Evans, Robert (1773-1849)


Evans, Robert (1773-1849)


Eliot's father Robert Evans was the fourth son of a carpenter. After basic schooling, he was apprenticed to his father's trade and then set up a carpentry business. A local landowner, Francis Parker noticed his ability and invited him in 1802 to manage an estate he had inherited in Derbyshire. In 1806, after the death of Sir Roger Newdigate, Francis Parker inherited the Arbury estate near Nuneaton in Warwickshire and once again asked Evans to manage it. This began a long career in estate management, where Evans earned the reputation of being fair, honest, and hard working.

Evans married twice. His first wife was a servant of the Parker family, Harriet Poynton, who had two children and died giving birth to a third in 1809. Evans remarried to a farmer's daughter, Christiana, who gave birth to three children: Christiana 'Chrissey', Isaac, and Mary Ann (the future George Eliot). She also gave birth to twin boys in 1821 who did not survive childbirth. Eliot was apparently much closer to her father than to her mother, about whom she writes almost nothing.

When Christiana died, Eliot took over much of the domestic work in the house and became indispensable to her father. Evans encouraged Eliot's intellectual development and paid for tutors in German and Italian. Eventually, Evans retired and his son Isaac took over the estate management in 1841. Evans and Eliot moved to Coventry, where a dispute soon arose after Eliot began interacting with the radical Brays. Evans, who benefited from the support of the upper class in his life, was a staunch conservative. Eventually, Eliot announced that she could no longer believe in Christianity and refused to accompany him to church, which infuriated her father. It took several weeks and an intervention from Isaac to mend the rift. Evans' health began to decline in 1845, and for the next four years as his health declined, Eliot devoted herself to caring for him. He passed away in 1849. The experience left a strong impression on Eliot, whose fiction frequently includes scenes of tending loved ones at the time of their deaths.


George Eliot Archive, edited by Beverley Park Rilett, https://georgeeliotarchive.org


4:130, 4:140, 4:299, 4:306
Mrs. Robert Evans: 4:133, 7:105, 8:316


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