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Falling in Friendship (Ross and Demelza Poldark: The Love story-Pt1)


Art of  @Veraadexer_Art

'Verity no longer had the heart to come over and Demelza took her place.'
 Book one (Ross Poldark)

Ross and Demelza Poldark sitting together in the 'I belong here' season 1 scene
Normally a romance novel ends with the couple featured getting together and walking off into the horizon to live happily ever after. The magic of Poldark is that the coming together of Ross and Demelza was only just the beginning of the story. In respect of his first four books, which to begin with was his intended complete story, Winston Graham told 'Evening Argos Weekend magazine' in 2001 "I wanted to do a love story with a happy ending and that was it." In 1953 Warleggan was published as "The final Poldark novel." And so in his mind this fourth book was the end of the story. The ten pages to conclude it document Ross and Demelza's reconciliation after the fall out from his marital misdemeanour with Elizabeth Poldark. Demelza was declared by Ross as his one "true and real love". That is the 'happy ending'! Fortunately twenty years later and against his one time stated belief that long running book sagas were not appealing, Graham maintained that he was still so interested and intrigued by the Poldarks and what happened to them next. As a result readers were gifted with a further eight books and this means that they have been invited to share in the marital journey of Ross and Demelza spanning from June 1787 to December 1820. That is thirty three years in total, plus the years in their untold life and story after the last book that are consigned only to the readers imaginations. It is quite a rarity to experience a love story that goes on for that long and which remains as compelling as ever, though moving naturally through different phases and always remaining heartfelt in spirit. Of course there is still so much to the Poldark saga other than a love story. However at it's heart it is still essentially a story of a marriage and this marriage and love story is the centre of every other story around it.

It is true that the love story of Ross and Demelza is not a perfect love story like those to be found in the pages of a Mills and Boon or a bodice ripper regency book. It is an unconventional love story to begin with and the challenges and upsets along the way certainly make it an imperfect one. But nevertheless still just as romantic. If anything perhaps this makes it more romantic for that very reason of the love still and always enduring and claiming the glory of a love that triumphs. In addition that that there are plenty of happy and loving moments to tip the balance far over the other way and to sell the dream. This is the first article in a series journeying through Ross and Demelza's love story and revisiting why it is so very epic and captivating. Naturally as we begin with the beginning we start with the birth of Ross and Demelza's relationship which started as strangers through to becoming great companions to each other and later much more.

Knight in Shining Armour

Ross Poldark at Redruth fair where he meets Demelza for the first time Season 1
It is a well known part of the Ross and Demelza love story that there was no mutual falling in love to begin with. Ross did not fall in love until some weeks after they were married and one might also say that the way they stumbled into each other's path was actually quite unromantic too. On Easter Tuesday, 13th April 1784, whilst at the Redruth fair Ross stepped in to save the rough ill dressed street urchin Demelza from getting hurt through her interventions to save her beloved dog from a dog fight. However, looking at the bigger picture there is somehow a rough romance in what Ross represented to Demelza at the time. Essentially he was a knight in shining armour figure for her. Of course that is always a fitting start for a love story. That is even if this was not presented in the most conventionally romantic way where Demelza looked more like a disney princess or a 'fair maiden'. But after defending her against her attackers and violently shooing them away, Ross's first interactions with Demelza was to pick her up and ask if she was hurt. Then he carried her away to safety. He offered her a drink, his handkerchief to clean her wound and a ride home. Upon hearing that she would be going home to a father who beat her up at least twice weekly, he offered her a life changing job as his kitchen maid, took her home to Nampara and later had a physical fight fending off her father to prevent her returning to that abusive home. When put like this that surely continues to fit the role of knight in shining armour. Just without any romantic feelings. Yet!

