George Eliot was born Mary Ann Evans, a highly-strung, exceptionally intelligent girl, brought up in the seclusion of Victorian Warwickshire.
Her keen observation and passionate moral concern mark all her fiction, from Scenes of Clerical Life (published in 1858 when she was thirty-nine) and Adam Bede (1859), which established her reputation, to her masterpiece, Middlemarch (1871-72), and her last great novel, Daniel Deronda (1876).
So much was concealed, by herself and by her intimates, of her long-lasting liaison with G. H. Lewes, her extraordinary relationship with John Chapman and her strange late marriage to John Cross, that the true facts add to our sympathy for her as a woman and our respect for her enduring achievement as a writer.
The path of the sexual transgressor was a thorny one in mid-Victorian society, but execration of her actions and distrust of her works was transformed by the remarkable strength of her character into an admiration for her great gifts and an appreciation of her deep emotional complexities.
'What a solemn, what a portentous thing was the contemporary fame of George Eliot', wrote Edmund Gosse. It was a fame that derived not only from her avidly read novels, but also from her eventual acceptance, despite her 'scandalous' life, as the great non-Christian moralist of her day.
Yet her husband's white-washing memorial biography precipitated the eclipse of her reputation and it is only in the last thirty years that critical opinion, and in particular the monumental researches of Professor G. S. Haight, have firmly established her as one of the world's greatest novelists.
Marghanita Laski (24 October 1915 - 6 February 1988) left journalism and began her literary career following the birth of her son and daughter. She is the author of Jane Austen and Her World, Love on the Supertax, Stories of Adventure, and many others.
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Used availability for Marghanita Laski's George Eliot and Her World
March 1978 : USA Hardback
October 2002 : UK Paperback
April 1973 : UK Paperback