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Seduction, A Blue Dress and a Spirit of Love (Ross and Demelza Poldark: The Love Story- Pt3)

Digital art of Ross and Demelza Poldark kissing in the blue dress seduction scene

Art of Vera Adexer (@veraAdxer_Art)

In this third blog of the Ross and Demelza Love story series, a significant point has been reached in their relationship which is to essentially move it with the equivalent speed of nought to a hundred, in sixty seconds. The previous blogs look at how they first fell into friendship with each other and then what brought Demelza to make a desperate decision to try and seduce Ross. It's a soft and gentle beginning of their love story so far, but now, (and to excuse the pun) is the climax of the first book as we see how their romantic connection is finally achieved. It is Demelza's well timed discovery of a blue dress with its enchanting appeal to her, together with her seduction plan and a spirit of love, that all combine together to incite, secure and seal the deal. In all this there appears to be this notion of a predetermining force and to begin with it is the blue dress that seemed to reach out to Demelza and which ultimately played such a key role in bringing this romantic union to the fore.

A Fascinating Discovery

Just like the spare room and the magical world in the story of 'The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe' by C.S Lewis, there was initially an element of mystique and fantasy for Demelza in respect of the library room of Nampara. Similarly, like the Narnia children, in exploring the house about a year after coming to Nampara, Demelza stumbled across the library as if it were an out of the way discovery. She found that from the great bed box which she had slept in on her first night at Nampara '..the second door in that bedroom led through into the library.' We are told that with 'fear and fascination' she was pulled in the direction of the room and that '...once inside the room she was never tired of returning to it'. Like the Narnia children her fascination overpowered her fear and she became completely enchanted with this forbidden quarter of Nampara and all its contents while Ross was unaware that she was visiting regularly.

The Greatest Discovery of All-The Blue Dress 

It is surely part of the magic of Demelza's seduction that a key discovery in this special place of the library would be something that would become a meaningful instrument that she would rely on in advancing forward her story. The love story. There was a build up to heighten its significance. In the first instance Demelza's 'exciting discovery' in the library is a music box, then 'A greater discovery was the spinet.' It was not until around March of 1787 that Graham reports that while in that room Demelza '.... by the purest chance she made the greatest discovery of all.' So it was after two years of visiting the library and therefore as if it was timed for her to find this just months before she would need its contents, that she found a chest in the room which all along had not been properly locked. In this chest there she found the blue dress. 

Specifically Graham emphasised an enchanted but almost forbidden attraction of Demelza to this blue dress. He says that '.....found at the very bottom of the second tin trunk..(and) from the outset it had enticed her as the apple did Eve.' It was described as pale blue satin, low cut square bodice and billowing out like a blue cabbage below the waist. Conveniently the right length for her, her obliviousness and lack of intent for any use of the dress is noted, as to begin with she simply enjoyed dressing up in it and making alterations '..even though (she thought) no one would ever see her wear it.' At such short notice on the day she decided to seduce Ross, and without a fabulous wardrobe of her own, it made sense to Demelza to use the dress to make herself more ladylike for Ross. She did so not knowing it belonged to Ross's mother, Grace Poldark which also becomes a key factor in her attempt to seduce him.

From An Old To A New Love

In terms of the seduction there is no doubt that irrespective of Graham writing that 'Her attempt at coquetry had been a painful failure.' and that presenting before him in his mother's old blue dress had actually provoked Ross to an initial show of anger, that even still, the literary path for these two was destined to bring them together come hell or high water. Graham stated that '...nature was coming to her help.' The risk, outlandish hopes and the impossibility in Demelza's mission are some of the very ingredients that add to the romance of this beginning to their love story. Another is the seemingly strong connection and symbolism of Demelza as Ross's soon to be 'new love' as he thought of his mother having 'lived and breathed in that frock, in that room, in that chair.' and for him '...that old stiff dress, (of hers being) part of an older love.' Bearing in mind 1770 was Grace's year of death, but Demelza's year of birth, that notion of predetermination raises its head and it's as if Demelza was primed in more ways than one to take the baton from Grace. So in this it also seems no coincidence that she happened to discover and wear the dress of his old love in order to help her become his new one. 