Ross Poldark and Demelza on horseback together for season 1
It was noticeable in the first meeting of Ross and Demelza that she was not necessarily set to be a character to derail or antagonise Ross with mischief. Her opening scene was to try to prevent a mischief against her dog, Garrick. Also despite Ross being a man many classes above her, who as well as having a kind heart of concern for her and surely in her mind more money than she could ever hope for, and unlike a more savvy and opportunistic street urchin Demelza was not minded to take advantage of him. With a similar strength of character as he had Demelza did not quite fawn over Ross as her saviour, lap up his attentions and try to claim more of it. Instead her concern and preoccupation in the first instance was for still for her dog. Her dog was her best friend and therefore seeing his injuries upset and outraged her. Demelza was so concerned not to soil the handkerchief Ross offered her and she declined to finish the drink he bought for her. Then she sought to take her leave of him before he decided to buy her a full meal. He did eventually do so but only after she fainted whilst trying to set off on her own. Indeed the indication from this were that Demelza was not sent into the story and into Ross's path to be a hindrance to him.

An Immediate Compatability

In answering Ross's personal questions about her miserable life in a matter of fact and in a quietly uncomplaining tone, a rapport was being established between Ross and Demelza including whilst he rode her home. But similar to Ross, it is clear that not only was Demelza a good and harmless being but that early indications were that despite their different class brackets these two were on the same plane in terms of values around loyalty and friendship. There was some compatibility of nature between the two that was already foretold. On that point it is also true that they played similar roles. Demelza also had a touch of the knight in shining armour spirit about her in respect of Garrick. Ross appreciated her loyalty towards her dog in not wanting to take up his offer of a better life at Nampara if it was to be without him. In fact it was this that seemed to seal the deal for Ross in deciding to stand by his live-in job offer to her. He thought 'For if she would not desert a friend, neither could he.' So already at this stage in the story, Demelza had gone so quickly from being just a stranger to him to being thought of as a 'friend' instead. All in the first day. Perhaps a few hours only. 

Demelza's spirit towards her dog would actually marry up well with Graham's description of her later in the first book 'Ross Poldark'. Graham described her as one that wore the 'dark crown of humanity'. As narrator he has referred to her as that when she took her place at Trenwith as Ross's wife to sing the infamous 'red rose' song. The description was perfectly fitting for Demelza and would be reflected in her loving and warm engagement with others during the course of the saga and which would earn her goodwill from all. Winston Graham as an author had spoken much of his love for the character of Demelza and certain qualities including the little things in life providing her with joy and that also that she brought others much happiness. She would later in the story do many acts to help and uplift other characters and so the reference to her crown of humanity seems consistent with Graham's outlook and crafting of her character. Perfect to match as the love interest for the story's hero, Ross Poldark. Indeed with Ross having natural instincts to bring justice and fair treatment to all, his own regard for humanity among other things would in time prove that they were indeed well matched on all counts to be friends and more so, a partnership in due course.

The Pleasures of Companionship

Laughter at Nampara Courtesy of Demelza

Demelza serving and curtseying to Ross Poldark at Nampara season 1
By the time of Demelza arriving at Nampara, Ross had been wallowing for a long while in his sadness over his rejection by Elizabeth and was quite a depressed man. By then it had been nearly seven months. Graham narrated that much of the time 'Ross was at his usual occupation, reading and drinking himself to bed.' Though he continued on a nightly basis to drink a lot, in small ways Demelza brought some warmth and pleasure to Ross's life. She gave Ross his first cheer of the book after his romantic disappointment with Elizabeth. This was when after Ross fought Demelza's father. Perhaps to indicate that the joy she would bring him was worth the fight she crawled out of a cupboard where she had been hiding all along and 'He let out a roar of laughter...' Presumably this was so loud and unusual for Ross that it '...brought Prudie hurrying back into the room.' At that time this was much needed humour for him to enjoy as it did contrast very strongly against his deep despair just the chapter beforehand where having left Trenwith Elizabeth had just told him she did not love him, implied she never had, that they could not be friends and that he should forget her.

Graham continued to highlight more occasions where Demelza happened to be the source of Ross's laughter. There was once when he saw a still young Demelza 'crossing the mud of the cobblestones with a bucket in hand...', in the rain with a rain streaked face. After explaining to Ross that she had no bonnet on so as not to spoil it and also because without one the rain would get any crawlers out her hair at the same time, he made alternative suggestions and 'He went into the house hiding a smile.' (*) On another occasion just the sight of her was amusing to him. He saw her '...crossing the yard with a pile of logs held in her pinafore...' Again this was in the rain with no hat and with an 'ungainly mid-puppyhood', 'gambolled like a French poodle' Garrick following behind her. Graham simply narrated that 'Ross wanted to laugh.'

