Mary Ann Evans, a middle class, seemingly unmarriageable daughter who became one of the richest women in England through her own endeavours.
George Eliot, born Mary Ann Evans. A typically Victorian woman? Most definitely not.
She could easily lay claim to being the most famous woman in Britain, such was her popularity as a novelist and her notoriety as a woman. In the depth of her grief, a few hours before her father died in 1849, she wrote
“What shall I be without my father? It will seem as if part of my moral nature were gone. I had a horrid vision of myself last night becoming earthly sensual and devilish for want of that purifying restraining influence.”
Her domestic arrangements, commonplace today, rocked Victorian Society. It is difficult for us to imagine what, in 2019, could have such a massive impact on our social and moral values.
In her famously feisty letter to her closest female friend Cara Bray, she defended her decision to make her illicit relationship with George Henry Lewes public.
“Light and easily broken ties are what I neither desire theoretically nor could live for practically. Women who are satisfied with such ties do not act as I have done- they obtain what they desire and are still invited to dinner.”
Her deep understanding of human nature is apparent in her writings, which explore a range of social injustices, all of which are still with us today.
Whilst both the gender and the identity of the author of Scenes of Clerical Life were still unknown, Charles Dickens’s instincts did not let him down. He wrote to a friend “If these two volumes were not written by a woman, then I should begin to believe that I am a woman myself.”
And to the author of “Scenes”, he confessed;
“If they originated with no woman, I believe that no man ever before had the art of making himself mentally so like a woman since the world began.”
To find out more, please visit www.georgeeliot.org