Kathryn Hughes

Kathryn Hughes runs the master’s program in creative nonfiction at the University of East Anglia, Norwich. Her books include The Victorian Governess and The Short Life and Long Times of Mrs. Beeton.

 

Recent Articles

Harmony in the U.K.

A Londoner on Downton Abbey’s second season

M uch about the phenomenal success of Downton Abbey , the hit British television show about a stately home, an aristocratic family, and their shadow kingdom of servants during the second decade of the 20th century, has come as a surprise. For one thing, the series is shown here on ITV, known to my grandmother’s generation, born around the time season one is set, as “the commercial channel.” (To understand the full impact of this descriptor, imagine it emerging in a splutter from the pursed lips of Downton’s grande dame, the Dowager Lady Grantham, played in a state of permanent quivering outrage by Dame Maggie Smith.) It is not that ITV has never been able to produce this kind of quality television— The Jewel in the Crown, Brideshead Revisited, and the original Upstairs, Downstairs all sailed triumphantly under its colors. But the once-sluggish station had been taken over in recent years by reality shows such as The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent. So the appearance of Downton Abbey...