Eliot, George (Mary Ann Evans)
1819-1880

Novelist, essayist, intellectual, born on 22 November 1810. An Evangelical Anglican in her youth, she later distanced herself from any formal religious belief. Portrayals of religious figures in her fiction, e.g in her early work Scenes of Clerical Life (1858) are well-informed, insightful and nuanced. She encountered Methodism when an aunt by marriage, Elizabeth Tomlinson Evans , related an incident from her earlier life as a Methodist preacher and a prison visitor. In 1802 she had befriended a woman sentenced to death for infanticide and accompanied her to the gallows. The story (which is independently attested) made a lasting impression on Eliot and inspired her first full length novel Adam Bede. Its central characters include a Methodist preacher Dinah Morris who, Eliot wrote, ‘grew out f my recollections of my aunt, but Dinah is not at all like my aunt.’ A prison scene in partly similar circumstances forms the climax of the novel.

Category: Person
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