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Demelza Poldark- A Fall From Grace In A Fall For Hugh Armitage

Demelza Poldark cheats on Ross with Hugh Armitage in Season 3
Art of Vera Adexer (@veraAdxer_Art)

"I should have staked my life on it. Demelza was true to the grain. There wasn't a flaw in her-In this damned world-"  
Ross Poldark (DEMELZA)

Ross and Demelza Poldark kissing on a beach season 2
While Ross had previously experience his own fall from grace with Elizabeth and therefore his grave error of judgment and emotion, this quote are his thoughts showing how he held Demelza up to a high standard. They are from the second book 'Demelza' after he is upset to learn that with Verity having previously been separated by her family from Captain Andrew Blamey, Demelza went behind his back and helped to reconnect them. Whilst Ross soon got over his anger of the role Demelza played in Verity's elopement, this comment from him certainly shows what he thought of Demelza and her ability to do wrong. It's a very clear statement that he almost had her up there with the angels, and as he said, that he would have 'staked' his life on it. Naturally this of course means that he would never have thought her capable of infidelity against him. But that she did indeed do with Lieutenant Hugh Armitage. Beforehand Ross seemingly trusted her one hundred percent. For example, in book five (Black Moon), when Ross's cousin, St John Peter warned him at a party that a "damned Frenchie has his eye on Demelza..." and that he better watch out for her because before he knew it the 'Frenchie' would be "boarding her", Ross barely batted an eyelid. This was not because he did not care but because, as he said and he thought, "Demelza knows what to do with grappling irons...". In other words he had complete faith in her. So the story line that sees Demelza be unfaithful to Ross, both in thought and deed, is one that saw Ross rocked to the core with despair at her infidelity. Indeed, although the book lovers on the whole tend to find Demelza incredibly likeable and if not that, then the saga's worthy and inspirational heroine, it is not uncommon for expressions of great disappointment in her to be made in respect of this storyline. The infidelity of Demelza goes against everything she stood for having been declared by Ross in the last book as his one 'real and true love'. Of his love interests Demelza was the one he thought provided him with a 'flawless love', and 'more than perhaps Elizabeth ever could (have given him)'. And so in this storyline was Demelza's ultimate fall from grace. This blog is an exploration of why Demelza felt what something she thought was impossible did actually happen. 

Journey Of An Illicit Courtship

Demelza Poldark and Lieutenant Hugh Armitage meet at Tregothnan season 3
It is important to note that the latest TV adaption (2015) was not quite true to the books in the adaption of Demelza's infidelity storyline, the relationship and even the motives behind it. In fact, as a result many perceived that it might have been an act of revenge by Demelza against Ross. But it was not that in the books. Also the relationship with Hugh was quite condensed for TV and so there is a feeling by many of things moving way too quickly between them in order to be realistic. In essence, and from the books, after meeting Lieutenant Hugh Armitage at a dinner party in March 1796 Demelza receives his attentions over a period of a year and half up to his death on 13th September 1797. Within their whole love story they only had six face to face meetings although this was interspersed with love letters from Hugh to Demelza. Right from the beginning Hugh was completely enchanted by Demelza and at each meeting he let it be known that he remained so. The infidelity took place in June 1797 on a deserted beach and was a year and a quarter after their first meeting. This was after a surprise visit from Hugh to Nampara when Ross happened to be out. Hugh Armitage convinced Demelza to take him alone to see the seals at Seal Hove Cave. The day out together in a boat across the shore, seeing the seals and then drying off on the beach would have been quite a romantic affair for two unattached individuals. Throughout it and despite Demelza's discouragement Hugh professed his love and  also told her he was going blind. Later she refused his sudden request to make love to her but when he asked if he could at least kiss her, she was not so discouraging. To this she said that "Perhaps I cannot stop you." Naturally he took this opportunity. Pushing his chances further and in response to what looked was going to be a discouraging appeal from Demelza not to go further, he told her "Dont speak, my love, don't speak.". And so, with no further protest from Demelza Hugh laid her back to the sand and started to undo the buttons of her dress. The scene in the book ends there but afterwards Demelza had thoughts of having been 'warmed by his love and returning some of it' and that 'The experience, the physical experience, ..had not in essence varied from what she had known before.'  From this text it is clear that she had had sex with Hugh Armitage. 

