Silas Marner is an impressive narrative, spiced with rustic humour and replete with forceful village characters.
Accused of a false charge of theft that Silas Marner did not commit, he leaves his small religious community and takes refuge in the agricultural village of Raveloe. There he works hard as linen-weaver and accumulates a goodly sum of gold coins. His only consolation in his loneliness is his growing treasure of gold coins he counts each night. Then one day, the money is stolen from his cottage by the squire’s reprobate son Dunstan Cass, who disappears.
Marner mourns his loss bitterly until, one snowy night, an abandoned little girl, Eppie, wanders into his cottage. In his eyes she becomes more precious than his lost gold. He becomes a loving father to the child, watching over her as she grows into a lovely young woman. After many years the draining of a pond near Silas’s door reveals the skeleton of Dunstan with the gold....
George Eliot (pseudonym of Mary Anne, later Marian Evans) was born on November 22, 1819 in Warwickshire. She was educated at several schools, among them Miss Wallington’s Boarding School in Nuneaton, where she met and was greatly influenced by Rev. John Edmund Jones, an evangelical preacher who makes several appearances in her novels. In 1836 her mother died and she became her father’s housekeeper, educating herself in her spare time. In 1841 she moved to Coventry and there she was drawn to an intellectual circle that included Charles Bray and Charles Hennell, whose influences directed her towards free thinking in religious opinion. Her refusal in January 1842 to attend church with her father threw indications of her spiritual position. A few years later she completed the translation of the The Life of Jesus, Criticially Examined by Dr. David Strauss, published by John Chapman in 1846. When Chapman purchased the Westminster Review in 1851, she was made the assistant editor. She moved to London and met Herbert Spencer, for whom she developed strong feelings which were not reciprocated, though the two remained friends. At almost the same time she met the versatile man-of-letters George Henry Lewes. Lewes was separated from his wife, but with no possibility of divorce. In 1854 he and Marian decided to live together and did so until Lewes’s death in 1878. It was he who encouraged her to shift from philosophy to fiction, and during those years, under the name of George Eliot, she wrote Scenes of Clerical Life, Adam Bede, The Mill on the Floss, Silas Marner, Romola, Felix Holt: The Radical, Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda, as well as a large number of essays, articles and reviews. In 1880 she married the forty-year-old John Walter Cross whom she had met in Rome in 1869 and who had become her financial adviser. The marriage was not liked by many of her friends. She died seven months later and was buried beside Lewes at Highgate.
George Eliot combined a sharp intelligence with imaginative sympathy and acute powers of observation, and became one of the greatest and most influential of English novelists. Her choice of material widened the horizons of the novel and her psychological insights radically influenced the novelist’s approach to characterization. In a century of gifted women writers George Eliot stands pre-eminent.