What the Dickens would have become of Birthplace?

By IH 23/04 Updated: 23/04 15:29

Buy photos » Shakespeare's Birthplace - visited by Charles Dickens. (s)

SHAKESPEARE'S birthplace would not be standing today without the help of another British literary giant.

In a new film researchers from the Warwick University and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust explore Charles Dickens’ connection to Shakespeare and the important role he played in saving the Henley Street house where the playwright was born.

The film - the the latest addition to the University’s Celebrating Dickens project - includes input from Dr Charlotte Mathieson, an Associate Fellow in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the Warwick University, Paul Edmondson, Head of Research at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and the Trust’s Honorary President Professor Stanley Wells.

Dickens first visited Shakespeare’s birthplace in 1838 and his signature can be seen in the visitor’s book.

Dr Mathieson said: “Dickens had a lifelong interest in Shakespeare and in 1838 he stayed in Leamington Spa and visited Kenilworth and Warwick. He then travelled on to Stratford and visited the birthplace, which was privately owned at that time.

“The place obviously had a profound effect on him as he recounts his visit in his novels Nicholas Nickleby and Dombey and Son.”

Shakespeare’s birthplace was put up for sale in 1846 and the American showman PT Barnum wanted to buy the building and ship it, brick by brick, to America.

In response the Shakespeare Birthday Committee, later to become the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, was formed with Dickens as one of its leading lights. The committee managed to buy the house in 1847 for £3,000.

Dr Mathieson added: “The committee were £1,400 short of the sale price and Dickens threw himself into organising and starring in performances of Shakespeare’s work to help raise funds.

“Shakespeare had such a profound influence on Dickens: we find Shakespearian references and quotes throughout his work, particularly drawing on Hamlet and Macbeth. But Dickens also played a vital role in preserving Shakespeare's literary heritage and its thanks to him and his contemporaries that the Birthplace remains for us to enjoy today."

Visit http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/dickens/victorian/dickensandsbt to view the film.

Buy photos» Bardologist - Charles Dickens. (s)

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