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The Mill on the Floss

Updated Tuesday, 20th October 2015

Uncover the real places behind The Mill on the Floss and read the titles Eliot rejected.

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Explore The Mill on the Floss with exclusive videos and activities

Published in 1860, The Mill on the Floss was George Eliot’s third novel and also her most autobiographical. Its focus was a young woman’s struggle for intellectual fulfilment, her forbidden love and the ruptured relationship between a sister and brother. Much of the plot had parallels to the author’s own life.

Eliot’s journey began at Arbury Hall in Warwickshire. It was near here that Mary Ann Evans (Eliot’s real name) was born and developed her literary appetite. Her best friend growing up was her brother Isaac, yet as adults they became estranged. He was unwilling to accept her unconventional relationship with the critic and philosopher George Henry Lewes. Being shunned by her brother was the tragedy that motivated so much of The Mill on the Floss and its focus on the fractured relationship between Tom and Maggie Tulliver - one of English fictions most powerful female protagonists.

The life of Eliot herself shaped the book but another powerful influence on Eliot’s work was of the German writer Goethe. Eliot’s only surviving hand-written manuscript resides in the British Library. It reveals a strikingly neat set of volumes with little corrections except from subtle indications in the author’s handwriting which divulge the true extent of the emotional toll of the book’s denouement on its writer.

Video: The real places that inspired Eliot

Video: Titles that sell

Adventures: Recycled stories and visit where George Eliot grew up

The Secret Life of Books - Find out more about the other books in the series.




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