Archive for December, 2010

Mel Martin as Demelza from the 1996 Stranger from the Sea

Dear friends and readers,

I regret strongly to have to say this eighth Poldark novel represents a sad falling off. While at moments it came alive for me in the way the other seven did — riveting in some indefinable way where I was caring about the characters and involved and forgetting where I was sitting and my surroundings, most often and for long stretches it did not.

The problem is twofold: the characters I cared most about are not in the forefront and the new ones don’t cut it — or not yet. When the fiction came most alive are in the sections where Ross is there and active or Demelza and especially one where they spend a night making love on and off and talking after his long absence. I long to see Morwenna and Drake on the stage again, and when I’m fobbed off with a story about Sam and Rosina Hoblyn (the crippled miner’s daughter whom Demelza tried to unite with Drake) in the mind of Clowance (Demelza and Robb’s daughter) and Demelza’s talk I feel a hollow at the center. We should not be talking about what counts but rather it should be dramatized. Enys has not yet been personated in the book.

I know I’ve written that Elizabeth Chynoweth Poldark Warleggan is central to the series, but I did not feel the truth of this until I read this book. From Poldark 1 through 7 Ross Poldark is said repeatedly to remain deeply engaged emotionally with her (in love, desiring her, attached, caring) and when she’s gone there is no tension between him and Demelza. Demelza has nothing to egg her on, to get back at, to feel estranged about — omitting of course his continual long absencese. Now and again we are told a vein of “bitterness” emerges from Ross but we are never told what it’s from — and most of the time it emerges in conversations with his son, Jeremy, as he listens to his plans, realizes he’s not been consulted. Nor are we told that Demelza wonders why he stays from her for so long, only that she is lonely, feels isolated, without sufficient company when he’s not there.


The character who is most like the earlier ones in some ways: Stephen Carrington, smuggler, privateer, amoral in his way, is not much on the scene for the scene is not one of struggling outsiders. A smuggling adventure between Carrington and Jeremy Poldark is done as a sort of action adventure story. I’m not a boy of 12.

One of the women I care least about, the gay-strong lady type (to me a semi-literary figure) Caroline is here — and a version of her, much harder, meaner, hypocritical and perhaps realer — Lady Harriet to whom the anti-hero, George Warleggan is attracted is also. This leads to the other difference of this fiction. The marquee or world-historical famous characters are a mark of its trying to present public events. The strength of the earlier books has been in their presentation of public world and all its manifestations through the impingement of this on small people, marginalized lives, obscure and private. For the first time I found things happening I didn’t quite understand — like when George Warleggan’s speculation and over-risky investment suddenly goes rotten because we are told the Prince changed his mind — or party. We are expected to know what party the Prince adhered to originally (was it Whig?) and how he veered about. I don’t. He is nudging into being a history book without all the notes.

Graham is failing to produce another novel which combines the characteristics of the best women’s historical romance novels and men’s action-adventure historical political novels of the era, for this combination is the key to his success

Some signs of this falling off are how well past the mid-way point of the book Graham is still repeating snatches of reminders from what happened in previous books or “tag” type lines to unite things — like suddenly I am again reminded that Demelza was/is a miner’s daughter. I have not counted how many times he has repeated this and other little facts to bind this fiction back to the previous. I did come across passages for the first time which felt like I was being fed information about the era.

I find myself comparing this to Trollope’s series novels (Barsetshire, Palliser). For each new novel he invented a new set of characters; Graham doesn’t want to do this: in a sense the Poldark books are one long novel about the same set of characters. But his hero and heroine are now too safe and conventional in position, and he wants us to respect them so is unwilling to present their children as having a hard time, being bad people. This may be a limitation of his own imagination about his own children: he’s not going there. (Trollope by the way did and frequently in his later career). I realized also for the first time how rarely Graham does go inside Ross’s mind — he does not want to risk himself. In his memoir Graham says he is a private man, but (as he knows) when someone writes fiction one must go deep into oneself and reveal what genius shows you.

The weakness makes me also remember how Ross’s continual risk-taking and then winning back what he had lost is most improbable. I’ve been reading reviews of Darnton’s latest book, Poetry and Police: Communication Networks in the Eighteenth Century Paris, and Peter Brooks (NYRB) brings home how for most people, and this would include a fringe powerful man like Ross, it was so easy to lose out altogether, what money, niche opportunity, even the property you might already have and never retrieve your position. The ancien regime was a horrible order, deeply inhumane and unjust.

And how limited his view of Demelza as an older woman is. In a rare active scene towards the end of the book, she is one again at a party at a great house (Bowood, the house of the suitor of Ross and Demelza’s grown daughter, Clowance). And for what seems an umpteenth time Demelza is again seen from same old angle as pretty women men chase and she eludes.

This won’t do. Are to we think this is all that happens to a woman, young, middle-aged and until she gets too old to attract a man (and in the early phase of the book Graham does take out time to register his distaste for an older woman’s skin and physical appearance at the political Duchess’s salon in Book 1) that counts: that some men go after her, and if she’s wise, she eludes them. Is that all he can imagine for her beyond caring for her garden, chickens, and children? to a man maybe. He has not thought for real about what a 40 year old woman might feel and think and find important beyond love-making all night with Ross (i.e., a simulacrum of him).

It’s true one has the same limited view of women in many a 19th century novel, but, for example, in the case of Trollope the novelist is continually inventing new individual characters to embody such male views and so we accept them, and then he really digs deeply into his paradigms, vignettes and puppets and actually comes up with new sexual insights. Nothing like this here.

I’m thinking what a collapse from high energy and excitement and interest it must have been for Graham when the mini-series was not continued. He was after all still writing The Angry Tide when the second series began. They didn’t get a third not because they were not popular but because (1) the BBC runs on internal politics and doesn’t care about popularity or even money that much (though the reason given each time for stopping was the high cost of filming in Cornwall) and 2) Graham couldn’t get up another book quick enough. He’s trying here but without hope of a TV realization by the time he’s come to the end of the book.

Well, let me do justice to what I can, for I still like the series and now and again this book too — there is the same strongly leftist outlook, serious history and political thinking, gift for description, especially of Cornwall, and the original wonderful characters. I realize some of the best ones have not appeared for a couple of books now or much: Dwight Enys is one and in this book Drake and Morwenna, Sam, Emma. Graham intuited where the power of the original conception lies in his last paragraph: for he ends on Ross reading a letter from Clowance’s rich suitor, Fitzmaurice.

So this time I will not be going into as many of the details of the book’s movement phase by phase. Instead I contextualie it against other seven books, offer up a few notes and sketches to suggest where book does come alive and is good, and where and why it falls. I end (in the comments) with talking about the relationship of the Poldark series as a whole to 20th and 21st century women’s historical (at their best about women’s real sexuality) romance and men’s active-adventure (at their best politically-engaged) novels


Drake at his forge, from Season 2 (as imagined by Winston and then turned into a reasonably historically accurate simulacrum)

Having read eight book now I feel the strongest books in the series are actually The Black Moon, The Four Swansand The Angry Tide, and especially the last two. The nightly rapes of Morwenna, the murder of Whitworth, the political scenes, the coming to London and duel in London between Ross and Monk Adderley, the escape of Morwenna into Drake’s arms.

The early ones are strong (Novels 1-4, Ross Poldark, Demelza,Jeremy Poldark, and Warleggan), but it is true to say that the first gained on me slowly and I know I only stayed with it because I had loved the first season of the films so. The opening of Ross Poldark did not grab me particularly: we see our revenant returning from American (the revolution on whose American side he apparently fought — though this is not gone into) and are then put on the bedside of his father dying. A long filling in and creation of place and time through a character takes place. But the book began to hold me when Ross came back on stage. The story of Karen and murder by Daniels of her with Enys as sensitive idealistic doctor was effective, and then of course the coming of the urchin Demelza to Ross’s house and the development of their first relationship as master-guardian and pupil-girl child. Then the erotic liaison and Ross’s determination to marry her partly as a rebellion against his caste, as a finer replacement, someone who would respond to to him the way Elizabeth never would to anyone.

Robin Ellis and Angharad Rees as Ross and Demelza from the first season of films

Jeremy Poldark is beautifully-structured, very tight around the trial (centerpiece) and aftermath so tied also to Ross leading the riot for food and destruction of ships coming into the harbour at the end of Demelza. We get the romance of Enys and Caroline which has real grit because of the class disparity. Warleggan ends on the rape of Elizabeth by Ross and the first real estrangement of Ross and Demelza, but (my view) I think the film adaptation bettered the book with its armageden of another riot, by the workers, burning down of Trenwith and Ross’s leaving Demelza to join the French civil wars on behalf of the French revolutionaries. The last scene at the end of the first series was deep romance, with the two embracing against the seascape of Cornwall. I believe they did play Wagnerian music as well as Cornish.

But I’d say there’s a sudden deepening, move into real darkness of the human spirit in Black Moon, when we begin with Aunt Agatha and her struggle against the vicious narrow George and knowledge Elizabeth’s child is by Ross. And here we meet Drake and Sam and have the story of Drake and Mowenna, her coerced marriage, and have Demelza fall in love with Hugh Armitage and their liaison. It is Armitage she falls in love with; she plans to have sex with Ross to stay with him and gradually the woman’s love grows afterwards.

Demelza and Armitage bedazzled by sexual desire and congeniality

The Enys story never has the depth of the early phase of his affair with Karen and the pre-marriage years. It could as we see how different they are — the temperamental and value disparities, but he is kept from us. He has barely appeared in Stranger; we are told about him, told he’s there. That there’s hardly a picture of him after the first few episodes of the season gives away the loss.

Book 1, Chapters 1-5

Nicholas Greaves as Stephen Carrington

Compare the archetypal strength of this: Ross as alien, as stranger, all the more when coming to politick

I began this 8th Poldark novel the other night. It has been filmed — in 1996. I’ve never seen the film, know only it’s been much maligned, and was framed (as Graham said) by the fan clubs as necessarily awful which it might not have been even if it was a 2 hour production (instead of the more appropriate mini-series) which had dropped the social imagination aspect of the work. In the way popularity or reputation works, it has probably not helped sales of the novel that the film series was so rejected.

Nonetheless, the book seems to be very like those that came before and I found myself absorbed once more. It opens in the Peninsula (Spain) and we are thrust into the peninsula war — so historical politics are the first framing. The Peninsula War is an extremely important war in terms of military strategy. R.E. Lee should have learned lessons from it. So should the commanders in the Crimea and The Great War. Here is a link to an easy introduction.

Another Scott-like opening and another revenant like motif: now “the Englishman” who moves into the landscape is on an observant mission to see how this war is doing. Who does he meet? But his nephew, and we are back with Ross Poldark and Geoffrey Charles, now ten years older — it’s 1810.

This gives Graham an opportunity to remind us of where we were, if we are new readers, to take us back in time, and at the same time set the terms of his political vision. I want to stress it’s all done very lightly so we really do not feel we are being fed information. For a “old hand” reader like myself there is actually a minimum of repetition while I get to know that the Ross’s & Demelza’s second daughter, Clowance is now 16, get to know Geoffrey Charles (important probably — we are told we can hear the voice of Francis but very different sentiments somehow). We hear that Drake and Morwenna are doing “bravish” — they are now working for Ross on his property boat-making.

The second chapter turns our attention to a character who has emerged as a central protagonist, if not likable: George Warleggan. After this past 10 years when he did not marry, did not think of it (not to be expected from such a cool networking guy) he is at last thinking of it. We had been told that in Chapter 1 by Geoffrey Charles who has had wind of this. It is of course now a rich woman. We are in George’s mind: he remembers how he did not marry Elizabeth for love, but as a beauty and prize he wanted, and how he slowly grew to appreciate, respect, like, depend on her. And we move into Trenwith which has been let go and the Warleggan group. Peeking ahead I saw a segment of this second chapter moves into Demelza’s world with Clowance, but I was too tired and had to give it up …

I admit this opening material is not intensely holding but as I’m into the fiction already, I feel gratified to be back. I like Ross, like Geoffrey Charles, like the political view (strongly liberal in the 1970s sense and on the side of reform in the early early 19th) and moving in. This kind of opening shows Graham’s continued adherence to the historical novel as a vehicle for social and political vision, here the Peninsula War.

It is this transition period, the couple of years leading into the Regency and the wars abroad that Graham’s Stranger in the Sea attempts to put before the reader. In that sense it’s a worthy book showing his commitment to the serious political uses of history novels. Who knows much about the Peninsula War? or why we should praise and empathize with Sir John Moore? I’m ever forgetting what I’m supposed to know about him. Jane Austen mentions him in passing in one of her letters — Cassandra missing snipping out that one. The opening two chapters of Stranger from the Sea takes place in Portugal, not your usual venue for historical romances.

Goya, May 2, 1808

Back in Cornwall, Demelza watching for son and his friends on the seacoast and sees them pulling two apparently dead bodies are pulled from Nampara cove, and one is discovered to be close to death, but not there yet, and retrieved by Enys (with intense warmth, fluids, and then brandy and port). This will bring us Stephen Carrington.

The difficulty Graham faced in this one is it’s necessary for time to move on and he has to invent a new group of characters and they must interest us as much as those we’ve been engaged by. This is in a way harder than Trollope’s method of inventing a whole new set of characters who are then attached by a narrow chord to the Pallisers and then allowed to drift off and disappear by the end of each book, for the characters must relate intimately to our present ones. Sons and daughters, nephews and nieces, with George Warleggan now rousing himself to interest in a new woman at last who outward paradigm reminds me of the gay lady Caroline Penvenen may be likened to;

Sarah Carpenter as Lady Harriet, later in the story reading George’s letter

only Lady Harriet Carter is a widow on hard times (a bad marriage with some serious vibes that her husband was not only a gambler, rake, but cruel sexually to her too) and her world (she’s high status) brought in to bring us into the regency political ring. The letters of George and Lady Harriet very good — convincing, he buying back a horse of hers lost at an auction that she partly hated because of its association with her husband, and she refusing it as a present.

George gives Graham much mileage. He is as attracted to this ambitious networking man as he is to Ross I realize. We have a trip to Manchester and a fine evocation (if I may use the word fine) of the misery of the early industrial scene and credit to the few who did grow enormously wealthy suddenly. A winner take all game like the US in 1210. And Lady Harriet connects us to the world of great houses in mid-England too.

As a comfort book too: I find that the world of Demelza which is kept up — the local scene, a woman’s world of children, household — is one that is presented with great allurement as is she once again. I find myself romancing with Graham in liking this life of hers — how I long to go to Cornwall in 1212 (Jim and my latest dream).

Bk 1, Chapters 6-9: turning into a type 2 historical fiction

John Bowe as Ross grown older

Each volume of the Poldark books are different. This is certainly borne out by Stranger from the Sea. I’d say going back to Graham’s categorizations this is no longer type 3 (the historical novel where all are fictional), we are approaching Type 2 (the historical novel where secondary characters are real historical personages). I don’t know that Canning is a world-historical or marquee character, but the prince regent is and he turns up in a scene; both certainly existed and we have two scenes between him and Ross. We have had in the previous novels references to world historical characters and heard the characters discuss having some relationship but this is the first novel where they are bought on stage. This is part of Graham’s effort to bring the fiction into another era

Brief notes: Ch 6:iii-iii. Talk Xmas time between Dwight, Caroline and Demelza. Again we see clashes of values. Caroline wants her daughters to “rise” somehow, is worried for Sophia amd Meliora. Dwight demurs and Demelza talks of how she wants for her daughters versions of what she has had.

Clowance and Nicholas Greaves as Stephen Carrington (renamed Cravensen in the film)

The stranger from the sea becomes a character, Stephen Carrington. He is another outsider it comes to Demelza’s mind, so a kind of parallel to Demelza and Ross both, another variant on this theme. A warm loving scene between Clowance and Carrington where they do not go all the way. I may be mad but I see a parallel between Austen’s S&S and this one: Marianne and Willoughby visit Allenham where there is no chaperon we are told; the only movie to try to dramatize this, Andrew Davies/Pivcevic/Alexander’s has this as a moment where they do come close to going to bed. What is suggestively possible in Austen’s text. Here the couple “return” to the Poldark family home that Clowance has already been “haunting” I’ll call it. The house and landscape and family presence are central to this fiction.

Ch 7-8: George visits the Enys family to pump Enys for information about George III. An insight in this fiction: Dwight is himself getting involved in the earliest phase of interest in the mentally ill and genuine attempts to help them — this was done in the regency, I’ve read about this in the 1810s and 20s somewhere. We hear about this in detail that is convincing because it’s just enough and out of Enys mind. In the conversation that ensues Caroline pumps George for information about Lady Harriet more than George gets from Dwight.

