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About the Author: George Eliot

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. Her poem, "O May I Join the Choir Invisible" expressed her views about non supernatural immortality: "O may I join the choir invisible/ Of those immortal dead who live again/ In minds made better by their presence. . ." D. 1880.

Her 1872 work Middlemarch has been described by Martin Amis and Julian Barnes as the greatest novel in the English language.

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Goodreads rating: 3.58

Paperback, by Penguin Classics

ISBN10: 0141439750 | ISBN13: 9780141439754

Page count: 183

George Eliot's tale of a solitary miser gradually redeemed by the joy of fatherhood, Silas Marner is edited with an introduction and notes by David Carroll in Penguin Classics.

Wrongly accused of theft and exiled from a religious community many years before, the embittered weaver Silas Marner lives alone in Raveloe, living only for work and his precious hoard of money. But when his money is stolen and an orphaned child finds her way into his house, Silas is given the chance to transform his life. His fate, and that of Eppie, the little girl he adopts, is entwined with Godfrey Cass, son of the village Squire, who, like Silas, is trapped by his past. Silas Marner, George Eliot's favourite of her novels, combines humour, rich symbolism and pointed social criticism to create an unsentimental but affectionate portrait of rural life.

This text uses the Cabinet edition, revised by George Eliot in 1878. David Carroll's introduction is complemented by the original Penguin Classics edition introduction by Q.D. Leavis.

Mary Ann Evans (1819-80) began her literary career as a translator, and later editor, of the Westminster Review. In 1857, she published Scenes of Clerical Life, the first of eight novels she would publish under the name of 'George Eliot', including The Mill on the Floss, Middlemarch, and Daniel Deronda.

If you enjoyed Silas Marner, you might like Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, also available in Penguin Classics.

'I think Silas Marner holds a higher place than any of the author's works. It is more nearly a masterpiece; it has more of that simple, rounded, consummate aspect ... which marks a classical work'
Henry James

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