George Eliot is the author behind the greatest British novel of all time – Middle March.
Born and raised in England, George Eliot worked her way up towards becoming among the greatest English writers. Despite being born during the Victorian Period, Eliot was able to live up to her own moral standards and express them through her literary works. Her best works include The Mill on the Floss (1860), Romola (1863), and Middlemarch (1871), among many others.
Don’t miss the interesting facts below about George Eliot and learn how interesting her life was!
George Eliot Facts
1. George Eliot is not her real name
During George Eliot’s period, female authors were usually published using their real names. However, Eliot dared to be different.
Actually, her real name was Mary Ann Evans, an interesting fact about George Eliot. However, in her desire not to be confined with stereotypes, she decided to use a pen name – George Eliot. Aside from shying away from female writing, Eliot decided to use such a pen name to separate her real life from her works of fiction. Further, it was rumored that the name George Eliot also served as a shield against public scrutiny, particularly with his relationship with a married man – George Henry Lewes.
Nonetheless, whatever her reason was, the author George Eliot is definitely a remarkable writer.
2. Eliot was “deliciously hideous”
Unfortunately, George Eliot was not physically attractive during her time. Many even thought that she would never have the chance to be married! Nonetheless, she had demonstrated exceptional intelligence as a child. With this, her father invested in her education – something that was not ordinarily given to women.
In Eliot’s letters, she would often joke about her ugliness. In fact, she regarded herself as “magnificently ugly, deliciously hideous. She described herself as “horse-faced” with a “vast pendulous nose”, among other physical flaws.
3. Eliot had the privilege of education
Due to her physical unattractiveness yet beautiful mind, George Eliot’s father invested in her education. When she was 9 years old, she entered Mrs. Wallington’s school. Right after she turned 13 years old, Eliot enrolled in Miss Franklin’s school in Coventry and was mentored by Maria Lewis.
With her early education under religious institutions, Eliot learned to observe proper decorum with a belief against evangelicalism.
Thereafter, Eliot was only given a brief formal education, as such was not common among women of her time. However, since her father had an important role in the Arbury Hall and Estate, Eliot was allowed to spend time in the library of Arbury Hall. This paved the way for her to advance her learning through self-education.
Eventually, George Eliot was given an opportunity to be admitted to a prestigious college. Soon, she was among the pioneer graduates of Bedford College.
4. Eliot was a radical thinker
When George Eliot’s mother died in 1836 and her brother married, Eliot moved to the Foleshill near the Coventry. Little did she know that such a move would make an important impact on her life.
Soon, Eliot became part of the Coventry society where she became friends with progressive thinkers. She often came to the place called “Rosehill” where the society gathered to debate about their radical perspectives, an interesting George Eliot fact. Among these extremist thinkers are Robert Owen, Herbert Spencer, Harriet Martineau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
5. Eliot was a silent agnostic
Eventually, through the Coventry society, George Eliot was exposed to radical and agnostic theologies. She was introduced to the writings of David Strauss and Ludwig Feuerbach, both authors who doubted the narratives of the Bible. Indeed, these experiences really influenced Eliot. In fact, her first major work was a translation of “The Life of Jesus” (1864) written by David Strauss.
However, when Eliot began to be openly critical about her religious beliefs, her father was outraged. Thus, she obediently attended the church until the death of her father.
6. Eliot was an editor of Westminster Review
In 1850, George Eliot transferred to London to chase her dream of becoming a writer. John Chapman, her publisher at Rosehill, founded The Westminster Review – a left-wing journal. Thus, Eliot became his assistant-editor thereof.
With the said Journal, Eliot began expressing her personal views regarding the political and social conditions of the society. She wrote in favor of the lower classes and women, among other contemporary issues, much of which were drawn in her own experiences. Gradually, she expressed her political inclination from revolutionist to reformist.
Due to her contribution to the Westminster Review, although Chapman appears to be the editor, it was George Eliot who has performed the job – the de factor editor of The Westminster Review.
7. Eliot coined several words
Throughout her literary career, George Eliot had coined numerous words that we use up to present. For instance, she was the first to give the word “browser” with the meaning “casually looking around”. An interesting fact about George Eliot is that during that time, “browser” means “an animal that searches for twigs to eat”.
Among the other words coined by Eliot are floppy, lampshade, lunchtime, pop, and self-criticism, among many others. Indeed, not only Eliot was able to contribute to our literature but also to the English language as well.
8. Woolf looks up to Eliot’s writing
Remarkably, even the infamous Virginia Woolf looks up to the works of George Eliot, particularly her notable work Middlemarch. This view is consistent even to today’s contemporary readers. In fact, in a BBC poll, over 80 book critics chose Middlemarch as the best British novel of all time! This novel was also the best choice of famous authors like Julian Barnes and Martin Amis, among others!
George Eliot is not your typical Victorian woman. She was not physically dazzling but was mentally stimulating. She did not just believe, she critically pondered about everything around her.
She was among the few women during her time who had received top-notch education! She was not just a woman-writer, she also became a remarkable de facto editor of The Westminster Review.
Indeed, her literary and linguistics contributions still resonate with today’s modern society.
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