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Harriet: “And all this is Mr Knightley’s?”
Emma: “Of course. There is Donwell Abbey — and all these farms belong to the Donwell Estate, and everyone who lives here is a tenant of Mr Knightley’s or his servant.”
Harriet: “I should never have thought one man could own so much.”
[The birds are twittering over head, and Harriet comes as near as she ever will to making a joke]
Harriet: “The sparrows and the skylarks don’t belong to Mr Knightley, do they?”
Emma: “Perhaps not, but the woodcock and the pheasant certainly do.”
— from Andrew Davies’s screenplay for the 1996 BBC Emma)

partridge
Partridge, Jacobite, schoolmaster, brought before Allworthy as Tom’s father (Jack MacGowran)

blackgeorge
Black George, gamekeeper, defending himself to Allworthy as magistrate (Wilfrid Lawson, 1963 Tom Jones)

Dear friends and readers,

I’ve decided to devote this third blog on teaching Fielding’s Tom Jones at the OLLI at AU to a third linked group of topics I find the class and I spent time on: first, how poaching was practiced and regarded, as well as the role of gamekeepers who were there to stop poaching but could and did make a good deal of money off the trade; the criminal justice system. How class and where you lived (country or London) enters into this and (in the novel) religion (I think satirized by Fielding) and stoicism embodied in Thwackum and Square. Second, the immediate political history the novel is embedded in, e.g., the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 and conflicts between those somewhat supporting the Hanoverians and those somewhat supporting the Stuarts, contemporary acceptance and castigation of corruption and bribery by all, scorn for superstitions (especially those which upheld the Stuart claim).

In this blog I go into the early and last parts of the book and essays related on poaching, gamekeepers, the court system (class war, gaming the system); then Jacobitism and the 1745 civil wars as they relate to superstition and ghosts in the middle and last part of novel. I link in the stunning film Culloden by Peter Watkins (an enactment of the 1745 battle done as a modern documentary, complete with interviews of participants); I suggest Culloden should be part of one teaches for Tom Jones. Fielding’s narrator’s comments are hard-hitting subversive scepticism through the metaphor of the world as a theater.

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To begin with we discussed the incidents of Tom’s “innocent” poaching (so it’s presented in the novel as a young boy’s high spirits), Black George’s trade in birds, Mr Allworthy’s wrath at Black George for allowing Tom to lie on his behalf and firing of him after Tom is mercilessly whipped (as a powerless bastard by Thwackum with Square doing nothing) — when it is Mr Allworthy who allows these men full reign over the two boys under their care. As plot-design and for central themes, one of the uses or purposes of Thwackum and Square is to contrast the characters of Blifil and Tom and to show how unfairly Tom is treated again and again – each time Tom does an act of kindness it must be justified and he is blamed and beaten. (No good deed goes unpunished in this book.) Tom protects Black George and is selling horse, bible, all he has to get food to the man and his family, and Blifil snitches. As they are children, so they become adults.

BoyTom
Sweetly mischievous Tom as boy (Stuart Neal, 1997 Tom Jones)

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Cagey, hard-eyed Blifil as young man (David Warner, 1963 Tom Jones)

I suggested if it looks like a sharp hard hitting satire on a cleric and the way religion works, then it’s a hard-hitting satire; Fielding detests the hypocrisies of religion, the repressions and bigotry; he wrote deeply secular plays, in his arguments he argues from experience and nature. He’s tired of offending and wants people to buy his book. He has Square as the pagan of the book, cannot say he’s atheistic but comes close. He is satirizing the stoic point of view especially: Samuel Johnson also had no use for the stoics; life is too much of a complicated emotional agony. (Allworthy, the narrator says, hired Blifil because a friend/connection who owed something to Thwackum’s family recommended him; Square, the narrator insinuates, has some sexual relationship with Mrs Blifil, so at first assumes she would want the bastard whipped, then when he sees she favors Tom, is jealous so allows whipping to proceed.) Who does Fielding as narrator quote: Epictetus. Claudian was among Fielding’s favorite reading.

We read J. A. Stevenson’s “Black Acts” in his Real History of Tom Jones; I also drew on Albion’s Fatal Tree and Munsche’s Gentlemen and Poachers. It was a subsistence world where huge numbers of people lived on a level not that far from starvation if their income fell at all: their ability to grow food or work for others. When Partridge is driven from the community, he turns vagabond, and must sell himself as best he can. So it was natural to poach, and it could be, and often was ignored, but it was allowed to make examples of powerless people to shore up private property. In the Poldark novels poaching is presented in ways similar to Jean Valjean stealing a piece of bread so as not to starve and being put to hard labor for 20 years. Fielding brings out how the gamekeeper could function like someone put in charge of chicken coop who proceeds to make money off chickens. So George eeks out a precarious living, cruelly wires hares and sells them on “the black market.” It’s worth noting that elsewhere Fielding doesn’t seem particularly exercised on behalf of being kind to animals. Fielding’s identification with the upper class comes out here.

The poaching and gaming laws were egregiously unfair and like many or even most laws in the UK at the time administered unfairly, unevenly; defendants were not allowed to take the stand in their own defense; as the century wore on, it became practice and then custom to hire lawyers to defend people, and in lieu of immediate punishment in the form of “judicial violence” (flogging, hanging, burning people to death in the case of treason), punishments like prison sentences and/or transportation. J. M. Beattie’s Crime and the Courts of England describes a system of private prosecution; individuals initiated cases. Very important was the indictment: before someone could be tried, there was a pre-trial where it was asserted that “true bill” was rendered – sufficient evidence to go to trial. Much that is known about trials comes from these cases and depositions later in the century. Beattie says that “men of all condition” are to be found “going to a great deal of trouble to pursue thieves and bring them to justice, ” and for murder people did bring private prosecutions too. Of course you needed to be a respected man of a middle to upper class family. Partridge is treated egregiously unfairly and linked to Black George as Tom’s surrogate fathers.

RonCookfirstseen
Our first sight of Patridge when accused by his wife (Ron Cook)

RonCookasPartridge
Partridge before Mr Allworthy hearing his sentence

exiled
Partridge driven out, ejected, exiled with the narrator looking on (John Sessions, 1997 Tom Jones

The magistrates and other officers had a custodial function where they brought the case to court and in the case of murder, if body was found. Even murder was still regarded partly as a private offense and if people seem to care more about property than life, and people were executed for what we think trivial offenses, they were not indifferent to murder. In the last part of the novel Blifil is working hard to bring charges against Tom as either a murderer or someone who attempted to murder Mr Fitzgerald, having Dowling suborn people to lie.

tomfitzgerald
Tom attacked by Fitzgerald (Albert Finney, George A Cooper)

To return to poaching, propertied people wanted the exclusive right to hunt game in England because they wanted to own all the animals on their property. That’s reductive but that’s it. People in a subsistence world, corn prices artificially high; of course they poach. It’s also fun to poach. They are not protecting the animal but their ownership of it, particularly tenacious over pheasants and deer. What could happen was poaching gangs arose – a kind of class war over property rights under the guise of food.

BlackGeorgefleeing
Black George fleeing the scene where Tom is caught poaching

fired (1)
Fired

fired (2)
Biting on a coin to test its value (actor playing George no longer cited in imdb, 1997 Tom Jones)

Now in response to these gangs and also fear of revolution the Black Act was enacted; no combinations of people allowed. It’s like anti-union legislation before the 1930s, because everyone knew this was egregious, the administration of the law was sometimes harsh and sometimes you could be let off. People today might say, who cares about poaching and game laws? We don’t have a problem about such issues any more: but we do have centrally class wars and who controls and owns property; and the conflicts in the 18th century over gaming (smuggling too – which was ubiquitous all over the coasts of the UK until the middle 19th century when armed forces began to be larger and more effective) and the poaching laws express the class war over property at the time in (to the period itself) transparent disguise. Partridge is named after partridges. He is a helpless kind of individual: good heart but likely to be wired if he does not watch out.

Stevenson argues we are to see Black George as site of complex attitudes and feelings (I added Partridge is too). Does Black George steals the 500 when he “finds” and doesn’t return it? He’s certainly ungrateful. He almost keeps the guineas Sophia sends to Tom but he decides this could get back to Tom. Fielding does not work up our indignation over the question, which Stevenson is inclined to do, until he offers the idea that Black George’s poaching, finding and attempts to invest are just another form of business or commerce in the novel. At the end of the whole novel Allworthy himself becomes incensed at George again, but finds that he would have a difficult time prosecuting Black George. And has he not been as guilty towards Tom when he listened to Blifil present Tom’s courting of Sophia as egregiously breaking rank. Partridge interrupts the man on the hill’s history to tell the story of a man hung by a judge who laughed at him after the man tried to argue he did not steal a horse but merely found it; the person who brought the prosecution was ever after haunted by this man’s ghost. Partridge takes the judge’s behavior to be egregiously cruel and the judgement grossly harsh. Black George’s poaching is another form of business in the novel.

hogarthslaughingaudience
Hogarth’s depiction of a laughing audience

Fielding (who alludes to Hogarth at key points in the book) has his narrator present a picture of the the world as a theater, (Book 7:1, pp. 289-92) in the Penguin, ed Keymer & Wakely) and calls the audience who would castigate George hypocrites, in reality utterly indifferent to, laughing at the scene they pretend to care about:

But as Nature often exhibits some of her best Performances to a very full House; so will the behaviour of her Spectators no less admit the above mentioned Comparison than that of her Actors. In this vast Theatre of Time are seated the Friend and the Critic; here are Claps and Shouts, Hisses and Groans; in short, every Thing which was ever seen or heard at the Theatre-Royal.
Let us examine this in one Example: For Instance, in the Behaviour of the great Audience on that Scene which Nature was pleased to exhibit in the 12th Chapter of the preceding Book, where she introduced Black George running away with the 500£ from his Friend and Benefactor.
    Those who sat in the World’s upper Gallery, treated that Incident, I am well convinced, with their usual Vociferation; and every Term of scurrilous Reproach was most probably vented on that Occasion.
    If we had descended to the next Order of Spectators, we should have found an equal Degree of Abhorrence, tho’ less of Noise and Scurrility; yet here the good Women gave Black George to the Devil, and many of them expected every Minute that the cloven footed Gentleman would fetch his own.
    The Pit, as usual, was no doubt divided: Those who delight in heroic Virtue and perfect Character, objected to the producing such Instances of Villainy, without punishing them very severely for the Sake of Example. Some of the Author’s Friends cry’d ‘Look’e, Gentlemen, the Man is a Villain; but it is Nature for all that.’ And all the young Critics of the Age, the Clerks, Apprentices, &c. called it low, and fell a groaning.
    As for the Boxes, they behaved with their accustomed Politeness. Most of them were attending to something else. Some of those few who regarded the Scene at all, declared he was a bad Kind of Man; while others refused to give their Opinion, ’till they had heard that of the best Judges.
    Now we, who are admitted behind the Scenes of this great Theatre of Nature, (and no Author ought to write any Thing besides Dictionaries and Spelling Books who hath not this Privilege) can censure the Action, without conceiving any absolute Detestation of the Person, whom perhaps Nature may not have designed to act an ill Part in all her Dramas: For in this Instance, Life most exactly resembles the Stage, since it is often the same Person who represents the Villain and the Heroe; and he who engages your admiration today, will probably attract your Contempt To-morrow. As Garrick, whom I regard in Tragedy to be the greatest Genius the World hath ever produced, sometimes condescends to play the Fool; so did Scipio the Great and Laelius the Wise, according to Horace, many Years ago: nay, Cicero reports them to have been ‘incredibly childish.’– These, it is true, played the Fool, like my Friend Garrick, in Jest only; but several eminent Characters have, in numberless Instances of their Lives, played the Fool egregiously in Earnest; so far as to render it a Matter of some Doubt, whether their Wisdom or Folly was predominant; or whether they were better intitled to the Applause or Censure, the Admiration or Contempt, the Love or Hatred of Mankind.
    Those Persons, indeed, who have passed any Time behind the Scenes of this great Theatre, and are thoroughly acquainted not only with the several Disguises which are there put on, but also with the fantastic and capricious Behaviour of the Passions, who are the Managers and Directors of this Theatre, (for as to Reason the Patentee/ he is known to be a very idle Fellow, and seldom to exert himself) may most probably have learned to understand the famous Nil admirari of Horace, or in the English Phrase, To stare at nothing.’
    A single bad act no more constitutes a Villain in Life, than a single bad Part on the Stage. The Passions, like the Managers of a Playhouse, often force Men upon Parts, without consulting their Judgment, and sometimes without any Regard to their Talents. Thus the Man, as well as the Player, may condemn what he himself acts.nay, it is common to see Vice sit as awkwardly on some Men, as the Character of Jago would on the honest Face of Mr. William Mills.
    Upon the whole, then, the Man of Candour and of true Understanding is never hasty to condemn. He can censure an Imperfection, or even a Vice, without Rage against the guilty Party. In a Word, they are the same Folly, the same Childishness, the same Ill-breeding, and the same Ill-nature, which raise all the Clamours and Uproars both in Life and on the Stage. The worst of Men generally have the Words Rogue and Villain most in their Mouths, as the lowest of all Wretches are the aptest to cry out low in the Pit.

