Search This Blog

Francis And Elizabeth: Reformed Gracious Husband, Content Wife

“Elizabeth blooms like a painting; she has had a better year... She doesn't love Francis, but she's more content.”
Demezla’s observation and thoughts on Elizabeth in ’Jeremy Poldark’ (internal book 2 Chapter 14)

Whilst posts such as ‘A Charming and Generous Heart' indicate that at his core Francis was a man with a good heart, he did have his vices which went against him. The last two blogs on his marriage depict him as a husband filled with promise since it was early on that Winston Graham first narrated his credentials of being handsome, charming and wealthy. Added to that he was besotted with Elizabeth as a fiancĂ© and presented as a good and loving husband in the first year of marriage. However the middle period of the marriage draws Francis criticism as a husband until, as covered in this post, and despite the lack of love from Elizabeth, he seemed to turn this around and present as quite the reformed and gracious husband to her in the end. In this re-emergence of Francis as a decent husband he should be recognised for at least bringing Elizabeth back to a place of 'contentment' in those last years of the marriage, just as Demelza observed (and is quoted above). This post confirms and explores how Francis managed to do this. 

A Kinder Husband And Wife Relationship

 'The relationship between them had been kinder these last two years,...'
Narrative in 'Warleggan' (internal book 1 Chapter 2)

If there is any question about a genuine and positive change in the marriage of Francis and Elizabeth in those last couple of years before Francis passed away, then Winston Graham confirmed this in the narration. Quite significantly, after Francis’s suicide attempt, Graham reported that although never warm 'The relationship between them had been kinder these last two years,...' ('Warleggan' Book 1  Chapter 2)  That serves as confirmation that things had moved on with improvement from earlier in the story when things went wrong from a year into the marriage. On that day of Geoffrey Charles's Christening they had had a marriage altering argument which saw their marriage disintegrate and after the two year time jump in that first book readers learnt through Elizabeth's visit to Nampara and Verity's account to Ross, that they had not got on well since Geoffrey Charles was born. However, the key to the kinder relationship between Francis and Elizabeth points to a change and a reformation with Francis and not Elizabeth.

Francis: The Journey Back To A Good Husband

…her obsessive love for Geoffrey Charles had produced the first breach between herself and Francis long ago.’ 
Narrative from ‘The Angry Tide’ (Internal book 2 Chapter 13 pt1)

To understand Francis's reformation back to a good husband requires understanding as to where the problem arose from in the first place and so what had been the source of Francis's frustration. To be clear on this Winston Graham narrated in ‘The Angry Tide’ that in respect of Elizabeth and what brought about the decline of her marriage  ‘…her obsessive love for Geoffrey Charles had produced the first breach between herself and Francis long ago.’ (‘The Angry Tide’ Book 2 Chapter 13 pt1). So in terms of the journey of their marriage it was this and the withdrawal of Elizabeth's love towards Francis that led on to a disappointed and lonely husband. Accordingly, in this phase of their marriage Francis's unhappiness which led him to seek comfort and distraction in various vices had naturally then led on to Elizabeth's unhappiness. In turn she had shared with Ross that she was frustrated she could not influence Francis away from his vices. 

Indeed Ross's observations of Francis's state of mind during the unhappy years of marriage aligned with Graham's narration as Ross concluded in his own thoughts in 'Warleggan'. This is that the withdrawal of Elizabeth's love for Francis had brought on Francis’s ‘early outbreaks of disillusion and disappointment’. The turning to vices such as drinking, gambling and cheating was a symptom or a manifestation of this disappointment and disillusionment. However, for many readers this overshadowed and distracted from Elizabeth’s significant but more subtle marital failings. This is to the point that her character could end up gaining greater reader sympathy and even for some readers to wrongly consider her free of any blame at all (which the latest adaption seeks to convey). However the achievement in Elizabeth being brought to a place of contentment lies in Francis's change of mindset. That was through a coming to terms with Elizabeth's failings in respect of his expectations of her as a wife and the lack of the love from her that he had craved for. Once he did this Francis then impressed in his journey by eventually showing a positive mindset as well as maturity and grace towards Elizabeth.

