George Eliot

Author Mathilde Blind
Author Name Variants Mathilde Blind; Mathilda Blind
Publication London: W.H. Allen, 1884.
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Genres Biography
Keywords Literary Scholarship, Life Writing
Contributing State Massachusetts
Research Notes  
Digital Source Notes  

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Nicole Cohen

Tulane University, December 2015

Mathilde Blind’s George Eliot chronicles the childhood, personal life, and professional career of the famous English author. Published in 1883 by W.H. Allen and Company in London,and by Roberts Brothers in Boston,the book was the first full-length biographical study of its subject. Blind describes in her preface the extensive process of original research undertaken to produce the study, detailing the people she interviewed and from whom she acquired Eliot’s letters. Her introduction draws on an essay written by Eliot herself, comparing women writers in England unfavorably to their French counterparts, in order to praise and defend Eliot’s own accomplishments. The biography then turns to Eliot’s life, covering her childhood and education, her relationship with her lover George Henry Lewes, and her friendships and involvement in society. Eliot, whose real name was Mary Ann Evans, was a prolific novelist, and Blind devotes a detailed chapter to each of her major works–including her novels, translations, poetry, and essays for the Westminster Review.Exploring the writer’s inspirations, Blind ties many fictional references to experiences and figures from Eliot’s life.One can easily glean that Blind intended this biography for the general public. The tone is friendly and explanatory and, if dry in patches, incredibly thorough in its coverage of Eliot’s personal and professional life.The author Mathilde Blind was born in Germany on March 21, 1841 and grew up in England, where her family lived as political refugees after the failed German revolution. Influenced by her parents, Blind grew to be radically progressive herself, with many of her works conveying a sense of striving for political and social justice. Widely known for her poetry, Blind also wrote biographies(two of which, including the present volume, were part of the Eminent Women Writers series edited by J. H. Ingram), published essays in journals, authored one novel, and dabbled in translation(Brown et al.). George Eliot by Mathilde Blind was among the books contributed by the Massachusetts delegation to the Women’s Literary Department at the 1884 New Orleans World’s Fair. As part of an exhibit on women authors, a biography of a famous woman author written by a famous woman author would have been exemplary in showing that women authors are worthy not only of widespread public readerships, also of biographical and scholarly attention. For today’s audience, with whom George Eliot has retained her fame and Mathilde Blind for the most part has not, recognizing the importance of this book’s subject and author serves to draw our focus and appreciation to women authors from a time when male pseudonyms were still relied upon for being taken seriously, a time before the term “feminism” existed to define the notion of equality amongst women and men, but not a time before such a notion was acted upon and proved.

Works Cited

Brown, Susan, et al., editors. Mathilde Blind entry in Orlando: Women’s Writing in the British Isles from the Beginnings to the Present. Cambridge University Press Online, 2006,