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2010/11 Group Reads - Archives > Adam Bede - Background & Related Information

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message 1: by Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.), Founder (last edited Sep 08, 2010 09:59PM) (new)

Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) | 1483 comments Mod
This is 'Madge's Fun-Room'! [And we will always create 'Madge's Fun Room' for every subsequent group read too!]

This is the thread to post any and all information that you think may help us all enjoy our group read and discussion of George Eliot's Adam Bede.

Have fun, and I look forward to seeing what we all come up with!


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) | 1483 comments Mod
I am posting an essay written by George Eliot in October 1856 (almost 100 years before I was born!) when she was the editor of the The Westminster Review. Probably most have you have read this essay before, but I love to periodically re-read it. It is entitled "Silly Novels by Lady Novelists."

The essay can be found here http://webscript.princeton.edu/~mnobl...

I think we will find that Adam Bede is most definitely not of the "mind and millinery" species. I'm betting that it will be fun to periodically go back and have a look-see at this essay as we read her novel.


message 3: by MadgeUK (last edited Sep 09, 2010 01:48AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Thanks Chris, I look forward to giving folk some of my English 'titbits' here:) and to see their contributions too.

I am with GE all the way on Silly Novels by Lady Novelists and wonder if she was perhaps paying homage to Mary Wollstonecraft who espoused much the same ideas a century earlier in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) but was more concerned with women getting as good an education as men, which would enable them to get away from being just 'an angel on the hearth' only able to read silly novels and never to write good ones.

Although there is no 'mind and millinery' in Eliot's novels, she did actually live quite a conventional life and even though she was not married for most of her life and 'lived in sin', she longed to be so, cherished her domesticity and was very loyal to her men, whatever their cruelties and faults.

In her excellent biography of Eliot, Kathryn Hughes calls her 'The Last Victorian' and writes that although other authors (like Hardy) challenged the social mores of the age, Eliot preferred to stay within them, within what she called the 'working-day world'. 'From Darwin she took not just the radical implications (we are all monkeys, there is probably no God) but the conservative ones too. Societies evolve over thousands of years; change - if it is to work - must come gradually from within. Opting out into political, religious or feminist Utopias, will not do. Eliot's novels show people how they can deal with the pain of being Victorian by remaining one.' This stance 'bewildered her peers' because 'feminist and radical friends assumed that a woman who lived with a married man, who had broken with her family over religion, who was one of the highest-earning women in Britain, must surely be encouraging others to do the same. And when they found that she did not want the vote for women, that she felt remote from Girton and that she sometimes even went to church, they felt baffled and betrayed.'

That then is a brief summary of GE's mindset and I am sure others here will contribute more to Hughes' impression of her.


message 4: by MadgeUK (last edited Sep 09, 2010 01:51AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments AFTERTHOUGHT TO CHRIS: Would the above be better in a Life of the Author section so that locations/social history info can go in a separate thread?


message 5: by MadgeUK (last edited Sep 09, 2010 06:22AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments To get you into the mood, here are some locations. Mary Anne Evans/George Eliot was born in 1819 at South Farm Arbury on the estate of her father's employer, who lived in Arbury Hall. In 1820 the family moved to Griff Farm near Nuneaton, Warwickshire. This website gives some of the locations where she lived and which she used in her novels:-

http://www.webspinners.org.uk/wedding...

Here are some paintings (click to enlarge) of old Warwickshire which will give a flavour of the characters and countryside in Adam Bede:-

http://www.printmiprint.com/index.php...

SPOILER Here are some photos of a cottage, past and present, on which Eliot modelled Adam Bede's cottage. If you keep your eyes firmly to the left, on the cottages, you will not read the Spoiler in the text at the top right of the page (which tells where Eliot got the plot for Adam Bede from)!

http://www.wirksworth.org.uk/X187.htm

Adam Bede is George Eliot's first, full length novel and it draws much from the places and countryside she grew up in, the character of her parents and of the countryfolk (and dialect) that she knew so well.

