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A Bad And Unfaithful Husband? (Pt 2 The Real Francis Poldark).

Although the storyline of Francis cheating is not fully fleshed out by Graham in the books, it is however a story line which many define and judge his character by. Francis's infidelity can overshadow his whole story arc in the saga or at least the perception of him as a husband. Therefore he is often labelled a 'bad husband' as well as an 'unfaithful' one. This is irrespective of anything else, the changes he later made, how his story ended and whether Elizabeth herself was a good and faithful wife to him. The question here is whether that is entirely fair and whether the many factors to be considered when labelling Francis as a 'bad husband' make this a black and white matter.

Francis's infidelity was with the harlot 
that Ross had also slept with one night early on in the first book. This was Margaret, also known as Margaret Cartland and then Margaret Vosper. Whilst most readers will automatically (and rightly so) write this behaviour of Francis off as 'unforgivable', often the judgement on him lies simply in the fact that he did cheat but without also exploring much of the reason why he did this and what this says about 'the real Francis Poldark'. So in exploring this concept of the real Francis over a series of posts, that idea and Francis's general persona as a 'bad husband' is the focus for this post. The next post on this series 'Francis: A Good Husband' will explore the other side and perhaps highlight the choice to define him as a 'bad husband' might be rooted in the hanging on to the middle part of his story, rather than the end of it which could be thought of as redeeming.

A Distracted And Detached Wife (Love Diverted) 

As will be set out in the follow up post, the first year of Francis and Elizabeth's married life was happy. Having said this it should be no surprise to the reader that after the time jump in the first book it becomes clear that Francis and Elizabeth's marriage had soured over those two or so unwritten years. This becomes apparent by Elizabeth's visit after the time jump to Nampara. It was a day after Ross had slept with Demelza and Graham narrated Elizabeth had visited on a quest seeking some kind of 'reconciliation' with Ross that by the end of the visit she realised '.....had come just too late to count for what it might.' 

The lack of surprise in the marriage souring and Elizabeth’s initial moves to Ross (
as covered in the post ‘Reaching Out For Ross’) is because just before the time jump, after her argument with Francis, Graham essentially foretold looming marital problems for her and Francis. This was when he closed that scene (being their last one before the time jump), by narrating that when Francis wrongly accused Elizabeth of being interested in Ross that  'There was no one to tell him that he was wrong in being jealous of Ross. There was no one to tell him that another and more powerful rival had recently arisen. There was no one to warn him about Geoffrey Charles.' There was then a theme of Elizabeth drawing away from Francis and diverting her love to Geoffrey Charles and then when he was three years old, setting her sights on Ross. 

Of course, as an aside, while the genuineness of Elizabeth's feeling for Ross, her reaching out to him and her need for a reconciliation with him is questionable, it’s predictable that having pushed Francis out for Geoffrey Charles, got on bad terms with Francis and been irritated by their financial problems alongside his increased gambling, this might then have prompted her to draw back to an ex she knew still adored her. So in a sense, fuelled by a desire for admiration (that Graham narrated she thought was her due and found hard to be without), she was backtracking and her interest in another man was revived since she felt she could rely on his (Ross's) admiration being guaranteed.

A 'Normal' Occurrence of Infidelity 

Aside from general marital difficulties one theory to look at as to why Francis cheated on Elizabeth is simply that this was the ‘done thing’ in this time of history. The concept of the 'man of his time' will be a central theme in an upcoming post exploring the real Francis Poldark and his other questionable behaviours. For instance, the gambling and drinking. However, it is relevant that in this time period it was not at all uncommon for gentlemen to be unfaithful to their wives and even to have mistresses. Perhaps this was because most marriages amongst the gentry at that time were formed primarily for practical reasons whilst love was relegated to being a secondary purpose and desire. Maybe from this, it was a case that having not found a real genuine and mutual bond, attraction and sexual interest in a spouse, that these men looked elsewhere for this. Some women did too! But apparently the culture was so ingrained that men who were completely faithful to their wives were few and far between. They were the unusual occurrences and quite the anomaly in the society of gentlemen. It is a poor state of affairs that there is no doubt that the world Francis lived in made it a normal and an expected thing for him to cheat on Elizabeth. 

