Dear friends and readers,
Julian Fellowes is a smart man; he knows how to keep up sustained interest in his imaginative world. What better way than produce these finely-produced generous books which enable the reader to re-imagine the series, to re-watch the DVDs with book in hand? These are forms of novels. The first script for the first season is now available for a reasonable price at Amazon; indeed the price is low considering the object and what you can pay for books say from Ashgate. The book consists of 7 plays, each of them subdivided into three acts. Whether this is a hindsight division or one Fellowes has come to see, to apprehend the parts this way elevates them into historical plays. The second season’s scripts, including the Christmas special will be out next October, just before the fourth season begins.
Fellowes shows his ability to think for himself too when he decides to bring out his scripts for Downton Abbey. It seems most script-writers obey (whether they agree or not) the private-property obsessed notion that you must not share the script lest someone use your ideas and make money off of them. As someone fascinated by film study, whenever I seriously study a film or set of films (say the Pallisers or Jane Austen films), I had usually had to go to the trouble of taking down in stenography the script as I watch a DVD, clicking pause as I go. Arduous and time-consuming. The script is the basis of the film; the shots or stills are its embodied utterances. Whenever I’ve come across a published or on-line script, I’ve rejoiced and bought it, used it. But it’s rare to find them. In the 1960s there was an attempt made to publish these in large anthologies for the newly burgeoning discipline of film studies, but apparently this went nowhere — or not enough people ordered them, so I have but two of the several then published, and more recently scripts only for those films which became part of a cult, and then not always. It maybe the real reason it’s hard to get these scripts is the average person watching movies will not buy them so there’s not enough profit to warrant producing readable ones.
Yes I know all the flaws of DA, but one is not a lack of books. Fellowes’s daughter has published two genuinely informative, helpful — and beautiful — books thus far: The World of Downton Abbey, which is a standard “The Making Of,” very interesting about the sets, costumes, ideas about the era, and genuine historical information about the lives of servants in great houses (very hard); The Chronicles of Downton Abbey, which is made up of chapter giving analyses of individual characters as Fellowes conceives or understands them, with rationales and justifications. Both are splendidly rich, the paper heavy art paper which supports color reproductions.
And others have come out with some history of the family which owned Highclere Castle in the later 19th century. Here is a small list of such books, including the original memoir for the 1970s Upstairs Downstairs.
It was taking a chance. And then arrived on my stoop today (whence this blog) not a slender script book — which is often what I’ve found, but a fat book of nearly 400 pages, good quality letterpress paper. sewn even. The scripts are beautifully set out: lots of space between lines and not just dialogue, but directions for gestures, brief descriptions of planned sets or places, and occasionally long footnotes by Fellowes telling his thinking behind a scene or some history of his impulse for writing this or that. In the center is fold of art paper with stills that go with several scenes, of which I’ve put one at the top of this blog (these show the tongue-in-cheek archetypal quality originally intended):
Fellowes is well aware of the political exposure his series has been subjected to and also how badly the decamping of Deborah Findley-Brown, Dan Stevens, and now Siobhan Finneran might hurt the coming season. It’s hard also to keep up interest and make each season filled with new suspense. Of course he could move to the 1930s and the Spanish Civil War, but how would it do for him to produce a pro-Franco series. I understand Season 4 will move ahead just 6 months.
What this has done is re-tempt me to begin to make blogs of the many postings I’ve done over the two years and not put onto the World Wide Web, but just left at Yahoo. I hesitated partly because it would take hard work as each one this season required my taking notes as well as capturing stills. The script will make it much easier, and as long as I don’t fuss too much with too many stills I could try it.
So what I’ve done in the meantime is the easier thing: simply linked my handy list into my website: I didn’t make a separate page in the manner of the Pallisers or my Austen Miscellanies as I simply haven’t done enough to warrant that, but eventually I’ll replace the links mostly from this blog, with a page in the website domaine itself. Its mascot or gravatar picture for now is Thomas (Rob James-Collier) dancing with the Dowager Duchess (Maggie Smith):
I’ve tried again and again to explain why I love costume drama enough to even take deep pleasure in this (for me) ambivalent series. Well I just do. Had I lived in the 18th century I’m sure I would have been one of those readers who bought plays bound together in books and read them slowly: in the 18th century people read plays; they were bound up in make-shift books and could be bought or found in circulating libraries. The closet dramas of Wordsworth, Shelley, Byron had an audience. The novel put paid to that by the Victorian period, especially with Mudie’s distribution services and then after Pickwick installment publication in magazines.
My goal would be to follow a schedule whereby I do one every one or two weeks. On the weekends read the scripts. The scripts would make it so much easier, indeed a pleasure; then in October when Season 2 comes out (in time for the TV airing of Season 4) I could do likewise for Season 2.