A silver loving cup
Dear friends and readers,
The central riveting incident of this effective novel is the weakened Demelza’s journey down a dangerous mine to find and destroy the evidence of her son’s robbery (see The Miller’s Dance) of a huge sum and treasure trove of objects from the Warleggan bank with the help of Stephen Carrington (the stranger from the sea who in The Loving Cup will marry Clowance), and Paul Fellowes, a friend who shows himself an adept in dressing up like and imitating a woman.
As in previous blogs on Graham’s later novels because there has been no film adaptation from them, I take stills from the Poldark series and reproductions of appropriately felt paintings to evoke atmosphere or reinforce themes.
Kevin McNally as Drake Carne grieving still over the loss of Morwenna, unable to marry Maryann the woman he has engaged himself to (from Poldark, 1977-78, Season 2, Part 11)
The Loving Cup, Book 1, Chapters 1-5
I began this tenth Poldark novel last night and as with them all, just fell into it. I’m hoping I’ll like it as much as I did the early books because now at long last Elizabeth and Francis Poldark’s son, Geoffrey Charles, one of the characters from the earlier books, is central: the son of Francis (the alcoholic suicidal man, played so brilliantly by Clive Francis) and Elizabeth (frail finally, destroyed by the cage she let people put her into and then could not escape from the bully, George and possessive Ross, played spot on by Jill Townsend) comes to the fore. I did manage to engage with the “next generation” in the last book: the grown or young adult son and daughter of Ross and Demelza, Jeremy and Clowance.
I glance at what happens to Clowance (by mistake): in Graham’s final Poldark novel, Bella, one Graham knew he was writing eleven years after all the others, he worried lest his readership forgot what had happened and filled them in, so now I know that Clowance does marry the “stranger from the sea,” Stephen Carrington, but also is widowed and Jeremy dies at Waterloo. What interests me is how in this later generation, the characters remain alone, they do not marry, for good or ill: in this way Graham makes them reflect our own displaced worlds of the 1990s. Traditional marriage, conflicted or not is apparently no longer a viable metaphor. Knowing this ending makes me want to read on all the more.
A few notes: historically the central son, Jeremy, now of age, is involved in science and technology from The Miller’s Dance on. He is trying to invent a steam powered machine which will drain his father’s mine efficiently; the principle is the same as others are working on to make a horseless carriage. There were attempts in the 18th century to cope with such problems and we find Jeremy getting letters, reading periodicals. Miller’s Dance opened with parts of Jeremy’s machinery hauled up (painfully) into the mine; towards the close Jeremy was forced to see his material could not stand the pressure of the boilers. He’s trying again.
The Spanish or peninsula war from which Geoffrey Charles has returned with a Spanish wife. In my experience many leftist writers were deeply involved in the 1930s Spanish Civil war — like Orwell, and I’ve found that novels written in the 1940s and 50s will set events in that war. Graham’s unusual setting and visualizing, dramatizing of this peninsular war comes out of this interest.
We have some recurrent patterns in Graham’s fiction: the revenant who returns to the house in ruins was Ross Poldark in the first novel of the series; it’s now Geoffrey Charles at Trenwith. The man who has strongly amoral impulses, again Ross in the first series, controlled by his social patriarchal norms and his Jacobin ideals is reinvented in Stephen Carrington who is reactionary by instinct, as well as promiscuous, a liar, capable of remorseless murder, attracted to crippled vulnerable women, yet wants Clowance (perhaps status symbol).. The attraction that Clowance feels for him part of this myth that Graham buys into that woman can be allured by criminal amoral types (see in Marnie). At the same time a high level of violence by men inflicted on women is seen throughout the series.
An old man, Clement Pope, in the previous book, inflicted violence on his young wife and daughters from another marriage; Loving Cup opens with the young wife, Selina, falling from her horse and helped by Jeremy by (very like Willoughby in Austen’s S&S or Frank Churchill with Harriet in Emma) is carried home. Much more thoroughly realized; she’s heavy and hard to carry. The husband is vile and brutal, but also dying; Enys is called and a medical scene ensues, he dies cursing his wife. But she is now free and attracted to Jeremy and he to her. (We do not know why husband has cursed her; clues planted in The Miller’s Dance point to Valenine as well and it turns out her lover that night the old man’s heart failed was Valentine.)