More On A Culture of Infidelity 

The culture of unfaithful husbands and the rather casual attitude to infidelity 
in this time period is reflected by Graham through characters such as Captain McNeil, Hugh Bodrugan and John Treneglos. They all openly eyed up Demelza with John even doing this in front of his wife (and Ross). And as narrated retrospectively in 'The Stranger From the Sea' John had even approached Ross once rather casually to see if he was interested in a wife swap. In doing so in the manner that he did, he was implying that this was a perfectly reasonable and normal request, as well as one to be expected since he argued that " was hard in the country to get anything fresh except the occasional village girl or a guinea hen in Truro:..." 

There was also Ross's cousin St John Peter who married Pascoe's daughter, Joan. On Ross's first request for feedback on how the new marriage was going he was told by Pascoe that St John Peter "...leads my daughter a dance." So it was clear he was already playing away with another woman (or women) as Pascoe went on to say as if resigned to this infidelity against his daughter, that Joan said little but "hears reports." Among other examples there was also Valentine Warleggan as an adult in the later books who married Selina Pope. By then he was fully immersed in the culture that enabled and normalised male infidelity and thus he once told her in 'The Loving Cup' rather brazenly but also quite nonchalantly that " will bear my love. Just as you will have to bear my infidelities." 

Ross Thought Francis's Unfaithfulness Was No Big Deal 

Even Caroline alluded to the culture of infidelity as a standard when she highlighted to Ross in 'the Angry Tide' that she Dwight, Ross and Demelza were very moral by the standards of that day by their intent on having faithful marriages. She pointed out that so many married couples within their circles were unfaithful when she said "So many of my friends in London...This county we live in. Add up the number of affairs that are going on, ...among our friends, or their friends..."  However of greater significance is the fact that Ross did not think that Francis cheating on Elizabeth was such a big deal. When he attended Trenwith for Christmas with Demelza at the end of the first book he had this thought 'Francis had been seen about with another woman. Not an amiable story. But not an uncommon one.' He considered that whilst Elizabeth might see it as a tragedy, that ' was unwise to lose perspective.' His thought continued that this was the case because 'Other men found eyes to admire the beauty which was not theirs by right of marriage and to overlook the familiar beauty that was.' 

Graham had already showed that Ross was very much aware of
the general culture, expectation and lifestyle of that time from before he decided to sleep with Demelza for the first time. He had thought that 'It was nothing out-of-the-way for the younger gentry of the neighbourhood to tumble their kitchenmaids.' Despite the likelihood that Francis courting another woman by it's nature as a married man was not an 'innocent' scenario, he was dismissive of it. He seemed to consider that Francis was just following the norm for a gentlemen in that age. Ross even went on to think that it was not such immoral behaviour when he thought that just because Francis was going round with another woman 'It did not follow that Francis was taking the shortest route to perdition.' Ross simply did not find it something for Elizabeth as the wife to be too greatly shocked, dramatic and upset about.

A Gentleman Cheating Out of Character Not of His Norm

A Disillusioned Cheater-Driven By Emotions

Having said the above, there does seem to be more to Francis's case of infidelity than just him obliging in this because it was the norm. Perhaps that was not really any part of his reasoning at all. Instead of just following societal norms there is a strong suggestion that it was more emotionally driven and a consequence of Francis's disillusionment. This would suggest that had it not been for that disillusionment, that Francis would indeed have been one of the rare men who happily maintained fidelity in his marriage to Elizabeth. 

Notably there was little focus in the saga on the marriage between Francis and Elizabeth since theirs was not the key story Graham wished to tell. Both before and after the near three year time jump in the first book, there was never much about the detail of it in either the good or bad times. Having said this, and as documented in the previous post 'The Untold Story of Francis Poldark (A Disappointed And Lonely Man) there are kernels of narrative which Graham laid down and which provide a backstory to Francis's infidelity. These do suggest it was emotionally rather than societally driven. 

Graham foretelling that Geoffrey Charles was Francis's powerful rival cannot be dismissed as a minor issue. It clearly was the source of marital disharmony. Elizabeth hinted at this when visiting Ross at Nampara and letting it slip that she refused Francis's request to join him travelling to London because of Geoffrey Charles. Though the fly by reader may not have immediately picked up on those kind of references, Graham left no doubt when he explicitly reported much later in 'The Angry Tide' that just before the time jump in the first book (and coincidently just before she had been married a year), that in respect of Elizabeth  '...her obsessive love for Geoffrey Charles had produced the first breach between herself and Francis...' 'The Angry Tide'  Book2 Chapter 12) 
From this point onward the marriage soured and there were no more suggestions of a happy and loving marriage between them thereafter. 

