” … to give way to them is to conform to rules set down by the evil-minded … Ross to Jinny upon her saying she will quit because social talk has accused her of sexual infidelity to Jim with Ross (Graham’s Demelza, Bk 1, Ch 14)
“Who is given a second chance?” (Verity to Blamey, Wheeler script, 1975)
“Poverty doesn’t offend me, nor does aspiration. But you are mistaken of you think greed and exploitation are the marks of a gentleman” (Ross to George, Horsfield Script, 2015)
Dear friends and readers,
This week our preface must go beyond the usual dual caveats: the blog assumes the reader has seen the whole of the 1975 mini-series and knows the first 4 Poldark books pretty well (Ross Poldark, Demelza, Jeremy Poldark, Warleggan) and at least read all 12; I think highly of the books and write as a film and 18th century scholar out of an interest in comparative film adaptation (intertextuality is the fashionable term) and depictions of the 18th century in historical fiction and film.
Many US readers this week may have viewed the “finale” of the PBS Poldark series. They will have seen a smushed-up version of the last two episodes of the Horsfield series which cover the second half of Demelza. This time not only were 7 minutes cut from each episode which considering the brevity of most of the scenes and dialogue in this new Poldark until the 4th and 6th and this 7th episode (they are longer, which helps account for the superiority of these episodes), means a good deal; but the necessary re-arrangement this causes (the way movies make coherent is careful juxtapositions of scenes) is greater as they had to marginalize the first climax. This was done by (for example) cutting bits (I imagine the rhythms) of the painful close of Horsfield’s Episode 7 where (as in Graham’s book) Ross tells Demelza in hard unforgiving tones if she is going to be unhappy because the Poldark family is now estranged due to her interference on behalf of Verity, then she is going to be unhappy for a long time. Already foreshortened, the Mark-Keren-Enys story was reduced and scenes from Verity and Blamey’s continuing relationship by letters and joyous union.
Such as it is, it is in my view a testament to the strength of second half of Graham’s Demelza and Horsfield’s fidelity to those aspects of Demelza tracing an increase of disparate thoughts and feeling between Ross and Demelza, that the first hour of the finale remained compelling. For those who saw this version and want to read an intelligent detailed reaction to it, I recommend Anibundel’s No Infidelity Goes Unpunished. See also my comments explaining some queries she had in her blog (on diseases, the customary rights to scavenge, &c)
That Anibundel interpreted the material this way comes from her reliance on the 2015 Poldark which obscures a more complicated thoughtful questioning of the mores of the 20th century through the presentation of a version of the 18th: Graham suggests to his reader that there is a higher fidelity than obedience to law (in the book seen to be product of upper class interests), and (this is where his choice of the 1780s and 90s pro-revolution, radical and romantic period comes in) group customs and demands which are often perverse and counterproductive: Verity is allegorically named: she speaks and sees complicated truths from the time we meet her, which paradoxically weakens her against those who would use, control, and dominate her, but does not make her any the less deeply right. Verity has the right to choose her own life, the right not to be exploited to the point of non-fulfillment of her own if it hurts no one else. As did Ross in marrying Demelza who, like Verity, threw off an oppressive restricting family. And their decisions will not and do not hurt anyone else: the only hurt Verity inflicts is on Francis’s male ego. Ross’s decision is felt to undermine the ontological status of the upper class but as the characters in reality think of their own narrow interest, finally (in the book) the real hurt inflicted is on Elizabeth who had herself made the first of two bad husband choices. Ross tells her at one point that she dislikes anyone to say the honest truth: she does because she fears the risk following this entails.
This idea of truth to an authentic existence underlies Shelley’s and Byron’s poetry, much of the thought of the philosophes and political radicals like Thomas Paine: what? if slavery has been the law for centuries, that does not make it right. Truth to what’s in your heart is simpler and voiced by Blake. A conflict between group demands and the heart’s deeper impulses may be found in Cowper, Austen (as long as the heart is educated to be ethical), especially strongly in Crabbe (whose poetry Austen loved). If you find yourself punished by the powerful you hurt when you do this (as Ross does by George Warleggan), that is the price of the ticket you have chosen (as James Baldwin famously put it). You can of course choose wealth and position; that is George’s choice; there is a price to be paid there too.
