updated 01/05/2014 AT 4:00 PM ET
•originally published 01/05/2014 AT 11:30 AM ET
My plan to write and post a review of the new season of Downton Abbey (PBS Masterpiece, Sunday, 9 p.m. ET/PT) was superseded by a surprise: I received an advance copy of Downton’s memoirs, dictated by the estate to a ghostwriter named Andrew David Stelmley.
I assumed, probably correctly, that readers would be more interested in what Downton herself had to say about this fourth season than my own thoughts.
This excerpt begins in 1922.
How empty my rooms felt without the presence of Cousin Matthew and Lady Sybil among the Crawleys. They had both been claimed by what Henry James called “the distinguished thing,” and by that I don’t mean Hollywood. And O’Brien, the source of such malevolent fun, had decamped. I would have replaced her with one of those monsters from The Walking Dead – they would have been faster at answering the bell – but I have never had any real influence upstairs or downstairs.
Which is odd, considering I am upstairs and downstairs.
On a typical morning, I would feel the warm sun streaming through my windows – always an elating sensation for an old, badly heated country house – and eavesdrop on Lady Mary, Tom the former chauffeur, Lady Edith and Lord Grantham in the breakfast room. I would hear the munchings and polite slurpings of four pasty, thin-lipped faces devouring toast and tea Tom occasionally muttering out of the side of his mouth about never surrendering his socialist convictions (at which point I would send up a murmur from the east wing: “Oh, please”) and Lord Grantham, looking up from a letter, announcing: “It’s from the solicitors.”
Consider my morning buzz killed.
Meanwhile, Lady Grantham took her breakfast in bed.
Leave it to an American to know how to have fun.