Exploring the Influences Behind George Eliot’s Writing: A Biographical Perspective


George Eliot, the pen name of renowned Victorian author Mary Ann Evans, is celebrated for her insightful and thought-provoking novels that continue to resonate with readers to this day. From the deep exploration of social and moral issues to the intricacies of human relationships, her writing displays a depth and richness that has made her one of the most influential writers in English literature.

To truly understand the influences behind Eliot’s writing, it is essential to delve into her personal life and the experiences that shaped her. Eliot’s formative years were marked by a strict upbringing and a love for books, particularly the works of Shakespeare, which she devoured at a young age. Her early exposure to literature played an integral role in shaping her writing style and her deep understanding of the complexities of the human psyche.

Eliot’s education at Mrs. Wallington’s School, where she was introduced to classical literature and philosophy, further strengthened her passion for learning and literature. She excelled in her studies, displaying a remarkable aptitude for languages and writing. Her thirst for knowledge and intellectual curiosity would continue to be a driving force throughout her life and is evident in her writing, which often incorporates philosophical and moral themes.

After leaving school, Eliot moved to London and became an assistant editor at the Westminster Review. This position exposed her to the intellectual and social circles of the time, and she was able to engage with progressive thinkers and writers. It was during this time that she met George Henry Lewes, a prominent philosopher and critic, who would become her partner and lifelong companion. Lewes’s influence on Eliot’s writing cannot be overstated. He encouraged her to pursue her writing and provided her with valuable insights and critiques throughout her career.

Eliot’s personal life was also marked by numerous romantic relationships, which strongly influenced her writing. Her unconventional decision to cohabit with Lewes (despite being legally married to someone else) and her eventual marriage to John Cross after Lewes’s death, were reflective of her rebellious and non-conformist character. This rebellious spirit is evident in her writing, particularly in the portrayal of strong and independent female characters who defy societal norms.

The death of her brother Isaac in her late twenties deeply affected Eliot and marked a significant turning point in her life. It was during this time that she began to question her religious beliefs and went through a phase of spiritual and intellectual exploration. This internal conflict is evident in her writing, where she often grapples with the complexities of morality and spirituality.

The influence of Eliot’s rural upbringing and affinity for nature is also apparent in her writing. Her novels often depict the idyllic English countryside, and the natural world is used as a metaphor to reflect the characters’ inner struggles. Her vivid descriptions of landscapes and her exploration of the relationship between humans and nature enhance the depth and realism of her writing.

In conclusion, George Eliot’s writing is a product of her unique and complex life journey. Her strict upbringing, love for books, education, intellectual pursuits, and personal relationships all played a significant role in shaping her writing style and the themes she explored. As readers, delving into Eliot’s biography allows us to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the influences behind her timeless and profound works of literature.