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Saturday, 9 January 2016

George Henry Lewes


George Henry Lewes was born in London,  the illegitimate son of the minor poet John Lee Lewes and Elizabeth Ashweek, on April 18, 1817.

Lewes was unattractive with a straggly mustache, pitted complexion and a head too large for his small body.

He idolized the young Shelley, and was highly critical of Dumas.

In 1841, Lewes wed Agnes Jervis, agreeing to have an open marriage. In addition to the three sons they had together, Agnes also had four children by Thornton Leigh Hunt.

Agnes deserted him leaving him to bring up three young sons. Since Lewes was named on the birth certificate as the father of one of the children she'd had by Hunt, despite knowing this to be false, he was considered complicit in adultery and was not able to divorce her.

In 1851 Lewes met the writer Marian Evans, later to be famous as George Eliot. Within three years, with a scandalous disregard of the conventions of their time, had decided to live together.

In July 1854, Lewes and Evans traveled to Weimar and Berlin together for the purpose of research. The trip to Germany also served as a honeymoon as Evans and Lewes were now effectively married, with Evans calling herself Marian Evans Lewes, and referring to Lewes as her husband


At one time Lewes seriously thought of becoming an actor and appeared several times on stage between 1841 and 1850. Eventually he devoted himself to literature, science and philosophy.

Lewes supported himself by contributing to quarterly and other reviews, articles discussing a wide range of subjects.

The best known of Lewes writings is his Life of Goethe (1855). He also discussed the method of psychology with much insight especially in The Psychology of Common Life (1859).

Almost the first thing Dostoyevsky tells us about the heroine of Crime and Punishment is that she had "read with great interest Lewes' Psychology."

The 16 year old Pavlov was inspired by The Psychology of Common Life to take up psychology.

Lewes' 1865 Principles of Success gave a number of rules for successful writing.

Lewes' arguments with Charles Dickens about spontaneous combustion encouraged the famous writer to include it in Bleak House.

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