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Alphabet of British Writers (Part 2)

At first glance it may seem that the British nation has no artistic talents as they have never produced many world-famous painters, sculptors or composers. It is quite remarkable then that they have had so many brilliant and renowned writers. And indeed, literature is probably the art that the British excel in. You can find at least a few names of well-known British poets and novelists for each letter of the alphabet, and many of the names are famous all over the world. This alphabet of British writers I want to present to you is my subjective list. I chose the literary people I find especially interesting or intriguing or whose achievements are particularly noteworthy. My aim is to show you the richness of British literature and encourage you to read some works written by Brits.

Eliot, Goerge (1819-1880)
George Eliot is one of the most renowned and most interesting, not to say intriguing, writers of the Victorian era. Probably the most surprising thing about the writer is the fact that he was … a woman! She was born Mary Ann Evans. As a child she received an education which made her adopt strong evangelical piety. When her mother died, she moved with her father to Coventry, where she became acquainted with intellectuals such as Charles Hennel, whose rationalistic views on Christianity made her reject the evangelical values.

After her father’s death, Mary Ann settled in London and became a subeditor of Westminster Review. She belonged to a literary circle among whose members was George Henry Lewes. They soon became intimate. Lewes was officially married even though his relationship with his wife had long been over. Mary Ann entered an extramarital relationship with Lewes and continued it until his death in 1878, which resulted in social ostracism.

It was George Henry Lewes who encouraged Mary Ann to start writing fiction. She was already in her late thirties when she wrote Scenes of Clerical Life. The stories appeared in Blackwood’s Magazine under the male pseudonym George Eliot, which Lewes had chosen for Mary Ann. It was obvious that a new author of great literary power had appeared, which was soon confirmed by Eliot’s first novel Adam Bede (1859). The book was a success, and it was highly praised by the critics. The public wondered about the identity of the writer, and the real name of George Eliot was soon revealed.

The publishers were reluctant to publish Eliot’s next novel, The Mill on the Floss (1860), fearing that the controversy around her relationship with Lewes would stop people from buying her books. When they finally published it, the novel was a great a success. And so were the next ones: Silas Marner (1861) and especially Middlemarch (1871-72). The latter novel made George Eliot even more rich and famous.

After George Henry Lewes’s death in November 1878, Mary Ann plunged into depression. In that difficult time she received a great deal of support from John Cross, a friend of Lewes and herself. In April 1880 Mary Ann, who was already sixty years old, accepted Cross’s marriage proposal. Her new husband was twenty years her junior. How ever, at the end of the same year Mary Ann became seriously ill and died on December 22nd. She was buried in Highgate Cemetery in London.

Forster, E. M. (1879-1970)
When E. M. Forster was born on January 1st, 1879, he was named Henry Morgan, but he was baptized Edward Morgan by accident. When he was a small child, his father died. As a result he was brought up by two women: his mother and his great-aunt, from whom he inherited Ł8,000, which later enabled him to become a writer.

E. M. Forster attended King’s College, Cambridge, where he belonged to a discussion society called the Apostles. Some members of the society later created the famous Bloomsbury Group, with which Forster was loosely connected. The experience of Cambridge and the Apostles society was reflected in Forster’s second novel, The Longest Journey (1907).

After finishing university Forster traveled in Italy, Greece and Germany. The travels provided themes and situation for his two novels: Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905) and A Room with a View (1908), in which he depicted several English people during a trip to Italy. He contrasted them with the local people and the local culture, presenting in this way all the shortcomings of the English character.

In 1910 he published Howard’s End, a novel which made him famous and established his reputation as a respectable author. The story is centered on an English country house and the clash between two families: one interested in art and the other interested in business and money.

Between 1912 and 1913 Forster traveled to India and later he worked for the Red Cross in Egypt, where he fell in love with a seven teen-yearold boy, Mohammad el-Adl, who became an inspiration for his works. When the boy died, Forster returned to India and worked as a private secretary to the Maharajah of Dewas. The travels resulted in his masterpiece: A Passage to India (1924), in which he presented the British Raj (the British rule in India). Already in the 1910s Forster started working on his only novel with a homosexual theme, Maurice. He revised the novel several times during his lifetime, but it was only published posthumously in 1971.

Today E. M. Forster is regarded one of the greatest English novelists of the 20th century.

Monika Łuczak
konsultant metodyczny oddziału
Szkoły FELBERG we Wrocławiu

 

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