Lowering Expectations: Francis Coming to Terms (with a an unloving wife)

"He expected too much of life, of himself, of Elizabeth. Especially of Elizabeth. When they failed him he resorted to gambling and drink." 
Verity's observations 'Demelza'  (internal book 2 Chapter 6)

What were Francis's initial expectations? Were they unreasonable? Probably not. Readers should have picked up the hints at the end of the first book which was four years into Francis and Elizabeth's marriage. Seemingly, with a touch of irony and a frustration masked by sarcasm, Francis told Ross that Elizabeth was "..perhaps more of an angel than a wife."  Dwight's recollections of his post suicide attempt discussion with Francis suggested that all Elizabeth offered to their marriage was a 'refinement of taste' and Dwight considered that through Francis's discontent ran Elizabeth as 'the loved but unloving' wife who like a Galatea never woke. It would seem that Francis had had expectations for a wife that was a woman of more warm substance (or blood as he referenced later to Demelza). Naturally for him this included a wife who offered him love, as he had initially felt for her. Whether readers (or viewers) considered Francis was unreasonable in this or not, the focus here is on Francis's mindset. Winston Graham wrote Verity's thought of Francis that ‘He expected too much of life, of himself, of Elizabeth. Especially of Elizabeth. When they failed him he resorted to gambling and drink. He wouldn’t come to terms.’ So again it seems that was part of the journey Francis needed to make. Coming to terms with his disappointment in his marriage and in Elizabeth was key and the narrative in subtle ways shows that a level of acceptance is exactly what Francis came to achieve.

A New Mentality: Francis Forgetting and Tolerating 

'..And now so far as he was concerned it was all past- part of an era best forgotten, in this new time of tolerance and good will.'
Ross's thoughts on Francis's attitude towards Elizabeth in 'Warleggan' (internal book 1 Chapter 3)

From towards the end of ‘Jeremy Poldark’, through to the forth book ‘Warleggan’ and before he died, Francis had indeed gone on a journey post suicide attempt where he was shown as coming to terms with expecting little or nothing from Elizabeth as a wife. Ross in contrast who probably expected little from Demelza when he married her and luckily found her to have exceeded his expectations as his wife, seemed to recognised this change of attitude in Francis. 'Warleggan' opened with Francis enjoying Ross and Demelza's company at Nampara and  thereafter. Ross had shared his observance with Demelza that Francis had become fond of Nampara and was there as much as at his own home. But at the Trevaunaunce's dinner party in 'Warleggan', Graham wrote that Ross recognised that Francis's '...early outbreaks of disillusion and disappointment were far behind him.' and that from that disillusionment which came from marital upsets '...the enigmas of his behaviours (which included his vices), were all explained.' 

Forgetting and putting his disappointment behind him was just one element of Francis's new attitude of mind. There was also tolerance
 from Francis. This was in Elizabeth not only continuing to be that unloving galatea that never woke, but acting in a way that was unfaithful to him in spirit. Readers should recall that on Geoffrey Charles's christening night Francis revealed his jealousy of Ross even though Graham narrated her need not be since it was Elizabeth's (obsessive) love for her son that was his true rival. But this scene contrasts with Francis seeing Elizabeth sat next to Ross and flirting with him at the Trevaunances's party in 'Warleggan' showing not only that Francis had set aside his disappointment but also showing his tolerance of Elizabeth and her own inappropriate or questionable behaviour.
As Elizabeth at this party embarked on what appeared to be a 'questionable and vague confession of love' to Ross, Graham wrote 'As if conscious just then of something toward, he (Francis) glanced up at Ross, wrinkled one eye-brow and winked.' Ross concluded that Francis had known for sometime about Elizabeth changing her mind to instead think that she loved Ross 'better' than Francis. He also concluded that Francis was no longer jealousy and like the changeable flighty Elizabeth may no longer have been in love with her himself. What is significant is Ross's recognition of Francis's mindset and that the pain and upset which had fuelled Francis's past disillusionment, and the behaviours that accompanied this were '...part of an era best forgotten, in this new time of tolerance and good will.'   

