Posts Tagged ‘Jill Townsend’

Old photo from Making Poldark: Angharad Rees and Robin Ellis as Demelza and Ross looking out over the dangerous shores of their world.

‘Mr KilIigrew had been over once afore but the rent was not paid, so we was ordered to take all the doors off, and Mr Killigrew puts an hour-glass on a pole and says if they’re not out by the time the sand is run we’re to go on and put ’em out.’ –
     There were two white doves cooing in a cote.
     ‘Have our servants been left here since you came last!’
     ‘Aye. The house and furniture has been seized in non-payment and will all be sold. If we’d have left it Unguarded news would have got around, and other debtors would’ve stepped in and claimed a share.’
     I walked slowly into the house. Graham, Groves of Eagles

Dear friends and readers,

Since last I wrote I’ve been delving into the historicity of Graham’s 12th Poldark novel, Bella, re-read The Forgotten Story, set in Cornwall in 1898, perhaps Graham’s first historical novel since Graham wrote FS in the same year he wrote Ross Poldark, and am reading his historical fiction The Groves of Eagle, set in Cornwall in the last years of Elizabeth I’s reign. (Graham’s third other historical novel, Cordelia, is set where he grew up, Manchester, only it’s an imitation Victorian novel, i.e., set in the mid-19th century.)

I’ve also been re-enthused to write again and in this way seriously develop thoughts about, material for a novel or literary-critical book out of Graham’s writing and movies. I’ve met a person who wants to study and write about Graham intelligently as a writer of historical fiction writer and the originator of the material for the Poldark films. Someone else came to my blog, read my posting on The Walking Stick, and told me how to procure the film adaptation of it. The DVD is now on its way to my house. And I reread The Forgotten Story, a novel set in 1898 in Cornwall, written in the same year as Ross Poldark (1945), and am more than half-way through The Grover of Eagles, again Cornwall, this time later 16th century, for the first time. I found I couldn’t put The Forgotten Story down, and while Groves of Eagles does not compel me as much I am enjoying it.

Finally, this evening a United parcel person brought to my door the 3rd edition of Robin Ellis’s Making Poldark. It contains new material; more stills and photos from the two series, more about Ellis’s life since the 1980s, a discussion of why a third series was never made, and an semi-imaginary map drawn from the Poldark places and Cornwall. I surmise we could inscribe the town and places of Forgotten Story and Groves of Eagle onto it too. Ellis is coming to DC to Kramerbooks for a “book-signing,” and I wouldn’t mind going, but alas this Saturday we’ve a conflict: we’re going to Maria Stuarda with Joyce DiDonato.

When I compared this non-pompous paperback to the two expensive lavish books that have come out about Downton Abbey I saw why this series is neglected, kept alive really by a curious intense cult that has developed around the films and the continuing sale of Graham’s books. The Abbey is the book of the 1%, Poldark for the rest of us, really for the 47% Romney lied about, sneered at.


She [Patricia] tried to scream, but every time he [Tom, her husband, from whom she has separated herself] squeezed the breath out of her; and presently it began to dawn on her that she was fighting a losing battIe. Now she went suddenly limp and helpless. But the trick was played late. He only seemed to take her limpness for deliberate acquiescence.
     Scandalized, she began to struggle again, but more weakly, for her strength was partly gone.
     So it came to pass that Patricia, who had begun the evening flirting with Ned Pawlyn, ended it in the company of her husband. Had Tom Harris been more of a brute the encounter might have gone further than it did. Patricia, for once in her life, was really frightened, for she did not misread his intention. Love can so change that it becomes instead a fusion of hatred and desire. That was what Tom Harris found.
     But unless the change is absolute, it can injure but it cannot wilfully destroy. That and something in the fundamental relationship between civilized man and woman finally stood in his way.
     Not, however, before she had paid in good measure for her deceit and resistance.
     He turned quite suddenly and left her there on the old couch, bruised and breathless and silent. She had never been so shaken up since she was three. The Forgotten Story, a climax occurring around same place as Ross’s rape of Elizabeth in Warleggan

Not quite marital rape, is it? Graham punts.

Rereading: The Forgotten Story has two deeply-felt characters who I care a lot about, a marital rape and a familial paradigm of sexual longings and murderous antagonisms. Anthony Veal, the young boy narrator abandoned by his father, through whose eyes the story is seen is deeply appealing with his honest and trusting nature, and his heroine-older cousin, Patricia, fighting to create an independent adult life for herself in type a Demelza. The character in the now lost or wiped-out mini-series, Forgotten Story was played by Angharad Rees. Anyone reading this who knows anyway I could possibly get hold of anything about it, let me know. I’ve been told writing the BBC gets silence in response.

The story of the abandoned boy left to the not-so-tender mercies of near relatives is found in the Poldark series: Ross, estranged from his father, but much more strikingly, Valentine, over-fathered and fatherless. Real rape and repeated sadistic rape in marriage is also in the Poldarks, murder of one’s wife for which the man is forgiven by author and text too.

Patricia becomes an outcast woman for defending her husband in a trial scene where the prosecutor brings out how she probably has another lover. She is shamed, called “whore,” and now vulnerable to all men’s advances. This moves towards Demelza’s adultery with Armitage, though Demelza never leaves Ross’s side so is not endangered.

The novel’s is derived from Graham’s experience as a beach warden in WW2: the news story which opens the novel turns out to be a much obscured prettied up version of the nightmare happenings in the novel. For everyone’s sake the hero and heroine bury the truth of what happened, but without this we can have no understanding of the events nor hope to prevent analogous ones in future. The underlying subversion is much that passes for history is distortion and what actually occurred deliberately forgotten.

Pendennis Castle, a drawing evoking how it looked in he 16th century

Reading for the first time: Groves of Eagles shows what a conscious artist Graham was. He’s changes his style to fit the later Elizabethan age: he does not write in pastiche, but rather modern English in more elaborate sentences, with a strong use of imagery. The historical background thick; this is the type of fiction where real historical important characters play a role, here Walter Ralegh who was a powerful Cornish man; in fact almost everyone in the novel has a historical counterpart, from Killigrews to Arundells. Even the central hero, Maughn Killigrew is based on someone, the bastard son of John Killigew, the tough squire in charge of Pendennis castle guarding a shore line of the Channel and the Atlantic. He is ruthless; himself he lives extravagantly, but he is merciless towards tenants.

Killigrew is also stern to his bastard son. Has him chained to a dog kennel at one point, with all the house hold forbidden to give him any food. For a full day and night. Keeps his distance from this son, apprentices him out to an impoverished life. Maughn by luck (and the author’s largess) manages to escape this. Graham enjoys making him amanuensis to Walter Ralegh, who I fear Graham admires too much — while knowing the man was a warrior pest type too. So again we have the estranged semi-fatherless hero.

Sex is again central and as is so common in Graham’s novels we have a married couple where the woman will not permit the husband to have sex with her (and he gently allows concurs), and the hero (like Drake Carne) finds Sue, a servant girl much beloved by him, in danger of rape by her master, and then married off to a much older man. Sue is without status, and in that a reincarnation of Demelza once again.

But now much older customs: the John Killigrew keeps his wife continually pregnant and is an open adulterer. It’s a very violent world filled with rough customs, humiliations and wild parties too; the lies and delusions of newspapers, Ralegh’s persistent fatal trips to find El Dorado, a final Spanish Armada are all part of the multi-year story. A woman treated as witch, Katherine Footmarker is a layman doctor (and like Enys, humble and good at it). She might be Maughn’s mother; if not, she knows who was (the boy’s mother is dead as was Valentine’s by the time he turned 6).

Drake (Kevin McNally) and Morwenna (Jane Wymark); Maugh and Sue in Groves of Eagle are just such another pair

As with all Graham’s historical fictions, when I pick either of these up and start to read them, I fall into them and can’t put them down.


An orangutan from Barbary — Valentine is said to have bought his Bhutto from a laser

In the Poldark and these novels however gingerly and sometimes punting, Graham is exploring our rape culture, the pathologies of sexuality in our culture. Ross and Demelza are almost unusual for having a “healthy” sexual relationship from start to finish. From Ross’s rape of Elizabeth to the sadistic nightly marital rapes of Morwenna by the Rev Whitworth (Graham is unusual for exposing clergymen this way), we see how people abuse one another and come to allow themselves to be abused. The Groves of Eagles more than the later novels has customs which encourage enslaving people in more ways than chattel slavery. It does not go into the kinky sex patterns of the Poldark books (Carrington, a bigamist preying on Clowance’s strength) because the heterosexual patterns are devastating enough.

The research I did into what was known of great apes and how people acquired them (all faithfully portrayed) for Bella persuaded me that Graham was combining his real empathy with isolated alienated people, no matter how twisted the culture had made them (Valentine, product of a rape, a father who would not own him, a dead mother, a violently jealous non-father) and disabled people. Butto, the orangutan was like a disabled person, who again like women in Graham’s novels are so vulnerable to destruction. Graham appears to have read some of the books of the era as well as modern studies of apes.


Poldark Country: a semi-imaginary map of Poldark places and Cornwall

Two very different kinds of things are desperately needed as sina qua non before anyone can begin to give these novels the kind of respect they deserve. To do this would help gain interest in a new film adaptation. But that’s by-the-bye.

The second is a handbook! Yes, a handbook. Ellis’s new Poldark book is pleasant, and it shows (the map above), he’s read the novels at least a few times. But it’s completely inadequate to what’s needed except as a symbolic reminder of the rich material before us. The first sign a writer has arrived, is respected on some level is the handbook. There is none for Graham. Among other things like literary history it puts things on a visible map. So who knows that a number of Hitchcock movies are adaptations (often misogynistic reversals included) of Graham stories. Another is he’s talked about in literary histories. Graham is ignored in high culture ones and does not make the cut for low culture ones either. Too “tame” (not sufficiently a macho-boy book), too realistic, and too leftist.

I find that I cannot remember many of the characters’ names beyond the really central males and females once I’ve put the novels away for a while. Many readers of Graham would probably like it, might even buy one that was packaged attractively. We need entries on mining, banking in Cornwall, smuggling, the courts, animals, poverty, landowning. Many areas need explanation.

I say second for this kind of thing comes out of the first. There is no space for discussing Graham in his complexity. Lots of great authors punt, are ambiguous, ambivalent, but Graham is in some intensely important areas of our society today. Actually one area he does not punt in is his presentation of disability and medicine.

For example, in the Poldark books Graham suggests that Ross spends the whole night with Elizabeth which would seem to suggest that if the sex was at first rape after a while she did join in, and then he wavers in the books. On the whole and especially towards the later books (when the child Valentine has grown up), he presents the act as rape, partly (I fear) to exonerate Elizabeth from having adulterous longings, but partly we are to take Elizabeth as complicit. It’s said in that he thinks had he showed up in the next week she would have openly gone away with him and he is shocked to see her rage the first time he sees her after her marriage to Warleggan.

