Eliot in London

When Eliot’s father died in 1849, he left her a small yearly amount of £90. This was a reasonable amount, but not enough for her to carry on living in the way she was used to. After travelling abroad with the Brays, she decided to move to London. Unless she married, she needed to find a job.

She lodged at the house of her employer – John Chapman. She wrote essays and later became editor of his magazine, the Westminster Review. She continued to educate herself, reading widely on many topics. In 1851, she attended lectures in History, German, French and Elocution at the Ladies College (now known as Royal Holloway).

Eliot became close to John Chapman. His wife and his lover (who also lived with him as governess to his children) insisted that she took up lodgings elsewhere. However Chapman needed Eliot at the magazine and persuaded them to allow her to return. She also had a relationship with Herbert Spencer, a philosopher, who had visited Rosehill. She then met George Henry Lewes, a friend of Chapman.

Eliot and Lewes found that they had many shared interests and fell in love. He was separated and could not divorce for legal reasons. After an 8 month ‘honeymoon’ in Europe, they decided to live together. They remained together for 25 years until Lewes died. They believed that their relationship was a marriage. Eliot signed her letters Marian Lewes and she loved his three sons as her own.

When her brother, Isaac, found out she was living with Lewes and they were not married, he cut off contact with her. This hurt her deeply, and she felt unable to return to Nuneaton despite her huge success as a writer.