Date of this Version
The George Eliot Review 33 (2002)
I'm grateful for the editors' invitation to report on this conference. I was asked to organize it by Warwick Gould, Director of the University of London Institute of English Studies, in response to the auction and sale in 2001, of letters (published and unpublished) from George Eliot to Jane Senior, apparently the first woman to hold a salaried English government appointment. The 'stayed' export of these letters, eventually bought by the British Library, was in the news. The letters seemed too restricted a subject for a work-in-progress conference, and its theme became 'George Eliot: Life and Letters'. Scholars invited were doing interesting work on George Eliot and relevant contexts. Notice was short - the London IES responds quickly to literary matters of public concern - but everyone accepted. The IES got a grant from the British Academy, for which it is grateful.
Opened by Warwick Gould, the conference was attended by scholars, research students, ex-students and readers. It was open, authoritative and relaxed, with good discussion. The British Library put on a special exhibition of the new letters, and Christopher Fletcher of the Department of Modem Manuscripts attended our reception. We had a living historic link: Jane Senior's great-granddaughter Pamela Milne attended and enjoyed the conference. My Dickensian colleague Michael Slater and I read dialogues of Casaubon and Dorothea, Tom and Maggie.