History's Women: Miscellaneous Articles: George Eliot (Marian Evans), The Greatest English Woman NovelistGeorge Eliot (Marian Evans)
The Greatest English Woman Novelist
1819 – 1880 A.D.

One comes to the consideration of this woman of genius with a feeling akin to sadness. There is a struggle between respect for her ability and contempt for her conduct.

Marian Evans was born of humble parents, who were, nevertheless, of sterling worth and who sought for their daughter educational advantages of which they had been deprived. They were religious people and sent Marian to a school kept by the Misses Franklin, who were devout Methodists. She was early engaged in Sunday school and other religious work.

Under more advanced teachers she studied Latin, Greek, Italian, French, and German; she also became a pianist of much skill.

Her abilities brought her into acquaintance with many eminent people, among them several of liberal, rationalistic, and even atheistic views, “clever thinkers,” learned doubters, dreamy theorists, but arrogant, discontented, and defiant.

Mr. Lewes was one of this number. To him she became attached and, although he had a wife living, Marian Evans lived with him for twenty years. They were both people of genius and their tastes were congenial, but these things can never excuse the disregard and defiance of God’s laws.

After the death of Mr. Lewes, she, being fifty-nine years old, married Mr. John Walter Cross, who was much younger than herself.

We may sometimes wish we had never known the private life of Marian Evans, but it is best that we should know. No doubt she is one of the greatest authors of this great literary century.

Her chief works are Adam Bede, The Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner, Romola, Felix Holl, Middlemarch, Daniel Dermonda, and Theophrastus Such.

George Eliot is an artist in delineating character in its development. Too often it is in a downward development; illicit love is found in nearly all her works and young people will hardly be profited by reading them.


Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.

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