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This is a sample entry from the Dictionary Nineteenth-Century Journalism (DNCJ), part of C19: The Nineteenth Century Index from ProQuest. Cross-links and other functionality have been removed from this version of the entry. Find out more about DNCJ.

Title: EVANS, MARIAN (1819-1880)
Type: Journalists/Editors
Entry:

Marian Evans, better known as 'George Eliot' the novelist, was characteristically scathing about the world of journalism. But Marian Evans's persistent distancing from the business in her later career was preceded by almost a decade of direct, intense engagement in the newspaper and periodical industry. She published her first poem (signed M. A. E.) in the Christian Observer in January 1840 and wrote a series of playful, if uneven, pieces and some brief reviews in the late 1840s for the Coventry Herald and Observer, then owned by her friend Charles Bray. Evans broke into metropolitan journalism through the intervention of the radical publisher, John Chapman, with a review of R. W. Mackay's Progress of the Intellect for the Westminster Review in 1851. She went on to edit that journal (1851-1854) with Chapman, its new owner and publisher. Though Chapman was editor in name, Evans carried out the practical work of seeing each issue to print, introduced important innovations in lay-out and design, and marshalled the substantial 'review' section on contemporary literature for which the Westminster earned high praise. She was, in fact, the first woman editor of a leading British intellectual quarterly.

In July 1854 Evans left England for Germany but continued her association with the Westminster, writing the lengthy 'Belles Lettres' section (July 1855- Jan. 1857) and review articles, on among other topics, women novelists, the limitations of orthodox religion and developments in social science. Most of her 80 or so published articles appeared within this 18 months period. Evans often wrote on the same material for politically diverse papers such as the radical Leader, and the conservative Saturday Review, shaping her work accordingly.

She took on the mantle of a male drama critic when she filled in briefly for G. H. Lewes's 'Vivian' at the Leader in 1854. Also in the guise of a male persona she published her first fiction (the three stories that later comprised Scenes of Clerical Life) in eleven monthly parts in John Blackwood's popular miscellany, Blackwood's Magazine in 1857. Their success brought an end to her dependence on journalism as a career, although George Smith persuaded her to return to periodical publication with the offer of 10,000 for a serial for his Cornhill Magazine. Romola, with illustrations by Frederic Leighton was published in 14 parts (July 1862-Aug. 1863) for the agreed reduced sum of 7,000.

George Eliot's poems were published in Blackwood's, Macmillans Magazine', the Atlantic Monthly and the Canadian Monthly and National Review in the 1860s and 1870s, but despite offers, she never resumed regular work for the periodical press once her success as a fiction writer was established. However, in 1865 she added the weight of her name to the first issue of the Fortnightly Review, edited by Lewes, with a long review essay on William Lecky, and provided four short, light pieces for George Smith's newly launched Pall Mall Gazette, under the pen name 'Saccharissa', her only work ever written in a stylized female voice.

Marian Evans was a pragmatic and capable journalist – influential in her introduction of German and French writers (including Heinrich Heine for instance) to an English public, a pioneering (if veiled) woman editor, and a successful serial fiction writer (in economic terms at least). She is interesting too for the way her work reveals the constraints imposed on the journalist by the journal but also for the intriguing complexity of tone of her writing that journalistic anonymity both accommodated and provoked in the early to mid-1850s as the woman journalist negotiated a male-dominated intellectual sphere.

Sources: Ashton 2006, Baker and Ross 2002, Dillane 2004, George Eliot Letters 1954-1978, Journals of George Eliot 1998, Martin 1994, Pinney 1963, Rosenberg 1963.

Author: Fionnuala Dillane, University College Dublin
See also: ANONYMITY AND SIGNATURE
BLACKWOOD, JOHN (1818-1879)
BLACKWOOD'S EDINBURGH MAGAZINE (1817-1980)
CHAPMAN, JOHN (1821-1894)
CHRISTIAN OBSERVER (1802-1877)
CORNHILL MAGAZINE (1860-1975)
EDITOR
FORTNIGHTLY REVIEW (1865-1954)
GENDER AND THE PERIODICALS
LEADER (1850-1860)
LEWES, GEORGE HENRY (1817-1878)
MACMILLAN'S MAGAZINE (1859-1907)
PALL MALL GAZETTE (1865-1923)
POETRY
POLITICS AND THE PRESS
PUBLISHERS AND THE PRESS
QUARTERLY REVIEWS
REVIEWING
RELIGIOUS PRESS
SATURDAY REVIEW OF POLITICS, LITERATURE, SCIENCE, AND ART (1855-1938)
SERIALS AND THE NINETEENTH-CENTURY PUBLISHING INDUSTRY
SMITH, GEORGE MURRAY (1824-1901)
WESTMINSTER REVIEW (1824-1914)
Themes: Fiction
Literary journalism
Novels
Poet
Printing
Radicalism
Short stories
Theatre
Women and the press


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