LadyBellaston
Lady Bellaston as we first see her, enacting a one-on-one orgy in classical painting style

masquerade

At the masquerade, linked to the theatre metaphors of the novel (Lindsay Duncan, 1997 Tom Jones)

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I agreed with John Allen Stevenson’s “Stuart Ghosts” that Jacobitism is important in the novel, and we went over the middle part of the book, the road journey and looked at how the readings he offers help us understand the man on the hill, the political heated arguments between Squire Western and his sister (though these also include women’s rights which, stigmatized as she is for her egoism, tyranny over niece, her own mercenary and rank-ridden vanity, and a number of ugly stereotypes associated with spinters, she is a bad defender for). I linked Jacobitism in the novel to Fielding’s dramatizations of superstition, his satire on military men and their lives (though he sympathizes with half-pay officers as well as those unfairly not promoted because they won’t sell their wives). I disagreed on an association of Tom with Bonnie Prince Charlie. Fielding knew what this man was, understood the clan system as part of the rent-tax-subordination system as another tyranny, might have seen Charles Stuart for an egregious ancien regime drone. (I’ll in a separate blog go over the gypsy sequence where some of Fielding’s sympathy for waifs, and for Jacobitite kind of thought versus “common sense” Hanoverism, arguments above tyranny, monarchy, and who was Jennie Cameron connect. I don’t want this blog to be overlong.)

militaryghost
From Tom’s military career: the amoral fierce Northerton, Tom as terrified ghost, Mrs Walters as frightened naked woman, aka Jenny Jones, Tom’s mother (Albert Finny, Julian Glover, Joyce Redman, 1963 Tom Jones)

I used Peter Watkins’s ironically instructive Culloden, and urge my reader to take the time to watch it. I did my best to convey to the people in my class what Culloden was. If you teach Tom Jones, I recommend showing at least parts of this film. Watkins enacts a simulacrum of what mid-18th century battle was; the slaughter; the narrator will say “this is grapeshot” (bags of nails and deadly projectiles hit through a cannon); this is what it does.” The battle is enacted as if 20th century reporters were on the scene, making a documentary: they interview the actors, a biographer comes forth. The tone is utterly prosaic, everyone speaks as they might have done, the effect is chilling and unforgettable

Culloden 1964 BBC docudrama (written and directed by Peter Watkins)

The rebellion of the Scots under Bonnie Prince Charlie was the third attempt of the Stuarts to disrupt the Anglican and Hanoverian order, and this time when the English put the rebellion down, they behaved ferociously to all the Scots during and after Culloden: a great diaspora occurred. In summer 1685 – Monmouth’s rebellion (which comes up in the story of the Man on the Hill) produced savage reprisals and executions. It was a serious attempt to overthrow the gov’t but like Essex’s rebellion against Elizabeth in 1601 it was swiftly (though not so easily) put down. In the 1690s there was a rebellion in Ireland whose spearhead was James II; in 1715 another headed by James III. Walter Scott has novels about these Scots wars. Indeed the English civil war is now called the war of the Three Kingdoms (England, Scotland, Ireland). These were dynasty wars, ethnic and religious, and they were civil wars, and they were finally suppressed after 1745 by ruthless action on the part of the English in Scotland. Within the Scots world, the clans were themselves subject to harsh master chiefs; there was in effect a civil war in Scotland itself, with the lowland Scots siding with England and some of the clans of lower Scotland fighting with the Highlanders.

I offered a potted brief history:

Jacobitism and Jacobites – not to be confused with Jacobins. Jacobins take their name from Jacques: working men, men sans culottes, not wearing elegant fancy breeches and wigs but trousers down to the floor because they worked all day and needed protection . Jacobitism or Jacobites take their name from James II, the brother of Charles II, both of them sons of Charles I who went down in history as having been beheaded by the parliamentarians in 1649 after he lost the civil war and (like Louis XVI) kept fomenting rebellion. I recommended Frank McLynn’s The Jacobites. There’s an international or European wide dimension too, by the later 18th century it moves into the Western hemisphere as the English and British become settler colonlialists, as the Scots themselves travel abroad to exploit and destroy the native peoples there. The religious dimension: Jacobites are Catholics and they attract to them Catholics suffering under the penal laws; Hanoverians are Germans and Walpole’s corrupt bribery system alienates people.
    There is no hard and fast easy formula for saying this sort of person will be for the Hanover family (Germans) and this for the Stuart family. It all begins with Elizabeth I had no son and her heir was James VI of Scotland who became James I. Many Scottish people came down to London with him. He was sufficiently intelligent to practice politics sanely; was brought up Protestant and superintended the first and still classic translation of the Bible: King James bible. His son, Charles I, not so wise; marries a Catholic French princess, takes up his father’s idea of an absolute monarch. Tries not only to rule without parliament, but move the church towards Catholicism. He imposes taxes which were by then Parliament’s perogative. The rallying cry for the war was Ship Money (taxes) and Bishops (high church). Class, ethnicity, religion, personal family politics played a role but generally the new merchant and banking class joined with more egalitarian thinking and formed the Parliamentarian party; they won and beheaded Charles. Oliver Cromwell their army head.
    In the 17th century Scotland was a bad place to be: repression by the English again and again, after the return of Charles II (a Stuart) to England, violent civil conflicts between Scots’ groups, religious fanaticism, poverty. A group of Scots did crown Charles II King of Great Britain; Montrose’s rebellion against Cromwell savagely put down; General Monck no better. Religious fantaticism agai of “God’s covenanted people.” Scott dramatizes some of this history in Old Mortality. Charles is able to take power in England 1660 and he is cunning enough not “to go on his travels again,” and dies in his bed, but his brother, James had become Catholic. He tried the same kind of tricks, more mild as Charles I but liberty had been experienced and the interregnum was a tremendously fertile time for new ideas (communists called Levellers emerged). When he tried self-rule and to override laws against Catholics claiming this was toleration, rebellion emerged – in Scotland too where they were Presbyterians. He has a nervous breakdown, flees, throne said to be empty and he is replaced by his daughter, Mary, and her husband William – a Stadholder from the Netherlands. They die childless, and Anne, brought up Protestant takes over. Poor woman gives birth 15 times, no one survives. She was a Stuart and Protestant.
    Parliament used to picking its kings asks the ruler of Brunswick-Luneburg to come and be king – but with many hedges. Here begins Parliament’s power. Incomparably richer more powerful position. The present Windsors are descendents of these Hanovers even if not directly. As long as James II was alive none of these people were seen as legitimate by Catholics – that is your international dimension. The Catholic countries harbored the Stuarts. Under Louis XIV they set up an alternate king. I worked long and hard on a laer 17th and early 18th century poet, Anne Finch, who was a maid of honor to Mary of Modena, James II’s Spanish catholic wife. Her husband, Heneage, fled with James II, and until the mid 1690s refused to take the oath of allegiance when what happened was everyone in the family had died and he was to be heir. He must be a protestant, they must get positions from court. I know as a reality that in the 1690s through 1710s there was a lot of Jacobite feeling – even among high church anglicans. There are those who argue Samuel Johnson who detested Whigs and was a radical thinking Tory had feeling for the Jacobite cause or nexus. He went to Scotland. Wrote a remarkable travel book about Scots Hebrides. Boswell would be one of the lowland pro-British capitalist Scots.
     Economic interests of the powerful among the English at odds with economic interests of Scots capitalists. Some famous disasters. The Union forced on the Scots. The Hanovers are protestant, they are the creatures to some extent of Parliament, they are supported by thinking which is sceptical about divine right. Locke is their great philosopher. They are supported by merchants, moneyed people, city people – and Mrs Western who fancies herself the sophisticate. These are not good guys: whigs are pro-war; they are ferocious colonialists; they are gangs and coteries of upper class individuals where much money is also made in trade.
    Stuarts are Catholic, they believe in divine right, they are often found among the landowners because the landowners don’t gain much from war; they are far high corn, artificially high bread prices. It fits that Squire Western might be a quiet Jacobite – you didn’t admit it openly. Strong penal laws against Catholics, treason to be a Jacobite.
    There were a number of complex complicated rebellions at this point. The first does not quite fit my paradigm – because it’s too simple – in 1688 Monmouth, an illegitimate son of Charles II, rebelled on behalf of Protestantism (and himself) against James II. He was savagely put down. Scots came to his aid, more rural people, those disaffected for all sorts of reasons. At the same time there was a rebellion up in Scotland in the 1679-1680s ferociously put down – Walter Scott has novels on this ;a great place to learn this history is his Old Mortality; I recommend the novel for itself too. Scots fighting Scots: Presbyters versus high church. Cavalier versus puritan. A couple of DuMaurier’s novels use this material: King’s General, Jamaica Inn which takes place in the southwest in the 18th to 19th century.
    1715 James III invades and it takes an effort to put it down.
    Final crash in 1745 with Bonny Prince Charly, James III’s son at the head of an army. They never got close to London at all. Watch Watkins’s Culloden. The question that people argue over until today is how much strength had these Jacobites in England? It used to be denied but then the regime that ruled had it in its interest to make everyone think there were few Jacobites. In fact it felt to be a present and real danger, a site where discontent could rally round to the point that after England won they went into Scotland practices ethnic cleansing in all its varieties, started a wide diaspora of the Scots out of the Highlands especially. It was the clan system which had given the Stuarts wha chance they had to return.

Battestin maintains Henry Fielding was unalterably opposed to Jacobitism; Stevenson disagrees. What in the novel supports Battestin’s view? Tom. The narrator at times who links belief in the Jacobite cause with tyranny and superstition (worshipping objects). Outside Fielding in some strident downright statements by Fielding. But wait? The novel is filled with Jacobites – because Fielding wanted to mirror the reality or because he sympathized. Everyone in the novel but Tom seems to believe in ghosts, and Tom turns into one after he is almost killed by Norterton. Sophia is mistaken for Jenny Cameron. Our man on the hill originally rebelled. Mrs Western, Lady Bellaston and the whole London crew are no advertisement for the Hanoverian regime. It’s important if you are trying to understand the vision of this book – trying to understand what it’s about and where Fielding is. Is Tom’s story an analogy for Monmouth and after him Bonny Prince Charlie? Was Fielding seduced or repelled by Charles Stuart’s story and personality?

If we look at one dialogue between the Westerns (Bk 6. Ch 2, pp 246-347), we find that Western associates the Hanoverian regime as filled with bribery and corruption. But not much else – it is true that the way gov’t was run then was wholly patronage and what is that but bribery and corruption?. Mrs Western’s ridiculous vanity makes her want to think she is part of this world.

Another (Bk 6, Ch 14, p 287): Mrs Western associates Hanoverians with liberty of the subject and it was in the 1690s that a bill of rights was passed which the French knew of in 1789 and influenced our own bills of rights (p 287). Tom associates King George with liberty. Bottom of the page he is angry because he suspects the Hanovers are not for keeping the price of bread artificially high: he’d make less money and wars would be cheaper. Hanovers are rats eating his stores. It was the Tories who were strongest for the Black Act – keep people down in the country, but the Hanovers who were strongest against smuggling (free trade going on everywhere)

What we see of the soldiers shows us they know little of what they are fighting about – much like soldiers today perhaps.

Outside of Tom Jones can be found trains of thought and ironies that could show Fielding to be antagonistic at least to present regime. Ronald Paulson offers a nuanced reading of Fielding’s ironic Jacobites Journal. In A Jacobites Journal Fielding writes “what is loyalty in one reign, is treason in another” Turncoat an utter hypocrite, not to be trusted nor trimmers. To be a character named John Trott-Plaid is very plausible –- is Fielding ironic or not exaggerating enough? He published it in 1748; by calling himself a Jacobite he gets readership, by being ironic he is safe from accusation –- plus he is so strident in public about how pro-Hanoverian he is. He shows much of the two side’s propaganda is so much slander. Paulson says that Fielding exposes bogus history and bogus myth (again watch the BBC docudrama). The chronic fabrications that surround Allworthy could be called the equivalent of the Stuarts mythologizing, all piety. Blifil an ultimate Jacobite. He does allude to some Jacobite historians in Tom Jones.

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A boy caught up in the system at Culloden

Culloden-by-Peter-WatkinsCharlie
The actors playing Charles Stuart — the actual man had had 10 days experience of fighting as a boy from afar; Stuart left the field and did nothing for those he had brought there

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The Hanoverian side

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Far shot of battle

To ask these questions and look into what Culloden was, what Jacobitism, makes the book more interesting, and fits a perspective on it as deeply sceptical, pessimistic, with a cynical understanding of what makes the world tick and how so many wander about. Battestin talks about the people who came to Fielding’s court as a bunch of low life unworthy people – from the height of his tenured privileged environment he castigates these idle disorderly desperate thieves, prostitutes, smugglers, gamblers, domestic violence – but Fielding didn’t. He set up a surveillance office in guise of an employment agency perhaps but he did help people to jobs if they had “characters.”

In Book 16, Chapter 5, when Tom is nearing his nadir, Fielding takes time out to show Jones, the youngest female Miller, Mrs Miller and Partridge watching Hamlet. People did go to the theater a lot; in all ranks that could. It was a popular art form. So off go Jones, the youngest female Miller, Mrs Miller and Partridge.

