George Eliot

Topics: George Eliot, Nuneaton, Westminster Review Pages: 7 (2613 words) Published: August 28, 2013
George Eliot
Mary Anne (alternatively Mary Ann or Marian) Evans (22 November 1819 – 22 December 1880), better 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 is the author of seven novels, including Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), Silas Marne (1861), Middle march (1871–72), and Daniel Dander (1876), most of them set in provincial England and known for their realism and psychological insight. She used a male pen name, she said, to ensure her works would be taken seriously. Female authors were published under their own names during Eliot's life, but she wanted to escape the stereotype of women only writing lighthearted romances. An additional factor in her use of a pen name may have been a desire to shield her private life from public scrutiny and to prevent scandals attending her relationship with the married George Henry Ewes, with whom she lived for over 20 years. Her 1872 work, Middle march, has been described as the greatest novel in the English language by Martin Amie and by Julian Barnes. Early life and education[edit source | editable

Mary Anne Evans was the third child of Robert Evans (1773–1849) and Christians Evans (née Pearson) (1788–1836), the daughter of a local farmer. Mary Anne's name was sometimes shortened to Marian.[4] Her full siblings were Christians, known as Christie (1814–59), Isaac (1816–1890), and twin brothers who survived a few days in March 1821. She also had a half-brother, Robert (1802–64), and half-sister, Fanny (1805–82), from her father's previous marriage to Harriet Poynton (?1780–1809). Robert Evans, of Welsh ancestry, was the manager of the Arbury Hall Estate for the Newdigate family in Warwickshire, and Mary Anne was born on the estate at South Farm. In early 1820 the family moved to a house named Griff, between Eaton and Bed worth. The young Evans was obviously intelligent and a voracious reader. Because she was not considered physically beautiful, and thus not thought to have much chance of marriage, and because of her intelligence, her father invested in an education not often afforded women.[5] From ages five to nine, she boarded with her sister Chrissey at Miss Latham's school in Attleborough, from ages nine to thirteen at Mrs. Wallington's school in Nuneaton, and from ages thirteen to sixteen at Miss Franklin's school in Coventry. At Mrs. Wallington's school, she was taught by the evangelical Maria Lewis—to whom her earliest surviving letters are addressed. In the religious atmosphere of the Miss Franklin's school, Evans was exposed to a quiet, disciplined belief opposed to evangelicalism.[6] After age sixteen, Eliot had little formal education.[7] Thanks to her father's important role on the estate, she was allowed access to the library of Arbury Hall, which greatly aided her self-education and breadth of learning. Her classical education left its mark; Christopher Stray has observed that "George Eliot's novels draw heavily on Greek literature (only one of her books can be printed correctly without the use of a Greek typeface), and her themes are often influenced by Greek tragedy".[8] Her frequent visits to the estate also allowed her to contrast the wealth in which the local landowner lived with the lives of the often much poorer people on the estate, and different lives lived in parallel would reappear in many of her works. The other important early influence in her life was religion. She was brought up within a narrow low church Anglican family, but at that time the Midlands was an area with a growing number of religious dissenters. Move to Coventry[edit source | editbeta]

In 1836 her mother died and Evans (then 16) returned home to act as housekeeper, but she continued correspondence with her tutor Maria Lewis. When she was 21, her brother Isaac married and took over the family home, so Evans and her father moved to Foleshill near Coventry. The closeness to...
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