William Henry Ireland

Life
1777-1835; b. London; son of the Shakespeare scholar Samuel Ireland (d.1800); ed. France; forged deeds of or relating to Shakespeare when employed in New Inn, 1794-95, to please his father; proceeded to 'find' Shakespearean letters to Anne Hathaway and Queen Elizabeth; faked books with Shakespeare's notes, a transcript of Lear and extracts from Hamlet; findings published by his father in Miscellaneous Papers and Legal Instruments under the Hand and Seal of William Shakespeare (1796), deceiving scholars incl. Dr. Parr, Joseph Wharton, and George Chalmers; forged pseudo-Shakespearean plays, Vorgtigern and Rowena, selling rights to R. B. Sheridan, the who suspected forgery from relative simplicity of plot; the former produced by Sheridan at Drury Lane (2 April 1796), with sceptical lines added to the epilogue by Kemble (“And when this solemn mockery is o'er”), closing to cat-calls from the knowledgeable audience; Ireland's forgeries conclusively revealed by Edmund Malone in An Inquiry into the Authenticity of Certain Miscellaneous Papers and Legal Instruments (March 1796); his admission of the fraud in ‘Authentic Account’ was afterwards expanded as Confessions (1805); subsequently sold his forgeries and wrote ballads, narrative poems, and romances; his forgeries destroyed by fire in Birmingham Library, 1879; d. in obscurity. ODNB

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Works
An Authentic Account of the Shaksperian Manuscripts [1796]; Confessions (1805; rep. 1872).

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Reference
See Fact Index website [link].

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