A Growing Affection and Friendship 

Demelza eating and talking and smiling to Ross Poldark at nampara season 1
Ross and Demelza began to spend more time together and a gradual friendship bloomed between them as her '...thirst for information brought her into contact with Ross, who found some pleasure in helping her on.' (*). Though reference is later made to the growth of Demelza's intelligence and that he eventually 'had been led once or twice before into pitfalls by making unthinking replies to her questions.', in helping her on, before then Ross had '....wanted to laugh at her remarks much more often than he allowed himself.' These little exchanges served to document a period of Ross growing in affection for Demelza.

Flowers at Nampara Courtesy of Demelza

Demelza Poldark sitting in the Nampara parlour season 1
Demelza's arrival did not just coincide with a change in Ross's mood internally but it was also reflected and most obviously evident in his home environment. Graham wrote that early on in her living at Nampara and 'During all the months of that summer the house of Nampara was seldom without flowers. This was Demelza's doing.' But this was significant and did not go unnoticed to Ross. It was a detail Verity had surprised Demelza with as she reported that Ross had told her of her love of flowers. However it's greater significance to Ross is confirmed in the seventh book 'The Angry Tide'. This was when in returning home from London a little insecure about his marriage following Demelza's flirtations and grief over Hugh Armitage, Ross reflected on this part of his life. It was clearly a defining impression that she had made on him at the time, as for him looking back he thought that at that time 'Demelza had been growing out of servitude and childhood to become his companion and then his wife' and he recalled that '...almost the first evidence of the changing relationship had been the appearance of flowers in this room (the parlour).'

Demelza eats with Ross Poldark at Nampara in season 1
So having met Demelza and literally picked her up from a market (as he also put it),  and then having brought her to Nampara in April, Graham narrated that for Ross 'This spring, his spirit in spite of all drawbacks had climbed slowly but surely away from the greatest disappointment of his life.' (*) Demelza played her role in that and in bringing him out of his gloom. Unbeknown to Ross she would go on later to be his wife. In contrast to the despair that Elizabeth had brought to him, it is clear that on the other hand Demelza brought him to a better feeling. At this stage, this at the very least was some light relief for Ross. She brought to him a home brightened up with flowers, conversations between friends and a few laughs too. Ross brought a safe home, protection from her abusive father and a chance for Demelza to flourish mentally.

The Most Amenable of Companions (more than just a servant)

Demelza filling Ross Poldark's drink outside his mine Wheel leisure season1
In these early years, although Ross did not consider Demelza romantically he certainly viewed her as more than just a servant but also in part like a sister. This is more than could be said for how he felt about Prudie. His relationship with Demelza was quite something else. Over a three and half year period Demelza transitioned very quickly in the early months of her stay from being his scullery maid to more of a 'house keeper' for him. Ross had noted this change in her status too as she began to lead Prudie rather than be led and she took on the task of management and organising the upkeep of the house keeping. As well as shopping with her, particularly in light of her knowledge of fish, Ross and Demelza fell into a routine where '....she was sitting in the parlour with him two or three evenings a week.' There they would talk with each other or she would keep him company while she taught herself to read. She became more of a 'companion' to him and one that he eventually considered 'the most amenable of companions.' This friendship is emphasised with Graham noting that because of the general camaraderie in the house, that his other servants '...the Paynters did not seem to resent Ross's friendship with the girl (Demelza).' Eventually Ross considered for himself that with Demelza he '.....had derived certain definite pleasures of companionship.' Demelza had indeed presented as quite a blessing to Ross and therefore in some way a light to his life that lifted his spirits when he most needed this since, 'There were plenty of times when he was lonely and glad of companionship.'

