Isn’t it strange the way people everywhere speak of fictional characters as if they were real? Do they think they are over the fence gossipers as their grandmothers were?
I catch snippets of conversation where ever my travels take me and it amazes me the personal way in which characters of Downton Abbey are discussed.
“Will Lady Mary remarry?”
“Will Tom move to America?”
“Will the estate survive the report those two visitors to Downton are studying?
So I wonder; what would it have been like to live in the early 1900s? If I were Lady Mary could I get used to lying in my bed every morning and be served breakfast by my servant? And could I feel as free as Lady Cora to discuss personal matters with my husband in front of a person who is my servant?
And wouldn’t it feel strange for a maid to dress me every day? Would I not feel embarrassed to be waited on as if I were a child unable to manage her own needs?
Ugh; with no indoor plumbing at that time wouldn’t it be humiliating to expect another human to empty my chamber pots?
As I think about life back then it occurs to me that I am assuming that I would be one of members of the upper class. I am considering their class of society life as it might effect me. But what if I had the misfortune to be born into a lower class family. How well would I be able to accept that life as an underling is one I never would have the opportunity to leave. I would be the one trained to serve “my betters.” My life would always be about caring for the whims of someone above me in society. There would be little opportunity to rise from my station and leave the low status into which I was born.
So, while Downton Abbey is entertaining, the dress of the day glamorous and manners exacting, I’ll bet that if I were born at that time I’d be a daughter of a shopkeeper and his hard working wife. And the characters I admire and look up to would be “my betters.”
That idea does not appeal to me at all. This century, with it’s unique problems, scandals and texting, is exactly where I belong.
Comments on: "IF I WERE A DOWNTON RESIDENT" (40)
Ronnie, funny you reflect on the same sorts of issues I, myself think of, from time to time. The points you bring up regarding the upper class – ugh is right! No, thank you. I’ll ‘wipe my own backside,’ as Eddie Murphy quipped in Coming to America. The shopkeeper’s wife you speak of would be downright middle class, compared to most of the peasants. I’m glad I’m living in the here and now!
I think if I weren’t born to upper class in that era, I would have to run away. I was never very good at taking orders or just accepting that what authority said was a given. I always questioned. My father said I grow up to be a lawyer. I didn’t. I became a news reporter instead. I was still able to ask questions.
I typed too fast and forgot the “would” before grow up, but according to experts, we don’t read every word. We read sentences.
I knew exactly what you meant. I always tell people, “Listen to what I mean: not what I say.”
Yes. At the moment, my aunt (her family lives here in the town) and her daughter are taking good care of me. My mum will arrive over the weekend.
Uzo, that’s good that you have such loving caregivers. Recover soon so you can bring us more of your wonderful stories.
The title ‘Downton Abbey’ sounds familiar, but I don’t recalling watching it — I must’ve heard about it from a friend or overheard a group of people talking about it.
Well, if I were born during such an era, something tells me that I wouldn’t have been born into the royal family. Perhaps I would be the son of a peasant farmer or hunter. But then, I like to do basic things by myself. It makes me feel prepared for the unknown time ahead.
It was a series on the Public Broadcast system. The last season just concluded. If you had seen it I think you would remember it. Nobody I know visualizes themselves born into a royal family, so you’re in good company.
Is anyone helping you as you recover?
I love Downton Abbey but I realize I’d probably be one of the maids and not of nobility. And I’d probably be scandalous and always reprimanded for talking too much. Better stay put.
Maybe we’d be found whispering about Thomas!
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Good points! I do get hung up on the beauty of the clothing, but you’re right…the chamber pot in those get-ups? LOL! Not to mention dying in childbirth because of inadequate medical advances. You’ve helped bring me back to reality. Thank you! 🙂
Maybe once in a while it’s good to be swept away from reality and live in the dream.
Totally agree. Although it seems tempting to be served with breakfast in bed everyday, to be pampered and all, the present I won’t trade for such in the past. We may not be gold rich today but we sure do have comforts a King or queen then will trade for. Have a great Sunday!
…and we have a longer life span. Except for Maggie Smith, of course.
The lack of indoor plumbing and no air conditioning are dealbreakers for me.
I know I couldn’t tolerate the being dressed and attended to.. or the formal clothing. I love the show and will miss it– seems this season flew by. If I were born in that time, like you, would most likely to have been a shopkeeper’s daughter.
Saying, “yes ma’am” all day…
I too feel I am exactly where I belong. On the other hand, I do admire the manners and courtesies of those times, as well as their love for detail, care and beauty. In many episodes I have also noted the upper class getting down and dirty to do the work of real people – like Lady Mary in the pig pen or the work of the upper class women caring for the wounded during the war. What a thoughtful post! Thanks for sharing.
That scene in the pig pen was memorable; now the next suitor realizes how caring she can be.
With everything you wrote in mind, it’s easy to see why so many of that era chose to gamble everything on moving west to the frontier for the opportunity for equality. I probably would have been one of the early traders, trappers, explorers. I can only be subservient for so long…, (about 2 minutes) !!! This was really food for thought though, Ronnie
Subservience is not in the cards for me either.
Ronnie … I don’t watch this show, but I agree with your take on it. I suspect that my ancestors were one step ahead of the law when they fled to America. I would not have been among those to enjoy the finer things in life or be waited on – nor would I have been comfortable being among the “haves” and looking down on the “have nots.”
No, it’s a pirate’s life for me. 😉
That would have been uncomfortable and unthinkable.
Reblogged this on valerianola.
What I wonder is how did it all come to an end? Did the tradition of servants doing all that stuff just gradually fade away? Or did it go out with a bang? Perhaps the pool of servant girls diminished as they became educated and took jobs that allowed them to move out of that occupation.
I think education was the main reason that they were able to move out of the servant role.
My mother was born in India into an ‘aristocratic-type’ family. One of my maiden aunts never left and when she came to visit when my daughters were small, they were fascinated by the stories of how she had never learned to bathe nor dress herself. It all seemed quite bizarre! – though for a little while the girls went around with their arms outstretched, demanding to be dressed…. that didn’t last long. 🙂
They had to learn what world they lived in!
great post Ronnie… makes one wonder about the past…
My ancestors never told me very much about the past: what a shame.
There’s something to be said for ‘progress” !
That’s the truth!
Have to think I would not be comfortable as one of the upper class and certainly would not like to have someone dress me and care for me. Life today as I have it sounds much better.
I love my freedom, and wouldn’t care for that role either.
I don’t even feel comfortable with turn-down service in a hotel–I would never have done well in an age of having servants. Then again, I, too suspect I would be the one doing the serving. And I’d be okay with that. I imagine those folks hear lots of juicy gossip. 😉
And there WAS plenty going on; some things never change.