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An illustration for Gaskell’s Ruth

Dear Friends and readers,

I’m sad to have to report we seem to have come to an end of our not quite a year of reading Elizabeth Gaskell on my two listserv communities.

What had enabled us to keep on came to an end: three volumes of short stories (Cousin Phillis and other tales, The Moorland Cottage and other stories, A Dark Night’s Work and other Stories), which included two novellas, plus one longer or separately-printed novella, My Lady Ludlow, all of which were online, about which I’ve written two blog: Elizabeth Gaskell festival and Still Going On. About a quarter into her brilliant historical novel, Sylvia’s Lovers, postings ceased altogether. One of the causes of my dereliction was I got caught up in writing a paper on film adaptations of Trollope’s novels with a short deadline; what made the others cease altogether I know not for sure.

I proposed that we return to our original scheme which had been read Cranford (really a fourth volume of short stories) and Mr Harrison’s Confessions (another separately reprinted novella) before going on for a longer novel. As of tonight this is not happening.

So I thought tonight I would write a third and last blog on My Lady Ludlow and Sylvia’s Lovers, since for me this three season journey has been enjoyable: I enjoyed and feel most of the stories (as well as aspects of Sylvia’s Lovers) are fine, authentic, good art, feel I have understood some core aspects of Gaskell’s writing for the first time, and gained a good deal from the postings of listserv friends.

I did love My Lady Ludlow & was exhilarated to find Sylvia’s Lovers so rich in history and downright radical. Alas its heroine & her parents were insufferable (to me) and the book was not at core a melancholy one … I should say the powerful inset story in My Lady Ludlow takes place in the 18th century and Sylvia’s Lovers is a novel set in the later 18th century — just the period of the middle Poldark novels. If you look at my other two blogs on Gaskell, you will discover that this is an era (long 18th century, from later 17th to later 18th) Gaskell returns to repeatedly.

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Francesca Annis as Lady Ludlow (Cranford Chronicles)

My Lady Ludlow, Chapters 1-4

I started My Lady Ludlow and found myself charmed by the picturesque quality of the description, the sweetly appealing (nostalgia) tone. It’s very much a tale by a woman again, as the outlook is a compound of a widow left with so many children and desperately writing for help, getting none until a cousin agrees to take Margaret, the eldest into her household.

The introduction of Margaret is done in two voices; that of the young girl come there for the first time, and the older woman looking back. The older woman looking back softens considerably the asperity of this crisply hard experience.

I did see the first six of the Cranford Chronicles and know threading in this novel into the Cranford material gave some hard backbone to the series. Francesca Annis was Lady Ludlow and Philip Glenister, Mr Carter, her male servant who tries to persuade her to give a chance to a little boy.

What strikes me this time though comes out of my experience of reading Trollope: this is a remarkably kindly and benign way of describing a woman who while she will give a few people a chance to survive has principles and behavior which are very cruel in their effect. She is against education for anyone but the highest ranking. She would deprive most people of any opportunity to fulfill their gifts. She sends a young girl away for daring to speak eagerly. Trollope does the same thing, takes a woman (often it’s a woman) and make as almost a sweet joke of these pernicious attitudes. I wonder at this impulse and why writers do this — to get themselves to accept this? to exorcise pain this way. The effect is to justify the present order because humanly speaking to make the fiction palatable they frequently show such a woman giving in despite herself. It is despite herself.

As I moved into the novella, I remembered what I liked so about it: the narrator, Martha, becomes a crippled young woman on a couch whom Lady Ludlow takes in for life. It’s her tone and outlook that shape the book and make it (to me) appealing.

The stories of Mr Horner and Joe Gregside carry on this justification of cruelty. This is where I saw the intersection of Dinesen while the fable like presentation and love of old things, old aesthetics, fine, good taste is Cather.

It also has an embedded tragic back story — like gothics. A story that has a hard time getting told and it’s the Marquise de Crequy. That was (terrific loss) omitted from the TV presentation, instead the back story of Lady Ludlow — loss of husband, so many children, living alone now was built up. it’s a secondary novella, a powerful melodramatic tale of the French revolution recounted in My Lady Ludlow. Could this have influenced Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities, as the dates tie in well. I haven’t noticed any strong similarities between the two in terms of the plot or characters – but the dark emotional atmosphere is quite similar. We see she is on the wave length of Carlyle and those who read about the revolution because it remained hotly relevant even in the UK, certainly in France (1830, 1870 – when a slaughter of people was done by the French government which equaled the Reign of Terror so talked about so much.

This inset novella adds to the weaving of the poverty and despair of some of the inhabitants into its portrait of small-town life. There was a powerful moment in the the TV episode where Lady Ludlow comes face to face with just how some of her tenants live, and is lost for words

The result is a back story put before the public that upholds the present order, and the erasure of the novel’s true back story that give it its real grit and subversive critique.

Like Dinesen, Gaskell has a narrator (Margaret Dawson on her couch) who then gives way to narrators. It’s an intricate fiction with levels of pastness and memory. Stunning that it was forgotten until this film adaptation. Also the very interest in the French revolution which one finds in women writers as disparate as Suzy McKee Charnas (Dorothea Dreams) and Isobel Colegate.


There is a servant, Martha, in Cranford: Claudie Blakeley played the role in the film adaptation

Chapters 7-9: An inset story from the past: a Paul et Virginie tales of the French revolution

The inset novella is very moving towards the end: I said last time it made me think of people in concentration camps waiting for death, people fleeing pogroms; at the close when both young people are in prison together, find comfort in their last days (even though he is badly wounded) and then guillotined reminded me closely of the atmosphere of Bernardine de Saint-Pierre very late tragic romance tale, Paul et Virginie. It was translated by Helen Maria Williams and influenced Sand (Indiana). There is an English translation online; I don’t know good it is, I can vouch for the beauty, poignancy of Williams’s.

It’s a tale which insists on the cruelty of people to one another casually and at large, on how much chance played a part in who died — as well as personal vendettas, anger, greed (just like in the 1950s in the US against socialists, communists and France in the later 1940s against those who were high up in the Vichy regime). I find myself identifying and in a way (perhaps this is intended) having a La Rochefouauld response: maybe I should not lament my troubles for how far worse is this (“there is something in the misery of others &c&c). I’m drawn to this material too because of my interest in the 18th century.

It does help justify the cruelty of Lady Ludlow for being this utter snob and considering anyone of the lower orders ontologically different from those in the upper she sees all the betrayals of the two young aristocratic lovers as facilitated by their lower class keepers knowing how to read and write. She puts the revolution down to education — which perhaps is a real cause of it.

Gaskell does immediately enough show that Lady Ludlow’s refusal to allow Mr Horner to make a clerk of the gifted little boy and her wanting to put him in the fields is keen cruelty. It made me think of communist and other revolutions where people of gifts and middle class are forced to work in the fields — spite is behind this in these regimes (like spite is behind some of what the Tories, Republicans and other new reactionary masters around the world are doing to their people when they rack up the prices of colleges out fo reach of most young adults without horrendous debts).

Then we get a return to another paradigm of hers: Miss Galinda takes in crippled people to serve and work for her, providing them with a decent place. We saw in her early short stories how often she recurred to the pattern of a mother-figure taking on a disabled child/brother. Miss Galindo takes in one such person, deformed, who had a very ill temper — Gaskell is not an idealist. Again My Lady Ludlow has to be lied to about this. It’s a very curious center for a book. I’ve seen Trollope do this but not so relentlessly and admit I much prefer a Mr Harding.

Linda wrote:

Lady Ludlow seems to believe that only chaos and bedlam can result in giving the underclasses their due. She doesn’t believe for a second that they will be better off–she thinks the world will be turned upside down and the natural order of things will be destroyed. It is not only that she wants to hold onto her position and wealth that makes her deplore the idea of education for the underprivileged. She really believes it is a bad idea all around. In a way it resembles those in the South before the Civil War who didn’t believe that blacks could take care of themselves and handle freedom. Yes, there was economics involved but also a terror of changing the social order.

To which I replied:

I might be suggested this dreadful woman is put at the center of the fiction to make us see how the mind of aristocrats worked. Well, it doesn’t quite wash or convince since Lady Ludlow is idealized. She has really no mean, sordid, envious, jealous, ordinarily spiteful (&c) characteristics a realistically conceived character would have; plus many of the aristocrat emigres, counter-revolutionaries had anything but high principles to motivate them. Read Stael’s Delphine and you come across the same kinds of ruthless horrors that once in a while take off their masks in public: say that CEO who came before Congress last year.

My Lady Ludlow like Dinesen and Cather’s books of this type is fable. Dinesen gets us to accept her reactionary point of view that way, and Cather her nostalgic dwelling in the aesthetics of the past.

From Fran:

The line that stood out for me in Lady Ludlow was her comment, ‘I always said a good despotism was best form of government’ and the story was indeed reminiscent of the cult of personality built up around some of the so-called ‘enlightened’ despots of the past.

Interesting to me, too, was the fact that while she had been so adamant about not wanting to educate the masses, Lady Ludlow’s own increasing enlightenment was furthered by the lessons she herself was taught by the example of her presumed inferiors.

I brought up Trollope’s Mr Harding because he too is an idealized exemplary center: he is given a few more unadmirable traits: he’s a coward (a big no-no), he’s (albeit comically) super-sensitive, but he is made lovable because all his principles tend to strict real justice and kindness. He’s capable of overlooking principles to do a kindness too (which Lady Ludlow is not).

I was chuffed to find that Uglow saw the inset story as in the French tradition — and her account reminded me the heroine’s name is Viriginie. I should have thought of that: yes, an allusion to Pierre de St Bernardine’s tale then. Uglow’s account dwells on the present time story and contrasts Lady Ludlow with Miss Galindo, and apparently what is to come is an awakening and change of heart in Lady Ludlow. Finally when Lady Ludlow personally encounters rural misery and poverty she is against the laws of the time that keep all this in place. Uglow admits the story is “a gentle rural wished-for revisions of history.” Then Uglow looks at some of the comedy at Lady Ludlow’s expense — ironies.

The novel reminds me of modern Booker Prize type books where we have these inset embedded novellas from the past which contrast to an ameliorated present.

We might see it as a counter to stories like “Lois the Witch,” “The Grey Woman” and many others we’ve read of strong injustice perpetrated without recourse.


Philip Glenister, Lady Ludlow’s steward, a good man (Mr Horner in the novel becomes Mr Carter in Cranford Chronicles)

Chapters 10-14: The conclusion

Back to the present time story and Lady Ludlow begins to retrieve herself: when confronted with real misery, her instincts are at least right when it comes to an individual. So Harry Gregson has had a bad accident, is miserably crippled and now it’s clear to put him in the fields would be monstrous. It took that, though.

I’ve been ignoring the narrator: Martha Dawson, it’s her love for this woman who has been kind to her that makes for the tone.

I finished the novella and by the end finally saw that the whole book should really be seen as Margaret Dawson’s story. I suppose we might say the book qualifies as a gothic because it has taken all novel long for me to realize what is the back story, what the story that was trying to get itself told and finally did.

The tone of the novel — finding Lady Ludlow lovable, the buying into Lady Ludlow’s values (or at least not critiquing them) is to be put down to this narrator who is not Gaskell. We read several stories by Gaskell where she takes on the tone of arristocracy worshippers, naive people we are to see. I have to say it still can and does function to support the present hierarchies of our world.

She is writing from memory and present life up north with a brother who while he is kind is nothing like the one in My Lady Ludlow. There are hints that her life now is one of loneliness, deprivation and hardship, particularly as a cripple. We might say this is another disability story, one told by the disabled person for once.

The last part of the novel has Mr Gray emerge who ends up marrying Bessy, the illegitimate daughter of Gibson who is rejected by the snobbery and narrow-mindedness (very like Lady Ludlows) of the Galindo family. The daughter who is led to reject him suffers in the sense that she has been deprived of a lived life. It’s all done by indirection — this last section is startlingly kept off stage: we only see the characters as Margaret sees them, but enough is told to show us what sensitive decent hero Mr Gray is and Captain James. At the end of the story after all the little boy who was crippled for life and Lady Ludlow would have deprived of education and put to work as a laborer ends up the rector and happily in a home with loving wife.

Fairy tale which exonerates Lady Ludlow by how she is individually humane – and she is and by the fact that our author (who is Goddess of the book, the presiding spirit) gives everyone happy endings. At the end all the Lady Ludlow professed to believe in has been overturned and she is accepting. Illegitimate children grow up to marry well; people marry out of their order, are educated.

She also took Margaret in and would have kept her all her life if Margaret had wanted to stray. quietly we are to wonder if biology should trump deep friendship. Lady Ludlow is a Sergeant George figure after all — I’m thinking of Dickens’s Bleak House and how the Sergeant is in a tender companionship relationship with Phil and supports him utterly. (Ours is turning back to be a world where this is all the safety net there is for lots of people).

Miss Galindo is a parallel to Lady Ludlow: another of these apparently narrow, bigoted women who turns out to be a kind fairy godmother to a few people. Now I feel she’s a parallel to Margaret: Miss Galindo is herself a cripple, ugly (we are told) and has built herself a happy life by serving others, especially Miss Bessy, child of Gibson.

The one person we do not hear of except by indirection is Bessy’s mother. An unwed mother who presumably died — or what? I cannot believe Mr Gibson would have thrown her off.

I loved the tone of the ending, the kindness of the book. I can see why it was threaded into the filmic Cranford now, for it belong in its matriarchy, attention to the vulnerable and hurt, to women especially.

The structure of the story (not the length of installments), with this weaving process whereby the effect is cyclical is typical of women’s art. I have Hughes’s book too and Dickens’s complaint was that there was not enough suspense and not enough action: one of the things that makes for the present situation where some 75-90% of what is published by men is that men are the editors, publishers, and owners, and they want structures that are what you are calling dramatic: high drama. Dickens pushed Gaskell to change her “Old Nurse’s Story” to make that lurid ghost scene at the end.
The structure Gaskell opted for is a repetitive one where things are held back, indirect; the outline Hughes gives is the “conscious” narrative but even that is this gradual inward kind of thing.

