Julian Fellowes — now Lord Fellowes of West Stafford — talks about Downton Abbey — and nostalgia for past eras:
I think almost every period—I’d exclude the 14th century—has some stuff going for it, and some stuff that seems intolerable. I don’t think our own period is any different. We have examples of injustice and bad government in the world today that are just as terrible as anything that was happening in the 19th century. There was a naive desire in me to kind of present history in a way so everything was getting better, but I don’t really believe the age we live in is the best ever. There’s something about our lack of personal discipline that makes us slightly vulnerable and weak as a society. I think they were tougher, partly because they had to be tougher. Some pain was the lot of every human being alive. It didn’t matter if you were the King of France. We don’t have that.
We think we can go from cradle to grave without any pain at all. As a generation, we can be rather feeble about toughing it out. Even the people who were working in those households, I don’t think they were all miserable. It was a tough job but if you had a good employer, like anything else, there were worse places to be. It was a hard life—you had to get up early, work very hard. They had a more realistic expectation of life.
With marriage, our generation thinks that we should all be incredibly happy all the time. The moment we are not incredibly happy, something’s wrong with the marriage. Well, nothing’s wrong with the marriage! You’ve signed up to live with someone for a half a century, and as long as you still have stuff in common and are still close, it’s fine. But you see people getting divorced and you think “What do you think is waiting out there?” I kind of liked that [the generation that grew up in the interwar period] would have laughed at this idea.