Posts Tagged ‘marital rape’

Long shot: The Duchess walking away from the Grey family after giving her newborn to that family. By contrast, Duke kept mistress as the duchess’s companion, & his illegitimate children he has too, a daughter from a liaison Georgiana mothered.

At the same time how beautiful the scene …

Keira Knightley in Gainsborough style hat: insignia of 1st British film maker wholly devoted to costume gothics — it’s modelled on a famous hat Gainsborough painted for Mrs Siddons

Dear friends and readers,

What an adventure I’ve had with this paper on the film adaptations of Trollope’s novels thus far I’ve had. My paper took on two new forms, a remarkable (brilliant) 24 page one I called rollope on TV: “Intertextuality in the Pallisers and other Trollope and Victorian films;” and then after a sudden reversal where what I had written so praised previously became unacceptable (“not like the others”) and “three times as long” (it was not), cold implied threats to go away, so (with a lot of help from the Admiral), I produced a 14 page hollowed out (butchered) version called “Trollope on Television: the Pallisers as one of two signature Trollope films.”

The whole experience has prompted two steams of thought tonight. As to my paper, I concluded decisively that: While one cannot look upon the eponymous book as the only source for a movie, as one among several sources (other movies will be others, but also other books, the screenplay), it’s the starting point and comparison is the way to get at the core of a movie, not to depreciate the movie but understand it. And like translation, film adaptation art is a collaborative one. This makes it less respected among the average person for another false norm is the one which values “originality” only (that person gets the copyright). In the medieval period it was at least recognized that there was such a thing as “matter” (say of Arthur) which many authors availed themselves of as a group.

So we might say there is Austen matter of which now many creative people avail themselves of to make new art and new statements. There is such a thing as Trollope matter too, but it’s not recognized as such by those making films and so remains undeveloped. Just as there is Arthurian matter …

Characteristic Trollope matter goes unrecognized

My other perspective comes from what happened to my paper (the attitudes taken towards a study of TV — it must be television or televisual, mind that) and from watching another week of the ludicrous (and widely popular) Downton Abbey. The BBC seems to have several tribes — as do the other British TV stations, and so too publishers of books. There are the tribes who loathe film adaptations of classics, television (beneath them if money-making) — a reverse unexamined snobbery, a stupidity about this art (women’s films, soap operas is the scorn-full term) and are successful in trying to get them quashed and keep money from them. Also in refusing to print anything that studies them at length as serious art. In this vein the term of scorn Margaret Atwood picks up in her Lady Oracle, “costume gothics” seem a propose — except that Atwood shows the costume gothic is a version of everyday reality for many women.

Part of the failure of Downton Abbey is the poor writing and not enough money spent to create a story and characters with depth and subtlety. I wrote about it in a dialogue with an intelligent friend on Facebook as follows:

I love film adaptations (of high status books, from history, of biographies). This one had too short scenes, not enough development, was too cliched, the motivations and behavior of the servants was ludicrously pious and the whole thing finally “upholding establishment,” complete with this drivel about what the lead patriarch of such an estate would be like. The characters in this film are cruel because they are cruel, like a child’s story.

I watch them a lot. They are as capable of complexity and depth as any novel — and even those more recently where the scenes are much shorter (across all movies scenes have gone much shorter, much more epitomizing). These stories of coercion in marriage can go far to analyze say female sexuality today, and through these disguises (with the deflection of beautiful costume and landscape) deal with issues you don’t see dealt with in dramas in modern costume (all films are in costume). So, take the recent Duchess (stars were Fiennes, Knightley [semi-anorexic type], Cooper, Rampling): it presents marital rape, a significant topic, and with one exception thus far I’ve only seen marital rape shown and made a central issue in costume dramas (Man of Property, Poldark); we see other forms of emotional abuse — the idea is women had to take it, and indeed Georgiana Spencer did. You can show direct rebellions of all sorts.

See my reviews of Trouille’s Wife Abuse in 18th Century France, Part 1 and Part 2.

I think this is a poor one and that it’s popular precisely because it is a hollowed out simplistic version. The phrase “soap opera” is used as a put down (unfairly, it’s a female poetics the cyclical form) but you see it used of this one especially.

My friend wrote:

I suspect the better ones are those actually based on novels,whereas I think this one isn’t. Soap opera–I watched them for a few months once after a student suggested that Othello was “like a soap opera.” I decided that maybe soap operas are the only popular genre that takes emotions, and private life, seriously.

To which I replied:

They are women’s art. I agree that it’s mostly when we find a great source behind them, they become great. Don’t underestimate the occasional screenplay genius: Dennis Potter’s Singing Detective say. Davies is not as good when he doesn’t have a rich source text, but his satire on university A Very Peculiar Practice has its moments.

So, those making Downton Abbey seem to be living down to a view of film adaptations as silly and they seem to have no sense of accurate history when it comes to human relationships. But there is another tribe — to which Andrew Davies, Sandy Welch and a host of all sorts of creative people including the actors and actresses who know better and know there is an audience out there.

The question is, Is it worth it to those at British TV to spend the money if they think they’ll get an audience anyway. That’s really it. Do they have real competition on British TV for the better audience; if they don’t, they could just throw crap and hollow stuff. It would be only a concern for decent art and fulfilling the old Reithian mission of the BBC which keeps these finer TV films funded and done.

2008 The Duchess (Paramount, BBC, Pathe), directed by Saul Dibb, screenplay Jeffrey Hatcher, producers include Alexandra Arlango, Michale Kuhn, adapted from Amanda Foreman’s biography of Georgiana Spencer, Duchess of Devonshire — now driven out of house, Grey to marry someone else to further his career


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Marnie (Tippi Hedren) all distress and the caring tender Mark (Sean Connery) from Hitchcock’s 1960s Marnie)

Dear friends and readers,

I’ve not given up on Winston Graham because his 8th Poldark novel, The Stranger from the Sea, revealed a precipitious falling off. A series of 7 remarkable historical novels set in the 18th century is not to be dismissed. What I’m doing is reading a few more novels by him which are not historical novels, reading good books on historical novels (among them Jerome de Groot’s The Historical Novel) and trying a couple of historical novels set in the 18th century by other people: one I’ve begun which I’m thus far enjoying is Emma Donoghue’s Life Mask. Donoghue’s is the first type in Graham’s typology: most of the characters really did once live and she is in effect doing history imaginatively.

Marnie (Tippie Hedren) stealing thousands from firm’s safe

The burden of the song: Like Graham’s other novels this one delves unusually into sexual unhappiness in marriage (including another rape); Hitchcock turned it silly Freudianism. It might be said that Hitchcock’s movie is an absurd travesty of Graham’s novel, but I’m not sure Graham’s novel is itself really sheds any humane light on sexual and psychological distress — especially in his attitude towards Marnie’s mother. He does calls attention to “the rough deal women have” (his words). That’s a start.

One source for his book was an incident of infanticide that from my reading I know is not uncommon:

while he lived in Cornwall during war a mother with 3 young children came to live there as an evacuee. Graham presents her as simply promiscuous; she’d let men in her bedroom and throw her children out while a man was there. She got pregnant and, fearing ostracism, exile, loss of her own children, she hid the pregnancy and when she gave birth, strangled her newborn in a newspaper.
A neighbor had assisted in the labor, and unfortunately this woman began to hemmorrhage so the dead baby was found. She was acquitted on grounds of insanity. As we shall see, this is a version of what happened to Marnie’s mother.