Parental Blessings And A Spirit That Moved Between Them 

Certainly there was something about this blue dress and a presence by spirit of Ross's mother that played a role and had an affect on him. Maybe this was the nature that had come to Demelza's help. Later Ross considers that 'The spectre of the dress became in retrospect a provocation....' (*) to him, and whilst he was faced with Demelza, of his mother we are specifically told by the narrator that 'Her spirit moved and quickened between them.' Through this it cannot be clearer that Graham as narrator was confirming that the spirit of Ross's mother was indeed playing a role in this scene and in Demelza's mission. After all he did not write that it was 'like' her spirit moved and quickened between them, but simply that her spirit did move between them. If her spirit moved between them then she certainly was not a bystander. Graham made Ross's Mother's spirit an active participant. For Ross his exchange with Demelza remained on his mind after he left the room. He was greatly affected and the presence of his mother's spirit may then explain why it was that while wearing the dress for Ross ' some mischance she (Demelza) put up a hand to push back her hair and the gesture reminded him of his mother.' Again the multiple references to Ross's mother make her very much part of this new beginning for Ross in finding a new love. 

As well as making Grace Poldark present in the moment including with Demelza doing a gesture reminding Ross of her, this was just another way in which Graham connected Demelza as a likeness to Ross's mother. Interestingly Ted Nanfan in book five (Black Moon), when speaking of Ross's mother described her as being tall and thin with long dark hair. With Ross agreeing with him it would seem that she and Demelza were also not too far removed in looks either (Demelza in the books had black hair). But despite Ross fleeing to his bedroom, he was drawn in as he thought of Demelza in the dress including the 'meadowsweet' like smell of her skin and her young body in the dress smelling of dried lavender. So to be clear, the provocation that Ross thought the blue dress had for him was not to provoke violence or a dislike of Demelza to him but to provoke his desire of her through making her more appealing to him. Not only does all this add to the romance of this scene but also some synchronicity to support this idea of nature and fate playing a hand to have Ross so affected and enticed. All these various factors points to a predetermining of this union. Of course, we know it had been predetermined by Graham as the book author but he certainly made a clear effort to also enthuse into the scene and into the build up to it that there was an underlying force at work willing these two together and giving Demelza the tools to make this mission a successful one irrespective of how it was executed. Ross's mother's dress being an alluring provocation for Ross, her spirit seemingly present between them and the narrator reporting that nature was helping Demelza, also hints strongly to a mother's blessing and a gift in this blue dress to Demelza through that. 

It might seem a farfetched concept to think that the spirit of Ross's mother was giving her support, assistance and blessing to the union of Ross and Demelza, however maybe not when one thinks of Winston Graham's own outlook and the likeness he took on as having a parental role like Ross's mother. As an author Graham spoke of his love of his lead protagonist character Ross and also for Demelza as his co-protagonist. In his short story he wrote called 'Meeting Demelza' he stated that he loved Demelza and created her out of love ' all children should be created.' He further said that he wanted her to be 'exceptional, unique, successful, as all parents want their children to be.' Thus Graham gave himself a parental role in respect of her rather than just as an author. It is therefore conceivable that as a loving parent who loved Ross that the spirit of his mother might also share Graham's parental outlook too and wish her son to find love with and unite with the character drawn to be the saga's heroine and later the centre of his world. As Graham had Ross say in the final book 'Bella Poldark' she would become the woman that to him he said was " lover, my companion, my housekeeper, the mother of my children, the -the keeper of my conscience....comparable in my eyes to no other woman."

A Father's Blessing? 

And what of Demelza's father blessing this union? Though he did not offer it, added to all these indicators of a greater predetermining force, is the sweet irony that despite his threat he did not even return for Demelza the next day or days after, after all. He also did not raise any objection when he was later notified weeks in advance that she was to be married to Ross. Thus the very person that was perceived as an obstacle to Demelza staying at Nampara and being wholly against her having a relationship with Ross, ended up not really fulfilling that role at all. Instead it transpired that Demelza's father was actually an agent that on the contrary pushed Ross and Demelza together sooner. He certainly inspired Demelza to do what she never would have considered doing if not for his threat. Therefore he too 'helped' forged the way to her love story with Ross. Whilst Demelza's father did not bless the union, his actions were ultimately a blessing to and for it. 