A dinner party. Enys would like to travel with a group of scientists including Humphry Davies (yes marquee characters have begun to appear since Stranger from the Sea), but Caroline is stopping him.
Characters brought back: Ross is still evidencing wanderlust, Demelza weaker than she used to be with the birth of yet another child (now in her 40s), Caroline the witty gay lady at dinner has a counterpart in the forceful Lady Harriet Lee whom George Warleggan has discovered he cannot bully, cannot even force sex on. We are told Morwenna and Drake will be visiting Geoffrey Charles and Amadora — the attitudes towards Catholics in the era brought out.
The Loving Cup, Book 1, Chapters 6-11
What we have is a slow build up of characters, especially Geoffrey Charles interacting with his various relatives. As he and his new Catholic Portuguese wife go to visit others and are visited, we have a natural seeming way to re-introduce everyone under this new light a couple of years since.
At long last Drake and Morwenna come on stage, and I can now see why Graham kept them off in part. Drake is presented as genuinely working class, lower and not educated — so he was in the earlier books and now that he’s not a central refuge for a story of coerced marriage and marital cruelty, rape and betrayal, his character is not one with much conversation. Morwenna is presented as not recovered (how could she for real), however, making a tremendous effort to join in. Were Graham writing an inward narrative of these two, there would be much to delve in their lives and psyches but he does distance himself from too much inward pain. It’s only part of his landscape — and what is most disquieting while there and never denied or slid over is not central but at the margins of his books.
Other characters re-emerging are Demelza who is again presented as having this warm relationship with all her children (an ideal), especially perhaps the son Jeremy. His visit to someone who is an inventor, lower class, to discuss his machine. Clowance and Amadora on the difficulties of integration. Bella is part of a conventional plot as a tomboy who pounds on the piano.
And we see Valentine again, again a lady’s man, again venal and apparently amoral, stubborn for what he wants, trying to get up a gambling table with Stephen Carrington. He shows nothing I’d call affection for the man he assumes is his father
The story element must also unfold. Warrants are out for the arrest of those who stole a huge sum from a coach; that’s Jeremy, Paul Kellows and Stephen Carrington — who returns to the story’s stage too. The three young men argue how should they use the money; Jeremy is most unwilling to spend his (it seems), but when he goes to dinner with Clowance to Trenwith he questions Geoffrey Charles on what is the life of a military man. This gives Graham a chance to present a realistic picture of this corrupt service where basically it seems rich people became officers on their own expensive until they won prizes or got plum offices. For Geoffrey Charles it’s been an escape from over-protective harrowed mother and cold brutal step-father.
Loving Cup Book 1, Chapters 7-15
Book 1 culminates in the evening party Geoffrey Charles and Amadora give at Trenwith to all the people around the community, mostly upper class and middling are treated, but we see the working class ones too — not separated out in the upstairs/downstairs mode but see within the rooms living and talking (occasionally) interacting with one another and more tangentially as servants to the other characters.
It’s an effective bravura piece because Graham has now brought alive all his new characters, and brings back the most powerful of the older ones. It culminates in yet another clash between George Warleggan and Ross, this time as a result of an angry quarrel between Geoffrey Charles and his half-brother, Valentine: Valentine has not only treated Amadora in an insulting way (rakishly) but without first asking permission of his host, GC, brought to the party Morwenna’s son by her previous marriage, Conan Whitworth, the very sight of whom distresses her to the point she falls into a kind of shaking terror. He looks like her first husband and approaches her abrasively and aggressively. He too product of loveless childhood (GC when his mother dies, Valentine ditto).
Several other couples and individuals in the midst of the dinner party eating pieces, dancing pieces (which now include waltzing) provide us with high tension, conflict, and occasional comfort and ease. Jeremy is become aware of how much his continued chase of Cuby Trevanion is an obsession ruining everything else in his life, and we see her for the first time from Demelza’s eyes (who is tolerant of the coldness and materialism as well conventionality of the girl) and Ross (who is not). We see how Lady Harriet controls George and (quietly) humiliates him when, among several acts, she dances with Ross. The Blamey son is going bad because his character and instincts take him to follow after Valentine, not only a rake, but a gambler. This Andrew junior is not going off to take his place on a ship that night but becoming part of a renewed smuggling and illegal trade expedition of Stephen Carrington who continues to the haunt the edges of the book — and Clowance.
