Wednesday January 9, 2013

On the eve of the eagerly awaited season three premiere of the PBS "Masterpiece" super-hit "Downton Abbey," the creator and writer of the series set among aristocrats and their servants in early 20th-century England was still raving about his visit Nov. 2 to The Mount in Lenox, the primary residence of author Edith Wharton from 1902-11.

Profiled in last Sunday’s Boston Globe with a photo showing him in the garden behind the Wharton mansion’s terrace, Julian Fellowes described The Mount as "ravishing" and "grand but quite intimate." Citing Wharton as one of his favorite authors, he asserted that she did not have the home built "to be an ego proclamation."

Fellowes took the jaunt out to Lenox from Boston, where the Edith Wharton Restoration, which operates The Mount, presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award not only for "Downton Abbey" but also for two of his novels and his script for the "Mary Poppins" musical, set to close on Broadway on March 3 after more than 2,600 performances since its November 2006 premiere.

The Sunday night "Downton" telecast attracted nearly 8 million fans, according to the Nielsen ratings -- double the audience of last year’s season two debut and four times public TV’s average nighttime viewership. In fact, PBS was the No. 2 network that evening, behind CBS but well ahead of NBC, ABC and Fox.

Fellowes, 63, who is a member of Britain’s House of Lords, is busily working on season four as well as a musical based on Kenneth Grahame’s classic children’s tale, "The Wind in the Willows," a film version of "Gypsy" and an NBC series for next season set in 1880s New York titled, of course, "The Gilded Age."

The stateside version of "Downton" will chronicle the exploits of super-wealthy families such as the Rockefellers, Carnegies, Astors, and Morgans. Since Lenox, along with Newport, R.I., was a prime getaway for the upper crust of the era, we would not be surprised to see an NBC film crew show up at several of our local "cottages" built during that era.

The Mount has posted a video of Fellowes’ visit at edithwharton.org.

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Become a leader in the Berkshires: The deadline to enroll in the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce’s 2013 Berkshire Leadership Program has been extended through Jan. 16.

Now entering its 16th year, the Berkshire Leadership Program builds local leaders from diverse backgrounds who are committed and competent to address challenges and improve the quality of life in the Berkshires. BLP has graduated nearly 400 community-minded individuals since 1997.

The 11-week program kicks off with a two-day retreat facilitated by professionals. The program includes training in all aspects of leadership, problem-solving techniques and networking. The retreat is followed by eight weekly four-hour evening sessions on specific topics -- from government to environment to education to health care. It also includes a Berkshires tour led by local economic development experts during which participants learn about the opportunities and challenges facing our cities and towns.

The cost to participate is $649 and includes all meals and overnight accommodations at Jiminy Peak during the retreat. Limited financial assistance is available.

For more information, contact Ashley Sulock, the program’s coordinator, at (413) 499-4000, ext. 115, or asulock@berkshirechamber.com. There’s also more information at www.berkshirechamber.com.

County Fare, a weekly column featuring "tales from throughout the Berkshires," is compiled by Eagle staffers.
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www.berkshireeagleblogs.com/countyfare.