A false myth used in books where the “chaste’ or central heroine has sex outside marriage or is rape is that she gets pregnant immediately. This is improbable but is a real stereotype intended to exonerate the woman. It works another way though: if she gets pregnant, the popular idea is that she enjoyed it because to get pregnant you have to have orgasm.

The nightly rapes of Morwenna are another matter. These are clearly profoundly abusive of her. She never walks right after; she has this shuffle. He has crippled her. This is not presented at all in the series; but she and Drake become wholly marginalized characters in the later books. That was a real disappointment to me. When he presents her finally yes he does not fake “healing” but he keeps them away from us. The TV show did not show Rowella properly at all: she is presented by as someone who enjoys sadism and masochism in the parson himself. They were probably very brave to show Demelza committing adultery.

Graham himself does this kind of punting in other areas. In Demelza Ross incites the riot; that’s clear. It’s clear in the talk before the trial, but by the time we are into the later novels this is denied. He colluded but did not incite or he was against it, never imagined a riot would ensure. In Demelza he needs the violence. He’s a real revolutionary a Jacobin who understand violence is what one sometimes has to resort to to overturn an established order. I didn’t go into that in my paper on Liberty but in the discussion afterwards among academics (who are themselves conservative) one women had presented a paper two historical novels which she liked because they showed the rebel hero compromising, not being violent ever, at all.

Trerice, a 17th century Cornish mansion, model for Trenwith

I really do long to know someone else who can with me begin to create a space in the “republic of letters” wherever, start a different kind of conversation on Graham as well as mini-series than I’ve encountered thus far. All I could think of for myself was 1) try another panel at an 18th century conference on historical fiction; or 2) write something for History Today.

Graham’s books have been cut off from real attention because of his original reception and the scorn still heaped on historical fiction (=women’s romance) and BBC “teatime serials” (a way of bad-mouthing the mini-series). He is also defined as regional, a regional novel and of course he followed his audience. Are you aware that Hitchcock paid him a big sum to leave off Graham’s name on the credits of a number of films that Hitchcock did? That’s in Moral, Tony Lee. Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie. Lanham, Md: Scarecrow Press, 2005. Filmmakers Series No. 95 which also contains a letter Graham wrote where he reveals his attitudes towards how his books were altered when they became films.

I have wanted to open another listserv on Yahoo — this one on Graham and his fiction, all of it. I would ask that everyone use their real names and make it clear we are not there to worship the first two mini-series — though my hunch is it’s the first that is most beloved. I know all the troubles and am not sure even how to open a list as I inherited all three I have. It can be time-consuming and I don’t have the time right now even to start. But as a future possibility I keep it in mind. I would be trying to see if we can find other people — they are there on that literary board and pop up now and again (rare) on the facebook page too. An odd sign of them is they read the mysteries too. If anyone reading this is someone equally interestd in discussing the books and willing to try for a list-serv of the type I’ve just outlined, please to contact me.

Jill Townsend as Elizabeth beginning to realize something of the horror her sister, Morwenna has known as a married woman


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

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

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

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

Dear friends and readers,

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Dear friends and readers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book Three, early July 1799

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

John Ryland remarks that Graham creates worlds. Yes.

Typical paratext opening and close of the 29 episodes: Cornwalll

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The elegant dinner party and ball: Ross and Demelza uncomfortable

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

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

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

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

The Intrusion

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

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

The Duel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

George Warleggan, incensed (Ralph Bates)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Demelza home again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book 3, Chapters 12-16: Death of Elizabeth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Graham with Angharard Rees (who played Demelza in the original two series)

Perfection is a full stop.
Give me the comma of imperfect striving,
Thus to find zest in the immediate living.
Ever the reaching but never the attaining
Of the mountain top (Memoirs of a Private Man, Book 2, Chapter 11, p. 312).

Dear friends and readers,

I read this book over the weekend I was at the JASNA — in the later evenings when I returned to our room. Thus unlike all the other Graham books I’ve read thus far I don’t have detailed notes from chapter to chapter, but I have managed a blog where I cite the pages of the important sections.

The book is worth while for far more than understanding Graham’s work, especially his historical novels and later mature realistic mysteries.

Winston Graham walking along cliff path, Porth Joke, Cornwall

It exemplifies all the typicalities of a male autobiography (man seizes opportunity, man gets ahead, man is success); rich in content about Graham particularly, his outlook, methods, and about the inspirations and background of the Poldark novels. There are useful sections on historical novel writing, on how he achieved human realism in his later mature mysteries, and much candor about the way deals are made to film books and how this kind of thing is so variously done.

For women the contrast of this Horatio Alger kind of story and say Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Slipstream (which I’m reading just now and is by an author often similarly ignored and who lived during the same era) is instructive. Even more for women, is the long section on his once famous novel (and it’s still in print), Marnie, which Hitchcock made a movie of (and tried to get big stars to come on board but could not). A strongly transgressive female (cold, not all feeling, not caring — we are told on IMDB she has “serious psychological problems”) who fascinated Graham. There’s a long book on The Marking of Marnie (an early film-making type book which analyses film and book sophisticatedly). I’ve ordered it. It’s in this book that Graham is called “an instinctive feminist.”

One interesting element about historical writing which he emphasizes in a more general way than he does in Poldark’s Cornwall is how important geography is to the historical novelist. The historical novelist has to want to visualize, imagine, live in a particular place, unearth and visualize and make it alive, and out of that comes the cultural patterns that people living at that time had to respond to.

So, first as a professional author: Graham’s early chapters include (especially Chapter 3) his long period of apprenticeship: how at 18 he began to write on his own and did not attempt to go to university nor get a job that was unsuited to his temperament or would have used up his time and not allowed him to develop his gift for writing. 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).

“Life is not kind — nor is it in any way even-handed (Book 1, Chapter 3, p 38)

From a very young age, he wanted to write (age 5); 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. This is a modest chapter as he does not praise what must have been gifts to draw positive attention to himself.

Later in the book we see how he was picked up by Book-of-the-Month club after he had written Marnie and that book had been filmed by Hitchcock.

On the set of Marnie: Hitchcock, Tippi Hedren, Graham

He calls himself “the most successful unknown novelist in England’ (p. 117); the first choice was a historical novel, The Grove of Eagles (Cornwall, 16th century). Although not personally known as a name until the film series, Poldark, his books sold widely and it was certainly noticed by publishers, and once he was one of the Book-of-the-Month club choices among the non-chattering classes his “name” spread. We see how step-by-step his career built: from his abilty to socialize easily and make friends, to his Poldark novels being picked up by film-makers who persisted in wanting to make a film series (comparable to Gone with the Wind he says — that is, a historical saga), and how through several successes (selling modern mysteries, US Book-of-Month-Club, Poldark novels and films, Hitchcock films), he got into groups of people who led him to join a London club, the Savile (p. 112), where he met the finest authors and minds of his era.

List of his novels

List of films

Graham in the coast guard, 1941

Second, as the autobiography of a male. It follows (almost uncannily if you know it) the outline of Trollope’s autobiography: obscure boy of a fringe-genteel family makes good. Underlying the book is the idea that opportunity strikes and it’s up to the individual to seize and make the most of it, or should I say a series of such opportunities strike, and the individual must be both quick and lucky to take what’s coming and then he succeeds. Like Trollope’s (and many other life-writing by a man) we hear almost nothing of his wife (Jean) and lo and behold he is suddenly marrying her; we are for long stretches (especially the early years of the marriage), told little of their inward intimate private life together except exemplary statements (like she was ever cheerful, it was she who supported them at first by her abilities as a landlady), and he never says much at all about his children, except to name them, and indicate they are around now and again, tell their marriage dates and children when it seems the chronology fits. He tells of his early visits and then life in Cornwall and how and why the place meant so much to him, and how important geography is to the imagination of the historical novelist (who is a romancer after all).

Winston and Jean Graham, later in life, on a Cornwall beach

Women’s autobiographies (of which I am reading one just now, Elizabeth Jane Howard’s Slipstream) tell of the intimate details of who their husbands are before they marry them, how they come to marry, their children’s lives, and the structure is not one of opportunity knocked and see me on my Pegasus soaring, but a cyclical structure, repetitious, with much beyond the writing life meaning a great deal and brought out explicitly as central to characters and stories in the work. By the end of the book when Graham has told of his continual traveling (there’s a list of places and times went comparable to Trollope’s list of sums made), and dropped so many famous names (like Gregory Peck and his wife), his jaguars, if this structure were not the bare bones of a much richer outlook poured into it, the correct term for the book ought to be Memoirs of a Socially networking financially successful writer. The public man not the private one. What he’s private about (but does not lie) is his sexual life and misdeeds and deep misgivings (which two he does not tell — but then as Trollope says which of us has not done mean acts and which of us can bear to tell them).

Graham and his dog, Garrick, named after Demelza’s dog

However, the book is much better than that, and one sign of this is how after the initial phase of Graham growing up, it breaks chronology continually, and jumps forward in time suddenly to explain say his inner life as a writer and his aims in his fiction, feelings about, and thorough descriptions of many different books and how they were written, or filmed, and, occasional sudden eruptions of some of his deeper beliefs about the nature of experience, and how people perceive it – the kind I find in the Poldark novels often attributed to Ross Poldark at particularly disillusioned and bitter moments (Book 2, Chapter 3, pp 178-79).

“I rely on hearsay for everything that has happened in the world before I was born, and the world as I know it, till end on the day I die. When I become part of ‘the dull, the indiscriminate dust’ there is nothing to prove to me that anything will still go on, any more than that anything existed before I opened my eyes and blinked up at my doting parents. Nothing can prove to me that the world and all it appears to contain has an objective reality. I know it has a subjective reality but no more … I burn my finger and I feel the pain. I feel nothing of the horrible pains of a thousand martyrs who have been -. it is said – burned at the stake for their beliefs, or disbeliefs. Even among my nearest and dearest there is no transference — can be no transference — of experience. One can feel empathy for someone suffering, but one cannot feel the suffering. We are all alone — desperately alone.

It’s in these long displaced chapters that the reader sees the sources of the Poldark novels and the later realistic ones, which use the mystery plot-design to keep the reader going but are about believable ordinary people caught up in circumstances of high violence and trauma, guilt-ridden, puzzled, not knowing how to act but acting impetuously (the last two qualities are very much Ross’s), but becoming trapped in a pattern they don’t understand themselves. He also himself describes what he thinks is good novel art, discusses (as he does in Poldark’s Cornwall) the types of historical fiction as he sees them and the demands and skills historical novels require (above all self-control not to dump irrelevant information the author has dug up as part of his immersion in the era), as well as (for him) its rooted nature in a place, geography, and cultural moment. The Poldark series of books meant enormously to him, even before they became the sources for the fame- and money-making TV films. Cornwall where his family went when his older brother looked for a new home outside southern England, where he lived with his family for many years, is central to this preoccupation.

