Snobs by Julian Fellowes
Edith’s voice behind me made me jump. ‘What do you think of the show so far?’
‘There’s nothing like starting at the top,’ I said...
Edith laughed. We were almost alone in the room for a minute and I had time to marvel at her beauty, now reaching the years of its zenith. She had chosen a [wedding] dress in the style of the 1870s, with wide flounces and a bustle behind. It was of ivory silk with a tiny self-patterned sprig of flowers. What I assume was someone’s mother’s lace fell from her thick blonde hair, held there by a light, dazzling tiara, fashioned for a young girl, like a glistening diamond-studded cobweb, not one of those heavy metal plates made for dowagers to sport at the opera, which always look as if they belong in a Marx Brothers comedy. I imagine it was part of the Broughton trove.
‘You’ll come and visit us?’ she said.
‘If I’m asked.’ We stared at each other for a moment.
observations: Between his Oscar for writing the 2001 film Gosford Park and the start of Downton Abbey, his hugely successful TV series, Julian Fellowes produced two novels: this one, and Past Imperfect. They are much better than you might be expecting: funny and sharp and clever. JF is selling himself over and over again – like the guide at a stately home he shows you round a world he plainly knows well, although perhaps he doesn’t belong to it all that naturally. The really surprising thing is that he doesn’t particularly repeat himself. The novels take a more caustic and cynical look at the world of the social season, and are set in modern times. They are highly enjoyable, and perfect holiday reads – this one is the story of social-climbing Edith, marrying into the gentry and less than enchanted by what she finds there.
Links up with: more weddings and wedding dresses all over the blog, click on the label below. Snobs is the world of Nancy Mitford, 40 years on. Downton Abbey is mentioned in various entries - here and here.
The photograph is of the incomparable Lillie Langtry, and is from the UK National Archives.