I’m beginning to think that Wayne Booth’s Rhetoric of Fiction condemned more than hard-boiled detective stories with women-hating males at the center, more than the deluded use of irony which allows so many books to have evil narrators at the center, more than the hardening of readers such reading encourages: he was pointing out how a whole slew of modern books may be regarded as documents showing the sicknesses of our society. Graham’s book by substituting a woman for the central figure and not asking us to read the book ironically does this in spades.

A second core of Graham’s novel was a real young woman he once came across: It’s based on a young girl who was hired to take care of young children as a nanny. Gradually it emerges she was psychologically disturbed. She would take baths three times a day, and had an inordinate love of horses, loved to ride, and hated men. He says he read a letter she wrote to her mother showing this. He then says she was let go and he heard later on committed suicide.

The moral lesson he draws is the narrowly selfish middle class one of “be careful who you hire to take care of your children, with the implication you should do it yourself – meaning women should.” Nothing about the woman or her suicide. Nothing to ask himself where such a hatred could come from. Nor in the original (as far as he tells us) was the problem the girl was liar or stole things. Nothing of her behavior beyond the above is told. What he did was account for the babysitter’s behavior by making into into one of the children whose mother had gotten pregnant, killed the infant and was imprisoned. What Hitchcock did was substitute the story of the woman who let men into her room and shoved the children out as an explanation for Marnie.

This topic is of interest because the movie at least continues to be famous and no one discusses the book which does have a marital rape (if not at the center at any rate there) nor the portrait of a mother. It is counterproductive and not feminism because there’s no understanding of the causes of a girl’s psychological distress. When you’ve read this one and go back to Graham’s historical novels you see them differently: why he chose to set his novels in the 18th century is perhaps that 18th century novels do examine sexuality at least women’s and men’s centrally

Marnie centers on a supposedly helplessly sociopath liar and thief who is a woman. In both film and book here is the central character and conceit (so to speak): this the story of a young woman who when we meet her is busy changing her identity, looks, serial numbers (identity cards), clothes & hair color too. She is stashing away a huge amount of cash she has stolen. She then visits her mother with a story about Mr Pemberton who is her husband which the mother doesn’t investigate. She is supporting this mother. In the book we learn little of the mother until the back story emerges. In the movie the mother (called Bernice and played by Louise Latham) is presented as a neurotic bigot who teases Marnie by preferring another small child and clearly dominates her. Marnie though does not depend on her mother or live with her; she leaves (escapes) after the visit and gets another job. Apparently this is what she does: get a job, steal a huge amount of cash, flees, change her identity, gives most of the money to her mother to support her, and and gets another job — all the while lying to her mother by pretending she’s married and her husband just does not want to visit.

This is what is presented in both movie and book.

It could thus be a misogynistic book, but I really think it’s another of Graham’s curious works of instinctive quasi-feminism — he means it as feminist. I didn’t read it that carefully because I grow very impatient with hard-boiled detective fiction — I’ve hardly tried any or gotten through any — but I know from those I’ve opened and Wayne Booth’s Rhetoric of Fiction (justly famous) these often have these cruel misogynistic males at the center, Mickey Spillane and irony is a cover (as in Lolita) for offering up delectable exercises in raping, torturing, murdering, bad-mouthing women. Most of the time they are mindless: the protagonist’s name is put in agreement with verbs.

The real impulse behind Booth’s famous book is his detestation of this popular form. Booth shows that the ironies supposedly used here are a cover-up to allow male readership (and female perhaps) to read cruel trash and tell themselves what they are reading is really reprehended by the author and themselves. The Rhetoric of Fiction was written during the 1950s when this kind of fiction had had a supreme embodiment in the hypocritical Lolita where Nabokov has it both ways: he gets to masturbate in front of the reader and flatters himself and the reader they really detest what they are doing in the person of Humbert Humbert and anyone Lolita is a total tramp and deserves to be used, exploited, her mother killed &c&c.

In Graham’s book at first Marnie seems as hard and mindless as the usual detective story, but as we progress we find that although she never does give us subtle psychological meditations (only Le Carre and tremendously successful writers in this vogue dare that and not too often), by the end we have a fascinating portrait of a woman twisted by her society.

It includes a motif I’ve come to expect of Graham: the marital rape. As in the Poldark novels, the rape itself is not described in any details, only enough suggested to feel a terrible violation of Marnie.

Marnie is told in the first person and as an incessant stream of consciousness that gradually widens out. I found it a kind of page-turner at times, and then again was bored by being asked to keep track of minutiae of facts (endemic to this type). I also find the conventions of hard-boiled not-telling inner truths directly or keeping the mind of the central figure semi-blank or not understanding herself irritating.

In the original book Mark is a businessman, not (as in the movie) upper class. Graham’s Mark is high in the last firm in the book Marnie tries to fleece. He falls in love with Marnie because she is beautiful and strange and he does sleuth successfully to discover her previous position and catches her at a new theft and attempt at a new appearance. He demands she marry him and then he’ll protect her. He discovers she seems terrified of sex, won’t let him near her, and he rapes her that first ight. After that unlike Sean Connery he is does not attack her again. There is another male in the company, one Terry, who is also attracted to her and she to him, a much less moral man. Mark brings Marnie back to the firm after himself replacing the money. Then he says he has married her so naturally she will not work anymore but stay home. He says they have an invitation to Mark’s house to gamble and he does not want to go. Marnie does so she concocts a story about a girlfriend which Mark appears to believe and then Marnie goes to gamble each Saturday night — lying to Mark about it.

Alas, it’s somewhat justified for the man, Mark, is not just married to her and wants to help her and by the end she returns to him and begins what might be a decent life — we can’t tell. He has (I rush to say) not done that again, not forced himself on her again.

One of the fallacies of the book is how she gets away with lying. It’s just improbable. Now in the book gradually Marnie comes to like, trust Mark and when she is found out further (an old employer comes to a party) and Mark finds out a great deal and wants to go to the police, she decides to flee again. This time though guilt assails her, she puts the money back, and visits her mother, stalling for time. She arrive to find her mother dead, and her uncle and an aunt who brought her up there. She goes into the mothers papers and discovers the book’s back story. Graham’s novel is a gothic.

It is structured like a gothic for at long last we get to a back story, and what is it, but of Marnie’s mother — whom Marnie has been lying about and protecting and stealing for for years. Turns out Marnie’s mother murdered a baby son she gave birth to. A while back I reviewed two books which made a strong impression on me: the first, McDonagh, Child Murder and British Culture, demonstrated that infanticide is 1) omnipresent in many books; and 2) central to social stability throughout history (killing unwanted infants) and 3) most of the time suspected in such books and in the real world of societies too the woman is suspected and is blamed for killing the baby when most of the time she didn’t do it (shades of false accusations of rape) but either the child died in a miscarriage, was still born, from the horrors of childbirth before the 20th century; or she is often driven to it because she has gotten pregnant out of wedlock and will be shamed, ostracized, her life ruined in the community.

The third is the case here: Marnie’s mother in Graham’s book murdered the neonate after denying she was pregnant in the last trimester in order to hide it from all those who would despise and throw her off. Her husband had fought in WW2 and the way she supported herself was to be a prostitute. Not uncommon. If she were pregnant when he came home or had a baby, he’d know. Some time after he returned, he died, but she was suspected and accused of killing the baby. She went to prison and then was later released (exonerated). She then spent the rest of her life hiding this after she was exonerated by a court: — that is improbable, but then this is a novel. This woman in the book brought Marnie up to hate and fear sex for (among other things) the way the woman supported herself and Marnie was through quiet prostitution along with a menial job — not uncommon for women in history.