A Wife Who Moved 'All' Her Love To Another First

Falling Into Detachment and Unhappiness

Retrospectively it is easy to see that Geoffrey Charles was a huge wedge in the Francis and Elizabeth marriage. Before he was born there was no suggestion of infidelity by Francis against Elizabeth. Indeed Graham's narrative suggests that it was really after the first breach in the Francis and Elizabeth marriage, as 
exacted by Elizabeth and referred to above, that Francis became unhappy. Whilst Elizabeth who was totally in love with her new son also lost interest in Francis and became unhappy in the marriage too, her reasons differed. They were not based on love or a lack of it to or from Francis. Graham later documented that Elizabeth was a woman who could be happy in a marriage without being in love with her husband. Except for the shadow that suspicion around Valentine's paternity cast, she was happy in her marriage to George and at a point considered it a 'successful' one even though she did not love him. 

Love of a husband was just not a requirement to make Elizabeth happy. Instead the reasons for her unhappiness with Francis in the first instance was on practical rather than emotional issues. For instance, matters pertaining to their livelihood. Such as them as a couple struggling financially, Francis's increased gambling aggravating that issue and feeling caged as their social outings which she enjoyed very much reduced significantly. This was very unlike Francis who in addition to practical things still did need to love and be loved in return.

It is a misconception that Francis decided to cheat on Elizabeth because of the reason that on one occasion 
Elizabeth had refused to sleep with him and he was therefore being inconsiderate since this was not so long after she had given birth to Geoffrey Charles. In their argument about this Elizabeth did not challenge Francis in his claims of generosity and sympathy towards her. That night Graham also wrote that he had looked at her with love, and at that point only had eyes for her. He was clearly seeking affection from Elizabeth which he wanted to be reciprocated. Yet Elizabeth 'stiffened' as he embraced her. Nevertheless it is made clear in the first and full edition of the second book that Elizabeth did not in any case refuse Francis sexual intercourse as a matter of course and thereafter. During a conversation where she angrily conveyed her view that she made him a good wife, Graham wrote Francis's thoughts acknowledging that Elizabeth did see to all the practical aspects of being a wife, such as the running of the household but also that 'She had even, sometimes, shared his bed.' (First edition 'Demelza' Book 1 Chapter 6) So Francis cheating was not due to Elizabeth refusing him intercourse one night or generally thereafter. Perhaps it was more to do with the fact she did not feel love for him enough to want to do this more often but instead rationed this like a woman who did not really love her husband. 

Discovery Of A Wife With No Love To Offer

So the narrative Graham laid was not just of a physical detachment by Elizabeth from Francis, but also and more of an emotional one.
Francis's unhappiness in his marriage related to Elizabeth's detachment from him, her lack of loving him, a lack of connection and understanding of him, and her general emotional distance from him. In the first full edition of the second book Francis had thought of how he found that in respect of  Elizabeth 'He could not reach her in her ivory tower of poised unspotted delicacy.' Then later in the same section of the book was his sad realisation that 'She did not love him and she never had. ' 
(First edition 'Demelza' Book 1 Chapter 6)  There is an understandable sadness for Francis here because as stated above, to begin with Francis was completely in love with Elizabeth. But again Graham reinforced the narrative supposed by Francis's realisation because although Elizabeth had initially believed herself to be in love with Francis too, he wrote her admission to Morwenna in 'Black Moon' that she had married Francis for what she thought was love but that this did not last a year. Francis was right. She had not loved him and that was the real problem.

Francis And His Life Nearly Not Worth Living Without Love Returned

It seems that the impact of Elizabeth's lack of real love for Francis and her obsession and preoccupation with Geoffrey Charles unearthed a sad reality for Francis in his life that truly depressed him. For Elizabeth her 'supreme love' for her baby and lack of any for her husband meant that thereafter 
'..all ordinary duties were void'. That presumably included the ordinary aspects of being and demonstrating that she was a loving wife that truly cared for him and their love together. Graham alluded to the idea that the lack of love from Elizabeth really did have a significant mental and emotional impact on him. In the third book 'Jeremy Poldark' he had attempted suicide. Dwight had counselled him on this and considered that in relation to Francis's depression which led to this wish to end his life, '..through it all ran Elizabeth, Elizabeth the loved but the unloving, the Galatea who never woke.' 

