George Eliot (1819-80) was born Mary Ann Evans into the family of a Warwickshire land agent and did not escape provincial life until she was 30. But she was brilliantly self-educated and able at once to shine in London literary circles. It was, however, her novels of English rural life that brought her fame, starting with Adam Bede, published under her new pen name in 1859, and reaching a zenith with Middlemarch in 1871. Eliot was a devoutly moral woman but lived for 25 years with a man who already had a wife. It is indicative of the respect and love that she inspired in her most devoted readers that Queen Victoria was one of them.