"the plot is founded on a story told to George Eliot by her aunt Elizabeth Evans, a Methodist preacher, and the original of Dinah Morris of the novel, of a confession of child-murder, made to her by a girl in prison."
The story's plot follows four characters' rural lives in the fictional community of Hayslope-a rural, pastoral and close-knit community in 1799. The novel revolves around a love "rectangle" among beautiful but self-absorbed Hetty Sorrel; Captain Arthur Donnithorne, the young squire who seduces her; Adam Bede, her unacknowledged suitor; and Dinah Morris, Hetty's cousin, a fervent, virtuous and beautiful Methodist lay preacher. (The real village where Adam Bede was set is Ellastoneon the Staffordshire / Derbyshire border, a few miles from Uttoxeter and Ashbourne, and near to Alton Towers. Eliot's father lived in the village as a carpenter in a substantial house now known as Adam Bede's Cottage).
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About the Author
Mary Waldron is Visiting Fellow in the Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies at the University of Essex. She is the author of Jane Austen and the Fiction of Her Time (Cambridge University Press, 1999).
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By George Eliot
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2015 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.
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WITH A SINGLE DROP of ink for a mirror, the Egyptian sorcerer undertakes to reveal to any chance comer far-reaching visions of the past. This is what I undertake to do for you, reader. With this drop of ink at the end of my pen, I will show you the roomy workshop of Mr. Jonathan Burge, carpenter and builder, in the village of Hayslope, as it appeared on the eighteenth of June, in the year of our Lord 1799.
The afternoon sun was warm on the five workmen there, busy upon doors and window-frames and wainscoting. A scent of pine-wood from a tentlike pile of planks outside the open door mingled itself with the scent of the elder-bushes which were spreading their summer snow close to the open window opposite; the slanting sunbeams shone through the transparent shavings that flew before the steady plane, and lit up the fine grain of the oak panelling which stood propped against the wall. On a heap of those soft shavings a rough, grey shepherd dog had made himself a pleasant bed, and was lying with his nose between his fore-paws, occasionally wrinkling his brows to cast a glance at the tallest of the five workmen, who was carving a shield in the centre of a wooden mantelpiece. It was to this workman that the strong barytone belonged which was heard above the sound of plane and hammer singing—
Awake, my soul, and with the sun
Thy daily stage of duty run;
Shake off dull sloth ...
Here some measurement was to be taken which required more concentrated attention, and the sonorous voice subsided into a low whistle; but it presently broke out again with renewed vigour—
Let all thy converse be sincere,
Thy conscience as the noonday clear.
Such a voice could only come from a broad chest, and the broad chest belonged to a large-boned, muscular man nearly six feet high, with a back so flat and a head so well poised that when he drew himself up to take a more distant survey of his work, he had the air of a soldier standing at ease. The sleeve rolled up above the elbow showed an arm that was likely to win the prize for feats of strength; yet the long supple hand, with its broad finger-tips, looked ready for works of skill. In his tall stalwartness Adam Bede was a Saxon, and justified his name; but the jet-black hair, made the more noticeable by its contrast with the light paper cap, and the keen glance of the dark eyes that shone from under strongly marked, prominent and mobile eyebrows, indicated a mixture of Celtic blood. The face was large and roughly hewn, and when in repose had no other beauty than such as belongs to an expression of good-humoured honest intelligence.
It is clear at a glance that the next workman is Adam's brother. He is nearly as tall; he has the same type of features, the same hue of hair and complexion; but the strength of the family likeness seems only to render more conspicuous the remarkable difference of expression both in form and face. Seth's broad shoulders have a slight stoop; his eyes are grey; his eyebrows have less prominence and more repose than his brother's; and his glance, instead of being keen, is confiding and benign. He has thrown off his paper cap, and you see that his hair is not thick and straight, like Adam's, but thin and wavy, allowing you to discern the exact contour of a coronal arch that predominates very decidedly over the brow.