Francis: A Matter of A Distortion

An Emotional Trigger to Derail A Depressed Man

'Her single mistake had distorted all their lives, pulling them out of their natural pattern.' (Thoughts of Ross 'Warleggan' Book 1 Chapter 4)

All of this detached and unloving wife narrative is important for a look at the 'real Francis Poldark' because just like Dwight considered, it probably was an emotional  trigger for some of Francis's other destructive and disappointing behaviour. This likely includes his infidelity. 
Ross alluded to this too in 'Warleggan' when from his perspective he considered that in respect of Francis, Elizabeth ',... having picked the wrong man, she had let him know it..' He thought that she had deprived Francis of her love and as with his quote above, that on the whole she had pulled all their lives out of their natural pattern. Perhaps this includes Francis resorting to infidelity and that without the 'distortion' that Ross felt Elizabeth had caused in their lives, Francis would not have dabbled in unfaithfulness. Certainly Ross also seemed to take a view about Elizabeth's impact on Francis perhaps being destructive or derailing. When in her widowhood she made at jibe at Francis by referencing that initially there was money in Francis's estate but also his past gambles on the 'turn of a card', Graham informed the reader that 'It was on Ross's tongue to ask if she realised how much she had contributed to this state of affairs, but his tongue was tied.' 

Elizabeth - A Wife Below Expectation

also wrote of a key observation of Verity that Francis '..expected too much of life, of himself, of Elizabeth. Especially of Elizabeth. When they failed him he resorted to gambling and to drink.' Perhaps it was too much of Elizabeth, not because Francis was unrealistic about how a wife should be, but because it was never in Elizabeth to be the warm and loving wife Francis needed her to be. It is likely Ross would have experienced this with Elizabeth too and that in the end, unlike Francis, Ross had luckily been blessed with a wife in Demelza that had done the opposite and exceed his expectations. Indeed he had never anticipated beforehand that he would come to regard Demelza so highly, that she would blossom from a miner's daughter to be as he once thought his 'better self', and also that he would come to depend on her as his friend, lover, wife, housekeeper and mother of his children. 

A Marriage breakdown- The Chicken, Egg and The Cement

So in light of Elizabeth's failure to meet Francis's expectations this means that whilst Graham had firmly put the responsibility for administering the ‘first breach’ in the marriage at Elizabeth's door, as to Francis's destructive and disappointing behaviour thereafter, there is little confusion through the narrative and Verity’s reliable summation over which came first -the chicken or egg?' This includes in respect of Francis's cheating. By this it is clear that Francis’s cheating was not the cause of his marriage breakdown. It was the symptom of it! So too were the increased drinking, gambling and social nights out leaving Elizabeth at home. It all followed Elizabeth’s first breach to the marriage. 

A Symptom -Not Cause (Doomed Even Without The Infidelity)

It is tempting to maintain that Francis is solely responsible for the destruction of his marriage and that it would have been fine without his infidelity. That is fundamentally wrong.  
As stated above Francis cheating was a symptom not the cause. Although it may have further aggravated his marital issues it is still hard to argue that it was therefore this, and Francis, who prevented the marriage from being saved. This is in light of Elizabeth's later admission of her discovery that she never had a real love for Francis anyway and Francis's knowledge of this himself. This suggests that even without Francis's infidelity there was little chance of a happy, loving and agreeable marriage between them anyway. It is interesting that in her complaints that Francis was cavorting with another woman Elizabeth's concern seemed more related to the embarrassment to her rather than hurt that Francis was interested in loving another woman and not her. 

A Bad Match on Character And Values 

The other reason this marriage was unlikely to be an agreeable one for a great length of time is because of Francis and Elizabeth's
 very different characters and values. They didn't really see eye to eye on fundamental issues and this would fester eventually. An example of this was in ‘Jeremy Poldark’ when George Warleggan was trying to encourage Francis to quit farming his land because of the loss of prestige. As George encouraged him to use corruption (‘patronages’) to get paid offices Graham referenced Elizabeth’s impatience with Francis's rejection of these corrupt dishonourable methods and she appeared to take George’s side and tried to persuade Francis otherwise and not do be too proud to look into this by saying “It’s surely not reasonable to quarrel when there is friendship-when there are friendships to be had. Pride can go too far.” 

