Date of this Version
The George Eliot Review 26 (1995) Published by The George Eliot Fellowship, http://georgeeliot.org/
The year got off to an unusual start. The hyperbole associated with the BBC Television production of Middlemarch suddenly shot George Eliot into the forefront of many people's minds. The beginning of the year is always a very busy time but from January onwards I was inundated with letters and phone calls. For three weeks the Fellowship became a full-time occupation. The BBC in London and in Coventry were in regular contact, admirers of George Eliot had their interest newly aroused, students aimed enquiries at us, local clubs and societies wanted talks and tours of the George Eliot Country, newspapers constantly wanted the Fellowship's views on the TV Middlemarch, the book, George Eliot and the tourism potential of the George Eliot Country; it seemed it would never end. But this added interest enlarged our membership and, for the first time in our 64-year history, our membership went over 500. When we heard that 80,000 copies of the Penguin Middlemarch had been sold we wondered, for an awful moment, what we would do if all these readers decided to join the Fellowship!
On 28 January, the Chairman and I together with Ruth and Michael Harris were interviewed at Nuneaton Museum for the BBC TV Late Show shown on 9 February. We spent a long and interesting morning at the museum - for a very few minutes' appearance. The programme just about acknowledged the existence of the Fellowship but showed Michael Harris playing George Eliot's piano with reference to neither the pianist nor the instrument. A number of academics were also included in what became an interesting film.
Michael Harris played the piano again on the evening of the Annual General Meeting. The piano had been refurbished and we were hearing it as George Eliot herself would have done 140 years earlier. The AGM was an uneventful one with all the officers and two Council members being re-elected, but the evening finished on a fascinating note when we heard Dolly Jackson speak of her experience of being an 'extra' in the TV Middlemarch, opening our eyes to the discomforts which fully outweigh the glamour of the job.
In the first newsletter of 1994 I asked if anyone would like to start a South of England Branch. Two members responded enthusiastically: Margaret Jennings in Crawley and Elizabeth Gundrey in London. Margaret's South of England Branch was launched on 15 April. Because it covers a vast area, the gathering was not a large one but the enthusiasm of the small nucleus of the branch is undimmed. Margaret Jenning's devotion to George Eliot and her keen work in organizing events to promote her will undoubtedly keep the branch not only afloat but swimming strongly.