I agree with namps, whatever WG writes makes compelling reading. His description of writing poldark and his feeling that it was an organic process explain why it feels so real and why we think these wonderful characters are our friends. THat sense of realism is what makes poldark so special. I have always liked the small detail that WG includes, his very british habit of always describing the weather, no matter the season, and the smaller daily habits of our hero and heroine , like how they clean their teeth! All fascinating insights into this special world , wound into the bigger storylines to make a more complete picture.
It's great isn't it ? I thought it would be interesting reading it for the third time to try to separate a few of the many revealing passages in his autobiography from the book itself as they always reluctantly get forgotten the moment you turn the page.
Reading them on their own makes a big difference I'm beginning to think....
"Perfection is a full stop .... Ever the climbing but never the attaining Of the mountain top." W.G.
A passionate child rolling in the dust with her ugly dog; a girl driving oxen; a woman....Did anything else matter?
And here am I across the tides reading this at the very sime time. & you echo my thoughts exactly Namps!
Thanks for posting this Ros, it has definitely given me the urge to read this book again. The way that everything he so skillfully writes, whether it be fiction or non-fiction seems to flow with such ease, captivating and drawing us in to his world and making us want to simply carry on reading without stopping. Time to dust off the cover again I think ...
Tide was nearly full. Mist lay in a grey scarf along the line of the cliffs. .. and they walked home hand in hand through the slanting shadows of the new darkness.
Poldark: The Beginning. Pages 81 - 85.
Winston Graham's Home - now demolished
(His bedroom was the white corner extension at roof level overlooking Perranporth and the main beach beyond)
"There had been growing in my mind a story which was unoriginal in its inception but which fortunately broke the mould as it went along. Before the war I had sketched out a few characters, then while I was waiting for call-up I used to walk to my mother's bungalow - furnished but empty since her coming to live with us - and there I began to write the first few chapters of "Ross Poldark". It was a strange contrast for me between the formidable war news and the many complexities of modern life and the total isolation of an empty bungalow - a mile from my house - with a long lawn, a flowing stream and pastoral silences.Sometimes late at night in bed I would read aloud a part of what I had written, while Jean's blue-grey eyes would mist over with the sleepiness she indignantly denied. Necessarily all this was broken; and I did not begin to rewrite what I had written or to continue the story until the war was near its end. But while on watch in the daylight - and during the long nights - I would think and dream and consider the characters and allow them to grow. So that when the war was near its end and when to everyone's inexpressible joy it did end, the story was there for the writing.I had no thought when I began "Ross Poldark" of a continuous series of books. It was just to be a story of eighteenth-century Cornwall, with a gloomy beginning and a happy ending, and that was that. In the course of it I rewrote and rewrote and rewrote, polishing and pruning, adding and subtracting, trying to get the perfect balance in each chapter between emotion and restraint. Some chapters I wrote nine times: each time I went to them they responded to something different in my own mood and had to be done again. In some ways I was very young - younger than my years - in spite of having been a professional writer for so long; and I was too romantic. My approach to women was too romantic - it still is - but it was by then a part of my nature and was too inbred to be changed.The novel, although preceded by a sort of "trailer" in the form of "The Forgotten Story", was in fact a big departure from anything else I had written, being slower moving, concerned with mood and scene rather than action - though there was plenty of that too - and it took some imaginative stress to build up the historical background behind the characters. When my publishers saw it they liked it very much but suggested I should cut 20,000 words from the first half. It was the first time they had ever suggested any amendment since my very first novel. It was, I am sure, a genuine criticism on their part, but also it was activated by the extreme shortage of paper and their knowledge that an economy of forty pages would be a handsome saving of their short supply. I just said no. I said I regretted I wasn't willing to cut anything, so they took it as it was. Whether they were in any way justified I don't know, but no-one ever since has said the beginning was drawn-out or slow.When the book came out it was a terrific success in Cornwall. W.H. Smith in Truro sold 700 copies in the month of December. It did not receive as many favourable reviews as "The Forgotten Story", possibly because critics, a disillusioned race, don't care for romance. But it continued to sell moderately well all through the succeeding year - and it has never stopped selling in all the years since.Before this I was well on the way with the second Poldark novel, "Demelza". Towards the end of "Ross Poldark" it became clear that I had far more to say and to tell than could be contained within a single book. There had to be another, and perhaps even one after that. Not only did Ross and Demelza grip my thoughts but all the lesser characters: the Martins, the Carters, Dwight Enys and Karen Smith, the Bodrugans, the Chynoweths, and of course the Warleggans. These people had come alive and clamoured for attention.So "Demelza" came into being. All through the time I was in the Coastguard Service I had come particularly to appreciate being alone. I remembered the strange stimulating isolation of those few months in 1940 when, awaiting call-up, I had written the first chapters of "Ross Poldark". In the final few weeks before being demobilized - since there was little now we could constructively do - I had shamelessly carried my books up to the coastguard station and spent the time writing. When the station was closed I looked for somewhere else. On the opposite side of the beach was a wooden bungalow, nearly always uninhabited except for a few weeks in high summer. It belonged to a Mr. Harry Tremewan. I went to see him and hired it.
"Flat Rocks" - burnt down in the Sixties
(The bungalow which Winston Graham hired is just above the beach with the author himself in the foreground)
I have had a lot of happiness in my life, but those next few months rank high among the high spots. Each day about ten I left our house, with a few books under my arm and a haversack on my back containing perhaps potatoes, boiled ham, a tomato, lettuce, a few slices of bread and some butter, and walked though the village and out onto the sandy beach - sometimes with the tide miles out, sometimes with it thundering and hissing at my feet, sometimes having to wade through sputtering surf up to my knees - and at the other side climb the Flat Rocks and go into the bungalow, where collecting dust even from yesterday, would be the pile of reference books and old papers that had already accumulated. Sitting in my deckchair in the immense silences, I would pick up the book in which I had been writing yesterday and continue with the story.It was a remarkable experience. Sometimes in moments of critical self-examination I had asked myself if I was really a novelist or just a craftsman with a story-telling ability. In writing "Demelza" I knew myself with conviction to be a novelist. What I was writing was not a planned thing, it was organic, with the characters working out their own destiny. Sitting there in the grey old empty bungalow, I felt like a man driving a coach and four, roughly knowing the direction in which the coach would travel, but being pulled along by forces only just under his control. It was physically and mentally both exhausting and exhilarating. Every now and then after a long passage the coach, as it were, would lurch to a stop with a half-dozen possible roads opening ahead and no signposts. A day or two of agonizing indecision; then the road would be chosen and we would be off again. Occasionally during the day I would go out and stroll around the bungalow and watch the gulls and the transluscent tides, feel the wind on my face: it was a mile or so from the old coastguard station but with a different, gentler view. At about five I would pack the haversack, take up the written work, and begin the walk back in the glimmering twilight with the sea far out and the waves glinting like mirages on the wet sand. I was going back each evening to the real world, waiting to welcome me at home; but it is doubtful which to me just then was the more real. All I knew was that I was writing something out of my very guts, and that I was content."
Re-reading for the third time but much more slowly Winston's hardback autobiography, I found this interesting quote on page 20 about his meeting when thirteen a girl called Amy Warwick in Morecambe which took him five years to get over.
"I think it was Edith Wharton who wrote somewhere: 'One good heartbreak will provide the novelist with a succession of different novels, and the poet with any number of sonnets and lyric poems, but he must have a heart that can break.' "