There is a nice little biography on this website, which also shows some of the locations Eliot was familiar with and includes a photo of Nuneaton today:-

http://www.infobritain.co.uk/george_e...

This is a (poor) photo of Chilvers Coton Church of England church, where Eliot was baptised and which then preached the Evangelical doctrine common to the Low church of the time. The 'dissent' between the High and Low church and the Methodists ('Methody') features strongly in Adam Bede:

http://www.bolstridge.co.uk/genealogy...

http://www.victorianweb.org/religion/...


message 6: by Jan (new)

Jan (auntyjan) | 483 comments I haven't looked at all your links yet Madge,(but I'm sure they'll be excellent) because I was too busy reading the essay that Chris suggested (message 2). I hadn't encountered it before and found it highly entertaining. If I'm ever in need of a laugh I'll head straight to that link...I especially liked her scathing remark '...inexperienced in every form of poverty except poverty of brains.'...referring to the female writers of 'silly novels'.
And later'...an amazing ignorance, both of science and of life, is the best possible qualification for forming an opinion on the knottiest moral and speculative questions. Apparently their recipe for solving all such difficulties is something like this:
Take a woman's head, stuff it with a smattering of philosophy and literature chopped small, and with false notions of society baked hard, let it hang over a desk a few hours every day, and serve up hot in feeble English, when not required.'

When will we ever learn?


message 7: by MadgeUK (last edited Sep 09, 2010 02:53AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments True Jan, I think that the problem was that the Regency/Victorian women whose heads were stuffed with these smatterings did not have access to the wider world and so could not temper their romanticism with reality, realism being what George Eliot herself insisted upon in her writing. But then, as you intimate, we have the same problem today, even though we do have more education and access to the wider world. How do we ever learn?


message 8: by MadgeUK (last edited Sep 09, 2010 06:04AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments BTW the 6 part 2002 excellent BBC docu-drama about George Eliot is on Youtube, although it contains Spoilers (and foreign sub-titles!):-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dl0ZUn...


message 9: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Kester. Re Gypsies:-

They are fairly common in Europe as a whole Kester. There is currently a huge furore going on in France because they have deported 1000 Romanian and Bulgarian Gypsies, which is contrary to European Union rules. (Another name for them is Roma.)

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/...

Gypsies were very common in the countryside when I was a child but they now engage more in the scrap metal trade, dismantling cars etc., than in fruit picking or 'peddling'. In my young days housewives looked forward to their visits because they sharpened knives, mended pans, made pegs, sold needles and silks for embroidery and did other odd things which were difficult to get done in remote part of the countryside. Many of them run fairgrounds nowadays and they have the most fantastic steel caravans, rather than the old wooden ones.

http://gypsywaggons.co.uk/features4.htm

http://www.jeanne-bayol.com/roulottes...


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) | 1483 comments Mod
What terrific links! Those waggons are so incredibly beautiful! I can imagine that people would try and collect and lovingly restore/maintain those beautiful caravans. Thanks, Madge!


message 11: by MadgeUK (last edited Sep 16, 2010 10:33AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments In chapter VIII, A Vocation, Dinah mentions Mary Bosanquet Fletcher, who was one of the most famous preachers of the mid-18C and was known to GE's Aunt Samuel. Encouraged by John Wesley, she became one of the first of the female Methodist itinerant preachers:-

http://www.library.manchester.ac.uk/s...

Pursuant upon the arguments of early feminists like Mary Wollstonecraft (yes her again!) who argued that women should be educated so as to lift them out of perpetual domesticity, romanticism and total reliance on their menfolk, preaching became one of the 'respectable' ways for women to use their time and energy, sometimes paid, usually unpaid, and dissenting churches like the Methodists, Unitarians and Quakers produced a large number of women of this ilk.

