Oh Countess Violet How We Will Miss You and the Lessons You Taught Us
We’ve been huge fans, like millions of tomatoes on both sides of the pond, of Downton Abbey, from day one. We’ve watched since the first episode when the Crawleys and the servants downstairs were in shock over the sinking of the Titanic and the loss of Lord Grantham’s heir, James Crawley, and his son Patrick who was betrothed to daughter Mary. She has a moment of grief before she moves on to another suitor, in what was our first inkling that Mary often has a heart made of ice cubes.
Over the years, we’ve watch the fashion evolve, suitors come and go, marriages, tragic deaths of main characters, the ravages of WWI, downstairs intrigue, rape, innocent servants accused of murder, Edith transform from ugly duckling to a great beauty running a publishing company, and finally having the nerve to call her sister Mary a “bitch”. One of our all-time favorite moments.
We’ve watched the Crawleys adjust to modern times with the introduction of the radio, the telephone, the automobile, cocktail hour, and the ending of an aristocratic way of life in grand estates like Downton Abbey with butlers, handmaidens, valets, cooks and chauffeurs. We’ve lived vicariously with afternoon tea in the parlor, intimate family diners in the elegant dining room with exquisite china and crystal, hunting parties, grand balls, and we’ve survived the “crass” Americans.
But all good things eventually come to an end, and truth be told, it was time for Downton Abbey to end. Really, how much more of insufferable Mary can one take? How many times can the poor valet Mr. Bates or his wife be arrested for murder? And how many loves can Edith lose? But the one character, we will miss the most, is Lady Violet, the Countess Dowager played with utter perfection by the incomparable Maggie Smith. Her one line zingers were brilliant. Here are a few of the lessons we learned from the Countess.
Lesson #1: Every Woman Has a Past and that is a Good Thing.
“One way or another, every woman goes down the aisle with half the story hidden.”
“I do think a woman’s place is eventually in the home, but I see no harm in her having some fun before she gets there.”
Lesson #2: How to Deliver a Retort
Violet: “You are quite wonderful the way you see room for improvement wherever you look. I never knew such reforming zeal.” Isobel: “I take that as a compliment.” Violet: “I must’ve said it wrong.”
Isobel Crawley “What should we call each other?” Dowager Countess “Well we could always start with Mrs. Crawley and Lady Grantham…”
Sir Richard: “I’m leaving in the morning Lady Grantham. I doubt we’ll meet again.” Countess Violet: “Do you promise?”
Martha Levinson: I have no wish to be a great lady. Countess Violet: A decision that must be reinforced whenever you look in the glass.
Lesson #3: Love, Courtships, and Marriage
“I’m not a romantic, but even I concede that the heart does not exist solely for the purpose to pump blood.”
“Oh, I should steer clear of May. Marry in May, rue the day.”
“Give him a date for when Mary’s out of mourning. No one wants to kiss a girl in black.”
Cora: “I hate to go behind Robert’s back.” Countess Violet: “That is a scruple no successful wife can afford.”
Lesson #4 : Politely Dying
“No English man would dream of dying in someone else’s house. Especially someone they didn’t even know.”
Lesson #5: Dealing with Foreigners
Cora: “I hope I don’t hear sounds of a disagreement.” Countess Violet: “Is that what they call discussion in New York?”
“Try not to let those Yankees drive you mad.”
“Switzerland has everything to offer, except perhaps conversation. And one can learn to live without that.”
Lesson #6: On Aging
“Alas, I am beyond impropriety.”
“It’s the job of grandmothers to interfere.”
“You know me…Never complain, never explain.”
“At my age, one must ration one’s excitement.”
“No life appears rewarding if you think about it too much.”
Lesson #7: Value Yourself
Isobel: It’s only me. Violet: I always feel that greeting betrays such a lack of self-worth”.
“You are a woman with a brain and reasonable ability. Stop whining and find something to do.”
“Vulgarity is no substitute for wit.”
Lesson #8: Principles Are Overrated
“Principles are like prayers. Noble of course. But awkward at a party.”