What’s really strange or wants explanation here is that Fielding goes through the whole play step by step. He really touches upon each of the phases of Hamlet. If you ‘ve read and remember it, it’s uncanny. Even Hamlet with his mother. Critics have expended much ink on this one. On one level obviously it’s making fun of the belief in ghosts we see in Partridge. Partridge is also the naïve audience member who believes the people in front of him are real and gets intensely excited. Don’t knock this as not done anymore: actors have to be careful who they enact, viewers treat repeating characters as real people.

Stevenson sees a political application, and that the political application links up with the other politics of the book – that is that Partridge is a Jacobite Hamlet is a revenge play about a usurper – Claudius is usurping the throne having killed Hamlet’s father. Cause of George is cause of common sense? Great play not about common sense. I wonder if it’s meant to fill out Partridge. Make us like him. Does Fielding really mind superstition? He looks kindly at people’s foibles which do no harm, though belief in ghosts does harm and elsewhere he observes this. If Fielding not so anti-Jacobite, then maybe he feels affection for this man. He loves how Partridge is totally involved with the characters from moment to moment. Partridge is a truer father to Tom than Mr Allworthy.

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1963 Tom clutches Partridge to him and kisses him

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1997 Partridge kisses Jones (Max Beasley is Jones)

(A link to Black George here who carries letters back and forth between Sophia and Tom in London, which letters form an epistolary kind of story.)

We could say the chapter on Hamlet is a tribute to the actors and Garrick as Hamlet, to the theater itself which is part of the skein of metaphor in the book

And the idea we are actors and audience both takes us back to the narrator’s disquisition (quoted at end of section 1 of the blog). Another response of the audience is utter delusion, self-identification, misreading — this coheres with some of what David Hume thought. These people, the audience Fielding knows are his customers, us his readers; he was their/our playwright is now the host of a tavern in which they and we cavort.

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Fielding as narrator (John Sessions, 1997 Tom Jones)

Ellen

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WordsworthClassic
Wordsworth Classics edition of Tom Jones

EdKeymer
Penguin edition of Tom Jones, ed. Keymer and Wakeley

Dear friends and readers,

There are many editions available of Fielding’s Tom Jones, including translations (I know about the Italian and French). The film by Richardson and especially the scene where Tom eats at Mrs Walters and she eats back remains famous. And in this institute famous respected older masterpieces are what’s wanted. So when I offered a course in this book at American University’s Oscher Institute of Lifelong Learning, a full room of people showed up, and most stayed on I was not surprised. I think many of the students were surprised at my approach to the text, and was told later by several the whole thing began to make sense say 6 weeks into the semester (so that’s some 600 pages in). I was surprised by my approach too.

You see in the summer I had been genuinely worried whether they would like it. After more than 25 years rereading it, I wasn’t sure I liked it. In an effort to help myself along I listened to a different dramatic reading aloud of the text than the one I had listened to years before by David Case (a great favorite with me). In this new one, by Ken Danziger, a reader who I had hitherto real respect for (as I had enjoyed listening to his renditions of other books), he enacted Fielding’s narrator as if he were slow-speaking (foolish) comic character in an eighteenth-century play — and as a consequence made the book excruciatingly tedious. I tried a couple others, including one by Edward Fox (a fine actor) but none worked so well as Case’s where he just moved through the text with a continual changing tonal irony, sort of opportunistically and unemphatically yet dramatic when doing the characters enabling the narrator then to vanish for a bit.

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Well the 11 weeks turned out to be a journey of discovery for myself as I tried to help a group of adults truly understand and appreciate what this book had to say to its contemporaries and could say to us today. As an undergraduate I did realize that the Battestin neo-Protestant hagiographic account of Fielding and reading of Tom Jones as consistently Hanoverian-ethical and conservative was fundamentally unreal and obtuse, and when I watched the films, that it was neither an innocent sexual romp (that is how Richardson’s film is commonly misunderstood) or ethical sermon (the Reithian BBC people, meaning to educate, inform, and entertain us), but had not before tried myself to work out some other framing, some way to close read the text that took into account all its inconsistencies, sexual misogyny, and different kinds of discourses and details. Now I began to feel the way I had read the book and understood it was wholly inadequate. Each paragraph seems to require a close reading as if it were a poem.

I began therefore by talking about all the obstacles in the way of understanding the narrator, and those aspects of Fielding’s early life and life in the theater and private life apart from his remunerative activities after the Licensing Act which are clearly reflected in the book. I began to chose essays to share with the class as week by week I found we needed different lenses to close read the text together, each one providing slightly different framings by which to understand that part of the book and by extension the whole text in front of us. I used very recent ones starting with more historical background topics, say (from Stevenson’s book), to sociology and law (Simpson on rape cases and attitudes towards sex and women in the courts), and others reading the novel thematically, psychoanalytically, or as an attempt to put together from a new genre that conformed to the evolving conventions of naturalistic probability. Or just essays disagreeing on what was alluded to in an inset history or story or encounter and why.

Nonetheless, I’ve come to think the book when read adequately transcends its eighteenth-century features and to treat of its issues and problems comparably to our own can make us question or have to re-think our own norms today. I’m going to use this blog to tell some of this here. If you need reminding about Fielding’s story or characters, you can find other sites on the Net for this. I suggest anyone who does not know book, and wants to read on, set aside enough time for 100 pages a week, or watch the 1997 5 hour mini-series and then find time to read the book. I’m not sure I can tell about reading together over 11 weeks, turning pages of the novel. But I can tell about a few of the essays that helped me and the class understand the content of the book. So to begin with, three very different essays from across the term.

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Wm Hogarth, Morning (alluded to by Fielding, as suggestive of what Mrs Bridget Allworthy looks like)

I’ll go backwards, beginning with the one that I read in the 10th week which gave a holistic account of the book through a history of what has been written and said about Fielding and his writing in the last 300 years by Robert Hume (Fielding at 300: Elusive, Confusing, Misappropriated, or (Perhaps) Obvious?”, Modern Philology). It took me the best part of a day to read (and I’ve no idea how many others in the class read it); I’d never read it before and think the sense it makes can be appreciated only after a hard slog through the book’s details. This essay made me feel better because Hume can be summed up as telling the reader how difficult it is to reach Fielding in Tom Jones. He feels that only recently have people been willing to describe the text frankly; a work of genius, one said to be so popular at one time, and as widely-read as the state of literacy and the ability of any group of people to pay for or reach a copy of the text, and called immoral, amoral, felt to be disquieting at the time and yet a serious book, is not supposed to be inconsistent, at core evasive, one which works by association, and was written spontaneously as it came to Fielding within the confines or discipline of this carefully-plotted story line.

Despite all Fielding’s efforts at construction (chapters within books, neatly set off inset histories), at calendared time, keeping to announcing probable space covered on foot, by horse, coach, with all characters mostly accounted for against probable diurnal fates, is chaotic, autobiographical (an author blind to himself), obsessive (all these carping critics attacking him), endlessly repetitive (how many times does he go over the arguments against and cruelties of coerced marriage?). The narrator is by turns deeply sceptical, subversive in all sorts of ways (as his contemporaries, among them Arthur Murphy who wrote a “Life and Genius” saw) — and then again sexually really so conventional. Hume says rather than see him as a swaggering frat boy we should recognize he’s an sexually insecure male hitting out at supposedly powerful women –- as when Lady Bellaston keeps Tom as a sexual plaything. Hume talks of how the character of Amelia is an attempt to get beyond the Sophia emblematic presentations. He even mentions the attribution problem where still texts by Sarah Fielding are in part or whole attributed to her brother (Ophelia is by some given to him) or text by him attributed to her (the Anna Boleyn narrative). Hume ends on the idea that we might regard Fielding’s most common impulse that the teacher; Fielding is teaching us, his mask teacherlyness.

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So that’s for the book as a whole. Two other topics will do for tonight. Sex and money. Money first. We read James Thompson’s essay on how money worked in the 18th century, how it was created, its basis, how what was considered money (a medium of exchange) was changing (Patterns of Property and Possession,” Eighteenth Century Fiction). In this era there was a transition and jockeying between bullion, actual coins, gold and silver and paper money as well as paper credit. What he shows is that Fielding is a social and economic conservative when it comes to money: a bill of money is worth so much at the opening of the novel and it is still worth that at the end; objects do not lose and gain their value by circumstances. Black George does not grew rich on the funds after he gave found and secreted away the £500 Mr Allworthy meant for Tom; he gives the bill to Mr Nightingale (Tom’s friend’s father) who has not yet invested it when Mr Allworthy comes to visit him and sees it.

Thompson also shows how attitudes toward property, personal property and money reveals Fielding’s attitudes towards fundamental issues of all sorts. We see that money is a kind of instrument people use against one another and we do see how life itself, bodies, much else are subject to money. Thompson takes Battestin’s traditional view that at the close of the novel all is well as we return to Paradise Hall; a providential pattern is asserted, but in the notes he quotes other critics’ view that Fortune (or chance) is what rules this world, and there is much in the novel to critique what property has become: I read aloud Pope’s great lines:

Blest paper-credit! last and best supply!
That lends Corruption lighter wings to fly!
Gold imp’d by thee, can compass hardest things,
Can pocket States, can fetch or carry Kings;
A single leaf shall waft an Army o’er,
Or ship off Senates to a distant Shore;
A leaf, like Sibyl’s, scattered to and fro
Our fates and fortunes, as the winds shall blow, (lines 69-76)

We then zeroed in on one aspect of this early history of money: bank bills and the bill of exchange. A bank bill is a note which can be traded and exchanged. In the case of a bill of exchange there is a co-signer and the person it'[s made out to gets money from a bank. The co-signer is the person responsible for paying a bill. Why? since the money goes to the person who made up the bill. Bills of exchange were a way of borrowing money personally when you had no security, nothing the bank could take in lieu of the money borrowed – before credit cards. (it’s not good to think of it as a check because when we write a check we are supposed to have money in our bank to back it up). It’s a piece of paper, a note to a money-lender and get the specified amount of money from that lender minus that man’s profit, called a discounted. The phrase is the bill is discounted. The borrower without security has to get someone to ”accept” the bill before the money-lender will give him the money; it’s understood that accepter acts as collateral (something pledged as security, a car, a house, an expensive object worth money).

When Mr Allworthy signs the bank bill that he has agreed to supply the money for Mr Jones. Why did third co-signers do that? In a world where patronage, coteries, family networks supplied all jobs and promotion, pressure could be put on people outside these magic circles. You as acceptor – signer – have no control over who has it unless you have the money to buy it back. Mr Allworthy does. There was a business in buying such bills by people prepared to send in bailiffs and have the household and goods of the person who accepted the bill sold. By the 19th century. You may have co-signed for a son or daughter? So as the bill exchanges hands it is signed and Mr Allworthy can trace where it’s been and who is it comes from.

Thompson suggests Fielding distrusts and detests the way money had begun to be used. He uses the example of Jonathan Wild (an earlier novel) and what happens in Amelia — after Tom Jones. Wild is a successful exploiter: as the narrator puts it, “a prig [thief to steal with the hands of other people” (p. 168). Fielding also plays with the increasing dimensions of capital, its capacity to make money from money, so that Wild cheats a whole series of people one after another, profiting from each of them. Theft serves Fielding as a kind of laboratory economy, a miniaturization of an exchange system. It also serves as the ironic frustration of capitalist exchange, for theft is a zero-sum game, one in which money moves around, through various forms of thieving, cheating, and pick-pocketing, but the value remains constant (as in the card-sharking scenes in the man on the hill’s history). In microeconomic system, thieves prey upon one another in daisy-chain fashion, all cheating one another and negating each other’s effects. In Tom Jones we watch the movement of bills, but in Amelia we trace the journey of debts.

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Lady Bellaston (Joan Greenwood) and Lord Fellamar (David Tomlinson) (1963 Tom Jones)

Then sex. Over half the articles I sent to the people in the class were about some aspect of sex so this will be the first of a few. We read a chapter from Laura Rosenthal’s Infamous Commerce: Prostitution in 18th century Literature and Culture on Tom as a prostitute (or kept man). Most of Rosenthal’s chapters concern female prostitution; she asks the question why does prostitution figure so centrally in restoration through 18th century literature, either literally or as metaphor? She says we can answer that question by substituting looking at prostitutes simply from the sexual degradation and status perspective to as figures of commerce; as people employed in one of those businesses you didn’t need patronage to enter into. They formed part of the changeover from a feudal hierarchical society to a commercial one. The body was a commodity, as something to be sold. Since marriage was coerced for money, it could be gathered up into this perspective: Mr Nightingale wants his son to sell himself to gain aggrandizement for the family.

She writes on Richardson’s Clarissa in Chapter 5; her piece on Tom Jones comes from chapter 6. She uses the word rogue in the 18th century sense (low born scoundrel), and says if we compare Tom’s stories to what we find in realities and in other stories, he is not at all a rake (usually elegant) but a paid stallion, and in the exchange with Lady Bellaston once he takes her money he is honor bound to have sex with her –- because she paid for it. Neither his gender nor privileged upbringing can protect his most intimate person from becoming a commodity, up for sale.

