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Evans, Marian (George Eliot): correspondence

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0096 AL217
Held at: Senate House Library, University of London
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Full title: Evans, Marian (George Eliot): correspondence
Date(s): [1860]-1874
Level of description: fonds
Extent: 7 items (14 leaves)
Name of creator(s): Cross | Mary Anne | 1819-1880 | nee Evans | novelist x Eliot | George x Evans | Mary Ann x Evans | Marian x Lewes | Marian Evans


Administrative/Biographical history:

Mary Anne Evans was born and educated in Warwickshire. She left school aged 16 when her mother died and became her father's housekeeper for several years. In her early 20s she met Charles and Cara Bray and their freethinking, progressive and radical friends; her reading and social contacts led her to reject the evangelical Christian faith of her upbringing and schooling and adversely affected her relationships with her father and her brother Isaac. Following her father's death Marian (as she began to spell her name) moved to London to become a journalist, where she became close friends with the publisher John Chapman and the sociologist Herbert Spencer. Her most important relationship, however, was with the critic George Henry Lewes, with whom she lived as his partner between 1853 and his death in 1878; their love affair was controversial not only because Lewes was married to (but separated from) another woman, but because they were living 'in sin' openly. Marian began writing fiction in the late 1850s; over the next 20 years she became recognized as one of Britain's greatest novelists and is still considered as such today. Her works included Adam Bede, The Mill on the Floss and Middlemarch.

Marian used several different names during the course of her life: she was born Mary Anne Evans, but adopted the spelling Mary Ann in early adulthood, before deciding to call herself Marian Evans (the most commonly cited form of her name) in 1850; despite not being married to Lewes, she often used his surname whilst they they lived together. To her readers, however, she is George Eliot, a pseudonym she chose so that her writing would not be prejudged as that of a woman (particularly not that of the notoriously 'immoral' Marian Evans Lewes). Her final name change came late in life when a few months before her death she became Mary Ann Cross on her marriage to John Walter Cross. Although a great writer, her personal history and lack of Christian faith made a burial in Westminster Abbey unsuitable, and she was buried beside Lewes in Highgate cemetery.


Scope and content/abstract:

7 letters, mainly written to Marian Evans, [1860]-1874. Correspondents include Sir Edward C Burne-Jones, Sir Frederic Burton, John Chapman, George Henry Lewes, Edmund Owen, Herbert Spencer and Sir Charles V Stanford. Several of the letters express appreciation of the quality of George Eliot's writing. All letters are autograph, with signatures.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

See hard copy catalogue.

Conditions governing access:

Access to this collection is unrestricted for the purpose of private study and personal research within the supervised environment and restrictions of the Library's Palaeography Room. Please contact the University Archivist for details. 24 hours notice is required for research visits.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copies may be made, subject to the condition of the original. Copying must be undertaken by the Palaeography Room staff, who will need a minimum of 24 hours to process requests.

Finding aids:

Typescript catalogue available in the Library's Palaeography Room.

Archival Information

Archival history:

The letters were formerly filed with typed transcripts; however, the transcripts were reported missing in Jul 1973.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Bought from Frank Hollings, 1957.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Anya Turner.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
July 2008

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