Our list of the best quotes from HBO’s historical drama TV series created by Julian Fellowes. The Gilded Age is set in the United States during the boom years of 1880s New York City and begins with young Marian Brook (Louisa Jacobson) moving from rural Pennsylvania to New York City after the death of her father to live with her rich aunts Agnes van Rhijn (Christine Baranski) and Ada Brook (Cynthia Nixon). Accompanied by Peggy Scott (Denée Benton), an aspiring writer seeking a fresh start, Marian inadvertently becomes enmeshed in a social war between Agnes, a scion of the old money set, and her new money rich neighbors, a railroad tycoon and his ambitious wife, George (Morgan Spector) and Bertha Russell (Carrie Coon).
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1. Never the New'Revolutions are launched by clever people with strong views and excess energy.' - Agnes van Rhijn (The Gilded Age) Click To Tweet
Tom Raikes: You mentioned your father’s sisters in New York.
Marian Brook: My aunts were not on good terms with my father, Mr. Raikes. They disliked him, and he disliked them, so they have played no part in my life.
Tom Raikes: I would only ask you to consider your options, realistically.
Marian Brook: You mean, beggars can’t be choosers?
Marian Brook: Don’t worry, Mr. Raikes, I’m not beaten yet.
Tom Raikes: At the risk of impertinence, I would say you’re a long way from being beaten, Miss Brook.
'People want to know you when you're a success. It's when you fail they turn their backs.' - Watson (The Gilded Age) Click To Tweet
Ada Brook: [referring to Marian’s note] What does she say?
Agnes van Rhijn: She thanks you for the letter that you did not show me, and for the tickets that you purchased without my knowledge. She means to join us here just as soon as she has closed the house and sold her furniture.
Ada Brook: Oh, what a relief.
Agnes van Rhijn: A relief? And who is to support her? Exactly. Me. With the Van Rhijn money, which was not achieved at no cost to myself. You were allowed the pure and tranquil life of a spinster. I was not.
Ada Brook: I’m very grateful.
Agnes van Rhijn: So you should be.
Ada Brook: [referring to Marian] Well, I’m glad she’s coming. And if my letter played a part in her decision, then I’m glad I sent it.
Agnes van Rhijn: I doubt it was your letter. More likely, she has discovered her father left her without a penny to her name. Henry couldn’t provide for a dog in a ditch. He never kept a dollar in his pocket if there were women, or drink within five hundred miles.
'I don't think we should be afraid of new things, or new people.' - Bertha Russell (The Gilded Age) Click To Tweet
Ada Brook: We should have gone for the funeral anyway.
Agnes van Rhijn: It wasn’t worth an uncomfortable day of travel to make sure Henry was dead.
Agnes van Rhijn: And what are we to do with her, now that she’s on her way to disturb our peace?
Ada Brook: Perhaps she’d like to work. If her father has left her penniless, maybe she could be a governess.
Agnes van Rhijn: A niece of mine, a governess?
Ada Brook: She’s my niece too.
Agnes van Rhijn: I’ve not noticed you volunteering to make a contribution to the household as a governess.
'Persistence is the key to everything. Patience and persistence.' - Bertha Russell (The Gilded Age) Click To Tweet
Ada Brook: We are her only living relatives. We owe her the duty of care.
Agnes van Rhijn: We do not owe her anything. Her father robbed us of all that we possessed.
Marian Brook: At this rate, I shall have more clothes than the Princess of Wales.
Peggy Scott: But if Mrs. Van Rhijn insists…
Marian Brook: Who am I to object?
Ada Brook: [referring to Gladys] Is she out?
Agnes van Rhijn: Do people like that bring their daughters out? I thought they just sold them to the highest bidder.
Oscar van Rhijn: Do you know this Gladys well enough to ask her to luncheon?
Marian Brook: Not really.
Agnes van Rhijn: I should think not.
Ada Brook: Agnes, you can’t have anything against an innocent young girl.
Agnes van Rhijn: I am opposed to her tribe.
