Let’s start with the biography of Winston Graham. You can find a summary of Poldark book towards the end of this article.
Winston Graham was an English novelist who is best known for his work on the Poldark series.
Winston Graham’s real name is John Winckworth. Graham wrote his work under his pen name to avoid confusion with another author, Dennis Wheatley, who had the same name. Graham wrote more than forty novels.
The most famous of these are his Poldark novel series, which is a historical collection that are set in Cornwall. However, the majority of his work has never been published. An incredibly prolific author, Graham has always been in the spotlight and continued to write until his passing at the age of 94, in 2003.
The novels of Graham were influenced by a myriad of sources, including his youth, when he’d listen to stories told by his grandfather about his experiences as a smuggler.
“An interest in Cornwall because my father had been brought up there, and we had enjoyed many holidays there; an interest in the theater because I was a working actor for ten years before becoming a full-time writer; and an interest in history, which has been my mainstay as a novelist”.
John Winckworth was born on July 16, 1908, at 3 Hogarth Road, East Dulwich, London. John’s father James Winckworth worked as an estate manager for the Earl of Normanton. It was his mother who, Beatrice Christina ‘Trixie’ was the daughter of Charles Edward Fripp, a former solicitor who was awarded the Military Cross during World War One.
Caught up in London’s theatrical world at an early age, John attended St Olave’s Grammar School, located in Southwark. His first job was in the office of a solicitor or as an errand kid in Selfridges in which his mother was employed.
From the age of 16 until 18 he was employed in London for an investment company. At the age of 17 John was a member of a drama group in Camberwell Town Hall where he was introduced to the theater.
John’s first paid work was as an extra in a silent movie, for a daily rate of PS1-10s.
John quickly began to appreciate acting and was a part of many repertory theatre groups, including Watford Repertory, Midland Theatre Company, The Playhouse at Oxford and St Martin’s Theatre, London.
John and his cousin, Peter (who was in the Royal Navy and later became a famous stage designer) took the decision to go to walk the streets of Cornwall. John wrote about it in an article.
The article mentions an incident that took place on the walking tour when John had almost drowned. “Peter struck out for me and got hold of me and pushed my head above the surface. I had swallowed a lot of water and was very sick, but he got me ashore”.
Following the walking tour, John joined Peter in his new role as Assistant Stage Manager for The Playhouse Theatre, Oxford.
This was where John began writing sketches and short plays for revues, many of which were staged. At Oxford, John also held a variety of other tasks, such as working in a solicitor’s office an estate agent and the barman at Oxford.
John was able to decide to leave The Playhouse Theatre after receiving an offer from a different theatre company, The Marionette Society. There he wrote two plays called “The First Year” and “Nine Till Six”. John’s acquaintance, Leonard Russell, wrote in his autobiography the ways John was an aspirant playwright:
“John Winckworth (“Winston Graham”) arrived in Oxford towards the close of April. He had quit the school when he was just 17 due to the need to earn money, and was accepted by a company that included estate brokers in Bloomsbury.
However, his real dream was to become a playwright, and he was anxious for me to read some of the plays which he had written while he was at school.”
John wrote two of his plays that were staged at The New Theatre in London’s Great Queen Street (which is now referred to as The Noel Coward Theatre).
The two plays were praised by critics as well “Nine Till Six” was later transferred to Globe Theatre.
After having completed their studies at Oxford, he earned a BA in History in addition to English. John went to London as an actor for a decade before becoming a full-time author – first publishing works using his real name, John Winckworth. It wasn’t until 1935 when John began writing under the name of Winston Graham.
The first novel he wrote was for adults, however later he published children’s books which included “Kingfisher” (1957), which was published by Coward-McCann and illustrated by Pauline Baynes. The story “The House on the Brink” (1955) was made into a stage play by The Guild Group and at one point plans were made to turn the novel into a film.
John left London at the time of World War II and spent four years in Cornwall before returning to London where he was interested in creating plays, acting, teaching drama, and working as a script reader at Rank Pictures.
One of the first Poldark books, “Ross Poldark”, was released in the year 1945. The twelve novels in the series (which is now released as fifteen novels) are primarily set within Cornwall and Devon and also located in London and Sussex between 1783 until 1820.
They were influenced by the events of 17th century Charles II who returned to the Cornish beach to recuperate from the battle.
In his books, Graham discusses the demise of the society of the past that was a burden on Cornwall’s miners, the decline of life in rural areas in general, as well as other issues of society, such as sexual customs that were prevalent in the time the novels were published.
In the year 1976, Winston Graham retired from writing and was able to move together with wife Mary to Truro, Cornwall – where Winston Graham died on Sunday 9th January, 2005 at the age of 95 years old.
Books in Poldark Book Series
There are a total of 12 books in the Poldark books by Winston Graham. The books are in the following order:
- Ross Poldark
- Jeremy Poldark
- The Black Moon
- The Four Swans
- The Angry Tide
- Stranger of The Sea
- The Miller’s Dance
- The Loving Cup
- The Twisted Sword
- Bella Poldark
Summary of Poldark Book
The Poldark series by Winston Graham is a great set of books, but it can be hard to find people who have read them all.
The most recent books in the series were written by Robin Hurt and are still being published. If you want to watch the TV show, it is based on the first three books and a couple of those characters are not in the latest editions.
Some parts of these stories could be seen as spoilers because they represent things that happen later on in the series.
The series starts with Ross Poldark leaving for war in 1793. There are hints about what happened to him, but it is clear that he has returned very changed by his experiences in the continent of Europe. Demelza Carne runs into him while she is digging for coppers when her father asks her to move some rocks.
The Poldarks are one of the landowning families in Cornwall and their status puts them above most people outside of their class, but it is still a working class county with small farms and mines mostly run by tenant farmers or miners.
One day, there is an accident at the mine where Ross’s father has become a manager. Some of this is due to his drinking, but there was also pressure on him because he had to impress people in order to keep the family estate. While trying to jump onto a moving cart, Ross’s father knocks himself out and dies shortly afterward due to an infection that sets in.
This leaves Ross as the heir apparent, but the times are changing and those with money from trade can become landowners. He also has to prove that he is a man, but his mother wants him to marry Elizabeth. The fact that Demelza saved his life changes everything for Ross, and there is an instant attraction between them. However, she does have a boyfriend called Jim, who becomes jealous of the attention that Demelza gets from Ross.
Finally, there is love in the air for this couple, and they end up getting married at the end of the first book. This leaves us with a cliffhanger where Elizabeth has run off with one of Ross’s friends who was supposed to marry her sister, but he wasn’t willing to.
Demelza is pregnant and the two of them are going to have a lot of issues to work through because they can’t afford much in their situation.
The story gets better from here, and there is a big reveal about what happened with Ross while he was away, but I won’t spoil it for you here. There will be more books in this series and I hope that you enjoy them. Winston Graham created a universe where people had to work hard, and it wasn’t easy for anyone.
The biography of Winston Graham is quite an inspiring one. Till date, his story evokes a great sense of respect for him. His struggles and his success are worth taking a clue for many aspiring writers, actors and professionals.
You can visit Wikipedia, if you want to know more about Winston Graham.
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