It was not my point what either of us liked or not, but that the art here is l’ecriture-femme as the French women critics have described it — the most classic case is Virginia Woolf and the book about this (alas just in French) Didier’s L’Ecriture-Femme. She has a long chapter on Woolf.

This idea is a commonplace now when Hermione Lee defended Ian McEwan’s Atonement against the ridicule of the critics she said (what the narrator in the book tells us) it’s an imitation of Woolf, and (Lee’s words) a man writing in female drag.

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Winslow Homer, Early Evening (1881), cover for edition of Sylvia’s Lovers

We see two women in the dark light, waiting on a rock, with a fisherman sitting near them, perhaps like Trollope’s Mally (“Malachi’s Cove”), they are remembering someone who did not come home alive.

Sylvia’s Lovers, Chapters 1-6

I began this today and just fell in. The last time I read a book which so gradually puts you into a landscape, step-by-step, first physically, then socially, then economically, was Hugo’s Les Miserables. I could picture Yorkshire, northeast, the seacoast, the agricultural farm land redolent of whale oil, the bridges, the different levels of houses, with outlying ones avoiding “contamination” of the smell of the source of wealth.

She enters into the outlook of sheep at moments, and then in passing what whaling is about: it reminded me of how cruel it really is: the people are killing whales for the oil. No crueller than this pressing where you snatch people (as in slavery), imprison them and then flog them into obedience.

A sense of the 18th century landscape and its typical size, amount of people and places — very like what I’m reading at the same time in Miller’s Dance, the Cornish coast, mining and its worlds (that still include smuggling through Stephen Carrington).

Trollope has a slow build-up like this for American Senator where he builds up Dillsborough, its environs, its hunting clubs, and then its people.

It seemed Scott-too, high romance is not forgotten through memory: as the new castle are looking at replaced one where a throne-less queen landed — clearly Mary Queen of Scots, and before that a monastery. A sense of the wildness of this world is on the first page, but this granddaughter of Scott does not have a man glimpsed coming down the landscape.

Gaskell ends on the chapters with an analysis & description of those classes of people who supported the press-gangs: the landed gentlemen who didn’t have so much money as the merchants and commercial and whale-fishery men below them — and liked to see them in distress. Gaskell puts it nowhere as bluntly as that, but it’s what she means. Their wives who were glad to see the upper class types who ran the snatchers as possible husbands for their daughters.

Of course those in the gangs. Everyone professed to despise the actual snatchers but Gaskell says of these, whatever else they were, they were brave and daring and led an exhilarating life of adventure — she appeals to us to remember how human nature has “this strange love of chase,” of “outwitting” others.

In the film adaptation of Graham’s novels (set in the later 18th century in Cornwall) by Episode 6-7 we have the militia — corresponding to their appearance in the last half of Graham’s second novel, Demelza, and there we get these exhilarating clashes — but also the deaths they cause, the great misery, how they do prey on the locals and rationalize it as patriotism. Donald Douglas is superb as Captain MacNeil.

Chapter 2 zeroes in on the women’s matter or romance part of the novel if I may be allowed: both working class girls out to sell butter and eggs, but Sylvia the darling, an only child, and Molly (Mary) one of many. I’ll stop here as I didn’t get far, only remark the way to read this for me is to try to hear it aloud. Then I get the dialect — otherwise I’d have trouble.

The book is very good: in Chapters 3 and 4 we learn why it’s called Sylvia’s Lovers. Yes we have one of these supposedly charming heroines in Sylvia: I’m not charmed, no more than Molly. But the context is what matters: it reminds me a bit of Les Miserables where the characters were in effect emblems and types. They did appeal to me deeply (especially Jean Valjean) but like this it’s the larger picture they are part of that’s compelling. Gaskell recreates the place of Whitby in the previous century and she is drawn to the wild shores — as a southerners she was released by these; as someone who saw the mean streets of Manchester she saw an analogy up north too.

We have a scene of sudden pressing by the gangs; we are not at the scene, rather experience it as heard of by the women not far off and then the men, what they see of ravaged and distressed and betrayed people who were waiting for men relatives, friends, lovers to come off a whaler.

There’s an argument about pressing between Sylvia’s father and Philip Hepburn, his nephew, the man who works in the shop Sylvia and Molly patronize, and takes her home. Hepburn, our normative gentleman produces an argument which defends this cruelty. Hepburn does it by this reification: the underlying idea is individual belongs to some entity called a nation, and if X is good for the nation, so the individual must obey. So if the nation feels it needs to win a war in France, it must take (kidnap) men. If we cannot pay in taxes, we must pay in person.

Sylvia’s father retorts laws are made to keep people from harming one another.

I’ve no time or perhaps inclination to work out an argument, only say that there is no such thing as a nation that is unified by one interest. There are individuals who share an interest and can act as a group. The war in France would not help the poor individuals it murders one bit, none of the wealth that would accrue to those winning would be shared with them as at this time there was no decent progressive income tax and no social services worth the name.

Groot and Fleishman (two critics) argue that the historical novel of the 19th century is a serious instrument for presenting political visions in debate. Gaskell’s certainly is — let us see if she brings in issues of political moment which affect women as individuals and people, not just as the sisters, wives, daughters of powerless men


G. Morland, Smugglers

Ch 5-6: what a quiet radical is Gaskell; a film adaptation would be terrific

Chapters 5-6 are powerful and how Gaskell to be a radical, however quietly. She has thus far shown us the political context and who and why press-gangs were supported. Rather ugly some of these. Then how press-gangs are experienced by those who are waiting for and dependent on the men coming home from a long journey. Then who are these gangs. We meet our two heroines and go home with one, Sylvia Robson and a young man who produces a philosophical argument defending them. Our heroine’s father, Mr Robson knows a thing or two of that: laws are made or should be to protect people. If his representative votes for the gangs, he won’t get my vote. A man after my heart voting for his interest.

Then we get this uneasy slightly comic intimate scene where Mr Robson is this restless person who has no intellectual life but is himself old and partly crippled and in the bad weather has no where to go. The mother and daughter contrive to make him feel he’s the boss and the daughter concocts a scheme where a tailor is induced to visit on the supposition he’ll make a sale. Gaskell is quietly showing how superior the mother and daughter are to the father in many ways but she does uphold this way of keeping this man in charge. Still she makes their subservience visible and how in order to be comfortable they are pushed into being devious.

When the tailor comes in, he is induced to talk to entertain the old man and what does he tell but of the experience of being pressed. What a violent horrific scene. We see the intimidation, the deceit and treachery, the killing and vicious shooting to maim, and the men giving in rather than be maimed or die. I’ve not time to scan it in or try to paraphrase.

It speaks for itself.

This is the era of slavery, of ubiquitous wife-beating too, high drunkenness, mass wretched poverty. Most men are not the sweet mythic manipulatable man Mr Robson is. He succumbs sweetly to his wife removing his bottle. Oh yeah …


The problem with this modern illustration is it makes the pressed man altogether too healthy and strong

Chapter 7-15

I looked up “Specksioneer.” This word was one of Gaskell’s choices for her title: The Specksioneer.” Naturally the publisher would not hear of it. It refers to the chief harpooner, who also directs in cutting up the speck, or blubber; — so called among whalers. By chapters 6 and 7 we realize the specksioneer Gaskell intended to title her book after is Charles Kinkaid, the man who attempted to fight with force the press-gang, was shot at, kicked viciously, beaten down and left for dead so they could by threats of murder kidnap the men come home from whaling.

They did kill his friend Darley a mass funeral on whose behalf we go to in Chapter 6. (Does anything ever change? a mass funeral can spark a mass protest). This funeral is overseen by the vicar who knows in his gut he ought to keen for Darley and cry out against the press-gang, if only to comfort the impoverished father and mother whose son this was. But that morning he gets a letter from the head of the press-gang telling him they were within the law, why this is needed (it seems “the English” need to go to war with the “French” and haven’t enough men, and so partly intimidated and (Gaskell would have us realize) partly persuaded, he gives a banal generalized speech.

This continual sticking up for the vicious is continued in the off-hand speech of Philip Hepburn who is Sylvia’s follower — quite literally. This kind of thing is partly put there to make us experience how these false voices nag at us.

Philip and Sylvia visit her cousins, Hester’s parents, the Coulsons and we watch the mother make out her pitiful will on Hester’s behalf. Women did make out such wills; Jane Austen has one. They try to give their little bits of property and money to someone who meant something to them, who helped them. The mother wants to help her daughter, Hester in case she marries her suitor, Will. A woman’s novel: we are made to feel how women experience time in the home: Sylvia’s mother feels how time slips by (p. 60

The scene of the funeral is powerful — the seacoast, the church on the high rocks, the crowd, and especially we are led to “dwell on the tall gaunt figure” of the specksioneer.

Unless I’m mistake Molly is in love with this specksioneer — our secondary heroine. And we see her home too. What is it bout gauntness. By Poldark Novel 9 Ross Poldark is continually described as gaunt.


Emma dancing with Mr Knightley at the Crown Inn (2009 BBC Emma)

Sylvia’s Lovers becomes a kind of Emma, Chs 11-12

Despite the sweep of the pictures, the analysis of economic, political and other angles on reality, and the action-adventure, not to omit radical sceptical politics, the book shows its roots or origins as a courtship novel in Chapters 11-12. And here it reveals Gaskell’s limitations. Sylvia is not just too good to be true, she is that way because she is ontologically superior to those about her. One cannot say she is above most others in class, but I feel in Gaskell’s core being, that’s it. And why we are supposed to be on the side of this catering to the husband no matter how distasteful his behavior apparently potentially is, how obtuse and at times ignorant or determinedly dumb his outlook, is beyond me. The fiction in this vein cloys.

Sylvia’s friend, Molly, marries a man much older than she for his status, wealth, and just triumphs over all. Perhaps we are to feel that Sylvia’s romance love of Kinkaid will not bring her a necessarily happier life, but it’s the condescension and thus falseness of the portraiture that is the problem too.

Why Gaskell “sides” against Philip Hepburn puzzles me too. It appears she too finds something lacking in him — insufficiently macho male. Oh Elizabeth I am disappointed there and begin to be on his side against the heroic harpooner.

I am enjoying this read though: I’m reading another book set in nearly this period (Graham’s Miller’s Dance is set in 1812-13) and also about people who make their living occasionally by smuggling and are threatened by pressing, and just at this turn have gone to a social occasion where there is dancing, gaiety and games, and presents a parallel to Gaskell’s A New Year’s Eve. However, Gaham’s Truro Races (Bk 2, Ch 6) do not feel at all like Emma because the focus is ont a young women “just out” (or its equivalent) going to rare chance at a ball/dance from life in a tiny community where she cares for a parent and knows only a very few friends. When Sylvia entered the ballroom, it was distinctly Emma entering the Crown Inn for her ball, and incidents of embarrassment, awkwardness ensue. I wondered if Gaskell was remembering Emma at all or if this was rather the result of two similar women not so far apart in era, type, genius and fundamental attitudes towards sex and marriage.

One striking quality of this book — now making me realize how it’s also found in North and South and Mary Barton is its radical political vision. For that it’s enormously valuable because she’s so intelligent and brings in a large picture and explains.

If I just praised the book, what I would say would be valueless because it’d be unreal.

I agree too that Philip is a hero. In the above chapters what I thought about was how real he is; he is much less a stereotype than Sylvia. He does not conform to stereotypical heroes; he’s given far more interesting and mature and believable thoughts than anyone else thus far. He’s not over-sentimentalized and genuinely somehow individualized — especially in the dance as this semi-outsider. Gaskell enters into his feelings and thoughts as someone not appreciated or understood because he feels (as a psyche) cleverer (being less a stereotype) than just about all the other characters whose minds we have been given access to.

His lack of macho maleness is in Austen’s tradition: a redefinition of manliness which is not based on appetitive rakes and glamorous sexuality (the ultimate of this might be Richardson’s Lovelace) but is first seen in the 18th century in grave heroes and then Grandison, but most appealingly in some of Austen’s heroes, especially Mr Knightley.

In fact when it comes to Philip I thought she began to side very strongly in these chapters — seeing his profound valuing of quiet domestic stable life and his kindness and tenderness and generosity. This has nothing to do with his political vision; that is critiqued. Gaskell can use a character consistently in various ways — as in life a man can be very good in private life and yet have real lacks when it comes to wider understanding. The voices she wants us to hear are also Kinkaid, Sylvia’s father especially and the narrator’s.

For a female reader a real woman at the center is more valuable – and Sylvia is a virtuous stereotype. Cynthia in Wives and Daughters is more valuable. These fictions are supposed to be exemplary. Gaskell’s heroines in this novel show the same compromises as George Eliot’s — not quite as self-sacrificing but as “innocent’ sexually and when not we are supposed to dislike or distrust or reject them. Yes it’s Victorian fiction.

But this does trouble me: again and again in her fictions she will endow the male with depths and originality of feeling (nothing coy) and not the women. We see this especially when the narrator is a male — it’s seen in Cousin Phillis for example. Men are not presented cloyingly. She respects them too much. So there is in spite of all her woman-centeredness and proto-feminism a dis-valuing her own sex in this book. It’s not in all of them (e.g., “The Grey Woman” does not).

In terms of the story it seems that Philip is in line to inherit the shop and so is in a position to ask Sylvia to marry him.

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I stopped here. I account for one aspect of my stopping in the comments. Another was no one was posting with me regularly. The fun had ceased.

Ellen

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Those who are left are different people trying to lead the same lives … Demelza to Captain MacNeil who attempted to console her for death of infant Julia (Bk 1, ch 4, p 55)

There’s no to-morrow. It doesn’t come. Life’s an illusion. Didn’t you know. Let us make the most of the shadows … Ross to Elizabeth, before raping her (Bk 3, Ch 5, p. 314(


Final shots of Season 1: Film ends with Trenwith burned down, Mark Daniel killed, all money and hopes lost, Ross to go abroad as soldier, leaving Demelza with Jeremy (very different from book here)

Dear friends and readers,

Ross Poldark, jacobin landowner, in the film an unabiding renegade who rapes Elizabeth in order (he tells himself) to try to prevent her from marrying George Warleggan, capitalist villain, ruthless, malevolent. Demelza, refusing to accept this situation, hating herself for not retaliating by going to bed with the hard but fair Captain who tried to capture Ross et alia as smugglers. Caroline, strong woman brought out of 18th century gay witty lady, Enys as disillusioned as Ross. The hard capitalist (new world, our world) Warleggans. How I love these novels. Naturally another blog.

