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Mackie: Resolved; Downton College

I was disappointed to see that our Vermont Town Meetings sidestepped one of the major issues of the day, namely, the conclusion of the third season of Downton Abbey.

Downton Abbey, in case you were too busy watching the Let’s Laugh at Rednecks channel to check it out, is a hit PBS series about an aristocratic family and its servants. Why this show fascinates me so I am not sure, since our household staff in West Lebanon has grown woefully thin, and even a Romney presidency couldn’t have done much about that.

Nevertheless, we soldier on, and I was tempted to wear tux and tails on Sunday nights to visit Downton. But since I have long gone Upper Valley casual in my attire, I couldn’t manage anything better than wool and corduroys. On that score I would greatly disappoint Carson, the stuffy butler with a heart of gold on Downton. (About half the cast has a similar heart ‘o gold, which makes the show more like a glimpse of heaven than a realistic portrayal of the British class system. We can only hope that people dress as finely in any actual afterlife).

To get to the point about Town Meeting, some of our communities might have voiced displeasure with the season’s conclusion, in which bliss was snatched out of our hands as if we were just a bunch of Ediths left standing at the altar. (Ask a Downton fan to explain.) Many who love the show were vexed to lose another favorite character, not long after the traumatic death-in-childbirth of Sybil, a sweet girl who married for love, to an Irish-Catholic chauffeur, no less. This so violated the class system that her father, Lord Grantham, an Earl with yet another heart of gold, was so upset that he was rendered temporarily huffy, about as mean as he could manage.

But to veer even more directly to the point (the series does tend to meander), it would have seemed fitting if at least some Vermont voters voiced support for Matthew. Since this column will never be a spoiler, multiple scenarios will be used to describe his fate in consideration of viewers who are still catching up with the series. Poor Matthew either A: seemingly died in a car accident, while deliriously beaming about his beloved wife and newborn baby; B: was paralyzed (again) while learning to dance the Harlem Shake; or C: was whisked away in an H.G. Wellsian time machine, taking the series in an altogether new direction.

The reader can see that any of these scenarios are wholly unsatisfactory, given the centrality of the Matthew-Mary love story, which was second in entertainment value only to the power quips of Maggie Smith, the dowager duchess. Her performance made us wish that we had a dowager of our own in the White House, if only to put our politicians in their place. Although she too has a heart of gold, she mostly hides it for the good of the script, which allows her to deliver put-downs with the force of a pneumatic nail gun.

I don’t know what Vermont Town Meeting voters could have done about the loss of Matthew. Calling for a boycott of all British goods is probably an overreaction, and Downton fans are certainly not giving up their tea

Maybe something will arise at New Hampshire Town Meeting, although that seems pretty hopeless, given that they are more likely to vote to get the U.S. out of the U.N., or Star Trek’s notoriously liberal United Federation of Planets.

But Downton will survive the loss of Matthew, and its popularity is growing so much that it presents opportunities. It has occurred to me that Dartmouth College might consider changing its name, and not to Dartmouth University as is often mentioned by those who dream of bigger things for the Big Green. I say, knowing that not even my wife will give me credence, why not become Downton College?

Cricket instead of football. High tea instead of drunken frat parties. Poetry seminars for young ladies and gentlemen instead of Greed 101 for future investment bankers.

Who knows? It might be heavenly.

The writer can be reached at