George Eliot’s Husbands (1)

December 22 is the death anniversary of English novelist and poet Mary Ann Evans, born in 1819, who died in London in 1880. She is best known by her pen name George Eliot, a male name adopted in partly to hide her gender, and partly to disguise her irregular social position, living as an unmarried woman with a married man.

In 1851 she moved to London, to pursue a career in journalism after her father’s death and the subsequent inheritance of enough money to be able to live independently from her family.
This transition was accompanied by a change in her name as she decided to call herself “Marian Evans”.
That name was changed again into the pen name “George Eliot”, after she met George Henry Lewes (see here), one of the most versatile Victorian journalists, who encouraged her to write fiction.

A few years later, they started to live together, outside marriage, even though this arrangement aroused great indignation: Lewes was already married to another woman, whom he could not divorce.
Her brother Isaac also broke all ties with her when he learned of her living with a man without being married to him.
Lewes, bound by an open marriage, already had three children of his and a fourth, of whom he had been declared father on the birth certificate despite not being his own.
For this reason, legal divorce was impossible because that certification meant only two things: either he had to be considered complicit in adultery or he had condoned it.

However George Eliot continued to refer to him as her husband and signed her name as Mary Ann Evans Lewes, during their long life together from his separation in 1854 until his death in 1878.
This ‘illegal’ situation was disapproved by a lot of people, shocked not so much by the adultery itself, but the refusal to conceal it.

Women who are content with light and easily broken ties,” she said “do not act as I have done. They obtain what they desire and are still invited to dinner.”

To be continued

Il 22 dicembre è l’anniversario della morte della scrittrice e poetessa inglese Mary Ann Evans, nata nel 1819 e morta a Londra nel 1880. È più conosciuta con lo pseudonimo George Eliot, un nome maschile adottato in parte per nascondere il suo sesso, e in parte per mascherare il carattere irregolare della posizione sociale, poiché viveva da donna nubile con un uomo sposato.

Nel 1851 si trasferì a Londra, per intraprendere la carriera giornalistica dopo che il padre era morto e lei aveva ereditato il denaro sufficiente per poter vivere in modo indipendente.
Questa transizione fu accompagnata da un cambio di nome poiché decise di chiamarsi “Marian Evans“.
Quel nome fu cambiato di nuovo nello pseudonimo “George Eliot”, quando incontrò George Henry Lewes, (vedi qui) uno dei giornalisti vittoriani più versatili, che la incoraggiò a scrivere romanzi.
Alcuni anni dopo, iniziarono a vivere insieme anche se questa decisione suscitò grande indignazione.
Anche suo fratello Isaac interruppe ogni legame con lei quando seppe della sua convivenza con un uomo senza essere sposata con lui.
Lewes, legato da un matrimonio aperto, aveva già tre figli suoi e un quarto, del quale veniva dichiarato padre sull’atto di nascita pur non essendo figlio suo.
Per questa ragione il divorzio legale era impossibile perché quella certificazione significava solo due cose: o doveva essere considerato complice per quell’ adulterio o lo aveva perdonato.
Tuttavia George Eliot continuò a chiamarlo suo marito e a firmarsi come Mary Ann Evans Lewes, durante la loro lunga vita insieme, dalla sua separazione nel 1854 fino alla morte del giornalista e filosofo nel 1878.
Questa situazione “illegale” era disapprovata da molte persone, scioccate non tanto dall’adulterio in sé, ma dal rifiuto di tenerlo nascosto

“Le donne che si accontentano di legami leggeri e facilmente spezzabili”, disse George Eliot “non agiscono come ho fatto io. Ottengono ciò che desiderano e sono comunque invitate a cena”.


Image Wikimedia Commons: François D’Albert Durade – George Eliot, aged 30 – National Portrait Gallery

41 thoughts on “George Eliot’s Husbands (1)

  1. She was free to behave in such a scandalous way, because she had inherited a lot of money , thus becoming indipendent, hence, free to ignore – as far as possible – social censure. Interesting “small talk” of the time. 😋

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Without a doubt, you choose the best of the literary world to develop your stories. I knew very little about this particular writer and I find her life very interesting. Of course, you give it the personal touch that makes reading fascinating.My regards Luisa.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ll be honest with you Luisa, I’ve never read any of her novels but perhaps I should have done. I may have this wrong, but she reminds me of a female Thomas Hardy who is one of my favourite authors from that era.
    I think most of us know that it’s harder for some sections of society to succeed in life more than others, and for George Eliot, not only was she a woman in a man’s world, she also openly ‘lived in sin’.
    I see that there’s more to come, and nobody can give us the nuggets of information that we want better than you can 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  4. All’epoca sicuramente la sua scelta sarà stata più che mai aditata!!! Poveretta che lotta!!! Di sicuro esattamente stata una donna di polso che sapeva lottare, credo. Buonanotte cara Luisa 🥰


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