That's why I was surprised to find Eliot fascinating in a profile of her by literary biographer Lyndall Gordon in the Hudson Review's summer issue.
The piece comes from Gordon's forthcoming book, "Outsiders: Five Women Who Changed the World," which will examine the lives of Virginia Woolf, Olive Schreiner, Eliot, Emily Bronte and Mary Shelley.
Gordon's Hudson Review piece on Eliot, born Mary Anne Evans, changed to Mary Ann, then Marian Evans, tells how Eliot overcame a rural background and prejudice against women to become one of the great intellectuals of the Victorian age and a major English novelist.
Editing the Westminster Review anonymously, Eliot revived the journal's vitality. Turning to writing novels, she used the George Eliot pen name in her belief that a masculine identity would bring her books more serious consideration, although Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters had achieved fame under their own names.
Giving a vivid rendering of London's literary life in the mid-19th century, Gordon illustrates Eliot's place in the emergence of women in science, literature, medicine and other fields. Unfortunately, full political participation didn't arrive until much later.
She traces Eliot's progress in freeing herself from crippling social norms. The piece evokes an exciting time in London, with Eliot/Evans attending plays and concerts, heading off to museums, and engaging in witty dinner party conversations.
A biographer of Emily Dickinson, Gordon excels in relating the American poet's experience to Eliot's. Gordon also uncovers Eliot's affinity for Margaret Fuller, a member of Emerson's transcendentalist circle who gained fame as an editor and essayist. Like Fuller, Eliot sought sexual and social freedom as well as recognition as a writer.
Despite my painful experience with "Silas Marner," Gordon's piece inspired me to try again with Eliot's masterpiece, "Middlemarch," available on my durable Nook reader for 99 cents.
If that proves successful, perhaps I'll have a go at Jane Austen. The recent hoopla over the 200th anniversary of Austen's death made me think that I should read at least some of Austen's work before the great scorer gives me the final two-minute warning.