George Eliot

George Eliot

(Birth Name: Mary Ann Evans)

George Eliot

Middlemarch is “a magnificent book which with all its imperfections is one of the few English novels written for grown people.”
–Virginia Woolf

Biographical Information

Mary Ann Evans was born November 22, 1819 in Chilvers Coton, Warwickshire, England. Her father, Robert Evans, was the estate agent in Warwickshire for the Earl of Lonsdale. She was the youngest of three children with an older half-brother and sister. At the age of 9, she was sent to school. It was while she was a boarder at Mrs. Wallington’s School that she came under the influence of Maria Lewis, the principal governess. Mary Ann was soon swayed towards Evangelicalism during her time at school. This struggle with her faith marks the beginning of her religious doubt and exploration. In 1836, Mary Ann’s mother passed away, and she became the her father’s housekeeper. However, she was allowed to continue her studies in Latin and German while living at home. The only source of tension between Mary Ann and her father was religion. He was not particularly religious himself, but he did not approve of her refusals to attend Anglican church or her nonconformists thoughts and opinions. Despite this disagreement, she stayed with him until his death in 1849.

At the time of her father’s death, Mary Ann was 30 years old. In her father’s will, she was allotted £100 a year which enabled her a certain amount of independence. The fact that she was far past the accepted marriageable age for women contributed to her turn away from a less domesticated role in life. In 1850, she began writing for the Westminster Review and by 1851, she had risen to rank of assistant editor. In this position, she met many notable men of the time such as Herbert Spencer, the sub-editor of the Economist, and George Henry Lewes, the editor of Westminster Review. In 1854, she published the first and only piece that ever carried her own name; a translation of Feuerback’s Essence of Christianity. Following this publication, she entered into a common-law marriage with her editor Lewes. Though he was still legally married, they lived publicly as husband and wife. It was during this marriage and under Lewes’ encouragement that the pen name George Eliot was born. In 1859, she published her first full-length novel, Adam Bede. She wrote several more novels as well as numerous poems and other works.


  • Adam Bede, 1859
  • The Mill on the Floss, 1860
  • Silas Marner, 1861
  • Romola, 1863
  • Felix Holt, the Radical, 1866
  • Middlemarch, 1871-72
  • Daniel Deronda, 1876


Allingham, Philip V. “George Eliot, 1856-1876: A Biographical Introduction.” The Victorian Web. 11 May 2008

“Eliot, George.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2008. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 11 May 2008

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Diane Aiken