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Post Info TOPIC: sacrum and profanum


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Date: Nov 26 7:48 PM, 2018
RE: sacrum and profanum
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That sounds likely to me, Fijane. It also reminds me of the one Poldark who is portrayed as reading the family Bible most of the time (when she's not playing cards, that is) - Aunt Agatha. I can see her being the family member who asked the young Verity, Francis and Ross to recount the Sunday's readings at the dinner table - and perhaps even passed a secret handful of raisins later to the one who did the best job What I find more difficult is to imagine Demelza home-schooling Jeremy and the rest of her children on the Bible (it is mentioned in The Four Swans that she was teaching Jeremy to read, but we are not told what books they were using, and I just don't see her picking that particular book). But perhaps Uncle Sam, and then school, filled in the gap?



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Date: Nov 25 5:49 AM, 2018
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Is it not likely that the Bible itself would have been used to teach literacy, especially for the younger children of the aristocracy who were basically home-schooled for many of their early years? I think mothers would have used it, and nannies and governesses would have been instructed to. The character's knowledge of the stories and quotes of the bible could have come directly from the source, not just through the preacher. Also, quoting the Sunday reading was often a test for children after church, to ensure that they were paying attention.



-- Edited by Fijane on Sunday 25th of November 2018 05:50:08 AM

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Date: Nov 18 5:49 PM, 2018
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I think you've just named the missing piece of the puzzle for me, Mrs Gimlett - questioning. I wasn't convinced that simply being familiar with the hyms and readings because of childhood exposure was a sufficient explanation for all the quoting, but when you add a good deal of critical thinking to the picture it becomes much more plausible that people like Ross or Dwight would keep coming back to the verses they've learnt as children as their point of reference.

More generally, I'm impressed by how good a description of Ross's character "questioning" is. Throughout the books he can be seen questioning not only his religious belief, but also his father's lack of belief; questioning the law and authority, but also his own disregard of them; and overall, questioning - in due time - pretty much every attitude or action of his own.

That struck me as a very philosophical mindset, and I started to wonder what philosophical school of thought would be a closest match for Ross. The first thing that came to my mind was existentialism - which would make Ross very much ahead of his time, but on the other hand seems to fit quite well with what was in vogue at the time when WG was writing the books. Is this just me, or did anyone else have similar thoughts?

P.S. For completeness, though, I don't think I can leave your quote from memory without correction. In my version of "Demelza" (not a first edition), that line about being left alone is Ross's own, not a quotation. And further, instead of being a literal interpretation of the hymn verse he remembered, it is - if anything - its total opposite: When his mother had taken him to church as a child he had repeated a psalm which said: 'Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.' But when his mother died, even while he was crying, something within him had risen up, a barrier to shield off his weakness and tenderness and frailty. He had thought: All right, then, I've lost her and I'm alone. All right then.



-- Edited by Blackleburr on Sunday 18th of November 2018 05:51:52 PM



-- Edited by Blackleburr on Sunday 18th of November 2018 05:54:04 PM

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Date: Nov 17 10:03 AM, 2018
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In the eighteenth century, it was unusual not to attend church.  People were very god-fearing, especially the working classes.  They absolutely believed in all the fire and brimstone preached by the clergy.  They also learned the scriptures, almost by rote, because the majority were illiterate. 

For many, that time on a Sunday was sometimes the only respite they got from a grinding poverty-stricken existence.  The rest of the week, they probably hadn't a great deal to think about so the vicar's words would remain with them. 

Thinking people, ie mostly the upper classes,  were beginning to question what the clergy were propounding.  Ross and Dwight for instance, were not 'worshippers', and only went to services under sufferance, such as was expected of them at the opening of the hospital.  As WG said, Dwight's patients were suspicious of him because he didn't attend church and every other physician/doctor they had encountered were regular attenders. 

Ross and Demelza  both attended church in their early years, which is when words become lodged in the brain forever. Demelza tells Ross when they first meet that she loves her father because it says you must in the bible.  She didn't question it; that was accepted because she had heard it in church.  Ross on the other hand did question.  When his mother died he remembered a phrase from church about standing alone and took it literally - 'very well, then, so I am alone'*, and resolved to fight for himself and basically stopped believing.