Here am I to relive with a you a little of the experience of this fourth of Winston Graham’s marvelous Poldark novels: Warleggan. We’ve had Ross Poldark, Revenant, Demelza: Mistress Poldark, Herstory, Jeremy Poldark, the midst of life. Warleggan is the name of a family enemy to the Poldarks since their grandfathers’ time, and this novel ends with George (Ralph Bates) taking possession not just of Elizabeth Chynoweth Poldark (Jill Townsend), Francis’s widow, Ross’s ex (as he thought until the end of the last book) beloved, but also of Trenwith, the family home.

An important theme in this novel is death: early on Demelza tells Captain MacNeil who tries to suggest that Jeremy has replaced Julia that ” “those who are left are different people trying to live the same lives” (p. 55): the death of Francis screws up the lives of three of the principles (Ross, Demelza and Elizabeth) by giving George Warleggan a chance to buy, seduce Elizabeth who in effect makes a second bad marriage. Her disloyalty to Ross leads to his raping her and (as emerges in Black Moon), Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the birth of Valentine, and Elizabeth’s death eventually.

The ending of the filmic Warleggan (Episode 16) differs startlingly from the ending of the novel as the opening of the mini-series (Episode 1) and ending of the first novel (Episode 4) differed from Graham’s Ross Poldark so the themes of the two works emerge quite differently.

What happens in the film is the theme of possession in the novel dominates the close: it’s true that central thematic matter in this novel also includes sexual possession, very much an 18th century theme too: towards the end of Warleggan Ross tells Demelza that he has been possessed by Elizabeth in the sense Lafayette’s La Princess de Cleves is possessed by Nemours (the man who would not mind committing adultery with her). Ross has been erotically enthralled by Elizabeth, and was awakened to his feelings the previous Xmas before Francis died. Ross asserts he is no longer, but we can see that while the grip of this “possession” has been broken during a long night of his ambiguous rape of Elizabeth, it is not altogether gone.

Demelza may be said to be possessed by Ross: she could not get herself to fuck with Captain (prevention man) McNeil (Donald Douglas) in retaliation, because she felt she belonged to or was part of Ross; but she is also possessed by Ross in law, when she’s pregnant with his child, and beholden to him for the respect she gets, her place in society, her name (as it’s put in the book).

The phrase may be used of non-erotic states and bodies: a person may feel he or she is possessed by evil and dark thoughts (the devil); you can be possessed by some pursuit that becomes an obsession. Both Mark Daniels and Dr Enys (Richard Morant) were possessed by Daniels’ wife, Keren (Demelza) in mad self-destructive way. By having the film end in a conflagration and abandonment of all the film emphasizes the destructiveness of this erotic possession and jealousy (George’s of Ross) and hatred (George’s of the community that despised him and he seeks to punish).

It is very easy to become confused between book and film so this time I preface each of the four sections with a summary of Graham’s book; and will make put a summary of 1 Poldark Part 16 in the comments to this blog (the filmic equivalent of the parts of Warleggan which differ radically from the book).
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Book One: April-May 1792


The set for the 1975 Poldark mini-series: we see Nampara

This is the first of the books to try to reset the reader into the world of Cornwall: in so doing it reminds me of Trollope’s Dr Thorne: the first two Barsetshire novels were written w/o an aim to make a series, but by the third Trollope knew he had created a world and would be filling it with characters and begins to develop the setting at length.

This is not fictional in the way of Trollope’s: it is meant to be historical places but Graham doing the same thing: he really sketches the area but it’s not wooden or dull as it’s done from the viewpoint of our main characters who have been invited to and are reluctant to go to a party at one of the six gentleman’s houses in the area. Ross and Demelza’s is the smallest, least pretentious, indeed most poverty stricken of the group.

A summary of the book:

Chapter 1: The six houses, Demelza at home with Jeremy, to her Francis, Ross arrives, they discuss return of Caroline; Trenwith George’s (false) courting of Elizabeth and its success; he and Aunt Agatha’s first ugly clash

Chapter 2: Francis home to Elizabeth; Elizabeth’s obtuseness about George; George meets and tries to seduce Enys to his side, fails; Dwight at the Hoblyns, his wandering about moors at night

Chapter 3: Begins with Ross and Demelza’s arrival at Place House, owned by Trevaunances, evening of 24 May 1792 . Dinner party with all major characters at table; major blindness of Trevaunance to invite both Ross and George; flirting of MacNeil with Demelza; charged conversations of Elizabeth with Ross (he loves her), of Elizabeth with Francis (she made serious mistake marrying him); deterioration of conversation when men leave. Four riding home together, Demelza feels something new afoot, Ross declares Caroline “wrong wife for Dwight .. [she will] wipe her feet on him” (p. 43)

Chapter 4: Dwight’s custom growing (Ellery’s death), his wooing of Caroline. MacNeil of Demelza who tells him of death of Julia: “those who are left are different people trying to live the same lives” (anticipates what will happen after Francis’s death too, p 55). Ross home, MacNeil leaves; Ross and Demelza discuss Mark Daniels’ possible find, Ross to Trencom to plan; Trencom aware an informer about and he has to move operation to another cove and keep his stolen goods at Nampara (the hole in the library floor made).

Chapter 5: Dwight visits Hoblyns and finds Kempthorne’s house remarkably improved; Dwight and Caroline’s strained courting.

Chapter 6: Trencom carries on, exchange of witty rebarbative letters between Dwight and Caroline; Pascoe’s letter sounding warning about his selling that note; Francis and Demezla’s important conversation where he tells her how much she means to the family and how lucky they are to get her; and also of his part in betrayal and she cannot forgive (a theme in book); Francis drowning, the child playing at Trenwith

Chapter 7: Ross home to Demelza withi news that the note was passed to Pascoe; the hunt for Francis and realization when they get to the mine he’s drowned, the body

The power of the opening four chapters is a direct development of the five characters at length and from within and in dialogue. It is here that Ross’s love for Elizabeth (Francis, Ross’s cousin’s wife) is brought out more clearly for the first time, both from his desiring point of view and the past they knew; from within. Now she has been so disappointed in Francis (she has not been out of her house in 4 years more times than she can count on one hand) and is bored. She is letting Ross know she’s available. Demelza intuitively sees this and is very hurt.

George Warleggan begins to be central as a presence. We see his spite in the way he insults Aunt Agatha, wishes for her death, calls her ugly in front of her because she’s deaf. She’s pathetic and narrow but not a bad woman, and has nowhere to live but with Francis and Elizabeth. Francis is wry and ironic but not unkind. We see how hard he is trying to support Ross; Francis warns Ross not to participate in the smuggling, even if the money is so desperately needed — as Warleggan is Ross’s enemy and has liens on the authorities.

Dr Enys is among the faithful decent. Alas, partly because of this he is not doing well. He cannot cure people magically and when they die, he’s blamed.

Breaking of sexual norms:

The character of Caroline Penvenen; far from a Gainsborough heroine, like Elizabeth, she is a woman who breaks sentimental norms. Another strong woman emerges: Caroline Penvenen. She’s an important character: in archetype she’s the gay witty lady of Restoration and 18th century comic drama: I can see Anne Oldfield doing her to perfection.

This is from Season 2 where there are scenes capturing this aspect of Caroline; in Season 1 she is much more like the elusive lady of Gainsborough 1940s movies, mischievous, non-serious

IN the book, what Winston Graham did was take this character and make her a proto feminist: she is pro-active and aggressive in her love affair with Dr Enys. He would have shrunk from her because of his lower station background, his lack of money, his sensitivity and gravity as a personality; his past history of having been taken over by another woman’s erotic enthrallment (in which he more than acquiesced) and her murder by her husband, Mark Daniels (still a fugitive in France, helped to get there by Ross Poldark) all in the way. She overcomes this by her wit, determination (Bk 1, ch 5 67-75, Bk 2, ch 2, 115-22). In Jeremy Poldark she had showed her understanding and kindness in the romance of the oranges I described.

In the film and book Enys is in love with her and she knows it; she refuses the older man her uncle wants her to marry. A good set of implicit social scenes does this. Ross is ever shown as intelligent (so too Demelza) and his remark on the relationship of Enys and Caroline rings a dark ominous note: “I certainly think she is the wrong wife for Dwight. She would wipe her feet on him” (ch 3, p 43). Nonetheless, when Warleggan tries to bully Enys into coming on his side, Enys refuses pointblank and is frank in discourtesy.

In both Francis (in Jeremy Poldark he tried to commit suicide; he drinks to drown depression, assumes ironical stance towards life) and Enys (the idealistic doctor who will not kowtow but is susceptible to affection from women) Graham breaks masculinity norms.

The film series does try to do justice to some of this, e.g.,

In the opening segment of season 2: after in the film Ross rescues Enys and Enys and Caroline marry, Caroline in the film lets Demelza know that after his long imprisonment & shattering experience Enys is still impotent but it does not come off sympathetic to him so much as about her frustration, the actress has not much feel for this, or maybe the writer and director (both men).

Finally, McNeil brought back — a Scots customs officer who had warned Ross in the end of Demelza about not getting too far away from law. He is well played in the series by Donald Douglas. He is interested in Demelza and she responsive — partly from her own frustrations. In Captain McNeil, the customs officer’s conversation with Demelza, he expresses regret at the death of Julie to which Demelza replies: “Those who are left are different people trying to live the same lives” (p 55).

It seems a strong remark about a 1 1/2 year old child, but not about the death of Francis. For now Elizabeth the frail widow who Ross knows is willing, Ross, now genuinely grieving yet aware how futile and stupid was Francis’s act (there was nothing there probably), has to take over Francis’s duties, supply the other half of the firm; his absence hurts Demelza’s self-confidence and and growing place. Because he’s not there their roles must be different in law and custom.

Francis’s death (Chapter 6): I can’t speak too highly of the power and effect of the way this is done. Francis having tried so hard to make up for his dereliction in allowing himself to be bribed and pressured to give away who (Ross) was starting up the Copper company, with last intimate talk to Demelza, returns to the mine to see if he can find this ore level Mark Daniels had seen. He goes too far in, slips, falls, and drowns.

That’s what’s seen in the film. In the book we are with this man during the hours he waits to be rescued. In Jeremy Poldark he had tried to kill himself in Dr Enys’s room before the trial, but now he has thought better of it, is going in the direction of a life he wants, with respect for himself (his father never gave) him and wants to live. We are with him as he sinks, as he finds there is no ladder, as he holds onto that nail for three hours and then as the wall crumbles. His thoughts, his frantic shouts. A long sequence, not overdone but each moment felt as the man is there waiting, slipping, frantic and gone. We have heard so many stories of late about miners thrown away (unions useless now), and out infrastructure let go and so many dying this way. 9/11 managed to retrieve only a few and who ultimately brought on that blast? who has profited from it?

And then the silence and narrative returns to Elizabeth waiting for him patiently as yet.

A theme in the book: when an individual dies it matters. Ellery dies, Rosalie Hobyns doesn’t and that changes Enys’s life. Harris Peascoe passes the promissory note Ross originally signed for the first loan to Cary Warleggan. Charles, the old man, now dead and Cary ruthless.

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Book Two, Mid-November 1792:


Botallack Mine, Cornwall

A summary of the book:

Chapter 1: That terrible year (mist, cold), Ross walking meets Caroline in coach, Ross she means to have Dwight and in Ross’s thoughts the renewal of the relationship with Elizabeth, now frail and clinging to him (so he thinks) — he’s like a man with two wives. Dwight visits Demelza who tells him she does not want to be like “Elizabeth and Geoffrey Charles” (p. 110); Ross arrives to tell of return again of Caroline, and talks with them “Events do what they like with us, and such — such temporary freedom as we have only fosters an illusion … Look at Francis Was there ever a more sorrier or end … To drown like a dog in a well for nothing .. the wantonness …the useless waste” (P. 113), and Demelza trying to look forward …

Chapter 2: November a bad month for secret assignments out of doors but we have meeting of Caroline and Dwight and at long last agreed upon engagement; she agrees he the most noble but she does see he does not like her Bath plan … (patients need him)

Chapter 3: One of Ross’s weekly visits to Elizabeth; does she know how much he feels responsibility; when he leaves we see she is thinking of saying yes to George’s proposal as solving her problems; Ross to Demelza, about their desperation, talk of how much more of Trencom they will need; she wants to borrow, he does not, dark hours

Chapter 4: Mr Penvenen and Dwight’s clash over Caroline — very like a Catherine de Bourgh and Elizabeth scene; Caroline’s visit to Pascoe and her determination to provide needed 2000 pounds

Chapter 5: Pascoe tells Ross the good news, Ross’s return to Demelza who we see with dog, with child, with cat, good news, how they will prosper, the presents he means to give her, the love-making

“that odd fusion of desire and affection for which there is no substitute … They stayed for a while hardly moving. His hands were cool on her legs. Remember this, she thought. In the times of jealousy and neglect, remember this” (p. 159). “so you are not to be rid of me my love …”

Chapter 6: Another Christmas, now 1792: they were all to go to Verity (who had taken Francis’s death hard), last moment Elizabeth decides to go to mother (Cusargne); instead she goes to Cardew which makes Trenwith look like country house, and Cusargne an empty barn, the tension among the Warleggans, Nicholas not keen for Poldark widow as a daughter-in-law; Ross’s quixotic gesture; now Ross determined to pay his debt to Francis for mine: to give Elizabeth the 600 pounds and take useless mine from her; Dwight and Caroline’s compromise (he does not want to go but feels he ought, still guilty over Keren); Ross gives Elizabeth the 600 without admitting it’s him; she is all smiles and brilliance, talks of her “dislike to think I was being false to our friendship” (p.175). He is intensely aware of her tight narrow body. We are to guess she has half accepted George.