Lamora Valley, Cornwall

It’s also apparent he formed some real friendships with the actors and actresses who played the central roles. Here’s a comic photo of Jill Townsent waiting on the set to be called, smoking a cigarette

Since I did not take notes as I went along (which are in effect) what my weekly postings to listservs really are, I will tell only what I remember best from his direct discussions of the Poldarks as well as (not unconscious but not admitted to) descriptions of his private life, and especially himself and his wife which shed eye-opening light on the novels. In these latter revelations he is like Trollope too who discreetly lets us know (for example) he had liaisons as a young man and casual encounters with women as an older one traveling, and that he loved Kate Field. In a long chapter on his relationships with a group of wealthy artists and patrons, he discreetly suggests female loves (e.g., Book 2, Chapter 2); he gives little vignettes of conversations between himself and his wife later in life which ring with the voices and ambivalence of an intensely bonded-partnership between Ross and Demelza.

In the film series, Robin Ellis as Ross when he first takes Angharad Rees as Demelza home with him

Graham does say at one point Demelza is an idealization of his wife. His tolerance in his novel over Demelza’s adultery with Hugh Armitage (in The Four Swans) can be seen in the broad calm way he does not become enraged and hysterical when his crippled wife is nearly raped in Eygpt by a (hideously) unscrupulous guide. He tells the story simply, making it obvious that in such a place and country they’d have no one to complain too.

Cornwall coastline: long view of where the BBC filmed

There are a number of chapters detailing the writing of the Poldark books, his impulses about them as he went along: Book 1, Chapter 5, pp. 66-90, Book 1, Chapter 6, pp. 97-98 (“Demelza was finished lovingly …”). The Forgotten Story is another historical novel deal with ( Book 1, Chapter 6, p 103); he shows real interest and understanding of film-making in his discussions of (among others, Marnie (Part 2, Chapter 8, pp 138-47),

“Lee describes me in his book as an instinctive feminist. Maybe that is right” (p. 142)

Who else makes marital sex in coerced marriage an occasion for insisting it’s a form of nightly rape. I was (I admit) delighted to learn that at the conclusion of the second trilogy Morwenna is rid of the lout Whitworth and marries Drake at last. Graham knows that the actor playing the part of Whitworth (Christopher Biggs) has a heavy load of association to carry with ordinary naive readers so goes out of his way to characterize Biggs as a remarkably cordial man and his friendship with Jane Wymark (who played Morwenna, the raped woman-wife).

Christopher Bigg and Jean Graham on the set

He also cites Robin Ellis’s opinion that Kevin McNally who played Drake delivered the strongest performances of all.

We learn more details about the inspiration for the Poldark landscape, characters and film-making both of the first series and second and later than we did in Poldark’s Cornwall (Book 2, Chapters 4-8, pp 182-234, 10, pp 279-83). This long section is frank about who wanted to do the series, the companies involved, how the first proposal seemed to be going somewhere and then was cut off, why it was refused when it was again taken up, how the different two series were conceived, and (especially interesting) how the 1995 film while interesting film-making, showed the film-makers and screenplay writer had “a total blind ignorance of what Poldark was really all about” (p. 224). I regret to say that Graham does not go on to say just what that is, but hope my several blogs have outlined sufficiently what some of this is.

It seems a final break came when Robin Ellis and Angharad Rees backed out of the second film because they saw their characters were going to be not only sidelined but made a travesty of. marginalized and misrepresented and they as actors underpaid (derisory salaries based on their not having acted in a star series since the 1980s). Graham did an interview where he did praise the series (in the hope) that this two-hour trial balloon would not be the only attempt, remembering how he disliked the first episodes of the first series, but it was never published, he thinks because there was a deliberate attempt to sabotage the film as the fan clubs which had grown up around the original series had become powerful. Fan cults are by no means fruitful of good results in writing or the life of the author they purport to celebrate. Graham attributes the failure of this last effort in his life-time to make another series of films on the Poldark novels to insistence of the British producers on following the US model of financial success (and less risk), where what’s favored is a one episode two-hour film; what his novels needed (as he had in the long years of writing) was slow leisured build-up to make their effect. (This, he says, is very different from the art he practiced for his modern books).

In the last chapters of the book he tells of his later modern novels (Green Flash, After the Act) as earlier he tells of Angell, Pearl and Little God (which includes his own criticism, pp 149-56), Marnie (pp 151-55).

All this is rich material for someone wanting to know him too, and he ends his book by saying (very like Trollope) he has not been a bad man (loved his wife and she loved him, did not terrorize, browbeat or woefully neglect his children, never frequented public lavatories &c&c)) and also does not go to literary lunches or advertise his private feelings, ideas and life and need not because

“I have by now written a great many novels, and must through them have surely revealed a fair amount of my own nature and public feelings. Let that suffice.
Tolstoi says somewhere; ‘There is no point in visiting a great writer, because he is incarnate in his works.’ Should this not to some extent be true of the less important writer? Even down to the least important of all” (Book 2, Chapter 11, p. 312).

I love the ending on his philosophy as a writer which I have made the epigraph to this blog. And I much respect and agree with his assessment of what makes a good book and kept his fine: when you do continue to write “with such integrity, it can’t be all bad, and it can’t be all lost”

I don’t know why the website devoted to Graham’s work has a photo of an old typewriter on it. Graham specifically says more than once that he never typed his novels. He wrote them all out in long-hand and his drafts are revisions in long-hand. He feels that he did not feel the life-blood of what he was writing except as it came through his body into his arms. I suppose it’s a case of this continual (and here I must think unconscious) misrepresentation of authors when they don’t conform to the usual. Graham didn’t conform quietly. He liked to think of himself as a quiet non-conformist man — though he was also strongly ordinary (as when he more than once goes on in a negative about homosexuality. He could not have had the continual professional successes he had had he not appeared to conform and that cannot be pulled off so easily in a life as much in public (though his many novels and the films) as his was.

Perhaps after this is a photo of the typewriter used to transfer Graham’s ms’s to readable copy after the long-hand fair copy draft was made. Graham does say early on his aunt urged him to type an early book before sending it off, but he neglects to tell us who his amanuensis (or typist) was in later life.


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Hugh Armitage (Brian Stimer) and Demelza’s (Angharad Rees) relationship: one of two equals rather than the girl and man (as she was with Ross)

When I am gone remember this of me
That earth of earth or heaven of heaven concealed
No greater happiness than was to me revealed
By favour of a single day with thee.
If for those moments you should shed a tear
Proud I would be and prouder of your sorrow;
Even if no memory beyond tomorrow
In your sweet heart will empty me of fear.
Leave in the sand a heel mark of your crying,
Scatter all grief to silence and to air.
Let the wind blow your beauty ever fair
And leave me thus to occupy my dying.
— a poem from Hugh Armitage to Demelza

Dear friends and readers

Here am I with a ninth blog on the Poldark novels and film series. The first season of films; the first four novels (Ross Poldark, Demelza, Jeremy Poldark, Warleggan), and now this second of the intervening trio (Black Moon, Four Swans, Angry Tide).

The subject of this novel is relationships: all; the different configurations one can draw among the relationships between our primary and secondary heterosexual couples we’ve had so far. Just a few of them:

Ross and Demelza Poldark; Ross and Elizabeth Warleggan; Ross and Caroline Enys; not to omit Ross and Verity Blamey; what could have been Ross and Morwenna Carne, had he understood in time she should have married Drake; Demelza and her suitor-lover, Hugh Armitage, rescued from the French prison by Ross indirectly; Elizabeth and Francis Poldark through Geoffrey Charles; George and Elizabeth Warleggan; Osborne and Morwenna Whitworth; Osborne and Rowella Chynoweth, Morwenna and Drake Carne; Dwight and Caroline Enys (long ago Dwight and Karen Thomas); Sam Carne and Emma Tregirls (Emma and others); Jed and Prudie Paynter

Also political and social arrangements which make for relationships: Francis Basset struggling against Lord Falmouth’s control of the borough, both seeking support from others; the higher vicar come to bully Sam Drake, Demelza’s methodist brother in his methodist meeting house; the starving miners who stage a riot and stealing of miller’s grain deliberately held from them at high prices, especially the man Ross arrested from his bed and hung (John Hoskins), the Rev Mr Choak, Enys’s rival in medicine, bankers, electors.

We see who is executed and why, and witness an election procedure close-up too.

The perspective or theme is the deep one I found articulated by Graham in his memoir:

Even among my nearest and dearest there is no transference — can be no transference — of experience. One can feel empathy for someone suffering, but one cannot feel the suffering. We are all alone — desperately alone. What are we in this world? A conjunction of subjective impressions making up something that is accepted as reality (Bk 2, Ch 3, p 179, Memoirs of a Private Man)

In this novel, the four swans are Demelza, Morwenna, Elizabeth, Caroline. Unfairly omitting Emma, Rowella, Rosina – who are presented in this romantic relationship light. Graham has dismissed Jinny as a central character. And he has marginalized Verity by keeping Captain Blamey at a distance.

These five couples (Ross & Demelza; George & Elizabeth; Dwight & Caroline; the wrongly parted Drake & Morwenna, and kept apart Sam & Emma) cannot enter into one another’s minds or feelings; and the most moving chapters in the book when Ross attempts to tell Demelza of his feelings for Elizabeth and she realizes she cannot tell him of hers for Hugh Armitage are a paradigm of all realities of relationships, at the core of the world’s cruelties, blindnesses and necessary ignorance.

The richness of this middle book of the second trio has emerged slowly from the premises of the characters’s natures, and their evolving situations, some of these going back to the first novel, Ross Poldark and certainly the second, Demelza. This is criss-crossed by an attention to what is happening politically in the larger world and how this is embodied in Cornwall.

We wee what makes choosing to live on worth while. Why people do it and what they get out of life and what they are pushed to deprive themselves of – and the hard and poignant (socially seen) reasons why.

I did love its poetry of birds, landscapes, waters sounding, and wrote about the text each week phase by phase so perhaps this blog will not readily appeal to anyone who has not read Four Swans. On the other hand, I have done my best to explain and convey the experience of this book as I went along. So my advice to you, gentle readers, is borrow, rent, buy these novels and start reading; and then come back here to my blog or get a sense of the books now and then borrow …

Again I’ve supplied an exact outline in the comments; for those interested in the mini-series, Season 2, Parts 6 to 10 more or less correspond to The Four Swans.

