“Don’t Be So Defeatist, Dear” and Other Quotes from the Downton Dowager

My love affair with Downton Abbey began during the Patriots/Broncos NFL playoffs game in January of this year. Our friends introduced us and so smitten were we that we moved back and forth between the first episode and the massacre that was the football game.

It took ten minutes of Thomas’s scowl, O’Brien’s bitterness and caustic tongue, Mary’s arrogance, and Anna’s integrity to fall in love. But what sealed the deal was Violet the Dowager, Countess of Grantham (called Lady Grantham by most) played by the legendary Maggie Smith. She commanded every scene she was in and had more “quotable quotes” in one episode than most American TV shows have in an entire year.

As the football went down the field, usually in the hands of the Patriots, Downton Abbey entered our lives with its upstairs/downstairs story line and quotes that beg for memorization.

So here are some of my favorites, gleaned not only from the memorable night when the show came into our lives, but from all the episodes that have charmed us since that time.

Mrs Crawley: “What should we call each other?”

Lady Grantham: “Well, we could always start with Mrs Crawley and Lady Grantham.”

Cora: “Are we to be friends then?”

Lady Grantham: “We are allies, my dear, which can be a good deal more effective.”

Lady Grantham: “It always happens. When you give these little people power it goes to their heads like strong drink!”

“Why does everyday involve a fight with an American?”

“Sometimes I feel as if I were living in an H.G. Wells novel.”

Lady Grantham: “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.”

Lady Mary:  “Don’t be ridiculous.”

Lady Grantham:  “I’m not being ridiculous. No Englishman would dream of dying in someone else’s house – especially somebody they didn’t even know.”

Lady Mary: “Sybil is entitled to her opinions.”

Lady Grantham: “No. She isn’t until she is married, then her husband will tell her what her opinions are.”

There are so many more, but I’ll let the YouTube video give you true entertainment and end with my favorite:

“Don’t be so defeatist, dear! It’s very middle class!” 

For those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure of falling in love with this show, I hope after reading you are interested in at least a dinner date. I guarantee you’ll want more! Happy Friday and to repeat the Dowager’s words: “What is a weekEND?”

29 thoughts on ““Don’t Be So Defeatist, Dear” and Other Quotes from the Downton Dowager

  1. Oh dear…I have to find these episodes now, I think I’m hooked. I love her, too but not from this show! Thanks for sharing! :-)


    1. And I’ve already finished the 3rd season and can tell you….it just gets better :) So glad to have another fan weigh in! One of my favorites from Season 3: “I’m so looking forward to seeing your mother again. When I’m with her I’m reminded of the virtues of the English.” “Isn’t she American?” “Exactly,” Smith says….! thanks for reading.


  2. Not living in UK I find it v convenient to buy my best loved (TV & other) films as DVDs, easily found on any website selling books & films and they are being sent with no probs to any country.
    I think I couldn’t live without those BBC films; they really give me joy and teach me about some of the still prevailing ‘Englishness’… Lived in UK for some 8 yrs and will miss the English mentality for ever.
    I also own Lark Rise to Candleford on DVDs; the only prob is that the daily work stays undone :) Visit Amazon or your local film distributor on-line. I do envy people who haven’t seen those films yet; they are so wonderful.


    1. We purchased DVD’s too Kiki! In fact we researched and found that what was being shown on television in the United States was abridged from the British series, so we made sure we bought the British series. You’re the second person that has told me about Lark Rise to Candleford – I want to get it! I totally agree that living without BBC films would be sad indeed! Thanks so much for reading. Oh and we’ve found a way to download this latest season…..lots of surprises and the quotes keep on coming.


      1. @Marilyn; buy them from UK – or from me…. :) We have watched them now – but I live in France….
        Oh the joys awaiting you… I DO envy you a bit!
        I shall buy Downton Abbey III soonest – and I must have hundreds of other period dramas, in a former life I must have been English!


