Bloggers have been weighing in all week about why Downton Abbey is making us all so misty for history.
Is it the Lady Mary-Matthew love story? The inside look at the class structure of Edwardian England? That fabulous house?
I’d say it’s for some of the best lines ever heard on television, the best of them reserved for the Dowager Countess Violet Lady Grantham.
They’re so good in fact, there are websites about them.
For writers, the lines writer/director Julian Fellowes gives Lady Grantham are a lesson in one-liners.
Think one-liners are the province of stand-up comics? Think again.
What else are Tweets but one liners? What else are the leads of your blog posts and your articles?
And if nobody writes them better than Julian Fellowes, nobody delivers them better than Maggie Smith.
Proud, opinionated, an aristocrat through and through, Lady Grantham is the Soul of Britain. Hence lines like
“It always happens. When you give these little people power, it goes to their heads like strong drink.”
When Cora tells her things are different in America, Lady Violet snaps, ”I know. They live in wigwams.”
And when Cora says she might send Lady Mary to New York to visit her aunt, Lady Grantham retorts, “Oh, I don’t think things are quite that desperate.”
Lady Grantham holds nothing back, including her insults, and spares no one.
To her son, Lord Grantham: “Why do you always have to pretend to be nicer than the rest of us?”
To Matthew’s annoying mother Lady Isobel: “Put that in your pipe and smoke it!”
(I was sure that was an anachronism, but it turns out to come from R.B. Peake’s 1824 two-act comedy Americans Abroad.)
But Lady Grantham is more than an aristocrat; she’s a realist.
When Lord Grantham reluctantly accepts his daughter’s marriage to the family chauffeur, she says: “Of course you must accept it. The aristocracy has not survived by its intransigence.”
And though she tries to deny it, she’s a romantic.
“No one wants to kiss a girl in black.”
Lady Violet: Mary, listen to me. If you take Matthew now, when his whole future is at risk, he will love you to the end of his days.
Lady Mary: Why Granny, you’re a romantic.
Lady Violet: I have been called many things, but never that.
But her best line of all is the shortest:
When the arrogant Sir Richard Carlisle finally gets his walking papers, he says, “I’m leaving in the morning, Lady Grantham. I doubt we’ll meet again.”
To which Lady Grantham responds, “Do you promise? “
Ah, m’lady. Who could resist you? Maggie Moments
Have you watched Downton Abbey? Has it helped your writing?