George Eliot’s life mirrors the turbulent times she lived in. She led an unconventional life full of vicissitudes, yet there is about her and her work a steady conscientiousness and seriousness that express the highest aspirations of a great period in British history. She thus illuminates the contrary impulses of conservatism and revolution that guided her era. It is perhaps consistent with the depth and complexity of her personality that she should have had difficulty determining her own name. Her choice of a literary pseudonym and her revisions of the spelling of her own name reflect incidentally the issues of gender and faith that troubled her and her contemporaries. Here I shall use her pen name and the ‘Mary Anne’ spelling of her real name, which she also variously spelled Mary Ann and Marian.
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