I recently started watching “Downton Abbey,” the popular Masterpiece Theater series that follows the lives of aristocrats and their servants in post-Edwardian Britain. Debuting on PBS in 2011, it has since gained a following of passionate fans, as well as driving a renewed interest in early 20th-century British society. I missed watching the series on television, but I’ve been able to catch up on the trials and tribulations of the aristocratic Crawley family by checking out the DVDs from the library. Because of the series’ popularity, there is often a waiting list, but the purchase of multiple copies of all four seasons helps to meet the demand.
I’m on the waiting list for Season 4, so until I can meet up again with Violet Crawley, the Dowager Countess of Grantham (perfectly acted by the inimitable Maggie Smith); John Bates, Lord Grantham’s valet, sentenced to life in prison for a crime he didn’t commit; and Lady Mary Crawley, the eldest daughter of Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham, I am occupying myself with books about the making of the series, as well as historical accounts of Edwardian England. In case you, too, are suffering from “Downton Abbey” withdrawal (especially the Dowager Countess’s acerbic wit: “She’s so slight a real necklace would flatten her”), consider checking out one or more of these titles:
o “Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey: The Official Backstage Pass to the Set, the Actors and the Drama” by Emma Rowley.
o “Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid’s Memoir That Inspired ‘Upstairs, Downstairs,’ and ‘Downton Abbey’ ” by Margaret Powell.
o “The Chronicles of Downton Abbey” by Jessica Fellowes.
o “Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle” by Fiona, Countess of Carnarvon.
o “Life Below Stairs: True Lives of Edwardian Servants” by Alison Maloney.
o “Victorian and Edwardian Fashion: A Photographic Survey” by Alison Gernsheim.