Key chapter and passages are several places, but most strongly in Book 13, chapter 9 where Tom is at Lady Bellaston’s beck and call. We watch Tom carrying on having sex with Lady Bellaston: she commands him to perform. Salient points I found valuable is the comparison between Molly, who is as low and smelly as they come; she wants sex with him for what she can get out of it, and in the end she gets a good deal of the £500 Black George tried to steal. Tom’s interaction with Mrs Walters is a woman who has come to survive by becoming a kept woman herself – we see its danger in her total lack of a safety net from Northerton. She enjoys sex with Tom as an interlude. In his third relationship Tom is supported by Lady Bellaston and his gorge really rises at it when it’s Nightingale who looks at him while he’s preaching and points out to him he’s fucking for wages himself. Who is he to talk? Nightingale’s solution is Tom should present himself as a fortune-hunter – in the book we have that type in Mr Fitzpatrick. Not very comforting. Tom writes her a letter asking her to marry him and she drops him.

Looking at the book from the standpoint of sex, commerce and power – Tom Jones is about sex, no doubt about it, but sex intelligently seen. The city may harbor Lady Bellaston but it gives Mrs Miller her opportunity to support herself; Mrs. Fitzpatrick escapes imprisonment and spousal abuse through cosmopolitan keeping. She is desperate for her aunt and uncle to forgive and take her in and give her respectability and safety but when they will not she finds an alternative. While Mrs Walters appears to be downwardly mobile, Mrs Fitzpatrick and Mrs Miller are going up – as long as Nancy remains off the market. Mrs Miller is intensely concerned lest her house be known as a “house of ill repute:” there is a fine line between boarding houses and brothels. And the way Tom is behaving with Lady Bellaston is allowing her house to be used as a brothel.

But before we dismiss Mrs Walters the one contract that holds in the book is between her and the spinster Mrs Bridget Allworthy. The outcome of the book depended on their promise and contract whereby a woman offers to present herself as having become pregnant outside marriage to enable the other to keep her illegitimate baby under her blind and rigid brother’s nose. Mr Allworthy continually scolds lower class people (Partridge) and women for having sex outside marriage: he predicts dire things; he says it dehumanizes them, they become animals. Only through having sex secretly or for money can they survive. Blifil is able to get Mr Allworthy to throw Tom out because one of the accusations is he is after Sophia; it’s okay for Tom, the foundling, to be after Molly, but not Sophia. (We see farcical sympathetic versions of stallionhood.) Rosenthal suggests a close correspondence between a novella of the period called The Matchless Rogue and Tom Jones. Tom works his way out and up because he is the bastard nephew of Mr Allworthy; the result of a fragile sexual contract kept by Mrs Walters and Mrs Allworthy. Rosenthal makes sense of Mrs Miller too. Sexual contracts are the basis of this society just as much as money and property but you have to be on the right side of the sexual contract if you are low in class.

Marx analyzed the relationships of people for the first time to show how it’s dependent on property, who owns what controls who can do what; well there are equally important books about the sexual contract: until 1870s or so men related directly to the cash and property nexus, women only through their relationship with men; the core of their lives is still a sexual contract with the man having a great advantage.

I added that Carole Pateman’s way of seeing society’s basis as a sexual contract with men connecting directly to the state and one another and society and women connecting only through men can enable us to see women’s position in all this. Fielding’s text shows us men do not have the big advantage they may think not even sexually.

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John Sessions as Henry Fielding, counting his characters off on his fingers (1997 Tom Jones)

I’ll end this second blog on Tom Jones by saying I told this group of people I took a post-modern approach to Tom Jones – as I try to do to most of what I reach or teach. Post-modern may be defined as a set of ideas or practices that reject conventional mainstream values as having much effect on what happens in the world or what people do; that also eschew conventional means of presenting stories and films, any kind of art. An important facet is a questioning, sometimes disavowal of Enlightenment assertions about what is progress and the rightness of European ideas of civilization. These mainstream values are to stand here and preach about say vanity or pride or whatever is the lesson supposedly taught. What’s the reality of the way the world operates and how does this author or his art work relate to it.

Accordingly, here is one of the great moral lessons of the book. The narrator enunciates it directly upon Tom’s ejection from his (adopted) father’s house

    Wisdom, in short, whose Lessons have been represented as so hard to learn by those who never were at her School, only teaches us to extend a simple Maxim universally known and followed even in the lowest Life, a little farther than that Life carries it. And this not to buy at too dear a price.
    Now, whoever takes this Maxim abroad with him into the grand Market of the World, and constantly applies it to Honours, to Riches, to Pleasures, and to every other Commodity which that Market affords, is, I will venture to affirm, a wise Man; and must be .so acknowledged in the worldly Sense of the Word: For he makes the best of Bargains; since in Reality he purchases every Thing at the Price only of a little Trouble, and carries home all the good Things I have mentioned, while he keeps his Health, his Innocence, and his Reputation, the common Prices which are paid for them by others, entire and to himself.
    From this Moderation, likewise, he learns two other Lessons, which complete his Character. First, never to be intoxicated when he hath made the best Bargain, nor dejected when the Market is empty, or when its Commodities are too dear for his Purchase (Penguin TJ, ed Keymer, Bk 6, Ch 3, pp 251-52.

Don’t pay more than you can afford for that ticket; when negotiating do not come near collapse from drink, and don’t get depressed because you will often be powerless.

Ellen

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Bronze Age Tomb in Cornwall

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Launceston Gaol, early modern to 19th century prison …

A Syllabus

For a Study Group at the Oscher LifeLong Learning Institute at George Mason University
Seven sessions: Wednesdays, 11:50 to 1:15 pm, Tallwood, 4210 Roberts Road
Dates: Sept 30th to November 11th
Dr Ellen Moody

Description of Course

In this course we’ll read Winston Graham’s Ross Poldark and Demelza, the first two of a twelve novel series, and we’ll watch and compare episodes from the first and second Poldark TV mini-series (1974-7, 2015-present). The first two Poldarks are brilliantly realized regional romances, part of a set of four (the other two, Jeremy Poldark and Warleggan) excellently researched historical novels dramatizing issues of concern to a war-torn world; the second trilogy (The Black Moon, The Four Swans, and The Angry Tide, written 1973-1977) dramatizes 1960 and 1970 feminist and political movements; and the second quartet and coda (The Stranger from the Sea, The Miller’s Dance, The Loving Cup, The Twisted Sword, and Bella, 1981-91, 2003), colonialism, war, parliamentary politics, and even animal rights. All though the prisms of the Cornish landscape, history, the industry of mining and business of smuggling, and medicine; and issues of law and (in)justice, poaching and gaming laws, courts and prisons, and class and marital customs, and European wars. The 1970 and the new 2015 series adapt and re-boot the books across 40 years. Graham wrote other historical fiction, one history and travel book (about Cornwall), and many mystery and psychological thrillers, for some of which he won prestigious awards; others were made into famous respected films which helped “make” the careers of the central actors (e.g., Sean Connery in Hitchcock’s Marni; Devid Hemmings in Till and Bluestone’s Walking Stick). We  will treat the novels as serious historical fiction and compare and discuss the films

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Robin Ellis as Ross Poldark, leaving fair, Angharad Rees as Demelza climbing up

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Clive Francis as a sympathetic troubled Francis Poldark

Required texts: Graham, Winston. Ross Poldark: A Novel of Cornwall, 1783-1787 and Demelza: A Novel of Cornwall, 1788-1790. They are available in the US in two different editions: NY: Sourcebooks, 2009/10 (RP is 330 pages, D is 374) or NY: PanMacmillan, 2008 (RP is 472 pages, and D is 422).

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Click on map to make larger: the imagined map of Poldark country is placed on top of the real Cornwall

Format: Study group meetings will be a mix of informal lecture and group discussion.

Sept 23: No class as I am unable to be there, but read ahead for the first class, RP, Bk 1, Chs 1-9.
Sept 30: In class: Winston Graham, life & career; what is historical fiction and/or film? Read for next time RP, Bk 1, Chs 10-18, Bk 2, Chs 1-4.
Oct 7: Ross Poldark. For next time read RP, Bk 2, Chs 5-8, Bk 3, Chs 1-8; read also NMoody, “Poldark Country and National Culture.”
Oct 14: Ross Poldark. For next time finish RP, Bk 3, Chs 9-10; and read Demelza, Bk 1, Chs 1-13
Oct 21: Ross Poldark and Demelza. Read for next time, Demela, Bk 1, Ch 14-15; Bk 2, Chs 1-12; read also RMoseley, “‘It’s a wild country … passionate and strange.”
Oct 28: Demelza. The class watches brief clips from the 1975 Poldark; read for next time, Demelza, Bk 2, Chs 3-11, Bk 4, Ch 1, and EMoody, “I have the right to choose my own life.” Online.
Nov 4: Demelza. For next time finish Demelza, Bk 4, Chs 2-11. Read Julie Taddeo’s “‘Why don’t you take her:’ Rape in the Poldark narrative.” It appeared in a book on the BBC costume drama, as about film adaptation. Sent by attachment.
Nov 11: Demelza. The class watches brief clips from 2015 Poldarks; we finish Demelza and I anticipate Jeremy Poldark and Warleggan.

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Aidan Turner as Ross sitting among, part of the working mining men

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Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza, walking and playing with her dog, Garrick

Recommended books (articles sent by attachment):

Graham, Winston .Poldark’s Cornwall. Oxford: Bodley Head, 1983.
————— Poldark, Novels of Cornwall, 1783-1820. London: Panmacmillan, 1924-2003.
—————. Memoirs of a Private Man. London: Panmacmillan, 2003
Hay Douglas, Peter Linebaugh, E. P. Thompson, et alia. Albion’s Fatal Tree: Crime and Society in 18th century England. NY: Pantheon, 1975.
Marsden, Philip. Rising Ground. London: Granta, 2014.
Moody, Nickianne. “Poldark Country and National Culture,” from Cornwall: The Cultural construction of a Place.
Moody, Ellen. “‘I have the right to choose my own life:’ Liberty in the Poldark Novels,” on-line my website.
Moseley, Rachel. “‘It’s a Wild Country. Wild … Passionate … Strange’: Poldark and the Place-Image of Cornwall,” from Visual Culture in Britain.
Poldark. Dr Christopher Barry, Paul Annett. Writers. Jack Pullman, Paul Wheeler. Perf. Robin Ellis and Angharad Rees, Jill Townsend, Ralph Bates, Paul Curran, Norma Steader, Richard Morahan. BBC/1975-76, 1977-78.
Poldark. Drs. Wm MacGregor, Edward Bazalgette, Writer Debbie Horsfield. Perf. Aidan Turner, Eleanor Tomlinson, Kyle Soller, Ruby Bentall, Jack Farthing. BBC/ITV, 2015-
Porter, Roy and Dorothy. Patient’s Progress: Doctors and Doctoring in 18th century England. Stanford: StanfordUPress, 1989

Further on-line materials:

Authorized updated website on Graham, his life, novels, films.
The Poldark novels, and other fiction, non-fiction and films.
Winston Graham: lists of books, essays and other websites.

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Winston Graham and Garrick, still a puppy, at Perranporth Beach

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Godolphin House, Cornwall (used as Trenwith, Poldark family home, 1975-76)

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Wheal Owles Mine, Penwith, St Just, Cornwall (fallen into desuetude, for far shots of Ross’s Wheal Leisure, 2015)

Ellen

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” … 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)

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Verity (Norma Streader) assuring Blamey she will now elope with him as they both have been tested for years (Wheeler script, 1975 Poldark 7)

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Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) defending herself for having helped Verity to choose her own life (well-acted but fudged words in Horsfield’s script, 2015 Poldark 7)

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.

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At the close of the BBC Episode 7, Aiden Turner as Ross deeply hurt and puzzled by how Demelza has behaved to him (Horsfield’s script and reading)

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.

***********************

Graham’s Demelza:

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.

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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.

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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.”

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Enys trying to explain to Ross and Jinny what happened

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Ross telling grieving Jinny when she is ready to return to Nampara for salary and help, ignore rumors, he says

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.

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Demelza warning Keren, moralizing, Keren says it’s easy for Demelza who lives in comfortable house with educated man

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.

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Enys leaves Geoffrey Charles in Verity’s hands

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Elizabeth utterly self-absorbed, though frantically worried about child

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.

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Clive Francis as shamed Francis, grateful to Verity, Enys

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.

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Ralph Bates as Warleggan holding out 600 pounds, and Francis cannot resist

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.

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Long scene between Enys and Keren as lovers: moving intimate scene

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.

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Powerful theatrical scene

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.

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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.

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Enys distraught on shore

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.”

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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.

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Free at last

She is with Blamey. A moving scene. So sometimes breaking away is right.

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Francis incensed, and Demelza astonished to discover how she is despised, and that he did betray Ross

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.”

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Demelza for once fires up, defending what she did for Verity, why she went to Francis, but before Ross can react, Mark at window and is let in:

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Ross now advising Mark

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.

Seashore

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.

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See continuation in comments: 2015 Episode 7; concluding remarks on the three versions.