Chapter 7: Henshawe with new troubles, Ross now has only 75, Henshawe regrets how Ross has spent needed money; could Ross go see Mark, price coming down; Ross tells Demelza he will go find Mark; Dwight among the Hoblyns (we have this thread to remind us of informer as well as Dwight’s work), ends again on a woman, Caroline this time, how she intends to live her life her own way

“I intend to live my life in my own way and shall not be bribed by them into remaining their domestic tabby. It will do me good, Dwight, to stand on my own feet, and I want you to help me.” He says perhaps we shall have to help one another” – p 187

Chapter 8: January 1793, the execution of the king, known by Jan 24th; Ross spends last 75 pounds on purchase of coal (p. 189). Dwight comes to tell Ross he is leaving; he will be home first of February; so Dwight tells her but not about Caroline and leaves her feeling lonelier than ever; Ross in old clothes seeking Daniel on the island, uncle tells Caroline better to leave Friday, Caroline refuses to leave before Sunday; Ross now brought ashore on Thursday

Chapter 9: The meeting between Mark and Ross; Mark white haired, aged; Ross realizes that Mark saw the same vein of apparent copper that Francis did, promises to put up a stone for Keren “by building so much on the chance utterances of a man crazed with rage and grief, he had brought himself to the present pass’ (p. 201). No by giving his money away to Elizabeth. Dwight giving up on seeing Ross; meanwhile MacNeil and Vercoe making their plans; Dwight waiting until midnight, one last call to Rosina’s whose knee is gone again; goes to Hoblyns, hears Kempthorne’s lie and recognizes it, realizes what is occurring and goes to Kempthorne before trying to meet Caroline

Chapter 10: Uncle Ray Penvenen goes to bed at half ten; Caroline and maid sneak out, Dwight exposes Kempthorne to Hoblyns; Dwight and Kempthorne’s struggle; now Lottie cries out that her life is being ruined at this exposure, father hurt in struggle and Dwight flees, Lottie’s grief

Chapter 11: MacNeil come to Nampara to await Ross’s return, Demelza almost tells him but some native caution stops her and they sit waiting; Dwight rushes to the top of the hill and lights the fires of warning

Chapter 12: Ross coming ashore, his talk with Mark’s brother, Paul; they see the gaugers and military and prevention men in time; Ross begins to flee; Ross home and hidden, Demelza tries to prevent Vercoe from coming in; on the beach a terrific struggle ensuing; they examine the floor, go the cache, but it is empty

Chapter 13: Caroline’s goodbye letter to Dwight, letter dated February 3, 1793; he didn’t want to come; the men out to hunt for Kempthorne; hours after the military leave Ross emerges from his hiding place.

Commentary: Things have become desperate for Ross. Harris Pascoe has sold the promissory note to Cary Warleggan — another treachery, and Ross can do nothing about it. Cary demands full payment by December. The loss of their very land looms over Demelza and Ross.

Caroline to the rescue. She goes to Harris and offers to buy the promissory note herself. This is a scene which would startle and feel meaningful to any reader of Trollope: when women try to use money on their own, men won’t listen. At first Pascoe doubts she has the money, then the control of it, and then he says Ross would not accept money from a woman. At each count she persuades him otherwise. When at the last he downright refuses as he is uncomfortable, she asks who else runs a bank here, and is leaving. It reminded me of buying a car from a car dealer. You need to be willing to walk. He caves in and the scene closes. We don’t need to know the negotiations once she has gotten over this hump of being a woman (Bk 2, ch 4, p 144-48, in fact juxtaposed to Enys standing up to Caroline’s uncles).

What makes for the complexity also is she is given the rightist rhetoric: not as a validation but to explain why an heiress would think Tory like thoughts.

Graham is unwilling though to have his hero not be sufficiently manly so he has Enys confront Caroline’s uncle in a scene where the two men rehearse the scene between Lady Catherine de Bourgh v Elizabeth: in this one Enys stands up to all the counts of inappropriateness, future misery because they will not be accepted, the unimportance of love, sneers at his profession, learning, insistence that Caroline does not know her mind. It’s this scene (as in P&P) that persuades Caroline that Enys does love her. It’s hard not to believe Graham had P&P in mind and is reversing the sexes (bk 2, ch 4, 134-44).

That this is a quietly feminist vein is reinforced by Caroline’s riding a horse. She rides dangerously according to her uncle; she insists on riding publicly twice a week with Enys well before the uncle and he have their scene together.

The Ross-Demelza-Elizabeth triangle:

Ross is called over and at first astounded to be told the money is now paid, then perplexed, and then wonders where some treachery lies. He almost walks out but Harris Pascoe (despite his having been squeezed to sell the note) is an old friend and says on his word, this is good and Ross signs the new note. Now he is free for a long time to come (Bk 2, Ch 5, pp 149-52).

Meanwhile though money desperation and the intervention of McNeil and the prevention men has led Trencomb to ask Ross to allow them to store their smuggled goods in his house. He bends to pressure despite Demelza’s concern. Comically or ironically they use the library. We watch the scene (pp. 132-33) and from our visit to the Hoblyns with Enys where Enys’s success in curing the daughter’s broken knee, has made him get customers, begin to suspect Charles Kempthorne is not altogether above board about something. It’s impossible to keep secrets as it takes people to do things is what Graham wants us to see.

Ross’s first act is to re-buy things for the house and to bring Demelza precious presents, including things for her hair. We see and she does how he loves her tenderly despite the attraction (love or lust and a certain congeniality in their amorality) for Elizabeth still. He has had to visit Elizabeth since Francis’s death and they have come closer together — or so he thinks.

I just loved how the scene of the presents ended. Jeremy is there, natch and the dog, Garrick, chasing the cat. He kneels down to her while she sits in a chair and we are told puts his hands on her thighs. She thinks to herself that she wants to remember these moments for a long time, especially when she is feeling not valued or remembers his love for Elizabeth and then they speak:

He said: ‘So you are not to be rid of me my love.’
‘I am not to be rid of you, my love.
Over in the corner by the door Jeremy thumped down and began methodically to pull off his gloves (Book 2, ch 5, pp 158-59)

Life moves on relentlessly or quietly as it does in these novels. Next chapter, Christmas and now they can take up Verity’s invitation to Blamey’s for Christmas: they have clothes and things to bring, can hold up their heads.

We are told that Elizabeth was to come (Ross had urged her) and had planned to go to her parents but does not: We surmise she in fact went to the Warleggans, in effect to George who also has been visiting regularly: been so good to not pull in the debt Francis owed him, has bought her boy presents (pp; 158-159). She (we know) unlike Demelza but like Caroline values things over people, she wants social admiration over cherished private life (which is what matters to Demelza — and to me).

On the one hand, Ross goes to the island of St Mary’s where Mark Daniels is waiting for him. This is his last ditch attempt to be told where Daniels saw this lode of copper in the mine. Ross is shocked at how Daniels looks: decades older, white hair, wild and desperate, not quite right in his mind any more. Daniels has been living as an outcast, fugitive from the law (for murder of his wife, Keren) and has hired himself out to fight in France. It comes home to Ross how tenuous is Daniels’s memory and how foolish and self-deluded he had been to believe this story. It is improbable it appears that Daniels saw anything. And on this he had invested his last large sum, Francis’s loan, that Francis had lost his life seeking out desperately.

We see this desire was natural and Francis fell for it too because he wanted too. Earlier in the book there’s a long monologue by Ross about how life can be so meaningless and people die just for nothing — this in reference to Francis’s death by drowning.

It’s on his way home to Nampara by sea that Ross confronts this scene at the cove of unloading the goods and is almost captured by Vercoe, and actually fights him bodily, is seen and throws Vercoe off and flees home successfully to hide in a cache behind a cache in the family home’s unused (a quiet joke by Graham) library.

How did Ross manage to escape in time and why were not all the smugglers taken?

Dr Enys. As above, Enys has succombed to Caroline’s pressuring and has agreed to flee with her from her uncle’s home and go to live with her in Bath. A fait accompli. She is an heiress and apparently thinks they can live on her income, but if Enys is so determined to practice his medicine, he can set up there very well. We are told in an earlier book (it comes out in the trial scene of Ross in Jeremy Poldark) that Enys is one of those who benefited from the slight glimmerings of a meritocracy, and although from poor middling parents, was recognized for gifts and educated as a genuine physician and we see how much he cares about his patients.

He tells Demelza in an unconscious slip when he is telling her of his and Caroline’s plans, that the going off is a “grief.” It is. We remember Ross’s words about Caroline: she may wipe up the floor with Enys (I suppose like Rosamund Vincy does with Lydgate in Middlemarch though on different grounds and from different psychological/sociological causes).

That night they are to meet at 11. She insists she must not tell her uncle for he will thwart her ferociously (the class system is very real in this book) but will accept a fait accompli after a while. We get a double small interweave here. Caroline trying to say goodbye to the uncle who gains a sense something is afoot and will not go to bed. He goes well after 10 and she arrives with her luggage at the carriage late, to find no Enys.

He too was waiting and there came to him a last emergency: Rosina Hoblyns’s knee is acting up again. He is sitting there waiting for the 11 o’clock time to come near and he figures he’s better off spending the last half hour with a patient whose good health he has gained credit for. When there, he is told that Charlie Kempthorne will not be with the men that night. Why not? Kempthorne is ill and he hears a lie about himself. That he advised Kempthorne to stay in. Now we do have a novelistic providential trick: he suddenly puts together his noticing (which he had) the better condition of Kempthorne’s cottage (as doctor he visits them) and partly because he does not want to meet Caroline, heads for Kempthorne’s cottage.

A confrontation scene of some power ensues. Enys is rarely not soft-spoken and cooperative. He suddenly accused Kempthorne of being the informer and Kempthorne loses it. He is frightened himself, a fight ensues and Kempthorne tries to disable Enys (with a knife) but Enys escapes. The children are frightened by all this and anxious.

Enys then runs high on the hill and sets up a bonfire. A bonfire is an old symbol that something is wrong. He has a gun and when the men begin to land he lights the fire and attempts alerts them. Not only him but some of the smugglers have seen one of McNeil’s men and another figure at a point on a fence they usually use to get the stuff to the library.

Ross is coming onto the beach just around that time, a little tiny bit later and sees the cargo being thrown overboard, sees the first scuffle and is himself beset by Vercoe. He shoots to keep people away and either kills or wounds someone and keeps running home.

Meanwhile Demelza is waiting too — she too is up that night waiting, for Ross. We had a moving scene between them when he went off to find Daniels. We are told little things about Ross’s appearance by this time. Pascoe (his banker) sees he has taken on a wolvish appearance. He insists he must see Daniels and that he will make his way there and back (it’s 1792 and France is dangerous too). She knows this is a night for smuggling and bringing the cargo to the library.

Comes to her house to quarantine it and hold her there McNeil and his men. McNeil has been alerted that his men are seen and he wants to prevent Ross from getting home. He knows from a sub-textual conversation with Ross after the trial that Ross is involved in the smuggling. Demelza for a moment thinks to hint to McNeil the truth for McNeil is decent, has warned Ross friendly-like and would go to bed with her if she acceded. But she looks in his eye and knows there’s no mercy there.

So she sticks to her story, Ross is at St Ives and will be back tomorrow or late tonight. Her house is surrounded. The men won’t let her go upstairs but she insists on seeing her boy. She gets herself out the window, jumps three feet and is off to the beach where she meets Ross coming from it. She warns him and he goes into the library by another entrance than the front of the house. She has no way of climbing back up to her boy’s window and braves the group by just walking in.

A half hour or less later McNeil is there furious, wounded, they look everywhere for Ross, including the library. Demelza can see there’s been an informer for they know to lift part of the library floor where cargo sometimes is. No cargo tonight.

In the film a superbly well-done, tightly knit, expertly interwoven yet sprawling near-disaster. Ross and the “free trade” men he is allowing to land at Nampara cove are informed against by Charlie Kempthorne; they are lit upon by the prevention-men, Captain McNeil, the customs officer and his men, the local government man, Vercoe and 7 smugglers captured, 2 killed and one wounded. McNeil is among those wounded on the other side. The rest of the smugglers escape out to sea with most of their cargo intact. They will be back on another dawn.

This early dawn on the shore does not end Book 2, for its final chapter is a search for Charlie Kempthorne by a group of self-appointed men from the neighborhood. But he has fled, and while a first impulse is to burn the cottage and beat his children, better impulses prevail and the children are simply sent to an aunt and then the cottage burnt (where Kempthorne had been gathering very nice furniture and other hitherto unexplained quietly put-in signs of prosperity for quite a long time).

In the film we see the men throw Kempthorne off a cliff. A group of men seek out Charlie Kempthorne and after a while find him. It’s an ill wind that does no body any good. Kempthorne had made a deal with Rosina’s father to marry her and the father had been willing to beat her into it. Kempthorne is much older than she, brings two children; he would provide a decent home, but she is not sure he is a character she will be treated kindly by. Well, now she need not worry.

A letter from Caroline to Enys ends Book 2. A bitter one about how she has left with her uncle the next morning at 10, and does not expect to return again. She says she was aware how loathe Enys was to leave his practice and friends too at Cornwall.

As I’ve said all this is deepened by the reality of the reading experience of subjectivized narratives for 4 books now and each of the important characters is alive in the reader’s mind as a real presence.
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Book Three, begins a week later, still February 1793


Prelude to Rape scene: Ross climbs the walls (Part 15, Episode 5)


The confrontation: he says he will stop her

A summary of the book:

Chapter 1: Trencom takes care of his friends, alibis for all, Dwight’s unease, some loss of custom and increase of admiration from people around as a group. His thoughts: “Far better bitter disappointment now than the humiliation and misery of a lifelong mesalliance” (p 258); Demelza and Ross’s talk, he has to admit he sold Leisure for 675 and discharged a debt of honor with the 600, she says she’s heard George Warleggan very obliging to Elizabeth so maybe not so much in need; Ross’s jealousy over Bodrugan deflects this; he and Henshawe go down Grambler, and feel despair.