The Four Swans, Bk 1, Chs 1 into 3

Hayle Estuary, Cornwall (four of the novel’s women represented by the swans on Morwenna’s husband’s property, viz., Demelza, Elizabeth, Morwenna, & Caroline)

The Four Swans (Chapter 1) begins with two scenes where George Warleggan accosts people he can scare: Daniel Behenna, a physician who was the doctor in attendance at the birth of Valentine at Trenwith; and Tabb, an old male servant who was fired at the time of his marriage to Elizabeth. We feel the ferocious wrath inside him driving him to question these people and in their answers to him their complete mystification at what he could possibly be getting at. That we know it’s his idea that Valentine is not his son is assumed. And it’s not told in this opening. .

George comes across as an ugly mean-minded cold personality. He threatens as a way of negotiating upfront. Of course Behenna when asked if Valentine was an 8th month baby does suspect that George is suspecting Elizabeth in some way; Tabb seems not to pick up that the suspicion is of Elizabeth. There we see that Ross’s way of getting into Elizabeth’s bedroom from an overhang late at night and his leaving was not noticed by anyone Tabb knew. Elizabeth has become uncomfortable with this husband; again the personality type is real (alien from me): she does not become livid or sad only irritated and knows her position threatened by this continual suspicion. Any emotion she shows in this chapter is about her son, Geoffrey Charles who she is not parted from (he’s at Harrow) and her worry he does not like his stepfather; also that George no longer plays with Valentine who is missing his father.

All we can gather from a third scene where he aggressively cross-questions Elizabeth about Ross is that he suspects her of having a liaison and possibly with Ross. This is one of the strong scenes, with a real frisson as she instinctively answers his intense questioning of how she regards Ross with words that are true: she no longer has any feeling about Ross and indeed looks down on him: “a braggart, a bully, a middle aged man tying to assume the attitude of a young won, someone who once had a clock and sword and does not know they have gone out of date” (p. 28). These “cool destructive sentences” hit George where he lives. They have some truth though as when George remarks that Ross’s great exploit ending up losing more lives than the one he brought home

An odd gap is how Graham continues not to give a hint of Elizabeth’s knowledge Valentine is an 8 month baby and Ross’. We also see that while not kind or good or terribly humane she is decent: she is sorry Tabb was let go and would take him back; she wants to go to Caroline Penvenen’s wedding to Enys George would not, but then Ross would not have gone to the dinner party at Ralph-Allen Daniels in the previous book where he was offered and refused a magistracy but for Demelza.

A conventionality: the woman are the more compliant, the more social, and both described as young, slender and looking virginal. For the second set of values I wonder if this is Graham pleasing his readers.

St Winnow Church, River Fowey where the TV fictional wedding was held

The wedding opens (Chapter 2) out the Poldark world with its description of the place around the church and the group of people who come and meet. It’s here that Graham is rebuilding the world for previous readers and introducing new ones. Very little about Ross inwardly, only his pride seen (handsome, lean, wearing an old coat that was his father’s, he insists Demelza have a new dress (green with silver trim which is how she appeared in the series).

George walking over to Enys remembers how Enys would not succumb to pressure but stayed with the Poldark group. George notices how badly Enys still looks.

Politicking at the wedding shows Demelza is more like Ross than she thinks: when Falmouth comes over to “smooch”, she is quickly alive to saying she does not want Ross to go on any more expeditions. Ross genial with Ralph-Allen Daniels.

The chapter includes Ross’s trip to Harry Pascoe, banker so we see how the banks Warleggan works with are in rivalry with Pascoe and Ross’s and what are the real basis of Ross’s relative prosperity: one small mine. He is going to expand by going into business with Daniels.

Then the couples each in their bedrooms characteristically. George and Elizabeth discussing the coming election. We see how these bought and pressure-point boroughs with few electors work.

The most striking couple moments are of the two other couples at the wedding and then again in ed: Caroline’s great generous heart and Enys’s weakness but his trying hard to do what she wants. She wanted this big wedding and she wanted it earlier than he did. How she teases him they had better or her reputation will be in shreds. They do not make love until their wedding night because of his health, and we see it’s even a strain at the close of the chapter. but the good feeling between them carries them into it and then (as ever) curtain down:

Caroline you talk too much.
I know, I always shall. It is a fault that you have married … (p. 46)

Morwena. She is sickened with nausea and despair as she stands next to Ossie Whitworth and no one but we know at the wedding. The dense pragmatic fool Whitworth doesn’t even know, or it’s that he does not care what goes on in her mind. She is not quite dressed up to par as he is. We are privy to one of their bedroom scenes after the wedding too. He commits his exercise on her and she lies there sore, desperate (pp. 40-44). She is in effect raped nightly and now she’s pregnant.

And we hear the talk and thoughts of others, e.g., Sam that the marriage of this pair is right and Drake and she wrong.

The last pair of characters I’ll mention in this renewal is Drake and Sam (Chapter 3) where Ross offers Drake Pally’s old shop. Sam is brought before us, his mind and how he looks at the world (methodist working) and he is feeling bad because with all his success as a workman and preacher he cannot take Drake with him. Drake carries on being depressed and alienated. We see this. Ross makes a move here: his business proposition to help Drake move out of his state of mind (which Ross sees) and the immediate area.

In Chapter 3 we are with Drake who is not getting over it. He is such another as Bingley in the 2008 Lost in Austen. He is not drinking but he has lost his faith in methodism (“yielding to unbelief”) and is bitter and cannot retrieve himself. Yet we are told this “black cloud’ does not lead to thoughts of suicide, it’s “outside his scope.” The chapter shows us Ross offering this property, Demelza being strongly for it, the trip there and a realistic depiction of a place that’s an utter mess and will take tremendous work to make into a blacksmith shop and farm, and Drake will have to do it alone. Sam does think of going with him, but he has his job in the mine and his thriving church. Another drawback is it’s not really away; it’s close to Trenwith. We then see Ross and Drake at an auction, a realistically depicted scene.

Another thread is that of Sam as preacher trying to do good. One of parishioner, Jim Verney is so broke, it’s something out of Dickens, worse. Verney lies dead by the time Sam gets to the hovel, another body is there. This is common for people in Cornwall. Sam attempts to get aid from Dr Choake whose mistress-housekeepers, Emma Tregirls (sister of Tholly) sneers him off with an ointment, and says when her master comes the family better than 2 shillings. Sam leaves 2 shillings with the widow and left starving children. Enys would have come but he doesn’t know and is himself so frail.

From here we see Elizabeth’s assessment wrong: George is the braggart, bully, middle aged man trying to be what he’s not (aristocratic); Ross is quietly alive to other people’s real feelings and spreading employment, faithful to friends, reaching out a hand to his brother-in-law whose existence he once didn’t want to know about.

Four Swans, Bk 1, Chapters 4-6: Another offer refused; the Enys marriage, Drake: we cannot but reproach ourselves for unlived lives

Rowella Chynoweth (Julie Dawn Cole) played as an enigmatic hypocrite, very unlike the book

Chapter 4 brings us the arrival of Morwenna’s sisters to the parsonage. One of them, Rowella, is t help her with the children. These are Osborne’s stepchildren (from his first miserable wife) and the coming child. WE are given enough to feel from Rowella’s silence, her presence does not exactly bode well for Morwenna, for it is only Garlanda who sees how wretched is Morwenna and surmises that down the road in time unless Morwenna can get herself to stand up to Whitworth she will be destroyed. She feels for her sister. We are told in indirect thought which includes Graham “It was a pity she was not staying.” Another contrast is the snugness of the parsonage and how Morwenna is comfortable in it. Drake will become a man of property if he makes a go of it (on Ross’s stake and inheritance in effect) but she would have had to live and work in hardship; we are to feel this would not have mattered; on the other hand, a nice house is a nice house — and Rowella sees this. The four swans are four swans in a pond on the parsonage property.

Of interest to me in these costume dramas is how the types and situations not only hark back to say 1970s (upstairs/downstairs was 1970s, no? Ross Poldark is such another hero as the young man in Davies’s modern drama, To Serve Them All My Days) but these speak to us too or can really be like a Victorian novel. Some mores don’t change. A situation in Lost in Austen is so like one in Four Swans, and the utterance that Jane Bennet in Lost in Austen says about it rang home to my heart yesterday — “We must not reproach ourselves for unlived lives” (still grieving as I was over a probably irretrievable decision or action we did last week — though since this is not art but life it may be what we did was the best and also doesn’t matter so much).

An interesting parallel is both ugly mean horrors of men, sycophantic are vicars. Some residual supposed distrust of church officials as utter hypocrites here.

There is of course a profound difference between Graham’s presentation of Morwenna’s forced marriage to Osborne Whitworth and Jane Bennet’s to Mr Collins in Lost in Austen. In LIA, Collins not going to bed with Jane — she remains a virgin. Well that just about cuts out what is the horror — Bingley in the film does not know about this until much later and it’s said to make such a difference. All sorts of objections come to my mind like this is making fucking matter far too much and virginity ludicrously important, only it is true that what is so horrible about Morwenna’s marriage is the nightly rape, her dislike and distaste for this animal of a man and his cruelty: he sees how much she dislikes it and deliberately hurts her. One night he twists her foot until she cries out in terrific pain; we are told he felt sorry he did that but blamed her. Natch. And she’s pregnant

We return to Ross and another coming visit to Sir Francis Bassett (still Chapter 4 and then into 5). To some extent Graham is repeating himself, again Demelza is willing to go. Graham has not found what to do with Ross and Demelza — reminds me of Trollope with the chief Pallisers characters and how for each of the 6 novels he invents a new primary set of characters. Graham had not wanted to do that …

The trip to Sir Francis Basset’s grand mansion is, however, not simply a repeat of Demelza and Ross’s trip to Ralph-Allen Daniel’s estate.

Lanydrock, a magnificent castle in Cornwall, filmed as Tehidy, Bassett’s house

The dinner table has the characters discussing the Directory and again no one else do I come across understanding of how Napoleon would be seen as revolutionary. Who he stood up for. Not in the US at any rate.

This time Ross is offered a seat in Parliament: he has made himself popular (he is very ironic and saturnine about this) by his rescue of Enys from Quimper; he is part of a landed family; Bassett is not keen on the Boscawen crowd to which the Warleggans belong. Again Ross refuses: this time no long philosophical talk about a book (last time it was Paine’s Common Sense) but rather Bassett makes it clear that Ross will have to vote a party line. Ross doesn’t want that, nor does he want to involve himself in the corrupt borough politics of Cornwall. In a way this refusal is much easier to understand quickly because what is required is concrete distasteful behavior. Utterances by Ross: “Human nature is an abomination, even one’s own” (p. 100). But again he’s refused power, refused a place, and left himself vulnerable.