Marnie’s mother (Louise Latham) in Hitchcock’s movie: she often has just that irritated smirk on her face

This story as I’ve told it speaks for itself I should say. I ordered the movie from Netlfix and it arrived two days ago and I watched the movie for the first time last night. I also have a book called The Making of Marnie— by Tone Lee Moral, a very early film study — of the type so familiar today but not when it was done. I chose to read the book because of my interest in Graham’s Poldark novels, desire maybe to write a paper on historical fiction set in the 18th century and growing love of things Cornish, books and films (yesterday I watched one made out of Trollope’s “Malachi’s Cove” about abysmally impoverish people who make their living gather seaweed to sell it for manure on the dangerous cliffs).

In the movie much of this is changed, and in the movie Hitchcock said the central issue is Marnie doesn’t want to have sex with Mark. (Graham never said Marnie’s dread of sex was the real crux of the book.)

Why in Hitchcock’s movie did the mother teach Marnie to hate sex. It seems that either the father died or disappeared and to support herself the mother went in for prostitution. The child was forced out of the bed where she slept with the mother and had to allow the man in. She had to sleep outside in the outside room. One night she cried too much, the young man came out and tried to soothe her, grew irritated, started to shake her, the mother defended her and before you know it a brutal incident emerges and the child grabs an iron stick for stirring a fire and hits and kills him. The mother “takes” the “rap;” says she did it and ever after lied about it.

A very different story from the one in GRaham’s novel where a woman gets pregnant and is driven to kill the neonate (rather than be exposed as a prostitute and ostracized) and then is accused, goes to jail for it, and hides that.

At the heart of Hitchcock’s movie is Marnie’s refusal to have sex with Mark. This is what seems to be the great problem to Hitchcock. Mark looks upon this as her tremendous illness and what she has got to get over: poor thing. And of course long-suffering noble Mark — except that one instance of rape which is presented so discreetly if you blink you’ll miss it and seems to have not much effect on Marnie afterward in the movie (nor to be fair in the book). She just carries on.

This rape scene was very controversial in the movie it’s said. Oh the film was the one which clinched Sean Connery’s career (as OxBow Incident began Anthony Quinn’s) and he was Mark. I mention The Oxbow Incident because it was a genuine success d’estime (and deserved it) and was a financial flop. Not only was Hitchcock’s movie a financial flop, it was ridiculed. Only years later did it come to be seen to be worth studying, fascinating, to some a “great” movie.

In Graham’s book the marriage is coerced strongly (as it is in the movie), but it’s not done with violence. Mark discovers Marnie is a thief of a high order: stealing vast amounts of cash and threatens to turn her in except they marry. She thinks to herself (in the book) that this will prevent him testifying against her. So there is a sort of bargain.

Promotional shot of Marnie on horseback (Forio)

Then what happens in the book is Mark insists that Marnie see a psychiatrist. (The first script for the movie by Joseph Stefano included the psychiatrist of the book.) We read of weekly long sessions in Graham’s book where Marnie lies, makes up stories, but, after she learns her mother’s back story, is broken down to tell the psychiatrist what we have known all along: her father died when she was young, mother remained alive and supported them on a menial job. Marnie was was brought up by a kindly aunt who lived with and on the mother, Lucy Nye. Marnie as soon as she grew up herself supported her mother by stealing, thus sparing her mother the awful office jobs she had had to endure.

In Graham’s novel, Marnie has been followed by Terry who urges her to return, instead she returns to her house and goes on a hunt. Mark shows up; in the book she lures Mark into a bad accident and her feelings afterward and thoughts (at long last) about her mother and all she has said to the psychiatrist and past bring her to a realization Mark is her great friend and she is last seen returning to him.

I’ve discovered a theme of intense loneliness is important for Graham — Graham’s Marnie is intensely lonely and Graham’s central hero for his Poldark novels, Ross remains a renegade, a man apart, ever traveling and keeping to himself, bitter within, seeing how unjust and awful are society’s arrangements, sickened by them The ending of several of the Poldark novels were Ross comes home to Demelza, stands outside watching her and feels comforted he has this place of order, stability, peace to return to is just the way Marnie ends, only it’s the woman who has been a radical criminal type and now finds her way back to a dependable kind partner.

The movie changes much of this. In the movie absurdly Mark is not only upper class but Philadelphian (with a Scottish accent as Connery’s is still there). We have this upper class milieu which is fake utterly, which includes a tender loving father-in-law dressed absurdly (not in the book where there is prosaic sort of mother who lives off her son’s business.) There is a promotional still where we see Marnie talking to her father-in-law. Shades of La Traviata.

In the movie all is done that counts by the powerful Sean Connery. It’s he who finds out about her mother, he who takes her there, he who is kindly overlooking the mother’s story (but deeply disapproving), he who focuses on Marnie’s dislike of sex. Not that the book Mark likes this but he does not see it as so central, and anyway he is in rivalry with Terry.

In the movie, Marnie does not nearly kill Mark but herself gets into an accident which appears not to hurt her at all except emotionally. She does bang her horse, Fornio into a wall. Fornio is so badly hurt he must die. She runs for a gun and hysterical shoots this horse. In both novel and movie , we are asked to believe that during Marnie’s childhood the one creature she really loved who loved her was this horse, that she had the money to keep and ride it. (Maybe this is why Hitchcock made Mark upper class so when they visited the horse it would not seem improbable to a British audience). It’s after this that in in the movie Mark takes Marnie to visit her mother.

Hitchcock regarded Graham’s book as fodder with which to make a very different story, one with a strong hero (not in original); a previous screenplay by a Evans Hunter kept the transposition and did not include the rape but this was rejected. Jay Presson Allen wrote the play we now have; in the feature she comes across as not caring about the improbabilities and saying the rape was not really a rape. (The usual way of justifying rapes.)

In Graham’s book Marnie does ride and she does damage Mark, come near killing him in a hunt towards the end of the book as I said. So we could say it’s partly a woman’s film, one third of the triumvirate was a woman. But the truth is the first play was writen by Evan Hunter who was fired because he balked at writing the rape scene in the way Hitchcock wanted it changed. The Heart of Me– a misogynistic take on Lehman’s book had a woman playright, but the director was a male.

The great climax of the movie is how Mark breaks down Marnie’s carapace, she relives the incident where she was put out of her mother’s room, the man came into the room when she cried, violence ensued and she killed the man. Marnie breaks up into whimpering and a kind of crazed monologue. We are to believe this releases her, and when she returns home with Mark they will now begin to have a “normal” life together: she will have sex with Mark. Mark of course will continue to support the mother who is left there after herself confessing how she has ruined Marnie’s life by bringing her up to hate men and sex. But she did not mean this. So we are allowed to feel for her.


Some thoughts on the book as part of Graham’s oeuvre. Graham’s novel is not one of your respected high status books so you may have to buy a cheap copy on the Net. I found one which is part of an omnibus book of Graham’s “best” mysteries. It seems that highly unusually Graham really repeatedly delves the problem of unhappiness in sex in married life. He again and again presents marital rape in his Poldark books; he repeatedly shows married couples unhappy because of an unhappy sex life. He shows men raping women, men murdering women out of jealousy (or their lover) or from too much alcohol (that’s what happened to Verity’s husband years ago we are told, and naturally she forgives him for it’s years later.)

The first instance is the rape of Elizabeth Poldark by Ross Poldark in Graham’s novel of the same name, life just goes on. For Marnie she goes about her business the next day, breakfast &c. And he rapes her no more, only a couple of times trying to seduce or soften or be suggestive but she does not let him near her. At the end of the book when she returns to him (after she has had a sort of revenge by luring him into hunting and then into doing something beyond his capacity so he broke bones and was almost killed) we may guess eventually gradually now she’ll learn maybe to accept and even like sex.

