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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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The third year of Downton Abbey Mania is about to commence. I am fully prepared to devote the next 7 Sundays sitting in front of PBS to join the Crawleys, their friends, and relatives and watch this high-end dramatic soap plot unfold (January 6th – February 17th).  The action has moved from the Edwardian Era and the carnage of World War I and entered the 1920s – the jazz age, the flapper age, and the first generation in which youth held sway in music, the arts, and fashion, influencing their elders in the process.

The lawn in front of Downton Abbey is getting crowded!

The lawn in front of Downton Abbey is getting crowded! Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Scores of young men are now dead and mourned in burial grounds across Europe. The young, angry at the carnage and destruction and irreplaceable loss of life and limb, turned away from their parents’ rules and adopted a looser, more flamboyant lifestyle. Women voted, drove cars, drank, had affairs, attended jazz clubs, and skirted convention.  The youth culture was in full sway, and for the first time adults began to ape their youngers.

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The Edwardian fashion silhouette included restrictive corsets, long skirts, and trussed up bosoms. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Adolescence became the new standard of beauty – youthful adolescence, or the “garconne” look. Thin was in, and the idea was to appear small bosomed, small hipped, and boyish.

The prepubescent girl look became popular, including flattened breasts and hips, and bobbed hair. Fashions turn to the “little girl look” in “little girl frocks”: curled or shingled hair, saucer eyes, the turned-up nose, bee-stung mouth, and de-emphasized eyebrows, which emphasize facial beauty. Shirt dresses have huge Peter Pan collars or floppy bow ties and are worn with ankle-strap shoes with Cuban heels and an occasional buckle. Under wear is fashionable in both light colors and black, and is decorated with flowers and butterflies. – Women’s Fashion 1920

Gabrielle Chanel, Evening Dress in Crepe Georgette with Silver Lamé Sash. France, c. 1923.

Gabrielle Chanel, Evening Dress in Crepe Georgette with Silver Lamé Sash. France, c. 1923. Image @canalblog.com

Hems rose, bras were condemned, and fabrics swayed and shimmered. Unchaperoned dates became de rigueur. And hair was worn short or bobbed.  Gone were the restrictive corsets of their mothers and grandmothers. Hemlines began to rise so that by 1924, skirts stopped at the knee (displaying the entire lower leg) and waistlines dropped below the hips.  Slits, pleats, and skirt gathers allowed for freedom of movement. Fabrics for evening wear shimmered with metallic thread, beads, and sequins. Dance clothes were made of gold lame or flowy fabrics cut on the bias. Fringes showed movement, and the craze for new dances like the Charleston and Tango, was in full swing.

Fashion silhouette for 1922

Fashion silhouette for 1922. Image @Pauline Thomas  fashion-era.com

 

How did the women of Downton Abbey fare in this new liberated age? Let’s look, shall we?

Lady Edith

First, Lady Edith, who we last saw straddling a tractor in pants and learning to drive an automobile, is still trying to find a relevant place in the world. Stuck in the middle of two beautiful sisters, she has yet to find her unique position.

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Lady Edith wears a relaxed, straightlined look popularized by Chanel. The outfit is early 1920’s, before the hemlines started to rise dramatically. Her cloche hat closely fits her head, and she wears her crimped hair short. As skirts shortened, shoes and hose began to play a more important role in fashion. Edith’s outfit is a bit clunky. Will she do better with time? Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

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Lady Edith’s dinner dress exposes her arms and much of her shoulders, but does not emphasize her waist or bosom. The rich fabric and color is typical of the 1920s. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

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The gorgeous shimmering fabric with panels hangs loosely over Lady Edith’s fit frame. Madeleine Vionnet was especially adept with the art of bias-cutting and diagonal seaming. This sleeveless dinner dress is typical of the era. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

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Close up one can see the beautiful shimmering metallic thread details. Lady Edith’s crimped hair is fashioned to look short. Note the delicate long necklace. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

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This Callot Soeurs gown reminds me of the cut of Lady Edith’s dress. You can find it on my Pinterest Board: http://pinterest.com/pin/236509417903111924/ Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Coco Chanel strongly  influenced fashion throughout the 20th century. Her dresses for working women and women on the go sported functional features and lacked superficial decorations. Her fashions were clean, sleek, and monotone. In the image below, Edith, who has found a job as a columnist, visits her editor in a practical yet fashionable gown.

Lady Edith in her work outfit, London

Lady Edith in her “little boy” work outfit, London. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Lady Mary

Unlike Lady Edith, Lady Mary has everything, including access to funds. In order to become rich, she has to look the part. It helps enormously that Lady Mary’s figure is thin, elegant, and small-bosomed. Her future assured, she spends no time worrying about the cost of her wardrobe and indulges herself royally before the wedding.

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The cloche hat, dropped waist, restrained colors, and well placed details of her day gown bespeak a quality that ready-made or homemade garments did not have. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

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Rich, lush fabric, dramatic sleeves and neckline, and black embroidered detailing. Matthew’s suits are also beginning to look more relaxed and modern. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

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An extraordinarily attractive day suit. The hat is dramatic (not cloche) and sports a feather. Note that clothes tend to be color coordinated. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

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An utterly romantic and refined outfit. Mary is elegant, and certainly not a flapper of the speak-easy kind. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

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With so many young men killed during WW I, Lady Mary is lucky to be married at all. This romantic wedding gown echoes the romanticism of the era. The tiara is an especially beautiful and authentic detail. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

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Simplicity and elegance are the hallmarks of early 1920s fashion. 1920 photograph.

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Long flowing lines and drop waist. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

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Breathtakingly gorgeous gown. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

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Mr and Mrs Matthew Crawley. Awww. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

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Wide collared coat and cloche hat. Long beaded necklaces. How very elegant and modern. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Saturday Evening Post, 1922

Saturday Evening Post, 1922

Lady Rosamund, Isobel Crawley, and Lady Rose

Aunt Rosamund

Aunt Rosamund wears a dress with asymmetrical details and loose sleeves that allow for freedom of movement. Her dress echoes that of the younger set and she has most definitely discarded her Edwardian clothes. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

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Rosamund’s 1920s gown looks downright dowdy next to Lady Rose’s youthful, modern sailor-collared dress. Her hat has more dash and elan than Edith’s simple monotone cloche. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Lily James as Lady Rose MacClare

Lady Rose is the youthful ideal. Her clothes are shorter and flowier than those of her elders. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

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Young and impetuous Lady Rose MacClare wearing a flapper dress. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (French, 1883-1971). Dress, 1925, crystal beads on silk chiffon. Collection of Phoenix Art Museum, gifts of Mrs. Wesson Seyburn. Photographs by Ken Howie.

Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel (French, 1883-1971). Dress, 1925, crystal beads on silk chiffon. Collection of Phoenix Art Museum, gifts of Mrs. Wesson Seyburn. Photographs by Ken Howie.