Ellen

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Courage shall grow keener, clearer the will,
the heart fiercer as our force faileth …
— Anglo-Saxon poem, The Battle of Maldon (as translated by Michael Alexander

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Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark: as magnificent against defeat

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Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza Carne, asked where she is going (near final shots of Episode 1)

Dear friends and readers,

As I have written altogether too much (probably) about the twelve Poldark books, the 1975 mini-series (a Cornish Che Guevara) and 1977-78, Graham’s other historical fiction, mysteries and costume drama, I asked myself what could I contribute that would be found useful, or enrichening to readers of the books and watchers of these two mini-series, made 40 years apart. Well, comparisons. I will not be recapping; I assume my reader has read the novels, at least Ross Poldark, Demelza, Jeremy Poldark and Warleggan (the first quartet, written 1945-53) and refer him or her to recaps elsewhere. I find most far-reaching in the changes is how the popular vision, how we today see the 18th century is changing in films:

Let us begin with Episode 1:

Let us first admit there is a real similarity in what is covered and emphasized in two mini-series, though the presentation seems worlds apart cinematographically, and what was contained in two episodes in 1975 (the taking in of Demelza occurred in Jack Pullman’s 1975 Episode 2) and occurs in one in 2015 (the screenplay writer is a directing force in British productions, so 2015 is shaped by Debbie Horsfield). Neither film dramatized Joshua Poldark’s death, both begin with Ross coming home in the stagecoach; both have his visit to Trenwith where Verity and Francis greet him with emotional friendship, while Charles holds back; while the 1975 includes Pearce as a first visit and Pascoe as a second.

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Ross and Pearce (1975, where an emotional soft bonding counts, Pearce calls Ross “m’boy”)

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Ross and Pascoe (2015, where the banker is predominant in telling the bad news of no legacy that can support him)

Both emphasize how Nampara has become a wreck (though Jud and Prudie are made more appealing in 1975, more genuinely attached to Ross, and he less severe to them), Ross’s bonds with his tenant-friends and companions and decent humane behavior towards them. Centrally important, both take material from Warleggan, the fourth Poldark novel (the back story which is not told clearly or that emphatically in Ross Poldark, the 1st) in order to make clear how Ross has loved, in his mind and heart clung to, a dream of Elizabeth Chynoweth, so we have several scenes between them. Both have Francis and Ross going down in the mine and Francis nearly drowning because he tries to apologize to Ross for taking Elizabeth from him and arouses Ross’s deep rage, with Ross’s hesitation about saving him (“Why haven’t you learned to swim?”), the wedding, Ross’s desolation.

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Kyle Soller as Francis trying to explain, openly vulnerable (2015)

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Ross and Clive Francis as Francis Poldark, companionable, after Ross’s rescue, Ellis not as deeply angry as Turner (1975)

In literal details it may seem that the 2015 episode is closer to the book (for example, Ross meets Elizabeth first at Trenwith at the engagement party), but a second viewing will reveal some pivotal details have changed. For example, nowhere in the novel does Charles offer Ross 300£ to leave; Horsfield (however she may deny having watched or read the previous mini-series) got that from the Pullman where Charles demands 300£ in money owed him by his brother, Joshua, money Ross desperately needs and has borrowed from Pearce; Horsfield makes central to her first episode that Ross is tempted to leave and then decides not to because what is most meaningful to him in life is his relationship to the people there, the land, and what he can do for both through his ownership of possibly payable ground (mining). Horfield brings Demelza in much earlier than Pullman because Demelza is not seen as a raucous “fiesty” semi-sexual thieving rakish girl (a concept Pullman and his team modeled Angharad Rees on from Tony Richardson’s influential 1966 Tom Jones where women are coy sex kittens), nor Ross as combining the swashbuckling romance hero of Gainsborough costume drama (a kind of Stewart Grainger) with the strong leftist-liberal politics of both Graham’s 1945 book and the 1970s BBC progressive costume drama.

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Robin Ellis and Angharad Rees from Episode 2 (1975)

Instead Demelza is a genuinely abject semi-cowed, beaten, subaltern young girl, understandably hostile (like a dog who has been badly treated), guarded against all comers, attached to her dog, Garrick, who alone has loved her, and standing for in Ross’s mind, Cornwall itself, what (he says in the last moments of the episode) he had almost forgotten, what he will retrieve, and the eighteenth century here is not a world of elegance seen from an upper class Austen-ish point of view, but from below, a grimy, grim, brutal, desperate place of people living mostly a subsidence life, where they are hard to one another.

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Ross by fireside drinking and eating with men; he often also drinks alone

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Demelza walking, singing with dog alongside, but basically alone too

The analogy for 1975 is The Oneddin Line mini-series, for 2015, the recent Outlander, indebted to Peter Weir’s 2003 Master and Commander). Ellis’s ultimately descend from the Errol Flynn image of the gay swashbuckling, elegant hero, combining with the liberal outlook say of Albert Finney as Tom Jones; Aidan Turner’s looks are rough, Napoleonic era long coat and rebellious army man, strongly influenced at the same time by Johnnie Depp in The Libertine.

Other important differences which will be developed: Heidi Reed (2015) as Elizabeth Chynoweth is made much kinder, sweeter, less self-involved, and unlike Graham’s Elizabeth) partly marrying out of obedience to a mother and affection for Francis, guilty about Ross and herself rooted in Cornwall (all an invention on Horsfield’s part)

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Reed given a penultimate speech to Ross that he must stay in Cornwall (completely outside Graham’s Elizabeth’s character

Jill Townsend is permitted to enact Graham’s concept in Warleggan of a woman genuinely frightened of the reckless Ross, seeking material comfort and prestige, in need of security. In neither series does the ambiguous woman, adult with complex motives, deeply resentful of Demelza eventually, and no friend to Verity, selfish and yet strong when and where strength is needed, not particularly enamoured of Cornwall (she’d love to go to London) whom Ross had fallen in love with:

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Townsend turning away from Ross lest she be seduced by her erotic and affectionate attachment to him

Perspectives on the themes of Graham’s book matter: in both Verity is a kind of female Ross, both of them indifferent to worldly values of others; I found myself preferring Norma Streader because she is allowed to be more forceful and to scold affectionately:

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Streader is unafraid to project her emotional life: Ross is here the revenant come back

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Rare moment of selfhood for Verity (2015)

Horsfield’s version of feminism is to show us how women are subject to men (so Charles is made to use Verity ruthlessly, forbid her men — in 1975 Frank Middlemass as Charles wanted Verity to marry) and Verity does not get much chance to emerge until Blamey comes onto the scene. But Horsfield is much more pro-capitalist and conformist herself; she brings George Warleggan in much earlier as someone willing to negotiate work with Ross, more humanly understandable supposedly in his cool greed, more acceptable than in 1945 or 1975 (with the man of some integrity as a capitalist who will stay within the law, Nicholas, not there, instead the amoral more criminal type, Cary companions George).

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Jack Farthing as George Warleggan making overtures (2015), Turner as Ross turns fiercely away

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Some notes on particulars in the two series, with a (I hope) fair assessment. We should remember the 1975 mini-series had the advantage of not expecting a wider critical audience, of seeing itself as fulfilling a minority taste in historical film costume drama, and by expecting a smaller minority audience could be more daring, more original, take chances. The 2015 has the burden of being second, of having to endure comparisons (like those above), of having much more closely monitored ratings so it must satisfy conventional expectations (thus Aidan Turner had to be muscularly gorgeous).

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The iconic ending of the first episode (1975): Ross standing alone, swirling waters around the rocks

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1975: The hour ends with him on top of a cliff fiercely looking down as the music rolls. The motifs of the Cornish seacoast and rocks and surging waters are part of a subgenre of Cornish movies. There has been more money spent on music and locations that persuade us we are in Cornwall in 1975. I was stirred by Robin Ellis’s ability to convey complex thoughts and depths. He is cinematically equated with the sea surging against the rocks, hurling itself. He comes home to find he has been thought dead and people didn’t really mind: his mine property taken over; his bethrothed refuses to break her engagement; his farmhouse a mess. He fights intensely at each turn and at each turn his way is made harder. His one great and faithful friend is Pearce, the banker-father, who secures some money for him. I loved how Ellis as Ross spoke and acted truthfully at each turn: he saves his cousin, Francis from drowning: he explains his hesitation by saying he forgot Francis can’t swim, but also it would have been in his interest to let Francis drown. The opening paratexts and music are haunting.

Both films have good actors and much has been done to re-create the 18th century worlds. The difference is the earlier one allows the characters to come forward much more individually with their presences felt; they are not figures in a landscape; the way films were made were to conceive of actors on a stage; in 1975 the actors interacted directly and have more length given each encounter and are more rounded as we meet them (a good example of this is Ross’s meeting with Ginny and the Martins in 1975); thus we feel their presence and their significance much more. Pullman’s screenplay is better: the language is really more particular bringing out the issues and feelings of the people much more adequately with more insight into the nature of their responses to one another and their environment. I miss Paul Curran as Jud — he was just so utterly believable, mean and yet comic; the good nature of Mary Wimbush as Prudie.

2015: since Horsfield chose to bring Demelza in early and include in the first episode material that takes half the 1975 second episode there is much less time in the first 2015 episode to develop the scenes, even if 2015 has 8 more minutes. there is too much garden opulence around Elizabeth Chynoweth: the Chynoweths are as broke or near genteel poverty as the Poldarks; only the Warleggans are doing well. Phil Davis is an utterly believable Jud but less appealing; the new Prudie is grossly sexualized (Jud seems ever to be having sex with her off-stage). This series lacks the comedy of 1975; it is darker dramatic romance. The best scenes as scenes are those closest to the book of which there are a number, e.g., between Ross and Elizabeth where he breaks out in exasperation. There though mostly is a reliance on sheer pictorial projection; we are given the backstory of Ross’s time in Virginia and his young love for a young Elizabeth as pantomime in a prologue; the camera makes love to Demelza’s hidden wordless moods:

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Playing with her dog

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Feeling better about being alive despite the putdowns and sordid jealous threats of the Paynters

The politics are not progressive (not pro-American revolution as in 1975), but darkly suspicious of all powerful people, Ross is seen as feeling the equal and friends of his men (Jim Carter, Zacky Martin, Mark Daniels), eating and drinking with them. Turner conceives him as forceful, self-contained as a survival technique. This series mirrors the scepticism of today in Britain.

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The wide calm seascape is preferred (and a crossroads where a gibbet for hanging someone is placed)

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2015 ends on Ross and Demelza riding by the mine — he looks up to it as what he may hope to support himself and his servants, tenants by

Next week, Episodes 2 compared.

Ellen

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Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell (Wolf Hall 3)

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Natasha Little as Elizabeth Wykys Cromwell, Thomas’s wife, who dies of sleeping sickness early in the series

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Eleanor Tomlinson as Demelza rescued from an abject life by Aidan Turner as Ross Poldark (2015 Poldark 1): she is facing down Heidi Reed Elizabeth while Ross turns away

Dear friends and readers,

I acknowledge the unfairness of comparing these two mini-series airing at the same time on the UK BBC and US PBS, about which much fuss is being made. Wolf Hall as written by Peter Straughan (with the acknowledged presence of Hilary Mantel) is a throwback to true quality drama of the 1970s through say 2009 on PBS. It may carry on on BBC TV in Britain as many of their serial dramas do not make it over to the US. Wolf Hall has (relatively) long scenes between characters, longer utterances and dialogue weighty with meaning and wit, its model is ironic drama on the stage and great care has been taken with mise-en-scene, culled juxtaposition, flashbacks, and literal accuracies. The new Poldark as written by Debbie Horsfield follows the recent trend in mini-series to reach a wider audience (apparently 7.0 million no longer makes the cut) with short scenes, only rare excursions into longer developed scenes (but they are there, as in the long sequence at the close of Episode 4 from the time of Ross and Demelza’s love-making, marriage, and first time together through to the end of the Christmas visit); its model is action-adventure TV dramas (Master and Commander and Outlanders as the 1970s kept in mind The Oneddin Line and costume drama from the 1940s Gainsborough swashbuckling school),and cost-saving measures which make for crude and abrupt movements between shots, confused chronology and (without Graham there) irritating anachronisms.

I’ve been reading Jerome de Groot’s Consuming History: Historians and heritage in contemporary popular culture — spurred on by some panels at the recent ASECS  and what interests me here is how these two mini-series are presented as historical fiction films, based on history as well as particular novels De Groot writing about the resurgence of history in popular culture. At the same time as academics get ever more sceptical (post-modern) about what we can know of the past, and insist on disillusion and almost disbelief in documentary source, at least “interrogating” them, and self-reflexivity before they will give prizes to anyone; popular culture is devouring historical fiction and it is now respectable, making and going to historical dramas, costume dramas trying to make a comeback (if not based on older great books, based on recent very good ones).

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Is there a difference among historical fiction, historic novels (older written in the 18th century, say Tom Jones by Henry Fielding), and films and “real” narrative history. Yes – especially thoroughly researched history which is often thematic as well as narrative and well-documented. But for readers: do you read an older or historic novel differently from the way you read a historical fiction? More is it not so that historical fiction influences the average person’s conception the past and forces into reactionary historical narratives modern concerns.

