Lewes, Thornton "Thornie" Arnott (1844-1869)


Lewes, Thornton "Thornie" Arnott (1844-1869)


Thornton 'Thornie' Lewes was the second son of George Henry Lewes and Agnes Jarvis Lewes. Thornie was named after Lewes's close friend (and Agnes's longtime lover), Thornton Hunt. He attended a day school in Bayswater until 1856, when, at the age of 12, he was sent with his older brother Charles to an international boarding school near Berne, Switzerland. His father was trying to shield his sons from the scandal caused by Agnes's and his own irregular living arrangements.

Lewes finally introduced his sons to George Eliot in 1860, after she had achieved critical and popular success with Adam Bede. The boys knew of their mother's atypical living arrangements, and found a maternal figure in George Eliot. Thornie affectionately called her  'Mutter' until he died. 

In 1863, Thornie failed his Civil Service exam at Edinburgh. Rather than re-sit the exam, he instead went to Natal, Africa, to try farming. His brother Herbert 'Bertie' joined him not long after. The two eked out a living learning to farm, hunt, and barter  with the locals until 1869, when Thornie wrote to his father that he was seriously ill. Thornie returned to England, where he was nursed by his father and George Eliot through a painful summer. In the fall, at age 25, Thornie died of spinal meningitis.


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


8:120, 8:166, 8:170, 8:178, 8:242, 8:259, 8:266, 8:270, 8:280, 8:284, 8:294, 8:321, 8:323, 8:343, 8:351, 8:366, 8:375, 8:390, 8:431


Thornton Lewes.png