Date of this Version
The George Eliot Review 25 (1994)
Mr. Chainman, Mr. Mayor, Madam Mayoress, Ladies and Gentlemen, I feel particularly honoured by the invitation to address this distinguished annual gathering, not least because, nowadays at any rate, I have no pretensions to literary scholarship.
Twenty-five years ago I spent a lot of time studying 19th-century novelists. On just such an afternoon as today I sat with my contemporaries arguing the relative merits of these novelists. I have to say that even then George Eliot was not my favourite lady novelist: like any good Yorkshireman I was vociferous in my support of Emily and Charlotte Bronte. But soon after that I started work on hospital textbooks. In the twenty years since I joined the N.H.S. I have studied hospital management and design and funding, as well as the lack of it, and of course hospital staffing. More recently I have learned about the buying and selling of hospital services, and how to run a hospital commercially. These years and concerns have been fulfilling, sometimes frustrating, and time-consuming, with little time left over for the study of literature. Therefore, I will talk not about her works but about the name of George Eliot.
My hospital - our hospital - is called the George Eliot Hospital. What does this title mean to me and others who work here? Think of how many hospitals you know which are named after people, including saints and members of the royal family. Think of the great teaching hospitals of St Thomas and St Bartholomew, or the variety of hospitals named after St Luke. Within forty miles of here two hospitals are named after the Queen, and King Edward VU gave his name to nearly as many hospitals as he did grammar schools: modem examples include the Prince of Wales and Princess Margaret.