A Special Friendship

Ross Poldark shopping with Demelza and her new red cloak season 1
More than just friendship, Demelza's greater significance to Ross could not be more highlighted than when Graham narrated that following Verity's upset with Andrew Blamey and with her as his close cousin and friend 'Verity no longer had the heart to come over and Demelza took her place.' That was quite big shoes to fill and would probably then have made Demelza his best friend in that time. Therefore when looking at the timeline of their relationship it cannot be denied that whilst there was no longstanding and building romance between them, even before the marriage and the real romance that followed, Demelza's value in Ross's life was not at all insignificant. In fact from the start it had never been insignificant.

A Fierce Attachment to Ross 

Demelza lovingly watching Ross Poldark bathe in Season 1 episode 3
In respect of Demelza it is made clear that her experience in the first instance mirrored Ross's and more. Graham wrote that whilst for Ross Demelza was someone he '..had grown to like and to trust...' it was also the case that he too was '....liked and trusted by her.' Even still whilst knowing of the rumours that she and Ross were having a sexual relationship and although Demelza found this an 'embarrassment at their complete mistaking ..of her position in the household.', and also that 'It was as impossible as turning copper to gold.' and something that would only make Ross laugh, her feelings for him were more than just friendship. 'She was fiercely attached to it (Nampara). And of course to Ross.' Also she felt that '...she had worked with people she had grown to like and for a man she adored.'

A Girl in Love with her Master 

Demelza and Ross eating together at Nampara in season 1
It can be presumed that Demelza now at seventeen years old was too young at this point to have genuinely fallen in love with Ross. However with Morwenna falling for Drake at the same age, Winston Graham did not show himself to be unbelieving of a love that started so young. Not including the frustrated love story of Ross and Elizabeth's Graham still show a belief that young love could prove to be true one and to endure in the love stories of Drake and Morwenna and Demelza of Ross. In the twelfth book 'Bella Poldark', when thinking of Bella's love life, Graham as narrator said 'Demelza had known long before she was seventeen whom she loved and would always love.'
That Demelza had loved Ross after three and a half years is not inconceivable bearing in mind that the women of that time period were often written to have felt themselves to be in love with their love interests after short periods of courtship involving just a handful of supervised meetings. This was pretty much like Verity's experience with Captain Andrew Blamey. But if one can feel that at seventeen Elizabeth had fallen in love with Ross during their very short period of courting, it can easily be believed that having lived with and worked for Ross everyday for over three years, Demelza could have fallen into a true and real love of him too. Demelza quite probably knew and understood Ross better than Elizabeth ever did and had enough of an idea of this man and his character to know if she really did love him or not. However, it does mean that with Demelza loving Ross and he merely having affection for her as a half servant, half sister, this could have made for a sad story of unrequited love. That would be if not for Demelza's pragmatic outlook, her optimism in life and her lack of any expectation to pursue anything more with her master. At that point!

The Trigger to More than Friends

Demelza stands looking at Ross Poldark outside Nampara in season 1
Indeed the love story of Ross and Demelza may not have come into being at all if it had been left to Demelza alone. Having loved Ross 'long before she was seventeen', (*1) it is possible that she may have been prepared to continue going on loving and adoring him from afar until circumstances moved them both on to other people of their own class or circle. And so in light of this it seems that Demelza's father had a lot to answer for in being the trigger to prompt Demelza to shift gears in her love story with Ross from neutral, upwards. As a result and having established a firm and valuable companionship with Ross, the next part of this journey would see her embarked on a mission that she herself had considered as 'impossible as turning copper to gold'. This was to seduce Ross. Though she set about this with a simple goal of staying at Nampara and with the man she adored, instead of returning home, she had not anticipated much more beyond this. Unbeknown to her this very mission would set the wheels in motion for both hers and Ross's life to change drastically and for a union with him that she would not have foreseen, did not expect and as stated above would be covered over thirty three years and across the twelve books. 

The next blog (A blossoming flower desperately seeking romance) will look at Demelza's decision to take the gamble to pursue a romantic encounter with Ross. This would induce him to see her not as his friend and former urchin now servant girl, but as a lover and someone who unbeknown to her he would then decide to marry within two days.
(*) First edition Book One (Ross Poldark)

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