Ross and Canning’s at the end of the second the Prince joins in conversations bring in real-poltick of the era — rather like Walter Scott. I love how Ross sees the UK: Ross is for peace and neither Canning nor the Prince are, and he sort of brings out his views as side comments; “we are after all an unimportant island attempting too much, are we not? … Staining our resources to no effect, wasting our blood and treasure in trying to restrict the expansion of the great French nation” (p. 134).

Ross’s views show us what Graham’s views were of the US (and UK with it) military oligarchy spending huge sums around the world to restrict socialism at the cost of millions of lives everywhere. Graham didn’t need to read the new post-colonialism discourse to know this.

I reread Chapter 8 and was struck by how Scott-derived this encounter between Ross Poldark first with Sheridan briefly, and then with the Prince of Wales. Prinny is presented in the most disillusioned manner — making modern movies look simply dripping with reverence. I had said that Poldark is presented as friends with George Canning on and off and Canning is presented more neutrally; Sheridan has made himself an instrument; and as for “prinny” he does come across as colorful, larger than life. It differs from Scott’s treatment in that there is nothing ambivalent about Graham’s (through Ross’s) irritation and disgust, and the extrapolation out to our own time (post-colonialist destruction) is not flinched from. Ross’s point of view is part of this: our 18th century Che Guevara sees “a fat fop and his dandified manners and his lisle stockings and snuffboxes. If this was the future King of England … ” The prince doesn’t listen to what doesn’t fit with his preconception; he sees immediately that Ross is going to tell him about the devastation caused, the coming absurd defeat (nothing gained) and Ross’s own lack of reverence towards him. Ross thinks of walking out abruptly as he feels it’s useless, but controls himself as he has learned to; he tells himself he will have tried.

It’s a new or individual version of the old choice: be complicit and try to shape things some; refuse to be co-opted. Graham shows his hero trying to appear complicit (and he is as a landowner and MP) and seeing he cannot shape things to come.

Chapter 9, an assembly dance and dinner, and another marquee character appears: Sir Humphry Davies as friends with Dwight Enys. This novel has quite a different atmosphere from the previous ones, lighter somehow. I’m not sure I like it as much as the era changes into the Regency one. I think I’ve been too tired again and shall have to reread again: much politics as Canning appears and interacts with a young man interested in Clowance: Fitzmaurice. If the spirit of the book (its genius loci in the female vein) is Lady Harriet, I probably won’t like it as much as I have the others.

I think I’ve managed to “get into” this book now. This is the first one I’ve had to persist and work at, and had I not read all the previous, I might not have stuck to it. So I would definitely not recommend any one to begin here.

The problem for me is the atmosphere is somewhat changed, and thus the mood. Graham is (perhaps) imitating Regency novels as he sees them, not Regency Romances of the 20th cenutry, but something more like what’s said to be the norm of Bulwer-Lytton and silk fork books. These are not exactly the sort of books I rush to open. There is still Ross at the center, taking a jaundiced alienated view from what he is surrounded by so that helps (enormously) and as for Demelza, well, she just stays well away from say the Duchess’s ball. Ross is sickened by the Prince, alive to the waste of the war and horrors, and yet alive to not despising and using the men, supportive of Sir John Moore — you do need to know something of the history of the peninsula war and the phases of the Napoleonic ones.

I’ve been reading a little Balzac: a little goes a long way with me, and at a great distance I can see the connection of Graham’s assembly to Balzac’s opening in Splendors and Miseries of Courtesans/Courtiers.

Book 1, Chapter 9, Book 2, Chapters 1-7

Ioan Guffurd as Jeremy Poldark

I read a great chunk of this novel yesterday and have to say that while at moments it came alive for me in the way the other 7 did — riveting in some indefinable way where I was caring about the characters and involved and forgetting where I was sitting and my surroundings, it often did not.

Mid-point in chapter 8 there’s a good example of what I mean about this book not moving on: Demelza and Clowance walking near where Sam and Rosina now live (Pally’s shop, he has taken over Drake’s shop and thus is rising in the world): Demelza moves into a reverie remembering the first night she and Ross made love and how she initiated that in order to prevent him from returning her to her father. It’s a moving moment, this bit of memory. But it’s from another book, one 7 books ago. It’s not a new experience (p. 280).

The smuggling encounter?

Chapter 8 improves suddenly when Jeremy goes to visit the Trevanions where he has made an acquaintance with their daughter on the night he fled the Prevention men (anti-smugglers hired by the government) with her help. Now we have another public occasion, but this time no world-historical famous characters, rather new ones introduced, but one previous one: Valentine, George Warleggan’s son: he has turned out to be mercenary and cynical; he talks to Jeremy in a sneering boastful way of his conquests in women; and implicitly denigrates Clowance in ways he must do many women (pp. 291-3). Point made that biology is only the start: with no Elizabeth around to counter anything, this is a son of George, only worse.

This too brings exemplifies what I wrote yesterday: Graham is not willing to allow dark and complicated depths to the children of Demelza and Ross; their home is described as always filled with laughter and up to a point frank and free.

Book 2, Chapters 8-9, Bk 3, Chapters 1-3

Jeremy Poldark with Amanda Ryan as Cuby Trevanion

I see I’m expected to take a genuine real interest in Jeremy Poldark and his story. He is having hard time being accepted by the Trevanions, and Graham writes a powerful enough scene of how when, after Jeremy sees the (half-insulting because so brief and transparently a snub) letters from Mrs Bettesworth refusing Demelza’s inviation to Clowance, he goes straight to the Trevanion house. That’s a Ross kind of gesture. He is simply in effect insulted to his face. They go so far as to refuse to offer him tea after his long journey there and one back. One of the male relatives shamelessly tells him he’s not good enough for Cuby. I didn’t find myself as incensed as I should have been as somehow I have not been made to care enough for Jeremy Poldark. There is then a scene between Cuby and Jeremy where she is clearly intensely distressed but it’s not clear that it’s because she likes and wants to be courted by Jeremy or is upset by his demands as she really identifies with her family group. It’s a good scene and is another parallel to the earlier stories of coerced marriages.

We are getting in at another angle than we did before.

Michael Attwell as George Warleggan

Another thread in the book is the reality that the Poldarks could apparently have destroyed George Warleggan. He is so badly in debt and his bank without funds that were the bank Poldark is a partner in call in his (bad) loans they’d destroy him. A fine and interesting political-social scene where we see Ross meet with the other share-holders. This is the sort of thing that makes this novel so different from many historical novel-romances (nothing like it at all in DuMaurier) and makes it place it against Trollope — who has political scenes but usually avoids this truth about money and wheeler-dealing. What we see is that the vote goes partly on behalf of not destroying Warleggan. Not because (as we see acknowledged in the meeting and Ross’s and other thoughts) Warleggan has been a destructive terror to the community, enclosing, firing on mass, acting as a justice to destroy, sending slanderous letters around, and in the case of Ross, he knows he could be long dead because Warleggan egged Monk Adderley on, but because 3 out of the 5 consider their personal interests make it possible they could use Warleggan and might need him.

More to the relevant point today: this group of people fear that were Warleggan to fail, many in the community would suffer. This is the same thinking we see led Obama and his chieftains to save the banks in the US. Happily no great sums from the people in the area will go to save Warleggan. He can’t fleece them the way the banks do us today — everywhere (as about education for example).

It comes down to Ross’s vote. A powerful couple of pages where he cannot decide whether to say yes, destroy Warleggan or no. Finally he abstains. That means Warleggan survivies and we have a scene of him and his father-uncle saved so now plotting again.

One influence on Ross was Demelza. She was against destroying Warleggan for she said they would have to live with themselves if they did that. When he comes home, he is not proud of himself, but feels very ambivalent, after all this is leaving George with power to again do much harm, and interestingly, Demelza feels the same.

It’s at such moments the book comes back to its greater strengths. It makes us think. Ross’s abstaining from voting against George Warleggan lets a man who has shown total disregard for the fundamentals of humanity to get away with it. Demelza’s encouraging this shows how she is a woman functions as compromiser.

Book 3, Chapters 2-3: A Cornish summer solstice celebration

Hans Mathesen who plays Ben Carter

The Cornish summer solstice celebration Demelza organizes is a good example of how Graham is falling off. He has read a good deal about Cornwall and knows all the customs that could be followed on a beach near a house during such a high summer evening. So he has these characters he loves and he puts them through their traces making their characteristic comments and behaviors. Caroline (we are told) is pressured into becoming Lady of the Flowers ceremony and singing an old non-English (gaelic? of some sort) song. Ross is the chief, Demelza the maker. The scenes are lovely but it’s using characters as if they were puppets, not developing them further. The young people we are told stayed up into the dawn, and at the end Stephen Carrington (our stranger from the sea) is seen, along with a local crippled girl, in a place where superstition says augurs a coming death for both.

There’s nothing wrong, harmful, bad in such an idyllic interlude but if there were a strong fictional story with intense crises a working all around into which this was interwoven it would be like poetry. I’m not enough involved and I never liked Caroline. Graham does and did. And where are Morwenna and Drake? He is avoiding them

It’s as if Graham’s imagination is only set on fire when society forbids and estranges what’s natural: Drake talking to Morwenna before she is coerced into marriage

A mistake showing Graham’s lack of literary interests. He does not have any of his characters serious readers. Demelza says she would find going to the upper class home to which Clowance has been invited (we are told she has an upper class suitor, Fitz-Maurice, a near beggar, Ben Carter, and the rogue type Carrington — see the schematization is put in front of us!), and she imagines “taking a turn in the park and talking prettily about Mr Scott’s latest novel.” (p. 373). Ouch. This is supposed to be 1811. Scott had not written any of his novels as yet. Graham is imaging the historical novels of others as well as 18th century ones in which this kind of thing happens (say Austen) and does not want his heroine there.

The next chapter moves back to the story of Jeremy and we learn how hard he’s working to make a machine, to bring Wheal Leisure back to life — of course, naturally he has somehow managed to buy the property. This is fudged since according to Graham’s fiction this giving over of Wheal Leisure back to the Poldarks is the last thing George Warleggan would tolerate, it would reallybe over his dead body first).


I left off when Stephen Carrington is seen by Clowance coming up from the beach. His presence has been way too fragmentary. I find myself wondering what was happening in Graham’s life that he should so eschew the very type of male that he put at the center of his fiction before; Carrington could have replaced Ross as a burning center, but has not. He has not invented any woman to replace the now complacent Demelza. Lady Harriet looked interesting as a much harder meaner version of Caroline, but she too has been pushed aside.

Book 3, Chapters 4-6: Graham wakes up

Sarah Carpenter as Lady Harriet before she married George Warleggan

Unexpectedly and to my surprise, the book suddenly improved enormously. As the dinner party given by the Enys which includes George Warleggan and son, Valentine, the two Poldark young adults, Jeremy and Clowance, other young adults connected to them, Ben Carter (in love with Clowance – who several young men we are asked to believe are in love with), and Lady Harriet – why she turns up I can’t say except that we were told early on Caroline knew her as the elite of the era were small and she might just know another society lady in London, a duke’s sister.

The conversation became biting and the turns and twists of interest as reflecting their future lives and on themes of genuine moment. The reader listening especially to Clowance and Valentine is supposed to recall they are half-brother and sister, and if we don’t, Graham is determined we shal by having them explicitly talk about how they are not really related (Valentine’s mother’s first husband was cousin to Clowance’s father). There is real banter. I do note though that Dwight Enys might as well not be there; he doesn’t register a presence at all, and we again get characters reminding us and themselves of what happened in previous books. There is after some rebarbative give and take an assignation set up between George and Harriet. We listen to Valentine’s thoughts: at one point he’s thinking he wouldn’t mind his strong father’s death.

We then get one of the economic sequences. Jeremy is building, has built a machine which will now help to make Wheal leisure more profitable and safer is the idea; Carrington accepts hard labor and (though he at first declines) is given the rate of pay of a laborer. Not improbably this throws him into contact with Clowance and we do get one of the “old” powerful scenes of sexual entanglement between them on the beach. Probably what I don’t care for that much is how much she is made into this virtuous type, but not quite. We feel that despite her knowledge that the night Carrington arrived (St John’s Eve was the Solstice celebration) he had sex with (I don’t use the “f” word lest we be categorized as “adult”) a crippled vulnerable girl who he supposed took to the festival out of pity for her – and active kindness; despite this knowledge and our alert sense Carrington is wild and not to be trusted, lawless (he got Jeremy almost jailed, perhaps imprisoned for a long time and thus dead), she might just “go” for this guy, i.e., marry him. The scene was intense with frisson of sex and betrayal and nuances of give-and-take.

By the way, would we had had that scene — would Violet have been brought before us. This vulnerable girl afraid to go to the festival. Her being brought there and then taken advantage of by this cad Carrington. Alas Graham shows no sympathy and seems to look at her as just some woman who is weak and attracted to Carringtons “great charm.” A failure of imagination towards women I identify with there.

Jerome de Groot says one mark of the male historical novel of the 20th century is 1) its conservatism (that is not true of Graham — but he is not mentioned anywhere in de Groot! — as Graham says he is a that curiosity, a forgotten big-seller); and 2) its penchant for active adventure. I don’t believe such sequences for real, especially when the hero emerges unscathed (and that goes for Ross’s escapes). In this book Jeremy and Carrington’s adventure did not hit out at larger political issues sufficiently, but then as a smuggler Carrington is simply a thief, not a free-trader so to speak.

Part of the weakness of the book is Graham’s inability to imagine a middle-aged woman’s inner life apart from males chasing after hero or advice to her daughter on her love life. His feminism, real understanding and sympathy with women’s sexuality is limited. He has not managed to combine the woman’s historical romance novel with the man’s in this one.

An alive scene between her and Clowance deciding whether to visit the great house where her suitor, Fitz-Maurice resides shows how she compromises; she really would rather not go but if her daughter likes the young man, she will. We get a real sense of reluctance and acknowledgement she might experience small humiliations but this is put aside and we are asked just to think about whether Clowance really thinks she might love this young man.

For the conclusion to the book, assessment and the context of women’s versus men’s historical novels in our era, see comments

The visit to Bowood house


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Colin Firth during press conference promoting The King’s Speech

I’ll begin with The King’s Speech, directed by Tom Hooper (he also directed Daniel Deronda), screenplay David Seidler and numerous producers.

The microphone is a central image repeated from the opening sequence to the close: it’s what demanded of this man with a stammer, that he speak out into it

It’s a deeply absorbing, nay (for me) riveting movie in which with sensitive empathy, utterly convincing, Colin Firth enacts Bertie or George VI as someone afflicted with a very bad stammer, strong sense of inadequacy (despite his high rank), along with a truly noble, ethical, kindly nature. Good father, loving husband too. Yes, it’s another of these deeply reverent movies about the British monarchy, with our central characters behaving with exemplary perception and well-meaningness. Everyone but Firth is made up to look closely like the (unattractive) people they are enacting, so much so I am putting on this blog the actors in their ordinary clothes

Helena Bonham Carter was Elizabeth, George VI’s wife

Both women — Jennifer Ehle played Myrtle, Logue, the speech therapist’s wife — spent their time looking compassionate, reassuring, patting the men or children in sight. Their remarkable talents were thrown away, or only a smidgin of it used. Bonham Carter is protean in the types and power she lends to all her roles (she is the only live presence in the recent Harry Potter film). I suggest Ehle did not get the lead role for to see her next to Firth at the closing scene on the balcony greeting and reassuring their adoring public as WW2 sets grimly in would reek too strongly of Darcy and Elizabeth grown middle-aged

Jennifer Ehle recently

Part of the fun for me was to bring out of my memory which actor was this or that person playing this or that role. I felt a certain triumph on recognizing in Baldwin an aged Anthony Andrews, in a minor functionary David Bamber. These surrounding roles bring me to why I say in my header but doesn’t bear too much thinking about. The performances felt dazzling in part because the stereotypes were so cleverly inflected with corruption, flattery, aggrandizement, as, for example, Derek Jacobi as the Archbishop kept stealing the scenes:

Jacobi steals this scene (Ely Cathedral stood in for Westminster Abbey)

But all the roles except Bertie, Logue and (for a bit) David (Edward) were stereotypes. The full psychological reality given George VI and apparently Geoffrey Rush as Logue makes us not pay attention to how little beyond two dimensions is given anyone else.

