Because she was not considered physically beautiful, Evans was thus not thought to have much chance of marriage, and because of her intelligence, her father invested in an education not often afforded women. Wallington's school in Nuneaton, and from ages thirteen to sixteen at Miss Franklin's school in Coventry.
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Wallington's school, she was taught by the evangelical Maria Lewis — to whom her earliest surviving letters are addressed. In the religious atmosphere of the Miss Franklin's school, Evans was exposed to a quiet, disciplined belief opposed to evangelicalism.
After age sixteen, Evans had little formal education. Her classical education left its mark; Christopher Stray has observed that "George Eliot's novels draw heavily on Greek literature only one of her books can be printed correctly without the use of a Greek typeface , and her themes are often influenced by Greek tragedy".
The other important early influence in her life was religion. She was brought up within a low church Anglican family, but at that time the Midlands was an area with a growing number of religious dissenters. In her mother died and Evans then 16 returned home to act as housekeeper, but she continued correspondence with her tutor Maria Lewis. When she was 21, her brother Isaac married and took over the family home, so Evans and her father moved to Foleshill near Coventry. The closeness to Coventry society brought new influences, most notably those of Charles and Cara Bray.
Charles Bray had become rich as a ribbon manufacturer and had used his wealth in the building of schools and in other philanthropic causes. Evans, who had been struggling with religious doubts for some time, became intimate friends with the progressive, free-thinking Brays, whose "Rosehill" home was a haven for people who held and debated radical views.
Through this society Evans was introduced to more liberal theologies and to writers such as David Strauss and Ludwig Feuerbach , who cast doubt on the literal truth of Biblical stories. As a product of their friendship, Bray published some of Evans's earliest writing, such as reviews, in his newspaper the Coventry Herald and Observer.
When Evans began to question her religious faith, her father threatened to throw her out of the house, but his threat was not carried out.
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Instead, she respectfully attended church and continued to keep house for him until his death in , when she was Five days after her father's funeral, she travelled to Switzerland with the Brays. She commented happily that "one feels in a downy nest high up in a good old tree". Her stay is commemorated by a plaque on the building.
While residing there, she read avidly and took long walks in the beautiful Swiss countryside, which was a great inspiration to her. On her return to England the following year , she moved to London with the intent of becoming a writer, and she began referring to herself as Marian Evans. She stayed at the house of John Chapman , the radical publisher whom she had met earlier at Rosehill and who had published her Strauss translation. Chapman had recently purchased the campaigning, left-wing journal The Westminster Review , and Evans became its assistant editor in Although Chapman was officially the editor, it was Evans who did most of the work of producing the journal, contributing many essays and reviews beginning with the January issue and continuing until the end of her employment at the Review in the first half of Women writers were common at the time, but Evans's role as the female editor of a literary magazine was quite unusual.
During this period, she formed a number of unreciprocated emotional attachments, including one with Chapman who was married but lived with both his wife and his mistress , and another with Herbert Spencer. The philosopher and critic George Henry Lewes —78 met Evans in , and by they had decided to live together.
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Lewes was already married to Agnes Jervis. They had an open marriage.
In addition to the three children they had together, Agnes also had four children by Thornton Leigh Hunt. Before going to Germany, Evans continued her theological work with a translation of Feuerbach's The Essence of Christianity , and while abroad she wrote essays and worked on her translation of Baruch Spinoza 's Ethics , which she completed in , but which was not published in her lifetime.
The trip to Germany also served as a honeymoon for Evans and Lewes, and they now considered themselves married, with Evans calling herself Mary Ann Evans Lewes, and referring to Lewes as her husband. It was not unusual for men in Victorian society to have affairs; Charles Bray , John Chapman, Friedrich Engels , and Wilkie Collins all had extra-marital relationships, though they were much more discreet than Lewes and Evans were.
It was this lack of discretion and their public admission of the relationship which created accusations of polygamy and earned them the moral disapproval of English society. While continuing to contribute pieces to the Westminster Review , Evans resolved to become a novelist, and she set out a manifesto for herself in one of her last essays for the Review , "Silly Novels by Lady Novelists"  The essay criticised the trivial and ridiculous plots of contemporary fiction by women.
In other essays, she praised the realism of novels that were being written in Europe at the time, and it became clear in her subsequent fiction that she placed an emphasis on realistic storytelling. She also adopted a nom-de-plume, the one for which she would become known: This pen-name was said by some to be an homage to George Lewes. In addition to adopting his first name, the last name, Eliot, could possibly have been a code for "to L—I owe it".
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In , when she was 37, "The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton", the first of the Scenes of Clerical Life , was published in Blackwood's Magazine and, along with the other Scenes , it was well received it was published in book form early in Her first complete novel, published in , was Adam Bede ; it was an instant success, but it prompted intense interest in who this new author might be.
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Fortunately, I worked this out in time, and never submitted it. The typescript now languishes among my papers in the archives of Emory University in Atlanta, where scholarly masochists can read it, if they must. However, thanks to a favourable review I wrote of one of his later novels, I was able to meet the famously invisible man. He never called again. Watching movies at home alone is another story. I know, I know.
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