The classic novel Middlemarch is set to be re-published with author George Eliot's real name, Mary Ann Evans, for the first time in almost 150 years.
The novel is one of 25 historic pieces of literature by women, whose work has only ever been released under their male pseudonyms.
Evans, more well known as George Eliot, as well as many of the other female authors of her time, adopted their ‘professional’ male names in the mid-19th century to ensure their works were taken seriously in a time when women were not necessarily seen as capable of being authors.
Now, as part of the Reclaim Her Name campaign from the Women’s Prize for Fiction, Evans’ iconic novel Middlemarch, which has been voted the greatest British novel of all time, will be published with her real name printed as the author.
Commenting on the news, The Guardian reported that Evans said she was, “resolute in preserving my incognito, having observed that a nom de plume secures all the advantages without the disagreeables of reputation.” Meanwhile her husband George Lewes added, “the object of anonymity was to get the book judged on its own merits, and not prejudged as the work of a woman, or of a particular woman”.
Middlemarch was originally published in 1871-72 in eight installments, each with distinct, intersecting stories including multiple characters.
The initiative by Reclaim Her Name has been launched to mark the 25th anniversary of the Women’s Prize for Fiction and will also celebrate the forgotten works of other prominent female writers from the 19th century. That includes Mary Bright, who wrote Keynotes – a collection of feminist short stories from 1893 – as George Egerton as well as Frances Rollin Whipper , who published The Life of Martin R Delaney in 1868 under the name Frank A Rollin.
Baileys, who is sponsoring the project, hopes that it will bring “the visibility and credit they deserve” whilst also encouraging “new and important conversations around the continuing challenges women face in publishing and authors’ many reasons for using a pseudonym”.
Similarly novelist Kate Mosse, who founded the Women’s prize 25 years ago, said, “This was about looking back to the women in whose footsteps we walk – the way that other women did get their work into print or couldn’t get their work into print. It’s just such a joyous idea.”
The Reclaim Her Name collection will be available to download as eBooks for free, here.
Have you read some of these novels by women, on your Kindle or eReader, or in paperback?
And if not, are they on your list?