Search This Blog

Elizabeth: Green-eyed Jealousy of Demelza Poldark

Jealous Elizabeth looking resentfully at a beautifully dressed Demelza Poldark

Although Demelza had never really done anything to warrant being disliked by Elizabeth, it was in the sixth book 'The Four Swans' that Graham confirmed that she did indeed dislike her. When she was faced with Drake appealing to her for help with George's harassment of him Elizabeth thought of him that '..there were resemblances to the woman she disliked...' Of course this woman was Demelza and it was because of this that she had not intended to help Drake. She eventually took Drake's appeal to George but only for her own reasons pertaining to her marriage and their reputation. In truth, with no solid justification and since Demelza had actually attended to Elizabeth and Francis on their sick bed, and saved her child Geoffrey Charles, her dislike of Demelza was quite unreasonable. Whilst Demelza had been welcomed into the Poldark family by Verity and Francis, there had never really seemed to be genuine good will from Elizabeth towards Demelza. Some might think Elizabeth's dislike of her was natural and due to them both being in love with and wanting Ross for themselves. This idea is explored in the blog post  'Elizabeth: A Competitive Spirit Against Demelza' which looks at this while exploring her love or lack of love for Ross. But a consideration there is that Elizabeth was in competition with Demelza not because of a love of Ross but simply because Elizabeth was jealous of Demelza and unlike the kind of jealousy born from a healthy admiration, hers had an edge which grew over time in bitterness, resentment, a lack of good will for Demelza and therefore having a touch of the green-eyed monster about it. Here we look at where this jealousy first arose from and why. 

A Confirmation of jealousy

If there is any doubt that Elizabeth was jealous of Demelza Graham confirmed this without question in the first full editions of the second book 'Demelza'. Graham actually referred to Elizabeth as being jealous of Demelza on two occasions in this book (full editions). The first time followed an argument with Francis about Demelza (referred to below). This was in the sixth chapter of this edition and then he narrated that Elizabeth had spoken insults about Demelza ' her distress and jealousy...' For the second reference the context was that Ross, Demelza, Francis and Elizabeth had attended the Truro Grand Assembly ball. It was Demelza's first ball although it was marred somewhat by Ross's sour mood in light of Jim Carter's death. On their way home together Graham stated that Elizabeth was now feeling 'lonely and unhappy' and that 'Her marriage had not at all turned out as expected.' He referred to her as a '..beautiful, rather over-reserved disappointed young woman.' Instead of following this with an explanation that the source of this disappointment was not having Ross for a husband instead of Francis, Graham continued his narration saying that 'She was also jealous of the blossoming Demelza...' (*) 

'Piqued by a A Young Demelza's Success 

Demelza Poldark steps out beautiful at Trenwith
Even before Graham referred to Elizabeth's jealousy of Demelza there was an indication as early as three chapters in to the second book that this might be her feeling towards her. 

'At Christmas she had been a little piqued by the young Demelza's success, and today she had taken pains to see if she could rebuild her ascendancy over Ross, a matter that was becoming more important to her than it had once been.'
Demelza (Book 1 Chapter 3) 
This passage from that third chapter states that Elizabeth was 'piqued' by Demelza following her visit to Trenwith as a newly wed with Ross. It also demonstrates that this inspired her to take action and seek to rebuild Ross's interest and her importance in his mind. So what exactly was the nature of Elizabeth's feeling about Demelza after this first visit? The dictionary definitions for 'Piqued' essentially refers to a feeling of irritation or resentment often due to a wounded pride or a feeling of being slighted. The reason Graham gives here for Elizabeth feeling this was due to 'young demelza's success'. And so now in light of Graham's other remark it would seem that the source of Elizabeth's jealousy of Demelza related to at least two matters which were 'Demelza's success' and 'Demelza's blossoming'. To truly understand Elizabeth's jealousy a starting point is understanding Demelza's success and blossoming and how this was through Elizabeth's eyes. 

