I have written historical novels set in real places dealing (sometimes) with real people. In dealing with Kafka, and following him in real time day-by-day in his diaries, I was exceedingly careful to depict nothing which could not have happened. However, in the historical work of others, mistakes do not trouble me. And in this day and age, where research can be done instanlyt by anyone, I suspect most authors are authentic. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * "As viewers lambasted him for apparently appalling anachronisms – a modern conservatory! The term “boyfriend”, which wasn’t used until 1933! – he signally failed to take their passionate pedantry as a compliment. You see, the raging, often rancorous debate over historical accuracy was a measure of success, rather than failure." Julian Fellowes, creator of the Downton Abbey
Julian Fellowes: Lord and master of Toff TelevisionWith his 'Downton Abbey’ set to return, a contrite Julian Fellowes tells Jusith Woods of his regrets at letting pernickety viewers get the better of him.by Judith Woods
Order! Order! Lord (Julian) Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey, has an apology to make. Well, perhaps not an apology per se, more of a clarification. You see, the man who brought us the scandal of Lady Mary and the dead Turk in her bed, and the sly machinations of O’Brien the Machiavellian maid, was so taken aback by the extraordinary fervour following each Sunday night episode, he rather lamentably lost his sense of humour.
As viewers lambasted him for apparently appalling anachronisms – a modern conservatory! The term “boyfriend”, which wasn’t used until 1933! – he signally failed to take their passionate pedantry as a compliment. You see, the raging, often rancorous debate over historical accuracy was a measure of success, rather than failure.
“I think I behaved rather stupidly about the criticisms,” he says. “I allowed them to irritate me, but really they were a tribute to how much the nation took Downton to their hearts. There was also an assumption in the media that the complainant was automatically correct and we were wrong, which was frustrating.” Quite so – the conservatory in question dated back to the Edwardian era and the first printed usage of “boyfriend” was in 1889.
“When there was a television aerial in a shot, as there was once, I was happy to hold my hands up, but I expended a lot of energy getting agitated about accusations that such-and-such piece of music wasn’t released until 1922, when in fact it was being played in 1910. Or the butler should have been in uniform when they came out of uniform in the Regency period – I mean, just shut up!”
Fellowes, 61 – a clubbable, hearty, high church Tory in mandatory Vyella shirt and Harris tweed jacket – regrets coming across as such a churl and hopes to enter the forthcoming Downton Abbey fray in a more relaxed frame of mind. He understands now that audiences gripe because they feel intensely involved with and proprietorial towards Downton, even if they have a peculiar way of showing it.
“This year I think it might be nice to have a column called This Week’s Downton Blunders, where I have the right of reply and can say either 'It’s a fair cop’ or 'No, we got it right, actually they did wear bathing costumes in 1761’ or whatever. That might be a much better way of handling all the excitement.”
Excitement? Excitement doesn’t begin to describe the building sense of anticipation at our immersion into the gloriously escapist world of Downton Abbey. We are two months away from the second series and already Ladies Mary, Sybil and Edith Crawley are gracing the pages of Vogue in their silk taffeta finery. There have been suggestions that the digital Olympic stopwatch counting down to 2012 in Trafalagar Square could be exchanged for an Edwardian longcase clock, set to chime when the opening credits roll in September.