Sunday Evening Cruelty: Lady Violet Grantham’s Conversation With the Vicar
On this Sunday, I can’t help but quote from a Downton Abbey episode, which continues a Fine and Long-Standing Literary Tradition—which is to be mean to and to puncture the pretensions of Anglican clergy.
[William has only a few hours to live, after being gravely wounded in France. Lady Violet wants the local vicar to marry William and Daisy]
Reverend Travis: This boy is in extremis. How can we know that these are his true wishes? Maybe the kitchenmaid somehow hopes to catch at an advantage.
Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham: What advantage would that be?
Reverend Travis: Some widow’s dole given by a grateful nation.
Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham: Mr Travis, may I remind you? William Mason has served our family well. At the last he saved the life, if not the health, of my son’s heir. Now he wishes, before he dies, to marry his sweetheart.
Reverend Travis: Yes, but…
Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham: You cannot imagine that we would allow you to prevent this happening in case his widow claimed her dole?
Reverend Travis: No, but…
Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham: I have had an interest in this boy. I tried, and failed, to save him from conscription, but I will certainly attend his wedding. Is that an argument in its favour?
Reverend Travis: Of course, but…
Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham: Finally I would point out, your living is in Lord Grantham’s gift. Your house is on Lord Grantham’s land and the very flowers in your church are from Lord Grantham’s garden. I hope it is not vulgar in me to suggest that you find some way to overcome your scruples.
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