Chapter 2: George Warleggan outwits Elizabeth in effect: “streak of hazard blending with good fortune” on Warleggan’s side; he pressures her into a public wedding, says that he’ll repair Trenwith; he will help her with her boy; at the close of the chapters George exults that he had “dealt what he knew would be the deadliest of blows at his bitter enemy” (p. 277)

Chapter 3: Now tin found at Gambler; Demelza to Verity, limit on what you can ask; “if you believe in him,then you’ve no excuse for asking for proofs all the time” (p. 282). Verity to have baby (October due date — so 1793). Demelza thinking, off to do what she can for Bodrugan, meets MacNeil on the way, genuine conversation (man is in his own terms decent) at Bodrugan learns of match of Elizabeth and George

Chapter 4: Large political scene sketched in (counter revolution, war in Europe, Paris open to taker), May 2, 1793 Charlie Kempthorne’s body found floating in sea; Rosina come to Dwight; moving talk; he has no one to talk to; Dwight and Ross rush to where accident; Ross had not spent enough money on mining equipment and bad accident: 2 men killed by fall, 3 seriously injured, work stops

Chapter 5: Failure coming very hard; he comes home to Demelza; odd tone, Elizabeth’s letter dated 9 May 1793 (so the rape is 9 May 1793), he goes dark in mind and heart; goes there, intense conversation which rehearses all the previous backstory history (which is dramatized in melodramatic ways in mini-series, episodes 1-4). They quarrel over his intention to stop her and her refusal to acquiesce; no escape she knows; he insists she is making another mistake; his insistence makes him hateful to her, she now needles him with her love for George and it leads to rape and his staying the night. She: “Tomorrow …:. He: “There’s no tomorrow. It doesn’t come. Life’s an illustion, Didn’t you know. Let us make the most of the shadows” (p. 314)

Chapter 6: Ross comes home to Demelza and Jeremy; terrible scene, “joint betrayal destroyed the basis of their life”; “frightening blazing anger” alive in her and she goes out; the relationship destroyed it seems, they meet at meals, the invitation to Sir Hugh Bodrugan’s party, Demelza will go alone.

Chapter 7: Demelza at party; “desolation” in her heart, the will to retaliate, but not the object; she can’t bear Bodrugan; MacNeil turns up, at heart she feel “lost, irretrievably lost” (p. 333)

Chapter 8: Demelza does lead MacNeil on, a bedroom scene which is counterpart to rape scene; MacNeil a bit too aggressive, and she punts; he will not force himself on her, she feels she must adhere to the one man; she feels debased; MacNeil’s words of interest for they do not blame Demelza by a cliched morality: “When admiration turns to contempt [what he feels for her now] it is time to go” (p. 346). She’d like to die.

Chapter 9: Comical fight of Treneglos and Bodugran outside her door; Bodrugna breaks in and finds her gone, and then thinks of Margaret (not pleasant person in the book at all).

Chapter 10: Ross at Looe on business; Demelza thinks he will leave her; he cannot get himself to go to Elizabeth (p. 356); he was sure of his love for Demelza but cannot speak or talk of it or justify himself; she would have felt better had she yielded to MacNeil. Then Elizabeth and George: Elixabeth attempts to weasel out, then to gain a delay, only manages that; real anger is that Ross had not been near her, had he come she would have reacted differently. As she yields passively to George the lines are: “God, I am in a cage! Lost for ever (why did Ross come, she hates him for coming, despise, only enmity between them, she shall be George’s faithful wife and again) “Why did he have to come? god, I am in a cage. I am lost forever” (p. 367).

So matter of this book is trial aftermath; Crash of Mine; Ross’s night with Elizabeth and its dire results for him and Demelza and for Elizabeth too.

Reading on in Smuggling on Cornwall and Devon: as far as I can tell quietly, unobtrusively, Graham continually accurate in offhand references and suggestive scenes.

The aftermath of the near capture of the smugglers, is a series of trials where the authorities get nowhere. Mary Waugh in her Smuggling in Devon and Cornwall, 1700-1850 says despite draconian legislation and punishment throughout the coastline of the British Isles starting around mid-17th century (to drag tax out of people), in some areas local populations persistently refused to convict and gradually punishments were softened so that you could get off by volunteering for military service (especially if you could bring someone with you).

Well, Trencom the man who runs this smuggling does not forget his friends. He has someone in court stand up with an alibi for Ross; he pays people’s fines. A few do have to pay by the horrors of some years at transportation or a year in prison. The prevention people go off to France to fight – they are eager for this we are told (with some irony in the narrator’s voice). A rare leftist point of view depicts Paris as under siege from the counterrevolutionary and emigrant armies. Graham also shows how the interests of the judges are distinctly against the smugglers for personal gain and stature and out of whack with the locals. Not as history but as realized personalities. The informer’s body, is found drowned some weeks later; the girl who was to have married him is somewhat saddened because after all she would have had an establishment and he showed admiration and affection but now she has the trouble of getting people to believe she knew nothing. She did know nothing.

Graham’s fiction stands out as superior to Daphne Dumaurier’s I now realize for he offers a full sociological feel of smuggling, including how it took organization, money, was a full fledged business operation outside the law. In her books it is all vague romance outside the adventure sequences.

A second set of scenes concerns finding a tin lode. They do find one, but alas, Ross has given back the 600 pounds Francis lent him, seeing (he thinks for a long time to come) Elizabeth’s poverty. He feels terrible over the death of Francis. He also does love Elizabeth too and visits and begins to feel he is an important presence in her house. But she does not consult or go to him because that would interfere with Demelza and they stop at a certain point from too much intimacy.

What happens to the tin lode is Ross mines it dangerously, He does not spend because he does not have the money to set up a careful operation which would preclude a sudden crash within and that is what happens. His men (friends) are wounded badly and the operation must cease now. I say this briefly and swiftly but in the book it is fully dramatized, including scenes of Ross with his money lender and the builders. Of course our hero goes down in the mine for hours to try to save people and does help bring two more men out, one Will Nanfan who I remember accompanies Ross to France to rescue Enys from a French prison in a later book (it’s in Season 2 of the films).

So I come to the sections that most engage me and at a deep level: Elizabeth’s decision to marry George Warleggan, Ross’s arch enemy.

Suffice to say it is not presented simply as a sudden burst of intense passion and revenge hatred, self-satisfaction by a hero who has within him an abiding renegade but a night of harsh love-making which causes a terrible break and tension between Ross and Demelza as she knows about it as he does not hide it — because he can’t get himself too. So as with the marriage and first pregnancy of Demelza, the films turned into something far more melodramatic and simple a sequence of adult experience.

The point I want to make about Ross’s one night with Elizabeth is its ruthlessness as an action, and ambiguity as a non-ethical violent act, however made understandable and mitigated by the past, present circumstances, and how it’s presented. As a reader who sympathizes even intensely with Ross (and equally Demelza), I want to exculpate him, and know that in my presentation of his heading the riot on the beach (for in some sense he did and it’s not clear he didn’t start it) where he and other men seized two incoming ships, fleeced them, and reveled in the exhilaration of the moment, I had an urge to make his role less instigating, dominant, and (as in the courtroom his defense attorney did) kept alive in my narrative how when he saw the action turning into wanton destruction and murder, he turned round to invite the militia (then in danger) to his house. All the while he let everything started up take its course, and even if new groups of men had come in (miners mostly) who he could not have controlled, his hospitality and later return to as benevolent landowner was an evasion.

So too here. In the film, Ross receives Elizabeth’s letter and is so enraged, he flees his house, finds a horse, makes his way to Trenwith, and upon finding the house locked for the night, climbs onto the roof, across the siding and into a window, and without much more ado than an initial face-to-face shot, rapes her. Or so we are to understand. The screen goes dark and he is next seen in the morning returning home to a Demelza who knows where he has been, as much because he then sleeps downstairs, does not go up to their room where she’s laying, baby Jeremy not far off.

That is an accurate outline of what happens — except the letter Elizabeth sends is much more apologetic in the novel. In the film she lashes out at conventions and says she is marrying George for money and power; she has been and continues to be selfish; she did not marry Ross because he had nothing and Francis was the heir to a gainful property at the time, and refuses explicitly to make moral excuses about her son. We know she dreams of going to London for she says so to George who plays along (pretends he is considering it). I doubt she’s have done that realistically :). It’s an anachronism like having Demelza pregnant before marriage in the film (not so in the book) and having her claim she doesn’t know who the father is and not be judged harshly adversely as she would certainly have been.

IN the letter in the novel Elizabeth details what we have seen happening towards the end of Jeremy Poldark and the first 3/4s of this novel. In 5 years she’s been out barely 5 times; she is now living in poverty even if the 600 was returned to her (by Ross); she is beset by creditors, by the trouble of keeping up this huge house, by the problem of what to do about Geoffrey Charles’s education, by all sorts of hard-to-do even impossible to do stuff. And we see in the novel she is fooled by thinking that George is marrying her just for herself, does not know he does it to revenge himself ultimately on Ross: as her husband, he becomes the head of Trenwith, takes over Francis’s place. Graham makes this hypocrisy burningly evident in the narrator’s discourse.

Plus three different long conversations are omitted. Ross does indeed climb into Elizabeth’s room, but then they proceed to talk. This talk taking us back to her original motivations for marrying Francis, her boredom and despair, that she didn’t love him and he knew it (part of his reason for wanting to kill himself), and these long 5 years of an abyss of anything to do, anyone to talk to but Aunt Agatha, makes her marriage understandable to us and even to Ross, but it does not make up for his drive to possess her sexually and his intense frustration. He did think by giving her that 600 he would be a kind of alternative husband. He tells her she should have come to him for all these troubles and he would have helped her find another husband. The novel doesn’t make any or much of his motivations explicit (because they are not conscious with him) but we doubt he’d have found her another husband.

What the film series did was take this long talk turn it into a series of scenes which are interwoven in Season 1 throughout. In Season 1 Ross’s love and lust or urge for Elizabeth begins quite early in his marriage and carries on until this night together. In the novels, it is not evident until he and Demelza visit Francis and Charles on the second Xmas when Elizabeth makes it clear for the first time she would perhaps be willing to go to bed with Ross (over the dishes near midnight) and he responds and would have done “it” there on the floor with her, but that she held back, backed off, fled the room (in Jeremey Poldark). By threading this material throughout the film series, that makes the film series far more coherent, dramatic, psychologically modern, for Demelza knows, is hurt, feels herself someone who was simply felt sorry for and is a barrier. In the novels Ross and Poldark have a period of real euphoria, and his marrying her, giving her his name, is part of his rebellion against his class, and rank and is felt that way — not in the series (which reflects 1970s attitudes).

This reminds me of how long inset histories in novels are often taken to make scenes much earlier in film adaptations nowadays so socially unacceptable materials kept as back-stories in the older books become front stories in the films.

While this conversation cuts against the idea of that the man just went in there and raped this woman as a revenge on her, on George, and on the world for not giving him what he wanted, it is still (I think) a rape because Ross is forcing himself on Elizabeth as far as the scene goes, for as he begins to see she is not going to be persuaded not to marry George, he grows very angry, and he begins to become sexually aggressive in a cruel way, and she tells him he is “contemptible”. As he carries on, and it goes back and forth, she says as she can’t help marrying George, so

‘I can’t help this either.’ He kissed her. She turned her face away but could not get it far enough round to avoid him.
When he lifted his head, her eyes were lit with anger. He’d never seen her like it before, and he found pleasure in it.
‘This is – contemptible! I shouldn’t have believed it of you! To force yourself … To insult me when – when I have no one …
‘I don’t like this marriage to George, Elizabeth. I don’t like it! I should be glad of your assurance that you’ll not go through with it.’
‘I’d be surprised if you believed me if I gave it you! You called me a liar! Well, at least I do not go back on my promises! I love George to distraction and shall marry him next week-‘
He caught her again, and this time began to kiss her with intense passion to which anger had given an extra relish, before anger was lost. Her hair began to fall in plaited tangles. She got her hand up to his mouth, but he brushed it away. Then she smacked his face, so he pinioned her arm …
She suddenly found herself for a brief second nearly free. ‘You treat me -like a slut-‘ ‘It’s time you were so treated-‘
‘Let me go, Ross! You’re hateful — horrible! If George –‘
‘Shall you marry him?’
‘Don’t! I’ll scream! Oh, God, Ross … Please .. .’
‘Whatever you say, I don’t think I can believe you now. Isn’t that so?’
‘Tomorrow-‘
‘There’s no tomorrow,’ he said. ‘It doesn’t come. Life is an illusion. Didn’t you know? Let us make the most of the shadows.’
‘Ross, you can’t intend … Stop! Stop, I tell you.’
But he took no further notice of the words she spoke. He lifted her in his arms and carried her to the bed.

Curtain down. This idea men have “it’s time you were so treated,” as if they are doing the woman a favor by abasing and punishing her.

The next scenes take place at Ross’s house and we are in Demelza’s mind as she watches him. She does misunderstand. She thinks he does not love her, she worries he is thinking of leaving her. He is unwilling to talk about what has happened, and tries to pretend nothing important has. She won’t let this happen and asks him, “‘It won’t be the last time, will it?’ He didn’t speak, but looked down at his pate and pushed it away.” (p. 318). “‘Is their [George and Elizabeth’s] wedding to go on?’ ‘I don’t know …” His scar is “noticeable this morning” She asks if Ross will see Elizabeth again, “‘I don’t know.'” What time did he get back? Around 5. He then tries small talk about ribbons for Jeremy, his plans for the day, political news. She spills her tea. “Blazing frightening” anger is what she feels; she wants to kill Elizabeth.

Demelza agrees to go to a party she knows he’d never go to: local landlords, the upper class, one Elizabeth and George will be at: given by one of the men chasing her, Sir Hugh Bodrugan, there is no danger of her taking up with him (old, stupid, lecherous), but once she is ensconced in her bedroom, the music of the dance playing, we are told is “Coming along the path towards the house was Malcolm Neil of the Scots Greys.” McNeil had told since returning to the area after the trial that he did take his men off watching the house less than 18 hours later — he could have kept them there, that would have caught Ross is what he is saying, and he did it for her.

