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Reassurances of First Choice Pt2 (Did Ross Poldark Settle For Second Best Choosing Demelza Over Elizabeth?)

Ross and Demelza Poldark in an emotional embrace with their foreheads against each other.

This is the part two to the topic question of 'Did Ross settle for second best choosing Demelza over Elizabeth?' The part one post addressing this is titled 'A Discovery of Preference'. To briefly recap, the premise of that post was inspired from Winston Graham's 1978 interview for an American newspaper whereby talking of his Poldark books he explained that "It's the story of a man who is deprived of the woman he loves, then discovers once he has her, that he is really in love with his wife." Therefore that post followed Ross's journey of 'discovery' as to his feelings after his night with Elizabeth on 9th May. It was that journey in understanding his feelings that led him to realise that his preference and his genuine wish was to be with Demelza on the basis that she was his 'true and real love' and Elizabeth was not. 

This post now focuses on how Ross reinforced to Demelza (and the reader) that choosing her was his sincere choice. When it comes to the question of whether Ross settled for Demelza then naturally Ross's grand speech to Demelza that Christmas Eve 1793 has to be the main point of reference. This is because this was a declaration which essentially was an outpouring not only of his feelings for her as his preferred choice but his solid case and reassurances as to the truth of this.  The follow up post 'Foretelling and Reaffirmations of A Love More Real' will look at how Ross's discovery from 'that May Incident' was foretold even before that event and was reaffirmed afterwards.  

Release Of A Long Running Truth

Ross did seem to drag his feet when it came to reconciling with Demelza after 'that May incident' with Elizabeth. In taking seven whole months a natural assumption might be that he did not move with the speed of a man who wanted and craved for a reconciliation with Demelza desperately. However in the part one of this post topic we saw that Ross used that time to process his feelings and his confusion primarily over what Elizabeth meant to him against what Demelza did. The reconciliation was a long time coming when it came and the reason for this will be under a microscope in an upcoming post called 'What took Ross So Long Choosing Demelza Over Elizabeth?' However for now the length of time taken should not mislead the reader as to Ross's certainty of mind. In fact the reverse is true. 

Ross taking the time he did to approach and win Demelza back highlights his genuineness further. Of course, as a man moved first by his innate feelings, (however rash they were), if Ross had wanted to be with Elizabeth, Graham would likely have shared this and written of his urge to see her and perhaps an attempt by him to achieve this. This was absent from Graham's narrative. But if Ross had only happened to realise his desire and preference for Elizabeth after those first six weeks when she by then was married to George, and therefore lost to him, then in accepting Demelza as second best, it would have made sense for him to pursue Demelza very shortly after Elizabeth's marriage. The fact he didn't do this until a further six months later suggests Ross was motivated by acting with truth rather than with opportunism and with just taking what was left for him. In addition, as set out below and in the next post, apart from Ross's own words this truth would also be verified by Graham in later narratives across the remaining books of the saga.

A Meaningful Pursuit

Ross seeking out a reconciliation with Demelza only after deciding that he did not truly love Elizabeth in the way that was problematic and put her level or above Demelza, does make his eventual appeal to Demelza all the more meaningful and authentic. It meant that he was 
pursuing Demelza free from any doubts and shadows of a lingering or a subdued love for Elizabeth. He was also free from the desire and longing that comes with the kind of love for another woman that matters. Also it was without the notion that Demelza was in some way a default option. 

Now we move on to the actual content of Ross's grand speech to Demelza. All the headed excerpts are taken from 'Warleggan' (Internal book 4 Chpt7) unless otherwise stated. 

The Opening Line

"I want to tell you that Elizabeth means nothing to me any more." (Ross to Demelza 'Warleggan' Book 4 Chpt7)

Like an early Christmas present on that 24th December Ross went straight for the jugular starting his grand speech to Demelza insisting that they no longer avoid the topic of Elizabeth anymore. His opening statement was a head turning 
"I want to tell you that Elizabeth means nothing to me any more." From there onwards Ross went on to show how much he meant this and to provide reassurances as to his 'discovery' from his night with Elizabeth. A night that had enabled him to draw comparisons in his feelings about a woman who he had in any event previously thought 'meant more to him that any other woman', against a woman who did not. 

