Eminent Lives: George Eliot by Brenda Maddox - review by Catherine Peters

Catherine Peters

Brief Encounter

Eminent Lives: George Eliot


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Brenda Maddox is well known as the distinguished, award-winning biographer of Nora Barnacle, the wife and muse of James Joyce, and Rosalind Franklin, the biologist who, with Watson and Crick, unravelled the secrets of the double helix but was marginalised by her more fêted male colleagues. Her study of the marriage of W B Yeats paid tribute to the part played by the poet’s wife, George, in his mystical writings. With these books Maddox opened a new field for biography, the recovery of unjustly neglected women of the twentieth century.

Maddox has now turned her attention to an earlier period, the high Victorian era, and to a woman who, though stigmatised for her personal ‘immorality’, was never underestimated as a writer. On the contrary, George Eliot was one of the most successful novelists, both critically and financially, of

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