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Archive for October 15th, 2012

‘He was quite capable of living a normal life, if other people would allow him (Dwight of the disabled Music Thomas, The Loving Cup, Bk 1, Ch 2)

‘Public wars, I call ’em. Reckon you was lucky ever to come safe ‘home from that one in ‘Merica. Public wars is no good to no one. Small wars, private wars, they’re different, can profit you upon times.’ — Tholly Tregirls, dying words, The Twisted Sword (Bk 3, Ch 4)

The little room became a little corner of comfort in a black world — Graham’s narrator, The Twisted Sword (Bk 3, Ch 6)


Jill Townsend as Elizabeth Warleggan, she turns away having told Robin Ellis as Ross that her husband suspects that Ross is Valentine’s father (1977-78 Poldark, Pt 7, Ep 5, from Four Swans)

Dear friends and readers,

To continue: Perhaps it’s a good place to mention that these second quartet differs from the first 7 novels where most of the characters are fictional, wholly imagined. Wee may hear of some historically real characters and authors and books as part of re-creation of historical time in passing, but they do not appear (Poldark 1-7). In these we do meet historical characters who matter but while they create history, they do not give rise to the novels’ plot-design. That’s still the result of acts of the imagined characters.

I have two copies: one a hardcover American edition, 1991, Carroll and Graff; the other a 1991 Pan reprint with the photographs of the seacoast that became prevalent covers just before and during the time of the two mini-series (they are seen on the Fontana reprints). Both lacked this subtitle and date; that’s why I began to think that the epigraph was supposed to be emphasized (with its tragic and bitter Biblical implications, anti-war especially) rather than the place and year. And much of the novel takes place in Paris and the Belgian killing fields. I would agree that it ends back in Cornwall. It may just be an oversight but I’d like to know when the imprints other cited were published. Was it at first nuded of the usual regional framing and then that was put back as a selling point?

More important, they re-define Regency romance. Accurate Regency romances, historical fiction, need not be pseudo-silver fork novels about silly people romancing in Bath: this is a time of depression, riot and revolt, war, powerful people who have no consistent ideologies and thus ever-fluid parties. It’s also a time when such movement changes and endangers the choices available to people sexually.

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John Bowes as the older Ross talking to Ioan Gruffudd as Jeremy (1996 The Stranger from the Sea); The Loving Cup has never been filmed, but scenes like this occur in it

The second time round I loved this book. Looking at what I wrote I do think I was spot on, but this second time see the book more fully — in the context of this second quartet.

The Loving Cup is a kind of “push back” against the larger or war-torn conflicts and depression across the UK, Europe, Northern American and the high seas — whence its title. We’ve been where we experience or glimpse Regency England as war-ridden time, of depression, dislocation, It’s as if Graham is deliberately resurrecting the Cornwall community now against his first the first two books (Stranger from the Sea, Miller’s Dance). While we are made aware how bad things are elsewhere, our focus is really solely back in Cornwall. One reason for this is Geoffrey Charles has returned so there is no one to write letters from the front.

I find myself identifying with the parents, Ross and Demelza, who find themselves unable to rescue Clowance, their daughter from her bad decision to nurse and then marry the renegade (scoundrel) but plausible and ever so human Stephen Carrington or their son from enlisting and going off to the dangerous wars. In this sense this novel turns back into centrally a story of Ross and Demelza.

Last time I wrote at length about how Demelza risks her life to get at the left-over booty from the robbery that Jeremy and his two friends stole at the close of Miller’s Dance, and hid deep in an old mine (a cave) only available by climbing a rickety ladder down to the sea; all she takes away is the small silver loving cup. I did not know what this was at the time: a symbol of love where people intertwine arms as they exchange the cup. It was Harriet’s aunt Darcy’s (an allusion to Pride and Prejudice). Jeremy knowing that that could implicate him (because of its specificity) asks her not to keep it on the mantelpiece but in a drawer. He’s not sure whether it will bring bad or good luck. What I didn’t realize was their conversation is laden with ominous notes anticipating this death. He says he will tell her someday all “about it.” How he came to participate in the robbery. She ways don’t wait too long – there have been other ominous notes suggesting that Jeremy will die — as he does at Waterloo, the great shock of Book 11.

