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Downton Abbey: Historical Notes and Context, Quibbles and Anachronisms


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#61

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Posted Feb 15, 2013 @ 8:48 PM

Not sure if this is the right place for it, but any Irish republican would absolutely refuse to use the anglicised version of their name. I can maybe see Branson continuing to go by Tom since they know him, but "Kieran" would almost certainly be Ciaran.
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#62

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Posted Feb 15, 2013 @ 11:20 PM

What would Tom be?

Do we even know if Kieran is a republican? He might be apolitical.
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#63

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Posted Feb 16, 2013 @ 9:33 AM

The Irish of Tom is Tomas - and reclaiming the Irish version of your name was a big thing in the Republican movement. But you're right that we're not so sure about if Ciaran (as I'm going to insist on calling him!) was a Republican, but I thought there was mention that the Bransons were a republican family?
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#64

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Posted Feb 16, 2013 @ 10:12 AM

The Irish of Tom is Tomas - and reclaiming the Irish version of your name was a big thing in the Republican movement. But you're right that we're not so sure about if Ciaran (as I'm going to insist on calling him!) was a Republican, but I thought there was mention that the Bransons were a republican family?


What is the nickname for Tomas, though? Is it still Tom like it is for Thomas?
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#65

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Posted Feb 16, 2013 @ 11:55 AM

Yes, but pronounced differently. I'm sure I'm nitpicking here, but I've just been really frustrated by how Irish republicans are being portrayed.
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#66

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Posted Feb 16, 2013 @ 1:44 PM

I've just been really frustrated by how Irish republicans are being portrayed.


I think they aren't. Fellowes isn't interested -- either because he isn't interested, or because he has no interest in controversy on matters as tangential as politics (in his view). What he finds interesting in people is the dynamic relationship between their natures and their circumstance. As a writer he cares about character first, class second and personality third; the rest is outside his scope. The way he has presented the Irish Republican view is...well again, he hasn't: he has given us Tom, and that's about it.

Tom is Irish as Cora, Martha and Martha's maid are American, which is simply just a little more than Parmuk was Turkish. A catch-all shorthand of characteristics best employed for one-liners but sometimes handy as a plot device. Nationality interests him only insofar as it coincides or collides with class. As for politics, those are bulky outerwear his characters mostly keep stuffed into a knapsack they can jettison at any time, like a competitor making a dash at the end of a leg of The Amazing Race.
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#67

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Posted Feb 16, 2013 @ 11:31 PM

Well put. I have been offended by the portrayal of Americans, the Irish, women, progressives, gays, etc. I guess I just can't win. But I wish more reviewers would call the show out on it, instead of describing it as a nuanced portrayal of class relationships. If you only understand the British Aristocrats and the British Servant Class and no one in between or outside, fine, but leave the rest alone. Or at least don't get away with it and laugh it off like it isn't important.
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#68

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Posted Feb 19, 2013 @ 3:11 PM

But I wish more reviewers would call the show out on it, instead of describing it as a nuanced portrayal of class relationships. If you only understand the British Aristocrats and the British Servant Class and no one in between or outside, fine, but leave the rest alone. Or at least don't get away with it and laugh it off like it isn't important.


Fellowes only deals with 2 classes: the nobility and servant class. No Royalty, no exiled Russian nobility, no middleclass : government workers, dressmakers, teachers, etc.

In terms of politics.....I think we should be happy the Great War got a mention. The fact that Robert is a member of the House of Lords and nary a mention about what he does there is a clue that Fellowes doesn't want to entertain anything that might not fit tidily into his story.
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#69

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Posted Feb 22, 2013 @ 4:24 PM

I think one enormous mistake by Fellowes was jumping from August 1914 to 1916. I would have been interested to see how the various people, both upstairs and downstairs, dealt with the realization that the war wasn't going to end by Christmas 1914, as was generally thought when the war began, and the fact that thousands and thousands of men were being slaughtered. They did a bit of Sybil and Edith mentioning either that all the boys they knew were now dead, or that there wasn't anyone Edith's age for her to marry, but I thought the gradual disillusionment with the war and the horror of its carnage would be a big dramatic point. IMO, a missed opportunity.
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#70

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Posted Feb 22, 2013 @ 5:27 PM

There was that moment at the end of S2 when Robert talked to Jane (of all people) about the families they knew who had lost only sons or multiple sons, and wondered what it was all for. Otherwise, nothing.

Before S3 aired Dan said Matthew would be questioning Robert this season, and challenging him, because he was aware that Robert's generation and class was responsible for the mistakes made in the war that led to so much carnage. But we didn't see that. He challenged him on the estate, but the subtext wasn't really clear. Maybe there were some scenes cut, IDK. But if so, what a waste. I would much rather have seen him call Robert out on that.
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#71

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Posted Feb 23, 2013 @ 9:59 AM

I'm not one that cares if the show hews closely to factual history or not, because it's fiction.

