Hugh Armitage (Brian Stimer) and Demelza’s (Angharad Rees) relationship: one of two equals rather than the girl and man (as she was with Ross)
When I am gone remember this of me
That earth of earth or heaven of heaven concealed
No greater happiness than was to me revealed
By favour of a single day with thee.
If for those moments you should shed a tear
Proud I would be and prouder of your sorrow;
Even if no memory beyond tomorrow
In your sweet heart will empty me of fear.
Leave in the sand a heel mark of your crying,
Scatter all grief to silence and to air.
Let the wind blow your beauty ever fair
And leave me thus to occupy my dying.
— a poem from Hugh Armitage to Demelza
Dear friends and readers
Here am I with a ninth blog on the Poldark novels and film series. The first season of films; the first four novels (Ross Poldark, Demelza, Jeremy Poldark, Warleggan), and now this second of the intervening trio (Black Moon, Four Swans, Angry Tide).
The subject of this novel is relationships: all; the different configurations one can draw among the relationships between our primary and secondary heterosexual couples we’ve had so far. Just a few of them:
Ross and Demelza Poldark; Ross and Elizabeth Warleggan; Ross and Caroline Enys; not to omit Ross and Verity Blamey; what could have been Ross and Morwenna Carne, had he understood in time she should have married Drake; Demelza and her suitor-lover, Hugh Armitage, rescued from the French prison by Ross indirectly; Elizabeth and Francis Poldark through Geoffrey Charles; George and Elizabeth Warleggan; Osborne and Morwenna Whitworth; Osborne and Rowella Chynoweth, Morwenna and Drake Carne; Dwight and Caroline Enys (long ago Dwight and Karen Thomas); Sam Carne and Emma Tregirls (Emma and others); Jed and Prudie Paynter
Also political and social arrangements which make for relationships: Francis Basset struggling against Lord Falmouth’s control of the borough, both seeking support from others; the higher vicar come to bully Sam Drake, Demelza’s methodist brother in his methodist meeting house; the starving miners who stage a riot and stealing of miller’s grain deliberately held from them at high prices, especially the man Ross arrested from his bed and hung (John Hoskins), the Rev Mr Choak, Enys’s rival in medicine, bankers, electors.
We see who is executed and why, and witness an election procedure close-up too.
The perspective or theme is the deep one I found articulated by Graham in his memoir:
Even among my nearest and dearest there is no transference — can be no transference — of experience. One can feel empathy for someone suffering, but one cannot feel the suffering. We are all alone — desperately alone. What are we in this world? A conjunction of subjective impressions making up something that is accepted as reality (Bk 2, Ch 3, p 179, Memoirs of a Private Man)
In this novel, the four swans are Demelza, Morwenna, Elizabeth, Caroline. Unfairly omitting Emma, Rowella, Rosina. Graham has dismissed Jinny as a central character.
These five couples (Ross & Demelza; George & Elizabeth; Dwight & Caroline; the wrongly parted Drake & Morwenna, and kept apart Sam & Emma) cannot enter into one another’s minds or feelings; and the most moving chapters in the book when Ross attempts to tell Demelza of his feelings for Elizabeth and she realizes she cannot tell him of hers for Hugh Armitage are a paradigm of all realities of relationships, at the core of the world’s cruelties, blindnesses and necessary ignorance.
The richness of this middle book of the second trio has emerged slowly from the premises of the characters’s natures, and their evolving situations, some of these going back to the first novel, Ross Poldark and certainly the second, Demelza. This is criss-crossed by an attention to what is happening politically in the larger world and how this is embodied in Cornwall.
We wee what makes choosing to live on worth while. Why people do it and what they get out of life and what they are pushed to deprive themselves of – and the hard and poignant (socially seen) reasons why.
I did love its poetry of birds, landscapes, waters sounding, and wrote about the text each week phase by phase so perhaps this blog will not readily appeal to anyone who has not read Four Swans. On the other hand, I have done my best to explain and convey the experience of this book as I went along. So my advice to you, gentle readers, is borrow, rent, buy these novels and start reading; and then come back here to my blog or get a sense of the books now and then borrow …
Again I’ve supplied an exact outline in the comments; for those interested in the mini-series, Season 2, Parts 6 to 10 more or less correspond to The Four Swans.