'Money isn't everything.' - Anne Morris 'It is when you haven't got it.' - Marian Brook (The Gilded Age) Click To Tweet
Armstrong: Miss Scott, have you been working with Mrs. Van Rhijn?
Peggy Scott: Yes.
Armstrong: I suppose you think that makes you a sort of secretary.
Bannister: She is a secretary, and not a “sort of” anything, which puts her above you in the pecking order, Miss Armstrong.
3. Face the Music'Life is like a bank account. You cannot write a check without first making a deposit.' - Bertha Russell (The Gilded Age) Click To Tweet
Agnes van Rhijn: Aurora Fane is organizing another charity? She must be a glutton for punishment after the last time.
Marian Brook: You say that, but the bazaar made over two thousand dollars, which no one’s ever heard of.
Agnes van Rhijn: She and Anne Morris were a laughingstock.
Agnes van Rhijn: I will not criticize Mrs. Russell for her only virtue. At least she keeps her daughter under control.
Marian Brook: Under arrest, more like.
Ada Brook: I wonder why her mother hasn’t brought her out properly yet.
Agnes van Rhijn: Because Mrs. Russell is not sure she can fill the ballroom. You see? I know more about these things than you give me credit for.
Miss Grant: If everyone who claimed to be on the Mayflower really was, it would have to be the size of a White Star liner.
'I like to do the right thing. If I don't lose any money by it.' - George Russell (The Gilded Age) Click To Tweet
Bannister: Today’s young live for pleasure. You don’t know what hard work is.
Mrs. Bauer: And we don’t know what fun is.
George Russell: It isn’t right, you know. Miss Grant may be nice, but she’s a jailer. And Gladys is a grown woman whether you like it or not. Girls get married at her age.
Bertha Russell: And live to regret it. I know what I’m doing, George.
George Russell: [referring to Morris’s suicide] They’ll blame me.
Bertha Russell: You were strong. He was weak. Who’s to blame for that?
Marian Brook: [referring to Raikes’s marriage proposal] I still can’t believe he asked the question. Maybe he didn’t. Maybe I was mistaken.
Peggy Scott: Do you hope you were mistaken?
Marian Brook: Not exactly. Although it still feels rather rushed.
Peggy Scott: What would you say to him if your aunts didn’t exist?
Marian Brook: Good point.
George Russell: I’m very sorry about Patrick Morris, whatever you may think.
Charles Fane: I don’t think anything, beyond that it was a sad end to what had been a reasonably decent life.
George Russell: You’ll say it was my fault.
Charles Fane: No, Mr. Russell. We behaved badly, and you punished us, which was fair enough. It was a pity that Morris wasn’t equal to the test.
George Russell: This is not a game for weaklings.
Charles Fane: No, indeed.
George Russell: Will you make back the money you lost?
Charles Fane: The share price is too high for that, as you know better than I. But there’s no point in crying when you play a game and lose.
George Russell: I bear you no ill will, Mr. Fane.
Charles Fane: That’s not what it sounded like when the Aldermen came to see you.
George Russell: I was angry then. I’m not angry now.
Agnes van Rhijn: [to Ada, after Pumpkin goes missing] You survive a civil war, yet you collapse because a lap dog is missing? Pull yourself together, for heaven’s sake. You’re a soldier’s daughter. Remember it.
5. Charity Has Two Functions'Charity has two functions in our world. The first is to raise funds for the less fortunate, which is wholly good. The second is to provide a ladder for people to climb into society who do not belong there.' - (The Gilded Age) Click To Tweet
Bertha Russell: [referring to Gladys’s latest love interest] Archie Baldwin is not what I want.
George Russell: Why not? He’s the son of a senior diplomat with a house on Fifth Avenue and another in Newport.
Bertha Russell: I want more than that.
George Russell: But what is there more than that?
Bertha Russell: You’ll see when I find what I’m looking for.
Marian Brook: Really, Aunt Agnes, anyone would think you were against charity.
Agnes van Rhijn: Charity has two functions in our world, my dear. The first is to raise funds for the less fortunate, which is wholly good. The second is to provide a ladder for people to climb into society who do not belong there.
Marian Brook: And that is wholly bad?
