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The Five Lessons of Downton Abbey

Updated: Feb 7, 2019

I watched the last episode of Downton Abbey over the weekend. It was painful. I kept clicking on the bar at the bottom to see how far along I was in the episode, how close to the end of a five-year/six-season relationship with some of the most insightful, caring people I've ever screen-met, and I just wanted to savor it and make sure it wasn't moving too quickly. Alas, it was over all too soon. Surely that last hour was only fifteen minutes, no matter what the clock said. 

How to do a send-off? Review the whole thing? We already did that. You can listen to our Downton Abbey Podcast from over a year ago, where we talk about Julian Fellowes and his tantalizing writing, his British Britishness brought to the screen, the almost defiant use of manners and class systems of long ago and how they might not have been as bad as they look a hundred years later, and so on. I listened to it again before writing this, and I think it's just fine. A true review of a series that was still one season away from completion, and it is relevant to this season as well. 

So my send-off becomes the five life lessons of Downton Abbey, with love, from a student of the show and an admirer of each and every strength and weakness from characters that each have a piece of me in them; my good, my bad, and my ugly. A big thank you for the lessons and I look forward to re-watching it all in five years when my consumption of Diet Coke and its aspartame-induced short-term memory loss will allow me to see it all again for the first time.   

The Five Lessons of Downton Abbey

Pride, well-placed and respectfully treated, is a good thing. It's not at all what goeth before the fall. Pride in appearance, no matter what your finances. Pride in your work, no matter how tedious or menial; the kind of pride that is inbred. It's the part of you no one can diminish as long as you carry it with you daily, in all that you do. Credit goes to Carson, Lady Mary, but mostly, Mr. Bates. 

Tradition is not to be mocked. If your mom made ham for Easter (my mom did), then make ham for Easter and encourage your children to do the same. Carrying on traditions brings the generations together and it reminds us that there are those that came before and those that will come after. It's comforting, and in an ever-changing world that has made the landscape of our lives flash by way too quickly, it will slow the train down and remind us of what we have seen before. Yep, tradition. Credit goes to The Earl and his mother, Lady Grantham. 

When it comes to words, less is more. You can slay the dragon across from you with a wit-wilting sentence rather than a shrieking paragraph or dissertation. You can do this and find fun in it, and frankly, it has way more power than the rage-filled ranting that people in the end tune out. All the credit here goes to Lady Grantham! Every inch of every one-liner that felt like a knock-out punch throughout six glorious seasons. 

Do not confuse an education less than your own, or less knowledge in the cerebral cortex to mean that someone is not as smart as you. Smarts is smarts and it's not based on education. And, to underestimate someone based on that degree in the closet is a mistake. You go, Daisy girl! You go! Perhaps the smartest of us all. And Ms. Patmore is right behind you. Thank you both! I needed that lesson. 

Lastly, dine with others and make sure you have manners at the table. Eat together; there is a reason that it has been the place where people get the most from others (how about that last supper?), and show up with manners, without your phone, and pay attention to world events and polite conversation as well as the gossip and events of the day. Do not rush it. Have more than one quick course. Chew your food and the talk around it. And, for that we thank the entire cast and crew, who had to maneuver those cameras around the table, I'm told, in a way that was both dangerous and difficult. 

That's it. The lessons of Downton Abbey from Hollister, an admirer and friend of the entire DA family. 

-Christine Merser (AKA Hollister)


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