The Four Swans, Bk 1, Chs 1 into 3
Hayle Estuary, Cornwall (four of the novel’s women represented by the swans on Morwenna’s husband’s property, viz., Demelza, Elizabeth, Morwenna, & Caroline)
The Four Swans (Chapter 1) begins with two scenes where George Warleggan accosts people he can scare: Daniel Behenna, a physician who was the doctor in attendance at the birth of Valentine at Trenwith; and Tabb, an old male servant who was fired at the time of his marriage to Elizabeth. We feel the ferocious wrath inside him driving him to question these people and in their answers to him their complete mystification at what he could possibly be getting at. That we know it’s his idea that Valentine is not his son is assumed. And it’s not told in this opening. .
George comes across as an ugly mean-minded cold personality. He threatens as a way of negotiating upfront. Of course Behenna when asked if Valentine was an 8th month baby does suspect that George is suspecting Elizabeth in some way; Tabb seems not to pick up that the suspicion is of Elizabeth. There we see that Ross’s way of getting into Elizabeth’s bedroom from an overhang late at night and his leaving was not noticed by anyone Tabb knew. Elizabeth has become uncomfortable with this husband; again the personality type is real (alien from me): she does not become livid or sad only irritated and knows her position threatened by this continual suspicion. Any emotion she shows in this chapter is about her son, Geoffrey Charles who she is not parted from (he’s at Harrow) and her worry he does not like his stepfather; also that George no longer plays with Valentine who is missing his father.
All we can gather from a third scene where he aggressively cross-questions Elizabeth about Ross is that he suspects her of having a liaison and possibly with Ross. This is one of the strong scenes, with a real frisson as she instinctively answers his intense questioning of how she regards Ross with words that are true: she no longer has any feeling about Ross and indeed looks down on him: “a braggart, a bully, a middle aged man tying to assume the attitude of a young won, someone who once had a clock and sword and does not know they have gone out of date” (p. 28). These “cool destructive sentences” hit George where he lives. They have some truth though as when George remarks that Ross’s great exploit ending up losing more lives than the one he brought home
An odd gap is how Graham continues not to give a hint of Elizabeth’s knowledge Valentine is an 8 month baby and Ross’. We also see that while not kind or good or terribly humane she is decent: she is sorry Tabb was let go and would take him back; she wants to go to Caroline Penvenen’s wedding to Enys George would not, but then Ross would not have gone to the dinner party at Ralph-Allen Daniels in the previous book where he was offered and refused a magistracy but for Demelza.
A conventionality: the woman are the more compliant, the more social, and both described as young, slender and looking virginal. For the second set of values I wonder if this is Graham pleasing his readers.
St Winnow Church, River Fowey where the TV fictional wedding was held
The wedding opens (Chapter 2) out the Poldark world with its description of the place around the church and the group of people who come and meet. It’s here that Graham is rebuilding the world for previous readers and introducing new ones. Very little about Ross inwardly, only his pride seen (handsome, lean, wearing an old coat that was his father’s, he insists Demelza have a new dress (green with silver trim which is how she appeared in the series).
George walking over to Enys remembers how Enys would not succumb to pressure but stayed with the Poldark group. George notices how badly Enys still looks.
Politicking at the wedding shows Demelza is more like Ross than she thinks: when Falmouth comes over to “smooch”, she is quickly alive to saying she does not want Ross to go on any more expeditions. Ross genial with Ralph-Allen Daniels.
The chapter includes Ross’s trip to Harry Pascoe, banker so we see how the banks Warleggan works with are in rivalry with Pascoe and Ross’s and what are the real basis of Ross’s relative prosperity: one small mine. He is going to expand by going into business with Daniels.
Then the couples each in their bedrooms characteristically. George and Elizabeth discussing the coming election. We see how these bought and pressure-point boroughs with few electors work.
The most striking couple moments are of the two other couples at the wedding and then again in ed: Caroline’s great generous heart and Enys’s weakness but his trying hard to do what she wants. She wanted this big wedding and she wanted it earlier than he did. How she teases him they had better or her reputation will be in shreds. They do not make love until their wedding night because of his health, and we see it’s even a strain at the close of the chapter. but the good feeling between them carries them into it and then (as ever) curtain down:
Caroline you talk too much.
I know, I always shall. It is a fault that you have married … (p. 46)
Morwena. She is sickened with nausea and despair as she stands next to Ossie Whitworth and no one but we know at the wedding. The dense pragmatic fool Whitworth doesn’t even know, or it’s that he does not care what goes on in her mind. She is not quite dressed up to par as he is. We are privy to one of their bedroom scenes after the wedding too. He commits his exercise on her and she lies there sore, desperate (pp. 40-44). She is in effect raped nightly and now she’s pregnant.
And we hear the talk and thoughts of others, e.g., Sam that the marriage of this pair is right and Drake and she wrong.