Reflections On An Infidelity

Demelza PoldarkAfter Ross's infidelity against Demelza with Elizabeth readers were not invited into any significant reflections of his on it. In contrast Demelza reflects on her infidelity as set out over a number of pages. Overall, and already disappointed in Demelza over her spectacular fall from grace, it's almost additionally disappointing that she struggles to explain or justify her behaviour. How then is the reader able to gain some understanding too? However, one must remember that Demelza is written as a self deprecating character and really her inability to self justify and attribute 'understandable' reasons to her mistake is in keeping with her character and in essence is to her credit. Demelza was not prepared to ease her conscience with what she already thought was an act she never thought she was capable of. Therefore her inability to really justify her act with what she considered to be worthy reasons was her being tough on herself. Accordingly, on first read her reasoning seems muddled and lacking in any clarity to pinpoint the standout key reasons which were true to her. They do not in the first instance stand out in the text as if they have red flashing lights around them. Still, it is indeed possible to pull out from her musings the factors that were at play in bringing about her fall from grace.  

Unbothered By The Flattery

Demelza Poldark Hugh Armitage tregothnan season 3

In her thoughts Demelza is quickly able to rule out some potential reasons. For example it is often thought that Demelza caved in to Hugh Armitage simply because he flattered her with his compliments and poetic professions of love. However Demelza thinks that she could not even 'pretend to herself that she had been swept away' by Hugh's romantic approach. Though it had of course been nice to have been adorned with compliments, by contrast, unlike Elizabeth's character who Graham told us thought admiration was 'her due' and found it hard to be without this, Demelza '..was altogether of the wrong temperament to be much affected by it.' Hugh's seduction of Demelza will be explored in a separate blog but it is the case that over the previous year whilst liking him Demelza was still uncomfortable with his advances and sought to challenge this as idealistic. Such as his view of her as some kind of goddess. 

Upon scrutiny of the rest of Demelza's musings, it is clear that there are actually four reasons and factors which working together and therefore intertwined and co existing, that document how she felt she fell from grace. It is clear from this that the ingredients for this were multi faceted.

'Attraction, Sheer Physical Attraction,..'

Demelza Poldark Hugh Armitage tehidy season 3
The first reason given by Demelza was 'Attraction, sheer physical attraction,..' She acknowledged that she had felt this for Hugh from her first meeting. Indeed at this meeting at Tehidy Demelza first saw Hugh Armitage as a 'striking young man'. As he managed to take her away for a stroll around the garden she found that this 'young man's hawk profile, deeply sensitive dark eyes and gentle voice moved her strangely.' Also that 'some danger existed' in the sudden weakness of her defence (against his attack). Bearing in mind that Demelza was used to men making polite and impolite advances to her and that she was able to deal with them effectively, often in good humour and confidence, on this occasion she was impaired in her ability. She was affected not just by his physical appearance but by his persistence and his sensitive and cool manner with her. This was a danger she did not fully anticipate the strength of.

It is not at all the case that Demelza's only reason for sleeping with Hugh was her physical attraction to him. That is a very simplistic outlook as it is clear that there were other factors that were at play. Otherwise this would mean that way back in March 1796, at their first meeting, she was already as vulnerable to being unfaithful with Hugh as she was a year later. That is an unlikely probability and a lot more had to happen to move her emotionally to a place where there was even a hope of this infidelity occurring. Demelza had found other men in her life to be physically attractive. In Black Moon, she described the Comte de Maresi as 'one of the most handsomest men she had ever seen'. As referenced above he is the one who at a party spent his time trying to 'board her' as St John Peter so eloquently warned Ross. Yet she rejected his advances and was not interested in him romantically. In book four (Warleggan),  Demelza thought that Captain Malcolm McNeil 'was the only one who could begin to hold a candle to Ross.' Yet she could not bring herself to be unfaithful with him when seeking revenge for Ross's infidelity. Indeed Demelza's difficulty in resisting Hugh was more than just about physical attraction. There was also an attraction to his character. This provided an emotional appeal towards him. As well as this there were other and additional emotional pulls towards Hugh that led on to the second factor.