Of course Elizabeth meaning 'nothing' to Ross seems unbelievable. This term is clearly to be taken figuratively in the context of measuring her against a true and real love instead of more literally speaking and as if he had no other care or regard for her at all. Ross did state at various points, that though he still retained an affection and love for Elizabeth as a woman that he had 'once loved', this was quite different and so much beneath what he felt for Demelza. Fast forward to the next book Graham wrote Ross reflecting on his speech to Demelza and recalling that his aim had been to convey the 'good news' to Demelza. This was the essence of his 'discovery' and was as he thought '...namely that his love for Elizabeth was no longer to be compared to his love for her...' 

Demelza The Bold Cross Examiner 

Unlike how Ross had been at the end of 'The Four Swans' regarding Demelza's defection to Hugh Armitage and their confrontation over this, Demelza's initial scepticism over Ross's declaration saw her take a more fearless and bolder probing approach with Ross than he had taken with her. That therefore allowed the reader to hear more from Ross and through this to be more convinced by him too. Graham ensured that to some degree Demelza essentially represented the 'dubious reader' who had been swept along a story convinced by the spectre of Elizabeth as the heavy weight contender and the ten year holder of Ross's heart. Therefore most readers would be fully invested and just as in need of reassurance as Demelza's character was. 

As Demelza listened to Ross's appeal Graham wrote that 
'her mind and emotions split:...' as she was '...struggling against the too easy capitulation ready, so ready within herself...'. So since she resisted this 'easy capitulation' she instead pushed back against Ross's declarations and challenged him on certain and many points. Through this, opportunity was given to Ross to show the tenor and sincerity of his feeling as a man that now clearly knew his mind and how he really wanted her. Of course, it was only because he had really processed and clarified his thoughts, feelings and reasoning that he could relay them under such challenge with ease despite the tension of what was at stake. This would not have been the ease and surety of a still uncertain man building a sandcastle of lies and trying and perhaps failing to not trip up along the way under the questioning. 

A Bundle Of Reassurances 

Ross's declaration to Demelza is set out over ten pages and was powerfully and heartfeltly delivered. Due to it's length the television adaptions understandably condensed the dialogue so that the long drawn out scene where Demelza's defences were slowly broken down with Ross's insistent outpourings were not shown in full. What might have been a near half hour episode of high tension, make up talk, a near break up and an argument in the rain, a burst beer casket that saved the day and then back to romance, is slimmed down into a few minutes of footage. Some of the dialogue not stripped out is reworded with perhaps a different emphasis and so it is worth reading the full scene. Despite it's length it compels attention throughout as it was littered with reassurances from a man fighting for his true love with a determination that had been in abeyance before this.  

These are the parts in Ross's speech that add the extra punch of persuasiveness and suggest that his feeling came with a certitude in Ross that was iron clad.

  • 1. To begin with when in response to his opening lines Demelza told Ross not to say that he felt nothing for Elizabeth because he should not say what he did not mean, Ross replied "But I do feel it-"
  • 2. After rebuking Demelza for trying desperately to be fair to Elizabeth, trying not to be self deceiving and also trying to make the best of what she had, Ross reinforced that she was the only one he truly wanted and he was no longer torn with half his heart for another woman. This is where he said "….but what you have is all...Will you try to believe that?”

Tales Of Ross's 'Discovery'

"Do you know how it is when a person has wanted something always and never had it? It's true value to him may be anything or nothing . That doesn't count; what does count is it's apparent value...." (Ross to Demelza)

  • 3. In response to Ross's last comment of Demelza having all of him and that she should try to believe him, Demelza asked if she really should do that. It was then that Ross gave a lengthy and persuasive explanation which showed the depth of his emotional self understanding. It related directly to Graham's reference as to his 'discovery' which was his new awareness that in the years before he had allowed himself to disregard or not to consider Elizabeth's true value, but to be transfixed on her 'apparent value'. He conveyed that he had then discovered that due to an idealisation by him this apparent value was greater than it should have been.

