George Eliot: A Literary Spirit to be Remembered Forever

Author: Sherry Helms

“Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.”

                                                                             –George Eliot

One woman writer hid her female identity under a male Pen Name just to make sure that her works would be taken seriously in an era when female authors were usually associated with romantic novels. She wanted to make her realist perspective to meet its target. What a dedicated realist author was  Mary Ann Evans who wrote under the pseudonym of George Eliot. For her noble devoted efforts George Eliot deserves to be remembered today, on her 193rd Birth Anniversary. Oscar Wilde stated about her in 1897, “she is the embodiment of philosophy in fiction like George Meredith“. George Eliot did not see her novels as a source of entertainment, rather she regarded them as a vehicle for revealing about the human condition, and to make readers empathize about the same.

One of the leading writers of the Victorian Era, George Eliot is well-known for her 1872 work Middlemarch which is the sublime example of realism and psychological insights. Set in the fictitious Midlands town of Middlemarch during the period 1830–32, this novel has historical base formed by  Great Reform Bill. This well-received epic pursues a number of underlying themes, including the status of women, the nature of marriage, idealism and self-interest, religion and hypocrisy, political reform, and education. This book has been described as the greatest novel in the English language by Martin Amis and by Julian Barnes. Virginia Woolf acclaimed Eliot’s Middlemarch as “one of the few English novels for grown-up people”.

Among her other novels include ‘Adam Bede, The Mill on the Floss‘ (1860), ‘Silas Marner‘ (1861), ‘Romola‘ (1863),  andDaniel Deronda‘ (1876).

A Biographical Insight

George Eliot was born on 22 November 1819 in rural Warwickshire. After the death of her mother in 1836, Eliot left school to lend hand to her father in making household run. In 1841, she moved with her father to Coventry and lived with him until his death in 1849. Then, Eliot travelled in Europe, and eventually settled in London.

In 1850, Eliot began writing for the ‘Westminster Review’, a leading journal for philosophical radicals, and later come out to be its holding editor. She was now managed to be at the centre of a literary circle through which she met George Henry Lewes, with whom she maintained a living relationship until his death in 1878. Since, Lewes was married, their relationship had caused a scandal.

It was Lewes who encouraged Eliot to write books. Her first novel was ‘Adam Bede‘ finished in 1859 that was a great success. The popularity of Eliot’s novels brought her social acceptance, and invariable, Lewes and Eliot’s home became a meeting point for writers and intellectuals.

After Lewes’ death, Eliot remarried with a friend, John Cross, who was 20 years younger to her. She entered in the world of dead on 22 December 1880, and was buried in Highgate Cemetery in north London.

One can have a very close look to this prodigious literary woman in books like George Eliot: The Last Victorian and George Eliot A Critical Study of her Life, Writings and Philosophy written by Kathryn Hughes and George Willis Cooke, respectively.

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