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George Eliot

George Eliot

George Eliot Trivia

Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge

As a young woman, Eliot lived in a London boarding house occupied by publisher John Chapman (her boss at The Westminster Review), his wife, and his mistress. The other two women conspired against Eliot to force her out of the house when it became clear that Chapman was involved with her as well. In his diary, Chapman placed tiny symbols next to the various women's names to remind himself with whom he had slept on each day.8

Eliot had to keep her position at The Westminster Review quiet because few men would agree to write for a magazine edited by a woman.9

After the philosopher Herbert Spencer rejected Eliot's romantic advances, he wrote a series of articles on female ugliness, specifically over-large noses. The too-close-to-home stories devastated Eliot, who nonetheless maintained a fierce, desperate crush on him.10

Eliot's partner George Henry Lewes raised eight children with his legal wife Agnes Jervis, but only actually fathered three of them. Both George and Agnes believed in free love. Eight years into their marriage, Agnes began an affair with the couple's friend, Thornton Hunt, and bore him five children. Lewes agreed to raise them all as his own.11

Although he wasn't attracted to her physically, Herbert Spencer admired Eliot's intellectual gifts. He proposed that the London Library ban all fiction except for Eliot's novels.12

Eliot's scandalous personal life clouded her reputation even after her death. Despite her literary achievements, Eliot was not allowed a memorial stone in Westminster Abbey's Poets' Corner. She finally received recognition there in 1980, one hundred years after her death.13

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