Lewes, George Henry

▪ English philosopher, actor, and scientist

born April 18, 1817, London, Eng.
died Nov. 28, 1878, London
 English biographer, literary critic, dramatist, novelist, philosopher, actor, scientist, and editor, remembered chiefly for his decades-long liaison with the novelist Mary Ann Evans (better known by her pseudonym, George Eliot (Eliot, George)).

      After a desultory education, Lewes spent two years in Germany and returned to London in 1840. During the next decade he wrote frequently for various journals and in the early 1840s corresponded with John Stuart Mill, through whom he became acquainted with the positivist philosophy of Auguste Comte, usually considered the founder of sociology. In 1850 Lewes and his friend Thornton Leigh Hunt founded a radical weekly called The Leader, for which he wrote the literary and theatrical features. His Comte's Philosophy of the Sciences (1853) originally appeared as a series of articles in The Leader.

      Lewes married in 1841, and the couple lived communally with Hunt and his wife and two other couples. Though initially a success, the arrangement failed after Lewes's wife had two children by Hunt. In 1851, after the birth of the second child, Lewes ceased to regard his wife as such. In the same year, after their estrangement, he met Mary Ann Evans. Legal divorce was impossible for Lewes because he had condoned the adultery, but from his separation in 1854 until his death, Lewes and Evans lived happily together.

      Lewes's novel Ranthorpe, a bildungsroman about the moral and intellectual growth of a young writer, was published in 1847. His review that year of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre was the first substantial statement in England of the theory of realism in the novel. Before turning to scientific studies, he published Life and Works of Goethe, 2 vol. (1855), which is still considered a valuable introduction to the poet. Besides numerous papers on motor and sensory nerves, he published Seaside Studies (1858), Physiology of Common Life, 2 vol. (1859–60), and Studies in Animal Life (1862). These were followed by a study of Aristotle (1864) and his most ambitious work, Problems of Life and Mind, 5 vol. (1873–79). He edited The Fortnightly Review (1865–66), contributing articles in science, politics, and literary criticism.

      A versatile writer and thinker in many fields, Lewes contributed significantly to the development of empirical metaphysics; his treatment of mental phenomena as related to social and historical conditions was a major advance in psychological thought.

Additional Reading
Rosemary Ashton, G.H. Lewes: A Life (1991); Hock Guan Tjoa, George Henry Lewes: A Victorian Mind (1977).

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • LEWES, GEORGE HENRY —    a versatile man of letters, born in London, the son of an actor; wrote a Biographical History of Philosophy from the Positivist standpoint, published originally in 1845, and a Life of Goethe in 1855, Seaside Studies, Problems of Life and Mind …   The Nuttall Encyclopaedia

  • Lewes, George Henry — (1817 1878)    Philosopher and miscellaneous writer, b. in London, and ed. at Greenwich, and in Jersey and Brittany. His early life was varied; he tried law, commerce, and medicine successively, and was then for two years in Germany, on returning …   Short biographical dictionary of English literature

  • George Henry Lewes — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Lewes (homonymie). George Henry Lewes George Henry Lewes (18 avril 1817 à Londres 28 novembre  …   Wikipédia en Français

  • George Henry Lewes — (* 18. April 1817 in London; † 28. November 1878 ebenda) war ein englischer Schriftsteller, Literaturkritiker und Philosoph. George Henry Lewes Inhaltsverzeichnis …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • George Eliot — George Eliot, Porträt von Frederick William Burton, 1865. George Eliot, eigentlich Mary Anne Evans, (* 22. November 1819 in Nuneaton, Grafschaft Warwickshire; † 22. Dezember 1880 in London) war eine englische …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • Lewes (surname) — Lewes is a surname, and may refer to:* Charles Lee Lewes, British actor * George Henry Lewes (1817 ndash;1878), British philosopher and literary critic * Jock Lewes, Australian soldieree also* Lewes * Lewes (disambiguation) * List of names… …   Wikipedia

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