George Eliot’s Grave, Highgate Cemetery, London, UK

Website: https://highgatecemetery.org

Physical address: East Cemetery, Highgate Cemetery, Swain’s Lane, London N6 6PJ

Phone number: +44 20 8340 1834

Business hours: Monday to Friday: 10am – 4pm (last admission 3:30pm)

Weekends and public holidays: 11am – 4pm (last admission 3:30pm)

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One of the UK’s most respected Victorian writers, Mary Ann Evans – who wrote under the pen name George Eliot – lived an unconventional life, and this carried through beyond her death. Interred in a part of the cemetery set aside for religious dissenters, agnostics and atheists, Mary Ann Evans’ grave is marked with the name of her husband (Cross), but she is buried beside the man with whom she lived in a common law marriage for more than 20 years, George Henry Lewes. Her husband, John Cross – whom she married following Lewes’ death in 1878, is buried in the West Highgate Cemetery.

Evans met the love of her life, Lewes, in 1851 and, despite him being married to someone else, began living with him as husband and wife in 1854. His marriage to Agnes Jervis was an open one; however, he was unable to get a divorce from her to marry Evans, as a result of having agreed to be named as father on the birth certificates of his wife’s four children to another man (in addition to the three they had together). Having done so made him complicit in adultery and ineligible for the dissolution of the marriage. Despite this, he and Evans considered themselves to be married, and when she became a novelist, it was his name – George – that she chose to adopt for her nom de plume.

As a result of her scandalous personal life, which also included well-known dissention from the Church, Evans was not always welcomed in polite society, so the adoption of a pen name – which she stated was to prevent her work being judged on the basis of her gender – may have provided a further layer of anonymity. When her identity became known, however, her personal life did not appear to impact on the popularity of her work, with patrons as esteemed as Queen Victoria herself providing their endorsement. More recently, Middlemarch – perhaps her most famous work – has been included in lists of the greatest work of English literature of all time.

Evans’ grave is not directly alongside a major path through the cemetery, so some effort may be required to locate it. Look for the pens, left by fans of her writing, to pay their respects.

To mark the centenary of her death in 1980, Mary Ann Evans received a memorial in Poets Corner, Westminster Abbey.

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