This is what presumably happens to the second woman in Graham’s Poldark novels. Morwena experiences marital rape nightly and it’s sufficiently suggestively describe a few times that we know the man is sadistic, a foot fetishist. She begins to lose her firmness of stance, become shattered psychologically and she is impregnated. Finally she has a hard birth and he is made to understand by a doctor he must leave her alone; after a while he does start up again. Our author (Graham) is kind and this husband-rapist is murdered. She flees her wretched family who coerced her into the marriage and to a young man she loved. He see she cannot bear sex and is tender and loving and leaves her be. We see them marry and it’s implied no sex yet. Book ends. The next book opens and we hear she had a child. Presumably like Marnie she began to trust, then bear and then like it. But alas, we are not shown what happened at all.

This kind of thing though one sees was of interest to Graham. This trajectory of the woman coming to trust or learn or change was not to Hitchcock. Instead she breaks out of her shell by him making her hear and tell the tale in front of him and her mother. But there is this peculiar man’s point of view that in both cases (book and movie) we begin with a rape. The author wants to have the woman broken down some more first.

I’m interested in the subject of rape, how it’s presented (which is usually rare in mainstream novels and almost never of marital rape)

Of interest is that Mark in the book is really an ordinary law-abiding person, perfectly conventional, not at all pathological and not a rapist type at all. (Graham’s favorite heroes are not violent men: Dwight Enys, a sensitive doctor; Ross normally is not violent to women at all, but loving and kind even if a strong man. Strength does not issue in physical violence against others in Graham except when someone is attacked.) People watching the movie say there is something awry in the Mark character: perhaps they can’t believe he would live with a woman without sex — or are embarrassed to think so so something must be wrong. In the feature that goes with movie, some people opined Mark is enjoying his role, titillated by it.

The most common promotional still shows Marnie on her horse: see above and this too;

In the movie she goes off and kills her horse; she does not do this in the book

This is an archetypal image of the femme fatale: the woman on a horse (the horse is phallic power, something outright denied Victorian women during the worst repressive phase of the era, when it was not done even to ice-skate). The woman with the gun. The woman on a horse is seen in cover illustrations of Mary Braddon’s Wilkie Collins’s books – and DuMaurier’s Rebecca. Remember Hitchcock made a version of Rebecca. All evil, when DuMaurier said she was partly on Rebecca’s side, and Max de Winter was a murderer.

Well Marnie (book and film) made me think more about the way rape is and is not treated in the Poldark books — sexual experience is open and central to 18th century novels the way it is not in the 19th century. In Graham’s Marnie the transgressive heroine (twisted by her society and childhood) is coerced into marriage, but it’s not done with violence. Mark (as I’ve said) discovers Marnie is a thief of a high order: stealing vast amounts of cash and threatens to turn her in except they marry. She thinks to herself (in the book) that this will prevent him testifying against her. So there is a sort of bargain.

Two, he insists on sex the first night. So he rapes her — not presented in the book after the initial suggestive sentence just the way it’s one in Warleggan between Elizabeth and Ross — and then afterward nothing happens. There are no fatal consequences — except to Ross and Demelza’s marriage and later to Elizabeth’s with George because she conceives a child he can’t endure. As in the rape of Elizabeth Poldark by Ross Poldark in Graham’s novel of the second name, life otherwise just goes on. For Marnie she goes about her business the next day, breakfast &c. And he rapes her no more, only a couple of times trying to seduce or soften or be suggestive but she does not let him near her. At the end of the book when she returns to him (after she has had a sort of revenge by luring him into hunting and then into doing something beyond his capacity so he broke bones and was almost killed) we may guess eventually gradually now she’ll learn maybe to accept and even like sex.

This is what presumably happens to the second woman in Graham’s Poldark novels. Morwena experiences marital rape nightly in Graham’s Black Moon and Four Swans and it’s sufficiently suggestively describe a few times that we know the man is sadistic, a foot fetishist. She begins to lose her firmness of stance, become shattered psychologically and she is impregnanted. Finally she has a hard birth and he is made to understand by a doctor he must leave her alone; after a while he does start up again. Our author (Graham) is kind and this husband-rapist is murdered. She flees her wretched family who coerced her into the marriage and to a young man she loved. He see she cannot bear sex and is tender and loving and leaves her be. We see them marry and it’s implied no sex yet. Book ends. The next book opens and we hear she had a child. Presumably like Marnie she began to trust, then bear and then like it. But alas, we are not shown what happened at all.

The first episode of Poldark movies brings home to me how Graham is unusually frank and interested in marital sex — the dissatisfaction between Enys and Caroline is not just a matter of diet and exercise. How it fails and creates terrible miseries for people. Another couple is presented as having fraught difficulties because of sexual life does not cohere to supposed norms.

This bothers me. There is this peculiar man’s point of view that in both cases we begin with a rape. The author wants to have the woman broken down and does not always punish the males who do this but at times justifies them (Ross in his behavior to Elizabeth, Blamey to his wife, Mark Daniels to his — the latter two murdered their wives).


Now comments on the movie as movie: Several issues are at the heart of a comparison of the film with its source — which is what interest me. The first is easiest to deal with — swiftly. The mise-en-scene and cinematography of the movie was dated when it was filmed. Lee (and the people in the feature to the movie, some famous, which is part of the modern DVD) justify the refusal to film on location at all and the various symbolic techniques which break naturalism (the screen goes red when Marnie is deeply distressed about her past) are instances of German expressionism. Perhaps the film would be better in black-and-white — as it seems to have been originally filmed. In color it’s all conventional pastels. The use of painted backdrops, of people not on real horses but wooden something-or-others with countryside behind, does detract. The studio rooms with the action as a drama on stage is fine once you accept this is an older style movie.

As for the inner life of the novel (first person personating a woman in an incessant stream of consciousness with story going forward interpersed with memories), what Hitchcock puts in its place seemed to me didn’t work. He is fascinated as were so many by Freudianism and when the “back story” of the mother — driven of course by Mark who is the big he-man presence of the film, acting, knowing, doing everything (but except once apparently fucking his wife, Marnie) — is finally presented we get this sudden dissolving of Hedren as an actress to a whimpering kind of neuroticism. It’s hard acting. We are to pity her. Why? Because you see she had this mother who hated sex and taught her to hate sex.

To me it’s remarkable all the respect Hitchcock gets. Yes he brings up intense important issues of great violence and terror and misery between men and women, but then he most of the time just shows them at their most sensational and improbable and then walks away.

I am bothered by the way the character, Marnie in the movie is discussed. The discourse endlessly begins with how she’s a “liar.” This word has a powerful dishonoring connotation, so powerful that even today one must not call someone else a liar even when you and they know the person has been lying. In fact lying is so common and when people protest against a lie, it’s usually not the lying but the content they can’t stand and don’t want to admit to disliking.

In the book we gradually see Marnie’s is a defensive lying; she has to lie a lot because she’s getting away with a lot — so to speak.


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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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Ross (Robin Ellis) turns to embrace Demelza (Angharad Rees), Enys (Michael Cadman) looking on

Dear Friends and readers,

At long last, Graham’s The Angry Tide (Poldark novel 7). This is the first of another two-part blog on one of Graham’s novels.

To explain the subtitle: when Rowella’s husband, Solway in a maddened rage murders Whitworth after Solway sees Whitworth having sex with Rowella, Morwenna is freed, but it takes time (as she has been so wounded by among other things nightly rapes) for her to recover and Drake to pull back from a marriage he almost became part of so they may marry (see Part Two).