The last pair of characters I’ll mention in this renewal is Drake and Sam (Chapter 3) where Ross offers Drake Pally’s old shop. Sam is brought before us, his mind and how he looks at the world (methodist working) and he is feeling bad because with all his success as a workman and preacher he cannot take Drake with him. Drake carries on being depressed and alienated. We see this. Ross makes a move here: his business proposition to help Drake move out of his state of mind (which Ross sees) and the immediate area.
In Chapter 3 we are with Drake who is not getting over it. He is such another as Bingley in the 2008 Lost in Austen. He is not drinking but he has lost his faith in methodism (“yielding to unbelief”) and is bitter and cannot retrieve himself. Yet we are told this “black cloud’ does not lead to thoughts of suicide, it’s “outside his scope.” The chapter shows us Ross offering this property, Demelza being strongly for it, the trip there and a realistic depiction of a place that’s an utter mess and will take tremendous work to make into a blacksmith shop and farm, and Drake will have to do it alone. Sam does think of going with him, but he has his job in the mine and his thriving church. Another drawback is it’s not really away; it’s close to Trenwith. We then see Ross and Drake at an auction, a realistically depicted scene.
Another thread is that of Sam as preacher trying to do good. One of parishioner, Jim Verney is so broke, it’s something out of Dickens, worse. Verney lies dead by the time Sam gets to the hovel, another body is there. This is common for people in Cornwall. Sam attempts to get aid from Dr Choake whose mistress-housekeepers, Emma Tregirls (sister of Tholly) sneers him off with an ointment, and says when her master comes the family better than 2 shillings. Sam leaves 2 shillings with the widow and left starving children. Enys would have come but he doesn’t know and is himself so frail.
From here we see Elizabeth’s assessment wrong: George is the braggart, bully, middle aged man trying to be what he’s not (aristocratic); Ross is quietly alive to other people’s real feelings and spreading employment, faithful to friends, reaching out a hand to his brother-in-law whose existence he once didn’t want to know about.
Four Swans, Bk 1, Chapters 4-6: Another offer refused; the Enys marriage, Drake: we cannot but reproach ourselves for unlived lives
Rowella Chynoweth (Julie Dawn Cole) played as an enigmatic hypocrite, very unlike the book
Chapter 4 brings us the arrival of Morwenna’s sisters to the parsonage. One of them, Rowella, is t help her with the children. These are Osborne’s stepchildren (from his first miserable wife) and the coming child. WE are given enough to feel from Rowella’s silence, her presence does not exactly bode well for Morwenna, for it is only Garlanda who sees how wretched is Morwenna and surmises that down the road in time unless Morwenna can get herself to stand up to Whitworth she will be destroyed. She feels for her sister. We are told in indirect thought which includes Graham “It was a pity she was not staying.” Another contrast is the snugness of the parsonage and how Morwenna is comfortable in it. Drake will become a man of property if he makes a go of it (on Ross’s stake and inheritance in effect) but she would have had to live and work in hardship; we are to feel this would not have mattered; on the other hand, a nice house is a nice house — and Rowella sees this. The four swans are four swans in a pond on the parsonage property.
Of interest to me in these costume dramas is how the types and situations not only hark back to say 1970s (upstairs/downstairs was 1970s, no? Ross Poldark is such another hero as the young man in Davies’s modern drama, To Serve Them All My Days) but these speak to us too or can really be like a Victorian novel. Some mores don’t change. A situation in Lost in Austen is so like one in Four Swans, and the utterance that Jane Bennet in Lost in Austen says about it rang home to my heart yesterday — “We must not reproach ourselves for unlived lives” (still grieving as I was over a probably irretrievable decision or action we did last week — though since this is not art but life it may be what we did was the best and also doesn’t matter so much).
An interesting parallel is both ugly mean horrors of men, sycophantic are vicars. Some residual supposed distrust of church officials as utter hypocrites here.
There is of course a profound difference between Graham’s presentation of Morwenna’s forced marriage to Osborne Whitworth and Jane Bennet’s to Mr Collins in Lost in Austen. In LIA, Collins not going to bed with Jane — she remains a virgin. Well that just about cuts out what is the horror — Bingley in the film does not know about this until much later and it’s said to make such a difference. All sorts of objections come to my mind like this is making fucking matter far too much and virginity ludicrously important, only it is true that what is so horrible about Morwenna’s marriage is the nightly rape, her dislike and distaste for this animal of a man and his cruelty: he sees how much she dislikes it and deliberately hurts her. One night he twists her foot until she cries out in terrific pain; we are told he felt sorry he did that but blamed her. Natch. And she’s pregnant
We return to Ross and another coming visit to Sir Francis Bassett (still Chapter 4 and then into 5). To some extent Graham is repeating himself, again Demelza is willing to go. Graham has not found what to do with Ross and Demelza — reminds me of Trollope with the chief Pallisers characters and how for each of the 6 novels he invents a new primary set of characters. Graham had not wanted to do that …
The trip to Sir Francis Basset’s grand mansion is, however, not simply a repeat of Demelza and Ross’s trip to Ralph-Allen Daniel’s estate.