The Seduction And 'A Raging Desire' 

Ultimately in his mother's blue dress and now seeing Demelza more intimately, Ross thought 'Astounding the change....her look was adult.' He felt that he had '...adopted a tiger cub without knowing what she would grow into.' Contrasting to his initial nonchalance concerning Demelza romantically, now there is instead powerful imagery of how for her he had a '...desire, a raging desire moved through his pulses.' (*) Whilst one might presume that there was nothing particularly special about Demelza for him, contrary to that, we are told that 'With another person he would not have struggled to defeat it.' (*) The connection they had established as companions beforehand was important and set her apart from any other person or servant of his. In fact before he had seen her in the dress he had sought to rely on this and to confide in her about the outcome of Jim Carter's trial earlier that day. Now in attempting to 'defeat it' (the raging desire) he tried to remember Demelza as the street urchin 'But that was no use at all. The urchin was gone forever.' (*) 

With Ross at first being wary of submitting to what he thought of as a provocation, surely Graham mocked and reflected Ross in the image of the moth that he described as fluttering in to the room, towards the candle flame and having it's wings singed by it. So although Ross had tried to resist his seemingly dangerous flame being Demelza and ordered her to bed, he later set aside his reservations and willingly took her to his bed. It would not be long before he realised that he had nothing to fear and Demelza would be the woman who would give him happiness. 

A Want To Know Demelza Better

Of course Demelza's planning of the seduction and her pretence with needing Ross's help with the dress could leave a sour aftertaste of deceit in this start to their love story. However there is a feeling of Graham using literary devices so as to free her from this accusation and from tainting this love affair in that way. Firstly there is this concept mentioned of nature helping and a predetermination of their union as referred above with additional parental blessings thrown in too. That implies that this, Ross and Demelza coming together was all meant to be. 

Secondly, and positively, in the lead up to this night we had seen Demelza as a character that had already brought warmth and light to Ross's life. So much so that on the first day they met Ross and readers saw her loyalty and humility and he thought her a friend before they even reached Nampara where she worked hard and faithfully as his servant as well as becoming his companion in his loneliness. It did not appear he had been led astray by a craftier seductress like a Keren Daniels. Instead most readers would feel that so far Demelza had proved to be good for him and might be so in the future. Then in addition to this most readers will sympathise with Demelza's cause in not wishing to return to her horrendous and abusive father and instead to stay in a home she felt she belonged to. As explored in the desperately seeking romance blog her genuine love for Ross also made this a less sinister plot and one that might if she were lucky, kill two birds with one stone. 

Thirdly, the astute reader will note that before Demelza had even attempted to seduce Ross he had been compelled to kiss her twice. Her attempt to seduce him had been side tracked by his anger at her wearing the dress. In doing so it was Ross, not Demelza, who had initiated the sexual contact that evening. Instead Demelza was written as the guileless seductress whose 'desperately shy beginning' to the seduction had aroused his anger in the first instance and when faced with this she stammered and found 'Her ready lies were forgotten.' She really was not a skilled seductress and as she sobbed and his heart opened, so might the reader's have. With some pity for Demelza it was apparent that she really was not in the driving seat. Ross who ten years her senior was the figure of authority here had his internal conflicts in that authority role. He tried to show a paternal tenderness towards her in kissing her cheek but he noticed her vulnerability in her glitter like tear filed eyes and womanly looks. This included '..the warm ivory swell of her breasts.' He now found her enticing and that 'His authority was gone.' But 'That did not matter.' He kissed her again but on the lips and felt the 'incredible dewy softness of a young girls mouth.' So although she was a poor seductress, Graham still managed to present Demelza as sexually enticing but at the same time harmless, innocent and soft. She certainly was not presented as the aggressor or as the one in control. Something else had taken the reigns for her. Later, after Ross had suggested she go to bed, she did not explicitly ask for sex when she returned to him but suggestively offered herself to Ross when seeking his help with undoing her dress. Knowing she wanted him, but with him now also wanting her too, Ross again initiated sexual contact as he allowed his hands to slip around her waist before kissing her again '...until the room went dark before her eyes.' 