The fuel of The Angry Tide might be said to be anger. It may be located precisely in each case. Rage brings to a crisis and resolution the stories of two couples: Whitworth’s liaison with Rowella is discovered by her husband, Solway, who, in a hot rage, murders Whitworth, opening a way for Drake and Morwenna to marry; when Drake is told Morwenna is free, although he has now agreed to marry the good (intelligent, kind, loving if crippled) Rosina Hobyns whom he does not love, Drake breaks the engagement the night before they are to be wed, and (probably) her father, enraged, sets fire to his shop and destroys it all. George’s cold rage when once again his suspicion is ignited that Elizabeth’s son, Valentine, is Ross’s and not his, causes Elizabeth to bring on a premature childbirth, the medicine for which kills her. Having come to London to renew and build their lives together anew, Ross’s lingering anger at Demelza for loving Hugh Armitage ignites his wrath against the insulting vicious behavior of murderous amoral rake, Monk Adderley (an adder) towards Demelza when she shows herself unable to reject Adderley coldly; they duel, Ross murders Monk, and Demelza returns to Cornwall without him.

Some of the lives’ failures do not erupt in rage: the experiment for Caroline and Enys in London is a more quiet failure: Caroline has gone to London after the death of their small daughter, Sarah; he joins her in London around the time Demelza comes to London with Ross; but he cannot bear to live without being of use as a doctor, and returns to Cornwall with Demelza. She seems to contain herself or accept the situation, partly because she may after all love (erotically) Ross more. Sam too accepts his loss of Emma when she marries elsewhere, his needs partly satisfied by his central function in the lives of his converts in his church.

Nonetheless, it is this diffuse anger at life, its frustrations, and the necessity of compromise and acceptance to survive and find some gratification that way that is the center of this book.

Insofar as this blog brings out the instinctive feminism of Graham’s work it show on how one of the seriers’s heroines, (Morwenna), is a woman whose life has been (in effect) confiscated (her coerced marriage is presented as nightly rape). Before the later 20th century no one presents the truth about such marriages, especially is the honeymoon night rarely shown (exceptions are Montolieu’s Caroline de Lichtfield and Sand’s Valentine).

I keep waiting to be disappointed, and find the books fall off. But no, here’s another I fell into and just loved as I went.

For an outline to Angry Tide, Books one and two, see comment.

Book One, Chapters 1-3: We are re-introduced: memories, landscape, politics, at home

The opening chapters are a reprise — Ross is again returning from somewhere (this time his year in London as an MP), it’s a reprise in a fully developed situation.

The Angry Tide opens like the first book (alluded to) with Ross in a carriage coming home, this time with a cleric and wife and grown daughter inside and (it turns out) Osborne Whitworth. Ross’s first utterance to Whitworth’s socializing question, how was Westminster: “It’s what you make it … like so many things.”

Shameless, very plump and overdressed, Whitworth now begins an attempt to urge Ross to help him to a third living; before the carriage ride is over, Ross has semi-agreed to help Whitworth if Whitworth will agree to pay 100 pounds rather than 45 to Odgers, his curate for work at one of his two livings. This is Sawle, actually in Ross’s parish: Ross wanted Odgers to have the position in the first place, and on 100 pounds Odgers’ family will still live indigently. The utterly egoistic Whitworth explodes in indignation: if Odgers is not making it, it shows what a poor manager he is; he Whitworth gets only 200; is he to give up 100 for this?

And so Ross exits the coach.

The narrator has had the chance to relive for us Ross’s first home-coming, and the contrast of then (1783) and now (1798). Ross’s uncertainty about his home-coming from Demelza (“I have loved only two women in my life and they have both turned to other men”) brings us back to the ending of The Four Swans where Demelza collapsed in Ross’s arms and they reunited around the child Clowance (reading to her). Now we are told he’s been gone for probably nearly a year, and didn’t take her with him. So after all there has been something of an estrangement. We enter Whitworth’s thoughts as he looks forward to re-seeing Morwenna, his “unwelcoming wife.” An unexpected parallel is drawn between our hero and the vile vicar.

A motif I find in many better mens’ books is that of the male who is anxious about the love and loyalty to him of a woman whom he values intensely — more he fears than she values him. We see this in the Enys-Caroline match certainly (alluded to by Whitworth in Chapter 2 as having produced a puny “brat” — a disabled child I wondered?)

The last part of the chapter switches to Demelza and her thoughts and also now the wide deep landscape of the locale which Graham is so good at allusively suggesting. She reverts to her sense that she may no longer “retain” Ross’s love. He’s been away for too long; she had been having tea with Rosina Hoblyn, quiet, sensitive, once crippled (saved by Enys) and Demelza’s wish to unite Rosina with Sam or Drake has led to her bringing Rosina over to see her brothers.

Rosina Hoblyns (Peta Mason)

So we re-meet of Sam (and remember his disappointment over Emma) and again Drake, now presented as downright depressed and [from Demelza’s standpoint I guess] obsessively unable to forget Morwenna.

I suppose it’s here the conventional reader would surmise they (Morwenna and Drake must get together) for a happy ending is what is often expected; I now know they do (from a give-away sentence in Graham’s Memoirs of a Private Man). My experience of the book was not at all lessened to know this; rather I read less anxiously and did need not worry Drake will make an irretrievable match that will hurt him or Rosina or Morwenna will be put away into a ruel asylum by Whitworth

Then Demelza sees a horseman on the horizon, and says to herself, of course it can’t be (would Ross not have written, sent word), but of course it is. With the evening light behind her, she begins to recognize him (as we do from ways of walking, shapes) and “she began to run down the hill, shoes scuffling on the rough track, hair flying to meet him.”

Chapter 2 is the contrast: Morwenna, Whitworth’s wife waiting there for him with some snack. It’s here Whitworth first clearly formulates in his mind his plan to put her away and thinks about how he can’t get the doctor (Behenna) to agree to sign the certificate. She’s not mad, but will not go to bed with him, and in his thoughts he presents as fantasy her idea he had an affair with her sister, Rowena. But then interwoven is a letter to him from said Rowena, and we see her lying conniving mind asking him to come to her for two books of his so we know Morwenna making up none of it.

In mini-series she is much softened: here Rowella (Julie Dawn Cole) is the night Solway (Stephen Reynolds) finally catches her with Whitworth

Then the narrative moves to George and Elizabeth, George having pushed Elizabeth into too elaborate a dinner for Sir Christopher Hawkins, MP; George has not given up trying again for a place in parliament; now he has decided he will get it by spending huge amounts of money. He will bribe everyone whatever way is necessary. At dinner, he points to his large income, and we hear a (to me ugly) discussion conjuring up the realities of Cornish elections.

Throughout the novels there are little details which keep half-exonerating Elizabeth as a personality: she did not want to have this overdone kind of dinner, knew better. In Rowella’s letter to her we see that she receives Rowella though Rowella has married supposedly meanly (Solway is a librarian, originally from very poor people). We see Elizabeth has a heart and (could think) had she married better (a decenter man, Ross) then would have been better, but then she would not marry Ross, would she? Much depth here, and I admire especially how Elizabeth’s character is glimpsed.

Chapter 3 we turn back to Ross and Demelza at home, talking over his food.

We see that Graham is emphasizing the strain, the disillusion and inability of Ross and Demelza “to exorcise the ghosts” of their lives together. Has no one tried to creep into her bed since he’s been away; she says (slightly ironic) of his assertion he’s had no women: “It seems you’ve been a monk” during the near year he was away in London.

