The Readers Review: Literature from 1714 to 1910 discussion

Archives 2011 Group Reads > "The Mills On the Floss" by George Elliot -Background and Resources

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message 1: by Silver (last edited Dec 30, 2011 03:00PM) (new)

Silver Please feel free to post any background material on the author and the book, and any other additional outside resource material that is relevant to the story.

Please be aware of spoilers and provide warnings where necessary.

message 2: by MadgeUK (last edited Dec 31, 2011 03:07AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments A brief biography of Mary Ann Evans, who used the pseudonym of George Eliot:-

Some locations associated with George Eliot and The Mill on the Floss:-

Griff House, model for Dorlcote Mill, in 1881:-

Although Griff House in Warwickshire was where Eliot was born and was the house upon which she based Dorlcote Mill, the locations she describes are to the East and the Floss is the River Trent, which has its source in Derbyshire and is a tidal river flowing into the Wash at Gainsborough, just below Hull. It is an area I know well having canoed its length many times with my father, from Nottingham (where we lived during the war) to Cleethorpes, where my maternal grandparents lived.

message 3: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Thanks for the posting. Great pictures. Do you feel more of a connection to this book because of your time near there?

message 4: by Adelle (new)

Adelle Although I'm not re-reading TMOTF, I found the notes I had jotted down when reading George Eliot: The Last Victorian.

Some of this probably overlaps with information Madge had posted. I found Hughes' book to be a most interesting read.

If interested:

November 22, 1819. Mary Anne Evans was the 5th child. She was born when her father was 45. Alexandrina Victoria (later Queen Victoria) had been born 6 months earlier.

Having grown up in the countryside, she wrote that even after living in London for 30 years, her first thought of the day was usually about the weather: How would it affect the crops?

She was sent off to boarding school at age 5.

She had memories of trying to get past the bigger girls, to get closer to the fire, so she wouldn't be so cold. [This piece of information just really touched me.]

I don't remember WHY her mother was distant, but Hughes writes that the early withdrawal of her mother's affection left her with a vulnerablity to rejection all her life.

When her mother was dying, Mary Anne was called home. There was much tension between Mary Anne and her older brother Issac. She was now a Baptist; he was High Church. Mary Anne suffered terribly headaches/screaming fits.

1840-1841. She starts reading novels. "She also learned about the authority of individual experience in determining personal morality." Reading Wordsworth. She came to believe in the importance of achieving full potential. She came to believe that it was the duty of each to follow the truth wherever it might lead.

She stopped attending church.

Her father was in a rage. He felt she had put herself outside respectible society. He probably would have been OK with less religion...but "no religion" was unacceptable to him.

When she is 22, her father sent her away from the family home. Her brother Issac tells the sisters never to write or talk to her.

She lives with the Brays, who had a sexually open marriage...but publicly touted marriae to remain in society. Being with them, according to Hughes, gave her the sense of being wanted.

She worked on translations of religious papers. (German into English)

Hughes writes that it was not until age 34 that she would risk falling in love---with an "almost available" man.

1848. Reading Jane Eyre.

Stops calling herself Mary Anne. Now Marian.

Over the years...Mary Anne had to often "abrubtly" leave residences. Usually under circumstances involving married men.

"The more studiedly casual her tone when speaking/or writing of a man, the deeper her interest"

She starts spending considerable time with Herbert Spencer. He found her intellectually stimulating. London thought them engaged. Spencer writes rather publicly in London that he found her ugly. HE never married.

Eliot writes him...pretty much begging him for affection. And, although Spencer was greatly concerned that the public would think him the jilted and not the jilter, he sealed her two "begging" letter "until 1985."

Eliot falls in love with George Lewes.

George Lewes was Spencer's best friend. As Lewes and Eliot become intimate, Spencer suffers an emotional and physical collapse.

Lewes is already married. At least 4 of the 9 children were actually fathred by Lewes' friend and co-editor Hunt. (Hunt is married.)

Lewes and his wife Agnes had agreed that monogamy was an unnatural obligation.

It was, according to Hughes, a wrenching decision for both Marian and Lewes as to whether to make their relationship public.

Mr. Lewes is supporting the children.
Mrs. Lewes is spending large sums of money.
George Eliot "has" an inheritance following the death of her father. However, it is controlled by her brother Issac. Therefore, Eliot is writing ... to help support the children. Even after Lewes' death, George Eliot continued to pay Agnes an allowance. She sent $ and gifts to her own sister to help her widowed sister pay school fees for her children.

Even the Queen was reading Adam Bede.

Middlemarch was written for support Agnes Lewes, etc, etc.

George Lewes had died in 1876 at the age of 61. ALL of Eliot's assets were in Lewes' name.

Eliot goes to court. Offically becomes Mary Anne Evens Lewes.

Lewes' relatives continue to request money.

She marries much younger man.

Within 10 years of her death, almost no one is reading her work.

George Eliot: The Last Victorian
by Karen Hughes

message 5: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2584 comments Adelle wrote: "Although I'm not re-reading TMOTF, I found the notes I had jotted down when reading George Eliot: The Last Victorian..."

Thanks much, Adelle!

message 6: by Karen (new)

Karen Witzler (kewitzler) Very interesting- thanks. I've been putting any reading of Eliot on the back burner for 40 years and am looking forward to TMOTF - waiting for library copy of Critical Edition.

message 7: by Lily (new)

Lily (Joy1) | 2584 comments Here is the character list I promised to post:

But, be careful. There are comments in the descriptions some might consider to be spoilers.

message 8: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments SPOILER. This Guardian article gives some intersting inforamtion about the autobiographical nature of The Mill on the Floss:-

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