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© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Middlemarch: Selected full-text books and articles

FREE! Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life By George Eliot Harper and Brothers, 1873
A primary source is a work that is being studied, or that provides first-hand or direct evidence on a topic. Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts.
The Critical Response to George Eliot By Karen L. Pangallo Greenwood Press, 1994
Librarian's tip: "Critical Response to Middlemarch" begins on p. 147, and "Irony in the Mind's Life; Maturity: George Eliot's Middlemarch" begins on p. 172
Nobody's Angels: Middle-Class Women and Domestic Ideology in Victorian Culture By Elizabeth Langland Cornell University Press, 1995
Librarian's tip: Chap. 7 "Inventing Reality: The Ideological Commitments of George Eliot's Middlemarch"
Spatial Dynamics and Female Development in Victorian Art and Novels: Creating a Woman's Space By Liana F. Piehler Peter Lang, 2003
Librarian's tip: Chap. Four "George Eliot's Middlemarch: Dorothea Brooke's Visionary Spaces"
Middlemarch in the Twenty-First Century By Karen Chase Oxford University Press, 2006
The Literary Detective: 100 Puzzles in Classic Fiction By John Sutherland Oxford University Press, 2000
Librarian's tip: "George Eliot: Middlemarch: Is Will Ladislaw Legitimate?" begins on p. 146
The Crime in Mind: Criminal Responsibility and the Victorian Novel By Lisa Rodensky Oxford University Press, 2003
Librarian's tip: Chap. Three "Middlemarch, Daniel Deronda, and the Crime in Mind"
Fred Vincy and the Unravelling of 'Middlemarch.' (by George Eliot) By Martin, Bruce K Papers on Language & Literature, Vol. 30, No. 1, Winter 1994
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Standard Deviations: Chance and the Modern British Novel By Leland Monk Stanford University, 1993
Librarian's tip: Chap. Two "'A Practical Rebus': The Economy of Chance in Middlemarch"
Darwin's Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot, and Nineteenth-Century Fiction By Gillian Beer Cambridge University Press, 2000 (2nd edition)
Librarian's tip: Chap. 5 "George Eliot: Middlemarch"
George Eliot and the Landscape of Time: Narrative Form and Protestant Apocalyptic History By Mary Wilson Carpenter University of North Carolina Press, 1986
Librarian's tip: Chap. 4 "Transposing the Apocalypse in Middlemarch"
George Eliot's Dialogue with John Milton By Anna K. Nardo University of Missouri Press, 2003
Librarian's tip: Chap. 5 "Testing the Ways of Milton in Middlemarch"
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