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Poldark: Elizabeth - George And The Money Marriage Pt2 (Changeable And Fickle In Love)


Elizabeth and George Warleggan stand arm in arm with Ross and Francis Poldark standing either side

In the previous post, which is the part one of this topic on the changeable and fickle nature of Elizabeth's love, her changes of mind regarding her love interests Ross and Francis were highlighted as a strong theme in Elizabeth's story and character. To recap a little, rather than blow up like a burning fire greater and stronger than ever before, Elizabeth's love for Ross Poldark diminished in his absence. Then, after his return she claimed by her words that her feelings for him changed again on another two separate occasions. These will be explored more fully in the post 'Three Changes Of Mind Loving Ross Poldark'. 

As for Francis, Elizabeth's change of heart came about with the birth of their first child who Elizabeth directed all her love to instead. Describing Geoffrey Charles (and not Ross) as Francis's 'more powerful rival' Graham narrated that for Elizabeth motherhood was an 'all absorbing task' where '...ordinary duties became void.' Also, as their financial situation became dire Elizabeth lacked motivation to work on her marriage even after Francis had changed his more reckless ways, was more positively focused and also when Graham narrated that their relationship had become kinder. As Elizabeth explained to Morwenna, by that time she was just 'tolerating' him.  

In this post Elizabeth's change of mind concerning George is the focus. In this there is the idea that contrary to her lack of motivation to save her marriage with Francis, her willingness to do this with George in many ways only highlights a fickleness in terms of love not being the driving force to this. Indeed the fickleness that underpinned her relationship with George and the reasons she formed a relationship with him in the first place will also be in focus.

George: The One Who Didn't Stand a Chance Until She Needed Him 

Elizabeth Poldark talking with George Warleggan at a party
Although Elizabeth had not loved George, there was still an element of a change in her mind that she had regarding her relationship with him too. When Ross in the sixth book 'The Four Swans', met Elizabeth at the church graveyard and told her that "He (George) has wanted you since he first saw you....But I never dreamed he had a chance." Elizabeth who was then married to George answered "Neither did I." 

Indeed Elizabeth's reply to Ross adds to the narrative of a change of mind by her in respect of George and a change in relation to the idea of being 'his woman' and 'his wife'. As documented in the part one of this post, a change of mind for Elizabeth often occurred with a change of circumstances. This tended to be if those new circumstances meant that a change of mind was now in her interests. 

Marrying George-A Drastic Change Of Position

Indeed Elizabeth's decision to marry George in the book 'Warleggan' was the massive twist and game changer that triggered the story’s climax. That climax being Ross's angry reaction and his assault on her on 9th May. It was a 'massive twist' precisely because it was not expected. It was not expected precisely because it really was such a big and surprising change of position for Elizabeth. Before then, whilst Elizabeth appreciated George's admiration of her she had never thought of him as a man she could actually partner with through marriage. She never thought of him romantically or as husband material for herself. This is echoed in her "Neither did I." comment to Ross. However it so happened that when George did propose marriage, he had happened to stand a greater chance because of Elizabeth's circumstances at the time. This meant she was more open to this than she would have been beforehand. 

Again, it really was the case that Elizabeth’s circumstances determined her mind and her decisions rather than her principles determining them. Here, in accepting George's proposal she changed her principles or her perspective. This was because at the time she felt herself to be in need of saving from a difficult life as a single mother who wanted a more comfortable life than the one she foresaw and someone to share and perhaps deal with all her burdens. This was irrespective of love. She still considered that marriage to him would mean '...all her problems solved. All except one,...the problem of George.'

Fickle? A Marriage Decision For Money Not Love 

It is clear that Elizabeth setting aside her principles not to marry a man she considered a 'problem' was a decision made primarily for material reasons. George had reeled off a very impressive chapter and verse about all the things he could provide for her as her husband. He told her this included a home four times the size of Trenwith, twenty servants, the finest education for Geoffrey Charles, her own carriage, trips to London and Bath and much more. In really emphasising Elizabeth's U-turn on George, Graham again highlighted that this really was a 'change of mind' by Elizabeth when he wrote that on the question of her agreement to marry George 'To her astonishment, she realised that a favourable answer was no longer impossible to her.' 

