Woodworking in George Elliot's Adam Bede

A book that is packed with evocative references to making and skilled work. In fact George Elliot’s own father started his working life a carpenter, and Adam Bede is modelled on him. You can almost smell the sawdust, see the gleam of the tools and the dust dancing in the sunlight.

OK, I might be a little fanciful, but it does offer a lovely insight into a carpenter’s trade in those days.

But there’s one tale that really strikes to my heart as a maker.  That's why this book was one of the works that I picked for Craftfinder (now, alas, no more), exploring craft in literature.

Adam makes a finely crafted wooden frame for the Squire’s daughter’s embroidery. When he comes to hand it over, the Squire squabbles about the price, announcing that he can get anything like it at the local market for next to nothing. Adam Bede replies that he knows the value of his own work, and if they won’t pay the price asked, he’ll be delighted to donate it to the lady as a gift. He walks out, leaving the item behind. A few days later the full price is delivered, but the point for me is Adam’s dignity, and his understanding of his own worth as a maker that is something I aspire to, especially in a world of beautiful imports and mass-produced craft goods.

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