Date of this Version
The George Eliot Review 21 (1990)
When the George Eliot Fellowship was born sixty years ago, the infant had emerged after a labour of some 25 years. A.F. Cross, its founder, had been editor of Nuneaton newspapers since 1895. For much of that time he had been campaigning for a memorial to George Eliot in her native town, but had met with apathy at every turn. For two weeks during the summer of 1930, Mr. Cross handed over the Editorial chair of the Nuneaton Chronicle to a Cambridge undergraduate, to give the young man an opportunity to gain an inside knowledge of newspaper production. His young understudy managed to extract columns of unpaid contributions from such distinguished literary men of the day as George Bernard Shaw by asking of them a pertinent question, "Should Nuneaton erect a memorial to George Eliot? If so, what form should it take?" Most of the writers he approached expressed astonishment that a worthy memorial was not already in existence. Mr. Cross's reaction to this successful journalistic experiment was to determine that Nuneaton 's apathy should be allowed to continue no longer. After 25 years of battering his editorial head against a brick wall, he decided that he would now climb over it - and take with him as many Nuneatonians as he could find with the slightest glimmer of interest in their local novelist. He was certain that corporate action was now more important than individual effort, and that the formation of a literary society - Fellowship was his own personal choice of title, since its meaning seemed to him to be most suited to admirers of a woman who still had a message for present and future generations - was the answer. In the columns of his paper, he suggested that such a Fellowship should be formed.