Home >Magazine >“What Is a Weekend?” and 24 Other Memorable Zingers from Downton Abbey’s Maggie Smith

“What Is a Weekend?” and 24 Other Memorable Zingers from Downton Abbey’s Maggie Smith

As we prepare for the opening of the movie version, Diane Clehane counts down the best Dowager Countess lines from the TV show

Three years after we said farewell to Downton Abbey, the long-awaited movie based on the beloved British period drama hits the big screen in the States this week. In honor of the film, we thought we’d take a look back on those instantly quotable observations uttered by the Dowager Countess.

No one at the “big house” has a way with words like Violet. Her razor-sharp wit and wry observations delivered with relish by the inimitable Dame Maggie Smith made for countless unforgettable one-liners throughout the series. 

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“I write a line that I think is quite funny,” said Julian Fellowes, the show’s writer. “Then she says it and it’s hilarious.” Whether she was admonishing Edith to keep calm and carry on, sparring with Isobel, or reminding Robert mother always knows best, Violet never held back and always had the last word. Here are 25 of the character’s most memorable zingers — we can’t wait to add to the list once we’ve seen the film.

  1.   I do think a woman’s place is eventually in the home, but I see no harm in her having some fun before she gets there.”
  2.   “I’m a woman, Mary. I can be as contrary as I choose.”
  3.   “What is a weekend?”
  4.   “A woman of my age can face reality far better than most men.”
  5.   “There’s nothing simpler than avoiding people you don’t like. Avoiding one’s friends, that’s the real test.”
  6.   “Don’t be defeatist, dear. It’s very middle-class.”
  7.   “One way or the other, everyone goes down the aisle with half the story hidden.”
  8.   “At my age, one must ration one’s excitement.”
  9.   “No lady writes to a newspaper!”
  10. “It always happens when you give these little people power. It goes to their heads like strong drink!”
  11. “My dear, love is a far more dangerous motive than dislike.”
  12. “No life appears rewarding if you think too much about it.”
  13. “You are a woman with a brain and reasonable ability. Stop whining and find something to do!”
  14. “He’s a man. Men don’t have rights.”
  15. “Gentlemen don’t work … not real gentlemen.”
  16. “Oh goody … let’s talk about money.”
  17. “I’m not a romantic, but even I concede that the heart does not exist solely for the purpose to pump blood.” 
  18. “There can be too much truth in any relationship.”
  19. “No one wants to kiss a girl in black.”
  20. “I do not appreciate a man of mystery. If you have something to say, say it!”
  21. “My dear, all life is a series of problems which we must try and solve, first one and then the next and the next, until at last we die.”
  22. “No, she’s not being rude, just wrong.”
  23. “‘Lie’ is so unmusical a word.”
  24. “Hope is a tease designed to prevent us from accepting reality.
  25. “A lack of compassion can be as vulgar as an excess of tears.”
Photo Credit: Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television Limited 2011 for MASTERPIECE

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By Diane Clehane


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