A National Shakespeare Committee was formed to celebrate the tercentenary, of which Hepworth Dixon, then editor of the Athenaeum, promptly took the head, hoping, it was rumoured, to earn a knighthood. It included various noblemen and three writers, Edward Bulwer Lytton, Alfred Tennyson, and Charles Dickens. According to Henry R. Vizetelly, along with himself part of the committee wanted to include Thackeray, but Dixon, whom the novelist had snubbed in the past, rejected the proposal, raising indignant articles in the London papers. The death of Thackeray three weeks later put an end to the controversy.
On 23 April in the afternoon, a procession of the Working Men’s Shakespeare Committee walked from Russell Square to Primrose Hill where an oak was planted “in the name and on behalf of the people”, to the strains of “Brave Old Oak” and “England’s Minstrel King”, a song composed for the occasion by G. L. Banks and George Alexander Macfarren. London Daily News, 25 avril 1864.
After midnight that day, several hundred gentlemen connected with the theatre met for a Shakespeare supper in the Freemasons’ Hall.