Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Mieography

Mary Anne Evans was born in England, the third daughter of Robert and Christiana. Two of her siblings were already teenagers when she was born, from a previous marriage of her fathers. Her other siblings were born of both her parents as well, a sister and a brother.

She was considered an intelligent child, and, her father, being employed as the manager of a large Estate entitled her to use it's library, which helped her in her early education. She was raised Anglican, but also saw a growing number of religious dissenters in the area of the Midlands where she was raised.
She attended boarding school until her mother passed away, and she returned home to fulfull the housekeeping role. Her older brother, Isaac eventually married, and took over the family home, so she and her father moved to Coventry. There, she met a couple named Charles and Cara Bray, whom were rich from ribbon manufacturing. They were very free thinking and philanthropic, and their home frequently housed people who enjoyed debate, and radical views. She met many people, like Ralph Waldo Emerson, while she was present in their home. Through the myriad of people, and debate, Mary Anne lost her faith, and her father threatened to toss her out. He never did, because she respectfully attended church, and kept his house for him, until his death. Less than a week after his death, she went to Switzerland with the Brays, and decided to stay in Geneva, by herself. She eventually returned to England, living in London, with the intent to be a writer. She became instrumental in helping to edit a left wing journal called "The Westminster Review", for which she also wrote many essays and reviews.
This being the 1800's (in case you were wondering), it was scandalous to many to have an unmarried woman interacting with the predominantly male society of London. She was clearly strong minded, though, very sensitive, often depressed, and had much self doubt. She was not considered attractive, by any means, and frequently fell in love with those who did not reciprocate. She eventually met a man who loved her back, George Henry Lewes, a philosopher, and critic. George was married, but he and his wife had an "open" marriage. George and Mary Anne, (now Marian) chose to live together. (Lest you think George's wife was neglected, she had three children with George, then, MORE children with other men.) He was unable to divorce his wife because he was named as father for at least one of her offspring with another man, because this was considered 'complicit in adultery'.
She and George went to Germany, for research, and considered the trip a "honeymoon". They styled themselves as married, and she called herself by his last name. Their open ness with their affair added to her scandalous reputation. They lived apart from literary society, both shunning, and being shunned equally. She continued to contribute to the Westminster Review, but resolved to be a novelist. Not wanting to be included into the cache of women who were currently writing, whom she considered silly, and trivial, she chose a pen name, George Eliot.
Her work was an instant success, and as she was using a pen name, people were speculating a great deal to her identity. Pretenders even came forward to claim her work. She eventually had to step forward, and claim it herself. Though her readers were shocked, they did not stop reading her novels. It took a very long time for society to accept her, and her husband, though, they did. She was eventually granted an audience with the daughter of Queen Victoria, who was an avid reader of her novels.
She continued to write, prolifically, for fifteen years. Her husband died, and she spent two years editing HIS final works. During this time, she met a man, twenty years junior to her, John Walter Cross, an American banker. She married him (legally, this time), shocking every one. They honeymooned in Venice. Sadly, he wasn't a stable person, and either jumped, or fell from their balcony into the Grand Canal. He did survive. She, however, fell ill, and, compromised already by kidney disease, she died at the age of sixty one.


sybil law said...

Died at the age of... ?!!! GAH!
Anyway, loved it. I've never delved into this one. :)

Daryl said...

I had no idea .. you always open my eyes with these posts!