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George Eliot

Mary Anne Evans (George Eliot) Mary Anne Evans (George Eliot)[2†]

George Eliot, born as Mary Anne Evans[1†][2†], was an English novelist, poet, journalist, and translator, and one of the leading writers of the Victorian era[1†][2†]. She was born on November 22, 1819, in Chilvers Coton, Warwickshire, England[1†][2†]. Mary Anne Evans is celebrated for her realism and psychological insights[1†][3†]. Her major works include “Adam Bede” (1859), “The Mill on the Floss” (1860), “Silas Marner” (1861), “Middlemarch” (1871–72), and “Daniel Deronda” (1876)[1†][2†].

Mary Anne developed the method of psychological analysis characteristic of modern fiction[1†]. Her works are known for their detailed depiction of the countryside and a strong sense of place[1†][2†]. Her novel “Middlemarch” was described by the novelist Virginia Woolf 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[1†][2†].

Mary Anne chose to write her novels under a male pseudonym, as she scorned the stereotypical female novelist[1†][4†]. Rather than writing what she considered to be the silly, unrealistic romantic tales expected of women writers, she wrote according to her own tastes[1†][4†].

Early Years and Education

George Eliot, born as Mary Anne Evans[1†][5†], was born on November 22, 1819, in Chilvers Coton, Warwickshire, England[1†][5†]. She was the youngest of five children[1†][6†]. Her father, Robert Evans, was an estate agent[1†][5†]. Her mother, Christiana Pearson, passed away in 1836[1†][3†], after which Mary Anne left school to help run her father’s household[1†][3†].

Mary Anne Evans received a relatively robust education for a girl of her era and social station[1†][7†]. She was sent to boarding school at Attleborough, Warwickshire, when she was five years old[1†][5†]. At the age of nine, she was transferred to a boarding school at Nuneaton[1†][5†]. It was during these years that Mary Anne discovered her passion for reading[1†][5†]. At thirteen years of age, Mary Anne went to school at Coventry[1†][5†]. Her education was conservative, dominated by Christian teachings[1†][5†].

Mary Anne completed her schooling when she was sixteen years old[1†][5†]. After her mother’s death, she returned home to keep house for her father[1†]. Her father allowed her to have lessons in Latin and German[1†]. In 1841, she moved with her father to Coventry and lived with him until his death in 1849[1†][3†].

During her twenties, she came into contact with a circle of people whose thinking did not coincide with the opinions of most people and underwent an extreme change of her beliefs[1†][5†]. Influenced by the so-called Higher Criticism—a largely German school that studied the Bible and attempted to treat sacred writings as human and historical documents—she devoted herself to translating these works from the German language to English for the English public[1†][5†].

Career Development and Achievements

Mary Anne’s career began with her translation of German philosophy[8†]. In 1849, she moved to London and became an assistant editor of the Westminster Review[8†]. During her time with the journal, she met many English and American literary figures[8†][9†]. Most significantly, she met Herbert Spencer, the author of Social Statics (1851), and George Henry Lewes, the drama critic and founder of the Leader[8†][9†][4†].

In 1851, Mary Anne became the assistant editor at Chapman’s Westminster Review[8†][4†]. Through her work on the Review, she met several prominent philosophers and theologians of the time, including Herbert Spencer, who introduced her to George Henry Lewes[8†][4†]. Her association with Lewes proved to be a turning point in her life. Despite Lewes being married, they lived together as a couple until Lewes’s death in 1878[8†][1†].

Mary Anne’s first complete novel, “Adam Bede”, was published in 1859[8†][2†][1†]. It was followed by “The Mill on the Floss” in 1860, “Silas Marner” in 1861, “Romola” in 1862–1863, “Felix Holt, the Radical” in 1866, “Middlemarch” in 1871–1872, and “Daniel Deronda” in 1876[8†][2†][1†]. Her novels were celebrated for their realism, psychological insight, and detailed depiction of the countryside[8†][2†][1†].

Mary Anne’s work had a profound influence on the literary world. Her method of psychological analysis, characteristic of modern fiction, was developed in her novels[8†][1†]. Her novel “Middlemarch” was described by the novelist Virginia Woolf 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[8†][2†][1†].

First Publication of Main Works

Mary Anne’s literary career began with the publication of her first work, “Scenes of Clerical Life,” in 1858[10†]. This work, which includes the stories “The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton,” “Mr. Gilfil’s Love-Story,” and “Janet’s Repentance,” was based on local events and was an instant success[10†].

Her first long novel, “Adam Bede,” was published in 1859[10†][1†]. The novel, described as “a country story—full of the breath of cows and the scent of hay,” brought a new level of realism to English fiction[10†]. The plot was based on an anecdote told by Mary Anne’s Methodist aunt about visiting a girl condemned for child murder[10†].

In 1860, Mary Anne published “The Mill on the Floss,” a novel that returned to the scenes of her early life[10†]. The first half of the book, with its remarkable portrayal of childhood, is irresistibly appealing[10†].

“Silas Marner” was published in 1861[10†][1†]. Its brevity and perfection of form made this story of the weaver whose lost gold is replaced by a strayed child the best known of her books[10†].

