Good stories thrive and survive on conflict, and Poldark serves it up in generous portions. That being said, my hopelessly-romantic heart sought to explore the life-changing power of letters (or lack of) in the 18th century drama.
In Season One of Poldark, Ross leaves Cornwall to fight in the Americas. Flashbacks show us his last encounter with Elizabeth – she says, “You’ll forget me.” He responds, “Never,” takes her ring, and places it on his finger. They are bound, committed to one other, right?
Ross keeps the ring, even refusing to risk it on a game of cards. Three years later, he returns to find Elizabeth engaged to marry his cousin, Francis. What happened? She’s had no word from Ross and assumes he’s a war casualty. With every passing year, her prospects for marriage dwindle in a time where marriage brought stability and security, even if it meant dependency upon her husband for her very livelihood. Marrying Francis is her best option, based on the information at hand. Ross visits Trenwith the night of his return and unknowingly interrupts the engagement celebration. He regains his composure long enough to offer a celebratory toast, and then departs, feeling betrayed, humiliated, and heartbroken.
It’s not the end, by any means. Oh, why didn’t either of them write? Neither of them says that they did. Would Elizabeth have known where to send a letter? Perhaps not, but did she make the effort? Ross would know, but delivery would have been uncertain at best. Still, wouldn’t/shouldn’t they have tried, hoping at least one might have reached its intended? Elizabeth’s explanation to Ross on her wedding day is, “three years is a long time.” Is three years long enough when you’re an 18th century woman?
There must be a mail/messenger service available, because letters between Twenwith and Nampara arrive on a fairly regular basis. Based on the content and tone of the letter (if it’s abrupt, you must go), Ross is off to Trenwith without delay. He could respond with a letter of his own, but time may be of the essence (and there may be an opportunity to see Elizabeth).
Verity is 25 – her prospects at finding a husband look bleak. That is, until she attends a ball with Ross as her escort and meets Captain Andrew Blamey. They are attracted to each other immediately – it looks like Verity’s found her man, and her future will be smooth sailing.
Not so fast. Captain Blamey’s had a bit of trouble in his past, and the family determines that he’s an unsuitable choice for Verity – any association with him will tarnish the family name. Her father decides that she needs to stay and look after him and the rest of the family, indifferent to her wish for a life of her own. She’s forbidden to see him, and Francis ensures that no post arrives at Trenwith from him.
Demelza intercedes on their behalf and agrees to pass letters between them. The post box is a crevice in a rock wall where Captain Blamey leaves his letters to Verity, and she, her responses. The trouble with letters (in this case) is that they are tangible, physical items that others take notice of. When Demelza passes a letter to Verity at Trenwith, one of the servants sees and later reveals to Francis and Elizabeth who has been helping Verity stay in contact with Captain Blamey.
Accusations fly, family ties are broken, and Demelza pays a heavy price for her interference. But it all works out for Verity in the end. She defies Frances and continues to meet Captain Blamey behind his back. They make arrangements to be married; she leaves a note with Aunt Agatha, and marries the man she loves.
Two hearts yearned for letters that never came, setting off a chain of events not to be undone. Letters brought two people together who would otherwise have lived lives of quiet desperation. Such power resides in paper, ink, a daub of wax, and the outpouring of one soulful heart to another.