Do these historical fictions then become part of the fabric of historical knowledge. Yes. In the case of Graham, he is bringing to bear also the strong pro-revolutionary currents of the 1780s and 1790s into discourse – that’s why the books still matter in some ways (also the proto-feminism and some other themes), Mantel’s Wolf Hall is a revision of common understanding of the Tudor era skewed by Bolt’s and the 1960s desire to worship Thomas More. Morrison’s Beloved is now part of our understanding of the effects of slavery – and the horrific reconstruction period for black people down south. I reviewed Heffer’s High Minds – historian writing popular narrative and it is Tory paternalism that is brought before us despite all his research.

Historical fictions, these 20th and 21st century books, the first four Poldarks and Wolf Hall —  on face of it differ considerably from one another and from fictions actually written in the era they are set; yet both are created from imitating these earlier fictions, what is familiar about the earlier literature of the era, and recent other historical fictions and films. There are long traditions in the representation of the Renaissance and the 18th century. Just to begin with the 1960s on (who has not seen Robert Bolt’s A Man for all Seasons, with Orson Wells, Paul Scofield, Robert Shaw, Wendy Hiller) they imitate Jacobean drama and what is felt is true of the 16th century classics (Machiavelli, Montaigne, More) we get these Elizabethan/Tudor political types as seething with subtexts, as all of them ever so intelligent, witty, ironic, guarded, making killing remarks that are funny. Similarly not to go back to Kitty (Paulette Goddard and Ray Milland) but just the two Tom Joneses (1960s and 1998), the 18th century is a time of sexual transgression, rebellions and riots, country life, manliness as building a world. The source here are also the 18th century novels, from Clarissa to Austen, and the French soft-corn porn too (who has not seen Stephen Frears’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses with the smoldering eyes of John Malkovich), and recently movies centering on traditionally heroic masculine males. (When a person writes a novel set in the 19th century today he imitates novels set in the 19th century and conventions about the 19th century that are found in historical fictions set in the 19th century; so Byatt’s Possession imitates George Eliot as seen through the Brontes.)

Now common sense tells us there were as many witty seething ironic and subtextual people about in say the 18th century as the 16th and just as many dullards, obtuse dense people at the court of Henry VIII as at the philistine court of George III who never made an interesting remark in their lives. Documents easily bear me out that Charles James Fox and Sheridan were far more into wit than Thomas Cromwell or Wolsey. In fact that is part of the power of say Thomas Middleton’s plays (a contemporary of Shakespeare): in Middleton’s famous The Changeling the man who is the evil cente of the play, Deflores (played brilliantly in the 1980s by Bob Hoskins in a BBC production) is not articulate and not very bright; worse yet is the silly heroine (played by a young Elizabeth McGovern in the same production) while the smart people (one played by Hugh Grant before he gave up on serious acting) are done in by Deflores. Deflores can’t and doesn’t want to make smart remarks. They are dangerous.

The great delight for those who delight in this sort of thing of Wolf Hall is the myth that everyone was supersubtle in talk and thought. It gave Hilary Mantel a terrific remit. Her novel (which I acknowledge I did not finish nor even start her Bring Up the Bodies, but which like some watchers I am now intent on rereading to where I left off and now finishing so as to enjoy the film adaptation the more). Her book imitates James Joyce in its self-conscious use of stream of consciousness, fills in with the expected rich furniture and strange doings of the Renaissance as seen in films, other historical fictions, “real” historical narrative, not to omit Shakespearean plays. She has also re-seen the paradigm given us by Bolt and the 1960s so now the ruthless thug politician (Leo McKern) is now true ordinary man, no better (though smarter and with more kindness and braver before the king) than the rest of us. It must be a winner.

The Poldark people have to make do with 1940s novels that mirror the dark times just after World War Two, and to give them credit, they are doing this far more authentically with the central characters than the progressive 1970s mini-series. And as Graham did, they are given voice to the marginalized and powerless, the abject, the lowest of the low, in a wide ranging perspective which includes underlying economic realities. The crime of poaching which leads to the death of one of the characters from epidemic typhus in prison was a disguised war of the propertied against the 99% of the era. Everyone knew it was a victimless crime, punished highly unevenly, the equivalent of Jean Valjean put away in prison for 20 years for stealing a loaf of bread in Les Miserables. We see the stranglehold of monopolies as Ross fails to make a go of it smelting and selling copper himself at prices that will keep the mine going and becomes a free trader (smuggler). So we need vast scenes of peoples not tight encounters of individuals.

I’ve written a more detailed comparison of one episode from each (the fourth Poldark, the first Wolf Hall) on my Sylvia blog (scroll down to the concluding three paragraphs) and so won’t go on at length — until that is, I’ve read Mantel’s books and seen all 8 Poldark episodes, but here would like to turn the depiction of the women in the new Poldark and Wolf Hall. For now I want to talk just about heroines of each. According to De Groot and Miriam Burstein the archetypes across historical fiction repeat themselves – whether the character is called Demelza, Anne Boleyn, or some version of Elizabeth. In short the heroine who is anti-ambition beyond marrying up, who does not act out agency, whose greatest happiness is with a partner, male (or female), being a mother, and virtues are loyalty is rewarded. Books side with constancy, prudence, obedience, domesticity (Katherine of Aragon, Mary Boleyn). Graham departs in giving us Demelza fighting for Verity’s liberty and then punishes her hard. Elizabeth seeking a life outside her family and ending up dead; Verity escaping to a kind of solitude of two in Falmouth.

Heroheroine

Scene from Wolf Hall
Hero and heroine scenes from both

For the supposed heroine of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, the great and important book on Anne Boleyn is Retha Warnike’s The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn,– she shows the false constructions, where they came from, tries to disentangle this woman from myths, but go look at the popular historical fiction (The Other Boleyn Girl or Mantel’s Wolf Hall – I’ve not yet read Bring up the bodies). In Mantel’s presentation of Anne it’s as if Warnicke never wrote her accurate and moving portrayal of this woman,  caught up in a world of totally male hegemonic world where her family was out to sell first her sister and then herself corrupt coteries, a totally male and we are back with Boleyn as sly, amoral, wrongly ambitious, untrustworthy, deserving almost to be beheaded. I should bring up how in the 18th century Elizabeth Tollett wrote one of these Ovidian narratives deeply sympathetic to Anne, and full of the terror of beheading, but she sentimentalizes her.

We are hearing about the terrific performances of Rylance, Damien Lewis, watching Anton Lesser as More. But what of the women of Wolf Hall? Since she left off Amy Dorrit (Bleak House, scripted by Andrew Davies), Claire Foy has taken on ‘evil’ shallow ‘spoilt’ women — she did this kind of role for the 2010 Upstairs Downstairs, the pro-Nazi, Lady Percy, sexually exploiting the chauffeur. Angel face. But Foy is overdoing it, standing there stiffly; and Charity Wakefield as Mary Boleyn is mawkish (apart from the historical reality Mary was not acceptable at court once she had had a son by Henry who remained illegitimate — has no one read the recent history on these women?). The presentation of these women is not feminist — it’s typical historical fiction across the board. The heroine who is anti-ambition beyond marrying up, who does not act out agency, whose greatest happiness is with a partner, male (or female), being a mother, and virtues are loyalty is rewarded. Books side with constancy, prudence, obedience, domesticity. Graham departs in giving us Demelza fighting for Verity’s liberty but then the structure of the novel and everyone around her punishes her hard for trespass. She was not supposed to rescue Verity to choose her own life. And the actresses can’t do as well. Liz, More’s wife, has depth — but she’s all caution and prudence, won’t even read the Bible, sticks the prayer book as safer but she’s killed off by a dread disease of the era (sleeping or sweating sickness) — so Natasha Little (the great actress of the 1998 Vanity Fair) goes to waste — unless she’s brought back in flashbacks later in the series. By contrast, Eleanor Tomlinson has a complex role to play as did Jill Townsend for Elizabeth Chynoweth Poldark Warleggan in the 1970s. Elizabeth has a real ambition, for society, to rise in life; Caroline Penvenon has agency. The real sin among these women is the same as Anne Boleyn’s: when they are not loyal first and foremost. I admit my bonding thus far from the films is Demelza as played by Tomlinson and Liz Cromwell as play by Natasha Little. The books are different: I deeply enter into Verity’s case, bond with the intelligent Elizabeth but have not gone far enough for a second time into Wolf Hall or its sequel to grasp where I can find some purchase.

What is the definition of manliness in such films or their books? the heroes are Thomas Cromwell who takes More’s old place as the tolerant man of integrity; Ross Poldark who builds a home and world.  It’s curious to see how physicians, Dwight Enys (Poldark), Stephen Maturin (O’Brien’s sea-stories — to me Paul Bettany is perfect) are held in high repute in historical fiction and merchants (Stephen Vaughn of Antwerp, Antonio Bonvisi from Lucca, friends to Cromwell) in Wolf Hall.

For myself I still haven’t enjoyed a costume drama mini-series in the way I am thus far Wolf Hall and also only intermittently the new Poldark since some of Andrew Davies’ film adaptations in the first decade of the 21st century. Bar none (perhaps exceptimg Breaking Bad, better in its depiction of women, probably much more thematically important and relevant), Wolf Hall is absorbing, entertaining most of the time, usually intelligent (though not Anne or Mary Boleyn). Certainly Downton Abbey was problematic even in the first two years. The new Poldark’s closer reading of Graham’s depiction of the sources of Demelza and Ross’s relationship is teaching me why I so bond with these recurring two characters, Wolf Hall is pulling me into strange violent terrors of the 16th century, religious — you can’t mock the way Clive Francis as Francis Poldark or Paul Curran as Jud dared — a world without any individual rights. The savagery reflects our own era.

Ellen

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1968 Pan Books edition

Dear friends and readers,

[A great disappointment today: the first class of Poldark Novels In Context I was cancelled [see comments]. I decided we should forge ahead and begin reading Ross Poldark for next week (see pages schedule for 1st third of Ross Poldark). I also sent my students the lecture notes I had made up — a sort of informal essay on the life of Winston Graham as background for reading the first three Poldark novels. I had asked them to read A Forgotten Story (also published as The Wreck of the Grey Cat) for today too, but it seems some people didn’t realize they must buy it online as a book. So here in a clear readable version for my students (and anyone else interested) is Winston Graham: the writer of the Poldark novels & A Forgotten Story (or class lecture notes 1)]:

As to my lecture notes, please first read the blurb on the syllabus on line. Here is Graham’s Poldark novels in context, life, career, Cornwall, something of his stance towards historical fiction; A Forgotten Story.

Ross Poldark is said to have sold over 5 million copies; it’s been reprinted 27 times. Graham’s books were from 1945 to the 1990 a selection in the American book of the month club. You can find older copies of his books in used booksales in libraries. he is read in France: the first three Poldark novels are available in French translations; all 12 Poldark novels are in print and available in English on the French and Italian equivalents of Amazon. Books rarely sell this way and they are today rarely kept in print unless they are selling.

So why do I call Graham neglected? Until very recently his historical fiction has been ignored by the literary establishment, academics, respectable people. There is no handbook, no companion, he’s not always even mentioned in surveys of 20th century historical fiction. One reason for this has been the fall in respectability of historical fiction in the early 20th century. That’s changing: over the ten weeks I’ll have 4 recent good articles to share with you listed on syllabus) on topics of interest, one by me, Liberty in the Poldark novels, an important theme in the books. These are all recently written. Before that all academic and more intelligent articles about him were about his mysteries. In the 1970s there were brief articles comparing his novels to the mini-series. But nowadays popular books are studied in classrooms and colleges; and then the 2nd film expensive well-done adaptation has been in the works for a couple of years, and the first was a tremendous hit and best-seller in DVD version.

RossPoldarkNewEdition
2015 British edition

You’ll note Warleggan, the fourth novel is part of my blurb. I would be stumbling over my feet if I did not over the course of the next 10 weeks include that in our purview. I originally wanted to go for 4 books but was told that was too much and I admit one should spend 3 weeks on a novel. The first three are however part of a quartet, 4 books which come to feel utterly intertwined once you finish them – all four reflect their era of 1945-53, post WW2, proto-feminist, reacting to this great traumatic war and a renewal of the social contract in the UK and US too – -later 1940s. Graham felt at the end of book 4, he’d done and he did not return to the series for 20 years. Another reason I’ll be telling what happens in that last book and will devote the last half-hour of the course to it, is the way the film adaptations are rightly done, is to bring in material found in Warleggan into the earliest episodes of the films; the new series has done it again.

What happens, as you’ll see as you read, is early on in Ross Poldark we meet Elizabeth Chynoweth whom Ross loved and was engaged to before he joined the British army and went to America; he and she were engaged (which in the era means they probably had some form of sex), and he expected her to wait for him after he returned – from the American revolution, a bit much as after all no one could know when it would end. She didn’t wait partly because he was reported dead. Ross Poldark is the story of a revenant – a man returned like some ghost from the past, to a present utterly unprepared for him, in some ways hostile to his reappearance and needs. Charles Poldark, Ross’s uncle who was the oldest son of the previous generation has taken over property left to Ross by his father, Joshua. His son, by primogeniture, the oldest son of the oldest son, is the heir. We also hear of a character who becomes Ross’s prime enemy and is the villain-protagonist, the contrasting character of all four books to Ross: George Warleggan.

