On May 16, 1880 English novelist Mary Anne Evans, better known by her pen name George Eliot married John Cross. She was one of the leading writers of the Victorian era and authored seven novels, including Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), Silas Marner (1861), Middlemarch (1871–72), and Daniel Deronda (1876), most of them set in provincial England and known for their realism and psychological insight. She used a male pen name, she said, to ensure her works would be taken seriously. Female authors were published under their own names during Eliot's life, but she wanted to escape the stereotype of women only writing lighthearted romances. An additional factor in her use of a pen name may have been a desire to shield her private life from public scrutiny and to prevent scandals attending to her unconventional relationship with George Henry Lewes, with whom she lived for over 20 years until his death in 1878.
On May 16, 1880 Eliot courted controversy once more by marrying a man twenty years younger than herself, and again changing her name, this time to Mary Anne Cross. The couple moved to a new house in Chelsea but Eliot fell ill with a throat infection. This, coupled with the kidney disease she had been afflicted with for the previous few years, led to her death on December 22, 1880 at the age of 61. Eliot was not buried at Westminster Abbey because of her denial of the Christian faith and her "irregular" though monogamous life with Lewes. She was interred in Highgate Cemetery (East), London in the area reserved for religious dissenters or agnostics, next to George Lewes. In 1980, on the centenary of her death, a memorial stone was established for her in Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey.
Michael Thomas Barry is the author of Great Britain’s Literary Legends. The book can be purchased from Amazon through the following links: