Date of this Version
The George Eliot Review 18 (1987)
When I first heard that Virago were to pubIish a book about George Eliot (the author sought my help in locating certain photographs) I was a Iittle apprehensive. I feared that this might be a militant feminist view of a lady who concerned herself deeply about the 'Woman Question' but who did not align herself with the growing Victorian feminist movement. But a first reading allayed my fears, for Jennifer Uglow treats her subject with sympathy and understanding and does not try to prove that George Eliot was an active feminist when she was not.
The book opens with a useful chronology linking George Eliot's life and work with events and publications which affected the position of women in society - the passing of the 1857 Matrimonial Causes Act, the formation In 1859 of the Society for Promoting the Employment of Women and, in 1866, the presentation of the first Women's Suffrage Petition. G. H. Lewes 's publications are also included, showing his own output while he was so successfully nurturing hers.
George Eliot did not make a defiant claim for independence and personal fulfiIment although she was keenly aware of sexual exploitation and the low status of women. In the 1850's she knew many of the leading Victorian feminist campaigners and Jennifer Uglow devotes a most Interesting chapter to this gallant band of women who were trying to obtain recognition for their sex.