The Life of George Eliot

A timeline of George Eliot's life as pertaining to The Mill on the Floss.


Chronological table

Displaying 1 - 17 of 17
Date Event Created by Associated Places
22 Nov 1819

George Eliot is Born

Mary Anne Evans (aka George Eliot) is born at South Farm on the Arbury estate in Warwickshire, England. She is the daughter of Robert and Christiana Evans.

Maggie Martin

Begins School

Eliot enrolls in Miss Latham's, the first of several boarding schools that she attends in her youth. She is a shy but excellent student. The only downside is her separation from her brother Isaac, who attends the boys' school.

Maggie Martin

Eliot Moves to Mrs. Wallington's

Eliot leaves Miss Latham's and moves to Mrs. Wallington's Boarding School in Nuneaton. Eliot grows close to the teacher Maria Lewis, who remains her friend long after Eliot graduates.

Maggie Martin

Mother Dies

Eliot's mother, Christiana Evans, dies after a long illness. Eliot quits her studies at Miss Franklin's and returns to Warwickshire to care for her father. She studies at home.

Maggie Martin

Eliot Quits Church

In her twenties, she underwent an extreme change of her beliefs, quitting church and following the so-called Higher Criticism, a largely German school that studied the Bible. Eliot stops going to church. Her father is furious and nearly disowns her. Close friends like Maria Lewis are so shocked that they stop writing to her.

Maggie Martin

First Work is Published

Eliot's English translation of German philosopher David Friedrich Strauss's The Life of Jesus is published. It did not bear her name to avoid discrimination for her being a woman, but it did earn her recognition in literary and intellectual circles.

Maggie Martin

Eliot Beings Work and Meets Lewes

After moving to London, Eliot begins working under John Chapman as an assistant editor at The Westminster Review. She meets literary critic George Henry Lewes, who is separated from his wife but still legally married. Lewes and Eliot begin an affair.

Maggie Martin
Jul 1854


Eliot announces her decision to live with Lewes as his common law wife. The couple travels to Germany together to elope.

Maggie Martin
Apr 1855


Eliot moves in with Lewes in London. From then on, they call themselves Mr. and Mrs. Lewes and live together as a married couple.

Maggie Martin
Jan 1857

First Story Published

It is published in Blackwood's Magazine. Lewes sent Eliot's story "Amos Barton" to his publisher under the pen name George Eliot. The story is one of three published together as Scenes of Clerical Life, her first book of fiction.

Maggie Martin
May 1857

Outed to Family

Eliot reveals to her sister and brother that her marriage to Lewes is not legal. They cut off contact with her.

Maggie Martin

First Novel Published

Eliot's first novel, Adam Bede, is published. The book's popularity fuels speculation about the true identity of George Eliot. After an imposter tries to claim credit for the book, Eliot's identity is revealed as Mary Anne Lewes.

Maggie Martin

Mill on the Floss is Published

Eliot publishes The Mill on the Floss, her most autobiographical novel. It is dedicated to her "husband," George Henry Lewes. The final pages of the novel show Maggie reaching toward a "religion of humanity" (the belief in human beings and their individual moral and intellectual abilities to work toward a better society), which was Eliot's aim to instill in her readers.

Maggie Martin

Regarded as the Best Living English Novelist

Eliot and Lewes are introduced to Princess Louise, a fan of Eliot's fiction. The meeting is more than a chance to shake a royal's hand – it signifies that the unconventional couple has been accepted in polite society. People have forgotten about their judgements of her personal life as she becomes popular and wealthy.

Maggie Martin
16 May 1880

Eliot Remarries

Eliot marries John Cross, who was significantly younger than she was. She changes her name to Mary Ann Cross. During their honeymoon, the mercurial Cross either jumps - or falls - from their hotel suite balcony into the Venice canal below, but survives. Rumors fly that Cross would rather die than make love to his aged wife. The couple settle in Chelsea, London.

Maggie Martin
22 Dec 1880

Eliot Dies

Eliot dies in London at the age of 61. She is buried in Highgate Cemetery in London next to George Henry Lewes.

Maggie Martin
22 Dec 1980

Honored in Poets' Corner

Though originally denied recognition in Westminster Abbey because of her scandalous personal life, George Eliot receives a monument in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey on the hundredth anniversary of her death.

Maggie Martin