"What is remarkable, extraordinary – and the process remains inscrutable and mysterious – is that this quiet, anxious, sedentary, serious, invalidical English lady, without animal spirits, without adventures, without extravagance, assumption, or bravado, should have made us believe that nothing in the world was alien to her; should have produced such rich, deep, masterly pictures of the multifold life of man."
(Henry James in The Atlantic monthly, May 1885) (Liukkonen)
‘George Eliot’ was born Mary Ann Evans, to Christiana and Robert Evans, early on November 22, 1819 in Warwickshire, England. She received schooling first in a nearby village then boarded, for a time, first at Mrs. ...view middle of the document...
After the death of her mother early in 1839, Mary Ann retired from school and returned to Arbury Farm at Warwickshire to assist her father in managing the family estate. A few years later they relocated together to Coventry. Shortly after the passing of her mother, Evans began questioning her religious roots and ceased attending church. This caused strife between her and her father; though they both spoke of finding other living arrangements, eventually they worked a compromise. Evans resumed churchgoing to please her father, regardless of her own feelings about indoctrinated morality. She continued to live at Coventry until his death of a protracted illness in 1849.
After her father’s death, Evans spread her wings and took a trip with friends she had made through her philosophical explorations, the Brays. They travelled to the European continent, and she settled in Geneva for eight months. During this time, she relaxed and recovered from the toll caring for her father had taken on her. She found Geneva far more agreeable than England, but did eventually return to England and stay in the home of John Chapman before meeting George Lewes. Evans’ and Lewes’ relationship was regarded with much disapproval in the early years, because he was still married due to the legal impossibility of a divorce despite his wife’s adultery. This later became one of Evans’ primary motivations for using a male pen name – she did not want her status as a social pariah to affect the reception of her writing. However, Lewes encouraged her writing, going so far as to submit it for publication under her pseudonym. Though they were never legally married, both Evans and Lewes viewed their bond with as much seriousness and weight as marriage. Their relationship lasted the majority of their lives until 1878, when Lewes passed away. Overcome with grief, Evans did not attend his funeral.
Evans did marry officially in May 1880 to John Cross, a close friend twenty years her junior. She
died December the same year.
The works of Mary Ann Evans under the pseudonym George Eliot are quite autobiographical and take much inspiration from her childhood years. In this way, speaking of the content of her works is inextricably linked with espousing details of her family, village, and childhood, as well as her explorations on the topic of religion.
Prior to Evans delving into the writing of her first novel, she worked at translation. Her studies in German provided her with experience enough to place her in a translation job. Not only this, but one of the first works she translated from German, Das Leben Jesu kritisch bearbeitet by D. F. Strauss, fueled her criticism of her religious upbringing and brought about the aforementioned strife between her and her father. She also mulled over her translation of Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-Politicus at length throughout the time she spent caring for her father. It was the start of her interest in the topic of religion and engendered...