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Weekly bids to get better recognition for patch’s most famous author

A weekly newspaper is bidding to get its patch’s most famous novelist “suitably recognised” in the city it serves.

The Coventry Observer has launched its Bring George Eliot Home campaign after reporting two week’s ago that the house where the Middlemarch author lived in the city was lying “empty and forlorn” without even a plaque to mark the building’s importance.

Eliot, whose real name was Mary Ann Evans, lived in Coventry for seven years with some of her earliest writings appearing in the Coventry Herald and Observer under its influential editor, the wealthy ribbon manufacturer and philanthropist Charles Bray.

The Observer is calling for the building Bird Grove House, to become an educational and international visitors’ centre, and for the author’s Coventry connection to be marked in the city centre.

Cov George

In a piece announcing the campaign’s launch, editor Les Reid wrote: “It would be unforgivable if the current sorry state of affairs continues as Coventry bids to be UK City of Culture 2021. Whether or not that bid is successful, the truly great Victorian novelist’s 200th anniversary of her birth will be marked across the world in 2019.”

He added: “It is considered her experiences in Coventry significantly shaped her later novels including the classic Middlemarch, brilliantly adapted for BBC television and worldwide audiences by Kenilworth-based scriptwriter Andrew Davies.

“Some academics and literary giants argue she is the greatest novelist in the English language. Generations of students will continue to turn to her radical and enduringly relevant work, which exposed Victorian notions of morality, gender and religion.

Yet, as we reported two weeks ago, the house where she lived with her father – Bird Grove House in Foleshill – is empty and forlorn, guarded by an unsightly bolted steel security fence. The listed building’s importance was recognised by English Heritage.

“Yet, incredibly, there is not even a plaque to inform the public of the genius that resided there, while a Blue Plaque adorns the London house where she died.”