In A Six Months’ Tour through the North of England, the agriculturalist Arthur Young describes his travels round the north of England. Young was interested in agricultural reform, and he met with many innovative landlords and farmers in order to observe their work and discuss their ideas. He describes his findings in A Six Months’ Tour, as well as the lives of ordinary famers and labourers. The work also contains illustrations of the landscape through which he travelled, and of the machinery and tools he observed.
Young wrote similarly about his experiences in the rest of the country, as well as many other works of agriculture and travel. In 1793, he published Travels in France, an account of his travels through France in the years immediately before and at the beginning of the French Revolution.
A Six Months' Tour and George Eliot's Adam BedeGeorge Eliot read A Six Months’ Tour as research for her novel Adam Bede, in order to learn about farming life and practice in the late 18th century. An entry in her research notebook reads: ‘“All drink tea,” says Arthur Young of the working people in a northerly parish, 1770’ – and Eliot does have her characters drinking tea throughout the novel.
In Adam Bede, Eliot alludes to Young’s enthusiasm for reform when she has the young squire Arthur Donnithorne tell Mr Irwine that,
‘I have been reading your friend Arthur Young’s books lately, and there is nothing I should like better than to carry out some of his ideas in putting the farmers on a better management of their land; and, as he says, making what was a wild country, all of the same dark hue, bright and variegated with corn and cattle’ (ch. 16)
- Article by:
- Rohan Maitzen
- The novel 1832 - 1880
In Adam Bede, George Eliot sets out her commitment to realism as a literary genre – a commitment she would continue to develop over the course of her career. Dr Rohan Maitzen explains how detailed research and Eliot’s own experience fed into the realist project, enabling her to express her beliefs about religion, sympathy and understanding.