Happy 194th Birthday, George Eliot! To those in the know, George is not a he; in fact, she's Mary Ann Evans, author of Middlemarch under the nom-de-plume and (literary) household name. One of the leading female authors in the Victorian Era, Eliot crafted some of the finest works that you really should have already read. In a letter to his brother, Vincent Van Gogh put it well: "Have you read anything beautiful lately? Do make sure somehow to get hold of and read the books by Eliot." Damn straight.
In honor of the great Victorian, let's hear from several other female authors on why they adopted pen names:
"George was Mr. Lewes's Christian name, and Eliot was a good mouth-filling, easily pronounced word." —MARY ANN EVANS, aka GEORGE ELIOT
"...My British publisher, when the first book came out, thought ‘this is a book that will appeal to boys’ but they didn’t want the boys to know a woman had written it. So they said to me ‘could we use your initials’ and I said ‘fine’. I only have one initial. I don’t have a middle name. So I took my favourite grandmother’s name, Kathleen." —JOANNE "J.K." ROWLING:
“We had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice.” —CHARLOTTE BRONTË, aka CURRER BELL
"I intend to illuminate the Ledger with a blood & thunder tale as they are easy to 'compoze.' " —LOUISA MAY ALCOTT, aka A. M. BARNARD (Alcott, ever the businesswoman, knew that mysteries and thrillers could be published for money. Before she wrote Little Women, she published stories on "transvestitism, hashish smoking and feminism," under male pen names in order to rake in the dough.)