I concede this idea is just about altogether lost in the soft way Verity’s escape is presented in Episode 7 of the 1975 film, and is overtly contradicted in Horsfield’s script, but will maintain it actuates the 1975 depiction (Episode 8) of the scavenger riots that evolves when (in the book) under the pressure of madness, depression, a desire to strike out against an unjust order, Julia’s death, motivates Wheeler’s Ross to awaken Jud to tell him to tell everyone there is a wreck and flotsam and jetsam for all on the beach, and then disappear. But that is for next week.
This blog is just on Episode and like last week’s begins with the book and then moves on to each film adaptation, with the aim of the comparison to show the different readings of the films. Honesty though compels me to say the 1975 film is better art, more thoughtful and consistent, worked out carefully at all points. I find the perspectives Horsfield invented (making Keren a slut, Enys a weak fool) and her adherence to group conformity as wisdom in life harder to take. She allows George Warleggan, a ruthless capitalist, liar, to utter conformist axioms we are supposed to think right.
Book 3, the matter covered in both Episodes 7 begins in July 1789. We have just experienced Demelza’s abrasive experiences at the ball; seen Enys and Keren’s love-making over his medical books at night, heard Nicholas and George Warleggan vow to destroy the Carnemore Copper Company because Sanson exposed and their business interests threatened.
Chapter 1: Verity’s escape: the child wants her to read to him; she slips away; comic scene of Jud in church contains real protest against the hypocrisies of these ceremonies. Chapter 2: Home to discover Verity’s note; Francis’s rage and blaming Ross, Elizabeth’s demurral (you have no proof, could have been Demelza); George Warleggan turns up to gift Geoffrey Charles, woo Elizabeth and successfully pressure and bribe Francis into telling.Warleggan comes to bribe him with a gift of 1200 pounds (forgiving one debt and cash for the other) Francis truly thinking that Ross had been gobetween again, betrayed Ross by telling Warleggan the names of the men in Ross’s new company. . It was Francis’s information that allowed this. Francis is frantic to keep believing this and then at the close Demelza coming over to tell it was she, precipates his rage — against himself too
Chapter 3 Andrew and Verity home together to joy at last. Chapter 4: Mark home early (how he is respected by young boy and fellows); goes to Enys’s house and realizes that a sexual liaison going on between Enys and Keren; comes back to house, Keren arrives; he confronts her and in an ensuing struggle, they fight by a window, she hangs out to escape him, and he strangles her. It could be an accident, but he wants to kill her, to blot her out because she has not loved him, and there is an allusion to Shakespeare’s Othello, with poignant imagery about her as vulnerable.
Chapter 5: Ross’s dreams of smelting, wakened by found body of Keren; Enys distraught; he loved Keren by this time, he feels guilt at his betrayal of his status in the community (that is what he used he feels); Ross to goes to the Daniels to offer Paul his boat for Mark’s getaway but no one must know (Vigus mentioned). He does not want to see Mark hanged; again the idea is the sentence is disproportionate. (Readers have felt this repeat murder of an unfaithful wife is misogynistic on Graham’s part.) Chapter 6: Nampara: Elizabeth to Ross telling him note that Verity is gone, implying Ross knows; Enys’s desperate visit to Demelza seeking solace, validation from Demelza; Ross brings in Mark and Paul.
Chapter 7: Near confrontation: Mark wants to kill Enys; a trap Mark says; not so Ross replies and helps Mark hide, the coming of McNeil; don’t underestimate McNeil Ross tells Demelza. He is an agent of the state, he is there to stop smugglers and execute the state’s justice. Chapter 8: a powerful scene of escape through tide: “Heavy windless rain set in as night fell. ” So Ross due to fidelity to a friend a second disobedience to law by helping Mark Daniel to escape the law when he murders his adulterous wife, Karen.
Chapter 9: McNeil and Ross’s dialogue with McNeil’s friendly warning: the law is a twisty thing and if you get caught, you will not get loose. McNeil though sympathetic to Ross; Ross goes to Sir John Trevaunce to sound him out on keeping Carnemore Copper going (he doesn’t give in), gets nowhere, Trevaunce inveighing against “that man Fox” (he is a Tory, unsympathetic to Ross).
Chapter 10: Demelza’s conscience leads her to go confess to Francis who throws her out; all Ross’s partners desert him as they get their letters calling in loans, they are not bankrupted but could be, and several forced to pay up owed loans, and it comes to Ross the only one not there who knew was Francis (name not mentioned). Chapter 11: Ross home and bitter with loss; Demelza confesses; he goes cold with rage at her betrayal; he does not want to hurt her (“you’ll get cold”); what has she done, she tries to sleep (scene of estrangement in bed) and he does not even try
Book 4: Christmas Eve 1789. Chapter 1: Verity’s letter to Demelza: her happiness and gratitude, now has the life to live she wanted to and could. Family and business, politics and gender are utterly intertwined in the world — seen in Forgotten Story and Cordelia (the mysteries are far more fantastic romance than the historical novels). Demelza did it.