Mary Anne’s most famous work, “Middlemarch,” was published in 1871-72[10†][1†]. This novel is celebrated for its detailed depiction of English rural life and its psychological insight[10†][1†].

Her last novel, “Daniel Deronda,” was published in 1876[10†][1†]. Like her other works, it is known for its realism and psychological depth[10†][1†].

Here is a list of her main works with their first year of publication:

Analysis and Evaluation

Mary Anne’s works are known for their serious, contemplative, and thoughtful nature[11†]. She brought the novel to a new height, combining philosophical seriousness with artistic handling of her subjects[11†]. Mary Anne and her peers were largely responsible for the so-called rise of the novel in the mid-nineteenth century[11†].

Her novels are part of the flowering of serious writing done by women in the nineteenth century[11†]. She achieved respect in spite of her unconventional lifestyle, having broken with her church, taken up decidedly liberal causes such as reform and women’s rights, and lived openly with a married man[11†]. Such behavior was the downfall of other Victorian women, but Mary Anne was able to succeed and be treated with the respect an author of her talents deserved[11†].

Reviewing “Middlemarch” in 1873, Henry James concluded, “It sets a limit, we think, to the development of the old-fashioned English novel.”[11†] “Middlemarch” does, indeed, take what James calls the panoramic novel—“vast, swarming, deep-colored, crowded with episodes, with vivid images, with lurking master-strokes, with brilliant passages of expression,” seeking to “reproduce the total sum of life in an English village”—to an unsurpassed level of achievement[11†].

Mary Anne’s pivotal position in the history of the novel is attested to by some of the most distinguished English novelists[11†]. Her works are serious, contemplative, and thoughtful, and they brought the novel to a new height, combining such philosophical seriousness with artistic handling of her subjects[11†].

Personal Life

George Eliot, born as Mary Anne Evans, had a personal life that was as complex and nuanced as the characters in her novels[2†][1†].

Mary Anne’s relationship with George Henry Lewes, a philosopher and critic, was a significant part of her life[2†]. They met in 1851, and by 1854 they had decided to live together[2†]. Lewes was already married to Agnes Jervis, although in an open marriage[2†]. Despite the social scandal it caused, their relationship was a happy and intellectually stimulating one for Eliot[2†].

In 1880, after Lewes’s death, Mary Anne married John Cross, a man 20 years her junior[2†]. Their marriage was short-lived, as Mary Anne died later that year[2†][1†].

Mary Anne’s personal life, much like her professional one, was marked by a strong sense of individuality and a disregard for societal norms. Her relationships, particularly with Lewes, demonstrated her commitment to personal happiness and intellectual companionship[2†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Mary Anne’s legacy is significant and enduring. Her innovative narrative techniques and exploration of philosophical and moral dilemmas paved the way for future generations of writers[12†]. Many consider her to be one of the pioneers of modern literature[12†].

Mary Anne’s works had a lasting impact on the literary scene of the 19th century and beyond[12†]. Her novels, short stories, and poems touched many hearts and made the world think about the place of women in the male-dominated society[12†][13†]. Her courage of conviction during the Victorian era is still admired today[12†][13†].

In the years immediately following her death, Mary Anne’s legacy was more complicated. The scandal of her long-term relationship with Lewes had not entirely faded[12†][7†]. However, her remaining religious beliefs and how they impacted her moral views were criticized by contemporaries including Nietzsche[12†][7†].

Despite these controversies, Mary Anne’s considerable legacy is an asset for the succeeding generations[12†][13†]. Her works, particularly “Middlemarch”, continue to be studied and admired for their psychological depth and realism[12†][1†][7†]. Virginia Woolf’s description of “Middlemarch” as “one of the few English novels written for grown-up people” attests to the enduring value and maturity of Eliot’s work[12†][1†].

Mary Anne’s life and work serve as a testament to her intellectual prowess and her unique ability to portray the complexities of the human condition[12†][1†][7†]. Her legacy continues to inspire and influence writers and readers alike[12†][13†].

Key Information

Mary Ann Evans was a leading English novelist of the Victorian era, known for her psychological analysis characteristic of modern fiction[1†][2†]. Mary Anne Evans chose to write under a male pseudonym, George Eliot[1†][4†]. She scorned the stereotypical female novelist and wrote according to her own tastes[1†][4†].

References and Citations:

  1. Britannica - George Eliot: British author [website] - link
  2. Wikipedia (English) - George Eliot [website] - link
  3. BBC History - Historic Figures - George Eliot (1819-1880) [website] - link
  4. SparkNotes - George Eliot Biography, Works, and Quotes [website] - link
  5. Encyclopedia of World Biography - George Eliot Biography [website] - link
  6. GradeSaver - George Eliot Biography [website] - link
  7. ThoughtCo - Biography of George Eliot, English Novelist [website] - link
  8. Academy of American Poets - About George Eliot [website] - link
  9. Poetry Foundation - George Eliot [website] - link
  10. Britannica - George Eliot - Novels, Poetry, Essays [website] - link
  11. eNotes - George Eliot Analysis [website] - link
  12. 19th Century - George Eliot: Exploring the Literary Brilliance of the 19th Century [website] - link
  13. Literary Devices - George Eliot [website] - link
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