An exceptional new biography that shows how George Eliot wrestled with the question of marriage, in art and life
When she was in her mid-thirties, Marian Evans transformed herself into George Eliot – an author celebrated for her genius as soon as she published her debut novel. During those years she also found her life partner, George Lewes – writer, philosopher and married father of three. After ‘eloping’ to Berlin in 1854 they lived together for twenty-four years: Eliot asked people to call her ‘Mrs Lewes’ and dedicated each novel to her ‘Husband’. Though they could not legally marry, she felt herself initiated into the ‘great experience’ of marriage – ‘this double life, which helps me to feel and think with double strength’. The relationship scandalized her contemporaries yet she grew immeasurably within it. Living at once inside and outside marriage, Eliot could experience this form of life – so familiar yet also so perplexing – from both sides.
In The Marriage Question Clare Carlisle reveals Eliot to be not only a great artist but a brilliant philosopher who probes the tensions and complexities of a shared life. Through the immense ambition and dark marriage plots of her novels we see Eliot wrestling – in art and in life – with themes of desire and sacrifice, motherhood and creativity, trust and disillusion, destiny and chance. Reading them afresh, Carlisle’s searching new biography explores how marriage questions grow and change, and joins Eliot in her struggle to marry thought and feeling.