A bleak Christmas ensues ….
For a more detailed exposition with themes worked out see Demelza, A Cornish world mirroring our own.
The 1975, Episode 7: series of variations on the conflicts of sexual passion with family obligation, driving ambition and personal desires with morality. Scene arrangements juxtapose Keren’s infidelity to George Warleggan’s treachery and then to Francis’s betrayal of Ross. Verity stays to nurse Geoffrey Charles first (she does not in the book so 1975 film making her more exemplary). In 1975 film Francis betrays the Carnemore Copper Company before he learns of Verity’s flight so Demelza’s act made less consequential than book or 2015 film.
The paratexts: the alluring musical theme and the sun glinting on that mine tower, the starving striking men gathered; as in 2105 we see Ross on horseback riding; crashing waves and music.
POV is us, immersion in walking up the hill of a rocky town on a seacoast. Now inside, in a small house Verity is getting her things ready with Blamey; he shows bottle of liquor he keeps in a cupboard, it’s the legacy for the next tenants of this house. She’s not got her bags; she assures him she can slip off by herself from Trenwith. She wants to say goodbye especially to Geoffrey Charles whom she has bonded with. He worries somehow she’s not going to come back; why go back at all, their new house is ready. He “let’s go direct to Falmouth, the devil with your wardrobe.” She seems fearless and says she has no hesitations or doubts but rather regards herself as “the most fortunate woman. Who else is given a second chance as she has been?” He: “Please my dear be careful.”
Switch to a neat hovel and a hand putting a sheet over face of dead Jim Carter. Ross sitting to the side of Jinny, says “it’s been months since we bought him out.” Why did he die? Enys says “the poor fellow lost will to live,” and Ross tells Ginny there’s a place for her at Nampara and not to let herself be guided by fear of crowd pressure.
A scene of Demelza giving Keren presents. Keren tells Demelz a bit of her history; she joined company to get away from father who didn’t give her a minute’s peace since she became 10; sexual abuse is what’s implied. Demelza says now we both be wed to good men, and Keren laughs and insists on differences of lifestyle and man. “I’m alone shivering in that hovel” and Demelza lives a comfortable life with a respected man. Keren becomes critical of Mark and then when Demelza says there is gossip about her, Keren sarcastic “About me, oooh how exciting.” The parallel here is Keren’s lack of loyalty and appreciation of Mark with George Warleggan’s ruthless desire to undermine Francis Poldark and take from him Elizabeth and Geoffrey Charles — though undermining his pride in himself. Keren is pitied but the sense is she is wrong.
Then Verity comes in to Trenwith and feels that is something wrong. Elizabeth emerges with an accusation: “where have you been? its Geoffrey” who has “the morbid sore throat” (diptheria) The doctor is now Enys (Choake dismissed for bette man) assumes Verity will do it all. Enys “the chld will need constant attention; he needs Verity” Enys dosen’t trust Elizabeth; illness is most contagious — we have foreshadowing of how Francis will get it. Blamey’s vigil the next day and Verity does not come. The camera on Verity caring for Geoffrey Charles; the note to Blamey. Blamey’s deep distress and anger, and he resorts to breaking things on the table.
Trenwith: Francis has genuine decency in him (as does Keren) and comes forth from Geoffrey Charles’s bedroom: “I feel so helpless,” and attempts to talk to Elizabeth for the first time in a long while, but George Warleggan intrudes. Elizabeth tells Warleggan stay, what they were saying was of no importance. Elizabeth insists Francis sees George alone. She is blind to what George is, and Francis is not.
George gives Francis 600 pounds,” to which Francis says “I don’t want payment” George says this is to make up what Samson cheated Francis of.” Francis knows better, irritated by the man’s adeptness in social hypocrisies and piety. All George did was prompt Francis into betraying cousin, “an act he finds damnably hard to live with” and he goes out the door. Elizabeth says to Verity she will tend the child herself and Francs will help. Verity: “had you only said this yesterday.” Elizabeth all selfishness; unlike book Francis betrayed Ross well before Verity eloped.