The idle tramps always felt sure they could get a copper from Seth; they scarcely ever spoke to Adam.
The concert of the tools and Adam's voice was at last broken by Seth, who, lifting the door at which he had been working intently, placed it against the wall, and said, "There! I've finished my door to-day, anyhow."
The workmen all looked up; Jim Salt, a burly, red-haired man known as Sandy Jim, paused from his planing, and Adam said to Seth, with a sharp glance of surprise, "What! Dost think thee'st finished the door?"
"Aye, sure," said Seth, with answering surprise; "what's awanting to't?"
A loud roar of laughter from the other three workmen made Seth look round confusedly. Adam did not join in the laughter, but there was a slight smile on his face as he said, in a gentler tone than before, "Why, thee'st forgot the panels."
The laughter burst out afresh as Seth clapped his hands to his head, and coloured over brow and crown.
"Hoorray!" shouted a small lithe fellow called Wiry Ben, running forward and seizing the door. "We'll hang up th' door at fur end o' th' shop an' write on't 'Seth Bede, the Methody, his work.' Here, Jim, lend's hould o' th' red pot."
"Nonsense!" said Adam. "Let it alone, Ben Cranage. You'll mayhap be making such a slip yourself some day; you'll laugh o' th' other side o' your mouth then."
"Catch me at it, Adam. It'll be a good while afore my head's full o' th' Methodies," said Ben.
"Nay, but it's often full o' drink, and that's worse."
Ben, however, had now got the "red pot" in his hand, and was about to begin writing his inscription, making, by way of preliminary, an imaginary S in the air.
"Let it alone, will you?" Adam called out, laying down his tools, striding up to Ben, and seizing his right shoulder. "Let it alone, or I'll shake the soul out o' your body."
Ben shook in Adam's iron grasp, but, like a plucky small man as he was, he didn't mean to give in. With his left hand he snatched the brush from his powerless right, and made a movement as if he would perform the feat of writing with his left. In a moment Adam turned him round, seized his other shoulder, and, pushing him along, pinned him against the wall. But now Seth spoke.
"Let be, Addy, let be. Ben will be joking. Why, he's i' the right to laugh at me—I canna help laughing at myself."
"I shan't loose him till he promises to let the door alone," said Adam.
"Come, Ben, lad," said Seth, in a persuasive tone, "don't let's have a quarrel about it. You know Adam will have his way. You may's well try to turn a waggon in a narrow lane. Say you'll leave the door alone, and make an end on't."
"I binna frighted at Adam," said Ben, "but I donna mind sayin' as I'll let 't alone at your askin', Seth."
"Come, that's wise of you, Ben," said Adam, laughing and relaxing his grasp.
They all returned to their work now; but Wiry Ben, having had the worst in the bodily contest, was bent on retrieving that humiliation by a success in sarcasm.
"Which was ye thinkin' on, Seth," he began—"the pretty parson's face or her sarmunt, when ye forgot the panels?"
"Come and hear her, Ben," said Seth, good-humouredly; "she's going to preach on the Green to-night; happen ye'd get something to think on yourself then, instead o' those wicked songs you're so fond on. Ye might get religion, and that 'ud be the best day's earnings y' ever made."
"All i' good time for that, Seth; I'll think about that when I'm a-goin' to settle i' life; bachelors doesn't want such heavy earnin's. Happen I shall do the coortin' an' the religion both together, as YE do, Seth; but ye wouldna ha' me get converted an' chop in atween ye an' the pretty preacher, an' carry her aff?"
"No fear o' that, Ben; she's neither for you nor for me to win, I doubt. Only you come and hear her, and you won't speak lightly on her again."
"Well, I'm half a mind t' ha' a look at her to-night, if there isn't good company at th' Holly Bush. What'll she take for her text? Happen ye can tell me, Seth, if so be as I shouldna come up i' time for't. Will't be—what come ye out for to see? A prophetess? Yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophetess—a uncommon pretty young woman."
