The Mill on the Floss was the second novel Marian Evans published under the pseudonym George Eliot. Born in 1819 to a prosperous estate manager, Marian Evans spent her youth much as her heroine did, in reading and outdoor activities. In 1850 Evans moved to London where she worked as a translator and editor, and fell in love with the writer and editor George Henry Lewes, a married man. Contemporary marriage law prevented Lewes from obtaining a divorce from his adulterous wife; the law held that, having condoned the adultery previously, he now had no grounds for divorce. Knowing this, Evans and Lewes pursued their relationship anyway. The two eloped to the Continent in 1854, then lived together as husband and wife until Lewes death in 1878. During her life with Lewes, Evans suffered the disapproval of her older brother Isaac, who cut off all contact with her. His rejection of her remained one of the great sadnesses of her life until their reconciliation upon her marriage in 1880 to John Walter Cross, an investment banker who had been Evan’s financial advisor. Evans’s scandalous personal history led her to publish under the male pseudonym George Eliot when she began writing fiction in the late 1850s. She followed the success of her first book, Scenes from Clerical Life (1858) with two novels—Adam Bede (1859) and The Mill on the Floss (1860) in rapid succession. Altogether George Eliot published seven novels as well as short stories, essays, and poetry. The Mill on the Floss remained her most autobiographical and most tragic novel—the freedoms that Marian Evans was beginning to enjoy as a writer in mid-Victorian England would be forever denied her heroine, a woman oppressed by the narrowness of her family and the provincial community of her pre-Victorian childhood.
From Joyce Moss, Literature and Its Times, 1E. © 2003 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning, Inc. Reproduced by permission. www.cengage.com/permissions
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Gruner, Elisabeth Rose. "The Mill on the Floss." In Literature and Its Times: Profiles of Notable Literary Works and the Historical Events That Influenced Them, Supplement 1, edited by Joyce Moss, 239-48. Detroit: Gale Group, 2003.