Our knowledge of Francis’s treachery and his guilt then comes before the board meeting, the others not coming because found out and pressured by Warleggan. Credit to be stopped and mortgages called in unless they abandon the business at once. They insinuate it was Francis. Ross insists on proof “my cousin played Judas.”
At the mine, Mark hears unsavoury insinuations about Enys and Keren; Mark hears, go savage, breaks down the level and is buried by rocks. He is almost killed. A wound in his head. They tell Mark to go home.
Camera on Enys house and then Keren in his bed; the two in bed. Camera switches to Mark in the empty house and sees empty bed. Night passes and now it’s morning and Enys is waking with an empty space beside his bed, Keren readying herself to leave. She says she must leave Mark and this place and soon and go back to Bristol. Enys does not love her; Enys says he felt that way was 6 months ago, now he cannot bear to lose her. He does love her but he cannot leave his patients and practice. He says he will find a way, trust me, we shall be together, now she doesn’t mind however long.
She goes out and we see her from Marks’ vantage. Very powerful camera work as we watch her gayly strolling, then she feels a presence, it’s him. His shadow overcasts her and there is expressionistic TV The gestures are slow and symbolic as he strangles her. The camera show her splayed out among the rocks, her lovely clothes blowing up from wind.
Same morning: Ross and Demelza eating breakfast. He tells her Carnemore Copper Company is dead. She is naive enough really to have thought George meant to be a friend. Ross says it may have been Francis. Silence. MacNeil comes into the house with his soldiers. Donald Douglas plays an important new character who emerges in the last part of Demelza and is important in Jeremy Poldark. He stands for the state and he and Ross will come to direct odds in a number of larger issues: his troop detailed to stamp out smuggling and collect excise. He stands for law not morality; he is an agent of the state and later works for Warleggan. In the book and 1975 film he and Ross are men who recognize one another as equals and talk as if friends, two intelligent men.
Now he’s here to say Mistress Daniel is dead. The camera switches to Demelza, Ross looking at body. Enys rushes down from his nearyby tower, he is distraught. Now at Nampara: Demelza pouring wine, handing it to Dwight Enys. Dwight: “twas my fault.” I don’t think so” Ginny’s lack of any sympathy for this woman who was not loyal to the working man. Dwight feels shamed and wants to leave; Ross says you must not — there is a powerful pasage in the book expressing this moment. Ross: “How can you not continue to leave here; you think you can make your peace by leaving.” You cannot. You will not solve anything by leaving.”
Trenwith: Elizabeth feeding Geoffrey Charles; Francis says they must tell Verity that the child is better. She will be so happy. “Where is she?” he’s not seen her all morning. Elizabeth gives him the letter from Verity, Elizabeth reads, Francis intensely hurt, and the stream of talk becomes Verity in voice-over to her climbing hill to Blamey.
She is with Blamey. A moving scene. So sometimes breaking away is right.
A painful scene where Demelza comes to Francis to tell him she helped Verity not Ross; he derides and snubs her: “I refuse to discuss the affairs of my sister with the likes of you.” Demelza: “I came to try and make friends” Demelza explains that she and Ross are ruined if Carnemore Company fails, and we see another motive for Francis’s having betrayed Ross: jealousy. Francis “Now that he is ruined perhaps he will understand what I have had to endure of later ….” We see his jealousy and envy of Ross’s position, character, it’s far more than Elizabeth that motivates him. Demelza sees he is the betrayer: “So it was you.”
Nampara: she tells Ross what Francis said: “so what did you expect, hmmm” The 1975 film entirely skips Ross’s blaming Demelza, and presents Ross as sympathetic to Verity but would not have helped as his loyalty is to family first. Ginny serves a meal, and Mark there at the window. How they all feel for him. He hid in water of Wheal Grace; the plan to help him escape by Ross’s boat. Mark saw load of copper in Wheal Grace. MacNeil and men at door and they hide him from MacNeil. MacNeil sees the blood and wet by the window. Here as in the book we do have wife-murder in effect condoned. Othello is never condoned.
We conclude out on that wild seashore: Ross is leading Daniel down to a small boat by the Nampara cove, pushes the boat in and they see soldiers running up on beach. Ross does nto desert but helps Mark get afloat, then he runs. In final moment Ross is being shot at directly by MacNeil’s orders. Close ups back and forth of MacNeil’s and then Ross’s face. A final far shot of Mark rowing out to the Atlantic for his life and Ross fleeing to the house. Very powerful.