To me very touching is the depiction of Music Thomas, a disabled young man. With real insight and persuasion Graham has an autistic young man who is used by others, and loves the daughter of Jinny and Jim Carer, Katie (herself tall, clumsy, awkward, not valued by others). A painful scene where others laugh at him (and maybe we are supposed partly to see why they laugh). Ben Carter befriended and appreciated by Clowance. The servants are not forgotten.
Also an image: Elizabeth’s old spinning wheel in an old set-up withdrawing room, the one Morwenna retreats to before she encounters this son of hers. It’s sitting there looking so out of date and yet once useful. It somehow has her spirit in it. Touching haunting moment. (Begin a new book there.) Demelza says she was a good person who made a bad mistake in her second marriage. Yes. George looks at it for a moment, remembers her but as she did not this does not contain his uglier impulses.
The plot thickens as some of the money the three young men, Jeremy, Carrington and Fellowes stole on their expedition has turned up in George’s bank and he has traced it to Stephen. Stephen can have gotten this bill from someone else, but it’s a trail.
The shore from which seals may be glimpsed (from An Angry Tide)
The Loving Cup, Book 1, Chapter 17, Book 2, Chapter 1
These two chapters have much about the realities of trying to make a change-over in mining from human labor to effective machinery which drains water, digs and smelts — through the story of Jeremy Poldark’s attempts at making his machinery work. The Poldark mine will miss him as he has joined the military service and is headed for the Napoleonic wars because he cannot endure watching Cuby Trevanion marry the rich and well-connected man, whoever he is, that her brother chooses for her. There is an effective conversation between Jeremy and Ben Carter (son of Ross, son of the long dead Jim) over this mine and what a shame it is that Jeremy is leaving where he does some good.
As with Andrew Davies, the screenplay writer, Winston Graham is strongly anti-war, anti-false patriotism. Graham exposes the utterly corrupt system, how officers paid to be part of it (lack of any salary of course means it must be plums and patronage)
The Poldark women are left without Ross who has gone to London too and we see Clowance deal with an upper class decent intelligent suitor. It’s not easy to bring off a scene where there is nothing to ridicule, no obvious evils. She just doesn’t love Tom Guilford enough. The scene is set for a possible return of Carrington who with Andrew Blamey junior is sailing back and forth from Gibraltor with contraband goods.
Much on the war in central Europe where Jeremy is and reports from. Jeremy writes letters to his fellow inventors, to his family.
Finally, a touching scene between Drake and Morwenna who have returned to their boat building place. Geoffrey Charles wanted them to say on at Trenwith for when he returned and Drake would have liked to. It’s a fine old house and he could work from there, but Morwenna finds her memories of his place — where she was coerced into marriage too much. We are told of how she is still racked with bad dreams. Two years of marital rape are not slid over as nothing.
The title of the book comes from the robbery that closed The Miller’s Dance — the one George is at work to find the culprits for. Jeremy half as a prank and to take revenge on his father’s enemy, and the father of Valentine whom Cuby might marry, and Paul Fellows (dressed up as a woman) and Stephen Carrington stole a huge chest of money and expensive objects. These included a loving cup.
The Loving Cup, Book 2, Chapters 3-6
What happens in this powerful sequence of chapters is typhoid fever hits Stephen Carrington and Andrew Blamey’s contraband ships. A common occurrence when one went abroad as they are doing, back and forth down the Atlantic to Portugal, around the coast, back again. Blamey comes to tell Clowance in the midst of her parents’ summer party and she cannot leave Carrington abandoned. She is told he is calling for her. Graham writes a close up effective sequence of this man’s illness with her as a nurse, the washing of his body, his vomiting, all his spells and miseries. The two of them acnknowledge this bond during this process — well it’s there clearly and when he’s better, she weds him. Ross and Demelza do not stop her; she wants their approval and they come to the wedding and Stephen realizes he must keep their respect and alliance if he is to keep Clowance. She is not rebelling against these parents in her love but in a way confirming some of the non-materialistic values they have exemplified.
