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Subscription card for the Shakespeare tercentenary workmen's memorial.

[1864] Stock Code: 113612
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A one shilling subscription card, this being number 659, to fund the staging of the workmen's memorial to Shakespeare. The card was designed by George Cruikshank, and engraved by the Dalziel brothers. Hosted by the English actor and theatre manager Samuel Phelps (1804-1878), the memorial was an attempt for a great workingman's celebration of the national poet, to coincide with the tercentenary of his birth on 23 April 1864. On the day a large gathering, including George Cruikshank, marched from Russell Square to Primrose Hill, for a ceremonial planting of an oak tree, which had been donated by Queen Victoria.

After suitable speeches had been made the crowd began to disperse, but events then took a surprising turn, as members of the committee, led by Edmund Beales, proceeded to express their dissatisfaction that the visit of the Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi to England had been cut short. Garibaldi, who had been on a tour of 30 UK towns and cities, had been convinced by Palmerston to return to Capri, with the authorities fearing his democratic nationalism would spread among the British working classes. The police intervened, and the group were told that no political meetings were allowed on the hill, and that they would have to break the group up by force if they persisted. "Upon this strong hint great groans and hissings arose among the crowd, which now numbered about 4,000 persons, but which, beyond this noisy ebullition of feeling, was very orderly" (The Times, 19 May 1864). The crowd did then peacefully disperse, but it still marked a significant event, showing public discontent at the authorities' reaction to Garibaldi, and how non-political gatherings could quickly turn incendiary.

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Card size: 165 x 115 mm.


Slightly soiled, yet still in very good condition.


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