Demelza's success 

The Journey from a Beggar Girl to a Lady

The concept of 'Demelza success' in her life is actually quite a central theme to the Poldark Story. In his own dialogue with Demelza in the short story he wrote called 'Meeting Demelza', Graham told her that he had created her to be 'successful' and that she had been. It is really quite an obvious theme when appreciating that she started her journey as a street urchin caught up in a dog fight wearing her brother's clothes and ended up a titled one as 'Lady Poldark', wife of a Baron. There were many successes along the way for her but by the end of the first book she had only just married into the gentry. It was in the second book that she was venturing out in this new world and even the foreword of this book referenced that part of the storyline was about Demelza finding '....she has much to learn in the ways of society...'
In 'Jeremy Poldark' Graham wrote that including 'Francis who would do anything for her' and other men who would ask after her with concern and send her gifts 'It was always a surprise to Ross how Demelza seemed to have the respect of so many of these difficult men.' It is significant that alongside Demelza making good progress and being so well embraced in this new world that he also wrote of Elizabeth's jealousy and annoyance of Demelza on more than one occasion in this book. 

A Jealousy Beyond Ross

Graham made it clear that Elizabeth was an incredibly beautiful woman. She had this in her favour as well as a style, grace and class that was very far above Demelza. As a former street urchin who was pretty, but not stunningly beautiful, it might not be believable that Elizabeth could be jealous of someone like Demelza. Not unless it was to do only with Ross, but otherwise not specifically jealous of Demelza as a person. It was Elizabeth who was supposed to be the perfect woman and Demelza beneath her in every way possible. However, reviewing the story and Graham's statements of Elizabeth's jealousy it becomes quite possible that it is an easy mistake to consider Ross as the true reason for this jealousy. Whilst he was certainly the starting point it does become apparent that the jealousy evolved so that it became much more than just about Ross.

As Graham spoke of creating Demelza to be 'successful', it does appear that this was very much not his intention with Elizabeth. In contrast her life was marred with failure and serious disappointments. Both marriages failed for different reasons, she lived with a paternity cloud concerning her second child and the dilemma of a long running spousal deception about this to her second husband. In addition she died a premature death unintentionally at her own hands. Even on the point of becoming a titled lady, though Demelza had not desired this but still somehow achieved this, Elizabeth who in contrast did very much want this for herself failed to secure this in light of her early death before George was knighted. This would have conferred this coveted title to her had she lived. So as well as a theme of Demelza's success Graham seemed to play around with a theme of Elizabeth's failures against this. This was to the extent sometimes of there being exact parallels in their lives in their good fortune and disappointments. Although on the issue of Demelza's title Elizabeth died before knowing of this, generally Graham moved Elizabeth's feelings on Demelza away from being solely about Ross to a bigger issue so that the jealousy and eventual dislike by Elizabeth towards Demelza became more about the theme Graham created of Elizabeth failing where Demelza succeeded. Here we now must focus on this 'success' of Demelza's that Elizabeth observed and which bothered her.

Jealous of what? 

Marital Bliss Vs Marital Doom

The first and most obvious contrast of Demelza's success and Elizabeth's failure was in their marriages. Whatever were the ingredients that made a woman like Elizabeth happy, for every woman it tends to define success in a marriage and Elizabeth did seem preoccupied with whether Ross was 'happy' with Demelza. She asked Ross this twice. This was once when he first brought Demelza to Trenwith and again in 'Jeremy Poldark' when as addressed in the 'A Touch of Red Dress Seduction' blog she flirted with him in her kitchen. Before then she had also asked Dwight if he thought they were happy together. It is a solid guess that Elizabeth was not desperate to hear that Ross was very happy with Demelza and that actually she probably would have been secretly pleased to hear otherwise. Yet unfortunately for her this was not the case.
Demelza Poldark sings to Ross at Trenwith Christmas
With continual references to Ross knowing himself to be happy six weeks after marrying Demelza and even asking God in the closing scenes of 'Ross Poldark' to help him to hold on to that happiness which with her was 'the greatest of all' for him (*), readers were presented with a very happy and in love married couple. It was also clear to the characters around them. After Verity's short stay at Nampara she told Demelza " seem to have made him fall in love with you,.." Verity highlighted the impact adding "..and that..has changed his whole life.." and also saying "There's such a change in Ross, and it is your doing." Francis also had similar observations. Speaking of Ross's marriage, in an unfinished sentence to George in 'Demelza' he said "He is happily married himself, more happily than ...." If both Verity and Francis noticed this and the 'change' in Ross, much to her annoyance Elizabeth probably did too. Especially as Graham wrote that Ross's mindset that evening was that he had '....felt pleased and stimulated and proud of the developing character of his young wife.' Even after he had sat and chatted with Elizabeth, Graham wrote that with Demelza out of the room 'The thought of Demelza warmed his mind and lit it up...' He was undoubtedly happy with her and this was  despite having been entertained by his first love Elizabeth. As Demelza reflected on the night including that Elizabeth had been '...making eyes at him like a she-cat,...', his lack of reaction to that, yet his visible happiness and love of his wife probably disgruntled Elizabeth all the more. That evening at Trenwith can be marked as the start of Elizabeth's awareness of Demelza's success and from this the start of a real tangible jealousy of her.