In fact I sometimes wonder if JF could have created this story in some alternate universe where he could cherry pick which historical facts take place (Titanic, yes, WWI no)?
I'm not one that notices the historical inaccuracies and anachronisms anyway so it wouldn't really bother me but I wonder if the audience in general would have found that acceptable.
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#72

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Posted Feb 23, 2013 @ 8:32 PM

I would say it is historical fiction. Without the historical context, it would be less interesting.
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#73

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Posted Feb 24, 2013 @ 4:49 AM

"Kieran" would almost certainly be Ciaran


Is there a huge pronunciation difference between the two? Huger than the two different accents at hand? I know it was "Kieran" in the closed captioning, but I don't think that is worth TOO much consideration. Captioning is often off of what is heard and not the script its self.
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#74

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Posted Feb 24, 2013 @ 9:24 AM

Anachronistic word alert: The use of the word 'parentting" as shorthand for "being a parent" or "raising children" didn't come into vogue until the 1970s/80s. I suppose it was part of the great age of verbing of nouns.

It sounded particularly rididculous to me, coming out of the grande dame's mouth! *chuckle*
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#75

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Posted Feb 25, 2013 @ 4:43 PM

Here's something that really made my language anachronism alarm go off: "to suck up" as in to behave obsequiously. I think it was said by Mary and Matthew, but I forget when. It just seemed like way too modern a slang expression to me.
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#76

ujkle

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Posted Feb 25, 2013 @ 8:13 PM

I thought so too, but I had a look and from an oldish blog about the language on Downton -

Matthew Crawley’s light-hearted use of sucking up to is documented first in 1860.


Unless that was in a different context/used in a different way? I can't remember exactly. I thought a similar thing about 'stuff' but as it's already pointed out, it'd been around for ages.
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#77

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Posted Feb 26, 2013 @ 9:07 AM

We should start hearing things like "the bee's knees", "banana oil" and the like if JF wants to be hip.
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#78

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Posted Feb 26, 2013 @ 8:03 PM

"Sucking up" is such schoolboy slang -- I can imagine it being fairly old.
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#79

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Posted Mar 4, 2013 @ 10:27 AM

Local PBS station did a DA marathon as part of pledge week/month. Here's a quibble: James' comment about male cooks and Mrs. P. reply that some people think men are some of the best cooks.....James probably lives in a hole in the ground and ditto for Mrs. P. They are living in or slightly after the era of great chefs: Escoffier was still alive during DA's era. Careme and Soyer predated Escoffier but were highly influential. And some of the titled families had male chefs doing the cooking.

Another thing was Mrs. P's comment that Lady Sybil was a "bright young thing". BYTs were around in the late 20s.
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#80

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Posted Mar 4, 2013 @ 1:44 PM

Having just watched Parade's End, I do wonder about the differences between the shows. Cars & telephones seemed to be a big deal in Downton in 1914, but I believe Parade's End started in 1912 & no one was making a to-do about either, and had both. Also, I swear Parade's End had something that sounded like Charleston music at a party pre-WWI & clothing that would be suited for a flapper.
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#81

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Posted Mar 5, 2013 @ 9:16 AM

Also, I swear Parade's End had something that sounded like Charleston music at a party pre-WWI & clothing that would be suited for a flapper.


Ragtime was more-or-less mainstream in the pre-War years. And jazz/blues were also becoming mainstream.
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#82

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Posted Mar 5, 2013 @ 12:22 PM

Tom Stoppard used Juliet Nicolson's The Perfect Summer: England 1911, Just Before the Storm for background information while he was writing the screenplay for Parade's End. It's an entertainingly written bit of social history that covers more than just the upper classes--and the title is slightly ironic, since the summer included record-breaking, killing heat & serious labor unrest. It also sets the scene well for the first series of Downton Abbey.

American music (ragtime, etc.) & American "novelty" dances were heard years before the war. The book also points out that London traffic was a mix of horse-drawn conveyances & the new automobiles. (An example of this mix provides a dramatic scene in the first episode of Parade's End.) Telephones were common. Remember, though, that most of the characters in Ford's book (& Stoppard's series) were based in London--a long distance from Yorkshire. Exteriors of the Tietjens family seat, Groby, were actually shot in Yorkshire; and that great home had no indoor plumbing!

Stoppard names Paul Poiret as the creator of one arresting outfit in the series; the first "modern" fashion designer, he also invented the harem pants that Sybil had knocked off by a local seamstress. The gaudy coat Shirley Maclaine wore to arrive at Downton was also a Poiret design--& it or its twin was worn by Sylvia in Parade's End. Fashions had changed considerably since the high Edwardian outfits of the earliest 20th century. I do think the "flapper" dress that Rose wore in the club was too short--those skirts came later in the 20's.

