G. H. Lewes’s Fame

In Science the paramount appeal is to the Intellect — its purpose being instruction; in Art, the paramount appeal is to the Emotions — its purpose being pleasure.“

George Henry Lewes – The Principles of Success in Literature (1865)

George Henry Lewes was an English philosopher, biographer, and literary and dramatic critic, born on 18 April 1817. Even though he had no technical training, he devoted himself also to scientific and more particularly biological work.

Though Lewes longed to be remembered as a philosopher and a scientist, his fame is due to his long liaison with novelist Mary Ann Evans (better known as George Eliot).

In 1841 Lewes had married Agnes Jervis and the couple had agreed to have an open marriage and to live communally with Leigh Hunt and his wife and two other couples.
They had three children before their separation, after which Agnes had another four children with Hunt’s son.

Legal divorce was impossible for Lewes had been named on the birth certificate as the father of one of their children (who was not his own), which meant that he was considered complicit in adultery or had condoned it.

However, from his separation in 1854 until his death in 1878 , Lewes and George Eliot lived happily together and considered themselves married.

This ‘illegal’ situation was disapproved by a lot of people, shocked not so much by the adultery itself, but the refusal to conceal the relationship, a breach of the social convention of the time,.
It took some time for the couple to be accepted into polite society, which finally happened in 1877 when they were introduced to Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s daughter.

Image: picryl: Photograph of painting of George Henry Lewes (Library of Congress)


“La Scienza attrae principalmente l’Intelletto perché il suo scopo è l’istruzione; l’Arte attrae soprattutto le emozioni perché il suo scopo è il piacere. “


27 thoughts on “G. H. Lewes’s Fame

  1. Human behavior never changes, but our tolerance of it waxes and wanes–whether adultery, honesty, medical authority, the role of government, right and wrong…. Another great entry into your current on this date in history series. How long does it take you to create such a post?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. To tell you the truth, it takes me some time to create my posts: the decision of what to deal with, the research and then the composition of the post , often in English, which is not my mother tongue. But I think it’s good mental exercise against the inevitable brain aging 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Is he the one who broke George Eliot’s heart? I remember reading it somewhere, but my memory is vague. He is probably a great literary figure, but he is the worst kind of man for a girl like George Eliot.

    Liked by 3 people

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