The Audacity of the Kitchen Maid 

As for Elizabeth's own marriage, as referred above, for her it '..had not turned out as expected.' The evening at Trenwith really was a tale of two marriages with Ross deriving pleasure from his and Francis speaking of his wife making " a mortal serious business." By this second book readers will have known that now five years in, it had been failing for some time after Geoffrey Charles' birth and Elizabeth was disappointed. She had previously visited Ross at Nampara for help with it and as supposed in the 'Reaching out for Ross' blog she was also seeking some kind of romantic 'reconciliation' with him too. Whatever her plans the realisation that Ross had something with Demelza stopped her in her tracks and she thought ' it's too late. Too late for me to come here.' It is most likely that Elizabeth's belittling way of refusing Demelza's flowers at the time was an expression or rather a manifestation of a resentment that had stirred in her at that meeting. But then six months later, while her own marriage remained in shambles, when seeing Demelza turn up arm in arm with Ross at Trenwith newly and happily married to him, this likely increased that resentment several folds over. It's another stinging irony that this also happened to be the girl that Elizabeth had first advised Ross to send back to her abusive father. It was probably all a little privately embarrassing and wounding to her pride to see her now on Ross's arm as his wife. Hence it was then perfectly fitting for Graham to say she was 'piqued'. Naturally this scenario would have highlighted and contrasted against Elizabeth's own failure in marriage as well as magnified Demelza, the kitchen maid as a figure and a point for building irritation and dislike. 

Resentment After Kindness

Resentment -(1) Anger, bitterness, or ill will. (2) A feeling of displeasure and indignation, from a sense of being injured or offended. 
Collins dictionary.
As well as confirming jealousy it was later in 'Demelza' that Graham also confirmed for the reader that Elizabeth did indeed resent Demelza too. When she, Francis and Geoffrey Charles were sick with the suspected Putrid throat and Demelza came to help, Graham wrote of Elizabeth that 'Any resentment she might once have felt for Demelza was as nothing before relief at her coming now.' Of course we know at least by the exchange with Drake in 'The Four Swans' that this was a temporary reprieve and her dislike of Demelza returned not long after good health was restored, along with a decline in genuine gratitude. But at this point, by process of elimination and Graham's guidance it is clear that the resentment really did begin and stem from Demelza's first visit with Ross, her evident marriage success with him and her continued successes thereafter. 

Stolen- Admiration that was her due 

Ross Poldark sees Demelza surrounded by men at Truro ball in season one
Certainly Demelza's success in marriage was not the only point of jealousy for Elizabeth. Elizabeth was a female character that happened to crave adoration wherever it came from. In a way, for her this was more of a need than just a want or an additional bonus. This is confirmed by Graham when sharing Elizabeth's private thoughts in 'Jeremy Poldark'. Thinking of George she thought 'Admiration such as he brought was rare....She knew it was her due and the knowledge made it all harder to be without.' Hence she definitely would have it found harder than the average women to not only see her former flame divert the admiration he previously held for her to another woman, but to also see other people admire her too. Unfortunately for her one of the main qualities of Demelza was her ability to win the interest and admiration of others. In 'The Four Swans' Caroline expressed this belief to Demelza that if they both walked into a room full of men they would first look at her (Caroline) "...but in five minutes they would all come to be clustered round you (Demelza)!" She went on to say that this was " enviable complaint, for which I think there is no remedy." For Elizabeth this 'enviable complaint' proved to be just another element of Demelza's success and yet again another point of frustration and jealousy for her here. 