A thread on a Women’s Studies list-serv alerted me to something else I had not noticed the first time round: that the story of Clowance’s marriage to Stephen Carrington is the story of a bigamist from a woman’s point of view. This, like rape, especially presented sympathetically, is highly unusual in a novel, even more seriously in a historical fiction. Most of the time the “other” woman, the second wife is presented as vile, stealing the husband, to blame for not knowing. Here it’s convincing that Clowance would not know, and that while she suspects there are things in Stephen’s past, she partly (from what she does know), doesn’t want to know, and partly has no way of finding out.

The novels are not sequels to one another and I must jump ahead to explain. It’s upon rereading one feels the cutting edge of Ben’s comment that the engagement and marriage of Clowance and Carrington “gates like a knife on a bone every waking hour” (to Jeremy, Loving Cup, Bk 1, Ch 4).

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Hans Mathiessen as Ben Carter, one of three decent men Clowance turns down over the course of this quartet (1996 Stranger)

When Stephen lays dying in The The Twisted Sword (Bk 3, Ch 9), Jason sits by Clowance’s side, grieving over his father. Jason had aroused her suspicions when earlier he revealed that he had grandparents an Uncle Zed, an Aunt Looe (Bk 1, Ch 9); a whole family existed where his mother and father were married and lived (which Stephen had denied, presenting himself as an orphan dependent on the tolerance of strangers). Stephen had told her that his first wife, Marion (whom she had not heard of before The Twisted Sword) and he were 17 when married: he did married Marion because she was pregnant, hardly ever lived with her, and she died of small pox when Jason was 10; he now admits to 37 rather than 34 (Bk 1, Ch 3).

When Jason now nervously fingers his scarf, something left him from his mother, and says his mother knitted this for him more than 2 years ago, Clowance askes when did Marion die? this past winter? He becomes embarrassed and finally is driven to admit it could be his mother died January 1814.

Looking back, Clowance and Stephen were married May 28th, 1814 (The Loving Cup). But he arrived Nampara fall 1810 (Clowance refers to this when she says he came here 5 years ago (Stranger from the Sea); he began to court her immediately. @e know he was having an affair with Violet in midsummer’s Eve 1811 (Stranger from the Sea) had sex with her just as she lay dying, July 1812 and she died August 2, 1812 (all Miller’s Dance). He has a kinky taste of the captain in Tarchetti’s Fosca (turned into an opera called Passion by Sondheim). There are strong hints he has been having Lottie Kempthorne (Miller’s Dance) and was one of Selina Pope’s lovers (Loving Cup, along with Jeremy and Valentine who marries her). They were engaged for first time April 1812 (Miller’s Dance) to be married in November. This was broken off after time at fair, Clowance sees Stephen lie to Andrew, Ben finds old medieval warren in mine and confrontation (October 1812). So it’s apparent Stephen was ready to commit bigamy.

Clowance also has by now learned of Stephen’s unnecessary (gleeful) murder of a man who was part of a team trying to press him and Paul Kellowes into the UK navy; has to live with him and listen, and knows how he leaps to justify, and moves from lie to lie. And yet she stays. Pride? Not wanting to show others what she has chosen? Partly.

An important difference is how this situation unusually. Demezla early on knows the great danger of marrying a man because something “in your blood” responds instinctively to his feral presence — this is how Clowance accounts for her love for a man she knows before she marries him is at least a liar, careless of others, an unworthy man. In most the woman is punished by overt abuse and becomes abject. For women such erotic awakening brings erotic renunciation — in too many novels to cite, but they include Lfayette’s La Princesse de Cleves, Montolieu’s Caroline de Lichfield, Austen’s Sense & Sensibility, Mary Brunton’s Self-Control, Bonte’s Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Trollope’s Small House of Allington (Lily Dale – yes men write these too), E. h. Young’s Jenny Wren, Forster’s Howards’ End. James’s Portrait of a Lady is turned into a punitive experience, harsh, by Jane Campion.

