Date of this Version
The George Eliot Review 17 (1986)
The excitement associated with the unveiling of John Letts' beautiful statue of George Eliot began for the four officers two days before the ceremony. On March 20th she travelled from the bronze casters in High Wycombe, somewhat ungracefully, on the back of a lorry! The plinth, all clean and bright, was ready and waiting, as was a very large crane, hired from Coventry, and causing a traffic warden slight concern as it was parked on double yellow lines; but, happily, she joined in the spirit of the day, and no parking ticket was issued. The press were there from the local papers, a film cameraman was in an upstairs window in Newdegate Square, and an assortment of bemused Nuneatonians looked on, wondering what was to happen. When the lorry arrived and they saw a strange figure, shrouded and covered from the waist upwards, they were still a bit bemused. 'It looks Iike the elephant man', one was heard to say!
The crane swung into action, yellow nylon straps were placed around George Eliot's waist and under her arms (what indignity for a dignified Victorian lady!) and she was lifted slowly into the air and gently towards the plinth for a trial run. A few problems were solved and she rose again so that could place beneath her skirt a stainless steel box, a sort of 'time capsule', containing those items relating to the Fellowship, the sculptor and the town which might be of interest to anyone who finds it in centuries to come, if and when the statue ever has to be moved. This done, she was lowered finally and tightly screwed down. The covering remained and hoardings were placed around the entire thing so that no-one could anticipate the Great Day to come. Even a security guard was mounted for the following two nights. No-one was to be allowed a sneak preview.