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George Meredith (1828 - 1909)

Meredith was born in Portsmouth to a family of Welsh and Irish parents. His father was a naval outfitter. His mother died when George was five years old and the business failed when he was 10 years old. He was educated in nearby Southsea but a legacy from his maternal aunt enabled him to attend boarding school in Lowestoft and subsequently at Coblenz.

He was briefly employed as a solicitor's clerk but left to pursue journalism and poetry. He assisted in publication of The Monthly Observer where he met his first wife Mary Ellen Nicolls. He began a writing career as a novelist in 1856 having already published his collection of poems in 1852 to minor acclaim.

After an extra marital affair, Mary died in 1861 of kidney failure.

In 1863, he met Marie Vulliamy, daughter of a Normandy wool merchant, and they married the following year settling finally at Box Hill where he continued his work as a novelist of tragedy and comedy as well as a poet in both of which he achieved mixed revues. His style was often criticised as abstruse but he experienced increasing fame in the 1880s.

As his career progressed, Meredith gained several honours culminating in the Order of Merit. 'The Lark Ascending', published in 1881, was set to music by Ralph Vaughan-Williams in 1914 and to orchestra in 1921 as an enduring and popular Romance.

Meredith died in 1909 having suffered deteriorating locomotion and was interred beside Marie who had died of throat cancer in 1885.