Sent to Coventry

When Eliot’s father retired, she moved with him to Coventry, in 1841. This was a great change for both of them after having lived in the country. Eliot was now in her early 20s and it might have been that her father thought she would have a better chance of finding a husband in a larger place.

She continued to read widely, exploring new ideas and perspectives. New ways of thinking also developed through her friendship with Cara and Charles Bray who lived at Rosehill in Coventry. The Brays and their many friends were known as the Rosehill Circle – they were radicals and free thinkers. Eliot met people who thought and behaved differently to the people she’d grown up around. Visitors to Rosehill included Robert Owen, a social reformer, and Herbert Spencer, a philosopher. They encouraged her to write, and she began with essays and book reviews, some of which appeared in the Coventry Herald, owned by Charles Bray. She also started her translation work of Strauss’s Life of Christ whilst in Coventry.

It was during this time that her thoughts on religion changed, so much so that she stopped going to church. This caused arguments with her father, which she called their ‘Holy War’. Eliot was eventually persuaded to continue to attend church, but she didn’t actively take part in services. Explore their ‘Holy War’ in films created by students at Coventry University working on a project with Herbert Media.

It is possible that she was looking for a romantic partner during her time in Coventry. She had a brief relationship with a Leamington picture restorer in 1845, and also became close to Charles Bray. Bray had an unconventional marriage; both he and his wife Cara had lovers. One of Eliot’s London friends believed she had a romantic relationship with Charles.

Click here to find out more about Eliot’s Coventry friendships.

When her father became ill Eliot cared for him, until his death in 1849. Following his death Eliot accompanied the Brays on a trip to Europe. Six weeks later the Brays returned home whilst Eliot stayed in Geneva, where she lodged with the Durade family. Monsieur Francois D’Albert-Durade was an artist, and in February 1850 he painted Eliot’s portrait. In March she returned to England.

Eliot’s father had left her a small yearly amount of £90. This was not enough to live on independently. Unless she got married Eliot needed to find a job. Therefore after a short stay back in Warwickshire she moved to London.