There is persuasion in the way Ross was able to explain this very clearly when he expressed that as Elizabeth had never been accessible to him, he had inflated her apparent value to him beyond her true value. He added 
that what he felt for Elizabeth had not been part of an ordinary life, whereas his feelings, his love and relationship with Demelza were. With clarity Ross had conveyed the notion that his night with Elizabeth had somehow been a trigger for his awareness of all this.  As was addressed in part one, the central theme of Ross's 'discovery' and therefore his appeal to Demelza came down to his realisations based upon comparisons. Most would agree that it should not have taken this but this had helped him really see how much more Demelza meant to him. Of course the nature of Ross's relationship with Elizabeth and her value to him is a matter on it's own and will be covered separately when looking at her role as his apparent 'greatest friend'

No Regrets On Closure

We now move on to the forth reassuring point in Ross's speech.

"...what happened in May, if it could only have happened in a vacuum, without hurt to anyone, I should not have regretted at all." (Ross to Demelza)

  • 4. This point relates to Demelza challenging Ross’s comment about not regretting the experience with Elizabeth and his response to this. It was a sharp and possibly insensitive thing for Ross to have said as he implied that he would have liked to have had the experience he had with Elizabeth in a 'vacuum' and therefore unbeknown to Demelza so that no one would get hurt by this. It does sounds like a greedy 'cake and eat it' or 'hall pass' type of wish where he could have his enjoyment without repercussions. However Ross's explanation as to why he would not have regretted this arrangement turned this away from being quite so offensive.
    He conveyed that rather that harbouring regret over 'that May incident'  the positive aspect that came from it was that it had been the very mechanism for a dawning on him that his relationship with Elizabeth was an idealised one. Once again the comparison theme is at play here as Ross introduced the idea of the 'idealised relationship' with Elizabeth competing with the 'ordinary relationship' he had with Demelza, and the ordinary one not suffering in the comparison. It was this more favourable comparison that is key to Ross having no regrets. The significance was that the experience and the 'discovery' from that night brought him a big coup in closure. His unresolved feelings on Elizabeth were now resolved and his unfinished (romantic) business with her was finished. Had it not been for that night he probably would still have been wrestling with these issues for years onwards. 
     The fact that he no longer was, was liberating for him and essentially in the end gave Ross and Demelza a fresh restart. 

The Ring Of Truth

"...if you bring an idealised relationship down to the level of an ordinary one, it isn't always the ordinary one that suffers." (Ross to Demelza)

The reader should also be reassured by Ross's explanations which seem solid and well supported together with the analogies that he provided. He had perfectly reflected what did seem to be a very likely concept of idealising above reality a woman (Elizabeth) that he had never had. The 'idealised relationship' would have had him with a rose coloured vision of what life and marriage would have been like with Elizabeth and to ignore or not be side-tracked by any doubts on this. However Ross also talked not just of an idealised relationship but of idealising Elizabeth too. In 'The Four Swans' he told Demelza "I loved her once...and idealised her." This concept and explanation of Ross's might make sense especially for those readers that were not particularly enamoured by Elizabeth's character and even more so when put up against Demelza's for comparison. For those readers there would be a very clear ring of truth to Ross's reasoning. This being that he had been so devoted to Elizabeth because before then he had made Elizabeth into a fantasy woman and loved this rather than the real and far less perfect woman than she really was. For instance, Ross once speculated and on another occasion did tell Elizabeth directly that she could have any man she wanted as if she was truly this most prized possession of Cornwall.
Whilst Elizabeth was indeed a special treasure to George, other than men noticing Elizabeth for her beauty Graham's story suggested that it was more Demelza that was prone to captivate the hearts and attention of men. When Caroline had asked Dwight in 'Warleggan' why this was, he said "It's not a question of knowing a secret. It's just a question of knowing Demelza." This does raise a question of Ross overlooking or taking for granted his own treasure in Demelza before 'the May incident' (as he essentially admitted), and perhaps Demelza's greater power than Elizabeth was that there was little idealisation of her from the likes of Hugh Brodrugan, John Treneglos, Captain McNeil, Hugh Armitage, a couple of French lieutenants, Monk Adderly and some other passing male characters that took a liking to her based on her looks but also on her engaging character during the course of the twelve books. Anyway, since Ross had explained the reason for his inflated value of Elizabeth in such a plausible way, it is unlikely that he did not really feel this way. It would have required some manipulative devising of a script and some creativity to come up with the concept in the first place and then to articulate it so convincingly. 

