Back to exhibition

Saving Shakespeare's Birthplace

7. A Shakespeare scam

In addition to the London and Stratford committees, the People’s Central Committee of the Shakespeare Memorial Fund, appeared and entered the race to save the Birthplace. The committee’s membership lists included people who belonged to the Stratford and London committees. Some of them later disclaimed all knowledge of the People’s Committee.

People’s Committee founder and chairman, actor George Jones, became a figure of fun in the newspapers. He was portrayed as a self-publicist, using the opportunity given by the auction to promote himself.

 One halfpennyworth of Shakspeare to an intolerable quantity of Mr George Jones.

                                              Punch Magazine, dated before 16 September 1847

John Langford Pritchard, Manager of the York Theatrical Circuit, became involved in a dispute with Jones over money. Pritchard initially supported the People's Committee but later came to doubt its existence, believing Jones had taken the money from fundraising performances for himself. The truth about the committee and monies raised is unknown, though intriguingly Jones was arrested for debt in 1849.


George Jones, 16 September 1847
Sketched by Theodosius Purland
 See below for published material about George Jones

Shakespeare and Mr George Jones, summer 1847

Punch Magazine

In this article Punch ridicules George Jones, comparing him to a blue-bottle fly and a monkey.

Cartoon featuring George Jones, 1847

Punch Magazine

The character of Punch is bringing George Jones the head of an ass. Jones is leaning against his Oration upon the Life and Genius of Shakspeare, written in 1836. Articles in Punch had previously poked fun at this work.