Inspired by George Eliot’s Boots

Our August object handling session, examines two items from our collections, which respond to the theme: Dress to Impress. One of the objects we shall share with our visitors at the session is a beautiful pair of cream, kid leather ankle boots that belonged to George Eliot.




In addition to being an Access Assistant at Nuneaton Museum, I am a published poet. I recently, wrote a new poem inspired by these boots. I read the poem as part of my set at Writers in Warwickshire Festival at Astley Castle in June with George Eliot looking over my shoulder!




I would like to share the poem with our blog readers. The poem uses George Eliot’s original name: Mary Ann Evans. In the poem, I imagine that Mary Ann chose the boots for her honeymoon in Venice with John Cross, her second partner. Her previous partner, Henry Lewes, whom she lived with for 24 years but never married because he was already in an open marriage, died in 1878. George Eliot married John Cross, twenty years her junior, in 1880, the year of her death.

Mary Ann Evan’s Honeymoon Boots

Kid leather, milky and silken as butter
churned by Mary Ann in father’s dairy,

in God’s dairy, where her turning hand
broadened in the occupation of prayer.

From the Red Deeps, the brown canal,
where ivory boots could never fare well

to London drawing rooms, Regent’s Park,
in slender steps, still dewy from the pond.

Gingerly, Mary Ann tried on second love
like a new pair of boots with skin the hue

of a manuscript in candlelight, laid out
for her last chapter: a younger man’s love.

She bade goodbye to her unmarried status
as Venice beckoned and her trousseau,

unabashedly, revered the latest fashions.
Her offbeat get-ups of the past cast off.

She came from the town where ribbons
were woven, from the farm where pats

of butter were moulded and on the tips
of her bridal toes, she wore silk rosettes

that flourished like fine curls of butter,
floated atop the cream like water lilies.

by Camellia Stafford




Kayleigh and I look forward to seeing you for our object handling session Dress to Impress in the Yellow Gallery on Saturday 20 August from 11 – 4pm.

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One Response to Inspired by George Eliot’s Boots

  1. Such a captivating poem, resulting in the beauty of George’s boots becoming ever more so. My best wishes from New York for a sure to be very successful handling session!

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