Portraits of George Eliot (b. 1819, d. 1880)

An article in The Guardian (2017) discusses a newly discovered pastel drawing that may be George Eliot at age 25:

1858: Photograph

1865: Chalk drawing by Frederick Burton (National Gallery [UK])

(Perhaps the inspiration for David Levine’s caricature below?)

You can find several drawings and sketches of Mary Ann Evans throughout her life at the George Eliot Portrait Gallery


Comments on Eliot’s “ugliness” from an article by Rebecca Mead:

She was “a woman with next to no feminine beauty or charm or of countenance or person,” according to William Michael Rossetti, the critic and brother of Dante Gabriel and Christina Rossetti. Grace Greenwood, the American novelist, described her as “exceedingly plain, with her aggressive jaw and her evasive blue eyes.”  Henry James characterized her as “magnificently ugly, deliciously hideous.”

But James also noted an interesting phenomenon about Eliot’s supposed ugliness: when she began to converse, her expression was one of such tenderness and sympathy that it left her interlocutor with an abiding sense of beauty. “Behold me, literally in love with this great horse-faced bluestocking!” James wrote after his first encounter with her. Many others who met her made similar comments, including Lucy Clifford, a novelist, who said that Eliot did, indeed, look like a horse—“a strange variety of horse that was full of knowledge, and beauty of thought, and mysteries of which the human being had no conception.”

From The New Yorker, September 19, 2013

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