I say apparently because a little thought makes one realize how idealized, unreal is the account of Logue in the film:

Logue and Bertie walking in the park together

Lionel Logue had no degree; he is presented as someone without much money who gets along (just) on his unconvenional therapy business. Logue became something of a Rasputin the way he managed to help the Duke and then king who became dependent on Logue’s presence for the rest of his life when it came to public speaking (which happened often enough). After all there is a direct parallel between Edward’s (called David in the film, played by David Pearce) infatuation with Mrs Simpson (Eve Best) and the development of such a strong dependency on her, he gives up his throne to have her as his life’s support and companion. But in this film Mrs Simpson is demonized: presented as ludicrously promiscuous, exploitative, hard, and Edward as cruel and nasty, derisive to his younger brother, Bertie, so we don’t think to see the parallel, but there is one. This kind of dependence with someone who is an utter outsider can be seen in other members of the royal family (Prince Charles has shown this).

Can it be the mediocrity of their intelligence and pressure of the fishbowl job? Jim did say the story explaining how Bertie came to stammer was true enough: he was bullied by a nanny, his older brother, his father, George V (played by Michael Gambon, as presented a piece of cake, so easy) did say to Bertie: I was terrified by my father and I will make you very scared to me (words to this effect). One of the most moving moments in the film has Firth breaking down into tears not just because he stammers, but because he has been so narrowly educated (he’s only a naval officer).

At any rate had whatever the relationship between Logue and George VI been thought about with intelligence, regarding them as complex, ambivalent adults interacting, instead of Logue all love and pious support and the King at first disdainful, distrustful but then sheer gratitude, the movie might have made a serious statement about the condition and experience of life of a super-privileged disabled man. It was something more complex than the servant becoming the master; it was not simply playing at being equals (as is suggested by Logue). Logue and Bertie used one another.

Alas the film offered no adult useful insights into the relationship between a life-long therapist-companion and powerful disabled person.

The film was rather simply popularly heart-wrenching because Firth knows how to be heart-wrenching with poised dignity. Jeremy Irons slides too far into the neurotic (perhaps is too thin) so he can be mocked and for men in our macho culture is embarrassing. Firth remains close to calm control, on the edge of the breaking point (and the massive shoulders help project this image).

The music (non-diegetic) was repeatedly Beethoven, including the king’s last speech, given upon the declaration of WW2 was eloquent. I assume this is the one George VI gave.

I thought my friends and readers might also like to know we three (Jim, aka the Admiral, Izzy and I) passed our Christmas day together.

Early morning Izzy and I watched some videos of spectacular ice-skate dancing to the music of the Nutcracker (a famous pas de deux arrangement); when it came time to exchange presents (around 11:30) we all liked our gifts. I knew mine were new sets of the Poldark two mini-series, newly digitalized DVDs with a few features, but Jim and Izzy didn’t know theirs. He loved his Sondheim book of lyrics, brief essays, photographs: Finishing the Hat, and Izzy seemed to appreciate her two biographies of J.K. Rowling to the point that when we returned around 5 am, she took both to her room in the back to start reading.

We worried perhaps we were going too early and to too early a showing of The King’s Speech (see above) when we set out directly after present-opening, but in fact we arrived only 20 minutes before The King’s Speech was to begin and by 12:25 pm when it did the theater was packed. When we got out at around 2:30 lines to get in were long. Mark’s Duck House was the same non-pretentious place, and again my heart sunk a bit when I saw what seemed to be a crowd in front and at least a half-hour wait. But no, since we were just 3 we got a table quickly. The meal was scrumptious: spring rolls, dumplings, peking duck, eggplant, and beef fried rice. My glass of Merlot was fine.

After 5 when we arrived home, Jim stayed in the front reading his new book and listening to the Messiah, Izzy read her book in the back, watched ice-skating, listened to more Christmas music and had the TV on. I watched three more episodes of Barchester Chronicles (for my Trollope project), drank madeira, finished Graham’s Stranger from the Sea.

We were all tired from our efforts on one another’s behalf by 9 pm tonight. Yesterday Izzy had had her third date with Jessie, and came home from the National Gallery with presents; we will go forth to reciprocate with some for him this Monday. And Christmas Eve Jim and I had had our usual long walk, this time to the Masonic Temple to gaze out at Old Town from a height, and then round the neighborhood to see the lights. I had written on facebook:

Twilight walk in our neighborhood & Old Town, Alexandria. We do this each year on the 24th. There were fewer houses with Christmas lights this year and none like a circus, though some houses lit (new occupants?) for the first time. An in-between time, day’s last light when night-time seems to come as peace slowly. Strange picturesque. And then the dark.

And now today our talk had been good and all was kindness and cheer between us, but it was something of an effort as it was (as usual) just us three — and when we were home, the two pussycats. I had managed to post a little to 6 listservs (!) in the morning, and read through a series of essays on Trollope’s Palliser novels (I’m almost ready to write).

I’ve written this blog to keep myself awake to midnight that I might sleep for 5-6 straight and wake up refreshed and ready for Day 2 (Boxing Day).


P.S. For Boxing Day at the National Gallery see “Reveries under the Sign of Austen.”

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Isabel Collard (Christine Kavanagh) accused of murdering her brother-in-law and lover, Roger (James Faulkner) and mother-in-law, Harriet Collard (Judy Parfitt) (Blackheath Poisonings, 1992)

Dear friends and readers,

Now I’ve re-watched all 26 episodes of the Palliser films, re-read all my blogs, and am watching for a second time Simon Raven’s 1992 adaptation of Julian Symons’s BlackHeath Poisonings (a pseudo- or imitation, pastiche 19th century mystery text).

I’m staring at the central question the volume I’m aiming my essay at is supposed to answer, Adaptation: British Literature of the Nineteenth Century and Film:

What do particular adaptations of 19th century texts reveal about the ways we understand, respond to, analyze 19th century culture?

and rereading the series of postings on what unites film adaptations of 19th century novels in my Reveries blog. I compared a number of adaptations of 19th century novels:

Hardy Films: Two Tesses and One Jude

The Golden Bowl: films from 19th versus 18th century sources

to a number of adaptations of 18th century novels, stories, texts:

Quills: Sade and Austen

One Duchess and One Cornwall Landowner: 18th versus 19th century sources

In a nutshell, my idea is 18th century films repeatedly delve into sexuality for its own sake and present the issues of each in such a way that we delve deeply into the nature of people’s psychologies interacting with the mores and issues of their particular social groups. This lends itself to abstract social issues like say slavery (as in Amazing Grace where the accent is on the individual’s inner world). The 19th century films turn to social and familial pathologies, attempt a larger picture of society in which these pathologies are formed, and we see how the social roles imposed on people conflict with and/or sustain their deepest needs and desires.

The full truth is, though, the Henry James films don’t fit this neat opposition. Since James was himself a closet gay and his books closet gay books (on a quiet level, see Roderick Hudson), they allow themselves to be used for exploration of sexual issues. For example, Jane Campion’s Portrait of a Lady.

One has to take into account changes in dramaturgy, technology and the way film-makers think they should and can make films. The dramaturgy of the 1970s is essentially staged plays or playlets, as as capable of holding the viewer as anything from the mesmerizing computerized and radical new modern thematizations of the 1990s and recent poetic cinematographies (1st decade 21st century) are. You must have great actors to carry it off and good scripts. The dramaturgy and cinematography is of the older stage scene kind; no montages, little voice-over, no mesmerizing computers and music. The acting is not quite all but a great deal of it. They build slowly, and slowly the characters emerge, and the story evolves and its worlds are created before us.

The 1990s after 1991 BBC Clarissa (a landmark film in retrospect) use modern computer techniques, zoom, distancing, jump cuts, on location with good cameras, huge sums on places and luxuries — important as all this is — but the outlook. They use overtly sexual scenes and include transgressive (homosexual and lesbian) sex.

Which angle to take perplexes me too:

The authorial one? If Raven’s, then we lose Trollope. Trollope’s Pallisers however well-known and brilliant do not tell the whole story of the man, and especially as by Raven emphasize the upper class material in his vision. By contrast though the same man’s vision is found in Herbert Wise’s Malachi’s Cove out of Trollope’s short story.

how different the angle on Trollope’s vision is provided by his story (part of the source for this film done in Cornwall), this film and the filmic onlocation (Cornwall the cliffs by the sea where the poor made a living gathering seaweed for manure). It’s a startling revelation of Trollope’s ethical vision and inclusiveness.

The generic context: the Pallisers comes before the 1980s and Brideshead Revisited and the later 1970s build up toward sophistication. It is a relatively naive film technically in comparison to what came later, viz., they are not conscious of what they are doing in the way of the 1990s films and thus bare or stripped away from the kinds of intensities of meanings coming out of the images that one sees in Blackheath Poisonings for all its inferiority of story, plot and themes. They rarely use voice-over, have no flashbacks that I can remember, remember strictly within very conventional presentations of sexuality with women strongly repressed (by themselves and through preaching.

Filmic Trollope: Davies has spoken very little of his work on He Knew He Was Right and The Way We Live Now. There are no features in the DVDs of these two, no over-voice commentaries. All I have are articles by Sarah Cardwell on TWWLN. Trollope’s are apparently not “tracer texts,” texts that hit home somewhere so strongly that they become sociological events when they are filmed and generate other filmings close by. The content of such texts becomes traces found in many other works. Not even Barchester Towers can lay a claim to that — though it is remembered as the progenitor of academic politics-mysteries books in Showalter’s Faculty Towers (a study of this subgenre).

For summary and commentary on Diane Sadoff’s Victorian Vogue, see comments.


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Burgo (Barry Justice) hysterically weeping on shoulder of his vampiric aunt, Lady Monk (1974 BBC Pallisers 2:3)

Dear friends,

Thus do all things come together: back to Palliser films & I find the Balzac book alluded to in the Pallisers is alluded to in Lost in Austen: if I can do it, there’s still a window for me to publish a paper on Palliser films. (Not sure I can as I’ve stacks of student papers to read, not to omit life’s daily tasks). Still trying, and what do I find but an allusion in Lost in Austen to the same book centrally used in Palliser 2:3.

About two weeks ago now I was told by the editor of a (proposed or coming) volume of essays on film adaptations of 19th century texts that there was still time (perhaps) and room for me to publish a paper on the Palliser films. Thus I’m now trying to devote my time — 6 to 7 hours a day I’ve managed thus far — to developing and writing a paper on the Palliser films by early January. It was at this editor’s suggestion I write a paper on Austen and film adaptations or Trollope and film adaptations for a possible published collection that began me on this long time work on films I’ve been doing the last three to four years.

I took it up and liked it a lot and took it much further. I thought I had long ago missed the “sell-by” date or the project had fallen through: she said other contributors were not wanting to write without a promise of publication for sure; maybe the publisher said no. It seems two essays are very weak and the publisher did not want to go forward. They are from the titles all so abstract and mine will not be but I assume since she said she liked what I wrote on my blog on Pallisers and her co-editor did (Thomas Leitch) I’d try. She invited me to use some of the enormous amount of material I’d created in my many blogs.

Well in an effort to find an angle I am thinking of using intertextuality in the Palliser films: Raven said more than once that he never owned a TV. He also never went on the set to supervise the filming of his mini-series. I have not located any allusions to other films that matter in his mini-series. He did worked hard and diligently and took more than 5 years over the Palliser scripts though I have found one type thus far: to books, political books specifically: The three episodes revolving Phineas’s time in prison have a striking allusions to Meredith’s Beauchamp’s Career:

Monk (Bryan Pringle, an honest thoughtful politician) picks up Phineas’s cell reading: Meredith’s Beauchamp’s Career (and then Trollope’s American Senator, Pallisers 9:18).

I went ahead and read that brilliant book and discovered that it may be read as a parallel type book to the two Phineas books (young man’s rise and near fall in politics) and that the allusion is significant in understanding the Palliser films’ take on the Phineas books. Ditto an allusion to the highly political (relevant) American Senator by Trollope in the same scene.

Now this is but one instance. In Pallisers 2:3, three times a character is seen reading Balzac’s Splendours and Miseries of Courtesans: Lady Glen twice, Mr Botts (both with grins) once.

Lady Glen (Susan Hampshire) as avid reader of Splendeurs et Miseres des Courtisanes, Pallisers 1:2)

When Lady Midlothian comes to call, Lady Glen finds she is sitting on it and holds it out as the scene goes on. I know that Trollope said he was writing in the tradition of Balzac, and that Raven said he loved Balzac’s novels and referred to Balzacian country when he talked of writing the Palliser films.

So I’ve now read (and mightily dislike) an English translation of said novel: A Harlot High and Low by Rayner Heppenstall. I find the book at once revolting and a fascinating entry (so to speak), intervention into the French novel world of the 19th century by the masters (include Sand there). An online comparison of Hugo’s treatment of prostitutes and his reaction to the French revolution and huge injustices of society to Balzac’s probably captures why I disliked A Harlot High and Low.

And now to my finding: Yesterday I proctored three final exams — 2 hours and 45 minutes three times. So I got a lot of reading in :). I did manage to churn through Balzac’s A Harlot High and Low (French: Splendeurs et miseres de Courtisanes) to the end.

For my project on Austen movies, I’ve now written four blogs on Lost in Austen. I find this movie fascinating and even enjoy it nowadays. Well, there is a studied allusion in Lost in Austen lost on those who have not read Balzac’s novel. The variously titled (the implication is all of these are phony) Marquise/Countess de or Madam) Serisy is an utterly corrupted and corrupting high society woman Lucien de Rubempre goes to bed with regularly — as do many of her escorts. She is one of the books courtesans (Esther, the book’s pathetic anti-heroine is its chief prostitute). It hit a memory chord and I realized that the startling fiction Amanda Price in Lost in Austen comes up with as a result of prompting by Wickham is an allusion to A Harlot High and Low.

Wickham (Tom Riley) teaching Amanda (Jemima Rooper) the dress and ways of the world (Lost in Austen)

The name is conjured up as one to conjure with by Wickham while he is dressing Amanda properly. He tells her to use it as one she can intimidate others with; thus are we are (those of us who recognize this) to know what Wickham’s been reading.

Amanda taking in the lesson of the Countess de Serisy

In the context of the film this does not criticize Wickham adversely because he is presented sympathetically as someone who can float through the world (the world “float” is Simon Raven’s used by Burgo Fitzgerald in his film adaptations of the Pallisers) even though he has no money or connections worth speaking of anymore; he’s a survivor and knows the techniques of lasting, including stitching for wounds, where women are who do this kind of thing, and we know he won’t mind when he discovers Caroline Bingley (denominated “Frosty-nickers” by Amanda) is a lesbian — we know she was planning to marry Darcy because it was the thing to do so know she will not mind heterosexual sex all that much. She doesn’t mind much, this hard female character. I remind all who have seen this parody re-creation Caroline is last seen jumping from Lady Catherine’s coach to meet Wickham waiting in the road for her.

Caroline (Christina Cole) playing hard flirtatious games with Wickham from the carriage

Amanda uses it at Rosings in front of Lady Catherine de Bourgh. It’s the first moment Lady Catherine treats her with any respect.

Amanda shortly before she plays the Serisy card for Lady Catherine (Lindsay Duncan), with Jane Bennet (Morven Christie) by her side

Lady Catherine is unwilling to insult or dismiss anyone who comes with the compliments of the Countess de Serisy. The address and place in Paris that Amanda comes up with when Mr Darcy asks her could she give them a bit more information about this Countess de Serisy who wants to send her compliments to Lady Catherine de Bourgh are those cited by Balzac whose seething distaste is found in the chapter of the novel (Penguin, p 349) called “A Parisian type.”

That Darcy is suspicious shows he is sharp and that is not quite fooled also shows he’s no dunce.

Darcy (Elliot Cowan) dubious

But that he never heard of this name or woman or place gives away he is something of an innocent (uncorrupted) man when it comes to the demi-monde.

I should mention that the paper I gave at the recent JASNA at Portland, “‘People that marry can never part:‘ an intertextual reading of [the gothic] in Northanger Abbey” has now been published jn Persuasions Online

Thus do all things come together,

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Elisabetta (Marina Poplavskaya) and Don Carlos (Roberto Alagna)

Dear friends and readers,

I thought I’d write a new kind of blog on Verdi’s Don Carlos as performed at the Metropolitan Opera, NYC, and screened on HD screens around the world. I want to tell others how moving I at least found it — the actor-singers were marvelous in the subtleties of their acting and the magnificent singing. I also want to urge others to see it as an unusual 19th century opera for managing to expose the horrors of reactionary regimes while also upholding them. Most of these 19th century opera just uphold profoundly conservative pessimistic values.

But I don’t want to spend the usual hours I do writing these things. One reason I’ve not written on this season’s operas as yet (and we’ve seen two) is that this writing takes such time.

Instead I’ll forward and add to messages I’ve put on Facebook where I’ve found a group of friends who like and go to the HD operas too. One friend provided information about the operas the Admiral might like to know and this way I can tell him.