Agnes van Rhijn: Not wholly, perhaps, but it should give us pause.
'You need determination to get anywhere.' - Agnes van Rhijn (The Gilded Age) Click To Tweet
Marian Brook: The things we said when I came to Brooklyn, those idiotic shoes.
Peggy Scott: I don’t need a fairy godmother.
Marian Brook: I know. But I think I came to your parents house as much as anything because I was curious. It seems to me Mr. Raikes knows more about your life than I do.
Peggy Scott: He’s a lawyer. He understands how to find things out I need to know.
Marian Brook: And I don’t.
Dorothy Scott: Parents do things to protect their children, whether they like it or not. Peggy belongs in Brooklyn. It’s nice she has her job, but she will only live a half life here.
Marian Brook: She likes the work.
Dorothy Scott: But there is more to life than work, and Peggy cannot live your life.
Marian Brook: I suppose not.
Dorothy Scott: In Brooklyn, she could meet a suitable husband, have her own family, and walk through front doors instead of the back entrances.
Marian Brook: I hadn’t thought of that.
'You should never pick a fight before you know the facts.' - Aurora Fane (The Gilded Age) Click To Tweet
Dorothy Scott: Family is a precious gift. It isn’t right for us to be at odds.
Marian Brook: I believe Peggy loves you very much, Mrs. Scott. The past won’t let go of her, but she loves you.
Dorothy Scott: Bless you for saying so, Miss Brook.
6. Heads Have Rolled for Less'To act on impulse is to make oneself a hostage to ridicule.' - Agnes van Rhijn (The Gilded Age) Click To Tweet
Agnes van Rhijn: [referring to the train crash] Five dead doesn’t seem very many.
Ada Brook: Oh, Agnes. Think of their families.
Agnes van Rhijn: Of course, it was negligence on Mr. Russell’s part.
Marian Brook: Is that fair?
Agnes van Rhijn: He’s the captain, isn’t he? Or doesn’t an officer take responsibility in that class?
Marian Brook: Of course he’ll take responsibility, but it doesn’t mean it’s his fault.
Agnes van Rhijn: I do not follow you.
Ada Brook: I had a letter from Cousin Margaret this morning. She says the opera war is really heating up.
Marian Brook: Why does there have to be a war? Why can’t the Academy create more boxes for the new people to rent?
Agnes van Rhijn: Because the Academy of Music is one of the last bastions of decency and standards in this city. We will not patronize any jumped-up opera house, however loud and gaudy it may be.
'The truth is, you never know what's coming next. So we should try to get the most out of what's happening now.' - Marian Brook and Peggy Scott (The Gilded Age) Click To Tweet
George Russell: At some point in the chain, a man did this, and I want to know who.
Richard Clay: We’re dealing with it.
George Russell: The public will think we’ve cut corners, and the result is five innocent deaths. They’ll know we have a killer on our payroll. And we need to make it clear it isn’t me.
George Russell: We’re not too badly damaged on the market, I’m glad to say.
Mabel Ainsley: Well, Miss Barton gave a good quote. She called you “grief-stricken”.
George Russell: I am grief-stricken.
Richard Clay: You’re also very rich. And likely to remain so.
'If I spent every day fighting with bigots, I'd never get anything done.' - Peggy Scott (The Gilded Age) Click To Tweet
Marian Brook: I suppose the truth is, you never know what’s coming next.
Peggy Scott: So we should try to get the most out of what’s happening now.
Marian Brook: Sometimes it’s hard to be quite sure of what is happening now.
Aurora Fane: I’ve asked Mrs. Russell to join us.
Anne Morris: Why? She is the wife of a murderer who has even more blood on his hands now then when he killed my husband.
Clara Barton: Mrs. Morris, you have suffered a great deal, and I am sorry for it. But I hope you can recognize that this meeting is not the place to address your society squabble.
Anne Morris: This isn’t a society squabble, since Mrs. Russell is not in society.
Bertha Russell: What an interesting moment for me to arrive.
