Mary Ann Evans known by her pen name George Eliot is one of the celebrated authors of the Victorian era. She was born on the 22nd of November in 1819, in Nuneaton located in Warwickshire in the United Kingdom. Her father, Robert Evans, owned a business, and Christiana Evans, her mother was a housewife. Soon after her birth, the family moved to a house named Griff House, located between Bedworth and Nuneaton. Mary Ann Evans was a voracious reader since childhood. Her interest in literature and intelligence-led her father to take in spending a considerable amount on her education; a move that did not match with his business-type of mentality.
Supported by the family, Mary’s formal education started at five. She was sent to Miss Latham’s located in Attleborough with her sister. After four years at that boarding school, she attended Mrs. Wallington’s located in Nuneaton, in her hometown. After five years, she sent to Miss Franklin’s in Coventry. Her father, during all these transfers from school to school, stood by his daughters. His influence in the state facilitated her access to the state library that further boosted her learning and self-education. Although her mother’s untimely death during the early years of her life compelled her to turn her attention to housekeeping, yet, keeping her daughter’s intelligence and interest in mind, Robert arranged Latin and German classes for her. She stayed with her father until his death and later traveled to Europe, where she shared the company of rationalists, which further improved her creative faculty.
Personal Life and Death
During her stay in Europe, Mary Ann Evans met and fell in a love with George Henry Lewes, a critic, and author, separated from his wife. Although both could not marry legally, they stayed together until Lewes’s death in 1878. Later, in 1880, she remarried J. W. Cross, a Scottish commission agent, and remained with him until her last breath. After leading a successful literary life, her health deteriorated, for she not only suffered from kidney disease but also throat infection in the late 1800s. Her ailing physique failed to resist the severity of illness, she left the world on the 21st of December in 1880.
Some Important Facts of Her Life
- Her first significant work was the translation of Life of Jesus (1846) written by David Strauss.
- She is mostly known by her pen name, George Eliot.
- Her former home, Griff House, where she spent her early years, is now a steakhouse and hotel.
An iconic writer of the Victorian era, Mary Ann Evans aka George Eliot started writing late in life, but whatever she wrote, it left a lasting impression on the world. Among her first literary pieces were three short stories including “Mr. Gilfil’s Love-Story”, a great story of its time. These were published in 1857, in Blackwood’s Magazine. Later, in 1859, her novel, Adam Bede, hit the shelves with a bang. The readers might not have finished it, when next year, she came up with another novel, The Mill on the Floss, followed quickly by two other novels, Silas Marner as well as Romola. Both were published in quick succession in the years 1961 and 1963 respectively. Although her novel writing confirmed her place among the literary icons, she also tried her hands in poetry. Her first poem “Knowing That Shortly I Must Put off This Tabernacle” features a dying person ready to say goodbye to the earth.
Like many other authors, Mary Ann Evans works reflect her life experiences and observations. Many of her writings present idyllic rural settings including their positive and negative aspects such as given in her novels The Mill on the Floss and others. She has depicted the real face of the close-knitted rural communities often considered idealized. Moreover, in her novel, Mill in the Floss, she triggered new ideas and projected feministic views against the traditional patriarchy. Besides, her writings indicate her religious, political, and scientific beliefs, which were quite unconventional during those times. Regarding literary devices, she often turned to metaphors, imagery, symbolism along with complex sentence structures, and strong vocabulary to aid her in writing prose. The major themes in her writings stand feminism, faith, and human values, religion and faith, and free will.
Some Important Works of George Eliot
- Best Novels: Some of her important novels include The Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner, Adam Bede, Romola, Middle March, and Felix Holt.
- Other Works: Besides writing novels, she tried her hands on other genres of literature, too. Some of them include The Death of Moses, The Choir Invisible, In a London Drawingroom, “Three Months in Weimar” and reviews of different books.
George Eliot’s Impact on Future Literature
George Eliot’s considerable legacy is an asset for the succeeding generations. Her novels, short stories, and poems touched several hearts and made the world think about the place of women in the male-dominated society as well as her courage of conviction during those Victorian settings. Her feminist and realistic point of view won the hearts of various writers and critics of her times, and the future critics, too, who unknowingly praised her as a male writer. Virginia Woolf also praised her novel, Middlemarch, terming it a magnificent book. Also, Christopher Stray stated that her novels draw heavily on Greek literature. She fictionalized her ideas in her works so well that writers strive to follow in her footsteps even today.
- “What greater thing is there for two human souls, than to feel that they are joined for life–to strengthen each other in all labor, to rest on each other in all sorrow, to minister to each other in all pain, to be one with each other in silent unspeakable memories at the moment of the last parting?” (Adam Bede)
- “We mortals, men and women, devour many a disappointment between breakfast and dinner-time; keep back the tears and look a little pale about the lips, and in answer to inquiries say, “Oh, nothing!” Pride helps; and pride is not a bad thing when it only urges us to hide our hurts— not to hurt others.” (Middlemarch)
- “O may I join the choir invisible
Of those immortal dead who live again
In minds made better by their presence; live
In pulses stirred to generosity,
In deeds of daring rectitude…” (O May I Join the Choir Invisible! And Other Favorite Poems)