Poldark and Providence

For two years, I thought my European Reading Challenge book selections were going to include novels from my favorite continent. Instead, 2017 became the year of “thoughts on living life,” and 2018 was the year of spiritual classics. This time, for sure, 2019 will be the year of European novels.

Ross Poldark, the first book of Winston Graham’s Poldark series, is my first book for Rose City Reader’s 2019 European Reading Challenge.

The Poldark series is being gloriously brought to life by Masterpiece, and the fourth season recently aired in the United States. Because the story of Poldark takes place over decades, watching the television series has made me think about the way life unfolds over long periods of time.

Ross experiences regular, deep disappointments, tragedies, and setbacks that take years to be resolved or to be healed from. He overcomes his personal faults and weaknesses slowly, but over time his great strengths manifest themselves more often than not.

Ross has a strong sense of justice, and it’s important to him to take care of those for whom he is responsible. In his own unconventional ways, Ross is an example of noblesse oblige –the understanding that a position of higher status and privilege (in Georgian England, that would be nobility and landed gentry) gives a person specific obligations to look out for the best interests of those who work the land or serve in the household. By following his instincts as a gentleman with a strong conscience, Ross finds his place in life and is true to his calling.

The character Ross Poldark is not a conventional Christian according to the mind of 18th-century England, but the hand of Providence in his life is nonetheless clear. Through fidelity to his better choices and his authentically Christian conscience, Ross slowly grows, heals, and finds new sources of happiness and fulfillment.

And Ross again knew himself to be happy–in a new and less ephemeral way than before. He was filled with a queer sense of enlightenment. It seemed to him that all his life had moved to that pinpoint of time down the scattered threads of twenty years; from his old childhood running thoughtless and barefoot in the sun on Hendrawna sands,…from the plains of Virginia and the trampled fairgrounds of Redruth, from the complex impulses that had governed Elizabeth’s choice of Francis, and from the simple philosophies of Demelza’s own faith, all had been animated to a common end–and that end a moment of enlightenment and understanding and completion. Someone–a Latin poet–had defined eternity as no more than this: to hold and possess the whole fullness of life in one moment, there and then, past and present and to come.

I finished Ross Poldark in January and look forward to reading the rest of Winston Graham’s twelve-volume epic.


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