The Life of George Eliot - A Critical Biography
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More About This Title The Life of George Eliot - A Critical Biography


The life story of the Victorian novelist George Eliot is as dramatic and complex as her best plots. This new assessment of her life and work combines recent biographical research with penetrating literary criticism, resulting in revealing new interpretations of her literary work.
  • A fresh look at George Eliot's captivating life story
  • Includes original new analysis of her writing
  • Deploys the latest biographical research
  • Combines literary criticism with biographical narrative to offer a rounded perspective


Nancy Henry is Professor of English at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She is the author of George Eliot and the British Empire (2002), and The Cambridge Introduction to George Eliot (2008), and co-editor of Victorian Investments: New Perspectives on Finance and Culture (2009). She is also the recipient of a 2014/15 NEH Fellowship.


List of Illustrations ix

Acknowledgments xi

List of Abbreviations xiii

1 The History of a Writer: George Eliot and Biographies 1

2 Early Years: 1819–50 22

3 London and Lewes: 1850–4 64

4 Marian Lewes and George Eliot: 1855–60 95

5 Silas Marner and Romola: 1860–4 120

6 Felix Holt and The Spanish Gypsy: 1865–9 153

7 Middlemarch: 1870–2 181

8 Daniel Deronda: 1873–6 207

9 Impressions of Theophrastus Such: 1877–9 235

10 The Final Years: 1879 to Cross’s Life 255

Bibliography 271

Index 287


“It is no surprise that this book is now available in paperback: compact and hugely suggestive, bringing us new things to think about, showing us old myths to discard; in its productive disruption of commonplace fact/fiction approaches to the life and works mode, it enriches and enlarges our understanding of the writer and her writings.”  (Cercles, 1 June 2015)

“…this learned, adventurous new biographer has changed the landscape of George Eliot studies.” (The George Eliot Review, 1 November 2012)

“Driven neither by hero-worship or spite, Henry's "critical biography" demonstrates what treasure there is still to be found in even the most worked-over subjects. The trick is to ask the questions that everyone else assumed had been answered years ago.” (The Guardian, 2 June 2012)

“Henry provides a useful reminder that that old-fashioned pejorative, adulteress, might have been applied to Eliot as well as to Agnes, and she provides a sensitive analysis of the novels in the light of that insight.” (The New Yorker, 6 August 2012)