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While the older set, like Isobel Crawley, wore fashion influenced by the young, their outfits were decidedly conservative in comparison. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Martha Levinson

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Shirley Maclain as Martha Levinson, Cora’s American mother. Her clothes are expensive and extremely fashionable when compared to Isobel and Violet. Martha tends to overdress according to British standards. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Balenciaga Coat 1927

Balenciaga Coat 1927

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The contrast between Martha and Violet cannot be more stated than in this image. Violet wears old-fashioned clothes and a tiara that has probably been handed down for generations. Martha is a walking advertisement for nouveau clothes. Her headband is extremely fashionable and she wears an outfit dictated by the preferences of the young. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

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Martha’s jewels and headbands match each outfit. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Martha's clothes are as flamboyant as her personality

Martha’s clothes are as flamboyant as her personality. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

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This is a rather restrained look for Martha, who sports a short crimped haircut. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

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Mary, Martha, and Cora: 3 generations. The clothes are simple in this scene, and the details are exquisite. While Lady Mary’s hair is long, the hairstyle mimics a shorter bob. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Cora, Lady Grantham

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Cora strikes the right balance between current fashion and her position as countess. The earl, who values tradition, wears traditional clothes. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

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Cora in black. Fashionable, yet restrained and somber. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

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The Crawley women at Lady Mary’s wedding to Matthew. Note the elaborate hats. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

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Cora looking regal in a richly colored and detailed gown. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Ladies of the night... Maggie Smith, Elizabeth McGovern and Lily James

Characters as defined by fashion: Violet in Edwardian clothes, Cora in a conservative 1920s evening gown, and the very young racy Lady Rose in a flapper sleeveless evening gown. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Lady Sybil

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This interesting image shows the very elegant Mary standing next to Lady Sybil, whose wardrobe reflects her new status as the wife of a working man. Anna is in uniform. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

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The lines of Lady Sybil’s simple gowns remind me of Madeline Vionnet’s chiton gown.

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Early 1920s fashions were influenced by many cultures – Egypt, Greece, Japan, and Mexico.The monastic style was also fashionable. Tom Branson’s suits are ill-fitting in comparison to the earl’s and Matthew’s suits. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

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Lady Sybil’s pregnancy was easily accommodated in this loosely flowing gown. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

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Tom and Sybil spruced up for Lady Mary’s wedding to Matthew. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

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Lady Sybil’s gown is made of fabric with an exotic fabric. This was an era that harmonized art with fashion. Rayon, known as “artificial silk”, gained great popularity with the public. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Team Bates

One simply cannot ignore the servants, although a uniform is a uniform. Let’s see what else the hoi polloi wears, shall we?

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Poor unfortunate Bates. Forced to wear prison garb. Oh, woe is he. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Brendan Coyle Bates in prison

This grey ensemble does poor Bates no justice. When will he be released? Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

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Mrs. Bates in a fighting mood for her man. She will move heaven and earth to prove his innocence. Her version of 1920’s flapper style is somber indeed. Her clothes are probably homemade and sewn from a pattern. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

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With only modest resources, Anna Bates manages to look primly stylish. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

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Detective Anna Bates prying information from a reluctant witness. Her coat is conservative and long. And is she wearing clogs? Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

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Another woe is me character – Ethel. Poor poor Ethel is trying to make do in life while taking care of her bastard son Charlie. She still manages to afford a cloche hat. Ethel’s colors of choice are somber, sober, and solemn. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

Phyliis Logan as Mrs. Hughes and Lesley Nicol as Mrs. Patmore

Phyllis Logan as Mrs. Hughes and Lesley Nicol as Mrs. Patmore. Very little in their wardrobes has changed. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

For those whose interests in 1920’s fashion has reached new heights, click here to visit my Pinterest board entitled 1925: http://pinterest.com/janeaustenworld/1925/. For more about avant-garde dresses of the 20’s, google Coco Chanel, Madeleine Vionnet, Lavin (and his robes de style), Paul Poiret (who lost his leadership position in fashion during this era, but who was heavily influenced by Japanism), and Liberty and Co. of Paris and London.

Next week: My review of the first 3 hours of Season Three of Downton Abbey. PLEASE, in your comments do not reveal spoilers. We in the U.S. have not yet seen the series. Thank you!

More on the topic. 

Images courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for MASTERPIECE

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When Upstairs Downstairs was not included in last spring’s Masterpiece Classic line up I worried that we would not have an opportunity to see the series this year. Not to worry. The first installment of six of Season Two will air this Sunday ,October 7 and end November 11, 2012.

Will sandbags protect Eaton Place?

In 2010, Upstairs Downstairs aired just after the wildly popular Downton Abbey, suffering in comparison. To begin with, Downton’s budget was astronomical compared to UpDown’s.  And UpDown’s script needed to find a way to tie in to the classic and unforgettable 70’s series with Jean Marsh as Rose and Gordon Jackson as Mr. Hudson.  That series was a hard act to follow.

Mr. Pritchard is in charge of bomb siren warnings and other dangers. What is his secret?

This year UpDown suffered unanticipated setbacks: Jean Marsh suffered a stroke and could not continue to play Rose full time (she appears in two episodes) and Eileen Atkins (Maud, Lady Holland) decided not to return. Frankly, Eileen was the only comedic respite in Series One and the closest that UpDown came to challenging Maggie Smith’s unforgettable Violet.

The new baby hardly plays a role in the plot, except to point out Lady Holland’s depression and long road back to health.

Season Two’s UpDown is a somber series compared to Downton, even with that show’s foray into  WW1.  At the beginning of Season 2 in UpDown, World War II is about to break wide open. Air raid drills are a fact of life. Houses are sandbagged and Londoners are preparing for war, even practicing wearing gas masks indoors.

The cook and new maid, Eunice

Nothing isquite  the same at 165 Eaton Place.

Mrs. Thackeray, Mr. Amanjit, and Mr. Pritchard. After Maude’s absence, Mr. Amanjit’s role is severely curtailed.

Elie Kendrick as Ivy is gone, replaced by two new maids: Eunice and Beryl.

Laurel Haddock as Beryl

Alex Kingston has come on board as Maude’s sister,  Dr. Blanceh Mottershead, an unwanted addition as far as Hallam Holland is concerend. Hallam is conerned 24/7 with diplomacy and making sure that the Brits aren’t totally bowled over by oily German diplomacy.

Hallam beset at all fronts

Then there’s Lady Holland’s story arc. Episode One starts with the birth of the Holland’s second child and Lady Holland’s struggle to regain her health after a difficult birth, which has resulted in post partum depression (or has it?)

Agnes, Blanche, and baby: A happy family?

A family tableau: Agnes, Blance, and baby. A happy famoly?

A handsome Hollywood producer appreciates her charms, even as Hallam is consumed by averting the war. Agnes’s sister Persey is ankle deep in Nazis, living abroad and living the high life until Kristalnacht, when she realizes that Nazi German politics is uber false and dirty and bent on annihilating innocent Jews.

Alex Kingston as Dr Blanche Mottershead

Fans of the original series know that UpDown was never ever a precursor of Downton Abbey. It always had a rather serious bent, with comedic elements toned down or nonexistent.

Sarah Gordy as Pamela Holland, Hallam’s long lost sister.

Downton Abby, which I adore, is in my opinion a phenomenon of our times – history mixed with rather outrageous elements that reflect our 21st century sensibilities. We cannot fault UpDown for staying true to its origins.

Claire Foy’s role as Lady Persey is dark this season. Who can love a mistress of the Nazis?

I watched all six episodes back to back, wanting to know how the story ends. It is sad to know that this intelligently written series was not renewed for a third season. Knowing this, I backpedaled, not allowing myself to get too invested in the story line, so that I would not be disappointed that the cliff hanger would not be resolved.

Blake Ritson as the Duke of Kent. His portrayal is highly stylized. I’m not sure I like this direction in his acting. Let me know what you think!

