Adam Bede and ‘the green trash of the railway stall’: George Eliot and the Lady Novelists of 1859

  • Gail MarshallEmail author
Part of the British Women’s Writing from Brontë to Bloomsbury, 1840-1940 book series (BWWFBB, volume 1)


This chapter discusses George Eliot’s first novel Adam Bede (1859) within the context of examples from 1859 of what Eliot had earlier termed ‘Silly Novels by Lady Novelists’ (1856). Exploring the energizing symbiosis between popular 1859 fiction by women writers and Eliot’s ‘higher’ aspirations for Adam Bede (1859), Marshall shows that Eliot’s novel enacts a dialogue with ‘silly novels’ and shares in, whilst trying to combat, some of popular fiction’s key assumptions about readerly behaviour. Like most popular 1859 fiction by women, Adam Bede uses the structural trope of the heroine having to choose between a worthy lover and a more exciting prospect. Adam Bede differs from popular novels by female authors in its use of sympathy and its historical setting, something which is largely absent from the popular fiction of the year.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Literature and Languages, University of ReadingBerkshireUK

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