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George Eliot

George Eliot

George Eliot: Death

Eliot published her final novel, Daniel Deronda, in 1876. She and Lewes then moved from London to Surrey. On 30 November 1878, George Henry Lewes died at their home after a long illness that Eliot nursed him through. Eliot was devastated by the loss of her life partner and closest companion. As a tribute to Lewes, she completed the editing on his final work, a philosophical tome called Life and Mind.

She began spending more time with John Cross, an American banker who had been a friend and financial adviser to the couple. Cross proposed marriage to Eliot three times before she accepted. The couple wed on 16 May 1880. Eliot was 60 years old; Cross was twenty years her junior. On their honeymoon in Venice, Cross plunged from the balcony of their hotel suite into the canal below. It was not clear whether he fell or jumped, but the vicious rumor was that Cross would rather die than make love to his aged and ugly wife. Cross was fished out of the canal, soaking but alive, and the couple never spoke of the ill-fated trip again.

Whatever their marital problems, the Cross marriage didn't last long. Less than eight months after their wedding, after a very brief illness, George Eliot died on 22 December 1880 in London, at the age of 61. She was buried in Highgate Cemetery next to George Henry Lewes. On the hundredth anniversary of her death, a memorial marker was placed in Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey, the section of the famous cathedral where England's greatest writers are honored. Eliot was initially refused recognition there because of her unconventional personal life. But as she showed us, the truth always wins in the end.

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