I am not a churchgoer, but because I had to attend church in my childhood and at school, I know by heart all the services and many, many hymns.  Similarly, Georgian folk would have the capacity to quote a range of biblical phrases and prayers throughout their lives.

When Sam arrived in the Nampara area, he actually held bible classes, so all his flock would have probably been able to quote reams of psalms and biblical stories.  Methodism was very strong in all mining areas, hence all the chapels in the north. Wales and Cornwall.

* Not an exact quote - from my memory.

 



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Date: Nov 17 1:19 AM, 2018
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Very well spotted, Little Henry, those two quotes from The Twisted Sword!

Your instinct as to where the motto appears again in the text was right, too - the psalm is mentioned in the last chapter of the book, as part of the Christmas Day service officiated by Revd Odgers. That's rather an odd choice for Christmas Day - to think about it - but perhaps it could simply be blamed on Odgers' failing memory. At least, it did fit with the story well.

As for the passage from TSFTS you describe, I don't think it was about fairness or revenge, though. The way I see it is, when R & D first discussed whether or not to help bring Warleggan's Bank down, Demelza advised Ross to "stand aside and take no part" at the meeting when his banking partners would decide what to do. Ross wasn't impressed, and noted that this would be akin to what Pilate did (being complicit in a dubious act by apparent inaction - Pilate didn't want to claim responsibility for sending Jesus to death and therefore offered to release one of two prisoners, Jesus or Barabbas, according to the people's choice; it ended up as a death sentence for Jesus anyway) - to which Demelza replied that she has always "felt sorry for Pilate... But not for Caiaphas... Nor Judas" (i.e., she didn't worry about bringing about a bad outcome by inaction, only by action - Caiaphas and Judas both had an active role in sending Jesus to death, unlike Pilate). Next, when Jeremy interrupted R & D's conversation, the plan emerged to buy Wheal Leisure from the Warleggans - whose financial difficulty might induce them to sell cheaply - and Demelza concluded that by attempting to buy the mine Ross "would not be playing Caiaphas" - i.e. he would not be actively contributing to the possible failure of Warleggan's bank. Or, perhaps, she meant this remark to be ironic? Not very likely, though, as I don't think it is in Demelza's character to be ironic.

The extent to which the characters know their Bible is surprising to me too, and not just in Demelza's case. It seems that none of the Nampara Poldarks went to church more often than a few times a year. Even if they made more frequent visits while at school (or - in Demelza's case - while at Illugan), would that be enough to make all the quotes that appear throughout the books? I feel like some piece of the puzzle must be missing here...



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Date: Nov 16 6:11 PM, 2018
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I found the passage I was thinking of.  It's in TSFTS and is where R & D are discussing whether or not to help bring Warleggan's Bank down.  Caiaphas is mentioned - he was the high priest before Pilate who organized the plot against Jesus.  They also talk about George selling Wheal Leisure and being able to get it cheaply.  Demelza says "And that would not be playing Caiaphas" I think because of their fairness and not acting in revenge.  Demelza's knowledge of the Bible is surprising to me as she didn't go to school and her family didn't turn religious until after she left.  Perhaps it was just a matter of course to go to church on Sunday for most of the villagers.



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Date: Nov 15 7:01 PM, 2018
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The Twisted Sword begins with the quote from Psalm22. Verse20:  Deliver my soul from the Sword; my darling from the power of the dog.  I looked in the book for the passage but couldn't find it but I think it was at a sermon by Reverend Odgers.  This is the Psalm that begins "My God, why hast thou forsaken me; why art thou so far from helping me" so it's no wonder it profoundly affected Ross and Demelza who were so devastated at that time.  In looking for this scene in the book, however, I found Ross saying to Dwight "Isn't there a verse in the Bible about the ungodly flourishing like a green bay tree?"  He is referring to George. I agree with you that religious life at that time was more prominent.  It's hard to believe nowadays but even when I went to school (not a special school) every day we had to stand and recite the Lord's Prayer to begin the day.  So I think in schools back then there was probably a class in religious teaching.

