Biography of George Eliot

Biography of George Eliot

George Eliot, born Mary Ann Evans on November 22, 1819, in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, England, was a prominent Victorian novelist and one of the leading literary figures of the 19th century. She was the second of five children in her family. Mary Ann’s father, Robert Evans, was the manager of the Arbury Hall estate.

Early Life:

  • Mary Ann Evans received a solid education in her early years, thanks in part to her father’s progressive views on education.
  • Her mother died when she was 16, and her father remarried a few years later, causing a strained relationship between Mary Ann and her stepmother.

Literary Career:

  • George Eliot began her career as a translator and later became an editor at the Westminster Review, a prominent literary journal.
  • Her first published work was a translation of David Friedrich Strauss’s “The Life of Jesus” (1846).
  • In the 1850s, she turned to fiction, publishing her first novel, “Adam Bede,” in 1859, which achieved immediate success.
  • She followed this with other well-received novels, including “The Mill on the Floss” (1860) and “Silas Marner” (1861).

Relationship with George Henry Lewes:

  • In 1854, Mary Ann began a relationship with George Henry Lewes, a philosopher and literary critic. Lewes was already married but separated from his wife.
  • The couple faced societal disapproval due to their unconventional relationship, as Lewes was unable to divorce his wife. However, they lived together as partners until Lewes’s death.

Major Works:

  • “Middlemarch,” published in eight parts from 1871 to 1872, is often considered George Eliot’s masterpiece. It explores the lives of various characters in a provincial town and is known for its psychological insight and complex narrative structure.
  • “Daniel Deronda” (1876) is another significant work that delves into themes of identity, Jewish culture, and the early Zionist movement.

Late Years and Marriage to John Cross:

  • After George Henry Lewes’s death in 1878, Mary Ann married John Walter Cross, a family friend, in 1880.
  • Tragically, she passed away on December 22, 1880, at the age of 61, only seven months after her marriage.


  • George Eliot’s contribution to literature lies in her realistic portrayal of characters, psychological insight, and social commentary.
  • Despite the societal challenges she faced due to her personal choices, George Eliot’s novels continue to be celebrated for their depth, complexity, and exploration of human nature.

was George Eliot Jewish?

No, George Eliot, the pen name of Mary Ann Evans, was not Jewish. Born on November 22, 1819, in Nuneaton, England, George Eliot was of English descent. While her religious beliefs evolved throughout her life, she was raised in a Christian household. George Eliot became one of the leading Victorian novelists, renowned for her insightful and psychologically rich portrayals of characters in novels such as “Middlemarch,” “Silas Marner,” and “Adam Bede.”

George Eliot’s interest in and portrayal of Jewish characters in her novel “Daniel Deronda” have led to some misconceptions about her own background. “Daniel Deronda,” published in 1876, is a significant work that presents a sympathetic and knowledgeable portrait of Jewish characters and culture. The novel explores the lives of two main characters, Daniel Deronda and Gwendolen Harleth, and delves into themes of identity, cultural heritage, and the emerging Zionist movement.

In “Daniel Deronda,” Eliot introduces Mordecai Cohen, a visionary and enthusiastic Zionist, through whom she explores the idea of a Jewish homeland and the return to the Land of Israel. Despite her thorough and empathetic depiction of Jewish characters in the novel, it’s crucial to note that George Eliot herself was not Jewish.

Eliot’s fascination with Jewish culture and her portrayal of Jewish characters in “Daniel Deronda” was part of her broader intellectual exploration and commitment to presenting a more nuanced and inclusive view of society. The novel challenged prevailing stereotypes and prejudices against Jews that were common in Victorian literature.

While “Daniel Deronda” is a testament to George Eliot’s ability to transcend societal norms and offer a more sympathetic portrayal of minority groups, it does not alter the fact that she, herself, was not of Jewish heritage. George Eliot passed away on December 22, 1880, leaving behind a literary legacy that continues to be celebrated for its depth, insight, and contributions to the Victorian novel.

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About Hafsa Tahira

Hafsa Tahira, a passionate educator and literature enthusiast. After finishing her Postgraduate degree in Education from an international university, she is on a mission to inspire, educate, and ignite a lifelong love for learning and literature. Through her writings, discussions, and recommendations, she endeavors to make the world of literature more accessible and enjoyable for everyone, regardless of their background or experience.

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