Mary Anne Evans was born on 22 November 1819 at South Farm, on the Arbury Hall estate to her mother – Christiana and father – Robert Evans.


The family moved to Griff House, also on the Arbury Hall estate.


Mary Anne’s mother gave birth to twin boys – both boys died shortly after being born.


When Mary Anne was 3 years old, she attended a school run by Mrs Moore in her own cottage, not far away from Griff House.


When she was still very young, Mary Anne was sent away to school at Miss Latham’s boarding school in Attleborough with her sister Chrissey. Her brother Isaac went to school in Coventry.


Mary Anne went with Chrissey to another boarding school run by Mrs Wallington in Nuneaton. In May 1837, Chrissey married. When signing her name in the register Mary Anne, becomes ‘Mary Ann‘, the first of many changes to her name.


Mary Ann moved to Nantglyn, a school in Coventry run by Miss Franklin.


Mary Ann had to finish her schooling at Nantglyn and return home to Griff House to care for her mother, who had cancer.


Mary Ann’s mother died in the February of this year.


Mary Ann moved to Coventry with her father who had retired, passing his job onto Isaac. Mary Ann met the Brays and other ‘free thinkers’ at their home, Rosehill. This influenced and changed her ideas about religion and other topics. For a short time Mary Ann refused to attend church, which caused arguments with her father.


Mary Ann nursed her dying father after an illness, and he died in this year. She travelled with the Brays to France, Italy and Switzerland and met the Durades. Durade painted her portrait, a copy of which is held at the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum.


Mary Ann moved to London, lodging at the house of publisher John Chapman. Marian, as she now called herself, started writing articles for him, and later accepted the role of editor of his magazine, the Westminster Review. She attended lectures in History, German, French and Elocution at the Ladies College, Bedford Square, London (now the Royal Holloway – part of University College London). During this time she met Herbert Spencer and George Henry Lewes.


Mary Ann and George Henry Lewes decided to live together. Lewes was married and unable to get a divorce. They had an 8 month honeymoon touring Europe. She changed her signature to ‘Marian Lewes‘.


Whilst on holiday in Tenby, South Wales, Lewes asked Mary Ann to consider writing fiction.


Mary Ann told her brother Isaac that she was married to Lewes. When Isaac discovered that she wasn’t legally married, he cut her off from the family, forbidding anyone to contact her.


Mary Ann published three short stories: Scenes of Clerical Life in instalments in Blackwood’s Magazine under the pen name, George Eliot.

She wrote under a different name for a number of reasons. Partly due to her ‘scandalous’ private life (living with a married man), partly to protect herself from personal and professional criticism and lastly – to be taken more seriously than other female writers.

After the success and popularity of Scenes of Clerical Life she went onto publish a number of successful novels, short stories and poems.


Adam Bede is published. There had been much discussion about who George Eliot really was, particularly in Nuneaton. Marian was forced to reveal her identity after Nuneaton man Joseph Liggins claimed to be George Eliot and author of Scenes of Clerical Life.


The Mill on the Floss is published.


Silas Marner is published.


Romola is published.


Felix Holt the Radical is published.


Middlemarch is published.


Daniel Deronda is published.


Impressions of Theophrastus Such is published.


George Henry Lewes dies. After his death Marian changes her name by deed poll to Mary Ann Evans Lewes.


Mary Ann married John Cross, a family friend who was considerably younger than her. They honeymooned in Venice. Isaac, her brother, wrote to congratulate her – their first contact after many years.


Mary Ann died. She is buried in Highgate Cemetery (East), next to George Henry Lewes. In 1980 a memorial stone was established for her in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey.