‘What Is a Weekend?’ and the Best Maggie Smith Quotes From Downton Abbey

It’s been a special month for Masterpiece Theater devotees, as PBS has recently started airing the wildly successful British mini-series Downton Abbey for American audiences. The Edwardian drama, directed by Julian Fellowes and owing more than a small debt to Upstairs, Downstairs, delivers all the goodies we’ve come to expect from a period piece: questions of inheritance, ambitious servants, impossibly fancy headgear, hunting parties, late-night trysts, and Earls aplenty. (Even better, it will be back, for a second season.) But the highlight of Downton is indisputably Maggie Smith, who plays the delightfully snobby Lady Grantham, Dowager Countess. Smith uses her imperious stare to great effect, especially when discussing electricity and/or Americans — but really, she just gets the best lines. Below, a compilation of Maggie’s zingers, for your enjoyment and personal use. Remember: Weekends are beneath you.

• Cora: “Are we to be friends then?”
Lady Grantham: “We are allies, my dear, which can be a good deal more effective.”

• “I couldn’t have electricity in the house, I wouldn’t sleep a wink. All those vapors floating about.”

• Cora: “I hope I don’t hear sounds of a disagreement.”
Lady Grantham: “Is that what they call discussion in New York?”

• “No one wants to kiss a girl in black.”

• “What is a weekend?”

• “Last night! He looked so well. Of course it would happen to a foreigner. No Englishman would dream of dying in someone else’s house.”

• Cora: “I might send her over to visit my aunt.She could get to know New York.”
Lady Grantham: “Oh, I don’t think things are quite that desperate.”

• “One can’t go to pieces at the death of every foreigner. We’d all be in a constant state of collapse whenever we opened a newspaper.”

• Cora: “I hate to go behind Robert’s back.”
Lady Grantham: “That is a scruple no successful wife can afford.”

• Lady Grantham: “Why would you want to go to a real school? You’re not a doctor’s daughter.”
Sybil: “Nobody learns anything from a governess, apart from French and how to curtsy.”
Lady Grantham: “What else do you need? Are you thinking of a career in banking?”
Cora: “Things are different in America.”
Lady Grantham: “I know. They live in wigwams.”

• Doctor: “Mrs. Crawley tells me she has recommended nitrate of silver and tincture of steel.”
Lady Grantham: “Why, is she making a suit of armor?”

• Lord Grantham: “We better go in soon or it isn’t fair to Mrs. Padmore.”
Lady Grantham: “Oh, is her cooking so precisely timed? You couldn’t tell.”

• Lady Grantham: “You are quite wonderful the way you see room for improvement wherever you look. I never knew such reforming zeal.”
Mrs. Crawley: “I take that as a compliment.”
Lady Grantham: “I must’ve said it wrong.”

And a bonus video:

‘What Is a Weekend?’ and the Best Maggie Smith Quotes From Downton Abbey