“I was hers in honour if she wished it.” DOWNTON SPOILER ALERT

"Yes, it's pierced, right about ...here."

“Yes, it’s pierced, right about …here.”

These words are spoken by Frederick Wentworth to Anne Elliot in Persuasion. The scene is after The Letter, on the gravel walk, where he is admitting his behaviour with Louisa Musgrove was inappropriate and could have put him in danger of having to marry her if not for the fall in Lyme and the events after.

They could just as easily been uttered by Downton Abbey’s Matthew Crawley to Mary Crawley at any point after he’d engaged Miss Lavina Swire but was in Mary’s presence. They both knew they loved one another, but there were impediments obviously.

I was putting the dark clothes in the washing machine this morning and noodling over the courage of Julian Fellowes in killing off Matthew Crawley in the last episode of Season 3 of Downton Abbey. That last few seconds really hurt!

If you hadn’t heard AND ignored the spoiler alert in the title, I can’t take responsibility for the pain and anger you’re feeling now.

Mary_MattAnd most of us do feel some hurt. Those of us who enjoy Downton Abbey have invested ourselves genuinely in the lives of the people who live in that Great House. That is what good fiction does. It makes you feel.

In the world of Jane Austen fiction, many readers love Pride and Prejudice for Fitzwilliam Darcy. They gravitate to Persuasion because of Frederick Wentworth—particularly for his honourable nature as cited above. And a lot of women swoon over Northanger Abbey’s Henry Tilney which is a complete mystery to me!

The readers also crush on the actors who play these characters. I’ve readily admitted that I have a “thing” for Ciaran Hinds, but it’s in almost total remission at this point and no one should mistake my melancholy about Matthew Crawley to be feelings about Dan Stevens other than, “well done, sir.”

Branson_BabyThe story of Downton Abbey is the story of one family and the people around them. All of us star in our own version of Downton. Each of us identifies with a character or two and we have various human satellites that orbit us. We all have our mornings when we are Lord Grantham in Season One who wakes up to find the heir apparent is dead in a tragic accident, and now the whole world is upside down. And not in a good way.  Or from Season Two, we have an Anna and Bates moment when we’re in a rigged up honeymoon suite having a respite from whatever the future holds. Many of us have been Tom Branson, holding his greatest blessing, surrounded by a life he never planned and wondering how exactly we got into this alien hand-basket.

And some days, we are Mary Crawley, supremely happy, unaware that the one person in the world we can truly rest in is now gone and we are alone.

Jane Austen wrote Frederick Wentworth as a funny, practical, honest, honourable man. Julian Fellowes wrote one of those in Matthew Crawley. But life will always move on without them. And without us one day.

Take care—Susan Kaye

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12 thoughts on ““I was hers in honour if she wished it.” DOWNTON SPOILER ALERT

  1. Robin Helm

    I hated to see Dan Stevens go, because he was my favorite character in the series, but I’m excited about his upcoming role as Darcy in a film variation of Pride and Prejudice. I wonder if a spate of movies based on written variations is forthcoming?

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  2. Laura Hile

    In a TV series, which is open-ended (unlike, say, Pride and Prejudice, a finished novel) it seems to me that the storyteller has a choice…and so do fans. We either wait to see our favorite characters degraded in some way — the “wow” factor for reaction, publicity, etc. (because the TV series must continue, a source of jobs for the production crew)—or else those characters die. Wah!

    But what more could happen to Matthew, story-wise? Much as we love happily ever after, it makes for a dull story. So like Lady Sylvia, Matthew’s sad demise preserves him in the world of fiction as the man we love.

    This is why I prefer novels as TV serials. The happy endings! 🙂

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    1. Laura Hile

      (I shouldn’t write comments during break — I don’t finish my thoughts.) So basically, if Persuasion were a TV series, would either Anne or Frederick have to die?

      Annoying characters, being good for ratings, live on and on. Good news for William Elliot and Mary Musgrove. Although ratings might demand a clandestine affair between them. Which would be a train wreck, even without bedroom scenes (please, no!).

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      1. Susan Kaye Post author

        I agree in your earlier response that Matthew had come to the end of his usefulness as a character. Now the grinding of steel to steel can begin when Branson and Lord Grantham have to keep the estate moving into the 20th century.

        As for a Persuasion series, I think in the same way that Downton has kept Lord and Lady Grantham at the helm, intact though bruised and battered, Frederick and Anne could also pilot a series without either being sacrificed for ratings. BUT, IMO, there would have to at some point be a betrayal of mammoth proportions.

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          1. Susan Kaye Post author

            And since Frederick is a sailor, and Anne is perceived as a long-suffering saint, she would have to do the cheating.

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            1. Laura Hile

              Or Mary Musgrove cheats with William Elliot, eew.

              But I hate to think of Anne in that light, because in “real life” she woudn’t. Well, unless Patrick McGillvary came around and was unusually charming…

              I’ve always thought she had a thing for him. Which is why it’s good, in the Mercy’s novels, that he dislikes her “timid mouse” characteristics.

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            2. Susan Kaye Post author

              I don’t think you can say that any one person wouldn’t do something. A woman like Anne is as capable as anyone of deception betrayal.

              In “real life,” a woman like Anne would probably make herself sick with anger and frustration, and who knows where that can lead.

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            3. Laura Hile

              You’re right, Susan. I can see Anne murdering Frederick (or the other woman) before she would cheat on him! 🙂

              She gave up too much for a man to risk doing that again. But murder? I’ve always wondered if that ran in the Elliot family. So many convenient deaths among that clan …

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    1. Susan Kaye Post author

      Particularly in a contemporary setting, with the encouragement of a culture that preaches purging misery by all means of self destructive behaviour. I remember years ago on the Persuasion discussion board at Pemberley.com, the question was raised whether Anne was depressed and would she take any sort of medication. MAN! The debate was hot and contentious.

      To some, Anne was saintly and would never do such a thing, to others she was an obvious candidate for all the drugs and electro shock available. What interested me was nobody raised the point that an Anne of today might not be raised with the spiritual and emotional tools of early 19th century and would see her emotional state more in a medical light than a spiritual one.

      Anyway, Persuasion has much potential as a “Housewives” type show. Or a Southern Gothic.

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Why yes, we DO want a piece of your mind. ;-)

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