21 July 2021

Exploring Eliot: The Meaning Behind George Eliot's Name

We were recently commissioned by the exciting Exploring Eliot project, to produce a series of films revealing some remarkable objects contained within The Herbert Art Gallery, Nuneaton Library and the Nuneaton Museum.

George Eliot, to some maybe a male name, however, the name actually belonged to author Mary Anne Evans. Whilst pen names were somewhat used in the Victorian era by female authors in order to publish their books, George wanted to use a pen name so she could separate her personal life from her work life. Using a pen name also allowed her to write different genres of books, as women were stereotypical known for writing romance.

The George Eliot collection features various items that belonged to Eliot, and we were given the unique opportunity to film letters from friends, sketches of Eliot, her blotting pad, and even her shoes. The curators at the Nuneaton Library and Nuneaton Museum helped to describe each of the items and why they mean so much.

We asked the wonderful staff what displaying Eliot's items meant to them. One member of staff said that even though she had worked in the library for 20 years, she is still finding out something new every day. A letter written after Eliot's death by Edith Simcox showed a great sadness for her loss and how she came to visit the area where Eliot had lived. It just showed how close Edith was to Eliot.

Ordinary items such as Eliot's shoes hold great significance for not only Eliot herself, but for the time period too. The shoes are made of soft leather, so delicate that they were made for domestic setting. It was further suggested by one of the curators that Eliot 'wanted to keep up with the fashion at the time'. Although self-conscious about her appearance, the shoes also signify that Eliot was 'affluent and successful in her own lifetime.'

Ultimately, our time at the George Eliot collection showed us that although successful in her work, she still carried doubt which is something we can all relate to. It was a privilege to be able to showcase the collection so that we could tell the story of George Eliot in such an interactive and imaginative way.

To see the collection of short films we created, you can click here.

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