Demelza growing up finds herself the object of more sophisticated flirting and is drawn or feels that someone is drawn to her: Armitage who Ross rescued. They go on a long walk into the landscape: this is filmed in the series. The conversation again brought home to me why I like these books so: I like Graham’s outlook, I share his values and characters he finds likable I do, and Demelza is one of them. (For me it’s ever true that it’s a struggle to read Trollope’s woman as often I neither like nor admire what he thinks I will, and I don’t think his women are sexually real — he’s done it deliberately in part to make them chaste and obedient.)

The description more ornamental, not rhythmic deep flows as in Black Moon. Appropriate for Armitage’s courting and I can see why costume drama would pick precisely this sequence up.

Yet more talk between Bassett and Ross (Chapter 5) where Ross and Bassett come together (Ross agrees there can be no classless society). Trip home: after all Caroline suddenly tells Demelza: “I think our marriage has been a great mistake.” Whoa. She wanted Enys so badly, Ross got him out of hell for her, but now she has him she sees how different they are. She would like to see him hunt, drink, take care of the estate; instead he shows sympathy for the French (she cannot see how he can see the difference between individuals and a group), wants to go out doctoring among the poor again, reads.

There are differences between Ross and Demelza too, real strains, but not this: they talk of her attraction to Armitage; he tries to understand but is intensely roused by jealousy.

Demelza (Angharad Rees) in the book not paid much attention to on the way home (from Bassett or Falmouth’s house); in the film this occurs directly after he has been with Elizabeth at Aunt Agatha’s grave

Back to Sam and Drake (Chapter 6). Drake is doing well in the sense of working all day and making a go of his shop and place. But he goes nowhere and seeks no company, no girlfriend as we’d say. He has a beautiful character — I just love him and Morwena too. The chapter follows Sam’s visits to the abysmally poor again (“Poverty can be endured if it can be endured with Pride”): methodism becomes another face of trynig to find an alternative to the cruelties of an unjust callous order. Tholly Tregirls’s sister, Emma, visits: I do dislike her competitiveness, she is what one comes across as presented as a reactionary feminist — Sarah Palin 18th century housekeeper-kept womaa (of Dr Choak) style. She is after Drake who does not see her; Sam drawn to her is drawn into carrying a heavy load and then to trespass on Trenwith. An enconter with some of Warleggans’ bullies one of whom Emma has gone to bed with. I admit she’s real enough: manipulative, getting back. The language here is true and effective.

Imagery continually of birds: herons, seagulls, birds in the sky, the sound of them against the wind and waters, the night sky.

Cornwall, twilight, birds

It’s interesting to me that Graham says that Drake never considered suicide as we’d think of that occurring to him but does not say Morwena never considered killing herself. The juxtaposition of Sam thinking about how he can convert the nasty Emma Tregirls is ironic. Emma Tregirls may be caught up in this phrase that she utters, one which shows she is reflecting the world as she has found it in order to be a survivor: “As I se’n, Sam girl’s only strength be when she have men dandling on a string.” (P. 112).

Sam (David Delve) and Emma Tregirls (unlisted at IMDB): she plays with him

Four Swans, Bk 1, Chapters 7-9

I really dreaded going on from the last time I closed the book, for I could see that juxtaposed to the scene between Sam and Emma Tregirls was one of Osborne Whitworth. As I wrote, Graham (refreshingly) does not stand up for rapists to the point that he characterizes (quite rightly) Whitworth’s nightly sex with Morwena as frequently rape. She is not afraid for her life, but is made wretched by his ugly demands on her, he is rough, mean, often physically spiteful.

I need not have worried, it was not as bad as I feared. The scene was instead with George Warleggan. Osborne has come to demand that George write a letter on Whitworth’s behalf to secure him another living which has become vacant. George is very irritated because it has become apparent that Morwena is not thriving or happy. This makes George exasperated with her but it seems Elizabeth blames Whitworth. Right. She should blame herself. So George put off by Whitworth’s vulgar displays (George is puritan like in his clothes) says no in a steely tone.

This is not likely to help Morwena’s position. For now she has a respite as the doctor (Chapter 7) has told Whitworth to leave Morwena alone for the next 6 weeks (the last of her pregnancy). He is too heavy. The film presented his rape of her as what occurred after the birth when she was still very weak and in pain and torn, not the way Graham does as what happens all the time. So I know that it’s coming at her again. Meanwhile he has discovered a crack in a wall in the house where he can peer at her sister getting undressed (again the film includes this).

Myself I wonder why Morwenna doesn’t kill herself. I know she doesn’t because the frontispiece material includes a family tree where there are three children by Whitworth attributed to her. Poor woman, poor woman. It is not intended this way but the whole situation makes a parallel to Karen who had the affair with Enys sometime after she married because she was so frustrated, lonely, idle, living in bleak poverty without a window on the sky or sea. If it were, we might hope Morwena will flee, but she has been brought up to be religious and obey. I wouldn’t stay for it, but then they could not have gotten me to marry such a man and this is not an anachronism in me to say this. If married to him, I’d refuse him but I do like Graham consider what’s happening horrible rapes.

Here Ross (Robin Ellis) is told of Drake’s unjust imprisonment by Sam (occurs in Warleggan), irritated and determined look part of his character that comes out here in Four Swans

Ross is trying to create a situation of mining whereby he can make more money by finding more lodes(Chapter 7), but also do the mining in a safer way so there will be no more dreadful accidents with major loss of life. He also has to tell Demelza he refused the place for member of parliament. To his surprise, she supports him in this. She had wanted him to take the Justice of the Peace, a small niche of power. He is a little resentful — strange the way feelings work.

She says she would not want him to take it because “he lives on a knife edge.” His conscience would make him ravage and bleed and cut himself far more in Parliament because he would have to tow a party line. As local Justice he might have done some good, or moderate the bad. She remarks: “you every year get more and more unsatisfied” (p 129).

He says “the real crux is that I am not willing to be anyone’s tame lapdog. I don’t belong int eh world of pretty behavior and genteel fashion.” When Trollope’s Phineas couldn’t bear to follow a party line, it was the issue of Irish tenants’ rights not his own balking against the system itself

Hugh Armitage (who had hitched onto Ross’s boat rescuing Enys from the French prison) is there at home with Demelza when Ross arrives and Ross immediately senses that Armitage is courting her and she is attracted to Armitage. This aspect of their marriage interests me: I feel Graham is reflecting something that happened in his own life: a quietly open marriage? Their dialogue is so appealing: as opposed to the arbitrary anger behavior of males in most books, he is quietly wary but no more and not suspicious of her betraying him; more, he seems not to mind if she does linger and long for someone else — as he does. The lack of possessiveness, lack of anxiety and understanding the two display over this is remarkable even for today. She is much more jealous than he because she really fears he prefers Elizabeth or preferred her and is sufficiently attracted to Caroline to endanger her relationship with him.

I liked this line from Armitage about love too:

“For life is such a trumpery thing at best, isn’t it? A few movements, a few words, between dark and dark. But in true love you keep company with the gods.” (p. 131)

This is how Drake and Morwena felt when they courted, and this is how Ross and Demelza felt it the early phase of their love and marriage. It seems that Enys and Caroline are not up there with the Gods after all.

Chapters 8 and 9 intertwine politics with Morwena’s terrible giving birth; we also have Ross again coping with the money problems of Pascoe.

She has a horrible time; Osborne is irritated because he wanted to join in on the election day and it would look bad. He has to look as if he’s praying for her. He does pray, for himself not to be further burdened. The thought crosses his mind maybe in the next marriage he could get a wife who does not find him so distasteful. The long siege of reports from the doctor are moving but we are not allowed to be there in the birthing room with her. I have rarely seen this dramatized but maybe I don’t read enough very contemporary books. The only one I know of is Byatt’s Still Life and there the description is not that long.

The politics is about the election. Lord Falmouth wanted to impose his candidate onto the borough and there’s an ugly scene between Hick and Nicholas Warleggan and him where they have waited 3 hours to see the big man (reminding me of Trollope’s Mr Harding waiting the long day in London to see Sir Abraham Haphazard, but this is not funny). It takes the nerve of Warleggan to protest this imposition. The next day Falmouth comes into the room and threatens everyone he can with whatever he has to hold against them. Nonetheless, George Warleggan takes it — Nicholas did have a personal interest here. Ross is there and although he tries to be civil and get along with George soon they are bitterly bickering. These are scenes quietly radical, showing how politics works: they make me remember Godwin’s Caleb Williams where in order to show this he has to ratchet up the melodrama. Trollope is as quiet as this as is Meredith (Beauchamps’ Career) but they are on the side of the order, accept it.

George and Ross cannot get along, even in front of Bassett

The scene is followed by a quiet one between Demelza and Ross again discussing the characters of the two men, Ross self-reflexive, both wry: they rehearse the same matter as in Chapter 7, but in a different key. We have Ross and Demelza’s conversation after he comes home from the election where George was chosen to be Member of Parliament over the arrogant threats of Lord Falmouth. This ends with Demelza taking out a second letter she does not show Ross; a poem to her by Armitage, a kind of weak imitation of Byron (end of Chapter 9, pp. 165-70).

Four Swans, Bk 1, Chapters 10-12: Ross and Elizabeth again

A culminating confrontation scene between Elizabeth (Jill Townsend) and Ross (Robin Ellis)

Chapter 10 brings us Morwena’s continuing failure to get better, to thrive; how Whitworth is now a voyeur of his sister-in-law and how he can’t bear this lack of sexual release and enters his wife’s room and really forces himself on her. This was the scene the BBC chose to film. It’s actually not done with the force or drama of the nightly sex in the earlier part of the book, but it’s “safer” because it seems to condemn the man not for being her husband but not watching out for her health.

Then there are the useless things done by Choak and finally the calling of Dr Enys by Elizabeth who now that George has gone to London is a much freer relaxed woman (Chapter 10). She overrides the stupidity and narrowness of Whitworth who neither likes Enys’s egalitarian ways, connections with Ross Poldark nor his ways of doctoring. Enys orders a modern style regime of decent food, warmth, rest, and forbids more sex. Whitworth is angry but cannot overbear Enys because Elizabeth is there. We are in some of these scenes to feel for Whitworth insofar as he is a man, remembers his first wife (mis-remembers) but I detest him.

Just before George goes Elizabeth again experiences a renewed coldness, bitterness and close surveillance (Chapter 10). Something has re-aroused George’s jealousy. It’s interesting how Graham manages to present her as suffering under this kind of hostility, repression, suspicion but not all that upset; she is so reasonable in herself, herself not the bad person her second husband is. Now relieved to be alone but aware she is under surveillance (Chapter 11).