First here is a site where you can read about the production generally and read the story (filled with ecstatic praise and no political or moral analysis in the way of such popular sites: his comment is this is a blueprint for grand opera. Indeed it was super-luxurious.

From Facebook: It’s the best of these HD operas thus far this year. For my taste it is “too busy” an opera: so that the time for the moving arias and 2-3 people scenes seem crowded out — almost. Not quite. I loved the Elisabetta (her last arias), Don Carlos and Philip. I was so moved by Philip’s aria music. loved the aria by Philip at the opening of the third segment. I ignored the imputed sentiments (where where unbelievable – he loves Elisabetta (!) and identified intensely with his grief over the irretrievability of life’s losses. Also Elisabetta’s final aria where she too grieves this way

Ferruccio Furlanetto just had the role of Philip perfect: a man gorged on absolute power who exercises it remorsely and thinks well of himself — murderous cruel blind; there were many as bad people on stage were: clerics, soldiers, people-burners, but he had an incisiveness in his deadly nastiness and a refusal to listen to anyone else that was scary. Like a spider — shots of him with his cane make him look spider-like (Scott’s Quentin Durward presents a medieval French king as a “spider”).

He’d be nothing without his hired compliant henchman.

Jim has a good saying when people say someone in power is doing something bad because of bad advisors (as when Obama is said to be following Rahm): the Cossacks obey the Czar.

At one point in the opera, Don Carlos and his friend, Roderigo attempt to rebel. The Pope thunders how the king is a God and all kneel down. It brought home how important it was to cut off the king’s head in the English civil and French revolutionary wars, quite apart from these people’s continual machinations with others to get back in power and savagely punish those who dared to rebel.

Simon Keelyside as Roderigo was a complex driven character: beloved friend of Don Carlos who wants to pressure Don Carlos into fighting for religious and political freedom for Flanders (rousing famous duet), taken up by the king as a sincere man. Somehow this role did not give Keehlyside room for his most effective acting, which is a lot less macho and manipulative than this role demanded:

I felt distressed by that scene before the cathedral. I know it was so stylized and like much of the production glamorously overproduced to some extent — though I acknowledge the hideousness of the Carlo monument was appropriate as this group of people in power are hideously cruel — even Elisabetta has her autocratic moments when she flat-out dismisses Eboli.

Eboli (Marina Smirnova)

Nonetheless, in that cathedral scene the people about to be burnt to death, the gestures they made, the way they faced the audience made me cover my eyes so I would not see their humiliation. I am so alive to the realities of torture in our world nowadays and think about the viciousness of all these regimes and wars to stop any social progress whatsoever over the last 30 years

We do see how powerless women as such are — I was struck by the paradigm of Elisabetta’s forced marriage: as in all these 19th century renderings we never see the sex that happened on the nights the man first takes the women. Isabelle de Montolieu’s Caroline de Lichtfield and George Sand’s Valentine are the two exceptions and there the woman refuses the sexual encounter successfully: Winston Graham is really outstanding for showing the woman raped nightly and abused because the husband knows she has been forced. Here we have the woman accepting the ancient man and the frissons of the ex-lover, Don Carlos, becoming her son are basically ignored. As I said, Elisabetta herself preys on her underling, Eboli.

The Admiral had told me about the composite nature of what we had seen. Act 1 is a very early Verdi in French trans into Italian. Apparently a number of Verdi’s operas are in French and grand operas with ballets. Acts 2-5 are later Verdi: in Italian, the third from last opera Verdi wrote. I knew the text was basically Schiller’s — last week coincidentally we saw a modern adaptation of Schiller’s Maria Stuart by the WSC. Also relevant politics:

Maria Stuart: a play about seething hypocrisies

whose dramaturgy Izzy described,

a companion to their Richard III: a parable about ruthlessly ambitious politicians

My friend on Facebook, added some more solid information about the opera’s sources and analogies:

“I was very moved by the big scene in front of the cathedral–the flux of politics and religions, celebration and terror, father and son, “brothers,” swords and flames. The production–but also the words and music–suggested that human sacrifice was necessary to preserve Philip’s empire. The whole thing was written in French first. Lots of scenes had to be dumped in the early productions in order to work in a ballet–a sine qua non for the Paris Opera–and still allow opera-goers to catch the last trains home. In the Don Pasquale intermission interviews Alagna and Keenleyside were talking about the difference between the two versions, saying the Italian version is more “herroic.” Apparently the first version of the story (aside from the events themselves) was a 1670s French historical novel by Cesar Vichard, Abbe de Saint-Real. I found it on Googlebooks–the first 30 pages or so are entertaining, dissecting all the various kinds of love the principals feel for each other. All the 19th c. versions are based on Schiller, though. There is also a Conrad Veidt silent film called Carlos and Elizabeth, with amazing sets, especially for the Office of the Inquisition, a sort of spherical hellish bureaucracy. Also the Throne Room is a Met-stage-sized room with a wall that slides open to reveal the cathedral with its bishops and such ready to excommunicate if anybody missteps.”

Complaint about the movie-house we have been seeing these operas in, the Hoffman theater in Alexander, an AMC/Loews theater: the management has begun to have “pre-shows” before the opera. Very loud, grating (like these others so you can’t ignore them), aggressive. These advertise other HD and TV shows. I fled while it was on. I hate these. In regular movie-going beyond super-loud, the ads are obnoxious in content, the trailers then pick out the most moronic parts of the movie to display.

Movie-houses can’t bear that an audience should sit there and not be bombarded every moment by some form of ad.

Then they did not turn up the lights when it was time to leave. People in the audience began rudely to shout “lights.” But they would not turn them up. I suppose they have decided why should they treat the people watching these HD opera any less ruthlessly than they do their usual customers. One elderly lady behind us would not have been able to walk out without lights without hurting herself. If she did, I would hope she’d sue. I noticed long lines at their “guest service” desk.

They have horrible food — intensely sugared and/or fried; carbonated chemically flavored liquids in tin cans. People who come to the opera are a different group from the usual audiences there: they bring books for the intermissions and many bring their own food (sandwiches, thermos) — though now there are signs forbidding this so less do. I bring a yoghurt in my handbag. But there is no coffee only these chemical drinks and long lines to get anything (unhiring practiced there).


P. S. See comments for earlier new productions this year: Das Rheingold and Boris Godunov.

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Colin, my fiber optic penguin

Dear friends and readers,

Some people my age have grandchildren, others have great-nieces and nephews: I have two cats and a fiber optic penguin which lights up in a glittery way when I plug him in. I gave him the name I would have given a son had I had one. Colin glitters when plugged in but this does not appear on photographs.

On the other side of endurance tonight. I just gave of myself as a teacher for 3 sets of 2 hours and 45 minutes, 13 hours alogether at GMU.

We are doing Christmas in a small way. As I wrote on Reveries under the Sign of Austen, Izzy and I went to a party for The Birthday (Jane Austen’s of course — coming up on the 15th) where we danced the afternoon away doing patterned 18th century figure dances, up and down the line, in groups of twos and threes. For Snow Reveries (more general) go to Reveries under Austen.

We dare not have a tree again this year. Three years ago the cats attacked what we had (balls, lights, branches) so steadily the tree was wretched looking before New Year’s and they are still so lively. But we did put our white and colored lights out on our bushes in front of our house. We sat them in patterns on top of the bushes so the light seem to come out of the greenery: tasteful and pretty. (At long last we have a safe method: heavy white cord meant for outside, leading through the porch to inside the window and a switch on a panel inside the house.)

I did take Colin down from the attic. At first I thought I’d put him in the screened porch but then I would not see him, and he’d be cold so I have him in my workroom. Outside I fear he’d be stolen and that would upset me.

When my neighbor, Michelle, first gave him to me as a present I sang spontaneously: … Colin, the sledding penguin had a very shiny nose and if you ever saw him, you would even say it glows. All of the other penguins used to laugh and call him names, they never let poor Colin join in any penguin games. Then one foggy Christmas eve, Santa came to say, Colin, with your nose so bright, won’t you guide our sled tonight …

Clary-Marianne not too long ago

Whenever the girl cat, Clarissa-Marianne darts into my workroom she is startled by the lit penguin. She runs away or sits and looks. She doesn’t get to stay in the room long enough to get used to him and begin to investigate.

On the 15th (the Birthday) I will make out my 10 to 12 cards — if I can think of that many snail-mail card friends to send to. I have one cousin and so does Jim to send to.

We have very little to buy and I got it all online. I can’t announce it yet as two of the gifts are surprises for Jim and Izzy. I know Mr Knightley is against surprises, but just this once. For myself I got the DVDs of the Poldark series for the 2 seasons; also Posy Simmonds’s Tamara Drewe and Gemma Bovery.

Ian-Little Snuffy recently

The cold season shows us our cats sitting by the grates. (We have forced heat through grates). In our bedroom the grate is behind a door, and they love to sit in the triangular space between grate and door. Izzy keeps her Italian electric radiator on all the time so her room is cosy warm. Ian snuggles behind her computer and in front of her window on her desk in the sun. Clarissa sinks down amid the blankets near where Izzy sits.

Winter passes.

For The Day we’ll have our token exchange of presents, go to see The King’s Speech (with Colin Firth), eat a yummy meal at Mark’s [non-pretentious] Duck House, and in the evening I’ll watch one Christmas movie — possibly the film adaptation of James Joyce’s The Dead (beautiful moving film). Boxing Day we’ll go to a museum (our tradition) and this year it’s a Victorian exhibit: vast, photography at the National Gallery. And for New Year’s we’ve tickets for a Woolly Mammoth show: Neo-Futurists Girl Guides (?), Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, with post-show drinks and snacks afterwards.

The hope is to return to the atmosphere and expectations we had in the years 2001 and 2002. We had gone to Paris in 2000 to erase so many previous Xmases (and had had one of our wondrous times — all three of us in Paris, that last day Izzy stood there intensely looking about trying hard to remember the spot where we stood below where we lived), and in 2001 it worked. I remember 2001 happy in a lovely Chinese restaurant after a good movie, the three of us over a duck (had been fired in front of us). We were at peace last year but not back where we had been.

Still just now we are all set: nothing to dread, it will be just as we expect, nothing to surprise, hurt or upset us …

A lovely late 19th century early 20th century December scene: Luigi Loiri: Paris under Snow

I continue this in a more meditative general vein on Reveries under the Sign of Austen: Snow Reveries


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Shame on him, Shame on Obama

I’ve just read that Obama has offered to extend the obscene tax cuts for the very wealthy (1 to 2 % of the US in this country who now control and have at their disposal something like 23% of the wealth). The house is silent: they are astonished. They never expected this for real. Reid is at least icy. He excoriates Democrats for being sanctimonious and purists. This man will retire with $90,000 a year for the rest of his life. He knows what side his bread is buttered on. Baring Sarah Palin (repulsive, jeeringly openly corrupt she has no idea of public office as anything but grabbing for herself and her cronies) running for president, i shall never turn any lever for this man again.

Here is the URL which will lead you to Bernie Saunder’s speech on the class war being waged successfully in the US — with the help of Mr Obama.


The concrete realities affecting millions of people, the stories
subtended within Bernie Saunders’ speech about the war on the middle and working class people conducted by the wealthy and powerful.

It’s perhaps the first time in literally years that anyone has gotten up to say the truth about the present ancien regime realities spreading and increasing in the US so that the standard of living for 99% of the people is dropping precipitiously and access to health care, education &c being destroyed. His problem is he cannot say all he needs to in the tiny time allotted for anyone before the audience gets bored.

To say this is the sort of speech Obama should be making from his pulpit is otiose. The man is as conscienceless as any of the crooked bankers. Here is this Hypocrite-in-Chief’s sneering at the vulnerable powerless and poor:


It will take you to where he talks nastily to his constituency as he never does to Republicans. He has done nothing for his fellow blacks. He deserves to rot in hell with Dante’s liars and betrayers.

The man is contemptible.


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All we know is this moment, and this moment, Ross, we are alive! We are. We are. The past is over, gone. What is to come doesn’t exist yet. That’s tomorrow! It’s only now that can ever be, at any one moment. And at this moment, now, we are alive — and together. We can’t ask more. There isn’t any more to ask … Demelza to Ross (last page of novel).

Monk Adderley (Malcolm Tierney), actually a twisted sick man

Dear friends and readers,

The failure: Ross and Demelza cannot make a new life for themselves in London because they carry over all that they are to London, which includes Ross’s own angers, bitterness, and he ends up murdering a provocative scum-rake type; Elizabeth dies in an effort to end George’s rage at her and the world for not thinking as well of him as he thinks he deserves.

The Angry Tide is (as I’ve suggested in the first blog) fuelled by rage; in this second part I show how it brings to a resolution the tragic results of another wrath: Aunt Agatha’s. Upon George’s spiteful prevention of her party, she tells him that his beloved son, Valentine, was not an eighth month baby: this arouses his half-alert suspicions the boy is not just not his, but Ross’s — who by the time of The Angry Tide, Valentine has come closely to resemble. Agatha only glimpses as she lays dying how her insinuation would affect the lives of Elizabeth and her children, subject as they are to George.

Ross’s murder of Monk Adderley results from more than Ross’s anger over Demelza’s love for Hugh Armitage (The Four Swans): it’s a deeper diffuse abiding anger he barely understands himself

Insfoar as this novel may be seen as instinctively feminist, we see how one chief heroine (Demelza Crane Poldark) cannot make her way in London because she cannot cope with the contradictory customs and demands, especially sexual made on her; and how the other (Elizabeth Chynoweth Poldark Warleggan) dies in childbirth in a futile attempt to get her husband to accept the baby she has had by another man. Between them, the hero (Ross who raped Elizabeth) and anti-hero (George Warleggan) kill her.

See Part One on Graham’s powerful The Angry Tide.

This time I think it best to begin with summary and then provide commentary:

Book Three, early July 1799

Chapter 1: early July Caroline returns to Cornwall, hopes Clotworthy will be Dwight’s permanent assistant, Ross’s visit to Drake who is disconcertingly like Demelza; go back and rebuild, you should not let yourself be destroyed by a thing like that, Ross leaves to be back September, Demelza to Verity, Demelza and she discuss larger economic issues, Demelza cannot get herself to tell Verity of Armitage, only Caroline can understand

Chapter 2: Late August 1799, English-Dutch battle, Ross returns safely from Bareham downs, September 6; bustle and haste, Demelza and Ross leave September 14th, Falmouth 6 am, the long trip, all new to Demelza; the ldogings, Mrs Parkins; joyous sex and love: “we shall be down in an hour”

Chapter 5: first five days of unalloyed happiness, then Sept 24th, a Tuesday, the reception (Demelza rejects several dresses on the grounds of indecency); Portland Place, perhaps Prince regent will be there, Monk Adderley and Andromeda Page (17 semi-nude), the Warleggans, Elizabeth sees Anselm whom Adderly tells her has compounds for women’s troubles, Demelza’s inability to cope with Adderley; they agree to go to play with him because she cannot think of a way not to be impolite

Chapter 4: Caroline tries to help Demelza by removing Adderley, they are to treat it lightly as a joke, but neither can do this; expensive box to see The Revenge, experience of playhouse; Adderley’s downright insulting behavior, in next box Caroline and Dwight who met Dr Jenner today (p. 408); Ross and Demelza’s attempting to understand one another in bed in their room afterward (he says it arouses old jealousies); then the flowers and ugly intrusion, Adderley wants to revenge himself on Demelza too; now second week in Sept, still tourist like Royal Academy, British museum &c but then the altercation over chairs, the challenge in a letter

Chapter 5: Night before the duel; Dwight’s objections, , visit to Strawberry Hill, Twickenham; foursome go to play (Caroline, Dwight, Ross, Demelza); dinner with some minor world-historical characters, late laughing and drinking, then narrative about duels, their nature, class thing; Ross made a will, Monk one last insult

Chapter 6: Dwight one more effort; duel, murder Adderley’s scorn while dying since Ross stays for chairmen; Dwight comes to attend Ross, Demelza I’ll never forgive him for this (“blasphemy against life to risk so much for so little”), Monk dead, 3 days later Ross’s fever abating, Craven tells of bet, Ross’s deep regret, Craven repeats Monk wanted to kill Ross; Coroner’s inquest, everyone knows

Chapter 7; George furious that Adderley’s adversary might escape law; goes to Sir John Bull, Mitford, no one will listen; George still paying people to turn up evidence., visitors including Geoffrey Charles; George and Elizabeth, his good mood, GC’s “Just look at him. Ecod! is he not the every spit and living image of Uncle Ross” (p. 465)

Chapter 8: Nov 9th 1799, bandages on Ross come off; Demelza tells Ross that she is returning to Cornwall with Dwight next week; Ross visits Falmouth, viscount does not really want to know an yet Ross tells him; their disagreements as Ross believes in principle of liberty, equality, fraternity, Viscount says go home to be safe and Ross refuses; Caroline tells Demelza George and Elizabeth getting along so bad there are rumors of coming separation, Demelza she is going to have baby, Caroline shrugs, the scene where George throws coins in Ross’s face and Bullcock stops another duel; Ross’s dreams (Elizabeth screaming), Demelza’s adieu letter

Chapter 9: Elizabeth’s visit to Anselm; Anselm’s history, a Jew who found a place, as Mrs Tabb (not fooling him); he recommends December

Chapter 10: Demelza’s homecoming, visitors, Sam, he tells of how Drake sees nothing of Rosina; how Mrs Whitworth would not see Drake; “Almost crazed she was, he said. .” and Sam thinks she shows herself way above him, Sam asks gingerly after Emma, he hopes she is happy, Demelza says all she does turns to harm and he replies: “Never regret anything you do out of the goodness of your heart” (p,. 494). Two days later she walks to see Drake, on the way Prudie; Demelza how Drake must come for Christmas and take Caroline and Dwight as his equals, dearest friends, and then the miracle: it’s now winter, and the woman carrying a bag, hesitant before Morwenna but Drake says: “oh my love have you come home” (p. 500). A tall damp bird; that she has been despoiled, that the miscarriage was brought on by her hatred; his intense love for her and how being together is everything.

