Eliot, George (18191880)

Eliot, George, the nom de plume of Mary Ann Evans, distinguished English novelist, born at Arbury, in Warwickshire; was bred on evangelical lines, but by-and-by lost faith in supernatural Christianity; began her literary career by a translation of Strauss's “Life of Jesus”; became in 1851 a contributor to the Westminster Review, and formed acquaintance with George Henry Lewes, whom she ere long lived with as his wife, though unmarried, and who it would seem discovered to her her latent faculty for fictional work; her first work in that line was “Scenes from Clerical Life,” contributed to Blackwood in 1856; the stories proved a signal success, and they were followed by a series of seven novels, beginning in 1858 with “Adam Bede,” “the finest thing since Shakespeare,” Charles Reade in his enthusiasm said, the whole winding up with the “Impressions of Theophrastus Such” in 1879; these, with two volumes of poems, make up her works; Lewes died in 1878, and two years after she formally married an old friend, Mr. John Cross, and after a few months of wedded life died of inflammation of the heart; “she paints,” says Edmond Scherer, “only ordinary life, but under these externals she makes us assist at the eternal tragedy of the human heart... with so much sympathy,” he adds, “the smile on her face so near tears, that we cannot read her pages without feeling ourselves won to that lofty toleration of hers” (18191880).

Definition taken from The Nuttall Encyclopædia, edited by the Reverend James Wood (1907)

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