There was also the issue of loyalty, such as to Ross. This was another value Francis and Elizabeth differed on. Francis wished to keep a distance from George out of loyalty to Ross and Elizabeth did not really. So although she reluctantly accepted this, she eventually disobeyed Francis's advice and instruction here. So her disloyalty and dishonesty to Ross in respect of George did go on to become a major theme in the saga including after Francis's death. This and much else suggests that Francis was probably married to a woman who was not the best match for him and neither of them were particularly ‘good’ for the other in that easy harmonious sense.

Love As the Cement Or Getting On On a Material Level

"They love each other, Ross."
"Yes. One hopes it is a sufficient cement."
(Ross and Demelza on Caroline and Dwight's marriage 'The Angry Tide' Book 3 chapter 3)

Indeed in many ways Elizabeth's marriage to George Warleggan was more successful for her because although she did not love him, she didn’t need that and instead they did share some superficial values of society as well as vanity, lifestyle and business goals. This was more so than she did with Francis and for her and George that was a ‘cement’. George recollected in 'The Stranger from the Sea' that his marriage to Elizabeth had been successful partly because Elizabeth '...had a wish to get on on a material level, which had responded to his mercantile and political ambitions.' Whereas 
her marriage with Francis would have struggled to be agreeable as Francis wanted more than just getting on ‘on a material level’ with his wife. That suggests a ‘superficial’ level and whilst this and their very different characters and values, might not have on it's own condemn a marriage, without the more substance needed, then as Ross suspected might have been necessary for Caroline and Dwight, the hope was then that love could be a sufficient cement. However, we know that hope for this was lost for Elizabeth and Francis after she realised she did not love him. He too most likely a good while after also fell out of love with her too. In the absence of love and a true friendship based on similar ideals they would have struggled to have a well functioning marriage without a full commitment on both sides to beat the odds

Francis And a Harlot To rely On     

"Elizabeth makes life a mortal serious business."
"In truth, Ross." Francis mocked from the shadow of the sideboard. "It is all as you say, is it not? A lovely wife, fair as an angel- indeed, perhaps more of an angel than a wife-..."
(Francis to Ross on married life and Elizabeth as a wife 'Ross Poldark' Book 3 Chapter 8) 

After the time jump in the first book Graham no longer showed Francis as a happily married man. Again whilst he does not focus on this story line, a few comments such as those above show that not only was Francis not enjoying Elizabeth as a wife but he did not really consider that she was actually a wife in the true sense of the word. Demelza also questioned to herself why Francis looked so bored when he and Elizabeth had entertained them for hers and Ross's first Christmas as a married couple at Trenwith. Of course whilst this and the lack of love Elizabeth showed to Francis, (which was instead directed to her son) 
provides no justification for his infidelity it definitely provides some more understanding of it.

A Stake On The Other Kind of Woman

As a subplot Graham also gave minimal attention or details to Francis's relationship with Margaret. Contrary to the latest television adaption there were no significant scenes of intimacy or dialogue between them in the book. Without this a single comment that Francis 
made to Margaret in the second book 'Demelza' is quite revealing as to the nature of their relationship and the reason for his infidelity from his perspective. This was when he was at the Truro ball in that second book and he saw Margaret now courting with an old rich man. When goaded by her at the Faro table to "..lay a stake on the spade queen..." his reply meeting her gaze was "Thank you. I have learned never to stake on women." His comment seemed like a dig at Margaret for throwing him over for a richer man or letting him down in some other way such as by abandoning him when he had no money. It speaks to the idea that Francis had not seen his relationship with Margaret as purely transactional in the way that it would typically be for a man who pays for sex from a prostitute with no strings attached. His comment suggests a disappointment generally that arose from him actually relying on her, needing her for something more than the transactional physical stuff and that like other women (such as his wife), she too had let him down. This was so much so it had caused him to then virtually taint all women with the same brush and to decide he then trusted none of them. 

