Born on 22 November 1819, George Eliot, one of the leading Victorian novelists turns 200 today! Though simply calling her a novelist isn’t quite fair. Mary Ann Evans Cross was also a poet, essayist, and translator. Between 1859 and 1876, she published seven novels, and was known for her realistic approach to character, skillful development of plot, and psychological insight. As a child she was intelligent and a voracious reader, which along with her being thought as having little chance at marriage, led her father to give her an education not usually afforded women at that time. In 1850, she moved to London to become a writer. In 1856, she published an essay critiquing works by female writers of the day entitled ‘Silly Novels by Lady Novelists’. Her first work of fiction, ‘The Sad Fortunes of Revd. Amos Barton’ appeared in 1857, and later formed part of Scenes of Clerical Life. Her first complete work of fiction was Adam Bede, published in 1859. Since I haven’t had the time to do a full length post, though I would have liked to, here are ten interesting facts about the author (I’ve compiled these from various sources, all listed below).

  • George Eliot wrote for and later became de facto editor of the journal, The Westminster Review, established by Jeremy Bentham and James Mill.
  • George Eliot is credited with ‘inventing’ the term ‘pop’ used by her in a letter in 1862 (she used it in relation to music).
  • She wrote nearly all of her works using her pseudonym, to ensure her works were taken seriously, as well because of her social position. Her translation of The Essence of Christianity was the only book she published in her own name. Her essays in the Westminster Review also appeared under the name Marian Evans.
  • For her first book, the translation of a work of Biblical scholarship, she received £20, while for her novel Ramola, she received a then-record payment of £10,000.
By Francois D’Albert Durage, 1849, public domain via wikimedia commons
  • George Eliot’s father, Robert Evans, the Warwickshire estate agent for the Earl of Lonsdale was the model for her characters like Adam Bede and Caleb Garth.
  • George Eliot’s first novel Adam Bede (1859) was a resounding success, and went through its eighth printing within the first year. The publisher doubled the royalty and returned the copyright! Her novel, Middlemarch, has been described as ‘the Greatest Novel in the English Language’.
  • As an extra payment for Adam Bede, George Eliot received a pug from her publisher John Blackwood in 1859! [I have this little giftbook with dog pictures and quotes called Utterly Lovable Dogs, which attributes to Eliot the following quote [Not sure if this was about to this particular pug but I’m still putting it down all the same]]:

“Pug is come!–come to fill up the void left by false and narrow-hearted friends. I already see that he is without envy, hatred, or malice–that he will betray no secrets, and feel neither pain at my success nor pleasure at my chagrin”

George Eliot
  • Her novel The Mill on the Floss is the story of her estrangement from her brother Issac.
  • Queen Victoria had read all of George Eliot’s works, and apparently liked Adam Bede so much that in 1861, she commissioned Edward Henry Corbould to paint two scenes from the novel. Charles Dickens too wrote her a letter, praising her work (Amos Barton) even before her identity was revealed.
  • Because of the scandal in her personal life, she was not allowed a memorial stone in Westminster Abbey’s Poet’s Corner, only receiving recognition there in 1980.

Which Eliot books have you read so far? Any that you are planning to read or revisit soon? Which one/s do you like and which do you not like so much?

Here are some recent posts on Eliot’s works, and related works by fellow bloggers: On Middlemarch (here and here), Silas Marner (here), The Lifted Veil (here), and a review of In Love with George Eliot by Kathy O’Shaughnessy (here).

Find bios of George Eliot here, here, and here.

All this month, the ‘bookquotes’ I post on this blog have also been from Eliot. Find them here, here, and here.

Image source (image at the top of the post):

4 thoughts on “Some Interesting George Eliot Facts on her 200th!

  1. I’m shamefaced that I never got round to Middlemarch this year as I’d intended to (as signalled in though I have at least, and at last, begun Moby-Dick. Anniversaries can sometimes be straitjackets, but I’m pleased they do frequently act as a spur for me to tackle an author or work I’ve delayed becoming acquainted with. Thanks for all the links, I’ll explore some of these in due course!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Do-Don’t beat yourself up too much over Middlemarch–I only ended up reading it because it was a group read and I volunteered to get the discussion started. I am in teh same predicament with the Bride of Lamermoor which I was sure I’d read at least this year–its 200th–but I still haven’t and it doesn’t look as though I will this year. Nor Moby Dick. I also failed with Don Quixote which I started but never got very far into.

      Liked by 1 person

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