In Adam Bede (1859) George Eliot took the well-worn tale of a lovely dairy-maid seduced by a careless squire, and out of it created a wonderfully innovative and sympathetic portrait of the lives of ordinary Midlands working people - their labours and loves, their beliefs, their talk. Hugely popular in its own time, Adam Bede is one of the greatest examples of humane and liberal Victorian social concern, a pioneering classic of radical social realism. It is also important for the way it meditates on the need for such fiction and the methods of writing it. As the Introduction declares: 'The distinction of Adam Bede is to tell a story, and also to tell about telling a story. This is a novel about obscure lives, and also about how to be a novel about obscure lives. ' This edition reprints the original broadsheet reports of the murder case that was a starting point for the book, and the notes illuminate Eliot's many literary and religious references.