A Standout Love And A Known Truth From Long Before 

"...for a time nothing came clear. When it did, when it began to, the one sure feeling that stood out was that my true and real love was not for her but for you." (Ross to Demelza)

  • 5. The next reassuring element of Ross's speech was probably the defining and conclusive statement from Ross that covered all that Demelza should have hoped to hear. The ultimate gem in his 'discovery' was that the true and real love he had was not for Elizabeth but for her, Demelza. And so as he had said, it had been this that had stood out to him for much of the seven months beforehand. 

"You should know that I love you. What other reassurance do you ask?" Ross to Demelza 'Warleggan' (Book 1 chapt3)

Perhaps the reader should not have been greatly shocked by Ross's key and all encompassing revelation. Didn't it just serve to corroborate the bits of narrative Graham had left in the books along the way? For instance, prior to that readers had already read Graham's narration that Demelza meant more to Ross than any other woman. This was in the second book and then in the third 
'Jeremy Poldark' when Ross had returned a free man from his trial. After Elizabeth's kitchen flirtation with him in the same book Ross had wondered if he loved her because he knew her less but on the other hand he felt a devoted and flawless love with Demelza. Earlier in 'Warleggan', before Ross's night with Elizabeth and when Demelza asked if he still had feelings for her (Demelza), Graham wrote that 'He looked at her in astonishment...' and said 'Good God you should know that.' He then told her that she should know he loved her and asked what reassurances she needed. Interestingly and to contrast this Graham wrote Ross's reaction to Elizabeth's 'vague confession of love' just a few scenes later and how this caused him to like her less. Meanwhile it had also prompted him to realise his warmer feelings towards Demelza instead. So with all these markers and his love of Demelza constantly being reinforced in his thoughts over the years beforehand, it makes sense that after that night a real love was not a particular feeling that stood out for him in respect of Elizabeth instead. Why should it when in the years before, after his marriage to Demelza his love for Elizabeth had been the one evidently masked with uncertainty? In comparison his love for Demelza had always been the certain one. 

The Undiscovered Treasure In The Act Of Lovemaking

"But I wasn't seeking just pleasure. I was- I suppose in fundamentals I was seeking the equal of what I'd found in you,..." (Ross to Demelza)

  • 6. Doing what Ross did not dare to do in respect of the details of Demelza's adventure with Hugh, Demelza continued to challenge Ross and even asked him for the details of his lovemaking with Elizabeth. Clearly taken by surprise on this Ross begrudgingly answered and did not deny it was pleasurable to him. Again this could be taken as an insensitive and upsetting confession from him. However as with the issue on his lack of regret, Ross's explanation did the opposite and he essentially indicated that the lovemaking did not provide him with the ultimate satisfaction in terms of what he was looking for. 

Ross's response highlighted his confessional approach to what was tough questioning from Demelza on a very difficult aspect of his infidelity. His answers showed him to be brutally but therefore also 
refreshingly honest. After all, if he could make truthful admissions on what might have been the worst confession to most wives from their husband, then it is reasonable to presume the rest was truthful too. It certainly enhances his credibility as he followed this up with an explanation that despite the pleasure it still somehow fell short of what he had expected. This was where he went on to repair the damage of this admission by his explanation saying "I was seeking the equal of what I'd found in you, and it was not there. For me it was not there." This again is a repetition of the concept of his discovery by way of comparison. Most likely this related to his real connection, intimacy and relationship of substance with Demelza against the unreal and unnatural one with Elizabeth.