"Come, Ben," said Adam, rather sternly, "you let the words o' the Bible alone; you're going too far now."
"What! Are YE a-turnin' roun', Adam? I thought ye war dead again th' women preachin', a while agoo?"
"Nay, I'm not turnin' noway. I said nought about the women preachin'. I said, You let the Bible alone: you've got a jest-book, han't you, as you're rare and proud on? Keep your dirty fingers to that."
"Why, y' are gettin' as big a saint as Seth. Y' are goin' to th' preachin' to-night, I should think. Ye'll do finely t' lead the singin'. But I don' know what Parson Irwine 'ull say at his gran' favright Adam Bede a-turnin' Methody."
"Never do you bother yourself about me, Ben. I'm not a-going to turn Methodist any more nor you are—though it's like enough you'll turn to something worse. Mester Irwine's got more sense nor to meddle wi' people's doing as they like in religion. That's between themselves and God, as he's said to me many a time."
"Aye, aye; but he's none so fond o' your dissenters, for all that."
"Maybe; I'm none so fond o' Josh Tod's thick ale, but I don't hinder you from making a fool o' yourself wi't."
There was a laugh at this thrust of Adam's, but Seth said, very seriously. "Nay, nay, Addy, thee mustna say as anybody's religion's like thick ale. Thee dostna believe but what the dissenters and the Methodists have got the root o' the matter as well as the church folks."
"Nay, Seth, lad; I'm not for laughing at no man's religion. Let 'em follow their consciences, that's all. Only I think it 'ud be better if their consciences 'ud let 'em stay quiet i' the church—there's a deal to be learnt there. And there's such a thing as being oversperitial; we must have something beside Gospel i' this world. Look at the canals, an' th' aqueduc's, an' th' coal-pit engines, and Arkwright's mills there at Cromford; a man must learn summat beside Gospel to make them things, I reckon. But t' hear some o' them preachers, you'd think as a man must be doing nothing all's life but shutting's eyes and looking what's agoing on inside him. I know a man must have the love o' God in his soul, and the Bible's God's word. But what does the Bible say? Why, it says as God put his sperrit into the workman as built the tabernacle, to make him do all the carved work and things as wanted a nice hand. And this is my way o' looking at it: there's the sperrit o' God in all things and all times—weekday as well as Sunday—and i' the great works and inventions, and i' the figuring and the mechanics. And God helps us with our headpieces and our hands as well as with our souls; and if a man does bits o' jobs out o' working hours—builds a oven for 's wife to save her from going to the bakehouse, or scrats at his bit o' garden and makes two potatoes grow istead o' one, he's doin' more good, and he's just as near to God, as if he was running after some preacher and a-praying and a-groaning."
"Well done, Adam!" said Sandy Jim, who had paused from his planing to shift his planks while Adam was speaking; "that's the best sarmunt I've heared this long while. By th' same token, my wife's been a-plaguin' on me to build her a oven this twelvemont."
"There's reason in what thee say'st, Adam," observed Seth, gravely. "But thee know'st thyself as it's hearing the preachers thee find'st so much fault with has turned many an idle fellow into an industrious un. It's the preacher as empties th' alehouse; and if a man gets religion, he'll do his work none the worse for that."
"On'y he'll lave the panels out o' th' doors sometimes, eh, Seth?" said Wiry Ben.
"Ah, Ben, you've got a joke again' me as 'll last you your life. But it isna religion as was i' fault there; it was Seth Bede, as was allays a wool-gathering chap, and religion hasna cured him, the more's the pity."
"Ne'er heed me, Seth," said Wiry Ben, "y' are a down-right good-hearted chap, panels or no panels; an' ye donna set up your bristles at every bit o' fun, like some o' your kin, as is mayhap cliverer."