Am also trying to find the scene where Ross and Demelza are talking in the garden and they mention a biblical name.  I believe they are laughing about it and Jeremy comes and joins them.  I always meant to look up the name and find out the significance.



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Date: Nov 13 8:46 PM, 2018
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I have said this before, but I find it fascinating how WG makes use of biblical language and references in the story. I suspect there is more than one reason behind it:

1. Historical: back in the day the religious side of life was likely more prominent - or at least, more publicly present than nowadays - so it makes sense for this to be reflected in the books. For example, the characters often use scenes and verses from the Bible as a point of reference when thinking about their own lives. After Julia died, Ross remembered a hymn he had sung when his mother took him to church, "Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts." When George made his marriage proposal to Elizabeh - she went back in her mind to a reading she had recently heard in church, "And the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and saith unto him: 'All these things will I give thee...'" A few years later, when George was thinking about Elizabeth's loyalty as his wife, he likened it to the biblical verse of "Thy people shall be my people, and thy God shall be my God."

2. Linguistic: the biblical/religious expressions sound "archaic" to our ears, even though I suspect many of them come from a different time period than Poldark's 18th/19th century. In any case, since they are familiar enough for present-day readers to be understood, they make for a handy "accessible version of historical English".

3. Literary: depending on the context in which they are used, the biblical phrases and scenes convey certain things about the characters.

For example - to start with the most obvious - we get to hear the members of clergy quoting the Bible when doing their job: preaching sermons, visiting the sick, etc. We then see the religious lingo spill into their private conversations, and there the mismatch between the words and the deeds can work as an illustration of the hypocrisy - and worse - of people such as Dr Halse or Osborne Whitworth; equally, it can work in the other direction - as in the case of Sam Carne, whose kindness of character is obfuscated by the "preachy" language he uses all the time. Interestingly, the one religious person who seems the least prone to use his sacred language in profane matters - Clarence Odgers - is also the one whom Ross likes the most (it is mentioned at one point that Ross knew many members of clergy who were worthy people and whom he respected, but I don't think any of them are named in the books, unless we count cousin William Alfred in this category).

Next, many of the lay characters also make explicit quotations from the Bible:
(A) Jud often does - with hilarious effects - in his "homilies";
(B) Ross does when it helps him make a point - such as at Jim's trial, when he spoke of "living by bread alone" to Dr Halse - and in this way WG sets his character apart from those who focus on preaching their faith rather than living it;
(C) George does when explaining to Ross about the money the Warleggans have given Francis in Jeremy Poldark, and referring to it as "thirty pieces of silver" (who would expect that George is actually capable of using a metaphor?);
(D) Jeremy does a lot, especially when he talks to his mother - and I think this conveys the scrupulousness of his character, but also his caginess, always preferring to hide his own thoughts and feelings behind somebody else's words.

Then, some phrases of biblical origin are used casually, without explicit reference to the source - but my impression is that of all characters Ross is particularly good at it, either using the phrases himself or being quick to note the reference and seize upon the deeper meaning when others use them, e.g. in the beginning of TSFTS, when he tells Demelza "I swear, we shall cleave and be of one flesh -" or when a little later he notes her saying "Let us thank God we are not as other people are".

And finally, it seems to me that WG likes to put Ross in situations resembling certain biblical scenes. For example, when Ross first returns to Nampara after the American war, his fury at seeing his father's house so neglected is a bit like that of Jesus throwing merchants out of the temple. Then, when Ross is about to forgive Francis his role in bringing down the Carnmore Copper Company, we see Ross drawing figures in the sand just like in the story of Jesus forgiving the woman whom the people wanted to stone for adultery. And then at the end of The Four Swans, when Ross makes a gesture of love changing Demelza's slippers - it is almost as if he was washing her feet.

I wonder what others' feelings about this are. Do you have any other examples to add? Comments?

How do Dwight and Caroline fit into this picture?



-- Edited by Blackleburr on Tuesday 13th of November 2018 09:48:34 PM

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