I’m spending my Thursdays here on the blog in the eighteenth century, 1700’s.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this second book in Mr. Graham’s Poldark series, even though I knew what was going to happen since I have already watched seasons one and two of the TV series, Poldark. These are such good stories. I think I will enjoy them even more when I get to the books for which I haven’t seen the television adaptation. I’m not sure exactly when that will be because season one was based on the first two books. Does season two cover books three and four?
At any rate, I find the books excellent reading. Mr. Graham seems to have done his research, and he knew how to tell a story. I’ll just use the rest of this post as my “commonplace book” and write down some memorable notes and observations on the text.
Ross Poldark, back in 1789, seems to be in a political pickle similar to the one that many of us are in nowadays:
“I’m neither Whig nor Tory,” Ross said.
“Well, drot it, you must be something. Who d’you vote for?”
Ross was silent again for some time and bent and patted the hound. He seldom thought these things out.
“I’m not a Whig,” he said, “nor ever could belong to a party that was was for ever running down its own country and praising up the virtues of some other. The very thought of it sticks in my crop.”
“Hear, hear!” said Sir John, picking his teeth.
“But neither could I belong to a party which looks with complacency on the state of England as it is. So you’ll see the difficulty I’m in.”
“You must be something.” Well, I see the difficulty, but I still choose to be neither fish nor fowl, neither Trumpista nor “progressive” in the absolute wrong direction. If that makes me a misfit, like Mr. Poldark, so be it.
This second book in the series ends with death, destruction, and loss. I won’t be specific, for those of you reading who haven’t seen the TV series or read the books; however, from its hope filled beginning with the birth of a child for Ross and Demelza Poldark to the end when all is dark with only a hint of light in the last line of the novel (“I am quite warm, Ross. Let me stay a little longer in the sun.”), it’s quite a ride.
In the Afterword, written by American author Liz Fenwick, she says that Graham “presents something of a feminist view” in this novel which was written and published in 1946, just after World War II. I think the story has more to say about the beginning of the end of classism in Britain, which only accelerated over a century after the setting of the book as World War I began and World War II continued the move toward a more egalitarian society. Demelza is from the lowest of the lower class, and the idea that a girl of her background could become something of a sensation in society within a few short years of being married to Ross Poldark is a bit fanciful and unlikely in the eighteenth century, but romantic and appealing to those of us who don’t believe in “classes” in the first place.
I love the history embedded in the pages of Demelza. The characters discuss the “troubles” in France, but it all feels very far away and foreign and extraneous to local concerns. Even the affairs of Parliament and mad King George and his ambitious son, the Prince of Wales, all seem far away in London, of no immediate concern to the people, both great and small, of Sawle and Truro and Wheal Leisure and Nampara. An eighteenth century antiquarian, Richard Gough, wrote that “Cornwall seems to be another Kingdom.” Indeed, and it’s a fascinating Kingdom to visit in Mr. Graham’s many iterations.