7. Irresistible Change'It's odd how some people are forgiven their past misdemeanors, while others must pay for them forever.' - Marian Brook (The Gilded Age) Click To Tweet
Agnes van Rhijn: But what do I say to Oscar when he gets here? What can I say? That he has disgraced his character? His name? And his mother?
Ada Brook: Well…
Agnes van Rhijn: What do you mean, “Well”?
Ada Brook: Only that all men, or almost all, have a fling of some sort when they’re young, and they live to tell the tale.
Agnes van Rhijn: Oh. This is a tale I’d rather were not told.
Ada Brook: I just think these things happen.
Agnes van Rhijn: How do you know? Have you been leading a double life?
Ada Brook: No. But I’m not so simple that I don’t know what goes on.
Agnes van Rhijn: You’ll be calling yourself a woman of the world next.
Ada Brook: Well, I’m not Rip Van Winkle, Agnes. And I understand that young men have to sow their wild oats.
Agnes van Rhijn: Even if that were true, they do not have to sow them with servants.
Ada Brook: What would you prefer? An actress? Or a prostitute?
Agnes van Rhijn: Ada! I’m going to have to ring for my smelling salts if you do not moderate your tone. You should not even know these words exist.
Ada Brook: Well, I do. And I know that well brought up young ladies are not the girls lighting the cigars of their escorts at Delmonico’s.
Agnes van Rhijn: You are forcing me to reevaluate your character.
Ada Brook: I can’t help that.
Ada Brook: [to Agnes, referring to Oscar] I should do nothing. Do nothing and say nothing. But of course, you won’t listen to me.
Bertha Russell: We’ll get through this, George. We just have to be strong.
George Russell: You always hearten me, with your confidence of victory.
George Russell: [to Clay, Brand, and Lewis] So the long and the short of it is, you are all here to represent my interests, but you have come up with absolutely nothing! Put more detectives on it. Talk to Pinkerton himself. Do whatever it takes. But you must give me something to work with.
John Adams: [referring to Gladys] So you’re still determined on her?
Oscar van Rhijn: I am. And bumping into her at Newport would be perfect. John, be reasonable. What did you think would happen?
John Adams: That doesn’t mean that I want it to happen.
Oscar van Rhijn: I want what’s best for you. And you should want what’s best for me.
John Adams: The difference is, I love you.
Oscar van Rhijn: For Christ’s sake. Where do you think we are?
John Adams: But I do. And I don’t see why we can’t just carry on as before.
Oscar van Rhijn: Because I don’t have enough money for the way I want to live. And because behavior which attracts no gossip in the young man starts to make people wonder as we get older. I can’t have that.
Agnes van Rhijn: Must I hear of the Russells in every sentence anyone utters?
Marian Brook: Has Mrs. Russell accepted?
Agnes van Rhijn: Can you doubt it? She’s muscling into New York. She was bound to jam her foot in the door of Newport.
9. Let the Tournament Begin'Never overestimate your own power. It's always a mistake.' - Agnes van Rhijn (The Gilded Age) Click To Tweet
Sylvia Chamberlain: [after agreeing to hlp Marian elope] I have no fear of scandal. I’m a walking scandal as it is.
Sylvia Chamberlain: I do not believe Mr. Raikes will give up New York so easily.
Marian Brook: You’re wrong. Society means as little to him as it does to me.
Sylvia Chamberlain: Then that is what matters.
Bertha Russell: [after uninviting Carrie Astor to the ball] I looked in on Mrs. Astor today, and she wouldn’t accept my call.
George Russell: I told you.
Bertha Russell: But I can’t have her daughter here when she doesn’t receive me.
George Russell: Perhaps she wasn’t there.
Bertha Russell: A friend of hers was admitted just as I was leaving.
'I'm taking a chance, I know that. But who ever achieved great things without taking a chance?' - Bertha Russell (The Gilded Age) Click To Tweet
Larry Russell: Mother, you can’t pull the rug from under them now.
Bertha Russell: You will not say “can’t” to me.
Ada Brook: You’d never help Miss Marian do anything foolish, would you?
Peggy Scott: I’d try to persuade her not to do it. You can count on me for that.
Ada Brook: That’s not quite the same thing though, is it?