"Seth, lad," said Adam, taking no notice of the sarcasm against himself, "thee mustna take me unkind. I wasna driving at thee in what I said just now. Some 's got one way o' looking at things and some 's got another."
"Nay, nay, Addy, thee mean'st me no unkindness," said Seth, "I know that well enough. Thee't like thy dog Gyp—thee bark'st at me sometimes, but thee allays lick'st my hand after."
All hands worked on in silence for some minutes, until the church clock began to strike six. Before the first stroke had died away, Sandy Jim had loosed his plane and was reaching his jacket; Wiry Ben had left a screw half driven in, and thrown his screwdriver into his tool-basket; Mum Taft, who, true to his name, had kept silence throughout the previous conversation, had flung down his hammer as he was in the act of lifting it; and Seth, too, had straightened his back, and was putting out his hand towards his paper cap. Adam alone had gone on with his work as if nothing had happened. But observing the cessation of the tools, he looked up, and said, in a tone of indignation, "Look there, now! I can't abide to see men throw away their tools i' that way, the minute the clock begins to strike, as if they took no pleasure i' their work and was afraid o' doing a stroke too much."
Seth looked a little conscious, and began to be slower in his preparations for going, but Mum Taft broke silence, and said, "Aye, aye, Adam lad, ye talk like a young un. When y' are six-an'-forty like me, istid o' six-an'-twenty, ye wonna be so flush o' workin' for nought."
"Nonsense," said Adam, still wrathful; "what's age got to do with it, I wonder? Ye arena getting stiff yet, I reckon. I hate to see a man's arms drop down as if he was shot, before the clock's fairly struck, just as if he'd never a bit o' pride and delight in 's work. The very grindstone 'ull go on turning a bit after you loose it."
"Bodderation, Adam!" exclaimed Wiry Ben; "lave a chap aloon, will 'ee? Ye war afinding faut wi' preachers a while agoo—y' are fond enough o' preachin' yoursen. Ye may like work better nor play, but I like play better nor work; that'll 'commodate ye—it laves ye th' more to do."
With this exit speech, which he considered effective, Wiry Ben shouldered his basket and left the workshop, quickly followed by Mum Taft and Sandy Jim. Seth lingered, and looked wistfully at Adam, as if he expected him to say something.
"Shalt go home before thee go'st to the preaching?" Adam asked, looking up.
"Nay; I've got my hat and things at Will Maskery's. I shan't be home before going for ten. I'll happen see Dinah Morris safe home, if she's willing. There's nobody comes with her from Poyser's, thee know'st."
"Then I'll tell mother not to look for thee," said Adam.
"Thee artna going to Poyser's thyself to-night?" said Seth rather timidly, as he turned to leave the workshop.
"Nay, I'm going to th' school."
Hitherto Gyp had kept his comfortable bed, only lifting up his head and watching Adam more closely as he noticed the other workmen departing. But no sooner did Adam put his ruler in his pocket, and begin to twist his apron round his waist, than Gyp ran forward and looked up in his master's face with patient expectation. If Gyp had had a tail he would doubtless have wagged it, but being destitute of that vehicle for his emotions, he was like many other worthy personages, destined to appear more phlegmatic than nature had made him.
"What! Art ready for the basket, eh, Gyp?" said Adam, with the same gentle modulation of voice as when he spoke to Seth.
Gyp jumped and gave a short bark, as much as to say, "Of course." Poor fellow, he had not a great range of expression.
The basket was the one which on workdays held Adam's and Seth's dinner; and no official, walking in procession, could look more resolutely unconscious of all acquaintances than Gyp with his basket, trotting at his master's heels.
