Middlemarch is about an ardent young woman, Dorothea Brooke, who marries an elderly scholar, Edward Casaubon. He is conducting laborious researches for a book, the key to all mythologies. Dorothea admires his erudition and, not knowing he will never write his book, wants to help him in his work.
George Eliot was the pen name of Mary Ann Evans. Extraordinarily thoughtful, and extraordinarily well read, she was assistant editor of the Westminster Review. Although she was at the centre of intellectual life in mid-19th-century London, she was shunned in polite society because she lived, unmarried, with critic and naturalist George Henry Lewes. He was separated and wanted a divorce, which the law forbade because he had agreed to his wife having a child by another man. So although Eliot and Lewes seem to have had one of the most intimately affectionate relationships in the history of literature, respectable people did not like it.