True to form, UpDown reverted to 1970s ways, not making a brouhaha at the end of the season, and almost tying up the story lines in a neat bow . Is Season 2 worth watching knowing that the series is at an edn? Absolutely. Click here to go to PBSs site.

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The servants in Downton Abbey. Image courtesy @ITV and PBS Masterpiece.

Downton Abbey. Gosford Hall.  Manor House. Regency House. Each film follows the servants and takes the viewer up and down back stairways, into kitchens and butler’s pantries, and stables and courtyards. But how were the servants’ quarters laid out, and where were they placed in relation to the public and private rooms that the family used? Each house had a different arrangement, to be sure, but patterns did exist.

A narrow corridor leads from the kitchen. Image courtesy @PBS Masterpiece.

The interior and exterior shots of Downton Abbey were filmed in Highclere Castle,but because the servant kitchens and bedrooms below-stairs no longer existed as they once were, the servant quarters for the mini-series were reconstructed in Ealing Studios in London. The cost of reconstructing these “plain” rooms was relatively affordable. Imagine if one of the elaborate public rooms had to be reconstructed. As script writer Julian Fellowes observed: “The thing about filming in these great houses is that if you were to start from scratch, you simply couldn’t build this and if you did you would have used up all your budget in one room.”

Servant stairs in Downton Abbey. Image courtesy @PBS Masterpiece

The ground plan from Eastbury Manor House is representative of a great house. It shows the servant quarters at the right near tight round servant stairs, or back stairs, that the servants used instead of the grand staircase reserved for the family and their guests. Maids were expected to work invisibly and sweep and dust when the family was asleep, or work in a room when the family was not scheduled to use it. In fact, many of the lower servants never encountered the family during their years of service.

Unless they were polishing or cleaning the grand staircase, the servants would use the backstairs for all other occasions. A small housemaid’s closet would be located near the back stair on the bedroom floor to accommodate brushes, dusters, pails, and cans. In “modern” Victorian and Edwardian houses, such a closet might  contain a sink that provided water for mopping.  Some great houses boasted a linen-room on the bedroom floor, where clean bed linen and table linen were stored. In this instance, a dry environment was essential.

Late 19th c. maid and lad at the back entrance

Servants were expected to enter the house in their own entrance, even in smaller houses, such as townhouses.  The Regency Townhouse Annex shows a typical entrance below street level. If you click on the links on the various rooms, you can see the other servant areas in this site.

Stairs to servant’s entrance. Bath. Image @Tony Grant

In a country house, the entrance would be in the back of the building or from a courtyard, where supplies could be delivered. The philosophy of a smooth running household was that servants were out of sight and out of mind.

Belowstairs entrance, Bath. Image @Tony Grant

Upon entering, servants would walk along a long hallway to reach the servants’ rooms and other work areas such as the kitchen, scullery, servant’s hall, housekeeper’s room, butler’s room, storage room, etc.  Country were at least two or three stories tall. Servants climbed the stairs and came down them again all day long, cleaning, hauling water, carrying meals or coal for fires, and a myriad other duties. They rose before the family, often from top floor garrets with small windows, and worked long after their employers had gone to bed.

Interior, Upstairs Downstairs web page. Notice the tiny garret bedrooms.

In this image, you can see the small garret rooms reserved for servants in the attic of a townhouse. Men’s and women’s quarters were separated, as in Downton Abbey, with the women’s quarters called the virgin’s wing. The most common servant quarters are described below.

A meal belowstairs. Downton Abbey. Notice the servant bells on the back wall. Image courtesy @PBS Masterpiece

Servant’s Hall:

The servant’s hall was a common room where the work staff congregated, ate their meals, performed small but essential tasks, like mending, darning, polishing, ect. A long table was its main feature, as well as a window that would let in enough light for the tasks that needed to be accomplished. This window is a feature in images of several servants halls, which makes me think it was essential, for many of their tasks (darning, polishing shoes, ironing, and the like) required good light.

1907 Watercolor of the windows in a servant’s hall

The servants would regard the hall as their living room, for they ate their meals there and congregated in the hall for the evening. Often the cook did not regard making the servants’ meals as part of her duty, and this task would be left to the kitchen maids. Servants would also receive the visitors’ servants here (as in Gosford Park), persons of similar rank, or their own visitors on a very rare occasion.

Image of Victorian servants eating dinner in the servants hall.

The servant bells were located in this area, as well as hooks for coats and uniforms.

Daisy puts on her coat as William speaks to her just outside the servants hall. Downton Abbey. Image courtesy @PBS masterpiece

The servants followed a hierarchy downstairs as strict as upstairs, and the upper servants, the butler, housekeeper, cook, valet and ladies maid would be served meals and tea by the lower servants.  The highest ranking servant was the stewart, then came the butler and housekeeper.

Anna completes a task in the servants hall. Downton Abbey. Image courtesy @PBS Masterpiece

The ladies maid would defer to the housekeeper and the valet to the butler. Standing low down was the scullery maid or tweeny, who often was just a young girl of twelve or thirteen. Her hours were the longest, for she would make sure that the water was boiling for the cook before she began her day.

Kitchen:

The long work table is the focal point of the kitchen. Downton Abbey. Image courtesy @PBS Masterpiece

The kitchen even in great houses were utilitarian, and positioned away from the family quarters to keep cooking smells away yet near enough for the delivery of food. Kitchens were also located near an entrance were supplies could be delivered, and near the kitchen gardens (but not always. See below.)

Harewood house and grounds. The kitchen was a 20-minute walk to the walled garden.

Kitchens tended to be oblong and dominated by a large kitchen table, where the majority of food preparation was done. The window would be ideally positioned to the left side of the range, and the kitchen dresser, where essential equipment was held, would stand close to the work table.

Kitchen suite, 1900 house.

The cook worked under the housekeeper, but the kitchen was her domain. She saw to its cleanliness and neatness, and made sure the larders were well-stocked. Not only were the floors, shelves, and work spaces scrubbed, but they had to be thoroughly dried to prevent mold and mildew from contaminating food stuffs and work tops. The arrangement of the scullery and kitchen was convenient, so that one did not need to cross the kitchen to reach the scullery. Natural light in both rooms needed to be ample. 

This kitchen in the Royal Crescent in Bath needs renovation and preservation.

She (for by the end of the 19th century, most of the cooks in British households were female) oversaw the meals and kitchen staff, consisting of kitchen maids and the scullery maid.

Scullery and kitchen in the Fota House, Ireland

Scullery:

Cleaning in the scullery

The scullery was always located in a separate room from the kitchen so that food would not be contaminated by soiled water. Double stone sinks were the main feature of this room, where pots and pans and the servants’ crockery were rinsed and cleaned. The family’s fine china would be washed in a copper sink, whose softer surface prevented chipping. A cistern above the sinks was used to flush the drains, which led out of house. This was one reason that sculleries were located next to the outer walls and nearest the courtyards or an outer garden. Often, the scullery had no door into the kitchen (only a pass through), and one could enter the room only from the outside. An outside door in the scullery was also known as the “tradesmen’s entrance”.

Scullery, Image @Harewood House.

Food preparation also occurred in this area, such as chopping vegetables. Hygiene was essential in order not to contaminate existing food supplies, or the people within the house with soiled cutlery or water. This meant constant hauling of fresh water, scrubbing, washing, and cleaning. The scullery floor, made of stone, was lower than the kitchen’s, which prevented water from flowing into the cooking areas. Dry goods were stashed well away from the scullery, which also had to be kept dry in order to prevent mold. To prevent standing in water all day long, raised latticed wood mats were placed by the sink for the scullery maid to stand upon.