There are other indications that Francis had some emotional investment in Margaret and they had a relationship which on his part was not transactional on a physical basis only. In 'Demelza' Francis is present at a party thrown by George Warleggan in late summer (August) or early autumn (september) 1788. Margaret attended with Francis and they seemed to present as a couple. Even though Margaret in her haughty style is flirtatious with Ross and talks dismissively about her dead husband and how she spent his money, in a show of couple like behaviour Graham wrote that she watched Francis play with '...her hand resting lightly on Francis's shoulder. She did not look up as Ross left.' Also on arrival to the party Ross was able to identify Margaret as Francis's mistress as she was standing next to him at the hazard table and 'His (Francis's) deferential attitude left no doubt.' 

Francis treating Margaret with this respect is supported by him responding to what seemed an impromptu burst of laughter from her and then by him saying "What is it, my love?" That was too much of an affectionate comment to suppose that Francis entertained her solely as a harlot. Instead it suggest something deeper. But also her earlier comment to him at the gaming table that "Always you was lucky at this game.", gives the impression that she had been escorting him to such events long enough to comment on his usual  game play. In fact bearing in mind that the
 reader is first made aware of his involvement with Margaret when Elizabeth confides in Ross about this at Christmas 1787, at this point they had been together as if they were in a relationship that Graham did not document, for at least nine or ten nine months. This was until Margaret abandoned him a couple of months afterwards.

Francis No Longer Seeking Angels 

All of the above 
gives context to consider Francis under the 'man of his times' trope. It strongly suggests that Francis turned to another woman not because he was acting as a matter of course like a ‘man of his time’ would, but because he was deeply unhappy and looking for an emotional crutch in Margaret to provide what was withheld by his wife in name only. This included a hope that she, Margaret  would stand by him and perhaps he had had some hope for a relationship that was a bit more than sexual and which was emotionally nurturing and supportive in a way that he did not find in his wife. Having declared Elizabeth "...more of an angel than a wife..." it is also quite significant that instead of cheating on Elizabeth with another well bred woman in society, Francis chose a woman who was by far the opposite of Elizabeth. Indeed he went from a woman who perhaps for the sake of being admired sought to appear to all as an angel, to expecting to find what he needed from a woman who was open about being very much not an angel. 

As if Demelza was an exception to Francis's new awareness that stakes should not be placed on women, and as if he realised he had not himself been wise in his choice of Elizabeth, Francis expressed to Demelza that ‘Ross was a wise man when he chose you.’ Thinking of her as a great wife, and expressing to her that she had amazing qualities, this perhaps explains the true emotions in Francis’s comment to her in the same scene where he said “I don’t wonder that Ross loves you. For I could do myself.” Of course, much wiser than he was ten years before when he was engaged to Elizabeth, by this time Francis had learnt so much about the kind of wife that would have made him happy and that he would then loved to have had and would have treasured.

Another Victim To Idealisation

Graham continued this concept of a new more mature and tolerant Francis in his final scenes before his death. Francis had 
imparted much wisdom to Demelza in relation to her insecurities over Ross's vulnerabilities towards Elizabeth. However as he spoke cautiously not to insult Elizabeth and conveyed that Ross's feelings for Elizabeth were ‘unreal’ and that whatever Elizabeth “…lacks or has, she lacks perfection.”it is a reminder of this idea of Elizabeth as an ideal. But most readers associate only Ross with having been afflicted with an idealisation of Elizabeth.  Yet there is little doubt that when courting and engaged to Elizabeth, Francis who as he said himself at his and Elizabeth's engagement dinner, loved her just as she was, probably did think she was perfect before he married her. This then fuelled the extent of his disappointment later when as observed by Verity she did not live up to his expectations. 

Indeed there should be little doubt that Francis’s perceptions, experiences and disappointment in his marriage suggests that he had suffered an idealisation of Elizabeth just like Ross did. However Francis had had no lucky escape as Ross did. Francis had married a woman hoping for a wife but did not get this as Ross did with Demelza. Instead he found she was an angel remote from him in an ivory tower and that brought him to depression and near suicide. Ross had been lucky enough not to have had to manage the emotional disillusion that came with this. Francis had lived it for years. In doing so Francis had allowed this to let himself fall into more than infidelity but a relationship with another woman and other destructive behaviours. 

The next in the series of posts exploring ‘The Real Francis Poldark’ will be 'Francis The Good Husband' and thereafter ‘Flaws As A Man Of His Time’.  

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