Sadness For The News He Brought Of Himself

Hugh Armitage has his eyes examined by Dwight Enys in Poldark season 3
Ross once warned Demelza to "Have a care, Pity, they say, is akin to love." Unbeknown to him, by this point in the book, Demelza and Hugh had already done the deed. So Ross's warning comment was ironically too late. Still, it had been extremely close to the scenario that did play out for Demelza to have allowed Hugh to make love to her and in her own thoughts and admission to return some of that love. Pity and sadness for Hugh was surely a key and second reason for Demelza's fall from grace with Hugh. On the way to the seal cove Hugh did inform Demelza of his diagnosis that "..there is something amiss behind the eyes and that in six months or so I shall be following in Milton's foot-steps.." Hugh was referring to the famous and deceased English poet who late in life became blind in 1652. Naturally Demelza was saddened by this news. This prompted Hugh to express regret for having told her because she was looking "so sad". Demelza replied "How can I be anything else?" and told him that "It is not to flatter you that I am upset." and that it was "...easier said that done." to just forget what he had told her. Hugh's efforts continued with him pressing Demelza to smile for him but still her sadness was such that it was given only under his duress and given 'uncertainly'. However, the point is that the timing of this sad news about Hugh is important and it is significant that it was delivered to Demelza just before her act of infidelity. It is reasonable to consider that pity and sadness for Hugh did have a significant impact in warming and opening her heart up further to Hugh through sympathy. As per Ross's own warning, pity stirred up loving feelings and for Demelza heading to a deserted beach with him, this was at the most dangerous time to receive that news. In sharing his confidences and his sorrow it certainly made Demelza more emotionally vulnerable to Hugh and more susceptible to his persistence.

Demelza Poldark and Hugh Armitage talking at Tregothnan
In addition to this pity and sadness from Hugh's diagnosis Demelza had already experienced a sadness for him at his leaving party where he declared himself to be "..the unhappiest of men...because the woman I have come to hold dearer than life is married to whom I owe my life itself." Leaving Demelza quite depressed at the end of  the night and sad for Hugh generally, she had later declared a wish in her conversation with Ross to be a person who could help 'make him happy'.  Hence, feeling this even before her trip with him to the seal hole Demelza was already holding much sadness in her heart for Hugh. Only now added to that was the additional and particularly sad and devastating news of his impending blindness. There should be no doubt that Demelza's physical and emotional attraction to Hugh together with more and more emotional investment in him increased the danger and risk that his persistence might win over her. Still, it would not have led her to infidelity with him unless opportunity provided for this. That leads to the third factor which contributed to her fall.

'Opportunity Which Had Settled On Them Like A Strange Bird'

It is highly unlikely that back in Nampara and for instance whilst Ross was away on business, that Demelza might have allowed Hugh to engage in heavy petting with her in the parlour and then to have made their way up to hers and Ross's bedroom in order to take this to the next base. It is also highly unlikely that even if she attended a social event with Hugh present, that they would have been able to escape the other party goers and make love on the grounds behind a tree or horse stables. Demelza's attempt at infidelity with Captain McNeil took a lot of premeditation in ensuring that Ross was away, arranging to attend Hugh Bodrugan's party alone, making arrangements for an overnight stay and actively soliciting McNeil's complicity in a pre-arranged night of infidelity. Of course, this particular incident was fuelled by the furious emotion of anger and revenge for the great betrayal she felt after Ross's night with Elizabeth. But in her right and rational mind, away from the deserted beach, Demelza would never have engaged in such premeditation or conspiring to commit adultery with Hugh.

In arriving on that deserted beach without a soul in sight, (save for the souls of the seals they passed), opportunity had indeed settled on them or been handed to them on a plate. Hugh took this offering with both hands when as their wet clothes had been drying off in the sun he said to her "I wish you'd let me make love to you." Maybe he too would never have asked that question if the lack of opportunity made it obviously a ridiculous request that simply could not be honoured even if Demelza had wanted to. But the next and so the fourth factor is a matter that spoke to Demelza's own concept of escapism on a deeper level and which together with the opportunity was the final ingredient that made the impossible, possible.

'A Nameless Woman To Be Taken By A Nameless Man.'

Demelza Poldark and Hugh Armitage cannoodle on the beach while Ross watches
Demelza's conversation with Ross after Hugh Armitage's leaving party the year before can be considered quite bizarre as it appeared that she was almost asking for a 'hall pass' to be unfaithful with Hugh. But what she said to Ross was "I wish I were two people... But for a day... I'd like to be another person, not Demelza Poldark, but someone new, who could respond to him and make him happy, ..someone who could laugh with him, talk....flirt....go off with him....ride, swim, talk without feeling I was being disloyal to the man I really and truly and absolutely love."  She  denied the charge that she was wishing to be Hugh's lover and in her imaginary scenario for this woman who was not her, not 'Demelza Poldark' but another woman, she did not list a desire for this woman to make love to Hugh. Though this did in fact happen, this did not appear to be her original intention. Nevertheless in the moment and coupled with Hugh's persistence in wanting exactly this, Demelza found herself in a situation where the ingredient of 'opportunity' had manifested a scenario with her on a deserted beach with a desirous man and as the narrator said 'making unreality out of isolation and giving her the feeling that she was no one, except a nameless woman to be taken by a nameless man.'  Winston Graham gave Demelza the exact scenario she spoke of a year before where  she as this other woman would be able to make Hugh happy.