In The Reader's Repentance Christine Krueger argues that Evangelical Christianity, by 'assuming the spiritual equality of women and men and the moral superiority of middle-class women, opened a space for the linguistic empowerment of women and fostered the emergence of women orators and writers who, in complex and contradictory ways, became powerful public figures. From unpublished or long out-of-print writing by eighteenth- and nineteenth-century women preachers, Krueger shows how these women drew on religious language to critique forms of male domination, promote female political power, establish communities of women, and, most significantly, feminize social discourse.' Although the end of the 18C the Methodists clamped down on women preachers they regained those rights early in mid-19C. The Salvation Army have always ordained women although it was a hotly disputed issue in its early days. Women in the Church of England can now be ordained as priests but they are still fighting for the right to be ordained as bishops and in 2007 the Pope issued a decree saying that the attempted ordination of Catholic women would result in automatic excommunication of those women and the priests who attempted to ordain them. Dinah's fight goes on!

Here is an essay on what is called the 'Heart Religion in the Enlightenment' which details some of the emotional revivalist meetings of the early days of Methodism and perhaps explains why some of the characters in AE are rather worried about Dinah's appearance in the village:-

http://www.cambridge.org/catalogue/ca...


message 12: by Linda2 (last edited Sep 16, 2010 01:25PM) (new)

Linda2 | 3744 comments You will note that none of those "silly novels" cited are read today. But judging by the magazines in the supermarket and the modern "romance" novels, silly reading material for women is alive and well today.


message 13: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments You can say that again Rochelle:(:( My maternal grandmother, a Suffragette, would not let me read 'romance' magazines or novels when I was a girl and consequently I grew up without a taste for them. I am still with Mary Wollstonecraft on this and think that they present an unrealistic picture of life (and love) for many vulnerable women but I expect to be shouted down here. Mary Wollstonecraft's work on the education of women is still worth reading - it puts the case far better than I can.


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

MadgeUK wrote: "You can say that again Rochelle:(:( My maternal grandmother, a Suffragette, would not let me read 'romance' magazines or novels when I was a girl and consequently I grew up without a taste for the..."

Shouting. Romance, TV crime stories, video games, etc. are all popular fantasies. Pulp entertainment of all kinds has an appeal. It reflects modern culture now and it did 200 years ago. Romantic fiction captures the largest share of the publishing market (~13 %). The biggest part of that readership is women age 30-50, well beyond the age of impressionable youth. It's a method of enjoyment, of escape from the 2.5 kids (3.5 if you count the husband) and a mind numbing job. The elitism of dismissing this type of reading as trash is silly and counterproductive. It ignores the very real fact that most people read strictly for fun. It's an outlet from the stress of their normal lives. They want something light, frothy and feel good that can be picked up and put down around having to take the kids to school, put out a brush fire at work, and figure out what the hell to make for dinner. Whether that's a murder mystery or a bodice ripper makes no difference.


message 15: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments :). I did not say it was trash. My contention is that 'romances' can be damaging to the female psyche and there is quite a lot of evidence about the effect it can have on the minds and life aspirations of young women and that is the part of the population Mary Wollstonecraft and I worry about, not 30-50 year olds. We must agree to disagree on this I fear.


message 16: by [deleted user] (last edited Sep 17, 2010 09:41AM) (new)

MadgeUK wrote: ":). I did not say it was trash. My contention is that 'romances' can be damaging to the female psyche and there is quite a lot of evidence about the effect it can have on the minds and life aspirat..."

I would be interested in seeing the evidence. Do you have a citation?


message 17: by MadgeUK (last edited Sep 17, 2010 10:36AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments No, it is info from my youngest daughter from when she did a teaching degree a couple of years back. Here is one online study I found:-

http://www.cogsci.ecs.soton.ac.uk/cgi...


message 18: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments A bit off topic:

MadgeUK wrote: "I am still with Mary Wollstonecraft on this and think that they present an unrealistic picture of life (and love) for many vulnerable women..."

But the same is true, of course, for most of the "light" novels aimed at men. All the Robin Hood stories, knights and chivalry, virtually all of Scott, many of the ballads, the legends of Arthur, all this stuff presented an unrealistic picture of life (and love) for many vulnerable men. Between Don Juan on the one hand and The Fairy Queen on the other, where is the realistic picture of what a man can expect from his relationship with women?

