There is a historic link between the incredibly successful British television series Downton Abbey and Baylor University, according to Baylor University's Armstrong Browning Library. The library contains the world's largest collection of the works of British Victorian poet Robert Browning and wife Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
A graduate assistant at the world-renowned library recently discovered a connection between Robert Browning and the main character of Downton Abbey, Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham, played by actor Hugh Bonneville in the mega-hit TV series.
Melinda Creech was digitalizing letters of immortal lovers Robert and Elizabeth Browning at the famous library when she ran across the connection in a letter dated June 23, 1868 in the Browning Letters Collection. The letter was sent by Robert Browning to Lady Stanhope Carnarvon, the first wife of Lord Carnarvon who lived at Highclere Castle. The Downton Abbey British Masterpiece series is actually filmed at Highclere Castle.
The famed poet Robert Browning was a frequent visitor at the Carnarvon's estate. Lord Carnarvon's son-the 5th Earl of Carnarvon is the model for Robert Crawley in the record-breaking series which is also being aired in the US on PBS Sunday nights.
Creech, who is herself one of the millions of Downton Abbey fans scattered around the globe, said she was thrilled to learn that Robert Browning was acquainted with the Carnarvons.
Downton creator Julian Fellowes is pursuing a series prequel which could feature 19th century literary figures, such as Browning, who were often highly-respected guests of English noblemen.
Excited by her discovery, Creech did even further research through digital archives of the celebrated library on the Waco, Texas campus of Baylor University. She was rewarded for her efforts by discovering that Browning was actually present at a shooting party at Highclere Castle in 1873. A similar event was dramatized in the Season Two finale of Downton Abbey.
Another discovery she made was that Browning was often seen discussing literary matters with Lord Carnarvon and other distinguished authors of the day or strolling the grounds of Highclere Castle with other guests.
For more information about Armstrong Browning Library, readers may visit the website at www.baylor.edu/abl.
A database at the library reveals there are 70 references to Highclere or the Carnarvons in the Browning letters and other documents. Armstrong Browning Library owns 19 of those letters or supporting documents.
Rita S. Patteson, director and curator of manuscripts at Armstong Browning Library said today's digital technology makes the process of finding links between the 19th century and the modern world easier than ever. Patteson speculated that the Brownings and Baylor English professor A.J. Armstrong would marvel at the advanced methods of technological communications today. Armstrong founded the library.
Baylor's online database, The Brownings: A Research Guide, shows, 26 Browning letters to or from the Carnarvons.
Baylor University is a private Christian university and a nationally ranked research institution, described as having "high research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation.
Ms. Creech says she will blog any further findings she's makes regarding connections between materials found in the Armstrong-Browning Library and Downton Abbey.
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