Lanydrock, a magnificent castle in Cornwall, filmed as Tehidy, Bassett’s house
The dinner table has the characters discussing the Directory and again no one else do I come across understanding of how Napoleon would be seen as revolutionary. Who he stood up for. Not in the US at any rate.
This time Ross is offered a seat in Parliament: he has made himself popular (he is very ironic and saturnine about this) by his rescue of Enys from Quimper; he is part of a landed family; Bassett is not keen on the Boscawen crowd to which the Warleggans belong. Again Ross refuses: this time no long philosophical talk about a book (last time it was Paine’s Common Sense) but rather Bassett makes it clear that Ross will have to vote a party line. Ross doesn’t want that, nor does he want to involve himself in the corrupt borough politics of Cornwall. In a way this refusal is much easier to understand quickly because what is required is concrete distasteful behavior. Utterances by Ross: “Human nature is an abomination, even one’s own” (p. 100). But again he’s refused power, refused a place, and left himself vulnerable.
Demelza growing up finds herself the object of more sophisticated flirting and is drawn or feels that someone is drawn to her: Armitage who Ross rescued. They go on a long walk into the landscape: this is filmed in the series. The conversation again brought home to me why I like these books so: I like Graham’s outlook, I share his values and characters he finds likable I do, and Demelza is one of them. (For me it’s ever true that it’s a struggle to read Trollope’s woman as often I neither like nor admire what he thinks I will, and I don’t think his women are sexually real — he’s done it deliberately in part to make them chaste and obedient.)
The description more ornamental, not rhythmic deep flows as in Black Moon. Appropriate for Armitage’s courting and I can see why costume drama would pick precisely this sequence up.
Yet more talk between Bassett and Ross (Chapter 5) where Ross and Bassett come together (Ross agrees there can be no classless society). Trip home: after all Caroline suddenly tells Demelza: “I think our marriage has been a great mistake.” Whoa. She wanted Enys so badly, Ross got him out of hell for her, but now she has him she sees how different they are. She would like to see him hunt, drink, take care of the estate; instead he shows sympathy for the French (she cannot see how he can see the difference between individuals and a group), wants to go out doctoring among the poor again, reads.
There are differences between Ross and Demelza too, real strains, but not this: they talk of her attraction to Armitage; he tries to understand but is intensely roused by jealousy.
Demelza (Angharad Rees) in the book not paid much attention to on the way home (from Bassett or Falmouth’s house); in the film this occurs directly after he has been with Elizabeth at Aunt Agatha’s grave
Back to Sam and Drake (Chapter 6). Drake is doing well in the sense of working all day and making a go of his shop and place. But he goes nowhere and seeks no company, no girlfriend as we’d say. He has a beautiful character — I just love him and Morwena too. The chapter follows Sam’s visits to the abysmally poor again (“Poverty can be endured if it can be endured with Pride”): methodism becomes another face of trynig to find an alternative to the cruelties of an unjust callous order. Tholly Tregirls’s sister, Emma, visits: I do dislike her competitiveness, she is what one comes across as presented as a reactionary feminist — Sarah Palin 18th century housekeeper-kept womaa (of Dr Choak) style. She is after Drake who does not see her; Sam drawn to her is drawn into carrying a heavy load and then to trespass on Trenwith. An enconter with some of Warleggans’ bullies one of whom Emma has gone to bed with. I admit she’s real enough: manipulative, getting back. The language here is true and effective.
Imagery continually of birds: herons, seagulls, birds in the sky, the sound of them against the wind and waters, the night sky.
Cornwall, twilight, birds
It’s interesting to me that Graham says that Drake never considered suicide as we’d think of that occurring to him but does not say Morwena never considered killing herself. The juxtaposition of Sam thinking about how he can convert the nasty Emma Tregirls is ironic. Emma Tregirls may be caught up in this phrase that she utters, one which shows she is reflecting the world as she has found it in order to be a survivor: “As I se’n, Sam girl’s only strength be when she have men dandling on a string.” (P. 112).
