Adam Bede
An ancient Egyptian Book of Genesis
in Victorian literary culture and ancient Egypt
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This chapter addresses the ancient Egyptian dimensions of George Eliot’s Adam Bede (1859). Using Eliot’s opening lines likening authorship to Egyptian sorcery as a springboard, this chapter argues for the continued significance of this reference throughout Adam Bede, demonstrating an interconnectedness between established Christian motifs and ancient Egyptian religion and mythology. In addition to the Wesleyan Methodist aspects of the novel, this chapter demonstrates a discernible recreation of the biblical Genesis story running throughout the text, combined with tangible references to ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses. This analysis is contextualised through references to other works on ancient Egypt that likely influenced Eliot, including Edward William Lane’s Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians (1836), his translations of The Thousand and One Nights (1838–40), and Charles Knight’s The Pictorial Bible (1836–38). Overall, this chapter places Eliot’s first novel within its contemporary Egyptological culture and, in doing so, proposes that Adam Bede retells the biblical story of Adam and Eve with a distinctly ancient Egyptian inflection.

Editor: Eleanor Dobson

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