It works both ways.


message 19: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments MadgeUK wrote: ":). I did not say it was trash. My contention is that 'romances' can be damaging to the female psyche and there is quite a lot of evidence about the effect it can have on the minds and life aspirat..."


Well, for heaven's sake, let's not let them read the Iliad, Antigone and Oedipus Rex, the Brontes, Thackeray, you name it. All of these, and many, many more, can have effects on the minds and life aspirations of young men and women. How many Mr. Rochesters or Becky Sharps are these young people likely to encounter? Set 'em stick with Dickens and most of Hardy, where they will get a clearer picture of the down side of the life they will be facing.


message 20: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments The difference in influence may be that not as many young boys or men read books whereas girls and young women read a great deal and especially romantic fiction. How to get young boys to read is one of the problems being addressed by educators over here at the present time, At least the Robin Hood, Scott, Knights errant etc present a positive image for boys, not one of dependency and inferiority. I doubt that any of those are read by boys today anyway. My 12 year old grandson is a voracious reader but he doesn't read any classic literature and much prefers fact to fiction. His 13 year old sister, on the other hand, has read quite a few classic fairy tales and romances.

I don't really want to pursue this because I know I will be at odds with most folks here and also because it is very off topic - I only raised in in relation to what was happening to women in GE's time, or rather in Dinah's time.


message 21: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments The highlight of the Pope's visit to the UK is taking place today and that is the beautification of Cardinal Newman, an Anglican well known to Eliot's contemporaries as one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement which sought to catholicise the CofE. After the movement failed, Newman joined the catholic church and was later accredited with a 'miracle' and other good works. The act of beatification today is a gesture towards healing the historic division between Rome and the Anglican church and may herald the start of another kind of 'Oxford Movement'.

http://www.newmancause.co.uk/


message 22: by MadgeUK (last edited Sep 19, 2010 02:03AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Folks may be interested in this long but very enlightening commemorative article about Eliot, which details the many influential intellectuals she moved amongst and others who were her contemporaries.

From the portrait of Dickens downwards there are SPOILERS because there is analysis of Adam Bede and a mention of the relevance of one of the poems in Wordsworth's Lyrical Ballads, which are mentioned by Captain Donnithorne in Chapter 5:-

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2010/jan...


message 23: by Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.), Founder (last edited Sep 19, 2010 12:51AM) (new)

Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) | 1483 comments Mod
MadgeUK wrote: "Folks may be interested in this long but very enlightening commemorative article about Eliot, which details the many influential intellectuals she moved amongst and others who were her contemporari..."

This was an incredibly fascinating article, Madge, I was particularly struck with the detailed context in which the article places Eliot and Adam Bede. This may be the best synopsis I've read of Eliot in her time. I also thought that this quotation was quite poignant-- "Britain was the “workshop of the world,” in the midst of an unparalleled industrial development." Somehow, I think this quite applies to the literary output in that same age too.

Well done, and thanks for sharing this with us, Madge!


message 24: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments I thought you would like that Chris:). Yes the output of everything Victorian was phenomenal Chris - it really was an brilliant age although in the end they over-reached themselves, much as we have done in the recent past.


message 25: by Leslie (last edited Sep 19, 2010 05:55AM) (new)

Leslie (lesslie) Sigh, I like Eliot's books very much but this is one is like a couple of Thomas Hardy books I've come across that I can't get into cos the speech of the "commoners" is so difficult to trudge through. I hated Tom Sawyer for the same reason. Shakespeare,Milton and Tolstoy I glide over savoring every delicious word, but this commoners' speech is like walking through thick mud. I understand the "why" of it but find it just puts me off. Is the whole book like this?


message 26: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments 'fraid so Leslie. It is the Warwickshire dialect:). You might find you get into the rhythm of it after a while.


Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) | 1483 comments Mod
Oh, Leslie, I do hope you'll stay with the novel though. As Madge says, after a while you do find yourself completely comfortable with the dialect, and almost even thinking in it. Myself, this is what I love the most about Hardy, Elizabeth Gaskell, and Eliot; i.e., that ability to completely connect the reader with the characters in their novels.

