On 22 November 1819, Mary Ann Evans was born on a farm in rural Warwickshire. In 1880, she died in London as George Eliot, one of the most famous authors of her generation. Today, she is celebrated as one of the greatest novelists in history, a woman who not only captured her readers' imaginations but won their hearts. Her many novels are as appreciated now as they were in the nineteenth century; her unconventional and intriguing personal life, a story in itself, is less well known.
Raised in obscurity, Mary Ann Evans was fiercely intellectual from an early age. She moved from one school to the next, a bright, fervent child with a nervous disposition. As a young - and conspicuously plain - woman without prospect of romance, by the time she was in her twenties Mary Ann had resigned herself to a life alone.
But a move to London in pursuit of journalistic work proved fateful. For it was there that she met the married George Henry Lewes - an author and scientist whose intellect and nervous energy matched her own. When Mary Ann took him as a partner, defying the crippling social censure that followed, her life changed forever. Taking Lewes's name as her own in her private life, Mary Ann as 'George Eliot' produced novel after novel, redefining English literature as she did so.
In this revealing biography, Brenda Maddox explores the woman behind the books: a troubled child, an ambitious young career woman, and an almost-wife. Intertwining her novels and her life story, Maddox sheds a fresh new light on one of English literature's most significant, complex and courageous figures.