The seemingly peaceful country village of Hayslope is the setting for this ambitious first novel by one of the nineteenth century’s great novelists. With sympathy, wit, and unflinching realism, Adam Bede tells a story that would have been familiar to Eliot’s first readers: the seduction of a pretty farm girl by the young squire of the district. Eliot uses this story, with its tragic implications, to explore the dangers of reliance on religious and social norms to govern destructive desires. As this edition demonstrates, Adam Bede addresses profound questions of morality, religion, and the role of women in society, while at the same time seeking to establish a new aesthetic for fiction.
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—
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—