Ross has come home from London, and the mine is doing better once again. A couple of dialogues between him and Canning in London about politics, between him and Demelza again at home which dramatize the local felt life of the time. I just love the descriptions of the passing seasons, the houses, the whole feel of the slow movement of time and place and diurnal rhythms. Aging character like Zacky Martin.
As in a Scott novel, Jeremy comes home unexpectedly too and we get more conversations which are strongly critical of the way wars were conducted (expose it), of the flogging and whipping, the pressing, and especially the way soldiers were thrown away when done with. Jeremy will go back for a short time to fill out his obligation (as an officer he apparently did not have to) but says he must have lost perspective, and will not do this sort of thing to escape Cuby or anyone around him again.
The suspense is ratcheting up since George now has a card party to which he thinks (hopes) he has invited the suspects of the robbery. He has managed to find a man who was in the carriage and says he would recognize the two robbers not dressed up as women. This would be Jeremy and Stephen. He is being paid very well, but at the last moment comes later than George wanted. George did not want Harriet his wife (who seems out of sympathy with him – he married a cold amoral woman like him, really cold and amoral which Elizabeth was not) to know he was planning this exposure. She would despise him for his concern over the money, his spite, his theatrics.
I was that worried I peeked ahead and discovered that after all this man missed both Stephen and Jeremy. It’s a mark of fiction we care about when we are so anxious for our characters. George suspects different people by the way, not at all Jeremy (who he’d love to hang) and only tangentially Stephen. The money trail of what Stephen and Paul Fellowes have been spending is ambiguous.
John Constable’s Hampstead Heath, looking from Harrow at Sunset captures the feel of the landscape of the Graham’s novels very well
The LovingBook 2, Chapters 7-9
Larger world politics conveyed at a dinner Ross and Demelza go to, plus local doings over the economic effects these world politics have on local money, trade, land deals. We see these things in Graham’s fictions. He brings the past into the present this way too.
A chapter concentrating on Music Thomas: this is the disabled character — autistic I’d call him — his difficulties in life. Startling that Graham should attend to this a couple of decades before autistic awareness in the general population emerged — at least in the US.
Fiercely hating George Warleggan (Ralph Bates)
Book 2, Chapter 10, Book 3, Chapter 1: another father and son
A powerful clash between George Warleggan and the young man he has told himself must be his son — since Elizabeth’s death — Valentine Warleggan. George is insisting that Valentine set the date for the coming marriage to Cuby Trevanion and Valentine doing all he can to resist his father. At last Valentine is driven to confess he’s married already: to Mrs Selina Pope. It was Valentine who was in Mrs Pope’s bedroom when the old man came upon her and a lover and keeled over and later died.
We were led to suppose it might have been Jeremy Poldark, but I knew it was out of his character and Graham wants us partly to know that — although as in this happening life is serendipitous and we never know what is going to happen next. Unexpected things do.
Graham does not literally dramatize the clash, just says things were said between them which would not be forgotten. We are led to feel George may just disinherit this boy — except were he to do that he would have no son to inherit his property as there is little love between him and Elizabeth’s older son by Francis, Geoffrey Charles.
Some new elements which keep this reader reading. Suddenly we are shown a side of Valentine’s character which while it does not make him likable or moral, makes him a non-ogre. He lashes out at George: when did he ever love him? Valentine can pinpoint the time when George grew cold and we know it was then that Aunt Agatha poured the poison in George’s ears that Valentine was a 9 months baby and could not have been his. It was Geoffrey Charles who just about then spontaneously remarked how Valentine was the image of Ross Poldark.
I am so involved in this fiction I found myself berating myself for a time when I was harsh to a daughter whose very different harder nature I could not understand and feeling guilty. This is where Genlis gets to me too, for she talks of having such a daughter and claims to have turned it round by her methods. I know she didn’t by having read what that daughter wrote later in in life of her feelings about her mother.