Sam (David Delve) and Emma Tregirls (unlisted at IMDB): she plays with him
Four Swans, Bk 1, Chapters 7-9
I really dreaded going on from the last time I closed the book, for I could see that juxtaposed to the scene between Sam and Emma Tregirls was one of Osborne Whitworth. As I wrote, Graham (refreshingly) does not stand up for rapists to the point that he characterizes (quite rightly) Whitworth’s nightly sex with Morwena as frequently rape. She is not afraid for her life, but is made wretched by his ugly demands on her, he is rough, mean, often physically spiteful.
I need not have worried, it was not as bad as I feared. The scene was instead with George Warleggan. Osborne has come to demand that George write a letter on Whitworth’s behalf to secure him another living which has become vacant. George is very irritated because it has become apparent that Morwena is not thriving or happy. This makes George exasperated with her but it seems Elizabeth blames Whitworth. Right. She should blame herself. So George put off by Whitworth’s vulgar displays (George is puritan like in his clothes) says no in a steely tone.
This is not likely to help Morwena’s position. For now she has a respite as the doctor (Chapter 7) has told Whitworth to leave Morwena alone for the next 6 weeks (the last of her pregnancy). He is too heavy. The film presented his rape of her as what occurred after the birth when she was still very weak and in pain and torn, not the way Graham does as what happens all the time. So I know that it’s coming at her again. Meanwhile he has discovered a crack in a wall in the house where he can peer at her sister getting undressed (again the film includes this).
Myself I wonder why Morwenna doesn’t kill herself. I know she doesn’t because the frontispiece material includes a family tree where there are three children by Whitworth attributed to her. Poor woman, poor woman. It is not intended this way but the whole situation makes a parallel to Karen who had the affair with Enys sometime after she married because she was so frustrated, lonely, idle, living in bleak poverty without a window on the sky or sea. If it were, we might hope Morwena will flee, but she has been brought up to be religious and obey. I wouldn’t stay for it, but then they could not have gotten me to marry such a man and this is not an anachronism in me to say this. If married to him, I’d refuse him but I do like Graham consider what’s happening horrible rapes.
Here Ross (Robin Ellis) is told of Drake’s unjust imprisonment by Sam (occurs in Warleggan), irritated and determined look part of his character that comes out here in Four Swans
Ross is trying to create a situation of mining whereby he can make more money by finding more lodes(Chapter 7), but also do the mining in a safer way so there will be no more dreadful accidents with major loss of life. He also has to tell Demelza he refused the place for member of parliament. To his surprise, she supports him in this. She had wanted him to take the Justice of the Peace, a small niche of power. He is a little resentful — strange the way feelings work.
She says she would not want him to take it because “he lives on a knife edge.” His conscience would make him ravage and bleed and cut himself far more in Parliament because he would have to tow a party line. As local Justice he might have done some good, or moderate the bad. She remarks: “you every year get more and more unsatisfied” (p 129).
He says “the real crux is that I am not willing to be anyone’s tame lapdog. I don’t belong int eh world of pretty behavior and genteel fashion.” When Trollope’s Phineas couldn’t bear to follow a party line, it was the issue of Irish tenants’ rights not his own balking against the system itself
Hugh Armitage (who had hitched onto Ross’s boat rescuing Enys from the French prison) is there at home with Demelza when Ross arrives and Ross immediately senses that Armitage is courting her and she is attracted to Armitage. This aspect of their marriage interests me: I feel Graham is reflecting something that happened in his own life: a quietly open marriage? Their dialogue is so appealing: as opposed to the arbitrary anger behavior of males in most books, he is quietly wary but no more and not suspicious of her betraying him; more, he seems not to mind if she does linger and long for someone else — as he does. The lack of possessiveness, lack of anxiety and understanding the two display over this is remarkable even for today. She is much more jealous than he because she really fears he prefers Elizabeth or preferred her and is sufficiently attracted to Caroline to endanger her relationship with him.
I liked this line from Armitage about love too:
“For life is such a trumpery thing at best, isn’t it? A few movements, a few words, between dark and dark. But in true love you keep company with the gods.” (p. 131)
This is how Drake and Morwena felt when they courted, and this is how Ross and Demelza felt it the early phase of their love and marriage. It seems that Enys and Caroline are not up there with the Gods after all.
Chapters 8 and 9 intertwine politics with Morwena’s terrible giving birth; we also have Ross again coping with the money problems of Pascoe.
She has a horrible time; Osborne is irritated because he wanted to join in on the election day and it would look bad. He has to look as if he’s praying for her. He does pray, for himself not to be further burdened. The thought crosses his mind maybe in the next marriage he could get a wife who does not find him so distasteful. The long siege of reports from the doctor are moving but we are not allowed to be there in the birthing room with her. I have rarely seen this dramatized but maybe I don’t read enough very contemporary books. The only one I know of is Byatt’s Still Life and there the description is not that long.
