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Research Article

Adam Bede, Realism, the Past, and Readers in 1859

Gail Marshall    University of Reading, UK    



This article gives an account of the immediate publication context of George Eliot’s first novel, Adam Bede, in terms of competing opportunities for leisure, anxieties about the reading of fiction, the publishing industry, and the social and political context of February 1859. It examines the way in which the novel engages with its first readers, specifically through its treatment of the experience of reading fiction, and the ways in which Adam Bede differs from readers’ previous experiences. The article argues that the novel’s impact is determined by its engagement with the past of its setting, and by the ways it which it encourages a historically-nuanced appreciation in its readers, and that these factors are integral to Eliot’s articulating a new form of realist fiction.

Keywords: George Eliot. Adam Bede. Queen Victoria. Mudie’s leisure. Realism. Geraldine Jewsbury. Popular theatre.

Language: en

Submitted: Nov. 14, 2019   Accepted: Nov. 21, 2019   Published: March 9, 2020  

permalink: http://doi.org/10.30687/EL/2420-823X/2019/01/002

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