In the fiction (not anachronistic in an obvious way like the film) she does still intensely love Ross: we are told because he took her in at age 13, was “one step more than husband to her … represented a kind of nobility, not of birth, but of character, a person whose standards of behavior always were, and always would be, slightly better, surer than hers” (p. 316). That no longer holds, quite, but his rank and her place do. Still she is incensed, and has become unsure of what is to come, what is what.

Ross does not appear to think about what happened at the ball to Demelza (if she went to bed with McNeil) but she does. He just doesn’t think about her world view except as his wife. In the 1950s/60s way she despises herself for not having gone to bed with McNeil. She sees herself as having reneged on him, having played games with this man when she didn’t mean to, but she also didn’t mean to become his lover or mistress. She is angry with herself for her tie to Ross.

******************
Book Four, June 20, 1793 (date of George and Elizabeth’s wedding)


Ross and George Warleggan’s last confrontation: George needles Ross with the fine madeira in the house (Trenwith) of which he is now master (1 Poldark, Part 16, Episode 4)


Ross has accused Warleggan of destroying the old community with his enclosures, firings, rentracking, and Warleggan counters with accusing Ross of fleecing Geoffrey Charles, using Ross’s taking of the old mine when he gave Elizabeth the 600 pounds

Summary of Book:

Chapter 1: The wedding and George does not at all keep his word in any way. The allied armies have not yet taken Paris. Ross and Demelza not sleeping together. September 1793 George and Elizabeth move to Trenwith and he undertakes extensive repairs. Verity’s letter: the wedding, how much money spent, and Elizabeth is with child. He cannot bear the idea of them living there, it comes out the Wheal Leisure mine has much more of a lode than they dreamed. Riches. Of course the fairy tale must help now. Dr Sylvane calls in Dwight to help with Ray Penvenen.

Chapter 2: Dwight finds Penvenen creating a relationship; George and Ross’s exchange of letters; the scene where George accuses Ross of deliberately buying Wheal Leisure as a rich mine to grab it from a helpless widow when it was that he gave the 600 he needed so desperately. Warleggan will contest the ownership of the now rich mine. With Mr Chynoweth there, they accuse Ross of cheating his ward (Geoffrey Charles). George insults Ross once too often: “Go back to your scullery maid.”

Chapter 3: Jeremy needs to be near Demelza to thrive; Ross home with wounds, he and George fought so hard they almost destroyed the parlor itself, certainly many things in it; Elizabeth upstairs all the while. But he will not give up this mine; George has taken too much from him already. He looks about their house and decides it’s time to make it not so poverty-stricken. A fortnight passes. We are probably in October.

Ross to Pascoe to talk about repaying money and discovers patroness was Caroline. They go shopping, happy trip, ride back together, Demelza says he should repay Caroline by trying to get her and Dwight together, home, affection growing, of course she care; he feels he could go to bed with her, but there is that amount of resistance he decides to put it off, but she has strong feeling in her again for him

Chapter 4: Dwight’s appointment aboard a ship as surgeon (like Jeremy goes to military service). Ross to London, execution of Marie Antoinette (Oct 16, 1793) . Caroline looks ravaged; they grow as people alike who understand one another on class and personal level; talk of what happened, she felt Dwight looked upon what he was doing as shameful; Keren to her was someone in the past; does Ross know what it’s like “when your anger and bitterness are so great that you can only hurt yourself — and go on hurting yourself for ever and ever, so that it seems there’s no escape” (p. 426)? Just the case of Ross and Elizabeth. She says she will not go back; he says she has until Thursday.

Chapter 5: Demelza and Garrick on Trenwith land are accosted by Warleggan’s henchman and she could have been killed, the dog is hurt and she nearly so. In London Ross sees Dwight, Ross brings them together, Caroline does say “the people who come off worst are the people who draw back at the last moment and spend their whole lives regretting it” (p. 439). And yet she walks out again.

Chapter 6: Christmas Wednesday; Ross still not back the next Tuesday (7 days later), January 1, 1794. The story of Garrick and the trespass told him. Then we move to Trenwith and Elizabeth and George: she does not love him, he treats her as a prize possession. She finds she cannot handle or understand him as she did Francis. Ross shows up to demand they be careful of hurting his wife and actually start some reconciliation but discovers that Elizabeth now hates him and it is too late from the ninth of Mary when he had left the situation as it was. And indeed he did desert her, a pregnant woman.

Chapter 7: The quiet close. Dwight and Caroline now there together, he saying she “disguises her goodness as if ashamed of it.” The last talk between Ross and Demelza. She is talking of Elizabeth from a woman’s point of view; he says he does not want to discuss his adultery; they try to talk of it and fall to quarreling (does he want her to get MacNeil for her?). It’s the 7th Christmas of their marriage (married June 24, 1787) It does not help to talk we discover; we will rediscover this when she has her liaison with Hugh Armitage. The novel ends in a moment of truce.

There is a problem in responding to the book the way we are intended to. It’s both too close to us in time (1953) and too far (more half a century ago as I type this).
By cutting off the rape scene from our regard (in the way of middle class novels of the era), what happened is not shown. But as the story progresses, we see that while it’s clear Ross is not leaving Demelza, had he been able to get himself to visit Elizabeth on the next day or a couple of days thereafter there might have been no marriage to George. Elizabeth is waiting for him to return but too proud to call for her or send any kind of sign. So Elizabeth did acquiesce later in the night. But Ross never meant to leave Demelza. He wants both women and cannot have that.

He cannot see that Demelza has become distrustful of him, and only Elizabeth’s marriage to George and then time begins to persuade her that Ross loves her and wants the marriage to continue and supports it utterly.

In the next scene with George (dramatized after Ross and Demelza’s first morning after his night with Elizabeth and their conversation whose motives I just characterized above), Elizabeth tries to weasle out of the marriage. She wants a postponement. She too is hampered by conventions: she would have to break the engagement and admit to this man something of the reason why, and he intuivitely immediately leaps to the idea it’s Ross. He wants to marry her precisely because he thinks Ross is his rival. He manages to first soothe her (which Ross doesn’t do for anyone much, including himself), then fool her, and get her to agree to a marriage a month later. He promises a tiny affair. In fact we see he begins to renege on all his promises. It’s a huge affair. He said they would live at Cardew, his house, when he moves into Trenwith, the Poldark residence. This infuriates Ross as much as his taking Elizabeth. It’s a matter of his status, family place, pride, something not middle class or bourgeois, but stemming from an older aristocratic heritage: it was this that ruined Francis to some extent, and stands in Ross’s way again and again. We know that Aunt Agatha is not in for a good time, for we have seen how spiteful George can be to her.

I called this Ross’s rage because in some real sense the night with Elizabeth was rape as it emerged from rage, and this rage erupts again. I did love how in the scene with Elizabeth in the book Ross said: ‘It doesn’t come. Life is an illusion. Didn’t you know? Let us make the most of the shadows.’ Francis’s life thrown away; the money given to Elizabeth and the money Francis gave him all lost to no good purpose, and the events of the past nights and days (including the ones with Elizabeth and the ones without Demelza) embittering.

This time after the marriage, George sends a letter by attorney to Ross asking him to come and discuss financial matters. Ross has to come to Trenwith. There is a repeat of this in Season 2 (perhaps from Black Moon). When Ross gets there, Elizabeth does not come down although Ross wanted to deal with her. George has taken over and sends a message from Elizabeth she wants to see Ross no more. This is believable: she does dread Ross for he tells hard truths too. The scene in Season 1 from Warleggan that ensues is George needling Ross when he discovers the 600 Ross gave Elizabeth back, and his attempting to cheat Ross once more. Ross’s tin lode is beginning to produce money and George is a cutthroat capitalist. The two begin to argue and George sneers at him to go “back to his scullery maid.” Meaning Demelza.

Ross loses it, and there ensues a physical fight where the new fancy furniture (Ross noticed) in the room and two windows are badly damaged. So too George and Ross until hired men come and throw Ross out.

He then returns home, to Demelza, and what the late chapters in Book 4 show is them gradually coming together again, very slowly. She rushes to him to help him as he is badly wounded and hurt. And they get into a talk. They don’t exactly discuss their motives directly but through discussing Enys’s failed romance with the upper class Caroline. We have a scene where they go shopping together with the new found money — yes you could say begin to become middle class, but it’s more out of personal pride. These are probably modern feelings put into a historical fiction but they resonate with modern readers. They feel good bringing home their stuff. They talk again. Does he want her to stay? yes. She wants to stay. A visit to Pascoe had brought out the information it’s been Caroline Penvenen who gave them the important loan which enabled them to continue. So they agree he should go alone to her to talk of what to do now — in London.

When he returns he and Demelza have another talk. In this one they quarrel first: she is looking at the night’s sex from a woman’s point of view; he as the man who does not want his intimate life undignified. He grows angry and jealous when she brings up MacNeil. They are getting angry and getting nowhere and stop this talk.

The scene ends thus: He says again she should come to London; he would show her London, she could stay in the inn:

‘You could stay at the inn while I went to see her.’ ‘No. This time I’d rather not.’
He had moved a little closer to her. ‘Demelza.’ ‘Yes.’
‘There have been a lot of unhappy things between us in these last months. Not said – but felt. I should be glad to think they are all forgotten.’
‘Of course, Ross. I feel nothing now.’
He put his face against her hair. ‘It is not nothing that I want you to feel.’
‘I’m sorry .. .’
They stayed thus for a moment more. Although unable to feel any tautness within her, he knew it was there. He had not removed it, he had not defeated it. He knew he could take her if he wanted, and her resistance would only be token; yet the token was there, and while it existed the reconciliation would be ashes.
He kissed her abruptly on the hair, released her, went across to the north window, and pulled aside the curtain to look out. Her eyes followed him.
He said: ‘Perhaps you’re right; we don’t ever regain
what we lightly lose.’
‘I don’t think ’twas lightly lost on either side.’ ‘But lost,’
‘Well .. .’
It was so dark outside he could hardly see the sea.
‘And lost to no good purpose,’ he said, half speaking to himself.
‘That I don’t know.’
‘Oh, there was a purpose, a good purpose served, if you come to think of it; though perhaps you would not agree. I don’t know … I have not wanted to talk of it.’
She stood by the cot watching him.
‘Perhaps sometime it will have to be talked of,’ he said. ‘if we are ever to straighten this out between us. Yet I have a prejudice, a feeling that it is a bad thing .. .’
‘What is a bad thing, Ross?’
He turned from the window, let the curtain fall from his long fingers, said wryly: ‘I think there is an etiquette even in adultery, and I cannot bring myself to discuss one woman with another, even when the second happens to be my wife.’ .
‘You don’t suppose 1 should want to hear it?’ ‘Yet it might not displease you.’
‘I can’t see how it would be likely to please me.’ ‘Then you are less perceptive than I suppose.’
“Tis very likely.’ .
There was another pause. Ross came slowly back from the window and after a moment’s hesitation bent and kissed her on the lips.
‘Yes, it is very likely,’ he said, and went out.
She did not move for a time. Jeremy’s breathing was a. little more hurried now, as if he were dreaming. She turned him over expertly, firmly; as if knowing the touch of the familiar hand, he settled more comfortably after it.
She straightened up and went to the window herself There were movements of warmth in her heart where she had not expected to have feeling again.

In fact her trip to London (which she finally undertakes in the end of the trilogy is a failure for her and him (see Angry Tide).

Ellen

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Demelza, contemplative: After a few years marriage to Ross

Dear friends and readers,

Having finished Winston’s Demelza (Novel 2 in Graham Winston’s Poldark series) about a week ago, I started Jeremy Poldark (Novel 3) last night, and was delighted to find myself in yet another superb novel by this man. Even though I’ve now watched more than half-way through the first half of the second season (1977-78) of the mini-series, Poldark, and just loved the first season, I was surprised. I assumed the man would not keep it up. He does.

So here am I writing about the second novel to recommend, describe and say what is so good about this set of historical novels.


Cover photo of the 1996 Pan MacMillan edition of Demelza: the Pan MacMillans are the best imprints

Demelza keeps up the spirit and life of Ross Poldark. Maybe because it’s not so much a sequel, as a continuation. In this sense it’s not quite like most romans fleuves (Trollope’s Palliser novels, Margaret Oliphant’s Carlingford novels, Anthony Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time) but rather an ongoing huge novel, coming out in installments where each one must have closure for a while.

I wrote my central enjoyment of Ross Poldark came from liking for the central character, his implied author’s tone of mind, and the central left politics and vision of the book. In Demelza I am very fond of the heroine, recognize aspects of my feelings in her (engage with them): she is a lower class woman thrust into an environment where she does not fit easily and she feels (is made to feel) this daily; she is independent-minded (as so many say), acts on her own for her own existence: we do not see her as a wife much, in this book scarcely as a mother (though frequently pregnant three times thus far), but rather Ross’s mistress, sex partner (this is done discreetly), working with and for him for his causes (which I like) and his safety (which is hers), waiting for her revenant-adventurer (primarily she is at home). He reads evenings (though what we are not told, alas, as that would be fun to see which 18th century texts Graham might pick for him) and often drinks, is more solitary than one might expect; she sits by his side, sewing, talking. She walks, rides (sidesaddle), goes boating and fishes.

Unlike many male authors, Graham understands the importance of female friendships but does not quite have a feel for how they work so like the other women in this book Demelza is rarely seen with the women we are told are her friends, but rather with Ross or in connection with him. Her relationship with Verity is developed through Demelza’s enabling Verity to marry, which while it brings them close is not all such women would bond through: here, tellingly perhaps, the film series improves this pair as in Season 1 we have scenes of them as friends discussing their needs, pregnancies, attitudes (the film passes the Bechtel test). They do go shopping together in Demelza, one of its fun scenes. No mother is ever seen, even mentioned for Demelza, only a stepmother her father marries after she goes to live with Ross and with whom Demelza makes no connection. The stepmother is religious and this is presented mostly from the angle of bigotry, over controlling.