Francis's Good Will And Grace To Elizabeth

"It's not my wish to speak against Elizabeth now;.." 
Francis to Demelza 'Warleggan' (Internal book 1 Chapter 6)

For Francis's penultimate scene, Graham narrated that the thought of returning home from Nampara to Elizabeth was depressing to him. However when Francis was uplifting Demelza who sold herself short comparing herself to Elizabeth, he was very very diplomatic and respectful about Elizabeth. In the writing Winston Graham seemed to want to show the reader that Francis was trying to be fair and uncritical of Elizabeth. After he had tried but failed to get Demelza to see that Ross’s love for Elizabeth was based on a feeling that was ‘unreal’, Graham wrote that ‘Francis again did not reply for a minute or two.’ Knowing that Francis did not think highly of Elizabeth as a wife it seems obvious that he wanted to be honest about Elizabeth without insulting her. It was clearly on his mind as Francis had said to Demelza that he did not wish to be disloyal to Elizabeth and also said "It’s not my wish to speak against Elizabeth now..." He then went on to say, "...but whatever she lacks or has, she lacks perfection. Every human being does." 
Francis's response was an incredibly fair way to convey this message whilst also adding that last comment so it did not make it look like a failing on Elizabeth's part and therefore an attack against her. This marked a change in Francis who had much earlier in his marriage made snipping remarks about Elizabeth such as her being removed from him in an 'ivory tower' and how she made life a 'morbid serious business'. So it is clear that that there was a turnaround in Francis's attitude. He was no longer the husband that some readers may have thought acted too sulky and petulant as his unloving wife rebuffed his affection. Instead he had come to a place of acceptance and a lowering of his expectation of Elizabeth. Importantly this was without traces of bitter resentment against her. This surely enabled him to bring about a better and more agreeable marital partnership with Elizabeth without romance and love. 

Faithful To An Unloving Wife

A genuine charge against Francis was for his physical unfaithfulness to Elizabeth as complained of by her to Ross in the first book. He had been unfaithful by having Margaret Vosper as a mistress but in his conversion to a reformed husband, Francis resumed faithfulness to Elizabeth. 

The previous post 'A Bad and Unfaithful Husband? (Pt2 The Real Francis Poldark), explores Francis's unfaithfulness and what motivated this three years into his marriage. Reference is made in that post to Francis later no longer having Margaret as a mistress as she had abandoned him when his fortune waned. When at a party she gave him unwanted advice on his card game to "Lay a stake on the spade queen..",  he told her "Thank you. I have learned never to stake on women." ('Demelza' Internal book 2-Chapter 9) This was a revealing comment that gave a window into Francis's emotions of trying to fill a void in his life by taking a mistress  in the hope that this could be a woman he could rely on for love and support. When this ended Francis not taking up another mistress and refraining altogether from infidelity is not something to greatly commend him for. However if readers are to afford characters such as Elizabeth with a defence of being a 'woman of the times' who was bound to their customs, in order to sympathise, explain or excuse some of her behaviours, then the same should be for Francis. Equally Francis was a 'man of his time' and even Caroline acknowledged the number of secret and blatant affairs going on amongst their friends. Yet when commenting about "..a small core of real marriages in which love and fidelity and truth maintain their importance. Yours is one and mine is one...",  she went on because of that to ask Ross in 'The Angry Tide' "Dwight and I, you and Demelza; do you realise how moral we are by the standards of today?"

Such was the custom of male infidelity of that time, that in 'The Stranger from the Sea' John Treneglos spoke causally asking Ross about them doing a wife swap and how he would get "the occasional village girl" for his sexual pleasures ('The Stranger From The sea' Internal book 3-Chapter 4). Adult Valentine Warleggan in 'The Loving Cup' brazenly told his wife Selina Warleggan that she would have to bear his infidelities saying "...I cannot be faithful indefinitely ..Many wives-most wives-find this out in time." He commented on other husbands who weren't as honest as him "..but behave just the same in the end." ('The Loving Cup' -Internal book 3 Chpt 5). So if Francis continued cheating, for that time he could then argue mitigation on the grounds that this custom meant it was expected of him to do this. This could be even more so since his wife was unloving and herself had an eye and interest on another man. Certainly while there is offence and disrespect in a husband cheating on a loving wife, some may concede there is less so in him doing so against an unloving wife. But even in the modern age it really is a sad state of affairs that some women feel it is uncommon for a man (particularly one in a loveless marriage), not to cheat. The ones that don't are often referred to as a 'good man'. Perhaps the bar is very low. Even so, with those four and half years of faithfulness from the end of Francis's relationship with Margaret (around spring 1789), to his death in September 1793, in applying that low bar, Francis defenders could then argue that in his reformation he became a 'good husband' again. 

