I have a question: Many people in the household seem to know about Thomas' homosexuality. Weren't they supposed to denouce it to the autorities, as homosexual acts criminal at the time? Or does an homosexual (I am loath to use the term "gay" because the term had another signification at the time) was to be caught in the act?
Nowadays underage people should not drink alcohol, should not be allowed to go to discos, but they do and are.
I read somewhere that there were many homosexual servants in households, and the employers didn't really mind it, since a homosexual servant won't be interested in the lady of the house... so homosexuals caused less problems with their affairs... until they found out them.
And Downton Abbey is not a documental series, but a soap opera.
Thank you, Mr. or Mrs. or Miss Wikia contributor. That is what I was thinking.
And you are also correct when you say that the tone is of fiction and not documentary.
Actually I think there are lots of aspects of the Thomas story which have been criticised as implausible and fictional but seem far less so when you have read what people wrote who lived in those times.
First of all, Robert's reaction. Robert had been to Eton, at Eton they had fags, young boys had romantic and sometimes sexual relationships with older boys, sometimes no doubt very exploitative, but sometimes involving deep feelings: it was often the first experience of romantic love that boys of his class had. Then you were expected to grow out of it and if you didn't it caused all sorts of difficulties. But the original impulse was something they could understand. Note how C.S. Lewis (probably only a few years younger than Thomas) wrote about the relationships at his public school: clearly homosexuality was very much against his brand of Christianity, but he still felt that at that time it provided pretty much the only humanising factors of that environment. Unfortunately, Robert's experiences cannot help Thomas (except in saving his job) as they do not relate to his class or the world he has to live in. Underbutler and the Earl are never going to be in a position to even talk about their feelings or experiences.
Andy is rather scared of Thomas, but he is also more tolerant and less morally outraged than Carson. If this is deliberate on part of the author, it will be because Andy is not from the same class as Carson: he is London working class, and there is plenty of evidence that there was an amount of tolerance for gay sex in urban working class settings. if Thomas had lived in a less isolated setting, he might have done better.
Another class, of course, with more tolerance, was the bohemian artistic set in the metropolis: an awful lot of gay actors, composers etc. That young cousin of Bertie's would have worked well.
Thomas' tragedy is that his future is in the hands of the class that is likely to show least tolerance and most moral outrage. The middle class Carson has never been to Eton, nor has he picked up a "toff" on the backstreets of London, and he has no time at all for young artists swanning around in Tangiers. His world, more than that of any other class, depends on respectability and rigid morality, and he is going to defend that at all costs.
But even Carson is prepared to let Thomas be as long as it does not threaten his world. As a previous poster mentioned, there are advantages to Thomas. A handsome and dashing young man like him, if straight, could cause absolute havoc among the female staff: housemaids pregnant right, left and centre. It happened in other houses, as Carson must have known. And every one of those girls would present not just a personal tragedy and a financial loss to the family (who would then have to train somebody new); it would also damage the reputation of the house, making it harder to recruit good servants because no mother would want to send her daughter to work there.
The point where Carson does turn on Thomas is exactly that point: the point where the risk of an open scandal looks likely to damage the house. It is not just about the immediate embarrassment: it is about what this does to the servants hall forever after if Jimmy goes through with his complaint. Carson risks never being able to recruit a decent manservant again: any future applicant will think of how this will look on their CV when they try to advance in their career ('Where did you say you trained? Downton? I seem to remember that name... Now, do you look delicate...?).
Carson does also, I think, feel a more personal repugnance, but like many men of his time he is capable of a good deal of compartmentalising and cognitive dissonance: he doesn't have to think of everything he subconsciously knows until the Jimmy scandal forces him to. As far as I can see, the massive difference between our day and theirs is that we expect everything to be in the open and spoken of: if it is so bad that it cannot be spoken of, then it must be denounced and stopped (e.g. paedophilia). In the early 20th century, there were far more things that people kind of knew about but it was bad form to speak about them. As a previous poster pointed out, that happens today to in other areas (e.g. re recreational drugs), but in those days it covered sexuality and feelings in a way we are not used to. Someone like Andy, though he might feel faintly worried about Thomas' intentions, wouldn't feel the need to rush off and report it, any more than I feel I have to rush off and report a friend who uses drugs or a couple of 15yos having sex.