Her son, Geoffrey Charles, comes home form Harrow, much changed — his “delightful spontaneity” gone, a “smile” with a “new and more reserved charm,” he resembles Francis at his best, and he renews the friendship with Drake. Elizabeth does have a moment of “doubt” but says nothing against it when she sees how happy this makes her son, happier than he’d been in a long time and considers how far Drake is living from the Poldark farm (the other side of Trenwith) and that Drake is now a man of property and there is no “danger” to her family through Morwenna. George would hate it.

She is free to allow things, to visit friends and do some Lady Bountiful visits too. On her way home from one she gets caught in the rain and goes through the property grave yard and comes across Ross. He is there measuring Agatha’s grave for a gravestone he asked George about at the election.

There ensues a powerful scene between the two of them (Chapter 11), including her rage at him, and bitter memories of that night and his not coming back later (for he would not leave Demelza) and in the argument that ensues she accuses Ross of being the person who has somehow spread the rumor Valentine is his. Upon seeing him we know she is attracted as she says that leanness of his, the heavy-lidded eyes, the way he holds his body, an expression on his face. This is the first she has spoken of it. It emerges she is not sure Valentine is his or Ross’s. Ross is immediately aware of how much harm this could do to her boy and tries to advise her to have another (he does) and present it as premature. The dialogue ends with them coming together in a kind of understanding as they talk and before she can go off, he clutches her and kisses her face over and over again. Curtain down. I don’t mean to suggest anything more than this ensues, only that it Graham does this. It’s a convention that leaves what happened suggestive.

A more attentive look at the scene between Ross and Elizabeth at the close of Chapter 11. First it’s been suggested to me the Valentine plot makes Graham’s novels increasingly melodramatic. Well not yet. If anything, Ross’s reaction is understated: “what you tell me is the greater shock. How can we separate — just at this moment.” This is his strongest reaction in words to the news that Valentine may in fact be his and that George suspects this. He says at first: “George is a strange man — given to moods that might give you the wrong impression” They eventually agree “what a pit they’ve dug for themselves” and Valentine. Ross wants to do something and suggests she speak openly to George of his suspicion and try to dispel it, she scoffs at this as just not possible; he could tell him she says; then he says he might end up killing George (as when they come together George needles him and he is a violent man he knows), so then he suggests she challenge George herself and then lie. He insists on how much she means to George, she is his great prize, and Ross, how he never dreamed George had a chance. The conversation turns to her anger again at the night he forced sex on her, and his re-explanation, (mad with jealousy and afterward could not leave Demelza) and when again she wants him to express something from his conscience, he turns to how what she should worry about is the boy, and how her relationship, marriage with George is floundering. She says it’s floundered already — we see from more than just this pregnancy and child. George did not did not take her with him to London — how men were in charge — and at one time he would have wanted to show her off. It’s then on theme of Valentine that Ross suggests she get pregnant again and appear to give birth early; an insect flies over as they talk, he brushes it off her and it’s then she tries to pull away, he pulls her towards him and dissolves in kisses.

What a relief they must be after the arid cold loveless George.

How many insects and a strong sense of life filling the air, sea moving, there is in the book. I had mentioned the birds everywhere, the feel of Cornish air and winds and chills and plant life too.

On this scene too: this love affair of Elizabeth and Ross is structurally across these 7 volumes that make up the design/matter for the TV series. They are a thwarted couple too, and it’s within their overarching continuing story (even if they don’t see or speak to one another for years) that the novel’s other events take their place, are generated in reaction or as parallels. People seeing the film series don’t like to see this; they want Demelza to be the central female and in the series maybe she is. But it makes good sense that the series opens (as the books do not) on Elizabeth’s refusal of Ross when he returns — the books only begin to imagine this in Warleggan fully. That material is brought up front. And also (as I understand it) the series ends on Elizabeth’s death in pregnancy — as does The Angry Tide.

In the first four volumes Demelza is certainly the major figure after or with Ross but as Graham went on, resumed after 20 years, some deeper outline and set of concerns and obsessions in himself about marriage and love make Elizabeth the linchpin. She is no ideal in the way of Demelza with Demelza’s love, kindness, loyalty, acceptance of her status as lower than Ross. In this book Caroline is emerging as a recalitrant presence in a marriage after all, as well as obviously the tragic Morwena. All about marriage as presented (1970s back into 50s) practiced as well as the 1790s for outward customs.

Part One, Chapters 12-14

Falmouth’s house is much shabbier than Bassett’s in the book; but the mini-series chose an elegant mansion nonetheless

The next chapter is the trip to Tregothowan, another great house and a social gathering for the two couples Enys and Caroline, Demelza and Ross.

Caroline (Judy Geeson) in her element, Demelza on one side, Hugh Armitage the other

I was so relieved to sink back into my favorite book for now: the leisurely pace is part of its pleasures. Graham is exploring four different sets of male-female relationships and their intertwining cross-connections. There’s an acceptance of adultery (ultimately underlying this is the modern notion of open marriage) that fascinates me.

Emma Tregirls visits Sam because he has not been visiting her (Bk 1, Ch 14) and we see that she likes him despite herself, and that he is willing to have a relationship with her were she to try to reform. Indeed the dialogue shows him willing to marry her and saying his parishioners would understand she’s brought in, reborn. She doubts this in wry words. Sam’s innocent nature comes out here, but a glimmer comes out that he does see he might lose his position and she is the merciful one and departs. But there is real sense of loss because there is something there so real. The words come off the page as real voices (pp. 246, 250), Sam “I’ll never say goodbye,” and the better self of Emma: “Honest, Sam,dear. Honest, love. Honest to God. There, I said it! … goodbye comes soon after this). And the chapter ends: “Overheard the seagulls were still swooping, crying and moaning their intermittent litany” P. 250)

Book Two, Chapters 1-4

Drake (Kevin McNally) at work in his forge

Ross and Demelza seen through their daily lives together: fixing the library, the upstairs, the children, and routines of work and life as they are imagined here (Bk 2, Chapter 1). The dog. Here it’s rhythmic recreation of the core of the Poldark world (pp. 253-60). Here we are in Ross’s thoughts about decent actions by Pitt (p. 254): I didn’t know Pitt wanted a pension scheme — some of this is what Republicans want to destroy today. Playful dialogues.

But later Demelza seens lingering in the landscape over a letter from Armitage (p. 283-84), Sawle Church nearby. The interweaving seen here: Whitworth hungers after this position, nags George, is writing people, Ross has persuaded Bassett to give it to Odgers whom Ross likes.

Two particularly moving moments: when Dwight, now having agreed himself to spend more time the way his wife, Caroline wants, visiting, being a squire, taking care of their property, having rescued her perhaps from an early pine-away and death, sends a letter to Whitworth and Morwenna about how he is going to limit his practice to a smaller area and now that she is well, she no longer needs him. As she sits here reading it, she feels an intense loss of a real friend (Bk 1 Ch 2, p 270). So I remember Morwenna lingering over her four swans in the pond on the property near Whitworth’s chapel where she had considered suicide. Her rereading Dwight’s supposedly reasonable letter.

Morwenna (Jane Wymark) at night

Dwight has had to give this up because his “life” person or partner has insisted he accede to her will. I’ve experienced this myself and seen it happen to others. A real relationship that matter even if it’s categorised as just business (someone like a doctor and patient) is given up to the “family” demands or work. Dwight too who we see at a dinner he sits silently at is losing something too.

What happened is they are drifting apart. Caroline has no interest in books, and he wants to read much of the time. She has little sympathy for anyone really spending their lives doctoring the poor and sick. Worse yet Dwight is not accompanying her on her jaunts as he should, not dressing as he should, and looking weak and ill. He sees the marriage cannot go on this way (Bk 2, Ch 1, pp. 262-67). Their dialogue is as rich in insight into the human condition as Ross’s with Elizabeth over Aunt Agatha’s grave.

“Work is good for a man, Caroline” (p. 262)

He: “What matters it what others have to say?”
She: “It only maters if it is reflected in ourselves.” (for her it is)
He was still unsteady standing and sat on the edge of the table. His narrow thoughtful face was lined this evening. He looked what he was, a sick man with a strong will” (p. 265)

She resents what she perceives as neglect and lets him know it.

“It was not going to be an easy marriage. It never had been yet over the few mohths it had so far run. But she was determined to win it … [however listen to the narrator moving in here] What was in question was what they would make of it” (p 269).

Demelza’s visit to the Poldark graves with a poem from Armitage in her pocket followed by her visit to Jud and Prudie Paynter after a suposedly comic chapter where he as gravedigger gets impatient and goes to beat a dog, the dog bites him, he runs home frantic and a ridiculous tussle with Prudie ensued. Now they are calm, and Demelza comes for a visit where she has been asked to check up on whether anything has been done to put a stone over Agatha’s grave. Alas, Jud lets out that he saw Ross and Elizabeth walking around Aunt Agatha’s grave and the description is of a scene quite different than the one we saw.

George comes home from London to find Elizabeth over at Trenwith, near the sea, and he goes over to her. he and Elizabeth manage to patch it up because he wants her and reasons with himself after much difficulty. He missed her in London; she would have been a help to him, enormously. He stands in admriation of her and she is his prize. He tells himself what does it matter what happened before he married her and that his suspicions are wrong. A scene on horses between the two of them with him scorning Nampara house improvements (by Ross) shows her making a hinting challenge to him and him backing away. She has persuaded her son, Geoffrey Charles to get along with his stepfather and the stepfather to leave the boy visiting Drake. She makes it the boy will tire of Drake as his new associates teach him better. Both of them blame Morwenna for what happened. George of course will have Drake spied on and do what he can to ruin his business; how dare Drake set up his business so close to Trenwith (Bk 2, Ch 3, pp 290-96) The one lie Elizabeth tells George is she’s not seen any of the Trenwith people

Emma (Chapter 3) visits Drake to try to understand Sam better and perhaps also flirt with Drake. The latter gets nowhere but we do have an early history of Sam and Drake and how first Sam was ‘converted’ into his present evangelical state of mind. She persists that Methodists make life worse, and take away from it what joy most people have (pp. 299-305)

So story, plot-design move on but that’s not what holds me What holds me is moments like Drake who we are told spends all his hours working hard, glad of his shop, glad of his custom, feeling his new rank, but wanting nothing else (p. 299). He does send (we are told) a note or message to Morwenna via Geoffrey Charles. It’s not the note, it’s the description of him at his forge going nowhere else.

For rest of novel outlined, see comments.


