George Eliot in Society

Travels Abroad and Sundays at the Priory

Kathleen McCormack


Literary Criticism/European/General; Literary Criticism/Women Authors
178 pp. 6x9

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George Eliot’s English Travels by Kathleen McCormack


George Eliot in Society is compelling and important because it offers a much-needed revisionist reading of Eliot’s life to follow her cohabitation with George Lewes. Both scholars and students of Victorian studies will want to read McCormack’s account of the world Eliot and Lewes made together—who assembled, what occurred between members of their world, how their experiences may have contributed to Eliot’s novels and Lewes’s theories, and how they were together as a couple. This book will be necessary to those who study George Eliot and are interested in the biography of relational lives.” —Kay Young, professor of English, University of California, Santa Barbara

“Kathleen McCormack makes an original, revisionist contribution to study of the biographies of the Victorian novelist George Eliot. By pulling together the different strands of investigation under the rubric of Society, she corrects the false image of Eliot living out her life as a socially ostracized woman. Instead, Eliot emerges as a much more social being than she has seemed in many previous biographies. George Eliot in Society will be essential reading for scholars and critics working on Eliot’s life and writing.” —Nancy Henry, professor of English, University of Tennessee

Sundays at the Priory, the salons that George Eliot and George Henry Lewes conducted throughout the winter seasons during their later years in the 1870s, have generally earned descriptions as at once scandalous and dull, with few women in attendance, and guests approaching the Sibyl one by one to express their almost pious devotion. But both the guest lists of the salons—which include significant numbers of women, a substantial gay and lesbian contingent, and a group of singers who performed repeatedly—together with the couple’s frequent travels to European spas, where they encountered many of the guests likely to visit the Priory, revise the conclusion that George Eliot lived her entire life as an ostracized recluse. Instead, newly mined sources reveal George Eliot as a member of a large and elite, if slightly Bohemian, international social circle in which she moved as a literary celebrity and through which she stimulated her creative imagination as she composed her later poetry and fiction.

George Eliot in Society: Travels Abroad and Sundays at the Priory by Kathleen McCormack draws attention to the survival of the literary/musical/artistic salon in the Victorian era, at a time in which social interactions coexisted with rising tensions that would soon obliterate the European spa/salon culture in which the Leweses participated, both as they traveled abroad and at Sundays at the Priory.

Kathleen McCormack (website) is professor of English at Florida International University.