Giving Up Gambling

Francis's problematic gambling is another vice that he eventually refrained from and which had prior to that made him appear to be a 'bad husband'. However rather than generalising it is important to acknowlege at what point this became a problem in his marriage and to Elizabeth. Just like gentlemen drinking, in that time period, gambling was also a typical pastime and social activity for them. As she told Ross, even Elizabeth found nights out with Francis at gambling parties to be 'fun'. This was despite the typical experience of making losses as well as gains in the early days. However while Francis's gambling was not initially a problem to Elizabeth or something which she complained about, after the two year time jump in the first book and therefore four years into their marriage Elizabeth expressed that it stopped being a pleasant recreation since they could no longer afford to play for high stakes. Before then, early in the marriage this had been  part of a social life she enjoyed

Bearing in mind the societal norms and her understanding of their finances and what they had to lose, an indicator of when Francis's gambling became problematic is at the point Elizabeth considered it so. So in her first scenes after the first book's time jump  Elizabeth only then raised the flag on Francis's gambling. This was during her visit to Nampara to see Ross. It was not because of the gambling but because of how Francis's gambling had escalated by then and Elizabeth's assessment that he was playing for stakes that were too high. It will be discussed in more detail in an upcoming post addressing both Francis and Ross's gambling spirits but even before his failed suicide attempt Francis had become financially responsible and refrained from gambling. The last scene of this was at George's Warleggan's party after the Lieutenant's ball in the second book where Demelza came out into society for the first time and Ross exposed Sanson as a cheat (and one who had been cheating Francis all along). Many readers will not consider that this was April 1789. For the near four and half years thereafter until his death, there were no further reference to Francis at a gambling table. 

Francis More Responsible and Humbling himself 

"I am fully resigned to spending the rest of my days as an impoverished farmer."
Francis to George ('Jeremy Poldark' Book one- chapter 4)

Another example of Francis's maturity was in the fact that he did not wallow in victimhood and seek Elizabeth's pity or trouble her with the details of his mental crisis while attending Ross's trial at Bodmin. In this new attitude of mind he had spared her the details of his failed attempted suicide and just got on with being a decent husband/family man and providing for his family. This included humbling himself by accepting a future as an impoverished farmer and when speaking to George about this he was not put off by George looking down on this. In a scene in that book ('Jeremy Poldark), where Ross found Francis sawing up a tree, Graham wrote 'The occupation came strangely to him. Fate would never make Francis anything but what he was born.' But even the year before, after a hard day on the farm Graham had narrated that 'This country farmer-squire life he lead left him bore and frustrated almost to death. He longed for the days he had lost. But now and then, since all things are relative, his boredom waned and he forgot his frustration.'

So the point was well laboured that Francis had humbled himself to do something to provide for his family which was not his passion. That put Francis in an endearing light. This is especially as he stuck at it from summer 1788 and it was not until three years later that he agreed to partner with Ross to pen Wheal Grace. As commented above, in addition to leading a more stable, though humbler lifestyle Francis really did became much more financially responsible than he had been before. After receiving £1200 back from George in light of gambling fraud he fell foul of, he used half of this to pay off his debts and saved the remaining half. In that age this was equivalent to just about a comfortable three year salary. After his last gambling foray at the Lieutenant's ball in April 1788 Francis stepping back from any serious gambling as a regular pastime showed a new level headed and sensible Francis. This would have played it's part in Elizabeth's contentment.