Chapter 11: Parliament adjourns Nov 20th 1799 and not to resume until 21 January 1800. Ross sees Caroline on 21st, helping John Craven to tidy up Adderley’s estates, 30th November Ross and Caroline leave for Cornwall. 6th December Demelza to Morwenna and Drake, Demelza has to be convinced, and then Drake wants the marriage to occur as soon as possible. Demelza accompanies Drake to Odgers to demand bans be called and marriage achieved; torrential December rains. Caroline and Ross’s talk: that he was killing Armitage; that they must not sleep together. He spoke to her 6 years ago and now she to him out of love (this refers to the story in Warleggan where Ross brought Caroline and Dwight together in London before Dwight sailed off).

Chapter 12: Monday morning Demelza and Drake to Bodmin for special license, left at 8, at that time Ross and Caroline passing through Liskard and at 11 Elizabeth comes to visit Morwenna; Morwenna accompanies the pregnant Elizabeth home and accepts dinner invitation. The gale of November 9th, 1799, Ross home to Demelza; she tells what had happened at Odgers; Drake’s homecoming to empty place and desperation, panic, despair but moves out, finds she has gone to Trenwith and off he goes.

Chapter 13: Morwenna at dinner; George as cruel tyrant over everyone; the cruelty of George to Valentine who he refers to as “this child;” switch to Drake’s arrival, Drake thrown out, threatened, told by Elizabeth what direction Morwenna went in (short cut), trembling with anger and anxiety he turns back and finds her by the gate of the smithy again shuffling, she clings to him. Culminating cene where Elizabeth confronts George and discovers it was Agatha; laughs hysterically, demands he will love Valentine as his son and then takes concoction (she is to take second week of December). Demelza to Ross tells of trips to Chynoweths, Drake’s decency, mother talked of Morwenna throwing herself away and Demelza stood up for Drake and again they try to come together; she it isn’t love I lack but understanding, and we are to see the love that must trump all.

Chapter 14: Drake at Nampara by 7 am; Demelza takes a dress for Morwenna to Pally’s, 4 years ago she was sewn and stitched into Elizabeth’s dress, now it’s Caroline’s, same church, different cleric, done by 12 and they walk off dwindling to view. Elizabeth lying on floor at 8 o’clock that morning, Dr Behenna, a girl, the name, Ursula, she’s to be Lady Warleggan; the asinine supper George with in-laws, and then midnight to rest but at 3 Ellen Prowse says mistress suffering severe pains in legs and arms

Chapter 15: Thursday morning George sends for Dwight, her great pain for 36 hours; Dwight recognizes gangrene and tries to counteract; Friday the 13th of December Ross in Truro at Cornish bank, home. Demelza says Elizabeth delivered of a premature but living child; Elizabeth still gravely ill, Ross defies Tom Harry and danger, goes to Trenwith. George keeps up the “turn this man away,” Ross demands to know, George says she is dead and intuitive: “see what we have brought her to.” She died holding my hand, Ross to the room; George all that he has planned and worked seems purposeless as she is now dead, the last moments of her fear of the dark; narrator tells us he blamed fate never knowing he should have blamed himself.

Chapter 16: The last scene: Demelza and Ross:” we must hold to one another and now and here it’s all we have


Closing scene of 2nd mini-series: Ross (Robin Ellis) and Demelza (Angharad Reees)

John Ryland remarks that Graham creates worlds. Yes.

Typical paratext opening and close of the 29 episodes: Cornwalll

Book 3 Caroline’s return to Cornwall and Dwight and Demelza accompanying she and Ross back, Demelza’s trip to London. Ross takes his month in the local militia in Barham Downs in the south, and returns to take her to London.

Graham also keeps up the presentation of the flaws and horrors of medicine at the time and through that a sceptical perspective meant to comment on the limits of modern medicine. Enys was unwilling to leave his patients in Cornwall, and only agreed to it when he found a rare apothecary, not very learned who is not into heroic medicine (bleeding, cupping, purging and other tortures) which are intended to refer (I think) to modern high tech medicine too. Enys has become more and more convinced that the less he does the better, he should follow the body’s patterns and perform watchful waiting. What his patients need is peace, quiet, a decent diet (opp. 372-3). Once in London Caroline assumes he is not thinking of his patients anymore but the narrator enters his mind to show that he is and is thinking of returning to Cornwall at the end of the month.

We see Ross re-energize (so to speak) his brother-in-law, Drake, in a moving scene, one which has this kind of strong firmness within disillusion that I find so appealing: Drake say to Ross, you must think me a fool (for all he did upon finding Whitworth dead and since), to which Ross says: “I think nothing … except that I have satisfied myself — and Demelza — and Sam. And I hope you in the end. You’re too capable to mope your life away. it should not be possible — nobody should be able to destroy a man like that’ (p. 368).

This long trip to London is give in stages and we are made to feel the time pass, how they get up in the dark, begin their journey, where they stop to eat, what they eat (never too much given, all felt as people might, nothing wooden), and then the travel feel, coach (Ross had come back by water) and then how the approach to London looks. She is Cornish and never saw all these trees, this (to her) lush landscape, the configurations of the south leading into the city and then how it looks. Down hill and in a sort of valley and as she approaches, smoke first, and then desolation, with houses run down and labyrinthine, then fields, then good streets and then again allies, dives and finally she comes out to see the wharves and the whole landscape of the Thames (much poverty passed, things falling down, coaches) — also the sounds, and the air. Solitary figures too. I wish I had time to copy and paste the several pages (pp. 373-78 in the older 1996 Pan editions). Now Ross has now spent two nearly a year in London and we’ve heard of it before but for the first time wanting to make us feel the place, he takes his heroines’ eyes who never saw such a large city before or such a concatenation of people.

We get a real renewal of the early feel of the Poldark marriage: freed from the children, the two make happy love in their new quarters and have cordial conversation.

Ross (Robin Ellis) and Demelza (Angharad) in their lodgings, at first gay, happy, teasing one another

Demelza gets to go to her first salon: we have a trip with Caroline to Caroline’s seamstress where with her account (she pays yearly) a modern style dress is got up for Demelza within sufficient time. ‘

The elegant dinner party and ball: Ross and Demelza uncomfortable

The assembly does show perhaps a tired motif reappearing: again we have an amoral ruthless man chasing Demelza sexually; this time she is more alive to what’s happening and much more aware (together with Ross) about what a shit this man is.

The scene gives Graham a chance to delve politics and present his leftist-liberal point of view — so unusual for these historical novels. He’s also writing with film adaptations in mind. The scene at Portland place provides much matter for a typical splendid kind of scene that Granada and BBC are good at. I saw some of the same writing with a film adaptation in mind in Four Swans: the conception around the four women and the repeatedly visual motifs (birds) and landscapes — much matter for more on location shooting.

At that dinner party George Warleggan (equally nasty) in Portland Place bets 10 guineas against a 100 that Monk won’t be able to seduce Demelza. Both men despise her as lower class. This is the central core that rivets Ross’s fury: at the ball and at a dinner party Adderly is openly physically aggressive at Demelza; this is an insult to the man she “belongs” to and it takes advantage of 1) her good nature, and 2) her courteous and uncertain ways whereby she is anxious not to do the wrong thing, not to insult anyone so can be led on to agree to go say to a play with Adderly (with Ross alongside) or say she will go out to Vauxhall with him when she has no intention of doing so. The way he treats her reminds me of the way Fanny Burney’s men treat Evelina, only it’s much worse because she really knows this man, he maneuvers his flesh near hers.

George hides (Chapter 4 still) what he has done from Elizabeth and Demelza worries about Ross’s response. We get a believable felt-within scene of Ross, Demelza, Monk in a box at the power: Powell’s Revenge, with a real sense of the social experience, the comic acts afterward and again Monk’s ugly behavior. A scene of Demelza and Ross afterward at home shows Monk is getting to them: I feel for her. Ross is saying she must not run away (she offers to go home) and yet he wants her to behave in public in ways that cope with ugly aggression. The problem here is the ugly aggression is allowed men. They do manage to come to an understanding and fall to love-making.

The Intrusion

The Monday Adderley forces his way in by lying and now Demelza is frank and apparently is insulting. She goes over the line? This reminds of Toni Sol’s book on Burney and how it shows the so-called protective manners of women far from protecting them allow men to manipulate them. Monk leaves seething — he’s also losing his bet.

It’s Chapter 4:V that is the masterpiece is in its way. The two men meet in Parliament where there are not enough chairs, and when Ross goes out, Monk takes his chair; Ross goes over to demand it, and when Monk says he has no right, Ross reaches for his gloves. The words about the gloves have ugly sexual innuendoes over Demelza — he wants his gloves, does he?: “I’m no longer interested in your worn possessions” (p. 420). Ross physically attracts him, order is called, and Monk sends an insolent challenge where he names the weapons (against code).

The Duel

In a duel with pistols Ross murders Monk Adderley (the “monk” is ironic, he’s a ruthless obnoxious arrogant rake, reminds me of Swift’s description of such types in Dublin gatherings; and an adder). The thing that is keenly interesting in the chapters is Graham at once identifies and disapproves strongly. Ross is acting partly out of this rage within him. He shows this through Enys and Demelza’s response. At every turn Enys points out that Ross could turn back and tries to stop the duel from going further, Demelza (who has been the target of Adderley’s insults) says Ross has at last done something she thinks she will not be able to forgive; “I shall never forgive him for this”) (p 444).

Dwight as Ross’s second and his attempt to stop it. These attempts go on inbetween further social events and the determination of Monk to hide what will happen. It’s clear both men want to murder one another. Enys tries to persuade Ross he’s not up to it; he need not go for the weapons should have been called by him &c&c

The duel (Chapters 5-6). Again Dwight steps inbetween and his attempt to stop them leads to further insolence on the part of Monk and further refusal to apologize and clear desire to take revenge in Ross. The thing here is they both shoot and miss, and Dwight rushes in to stop them now, both then break code and shoot again. Ross gets it in the arm bad but Monk in the groin. Ross, all pride we are to feel (as much as integrity will not leave immediately as he’s been told to do,only wrenched away from pain and blood when someone comes to help Monk.

Ross back at the lodgings and now Demelza sees. How lead feels. The awkward things and real sawing of his bones without anesthesia that Dwight must do. The bandaging and the slow getting better. Efforts being made to cover up; like an aristocrat, Caroline seems to defend Ross, and then news comes Monk has died.

The friendship: Verity has been dropped (she is important in book) and Caroline substituted totally

We already have seen enough to know it will be hushed up. The man dies, rat, horror that he is — his last words are to demand Ross pay 10 guineas to Warleggan so letting Ross know just how he regarded Demelza and the whole incident however obscurely.

At this point I found I could not put the book down. It was not the sudden extraordinary turns which slightly surprise but then are to be expected or prepared for (and not a surprise really) and the intensity of the scenes, but my anxiety for the characters, especially Morwenna and Drake Carne.

Rumor spreads and pretty quickly everyone “knows” that Ross and Monk duelled and Ross killed Monk(Chapter 6 still). Apart from anything else, Ross is laid up with a bad wound in his arm and hand; is it likely both would have shot themselves, and how was it that just as Monk was shooting himself in the groin/stomach two doctors were coming along. What we see is duelling is more or less accepted.

Mr Craven, Adderley’s second, goes to a great deal of trouble and money and lies himself on the stand, induces Dwight Enys to lie (reluctantly), pays off the chairman and the verdict is Death by Misadventure.

George Warleggan, incensed (Ralph Bates)

The interest is in how George (an utter egoist, spiteful, jealous) decides he will taken this opportunity at long last to destroy Ross (Chapter 7). He visits two different powerful men to induce them to prosecute Ross. Both refuse. The first is Henry Bull, KC, now King’s Advocate (pp. 452-56); the second a man who owes George money, Mitford, a parliamentary creature. What’s interesting is the terms in wihch the two men refuse and how they both begin to look at George askance (pp. 452-56). We see that in parliament in fact Ross gains respect which really does surprise him while people in society, the streets and those he just knows socially sort of begin to back off (p 471).

The characters are deftly interwoven, especially George’s activities juxtaposed to Ross’s. In the midst of what’s happening Geoffrey Charles Poldark, Francis’s son comes to visit his uncle. He must lie to his stepfather and Graham has created a new character who seems so real but is really Francis’s spirit come alive again with some of Elizabeth’s sophisticated ways and at the same time a decency of outlook which explains the boy’s behaviors to men at least and continued friendship with Drake. But he’s a silken fop, capable of the same superficial kinds of wit as his father (pp. 458-60) and he is it which brings “things” to a head. Coming back home, he sits among George, Elizabeth and Valentine and suddenly looking at Valentine he sees what Graham’s descriptions of Valentine have hinted: “”Just look at him! Ecod! Is he not the spot and living image of Ross” (p. 464).It comes midpoint at the section and froze me.

Poison to the heart of George, that fires his intense hatred, and destroys all trust and the mariage of Elizabeth. Some words do split the world open and things are never the same again.

Demelza says she will go home now that Ross clearly will survive (Chapter 8). She is livid with anger in herself because she feels Ross dueled out of jealousy of her and that means he distrusts her. I felt very much for her in this new increasing estrangement between the two of them. She decides to return to Cornwall. She feels she does not belong her, she is out of her depth (pp. 475-76). I liked how she refused to be pressured into behaving in a way she just could not and refused to be made to feel terrible about it, and returned to where she was wanted, belonged, could feel herself useful, respected. We see in these chapters in London, these last days Demelza and Ross not speaking, when speaking not communicating what matters at all. She leaves him a letter.

Ross himself somewhat astonishingly, but it’s in his self-destructive character, visits Falmouth and gets the man to listen to the real story. We can see Ross would like to be freed of his agreement to represent Falmouth but Falmouth, undeterred, will not let him off (pp. 465-67). On the other hand, he tells Ross go home, go home at once. That is the best way to get everyone to stop talking. Ross will not (he is a difficult man endlessly banging against what would be in his interest). Really what we see is the indifference of people to one another. No one really cares which of the two died as long as it’s not himself, and this it is which kept duels going.

Next (interwoven) scene: after visiting Falmouth, Ross in Parliament goes up to George with the 12 guineas and sees in George’s face fierce hatred; George takes the coins and flings them into Ross’s face and there is almost another challenge, thsi time from Ross, but it’s stopped by the men around them who don’t really want another duel and actually pick up the coins (pp. 472-73).

Chapter 9: all is changed for Elizabeth and George. In a flash; Elizabeth does see George is “sick at heart”. She visits a man who has risen as a physician from a starving Viennese, and gets him to give her some herbs to make her pregnancy end earlier. Again this hope she has that having an 8 month baby will convince George. It would not have. The first warning bells of whats to come. Dr Lazarus (the name allegorical) agrees but warns this drug could hurt her and baby. She should take it earlier (7th month) rather than 8th lest the baby turn in the 8th month and not turn back until real parturition was due (pp. 478-88)

Elizabeth as Mrs Tabb and the doctor-physician, in the book Dr Anselm

But all this is not what kept me jumping ahead to make sure even if I didn’t get there all would be well. It’s what happens when Demelza comes home.

Demelza home again

This made me feel better as I read about my own decisions in life.The long journey home with Dwight (they go together) is beautifully done with her sick at heart as she thinks about the journey to London and the first happy renewed week in London they had had (Chapter 10, p. 492).

