Cover image for A woman of contradictions : the life of George Eliot
A woman of contradictions : the life of George Eliot
Taylor, Ina.
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Morrow, [1989]

Physical Description:
xv, 255 pages, 12 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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Item Holds
PR4681 .T37 1989 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Claiming that her perusal of primary sources has ``yielded a welter of new information and exploded many myths,'' Taylor ( Victorian Sisters ) here promises to reveal the ``real woman'' behind the ``smokescreen'' erected by previous biographers around the 19th-century British novelist. (The chief villain cited is John Cross, Eliot's husband and first biographer.) But in Taylor's eagerness to prove Eliot less stodgy than rumored--she ``found herself the object of lesbian affection, yet loved men and experienced several love affairs before she finally married''--the biographer fails to make clear just how new is her information. She takes Gordon Haight ( George Eliot ) to task for his reliance on Cross, yet herself refers frequently to Haight's edition of Eliot's letters, not clarifying adequately how her conclusions differ from his. The volume's brevity also works against Taylor's purposes; she skims over her subject's life, too often piquing the reader's curiosity (e.g., implicating Cross in Eliot's death) without fully developing her thesis. A less than graceful style further mars her effort. Photos not seen by PW. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

With two major biographies of George Eliot already available (J.W. Cross's intimate George Eliot's Life as Related in Her Letters and Journals and Gordon S. Haight's standard George Eliot: A Biography ), one would think a new life unwarranted. Taylor suggests, however, that both biographers were more interested in hagiography than in the ``real'' author of Middlemarch. Considering the early years as crucial to Eliot's later intellectual, social, and creative development, Taylor presents a woman who was ``everything a Victorian female was not supposed to be'': sensual, materialistic, assertive, and subtly deceptive. Ironically, Taylor's Eliot is much more attractive to our contemporary tastes. Although this biography seems sketchy at times, it sheds new light on a major novelist whose very name and appearance is under dispute.-- Donald P. Kaczvinsky, Pennsylvania State Univ., University Park (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The reputation of George Eliot (nee Mary Ann Evans), once famous as the leading Victorian novelist, declined after her death (1880) until revived by Virginia Woolf and by F.R. Leavis, who restored her to the "great tradition." Eliot's image, however, was created in the 1885 biography by her young husband, J.W. Cross, a hagiographic work portraying a stuffy Victorian matron whose respectability obscured the real person. Gordon S. Haight's standard biography (George Eliot: A Biography, CH, Dec'69) and his edition of her letters (The George Eliot Letters, 7v., 1954-56) helped keep alive this image. Taylor's well-written and highly interesting new biography replaces these works and, using primary sources, makes Mary Ann Evans into a person, not a myth; it reaches new conclusions with the goal being biographical truth. Readers will find that the strands of her life are complemented by new insights--e.g., that her friends, not her family, shaped her religion; or that Evans had three love affairs, with Charles Bray, John Chapman, and Herbert Spencer, two of whom are essentially dropped from Cross's biography. Evans was a protean force, moving from an ascetic Puritan fanatic to a voracious intelletual. This highly complex person actually proposed to "Johnnie Cross," who attempted suicide on their honeymoon by jumping from a balcony into a canal in Florence. This volume successfully redresses the stuffy image he created in penance. An appendix contains a "lost" episode from The Mill on the Floss. Strongly recommended to readers on all levels who enjoy Victorian culture. -S. A. Parker, Hiram College