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George Henry Lewes, the Real Man of Science Behind George Eliot's Fictional Pedants


Rilett, Beverley Park


This paper demonstrates that George Eliot drew on George Henry Lewes’s actual experience as an emerging scientist in her depiction of two fictional scholars, Edward Casaubon of Middlemarch and Proteus Merman, a lesser-known character from the chapter entitled “How We Encourage Research” in her final work, Impressions of Theophrastus Such. After Thomas Huxley published a devastating review of Lewes’s first book of science, Comte’s Philosophy of the Sciences, the evidence suggests that Lewes became highly focused on disproving his critics and earning lasting recognition as a scientist, a feat he expected to achieve with his five-volume series, Problems of Life and Mind. The paper concludes with a discussion of what purpose Eliot may have intended when she modeled these characters after George Henry Lewes, her consistently defended partner.