Date of this Version
The George Eliot Review 37 (2006) Published by The George Eliot Fellowship, http://georgeeliot.org/
My Address at the AGM is usually concerned with our plans and hopes for the future but perhaps on this rather special day I may be allowed a glance at the past.
Last week I chaired a Council meeting for the last time; my first one was on 6 March 1971 - 35 years ago. When I succeeded Stan Dickens as Chairman in 1971 it was just two years after the remarkable success of the Fellowship's efforts to Commemorate the 150th anniversary of George Eliot's birth in 1969. That event became the foundation for our optimistic growth in the 1970s which in tum enabled us to undertake what were, for us, immense tasks; in 1980 the Westminster Abbey Memorial Stone and attendant celebration, and in 1986, the statue of George Eliot here in Nuneaton. The museum recorded over 6,000 visitors to the George Eliot exhibition in 1969; from this we knew that there was widespread public interest; our own membership increased enormously as the years went by. In the 1990s our events were still well supported, but often the same faces would appear in the audience and we seemed to reach a point from which it seemed difficult to climb higher.
A new effort is now required, and in the next few years there will be tremendous opportunities to renew our growth. In 2007 it will be just 150 years since George Eliot's first fiction was published anonymously in Blad.wood's Magazine - Scenes of Clerical Life. In 1858 the identity of George Eliot was revealed; in 1859 Adam Bede was published and in 1860 The Mill on the Floss appeared, followed in 1861 by Silas Marner.