings, or so I think. Well, I’m almost sure.”

In the library, Lady Mary reassures her group that the sitter in one portrait, “…might be the son or it MIGHT be the father…”

Before Lady Mary spews more inanities, Lady Violet barges into the library, not caring that there are 30 strangers in her son’s house. “WHERE IS SHE!!!” the dowager demands, looking for the traitorous USURPER. She has just found out about her amicable discharge from the hospital board and will not wait another second to speak her mind.

Lady Mary, wishing to deflect her grandmama from saying something untoward AND have her answer a question that has her stymied, asks Violet about who founded the library.

The library was assembled by the fourth earl. He was a great reader. He was also a collector of horses and women,” she says, charging out of the room.

The visitors realize that the dowager imparted more information in three curt sentences than the ‘docents’ had in 2 ½ hours.

Meanwhile, a bored Robert, in danger or developing bedsores from lying around too long, espies a cheeky little rascal peeking around his bedroom door.

littlevisitor

Little visitor

Who are you?”

The boy looks up and around, curious. “Why is your house so big?”

Robert is taken aback. “I’m not sure really.”

“Why not buy something that’s comfortable. You must have the money,” the urchin says reasonably.

“You know how it is,” the earl sighs. “You like what you’re used to.”

Molesley appears at the doorway, sees the tyke, orders him out of the family quarters, and threatens to report him.

No,” the earl says, “he was more a philosopher than a thief.”

After Tom counts up the day’s till (minus the amount refunded to unhappy customers), he proposes that the Abbey should be opened for more tours in the future. This sets off a shrill protest among the docents, who quit en masse.

So much for family unity.

 

An Undelivered Letter

Some days later, as Mrs. Patmore tosses out some kitchen scraps, she finds a letter from Mr. Mason, which Daisy accidentally on purpose dropped in the rubbish bin.

Why is it opened?” Mrs. P. asks suspiciously, curling her nose at the odors emanating from the pages.

“I don’t know,” says Daisy, deliberately forgetting that Mr. Mason charged her to give Mrs. Patmore his missive.

“Did the letter grow legs and walk to the rubbish bin?”

“Perhaps.”

“Did it somehow open itself?”

“Maybe.”

“Pah,” says Mrs. Patmore, thinking, ‘We’ll see about this.’

When Mr. Mason drops by with a basket of fresh veggies, ostensibly to thank Mrs. Patmore, but actually to see her sweet face again, Daisy turns even more childish.

You’ve already thanked her,” she says petulantly. “Besides, why bother? Have you seen the kitchen gardens here?”

Mrs. Patmore tries to be gracious, telling Mr. Mason that his carrots are tastier, his cabbages are bigger, and his onions make her cry harder. But all he can think of is finding the fastest way out of the kitchen before the hens start fighting over the rooster.

 

Charlie Sweet Talks Elsie

brideattable

The look of love is in her eyes

Charlie would like his bride to have a talk with Mrs. Patmore about the art of making a proper cup of coffee for an occasional breakfast in their cottage, and perhaps arrange for the hall boy do some polishing and keep their home up to STANDARD.

I don’t see why not,” says Elsie, gritting her teeth.

“And you might ask one of the maids to make up our bed.”

“Is that not good enough EITHER?”

“Oh, it’s not bad, but I do like those sharp corners.”

Elsie reaches for a piece of paper. At the top of her to do list will be a visit to the parish priest about the procedures for annulling a hasty marriage.

Unaware of his beloved’s thoughts, Charlie keeps pressing the issue of dinner.

You’re not expecting a banquet, are you?” she asks suspiciously.

“No, just a delicious dinner prepared by the fair hands of my beautiful wife.”

While flattered, Elsie thinks, ‘I’m up a creek without a ladle.’

 

Flotsam and Jetsam

Thomas Barrow, meanie under butler, is trying to get back into everyone’s good graces without much success. Carson sums up Barrow’s future at Downton: 1) Lady Edith already manages without a maid, 2) probably not even one footman will be working in the Abbey in the future, and 3) Lady Mary will probably not replace Anna if she leaves. “The under butler,” he concludes, is a “post that is FRAGRANT with lost memories, unlike a butler. A house like Downton cannot be run without one.” This cheery discussion leaves Thomas even more despondent.

Mr. Moseley’s transformation from inept butler and first footman to a world class educator is almost complete. Mr. Dawes the school master, likes Moseley’s enthusiasm in helping Daisy study for her exam and wonders if he should harness his intellectual energy and take a test of general knowledge (of his own devising) at the same time that Daisy takes her test. Largely self-schooled, Moseley is unsure, but he is finally persuaded to take the test alongside Daisy. This results are so excellent that Mr. Dawes offers Mr. Moseley a teaching position. How sweet. It’s about time that our Mr. Moseley gets to shine!