      2. Love period dramas so much as well. Wuthering Heights has been showing at independent theatres. Aching to see it and can’t wait to buy the series you and another reader recommended.


  3. I just read that those who enjoy Downtown Abbey would enjoy the movie coming out today…The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. It isn’t playing here, but perhaps you can let me know if it is good.


    1. @Lois
      This is a British film NOT to have pleased any of my many, many UK friends – therefore I haven’t seen it. Everybody without excemption found it boring, uninspired – I watched it at some friends’ place and I agreed with all of them. It must be one of the very few British films I can’t find any love for. So maybe you rather get something else?!


      1. I know – but I still LOVED it….I heard all those things – heard it was boring, uninspired…..but the film was still alive with the colors of India and all the scenes of the bazaars, rickshaws, chaos, life…..all of that was totally worth seeing. I almost wondered if the people who criticized had ever been to that part of the world – for those of us who grew up there, it was not to be missed.


  4. Marilyn, you must also watch “Call the Midwife”, true stories of a community midwife in London’s East End in the 1950s, just after the inception of the NHS.

    There was also a wonderful dramatisation of “Cranford” –

    Both these are on dvd, but I think your system not compatible with ours.


    1. Wilma – this sounds brilliant. I am going to check and see if they have the DVD in the US format. Someone else told me about Cranford. I am so jealous of your programs! Lovely to hear from you!


  5. It is not available here. Someone had uploaded it on youtube but it was taken off due to copyright. pbs is not available in Kuwait. It is not on my cable. I really want to watch this show. Its probably on some other site. I’ll find it eventually


  6. After watching Lark Rise to Candleford, I was looking for another good BBC series to watch online and found Downton Abbey Season One. I was hooked. And waited impatiently for Season Two, now we must wait another year for Season Three with a new character to be introduced to….Shirley Maclaine as the mother of Lady Grantham. What makes these even more interesting is to read a bit about the history of the time and the changing economic condition….one reason why we see and American wife. I believe you can watch a program on PBS online about the history that makes one even more endeared and understanding of what all is happening. And the words, and language that we have lost in our conversational speech today is wonderful.


    1. Yes – Shirley Maclaine as the mother! So much fun. I want to watch the program on the history – I didn’t know about that but it sounds like perfect Saturday evening entertainment. Love BBC programs – tell me more about Lark Rise to Candleford – what is it about?


  7. We missed the first ones and when I did watch again, I couldn’t keep all the characters straight – there are a lot of them! Then tried again in the middle of the second season, I think it was the one where they were turning Downton Abbey into a convalescent hospital, and I was hooked. Now I’d like to go back and see it from the beginning. I love the old dowager. She hates the changes, yet you see her bending ever so slightly. The class changes that World War I brought about were quite amazing. I hadn’t realized that the barriers were beginning to come down that early. thanks Marilyn for another thought provoking post!


    1. Yes – the Dowager is strong in opinion but that’ what makes it so fun to watch as her strength continues yet “bends”. The class barriers are remarkable for me to watch as well. I don’t know much about that period but Lou Ann (another reader) just said there is a whole program on the history of the show. So Mom – I will be watching your quotes at family gatherings so we can quote another Lady – Lady Brown!


  8. Reblogged this on mumbaimusings and commented:
    This is a wonderful post I stumbled upon about everybody’s favourite Television Show du jour – Downton Abbey. Undoubtedly Maggie Smith is most delightful aspect of this show. Her golden moments, can be relived in the video attached with this lovely post.


    1. I’m so glad you liked it enough to reblog! And your comment is wonderful and spot on. For me it’s such a welcome relief from some of the ridiculous shows that are on in America.


      1. Downton has become an epic show the world over. Amazing that it has clicked for all kinds of audiences. I am eagerly awaiting season 3 now. Baited breath and all that. Keep posting.


    2. I love that it’s watched the world over and agree with you that it is amazing it has resonated with so many different cultures and countries. I’m like you –Can’t wait for season 3!


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