Drawing of George Eliot's house by W. Burgess

Drawing of George Eliot’s house
by W. Burgess

George Eliot

Dates: 1819 - 1880

Profession: Literature

Address: 4 Cheyne Walk, SW3

Dates at address: 1880 - 1880

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Born May Anne Evans, Eliot was the daughter of Warwickshire land agent Robert Evans, who inspired her characters Adam Bede and Caleb Garth. Schooled in Nuneaton she became a devout evangelist, “to the great disgust” of her brother, before rejecting religion completely in her twenties. An excellent linguist she spoke German and Italian fluently and was a good musician. After a long running “scandalous” relationship with George Lewes from 1854 to 1878 she married John Cross in 1880.

In 1844 Eliot translated David Strauss’s Leben Jesu for John Chapman. Moving to London in 1850 she wrote reviews for Chapman’s The Westminster Review becoming assistant editor in 1851. Lewes inspired Eliot to try writing and in 1857 she published anonymously The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton in Blackwood’s Magazine. Encouraged by the reviews she published her first novel Adam Bede in 1959 using the name George Eliot. Dickens allegedly read the novel, realised a woman had written it and asked Elizabeth Gaskell if it was hers. Gaskell is supposed to have been greatly flattered. Eliot’s novels include The Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner and Middlemarch. She also wrote poems and essays.

Cheyne Walk was Eliot’s last home. Moving in with her husband John Cross in 1880 she died three weeks later. Refused burial at Poet’s Corner for her rejection of Christianity and unorthodox love life she was instead buried with the dissenters in Highgate Cemetery.

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