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.
And 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.”
The 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