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George Eliot was born Mary Anne (later Marian) Evans on 22 November 1819 at Arbury Farm in Warwickshire, where her father was estate manager. When she was five months old, the family moved to a farmhouse at Griff, her beloved home until she was twenty-one. Because of her fatherâ€™s position, the young Marian had access to the library at Arbury Hall and made full use of it. She boarded at school in Coventry, where she studied a considerable range of literature and excelled at English composition and piano playing.
After her motherâ€™s death in 1836 she became her fatherâ€™s housekeeper. In 1841 the family moved to Coventry, where Marian was introduced to the free-thinking Charles Bray and his wife Cara. Their social circle greatly enriched her life, influencing her reading, her thinking and her early career. Her father died in 1849 when she was 30 â€“ well past the normal marriageable age â€“ but he left her Â£100 a year which gave her a certain amount of independence. She moved to London and became a distinguished editor of the Westminster Review, where she met the journalist George Henry Lewes. Lewes was still married to his wife, who had left him and their children, so he and Marian were unable to marry. Despite this, they lived together until his death in 1878. Marianâ€™s rejection by her friends, family and society in general over her common law marriage is reflected in The Mill on the Floss.
Lewes was extremely supportive of Marianâ€™s artistic endeavors and it was he who first encouraged her to write fiction. The success of Adam Bede, published in 1859, confirmed her literary powers. She adopted the masculine name George Eliot partly to distance herself from â€˜sillyâ€™ female romance writers but also to cover up the tricky subject of her marital status. The publication of The Mill on the Floss in 1860 led to intense speculation about the author and eventually Marian came forward. Despite her fears of being shunned, her marital situation did not affect her popularity and she was even introduced to Princess Louise, who was a fan.
Her last book was Daniel Deronda, which was published in 1876. After Lewesâ€™s death she once again courted controversy by marrying John Cross, a man twenty years younger than herself. However, she died not long afterwards of kidney disease, on 22 December 1880, at the age of 61.
The story of a brother and sister whoâ€™s idyllic childhood is ended abruptly by the death of their father and how their lives fragment in the wake of adulthood and the path each of them takes. The cuts made in this edition are to lengthy descriptions and passages of dialogue and also to the authors own voice, although it has not been omitted.