A Cute Face or Brains?

Born Mary Ann Evans in 1819, George Eliot was the daughter of a land agent. If her name doesn’t ring a bell, then that will change by the time you’re done reading this article. 

For starters, Eliot was one of the preëminent intellectuals of the nineteenth century, and the author of “Middlemarch,” widely considered the greatest novel in the English language. But that is not all that there is to know about her. There is an interesting fact that many of those who encountered George Eliot felt moved to describe her looks. 

After his first meeting with her, Henry James described Eliot in a way, that she altogether might not have seen as a compliment: 

“To begin with, she is magnificently ugly. Deliciously hideous. She has a low forehead, dull grey eye, vast pendulous nose, and a mouth full of uneven teeth”.

But James also noted an interesting phenomenon about Eliot’s supposed ugliness: 

“Now in this vast ugliness, there is a powerful beauty; when she began to converse, her expression was one of such tenderness and sympathy that it left her interlocutor with an abiding sense of beauty; -such that you end as I ended, falling in love with this horse-face bluestocking”. 

Lucy Clifford, a novelist, said that Eliot did, indeed, look like a horse—“a strange variety of horse that was full of knowledge, and beauty of thought, and mysteries of which the human being had no conception.” 

George Eliot knew she wasn’t good-looking. As a young woman she made painful, unfunny jokes about her appearance in letters to friends—but she also knew she had bigger things to spend her time on, including the loving commitments that she made to men of whom everyone around her disapproved.

“What a woman!” I thought, as I read about Eliot. Everyone around her knew she was ugly, and she also knew it. But what caught my attention was her character. From what is said about her, clearly she was very intelligent, good mannered and sympathetic. 

While in America, Canada and Scotland, I got used to people telling me how beautiful I was. When I returned to Uganda, it was the same case; -I was loved and adored by everyone. Very often, people told me what a beautiful smile I had. Life was good then. 

However, one night I fell off a bed and lost one and a half of my two front teeth. Even worse, I had to wait for five years when my teeth structure had stopped growing to get a denture. It is not very flattering for a girl to enter her teenage stage with missing teeth. As a result, I smiled less. And when I smiled, I would cover my mouth or hide because I didn’t want to be bullied. At home, I would stare enviously at my pictures from when I still had my front teeth. 

After the accident, I realized that I had to work hard at school and everywhere else in my life because I sensed that things had changed. That year, I was the third in my class. And for the rest of my primary school, my worst position was the seventh. Like Eliot, when my physical appearance failed me, I focused on developing my character and intellect.

I am not saying that I am ugly; but I also know that men don’t fail to eat, or lose sleep over my beauty. Granted, we all have good days and bad days. Some days, I look in the mirror and I’m like, “Damn I’m so h@t!” Yet other days, I feel like a survivor. Eliot was possessed of a radiant, luminous intelligence that outshone her perceived deficits. I believe if there was hope for that “horse-faced bluestocking,” then there is surely hope for us all. 

In 2018, the most intelligent man I have ever known crossed my path. He was 8 years older than me, and in every way my dream guy. We never dated due to an endless list of valid reasons, which I prefer not to mention. Nonetheless, we were friends up until 2022. 

One time in our conversation on Whatsapp, he wrote a message that stayed with me to this day: 

“You need someone who can handle your personality. You are smart. Intuitive. God loving. Men often feel intimidated. Sometimes what we need is timid. Submissive. And not very talkative. So that’s where I think it gets difficult. But these are not challenges. What you need is a man who is strong enough to accept and direct these gifts God has given you as the Holly Spirit leads you in balancing them for the good of your relationship/home and ministry and career”.

Like Eliot, I have faith that I too will know what it is to live in fulfilled, enduring intimacy with a passionate and loving partner. One day, when the time is right. 

The End.

We would love to hear from you. Write to us:


  1. Winfred Maneno

    March 4, 2024 at 11:45 am

    I believe it’s high time the boychild’s esteem is built its so sad how a woman has to din her lights to fit in his life.
    The older one grows the more you realize looks are deceptive.

    1. Echoes Over Coffee

      March 4, 2024 at 2:42 pm

      I think most women have felt the pressure of trying ‘not to be too much’ -so that the men they like think that they’re ‘wife material’. For example not speaking their mind. But the million dollar question is, ‘until when can you pretend?’ That’s how you find women who are bitter and miserable in their marriages.
      Now don’t get me wrong. I do understand that women have to put in some effort and work on some of their shortcomings, however, if it comes down to suppressing good qualities, that is where we draw the line.

  2. Julius Natuhwera

    March 4, 2024 at 9:41 pm

    I think it’s okay for women and men to be as intelligent or as holy or as whatever they want.
    When the right person comes, all that doesn’t matter. They’ll sweep you off your feet.
    The other thing is, marriage or relationships shouldn’t stop either a woman from attaining whatever level of intellect. At the end of the day, marriage is not the only reason we live. Some people have lived and died without ever getting married and still had an impact.
    So back to the title, simply live your life. Be as wise or as holy as you want to be. In a marriage, even the prime minister, the first lady and even the highest ranked general or even a preacher, undresses. The measure of intelligence becomes draw.

    1. Echoes Over Coffee

      March 5, 2024 at 5:22 am

      Ogamba tokubye nnyo awo ku ending?😅😅😅

Leave a Reply