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MonkeyNotes-Silas Marner by George Eliot
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BACKGROUND INFORMATION

Author Information

Mary Ann Evans, later to become famous as George Eliot, was born to Robert and Christina Evans on November 22, 1819, at Arbury Farm. She was the youngest daughter of the family and was neglected by her mother on account of her plain appearance. As a result, she felt insecure and began creating a world of her own imagination. Her father, a land agent, was the most dominant influence on her life. She was his companion in his outdoor business and, therefore, became very familiar with the countryside, the neighboring farms, and the people, all of which left an indelible stamp on her mind. Her father made the same kind of lasting impression on her. In fact, he is the role model for the hero of Adam Bede and for the character of Caleb Garth in Middlemarch.

Evans' formal education took place in Nuneaton, where a genuine love for poetry and literature was instilled in her. Her mother's death compelled her to terminate her education and take charge of the household and the farm. Four years later, when Evans was twenty-one, her father gave up the farm to his son, and the father and daughter settled outside Coventry. Mary Ann resumed her studies there, and their deeply religious atmosphere made her approach towards life very serious. She studied French, German, Italian, Latin, Greek and Hebrew and this broad education made her one of the most learned novelists of her time.


At Coventry, Evans came in contact with the Bray family and their intellectual circle. This erudite circle initiated Evans into a world of thought, which was radically opposed to her Calvinist beliefs; the exchange of views widened and modified her outlook towards life and made it more humanitarian. She stopped attending church. Outraged by his daughter's skepticism, Robert Evans disowned her. It was only after a great deal of persuasion that he agreed to take her back. Robert Evans died in 1849. His death sent Evans into a massive depression. It was her work alone that alleviated her grief. She worked as an assistant editor of the "Westminster Review," which brought her into contact with some of the most talented people of her time.

Evans met George Hewes, a well-known literary and dramatic critic, novelist, and actor. She fell in love with him. George Hewes could not marry her since he was already married, and the possibility of a divorce was ruled out under existing legal conditions. As a substitute, Evans and Hewes entered into a relationship, which they regarded as an equivalent to marriage. Evans was quite content in taking care of George Hewes and his home. He, however, recognized her genius and urged her to write. As a result, Evans created the pseudonym of George Eliot for herself and began her career as a writer, officially by contributing three stories in 1857 to "Blackwoods' Magazine." Next came Scenes of Clerical Life (1859), Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), and Silas Marner (1861). In these novels she evoked her Warwickshire memories and painted the Midland countryside with great authenticity. These novels were widely acclaimed and established Eliot as a fiction writer of fair repute.

George Eliot undertook a three months tour of Italy, which inspired her to write Romola (1863), which is a record of life in Italy during the days of Savonarola. The book is plagued by meticulous labor, which takes away something of the cheer and imagination of the Warwickshire novels. In Felix Holt (1866), she returned to the Midlands of 1832, but failed to capture the spirit of the days of the Reform Bill. Her later works included The Spanish Gypsy (1868), a poetic tale and Middlemarch (1872), the novel that is considered to be her masterpiece; and Daniel Deronda (1876), her final novel, which deals with questions of race and heredity.

In 1878 George Hewes died. George Eliot was overcome with grief and published a heavy volume of essays titled "The Impression Of Theophrastus Such". After this work, her literary career came to a standstill. In 1880, drawn by a common bond of grief, she married John Cross. The marriage led to her reconciliation with her family. She spent a few months traveling on the continent, and died soon after her return to England in 1880.

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