George Eliot No, she's not a man


George Eliot, born Mary Ann Evans on November 22, 1819 in Warwickshire, England, was an English author (BBC). Believing people would not take her writing seriously if they knew she was a woman, Evans wrote under the pseudonym George Eliot for most of her career (George Eliot). For four year growing up, Eliot attended Mrs. Wallington’s School at Nuneaton (BBC). There, she became extremely pious, attending church regularly (BBC). Upon her mother’s death in 1836, Eliot moved to Coventry, England to live with her father (BBC). In Coventry, Eliot began to criticize the church, and she stopped going (George Eliot). When her father died in 1849, Eliot decided to travel Europe, reading extensively (George Eliot). Eventually settling in London, Eliot began writing for The Westminster Review, and came into a serious relationship with George Henry Lewes, a married man (BBC). Eliot wrote her novels while living in London, as well (George Eliot). She lived with Lewes until his death in 1878, and afterwards, she married her longtime friend John Cross, who was 20 years younger than her. Eliot died on December 22, 1880 in London (BBC).

Left: The cover to an edition of Eliot's most famous novel, Middlemarch. Right: a portrait of Eliot

Major Themes and Ideas

Eliot has been widely praised for her depiction of everyday people and the reality of life (George Eliot). A realist author, Eliot expressed her desire to demonstrate the importance of people who “lived faithfully a hidden life and rest in unvisited tombs” (Mead, The Telegraph). In addition, Eliot is regarded as one of the first authors to delve into the psychosis of her characters (George Eliot). Eliot’s interest in the relationships in and between the working class, middle class, and aristocracy was aimed to help her readers “in getting a clearer conception and a more active admiration of those vital elements which bind men together and give a higher worthiness to their existence” (Mead, The Telegraph). One of the foremost themes of Eliot’s writing was that all people “stumble, fall, and fail - not into inexorable tragedy, for the most part, but into limited, mortal resignation" (Mead, The Telegraph). Eliot’s preoccupation with humanity won her praise from many readers and critics. Regardless of class, Eliot argued that life “is a balancing act between what we desire and what we can do" (Marantz Cohen). Much of Eliot’s writing reflects her own experiences growing up (Mead, The New Yorker). Eliot accurately portrayed the ordinary people, basing her characters off of people she met as a child.

Writing and Expression

As a writer, Eliot expressed her ideas through her writing. When she began working for The Westminster Review, a journal for philosophical radicals, Eliot demonstrated her beliefs on religion and government, eventually becoming the editor of the journal (BBC). One of Eliot’s first fictional works was her collection of short stories “Scenes of Clerical Life” (George Eliot). Eliot wrote her first novel, Adam Bede, in 1859, for which she received acclaim and popularity (BBC). Eliot went on to write The Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner, Romola, Daniel Deronda, and her most famous work, Middlemarch (BBC). In Middlemarch, Eliot examines everyday life in an English village near the time the first Reform Bill of 1832 was passed (George Eliot). In her own time, Eliot received criticism for being a pessimist (Meade, The New Yorker); however, she was generally regarded as a talented author.


Following her death, many did not consider George Eliot’s work exceptional. More recently, Eliot is regarded as one of the best authors ever, and her book Middlemarch is widely regarded as one of, if not the best, books in the English language (Mead, The New Yorker). Some have called Eliot "a precursor of Sigmund Freud" for her in depth psychoanalysis of her characters (Mead, The Telegraph). George Eliot’s realism is seen as hugely influential to literature (George Eliot). Eliot was a groundbreaking writer, and she is now seen as a major figure in English writing.

Works Cited

"BBC - History - George Eliot." BBC News. BBC, n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

"George Eliot." Britannica School, Encyclopædia Britannica, 8 Jan. 2016. Accessed 31 Jan. 2017.

Marantz Cohen, Paula. "Why Read George Eliot?" The American Scholar: Why Read George Eliot? - Paula Marantz Cohen. N.p., 1 Mar. 2006. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

Mead, Rebecca. "George Eliot’s Ugly Beauty." The New Yorker. The New Yorker, 16 July 2014. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

Mead, Rebecca. "George Eliot: What Did She Ever Do for Us?" The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 15 Mar. 2014. Web. 31 Jan. 2017.

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