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George Eliot

Eliot was a leading writer of the Victorian Era in England. Today, she is probably most widely known for her novel Middlemarch. As an Englishwoman writing realistically about social situations, she could perhaps be compared to Jane Austen, who wrote the famous female romance, Emma. Her birth name was Mary Ann Evans. She chose a male pseudonym because she was concerned that if the general public knew she was a woman, they would not take her seriously as a producer of literature. 

It's all in the name

George Eliot is the pen name of one of the leading English writers of the Victorian era, Mary Ann Evans. Evans used a male pen name in order to ensure that her work was taken seriously. There was a stereotype of the time that women only wrote whimsical romance novels and she hoped to break that cycle. In addition, she was already a widely known critic, and she hoped the use of a pen name would separate her writing from her previous work. Others speculate that perhaps her pen name served to protect her personal life from scandal, as she carried on a relationship with the married George Henry Lewis for more than twenty years.

George Eliot's popular literature

George Eliot wrote seven novels throughout her career between the years of 1859 and 1876. Although Middlemarch is regarded as one of her most popular, her books, in alphabetical order, are Adam Bede, Daniel Deronda, Felix Holt: The Radical, Romola, Silas Marner, and The Mill on the Floss. She is also the author of thirteen poems:

- A College Breakfast Party

- A Minor Project

- Agatha

- Armgart

- Arion

- Brother and Sister

- Count That Day Lost

- From a London Drawing Room

- I Grant You Ample Leave

- Stradivarius

- The Death of Moses

- The Legend of Jubal

- The Spanish Gypsy

Science and history adds to the narrative

George Eliot’s work is written in a way that comes across as extremely well-educated and erudite. Her work is full of cultural, historical, literary, and scientific references that make it clear that the writer is very intelligent. She uses a lot of original metaphors in order to totally and completely convey the character and intentions of her characters. Her phrasing is unique, as it follows the path of the character’s affectations. Another thing that marks her style different from others’ is her narrative voice which often interrupts the action to reflect on what is happening in the plot. 

Trying to find a writing job in a man's world - George Eliot's struggle

George Eliot was very clearly intelligent from an early age. She was not, though, considered traditionally beautiful, and was therefore not considered to have much of a chance for marriage. Her father then invested a lot of money in her education, a luxury not often afforded to women. She was educated at prestigious boarding schools. Though she received no college education, she used her father’s connections to gain access to the Arbury Hall library and sought to educate herself. Her self-education can be seen in her novels; heavy reliance on Greek literature and themes of Greek tragedies. 

George Eliot’s love life garnered a lot of gossip and outrage. In 1850, she began contributing to the ‘Westminster Review’, which was a premier journal geared toward philosophical radicals. She later became its editor, through which she met George Henry Lewis. The two began an illustrious affair and she moved in with him almost right away. This was considered scandalous because George Henry Lewes was married. Friends and family were outraged and shunned the couple. 

George Henry Lewes actively encouraged George Eliot to write. With his support, she began writing stories about the people of her home in Warwickshire and published the stories in ‘Blackwood’s Magazine’. Her first novel, Adam Bede, was a wild success, which she believed would not have been quite possible without her use of a male pen name. Lewes and Eliot remained together for over twenty years in Lewes died in 1878. 

George Eliot was very obviously and incredibly talented and gifted writer. She used a pen name for fear of not being taken seriously if it was known that she was a woman. However, her work is so brilliant and of such high caliber that it is hard to imagine that it would be any less popular, regardless of circumstances.

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