The politics is about the election. Lord Falmouth wanted to impose his candidate onto the borough and there’s an ugly scene between Hick and Nicholas Warleggan and him where they have waited 3 hours to see the big man (reminding me of Trollope’s Mr Harding waiting the long day in London to see Sir Abraham Haphazard, but this is not funny). It takes the nerve of Warleggan to protest this imposition. The next day Falmouth comes into the room and threatens everyone he can with whatever he has to hold against them. Nonetheless, George Warleggan takes it — Nicholas did have a personal interest here. Ross is there and although he tries to be civil and get along with George soon they are bitterly bickering. These are scenes quietly radical, showing how politics works: they make me remember Godwin’s Caleb Williams where in order to show this he has to ratchet up the melodrama. Trollope is as quiet as this as is Meredith (Beauchamps’ Career) but they are on the side of the order, accept it.
George and Ross cannot get along, even in front of Bassett
The scene is followed by a quiet one between Demelza and Ross again discussing the characters of the two men, Ross self-reflexive, both wry: they rehearse the same matter as in Chapter 7, but in a different key. We have Ross and Demelza’s conversation after he comes home from the election where George was chosen to be Member of Parliament over the arrogant threats of Lord Falmouth. This ends with Demelza taking out a second letter she does not show Ross; a poem to her by Armitage, a kind of weak imitation of Byron (end of Chapter 9, pp. 165-70).
Four Swans, Bk 1, Chapters 10-12: Ross and Elizabeth again
A culminating confrontation scene between Elizabeth (Jill Townsend) and Ross (Robin Ellis)
Chapter 10 brings us Morwena’s continuing failure to get better, to thrive; how Whitworth is now a voyeur of his sister-in-law and how he can’t bear this lack of sexual release and enters his wife’s room and really forces himself on her. This was the scene the BBC chose to film. It’s actually not done with the force or drama of the nightly sex in the earlier part of the book, but it’s “safer” because it seems to condemn the man not for being her husband but not watching out for her health.
Then there are the useless things done by Choak and finally the calling of Dr Enys by Elizabeth who now that George has gone to London is a much freer relaxed woman (Chapter 10). She overrides the stupidity and narrowness of Whitworth who neither likes Enys’s egalitarian ways, connections with Ross Poldark nor his ways of doctoring. Enys orders a modern style regime of decent food, warmth, rest, and forbids more sex. Whitworth is angry but cannot overbear Enys because Elizabeth is there. We are in some of these scenes to feel for Whitworth insofar as he is a man, remembers his first wife (mis-remembers) but I detest him.
Just before George goes Elizabeth again experiences a renewed coldness, bitterness and close surveillance (Chapter 10). Something has re-aroused George’s jealousy. It’s interesting how Graham manages to present her as suffering under this kind of hostility, repression, suspicion but not all that upset; she is so reasonable in herself, herself not the bad person her second husband is. Now relieved to be alone but aware she is under surveillance (Chapter 11).
Her son, Geoffrey Charles, comes home form Harrow, much changed — his “delightful spontaneity” gone, a “smile” with a “new and more reserved charm,” he resembles Francis at his best, and he renews the friendship with Drake. Elizabeth does have a moment of “doubt” but says nothing against it when she sees how happy this makes her son, happier than he’d been in a long time and considers how far Drake is living from the Poldark farm (the other side of Trenwith) and that Drake is now a man of property and there is no “danger” to her family through Morwenna. George would hate it.
She is free to allow things, to visit friends and do some Lady Bountiful visits too. On her way home from one she gets caught in the rain and goes through the property grave yard and comes across Ross. He is there measuring Agatha’s grave for a gravestone he asked George about at the election.
There ensues a powerful scene between the two of them (Chapter 11), including her rage at him, and bitter memories of that night and his not coming back later (for he would not leave Demelza) and in the argument that ensues she accuses Ross of being the person who has somehow spread the rumor Valentine is his. Upon seeing him we know she is attracted as she says that leanness of his, the heavy-lidded eyes, the way he holds his body, an expression on his face. This is the first she has spoken of it. It emerges she is not sure Valentine is his or Ross’s. Ross is immediately aware of how much harm this could do to her boy and tries to advise her to have another (he does) and present it as premature. The dialogue ends with them coming together in a kind of understanding as they talk and before she can go off, he clutches her and kisses her face over and over again. Curtain down. I don’t mean to suggest anything more than this ensues, only that it Graham does this. It’s a convention that leaves what happened suggestive.
