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Downton Abbey

Posts related to the ITV/PBS Masterpiece Classic drama

Downton Abbey’s Water Bottle


Downton Abbey's water bottle

An eagle eye spotted this water bottle in a promo pic for Downton’s fifth series and it went viral. A gaffe, yes, but a modern fad? Not at all!

The late Victorian trend of visiting Continental spas for health, combined with the increasing athleticism of society, created a health craze that spilled over into food. Enterprising businessmen–such as St. John Harmsworth, brother of the Daily Mail’s founder Lord Northcliffe–latched onto something that hadn’t been done before: bottled water. Harmsworth founded Perrier, which he tagged “The Champagne of Table Waters,” thus emphasizing the chicness of drinking bottled water. By the Edwardian era, multiple brands entered the market–many of them familiar names like the aforementioned Perrier, Apollinaris, and Scheweppes–each elbowing for supremacy using the latest in advertising tactics.

Perrier ad, The Sketch (Aug 28, 1907)


A Round-up of Downton Abbey News!


Downton Abbey season 5 cast photo

Carnival Productions has released a few teaser photos for series five of Downton Abbey!

A Year in the Life of Downton Abbey: Seasonal Celebrations, Traditions, and Recipes
It’s 1924 and there have been many changes in the world of Downton Abbey since we were first welcomed by the family and their servants twelve years ago. A generation of men has been tragically lost at the front, there are once again children breathing new life into the great house, a chauffeur now sits at the Grantham dinner table and hems are up by several inches.

Yet despite all of this unsettling upheaval, it is a comfort to find that many things at Downton remain largely unchanged. There are still parties to be thrown, summer fetes to be organized, menus to be planned and farms to be run. Join us, then, as we explore the seasonal events and celebrations of the great estate—Christmas, Easter, the debutante season, the hunt and more—and peer with us through the prism of the house as we learn more about the lives of our favorite characters, the actors who play them, and those who create the world we love so much.

Packed full of exclusive new photography and brimming with traditional British recipes for each calendar month, such as Eton mess and sloe gin, this beautiful book takes us on a fascinating journey through a year in the life of Downton Abbey.

The latest Downton Abbey companion book is to be released in the UK on September 25, 2014 and in the US on October 28, 2014. It can be pre-ordered from your favorite online booksellers–or, using Indiebound, from your local independent bookstore.

Don’t forget, you can follow the latest news about the ITV/PBS program on my Downton Abbey Portal! Also, like the Books for Downton Abbey Fans Facebook page for news and updates about novels and non-fiction that will keep you satiated between series/seasons.

Downton Abbey: Season 4, Episode 2 Recap #DowntonPBS

Dame Nellie Melba serenades the house party – courtesy of Section of Randomness

Tonight’s episode was the third episode that aired on ITV; however, since Downton always begins on PBS with a two-hour season premiere, the episode where Anna is raped smacks American viewers in the face in week 2. Not that seeing this a week after the premiere of S4 is worse than seeing this two weeks after the S4 premiere, but at least it didn’t seem so breathtakingly sudden when watching along with the UK.

It’s going to be difficult for me to recap subsequent episodes, because the aftermath of Anna’s rape will likely displease a lot of viewers.

I will say right now that I felt it a cop-out to have a fellow servant rape Anna. It’s not an impossible situation, but:

a) a regular servant was more likely to be prosecuted than an aristocrat
b) it supports the largely romanticized interactions between the Crawleys and their servants–just imagine how the show would unfold if a Crawley family friend had raped Anna. Would we see them bow to social pressure to close rank around the aristocratic rapist? Would choosing a side rip the family and staff apart? Would have been very interesting to watch.

However, up until to the rape scene, I classed this episode as Downton’s finest hour. It was very Gosford Park-like in its setting and in its basic plot that could only happen in this upstairs/downstairs milieu. Julian Fellowes’ strengths obviously lie in a self-contained story sustained by a series of overlapping smaller conflicts that culminate in an ending that ties every character together.

Mary has emerged from her zombie-like mourning, but the family decides she still needs some cheering up. A house party is the solution, and a bunch of family friends arrive at Downton to shake things up. The main plot threads occurring during this house party: the appearance of childhood friend Anthony Foyle, Lord Gillingham–who makes a beeline for Mary in the most obvious way–; Sampson the card sharp, who fleeces the gentlemen out of their money; Michael Gregson, who is determined to win Robert over (nevermind that Gregson is still a married man!); Tom’s awkwardness over his place at Downton; and the guest appearance of famed opera singer, Nellie Melba (portrayed by real life opera singer Dame Kiri Te Kanawa).

The Nellie Melba plot made me roll my eyes a bit because famous singers and entertainers had been invited to aristocratic houses and dinner parties since the 1880s and 1890s (the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, caused considerable social disruption when he took up Sarah Bernhardt in the late 1870s). Robert and Carson treating Nellie Melba as though she were a servant was very anachronistic.

Meanwhile, Anthony Gillingham’s valet, Green, stirs up raucous fun belowstairs for the Downton staff, and Anna’s involvement in his games stokes Bates’s jealousy. This jealousy is, however, painted as husbandly concern (or overbearing, patronizing condescension, IMO), and Bates frequently scolds Anna for her interactions with the valet. I guess we were supposed to infer that his stint in prison gave Bates the power to sniff out bad ‘uns, but in the wake of Anna being sexually violated, it came across as “if only you’d listened to your husband.”

Speaking of the staff, the odious Edna Braithwaite once again preyed on Tom’s insecurities–in fact, there were two rapes this episode. Edna getting Tom drunk and sneaking into his bedroom wasn’t the sign of his consent to whatever she planned that night.

This episode had lots of the beautiful dresses, witty dialogue, and social mishaps that characterize Downton Abbey, but it cannot enrapture now that the show has introduced the very serious topic of rape.