Mary Anne (alternatively Mary Ann or Marian) Evans (22 November 1819 – 22 December 1880), known by her pen name George Eliot, was an English novelist, journalist and translator, and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era. She used a male pen name, she said, to ensure her works would be taken seriously. She is the author of seven novels.
Her face was her fortune. When their second daughter was born on November 22, 1819, Robert and Christiana Evans could see at a glance that she would find it hard to fulfill a girl's primary task: to find a husband; she would have to make her own way in life.
Marian Evans very early became an enthusiastic reader of the best books. ... In her seventh year a copy of Waverley was loaned to her older sister. She became herself intensely fascinated by it, and when it was returned before she had completed it she was thrown into much distress. The story so possessed her that she began to complete it in writing, according to her own conception.
Fields and farmyard, stables and orchard nourished her love of rural concerns while neighbouring coal-pits and quarries fostered her understanding of industrial life. From the age of 17 she combined academic studies with farmhouse management.
When she published reviews and sketches for Bray's 'Coventry Herald', a literary future must have seemed more real. She remembered dreaming of fame while in her mid-20s. ... Geneva helped her make the move from a dependent, housekeeping daughter to an independent London writer.
We must know the nineteenth century in its scientific attainments, agnostic philosophy, realistic spirit and humanitarian aims, in order to know George Eliot. She was a product of her time... George Eliot came after Comte, Mill and Spencer. Her books are to be read in the light of their speculations, and she embodied in literary forms what they uttered as science or philosophy.
George Eliot, born Mary Anne Evans, was a plain woman and able journalist who never expected happiness. Yet she found great and lasting love with one of the cleverest Englishmen of his day, George Henry Lewes. It was he who persuaded her to try writing fiction. She had never written a novel before she went to live with Lewes in 1854; after his death in 1878 she never wrote another.
She and Lewes lived together for over 25 years in what they regarded as an indissoluble union, and though it cut her off from her family and most of polite society, her fame ended the social ostracism of the early days. Eighteen months after Lewes died, when Mary Ann was 60, she married John Cross, who was 41.
Eliot's later rejection of biography as a disease of English literature and her reluctance to cooperate with biographers followed from her notoriety as an adulterous woman and her fame as a novelist. She was scarred by readers of 'Scenes of Clerical Life' and 'Adam Bede' - initially licensed by the anonymity of the author and later by the phenomenal success of the works - who attempted to find "originals" for her fictional characters. She reacted defensively, seeing such reductions of her work as an insult to her creative powers as an artist.
Beyond debate is George Eliot's enormous American popularity. Readers and critics admired her dignified treatments of humble family life, her moral precision, and her complication of character. ... Both 'Adam Bede' and 'Silas Marner' were best sellers in the USA, with 'Middlemarch' and 'Daniel Deronda' probably falling just short of that level.
Her life is the more remarkable when we think of her own invisible, counter-factual life - lived out as a housewife and mother in Nuneaton, never having reached London and the intellectual and professional opportunities it provided. Might she have been a nineteenth-century version of Shakespeare's sister in Virginia Woolf's 'A Room of One's Own' (1929)?