Date of this Version
The George Eliot Review 28 (1997) Published by The George Eliot Fellowship, http://georgeeliot.org/
Christiana Evans, always known as Chrissey, was the first child of Robert Evans's marriage to Christiana Pearson of Astley, near Nuneaton, and she was born, as were Isaac and Mary Ann, at Arbury (now South) Farm on the Arbury estate in 1814. When the family moved to Griff House in 1820 Chrissey was old enough to go to boarding school and she went in advance of her small sister to Miss Lathom's School in nearby Attleborough. This removed her from Griff to the closer vicinity of her Aunt Evarard, later to appear as one of the Dodson sisters in The Mill on the Floss, with whom she was a great favourite. Although Mary Ann had nightmares at Miss Lathom's we have no record of how Chrissey fitted in. Indeed, as a child we know little about her feelings but one gets the impression of a more placid child than her younger, more emotional sister. She is thought to be the original of Lucy Deane in Mill and of Celia Brooke in Middlemarch. If this were true, one can see the likeness. Certainly Chrissey was pretty, a strong contrast to Mary Ann who was not.
At the time of their mother's death in 1836 both girls were at home to comfort their father and to take over the running of household affairs at Griff, although it seems clear that Robert turned more for help and advice to his younger daughter.
Chrissey married Edward Clarke on 30 May 1837 when she was 23 and joined her husband at Meriden where he had a small but not very successful medical practice. Mary Ann was her bridesmaid and Robert Evans gave her a wedding gift of £1000, a not inconsiderable sum in those early days but funds that she was desperately to need as her family grew. Her first child, Edward, was born the year after her marriage, followed by Robert the following year. In 1841 Mary Louisa was born and she was a particular favourite with her aunt Mary Ann who loved to undress her and rock her in her arms until she fell asleep. Sadly, Mary Louisa died the following year, the year when Clara Christiana was born. She, too, was to have a short life as she succumbed to scarlet fever when she was seven in 1849. Emily was born in 1844 and she was to be the longest lived of all Chrissey's children, not dying until 1924. Christopher Charles followed in 1845. He was succeeded by Leonard, born in 1847 and died the following year. In 1849 Fanny was born. She, too, died at the age of seven, having fallen ill, along with her mother and younger sister Catherine, known as Katy, with typhus. Katy was born in 1851, the last of the family but she, too, died at an early age in 1860.