And we are shown a side of George we’ve seen before. He misses Elizabeth. Harriet is no sympathizer, is as cold and amoral as George, married him as performatively as Elizabeth but as opposed to Harriet Elizabeth had much sweetness in her disposition, was docile and successfully taught to be submissive to her husband, to be conventional. He comes into a room she inhabited where that spinning wheel still is. This leads to ambiguous feelings. He has sworn never to distrust that Valentine is his son and he wants to keep that up to keep up his love for Elizabeth but the strong memories of what it was at the same time renew the old worm of intense jealousy. This is George regretting his loss of Elizabeth:
Sometimes he fancied he saw her still, heard her; she had a particular step, like no one else’s. Doors creaked, floorboards as if some weight had passed over them. It was a long time now; she was long since bones and dust; like his father and mother and hers … as he would soon be — morbid thoughts for a heavy afternoon. Must ignore them — brush them away. Cobwebs in the minds (p. 430)
How the “worms of doubt” have been re-aroused over Valentine now that they’ve quarreled so fiercely, how he allows them “freer reign” though he cannot rid himself of his guilt over his promise to Elizabeth to believe her “he had sworn he would never doubt again, and whatever the provocation he must try to keep his oath” (p. 431).
Harriet his new wife has “amusement in her eyes” as she watches his losses: “Humiliation was something he never could endure” (p. 431)
Have I said there is no close understanding between Jeremy and Ross? (These novels a study of real next generation.) They are not longer hostile and Ross is trying to understand a nature different from his. Jeremy keeps his distance, to Ross’s resentment. Jeremy’s one confidante is Demelza who calls him (and her other children) “my lover”.
Ross (Robin Ellis) estranged, holding himself apart (Part 11): he also in a believable grip of memory
Loving Cup, Bk 3, Chs 1-2: slowly accumulating memories
We have gone back four and five books here and then moved forward suddenly.
Then we turn to Ben Carter, the minimally educated son of Jim and Jinny (whose story is told in Books 1 and 2, Ross Poldark; Demelza), now rejected forever by Clowance, “a loner all his life, a man who preferred his own company to anyone else’s — or almost anyone else’s — His desire to “return to the lonely, carefree un-responsible life he had known of old” before he was promoted by Jeremy. He now had to “manage” others’ time, work within this system … a walk along the beach and memories accumulating from the past three novels (Stranger from the Sea, Miller’s Dance); this is how this fiction moves, is built up … As I say its equivalent in the film series is the slow pace of the theme songs, quiet of the background to sudden conflict, physical and adventurous.
Demelza (Angharad Rees) realizing the cost of holding her own in London society
Book 3, Chapters 2-4: Demelza’s courage
During his walk along the beach, Ben encounters Demelza and tells her something of what he came across in the lower levels of the mine. Three sacks, each labeled J, S. and P and he produces a seal he found in one: it’s a seal of the Warleggan bank. She begins to suspect that the clipped out newspaper article she came across a while back in Jeremy’s drawer about this armed robbery of a coach was her son, Stephen Carrington and someone else: Paul Fellowes might come to mind. However, we can’t tell since the text does not make her suspicion explicit.
Instead late that night Ross returns from a meeting over his mining, very late, and finds Demelza very drunk. He explodes with disgust. This enables the narrator to shape the narrative to point out how unfair this is: men are not confronted with disgust in this way. It’s a familyi joke that Demelza likes port and he’s seen her overdrink before, but not like this. It’s clear she’s also depressed and he begins to think something specific has happened to upset her. By dialogue he sees that something has but she will not tell.
He takes her to bed and tries to extract a promise she will not do this again or extract what happened. Neither gets much from her. His trip to London calls him of necessity away. We then get this strong chapter where she gets up early, brings dirty clothes and climbs deep into the mine herself. It’s very dangerous there. The ladder is in poor condition; the young men chose a place hardly gone to. Francis drowned in such a place. We ‘ve seen people have accidents. Ben going down suggests his depression and half suicidal thoughts. But Demelza is not suicidal. She gets down and finds the sacks, goes through two empty ones and finds notes galore in J’s (Jeremy) She burns everything but one silver cup she thinks particularly beautiful. Very dangerous. Then she has a helluva time climbing back up. At one point the ladder detaches from the wall and she is swinging a couple of thousand miles high from the bottom. She almost does not make it.