On leaving the workshop Adam locked the door, took the key out, and carried it to the house on the other side of the woodyard. It was a low house, with smooth grey thatch and buff walls, looking pleasant and mellow in the evening light. The leaded windows were bright and speckless, and the door-stone was as clean as a white boulder at ebb tide. On the door-stone stood a clean old woman, in a dark-striped linen gown, a red kerchief, and a linen cap, talking to some speckled fowls which appeared to have been drawn towards her by an illusory expectation of cold potatoes or barley. The old woman's sight seemed to be dim, for she did not recognize Adam till he said, "Here's the key, Dolly; lay it down for me in the house, will you?"
"Aye, sure; but wunna ye come in, Adam? Miss Mary's i' th' house, and Mester Burge 'ull be back anon; he'd be glad t' ha' ye to supper wi'm, I'll be's warrand."
"No, Dolly, thank you; I'm off home. Good evening."
Excerpted from Adam Bede by George Eliot. Copyright © 2015 Open Road Integrated Media, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is only volume 2. Unless you somehow accidentally downloaded only volume one last time, it isn't what you are looking for.
A nice piece of fiction set in Napoleonic era Britain. It is a classic for a reason, with a well written story and well done characters. It does tend to reflect Victorian values, but then George Eliot was Victorian.
Adam personifies goodness, but he's in love with the shallow, self-obsessed Hetty. She is only interested in the material luxuries that the ego-maniacal Arthur can give her. This unfortunate love triangle leads to a tragedy none had anticipated. Eliot has a perfect ear for dialect. Beautifully written and emotionally satisfying.
One of my favourite books of all time.
I don't think George Eliot will ever disappoint me. This was her first novel so it isn't Middlemarch or Silas Marner, but still wonderful nonetheless. The dialect takes a little getting used to and some of it is impossible to understand, but that is her point since the characters talk about the accents of different villagers they have trouble conversing with. I wish I hadn't read the librarything tags because I don't think I would have foreseen Hatty's actions. Eliot must have pushed the boundaries with her descriptions of Hatty's and Arthur's affair. Although, I connected with many characters, there were way too many villagers that would pop in and out. Unlike her other novels they weren't developed enough for me to remember each character. And by the last 30 pages there really isn't any reason to introduce new villagers just to show english life that was already established throughout the novel.
George Eliot's Adam Bede lives in the charming rustic countryside and adheres to a stoic version of the Puritan work ethic. His world is disrupted by both the classic temptation of Eros in the form of the too beautiful Hetty and the dissenting spiritual views of the Methodist preacher Dinah Morris.The author controls the narrative and lectures the reader as the other characters, brother Seth, Arthur Donnithorne, the Poysers, and the Rector Irwine are intertwined in the the fates of young Hetty and Adam. The novel succeeds in conveying the bucolic charm of the place while almost convincing us of the inevitability of fate. Above all, the characters are interesting and believable. My favorite, the Rector Irwine is notable in his interest in the classics and his disdain of preaching. Hetty Sorrel, the narcissistic young girl is harder to believe or understand, but she certainly has the requisite beauty to catch the eye of the aristocratic young Arthur who lets his emotions hold sway over his reason (insufficiently developed to handle this battle). Rereading this early novel of Eliot suggests the potential that she would fulfill in her later work, particularly Middlemarch.