Later in the evening Jane Gimlett [a servant not brought into the films] came in to take away the supper things and they moved into the old parlour, which looked and smelt the same to Ross as it had done since childhood. He noted, however, the re-covered chair, the two new vases, with flowers in them: bluebells, tulips, wallflowers. In those years when Demelza had been growing out of servitude and childhood to become his companion and then his wife, almost the first evidence of the changing relationship had been the appearance of flowers in this room. He remem­bered with great vividness the day after he had first slept with her Elizabeth had called, and Demelza had come in in the middle of the conversation, barelegged, rough clothed, unkempt, with a sheaf of bluebells on her arm. And she had offered them to Elizabeth, and Elizabeth, probably I sensing something, had refused them. She had said they would fade on the way home. And after she had gone Demelza had come to sit at his feet, an instinctive movement as it were to claim him. Well, life had changed a little since then. Demelza had changed since then (p. 36)

For a start she’s thinner.

He then visits his mine in the morning dawn and goes down with a hard hat and candle; we get deep landscape, geography, some economics and his mind returns to his private obsessions: “He went out and stood listening to the sleepy chirp Somewhere up the lane” … much about farm, sea, the white air, the tide, the beach (nut trees, pigs).

It was not yet far out. The trivial event, of course, for God’s sake: he had resumed intercourse with his wife, for God’s sake. Fit subject for ribald dialogue in one of the fashionable plays in London. Yet it hadn’t quite turned out as expected. What would one would have expected despite his brave words, perhaps the casual. Or perhaps the fiercely resentful, a claiming of a right long since in abeyance or gone and nearly lost. But in the event it had never progressed beyond the tender. Somehow a much-derided emotion had got in the way and turned it , all to kindness. Whatever happened now, however they met today, or tomorrow, in whatever form constraint or hurt or injury or resentment reared its head, he must remember that. As she would, he knew. If only one could altogether exorcise the ghosts. When he got back to the house all were still sleeping (p. 42)

I particularly like how he regards the sex that went on between him & Demelza. One sees this adult or disillusioned and relaxed attitude towards sex in the Memoirs of a Private Man too.

The third part of the chapter brings us back to the couple talking again, now about politics in parliament. Ross (Graham himself) is alive to the reactionary nature of all Wilberforce’s stances and bills except in the area of abolition. It appears that Ross spoke in the house against the hundred of crime for which a person could be hung, tried to jolt them into seeing the analogy between slavery and the use of children in the mines. He was called to order, was not much appreciated (had a “cold nod” from Wilberforce). Falmouth (Ross’s patron) was not surprised (and has not attempted to influence his candidate — we are to surmise because Falmouth knows he won’t get anywhere); Falmouth has had Ross into dine and he’s met with some exiles (a Cornish club) but from this little vignette we see why Ross returned home early.

Book One, Chapters 4 – 8:

Demelza has Drake come to Nampara in an effort to get him to speak of his depression, and see Rosina and he could make a go of it.

Drake Carne (Kevin McNally) in the first days at his forge

Drake tells her to leave him be (nicely). Ross and Demelza converse over this and Ross says he has seen Geoffrey Charles in London and Geoffrey has changed a lot, he’s Francis Poldark reincarnated and this is not a character Drake can understand (Bk 1, ch 4, pp. 49-56).

A brief natural pleasant yet uncomfortable encounter of Drake and Rosina: he is too willing to help her, she says she’s not a cripple (pp. 57-8)

The vile Ossie’s adventures continue: we see him sidle up to Pearce and discover that Pearce has been speculating with money not his own. That might include Ross’s, and also George’s. I’m coming to see bankers have ever been near crooks; that’s why they put up such a solemn heavy established ethical look. Then Whitworth’s with Dr Behenna insinuating he wants Behenna to put Morwenna away. Behenna punts but does not refuse (Bk 1, Ch 4, pp. 59-69).

This is the sort of anxiety Graham’s good at and is picked up by the film. We like Morwenna and fear for her; we see a possible mismatch for Drake on the way.

Book 1, Chapter 5: politics & money: George, Cary and Nicholas Warleggan talking of the enormous sums George taking out of the business to buy himself a borough. George plans to pressure St John Peter whose aristocratic spendthrift ways George has been using to make someone beholden to him:

The film includes the scene of pressuring: George (Ralph Bates), Nicholas (Alan Tivern), Peters (?Eric Dodson)

Then Elizabeth and her mother-in-law, Mary who is still not comfortable with this upper class but decent woman; Elizabeth proposes to visit her cousin, and who should be coming out of Rowella’s house but Whitworth.

Book 1 Chapter 6: an effective set of vignettes: Ross riding with Dwight (conversation referred to above); he feels responsibility for this marriage

And then Ross with his banker, Pascoe once again (they are a pair supporting one another since Ross Poldark, Poldark Novel 1). Pascoe and they talk of expenditures and George’s doings and buying people, a threat. Pascoe’s bank not invulnerable (pp. 83-92). I just love Enys’s voice; he’s another aspect of Graham, the “born pessimist” and sceptical as reading man, sensitive, doctor.

Book 1, Chapter 7: Drake’s visitors, Sam and then Geoffrey Charles. We see the distance that has grown between Drake and Geoffrey Charles and the difference that simply exists between Sam and Drake. Graham’s characters are persuasive because they are so particularized and left flexible. Sam still would take Emma (but not she him); again Rosina proposed to Drake, and now Drake says he cannot as long as Morwenna “in hell.”

The meeting between Geoffrey Charles shows his wanting a mistress and talking of these woman as things (Drake does not like) and casual attitude toward life of Francis; makes Drake uncomfortable and yet the two get along too for at the end Geoffrey Charles expresses deep appreciation of real friendship, loyalty, not the shallow semi-dysfunctional sort that passes for most people’s experience (pp. 93-104)

Chapter 7: A wonderful debunking characterization of Napoleon and Nelson is accompanied by an (uncharacteristic) plumping for an unknown general Graham apparently thought well of: General Hoche.

An important scene: Enys does defy Caroline’s line of demarcation (Caroline says Enys should limit his practice to those living nearby and do it for less hours). Enys comes to see Whitworth and talk to Mowenna. He refuses to sign a certificate putting her away. Without him, Behenna doesn’t have the unscrupulous nature to do it, and is probably worried abuot losing his reputation. Women were some of his patients too (including Elizabeth Warleggan be it not forgotten and she has sense and a kind of integrity). Enys concedes Whitworth’s sudden mention that his wife will not have sex with him, but says he’s the kind of man who if a husband cannot get his wife to love him, thinks the man has to leave her be.

This drives Whitworth back to Rowella’s body and she makes room for his visits on Thursday night when her husband visits his relatives. Soon he is giving Rowella 20 pounds and it’s this money we see also that provides a motive for Rowella. Her character is kept from us — we only see her as Whitworth does, a Lilith, a tease, someone who rouses him but he would be easily turned to call a witch and hurt irreparably, or from Morwenna, angry, indignant. He now thinks to hire a governess for his boy and thus call Morwenna’s bluff: she still refuses him based on her vow to kill the son.

And a scene of net fishing: home now and much relieved, Ross enters into the life of the household and community. There is an article about Graham’s sense of humor in the Poldarks which is called odd. An instance here: Ross and Demelza’s 3 year old son feeds the pigs grounds from beer making and they get drunk and sick and when Sir Hugh Bodrugan comes over for one of his usual attempts to grope Demelza we get a oddly funny scene of these pigs suffering and stumbling about. Ross and Demelza in a kind of truce: Graham says they are a couple who do not get on one another’s nerves; there might be a war, but there will be no skirmishes.