An Illogical Wish Not To 'Persevere' With Elizabeth 

"..but it seems to me you are hardly quite fair on Elizabeth .....I should think there could be times when she might show to better advantage." (Demelza to Ross)

  • 7. As addressed in the part one of this post topic, to some extent Ross offered further reassurances when Demelza suggested that perhaps the circumstances of how he approached Elizabeth was unfairly by surprise. In a way she advocated on Elizabeth's behalf that she did not have notice, might have been inclined to resist in light of her promise to another man (George), and that all this might have put Elizabeth at a disadvantage performance wise. So in response to Ross's claim that something was missing for him when he slept with Elizabeth, her suggestion was that he should have persevered as if this was required for him to be really sure on his feelings for her after that night. Ross simply stated sarcastically "Would you have had me try?" He was also sarcastic when he asked if she was now defending Elizabeth. Whilst this to the reader might not have seemed a good enough response loaded with facts, figures and statistics as to why he didn't need to try again with Elizabeth, it did something more important than that. It conveyed a feeling and sentiment that Ross just was not interested in persevering with Elizabeth. He simply did not want to try again with Elizabeth and to meet her once again to try to be intimate with her under better conditions, lighting and mood. It's unlikely that rose petals on the bed and Egyptian cotton sheets would have made a difference to his feelings on the woman and making love to her against doing so with the woman that meant more to him.

Considering the likelihood that Ross's feelings were not based on sexual performance, through whatever means his experience with Elizabeth that night had not left him feeling as if there still might be unfinished business and that he needed to double check this. Ross's need and desire for Elizabeth in that way had shifted and not only did he not want to try with her again, he no longer needed to. This feels about right as the narrative in the books that follow are devoid of Ross going back and forth, musing over his feelings for her thereafter or having any fleeting thoughts of longing for her. That unbothered feeling, whether fair or not was all that mattered. It can be likened to a person not feeling the urge for a second date after a series of bad luck unfairly ruined the first one where no one was at fault. Then another person who might still want a second date because despite the awful circumstances there was still a connection that peaked their interests and desire to explore that further. Likewise Ross's disinterest in not persevering with Elizabeth might not have been a logical or fair one, but more importantly it was an emotions and feeling based one. 
Perhaps that is why Ross could only deliver the dismissive and sarcastic reply to convey this feeling.  Much to Elizabeth's annoyance this does fit with the narrative during the seven months before where he did not go to see her or even write to her, and also where he did not do so afterward either. But in Demelza's determination to cover all nocks and crannies the fault in understanding probably lay with her. Understandably Demelza surely needed time for the idea that Ross had essentially moved away from desiring Elizabeth and all of his other words to marinate with her. In this moment she was still reticent and fishing for logic when in fact this was not a logical matter.    

Professions of Truth And Honesty 

  • 8. The last part of Ross's grand declaration, including in this point and also the points made below focus on him insisting that he was being truthful and confirming the things that were certain to him. Here in this point, as Demelza geared up to match Ross's honesty and therefore to reveal her own adventure with Captain McNeil, she checked in with him about all he had said, saying "But now if it is true what you say, if you really mean this.." To which he replied "Of course I do."  
  • 9. Not long after this profession of truth Ross pressed this point again. When after his heated reaction to her confession Demelza packed her bags to leave, in trying to stop her or to leave her with his final position before she did leave, Ross stressed to her that "Still what I have told you is the truth, all of it." That was then the third time during this scene that he had pledged his honesty about what he had been telling her and of his feelings. Of course, in light of Ross's honourable character this does away with the notion that he was fooling her in someway or that he was making declarations that he was not really certain of after all. 

More Reflections of The Real & Imperfect Elizabeth

" was like seeing a stranger. Queer! Like a stranger, even an enemy, sitting there, George's wife." (Ross to Demelza)

  • 10. For this ninth point Ross then made another additional and crucial comment to substantiate and give more context to his certainty of mind that Elizabeth was not a woman he truly loved in that special way as he further commented "When I saw her tonight, that confirmed it." 
Ross's comment here served as a indication that not only had Ross felt this changed feeling about Elizabeth for some time over the seven months, but that he too had got that extra certainty and confirmation of his feelings that very day. It is another reminder that Ross had known for some time that his heart was with Demelza but had not pursued her in any kind of knee jerk reaction. (More on that in the post about why he took so long!)