She sets things to rights in the house, and goes to visit Sam, who tells her of Drake’s continued depression (as he sees it, the man is not coming to religion) and half-mad strange behavior of Morwenna (Chapter 10).

There is some comedy: of the rough peculiar kind when Demelza visits the Paynters upon coming home and in dialect listens to a tale of a burial from Paynter (pp. 495-96) and better (I think) the comic feel of Sam’s liking Morwenna quickly because he sees in her “suitable material for conversion to his flock .. ” (p. 527)

She goes to Drake and sees him finding himself through work, recreating his house and business, but he is adamant he will not now marry. Demelza returns to Sam to lament her officious interference which made everything worse, and Sam comes out with another of these moments in the fiction which seems to do me good: “Never regret anything you do out of the goodness of your heart.”

And then Morwenna turns up (Chapter 10, p. 500); she flees to Drake. To me a heartrending scene between the two of them. She has fled the horrible mother-in-law, and left behind her son to do it (Ch 10 pp. 495-509), a long stretch of dramatic scene and feeling. Slowly she tells the story of her life with Whitworth, and he comprehends her horror of sexual congress, her terror, her upset.

In the film she tells him on the cliff the day after she returns to him, and she never leaves his side afterwards (partly the film must skip some chapters)

She says she has come to explain why she reacted so hysterically madly when he came to her in April. (We have been told that Drake was suspected of the murder during the talk in London over Ross; Drake is a nobody you see, but the evidence was all against it.) She was not only in a state of trauma, but pregnant with another baby. She has now lost that. It emerges she came to him to come to him, and she would rather stay here than anywhere. She has nowhere else. Their different in rank is not lost to them, she has to persuade him she wants to work, be his wife no matter what the loss in status. Last moments show him sitting afar and then tender to come close but no sex, as he realizes (is told explicitly) from her talk that their relationship must not include sex for a long time.

We begin Chapter 11 with news of Parliament adjourning, Ross’s helping Craven, Ross’s plans to leave with Caroline and then switch to Cornwall.

I’m impressed by how when news gets round Demelza is far from complacent or easy about it (Chapter 11), and when she comes is at first slightly hostile. She assumes that Mrs Whitworth will not fit in. Demelza is turned around by Drake’s face and they concoct a scheme to get a special license, for both fear Morwenna whatever she says will flee again. They get Odgers to tell them how because he’s hoping for Ross’s help in gaining the Vicarship at last (pp. 510-17). Drake again would get nothing.

Ross and Caroline at the same time going home together at last now that Parliament is ceased for a while. A long scene between them whch did not quite ring true for me again (Chapter 11, pp. 518-526): she’s willing to have sex with him she says but is too loyal to Demelza and Dwight. Would two people really talk like this? It’s too contrived. Her telling Ross that Demelza’s feelings are understandable make sense because his rage is against Hugh Armitage, and he is jealous. This is supposed to enable us to see that he could mend things. A neat scene but its function for real is to keep us anxious for our central couple for the moment, Drake and Morwenna.

Home for Ross and Caroline who now separate, Dwight waiting for her

My anxiety mounted as Demelza and Drake went off alone to get the license and Elizabeth naturally turned up (so it seems) for a visit. Huge wind and rain and a terrible walk. We surmize Elizabeth wants to fall again so the induced 7th month birth will occur. Elizabeth is actually softer to Morwenna than Demelza and is more willing to countenance this new relationship: she has seen closeup what Whitworth was. But now Morwenna feeling she should walk back with Elizabeth is induced near to Trenwith to come in for dinner.

Morwenna stays for dinner and George turns up. Given her weak character I fear for her, fear even now she and Drake won’t get together, the marriage is essential to get the others to leave them alone. I read the sentence where Morwenna coming into Trenwith knows she should not have and had to leave off. To quiet myself I jumped ahead to find that after some divagations and terrors for both, she makes her way back to Drake after all.


After I got through the intensely anxiety-producing pages of Morwenna’s walk back to Trenwith with Elizabeth, and her frantic (wild) return to Drake’s blacksmith shop, I went on to finish the book. The remarkable (artistically sound) events that happen in this sub-story is that what happens is what one might have expected — in a sense they are not remarkable. People are not that feeble. Also it’s only 17 pages: Graham does not want his reader to suffer too much — unlike that hard man, Richardson who makes you agonize for hundreds of pages.

Graham is using a calendar where he did discover there was a wild gale of storming weather on Dec 9th, 1799 off the coast of Cornwall just at the area he has imagined his characters living. He has details of what was blown away and the storm. Ross arrives home during the gale — as does George return,
supposedly unexpectedly except that Parliament had ceased. He had just no told anyone of his return. It’s this gale that leads Morwenna to walk with Elizabeth now 7 months pregnant, and Elizabeth to ask her in to dinner with her parents.

What happens is Drake too and Demelza are returning a little late (Chapter 12); Graham teases us with the scene of Demelza and Ross’s first encounter since their intense estrangement, and involved as I was with them, I read on to find Drake coming home to a dark house and becoming frantic with no sign of Morwenna. It’s not that he thinks she is deliberately leaving him, but he does see her mind as unwell and fears she might run away (not wanting sex, not having self-esteem enough anymore). He hastens to Mrs Trewinnards who they have hired to stay with them to keep gossip down and she reports that Elizabeth came to visit and Morwenna walked off with her. He rushes to Trenwith. He thinks it may be that Ross thinks that “nothing should be able to destroy your life like that,” not one person, but in fact it has. And (sudden turn up) “if the depths were too deep, surely the heights could be too high.” No moral laws against misery or against happiness — doesn’t make much sense as the author skates over this material (P. 538)

As Graham has done before, we are not actually given the crisis high point of the riveting scene going on as Drake is rushing there. George has returned (Chapter 13) and the room before comfortable enough is now sour, nasty, ugly. He is ignoring Valentine’s little attempts to engage his attention (cruel in a believable way), deliberately cold, and when he sees Morwenna, asks why she is there, and Elizabeth’s mother says she is going to marry. Asked who, he is told Drake. He explodes in intense disdainful scornful wrath. An irony not pointed to, not mentioned in all this is that George’s intense hatred and resentments come out of his having been the grandson of a blacksmith. Drake is a blacksmith. Graham never makes this explicit, never mentions it. We are left to see this cause of Warleggan’s insensate wrath. He has no understanding of a woman like Morwenna who could experience Whitworth as a rapist; George’s level is Morwenna’s Rowella who dominated Whitworth in bed by her greater cruelty of temperament.

Switch to Drake coming in and refused entrance (it’s brave of him to come there), and then insulted egregiously by George coming to the door who threatens him with beating and I don’t know what, but he ascertains she is said to have left for home. Home.

He rushes back and at first can’t find her, but then he thinks of the gate where he first looked for her and she is standing there, herself frightened because he is late.

There was no doubt at all in his mind because she looked exactly as she had done when she first came last Thursday. Tall mannish in long cloak, with a shuffling walk. She was at the gate 0f the smithy.

He dropped the reins and ran on and called her name. but it was too gentle and the wind snatched at it and bore it away.
‘Morwenna!’ he shouted.
She heard him this time and turned, but with the cloak over her hair it was too dark to see her face.
He said: ‘I been searching for you and searching for you everywhere.’
‘Drake,’ she said, and hesitated, and then went into his arms.
He said: ‘I just been to Trenwith. They said you’d just left. . .’
‘I was looking for you. I thought you weren’t home.’
She was trembling and out of breath, exhausted.
‘I must’ve missed you. Ye must’ve come through the wood.’
‘I came through the wood.’
‘Never fear, my love. Tis all past now. There’s no need to worry.
He carefully did not kiss her or hold her against he:­will. But he noted that at this moment she was clinging him. (p. 550)

Fast forward to the next morning; he had stopped before going back to the Smithy at Odgers to ask the ceremony be tomorrow morning (before noon it had to be) and gotten the man to agree by first detailing the carpentry work he meant to do for the man’s house. That morning Morwenna remembers details of the high quarreling she did face up to against Warleggan.

This is shades of Pride and Prejudice. It was in her intense defense of Drake against the insinuated charge that Drake had murdered Whitworth (nastily insinuated by George) that she saw how strong her devotion and sense of this man Drake was. She is now keeping “A tight hold, keep a tight hold on her over-strong nerves” In doing this it became clear how this marriage was a haven to be sought” (ch 14:1, p 568). This is Darcy’s comment on his reaction to Lady Catherine turned inward, and Elizabeth’s encounter with Lady Catherine implicitly improved on if not dared or challenged by the dramatic scene itself.

The time it takes is so brief. Demelza comes over with a gown from Caroline that like Morwenna’s first doesn’t fit right (cream, crimson ribbon) but no matter. Caroline comes, Ross, Peter Hoskins (the brother of the man who was hung and Drake has been friends with), Jud and Prudie, a few others. It doesn’t take long. All kiss one another haphazardly.

The scene outside is one of a crowded graveyard, silent stones, leaning this way and that, like broken teeth, the names on them erased by the wild weather, and the occupants long since mouldered and forgotten.

The two don’t want to go anywhere afterward or have any thing else and go down the hill.

What will happen next is what will happen, meanwhile here and now they have the companionship they wanted and (romancing this) trust.

Book 3, Chapters 12-16: Death of Elizabeth

Ross kissing the dead Elizabeth: it was not only his rape that killed her

The powerful close of this book rightly focuses us on the opening 7 book’s main heroine (perhaps or after all), Elizabeth Chynoweth Poldark Warleggan, how and why she does take the herbs given her by Dr Lazarus (clearly allegorically named to some extent) to induce an early childbirth: this leads to her arteries closing up in her legs and kills her. This is what is swiring around and quickly supersedes Morwenna and Drake’s story which begins to fade from view.

Is Elizabeth a main heroine? It’s arguable she’s at least as important as Demelza even if a book is not named after her and we don’t go into her mind much: the film series sensed an archetypal paradigm underlies the book which would hold to this because they began with Elizabeth, and took passages from Warleggan where we experience as a flashback what happened between Elizabeth and Ross when he first returned in the 1780s to Cornwall from the US. Like other film adaptations, they took what is in the books presented as a back story later on and put it in the front. It’s right that we don’t go into her mind since she is a closed strongly inhibited personality, much a product of a proud upper class family. The first season began with Ross’s confrontational scenes with Elizabeth demanding she not marry Francis, the second season ended on Elizabeth’s death.

What happens in these last chapters is a repeat of the opening book — where Ross does go to see her immediately, to renew (as he thinks) the engagement and marry her; and of the rape where upon hearing she is to marry George Warleggan, he finds it irresistible to ride to her house, enter her bedroom and ferociously argue with her, and when she won’t listen, rape her in the late night/early dawn. Upon being told how sick she is after a premature childbirth, he again cannot control himself and rushes over to the house — dangerous though it now is, with Warleggan’s murderous thugs about (everyone we are told now walks around Trenwith, no one through the old common paths) — and demands and gains entrance, and demands of Warleggan himself to know how she is doing, to see her, only to be told (our first notice), “Oh, Elizabeth … Elizabeth is dead.” (p. 595). Revealing, George acknowledges (unconsciously or without knowledge to back this up) that they are responsible for her death: “‘Go on, you scum! … Go up and see her! See what we have brought her to!” (p. 595). When Ross goes up, he finds Elizabeth’s corpse’s skin is yellow and she and the whole room smells terrible; it seems she died of gangrene (pp. 596-7). He staggers at the smell and look of the body and leaves quickly.

There is a strong hint that Dwight Enys and even the incapable doctor, Behenna, have an idea of the cause of this death. This is ironic and suggests that in Graham’s imagined universe (not a simulacrum of reality) truth will out. By keeping us out of Elizabeth’s mind, Graham not only avoids telling us of what happened that night with Ross, but until _Four Swans_ that Elizabeth has long acknowledged in her mind Valentine is Ross’s child. Her ploy has been to lie and keep lying and only admit the truth in the couple of meetings she’s had with Ross since (secretly, once by Agatha’s gravestone).

This concluding last single scene replaces several across Four Swans and Angry Tide where Elizabeth confronts George and demands he act decently to her and to Valentine

What happened on the night Morwenna fled was another confrontational quarrel between Elizabeth and George (Chapter 13); she is incensed at him, and we see (as we’ve seen in her few remarks aloud before) that she is perfectly alive to what a rat, nasty, spiteful, destructive man she’s married. She tells him he ruined the dinner, he insulted her cousin outrageously, his behavior to his (she keeps it up) son was horrible and she implies she will separate herself from him; at this at long last (he too a secretive type) tells her his suspicions come from Agatha and she gets tremendously excited: of cousre Agatha would say that and he, George, deserved it for his spiteful refusal to let Agatha have a 100dreth birthday party; when he tries to excuse himself on the grounds of her real age (98) she derides (rightly) the rationale and said had he let the old woman have the party, she’d have died a couple of months later and been forgotten. Of course Agatha got back at him. He really does seem to believe Elizabeth when this explanation is offered, and ther is a momentary truce where they seem to come together — he does not want to lose her, and she makes a few demands, one of which is he must love Valentine too (with her). He has not mentioned Jud Paynter’s repeating the story to him, but this she would dismiss as silly malicious rumor and it was Agatha who had seared his brain.

But Elizabeth doesn’t trust it and although she had planned not to take the herb, she does it now. It brings on the baby immediately.

Series of ironies: Elizabeth is about to die because this man has the right to ruin her life because she had a baby by another man. She never never thinks to plea for herself it was rape. A second is that in a rare moment into her mind as she takes the herb we see her favorite son is still Geoffrey Charles (he is “dear” to her heart, deep friendly feeling for him and his nature, p 561) and the reason she wants George to like Geoffrey is she wants George to give Geoffrey money to run the estate he has inherited from Francis, and she has worked to keep Geoffrey and Valentine close so Geoffrey can be a loving presence and Valentine further help Geoffrey and vice versa. Why she does not think that her presence will be necessary for any of this to continue is beyond me. I find though it’s realistic for her never really to believe herself in danger from death.

It doesn’t really work. IN George’s mind thinking while the body lies there after Ross leaves, Valentine really looks like a young Ross, as Geoffrey Charles looks like a young Francis, and Ursula will look like a female version of George. Elizabeth’s genes are not predominant (p. 602). None of them resemble her; the idea is her patrician genes are worn out. He would give anything to have her with him again; indeed he does love her — as a symbol, as a personality congenial enough to his (shares his social desire for upscale living and networking), and our narrator says of him consciously, he “blamed fate” and never knew “he should blame himself.” (p. 603). He drove her to this

Again she says she fell; George comes in to see the baby girl, and is all love and belief now. She is always falling they laugh in mutual relief. They hold hands, and he tells her he got a knighthood from Pitt. She will be Lady Warleggan, he Sir George. This is the moment of peace and rest and kindness and (supposed) trust she was banking to live on from here on in (p. 578)

A curious feminist moment: she wants to name this one. Valentine was George’s choice for a name. She wants Ursula. And again there is a wince from George. It’s the name of her godmother, also great aunt: it brings to mind the connection with Morwenna (her grandmother), but Elizabeth doesn’t see or care: Ursula Chynoweth brought brains into the family (p. 577), which we see Rowella, Morwenna and she have, supported Mary Wollstonecraft and translated from the Greek.

George as of the close of this book now thinks Ursula was simply premature because Elizabeth “tends” this way (Chapter 15). Dwight knows better: upon being called because now Elizabeth is in ‘severe pain’ and coming into the room, he immediately smells something which he says to Behenna, reminds him of prisoner of war rooms in prison. Gangrene. What’s the harm or connection to a premature childbirth? It’s not made plain, but Dwight immediately says to Behenna he trusts Behenna will not publish this to George. It seems that the constriction of the arteries which brought on the premature birth is recognized by Dwight, and we are to surmise that he knows about this herb and that it brought on the baby. There is something fearful going on here and they had better not meddle. I feel Dwight will tell no one, and one hopes that really includes Caroline, but will Behenna keep so silent?

The scenes (Chapters 13-15) of the high quarreling, taking of herb, going into labor, birth, aftermath, horrific pain, coming of doctors, death, and then Ross versus George and George’s last thoughts in this book (including a real affection for his daughter which augurs what’s to come there), of Morwenna and Drake (which I went over in my previous posting), are prefaced, accompanied, punctuated by dramatic scenes between Ross and Demelza.

The first when he first returns where they acknowledge a continuing estrangement but also intense companionship and affection; the second after Morwenna and Drake’s marriage where they again talk, this time out near an old wall from which she sees Hendrawna Beach (pp. 562-67) and they talk about how talking sometimes makes things worse, does not help. She says what is lacking from Ross is not love it’s “understanding”.