Not only did Elizabeth's astonishment of her U-turn demonstrate that it was George's manifesto of material and financial benefits that clinched the deal for her, but it is clear that this financial manifesto was the thing that for a woman like Elizabeth made a decision that was 'impossible' beforehand, possible after all. Again, in keeping with this idea of her 'changeableness', Graham wrote that Elizabeth considered that she had been moved to '...acceptance of a situation which at one time, and not so long ago, would never have been allowed to come into being.'

They All Knew It Was About The Money

Whilst Elizabeth also saw the additional benefits of marriage to George as having someone for company and someone to manage her estate, it is clear that George's wealth was the main factor in Elizabeth's decision to marry him. Without this she would not have been prepared to marry this 'problem' of a man. It is quite simple that if George did not have the money he had he would have received a firm 'No' in reply. After all, if she was prepared to marry a poor man she certainly wouldn't marry one that was problematic as well as being poor. 

The money incentive to Elizabeth of marriage to George was so obvious to all that it was hardly debatable. Verity who was not overly keen to attend the wedding knew this was not a love marriage and when Ross first heard of her plan to marry George it naturally came to his mind that George's money was the reason for it. In tense conversation Ross asked Elizabeth directly "Are you marrying him for his money?" Graham wrote Elizabeth's initial reaction stating that 'She said nothing for a minute, her eyes narrowed in an effort to be calm.' 

Ross and Elizabeth Poldark arguing in her Trenwith bedroom
Although Elizabeth eventually but unconvincingly denied to Ross that she was marrying George for money, Ross continued forever more to have the understanding that she had indeed done so for that reason. In the last book 'Bella' Ross wondered why Harriet Warleggan had married George and then thought 'For the same reason possibly as his delicate Elizabeth, his very first love, had agreed to marry George all those years ago-for money, and all that money could buy...' It is hard to presume that Ross was way off the mark when even Elizabeth's very own husband felt the same way. In the eighth book 'The Stranger From The Sea' George who had over six years of marriage to his deceased wife showed some self awareness about Elizabeth's reason for marrying him. Graham wrote of George's reflections that 'He did not pretend she had married him out of love..' George considered that while he had married Elizabeth to acquire a 'beautiful and patrician property' he thought that she had married him ' obtain money and protection and a comfortable life....' 

Survival Over Principles And Love (A Woman Of The Times?)

Choosing to marry George primarily for his money was a change of mind Elizabeth made out of self preservation and self interest instead of because of love.
This contrasts with Ross's nature who was quite the opposite and was often stubborn in sticking with his principles even if it was at his own cost and to his overall detriment. Even Francis did this too. For instance, after realising that George was not such a good man and that he had tried to destroy Ross, out of loyalty Francis was not interested in patronising George and further. This was despite George being his chief creditor who could ruin him financially if he so wished. 

Elizabeth Poldark marrying George Warleggan at her wedding
Of course Elizabeth was a 'woman of her time' and this concept is often presented as an explanation for why she at times set aside principles in favour of self preservation. Many women in that time period did not marry for love but to secure their future comfort instead. However, for the purpose of this post love is being considered as a true and substantial foundation for a relationship and marriage since it is based on a genuine emotion. Although many women did this, a marriage for money and material reasons will be considered as fickle since it was based on practical need and rather than being based on loving emotion. So when comparing the love marriages with the money marriages of convenience of that day, the fickleness in the latter stems from the absence of love and it being more of a transactional arrangement. Elizabeth was therefore not the only woman who married for this unemotional but self preserving reason. Margaret Vosper, Keren Daniels, Valentine Warleggan and Harriet Warleggan were also characters that married not for love but for the understandable but nevertheless fickle and self preserving reasons of money and general financial security.  

Fickle? Not Every Woman Of The Times

Whilst highlighting that it was tempting for women to marry for transactional reasons such as money or status, it would be unfair to say that all 'women of the times' did this. Graham made sure to demonstrate and provide examples of 'women of that time' that by virtue of their character and regardless of self preservation or just for ego, were more inclined to reject decisions, opportunities and relationships for these fickle reasons. 