For a later reread and an outline of the book, see Demelza: A Young Lady’s Entrance into the World.

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Demelza, the novel, opens and closes on Demelza herself. The opening chapters tell of Demelza’s childbirth, the birth of Julia. Far from skipped (common in nvoels), the pregnancy and childbirth are dwelt upon. We are shown that the doctor’s remedy and his interference makes things worse. He bleeds the poor woman and then goes home.

Ross does become indignant and insist the doctor come back, but luckily he keeps away, and Prudie, Ross’s woman servant, and the woman who partly brought Demelza up, and Verity, Ross’s cousin, who has become Demelza’s good friend, assist Mrs Zacky Martin (Jinny’s mother) who suddenly emerges as a woman with knowledge of childbirth.

Again this is deft historical fiction for we do not feel we are getting a treatise or information but experiencing childbirth as in a novel set today — only conditions are different.

The birth itself is not really described only suggested. She then gets up from bed, the young baby begins to thrive, and she makes it her business to get Verity, Ross’s cousin, together with Captain Blamey (the man Verity loves) — where the previous novel ended. Verity has come to stay during her convalescence and help out.

Then the fiction moves to consider what this world would appear like to a young girl child growing up: a bleak bare place, much withered and dead, things damaged, poverty everywhere, murdered springs and Graham goes into the background of the novel, the larger picture, before a christening brings the other Poldark characters over (so they can be introduced) and a new one: Dr Ennys. In the film series he is a major character from the fifth episode on.

Our point of view now is a combination of Ross and Demelza, back and forth.

The book closes on her too: She returns from nursing Francis, Ross’s male cousin, and Geoffrey Charles, Francis and Elizabeth (Francis’s wife), child, to fall deadly ill herself, together with her and Julia, her and Ross’s first child, born at the opening of the book.

The power of these scenes comes from remaining mostly in Ross’s mind. As Demelza sinks she remembers back to when she first came to this house, a beggar beaten up, and was put in a huge bed to sleep, and we get a reprise, but then we switch to Ross and his thoughts which range wide over the two novels thus far. Deftly we get a certain amount of information about the best care available (not effective) from Dr Ennys’s ministrations. Julia dies, and Ross puts off Demelza’s requests to see Julia for another day.

Talk about “wild nights” (the quotation from Emily Dickinson with which I opened my blog on Elena Ferrante), Demelza ends in a conflagration of wild nights, driven by Ross’s bitterness over his bankruptcy, the death of Julia (while Francis and Elizabeth’s son, Geoffrey Charles will now live on), the spectacle of homeland and kin and worker as desperately poor and continuing to half-starve.

Robin Ellis writes Ross Poldark combined Che Guevara with a Gainsborough movie costume-hero and he is right.

As it becomes clear Demelza will live, we get a frank comment in third person indirect discourse: Ross is not as celebratory or relieved as one might assume or hope he would be. Half-relieved and mostly for her sake. He is cheered and enabled to carry on because her nature is cheerful by instinct, she makes the best of things.

Then two ships laden with wealth are blown into the near coast of Nampara Bay, one gaining money and riches partly by slavery, and the other a government-war supported venture.

Ross encourages all the people round to scavenge the first ship; he leads a desperate mob action. Graham has the storm to describe, the breakup of the ship, the desperation of people on board and then the increasing violence, pillage and exultation of the people stealing.

He himself begins to calm a little and see the damage that is ensuing to individuals, his passions calm but the hard core inside remains so that when the second ship lands and bunches of miners now come out, he offers his home to the officers and left-over crew, and takes them back.

This is not to say that for a moment he regrets what has happened. He rejoices to see people bringing back to their homes stacks of corn, of cloth, of whatever, to see the military officers who grow rich from their “prizes” see their gain shared with others, see the sailors partly mutiny, see a couple of black people flee from slavery (half exhausted, starved, might not have gotten very far).

Captain McNeil watches Ross and we know or surmise this is not going to end here – and from Season 1 I know a court case was rigged up to hang Ross for all this.

IN the meantime we return to his home where that night he shows great tenderness for Demelza remembering her sunny disposition, her real giving of herself, and her selfless wanting to me his mate, and her grief over teh death of their child.

On the next day is the funeral for the small child. A large crowd comes out of respect for Ross (only the Poldarks stayed away — their excuse they are still not well). A funeral ensues which again exacerbates his feelings. He didn’t expect the great crowds and didn’t prepare a feast or wine.

Dawn breaks over ruined beach, dispersed military, destroyed ships, and the people much the same. Now Demelza is well enough to be brought upstairs to their old bedroom and he carries her up there in blankets. She is suppose to be small — as is Angharad Rees.

The two sit at the window looking out and talking of the summer to come. They notice the cot in the room and don’t have what it takes to remove it. She encourages him to try to forget, and to try to accept Verity’s marriage and whatever Francis and Elizabeth Poldark are. Friendship such as it is is needed, and people must not live in hatred.

“They watched the scene on the beach.
‘I shan’t have to finish that frock for Julia now,’ she said. ‘It was that dainty too.’
‘Come,’ he said, ‘you will be catching cold.’
‘No. I am quite warm, Ross. Let me stay a little longer in the sun.


Cornish seascape landscape (from 1977 series)


Moment of triumphing in one another (early years of marriage, Season 2)

And so the book concludes; it opened on Demelza’s giving birth to Julia, her almost dying had she been left to a doctor and being saved/taken decent care of by Zacky Martin’s mother, and the christening (with all its strife and class and family conflicts/humiliations).’

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One way to write a historical novel set in the 18th century is to imitate previous ones. Ross Poldark (or Book 1 of the series) ends in a remarkable social scene in a private great house where two heroines (as it were) become indirect rivals (not their choice) in singing using a harp. I thought it partly modeled on (or showed memories of) the scene of Jane Fairfax and Emma Woodhouse’s piano playing in Austen’s Emma.


from 1996 Meridian/A&E Emma: Harriet (Samantha Morton) watched Jane (Olivia Williams) play, with Mr Weston turning the pages

After Demelza’s pregnancy and the successful birth of Julia, several chapters are expended on the two day christening. Graham offers two powerful scenes of social interaction, with characters attacking, protecting, coping with the occasions on class lines. I liked how afterward when Ross was determined to have the second day even though Demelza felt humiliated after the first (her father showed up with her mother and mortified her with his behavior, some of the upper class women were able to use this to sneer openly at her), he went ahead but she did not alter her feelings about it. This a hard rock gritty sense of two personalities living alongside.

Through Ross’s idea to start a copper company of his own (on a huge loan) to get round all the laws and customs impoverishing the many for the sake of the upper British-connected few and his visit to the countryside, and mines and prisons, Graham keeps up his two-pronged (then and now) social criticism. All of these three things are worked finely in Season 1 too.

This is not a book whose strength comes out of dwelling in Demelza’s mind. While it begins with her and she’s an important force in the book, as it opens out (so to speak) to re-assume a wider perspective after the close of the previous book and opening here concentrating on Ross and Demelza’s relationship, their home life, and their relationship with his and her relatives (much on class differences here), it turns into an omniscient narrative much like Book 1.

The powerful scenes are dramatic and concern his interaction with his Poldark family, with him trying hard to set up a copper company to bypass all the regulations impoverishing the locals (by preventing them from operating their own businesses). He has not yet resorted to smuggling in this book; he is as yet very law-biding and I’m one-quarter the way through the second novel. He’s about to visit Jimmy Carter in a horrible prison (put there for poaching).

Demelza’s part of the narrative is central however: the birth, the christening; her attempts to get Captain Blamey for Verity and to his credit suddenly Graham presents Blamey as not altogether desirable as husband material, and Ross weighs in against it; the high point of the ball after Jim Carter has died; her apology to Francis and her sickening and the death of Julia which ends the piece. She is paralleled to Verity and Keren too.

The depiction of Falmouth (to which Demelza travels to find and see Blamey) is very fine, convincing and pleasurable, with the character of Demelza vivid with uncertainty about her plans once she sees him — and on the first visit her coming leads to nothing. She does see how lonely Blamey is but also how twisted, not really perhaps to be trusted because husbands were so powerful.

And there’s developing centrally the romance about the player girl taken by Mark Daniels to be his wife, she’s rescued from her nomadic existence (beautifully portrayed) but is bored and frivolous — this is evocatively done but the sublime scenes of the TV mini-series are not given over to this pair; rather the TV series and writers were too taken up by her as having committed adultery and couldn’t get themselves to see the landscape in romantic ways at all, nor the romance of Mark Daniel.

In the early phases of Demelza a persuasive, believable account of the attempt of the Poldarks (Ross and his cousin, Francis) to set up a mining company through hidden loans, their leaving off a mine (and the misery this causes) and attempts to begin a new mine. What a rough laborious dangerous business.

Then Graham delves the deterioration of the marriage of Keren and Mark Daniels; if he is not sufficiently sympathetic to Keren as a person (she is from the get-go of inferior material it seems), he does understand how a woman would be stifled and bored silly with such a life with a mining husband.

From two angles we learn of the realities of mining lives in Cornwall.

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The powerful story of Mark Daniel’s relationship with Keren. She is (we are to see) instinctively now tempting Dr Ennys to have an affair with her.

Ennys’s house (turret) is nearby and she is attracted to him. There is an intense antagonism to women’s sexuality finding fulfillment at work here. While Graham can see how bored she would be with this man and what a half- (quarter — for he’s just home at nights and then dull, has no conversation whatsoever) life she leads, but nonetheless, she is supposed to accept this. Dr Ennys is presented as allured in spite of himself — good man he would not want to intrude or break up a marriage. He falls to her as temptress.

At the same time the story of Verity Blamey goes forward. Here the assumption is she is drying up as an old maid, but sympathy is shown to her because she is not pro-active and wants to be a particular man’s wife — no matter what his past, she trusts to him and his love for her once they are married.

Similarly, Demelza is utterly loyal to Ross; of course she has this wonderful guy and so it’s understandable, but it is the typology I’m pointing out here.

Not that easy-going prostitutes are disliked. As long as they know their “place” it’s just fine.

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A comparison of the book and film: This is a powerful section of the book which was taken over for major threads in the film adaptation. In each case the changes that were made were in the direction of making what was happening softer (not as hard as in life) and more romantic, and revealingly (alas) again I notice that the depiction of Ross and Demelza’s relationship is nowhere as interesting as the one in the novel.

One thread is the poaching, imprisonment and death from disease and bad treatment of Jimmy Carter. In this section it has come to Jinny’s knowledge that her husband very ill has been transferred to worse place very disease ridden. Ross goes to see him and discovers the place to be an utter rotten hellhole the keepers are unwilling to go into, and against the law but on his authority and rank gets a group of men to take Jimmy Carter out of that prison. The book is like the film, but unlike the film, Carter does not live long enough to see his wife. So the film version resembles Garrick’s rewriting of Romeo and Juliet where he had the lovers wake up and be together before their death. In the book Jimmy never makes it past a new clean bed; Dr Ennys amputates one of his particularly gangrene limbs and he dies of the operation.


A later 18th century Cornish mansion (probably remodelled), used as Penrice (the Warleggans’s second home, Season 2)

The next sequence swirls around a vast festival the Warleggans put on which includes a weekend at their house of certain select members of the community (including the two sets of Poldarks), a party and dancing and gambling at their house, then a ball at an assembly, then the select company returns to the Warleggan’s house to resume eating, drinking, some dancing but mostly gambling until the morning hours when all sleep. Then the guests get up and leave.

Ross at first does not want to go, so sickened is he by Jimmy’s death and his awareness these very people are those who put the young man in prison, paid nothing to make the place decent, made the laws against poaching while they pay starvation wages. He is persuaded he gains nothing from keeping away and needs these people to continue with his new company. He has also on the way to the prison a couple of weeks before bought beautiful material for Demelza’s dress, a brooch and she is looking forward to going, wants to. She is one of those who feels they must live in this world and cannot help the Carters by staying away.

But he goes in an ill temper. She does not know how to cope with looking so beautiful and being beset by a group of men who in effect proceed to take advantage of her since she does not know how to control giving out her dances. Some of the people in the ball admire her from afar on the basis of her “framing” (as Ross puts it later) but we see her actual experience while at first fun soon turns stressful and souring. This reminded me of Campion’s take on how Isabel Archer might really have felt being beset by men. There are also women in the hall and other snobs who sneer at her; it has been rumored (quite wrongly) that Jinny’s last baby was not Jimmy’s but Ross’s and this helps the sneering.

Ross in effect has deserted her. He is behaving badly while gambling, half-insulting people who irritate him. He should have himself danced with her the first dance and stayed near to help her. At long last he pulls away and comes to see her and he behaves in at first a suspicious fashion (as if she’s a “loose” woman and adverse because she’s not being the upper class mannered woman), then is about to leave her to the men, and then changes his mind. We get a dance sequence which reminded me of the famous aggressive and adverse talk of Darcy and Elizabeth in P&P the first time they danced (and I wondered if Graham had it in mind), only the talk here is grim and for real. It’s believable how they cut at one another, but towards the end he begins to see she needed him and half-yield and she takes the reins in keeping them gonig through decorum.

(Now all this is OMITTED from the films. I’d like to think it would be precisely this sequence Andrew Davies would seek to dramatize.)

When they return to the Warleggans Ross goes into the deep gambling he gets involved in in the film where the cheating relative, Samson, is after a long night’s cheating, which includes Francis Poldark, is exposed and Ross throws him the mud. I can see why it’s included because all gather round, Ross bets his mine shares and Clive Francis is just so perfect as the unstable,wry, half-destructive, weak honorable brother-in-law, but after all it’s not a zero sum game.

Verity’s story is kept in the film. Blamey turns up (after having been encouraged by Demelza) and they melt to one another again, and again there is a confrontation with Francis. This too is kept in the film, all the parts.

