Downton Abbey and OUTLANDER

So I was watching Season 2 of "Downton Abbey" on PBS last week, and it occurred to me that there are some interesting parallels in several of the storylines between "Downton Abbey" and the OUTLANDER books.

* * * SPOILER WARNING!! * * *

Spoilers for Season 2 of "Downton Abbey" below, as well as for THE SCOTTISH PRISONER.

If you're sensitive to spoilers, don't read below unless you have seen Episode 6 of "Downton Abbey" Season 2, which aired on February 12 in the US.









1) Lady Sybil abandoning her upper-class upbringing, wealth, and a life of luxury in order to marry Branson, the chauffeur.  There are many similarities to the Dottie-and-Denny storyline in AN ECHO IN THE BONE.  I was surprised and pleased to see Lord Grantham, in Episode 6, let Sybil go with his blessing, and enough money so they won't starve.  I wonder what Hal's reaction will be, in MOHB, to the news that his daughter Dottie has decided to turn Quaker and marry Denny Hunter?

2) Ethel, the former housemaid with a bastard child.  Watching Episode 6 the other night, I was struck by the choice Bryant's father gave her:  he would take the child and raise it as his heir, in a life of wealth and privilege, but she would never see her son again.  I couldn't help thinking that Brian Fraser, too, was the bastard son of a housemaid, acknowledged by the laird (the Old Fox, Lord Lovat).  It's all too easy to picture Lord Lovat giving Brian's mother precisely the same choice.

3) The marriage of Daisy and William, when William lay dying from his war injuries, seems very reminiscent of the deathbed scene in DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, when Mary Hawkins marries Jonathan Randall.  Daisy doesn't love William, doesn't particularly want to be married to him, but allows herself to be talked into it, and in the process, she presumably gains some amount of financial security, by taking advantage of his military pension.  I think the same is true of Mary Hawkins.

4) Lady Sybil's attempt to elope with Branson, in Episode 5, by fleeing to Gretna Green, just across the border in Scotland.  Those of you who have read THE SCOTTISH PRISONER will recognize the similarities to Isobel's attempt to elope with Wilberforce, the lawyer.  (Of course it was a much more arduous journey to get to Gretna Green in 1760 than in 1918!)  And Lady Mary gets there just in the nick of time, just as Jamie did in SCOTTISH PRISONER.

5) Cora (Lady Grantham), Lord Grantham's American-born wife, like Claire, is an outlander, who has made a home and a life for herself in England.  I loved Robert's line to Cora in this week's episode:  "If you're turning American on me, I'll go downstairs." <g>

6) In some ways, the Dowager Countess reminds me of Jocasta Cameron.

Consider, for example, her reaction to the idea of Downton Abbey being turned into a hospital for wounded soldiers:

Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham: I think it's a *ridiculous* idea.
Lady Sybil Crawley: Why?
Dowager Countess: Because this is a house, not a hospital.
Lady Mary Crawley: Granny, a convalescent home is where people rest and recuperate.
Dowager Countess: But if there are relapses. What then? Amputation in the dining room? Resuscitation in the pantry?

Or an autopsy in the garden shed in the dead of night, like we saw in THE FIERY CROSS? <g>  It's probably just as well that Jocasta never found out about that.  I think she would have been appalled at the idea.  On the other hand, she did let Claire operate on John Quincy Myers on her dining room table, in full view of a roomful of guests, in DRUMS OF AUTUMN.

I think these two women, with their powerful personalities, have a lot in common.

7) And finally, because I can't help thinking of this every time I lay eyes on the man:  Dan Stevens, who plays Matthew Crawley, looks very much like my mental image of a young Lord John, possibly as he looked around the time of BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE or SCOTTISH PRISONER.  I first commented on this a year ago, and I haven't seen anything in Season 2 to change my mind.


Cari said...

Great post, Karen! I definitely noticed the parallels between Lady Sybil's attempted elopment and Isobel Dunsany's, but I hadn't really thought about the other similarities.

I love your description of the Dowager Countess as she relates to Jocasta Cameron - perfect!

Brilliant comparison between Ethel and Brian Fraser's mother - I hadn't even thought of that.

I know that you've mentioned Dan Stevens before as an ideal Lord John Grey, and I can totally see it. Good call!


Purgatory Carol said...

Ahhh! Great post, Karen! That's tremendous. I never noticed that about Matthew...but wow! Total possibility! :)

Anonymous said...

I love your blog Karen and I love the upper class soap opera otherwise known as Downtown Abbey, but I'm afraid I must disagree with your two of your observations on the similarities between Downtown characters & Outlander characters.

While the Dowager Countess may be a match for Jocasta in haughtiness, she also has a sense of humour and warmth which Jocasta lacks completely.

And I'm afraid Dan Stevens looks nothing like my Lord John. He lacks that inner steel. There aren't many characters in the books who brings actors to mind for me, but whenever I read about Lord John, I always picture Jude Law.

To each their own! (and thanks for this great blog!)

Mary said...

Well done, Karen. I give you an A+ for Comparative Literature 101. Interesting how these basic human themes run through all good literature.

Karen Henry said...

@Cari - glad you liked it!

@Carol - I knew you'd appreciate this one! :-) Feel free to put the link up on your DAP site if you want to.

@Anon - Well, I agree with you about the Dowager Countess's sense of humor; it's one of my favorite things about her. :-) But as far as movie-casting goes, I don't mind if people disagree with me. FWIW, Diana has often said that her mental image of Lord John looks a lot like a young Jude Law, so I'm not saying you're wrong about that. Dan Stevens is also too tall for Lord John, and a bit too serious. But I can't take my eyes off him when he comes on screen, and that was true in Season 1 as well.

@Mary - thanks! I think you're right about the basic human themes running through all good storytelling, whether in books or on TV.


Christiane KYPREOS said...

Hello Karen ! Well done, brilliant as usual ! The Countess IS Jocasta ! (Is she Maggie Smith?) I hope to see "Downtown Abbey" played in France in the future. Thks. Christiane KYPREOS

Karen Henry said...

Yes, that's Maggie Smith, and she is WONDERFUL in the role! Hope you get to see it soon!


Eugenia said...

Karen, I do love your analysis of Downton Abbey and Outlander characters... except for Dan Stevens and lord John Grey. Looking forward for more of your posts!

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