Then net-fishing: the shore, the cliffs, rooted in the place.

Book One, Chapters 9-10: The Trenwith party, mining disaster, Sam’s’ heroism and grief: Emma’s letter

The dinner party: Caroline (Judy Geeson) comfortable with Adderley (Malcolm Tierney), Dwight (Michael Cadman) not so, standing by

Chapter 9 swirls around a huge extravagant dinner party George insists on having: Elizabeth would have had something far more modest; but he is spending his way into parliament and one important part of this spending is the elegant dinner, dancing, time in a landscape, sleeping at an ancient estate he can offer – where you meet other middling to powerful people too. We get semi-ironic portraits of the individuals who come. Among them a new character: Monk Adderley: he seems at first a mild, courteous gentleman, but he has served in China and India 8 years, and became a duellist, was discharged (partly as a murderer), his reason has affected — like Tholly Tregirls, a wild man, an outsider (sociopath who nonetheless fits in) in disguise

Then the focus turns to outside the house, in the landscape: Ross cannot resist coming over to the landscape to see what was once his house. He does feel the loss.

Ross (Robin Ellis) as outsider looking in from window on terrace

What has been happening with Aunt Agatha’s grave. He comes up to Elizabeth who is walking outside, and while she is at first put off, she eventually registers concern about her sons. They discuss Geoffrey Charles as another Francis, he asks after Valentine which upsets her; she wishes she had not spoken so truthfully to him before. (She the sort of woman who survives high by her silences.)

Then to them Monk Adderley who says he thought at first Ross was a “threadbare troubadour who had come to sing outside our windows .. and was being dismissed without his proper pourboire.” Monk asks Ross is he’s Falmouth’s man, and Ross says “no one owns me,” and they will meet another time.

Ross reaches home and again strained talk with Demelza as he tells her of his meeting with Elizabeth. She of course knows he and she are “left out” of these social functions — and he out of Trenwith. Nonetheless, he should not risk himself. They speak of Hoblyn and especially his daughter as a possible wife for Drake. Ross then looks at Demelza and asks if he and she have “failed each other,” and the narrator as Demelza (third person indirect) says this should not have been so said.

Chapter 10: a near disaster, a flood, going too deep into the mine, Sam the hero this time and then Ross, as they rescue the men from a mine disaster. The focus on Sam allows for a return to Emma in the narrator’s mind and the chapter is brought to a moving close when Sam receives a badly spelt letter from Emma telling Sam of her coming marriage. He takes it off to read alone. Sam cries noisily we are told, the comic note deepening the feel.

The male idealism theme: the man of integrity idealizes the sexual relationship. The letter from Emma rejecting Sam finally. Emma we are told at the opening of the chapter cannot read, and her letter is a cross between near illiteracy and eloquence — not very probable I suppose :). Then the Daniels family characterized: Beth, Ena, the Hoskins who lost a man to the state’s determination to make an example (hanging) in the previous book, an event felt as sinister and shameful by Ross. This is Sam’s world still. His real sense of loss.

Book Two, Chapters 1-13

The opening of Chapter 1 re-situates us feeling-fully in the geology and climate of mines, land, and the feel of life in Cornwall from Ross’s rooted perspective. He can’t get himself to return to London and says Falmouth will not mind. They discuss Sam’s loss of Emma and Demelza blames herself for not trying to encourage it (we see her encouragement doesn’t always help) but then we hear of Sarah’s sickness. Ross knows how frail her heart is and goes over, and yes, she’s dying.

Chapter 2 opens on George’s new maneuverings over Pearce and includes Elizabeth’s awareness that something is wrong with the Whitworth household where no nurse ever stays for long, and something not well with Morwenna.

On the mini-series (Season 2, Part 11), Elizabeth (Jill Townsend) visits Morwenna (Jane Wymark) but cannot fathom this situation

Graham then presents Caroline telling Dwight she’s leaving him for a while. Well to me, this is not a persuasive chapter. I don’t feel the inner life of the woman who makes such a decision is brought before us. There have been hints sex is not all that great between them, but this is not brought up and it’s never explained. There is in fact little explanation except she thinks this will be good for them — he doesn’t. I suggest he’s shying away from presenting women’s sexuality and Caroline’s graphic desires and frustration. Yes she’s aware that she’s in the way of Dwight following his profiession, how it will kill him to leave those patients she’s permitted him to have, that Dwight has been bored with their socializing but the break is coming out of more than that.

(I know that Graham did write frankly and radically of women’s sexuality in his mysteries, for example, Marnie. I will be reading (and perhaps post too) Graham’s Marnie and also see the movie and read an excellent film study — it was a success d’estime and a financial flop, in this resembling The OxBow Incident).

We are back to a broader view of the political world (Napoleon, Bonaparte’s wife, Nelson’s) an Dwight spends Christmas at Nampara. Christmas time includes a visit from Verity, now (we are told) this happy woman — the formula for happiness here is “marriage to the good man,” and in her case lucking in because her stepson is a courteous intelligent younger (uncomplicated as yet because for example he never murdered a woman — which little detail Graham does sometimes forget about Blamey) version of the husband.

Verity has before functioned as Ross’s good companion, the de-sexed relationship which allows him to speak fully and as someone who is endlessly sympathetic. It is to her he acknowledges that he is an “uncomfortable” person to live with, that he cannot or does not have ‘all the control over your feelings that you should have — and then thoughts and feeling surge up in you like — an angry tide. And it is hard, sometimes it is hard to control the tide.” That his Che Guevara self, the rebel is more than a matter of principle we’ve seen repeatedly (as in the rape of Elizabeth, in the looting of the ships on that beach — it happens again in this novel and again Ross condons it, only this time has the control not to join in so paradoxically the people get to bring home more with less fuss). Demelza Verity says sees through ‘the dark part’

Then one of these neutral letters from Caroline (Chapter 3), now living in London to which Ross is headed. In Four Swans she was the least seen of the four women (except for Verity — a fifth I suppose) and this letter is oddly flat (pp. 204-5). It has a sexual frisson: her life in London “lacks a dimension of Realty” she misses. She describes her social life as dysfunctional superficies — an outlook which matches Ross’s. She’s waiting for him.

I was going to say the odd thing about the book’s presentation of Caroline Penvenen is how little she is onstage. She is presented through her letters, and we see a lot more of Ross talking to Dwight than Ross to Caroline. (The film is quite different here, bringing her forward at every opportunity — the gay lady of Restoration comedy updated and made sentimental was thought to be attractive.)

Now Ross is off in London and does not write very much. So we are left to Demelza as central consciousness and her doings for Drake. He is at last persuaded by time, his loneliness, need, and Rosina Hoblyn’s high merit and kindness to marry her. A touching scene between Drake and Rosina where Drake tells Rosina of his love for Morwenna and why he’s willing to marry Rosina, and her quick yes anyway; their visit to her parents and mother’s delight and father’s chip-on-the-shoulder stupdity and tactlessness (is she pregnant is his implication?).

Then Drake and Demelza: she is told of his decision, and they talk of marrying without intense love, for he will tell Rosina the truth and asks his sister how it was with her marriage originally and how their relationship is today, and she replies:

‘No man should marry a girl just because she’s suitable, still less because she’d make someone a nice sister-in-law. It is your life, brother. And marriages, once undertaken, are not to be dissolved. Only … I want you to be happy, not lonely and alone. It would be good to have someone to work with and someone to work for. I don’t want you to get set in loneliness. And sometimes ­love grows.’
He got up and went to the smaller window, peered out. ‘Did it with you, Demelza? I’ve often thought but never wished to ask.’
The question brought a tightness to her breast. ‘No. It was with me always. But not with Ross. It grew with Ross ­over the years. He did not love me when he married me. But it grew so over the years’ (p. 211)

We know that she did not join Ross because he invited her to come based on Caroline’s longing for her (she said) and that she had seen that in his letters he does not he talk of coming to get Demelza to join him, nor say that next fall she will join him (as she offered to before she left).