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Poldark 1, Part 1, Episode 1 (1975-76): carriage glimpsed on horizon

First shot of Robin Ellis as not-so-young Ross come home

Poldark 2 (1977-79) Ross Poldark as revenant — Season 2: both open with him emerging from the landscape or sea, expected not to return any time soon or thought dead

Dear friends and readers,

Nearly two weeks ago now I wrote a blog-review expressing my delight in the first season of the later 1970s mini-series, Poldark, and said that I had begun to read the books on which it was based, partly to compare and enjoy the series more (one usually gets so much more out of one of these film adaptations when one has read the book) and because I discovered I really enjoyed them and could read them at night.

Last week I finished the first volume in the series, Ross Poldark, and I thought I’d share a few thoughts about this novel tonight. Ross Poldark is a good example of historical fiction where the information is carried very lightly too — deft, like for example, Emma Donoghue’s Slammerkin I read a few years ago now or Rose Tremain’s Restoration. I find even Patrick O’Brian is sometimes “feeding TM information.” ) I’m looking to try to see how it’s done.

I like the book for its tone and characters and outlook. Central is the character of Ross Poldark, not idealized, and Robin Ellis captures some of the character’s hardness, stubborness, and real sense of despair and loss when he returns home from the wars to find no one wants him, and his home systematically despoiled, the young woman he loved, marrying someone else. The level of people in the community and individuals who are interesting and believable emerge quickly.

There is a dark level to this that appeals deeply to me — as well as the kinds of ethical statements that naturally arise in the character’s thinking for he is a sound ethical man in his way — smiling. The description is carried off very well and I can see why the films were done on location — without this Cornwall it’s nothing. This book reminds me of the fiction of Alexander Baron if anyone knows his novels — British, socialist, originally Jewish, became an important writer of screenplays for film adaptations on the BBC from the 1970s through 1980s. I’ll add this historical fiction mediates between the UK of the 1930s to later 40s and that of Cornwall’s history vis-a-vis England. Another reason to make this adaptation in the 1980s.

The cover illustration is a photo of a place in Cornwall, gorgeous and I see it’s the opening establishment shot of the series, a cliff apparently partly built to look like this vision. The actors chosen correspond well to the characters in the book the way they do in other series of this period.

Another shot of the cliffs (opening still for Season 2)

A mine close up

For an outline of the book see the comments.

For a second reading, what my students’ thought and contextualization as a historical romance, see a later blog.


A second phase bring Demelza Carne into the story — as a 13 year old adolescent girl. To tell of how Ross met and brought her into his household is to show how this historical fiction is not wooden but rather that the kind of information which can often make historical novels wooden or tendentious is brought in imaginatively.

A fair (from Season 2)

Ross needs to buy animals to work his farm and goes to a monthly large fair in Truro. Such fairs were held and we get a remarkably lively description of such a place. But there is no sense of feeding information or the kind of sentence which so often introduces this sort of thing. Instead we are wholly in his mind with his troubles and his reactions and see only those parts of the fair that are of interest to him, where he goes. Graham writes these details in a suggestive way which gives us suggestions of the larger place: there are three areas to the fair, a heavy-duty expensive one for animal purchase, feed, implements; another for smaller goods, pots and pans, household stuff, scattered everywhere stuff for fishing, mining, crafts and so on. He does his business and is tired and goes on to a third area where drink, food and entertainment is to be found. More sordid stuff goes on here, and among other things he sees cock-fighting (which we witness at his cousin Poldark’s wedding to his ex-beloved Elizabeth) and then two animals, a dog and cat tied to together with something to hurt them and tease them and all the people around enjoying this.

Well of course yuk. We are told Ross likes children and so when a young girl hurls herself against these animals to free the dog, becuase it’s her dog, and for her pains is the victim of stones and kicks and curses and mockery, he rescues her. What a mess she is — not unrealistic, half starved, filthy and has been beaten by her father and/or brothers recently. He gives her a good meal and is going to dismiss her but remembers he needs a maid of all and hard work. As yet he has but three servants to help him bring his house back to order. So he offers to take her. He likes her and she him — but they half-quarrel over her dog who she wants to bring. He almost gets rid of her at one point because he knows this will bring him trouble, but then she will come cheap and clearly wants and needs to escape an awful home. Bringing her home, he puts her in a big bed of the kind she never usually gets. It’s here the abilty of the novelist comes out. No sense of us being taught what a box bed was but rather we enter Demelza’s mind as she goes to sleep in this half-built house.

He tries to contact a lawyer over what to do about her, but is thwarted and her father and brother show up two mornings later. A fight ensues — yes swash bucklnig for our hero beats three men with the help of his servant, but it’s realistic too. Reminded me of scenes of Billy Booth duelling in Amelia. The same male stupidities are presented (Graham thought knows they are and does not enter into them quite the way Fielding does). Really the old man is willing to sell the girl for 50 guineas. They bargain in the end and Ross offers to give the old man her salary and he will himself provide food and clothes and whatever education she might want.

This is but one thread in this second section of the novel; having watched the films I know in the film Demelza stays, grows up, and 6 years later Ross and she do have sex one night together; he, good man that he is, sends her away for another place rather than repeatedly use her, but she improbably this, gets pregnant (the kind of thing novels even today do for so-called “good” and chaste heroines, they must get pregnant one go) and after claiming other lovers, that it’s others and he trying to find these and get one to marry her, it emerges it’s his. In the film she flees for an abortion or whatever, he chases and stops and wrestles her down (we are into the romance) and says he will marry her, and give her his name — this is a beautiful moment in the film. She at first does not want this compromise, but accedes for abortions are death and children out of wedlock would destroy her life as it destroys reputation (which is shown an absurdity when one considers the realities). The film is close to 1950s attitudes and far more melodramatic.

At any rate in both film and book Ross then marries his servant-housekeeper, a woman beneath him as he is a gentleman, and this is part of the story’s class lines appeal — for Demelza is real enough.

I left off last night in the book though when her father has left and he finds her hiding high up in a cupboard with her dog. This scene is dramatized in the series.

I read up to Book 2 of the novel where we jump two year to 1787. It should be said that the series (16 episodes) takes matter from the first four novels of Graham: that enables the series to include the 1790s for its chaos, riots, and rebellion against the masters as part of the larger French/Irish and counter-revolutionary scenes.

The motif which binds these segments in the film visually and archetypally is that of the revenant. Again and again Ross leaves to go to a war, to rescue someone, he is driven away, missing, believed dead, and then returns — from the time of the marriage welcomed joyfully by his (often pregnant) wife. There are a cornucopia of shots in this vein. In the books I discover he is a wanderer again and again, restless, dissatisfied. Not the same as a revenant at all.

This last part of Book one tells of Demelza growing up, slowly educating herself in Ross’s library, becoming part of the working household; how he does begin to buy her pretty girl things (like a cape and pelisse) but as yet sees her as a child. At the same time ugly rumors fly about how he’s keeping her. That he ignores this shows his character — a real arrogance some would call it; he just won’t listen to cant or let it control his existence. He will pay for this. Demelza will of course probably remain a pariah until he marries her and for a long time afterwards too I can see. Class and sex and gender prejudice.

Verity (Norma Streader) — online promotional shot

We see Verity, the sister of Francis, Ross’s beloved cousin and friend (she visits him regularly) deprived of the man she loves: Captain Blarny (Blamey in the film and Blamey as of Demelza). Again we have this disturbing part justification of terrible behavior to women. Blamey is feared by Verity’s father and brother because he was responsible for his wife’s death; he did beat or kick her once when she was pregnant and she went into a miscarriage and died, and for this he went to prison for two years. He has paid for the crime, sworn off drink (and keeps off it), and she loves him and we see he is decent and congenial. If it were that Graham is urging us not to keep punishing people, I’d sympathize but in each case where this is the moral it is always of a man raping, beating, somehow badly abusing a woman. And it’s always justified by her bad behavior which never seems to emerge in violence on her side. We are told Mrs Blamey did not keep a good home for the Captain, nagged him &c

But spinster life is unexpectedly justified. She’s going to be a spinster now and it’s not that bad after all. Respected, needed, not endless children, self-possessed and we are to feel after all Blamey is not exactly a hopeful case for her.

IN the film the father Charles of Verity nearly dies when he has a heart attack after (in both film and book) his eldest son, Francis, Elizabeth’s brother challenges Blamey and not being allowed to bow out, Blamey hits Francis in the neck and almost (but doesn’t) kill him.

The intense Francis (Clive Francis) — online promotional shot

IN the book and film Ross helped Jim Carter marry Jinny, but alas he has begun to poach to provide more for himself and his wife. This is a story which shows how poverty deforms bodies never mind the intangible life. Carter was a bright boy forced to work in the mines when young as his father died. His health is now very bad and weak; and Ross wants him to work in the farm. But he doesn’t make enough even to get food — Ross is giving them the cottage rent free. So he goes back to the mine and then poaches to make ends meet. (He will end in prison and then die of disease there.)

A good deal of plot: Elizabeth gives birth to her son by Francis, but again also feel and tone and themes. IN the book, she no longer wants to sleep with Francis and lets him know it, and he acquiesces, but turns to drink, resentment, more gambling (as she loses any hold she had on him through sex — not much — the male novel believes women can control men through having sex with them — right — not much I’d say). Francis is incensed with Ross also for he knows of Francis’s early love for Ross, and how (in the film but not the book, in the 18th century this would have been unthinkable and the book is not anachronistic in this way) Ross allowed Verity to meet Blamey in his house. This meeting is a motif in real Victorian novels. “good” women characters refuse to allow other women to meet lovers in their houses. One way women and men were controlled was there was no comfortable safe private space outside houses at the time to meet. The automobile and build-up of a public world in the later 19th century changed all that in the west — not in traditional family based societies I’ll bet.

Despite the signs of misogyny (by which I refer to Graham’s acceptance of Blamey’s murder of his wife), I like the sentiments that are expressed again and again by Ross Poldark and Demelza — who is alert, active, bright, loves to read and is active to make things orderly. In the book, Ross spends his evening in quiet drink with a book before the fire and her dog, Garrick, most of the time. I can see how the death of the dog must be meaningful — more than the series showed — at the end of the first series of novels (which comprise I’m gathering 1-4). In this part of the novel it’s the build-up of the world, of all its parts, and evolution of character and an attempt to suggest a community over a brief span of time (but suggesting the larger through say visiting and seeing pictures in Trenwith house) that holds this reader.


Ross’s farm house (as seen in opening of Season 2)

I’m into Book 3 and the last hundred pages of Ross Poldark, and have bought myself a copy of Demelza (another earlier edition, cheaper) which I await eagerly so I feel competent to compare this first book with the film now. Ellis mentions that the way Ross came to marry Demelza was changed, and he wanted more of the original; there were “heated discussions” of this (and other changes), and unlike his hero, Ross, Ellis compromised.