Fourthly, Ross had some reflections in his bedroom before Demelza returned to him. This effectively gave him a timeout to think through what he wanted. In this it is clear that he had been resisting his inner desire to break his celibacy and do what he consider was in fact '....nothing out-of-the-way for the younger gentry of the neighbourhood to tumble their kitchen-maids.' Having considered he was living life 'too seriously' when 'Loving was a recreation.', Demelza returning to him simply gave him a second opportunity to embrace this with both hands. But certainly his timeout had cleared his mind of other things including of his previous attachments as he thought that 'He owed no one anything; certainly not Elizabeth.' and that what was happening with Demelza '..was no blind seeking after sensation in order to drown a hurt, as it had been on the night of the ball (with Margaret).' He concluded that 'This was fair desire.' (*) So separating this from his feelings for Elizabeth, and as a single available bachelor, he essentially consented to Demelza's offer to him and considered it as 'fair game'. All this dispenses with the idea and stain that he was taken advantage of. Instead he chose to light another candle as if it was an offer he now wanted to take full advantage of. 

Finally the fifth point drives home this idea that ultimately it was a 'fair game' and 'desire', with Ross exercising his free will to make a decision without any trickery. This is through Demelza's last minute tearful confession just before Ross took her to his bed. She tearfully admitted that she had lied about not being able to undo the dress herself and suggested that he not take her to his bed after all if he hated her for it. This serves as a redemptive act to release Demelza from accusations of an unfair playing field. This, the narrator's report that on the morning after Ross had no regrets and the fact that from this blossomed a very loving relationship ensures that this beginning to their romantic relationship could be looked on nostalgically with humour. In fact taking this event in good spirits is just as Ross and Demelza did twenty three years later in Book eight (The Stranger From The Sea). There Demelza joked that by the end of this night she felt that he had been the one to seduce her. As if to concur with this, Ross replied saying "I meant to know you better by morning." This serves to emphasis that for this part of their love story Ross had some level of control and that he was following his desires as a willing participant even before the love from him came into their relationship. 

A Promise Of An Endless Devotion- "I live only for you."

A significant message from this night is that after Demelza's coquetry is deemed a failure by Graham as narrator, in a vulnerable and sincere moment, with tear-filled eyes and 'without coquetry and without fear.', Demelza said to Ross "I live only for you, Ross." With the breeze lifting the curtain from an open window and 'The birds outside were quiet at last and it was dark.', it seemed that nature and the world conspired to emphasise and isolate the profoundness of this statement so that it was resounding as he sat alone with her on his lap. The meaning could not be lost on Ross and knowing that his greatest upset was losing a woman he loved and who had chosen not to live for him but to be with someone else, now in contrast to that he had another woman declaring her absolute devotion to him with these words. Indeed in book two (Demelza), Ross would marvel at his luck that it was not just by right of marriage that Demelza was his but ' the vehemently free choice of the woman herself..' So it is likely these six words did mean a lot to him and it is no wonder why his desire for her thereafter was 'raging'

A Loving Exchange

Although Demelza's seduction was triggered by fear of being made to leave Nampara and wanting to stay there with Ross, it was was not so outrageously a selfish and manipulative act in this love story. It was not something which only she sought to gain from. This was a two way exchange. Even though her short term intention was to stay on as his hardworking servant in more ways than one Demelza was not just offering her body to Ross but also her absolute devotion. Therefore he had just as much to gain from her. This would prove to be the case in an overall long, happy and successful marriage where their love and dedication to each other ultimately surpassed this for no other person. 

And so, from a starting point of Ross and Demelza as strangers, though Ross was so obviously Demelza's knight in shining armour in this love story so far, it would be fair to say that in another way Demelza was for Ross too. After months to years of desolation she was in reality his 'fair maiden' who helped to lift his spirits and who in his loneliness provided him with pleasurable companionship. Then with a blue dress, the spirit of Ross's mother and also with nature on her side to lend a helping hand, she went from his best friend, servant and sister figure to his lover in one night. Then three weeks later to becoming his wife! At this point it is fitting to remember Ross's words to Demelza after twenty eight years of marriage in book eleven (The Twisted Sword). In respect of his first meeting with her at the Redruth fair he said; "Dear Heaven, that was the luckiest day of my life." And if that was, then Demelza's decision to try and seduce him was his next best and following that his marrying her. 

Still the love story continues, and in the knowledge that at this point only Demelza was 'in love', the next blog (The Magic of the 'Fall in Love') will look at Ross falling in love with his wife and how once again, even with this there was an element of providence and nature playing it's role.

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