Panorama of a Victorian scullery with boiler and laundry features

Sculleries also contained a copper for boiling clothes on laundry day, washtubs, washboards, irons, and cabinets for cleaning supplies. In 1908, an eight-room house required 27 hours per week of labor, which did not include laundering clothes. One can only imagine how long a house the size of Downton Abbey took to manage.

Scullery sinks, Chawton

She stood at a sink behind a wooden dresser backed with choppers and stained with blood and grease, upon which were piles of coppers and saucepans that she had to scour, piles of dirty dishes she had to wash. Her frock, her cap, her face and arms were more or less wet, soiled, perspiring and her apron was a filthy piece of sacking, wet and tied round her with a cord. The den where she wrought was low, damp, ill-smelling, windowless, lighted by a flaring gas-jet……with many ugly dirty implements around her. – The History of Country House Staff

In this 17th c. image, the scullery maid stands upon a platform to keep her feet dry.

In Downton Abbey, the scullery maid is nowhere to be seen. (Daisy is the kitchen maid,  with vastly different duties.) Two modern women who played the scullery maid in Manor House quit the series, unable to pursue that role for the duration of the series. Only the third person, Ellen Beard, who had a better understanding of the scullery maid’s duties of endless washing, managed to remain at her station until the very end. Click on this link to hear a short podcast of a Scottish scullery maid, who described her job as slave labor.

The butler polishes the silver, 1868.

Butler’s room and Butler’s Pantry

The duties of the butler confine him to the drawing-room and dining-room. The dining-room, however, is his particular domain; he sees that everything is in order, that the table is laid correctly, the lighting effect satisfactory, the flowers arranged, and in short that the room and appointments are in perfect readiness for a punctual meal. In this work a parlor maid assists him by sweeping and dusting, and a pantry-maid helps him by keeping everything immaculate and in readiness in the pantry. The butler serves at breakfast, luncheon and dinner.” – Vintage Maids and Butlers

Butlert’s pantry, 1896. Staatsburg House, McKim, Mead, & White

The butler’s rooms, which included the Butler’s Pantry, were located in the basement nearest the dining room upstairs and back entry, and had no connection with the kitchen, except for service. When he was summoned, even in his rooms, the butler could appear quickly. In smaller establishments, such as Matthew Crawley’s house, the butler also acted as valet. In all instances, except for the steward, he was the highest-ranking servant, answering directly to the master.

One of the duties of the butler (Mr. Carson in Downton Abbey) is to account for the wine. In this instance, he notices a discrepancy in the tally and the books. Image courtesy @PBS Masterpiece

The butler’s pantry was kept under lock and key, so that thievery was impossible at best, and at the very least deterred. A plate-closet or safe were placed there, as well as a private scullery for cleaning. The butler’s bedroom was a necessary (and lockable) adjunct in large houses for the protection of the plate.

Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson chat in her sitting room. Downton Abbey. Image courtesy @PBS Masterpiece

The Housekeeper’s Room

The housekeepers room in large establishments served as both a sitting- and business-room where she would take the directions of the day from the lady of the house. She would also entertain visitors of similar rank in her quarters. The housekeeper oversaw the female servants, and when she walked, a thick assortment of keys, symbols of her status and which dangled from her waist, would jiggle and certainly make a sound.

The housekeeper’s room in Uppark. At times the upper servants would congregate there for tea, and in some houses, for dinner.

Before dinner in the servants hall, the upper servants would assemble in the housekeeper’s room, also known as the Pug’s Parlour, and walk in for dinner, with the butler leading the way. This was known as the Pug’s Parade. After dinner, the upper servants would withdraw to the housekeeper’s parlor again for conversation.

Servant Bedrooms

Anna and Gwen confronted by O’Brien in their unlocked room. Downton Abbey. Image courtesy @PBS Masterpiece

In the latter half of the 19th century, servants slept in attic bedrooms. These were often cold and damp in the winter and hot in the summer, with little light coming in from small windows. Some male servants slept downstairs to guard the family silver. The furnishings in servant quarters were basic and essential. A servant might have a locked box in which personal materials were kept, but the rooms were open and subject to inspection by their employers.

The valet’s simple bedroom. Downton Abbey. Image courtesy @PBS Masterpiece

One source for servant quarters and duties of the servants cautioned that books about servant etiquette discussed ideal behavior. In reality, servant turnover was high, theft did occur, and servants did not always know their place. In this humorous Punch cartoon, the mistress arrived home unexpectedly, catching the servants eating upstairs and generally misbehaving. The truth, I suspect, is somewhere in between.

“Oh, hey, the missus! Servants eating a meal upstairs.” Cruikshank. Punch

Sources: (A long list that fleshes out the topic.)

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Tea is always served by the host/hostess or a friend, never by servants. Tea is never poured out, then passed several cups at a time, the way coffee may be, because it cools very quickly. Instead, it is always taken by the guest directly from the hands of the pourer.” – Etiquette Scholar

The ceremony of making tea is almost always included in costume dramas like Downton Abbey or a Jane Austen film, such as Emma. When Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess of Grantham invited her daughter-in-law, Cora (Elizabeth McGovern), to the Dower House for tea in Downton Abbey, the arranged time was most likely at four o’clock in the afternoon.

 

Cora and the Dowager Countess sit down to tea

In one particular scene, the two women entered the drawing room in which a small table had been laid out with an elaborate tea set, fine china, and silver spoons. An assortment of tiny sandwiches, cookies, and scones were arranged upon a beautiful batttenburg lace tablecloth that covered the table. Low tea (an Edwardian dowager would never have said high tea) was meant to blunt the appetite before dinner.

The duchess pours boiling water over the tea leaves in the tea pot

A tea ceremony provided an intimate setting between the hostess and her guests, for it was the hostess who prepared and served the tea, catering to each guest and handing them their custom-prepared tea one cup at a time. In this time honored ritual, one of the most important questions the dowager would ask was: “Would you care for weak tea or strong tea?” Cora’s preference would guide the Countess in the next stage of tea preparation, for if she said “strong tea,” then the Dowager would pour the tea as she had prepared it into Cora’s cup. Had Cora said “weak tea”, the Countess would pour a smaller quantitiy of the brew into the china cup, then top it off with hot water.

Cora eats a crustless sandwich as her mother-in-law prepares the tea

The Dowager would then ask her guest how much milk and sugar to add. She would have poured boiling water over the tea leaves in a tea pot, and steeped the leaves for three minutes, all the while conversing with her guests. At this point the water was no longer boiling. Then the Countess would pour in the milk. (If she poured it in first, she would have found it difficult to judge the strength of the tea by its color.) Hudson, the butler in Upstairs, Downstairs, said about pouring milk into tea: “Those of us downstairs put the milk in first, while those upstairs put the milk in last.”

In this instance, the Dowager leaves her guest in the middle of serving tea, a faux pas

History of Low Tea

On September 25, 1660, Samuel Pepys recorded: “did send for a cupp of tee (a China drink) of which I had never drank before.” By June 1667, tea was considered to be a healthy drink. One day Pepys arrived home to find his wife making tea, which his apothecary had found good for her cold.

