The Marriage Question: George Eliot’s Double Life

Farrar. Aug. 2023. 400p. ISBN 9780374600457. $30. BIOG
Carlisle (philosophy, King’s College London; Spinoza’s Religion) presents a focused narrative on the distinguished life of English novelist George Eliot (1819–80). Eliot was the pen name for Mary Ann Evans, and she was celebrated as soon as she published her debut novel, Adam Bede. Carlisle’s book focuses on the unconventional approach to a loving relationship that Eliot followed during a particularly conservative time period in English society. When she met writer and philosopher George Henry Lewes through her social circle, the two became intimate partners and lived together for nearly 25 years. But Lewes was still married during that time and unable to get a divorce, which eventually left Eliot ostracized from “polite society.” Carlisle explores, in depth, themes of philosophy and marriage in Eliot’s art and life, highlighting dynamics like desire and morality, in a book that combines biography, philosophy, history, and literary interpretation. A listing of illustrations, which includes rare copies of photographs and manuscripts, is a bonus.
VERDICT An intriguing study of Eliot’s complex and ambiguous life and work as it relates to the institution of marriage. Ideal for literary and philosophy scholars.
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