Woman Writing: George Eliot’s Life

  • Kristin Brady
Part of the Women Writers book series


Born in 1819, Mary Ann Evans — who was later to assume the names ‘Marian Evans’, ‘Marian Lewes’ and ‘George Eliot’ — was the third child and second daughter of Christiana Pearson Evans and Robert Evans of Warwickshire. Biographies of George Eliot have, with a few exceptions, ignored the influence of Pearson Evans on her daughter, while elaborating at length on the father’s impact. In part, this imbalance can be attributed to the fact that Pearson Evans died when Eliot was only sixteen years old: there is simply not much evidence about their relationship. This fact does not account, however, for the extent to which Eliot’s mother has been demonised by those biographers who do not ignore her. A common theory is that the birth of Pearson Evans’s third child harmed her health, that she blamed the young Mary Ann for this, and that she punished her by sending her to boarding school at the age of five. The theory of maternal rejection can be traced back to an earlier assumption — based on comments by Eliot’s husband, John Cross — that Pearson Evans is the original for some of Eliot’s unpleasant and tyrannical characters: Mrs Hackit of Scenes of Clerical Life, Mrs Poyser of Adam Bede, and the Dodson sisters of The Mill on the Floss.


Marriage Market Male Voice Female Authorship Maternal Rejection Diary Account 
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© Kristin Brady 1992

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  • Kristin Brady

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