Demelza Poldark and Hugh Armitage  have tender moments on the moors
The concept of the nameless woman relates closely to the issue of opportunity. Another reason why Demelza would not have fallen from grace in this way if back in Nampara or at a party, (whether with or without Ross), is that she would then still have been within her world as Demelza Poldark. That blast of reality from her identity should have at the very least provided the mental block or barrier of real world reality and made the likelihood of unfaithfulness with Hugh indeed very unlikely. It almost seems as if in order for this particular character to commit this infidelity and for this to have been feasible in any way, Winston Graham had to put Demelza so far well out of reality. So much so she ended up so far removed from Demelza Poldark's world on a deserted beach. Quite clearly, a key factor in the infidelity occurring is that on this deserted beach Demelza felt as if she were out of her Demelza Poldark world. That was the final pull that made it possible for her to lose her inhibitions and relent to Hugh's persistence. In those moments she did not see herself as the wife of Ross Poldark who was being unfaithful but instead a nameless woman who owed allegiances to no one.

'An Event In Isolation' And Event In Vacuum

After this incident and looking back on it, it is clear that even then Demelza still looked on it as an unreal 'event in isolation' which to her was 'unconnected with the past, unattached to the future.'  Of course, none of this justifies her infidelity but these thoughts, reasons and factors should help the reader to come to a greater understanding as to how this incident was ever even possible. That's even if those reasons still remain dissatisfying and Elizabeth's letter to Ross giving him just around a week's notice that she would be marrying his worst enemy seems a far more compelling reason for infidelity.

Demelza Poldark and Hugh Armitage kiss on the moors season 3
As Demelza thought herself, there was an 'anonymity of the experience' and this would have been shattered if Ross was to have found out. That would suddenly make it real. But having been zoned out in this 'other world' it is evident that Demelza still felt that the woman who had given herself to Hugh was in a sense a second person who was not quite Demelza Poldark and may explain why she was not completely doubled over and racked with regret and guilt. Whilst the average reader may just rubbish this reason and her whole behaviour and call it just as Demelza did herself, 'inexcusable', there are suggestions that this feeling was a factor that Ross had also craved when he committed his own adultery against her. When reconciling with Demelza afterwards and at the end of book four (Warleggan), Ross had told her that "If it could only have happened in a vacuum, without hurt to anyone, I should not have regretted at all." Indeed whilst Ross was not on a deserted beach with Elizabeth and had left Nampara in his wife's sight not as a nameless man but as Ross Poldark off to Trenwith, he could not proceed in his life thereafter as if it was an 'isolated event' 'unconnected to the past, unattached to the future'. It is interesting that just before he carried Elizabeth to the bed he did say; "There's no tomorrow, it doesn't come. Life is an illusion....Let us make the most of the shadows." In this Ross too draws on those themes of concealment (in the shadows) and the act being anonymous or an isolated unreality which is unconnected with the past and certainly unattached to the future when he speaks of illusions and there being 'no tomorrow'. Only in his anger this was entirely irrational and not at applicable. As Ross returned to Nampara, he knew that his wife knew what he had done and that she knew that he knew she knew. Also as his act had significant consequences also impacting on Elizabeth too and her future life decisions, Ross's vacuum of escapism was not a possibility for him. He did not have it as the nameless man in a different world but rather as himself and at Trenwith. Yet he had expressed a clear wish for this still and furthermore made it clear that if his infidelity was in that context he would not have regretted it. It may then have remained an anonymous and isolated event which had no affect on his love and life with his wife and their future together. That is a worrying and dangerous concept but if Demelza is looked upon as the spouse whose infidelity was the more offensive due to the relative secrecy and anonymity to it, should Ross not be considered similarly in light of his admission that if he had been afforded the same opportunity he too would have taken it, kept it anonymous and had no regrets 'at all' about it?

