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December 2, 2012


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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5 comments

I LOVE the dowager countess!  She is wonderful, and totally incorrigible!

On having it confirmed that her granddaughter is ‘damaged goods’ and intends to confess the fact to her husband-to-be:

VIOLET, DOWAGER COUNTESS OF GRANTHAM
She reads too many novels. I mean, one way or another, everyone goes down the aisle with half the story hidden. The question is, will she accept Matthew?

CORA, COUNTESS OF GRANTHAM
I’m not sure.

VIOLET, DOWAGER COUNTESS OF GRANTHAM (sigh)
Well, if she doesn’t, we’ll just have to take her abroad. In these moments, you can normally find an Italian who isn’t too picky.

[1] Posted by MichaelA on 12-2-2012 at 09:41 PM · [top]

And considering the assassination of a foreign ambassador:

VIOLET, DOWAGER COUNTESS OF GRANTHAM
Now, I’ve been thinking. I confess I do not know if I would have had strength, mentally or physically, to carry a corpse the length of this house.  But I hope I would have done.  You were quite right. When something bad happens, there’s no point in wishing it had not happened. The only option is to minimize the damage.

CORA, COUNTESS OF GRANTHAM
Or try to.  But if the Flintshires have got hold of it…

VIOLET, DOWAGER COUNTESS OF GRANTHAM
I’ve written to Susan. I said it was a story made up by Mr Pamuk’s enemies to discredit him. Even if she doesn’t believe me, she won’t tell in case it reflects badly on her. The ambassador is dangerous, but then, how many people really go to the Turkish embassy?

CORA, COUNTESS OF GRANTHAM
It only takes one.

VIOLET, DOWAGER COUNTESS OF GRANTHAM
Well, I mean, it just can’t be helped.  We can’t have him assassinated… I suppose.

[2] Posted by MichaelA on 12-2-2012 at 09:44 PM · [top]

Tee hee.

She’s a disgrace, MichaelA.

I shouldn’t like her.  But I do.

I was saying via skype that:

she’s just so *carelessly arrogant*
that’s one reason why I like her
she’s so jingoistic
so superior to americans
just hopeless
and she doesn’t care
un-self-assessing
she’s at war with “progress” and the Wrong Sort
and obviously, both will win

[3] Posted by Sarah on 12-2-2012 at 11:48 PM · [top]

As a country parson formerly holding a benefice in the gift of one of the largest landholders (and among the oldest families) in England, I would consider the countess’s responses here perfectly appropriate. The relationship between the Rectory and the Hall is symbiotic, each supporting the other. Lady Grantham shouldn’t have had to remind the parson of the real facts of his life. He should already have been aware of them. That he was not just shows a fatal combination of arrogance and cluelessness.

[4] Posted by A Senior Priest on 12-3-2012 at 11:43 AM · [top]

@A Senior Priest: Or, that some exposition was needed (for the Americans).

[5] Posted by Suzanne Gill on 12-4-2012 at 12:06 PM · [top]

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