A S Byatt by Tara Heinemann, 1988 cTara Heinemann. George Eliot (Mary Ann Cross) by Francois D'Albert Durade, replica (original 1849) c NPG
She grew up in rural Warwickshire and manufacturing Coventry. Profoundly religious as a girl she translated (brilliantly) German biblical critics, and became an agnostic moralist. She learned many languages, was a great editor, and set up house courageously with G H Lewes, a married man. Her early novels draw on her own past and landscape. Her late great novels, witty and passionate, draw on science, religious history, politics, philosophy. She is England's great European novelist.