George Eliot and G H Lewes
It is hard to imagine the author of Middlemarch and Daniel Deronda as a scandalous loose woman and pioneering sexpot, but there it is. In 1851, Mary Ann Evans - jolie laide bluestocking and philosopher of atheism - was staying at the house of John Chapman, owner of the Westminster Review, when she met George Lewes, the critic and philosopher. He was married, to Agnes Jarvis, and had three children with her. They were estranged but, for complex legal reasons, unable to divorce. In 1854, Lewes and Mary Ann Evans decided to live together. They travelled to Weimar and Berlin in a simulacrum of a honeymoon, and she called herself Mrs Lewes. They settled down together, undismayed by the world's disapproval. He virtually invented modern theatre criticism and wrote a life of Goethe. She wrote many of the finest novels in English under a masculine nom de plume - and concealed the difficult subject of her marital status. Their "marriage" lasted 24 years, until Lewes's death in 1878. He gave her stability; she encouraged his philosophical enquiries and helped him to translate Goethe. They were even semi-accepted into polite society when Queen Victoria's daughter, Princess Louise, a fan of Eliot's novels, asked to be introduced to her.