On The Instant It Eroded Her Will

Hugh Armitage leads Demelza Poldark on the moors to be  unfaithful
Before concluding on how Demelza fell from grace, it's relevant to refer to her will power in this whole infidelity debacle. In her romantic affair with Hugh, Demelza was the pursued rather than the pursuer. If there was one key feature about Hugh Armitage it was his persistence with her. Up until the beach trip Demelza had shown the will to fend Hugh off on their previous meetings. Jud's disclosure to her nine months before that Ross had been spotted at Sawle Church yard with a woman she realised was Elizabeth, has some relevance. It was referred in the text as a matter that had been in the back of her mind those past months and was 'a little corrosive eating away at her normal contentment;..' Naturally in light of Ross's previous infidelity with Elizabeth and their past love connection generally, the secrecy made this all the more suspicious and how could she be sure if there were not more secret meetings that took place and he too was being unfaithful again. Even though she did not include this as a key reason for her infidelity, hence it was not a revenge attack and she acknowledges in her thoughts that her impulses were somewhat over powering, readers are told that in that key moment with Hugh on the beach 'the knowledge (of these secret meetings) had come suddenly to the forefront and on the instant eroded her will.' Together with the other factors at play and her weakened will power to put up some defences against him, unlike at her previous meetings with him, this time she was not mentally strong enough to resist against his persistence. And so our heroine along with Ross became tarred as a significantly flawed one.

A Drop From Demelza's Pedestal

The fall from grace for Demelza Poldark cannot be denied. However, given her character now firmly established over seven books at this stage in the saga, generally most readers think her to nevertheless have a good heart and to be a good person. A good person who did a bad thing, rather than an unlikeable person that did yet again another bad or unpleasant thing. Unlike those more reprehensible characters who are already on so low moral ground to begin with, Demelza's starting position was much higher moral ground, making this fall appear to be a colossal one and so too our disappointment in her. That is compared with the disappointment in the Osborne Whitworths and George Warleggans of the Poldark world when they committed errors of judgment. That shock and disappointment is not quite on the same level.

A Gentle Loving And Judgement From Ross

As referred above even after working through the reasons for her fall, Demelza in her own thoughts still questioned whether they were "...any better than more excuses?" Again, it is in a sense a credit and a testimony to Demelza's character that she would question herself and be self critical. It says a lot that this is generally the single incident where the average reader has feelings of disappointment towards her rather than anger and a strong dislike for her. Even the wronged husband is not overly critical of Demelza. Perhaps his explanation of her fall from grace is the best of all. He said "And what do you do about a wife whose loyalty has hitherto been absolute, and you see her like a sapling blown in a hurricane, bowing to the ground, perhaps uprooted by it?" 

Ross's comment about the cause of Demelza's fall from grace is quite insightful when considering that Hugh Armitage was indeed quite a hurricane of persistence and Demelza historically referred to as a 'bud', blossoming from this and continually associated with flowers, did bend to his persistence. Fortunately for Demelza her overall character is still a redeeming one and it would seem that for many readers their disappointment almost stems from the same view Ross held that she was 'true to the grain', with not a flaw in her (or not many). In this case her real flaw and the cause of her fall was that she did not manage to hold firm against the hurricane and her betrayal was one committed under the duress of being taken advantage of and manipulated herself.

A Level Playing Ground For Mr & Mrs Poldark?

Of course, the golden question is; 'Why did Winston Graham make his own much loved heroine inspired by his own wife fall from grace in this way?'. But there may be some food for thought when thinking of the outcome in the long-term for this imperfect love story. Whilst the hurt and pain caused to her husband is still not something to be savoured, weirdly and fortunately for Ross (and for herself), after her experience with Hugh 'She felt no less in love with Ross than before-perhaps, perversely, a little more so.'  If that was a small grace to Ross in the whole affair, then a consideration is that this was a fall that indirectly served to bless Demelza with some graces within her marriage too. One cannot forget that Demelza was the spouse that by virtue of the Elizabeth-Ross-Demelza love triangle had spent at least the first felt seven years of her marriage feeling that her husband's heart was at least partially with another woman in light of unfinished business. In book seven (The Angry Tide) she told him that "I-have always had to compete." Even though he told her that was "Not for a long time now.", this incident with Hugh Armitage after ten years of marriage provided yet again another rough patch that served not to break them but to restore the level playing field within the marriage and reinforce Ross's appreciation for his wife. It is quite possible that this was Winston Graham's intention and he used Lord Falmouth at Hugh Armitage's leaving party to say it when he told Ross "You have a pretty wife and a worthy one. Appreciate her while you have her. Life is uncertain." 

Ross Poldark's Fall From Grace (A Thin Line Between Lust And Hate Of Elizabeth)
Seeds of Enmity, Fruit of War (Ross Vs George) Pt1
Ross & Demelza Poldark: The Love Story-Pt1 (Faling in friendship)
Ross & Demelza- A Stocking full of Love
Demelza's Blue dress seduction night explored 
A Love for Ross Poldark: Elizabeth (Pt1) Keeping the faith

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