Letter:Eliot's man

I AM amazed that Kathryn Hughes ("A tale of two women", Review, 4 October) dismisses George Henry Lewes as a "well-known libertine and womaniser, indissolubly married".

As a young man Lewes, then under the influence of Shelley, had believed that love cannot be constrained, which led more rigid thinkers to imagine that he lived in some sort of sexual commune. His marriage to Agnes Jarvis was happy with three surviving children; then Agnes provided a fourth by Thornton Hunt, a "respectably" married man. Thinking this was a one-off slip, Lewes forgave her and took the child under his wing. Agnes, however, continued the relationship, eventually producing four children by Hunt. Lewes left her when she had the second and it was after this that his relationship with George Eliot began. Because it was considered he had initially condoned adultery, it was legally impossible to dissolve the marriage. Moreover, he was constrained by law to provide not only for his three children, but for Hunt's four.


Holm, Orkney