George Eliot


Mary Ann Evans (1819-1880), a.k.a. George Eliot, at 30, by Swiss artist Alexandre Louis François d’Albert Durade

SATURDAYFor this series of posts I will use the word “literature” in the most general possible sense, as opposed to the limited category of fiction and poetry. Essentially this means that what I write about on Saturdays will be anything I read that does not fall under one of my other six standard categories (Bible, Greek, Hebrew, Theology, Philosophy, and History). My “Miscellany” category is reserved for random things I write about on an irregular basis. 

But I have always wanted to read Middlemarch, by George Eliot, hence I will begin here with a work of fiction by one of the premiere novelists of Victorian England. While the 600+ pages (in my edition, at least) of Middlemarch are generally considered  her best work, more people will probably have heard of her Silas Marner.

Mary Ann Evans sought to avoid the stereotype of female authors as mere romance novelists, so she wrote under the Eliot pen name. She also wanted to avoid the inevitable scandal and attendant damage to her career that would result should word of her long-term adulterous relationship with philosopher George Henry Lewes come under public scrutiny. Eliot’s appeal to me lies primarily in the religious themes that she wove through her writing with hands that pushed away the truths of Christian theology while trying to hold on to some semblance of its morality. For more on this, I recommend Alan Jacobs’ article, “George Eliot: Good Without God,” from the April 2000 edition of First Things. The article is a review, in part at least, of George Eliot: The Last Victorian, by Kathryn Hughes.


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