You might say of course she does, she’s the heroine. But heroines are killed off in Graham – as are heroes. Anyway I was all anxiety as I read. She worries if she doesn’t make it she will call attention to the place and there is evidence of burning and perhaps something will be found.
Another thread I’m beginning to see: she has had a fifth child, Henry. Julia is now dead and there are three living: Jeremy, Clowance and Bella (Isabella-Rose). Henry is a late child, born 1812. We are told Demelza was born 1770 so that makes her 42 at his birth. Luckily he’s normal but we have been continually told she had a hard time giving birth .The month leading up to it she stayed home; she was weak for a long time afterward. What happens during this climb up and down is her weakness, a form of illness is part of why she almost falls.
I surmise that like Trollope who killed off the central heroine of the Palliser series on the first page of the last novel, so Graham is preparing us for Demelza’s death. He doesn’t offer details like this for nothing. Perhaps in Twisted Sword which was intended as the last novel and the last one for at least 10 years, but in the last two years of his life, Graham wrote one more, Bella. So like Trollpe’s last maybe that one focused wholly on the next generation.I’ve seen a number of parallels between the Pallisers and Poldark novels be brought out through the film adaptations.
Book 3, Chapters 5-8
At long last I find I can’t put down the book. I’ve not experienced this with a Graham Poldark novel since Angry Tide. I read on to go with Ross to London and see him offered a position in a clique to run the borough of Cornwall, wrest it from Warleggan and Tory hands, or go to France at the behest of Lord Liverpool to in effect be a spy on what’s happening in Paris. By the end of the chapters it looks like he will take neither option. Selina Warleggan confronts the reality of Valentine: he tells her that he married her for her money and will now use her as he pleases. It’s not quite convincing in that it’s not nasty or awful enough and by contrast he told the man he thinks is his father, George, that he married for love. And he lost a lot of money and estates probably by marrying her: in Retif de la Bretonne’s Ingenue Saxancour, when the husband similarly tells the wife he means to do as he pleases in the marriage and is himself disposed to be violent, and do what he wants, the text slithers with fear, menace, startled horror. Here it’s calmer, but then Valentine is only telling, not as yet acting on it. He has certainly married Selina partly for her money — to escape his putative father.
Two chapters of confidences: Ross to Demelza, Demelza and Jeremy and then Jeremy and Ross. Jeremy comes home for Christmas and now must return to Belgium, Brussels. Jeremy sees the cup on his mother’s mantelpiece and has gone to visit the place where the three sacks were, all is gone but some evidence of burning. He realizes his mother knows, was there, what she did. He cannot as yet bring himself to discuss it, and confide in the one person he has confided all his life. The moment ends with a kind of ominous utterance: Demelza tells him to speak before it’s too late.
(Having read in the introduction to Bella, the twelfth and last Poldark novel that Jeremy did die at Waterloo, I know these are foreshadowings.)
Then Jeremy and his father. Ross almost tells Jeremy that Valentine is his half-brother, but punts and instead (much to my discomfort) offers him the advice to force himself sexually on Cuby the night before he goes. Ross is thinking of how he forced himself on — raped as far as I can tell — Elizabeth, and the result was the permanent bond of Valentine. Valentine being such a shit it might suggest this coupling was evil. This is the first time Ross has spoken of this incident as a positive — he told George when Elizabeth died of trying to make Ursula’s birth appear an 8 months baby that they had both of them together killed her. . This is Ross’s response to Jeremy’s telling his father some people feel things deeply and they cannot rid themselves or change the feeling. This is how Drake is presented, and also Ross’s feeling for both Elizabeth and Demelza.
Jeremy is understandably startled and even more so when his mother endorses this advice
I stopped reading when Jeremy has gotten into the compound of the Trevanion mansion, climbed the roof and was about to enter Cuby’s bedroom. It’s a parallel of Ross entering Elizabeth’s.
This justification of this kind of coercive behavior is disturbing. It endorses bullying. If the girl does give in, says yes, if Elizabeth did at some point that night long ago, this is a violation of a woman which deems that the man knows better and has a right at some level to the body of a woman he loves if she seems to like him.
For the conclusion of the novel, see comments to this blog.
Read Full Post »