George Eliot and Victorian Marriage
Dr. Allison Belzer
In the summer of 1854, Marian Evans stood eagerly awaiting the channel ferry to carry her away on her honeymoon trip to Germany. An anonymous and lowly paid editor at the prestigious Westminster Review, Evans had fallen madly in love with George Herbert Lewes, the man standing at her side. Few seeing the rather unremarkable couple, both in their mid-30's and neither physically attractive, would have suspected the future to come. In just a few years, Evans -- writing fiction under the pseudonym George Eliot -- would challenge in her own life and in her popular novels some of the most entrenched notions of proper Victorian marriage. In my presentation, I will discuss Evans' remarkable life and how her personal choices alienated her from close family and friends and closed to her (for a time) the doors of London society. Along the way, she found literary success rivaled only by that of Charles Dickens. I will also present briefly an analysis of three examples of marriage drawn from her earliest work, "The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton," and from her masterpiece Middlemarch, portraits that put her at odds with conventional Victorian notions in a way that seems today strikingly rational and modern.
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Joyce, Allen, "George Eliot and Victorian Marriage" (2020). Curio Research Symposium. 53.