One American computer hacker, plus one stolen ‘Downton Abbey’ script, equals a whole new take on Lady Edith’s baby

A hacker called Guccifer nearly had the opportunity to rewrite the period drama. Here's what it might have looked like


A hacker called Guccifer has been busy invading the email accounts of celebrities, businessmen and politicians on both sides of the Atlantic, from the families Bush and Rockerfeller to Rupert Everett to our former Attorney General, Baroness Scotland. Among his most heinous crimes, however, was to hack into Julian Fellowes’s emails and download the final episode of the fourth series of Downton Abbey, six months before it aired on British television.

Can you imagine what he might have done with it? I have a pretty clear picture in my head of what this miscreant is like, and it’s not savoury. He is clearly American, with a thing about subverting noble family dynasties. He is a mischief-maker. He is young. He does not respect tradition, convention or authority. He obviously would have no clue about English life, behaviour or language circa 1922. How, I wonder, might the script have read if he’d tampered with it?

Scene 1. Lady Edith is in the parlour, pregnant and looking kinda glum. Enter Lady Rosamund, the rich dame 

Rosamund: Wassup, Edith. Say, you decided yet what you gonna do with the kid?

Edith: Oh aunt, I’m all confused. I feel such a goddammed goose, to be with child, embarrassing the family that’s brung me up to be a lady, dontcha know. (Wipes tear away.) I thought I might give the baby to that there Farmer Tim, who lives a mile down the road apiece.

Rosamund: Tim? That guy? Why niece, are you out of your goddam mind? He’s a no-account poor sharecropper. He ain’t someone you kin trust to keep the baby secret. He’d be a-blabberin’ to the locals before your belly be flat, I imagine, at least if I’m any judge.

Edith: Oh lordy. I feel such a flipping blighter right now. What shall I do?

Rosamund: I guess we could go to Yurp, pretend we’re learning French in, like, the capital, Milan, or on the canals of Vienna, and find some dumbass family in Galway who’ll take the kid…

Enter Lady Violet

Violet: What is this unconscionable brouhaha? Why has my afternoon siesta been discombobulated with such a mindless cacophony of rhodomontade? [Does this stuff mean anything? It was in the original script, and I thought I’d keep it in – G]

Edith: Oh Gramma, I’m havin’ a baby and we caint decide the best way to get rid of it.

Violet: You speak of terminating your progeny as though discussing the alleviation of termites in the wainscot. I am disappointed in you Edith. But I’ll give you a lot of dough, if that’ll fix it.

Edith: Thanks Gramma, you’re awesome.

Scene 2: Below stairs, staff having tea

Carson: One bag or two, Mr Bates?

Bates:  Gimme one. I can’t handle too much tannin. I got gas.

Mrs Patmore: I hope you’re not blaming your lousy digestion on my pizza. I make the best goddam pizza this side of the Bronx. Ask anyone.

Mrs Hughes: Something wrong, Mr Bates? Your face keeps screwing up, like you were sucking a cottontail rattler.

Bates (grimly): Thank you no, Mrs Hughes. I’m quite well. Jus’ thinking ’bout how some folks got it comin’ from some folks they shouldn’ta done wrongta.

Alfred: I’m not sure I follow you, Mr B.

The door opens. Enter Anna, in a cloak

Anna: Cor flippin’ ’eck, there’s a right pea souper smog goin’ on out there. I ’ad to ask a bobby ’ow to get ’ome.

Carson: Try to remember that we live miles from the town, Anna.

Anna: Whatever. Daisy? You won’t believe ’oo I jus’ saw in the Copper Kettle jus’ now.

Carson: I hope you don’t intend to stoop to freakin’ gossip, Anna.

Anna: Lady Rose and Jack the bandleader! Together! And they were making out!

Mrs Patmore: Snakes alive!

Alfred: What, the black dude?

Carson: I must inform His Lordship without delay. He will wish to alert Lord Griffin of the Lynch Mob Society. (Exits)

Bates (to Anna): Honey, I’m headin’ for London on a vacation. I got things to do.

Anna: I ’ope you ain’t thinkin’ of murderin’ that geezer ’oo slipped me one during the concert, are yer?

Bates: No way. I’m just payin’ a call on a friend. Lady Rose’s bandleader ain’t the only “hit man” in Piccadilly...

Neil Young? Precious? Absolutely not

In the first of his four shows at Carnegie Hall this week, Neil Young stopped playing the introductory bars of “Ohio” because members of the audience were clapping along. 

Was he being a bit precious? Aren’t audiences allowed to signal their in-the-moment enthusiasm and sense of warm inclusiveness with their hero? The answers are: No he wasn’t, and No they’re not. 

I remember seeing Tom Waits in London shouting “Knock it off!” at people in the crowd who were clapping along (unimaginably) to “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up”; and Joni Mitchell, years ago, telling an audience “You’re behaving like tourists” for joining in “Big Yellow Taxi”.

Clapping along to any music, with the possible exception of ceilidh dance or bluegrass hoedown, is a damnable intrusion into a performance an artist has put together with complex textures of light and shade, in the hope of expressing and eliciting emotion. 

To add your own ad hoc percussion is to reduce the moment to a collective noise, as though several buckets were being banged together, drowning the music in ignorant approbation.

Would you clap along to “The Needle and the Damage Done”? No, you’d have too much respect for the words and the dropping chords. Then why would you try to match, or eclipse, any other sounds from that voice, that strumming hand, that intelligence?

Smugglers, spectres, and estate agents

Jamaica Inn is up for sale, I see.  The venerable old smuggler’s pub in Bodmin Moor is on the market at £2m. I wonder if its many attractions – the coaching house, the Museum of Smuggling which features a “ten-pound bag of Jamaican ganja”, the presence of Daphne du Maurier’s typewriter – will outweigh its reputation for apparitions?

Most Haunted, the TV show, judged it “one of the spookiest places” it’d ever visited, and the owners warn on their website that: “You might see a ghost in the bar – or in your room!”

The biggest drawback for prospective buyers, however, remains the Du Maurier novel that immortalised it and the Hitchcock film that further concreted the inn’s foreboding image. In the early pages the inn is described as “gloomy and threatening”, and the heroine’s uncle, tells her, “I’m not drunk enough to tell you why I live in this God-forgotten spot!” You probably won’t find that in the estate agent’s brochure.

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