"She's a little Gauche" (Elizabeth On Demelza (to Ross)

In tiny tidbits of text Graham demonstrated Elizabeth's subtle debasing of Demelza early on in the story and that her jealousy of her could be moved to the point of an angry outburst or her stiffening as provoked by others not sharing her view of Demelza as inferior or just mention of her name. It was a gradual process. To start with at her first Trenwith visit Elizabeth acknowledged that Demelza was "..greatly changed.." and that Ross should take her out into society. When Ross told her he had had to persuade Demelza to come on this Trenwith visit, Elizabeth smoothly told him that "That's was meeting the family...And she is a little gauche.." With 'Gauche' referring to a person lacking in social grace and being awkward, that part was not so much a compliment to Ross of his new wife and made clear Demelza was not of their class and this was perhaps so obviously relevant and an unavoidable consideration. On that basis she added that "She (Demelza) would perhaps expect to find antagonisms." Graham however showed that Demelza should not have expected this at all that night and even throughout the rest of the story. Like Ross who never thought of Demelza as 'common stock' even Verity and Francis of Elizabeth's class did not have this outlook in mind.
As a stranger, when first seeking Demelza's friendship Verity told her with conviction "Do you think I care where you came from or what is your breeding or how you can curtsey?" Either seeing no gauche behaviour from Demelza or otherwise not caring for this, and contrasting Elizabeth's mixed assessment of Demelza Graham wrote that 'Verity was openly proud of her (Demelza).' Again with quite a different attitude from Elizabeth Francis also revealed a more carefree and embracing attitude about Demelza when telling Ross that "I like your wife,.." and in particular her mettlesomeness. He specifically remarked that it did not matter where she came from. 

Jealousy Reigns When Everybody Loves Demelza 

In terms of 'expected antagonism' it was also the reverse with the upper class guests also present and who enjoyed Demelza's company at her first Trenwith visit. This included John Treneglos, Ruth Treneglos's husband who even took a fancy to Demelza and flirted with her. The book text has Demelza engaging  and entertaining the guests with lively witty talk and saucy songs. It could be that Elizabeth's comment on expected antagonisms was a reflection of her own outlook on a low born woman mixing with the gentry. It certainly seemed to accord with her views expressed during the saga in various ways and when outraged about Morwenna entertaining Drake in light of his low class. It is an irony that the only open antagonism Demelza received was from Ruth. But that was largely because like Elizabeth (who managed to contain hers inside), she was jealous of Demelza too. Otherwise at the end of the night Ross reflected over 'Demelza's charm, almost beauty; the impression she had created...' and told her she was a 'triumph'. Graham as narrator told that 'It had been Demelza's evening. She had come through a searching test with quite remarkable success.' Of course this additional element of her success in securing the praise and admiration of Elizabeth's upper class family and friends would added to her piqued feeling and wounded pride. Readers of the first/full edition of the second book would see that six months later a festering of this resentment and a loss of Elizabeth's cool guard would result in her taking a more viciously tongued swipe at Demelza. 

Jibes at the "Little Wife" by the Great Lady (Fighting Talk)

"Keep your thanks... and praise for the beggar girl Ross married."

Elizabeth (Demelza (1st edition)- Book 1 Chapter 6)
In chapter six of the first and full edition of the second book 'Demelza', and in response to Francis commenting that Ross had come into money and could probably afford new servants, Elizabeth made some some sharp insults about Demelza. She responded that "Perhaps his little wife would not welcome new servants lest she should be mistaken for one of them." She went on to imply that people would judge them harshly for having Demelza as a relative "...if Demelza tries to play the great lady before she has even learned to play the small one."
But as Francis responded that he found Demelza entertaining, a quick learner and that of all people he did not fear Demelza being accepted into their society, Graham wrote that 'Elizabeth stiffened.' This is just as George would notice her doing involuntarily at the mention of Demelza's name six years later in 'Black Moon'. In this scene with Francis and with a level of anger uncharacteristic of her, before storming off Elizabeth went on to say, "I have never known your thanks or your praise. You keep your thanks for - ...and your praise for the beggar girl Ross married!" Of course these rare revelations of Elizabeth's deeper and real views of Demelza are the green eyed element of her jealousy given their meaner spirit than she would show to Ross and others. Until this scene she had been quietly irritated at the insult of someone she considered so inferior being successful against her failures. Ross's happiness with Demelza was one thing but to have her husband who was probably falling out of love with her also praise and admire Demelza too, was surely further salt on her already wounded pride. Francis predicting Demelza's continued success in their world here was additional provocation. 

So it was here that Graham confirmed Elizabeth's angry swipes at Demelza were based on jealousy of her when he closed this scene and opened the next chapter. In reference to Demelza planning how to help Verity with Blamey and with what seemed sarcastically toned narration he wrote 'The beggar girl, as Elizabeth in her distress and jealousy had called her, was a few mornings later eating a silent breakfast and scheming.' 

