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How Charles Dickens helped to save the house where the Bard was born

The birthplace of one of the greatest writers of all time, William Shakespeare, would not be standing today without the help of another literary giant, Charles Dickens.

In a new film to mark the 448th anniversary of the Bard’s birthday, researchers from the University of Warwick and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust explore Dickens’ connection to Shakespeare and the important role he played in saving the house where Shakespeare was born.

The film is the latest addition to the University of Warwick’s Celebrating Dickens project, which includes a free Mobile App. Dr Charlotte Mathieson, an Associate Fellow in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick is joined by Paul Edmondson, Head of Research at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and the Trust’s Honorary President Professor Stanley Wells.

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

Dr Charlotte 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 Charles Dickens as one of its leading lights. The committee managed to buy the house in 1847 for £3,000.

Dr Mathieson said: “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 the Celebrating Dickens website and find information on how to download the app

Notes to editors

Celebrating Dickens is a multi-disciplinary project set up by the University of Warwick to help commemorate the bicentenary of one on the most important figures in literary history. Drawing on the knowledge and expertise from a wide range of researchers across the University, the Celebrating Dickens website offers fresh insight into some of his most famous works and the era in which he lived. In homage to Charles Dickens our project is being serialised, like most of his novels, with the first instalment launched today - including a podcast where Professor Mee discusses the Christmas stories.

Watch the video online here.

For more information contact Luke Hamer, Assistant Press Officer, University of Warwick,, 02476 575601, 07824 541142