Image of George Henry Lewes


Lifetime: 1817 - 1878 Passed: ≈ 145 years ago




United States

George Henry Lewes

George Henry Lewes  was an English philosopher and critic of literature and theatre. He was also an amateur physiologist. American feminist Margaret Fuller called Lewes a "witty, French, flippant sort of man". He became part of the mid-Victorian ferment of ideas which encouraged discussion of Darwinism, positivism, and religious skepticism. However, he is perhaps best known today for having openly lived with Mary Ann Evans, who wrote under the pen name George Eliot, as soulmates whose lives and writings were enriched by their relationship, though they never married each other.

Lewes, born in London, was the illegitimate son of the minor poet John Lee Lewes and Elizabeth Ashweek, and the grandson of comic actor Charles Lee Lewes. His mother married a retired sea captain when he was six. Frequent changes of home meant he was educated in London, Jersey, Brittany, and finally at Dr Charles Burney's school in Greenwich. Having abandoned successively a commercial and a medical career, he seriously thought of becoming an actor and appeared several times on stage between 1841 and 1850. Finally he devoted himself to literature, science and philosophy.

Lewes met writer Mary Ann Evans, later to be famous as George Eliot, in 1851, and by 1854 they had decided to live together. Lewes and Agnes Jervis had agreed to have an open marriage,[3] and in addition to the three children they had together, Agnes also had four children by Thornton Hunt, the son of Leigh Hunt. Because Lewes was named on the birth certificate as the father of one of these children despite knowing this to be false, he was considered complicit in adultery and was not able to divorce Agnes. In July 1854, Lewes and Evans travelled to Weimar and Berlin together for research related to Lewes's study of Goethe. The trip to Germany also served as a honeymoon as Evans and Lewes now considered themselves married, with Evans calling herself Mary Ann Evans Lewes and referring to Lewes as her husband.

Lewes died on the 30th November, 1878 and is buried on the eastern side of Highgate Cemetery, immediately behind the grave of George Eliot.

Books by George Henry Lewes

The Novels of Jane Austen Cover image

The Novels of Jane Austen

Literature Literary Criticism

An 1859 essay by the prominent philosopher and literary critic, G. H. Lewes, who was an enthusiastic promoter of the novels of Jane Austen at a time when they were yet to achieve great critical acclaim. Lewes was the life partner of the novelist Geor...

The Noble Heart Cover image

The Noble Heart

Drama Tragedy
Marriage Love Romance Act Life Dramatic Theory Melodies

This Victorian melodrama, written by G.H. Lewes, common law husband of novelist George Eliot (Marian Evans), featured a scandalous love triangle. The scene is set in 16th century Spain. The main character is Don Gomez del la Vega, a nobleman in servi...