Nicolson's book is recommended for anybody interested in the period. She also wrote The Great Silence: Britain from the Shadow of the First World War to the Dawn of the Jazz Age, which overlaps with the last season of Downton. I'll probably be back to discuss a few points she mentioned...
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#83

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Posted Mar 5, 2013 @ 3:27 PM

Speaking of music, I don't recall seeing a Victor phonograph or the Edison cylinder phonograph among the Crawley possessions. Those were the iPods, iPads of the day.
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#84

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Posted Mar 7, 2013 @ 9:08 AM

Spotted another anachronism: the Susan-Shrimpy-Rose's gown debate at the Gillie's Ball. Rose asks violet's opinion and Violet says something like when she was Rose's age mutton chop sleeves were the fashion. Muttonchop sleeves were in fashion during the Edwardian period (when Violet was already a stately matron, not a 20 something)

Edited by Milz, Mar 7, 2013 @ 9:15 AM.

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#85

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Posted Mar 7, 2013 @ 10:45 AM

Leg of Mutton or gigot sleeves were first stylish in the 1830s, and made a return (in a big way) in the 1890s, so they were a primarily Victorian affectation. So, Violet was too young for them the first go round, but old enough for them the second time through.*

Actual quote "Oh, my dear, in my time I wore the crinoline, the bustle and the leg-of-mutton sleeve. I'm not in a strong position to criticise."

* Historian with a love of textile/fashion history. One of my theses was on fashion/textiles of the mid-19th C. The other was much more traditional and boring.
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#86

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Posted Mar 7, 2013 @ 1:11 PM

She would have also worn the (very low) decolletage gowns of the mid 1800s too.
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#87

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Posted Mar 9, 2013 @ 11:53 PM

I second the earlier mention that the word "pregnant" probably wouldn't have been used to describe Sybil ... my 89-year old U.S.-born and bred mother can barely say it; she says "expecting." It threw me to hear characters in DA use the word.

That's probably because your grandmother is probably decidedly middle class. The show actually hangs a lampshade on it in one of the episodes with Cora's mother. She mentions "losing" her husband and the Dowager replies "Oh? Mine died." Middle class people were more prone to using euphemism where upper-class people spoke more plainly. U and non U differences
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#88

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Posted Dec 20, 2013 @ 12:28 PM

 

 

Well put. I have been offended by the portrayal of Americans, the Irish, women, progressives, gays, etc. I guess I just can't win. But I wish more reviewers would call the show out on it, instead of describing it as a nuanced portrayal of class relationships. If you only understand the British Aristocrats and the British Servant Class and no one in between or outside, fine, but leave the rest alone. Or at least don't get away with it and laugh it off like it isn't important. 

 

Am I the only one who groaned when Cora said "Don't worry about me. I'm an American.  Have gun, will travel" when she was told her husband had lost all her fortune?  And started humming the theme song to "Have Gun, Will Travel"?  The expression may have been around at the turn of the century but to me it sounded more like Fellows watched one too many 50's cowboy TV series during his childhood and thought that America at the time was entirely like old Dodge City.  

 

As for books, I'm reading "Below Stairs:  The Classic Kitchen Maid's Memoir" that both Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs were supposed to be based on.  Margaret Powell was the author and the book itself was originally released in the 60's.  She died around 1984 but she was what Daisy was supposed to be and her take on what life was like is very interesting.  They weren't apple-cheeked peasants happy to live vicariously through the lord and lady despite what Fellows seems to think.  It's been re-released because of the popularity of the series and it's really good.

 

For those interested in cooking at the time I love the blog "The Cookbook of the Unknown Ladies" http://lostcookbook.wordpress.com/.  It's basically what the title says - a cookbook recently discovered that appears to be a family cookbook from a wealthy family handed down from generation to generation. I'll quote the blog directly for the description because I can't give a better one:

 

 

The Cookbook of Unknown Ladies is a manuscript recipe book in the collections of Westminster City Archives. The recipes, recorded in several different hands, span 150 years of British cookery, providing a fascinating insight into culinary craft of the Georgian and Regency periods.

We know little about the provenance of the Cookbook, and its passage from the eighteenth-century kitchen to our library shelves is shrouded in mystery.

It was originally thought that the book was written by a group of ladies about the year 1761, the date deriving from a rough note on the original binding. However, there are later recipes interspersed among those from the Eighteenth Century. Many are drawn from William Kitchiner’s Cook’s Oracle, which was first published in 1817 and appeared in many editions.

 

If you get their e-mails they send out recipes they tried from the cookbook.  


Edited by baronne, Dec 20, 2013 @ 12:29 PM.

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#89

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Posted Jan 3, 2014 @ 12:29 PM

I think one enormous mistake by Fellowes was jumping from August 1914 to 1916. I would have been interested to see how the various people, both upstairs and downstairs, dealt with the realization that the war wasn't going to end by Christmas 1914, as was generally thought when the war began, and the fact that thousands and thousands of men were being slaughtered.

 

 

Season 4 of Upstairs, Downstairs captured the Great War and its effects beautifully.  Even if you haven't seen seasons 1- 3, I think you could enjoy S4 on its own.


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#90

TWoP Roxy

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Posted Jan 3, 2014 @ 6:54 PM

Let's stick to discussing Downton, please.