At the beginning of the story Graham showed that Demelza, who in a less materially fortunate class was a 'girl of her time' who was prepared to turn down the chance of a life time to live with and work as a scullery maid for a man she thought was a rich gentlemen. All because she thought Ross would not allow her dog to join her. Clowance as an adult turned down the marriage proposal of a lifetime by a Lord, Lord Edward because her heart was with a privateer (Stephen Carrington) of a much lower class and who she eventually chose a future with. Caroline is a good character to compare with Elizabeth's. She refused a perfectly good transactional marriage to a Lord Coniston because she did not love him. If the difference was that she was in a better position than Elizabeth because she was richer then credit must be given to Caroline that she was also prepared to risk losing her inheritance by annoying her uncle and eloping with Dwight. Speaking of her uncles she told Dwight "If they do remain estranged and will their money to the Astronomical Society, I shall certainly not complain and shall think the exchange a fair one." Clearly she placed love over money and comfort and even said "It will do me good, Dwight, to stand on my own feet.."

Of a much lower class there was even Katie Carter who was reluctant to marry Music Thomas despite expecting to be a single mother when she was abandoned by the man she thought was the child's father. 

Graham made all these women a testament to the notion that just as in any time of history there will always be women and people who despite the constraints and worries of their time period, decide to go against the norms and take the more challenging road because the conviction of their character and principles is more compelling to them. It was these female characters that instead hung around to enter relationships and marriages out of genuine love or affection rather than purely to secure their financial security. 

A Self Confessed Changeable Woman

Whilst Elizabeth might not have thought herself a fickle woman, Elizabeth at least appreciated that she was changeable. Before deciding to marry George, Graham wrote a scene of Elizabeth thinking of her options after her dramatically eventful night with Ross on 9th May. Wondering how she had gotten into the position she found herself in, Graham wrote her admitting to herself the factual point that 
'If she had not changed her mind, she would have been married to Ross these ten years.....' But after George tried to charm and persuade Elizabeth against a postponed wedding and told her that she was not a changeable woman, Graham wrote that privately Elizabeth thought 'Not a changeable-minded woman! Was that what George thought her? ..., all that had happened was a result of it.'

Also supporting the theme of Elizabeth's changeableness Graham wrote that Ross also considered that in the matter of love and choosing who she wanted, Elizabeth definitely was this type of  woman. Unimpressed and reeling from the shock of Elizabeth's vague 'confession' of love to him in ‘Warleggan’, Graham simply narrated Ross's thought that together with Francis 'Their lives had been the tragedy of one woman who couldn't make up her mind.' ('Warleggan' Book 1 chapter 4).

Another Change- Change Of Attitude On George

Surprisingly it seems that the story saw Elizabeth transition to a relationship that could have been stable with George. But even this was due to a further change of position by Elizabeth on George as an ideal husband and as a man generally. Although Graham did not narrate that Elizabeth eventually did fall in love with George, after her death Geoffrey Charles spoke of his late mother to Ross in 'The Stranger From The Sea' and said that in respect of George "I believe she was fond of him in her own way." Indeed despite having considered him a 'problem' and a man that in the first instance she could not possibly have wanted to marry, she told Ross three years later in the church graveyard that in ordinary circumstances George was a "reasonable man" and a "kind husband".

It certainly did become apparent in the story of George and Elizabeth's marriage that aside from the dark cloud that hung over them regarding Valentine's paternity, from initially thinking of George as a ‘problem’Elizabeth became content with marriage to him in a way that one can guess many of the other female characters would not have. Elizabeth did not present as a woman who regretted having him as a husband. She did not come to see him as an unlikeable, off-putting and meanspirited man, as many characters did and also as most readers did too. 

However although there was a positive change of attitude by Elizabeth towards George during the marriage, just before she died Graham made sure to remind the reader of the fickleness that lay at its foundation. Even after six years of marriage. When George told Elizabeth that he might receive a knighthood, Graham wrote that 'They had both been excited at the thought.' Instead of writing of Elizabeth's happiness for George he wrote that 'Elizabeth was full of satisfaction at the thought of being Lady Warleggan' Graham went on to explain that '..Elizabeth had been conscious ever since she married George of having lowered herself in the eyes of the country; this would make up.' That indicated that Elizabeth had long felt the fickle feeling of lowering herself by marrying a man who though still extremely rich was not born a gentlemen. But it also indicated the fickleness in her that she still actually cared so much what others thought and felt that a title would 'make up' for this 'lowering' of her apparent worth. 

