GEORGE ELIOT was born Mary Anne Evans on 22 November 1819 near Nuneaton, Warwickshire, on the Arbury estate of the Newdigate family, of which her father was agent. At the age of 9 she was imbued with an intense Evangelicalism that dominated her life until she was 22. Removing to Coventry with her father in 1841, she became acquainted with the family of Charles Bray, a free-thinker, and was persuaded to translate Strauss Life of Jesus (3 vols., 1846). After her father's death in 1849 she spent six months in Geneva, reading widely. On her return she lived in London in the house of the publisher John Chapman, editing the Westminster Review. At the focus of many radical ideas here she met George Henry Lewes, a versatile journalist, whose marriage was irretrievably ruined. Although divorce was impossible, in 1854 she went to Germany with him, and for twenty-four years lived openly with him as his wife until his death in 1878. Through his encouragement at the age of 37 she began to write fiction. Scenes of Clerical Life, serialized in Blackwood's Magazine, and reprinted ( 1858) under the nom de plume George Eliot, was an instant success. Adam Bede ( 1859) became a best seller; The Times declared that 'its author takes rank at once among the masters of the art'. In The Mill on the Floss ( 1860) and the five novels that followed George Eliot, with increasing skill, continued the subtle probing of human motive that leads many modern critics to regard her as the greatest novelist of the nineteenth century. Lewes's death was a devastating blow that ended her writing career. On 6 May 1880 she married John Walter Cross, a banker twenty years her junior, and on 22 December, died at 4 Cheyne Walk, London.
GRAHAM HANDLEY was formerly Principal Lecturer in English at the College of All Saints, Tottenham, and Research Officer in English at Birkbeck College, University of London. He is now a part-time lecturer in literature for the Department of Extramural Studies, University of London. His Clarendon edition of Daniel Deronda, on which this Oxford World's Classics edition is based, was published in 1984.