This resonates and makes a parallel to the Warleggan story. George cannot understand but then Elizabeth never trusted him to. Perhaps rightly. And to Morwenna’s: no one understood and only after the murder of Whitworth (which like a Sherlock Holmes story seems utterly justified as if the universe had come forth to rid everyone of a blight), and her flight does Drake’s family at least acknowledge they need to understand, and then Elizabeth in her visit too.

There is a brief dialogue between them when Caroline brings the news of Elizabeth’s sudden bad illness and Ross takes to his horse. Demelza does not try to stop him beyond the safety issue. The language of Caroline and then Demelza acknowledges their sense that Valentine is his, e.g.

“‘It might be to do with her baby,’ said Demelza.
‘I wondered that,’ said Caroline, ‘I hope not, because it would be premature … though I understand Valentine was permature.’
There was another silence.
‘Yes,’ said Ross. (p. 571)

The third ends the book, all of Chapter 16. So this is another Poldark novel ending on a home scene of Ross and Demelza. It includes his sickness at what he saw of “gangrene,” his long walk on the beach, return home, their talk, he is sick for the loss of Elizabeth — give it to him he did not kill her and didn’t care whose father the child’s was and would not ever have driven her to take that herb — and Demelza’s acceptance of this (as she would like Ross to accept her love for Armitage). She is the book’s great accepter I’ll call it. She says the past is past and time moves them on.

“What is to come doesn’t exist yet, That’s tomorrow! It’s only new that can ever be, at any one moment. And at this moment, now, we are alive — and together. We can’t ask more. There isn’t any more to ask” (p. 612).

This goes well beyond “tomorrow is another day (another mid-century author’s thought — popular novelist too, Margaret Mitchell,” to in effect noticing suicide and saying that we must not despair because being alive is enough. One can’t ask any more.

But Demelza’s is not the book’s only voice. There’s Ross who does not answer, and there has been Elizabeth. I am impressed by how she dies never telling, but does say to George as he sits there by her

“‘George,’ she had whispered, ‘It’s going dark! I’m afraid of the dark.’He had held her hand more tightly as if with his firm grip he couldkeep her in the this world, held her against the drag of all the horrors that drew her to the grave” p. 602).

Another scene against suicide, against death, for life? More than that for in Elizabeth’s consciousness is the knowledge that she cannot protect her children now, all her plans for life, for gaiety — for she has risked death that she might have that lovely social life in London — have destroyed her and left her children vulnerable. She died of a rage not to live but live well (why she married Francis and then George) and be left in peace. Never granted. The implied author is in this moment too. Yes she would have been a real partner for Ross as he shares this outlook. The angry tide, kicking against things.

The film ends on a scene of the coffin with Valentine (the child actor was chosen because he resembled Ralph Bates) and George alone:

Each book has ended far more darkly than is realized and to that each of the film series, including the last (1996, Stranger from the Sea) is faithful.


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Ross (Robin Ellis) turns to embrace Demelza (Angharad Rees), Enys (Michael Cadman) looking on

Dear Friends and readers,

At long last, Graham’s The Angry Tide (Poldark novel 7). This is the first of another two-part blog on one of Graham’s novels.

To explain the subtitle: when Rowella’s husband, Solway in a maddened rage murders Whitworth after Solway sees Whitworth having sex with Rowella, Morwenna is freed, but it takes time (as she has been so wounded by among other things nightly rapes) for her to recover and Drake to pull back from a marriage he almost became part of so they may marry (see Part Two).

The fuel of The Angry Tide might be said to be anger. It may be located precisely in each case. Rage brings to a crisis and resolution the stories of two couples: Whitworth’s liaison with Rowella is discovered by her husband, Solway, who, in a hot rage, murders Whitworth, opening a way for Drake and Morwenna to marry; when Drake is told Morwenna is free, although he has now agreed to marry the good (intelligent, kind, loving if crippled) Rosina Hobyns whom he does not love, Drake breaks the engagement the night before they are to be wed, and (probably) her father, enraged, sets fire to his shop and destroys it all. George’s cold rage when once again his suspicion is ignited that Elizabeth’s son, Valentine, is Ross’s and not his, causes Elizabeth to bring on a premature childbirth, the medicine for which kills her. Having come to London to renew and build their lives together anew, Ross’s lingering anger at Demelza for loving Hugh Armitage ignites his wrath against the insulting vicious behavior of murderous amoral rake, Monk Adderley (an adder) towards Demelza when she shows herself unable to reject Adderley coldly; they duel, Ross murders Monk, and Demelza returns to Cornwall without him.

Some of the lives’ failures do not erupt in rage: the experiment for Caroline and Enys in London is a more quiet failure: Caroline has gone to London after the death of their small daughter, Sarah; he joins her in London around the time Demelza comes to London with Ross; but he cannot bear to live without being of use as a doctor, and returns to Cornwall with Demelza. She seems to contain herself or accept the situation, partly because she may after all love (erotically) Ross more. Sam too accepts his loss of Emma when she marries elsewhere, his needs partly satisfied by his central function in the lives of his converts in his church.

Nonetheless, it is this diffuse anger at life, its frustrations, and the necessity of compromise and acceptance to survive and find some gratification that way that is the center of this book.

Insofar as this blog brings out the instinctive feminism of Graham’s work it show on how one of the seriers’s heroines, (Morwenna), is a woman whose life has been (in effect) confiscated (her coerced marriage is presented as nightly rape). Before the later 20th century no one presents the truth about such marriages, especially is the honeymoon night rarely shown (exceptions are Montolieu’s Caroline de Lichtfield and Sand’s Valentine).

I keep waiting to be disappointed, and find the books fall off. But no, here’s another I fell into and just loved as I went.

For an outline to Angry Tide, Books one and two, see comment.

Book One, Chapters 1-3: We are re-introduced: memories, landscape, politics, at home

The opening chapters are a reprise — Ross is again returning from somewhere (this time his year in London as an MP), it’s a reprise in a fully developed situation.

The Angry Tide opens like the first book (alluded to) with Ross in a carriage coming home, this time with a cleric and wife and grown daughter inside and (it turns out) Osborne Whitworth. Ross’s first utterance to Whitworth’s socializing question, how was Westminster: “It’s what you make it … like so many things.”

Shameless, very plump and overdressed, Whitworth now begins an attempt to urge Ross to help him to a third living; before the carriage ride is over, Ross has semi-agreed to help Whitworth if Whitworth will agree to pay 100 pounds rather than 45 to Odgers, his curate for work at one of his two livings. This is Sawle, actually in Ross’s parish: Ross wanted Odgers to have the position in the first place, and on 100 pounds Odgers’ family will still live indigently. The utterly egoistic Whitworth explodes in indignation: if Odgers is not making it, it shows what a poor manager he is; he Whitworth gets only 200; is he to give up 100 for this?

And so Ross exits the coach.

The narrator has had the chance to relive for us Ross’s first home-coming, and the contrast of then (1783) and now (1798). Ross’s uncertainty about his home-coming from Demelza (“I have loved only two women in my life and they have both turned to other men”) brings us back to the ending of The Four Swans where Demelza collapsed in Ross’s arms and they reunited around the child Clowance (reading to her). Now we are told he’s been gone for probably nearly a year, and didn’t take her with him. So after all there has been something of an estrangement. We enter Whitworth’s thoughts as he looks forward to re-seeing Morwenna, his “unwelcoming wife.” An unexpected parallel is drawn between our hero and the vile vicar.

A motif I find in many better mens’ books is that of the male who is anxious about the love and loyalty to him of a woman whom he values intensely — more he fears than she values him. We see this in the Enys-Caroline match certainly (alluded to by Whitworth in Chapter 2 as having produced a puny “brat” — a disabled child I wondered?)

The last part of the chapter switches to Demelza and her thoughts and also now the wide deep landscape of the locale which Graham is so good at allusively suggesting. She reverts to her sense that she may no longer “retain” Ross’s love. He’s been away for too long; she had been having tea with Rosina Hoblyn, quiet, sensitive, once crippled (saved by Enys) and Demelza’s wish to unite Rosina with Sam or Drake has led to her bringing Rosina over to see her brothers.

Rosina Hoblyns (Peta Mason)

So we re-meet of Sam (and remember his disappointment over Emma) and again Drake, now presented as downright depressed and [from Demelza's standpoint I guess] obsessively unable to forget Morwenna.

I suppose it’s here the conventional reader would surmise they (Morwenna and Drake must get together) for a happy ending is what is often expected; I now know they do (from a give-away sentence in Graham’s Memoirs of a Private Man). My experience of the book was not at all lessened to know this; rather I read less anxiously and did need not worry Drake will make an irretrievable match that will hurt him or Rosina or Morwenna will be put away into a ruel asylum by Whitworth

Then Demelza sees a horseman on the horizon, and says to herself, of course it can’t be (would Ross not have written, sent word), but of course it is. With the evening light behind her, she begins to recognize him (as we do from ways of walking, shapes) and “she began to run down the hill, shoes scuffling on the rough track, hair flying to meet him.”

Chapter 2 is the contrast: Morwenna, Whitworth’s wife waiting there for him with some snack. It’s here Whitworth first clearly formulates in his mind his plan to put her away and thinks about how he can’t get the doctor (Behenna) to agree to sign the certificate. She’s not mad, but will not go to bed with him, and in his thoughts he presents as fantasy her idea he had an affair with her sister, Rowena. But then interwoven is a letter to him from said Rowena, and we see her lying conniving mind asking him to come to her for two books of his so we know Morwenna making up none of it.

In mini-series she is much softened: here Rowella (Julie Dawn Cole) is the night Solway (Stephen Reynolds) finally catches her with Whitworth

Then the narrative moves to George and Elizabeth, George having pushed Elizabeth into too elaborate a dinner for Sir Christopher Hawkins, MP; George has not given up trying again for a place in parliament; now he has decided he will get it by spending huge amounts of money. He will bribe everyone whatever way is necessary. At dinner, he points to his large income, and we hear a (to me ugly) discussion conjuring up the realities of Cornish elections.

Throughout the novels there are little details which keep half-exonerating Elizabeth as a personality: she did not want to have this overdone kind of dinner, knew better. In Rowella’s letter to her we see that she receives Rowella though Rowella has married supposedly meanly (Solway is a librarian, originally from very poor people). We see Elizabeth has a heart and (could think) had she married better (a decenter man, Ross) then would have been better, but then she would not marry Ross, would she? Much depth here, and I admire especially how Elizabeth’s character is glimpsed.

Chapter 3 we turn back to Ross and Demelza at home, talking over his food.

We see that Graham is emphasizing the strain, the disillusion and inability of Ross and Demelza “to exorcise the ghosts” of their lives together. Has no one tried to creep into her bed since he’s been away; she says (slightly ironic) of his assertion he’s had no women: “It seems you’ve been a monk” during the near year he was away in London.

Later in the evening Jane Gimlett [a servant not brought into the films] came in to take away the supper things and they moved into the old parlour, which looked and smelt the same to Ross as it had done since childhood. He noted, however, the re-covered chair, the two new vases, with flowers in them: bluebells, tulips, wallflowers. In those years when Demelza had been growing out of servitude and childhood to become his companion and then his wife, almost the first evidence of the changing relationship had been the appearance of flowers in this room. He remem­bered with great vividness the day after he had first slept with her Elizabeth had called, and Demelza had come in in the middle of the conversation, barelegged, rough clothed, unkempt, with a sheaf of bluebells on her arm. And she had offered them to Elizabeth, and Elizabeth, probably I sensing something, had refused them. She had said they would fade on the way home. And after she had gone Demelza had come to sit at his feet, an instinctive movement as it were to claim him. Well, life had changed a little since then. Demelza had changed since then (p. 36)

For a start she’s thinner.

He then visits his mine in the morning dawn and goes down with a hard hat and candle; we get deep landscape, geography, some economics and his mind returns to his private obsessions: “He went out and stood listening to the sleepy chirp Somewhere up the lane” … much about farm, sea, the white air, the tide, the beach (nut trees, pigs).

It was not yet far out. The trivial event, of course, for God’s sake: he had resumed intercourse with his wife, for God’s sake. Fit subject for ribald dialogue in one of the fashionable plays in London. Yet it hadn’t quite turned out as expected. What would one would have expected despite his brave words, perhaps the casual. Or perhaps the fiercely resentful, a claiming of a right long since in abeyance or gone and nearly lost. But in the event it had never progressed beyond the tender. Somehow a much-derided emotion had got in the way and turned it , all to kindness. Whatever happened now, however they met today, or tomorrow, in whatever form constraint or hurt or injury or resentment reared its head, he must remember that. As she would, he knew. If only one could altogether exorcise the ghosts. When he got back to the house all were still sleeping (p. 42)

I particularly like how he regards the sex that went on between him & Demelza. One sees this adult or disillusioned and relaxed attitude towards sex in the Memoirs of a Private Man too.

The third part of the chapter brings us back to the couple talking again, now about politics in parliament. Ross (Graham himself) is alive to the reactionary nature of all Wilberforce’s stances and bills except in the area of abolition. It appears that Ross spoke in the house against the hundred of crime for which a person could be hung, tried to jolt them into seeing the analogy between slavery and the use of children in the mines. He was called to order, was not much appreciated (had a “cold nod” from Wilberforce). Falmouth (Ross’s patron) was not surprised (and has not attempted to influence his candidate — we are to surmise because Falmouth knows he won’t get anywhere); Falmouth has had Ross into dine and he’s met with some exiles (a Cornish club) but from this little vignette we see why Ross returned home early.

Book One, Chapters 4 – 8:

Demelza has Drake come to Nampara in an effort to get him to speak of his depression, and see Rosina and he could make a go of it.

Drake Carne (Kevin McNally) in the first days at his forge

Drake tells her to leave him be (nicely). Ross and Demelza converse over this and Ross says he has seen Geoffrey Charles in London and Geoffrey has changed a lot, he’s Francis Poldark reincarnated and this is not a character Drake can understand (Bk 1, ch 4, pp. 49-56).

A brief natural pleasant yet uncomfortable encounter of Drake and Rosina: he is too willing to help her, she says she’s not a cripple (pp. 57-8)

The vile Ossie’s adventures continue: we see him sidle up to Pearce and discover that Pearce has been speculating with money not his own. That might include Ross’s, and also George’s. I’m coming to see bankers have ever been near crooks; that’s why they put up such a solemn heavy established ethical look. Then Whitworth’s with Dr Behenna insinuating he wants Behenna to put Morwenna away. Behenna punts but does not refuse (Bk 1, Ch 4, pp. 59-69).

This is the sort of anxiety Graham’s good at and is picked up by the film. We like Morwenna and fear for her; we see a possible mismatch for Drake on the way.

Book 1, Chapter 5: politics & money: George, Cary and Nicholas Warleggan talking of the enormous sums George taking out of the business to buy himself a borough. George plans to pressure St John Peter whose aristocratic spendthrift ways George has been using to make someone beholden to him:

The film includes the scene of pressuring: George (Ralph Bates), Nicholas (Alan Tivern), Peters (?Eric Dodson)

Then Elizabeth and her mother-in-law, Mary who is still not comfortable with this upper class but decent woman; Elizabeth proposes to visit her cousin, and who should be coming out of Rowella’s house but Whitworth.

Book 1 Chapter 6: an effective set of vignettes: Ross riding with Dwight (conversation referred to above); he feels responsibility for this marriage

And then Ross with his banker, Pascoe once again (they are a pair supporting one another since Ross Poldark, Poldark Novel 1). Pascoe and they talk of expenditures and George’s doings and buying people, a threat. Pascoe’s bank not invulnerable (pp. 83-92). I just love Enys’s voice; he’s another aspect of Graham, the “born pessimist” and sceptical as reading man, sensitive, doctor.

Book 1, Chapter 7: Drake’s visitors, Sam and then Geoffrey Charles. We see the distance that has grown between Drake and Geoffrey Charles and the difference that simply exists between Sam and Drake. Graham’s characters are persuasive because they are so particularized and left flexible. Sam still would take Emma (but not she him); again Rosina proposed to Drake, and now Drake says he cannot as long as Morwenna “in hell.”

The meeting between Geoffrey Charles shows his wanting a mistress and talking of these woman as things (Drake does not like) and casual attitude toward life of Francis; makes Drake uncomfortable and yet the two get along too for at the end Geoffrey Charles expresses deep appreciation of real friendship, loyalty, not the shallow semi-dysfunctional sort that passes for most people’s experience (pp. 93-104)

Chapter 7: A wonderful debunking characterization of Napoleon and Nelson is accompanied by an (uncharacteristic) plumping for an unknown general Graham apparently thought well of: General Hoche.

