No woman should have opinions until she is married. . . then her husband can tell her what they are: As Dame Maggie Smith plans to quit Downton, the scathing wit of its grande dame
07:43 GMT, 17 April 2012
Bring in the smelling salts, Carson! Rumour has it that Dame Maggie Smith, who plays the Dowager Countess of Grantham in ITV’s hit Downton Abbey, is to leave after the forthcoming third series.
She’s reportedly told Downton’s creator Julian Fellowes to write her out of the drama so she can pursue other roles on stage and in film.
Certainly, her departure would be a grievous loss, given Fellowes’ triumph in making her the most watchable character in the show.
Dame Maggie Smith's withering put-downs as the Countess Dowager are a big reason for the success of Downton Abbey
Her savage put-downs and withering one-liners — delivered with an acidly imperious confidence that springs from her birth and station — have silenced wayward granddaughters, interfering relations and unwelcome houseguests time and again.
As fans prepare themselves for Downton without the Dowager Countess, we present a selection of her wit and wisdom . . .
Lady Cora: ‘Things are different in America.’
Dowager Countess of Grantham: ‘I know. They live in wigwams.’
On the sudden death of Turkish diplomat Mr Pamuk at Downton during a shooting weekend:
‘Oh my dears. Is it really true I can’t believe it. Last night he looked so well. Of course it would happen to a foreigner. It’s typical . . . No Englishman would dream of dying in someone else’s house — especially somebody they didn’t even know.’
On the installation of a telephone:
‘Is this an instrument of communication or torture’
Countess Dowager on marriage:
'One way or another, everyone goes down the aisle with half the story hidden.'
Lady Mary Crawley: ‘Sybil is entitled to her opinions.’
Dowager Countess: ‘No. She isn’t until she is married, then her husband will tell her what her opinions are.’
To Lady Cora about Lady Mary: ‘We’d better get her settled before the bloom has gone quite off the rose.’
On the electric lightbulb:
‘I couldn’t have electricity in the house, I wouldn’t sleep a wink. All those vapours floating about.’
Countess Dowager on the middle-class habit of working five days a week:
'What is a 'weekend''
On mourning clothes:
‘No one wants to kiss a girl in black.’
On changing her mind:
‘I’m a woman, Mary. I can be as contrary as I choose.’
On educating girls:
Lady Sybil Crawley: ‘No one ever learned anything from a governess except for French, and how to curtsy.’
Dowager Countess: ‘What more do you need
Countess Dowager on grief:
'One can't go to pieces at the death of every foreigner. We'd all be in a constant state of collapse whenever we opened a newspaper.'
Doctor: ‘Mrs Crawley tells me she has recommended nitrate of silver and tincture of steel.’
Dowager Countess: ‘Why, is she making a suit of armour’
On trouble with the staff:
Lord Grantham: ‘We better go in soon or it isn’t fair to Mrs Patmore.’
Dowager Countess: ‘Oh, is her cooking so precisely timed You couldn’t tell.’
On meddlesome relations:
Dowager Countess: ‘You are quite wonderful the way you see room for improvement wherever you look. I never knew such reforming zeal.’
Mrs Crawley: ‘I take that as a compliment.’
Dowager Countess: ‘I must have said it wrong.’
On finally seeing the back of bullying newspaper magnate Sir Richard Carlisle:
Sir Richard: ‘I am leaving in the morning, Lady Grantham. I doubt we will meet again.’
Dowager Countess: ‘Do you promise’
Countess Dowager on remaining optimistic: 'Don't be defeatist, dear. It's very middle class.'
On the 1918 outbreak of Spanish Flu:
‘Wasn’t there a masque ball in Paris when cholera broke out Half the guests were dead before they left the ballroom.’
On keeping one’s inferiors in their place:
‘It always happens. When you give these little people power, it goes to their heads like strong drink.’
‘I have plenty of friends I don’t like.’
Countess Dowager on being outspoken: 'I say things others don't. That has value.'
Lady Sybil: ‘Why Granny, you’re a romantic.’
Dowager Countess: ‘I have been called many things, but never that.’
Mrs Crawley: ‘I think I was a little too harsh on you. I’m not perfect.’
Dowager Countess: ‘I am. I’d be happy to show you the ropes.’
On undesirable relations:
‘We’re used to Matthew now. God knows who the next heir will be. Probably a chimney sweep from Solihull.’
Countess Dowager on the arrival of the soldiers: 'It's like living in a second-rate hotel, where the guests keep arriving, and no one seems to leave.'
On a proposal that Downton be turned into a military hospital for wounded soldiers:
‘But if there are relapses, what then Amputation in the dining room Resuscitation in the pantry’
On the prospect of convalescing soldiers:
‘I forbid it. To have strange men prodding and prying around the house. To say nothing of pocketing the spoons. It’s out of the question.’
On an extravagant flower arrangement in the drawing room:
‘It looks like a creature from the Lost World.’
On hearing that Lady Edith had driven a tractor:
‘Edith! You are a lady, not Toad of Toad Hall.’