Adam Bede by George Eliot

OK, it’s possible to live as a hermit in some desert hideout and subsist on locust and wild honey. For most of us, though, we live in communities and are surrounded by people. This means we live in a moral context. All our actions, either by commission or omission, send out ripples of consequence like a stone dropped in a flat calm pond.

In this novel of 1859 we meet pretty but foolish dairymaid Hetty Sorrel. Although loved by the local village carpenter, Adam Bede, she is flattered by the attentions of young squire Arthur Donnithorne. Cue all the big themes that are the trademark of this most serious of authors – betrayal, suffering, redemption, and moral development. Eliot (¬†uses her background in rural Warwickshire to enrich this tale with the most marvellous and detailed depiction of pastoral life. This, along with Middlemarch, is a ‘must read’ from the canon of English Literature.

Begin a lifetime of George Eliot appreciation with:

Jones, Robert Tudor (1968). A critical commentary on George Eliot’s ‘Adam Bede’. London: Macmillan

Carroll, David, ed. (1971). George Eliot: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge & K Paul. (

Bennett, Joan (1966). George Eliot: Her Mind and Art (

The Cambridge Companion to George Eliot (2001, edited by George Levine) This is a set of specially-commissioned essays providing accessible introductions to all aspects of George Eliot’s writing by some of the most distinguished new and established scholars and critics of Victorian literature. The essays are comprehensive, scholarly and lucidly written, and at the same time offer original insights into the work of one of the most important Victorian novelists, and into her complex and often scandalous career. Discussions of her life, the social, political, and intellectual grounding of her work, and her relation to Victorian feminism provide valuable criticism of everything from her early journalism to her poetry. Each essay contributes to a new understanding of the great fiction, from Adam Bede and The Mill on the Floss to Daniel Deronda. This volume with its chronology and extensive bibliographies will launch you further into the journey of love for Eliot.¬† (

Brought to the screen in 1992 as a TV movie ( with Iain Glenn as Adam Bede, Patsy Kensit as Hetty Sorrel, Susannah Harker as Dinah Morris and James Wilby as Arthur Donnithorne. Available on DVD at

592 pages in Oxford World’s Classics paperback edition

First published 1859

ISBN 978-0199203475

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George Eliot

The greatest English novelist

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