Lewes, Agnes Jervis (1822-1902)


Lewes, Agnes Jervis (1822-1902)


In 1841, at the age of 19, Agnes Jervis married George Henry Lewes (1817-1878) and remained married to him, though separated, until his death in 1878. Agnes was raised in a radical, literary household where she was well educated by her father and tutors. Lewes may have been one of her tutors. Agnes later helped Lewes with a number of the articles and reviews he submitted to periodicals. Agnes gave birth to five children by Lewes, three of whom survived past infancy: Charles Lee Lewes, Thornton Arnott Lewes, and Herbert Arthur Lewes. By 1849, Agnes had begun a relationship affair with Lewes's close friend and business partner Thornton Leigh Hunt, which would result in four children. Despite the affair, which Lewes had full knowledge of, Lewes and Agnes continued to live together for several years. Lewes registered the first two of Agnes and Hunt's children as his own and all four carried his name, which made filing for divorce from Agnes on the grounds of her adultery problematic.

Whether Lewes left Agnes in 1852, ‘53, or ‘54 remains uncertain; Herbert Spencer reported many years later that Lewes had been separated from Agnes for two years before he began living with Eliot, however letters from Lewes were addressed from his home with Agnes into 1854. Even after Lewes left Agnes and began his relationship with Eliot, he spent at least one Christmas holiday with the family instead of with Eliot. Until his death, Lewes continued to send money to Agnes to cover her expenses and debts, for which he was legally obligated.


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


8:164, 8:174, 8:190