But this pair of characters, even Elizabeth do not dominate Ross Poldark, Francis is paired with Elizabeth, and George Warleggan becomes active in Jeremy Poldark. They were filled out more later, came alive complete with back-stories in Warleggan. In other words Graham’s characters emerge slowly, organically, naturally but to explain to a film audience who do not read the books what is happening at first, the full context, the back story as it were, the adapters right away take material from Warleggan. The first films also made Elizabeth a far more negative character. So I will also tell of these back stories as we go along. I hope you’ll like the books so well you’ll go on to the fourth this summer.

I’ve suggested a wonderful book on Cornwall which I’ll bring in next time – Graham’s Poldark’s Cornwall filled with photos – by Graham telling of his connections with this place If you go to the authorized website, newly revamped you’ll see all the titles of his available mysteries. Other books for Cornwall that are good reads are Daphne DuMaurier’s Enchanted Cornwall and Vanishing Cornwall.

The Forgotten Story is one of his better known mysteries (several got prizes, David Hemmings was in the film adaptation of his powerful Walking Stick), some are rooted in the Spanish civil war, politically relevant. I choose FS because it’s set in Cornwall, has a theme about historical fiction, was written at the same time as Ross Poldark. One might say Graham gave birth to twins. FS is the darker side of RP. Graham is dramatizing some problems when you try to write accurate historical fiction in FS.

Memoirs

Let us turn to Winston Graham’s life: Three perspective can help us through:

One and two: when he began to make a lot of money, the year Marnie was a film sensation in the US (1962, it caused some scandal) in 1962, he said “I am the most successful unknown novelist in England,” and his identification strong with the underdog, with working class people, his experiences growing up a usable past, an area of history where he could present the social contract as he sees it between peoples, different classes, as it’s practised and as it’s betrayed.

A third, from Poldark’s Cornwall is his relationship with this southwestern county. As he says rightly in Poldark’s Cornwall, the idea that historical fiction is disqualified from respect because it’s filled with the presence of an author is rubbish: all great books are. They are lamps and mirrors: lamps filled with the author’s soul, mirrors of the time they are made in.

He was born in 1908 and grew up in Manchester, the city most identified with a huge growth in population and the industrial revolution in England over the later 18th into the early 19th century. In the 19th century a place where working men and women fought hard for reform – including the right to representation. Some of his family members were long lived and he lasted until 2003, still writing. He never did anything but write for a living. He experienced the pre-WW1 world; arguably our modern world emerges from WW1. He was not himself of working class background; by his generation genteel middle middle class, his family grew rich from pharmaceuticals – it began with his grandfather as a grocer and chemist (in the UK that means you own a drugstore).

A central character in Demelza (the 2nd Poldark novel) is Dwight Enys, a doctor, the name that of an old Cornish mining family, his profession growing out of Graham’s identification with quack, amateur, well-meaning and recent so-called scientific medicine. The firm was D. Mawdsley and Co, which eventually manufactured drugs and medicinal compounds. Never grew to be Big Pharma partly because his father died and the kind of business acumen his grandfather had had was no longer there. This is perhaps reflected in the conflicted tragic Francis Poldark. The Manchester era of his life is commemorated in Cornelia, his one historical novel not set in Cornwall but Manchester 19th century. Published 1949, it surprised people by how widely it sold. He became a book-of-the-month club author with it. People are continually surprised by how liked his books are – one of our essays, Nickianne Moody’s is about this.

He was expected to go to Manchester grammar school, but had contracted meningitis at the age of seven and, because of continuing ill health, went instead to a small select Longsight grammar school, which was nearer his home. They lived in a genteel neighborhood, Victoria Park, but of course as a boy he spent time in Manchester proper too. A lot of his time was at home since he was educated mostly at home. He did not go to a British public school (these are private schools for the upper classes), and he did not become part of upper class coteries – so he was an outsider to an establishment which could have bought, written about, pushed his books. he was a sensitive reading boy but very able to make friends.

After his father had had a stroke at the age of fifty-four, the family moved to Perranporth, in Cornwall – it was cheaper. That county, with its isolation and dark overtones, was to provide the setting and inspiration for much of Graham’s writing. He was very close to his mother to whom he dictated his first story at the age of five. She, even when widowed, determined to subsidize him until he succeeded. Like Anthony Trollope it was a long apprenticeship – he was not paid much for his early books, but they got in print and in those days could get reviews. He met and married his wife, Jean, in Cornwall who ran a lodging house which enabled him to keep writing. So imagine a long period of more or less isolated writing for him in his 20s to 30s, reading, then the experience of WW2 which was shattering for all in the UK, and it transformed the feel of his fiction, its nerve. his first financial successes seem to have begun at the close of WW2: Take My Life, The Little Walls, Marnie and The Walking Stick for books set in the present (taking his writing career to the 1960s), all thrillers, psychologically astute, and Ross Poldark with the three further historical books by 1953.

So the first theme: he called himself “the most successful unknown writer in the UK – and US too.” He signed a contract with Hitchcock so his name would not appear on the films adapted– $50,000. He married a local girl; she became lame in one of her legs early on, suffered asthma – so did not connect up – she had a stroke in her early 50s. She carried a walking stick. There is terrific snobbery among academics and the elite in the UK – he didn’t network into these groups; the prestigious prize as a selling tool first emerged in the 1970s. It probably hurt his reputation that he was a book-of-the-month club seller. The Poldark books were seen as regional romances.

A second perspective: individuals he tells life stories of in his autobiography (The Memoirs of a Private Man) are people badly hurt by social, economic, and political arrangements, whom he feels for; as he reveals the history of his family, we see socially and politically active people from the early 19th century on. Again his grandfather. The men in his family were trade unionists part of the Chartist movement, early Labor people. In the first chapter of his autobiography he tells of the house maid in his childhood, Evelyn: her parents had been forced to marry because mother pregnant, father a miner died young from poisonous fumes, mother of malnutrition and peritonitis; she endured a long hard life first as servant and then a seamstress, she did marry, then worked as day cleaning woman, with a single son, later in a vast department store, where the management deprived of her pension late in life because the company was able to prove she had a break in service: “I hope whoever was responsible for that decision rots in hell.” We might say she was the real upstairs-downstairs servant (see Margaret Powell’s Below Stairs), the real clerk in Mr Selfridge. Over the course of his Memoirs we meet people like her as typical and Graham’s hero identifies with the working man; in the first four books, Ross Poldark is a kind of Jacobin – a revolutionary typical of the time 1780s to 90s, our revolutionary era too.

The third; a deep sense of land- and seascape are central to his vision, deep time past,. Graham distinguishes three periods in Cornwall.

First period living in Cornwall with his mother and brother, 1925, so age 15 through the 1930s, the WW2 and the early years of his marriage. This is the era out of which our books comes.

A second era in Cornwall as summer people : Graham had moved his family to southern France for privacy, to escape taxes, but at the end of the year he missed Britain so strongly he moved back to Sussex (near London and as a literary man of letters he needed to be in contact) but spent long summers in Cornwall, bathing, swimming, walking.

The third era is the last return just before and during the films – nostalgia he calls it. In 1969 there was a proposal to film his books; he claims to have re-started the Poldarks well before 1975 when the first super-successful series aired. No one was to know it was be a success; it was ridiculed and derided by the snarky British press who only became silent after a few weeks. Not only love but accuracy; that’s where our course’s themes about early industrial capitalism, smuggling, banking, riots, medicine at the time, women’s position, comes in: he writes on Poldark’s Cornwall “I do not know how near to the truth of life in the 18th century these novels are; all I know is they are as near to the truth as I can make them.” He read extensively in texts written at the time everywhere – not just novels and memoirs, but hard records, chronicles, tax returns, court cases, about prisons.

On the later Poldark novels (5-12):

In 1969 he had been absent from Cornwall for nearly 20 years, and Associated British Pictures proposed to film the four books as a kind of GWTW in Cornwall. There was an extended visit, the film did not come off, but Graham was deeply prompted to return imaginatively, and began The Black Moon – the 5th Poldark book, returning not only to the era, but to these specific characters. He said it was like “breaking some sound barrier,” a gouging struggle to get back, and he did it, and then wrote The Four Swans (Poldark 6) and The Angry Tide (Poldark 7). It’s a trio that mirrors the 1970s, post 1960s, Vietnam, now feminist, more realistic, deeply delving the issues of local politics and patronage, the French revolution’s effect on the British; written between 1973-77. Books 5-7 wee used for the second year of the old Poldark series and I’ve no doubt they would form the basis of a second new season for the new series – 2016.

The success of the mini-series made the BBC hungry to do more but Graham had too much integrity and deep attachment to his characters and themes and would not allow other people’s stories to be formed around them. It took time but eventually he wrote another quartet, 1981-1990: issues of The Stranger from the Sea, Loving Cup, Miller’s Dance, The Twisted Sword are post-colonialism, imperialism; piracy; he dramatizes the peninsula war in Spain and Portugal during the Napoleonic era (a genuine kind of Vietnam); these are anti-war books, the last closely following the battle at Waterloo (The Twisted Sword) and we have disabled characters too. These end with the same sort of depth of nothing is concluded as Warleggan (end of first four) and The Angry Tide (end of next trio).

There was a film adaptation of just Stranger from the Sea, in an American movie-house style – cut the post-colonial politics (so delete Spain and Portugal and an important part of the book), make it just 2 hours. It failed for reasons beyond the gutting of the book’s central themes.

So no attempt was made to film books 9-12. A twelfth Poldark novel did come very late 2003; Bella, a very late child of Ross and Demelza, did finally provide closure; now we have a deeply troubled hero bonding with an orangutan. Animal rights. During these years of 1970s to 2003 he rewrote some of his earlier mystery thrillers, and wrote Poldark’s Cornwall and the autobiography.

He was very lucky in being the second son, born much later than the first, to a woman who had sufficient private income to support them both. She could, however, have been intolerant and bowed not only to the norms then and now, but the ridicule heaped on her son for “doing nothing.” He was fortunate in one relative: his father’s younger sister, an unmarried woman, persuaded him not to leave his ms in the drawer, to type it, and then she bound it lovingly in two boards and it was sent to Ward and Lock (publishers of Trollope volumes in the early 20th century). The writing industry or literary marketplace at the time included many small publishers to whom an author could send manuscripts; if and when, an author was accepted, the contract was simplicity itself. He had actually stockpiled novels (novels he had written and not sent out) and was able to keep up attention to himself by sending along a novel quickly after the first to be published, and one after that. He was reviewed in big dailies and locally. Again his big break began around the time WW2 ended.

Next time I’ll talk about his views on historical fiction before embarking on Ross Poldark. For now I’ll suggest that Graham he shows in his autobiography Poldark’s Cornwall and of course his fictions he’s interested in the mystery of the mind, the exploration of motives and deeds that lie rooted in the past and produce the conflicts, doubts, hesitations, and eccentricities of the present, a deep interest in the psychological underpinnings of his characters. His characters are compelling: beset by moral dilemmas, beset by fears, guilts, cover ups, do apparently bizarre things supposedly out of character. Do not do the logical or the rational and as a result often find themselves in complicated and incriminating circumstances that reveal the underpinnings, contradictions, values of the society they live in.

I want to talk about Cornwall’s history as mining place – made up of payable rising ground – tiny originally rural population going back to neolithic era one of the first industrial capitalist places, changed character of world with its creation of mining, trading and later export of mined minerals and techniques. And as a mythic place – Daphne DuMaurier books come out of this. Graham is far more realistic.

He’s also fascinated by how little we can know for sure about the past – paradoxically. Which takes us to The Forgotten Story.

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The Forgotten Story

ForgottenStory
Oxford Bodley Head 1964 edition

The novel is also available as The Wreck of the Grey Cat, published by Doubleday (1958).

It is a complicated story to summarize. Here’s one bare-bones attempt.

Anthony is a young boy (11) whose mother (Charlotte) has died and his father gone to live in Canada, and he is sent to Falmouth to live with his mother’s sister’s husband, Joe Veal, who runs an eatery and drinking tavern. His mother’s sister (Christine) has also died. Anthony is welcomed and treated kindly by his cousin, Patricia Veal Harris, and taken in by Joe and his second wife, Madge, the ex-cook. Most of the novel is seen through Anthony’s point of view, rather like To Kill a Mockingbird. Gradually Anthony discovers Patricia is married and has left her husband, Tom Harris, because she was made to feel alien in Tom’s upper class environment, uncomfortable. One thread of the novel is about Tom’s attempt to persuade Patricia to come back to live with him; she is going out with a sailor Ned Pawlyn. At one point a riot ensued in her father’s drinking tavern, brought on by a fight between these two men. For a second time Patricia testifies truthfully in court: the first occurred before the novel begins: there was a riot and her father wanted to see it blamed on a Dutch sailor; but she says this is not so (and puts her father’s business license at risk), and the second time it was not Tom’s fault (again her father’s lawyers tried to blame the son-in-law in order to deflect attention from the way the tavern itself is managed). Both times she is reviled by various people for not lying; her father dies — he is clearly ill and failing, and she loves him, but he cuts her off with just 500 pounds. Joe Veal was a selfish, mean man; his first act upon meeting Anthony was to take from Anthony all the money Anthony had from his mother. His will is spiteful; he leaves his brother Perry something derisory. Thus ends the first book.