"George's Wife"

In further support of his comment Ross explained that Elizabeth was like a stranger to him. He even suggested that she was like an enemy too. As commented on in the part one to this post topic this indicates that the 'crystalisation' that Ross had had about Elizabeth some time before, had probably involved some reflection on who she was a person to him. Ross referring to Elizabeth as "George's wife" could be taken in two ways. This is Ross assigning her that new identity but not just in name, also in nature too. It was likely a reflection of an Elizabeth that he felt disconnected from and that did not necessarily appeal to him as the kind of person he would cherish and feel love for. 
The significance of Elizabeth being willing to side against him and stand with a man of George's nature and morality was most likely what struck the strongest chord and was a defining point of understanding of her character profile against the profile of the woman he had idealised. That profile had been chipped at a little. 

No Love For The Stranger, No Love For The Enemy

"Far better now if he had never known. The knowledge served no purpose but to destroy what was left of his peace of mind." (narrative of Ross 'Warleggan' book 1 Chpt4)

The fuller background to Ross's comment about having his lack of love for Elizabeth confirmed might have been lost on Demelza but should not really be to the reader. Unlike the readers Demelza's character was not privy to the conversation where Elizabeth made her 'vague confession of love' to Ross or to his reaction to this. As highlighted in the narrative quoted above she had destroyed his peace of mind and this led him to like her less. If Elizabeth's inappropriate suggestions in this conversation there had evoked such an adverse reaction to her by Ross, then the reader can be damn sure that Elizabeth's decision to marry a man like George (which Ross thought was for money) and the manner in which she informed Ross, might cause him to like her less and even more so than before. Then to add to that, Elizabeth presenting earlier that Christmas Eve day as not only angrier than he had anticipated but also cold and dismissive of Ross's attempts for a cease fire with George would cause disappointment in her. Or even her showing the lack of concern that she showed about Demelza being injured by George's gamekeepers, would have undoubtedly confirmed the feeling that this was not a woman he could love in that real, true and longing way. These disappointments are not confirmed in the narrative but they seem the most obvious assumptions based on Elizabeth's stony demeanour and her clearly indicating she was adopting the role she declared to herself earlier when just after agreeing a date to marry George. She said to herself "I shall be George's heart and soul, his faithful wife and faithful friend! Anything I can do against Ross." ('Warleggan' Book 3 Chapter 10) She had clearly given off this energy and from this it is then understandable why as Graham wrote Ross 'Seeing her had upset him in a new way.' Perhaps he never anticipated that the woman he generally believed to be a 'lovely woman' could be like this. Either way Ross's comment and the context really do substantiate why he could be clear that he had idealised Elizabeth and he definitely was not in love with her.

A Certain And True Love Confirmed

"And there's one other thing I want you to know. That is how deeply sorry I am that I ever hurt you in the first place.." (Ross to Demelza)

  • 11. Finally to end off his speech Ross again confirmed his love of Demelza telling her "Does it upset you now to be told that I love You?" 
At that point they were out in the rain, a horse was saddled and Demelza was about to leave him to stay the night with Jud and Prudie. Of course Ross's profession here was really never in much doubt but after Ross's opening line about Elizabeth meaning nothing to him, it made for a good beginning and end. The ten persuasive reassurances in between assist the contrast that within the context of love and desire, Elizabeth meant nothing to him and Demelza meant everything. 

Finally, in addition to all these points made by Ross, the reader can also bear in mind that even before this grand speech of Ross's he had said some things which carried a reassuring message during his separation from Demelza. Although, this had been at a time that Demelza was not open to a discussion or of a mind to take and understand this seriously. This was just a month beforehand in November and therefore of some importance was incidentally before he had seen Elizabeth again and had his feelings for her 'confirmed'. It was after they had gone shopping together for new household items and Ross had absentmindedly expressed to Demelza that 
losing her had been to "no good purpose." In the same conversation he had suggested that if they discussed their break up and his adultery that Demelza would very likely not be displeased with what he said. Since that conversation did not go any further it was not until his speech on this Christmas Eve that the reader would see what had been in his mind then and that Ross would finally put this case to her with clarity, certainty and conviction. 

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