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Five Facts that Prove George Eliot Was Ahead of Her Time


ELIOT WAS A HUMANIST

George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans) was a humanist. What does this mean exactly? Well, it is important to start at the beginning. She was raised in a Christian family for many years until one day she decided that she wouldn’t go to church anymore. This was extremely painful for her father, but it was this refusal that set her towards a different path. Eliot was a keen historian of religion and religion was always a strong theme throughout all her works. Her exposure to High criticism (the idea that the bible could be read not as the word of God, but as a text written by men and open to analysis) has been said to have influenced her morals. Eliot believed in human relationships above all else. She created a sort of non-religious moral code with which to live by that prized kindness, neighbourly help, and family (blood or adopted) above all else.

ELIOT DID NOT CONFORM TO CONVENTIONAL RELATIONSHIPS

It is well known that Eliot was in an open relationship with married journalist, John Walter Lewes. Her relationship with Lewes resulted in her family and friends rejecting her. Lewes, had a wife and children, but lived with Eliot in Germany and then in London. Open relationships are still taboo today, and I think that Eliot felt very torn about her relationship. It is no wonder that when you read her books many of the female characters that go against social norms are often punished. Is this internalised religious and social conventions?

ELIOT GAVE A ‘REAL’ VOICE TO COUNTRY FOLK

Eliot wrote:

“We want to be taught to eel not for the heroic artisan or the sentimental peasant, but for the peasant in all his coarse apathy, and the artisan in all his suspicious selfishness. Idyllic pastoral writes such characters out of literature’ only by writing them in will the vulgarity of exclusiveness be abolished.” (From her Essay Collection)

Her approach to writing has been described as rustic realism: showing the real and true nature of life in all of its glory and despair.

ELIOT WAS A QUADRUPLE THREAT

Eliot was a translator, an Editor for the Westminster Review, an author, and an artist. She wrote hundreds and hundreds of reviews and was super-humanly well read.

ELIOT COULD MAKE HER OWN BREAD

There is no doubt that she was a successful author. She earned 7,000 Pounds for Romola, 5,000 for Silas Marner, and her most successful novel Daniel Deronda earned her 9,000 Pounds in the first three years alone!

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5 thoughts on “Five Facts that Prove George Eliot Was Ahead of Her Time

  1. Middlemarch and Silas Marner are wonderful humanist torch-bearers in an age when science was beginning to catch up with religious thinking. First Darwinian epoch in Victorian England. Great insight.

    • I am yet to read Middlemarch, but I loved Silas Marner so I cannot wait. I also saw that Penguin is doing a special classics edition of Middlemarch.

  2. “It is no wonder that when you read her books many of the female characters that go against social norms are often punished. Is this internalised religious and social conventions?” — I wonder if she was protesting this, though, by creating sympathy in readers for the very types of women that in real life they would have punished.

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