Mrs. Patmore has bought a pretty little house with the money she inherited from her relative, and will transform into a bed and breakfast. She’ll continue to cook, while her niece will take over the day-to-day management of their little inn.

How will you attract lodgers?” Mrs. Hughes wonders.

Mrs. Patmore, 20th century entrepreneur, has a ready answer. “I’ve already placed an advertisement in the paper.”

“How will they contact you?”

“I’ve installed a telephone in the house,” replies our favorite cook and trail blazer.

 

Dickie, still intent on courting Isobel despite the execrable behavior of his two sons, brings a Miss Cruikshank around to meet her. This young lady is engaged to Larry Grey, the most venomous of Dickie’s boys.

I know you and Larry got off on the wrong foot,” Miss Cruikshank says sweetly.

“That’s one way of describing it,” says Isobel.

“Please know, not all of Lord Merton’s family feels the same way.”

‘Goodness,’ thinks Isobel, scrutinizing Dickie’s face for any sense of irony. ‘I might look like a gullible widow, but I wasn’t born yesterday. Something’s afoot and methinks I need to tread carefully.’

 

Back to the Newlyweds

How are we doing?” says Charlie as he waits for his meal at his cozy table in his cozy cottage for two.

Elsie, smiling, serves him smoked salmon with lemon. Only, there is no lemon. “I left two lemons at the Abbey,” she mourns.

Charlie then suggests that horseradish thinned with a little sour cream would hit the spot just fine.

“There’s none,” says Elsie sadly. She looks at her glass of … plain water. “What are we drinking with our meal?”

“What you see. His lordship cannot drink alcohol, ergo we shall not drink alcohol. Loyalty is solidarity,” he intones.

“Is that what’s making you grumpy?”

Charlie raises his impressive eyebrows. “I think not. What’s next?”

“Duck.”

“Is the skin crispy like Mrs. Patmore’s does it. Did you ask her advice?”

“We certainly talked about what it’s like to cook dinner for you,” says Elsie, handing Charlie his plate and muttering under her breath, “She thinks you’re too old to be trained as a husband.”

Charlie, having found one tiny piece of crispy skin, bites into it and fails to hear his beloved.

 

The Sisters, Their Bachelors, Their Prospects

henry and mary_6

The rain, the man, the woman

Henry Talbot has a clear notion that his prospects with Lady Mary are modest at best, but he’s not deterred. He walks her back to her place in London after an ambush dinner. The weather cooperates and they must seek shelter from a rain storm. He takes her in his arms and kisses her.

Heaven’s Mr. Talbot.”

“You’re a great catch. You’re also a woman I happen to be falling in love with. Gosh, that sounds rather feeble doesn’t it?”

“No!” she says, thinking, ‘Frankly, you had me at…”You’re the boss.” ’

“Then will you come to Brooklands to watch me motor race?”

“You must realize that Matthew died in a car crash.”

“What if I promise I won’t…”

She shushes him, saying “Love mean never making promises you can’t keep.”

Meanwhile, at the Abbey Tom mentions to Robert, Cora, and Mary how much he likes Bertie after his buffo performance as grandmaster of the house tour.

“He seems to know a lot,” agrees Cora.

“But he’s an agent,” says the earl, “stuck somewhere up in Northumberland, managing someone else’s estate.”

Mary cuts to the chase as usual. “He’s boring to an Olympic degree. Edith’s so stupid to have saddled herself with a child. Marigold is sweet, but why would any man want to take her on?”

“What are Edith’s prospects?” says Cora, concerned about her daughter’s SECRET.

“With her magazine, she could develop into one of the more interesting women of her day. And he’s a gentleman. You cannot object on that score,” says the earl, finally seeing the gold and the attraction in his middle daughter.

Cora and Robert leave, giving Tom the opportunity to talk about Henry. Mary mentions going to Brooklands to watch the motor race.

“But, the cars…!” she adds, worried.

“Could this be love,” Tom wonders aloud.

“Oh, shut up!” says Mary.

In Conclusion:

My how time flies, except when you’re writing a recap and review. Six down, three to go. And then? I’ll get to write about Jane Austen again.

What did you think of this week’s developments, dear readers? Will Henry snare Mary? Will Edith reveal to Bertie that Marigold is her daughter any time soon? Will Robert start drinking port again? And how many top Yelp reviews will Mrs. Patmore’s little inn attract?
My other Downton Abbey Season 6 Reviews:

 

 

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