The second is discovery: we learn of a back story behind this front one at the tavern — we gradually suspect that Joe was poisoned to death slowly by Madge (as was Patricia’s mother).We see that no one but Patricia shows any concern or interest in Anthony for real. Tom Harris, in order to persuade Anthony to help him discover the truth of what’s been happening as well as regain Patricia pretends more concern than he feels and enlists Anthony’s help. Anthony discovers a previous will and Madge, a psychologically twisted woman, seeks to see that Anthony dies. Patricia must take a job; it’s almost impossible to find a good paying one, but she manages a teacher in a schoo; that means she must leave Anthony behind. Madge’s accomplice is Joe’s ne’er-do-well brother< Perry, an interesting character, an apparent loser with a conscience – a type in Graham's historical novels. Perry knows her poisoning propensities and she and he concoct a story that Anthony's father wants him to come to Canada; they will take him by boat to Bristol. She hopes Anthony will drown in an "accident." Anthony has very bad dreams in this book; some of them are real things he sees.

The last third, Epilogue, is about the shipwreck itself, the inspiration or beginning of the book in its prologue. It's a powerful rendition of an attempt to save a boat in this Falmouth harbor during a high storm. It is saved, but Perry slips overboard, now terrified of Madge and not willing to keep murdering people. We meet and read what a fictionalized the reporter who wrote the newspaper story said, hear of the coming trial of Madge, and what happens to Tom and Patricia and finally Anthony.

The inspiration for the book comes from a real shipwreck off the coast of Cornwall in 1897 found in a newspaper; Graham loved the tall ships and (as I said about his life), he was a coast guard in WW2 in Cornwall; although Cornwall was not bombed, the sea was fearful place during WW2 (the German planes with bombs came that way). The interest of the book is in the characters, their complicated psychology. the book manifests some obsessions or patterns we see in the Poldark books: At one point Tom Harris rapes Patricia (marital rape), partly out of revenge, partly anger, partly to conquer her.

One theme is the ambiguity of all records. I quote on article on Graham’s mystery novels by Gina MacDonald:

In the prologue to The Forgotten Story Graham describes those who would reconstruct real events from newspaper accounts as “like paleontologists trying to reconstruct an extinct animal,” never certain because of the deceptive nature of appearances, the multiplicity of details that add up to truth but that can also suggest a number of other possibilities. Thus, throughout Graham’s canon, men must deal with the disparity of facts and interpretations, and must wade through seeming truths that are at odds with their instinctive feelings. Invariably they must examine a number of contradictory hypotheses before finding a combination that rings true, and even then they have doubts until the final proof is in

Here are my lecture notes — what I would have said to prompt discussion.

It shows very well some of what’s most admired by people who know this side of his work well and it has themes and moods and devices like those of the Poldark novels – including a marital rape, complicated sexual relationships between people after marriage, Cornwall itself, the sea, a love of older type boats (all gone by the time WW1), of the coast line and cliffs how dangerous – just where Graham spent much of his WW2 – as a coastguard there. Remember the Nazis came over the channel with their bombs nightly, not to Cornwall but the sea was their path.

It falls into three parts the way many of his books do, with prologue as in Ross Poldark,, pp 1-6 (pages from Oxford Bodley Head book). Book 1, pp. 7-122 – the coming of Anthony to the household and it ends on the death (killing we later learn of Joe and reading of the apparent last will of Joe Veal (Chapter 1-16). Book 2, Chs 1-24 – pp 122-97, the unraveling of the story so we begin to understand what has been happening out of sight. Epilogue, pp. 198–224, where it’s not altogether clear what was resolved – we do not know that Mrs Veal was found guilty; she might get off, Anthony does not know he is set to go to Australia. He lies sleeping as the novel closes.

Here’s how it opens, pp 1-2. It’s a questioning of historical fiction itself at the same time as he enacts it. In this brief prologue Graham writes that it was novel written just before the first Poldark (Ross Poldark) and during some dark days in WW2 and he says it reflects the dark state of mind he felt at the public revelations of what the state of the UK had been doing, the concentration camps, the reality of what the war had been. He opens by describing those who would reconstruct real events from newspaper accounts as “like paleontologists trying to reconstruct an extinct animal,” never certain because of the deceptive nature of appearances, the multiplicity of details that add up to truth but that can also suggest a number of other possibilities.

Did they like it? What did you like about it? Was it intriguing? What is dark about it? What is hopeful? Disturbing. What did you think of the way Patricia Veal was treated by the town? About her efforts to find remunerative work and there is none for women of middle class background at all at the time. What did you think about Tom Harris? The class conflicts?

A Forgotten Story is a historical fiction set in Cornwall, centered on Anthony Veal, an orphan boy where we meet marginalized people making a living off an inn on the coast of Cornwall at the turn of the century; how Patricia Harris (nee Veal), the daughter attempts to flee a marriage where she has married above her and finds life constraining and painful.

What’s powerful is how the characters do not fall into preconceived categories of good and bad – except for the murderess and even she is psychoanalysed. The father, Joe, whom the daughter loves and whose death changes the whole world for everyone living with him, is a mean selfish, narrow man who is almost responsible for his own death: he won’t pay a doctor to take care of him and wouldn’t for his wife, the heroine’s mother, Charlotte – had he done so he might have discovered the woman who is the cook, and who he marries as a second wife because it’s easy for him as his housekeeper (like Ross Poldark) poisoned her to death, is poisoning him, and probably poisoned members of her family when she was younger. Madge turns out to be murderess at its center (she has spent a life poisoning people) who has been able to murder Joe Veal partly because he is so secretive and a miser, incapable it seems of loving anyone himself; and now she has taken over the louche cowardly but not totally unredeemable uncle, who had been brought into the plot into order to accomplish it. His great act is to kill himself lest he be dragged into killing more people with the Until near the end of the book it seems as if we are in a more straight historical novel about the psychological social troubles of a set of local people.

We do not know this until the very close to story’s end since it is told by a young boy, old enough to understand on a prime level what’s happening and the amorality or morality of a given event. The effect is part of the power: the naif perspective. We have to figure events out. We do see things he does not see. After the riot, Tom Harris rapes Patricia and we experience this from Tom’s point of videw. We see how people do not interest themselves in this boy at all; he is not being sent to school; he is at risk. In the Bristol ship Madge locks Anthony into a room below deck on a sinking ship in order to drown him. The use of a child narrator gives the word its intensity: he is not only innocent, but a good and well-meaning adolescent (aged 11), older than the children of Lee’s story and also (more recently Emma Donoghue’s The Room); nonetheless, the device works to deflect the reader from the central tabooed content in various ways and see what’s happening through normative eyes and a mind continually trying to give an upbeat presentation of events.

I found the sequences towards the end of his dreams very effective – because they are not dreams, the body is really dug up, and because Freudian style they explain to him what is happening, pp 90-91, 102-13. Powerful descriptive abilities, p 190. Powerful analysis of people: Mrs Madge Veal is actually a commonplace woman, not a monster Perry, p 194-195. The scenes in the tavern, the singing (dark songs), the play-acting all attractive (in Demelza a group of players comes to the village).

A Forgotten Story begins with a wreck on the coast of Cornwall, and returns to the scene at the end, resembling DuMaurier’s Cousin Rachel and Trollope’s Eye for an Eye, which both begin in terribly disturbed moments: in all three cases the novel is the explanation in the form of a story. It gives the piece a gothic framing.

VerityandFrancis
Norma Streader as Verity with Clive Francis as Francis Poldark when we first meet them: the expression on her face is appropriate to Patricia’s very often (1975-76 Poldark series)

Beyond the redolent use of Cornwall, I was attracted to the uncle who runs a genially transgressive bar, and to heroine, a type very like say Elinor Dashwood, the well-meaning but self-possessed and vulnerable young woman (played in the mini-series by Angarah Rees), a kind of Verity Poldark.

When Patricia flees her persistent husband, Tom who with a boyfriend, Ned Pawlyn (who later offers to flee to Australia so they can live as man-and-wife without being known), starts the quarrel in the bar which appears to lead to her father’s death, she has no means of supporting herself decently. This is 1898 and the only professions open to a young woman still are wife or teacher. She takes a position as a strict girls’ school — we are in a mild version of Jane Eyre too. The telling gripping incident of the story is a marital rape scene, which I’m coming to see as an obsession, a highly unusual one.

Tom rescues Patricia from the bar quarrel and to assert his rights over her, rapes her. Grahame returns to this unusual motif again and again: arguably Ross Poldark rapes Elizabeth Warleggan (as she is soon to become in Warleggan). In The Four Swans Graham presents Elizabeth’s cousin, Morwenna Chynoweth, coerced into marriage with a man who (in effect) rapes her nightly. Yet Patricia gives testimony on his behalf in a courtroom which reveals her liaison with Ned, she is ostracized and there’s a scene of public humiliation.

The dislike and resentment and discomfort of being with people above you is part of why she wants to stay away from him; he is too powerful for her. Tom Harris does not realize he’s arrogant, he does not realize he is privileged, and cannot see it – she flees this because it makes her feel bad about herself.

All the while she is of course in her heart a virtuous heroine. We are to re-define what we mean by virtuous and it does not mean strict sexual fidelity although in fact Patricia never has sex with another man, a decent merchant marine sailor, but not because it’s forbidden, but because she does not love him enough to go off with him to Australia as a partner, though he would provide an escape from her bad situation once her father dies and spitefully leaves her nothing.

Graham chose to return to the end of the Victorian period to be able to show this paradigm, only Graham de-constructs the framing social circumstances and shows us how unfair they are. Tom Harris no longer has the right to demand Patricia back. In 1891 it had become no longer accepted since a famous court case for a husband to try to wrest his wife back to live with him. But he feels he ought to. The sense in the fiction is that this is wrong. This is at least one place where a woman should have real liberty. She is nagged by her (murderous we find) aunt to return to Tom using the conventional argument, she should. She is shamed by her community when she does not return to him. That this motif is returned to ceaselessly shows its centrality for controlling women in this set of social structures, and that it’s at a great price to her. Another Poldark motif is the courtroom where a character unexpectedly tells the truth out of a stubborn integrity which truth hurts her – in the case Patricia Harris.

The ending shows Tom Harris who has all along been an ambivalent figure (he appears to be exploiting the boy to pressure Patricia) into a hero of integrity. He rescues Antony and brings Patricia back from the school. We discover that Tom has been responsible for her getting her job: he had the connections and respect by his family and position as a lawyer. Unlike Ned, he can take Patricia somewhere as his wife; they can afford to provide a home for Anthony.

But the way he wins her is more interesting than this, or the way it’s presented. The presentation of Patricia’s choice to return to Tom does not mean all is forgiven — and as in Marnie. It’s left ambiguous.

How do they come to this decision. the woman is married to the man and so she obeys the social convention, goes with it. So it’s about family life and convention and how they operate. Tom’s upper class status is what gets her the job in as a school mistress; as a lawyer he has access to the police who then come and dig up Joe’s grave to discover that he was poisoned.

After a while the books all do spin around the same concerns, and for me at least are gripping. I find I can’t put them down easily each time I start one up again. I get intensely emotionally involved.
The Forgotten story is all that happened which does not appear in history and what really mattered – how little can come out in records that matters. We don’t learn what really prompted events in records. Swept under the rug, swept away as the storm which sweeps away Uncle Perry, the uncle who colluded with the aunt, swept away as Uncle Joe, the father whose real vulnerability we are never permitted to delve. Why he married Madge? what happened to Patricia’s mother?

The fiction remains conventional: Graham treats this decision not as a violation of feeling and he presents the woman’s choice with tact and sympathy. It reminds me of Demelza central heroine of the Poldark books who also finds security, peace, respect from the community by doing the conventional thing – the obedient and going for promotion as we’ll see. Angharad Rees played both parts – in both films: Demelza and Patricia. I can see Norma Streader who played Verity in 1975=6 as Patricia too.

The Forgotten Story, has an unhappily apt title, which paradoxically point to one reason it may still be in a collection with Marnie and Greek Fire, as it was made into mini-series in 1983 by then respected actors which appears to have flopped if the complete lack of information in IMDB and on line stills are any indication. Nonetheless, The Forgotten Story, is also one of the few pre-1950s novels, novels before the Poldark series, Graham himself chose to reprint.

It’s one of three the non-Poldark novels put into print before this latest film adaptation of 2015: Winston Graham: Marnie, Greek Fire, and The Forgotten Story. Marnie is a highly unusual psychological study of a disturbed young woman which was travestied by Hitchcock into a film about a hateful mother, controlling husband and thieving woman (it made a lot of money); Greek Fire, very typical for Graham’s generation of writers, a novel about the overthrow of a socialist movement in Greece, 1948.

Ellen

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