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2002 articles 1977 articles

Brother and sister: new George Eliot letters

T. A. J. Burnett


ON 20 July 1854 Mary Ann Evans, who two and a half years later was to assume the nom de plume George Eliot, left London for an excursion to Germany in the company of George Henry Lewes, and henceforward until his death they lived together as man and wife. She had carefully weighed the consequences of such an unconventional step, and had decided to accept the certain ostracism that would follow. Lewes had left his wife in 1851 after she had presented him with a second child fathered by Thornton Leigh Hunt, Lewes's partner in editing the radical weekly paper, the Leader. He was prevented from divorcing her by his condonation of the earlier child. Among those who did in fact suspend all social contact with George Eliot was her elder brother Isaac Evans, the second of the three children born of their father's second marriage, she herself being the youngest.

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