I really enjoyed this book. In general, I love George Eliot¿s writing, but sometimes with authors, their early stuff isn¿t great and just makes you wish you were reading later works. However, this one was really good. The plot is involving and very suspenseful towards the end, but that¿s not the reason to read this book. It¿s for Eliot¿s wonderful depiction of the community of Hayslope, her well-written character descriptions and the memorable asides on human nature in general. At first, the late 18th c dialogue can seem off-putting, but it gets easier soon on. It¿s certainly no Joseph from Wuthering Heights, my all time standard for incomprehensible dialect.The main plot is essentially a love triangle between poor, upright Adam Bede, beautiful but shallow Hetty Sorrel and the spirited, generous, careless young squire, Arthur Donnithorne. Adam loves Hetty, but she¿s more interested in the exciting and rich Arthur, who in turn finds his flirting with Hetty goes too far. There are some predictable and not-so-predictable twists and turns. Some of the plot points are rather convenient, and the suspense sags a bit after the climactic scenes. Again, however, not reading for plot.The character descriptions are superb, and no one can do justice to the story by saying it¿s just a tragic love story. Eliot is able to build up the community of Hayslope by well-written extended and brief depictions of its inhabitants and various community events ¿ a funeral, trial and Arthur¿s extravagant birthday party. There are plenty of scenes that could be cut out if Eliot¿s purpose was only to further the conflict between Adam, Arthur and Hetty. I always think of a great one where Hetty¿s aunt tells off the imperious and despised landowner, Arthur¿s grandfather, the present squire. Other important characters include Adam¿s constantly worried mother, Lisbeth, his alcoholic father, his patient brother Seth, in love with Hetty¿s cousin Dinah, a Methodist preacher, Hetty¿s well-off aunt and uncle, the Poysers and the tolerant rector, Mr. Irwine. Eliot describes his mother ¿ Women who are never bitter and resentful are often the most querulous; and if Solomon was as wise as he is reputed to be, I feel sure that when he compared a contentious woman to a continual dropping on a very rainy day, he had not a vixen in his eye¿a fury with long nails, acrid and selfish. Depend upon it, he meant a good creature, who had no joy but in the happiness of the loved ones whom she contributed to make uncomfortable, putting by all the tid-bits for them and spending nothing on herself. Such a woman as Lisbeth, for example¿at once patient and complaining, self-renouncing and exacting, brooding the livelong day over what happened yesterday and what is likely to happen to-morrow, and crying very readily both at the good and the evil.One of the minor character is Joshua Rann, the rather intolerant, unlikeable parish clerk and shoemaker. However, we get a brief glimpse at another side of him ¿ But there was one reason why even a chance comer would have found the service in Hayslope Church more impressive than in most other village nooks in the kingdom¿a reason of which I am sure you have not the slightest suspicion. It was the reading of our friend Joshua Rann. Where that good shoemaker got his notion of reading from remained a mystery even to his most intimate acquaintances. I believe, after all, he got it chiefly from Nature, who had poured some of her music into this honest conceited soul, as she had been known to do into other narrow souls before his. She had given him, at least, a fine bass voice and a musical ear; but I cannot positively say whether these alone had sufficed to inspire him with the rich chant in which he delivered the responses. The way he rolled from a rich deep forte into a melancholy cadence, subsiding, at the end of the last word, into a sort of faint resonance, like the lingering vibrations of a fine violoncello, I can compare to noth
Eliot in many ways defined the Vicotiran novel thorugh Adam Bede. The story, which takes place in 1799 (i.e. the very beginning of the Romantic age, as compared to the Victorian age in which she was writing the book), takes characters who would have been called heroes by the Romantic writers of the earlier half of the century, and judges them against Eliot's hero, Adam Bede, who defines Victorian morality. Characters like Hetty and Arthur, who fit the guidelines of Byronic heroes, are unable to live up to the strictures of Victorian morality. Through this conflict, Eliot was able to define those characteristics that a Victorian hero should have: control over passion, faith in religion, a strong personal moral code, and a sense of the expectations of his community.That being said, the truly fantastic elements of this novel lie in the rich description of the community and the minor characters that effect the lives of the central triangle. Like (almost) all VIctorian novels, the plot ends with a marriage and a death, and each character is somehow involved or affected by these events.It's been eight years since I read this book (12th grade English), and though many of the smaller details have escaped me, I remember the story well, and remember how reading it affected me. Few books from my high school years really stuck with me, so I have to say that the fact Adam Bede managed to insert itself into my psyche is pretty significant.
I love, love, love this book - the morality of the story, the characters' honesty and Eliot's compassion for them. It just emanates goodness. It's not a difficult read but it's on the slow side. Still, it's well worth the effort.