George Meredith

On this date in 1829, novelist and poet George Meredith was born in Portsmouth, England. His mother died when he was five, and when his father later had to declare bankruptcy, George was sent to live with relatives, becoming a Ward in Chancery in 1841 to protect his small inheritance. At 15, he had his only formal education, when he was sent to a Moravian school for less than two years. Apprenticed to a solicitor, he jettisoned legal work when he began writing articles and poetry for magazines. Poems (1851) was followed by The Shaving of Shagpat (1855), neither very successful. He worked as a reporter, read for a book publishing company, and was a war correspondent. Among the writers he encouraged was Thomas Hardy and Olive Schreiner. He married widow Mary Ellen Nichols, who was seven years older than he, in 1849, who became the role model for many of his heroines. It was not a successful marriage. She eloped with an artist in 1858, leaving their one surviving child with him, and died three years later. The Ordeal of Richard Feverel, (1859), a semi-autobiographical account of his marriage, had better success. Meredith married Marie Vulliamy in 1864. Other books include The Egoist (1879) and Diana of the Crossroads (1885). He was quoted in Fortnightly Review in July 1909 saying: "The man who has no mind of his own lends it to the priests." D. 1909.

“When I was quite a boy, I had a spasm of religion which lasted six weeks . . . But I never since have swallowed the Christian fable.”

—George Meredith, letter to Mr. Clodd (Memories), cited by Joseph McCabe, A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Rationalists.

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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