George Eliot

George Eliot

Mary Ann Evans wanted to escape the stereotype of women’s writing being limited to lighthearted romances. She also wanted to have her fiction judged separately from her widely known work as a translator, editor and critic. Her use of a pen name may also have been a desire to shield her private life from public scrutiny, avoiding the scandal that might have arisen from of her relationship with the married George Henry Lewes.

Lewes met writer Mary Ann Evans in 1851 and by 1854 they had decided to live together. Lewes and his wife Agnes Jervis had agreed to have an open marriage. Jervis had three children with Lewes and four with an unnamed lover . Lewes, having assumed the role of father to all the children, was unable to divorce Jervis but he and Eliot remained together until death.

Eliot was not what society considered beautiful however Henry James is quoted as saying “in her lack of attractiveness resides a powerful beauty which, in a very few minutes, steals forth and charms the mind, so that you end, as I ended, in falling in love with her. Yes, behold me literally in love.” 

Virginia Woolf described Eliot’s novel “Middlemarch ” ( one of approximately 16 novels by Eliot) set in the fictional English town by the same name,  as “one of the few English novels written for grown-up people”  and by Martin Amis and Julian Barnes as the greatest novel in the English language.

George Henry Lewes

Sources:

Britannica.com

Biography of George Eliot

Victorian Women Novelists