An important scene: Enys does defy Caroline’s line of demarcation (Caroline says Enys should limit his practice to those living nearby and do it for less hours). Enys comes to see Whitworth and talk to Mowenna. He refuses to sign a certificate putting her away. Without him, Behenna doesn’t have the unscrupulous nature to do it, and is probably worried abuot losing his reputation. Women were some of his patients too (including Elizabeth Warleggan be it not forgotten and she has sense and a kind of integrity). Enys concedes Whitworth’s sudden mention that his wife will not have sex with him, but says he’s the kind of man who if a husband cannot get his wife to love him, thinks the man has to leave her be.

This drives Whitworth back to Rowella’s body and she makes room for his visits on Thursday night when her husband visits his relatives. Soon he is giving Rowella 20 pounds and it’s this money we see also that provides a motive for Rowella. Her character is kept from us — we only see her as Whitworth does, a Lilith, a tease, someone who rouses him but he would be easily turned to call a witch and hurt irreparably, or from Morwenna, angry, indignant. He now thinks to hire a governess for his boy and thus call Morwenna’s bluff: she still refuses him based on her vow to kill the son.

And a scene of net fishing: home now and much relieved, Ross enters into the life of the household and community. There is an article about Graham’s sense of humor in the Poldarks which is called odd. An instance here: Ross and Demelza’s 3 year old son feeds the pigs grounds from beer making and they get drunk and sick and when Sir Hugh Bodrugan comes over for one of his usual attempts to grope Demelza we get a oddly funny scene of these pigs suffering and stumbling about. Ross and Demelza in a kind of truce: Graham says they are a couple who do not get on one another’s nerves; there might be a war, but there will be no skirmishes.

Then net-fishing: the shore, the cliffs, rooted in the place.

Book One, Chapters 9-10: The Trenwith party, mining disaster, Sam’s’ heroism and grief: Emma’s letter

The dinner party: Caroline (Judy Geeson) comfortable with Adderley (Malcolm Tierney), Dwight (Michael Cadman) not so, standing by

Chapter 9 swirls around a huge extravagant dinner party George insists on having: Elizabeth would have had something far more modest; but he is spending his way into parliament and one important part of this spending is the elegant dinner, dancing, time in a landscape, sleeping at an ancient estate he can offer – where you meet other middling to powerful people too. We get semi-ironic portraits of the individuals who come. Among them a new character: Monk Adderley: he seems at first a mild, courteous gentleman, but he has served in China and India 8 years, and became a duellist, was discharged (partly as a murderer), his reason has affected — like Tholly Tregirls, a wild man, an outsider (sociopath who nonetheless fits in) in disguise

Then the focus turns to outside the house, in the landscape: Ross cannot resist coming over to the landscape to see what was once his house. He does feel the loss.

Ross (Robin Ellis) as outsider looking in from window on terrace

What has been happening with Aunt Agatha’s grave. He comes up to Elizabeth who is walking outside, and while she is at first put off, she eventually registers concern about her sons. They discuss Geoffrey Charles as another Francis, he asks after Valentine which upsets her; she wishes she had not spoken so truthfully to him before. (She the sort of woman who survives high by her silences.)

Then to them Monk Adderley who says he thought at first Ross was a “threadbare troubadour who had come to sing outside our windows .. and was being dismissed without his proper pourboire.” Monk asks Ross is he’s Falmouth’s man, and Ross says “no one owns me,” and they will meet another time.

Ross reaches home and again strained talk with Demelza as he tells her of his meeting with Elizabeth. She of course knows he and she are “left out” of these social functions — and he out of Trenwith. Nonetheless, he should not risk himself. They speak of Hoblyn and especially his daughter as a possible wife for Drake. Ross then looks at Demelza and asks if he and she have “failed each other,” and the narrator as Demelza (third person indirect) says this should not have been so said.

Chapter 10: a near disaster, a flood, going too deep into the mine, Sam the hero this time and then Ross, as they rescue the men from a mine disaster. The focus on Sam allows for a return to Emma in the narrator’s mind and the chapter is brought to a moving close when Sam receives a badly spelt letter from Emma telling Sam of her coming marriage. He takes it off to read alone. Sam cries noisily we are told, the comic note deepening the feel.

The male idealism theme: the man of integrity idealizes the sexual relationship. The letter from Emma rejecting Sam finally. Emma we are told at the opening of the chapter cannot read, and her letter is a cross between near illiteracy and eloquence — not very probable I suppose :). Then the Daniels family characterized: Beth, Ena, the Hoskins who lost a man to the state’s determination to make an example (hanging) in the previous book, an event felt as sinister and shameful by Ross. This is Sam’s world still. His real sense of loss.

Book Two, Chapters 1-13

The opening of Chapter 1 re-situates us feeling-fully in the geology and climate of mines, land, and the feel of life in Cornwall from Ross’s rooted perspective. He can’t get himself to return to London and says Falmouth will not mind. They discuss Sam’s loss of Emma and Demelza blames herself for not trying to encourage it (we see her encouragement doesn’t always help) but then we hear of Sarah’s sickness. Ross knows how frail her heart is and goes over, and yes, she’s dying.

Chapter 2 opens on George’s new maneuverings over Pearce and includes Elizabeth’s awareness that something is wrong with the Whitworth household where no nurse ever stays for long, and something not well with Morwenna.

On the mini-series (Season 2, Part 11), Elizabeth (Jill Townsend) visits Morwenna (Jane Wymark) but cannot fathom this situation

Graham then presents Caroline telling Dwight she’s leaving him for a while. Well to me, this is not a persuasive chapter. I don’t feel the inner life of the woman who makes such a decision is brought before us. There have been hints sex is not all that great between them, but this is not brought up and it’s never explained. There is in fact little explanation except she thinks this will be good for them — he doesn’t. I suggest he’s shying away from presenting women’s sexuality and Caroline’s graphic desires and frustration. Yes she’s aware that she’s in the way of Dwight following his profiession, how it will kill him to leave those patients she’s permitted him to have, that Dwight has been bored with their socializing but the break is coming out of more than that.

(I know that Graham did write frankly and radically of women’s sexuality in his mysteries, for example, Marnie. I will be reading (and perhaps post too) Graham’s Marnie and also see the movie and read an excellent film study — it was a success d’estime and a financial flop, in this resembling The OxBow Incident).

We are back to a broader view of the political world (Napoleon, Bonaparte’s wife, Nelson’s) an Dwight spends Christmas at Nampara. Christmas time includes a visit from Verity, now (we are told) this happy woman — the formula for happiness here is “marriage to the good man,” and in her case lucking in because her stepson is a courteous intelligent younger (uncomplicated as yet because for example he never murdered a woman — which little detail Graham does sometimes forget about Blamey) version of the husband.

Verity has before functioned as Ross’s good companion, the de-sexed relationship which allows him to speak fully and as someone who is endlessly sympathetic. It is to her he acknowledges that he is an “uncomfortable” person to live with, that he cannot or does not have ‘all the control over your feelings that you should have — and then thoughts and feeling surge up in you like — an angry tide. And it is hard, sometimes it is hard to control the tide.” That his Che Guevara self, the rebel is more than a matter of principle we’ve seen repeatedly (as in the rape of Elizabeth, in the looting of the ships on that beach — it happens again in this novel and again Ross condons it, only this time has the control not to join in so paradoxically the people get to bring home more with less fuss). Demelza Verity says sees through ‘the dark part’

Then one of these neutral letters from Caroline (Chapter 3), now living in London to which Ross is headed. In Four Swans she was the least seen of the four women (except for Verity — a fifth I suppose) and this letter is oddly flat (pp. 204-5). It has a sexual frisson: her life in London “lacks a dimension of Realty” she misses. She describes her social life as dysfunctional superficies — an outlook which matches Ross’s. She’s waiting for him.

I was going to say the odd thing about the book’s presentation of Caroline Penvenen is how little she is onstage. She is presented through her letters, and we see a lot more of Ross talking to Dwight than Ross to Caroline. (The film is quite different here, bringing her forward at every opportunity — the gay lady of Restoration comedy updated and made sentimental was thought to be attractive.)

Now Ross is off in London and does not write very much. So we are left to Demelza as central consciousness and her doings for Drake. He is at last persuaded by time, his loneliness, need, and Rosina Hoblyn’s high merit and kindness to marry her. A touching scene between Drake and Rosina where Drake tells Rosina of his love for Morwenna and why he’s willing to marry Rosina, and her quick yes anyway; their visit to her parents and mother’s delight and father’s chip-on-the-shoulder stupdity and tactlessness (is she pregnant is his implication?).

Then Drake and Demelza: she is told of his decision, and they talk of marrying without intense love, for he will tell Rosina the truth and asks his sister how it was with her marriage originally and how their relationship is today, and she replies:

‘No man should marry a girl just because she’s suitable, still less because she’d make someone a nice sister-in-law. It is your life, brother. And marriages, once undertaken, are not to be dissolved. Only … I want you to be happy, not lonely and alone. It would be good to have someone to work with and someone to work for. I don’t want you to get set in loneliness. And sometimes ­love grows.’
He got up and went to the smaller window, peered out. ‘Did it with you, Demelza? I’ve often thought but never wished to ask.’
The question brought a tightness to her breast. ‘No. It was with me always. But not with Ross. It grew with Ross ­over the years. He did not love me when he married me. But it grew so over the years’ (p. 211)

We know that she did not join Ross because he invited her to come based on Caroline’s longing for her (she said) and that she had seen that in his letters he does not he talk of coming to get Demelza to join him, nor say that next fall she will join him (as she offered to before she left).

The next chapter (4) opens with Whitworth having finally hired a nurse who will guard his son and his immdiate going to his wife the first Monday night (he picks twice a week) and demanding and wresting sex from her.

Marital rape of Morwenna (Jane Wymark) by Whitworth (discreetly dramatized in films)

Horrible horrible. This time she submits more quietly than she did the first, but it’s noticeable she stops all her public charities and starts to look worse once again.

Chapter 4 moves us into character we’ve heard of but no met: Arthur Solway. A strong portrait of this highly intelligent poor boy made good by schooling, education and then the chance offer of a job as a librarian. It’s a powerful realistic portrait of the level of people above the Cranes and below the gentry. We see him in his astonishment that Rowella Chynoweth wanted to marry him, how much he disliked the pressure she put on him to negotiate a bigger dowry with her vicar brother-in-law, Osborne Whitworth, and now how on the one hand he is so delighted to be doing so well (a small note is again made on Elizabeth’s behalf, while the mother-in-law does not pay attention to Solway, Elizabeth is polite, gracious, decent to him).

Yet a nervousness is gotten across, and we see the strained home he came from on Thursday nights when he goes there. It’s Thursday night Osborne visits Rowella.
Solway has gone to visit his family and his sister has an epileptic fit and he returns early to tell Rowella he will be much later when he comes home finally and sees the tracks of a large footprint in the snow, and suddenly knows — as he has half-known something was wrong. There had been these sudden sums of money and lovely things in the house he couldn’t account for. He climbs up to peep in the window and sees his wife in postures he never saw her before naked with a large naked man over her. He falls back sickened.

Chapter 5: The old man Cary Warleggan rides over to John St Peter to demand payment of loans. Warleggan is despised by St Peter at heart (for St Peter is gentry) and he is distressed to have these loans asked in. No hunting now, his wife’s dowry was the collateral and apparently the bank is starting to be without funds.

Ossie so happy to dominate Morwenna at last — sickening this, and his not being able to resist one last Thursday night. His selfish abhorrent ways of thought. How he kisses Rowella and arouses her suspicions. She now wants money for the roof; we know he won’t be able to rid himself of her as he thinks. Her story her husband suddenly behaving strangely and sick. This worries him as he doesn’t want to catch it; it’s also a subconscious worry.

And then the scene of Whitworth riding home, a sudden ferocious attack, and his seeing Solway and realizing why We experience Solway’s mistaken killing of Whitworth. Whitworth fights back but he falls from his horse and breaks his head.

Solway’s story is anticipated by that of Mark Daniel Demelza (Poldark Novel 2) . This is a male fiction kind of story and reminds me of how men will write of false accusations of rape (uncommon in reality as women suffer from accusations of rape themselves). Graham does write of men beating their wive to death, of murdering them (high rate) and murdering the lover.

Solway murdering Whitworth

Events come to a crashing disaster for several of our characters: as one might expect told of the death (murder as we know) of Osborne Whitworth, Morwenna does not bounce back: she becomes more hysterical, goes deeper into her depressive state and is treated with barely minimal respect by Whitworth’s mother.

Drake, hearing of the death of Whitworth, cannot get himself to go through with his marriage to Rosina, and the night before it’s set to happen, he visits Rosina telling her. A powerful sequence.

Drake tells Rosina

The funeral is terrible somehow with Elizabeth looking very bad (she knows it was her doing, her complicity).

In the film George looks grimmer than Elizabeth

Rowella does not come, and the narrator tells us, her enraged husband had gone home to beat her up too and she is keeping out of sight. Garlanda is there. Morwenna says herself: “I don’t exist any longer. Nothing of me — it’s all gone – mind — body — soul, even … “she goes on to compare herself to death, “ashes, dust, sand, dirt, blood, semena, urine, pus, excrement, ordure” (p. 263). To me she is a Clarissa figure (as in Richardson’s 18th century novel); had Clarissa not died and yielded to coercion. Nightly rapes don’t do anyone any good; the complete lack of integrity or decent feeling she had to live with were too much for her.

Drake then goes straight to Morwenna who cannot bear the sight of him — or perhaps at this point any man. He flees and seems to live on the landscape but comes to himself and returns to his shop, to find Sam waiting for him and the shop burnt to the ground. Who destroyed we do not know — as the characters have no idea as yet that Whitworth was murdered (though the incident feels suspicious and not sufficiently explained when a heavy stick is found). We may guess it was Jacka Hoblyn, Rosina’s father. But we do not know. Sam is there waiting for Drake and takes him back to Reath Cottage where they first set up home together. Beauty of Sam’s character: “Come along, old love …” I’ll give ee a helping hand …” (p 287)

The fineness of Rosina’s character is seen in her first conversation with Demelza who after all did engineer this match. Rosina is not bitter nor does she want revenge, although this is the second time this crippled girl has lost a bethrothed. She does say to Demelza — and we know this to be true — that had Drake married her, he “would never’ve left me. I know that.” The parallel with Ross and Demelza is clear: Ross married Demelza without loving her and now will never leave her (p. 278). We are to feel that in a way it’s sad that Drake did not marry her — for her sake and perhaps his.

And then the bank is threatened, with Demelza alone to cope. She does cope. The money the company had made and intended to pay the men with she puts in the bank to try to rescue it from going under, so now they have nothing left. It was brought down by Cary Warleggan calling in loans and that ultimately by George.

Ross comes home and we get this intense passionate conversation between Demelza and Ross as they reface the same destitution they once knew. He is characterized as “furious” before he arrives (his temperament from his time in London and then the frustrations of the trip) but calms down and admires what Demelza has done. When he first arrives, he is aware of how she removes her cheek from him when he goes to kiss her, but as he talks and (among other things) tells of how he has told his landlady to prepare for her coming, she too begins to enter into the reality of their mutual sustaining respect, affection relationship.

Ross then sets to work (Chapters 11-12) and shows himself extremely capable, having matured and learnt a lot: he manages to renegotiate moneys to save Pascoe’s bank (using his patron, Basset’s money and influence in part) and himself becomes a banker in the enterprise and opens his mines again.

The day the new hospital is opened Elizabeth knows she is with child again (Chapter 13). There is a dinner party where Elizabeth’s pregnancy leads her to faint and thus she cannot (as she had hoped) fool George Warleggan into thinking a 9 month baby is an 8th month again as she must confess to her pregnancy earlier than she had hoped. Ross thinks of how no one tries to prevent distress. 3 Chynoweth women: Elizabeth, Rowella, Morwenna. Conversation overheard about misery of Catholics. Ross has a direct conflict with George calling him a liar and outlining how he undermined the bank — a parallel to today’s banks too here.
Late June.

Ends on Ross a member of the newly formed bank on July 1, 1799: of Pascoe, Bassett, with a list of partners, one of whom is Ross Poldark. Not money but character is what he contributed.

I hope I’ve discussed the chapters in ways sufficient to indicate the themes and depth of feeling. Among other things, this novelist shows how all human beings are intertwined, and how socially no one lives alone, and how we can as a group be destroyed by a single horror who gets in power and how a person can be destroyed by the group. People’s moral natures matter. What they do matters, small things amid the larger social structures matter. This is not sceptical or nihilistic fiction.


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