I think the novel that proved to be one of the most fascinating to me from this perspective was Elizabeth Gaskell's Sylvia's Lovers. As I recall, Gaskell's husband William loved to study local dialects in use in England (it may have just been northern England), and she frequently consulted with him on the proper usage of the Yorkshire (and maybe Lancashire) dialect in Sylvia's Lovers. I remember that it probably took me 50 pages, or so, to become entirely comfortable with its usage, but after that I sailed along and loved the novel. Interestingly, Gaskell always referred to Sylvia's Lovers as "the saddest story that I ever wrote" and it has been compared to Eliot's Adam Bede.


message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

Dialects are really hard for some people to read. I think it depends on how your brain processes the written word. Some people visualize scenes really well, others don't do that at all, so pages of description are lost on them (I tend to be a non-visual reader). Same with dialect. Some people read and hear it, others struggle with reading what looks almost like a foreign language because their brain isn't furnishing them with cadence and sound. I imagine it would make Adam Bede very difficult because that is such a large part of the her characters.


message 29: by Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.), Founder (last edited Sep 19, 2010 09:33AM) (new)

Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.) (captain_sir_roddy) | 1483 comments Mod
Kate wrote: "Dialects are really hard for some people to read. I think it depends on how your brain processes the written word. Some people visualize scenes really well, others don't do that at all, so pages ..."

You know, Kate, I never thought about it quite like that! What a fascinating notion. Maybe this is why I am such a fan of Hardy and Eliot--I do love the visualization that seems to be required when reading one of their novels; and I do hear people say, "Oh, Hardy, he just writes pages and pages about the landscape, ughh." A great example of this is that I can think of so many people who find the first chapter of The Return of the Native to be quite off-putting. It is that great description of the Egdon Heath; and, in fact, it turns out that the Egdon Heath really should be considered to be one of the primary characters in the novel; just as much as Eustacia Vye, Damon Wildeve, Diggory Venn, or Clym Yeobright. Excellent point, Kate!


message 30: by Leslie (new)

Leslie (lesslie) Christopher wrote: "Oh, Leslie, I do hope you'll stay with the novel though. As Madge says, after a while you do find yourself completely comfortable with the dialect, and almost even thinking in it. Myself, this is..."

Well, Kate, dear, that may just be it. I do love 6 pages of landscape scenery! Always having lived in an urban jungle with concrete, concrete everywhere, I love to get lost in green scenery passages. (How Green was My Valley is excellent for that purpose!)


message 31: by Leslie (new)

Leslie (lesslie) Christopher wrote: "Oh, Leslie, I do hope you'll stay with the novel though. As Madge says, after a while you do find yourself completely comfortable with the dialect, and almost even thinking in it. Myself, this is..."

I will trudge on!


message 32: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments You might get your boots muddy but the literary views will be worth it! :).


message 33: by MadgeUK (last edited Sep 22, 2010 08:49AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments In Book Second Chapter 17 mention is made of the Rev John Tillotson who is compared to the Reverend Irwine, with whom GE 'desires you to be in perfect charity, far as he may be from satisfying your demands on the clerical character.' Tillotson (1630-1994) was Puritan clergyman who married Oliver Cromwell's niece and became Archbishop of Canterbury. He was well known for his long, plain speaking sermons and for his opposition to Roman Catholicism and atheism. I think that GE is again drawing a comparison with the lax but lovable ways of the Rev Irwine (which Chris commented upon in Book I) and the devout Tillotson. A previous puritanical clergyman is also mentioned, Mr Hyde, who, like Tillotson, 'insisted strongly upon the doctrines of the Reformation', and was 'severe in rebuking the abberrations of the flesh' but who was not, according to Adam Bede, successful at winning the hearts of his parishioners. You get the feeling in these descriptions of various clergymen that GE believes, like Adam, that 'religion's something else beside doctrines and notions'.

This part of the digression shows us what turmoil the church was in at this time, when various Dissenters, Ranters, Wesleyans, Arminians, Calvinists etc were jostling for the attention of 'the poor lot i' this parish'.


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