To use a good comparator to Elizabeth, Graham never narrated any suggestion that Caroline was ever put out by marrying a man that her uncle referred to as just a 'penniless country doctor' and which Dwight had agreed with. He did consider himself far outside Caroline's league. Instead it was Dwight who had this insecurity on her behalf and equally when Morwenna married the good but very much lower class man that was Drake Carne she did not think less of herself or him worrying what others thought.  There is no doubt that Graham drew a distinction between Elizabeth and many of the other women in the story. 

As another reminder of Elizabeth's outlook, when George told her on her death bed that he was indeed definitely to be knighted after all (meaning she would become 'Lady Warleggan') instead of applauding him and expressing happiness for his good fortune her response was "Oh, George, I am so very gratified." Most likely this alluded to Elizabeth's feeling of validating herself in the eyes of the country. Graham had written that along with a new baby Elizabeth was '..convinced that the title if it came ...,would cement their marriage as nothing before.' Of course that says a lot about the transactional and fickle attitude to their marriage by her. 

A Fickle But Fighting Spirit to Save The Money Marriage

Elizabeth warleggan arguing with George over his love of their children
It is noticeable that following Elizabeth's emotional rejection of Francis after Geoffrey Charles was born, there was little investment by her to work hard to save that marriage. This was even after he turned the corner following his suicide attempt. Instead her interest was pursuing Ross's attention and creating an opportunity to flirt with him as covered in the post 'A Touch of Red Dress Seduction'. Even though she referred to Francis being a more relaxed and charming husband compared to George, she chose to resign herself to just tolerating Francis. However this was not the case with George. When suspicion of Valentine's paternity caused a wedge in their marriage, on this occasion Elizabeth did not resign herself to tolerating a bad marriage with George. She fought for her marriage with him. That said, a genuine emotion of marital love was not the reason. Graham shared her thoughts about fighting to get George on side for the goal of securing his love for Valentine. He wrote her thought that 'If her first son...was poor, and her second son was rich...there could well be some interchange of interests and property which would enable Geoffrey Charles to live at Trenwith as its squire in the manner in which he should be entitled.' Other than the easier life of getting along with a husband, there was no where that Graham in narration tried to show the reader that Elizabeth was motivated to save her marriage out of a love and affection for George. 

Elizabeth went to the length of taking a dangerous and dubious ergot to save her marriage to George and make it stable. This documents that Elizabeth was indeed capable of fighting for a marriage and going to extreme lengths to do so. Even to a man she did not love provided it was for a particular reason. Here we see that this reason was to secure the future comfort and financial security of children. Of course, fighting for your children's future is a noble venture but when considering this reason to assess the true nature of the bond between a man a wife, it really does undermine it. Especially if love and affection is barely a factor too. This is another reminder that the true bond Elizabeth had with George was not based on a loving and emotional connection with him. Not even after six years as her husband. Instead it was based on a  business like and superficial connection related to his wealth. This was the nature of Elizabeth's change of mind agreement to marry George in the first place and it remained the nature of their relationship thereafter and throughout from her perspective.

A Consequence: Passover of 'the Problem of George' To The Children 

There is also an irony that Elizabeth was trying to pass on the transactional element of her marriage to her children. The very poor relationship between George and both Geoffrey Charles and Valentine after her death is a testament that this superficial and practical basis to her marriage could not bear good solid loving fruit and did not form the basis for a healthy relationship of substance between them either. In respect of Valentine Elizabeth forever deception of his paternity play a role in this. However perhaps the main cause of this unhealthy relationship with the children was formed way back before then and with the depthless decision of marrying a man that was 'problematic' and who did not have the personality and emotional maturity to form healthy relationships with children if circumstances were challenging and imperfect. George barely formed positive relationships of substance with his family and his peers let alone with children. He certainly did not present as a man who in the happiest of times would most certainly instil good wholesome values and principles in his children to ensure they grew fuller rounded individuals instead of focused on the fickle aspects of life. All this was essentially an element of 'the problem of George' and the sad price to pay for prioritising his wealth over the fundamental issue of his character.   