A more attentive look at the scene between Ross and Elizabeth at the close of Chapter 11. First it’s been suggested to me the Valentine plot makes Graham’s novels increasingly melodramatic. Well not yet. If anything, Ross’s reaction is understated: “what you tell me is the greater shock. How can we separate — just at this moment.” This is his strongest reaction in words to the news that Valentine may in fact be his and that George suspects this. He says at first: “George is a strange man — given to moods that might give you the wrong impression” They eventually agree “what a pit they’ve dug for themselves” and Valentine. Ross wants to do something and suggests she speak openly to George of his suspicion and try to dispel it, she scoffs at this as just not possible; he could tell him she says; then he says he might end up killing George (as when they come together George needles him and he is a violent man he knows), so then he suggests she challenge George herself and then lie. He insists on how much she means to George, she is his great prize, and Ross, how he never dreamed George had a chance. The conversation turns to her anger again at the night he forced sex on her, and his re-explanation, (mad with jealousy and afterward could not leave Demelza) and when again she wants him to express something from his conscience, he turns to how what she should worry about is the boy, and how her relationship, marriage with George is floundering. She says it’s floundered already — we see from more than just this pregnancy and child. George did not did not take her with him to London — how men were in charge — and at one time he would have wanted to show her off. It’s then on theme of Valentine that Ross suggests she get pregnant again and appear to give birth early; an insect flies over as they talk, he brushes it off her and it’s then she tries to pull away, he pulls her towards him and dissolves in kisses.
What a relief they must be after the arid cold loveless George.
How many insects and a strong sense of life filling the air, sea moving, there is in the book. I had mentioned the birds everywhere, the feel of Cornish air and winds and chills and plant life too.
On this scene too: this love affair of Elizabeth and Ross is structurally across these 7 volumes that make up the design/matter for the TV series. They are a thwarted couple too, and it’s within their overarching continuing story (even if they don’t see or speak to one another for years) that the novel’s other events take their place, are generated in reaction or as parallels. People seeing the film series don’t like to see this; they want Demelza to be the central female and in the series maybe she is. But it makes good sense that the series opens (as the books do not) on Elizabeth’s refusal of Ross when he returns — the books only begin to imagine this in Warleggan fully. That material is brought up front. And also (as I understand it) the series ends on Elizabeth’s death in pregnancy — as does The Angry Tide.
In the first four volumes Demelza is certainly the major figure after or with Ross but as Graham went on, resumed after 20 years, some deeper outline and set of concerns and obsessions in himself about marriage and love make Elizabeth the linchpin. She is no ideal in the way of Demelza with Demelza’s love, kindness, loyalty, acceptance of her status as lower than Ross. In this book Caroline is emerging as a recalitrant presence in a marriage after all, as well as obviously the tragic Morwena. All about marriage as presented (1970s back into 50s) practiced as well as the 1790s for outward customs.
Part One, Chapters 12-14
Falmouth’s house is much shabbier than Bassett’s in the book; but the mini-series chose an elegant mansion nonetheless
The next chapter is the trip to Tregothowan, another great house and a social gathering for the two couples Enys and Caroline, Demelza and Ross.
Caroline (Judy Geeson) in her element, Demelza on one side, Hugh Armitage the other
I was so relieved to sink back into my favorite book for now: the leisurely pace is part of its pleasures. Graham is exploring four different sets of male-female relationships and their intertwining cross-connections. There’s an acceptance of adultery (ultimately underlying this is the modern notion of open marriage) that fascinates me.
Emma Tregirls visits Sam because he has not been visiting her (Bk 1, Ch 14) and we see that she likes him despite herself, and that he is willing to have a relationship with her were she to try to reform. Indeed the dialogue shows him willing to marry her and saying his parishioners would understand she’s brought in, reborn. She doubts this in wry words. Sam’s innocent nature comes out here, but a glimmer comes out that he does see he might lose his position and she is the merciful one and departs. But there is real sense of loss because there is something there so real. The words come off the page as real voices (pp. 246, 250), Sam “I’ll never say goodbye,” and the better self of Emma: “Honest, Sam,dear. Honest, love. Honest to God. There, I said it! … goodbye comes soon after this). And the chapter ends: “Overheard the seagulls were still swooping, crying and moaning their intermittent litany” P. 250)
Book Two, Chapters 1-4
Drake (Kevin McNally) at work in his forge
Ross and Demelza seen through their daily lives together: fixing the library, the upstairs, the children, and routines of work and life as they are imagined here (Bk 2, Chapter 1). The dog. Here it’s rhythmic recreation of the core of the Poldark world (pp. 253-60). Here we are in Ross’s thoughts about decent actions by Pitt (p. 254): I didn’t know Pitt wanted a pension scheme — some of this is what Republicans want to destroy today. Playful dialogues.
