The creation of Ross Poldark

One day during the first year of the war, when I was still waiting for call-up, I went to Truro by train and sat opposite a young RAF officer who told me he was convalescing after a crash. He had a substantial, barely healed scar from temple to lower cheek. […]

A very tall bony good-looking young man with a high-strung disquiet about him that made a great impression on me. And a depth and darkness that lay behind the frivolity of his air force language. He was not at all nervous, but one guessed that strong nerves contributed to his latent urgent vitality.
At that time a hazy picture of the character who was to become Ross Poldark had already formed, and I was writing about him while his appearance and character still grew.
Some friend told me once that there was an element of Heathcliff in Ross Poldark. A Cornishman, Peter Pool, more perceptively, I think, saw an affinity with Captain Hornblower, at least in his capacity for self-criticism. It’s impossible for me to take a detached view of Ross’s origin and character. All I know is that the young airman, his general appearance and my perception of his character, provided the basis for what followed.

In the early years of my time in Cornwall I became very friendly with a young chemist called Ridley Polgreen, who died at the grievously early age of thirty-two. When I began to write the first of the Cornish novels, I thought to write about a man called Ross Polgreen – which itself is a rare name in the county; but after a few chapters the name Polgreen seemed a little too floral, a little too gentle. I wanted something a bit more formidable, darker. Darker, that was it. And so the name came into being. There never was a Poldark before.[from Memoirs of a Private Man, Winston Graham’s autobiogaphy]