Demelza's Blossoming 

Demelza -A 'Blooming' Success Before Elizabeth's Eyes 

Elizabeth Poldark watching Demelza dance at the Truro ball season 1
Graham did not make the points of Elizabeth's jealousy a figment of her imagination. So aside from Demelza clearly having a happier and more successful marriage than her and also her being so well received by the family and their friends, Graham had already been establishing a strong theme of Demelza's 'Blossoming' which he could then add as another point of Elizabeth's jealousy. Before marriage to Ross and when threatened by her father to return home Graham wrote about Demelza that at Nampara 'Her soul had blossomed...' Almost straight after marriage to Ross he told readers that '..her personality flowered over night'.  Before the night of the Blue dress seduction Ross had been noticing that she was no longer an 'ill looking girl' and during that night when contemplating if he should sleep with her he thought of, 'Demelza with her flowering maidenhood.' During their first visit to Trenwith Graham wrote her being referred to as a 'bud' four times by Agatha and Ross and then as a 'blossom' by John Treneglos. Demelza noticed this herself but Graham did not stop there because on two occasions as narrator he too likened her to a 'white flower' and one whose bud became free of its petals as she made love with Ross. And in doing so consolidated what was her successful night at Trenwith against her rival with a passionate confirmation of Ross's love for her. 

A Stolen Title -Belle of the Ball

Demelza Poldark makes a grand entrance from the stairs at Truro ball ball
Graham definitely committed to embellishing this theme of Demelza's blossoming including at the Truro ball in 'Demelza' where over Elizabeth it was she who was the belle of the ball. 
As well as having witnessed and known of the happiness of Demelza and Ross as a newly married couple, now at a major societal event Elizabeth had to also witnessed the full blown blossoming of the girl she first met as a kitchen maid. A girl she  still thought of and had called a 'beggar girl'. who could not play the 'great lady'. But again Elizabeth could not be more wrong and it is fitting that Graham chose to make his second confirmation of Elizabeth's jealousy right after their attendance at this event since it was here Graham made grand efforts to highlight 'Demelza's success' there too.
So great a night for Demelza that she had even sparked the interest of the Lord Lieutenant who attended. Ross proudly told Demelza that even Pascoe had heard and "...knew all about your success there." And in response to her disbelief he clarified "Yes: about how the ladies had said how beautiful you were and how the Lord Lieutenant had wished to know your name." The fact that before conversation progressed to a physical fight with Ross at a tavern later in the story 
George did first say to him "How is your wife? She was much remarked on at the celebration ball...", emphasises how Demelza without exaggeration was truly the belle of the ball and contrary to Elizabeth's jibe actually played the 'great lady' very well.  Another stinger for Elizabeth then! Graham used Keren Daniels to further highlight how much Demelza had created such a noticeable buzz and was being talked about even outside her own circle and was truly sought after when he wrote 'She (Keren) had heard all about Mistress Poldark having been a great success at the celebration ball, and quite a number of people had been riding over to see her since.'

Of course Demelza's blossoming and her unwittingly receiving interest and praise from both men and women was more resentment for Elizabeth on grounds that this was supposed to be 'her due' and her domain. Hence she particularly felt the feeling of being jealous of Demelza's blossoming journeying home that night.

Touch of Green Eyed Monster 

All the above just covers how Elizabeth's Jealousy for Demelza arose and the source of this. But this is with Graham making notably very little mention of Ross but focusing on the bigger picture of Demelza's success through personal growth as this source. Whilst Graham did write of Demelza feeling feelings perhaps of jealousy or mainly insecurity about Elizabeth in respect of Ross's feelings about her and also Elizabeth playing on this, this never manifested into any genuine and longstanding ill will towards her. It is one thing for a woman to have a jealousy of another woman, and another for this to trigger a mission to seek to ascend in the mind of that woman's husband and potentially upset that woman's marriage just to heal a wounded pride. But it went beyond just vying for Ross's attention or his adoration. Indeed the green-eyed monster element in Elizabeth's jealousy is in how during the story and until her death it festered into a true and unjustified dislike of Demelza and then a disregard and ill wishing towards Demelza put into action on occasion. This included in behaviours towards Demelza, Ross and her family members. That is to be explored in the follow up future blog 'Elizabeth to Demelza Poldark: A Close Enemy'.

 (*) First edition of Book one - Ross Poldark only 

You may be interested in:

Previous posts