By the beginning of series 6, Carson's increasing hostility towards Thomas (apart from obvious script writing reasons) could be explained partly by him realising that Thomas really is a bit of a loose cannon, but mainly by the fact that Thomas represents a possible successor- and Carson feels increasingly threatened by that thought. Nobody in their right minds could think of either Molesley or Andy as the new butler of a large house, so they do not represent the same threat. So it is not so much that Thomas threatens to ruin Carson's world: it is more that one day it will no longer be Carson's world...
"the employers didn't really mind it, since a homosexual servant won't be interested in the lady of the house"
Sure, that's why the employers relaay didnt mind it. I'm sure thats why.
Yes, and it's not only about the lady (and daughters) of the house; it's also about pregnant housemaids, servants leaving to get married to each other, the expense of finding and training new staff.
A very interesting read about this period, though relating to middle class households rather than the aristocracy, is Margaret Powell's Below Stairs and Climbing the Stairs. She went into service at about this time, and it is very obvious from her memoirs that her main interest was in hooking a husband so she could get out of service as quickly as possible. Very entertaining read- but from Carson's pov she would be the absolute nightmare employee. She openly looked down on people who made service a vocation.
Fortunately for Thomas, the Crawley house is a nice one. Although rules, laws and traditions are highly valued especially by Carson, I think the most important thing to all of the employees and the members of the family was to not expose themselves to scandal and to preserve their respectability. Considering that, I think the question was more about whether or not Thomas would prejudice the family as a homosexual footman. Obviously the answer was no. But they had a lot to lose if Thomas was reported. That and their moral sense told them to turn a blind eye to Thomas illegal position. It has to be said that everybody at Downton was also very open-minded for the time and social environment. I'm quite convinced that in real life or another family not as focused on human beings interests, Thomas would have been mercilessly reported for his "crime". (I use quotation marks because it's obviously not a crime to be gay, but it was at the time, both under the law and the social / religious code.)
I'm sorry if I just repeated what someone else had already said, I haven't read the previous replies entirely...
There is plenty of evidence that "in real life" gays were not necessarily reported to the police. Not because everybody was humane, but because most people (now and then) can't be bothered to report something that doesn't impact on them or on somebody they see as vulnerable- and certainly not something that is to their advantage. Most people are not that obsessed with upholding the law.
Besides, it was never a crime to "be gay": the crime was actual homosexual activities. So to report Thomas it is not enough to know that he is that way inclined: you have to be able to prove that he has actually done x, y and z to so and so, at such and such a time. The only time this was possible was when Alfred witnessed him kissing Jimmy- and he did report him. The Earl and Lady Mary and Mrs Patmore may know that Thomas is "that sort", but they have never witnessed him doing anything illegal.
In any case, the real witch hunt on gays came much later, in the atmosphere of Cold War witch hunts and "thought crime", when these things were talked about and obsessed about.
As for Oscar Wilde, the famous earlier case, that was never a witch hunt in the same way: Wilde was the one who started the whole business by suing his lover's father for libel (=claiming he was gay, which in fact he was), and the indecency case was a direct result of the evidence that came out of Wilde's own court case.
The aristocracy was more relaxed in moral issues than the middle classes, in the aristocracy affairs were common if they were carried out with discretion. So, a gay footmen it wanst something so rare for them, but if in any moment Thomas brought scandal to the house would be another story. For example, i found extremely unrealistic when in the cricket match the police came to investigate and Robert after that promotes him, i think it would have being more plausible, Robet warning him that if there is another "scene" like that he would not help him in any form and he would be fire inmediatily without references.
Also i found extremely odd that Carson is so "innocent" about gay men, when one of the few ocupattions for gay men was entering to service becausepeople in service were not allowed to marry (like being a priest).
Both valid points. The answers I can think of are
a) re Robert: he feels a need to reassert himself in the face of his growing loss of control over the estate/household, he has just been told by Bates that it is O'Brien who lies behind the whole thing and he really, really dislikes O'Brien's influence over Cora. This is one in the eye for O'Brien, who will hopefully get the message.
b) re Carson: not innocent, just refusing to think about it. Hiring gay servants doesn't mean you consciously have to admit to yourself that they are gay, let alone speak about it to anybody else. As Mrs Hughes says, he can handle it as long as he doesn't have to think about it, but now it is lying there on the mat before him. Even I am old enough to remember when homosexuality was something you did not talk about. I am also old enough to remember when the sexuality of Catholic priests was not something that was ever mentioned. People knew, but on another level they could push it away from themselves.
What do you think?