Emma, 1996 (with Kate Beckinsale). Emma and Harriet drink tea during Mrs. Elton's first visit

Samuel Johnson was a self-described “hardened and shameless tea drinker, who has, for twenty years diluted his meals with only the infusion of this fascinating plant; whose kettle has scarcely time to cool; who with tea muses the evening, with tea solaces the midnight, and with tea welcomes the morning.” His chronicler James Boswell observed that “It was perfectly normal for him to drink sixteen cups in very quick succession, and I suppose no person ever enjoyed with more relisht the infusion of that fragrant leaf than did Johnson.”

Silver tea set by Odiot, Paris, circa 1880. Image @A.Pash and Sons, Mayfair

Until the 1760’s, only the rich could afford teapots, which were made of silver. Then in 1765 Queen Charlotte commissioned Josiah Wedgwood to create a tea service made from his quality cream colored earthenware, which he named Queen’s Ware (with the Queen’s permission, of course) and gave to her as a gift. From that moment on he was the Queen’s potter. Wedgwood’s creamware was thin, attractive and durable. After receiving the Queen’s patronage, his firm became quite famous. The attractive new tableware quickly became popular, and by 1775 other manufacturers, including those on the Continent, had widely copied Wedgwood, imitating Queensware and creating increasingly fanciful teapots. It is said that this tableware was instrumental in spreading the popularity of tea.

Wedgwood Queensware, c. 1790. Image @Christies

In 1840, the Duchess of Bedford began serving tea with refreshments in the afternoon to appease her appetite before dinner, and the custom of afternoon tea, or low tea, took off. To read more about drinking tea between the 18th and mid-19th centuries, read my post about Tea in the Regency Era.

Some interesting facts about tea:

  • Notice, this is a change: The difference between high tea and low tea: Low, or afternoon, tea is served at four o’clock with light snacks, such as sandwiches, cookies, and scones. High tea is a full meal served with tea, including meat, bread, side dishes and dessert on a table of regular height. Hence high tea.

16th century tea bowl, Korea

  • Tea cups at first were fashioned after Chinese bowls without handles or saucers. In the mid 1750-s, a handle was added to prevent ladies from burning their fingers.
  • A saucer was once a small dish for sauce. During the Dowager Countess’s day, it was acceptable to pour tea into a cup’s saucer to cool the beverage before drinking it.
  • In the late 17th century, a lady would lay her spoon across the top of her cup to signal that she was through drinking. Other signals included turning the cup upside down, or tapping the spoon against the side of the cup.
  • Filling the cup with tea almost to the rim is considered a faux pas.

"Might I give you this cup?" The Dowager hands her tea to Moseley while visiting Matthew Crawley.

Sources:

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Downton Abbey, presented on PBS Masterpiece classic this month, is one of the most expensively produced mini-series for television next to Brideshead Revisited. The sets and costumes are lavish, and the viewer can readily see that everything possible has been done to recreate the Edwardian world.

But even huge budgets have their limits, for creating new costumes for every character in the production would have been prohibitive. The website, Recycled Movie Costumes, and an article in the Daily Mail point to a few outfits that were worn in other productions.  This custom is common, and has been pointed out on this blog before in Recycled Fashions in Emma 2009.  Around 2/3 of the costumes used in Downton Abbey were used before, but only a few have been expressly identified so far.

The dress worn by Laura Michael (Lady Edith) was also used in A Room With a View, 2007. At left is Elizabeth McGovern as the Countess

Elaine Cassidy in A Room With a View, 2007

Compare the necklace worn by Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary to ...

...Monica Belluci's in Brotherhood of Wolves

 

Lady Mary (Michelle Dockerey, between Maggie Smith and Laura Michaels) wears the same dress as ...

... Radha Mitchell in Finding Neverland

You can look for Regency costumes that have been recycled in this link. The Daily Mail mentioned that one certain brown dress has been used in seven productions in the past 15 years, including Pride and Prejudice and Little Dorrit. I wonder which one it is?

As you watch Downton Abbey tonight, perhaps you can spot a few recycled outfits on your own and inform Recycled Films of your find. Learn more about the series on PBS Masterpiece Classic.

More posts about Downton Abbey on this site:

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Highclere Castle as Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey’s connection to Jane Austen is through Lord Carnarvon, whose descendents still own Highclere Castle, where the PBS Masterpiece Classic mini-series’ interior and exterior shots of the fictional country house were filmed. (Read about Andrew Lloyd Weber’s recent attempt to purchase the castle.) In Jane’s day, Lord Carnarvon was Henry, the 1st Earl. Jane wrote in a letter to Cassandra Austen, Saturday25 – Monday 27 th,  October 1800 :

“This morning we called at the Harwood’s & in their dining room found Heathcote & Chute for ever – Mrs Wm Heathcote & Mrs Chute – the first of whom took a long ride in to Lord Carnarvons Park and fainted away in the evening…”

Highclere Castle as it looked in Jane Austen's day

The 5th Earl

Lord Carnarvon’s park, which Jane writes of, is the grounds to Highclere Castle. The Carnarvon family has lived at Highclere since 1679, although the Castle as we see it today sits on the site of an earlier house. (Click here to view a short film about the Castle’s history.) A beautiful 6,000 acre park designed by Capability Brown between 1774-7 surrounds the Castle.

In 1842, the 3rd Earl commissioned architect Sir Charles Barry (also responsible for building the Houses of Parliament in Westminster) to redesign the Castle.

One of the most interesting fact about Highclere Castle is that the golden death mask of King Tutankhamun is featured in its gallery today.

Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon in Egypt

Lord Carnarvon of Tutankhamun fame (George, the 5th Earl) was an Egyptologist who sponsored Howard Carter,  the archaeologist who discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings in 1922. It is said that when Canarvon and Carter broke into Tut’s tomb, they unleashed the mummy’s curse. But the story goes more like this:

 

Howard Carter cleans the second coffin. Image @Harry Burton

This popular legend was born when Lord Carnarvon, the English Earl who funded the Tutankhamun expedition, died less than six months after the opening of the tomb. Despite the fact that Lord Carnarvon was a sickly individual, and that no such “hieroglyphic curse” was found inscribed on the tomb, this legend persists today. . . Lord Carnarvon had been in a car accident many years earlier and had never fully recovered. About a month after entering the tomb, he cut open a mosquito bite while shaving and infection set in. Blood poisoning and pneumonia quickly followed, and within a few weeks, he passed away. Newspapers reported that mysterious forces unleashed from the mummy and its trappings had caused his death. – King Tut

This image of Howard Carter’s grave was taken by Tony Grant, who lives near the cemetery in London. (Thank you, Tony, for the photo and for the quote from Jane Austen’s letter!)

Howard's grave. Image @Tony Grant

Watch Downton Abbey at your local PBS station Sundays, January 9, 16, 23, and 30, 2011 at 9 PM. Read my other posts:

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At the start of Downton Abbey, the Earl of Grantham sadly learns of the death of his cousin and cousin’s son on the Titanic. This event places the Earl and Countess of Grantham in a tragic and unexpected situation, for both men – the heir and the spare – were in line to inherit Downton Abbey.

The earl (Hugh Bonneville) reads about the Titanic

The earl had never anticipated such a tragic turn of events. He had married Cora, an American heiress, in a marriage of convenience in order to maintain his landed estate in the manner in which it had been run for centuries. During the marriage negotiations, the old Earl of Grantham struck a hard bargain and Cora’s fortune became completely tied up in the entail. This  was no great matter to the young couple, who were certain they would produce an heir. While the earl eventually fell in love with his beautiful bride, they were unable to produce a son, their union resulting in three daughters.