I can vouch that the story of Jim Carter’s poaching, capture, cruel trial and imprisonment, and thus coming death reflects the fiction. Here we see how the dissertation written on Graham’s fiction that it uses history progressively accurately. In the deft non-teaching fiction way he had, Graham brings home how desperate is Carter’s life: he and Jinnny now have 3 children, he can’t make enough and so returns to the mines, still can’t make enough to eat without hunger and keep warm and provide clothes so he resorts to poaching to add to the dinner table. Rich men who hunt (we see a hunt from this perspective) aren’t having that. We also see that Poldark is a poor politician. He gets up on the stand and preaches to the jury; he appeals to principles, to the terrible conditions of the prison, but is easily overruled because poaching is a crime, end of argument. He should have had a quiet word, should have said he needs this man as a servant, and should have kowtowed and manipulated on the stand. In the film all this and his regrets and insight into where he failed are presented as a dramatic speech the night he gets drunk and makes love to Demelza.

But the film otherwise differs profoundly in the way the sex, marriage and developing romance are presented from the book. In the book Demelza is growing up and rumors abound Ross and she are going to bed. A young woman her mother wanted Ross to marry is envious or spiteful and increases these during her daughter’s wedding to someone else. Demelza’s father hears of this and has himself found religion, married a narrow evangelical type, and comes to fetch her. Her heart stops at this. Her life now is pleasant to her, she is learning to read and write slowly, and she knows to go back is to be made a servant-slave, that whatever the surface changes in her father he is still an exploitative, mean, brutal man. She also knows that Ross is not deeply engaged by her and would “do the right thing,” send her back.

So she does plot to involve him with her. This is the male idea of the woman who entraps the man. Indeed the whole mythos is one high culture novelists make fun of: the idea an older man can train or tutor and bring up an intelligent young girl to be his wife. It is apparently an alluring notion (Trollope mocks it and shows so many fallacies in a subplot of Orley Farm). How? well, sex. She finds Ross’s mother’s dress and dresses herself as a woman for the first time. She fears that sex with Ross will end in him feeling contempt for her but is willing to chance it.

She is scared of sex too but far worse dreads her father and his new wife and that so-called home and its religion. In both book and film he has started buying her adult women’s clothes and she has begun to be aware of herself as a woman — 17 to 18 now.

Poldark 1, Part 3, Episode 6: Ross moved by Demelza’s love

iN both film and book the scene between the two of them is done at length and masterly. He is wretched, drunk, but at first angry to see her in his mother’s dress. He does not want to abuse her this way. IN the book the dog plays a role as the dog is there and they are playing and petting it. In the book he does send her away, but then thinks what a fool he is to be so moral. Why not go to bed as everyone thinks he is. He goes to her bed and she responds.

Unlike the film (which has a short version of this where Demelza did not plot anything), in the book he does not send her away the next day. He goes off to do work and is gone all day; when they first see one another they are embarrassed and uncomfortable — but he enjoyed that night with her and she didn’t mind. Elizabeth comes for a visit — too late. She fears her father will come for her. We go into both their minds, and well they do it again.

As would happen in nature. Two days later rather than carry on this way he determines to marry her. He knows this is the “kiss of death” for him gaining prestige and power socially; it’s okay to fuck your servant regularly (snide comments and sneers is what he’d get and she the streets if he threw her out, or a terrible reform home if she got pregnant and the neighborhood took umbrage), but he marches to his own drummer. She has become a real important servant: a good cook, companion, conversation is witty, he likes her, is fond of her and is willing to give her his name.

In film and book much is made of this. IN the film (see above) when he chases her across the meadow, pregnant with his child (as he now knows it), ready to abort it or flee somewhere anywhere, he wresttles her down and in proposing marriage, says he will give her child and she his name. That means a place in society.

In the book after the marriage, there are two moving chapters, one from her point of view and one from his on their developing euphoric (for its a kind of honeymoon) relationship. She immediately gains status in his eyes: now she sees her suggestion about the library is listened to. He half-dreams of the nights they are now spending together — and it’s alluringly suggestive — and the days they are having.

In both book and film Elizabeth comes to visit just after the first night of sex, and constitutes a sort of temptation against marrying Demelza.

The young Elizabeth (Jill Townsend) — online promotional shot

In the film again it is dramatic; Demelza has been sent away after one night of sex, lived with her father and step-mother, fled them, gone to live with Jinny Carter and lied about her pregnancy being someone elsew’s; Elizabeth wants to leave Francis and offers to go and live with him elsewhere, and he agrees; they have a long afternoon by the shore, but the next day he does finds out that he fathered Demelza’s pregnancy and takes her into his house in the film. Elizabeth shows up and we have Elizabeth’s shock and horror at this decision. One does not marry a lower class woman this way. Part 4 of the film ends not on a happy wedding but Elizabeth leaving the house, passing by Demelza who has heard it all and goes upstairs. Ross left in the room. It’s not false romance in the film but it is a high melodrama which the book is not.

In the book there is no such scene, no time for it, no such offer to leave Francis, but we know Elizabeth would be appalled. She has come to mend fences with Ross but no more; it’s too late because Ross and Demelza have now spent a night in bed together. Elizabeth’ presence is enough to make him pause, but not enough to stop him marrying Demelza. The book is much realer & quieter than the film. It is highly improbable that any Demelza would claim several lovers and not know who is the father of her baby. So the film is improbable, but it is dramatic and that chase across the meadow with him on a horse, the gentleman, and she the outcast fleeing deeply memorable.

I prefer the book very much as more truthful to nature, and the two chapters and real depiction of a romance developing after the marriage act.


The core of these Poldark novels is Graham has imagined himself this Captain Poldark, attractive, decent, highly intelligent, identifying with the people beneath him (all obedient to him) and while a thorn to his peers, not somebody they can easily scotch (because the wealthy then knew they needed to hang together, to support their order). And in these chapters I’m taking such a delight in he’s imagined himself marrying a girl well beneath him, so by custom as his wife, and by habit and class, she is obedient, more than compliant at night (in love with him for all he has given her, and not at all inhibited or proud), and fitting right in with his needs during the day.

The novel is now leaving the larger outer society as we do watch a realistic adjustment too. Ross wants Demelza to be accepted and to try to fit in within limits. Luckily, his good cousin, Verity, is like him: accepts the lower orders, and now that she is lonely, a spinster who has made herself a alien in her family by her affair with Blarney (in the first book his name), he invites her to his house. The myth operative here is a woman deprived of love and sex — and companionship and usefulness for herself — sickens. Verity is in ill health. She accepts Demelza, but Demelza is deeply ashamed — she knows how she has been talked about — and it’s Demelza who is off-standish, who doesn’t talk and doesn’t make Verity feel at home. But an effective scene of Verity wisely knowing how to disarm Demelza and a few weeks experience and Demelza begins to trust and then open up.

IN the book we see Verity take Demelza shopping. A trip which again proves Graham’s deftness for we completely forget we are learning about shopping in Truro in the later 18th century as Demelza is taught how to shop for better goods, what kinds of patterns to get, the appropriate places to buy class-appropriate stuff for her house.

And then in the book Ross insists (as a male he does use his authority) that Demelza go to his cousin’s for Xmas when she’s invited. Again we have these scenes of social and class adjustment.

I admit though what I like best are the romance get-away “Paul et Virginie” scenes, to allude to the equivalent of Daphnis-Chloe and Tristan-Isolde in later 18th century Frency fiction. Ross and Demelza going out late at night with a picnic, and watching the town on the nights the pilchards come use huge netting to capture hundreds and hundreds of fish, then returning by coves to their house to make love at night. Ross and Demelza having breakfast, around the house, and the inner subjective characters he gives both as they learn about one another. She is by the page I have gotten to pregnant but unwilling to tell him as yet for fear he will be irritated or not happy about it as it’s another burden. I daresay this is anachronistic but much in her reflects how Graham saw women of the 1940s/50s in their inner lives and domestic situations — idealized and from a masculinist stance, but also sympathetic.

I should say my experience of relationships coheres with the center of this one: after the relationship begins in earnest (meaning sexual) then the learning about one another first begins, and then either romance or adjustment or breakup. Well surely romance is the thing some of us yearn for. Someone to listen to you, to sympathize, to validate — and Ross and Demelza do that for one another in spades. Ellis says he and Rees were “beloved partners” in their enterprise during filming and keeping up the memory of the series by touring for love afterwards.

This novel ends on a touching ambivalent romance close. It dwindles down to concentrate on Ross and Demelza’s relationship evolving under the pressure of their visit to the Poldark family, interactions with the other family members, and return home. Ross is beginning to see that Demelza has forms of insight that he doesn’t. While she was probably wrong not to want to visit at all, he has discovered he still longs to go to bed with Elizabeth, his attraction to her has not diminished. There’s an effective scene where first Elizabeth plays the piano with high cultured music and then Demelza is pushed to sing a folksong. Demelza is preferred for the same reasons that in Austen’s Emma Harriet Smith prefers Emma’s mediocre playing of easy songs to Jane Fairfax’s accomplished performance; it’s more available. It turns into a sour comedy of manner with each of the characters responding, especially the girl who Ross was pressured to marry uttering needling put-down comments to Demelza who holds her own. The good Verity puts a stop to this.

We then accompany our hero and heroine home: they are glad to be back and alone. He tells her she misbehaved with her effective sarcasms, and she ignores this to try to get him to agree to arrange to bring Blarney to the house again for Verity. A conversation about love ensues whose terms are disturbing: literally Demelza maintains if you love someone, you do so understanding their faults, but since the faults are physical abuse, this is part of this disquieting vein in the novel where men are repeatedly excused for beating/killing women.

Here it’s Ross who doesn’t agree as the case in point is Blarney who killed his wife and who therefore the Poldark family do not want Verity to marry no matter that now he has given up alcohol and the same situation will not occur. He will only “consider it,” “consider” going to Falmouth to bring back Blarney for Verity. A sort of stiffness and sense of himself as a male and in charge comes strongly out here. Robin Ellis does this aspect of the character very well 🙂

There beyond this though a sense of distance between the two. He has visited his homestead and remembered the history of his upper class family, very far from hers, and she has been made to feel that he married her loving still another woman (Elizabeth), or at least wanting her and the text reads “for a time something stepped between the man and the girl sitting at the fire.”

But the night wears on and “the old peculiar silence” that enveloped them now ceases “to be a barrier, and became a medium.” Their different pasts and personalities “could not just then break their companionship for long.” “They had been overawed by time. Then time again became their friend.

“Are you asleep?”‘ Ross said.
‘No,’ said Demelza.
Then she moved and put her finger on his arm.”

And we leave them going to sleep with one another and the curtain falls.


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