George Eliot (1819–1880). The pseudonym of Mary Ann (later Marian) Evans. Eliot’s Middlemarch (1871–1872) is often described as the greatest of all English novels. Marian Evans was born and grew up in the country, where her father worked as the agent for an aristocratic family. Intensely devout as a young woman, she later came to view the Gospels as “histories consisting of mingled truth and fiction.” After translating two important works of biblical scholarship and serving as assistant editor of the prestigious Westminster Review, she was encouraged to try her hand at fiction by G. H. Lewes, a writer with whom she lived for about 25 years. Her first sketches were submitted anonymously, and she began using her pseudonym in 1858, partly because she feared public exposure of her unconventional relationship with Lewes. Like Charlotte Brontë, she continued to use her pseudonym long after her real identity was well known. About 18 months after Lewes’s death, she chose to marry John Cross, a man 20 years her junior. She died of kidney disease in December of 1880, only a few months after the wedding. Eliot’s first novel, Adam Bede (1859), was an enormous popular and critical success, establishing her as a major rival to Dickens. Her later works include The Mill on the Floss (1860), a fictional treatment of her relationship to her brother; Silas Marner (1861); Felix Holt (1866); Middlemarch; and Daniel Deronda (1874–1876).
[Courtesy: Professor Timothy Spurgin]