George Eliot

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Eliot, George,

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. StraussStrauss, David Friedrich
, 1808–74, German theologian and philosopher. In Berlin he studied (1831–32) Hegelian philosophy. As tutor at Tübingen he lectured on Hegel, modern philosophy, and Plato. His Das Leben Jesu (2 vol.
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. 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. LewesLewes, George Henry
, 1817–78, English critic and author. As editor of the Leader (1850–54) and of the Fortnightly Review (1865–66), Lewes distinguished himself as a critic.
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, 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 SavonarolaSavonarola, Girolamo
, 1452–98, Italian religious reformer, b. Ferrara. He joined (1475) the Dominicans. In 1481 he went to San Marco, the Dominican house at Florence, where he became popular for his eloquent sermons, in which he attacked the vice and worldliness of the
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. 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.

Bibliography

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).

Eliot, George

 

(real name, Mary Ann Evans). Born Nov. 22, 1819, on the Arbury estate, Warwickshire; died Dec. 22, 1880, in London. English writer.

Under the influence of various schools of philosophy, especially the positivism of A. Comte and H. Spencer, Eliot adopted the idea of the gradual evolution of society and the harmony of the classes. In the collection of stories Scenes of Clerical Life (vols. 1–2, 1858), which consists of “Amos Barton” (Russian translation, 1860), “Mr. Gilfil’s Love Story” (Russian translation, 1859), and “Janet’s Repentance” (Russian translation, 1860), she dealt with the social and moral conflicts in a village in the English countryside. Democratic sympathies were also manifested in the novel Adam Bede (vols. 1–3, 1859; Russian translation, 1859).

Although in some respects Eliot’s works exhibit a tendency toward naturalism, in the novel The Mill on the Floss (vols. 1–3, 1860; Russian translation, 1860) she presented a typical picture of the life of the provincial petite bourgeoisie. In the novel Silas Marner (1861; Russian translation, 1959) she contrasted altruism to the egoistic morality of the wealthy. Eliot’s novels, including Felix Holt the Radical (vols. 1–3, 1866; Russian translation, 1867) and Middtemarch (vols. 1–4, 1871–72; Russian translation, 1873), were popular in Russia and were highly regarded by N. G. Chernyshevskii, M. E. Saltykov-Shchedrin, I. S. Turgenev, and L. N. Tolstoy.

WORKS

The Complete Works, vols. 1–10. London-New York, 1908.
The George Eliot Letters, vols. 1–7. New Haven-London, 1954–55.
In Russian translation:
Mel’nitsa na Flosse. Moscow-Leningrad, 1963.

REFERENCES

Istoriia angliiskoi literatury, vol. 2, fasc. 2. Moscow, 1955.
Ivasheva, V. V. Angliiskii realisticheskii roman XIX v. v ego sovremennom zvuchanii. Moscow, 1974.
Allen, W. George Eliot. London [1965]
George Eliot: The Critical Heritage. London [1971].

A. A. BEL’SKII