English, Department of



Robert Muscutt

Date of this Version


Document Type



The George Eliot Review 44 (2013)


Published by The George Eliot Review Online https://GeorgeEliotReview.org


There have always been attempts not just to conceal knowledge of George Eliot's life but also to manipulate it into conformity with a preconceived profile. In the Preface to his edition of The George Eliot Letters in nine volumes, Gordon Haight revealed that those pages of her Journal from immediately after her father's death in 1849 until shortly before she went to Weimar with Lewes in 1854 were tom out and presumably destroyed, probably by Cross. Charles Lewes, George Eliot's main literary executor, also seems to have destroyed nine of his father 's journals, the first volume extant beginning in 1856 is numbered X. Haight corrected Cross 's idealized portrayal of 'a George Eliot who never really existed, a marmoreal image'.1 However, in the meantime questions have been and are being asked by biographers about many of the value judgments in Haight's enormously influential biography.

I would like to pose and try to answer such a question of my own: why did Robert Evans and Mary Ann Evans leave Griff House in 1841?

Everywhere we read that Mr. Evans decided to retire, passed his job and the family home on to Isaac and, after much dithering, moved to Foleshill to improve his blue-stocking daughter's prospects on the marriage market. This explanation of what was a very great disruption in the lives of both father and daughter deserves at least careful scrutiny. The question of why Mr. Evans should suddenly decide to retire has not, as far as I know, been adequately answered or even seriously posed in the main biographies. The original bland version provided by Cross is still the generally if not universally accepted one:

New circumstances now created a change almost amounting to a revolution in Miss Evans's life. Mr. Isaac Evans, who had been associated for some time with his father in the land agency business, married, and it was arranged that he should take over the establishment at Griff. This led to the removal in March 1841 of Mr. Robert Evans and his daughter to a house on the Foleshill Road, in the immediate neighbourhood of Coventry.