Mill on the Floss

Eliot, George

George Eliot, pseud. of Mary Ann or Marian Evans, 1819–80, English novelist, b. Arbury, Warwickshire. One of the great English novelists, she was reared in a strict atmosphere of evangelical Protestantism but eventually rebelled and renounced organized religion totally. Her early schooling was supplemented by assiduous reading, and the study of languages led to her first literary work, Life of Jesus (1846), a translation from the German of D. F. Strauss. After her father's death she became subeditor (1851) of the Westminster Review, contributed articles, and came to know many of the literary people of the day. In 1854 she began a long and happy union with G. H. Lewes, which she regarded as marriage, though it involved social ostracism and could have no legal sanction because Lewes's estranged wife was living. Throughout his life Lewes encouraged Evans in her literary career; indeed, it is possible that without him Evans, subject to periods of depression and in constant need of reassurance, would not have written a word.

In 1856, Mary Ann began Scenes of Clerical Life, a series of realistic sketches first appearing in Blackwood's Magazine under the pseudonym Lewes chose for her, George Eliot. Although not a popular success, the work was well received by literary critics, particularly Dickens and Thackeray. Three novels of provincial life followed—Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), and Silas Marner (1861). She visited Italy in 1860 and again in 1861 before she brought out in the Cornhill Magazine (1862–63) her historical romance Romola, a story of Savonarola. Felix Holt (1866), a political novel, was followed by The Spanish Gypsy (1868), a dramatic poem. Middlemarch (1871–72), a portrait of life in a provincial town, is considered her masterpiece. She wrote one more novel, Daniel Deronda (1876); the satirical Impressions of Theophrastus Such (1879); and verse, which was never popular and is now seldom read. Lewes died in 1878, and in 1880 she married a close friend of both Lewes and herself, John W. Cross, who later edited George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals (3 vol., 1885–86). Writing about life in small rural towns, George Eliot was primarily concerned with the responsibility that people assume for their lives and with the moral choices they must inevitably make. Although highly serious, her novels are marked by compassion and a subtle humor.

See her letters (ed. by G. S. Haight, 7 vol., 1954–56); her collected essays (ed. by T. Pinney, 1964); biographies by L. and E. Hanson (1952), G. S. Haight (1968), J. Uglow (1987), F. R. Karl (1995), R. Ashton (1997), and K. Hughes (1999); studies by E. S. Haldane (1927), J. Thale (1959), B. Hardy (1967), D. Carroll, ed. (1971), T. S. Pearce (1973), and G. Beer (1983).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Mill on the Floss
George Eliot; Gordon S. Haight.
Oxford University Press, 1996
George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss
Harold Bloom.
Chelsea House, 1988
The Novels of George Eliot
Jerome Thale.
Columbia University Press, 1959
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "The Social View: The Mill on the Floss"
Maggie Tulliver's Sad Sacrifice: Confusing but Not Confused
Szirotny, June Skye.
Studies in the Novel, Vol. 28, No. 2, Summer 1996
Female Sexuality and Triangular Desire in Vanity Fair and the Mill on the Floss
Dee, Phyllis Susan.
Papers on Language & Literature, Fall 1999
The Divided Heroine: A Recurrent Pattern in Six English Novels
H. M. Daleski.
Holmes & Meier, 1984
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "The Mill on the Floss the Dividing of the Seasons"
Imperialism at Home: Race and Victorian Women's Fiction
Susan Meyer.
Cornell University Press, 1996
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "'The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life': The Costs of History's Progress in The Mill on the Floss"
Acts of Naming: The Family Plot in Fiction
Michael Ragussis.
Oxford University Press, 1986
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "The Mill on the Floss"
Romantic Imprisonment: Women and Other Glorified Outcasts
Nina Auerbach.
Columbia University Press, 1985
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 14 "The Power of Hunger: Demonism and Maggie Tulliver"
Women in Literature: Reading through the Lens of Gender
Jerilyn Fisher; Ellen S. Silber.
Greenwood Press, 2003
Librarian’s tip: "Where No Role Fits: Maggie's Predicament in George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss (1860)" begins on p. 197
The Critical Response to George Eliot
Karen L. Pangallo.
Greenwood Press, 1994
Librarian’s tip: "Critical Response to The Mill on the Floss" begins on p. 69
The Literary Detective: 100 Puzzles in Classic Fiction
John Sutherland.
Oxford University Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: "How Good an Oarswoman Is Maggie Tulliver? George Eliot: The Mill on the Floss" begins on p. 373
The Stone and the Scorpion: The Female Subject of Desire in the Novels of Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy
Judith Mitchell.
Greenwood Press, 1994
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of The Mill on the Floss begins on p. 104
Reading Woman: Essays in Feminist Criticism
Mary Jacobus.
Columbia University Press, 1986
Librarian’s tip: "Men of Maxims and The Mill on the Floss" begins on p. 62
George Eliot and the British Empire
Nancy Henry.
Cambridge University Press, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of The Mill on the Floss begins on p. 27
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