Graham’s Clowance grows thin, silenter, starker, gradually withdraws from this man emotionally as she comes closer to another of Demelza’s feared prediction: dislike, intense distaste. We see that Stephen is moving in that direction towards her too. But his accidental death cuts this trajectory off when he is insulted by Harriet Warleggan who sneers at his idea that she maneuvered George Warleggan into not turning Stephen into a bankrupt because she was sexually attracted to him. He tries to outdo her in racing horses and literally leaps to his death.

Clowance withdraws and at the end of The Twisted Sword says only that if she ever marries again, it will be for money and position — as Harriet Warleggan who also married early and for love, in her case a gambler, has done. The point I want to make is Clowance makes no renunciation, is not punished and therefore not blamed.

The revelation happens in now Aug/Sept; Stephen dies October 13, 1815 (The Twisted Sword, Bk 3, Ch 12). The last novel of the quartet is structured so this relevatory scene is preceded by the one where Valentine ferrets out of Ross that Ross may be (is?) his father (Bk 3, Ch 8). In Loving Cup a paralleled are set up between Clowance and Jeremy and Valentine. (Valentine was omitted from the 1996 movie, along with Geoffrey Charles so I have no stills to help us along), and the first is fulfilled at the end of Twisted Sword; not until Bella is Valentine’s need of Ross and tragedy of a lost soul seeking another vulnerable creature in need made clear. Valentine is not blamed either. but this does not emerge until the very end of Bella.

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Battlefield of Waterlook photographed 21st century), The Twisted Sword has never been filmed

My first essay-blog on this novel was adequate but I find I have more to say, much to add, but will confine myself to a few points.

Something interesting in its first editions — even if dropped later. All of the Poldark novels but one are subtitled: “Cornwall,” with some group of years next to that. The only one which hasn’t got this is The Twisted Sword. It doesn’t even say 1815. As I begin it the characters move to London and then to Paris. Much of the book does take place in Europe — or more than usual, and this opening is an attempt to dramatize and picture France just after Napoleon was first defeated and sent to Elba. A quiet place as yet, even if with so many wounded. He gets it right that what was hated about the replacement of the old order was that order and especially the Bourbon king who went right back to the old behavior of utter indifference to everything but his appetites and desires and that of his narrow court. What ever may be said of Napoleon, he was deeply concerned with the people and structure of France, its laws, its codes, its commerce.

In later editions the subtitle is attached and the year — to make the book conform. Editor and publishers like “their” product to be branded clearly.

In London we are told of the results of this regency, the devastation of the marketplaces and continual depression, dislocation underlying the assassination of Perceval and one of Liverpool’s concerns.

The Twisted Sword was also originally presented as the last of the Poldark novels and there was a 13 year period between the time of publication of TS and Bella (which returns to the formula Cornwall plus dates.) Bella of course ties all the knots and its tragic climax (well penultimate chapter with qualified contented ones for some to follow) brings us right back to the consequences of the rape (Warleggan) and that to the opening when Ross returns and Elizabeth is about to marry Francis, but if I was reading this book in 1993, TS does feel like an ending — a tragic one I know as I’ve read it already. On the field of Waterloo.

Its epigraph: Deliver my soul from the sword;/my darling from the power of the dog. Psalm 22, Verse 20. None of the other of the Poldark books has an epigraph either.

Twisted Sword in its last phases is a depiction of the experience of devastating murdering in mud and rain, relentlessly, on the field of Waterloo. As I wrote last time, Graham got all his details of where Jeremy died and where the various positions were from Keegan’s Face of Battle:

Very moved once again though I knew a chief beloved hero was to die. I noticed a passages I had overlooked before. Tholly himself dying comments on Jeremy’s death: these public wars are useless and counterproductive to all but the elite (the book was written in
1991so a slightly broader view of the elite is meant than would be today); it’s only private wars that are in the interest of the a age person, those he or she engages in directly. Not always even then. He smuggles as well as works on the Packet Service. private war is defined in such a way as to capture far more than illegal activity.

A couple of the political insights I’ve gained from these books I used at the Burney meeting, and people liked them. I of course did not tell them these came to me from reading the Poldark novels. I would not want embarrass anyone or be disbelieved so I said I found them in John Stuart Mill. I used one for my argument in my paper on liberty in the first seven Poldark novels. Understandable riots include the one instigated by Ross in Demelza, and again in this community to keep hecklers and mortifiers away from Music and Katie’s wedding.