But later Demelza seens lingering in the landscape over a letter from Armitage (p. 283-84), Sawle Church nearby. The interweaving seen here: Whitworth hungers after this position, nags George, is writing people, Ross has persuaded Bassett to give it to Odgers whom Ross likes.
Two particularly moving moments: when Dwight, now having agreed himself to spend more time the way his wife, Caroline wants, visiting, being a squire, taking care of their property, having rescued her perhaps from an early pine-away and death, sends a letter to Whitworth and Morwenna about how he is going to limit his practice to a smaller area and now that she is well, she no longer needs him. As she sits here reading it, she feels an intense loss of a real friend (Bk 1 Ch 2, p 270). So I remember Morwenna lingering over her four swans in the pond on the property near Whitworth’s chapel where she had considered suicide. Her rereading Dwight’s supposedly reasonable letter.
Morwenna (Jane Wymark) at night
Dwight has had to give this up because his “life” person or partner has insisted he accede to her will. I’ve experienced this myself and seen it happen to others. A real relationship that matter even if it’s categorised as just business (someone like a doctor and patient) is given up to the “family” demands or work. Dwight too who we see at a dinner he sits silently at is losing something too.
What happened is they are drifting apart. Caroline has no interest in books, and he wants to read much of the time. She has little sympathy for anyone really spending their lives doctoring the poor and sick. Worse yet Dwight is not accompanying her on her jaunts as he should, not dressing as he should, and looking weak and ill. He sees the marriage cannot go on this way (Bk 2, Ch 1, pp. 262-67). Their dialogue is as rich in insight into the human condition as Ross’s with Elizabeth over Aunt Agatha’s grave.
“Work is good for a man, Caroline” (p. 262)
He: “What matters it what others have to say?”
She: “It only maters if it is reflected in ourselves.” (for her it is)
He was still unsteady standing and sat on the edge of the table. His narrow thoughtful face was lined this evening. He looked what he was, a sick man with a strong will” (p. 265)
She resents what she perceives as neglect and lets him know it.
“It was not going to be an easy marriage. It never had been yet over the few mohths it had so far run. But she was determined to win it … [however listen to the narrator moving in here] What was in question was what they would make of it” (p 269).
Demelza’s visit to the Poldark graves with a poem from Armitage in her pocket followed by her visit to Jud and Prudie Paynter after a suposedly comic chapter where he as gravedigger gets impatient and goes to beat a dog, the dog bites him, he runs home frantic and a ridiculous tussle with Prudie ensued. Now they are calm, and Demelza comes for a visit where she has been asked to check up on whether anything has been done to put a stone over Agatha’s grave. Alas, Jud lets out that he saw Ross and Elizabeth walking around Aunt Agatha’s grave and the description is of a scene quite different than the one we saw.
George comes home from London to find Elizabeth over at Trenwith, near the sea, and he goes over to her. he and Elizabeth manage to patch it up because he wants her and reasons with himself after much difficulty. He missed her in London; she would have been a help to him, enormously. He stands in admriation of her and she is his prize. He tells himself what does it matter what happened before he married her and that his suspicions are wrong. A scene on horses between the two of them with him scorning Nampara house improvements (by Ross) shows her making a hinting challenge to him and him backing away. She has persuaded her son, Geoffrey Charles to get along with his stepfather and the stepfather to leave the boy visiting Drake. She makes it the boy will tire of Drake as his new associates teach him better. Both of them blame Morwenna for what happened. George of course will have Drake spied on and do what he can to ruin his business; how dare Drake set up his business so close to Trenwith (Bk 2, Ch 3, pp 290-96) The one lie Elizabeth tells George is she’s not seen any of the Trenwith people
Emma (Chapter 3) visits Drake to try to understand Sam better and perhaps also flirt with Drake. The latter gets nowhere but we do have an early history of Sam and Drake and how first Sam was ‘converted’ into his present evangelical state of mind. She persists that Methodists make life worse, and take away from it what joy most people have (pp. 299-305)
So story, plot-design move on but that’s not what holds me What holds me is moments like Drake who we are told spends all his hours working hard, glad of his shop, glad of his custom, feeling his new rank, but wanting nothing else (p. 299). He does send (we are told) a note or message to Morwenna via Geoffrey Charles. It’s not the note, it’s the description of him at his forge going nowhere else.
For rest of novel outlined, see comments.
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