Why So Flighty?- So Many Changes

A change of mind once but then ultimately sticking with that is one thing but Elizabeth changes were numerous. She had declared Francis to be a real 'grown up' love only to decide later that perhaps she had never loved him at all. She had loved Ross before he went to war and then later decided her promise to marry him was 'childish' and their love was just a 'boy girl attachment'. Then years later she implied she had wrongly thought she loved Francis better than Ross and this had astonished her and been humiliating. She had never considered George marriage material but then agreed to what was previously an 'impossible' idea and married him. She thought George was a problem but then was happy with him as husband who ordinarily was kind and reasonable. Indeed Elizabeth's changes of mind were more than just a 'one off' occurrence but instead a matter of her nature. Or perhaps it just speaks volumes about her love and supports the idea that whatever her feeling for Ross and the other two men (Francis and George), it was never real love and never a permanent feeling. The feeling depended on circumstances. That is why she was so changeable and therefore so on and off!

Fickleness For Options And Opportunism?

Having established the changing mind of Elizabeth, as suggested above this definitely seemed to be motivated by a whiff of opportunism to get the best out of life and to survive at the expense of her principles. This on its own was an ordinary thing for women of that time and not a matter to be overly critical of this character for. That is except that at times with Elizabeth there was a sinister or upsetting element to her actions in changing her mind or in self preservation. This was often obscured by her overall graceful and sophisticated demeanour. It is an interesting topic which will be explored in a future post but it is clear that Graham did draw out this sinister side in some of Elizabeth's other behaviours. For instance, most readers would see this more overtly during her marriage with George and including her calculating and insensitive treatment of Morwenna purely to keep George happy. 

Taking a holistic overview of Elizabeth's character and her role within the story, there was reason to sympathise with her and the predicament she was sometimes in. Primarily, after her husband died in the fourth book. Up to George's proposal that was a six month period of widowhood. However there was also reason to sympathise with many of the other female characters such as Verity or Morwenna. Morwenna's situation was probably more tragic and horrific for a greater number of years until her rapist husband. Even then she was left with ongoing PTSD. 

Even with having a sympathy for Elizabeth it remains that her changeableness and flighty fickleness were still not quite favourable or admirable characteristics of hers. This is not typically the character trait given to a heroine because though the self serving purpose often at the root of it was for self preservation, it still cannot be admired as this led to disloyalty by her that was upsetting to protagonist type characters such as Ross, Francis (and Demelza and Morwenna for different reasons). Hence she was never written as a heroine type character and ironically her changes of mind involved actions that hurt those characters (Ross and then Francis). Yet her change of mind in relation to George as the saga's villain went in his favour in making his dreams to have her come true. 

Fickleness- The Interchangeability Of Elizabeth's Love

Finally, it is indeed an interesting thing to note about Elizabeth and her changeableness that firstly each of her marriages occurred with her first having a 'change of mind' about someone beforehand. Though the great theme of disloyalty in this is a topic for another post, in both cases Elizabeth's change of mind always signalled a turning of her back on Ross. This was either romantically (when this change of mind was in favour of Francis) or from the perspective of disloyalty to him as his 'greatest friend' (when this change of mind was in favour of George). 

Secondly, aside from disloyalty in Elizabeth's changes of mind, and in keeping with the idea of opportunism, it seemed that there was an interchangeability in Elizabeth's love. In respect of Ross and Francis there definitely was this interchangeability by her a replacing of one love for another. For instance, Elizabeth seemed to think she no longer loved or wanted Ross because she had a new option of Francis to love. For Francis, Graham made it clear that her love and desire of him changed when she had the new option of her baby Geoffrey Charles to channel her love to instead. Again this is consistent with Graham's profile of Elizabeth's character as a changeable and fickle woman in love. 

Quite simply Elizabeth’s love for all her men was a conditional and temporary love. Never permanent. Hers was a love which was susceptible to a distraction if there was a better alternative. It simply was as stated, 'changeable' and 'fickle'.

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