Perhaps most beautiful in these four novels is the not just compassion but respect for the disabled that Graham evidences. If other people would just allow them to flourish, they would. But some single difference, and the smell of vulnerability is too much for the average person and the prevalence of bullies, encouraged cruelties (teasing) and for others to leave alone. Rosina who marries Sam (lame), Ben (a loner, unable to socialize easily), Music Thomas (sensitive and a little slow in reaction) are made outcasts and we watch all of them become good people even — recognized only by those who are themselves outsiders (Sam, Katie Carter, Ross and Dwight). Dwight is most responsible for this and the character almost re-arouses a respect for doctors in me mostly destroyed by what I’ve seen of the profession in the US today my attitude is more like Francis Poldark when he first meets Dwight — disbelief — Francis later turns to him when he becomes suicidal.

I made myself read the last part of this novel (Book 4, the coda after Jeremy and Carrington’s deaths) slowly so as to savor the poignant semi-tragic, semi-bitter close, another of Graham’s barely-endured Christmases, with its quiet compensations as life moves on.

I agree with those who say of Graham’s novels that this too does not come to a close — but then life never does and many of the books have this continuation aspect. My students the two times I set Ross Poldark said it felt like much more to come. In Twisted Sword though Clowance has learned a bitter disillusioning lesson and there is Fitzmaurice on the horizon to marry for money and position and Jeremy is dead. There’s Valentine but he has at least been told if indirectly and by Ross he’s Ross’s son and we know Harriet will carry on holding her own against George and protect her twin daughters adequately. Probably Graham meant to end it — again my paperback edition has a cover which says this is the conclusion of the series. But in 2003 he decided he would indeed develop Valentine much more — and he does, beautifully I think.


Among the last stills of Ross and Demelza at the close of Warleggan and the 1977-78 film series

To me particularly effective and personally inspiriting was Dwight and Ross’s outwitting and maneuvering using another scavenging of a wreck by impoverished ignorant brutal people in order to allow one marriage, Music Thomas with Katie Martin, to go forth. I so admire Graham for his depiction of disabilities deeply empathetically. Where do you find that even today? This marriage though repeats a pattern we’ve seen elsewhere, the woman who will not at first at least have sex with a man once married — for example Morwenna (so wounded) when first married to Drake. An irony as in life often a relationship does begin with sexual encounter and after all that’s how Ross and Demelza clinched theirs (says she smiling)

And the ending here really put me in mind of some Leopardi poems (I’m an 18th century literary scholar and have an interest in Italian poetry) as we watch the disillusioned characters with the various losses preserve something positive amid the wreckage. We cannot live our lives out without the relief illusions and companionship offers, and the ending with Ross and Demelza, her tossing that bitter loving cup deep into a well repeats other similar endings only this time (“life is all there is” is at one, and Demelza says it’s enough), but this time the reflective sadness goes on for longer as if to take into account the winding up of the different stories.

I’m actually dreaming — thinking of — writing a novel using these character. I’d like to try Elizabeth Chynoweth Poldark Warleggan. I’ve used a still of her (at the head of the first part of this blog) on the Literary Society’s message board. In this novel when I’d done I found myself hunting for the passages where characters come across her spinning wheel, hear her firm but quiet steps, listen for her gentle presence and hear her ex-husband and two sons ferociously argue over the things they assert they cherish. She had a fine spirit, meant to have as much integrity as she could, tolerant, well-meaning, egalitarian at heart, thoughtful, she out of inability to cope with finances married a bully (George Warleggan) whose behavior led her to risk death to persuade him to leave her and her son by Francis Poldark (Geoffrey Charles) and her son by Ross (Valentine Warleggan) alone in peace.

Jill Townsend as Elizabeth she lies there dying from her effort to make her husband like her boy by Ross; she realizes she is dying and says how she’s afraid of the dark. Her life’s decisions were based on wariness, and yet all decisions are leaps, and the harsh relentless George was too much for her.

Ellen

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