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Call Her George

March 07, 1992

Ray Loynd is unfortunately inaccurate, in reviewing the "Masterpiece Theatre" production of George Eliot's "Adam Bede" (" 'Adam Bede': Eliot's Story of Seduction," Feb. 29), when he says that Eliot chose a male pseudonym because she "feared her novel would be derided or ignored if her sex were known."

It was not her gender she wished to conceal, but her identity. In 1854, Mary Ann Evans had begun a lifelong companionship with George Henry Lewes, who was legally prohibited from divorcing his wife, Agnes Lewes. (After apparently condoning his wife's adultery by accepting as his own the children she had conceived by another man, he was not permitted subsequently to seek a divorce.)

Eliot, knowing that her status as a "notorious woman" would undercut her moral position as a writer, chose to present her early fiction under a mask. And, since another woman already laid claim to her companion's last name, Eliot borrowed his first .

SHOSHANA MILGRAM KNAPP

Los Angeles

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