The adulterous love affair of Dr Ennys and Keren is part of the mini-series. The book’s presentation is kept in the film, only the book is better in making Mark Daniel slowly growing aware his wife is not loyal and is having an affair with someone else. This build-up of tension is powerful and is omitted in the film in order to have the shock of Daniel’s realization and thus half-justify his immediate murder of his wife. (There used to be a defense that men used successfully when they murdered their wives if they found her in bed with another. For all I know it may still be used.)

Another omission is when Ross and Demelza go home and they reconcile themselves after some talk, with him acknowledging his fault and she telling him of Verity’s new troubles in part. She omits telling him of her role. This closing scene of not love-making but laying together is deeply right. And it’s omitted in the film. A curious resonance in the book is how her being lower class keeps them together: he’s not as jealous too because he has a deeper rooted longing for Elizabeth who he regards as above Demelza; she accepts his treatment of her more readily because he is the upper class gentleman and is bringing her up in the world.

The next day he has to go and cope with keeping his mine going and one of his partners is angered that he broke the law and rescued Jimmy. It’s a good thing Jimmy died for now it will make any case moot and there will not be a hearing. The rich people would resent and defend themselves and their laws and thus hurt the new company Ross is trying to build. This too is omitted from the film – so the complexity of the social critique is lost.

But the meeting of the Warleggans angered at their relatives Sanson’s exposure and deeply vengeful over this new competition which then follows in the book is kept in the film.

I mentioned Andrew Davies: at the same time I’ve been slowly watching his very great early mini-series, To Serve Them all My Days (1980) an adaptation of R. F. Delderfield’s novel of the same title. It’s (I admit) a better series than Poldark because all the issues are presented in an adult and often complex way, and it’s highly original in some its approaches (especially to sex — as in his later films Davies is concerned to create tolerance for homoerotic relationships and defeat bigotry). But I’m struck by how both heroes, Ross and David Powlett-Jones are the same types: they stubbornly defy cruel and unjust social arrangements and mores at the risk (and cost sometimes) of their personal interest and even survival. This being TV in Davies’ case I see how Powlett-Jones wins out; Ross at the close of Season 1 was forced to leave once more in defeat. Graham is the more radical writer than Davies (and probably Delderfield) but the idea of what makes a hero is the same and (alas) it is not one pushed today.

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In the next turn of the fiction, Verity flees Francis and Elizabeth Poldark’s house to join Captain Blamey. We are not told if there are plans for marriage — this shows how what we have here is a 20th century fiction. Graham imitates the 18th century motif of the fleeing young woman but himself does not think a young woman is ruined and probably doubts she was quite in the way respectable fiction at the time inculcated.

It’s an effective scene: she has to divest herself of little Geoffrey Charles. Here the scene is meant to reveal what an inadequate mother is Elizabeth for not reading stories to her son Geoffrey Charles: she has pushed this “duty” onto Verity.

The scene where Verity’s letter is found is effective too. However, the films in Season 1 do skip over this letter and this whole scene of running away.

It was the 1980s breakthrough of art films into British TV and the transformation of what British films could have as content that made a terrific change and is a kind of threshold — and the Poldark films are on the far side of this.

The story of Mark Daniels’s murder of Keren is juxtaposed to the story of Verity’s flight to Blamey. Graham’s novel makes the parallel of two women seeking some real personal fulfillment. At the same time we see from Demelza’s keeping it a secret that it was she who enabled Verity to correspond with Blamey (Demelza hand-carried the letters back and forth with her during visits), we do — as well as that she keeps this from Ross. Ross was against Verity’s fleeing to this man known for his violence and drinking before. He is now being blamed by Francis and Elizabeth Poldark for having provided a house for Blamey and Verity to meet more than a year ago, before Francis and the father came to Ross’s house, caught them “in the act” (of courting) and provoked a duel which Blamey won (injuring both father and brother). Demelza rightly does not tell Ross, for he would be very angry.

Like everyone else, she now sides with Mark Daniels apparently, but they are also determined to protect Dr Enys, the lover in the case from Daniels’ intense wrath. Enys finds himself cornered by Daniels’s in Ross’s house as Daniels seeks to escape the law (with Ross’s help), and he does speak out for the murdered woman’s misery. Since she has been presented as oversexed somehow, ensnaring and instigating all this, she is from the get-go “bad” stuff. When Daniels catches her coming home from Enys (how he comes to murder her) and she tries to lie her way out and then discovering she cannot, defies him, it’s a good moment.

Perhaps a better title for this book would have been: On the other side of silence.

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The novel begins to draw to a close: and like, Ross Poldark,, the reader will discover Demelza does not end (like so many) in a (meretricious) happy ending, but on a believable turning point in a life.

An interesting interlude occurs when Ross succeeds in getting Mark Daniels off to safety. This is done the same way in the film. A daring-deed of sneaking out at night and in the sight of the law almost Ross sends Mark off in his boat. The new captain, McNeil, does not catch Ross; he gets back to bed first, but McNeil knows and we get a sharp delightful conversation between them (only some of which is in the film) where in coded language Ross stands up for rebellion, for defying bad laws, and McNeil says he understands but now He is the Law and Ross had better be careful not to do it again. McNeil is also attracted to Demelza and she flattered, flirts back. All this in the film.

Meanwhile Ross’s attempt to create prosperity for himself and his tenants have begun to end in defeat: things have come to a “head:” Francis Poldark, very angry at Ross for (Francis thinks) helping Verity to flee to Blamey, has apparently been responsible for telling the powerful people in the community that there is a new mining company and undermining them completely by doing this. The banks’ have withdrawn support and Ross’s new company lost some markets. Ross’s debts are mounting up.

In the film we are also given to understand Francis is intensely jealous of Elizabeth’s previous relationship with Ross, but there is no sense of this in this novel as yet.

Demelza also has thought about how Verity could have been and was happy with her relatives; how her domestic life there meant something to her and how they miss her — though Francis never says this much less Elizabeth.

Guilty and upset, Demelza decides to tell Francis it was she who was the go-between delivering the letters and Ross had nothing to do with it. As we might expect, after she has trouble even getting in, and then gets a brief discourteous hearing, Francis is at first disbelieving, but when he begins to acquiesce in the probability Ross was also against Verity’s marriage (for she is now married to Blamey), it makes no difference. He asks Demelza to get out.

She is as yet young in the ways of the world and is learning that the truth does not set anyone free nor do apologies really make any deeper difference. They are a ritual of pretenses.

She goes home and proceeds to tell Ross. Now this does make a difference. He becomes enraged; he tells her he had reconciled himself to this marriage and grown to love her for her loyalty to him. Here she has been deceitful, and disloyal. She flees the room, he after her and almost beats her. He does not, but they are now estranged.

This estrangement is developed in Season 2 but it is instead derived from Ross’s continuing affection for Elizabeth (not seen in this novel), and Demelza’s hurt, insecurity and jealousy. In the novel Elizabeth seems to have nothing to do with Ross — perhaps this was written in as flashback in the next novel. The Elizabeth material put into Parts 1 and 2 of the film series come from Warleggan (where it’s developed as a flashback and memories).

A letter arrives from Verity (chapter long) where they see she is happy — if very lonely. Blamey’s children do not accept her, and he spends long weeks at sea. But making him a home and having one of her own and this love has made her happy in ways she was not just serving Francis, Elizabeth as their live-in servant-cousin-sister in effect.

So this is a coda which does give Ross pause but not enough to begin to bring the two together again.

Not much of the novel to go, and this stasis reminds me very much of the way Novel 1 ended: the rhythms of life before us: there it was the Christmas weekend and a night of semi-reconciliation and sex and love with Demelza’s coming child that closed the book.

But then we get a strong climax, reversal of emotions and return to stasis at the close.

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As Demelza and Ross’s half-estrangement carries on, the disease Francis Poldark has caught is contracted by his son, and Demelza offers to come nurse the boy and this man.

Again we are (I suppose) to see how inadequate a woman (!) is Elizabeth. She can’t manage this as she couldn’t manage reading stories to the son.

It’s powerful because it’s seen from Demelza’s point of view and she doesn’t think about Elizabeth. As I wrote, the book doesn’t dwell on the sexual conflict between them. In the book there is no sense that Ross’s love has carried on nor is Demelza jealous sexually. She feels inferior as to class and social abilities. That’s different. The sexual angle is added in the film and it’s a powerful one.

As I’ve written and know Demelza herself (with a little help from Enys too)in the film saves Francis and his son, thus rehabilitating Enys in the eyes of the community, only to sicken herself and sicken her own child by Ross, Julia.

She gets better, Julia doesn’t. In the film Francis has learned to get over his despising of Demelza and forgives her for helping Verity to escape to Blamey; he will do this later in the books.

As we have seen (above), the book ends on Ross and Demelza coming together again when she sickens and their child dies.


An appealing moment: Robin Ellis is superb at enacting the strongly self-confident loving Ross — his rough jagged face, kind eyes, and muscular body are perfect for the role

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I know I’ve been dwelling on the romance and adventure of the novels, in fact there is a lot of information and background of an economic kind deftly told — on mining, smuggling, fishing, becoming servants, the desperation of these mostly very poor people to survive.

So I would like to end this account of Novel 2 of the Poldark series on their general social and economic realism. From reading these novels I know am aware that a central place for mining had been Cornwall — for tin. The tin had been used up by the beginning of the century and people sought to find other minerals to make money by. In the novels, Ross seeks to break the monopolies created by local thug-families, families with ruthless aggressive successful types at their heads and the English — who treated the Cornish as if this was a colony (not part of them). He seeks to find copper and mine it; at the end of Season 1 he has been defeated. Season 2 he is doing better but we are really left in the dark as to what is happening (another aspect of why Season 2 is weaker than Season 1).

Now on C18-l (an often academic 18th century listserve), someone asked the following question while I was reading this book:

“I am doing research on the life of the Rev. Joseph Townsend (1739-1816) of Pewsey, Wiltshire. Joseph’s father Chauncy was involved in coal, silver, tin, and copper mines in Wales and Cornwall. Joseph’s attitude to mining may be found in A Journey to Spain (1791):

“It is certainly for the happiness of this principality [Spain], that the mines are not made more productive. In mining countries, the gains are exceedingly uncertain; a gambling spirit is encouraged; agriculture is neglected; and poverty prevails. If the mineral is raised on the adventurers account; unless they discover uncommon treasures, they will be inevitably ruined. If the working miners become sub-adventurers; they either gain too little, and are wretched; or they get too much, and soon contract strong habits of indolence, prodigality, and vice. Of this truth we have melancholy proof at home [Britain]. Let any one pass through the county, which most abounds with mines, and in mining parishes he will be struck, every moment, with the sight of poverty, and wretchedness.”

Apparently most of Chauncy’s fortune was absorbed in mining adventures.
My question: was this a normal attitude in the 17th through 19th centuries? Was there a literature which opposed mining on the basis of its moral effects?”

Winston Graham’s Poldark novels (I’m just finishing No 2 and going on to 3) focus on mining as well as smuggling, and there is much moralizing on both sets of activities — both from an ethical and economic standpoint. Some of this is voiced by the narrator, but a lot by the characters and of course dramatized in their fates. Mining undermined (pun there) people’s health badly; characters grow weak, sicken and die; they drown. The characters also drown while mining, they seem to have to work very long hours, and they go back to it from agricultural and “service” (servants) because the money actually supports them. There was money in mining and not much money anywhere else.

They also fish but there are apparently laws set up to control this so as to make sure the money to be gotten from it in large amounts goes to the powerful in the area. One scene late in Ross Poldark shows Ross and Demelza going to watch some fishing in the early dawn because that’s when the fish return from somewhere to other and also to evade these authorities.

I can see why people preferred to smuggle, but it was dangerous. To offset starvation people also poached. For that they were thrown in jail to die if they were caught (like Jim Carter in Ross Poldark and Season 1).

Among the books Winston used for his research: Graham used for his research Victoria County History of Cornwall (Oppenheim), antiquarian. Others: Daniell’s A Compendium of the History of Cornwall. There is apparently no recent Georgian-era Cornwall history book. Lots of books on smuggling though.

Someone else contributed this:

” a proslavery tract published around 1790 was dedicated to the “Starving Tin Miners of Cornwall.” The writer goes on to lambast abolitionists for ignoring inequities at home (i.e., the situation of the miners) in order to chase “foreign” issues.”

Elizabeth Montagu was one of those who grew superrich on the labors and miseries of other people working mines: I feel sure the following article will not put it that way:

“Child, “Elizabeth Montagu, Bluestocking Businesswoman,” in Reconsidering the Bluestockings Edited by Nicole Pohl and Betty A. Schellenberg (San Marino, CA: Huntington Library, 2003), 153-73.”

Here is a still from Season 2 where Ross has bought and is giving to his brother-in-law, Drake Crane, a ruined property to turn into a blacksmith shop.


Arriving at new property

We see the state of Cornwall in the ruined nature of the property. In the fiction of the film it has come cheap. This will foster in the second season (based on the later novels) a repeat of the kind of romance-sex we had in Season 1 where Keren Thomas came to live near Dr Enys, so started up a liaison with him and was murdered (this occurs in Demelza). In season 2, the blacksmith shop that Drake Carne is given by Ross is near where Morwena lives with her nasty bullying vicar of a husband forced on her.

We do see the economics of the area. Drake could not make a living enough to buy property so Ross as a landowner who did inherit something can buy such a property for him; where Drake learned the trade from we are not told.

The characters get to the property by riding horses. There was a thread on Austen-l where someone asked about how often women rode, and the answer was some did when they wanted to travel. In the early modern period it was the only way to travel; but you had to have owned and learned to ride a horse to do this. An elite activity.

Anyway in Season 2 we see Ross, Drake and Demelza ride to the property on horses. This is deliberately done so we can have stills of the countryside, watch Robin Ellis ride (he loved to ride and did his own riding) and Demelza (whoever did it) ride sidesaddle:


Riding Sidesaddle

Historical fiction often tells us more about the author’s time/preoccupations than the historical period in question. Nevertheless, there are writers who ‘do their homework’, and are especially useful for illuminating private lives as well as the larger patterns of existence in an era. The Poldark series is one of these.

Ellen

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