The Romance of Poldark by Winston Graham
When Ross Poldark returns to Cornwall after fighting in the colonies for three years, he finds his father dead, the mines mortgaged, the house a shambles, the servants drunk and his beloved Elizabeth engaged to his insipid cousin Francis. Could there be any drearier homecoming?
He secures a loan to pay off his debauched father’s debt to his uncle in order to prevent the scheming Warleggan clan from taking over the two mines he has inherited: Wheal Grace and Wheal Leisure. He knows that Elizabeth can’t possibly be in love with Francis, and he learns that she is marrying his cousin in order to help her own parents out of debt. But when he offers to remove the financial incentive for the marriage, Elizabeth informs him that she will not marry him, anyway. There is something dark and unruly in his spirit and he frightens her. She wants to be safe. Francis is safe. She knows every nook and cranny of his soul.
The Darkness of Poldark
Elizabeth does not appreciate mystery in a man. When Ross suggests to her that part of the joy in a marriage is to learn to know one another, Elizabeth replies that she will get to know her children. The man she marries must be transparent to her from the start. She wants no surprises. The choice to marry Francis is her own. She weds him of her own free will, while Ross Poldark scowls at the sea from the majestic heights of a Cornish cliff.
Ross does not accept the marriage. He will not gracefully walk away and seek his comfort elsewhere. He will pursue Elizabeth throughout her marriage to the weak but lovable Francis and later through her other marriage to the strong, but wicked Warleggan.
The Poldark Series
By now, you have probably deduced that the story I am relating to you is a bodice ripper, a romance, an unrealistic tale in which derring do and steamy love scenes take center stage, and reality, as we all know it, is left far behind.
The Poldark novels, from which the Poldark television drama derived, were a series of books by the British author Winston Graham. Set in Cornwall in the late eighteenth century, they centered on the social and psychological struggles of a lesser member of the gentry. Like many a novelist, Graham used the average reader’s sympathy for the common man, along with everyone’s aspirations to rise in social rank, in order to squarely ally us with Ross Poldark. Poldark is noble, but poor. Poldark is good natured, but intransigent. Poldark is hard working, but he is also entitled to his land by a long line of succession. It is his by right of primogeniture, but he has to fight for it and earn it all over again.
Poldark is handsome and manly and brave and strong, but for some reason the woman of his dreams is just outside his reach. He clearly deserves to have her, but any consummation of his burning desire will have to be deferred for years, and taken hungrily and under cover of darkness, with the whole world against him
Robin Ellis and Angharad Rees as Ross Poldark and his other sweetheart Demelza
The BBC did an excellent job of putting the Poldark series together. An able cast led by Robin Ellis as Poldark and introducing the splendid Welsh actress Angharad Rees as Demelza, Poldark’s lower class love interest, kept the drama going despite some rather dreary sets and more dialogue than action.
The Moral of the Poldark Series
So what is the moral of the story? The next time you fall in love and are rebuffed and totally rejected, what will you do? Will you tell yourself that she doesn’t deserve you if she doesn’t leap into your arms at the first opportunity, or will you hunt her down and follow her wherever she goes, despite the fact that she has married someone else — and after that, yet another someone else. If you do the former, then you are a “laggard in love” as Sir Walter Scott would put it. If you do the latter, then you are a modern day stalker.
Society does not approve of romantic love. Society says we must settle. But everyone loves a good bodice ripper. Even the BBC!