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New Book

Fair Seed-Time, Robert Evans, Francis Newdigate and the Making of George Eliot

There is a Memorial Window in St Wilfridís, West Hallam to Robert Evans, in recognition of his long service as Land Agent to Francis Newdigate in both Warwickshire and Derbyshire.

Memorial window to Robert Evans, St Wilfrid's Church, West Hallam

Robert Evansí work at Kirk Hallam for the Newdigates immediately after 1800 was very significant and led to his appointment as Land Agent at Arbury Hall, Warwickshire though he continued to take an interest in the Hallams, sending his son as agent for the Newdigates, getting other members of his family to work at Kirk Hallam and helping to arrange the Newdigate purchase of the estate in West Hallam in 1822.

His continuing Derbyshire connections led his daughter, later famous as the novelist George Eliot to include Derbyshire (and Staffordshire) scenes in her novels, such as Adam Bede.

New Book

Fair Seed-Time, Robert Evans, Francis Newdigate and the Making of George Eliot


‘The importance of Robert Evans, George Eliot’s father, for an understanding of her life and work has long been generally accepted, but David Paterson breathes new life into this general truth by exploring in detail Robert’s working relationship with his employers, the Newdigates, and showing how illuminating traces of that relationship can be found throughout her fiction’.

Dr. John Rignall, Emeritus Reader in English, University of Warwick

‘A really invaluable book for all Eliot scholars interested in the nitty gritty of her background – and for the growth of work in rural history, tracking the figure and role of the land agent in this period … making a really convincing case for the parallels and shared ground between Robert Evans and George Eliot’.

Ruth Livesey Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature and Thought Department of English
Royal Holloway, University of London

* * *

FAIR SEED-TIME is a major re-interpretation of the historical background to the writings of George Eliot. It rejects several oft-repeated myths about the early 19th Century Midland world in which George Eliot grew up, emphasises the importance of a previously neglected character in that world, Francis Newdigate, and provides a detailed insight into the life of Eliot’s father, Robert Evans. It shows how he rose socially throughout his life and how he played a significant role in the professional development of early 19th Century Land Agents. It provides detailed and carefully-argued evidence to illustrate how his life and work profoundly influenced George Eliot’s novels, from which there are many quotations.

The author has delved into previously unread historical diaries and many other original and previously little used sources to bring alive the rapidly changing economic and social world of the early nineteenth century in general and north Warwickshire in particular. The result will be of interest both to general and local historians of this period, those concerned with the evolution of land agency as a profession, and to all students of literature, and especially George Eliot scholars, because of the fresh insights into her work.

If anyone is interested in the book I am happy to send copies for £12 each plus p and p. No need to pay until you have received it/them. This year marks the bi-centenary of George Eliotís birth.

David Paterson October 2019 Email

RayAnn Nearby

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