The next chapter (4) opens with Whitworth having finally hired a nurse who will guard his son and his immdiate going to his wife the first Monday night (he picks twice a week) and demanding and wresting sex from her.

Marital rape of Morwenna (Jane Wymark) by Whitworth (discreetly dramatized in films)

Horrible horrible. This time she submits more quietly than she did the first, but it’s noticeable she stops all her public charities and starts to look worse once again.

Chapter 4 moves us into character we’ve heard of but no met: Arthur Solway. A strong portrait of this highly intelligent poor boy made good by schooling, education and then the chance offer of a job as a librarian. It’s a powerful realistic portrait of the level of people above the Cranes and below the gentry. We see him in his astonishment that Rowella Chynoweth wanted to marry him, how much he disliked the pressure she put on him to negotiate a bigger dowry with her vicar brother-in-law, Osborne Whitworth, and now how on the one hand he is so delighted to be doing so well (a small note is again made on Elizabeth’s behalf, while the mother-in-law does not pay attention to Solway, Elizabeth is polite, gracious, decent to him).

Yet a nervousness is gotten across, and we see the strained home he came from on Thursday nights when he goes there. It’s Thursday night Osborne visits Rowella.
Solway has gone to visit his family and his sister has an epileptic fit and he returns early to tell Rowella he will be much later when he comes home finally and sees the tracks of a large footprint in the snow, and suddenly knows — as he has half-known something was wrong. There had been these sudden sums of money and lovely things in the house he couldn’t account for. He climbs up to peep in the window and sees his wife in postures he never saw her before naked with a large naked man over her. He falls back sickened.

Chapter 5: The old man Cary Warleggan rides over to John St Peter to demand payment of loans. Warleggan is despised by St Peter at heart (for St Peter is gentry) and he is distressed to have these loans asked in. No hunting now, his wife’s dowry was the collateral and apparently the bank is starting to be without funds.

Ossie so happy to dominate Morwenna at last — sickening this, and his not being able to resist one last Thursday night. His selfish abhorrent ways of thought. How he kisses Rowella and arouses her suspicions. She now wants money for the roof; we know he won’t be able to rid himself of her as he thinks. Her story her husband suddenly behaving strangely and sick. This worries him as he doesn’t want to catch it; it’s also a subconscious worry.

And then the scene of Whitworth riding home, a sudden ferocious attack, and his seeing Solway and realizing why We experience Solway’s mistaken killing of Whitworth. Whitworth fights back but he falls from his horse and breaks his head.

Solway’s story is anticipated by that of Mark Daniel Demelza (Poldark Novel 2) . This is a male fiction kind of story and reminds me of how men will write of false accusations of rape (uncommon in reality as women suffer from accusations of rape themselves). Graham does write of men beating their wive to death, of murdering them (high rate) and murdering the lover.

Solway murdering Whitworth

Events come to a crashing disaster for several of our characters: as one might expect told of the death (murder as we know) of Osborne Whitworth, Morwenna does not bounce back: she becomes more hysterical, goes deeper into her depressive state and is treated with barely minimal respect by Whitworth’s mother.

Drake, hearing of the death of Whitworth, cannot get himself to go through with his marriage to Rosina, and the night before it’s set to happen, he visits Rosina telling her. A powerful sequence.

Drake tells Rosina

The funeral is terrible somehow with Elizabeth looking very bad (she knows it was her doing, her complicity).

In the film George looks grimmer than Elizabeth

Rowella does not come, and the narrator tells us, her enraged husband had gone home to beat her up too and she is keeping out of sight. Garlanda is there. Morwenna says herself: “I don’t exist any longer. Nothing of me — it’s all gone – mind — body — soul, even … “she goes on to compare herself to death, “ashes, dust, sand, dirt, blood, semena, urine, pus, excrement, ordure” (p. 263). To me she is a Clarissa figure (as in Richardson’s 18th century novel); had Clarissa not died and yielded to coercion. Nightly rapes don’t do anyone any good; the complete lack of integrity or decent feeling she had to live with were too much for her.

Drake then goes straight to Morwenna who cannot bear the sight of him — or perhaps at this point any man. He flees and seems to live on the landscape but comes to himself and returns to his shop, to find Sam waiting for him and the shop burnt to the ground. Who destroyed we do not know — as the characters have no idea as yet that Whitworth was murdered (though the incident feels suspicious and not sufficiently explained when a heavy stick is found). We may guess it was Jacka Hoblyn, Rosina’s father. But we do not know. Sam is there waiting for Drake and takes him back to Reath Cottage where they first set up home together. Beauty of Sam’s character: “Come along, old love …” I’ll give ee a helping hand …” (p 287)

The fineness of Rosina’s character is seen in her first conversation with Demelza who after all did engineer this match. Rosina is not bitter nor does she want revenge, although this is the second time this crippled girl has lost a bethrothed. She does say to Demelza — and we know this to be true — that had Drake married her, he “would never’ve left me. I know that.” The parallel with Ross and Demelza is clear: Ross married Demelza without loving her and now will never leave her (p. 278). We are to feel that in a way it’s sad that Drake did not marry her — for her sake and perhaps his.

And then the bank is threatened, with Demelza alone to cope. She does cope. The money the company had made and intended to pay the men with she puts in the bank to try to rescue it from going under, so now they have nothing left. It was brought down by Cary Warleggan calling in loans and that ultimately by George.

Ross comes home and we get this intense passionate conversation between Demelza and Ross as they reface the same destitution they once knew. He is characterized as “furious” before he arrives (his temperament from his time in London and then the frustrations of the trip) but calms down and admires what Demelza has done. When he first arrives, he is aware of how she removes her cheek from him when he goes to kiss her, but as he talks and (among other things) tells of how he has told his landlady to prepare for her coming, she too begins to enter into the reality of their mutual sustaining respect, affection relationship.

Ross then sets to work (Chapters 11-12) and shows himself extremely capable, having matured and learnt a lot: he manages to renegotiate moneys to save Pascoe’s bank (using his patron, Basset’s money and influence in part) and himself becomes a banker in the enterprise and opens his mines again.

The day the new hospital is opened Elizabeth knows she is with child again (Chapter 13). There is a dinner party where Elizabeth’s pregnancy leads her to faint and thus she cannot (as she had hoped) fool George Warleggan into thinking a 9 month baby is an 8th month again as she must confess to her pregnancy earlier than she had hoped. Ross thinks of how no one tries to prevent distress. 3 Chynoweth women: Elizabeth, Rowella, Morwenna. Conversation overheard about misery of Catholics. Ross has a direct conflict with George calling him a liar and outlining how he undermined the bank — a parallel to today’s banks too here.
Late June.

Ends on Ross a member of the newly formed bank on July 1, 1799: of Pascoe, Bassett, with a list of partners, one of whom is Ross Poldark. Not money but character is what he contributed.

I hope I’ve discussed the chapters in ways sufficient to indicate the themes and depth of feeling. Among other things, this novelist shows how all human beings are intertwined, and how socially no one lives alone, and how we can as a group be destroyed by a single horror who gets in power and how a person can be destroyed by the group. People’s moral natures matter. What they do matters, small things amid the larger social structures matter. This is not sceptical or nihilistic fiction.


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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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