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"George Eliot in Love"

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Brenda Maddox, George Eliot in Love.  Palgrave Macmillan 2010. Hardcover. 222 pp.  $25.
George Eliot was born Mary Anne Evans in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, in 1819.  She was a brilliant but unattractive girl. Her father adored her, but her mother thought she was ugly. Even when she was the most famous novelist in England, her ugliness was the first thing people remarked upon when they had met her.  Henry James called her "magnificently ugly, deliciously hideous" and a "great horse-faced blue-stocking."  Even her obituary in the Times called her ugly.  Throughout her life, she suffered from a lack of self-confidence, and from poor health, and from an aversion to having her photograph taken.  When she was a young woman, men (like Herbert Spencer) fell in love with her intellect, but were repulsed by her looks.  When she finally settled down happily with ugly George Henry Lewes (nicknamed "the Ape"), Spencer piggishly published an essay on "Personal Beauty&…