Elizabeth Blooming With Contentment

The improved relationship between Francis and Elizabeth was very much corroborated by Graham writing Demelza's observation of Elizabeth at the Nampara gathering at the end of the third book, 'Jeremy Poldark'. There was a gathering to celebrate the newly born Jeremy Poldark with Francis and Elizabeth joining. Demelza considered that 'Elizabeth blooms like a painting; she has had a better year... She doesn't love Francis, but she's more content.' This observed change is a remarkable development because it points to Elizabeth's peaceful state of mind and represents a sharp turn around when compared to her previous frustrations about Francis which she had complained to Ross about. It was Francis's much improved behaviour and more positive state of mind which made the difference. Francis was no longer the 'bad' or 'unfaithful' husband that Elizabeth had previously had a list of complaints over. 

Elizabeth acknowledges Francis Good Points 

‘She missed Francis’s dry humour and easy sophistication.’
Elizabeth's thoughts on Francis as a husband 'Warleggan' (Internal Book 4 Chapter 6)

Unlike Elizabeth, m
any women of that time had had arranged marriages where love was not a feature even to start with. Even without the romantic love many of them would have been very much pleased to have obtained for themselves the contentment that Francis had enabled Elizabeth to have eventually felt in the last years of marriage. But also, even though Elizabeth understandably from her point of view had her complaints about Francis as a husband, she experienced moments of realising the grass was not greener on the basis of character against her second money motivated marriage. After she had married George Elizabeth's reflections showed in hindsight that she was able to see other redeeming qualities in Francis that had been good husband material. Graham wrote at the end of 'Warleggan' that ‘She missed Francis’s dry humour and easy sophistication.’ Further to this, in comparison against George she found Francis more, 'malleable' more 'mercurial' and easier to understand husband. ('Warleggan' Book 4 Chapter 6)  
Again in 'The Black Moon' Elizabeth thought of how in her married life with Francis he had made her feel more relaxed with him than she felt with George. Even when she had complained about Francis to Ross in the first book when visiting at Nampara, Elizabeth said that aside from not cutting back on his gambling, that "
He is reasonable in so many things". Accordingly, during their argument on Geoffrey Charles's christening night Elizabeth had highlighted his change of manner saying "It is not like you to be so unkind." She did not deny his claim of being generous and sympathetic of her before then. Naturally since she was not privy and would never have been able to see her own faults, she would not necessarily have added to his good points the grace and tolerance that Francis had offered to her in respect of this and also the patience and restraint he had exercised, over her fault, her frustrating composure, her lack of warm blood and her disrespectful pursuit of Ross's romantic interest. 

Francis Reformed- Elizabeth Unchanged 

 grace and tolerance towards Elizabeth was a showing of maturity and bearing in mind that Winston Graham as narrator gave Elizabeth the first blame for the trouble in the marriage, it is noticeable that he failed to develop a narrative where one could apportion any credit to Elizabeth for the improvement in their marriage. Yet there was the established as narrative of Elizabeth being the biggest profiteer with an increased sense of contentment and on the other hand Francis still feeling that she depressed him. But it is true that there was no showing of change on Elizabeth's side which Graham's narrative pointed could have been around her unloving galetea profile, her detachedness and her cool composure in her ivory tower and her obsession with her son so that other marital duties were no longer taken on with enthusiasm. Then there were other frustrating aspects of her nature which were of the gaslighting kind that can be explored elsewhere. The storyline of change was all on Francis and not with Elizabeth. 

"Its not how you start the race, it's how you finish it."

It is correct that in noting Francis's failings making him a bad husband during the middle years of his marriage to Elizabeth, that he should be commended for making a change in all the areas that made him that. Indeed while his bad years may hang and stand out more in the mind of some readers holding that grudge against him, b
y the time of his death Francis had long moved far away from being the  'bad' and 'unfaithful' husband to being a reformed and gracious one that could be then referred to as a good husband and family man.  Yet there is some melancholy in Graham's writing just before Francis's death scene that whilst Elizabeth had been made more content in her marriage by Francis, that he on the other hand was not with her. It is good that he managed those feelings so as not to cause Elizabeth discontent. In light of that turnaround this post does invite a spotlight on Elizabeth as a wife and for how much of their marriage she could in spirit and in person be deemed as much of a ‘good’ and ‘faithful’ wife herself. That is to be explored in the upcoming post 'Elizabeth the effort-less Cold Cold Wife' while the storyline of Francis's overall metamorphosis  will be covered in The Redemption of Francis Poldark.

Previous posts