The countess (Elizabeth McGovern) learns of the tragedy.

And so the plot of Downton Abbey thickens, for lovely Lady Mary, the earl’s eldest daughter, was engaged to the younger heir, Patrick. But Patrick died and now Matthew Crawley, the earl’s third cousin once removed, stands next in line to inherit. Unlike the previous heirs, who were accustomed to the ways of the upper classes, the very reluctant Matthew must learn how to run a great estate from the ground up … and Lady Mary, by dint of being a woman and as the result of an unbreakable entail, is left out in the cold.

Lady Sybil, Lady Mary, and Lady Edith

The plot line of Downton Abbey weaves the stories of the privileged who live upstairs with the lives of those who serve them, and involves the intricacies of the entail and running the estate. Of the three sisters, only Lady Mary plays a major role. But the other two, Lady Edith and Lady Sybil, faced challenges that were typical of upper class women of the era. As Jane Austen astutely observed, “ There are not so many men of fortune in the world as there are pretty girls who deserve them,” a fact that the middle sister, Lady Edith, comes to know too well, and one that Lady Sybil ignores, for she has modern notions of a woman’s place in Society.

Downton Abbey. Jane Austen's World

Upon learning of the death of her fiance, Patrick, Lady Mary is not as sad as she should be.

Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockerey)

The eldest of the three girls, and the most beautiful and self-assured, is Lady Mary Crawley who knows her worth. Upset that the entail cannot be undone, she realizes that her only way to marry “up” or to financial security is to find a wealthy man with (preferably) a title. The new heir, Matthew Crawley, in no way interests her. From the moment they meet, snobby Lady Mary looks down her patrician nose at the upstart heir, who, she doubts, even knows how to hunt. (Lady Mary might have no use for Matthew, but he has more than a passing interest in her.)

Lady Mary meets Matthew and ... is not impressed

Ever the opportunist when it comes to snaring a suitable mate, Lady Mary sets her sights on a duke, as well as Evelyn Napier, a gentleman who is besotted with her.  But then a handsome and exotic visitor catches her eye and makes her heart flutter uncharacteristically,  and Lady Mary’s safe and secure world will never be the same again.

Downton Abbey. Jane Austen's World

Lady Edith reads Lady Mary's private letter

Lady Edith Crawley (Laura Carmichael)

Lady Edith can hardly contain her jealousy of Lady Mary’s beauty, her easy popularity with men, and her status as elder daughter. As the second daughter, she feels invisible. Lady Mary barely mourns her fiance, which triggers Lady Edith’s resentment of her older sister and her cool reaction to his death. Not that she is entirely to be pitied, for her jealousy drives her to snoop on her sister, and tattle tales that should never be shared.

Lady Edith looks hopeful as she is courted unexpectedly

The complex, nasty relationship between the two sisters is a result of the keen pressure that women still felt to marry up and well in the Edwardian era. Upper class women, as Amanda Vickery pointed out in her excellent series, At Home With the Georgians, were raised to live passive lives and accept the fact that they were second-class citizens. While Lady Edith plots and schemes to find a husband (if even from her older sister’s romantic leavings), Lady Sybil, the younger sister, is forging a role for herself.

Lady Sybil helping Gwen, the housemaid

Lady Sybil Crawley (Jessica Brown-Findlay)

Lively, upbeat, and compassionate, Lady Sybil plays no role in the spiteful drama of her two older sisters. She is too busy admiring suffragettes, supporting Gwen, the housemaid, in her ambition to become a secretary, reading political tracts and attending forbidden rallies. Even her taste in clothes is flamboyant, and one suspects that as Lady Sybil matures she will become a character with a capital “C”.

Lady Sybil shows off her new frock

In Downton Abbey, Lady Edith and Lady Mary demonstrate the dependent role that women still played in the early 20th century. But Lady Sybil was another creature altogether.  After the end of World War I,  she would no doubt be dancing the Charleston in flapper clothes, and after turning thirty, exercising her right to vote and earn her own living.

 

Edith, Mary, and Sybil

More about Downton Abbey, to air on Masterpiece Classic, Sunday, January 9th at your local PBS station:

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Downton Abbey, a PBS Masterpiece Classic mini-series, is as much a tale about the servants below stairs as about the noble Earl of Grantham and his family who employed them. With the recent airing of the updated version of Upstairs Downstairs in Great Britain, I am sure a debate will long rage about which series portrayed their eras and class differences better. In both cases, the viewer is the winner.

Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Downton Abbey (Highclere Castle, an “Elizabethan Pile”) Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Images Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

No matter how expertly this mini-series of Downton Abbey tries to portray this bygone era, it is nearly impossible to capure life in an Edwardian country house exactly as it once was. The viewer should be aware that we can glimpse only a faint, musty, museum shadow of the complex and thriving community that a great English estate once supported.

Downton Abbey. Jane Austen's World. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

The Crawleys and the servants of Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Images Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

It is a well-known fact that grand country houses could only be run with a great deal of help. As early as the 18th century, Patrick Colquhoun estimated that there were around 910,000 domestic servants (in a population of 9 million). By 1911, the number of domestic servants had risen to 1.3 million. Eighty percent of the land during the Edwardian era was owned by only 3% of the population, yet these vast estates were considered major employers.

Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

The earl (Hugh Bonneville) and his heir, Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), survey his vast estate. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

In the grander and larger houses, the ratio of servants (both indoor and outdoor) to the family could approach 1:7 or 1:10, but as the industrial revolution introduced improvements in laundering, lawn maintenance, and cooking, the number of servants required to run a great estate was greatly reduced.

Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

The earl and his heir, Matthew Crawley, survey the cottages and outer buildings on his estate. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

After World War One and the rise in taxes for each servant employed, many great families no longer kept two sets of house staff. They began to bring servants from their country house to their house in Town, leaving only a skeleton crew behind to maintain the family seat in their absence.

Grounds of Downton Abbey (Highclere Castle)

Country estates were designed to showcase the owner’s wealth via collections of art, furniture and other luxurious possessions, such as carriages, lawn tennis courts, and the like. The main house sat at the end of a long and winding drive through acres of beautifully landscaped park lands.

Downton Abbey.

The Duke is greeted by both the family and the servants. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

The spectacle did not end there, for approaching the house, guests would see a grand facade or an equally imposing flight of stairs that led to the first floor (or both). In Downtown Abbey, the family awaited the arrival of the Duke of Crowborough (Charlie Cox) along with their servants, who were arrayed in line according to their station.

Downton Abbey. Jane Austen's World

The servants await their new masters at Norland. Sense and Sensibility, 2008.

Such a display of staff was also evident in the 2008 adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, when Fanny and Robert Dashwood arrived to claim Norland Park.

Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Grand interior hall of Downton Abbey, floor leading to the private rooms. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Once introductions had been made, the guests would ascend the imposing stairway and enter an equally impressive high-ceilinged hall that contained yet another grand staircase, which led to the private rooms upstairs. The ladies customarily brought their own maids, who would also require lodging. (In Gosford Park, a poor female relation had to make do with one of the hostesses’ house maids to help her with her dress and hair.)

Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Thomas (Rob James-Collier), the first footman, is chosen to act as valet to the duke. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

The guests’ servants were expected to enter the house through a separate, back servant’s entrance, and shared quarters with the regular staff. The host supplied his own butler or footmen to help serve as valet to his male guests.

Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

The Earl of Grantham’s impressive library/study. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

A host’s willingness to lavishly entertain his guests did not necessarily reflect the family’s daily schedule:

In 1826 a German visitor to England remarked that: it requires a considerable fortune here to keep up a country house; for custom demands… a handsomely fitted-up house with elegant furniture, plate, servants in new and handsome liveries, a profusion of dishes and foreign wines, rare and expensive desserts… As long as there are visitors in the house, this way of life goes on; but many a family atones for it by meagre fare when alone; for which reasons, nobody here ventures to pay a visit in the country without being invited, and these invitations usually fix the day and hour… True hospitality this can hardly be called; it is rather the display of one’s own possessions, for the purpose of dazzling as many as possible.(3)” – The Country House: JASA

Downton Abbey. Jane Austen's World

Travel in winter, Henry Alken, 1785

Guests stayed for a long time for a variety of reasons. In the 17th and 18th centuries, travel over a long distance was laboriously slow and difficult, for roads were notoriously poor and dangerous. Long visits, such as Cassandra Austen’s visits to her brother Edward in Godmersham Park, became a custom. Even during the Edwardian age, when travel was much improved, guests tended to stay for the weekend (Saturday through Monday). In Downton Abbey, the Duke of Crowborough arrived amidst much hope and anticipation, until he discovered that the estate had been entailed to a third cousin not the earl’s daughter, whom he had come to woo, and he cut his visit to one short day and evening, making an excuse that did not hold water.

Downton Abbey. Jane Austen's World

Catherine Morland (Katherine Schlessinger) and Eleanor Tilney (Ingrid Lacey), Northanger Abbey 1986

Even during the 18th century, when long-term guests were expected, some overstayed their welcome, like Jane Austen’s anti-heroine, Lady Susan Vernon, whose hostess (sister-in-law) despised her but was forced to tolerate her because she was ‘family.’ Desirable guests, like Catherine Morland of Northanger Abbey, were invited to extend their visit. In Catherine’s instance, Eleanor Tilney, a motherless young lady who lived without a female companion, found the young girl’s company delightful. By the time General Tilney discovered that Catherine was no heiress, she had been with the Allens in Bath and the Tilneys in Northanger Abbey for a total of 11 weeks. As previously noted, Edwardian hosts, while generous, expected house guest to stay for only three days. During this time every luxury was lavished upon them, but it was considered bad form if they stayed longer than arranged or without invitation.

Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Breakfast was a substantial meal served at 9:30 a.m. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

At set times, Edwardian guests would congregate in the common rooms, which included the drawing room, music room, dining room and breakfast room, the library or study, the gallery (where ancient family portraits were hung), the billiard room, and the conservatory. Vast lawns and gardens were laid out for promenading; guests could ride or walk through the parklands to view picturesque follys or dine alfresco (outdoors), take tea under an awning, or paint a vista or two.

Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Taking tea alfresco. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

The reputation of a host rested on the entertainments, which helped to pass the time – walking, riding, shooting (in winter), and hunting (in fall) for outdoor activities; and card parties, musicales, and dances for indoor festivities. A fox hunt, such as the one depicted in Downton Abbey, required riding skill and stamina, for the chase would take riders over hills and dales, and hedges, and over long distances for much of the day.

Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

The hunt required riding skills and stamina.Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Billiards made an appearance during the 17th century, and by the 19th century billiard rooms had become a staple. Private libraries offered a variety of books and periodicals. In the summer, Edwardians enjoyed lawn tennis, croquet, cricket, and golf (by the men).

The male guests in Regency House Party (2004) could pretty well behave and move around as they pleased.

Ladies and gentlemen tended to spend the day apart. Male guests were more active and could engage in almost any activity during the day, except at the time reserved for dinner, when they were expected to show up. In an Edwardian house, men did not escort their female dining partners into the dining room. Rather, after the host served cocktails in the drawing room a half hour before the meal, the group moved to the dining room where they were seated according to a set pattern, with guests sitting between members of the family and their neighbors.

Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

The new heir of Downton Abbey (Dan Stevens) sits next to his hostess, the Countess of Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern). Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

After dinner, the ladies would remove to the drawing room, which became increasingly larger and more feminine over time, while the gentleman relaxed at the dining room table, drinking port, smoking their cheroots, and discussing manly topics.

Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

The drawing room at Downton Abbey was large and feminine. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

While an 18th century gentlemen would have talked about horse flesh and carriages, Edwardian guests would have included automobiles and their rapidly changing technology, road improvements, and the availability of petrol as well.

Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Transportation was changing rapidly at the turn of the 20th century. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Unlike the gentlemen, a lady’s day was more restricted and confined. She spent her day following a set routine, starting with breakfast, and wearing appropriate outfits and getting into them and out of them. Mothers spent some time overseeing the nannies and the care of their children (if they were brought along). Ladies, married or not, would also receive visitors, sew, gossip, read, walk, participate in charity work, observe the men at sport (if invited) or take a ride in the carriage. They did join in on more active, outdoor games at set times during the appropriate season, such as cricket, croquet, lawn tennis, lawn bowling, and the like, but they would have been properly dressed for the occasion.

Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

The head maid (Joanne Froggatt) dresses Lady Mary’s (Michelle Dockery) hair for dinner. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Imagine poor Eleanor Tilney in the late 18th century, alone in a grand house without female companionship, having no-one to talk to and forced to live a constricted life. No amount of walking, charity work, practicing the piano, or overseeing the household would have made up for her boredom, and thus Catherine Morland’s companionship was so welcome.

Manor House (2002), dressing Lady Olliff-Cooper. Image @PBS

In Regency House Party (the 2004 mini-series), the modern women who portrayed Regency ladies chafed under the strict rules of protocol, forced chaperonage, and daily tedium. A lady’s routine did not much improve during the Edwardian era, although towards the end of this period changing one’s gown for afternoon tea became obsolete.

Tea gown, circa 1908. Image @Vintage Textiles

In Manor House, the 2002 mini-series set in the Edwardian era, Lady Olliff-Cooper’s spinster sister, the lowest-ranking member of the family, had so little to do and so little say in how she could spend her time, that Avril Anson (who in real life is a professor) left the series for a few episodes to maintain her sanity.

Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Evelyn Napier (Brendan Patricks) and Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) eye their rival before dinner. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Lady Olliff-Cooper … [needed] to change her clothes five or six times a day. And very few of these dresses would be what today we’d call practical. Not only did each meal carry its own dress code, but if she needed to receive a visitor, pay a call or go riding, she’d have to change both her clothes and often her hairstyle as well.” Manor House, clothes

Anna Olliff-Cooper, who portrayed the lady of the house in Manor House, spent an enormous amount of her day changing into new gowns and having her hair dressed. She would stand passively as her maid did all the work. Anna noted how constricting the dresses were, and cried as she described how the tight sleeves of her gowns prevented her from raising her arms above her shoulders or from closely hugging her eleven-year old son. Even the fashions conspired to keep a women passive!

The Dinner Party, 1911, Jules Alexandre Grun

After they had finished their cigars and port, the gentlemen were obligated to rejoin the ladies for cards or music, or both, to while away the evening. The Duke’s behavior in Downton Abbey was egregious, for instead of joining the group for the rest of the evening, he went to bed early. The house party would stay up until 10:30 or so (unless a grand ball had been arranged, and then the guests would stay up until the wee hours of the morning).

Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

Male conversation after dinner over port and cigars. The duke and earl have a frank conversation. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

In either case, the last people in the house to retire for the night would be the servants, but their lives and schedule will be described in another post.

