The novel, when it first appeared, was a huge success, both with critics and readers; it made Eliot's name as one of the greatest novelists in Britain, and her fame spread. Her intention with the novel was to analyze recent political, social, and economic threads through a series of personal accounts. The characters and stories told within the novel are meant to show how people are affected by historical change while it happens, and how progress happens in people's lives. Eliot manages to weave in the Catholic emancipation, the death of George IV, the dissolution of Parliament in 1831, the outbreak of cholera in 1832, and the passage of the Reform Bill later that year. Eliot manages to weave these things into the concerns of the characters and the narrative; they are not the focus of the novel, but are balanced with the novel's literary concerns. Regarded as her best work and one of the greatest novels in English.
About the Author
In 1819, novelist George Eliot (nee Mary Ann Evans), was born at a farmstead in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, England, where her father was estate manager. Mary Ann, the youngest child and a favorite of her father's, received a good education for a young woman of her day. Influenced by a favorite governess, she became a religious evangelical as an adolescent. Her first published work was a religious poem. Through a family friend, she was exposed to Charles Hennell's An Inquiry into the Origins of Christianity. Unable to believe, she conscientiously gave up religion and stopped attending church. Her father shunned her, sending the broken-hearted young dependent to live with a sister until she promised to reexamine her feelings. Her intellectual views did not, however, change. She translated David Strauss' Das Leben Jesu, a monumental task, without signing her name to the 1846 work. After her father's death in 1849, Mary Ann traveled, then accepted an unpaid position with The Westminster Review. Despite a heavy workload, she translated Ludwig Feuerbach's The Essence of Christianity, the only book ever published under her real name. That year, the shy, respectable writer scandalized British society by sending notices to friends announcing she had entered a free "union" with George Henry Lewes, editor of The Leader, who was unable to divorce his first wife. They lived harmoniously together for the next 24 years, but suffered social ostracism and financial hardship. She became salaried and began writing essays and reviews for The Westminster Review. Renaming herself "Marian" in private life and adopting the nom de plume "George Eliot," she began her impressive fiction career, including: Adam Bede (1859), The Mill on the Floss (1860), Silas Marner (1861), Romola (1863), and Middlemarch (1871). Themes included her humanist vision and strong heroines.