George Eliot was born Mary Anne (known as Marian) Evans in 1819, near Nuneaton, Warwickshire. She was brought up as an Evangelist, and received a classical education at local boarding schools. After the death of her mother in 1836, she moved to Coventry with her father and became acquainted with free-thinkers Charles and Cara Bray, which led to her translating Strauss’s Life of Jesus (1846). After her father’s death in 1849, she moved to London, where she met George Henry Lewes, who was separated from, but crucially unable to divorce, his wife. Moving to Germany with him in 1854, she lived as his common-law wife for twenty-four years. Under his encouragement she began writing fiction under her nom de plume: the successful serial Scenes of Clerical Life (1858); the best-selling Adam Bede (1859); followed by a number of poems and further highly praised works such as The Mill on the Floss (1860), Silas Marner (1861), Middlemarch (1871–2) and Daniel Deronda (1876). Lewes’s death in 1878 saw the effective end of her writing career. A few short months into her marriage to a man twenty years her junior, she died in December 1880.

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