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Eliot, George

Subject Religion

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631198963.2005.x


(Mary Ann, later Marian, Evans) (1819–1880) English novelist. As a girl she was converted in the evangelical tradition; under the influence of religious humanism and the ideas of liberal freethinkers she gradually relinquished her early faith. Largely self-taught and increasingly a major figure on the London literary scene, she published her first book in 1846. This was a translation of D.F. Strauss's Life of Jesus of 1835–6, a critical biography which found the character of the Gospel accounts to be mythological rather than historical. In 1854 she published a translation of Ludwig Feuerbach's The Essence of Christianity of 1841, which concluded that God is not a transcendental reality but a projection of man's aspiration to perfection – a view which Eliot shared. However, her fiction retained a strong interest in traditional religious and moral themes and she used Christian language and imagery as vehicles for exploring humanistic philosophical ideas. Christianity is sympathetically portrayed in, for instance, Scenes of Clerical Life (1858) and in Adam Bede (1859), whose heroine is a Methodist woman preacher. Other novels include The Mill on the Floss (1860), Silas Marner (1861) and Middlemarch (1871–2), and their success established her reputation as a novelist in her own lifetime. 1968 : George Eliot: A Biography . Oxford and New York . 1984 : Middlemarch ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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