Look for Downton Abbey, Part One to air on PBS Masterpiece Classic on Sunday, January 9th! Once again PBS will host a twitter party! Stay tuned for details.

Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

End of the day at Downton Abbey. Credit: Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

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Images of Downton Abbey Season 1: Credit Courtesy of © Carnival Film & Television Limited for MASTERPIECE

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With The Old Curiosity Shop, Masterpiece Classic aired its last special for the 2009 season last night. Which film was your favorite? Curious minds want to know.

the-old-curiosity-shop-1b1d7ef6-7e9c-4c39-adea-f899b8e38345

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Dickens recounts how when his father and he went into the prison they both wept very much and his father warned him that if a man had 20 pounds a year and spent 19 pounds, 19 shillings and sixpence, he would be happy, but that a shilling spent the other way would make him wretched. – A.S. Byat, Within Those Walls

Born in prison

Born in prison

The first surprise I encountered watching Little Dorrit on Masterpiece Classic was to see little Amy born in the Marshalsea, the debtor’s prison to which her father had been sentenced for owing £400. William Dorritt, also know as the “Father of the Marshalsea”, was incarcerated for 23 years, slowly rotting from the inside out and living a life without hope of becoming a free man again. He was allowed to bring in his family, a tradition of those bygone days. Sadly, Mrs. Dorrit died before her husband could repay his debt. Amy has never known a life other than in prison.

Life without hope for William Dorrit

Life without hope for William Dorrit

John Howard, a reformer, visited Marshalsea eight times between 1774 and 1783, and made the following observations:

There are in the whole near sixty rooms; and yet only six of them left for common-side debtors. Of the other rooms – five were let to a man who was not a prisoner; in one of them he kept a chandler’s shop, in two he lived with his family; the other two he let to prisoners….The chamber rent wants regulation, for in several rooms where four lie in two beds, and in some rooms where two lie in one bed, each pays 3 p 6d for his lodgings.

The prison is greatly out of repair. No infirmary. The court is well supplied with water. In it the prisoners play at rackets etc., and in a little back court, the Park, at skittles.

In March 1775 when the number of prisoners was 175, there were with them in this incommodious prison wives and children 46. – The Chronicles of London, Saint and Darley, New York, 1994, p 150.

william-dorrit

The prison had not much changed when Charles Dickens lived there, for William Dorrit’s nightmare was his own. In 1824, when Dickens was twelve, his father, John, had been taken there for debts he could not repay. Instead of going to school, Dickens left the Marshalsea each day to work at Warren’s boot-blacking factory, where he was paid six shillings a week.

The family [Dickens] writes, lived more comfortably in prison than they had done for a long time out of it, They were waited on still by the maid of all work from Bayham Street, the orphan girl from Chatham workhouse from whose sharp little worldly, yet also kindly, ways I took my first impressions of the Marchioness in The Old Curiosity Shop. Old and new London a narrative of its history, its people and its places By Walter Thornbury, Edward Walford

His father’s experience in the Marshalsea left an indelible impression. Dickens must have written these lines from the heart: “She looked down into the living grave on which the sun had risen, with her father in it.” Unlike William Dorrit, who spent nearly a quarter of a century in prison, John Dickens walked out after six months when one of his relatives died and left enough money in the will to pay off the debt.

"It was an oblong pile of barrack building, partitioned into squalid houses standing back to back, so that there were no back rooms; environed by a narrow paved yard, hemmed in by high walls duly spiked at top."

"It was an oblong pile of barrack building, partitioned into squalid houses standing back to back, so that there were no back rooms; environed by a narrow paved yard, hemmed in by high walls duly spiked at top."

Once a man of substance, William Dorrit (played by Tom Courtenay) tried to live with some dignity inside the high spiked walls, but much of his self-consequence came at the expense of his youngest daughter, Amy (Little Dorrit), who devoted her young life catering to her father.  “In his deepest heart he knows that he’s made an utter mess of his and his beloved children’s lives, but he would never openly admit to this failure. For his sake, the family all keep up the pretence of respectability.” ( BBC)  Even at his lowest ebb, William Dorrit finds comfort in the title of “Father of the Marshalsea.” He adheres to social standards, blinding himself to his son’s Edward’s dissolute lifestyle and daughter Fanny’s less than acceptable career as a dancer,  and dines in state on the food that Amy has set aside from her own repasts.

The family’s ability to come and go from prison within the curfew hours so surprised me that I wanted to research the topic. Only the debtor remained imprisoned. In reality, as Dickens attests, life inside those walls was not much worse than life outside it – for the destitute. The friendship between Amy and John Chivery was genuine. John performed his duties with humanity, and Amy recognized that the Assistant Turnkey was simply following orders.

Leaving the Marshalsea in state

Leaving the Marshalsea in state

Even when freed, William Dorrit does not step outside his prison. When he is finally released, due to an inheritance found through Arthur Clennam’s perseverance, his heart is as pinched as his confined world had once been.  Charles Dickens wrote about the character:

Crushed at first by his imprisonment, he had soon found a dull relief in it. He was under lock and key; but the lock and key that kept him in, kept numbers of his troubles out. If he had been a man with strength of purpose to face those troubles and fight them, he might have broken the net that held him, or broken his heart; but being what he was, he languidly slipped into this smooth descent, and never more took one step upward.

Instead of thanking Arthur, he avoids him and puts on airs of grandiosity. His children are given lessons of deportment by Mrs. General as they traipse across Europe on a Grand Tour. They are lessons in futility, for Fanny and Edward are beyond help, and Amy is uninterested in the trappings of wealth. And yet despite his opulent surroundings, William was unable to escape the effects of the Marshalsea and his mind remained imprisoned. He returns to London, but instead of enjoying the high life, he is constantly plagued by reminders of his past and falls into a great depression.

William Dorrit in London

William Dorrit in London

In real life, a man who was confined in the Marshalsea just like William Dorrit, reacted to his imprisonment in a much different way. John Howard recalled:

Mr. Henry Allnot, who was many years hence a prisoner here, had during his confinement a large estate bequeathed to him. He learnt sympathy by his sufferings, and left £100 a year for discharging poor debtors from hence whose debts do not exceed £4. As he bound his manor of Goring in Oxfordshire for charitable uses, this is called the Oxford charity.  Many are cleared by it every year. – The Chronicles of London, p. 150

remaining-wall-of-the-marshalsea-prison

Marshalsea Prison was closed in 1842, and all that remains today is a long brick wall and two gated arches.

In 1856 whilst engaged in the purchase of Gad’s Hill, Charles Dickens paid a visit to the Marshalsea, then in the course of demolition, to see what traces were left of the prison of which he had received such early and vivid impressions as a boy, and which he had been able to rebuild almost brick by brick in Little Dorritt by the aid of his wonderfully retentive memory. He writes to his friend John Forster, “Went to the Borough yesterday morning before going to Gad’s Hill to see if I could find any ruins of the Marshalsea. Found a great part of the original building now Marshalsea Place. I found the rooms that had been in my mind’s eye in the story…There is a room there still standing that I think of taking. It is the room through which the ever memorable signers of Captain Porter’s petition filed off in my boyhood. The spikes are gone and the wall is lowered, and any body can go out now who likes to go and is not bed ridden.”  Old and new London a narrative of its history, its people and its places By Walter Thornbury, Edward Walford

My other Little Dorrit Reviews:

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