The Obsession Continues: Countdown to Downton

I am obsessed.  I admit it.  Downton Abbey Season Two premieres in the U.S. tonight!  But before the new storylines whisk us away to WWI England, I want to share one last thought from Season One.

This picture captures a moment in last season’s Downton Abbey that I can’t seem to get out of my head.  The young, forward-thinking Matthew Crawley, so sure that every social convention of the old world is useless, dismisses the need for a valet*.

It is all fine and dandy that Mister Crawley wants to be independent and dress himself.  We share his confusion and disdain that members of the aristocracy cannot do for themselves what most of us learned to do at age 4.  At every opportunity, Crawley both shows and tells his valet, Joseph Molesley, that he can tie his own tie, pour his own tea and in no way needs the services of a valet.

The rub is this: Molesley is proud of his job.  He has learned it well and wants only the opportunity to perform it well.  Matthew Crawley is oblivious that his  self-righteous, condescending comments strip Moseley of his dignity.  We see it clearly in the valet’s fallen face as each offer of assistance is pooh-poohed.

Matthew Crawley’s eyes are finally opened by Lord Grantham, who could easily be drawn as the old-line character stuck in the past.  Instead, it is Grantham who schools Mister Crawley in the dignity of each job and the interdependence of each of the servants at Downton.  Without saying it directly, Lord Grantham points out that Matthew Crawley has been so focused on being the champion of egalitarianism, that he has forgotten the dignity of the individual person.

Though it is a small storyline, I think it shows so well the depth of the writing on Downton Abbey. There is an optimism that bubbles just under the surface.  Oh, there is still plenty of dark stuff, just like real life, but the writing gently reminds us that there is always a chance for someone to choose good. Even the most wicked has redeeming qualities that give us hope for something better.

The Effervescent O'Brien

So, if you are a fellow obsessive, I’d love to hear your favorite scenes/characters from Season One!


*For those of us not living in a Jane Austen novel, a valet (rhymes with pallet) was something like a personal assistant to a member of the aristocracy.  A valet would oversee the wardrobe,  deal with household issues and otherwise help smooth out the daily process of being appropriately dressed.  (N.B. I am in desperate need of a valet).

About elizabethcarden

A wife, mom and writer of historical fiction (but sadly, not of thank you notes).
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7 Responses to The Obsession Continues: Countdown to Downton

  1. Shannon says:

    “No Englishman would dream of dying in someone else’s house.”

    Nuff said.

  2. Molly Reynolds says:

    I too am in disparate need of a valet. And I disparately need to start watching this show!

  3. I love what you wrote here. This is actually one of my favorite scenes because Matthew learns that each man deserves to be respected and treated with dignity. Allowing Molesley to serve him was an act of humility on Matthew’s part. Quietly profound.

    • Dear Bobbi: Thanks so much for your kind words. Even with all the grand scenery and high drama, my favorite scenes are the “quietly profound” ones like this. Though I’m a little disappointed in Moseley this season, it only adds to the truth of the character development. Can barely wait til next Sunday:)

  4. Tiny e…Anne shared with me the info on your blog when I was asking after you today. How happy I am to find it! This year…Read More, Work Less…is my resolution. And I am also resolved to catch up on Downton Abbey through Netflix (I heard it is possible!) . Am currently enjoying PD James’ “Death Comes to Pemberly” and find it a most welcome reunion with friends (and foes) from “Pride and Prejudice”, as you are finding with Season Two. Happy writing (and reading and viewing)!

    • Dearest Leigh! I think your resolution is brilliant! And yes, I watched all of Season One via Netflix last year. Looks like I’ll have to put “Death Comes to Pemberly” in my rotation (I am juggling three books at the moment:)
      PS-Can we add to your resolution, “see Tiny e more?”

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