George, known to her friends as Mary

George Eliot by Samuel Laurence

George, was George Eliot by Samuel Laurence

known to her friends as Mary Ann Evans because of course George Eliot was of the fairer sex.

Mary Anne was born on 22nd November in Chilvers Coton, Warwickshire, shortly thereafter her father attained the position of a ‘land agent’ When she the family moved to Griff and it was here for 21 years that she met, interacted with and would ultimately depict in her novels.

Her mother died in 1836 and took charge of the household and 1841 she went with her father to live in Coventry.

In 1849 her father died Mar Ann decided to travel around Europe but ultimately settled on London as a residence and took up work as subeditor of Westminster Review, England’s leading intellectual journal.

Being a woman she was paid by way of lodgings at the home of publisher John Chapman but under Mary Ann’s editorial direction the Westminster Review enjoyed a good success and reputation.

She became the centre of a literary circle and it was here she met George Henry Lewes who would be her remain as a companion until his death in 1878, She was living with him which caused some resentment amongst friends but Lewes’s wife was diagnosed mentally ill and she had already had two children by another man.

May Ann’s first collection of stories was entitled Scenes of Clerical Life, came out in 1858 under the pseudonym George Eliot (female novelists were unheard of in those day as this sort of writing was seen very much as a male only venture).

Her first full novel Adam Bede followed quickly, however o one had ever heard of George Eliot and some tried to take credit and authorship it was revealed that Marian Evans of the Westminster reviewer was in fact George Eliot.

Bede was a great success. Her other major works include The Mill on the Floss in 1860 this followed the next year by the wonderful Silas Marner 1861 which I can highly recommend although it is perhaps Middlemarch which came a decade later 1871-72 which could described as her greatest novel. Her last novel Daniel Deronda was  published in 1876.

Between 1860-61 George Eliot published her serial Romola first in the Cornhill Magazine and in book form in 1863. Of Romola Henry James considered to be her finest and best writing saying:

“but its defects are almost on the scale of its beauties.”

Lewes died in 1878, Eliot was devastated but a couple of years later she married John Cross, an American, a banker and 20 years younger on May 6 1880.

Sadly not even a year after her marriage on December 22 Eliot died of a kidney ailment but has left us with a wonderful legacy.

The Novels

Adam Bede, 1859
The Mill on the Floss, 1860
Silas Marner, 1861
Romola, 1863
Felix Holt, the Radical, 1866
Middlemarch, 1871–72
Daniel Deronda, 1876

The Poetry

The Spanish Gypsy (a dramatic poem), 1868
Agatha, 1869
Armgart, 1871
Stradivarius, 1873
The Legend of Jubal, 1874
Arion, 1874
A Minor Prophet, 1874
A College Breakfast Party, 1879
The Death of Moses, 1879
From a London Drawing Room
Count That Day Lost
I Grant You Ample Leave

Other Works

Digital facsimile of manuscript “Quarry for Middlemarch”, MS Lowell 13, Houghton Library, Harvard University
Translation of “The Life of Jesus Critically Examined” Volume 2 by David Strauss, 1846
Translation of “The Essence of Christianity” by Ludwig Feuerbach, 1854
“Three Months in Weimar”, 1855
“Silly Novels by Lady Novelists”, 1856
“The Natural History of German Life”, 1856
Scenes of Clerical Life, 1857
The Lifted Veil, 1859
The Sad Fortunes of the Rev. Amos Barton
Mr Gilfil’s Love Story
Janet’s Repentance
Brother Jacob, 1864
“The Influence of Rationalism”, 1865
Impressions of Theophrastus Such, 1879
Review of John Ruskin’s Modern Painters in Westminster Review April 1856.